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If you’re still reading this, congratulations. Championship weekend is upon us, and it’s never been more crucial to squeeze every last point out of your lineup. The right defense can make or break a title run, and as always Bill is here to help you make the right decision.
Good luck in Week 16 Rotoballers…may the fantasy gods be ever in your favor!
Week 16 Defenses: Playoffs Tiered Starts & Streams
Tier 1 Defenses: Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks
The Panthers gave up 38 points to the Saints in Week 13 and then allowed the Giants to drop 35 on them last week. However, sandwiched in between those games was a stone-cold shutout of the Falcons, who are the Panthers’ Week 16 opponent. This is a two-man offense, as Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are the only explosive elements on Atlanta. This is the championship–don’t get cute.
Another week, another game where the Chiefs D/ST puts up double-digits. This team has allowed 20 or more points only twice in the last 10 weeks (22 vs. Buffalo in Week 12, 20 vs. Oakland in Week 13), and they have been racking up the sacks, turnovers and touchdowns. They get a ridiculously tasty matchup in Week 16 when the Cleveland Browns come to town, and they should be a top-three defense yet again. Johnny Manziel simply won’t beat them, even with Gary Bardnidge and Travis Benjamin healthy.
The Broncos have looked mortal over the last month, especially in the second half of football games. However, they have tallied at least three stacks in each of the last four weeks and they’ll get the A.J. McCarron-led Bengals in Week 16. McCarron simply isn’t seasoned enough to hang with what is still the best overall defense in the NFL, and as long as the Broncos can contain A.J. Green this one could be ugly.
The Seahawks get the Rams at home. That’s….I don’t have anything else. Do you need anything else?
Tier 2 Defenses: Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Washington Redskins
The Steelers have the most explosive offense in the NFL, and with the defense playing well I don’t think they can lose. The D/ST should have a great day against the Ravens in Week 16, although the Jimmy Clausen-Kamar Aiken connection seems to be the real deal. Javorius Allen was benched after fumbling early in Week 15, but I expect they’ll give him another crack at things. The Steelers should have a nice high floor with plenty of upside for the fantasy championships.
The Cardinals are one of the most consistently solid D/STs in the league, and they should be in for another nice week against the Packers. Green Bay simply isn’t the fearsome offensive juggernaut that they’ve been in the past, and they will definitely have some trouble against Arizona. The Cardinals’ secondary matches up well against Aaron Rodgers and his collection of receivers (Randall Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams), although with Tyrann Mathieu’s season ended by an ACL tear they will be depleted. Arizona should have no trouble stopping Eddie Lacy and James Starks. The ceiling is limited, but I like the Cardinals as a safe streaming option.
As a Buffalonian, the Bills are already dead to me for failing to live up to expectations in such spectacular fashion. However, there are still fantasy matchups to be played. The Bills will face the Cowboys in Week 16, who will be starting Kellen Moore instead of Matt Cassel. If the Bills can’t somehow manage to stop Dez Bryant and Jason Witten with Moore throwing to them…I just don’t know.
The Texans will get the Titans in Week 16, and with Tennessee out of the playoff hunt they may not risk starting the currently banged-up Marcus Mariota. If they don’t, it will be on Zach Mettenberger to navigate the Houston pass rush. He actually seems to have decent chemistry with Dorial Green-Beckham and Delanie Walker, so the Texans aren’t a must-start, but they are still a really nice waiver wire option.
With the Eagles on deck, the Redskins have a decent shot at a productive fantasy day. I’m all for betting against Sam Bradford, and Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and the ghost of DeMarco Murray likely won’t be able to break through the Redskins above-average run defense. I don’t see Washington pulling out a double-digit day, but they should be good for five or more fantasy points.
Tier 3 Defenses: New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings
The Giants will also have limited upside in Week 16 when they travel to Minnesota. Adrian Peterson was roughed up a bit in Week 15, but the offense seemed to run fine with Jerick McKinnon shouldering the load. Teddy Bridgewater is hit-or-miss to produce good fantasy numbers, but he’s looked pretty good in recent weeks. Ultimately I’d be looking for higher upside in the fantasy championship, but if you just want someone to not go negative then the Giants are your team.
I simply can’t trust the Bengals defense against the Broncos. Brock Osweiler looked great in the first half of their Week 15 tilt with the Steelers, and with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both healthy he’s got the weapons to do damage. This is my last opportunity to say it, so I will once again–the Bengals are a better real-life defense than a fantasy defense.
The Patriots D/ST is coming off of back-to-back big games, albeit against the lowly Houston and Tennessee offenses. Things will not be so easy against the Jets in Week 1, as Ryan Fitzpatrick has been rolling over defenses all season. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Bilal Powell are all legitimate play-makers, and Chris Ivory can still erupt at any point. I’m looking for a better option than New England if there is one out there.
I would typically be much higher on the Eagles, but with Kirk Cousins up next I suddenly don’t like their chances. Cousins is a legitimate QB2, and Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson are both major threats to the Eagles’ mediocre secondary. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones won’t do much, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Cousins hangs another 30 on the Birds.
The Vikings D/ST wouldn’t typically be an option against the Giants, but with Odell Beckham, Jr. suspended the New York offense is suddenly a lot less scary. Will Tye and Rueben Randle would be Eli Manning’s top options, and the Vikings should be able to corral them all game. In deeper leagues, I actually like the Vikings as a streaming option assuming Beckham’s suspension is indeed enforced in this game.
Tier 4 Defenses: Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders
The Lions D/ST has been mediocre all season, and that’s likely what we’ll see in Week 16 against the 49ers. Blaine Gabbert is still as bad as we remember, and with Shaun Draughn dealing with an injury the 49ers may be down to a committee of Bruce Miller and Kendall Gaskins at running back. With this matchup the Lions are a viable streaming option, but they just don’t force enough turnovers for them to carry any huge upside.
The Colts and the Dolphins play each other in Week 16, and both D/STs are streamable due to the ineptitude of their respective offenses. The Dolphins must like losing given how many touches they give Lamar Miller, and while Jarvis Landry catches a bunch of passes he just doesn’t explode or find the end zone. There’s nothing to like on the Colts side of the ball either–Matt Hasselbeck isn’t a stud-maker, and Frank Gore just looks like he’s running out of steam. Again, not a lot of upside with either team but in deep leagues you may not have any better options if you’re streaming.
I’m betting on the Raiders to overcome the Chargers’ injury-riddled offensive unit. None of the pass-catchers can be trusted except for Antonio Gates, but he’s unlikely to crack 100 receiving yards at this stage of his career. Danny Woodhead proved last week he’s still one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL, but the Raiders have been solid enough against running backs to limit his upside. Toss that Hail Mary and hope Philip Rivers throws some interceptions!