Fantasy Football Defensive Streaming: Week 14 Edition

For those fantasy owners in search of a waiver wire defense to deploy in their first-round playoff matchups, look no further.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive performance from last week exemplifies the fickle nature of defensive scoring in fantasy football. It’s tough to predict a defensive touchdown, let alone three in a single game (two on special teams). These freak occurrences can be the difference maker in a weekly matchup, leading to both elation and frustration depending on which side you’re on.

Washington, Tennessee and Minnesota all finished as top-16 options last week, scoring 8, 6 and 6 points, respectively.

Washington’s fantasy output was boosted by three fumble recoveries in a game that was almost unwatchable for the first 50 minutes. As long as Matt Cassel is under center, it’s safe to target Dallas’ offense on a weekly basis. 

Tennessee gave up 30 points to Jacksonville, but salvaged their fantasy day with a defensive score. Minnesota’s performance was also rather pathetic, ultimately saved by a special teams’ touchdown.

With the majority of fantasy leagues starting their playoffs this week, every roster decision becomes amplified. Nailing your defensive choice can often times be the difference between advancing and the consolation bracket.

For those owners without a top-notch defense on their roster (Seattle, Kansas City, etc.), here are a few lower-owned options that are capable of helping you win your first-round matchup. 

Detroit Lions

Owned – ESPN: 10.3%, Yahoo: 11%
numberFire Positional Rank: 6th

The Detroit Lions’ defense has undergone a rather remarkable turnaround since their Week 9 bye. After giving up nearly 31 points per game through the first eight weeks of the season, the Lions’ are allowing just 17.5 points per game over the last four weeks. The lack of forced turnovers during that stretch (just two) is concerning, but with 13 sacks in their last four games, they are finding ways to bolster their fantasy scoring output.

The matchup against St. Louis is akin to a gift sent from the fantasy football gods, as no team has struggled offensively more than the Rams over the last few weeks. St. Louis ranks 32nd in total team offensive efficiency according to our metrics here at numberFire, with a substantial margin between them and the next worst team, Denver.

Case Keenum has been named the starter after Nick Foles was completely ineffective last week against Arizona, continuing the quarterbacking carousel rivaled only by the Cleveland Browns. Keenum has completed just 54.5 percent of his throws over his career and has a penchant for ill-advised downfield passes.

Despite being road underdogs in this game, I feel very confident in the Lions’ defense this week. 

Make them your streaming priority. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Owned – ESPN: 13.9%, Yahoo: 11%
numberFire Positional Rank: 13th

Tampa Bay has a reputation for playing poor defensive football, and while that may be true in relation to raw statistics, for fantasy football purposes the Buccaneers haven’t been all that bad.

They currently rank 14th in the league in sacks, 13th in interceptions and tied for 3rd in fumble recoveries. They also have three defensive touchdowns this season and have scored double-digit fantasy points twice in the last four weeks. 

Tampa Bay has struggled against the pass ranking 21st according to our metrics, but has been one of the best against the run ranking 8th. This week’s matchup against New Orleans does carry a fair amount of risk, but also a fairly high fantasy-point celling.

Per Rotoviz’s Game Splits App, Drew Brees has averaged a full touchdown less in games played on the road since 2013. He has thrown four four interceptions over the last three games while completing just 59.6 percent of his pass attempts.

The current over/under for this game (50.5) is a bit worrisome, but even if Tampa Bay gives up yardage and points, there’s a good chance they continue their advantageous ways against a quarterback that simply is not as efficient on the road. 

Chicago Bears

Owned – ESPN: 44.1%, Yahoo: 28%
numberFire Positional Rank: 18th

Continuing the “improving NFC North defense” theme, the Bears have slowly become a respectable defensive unit. Their performance against the Blaine Gabbert-led 49ers last week was a bit disappointing, but they still finished with eight fantasy points, the third time they’ve scored at least eight points in the last four weeks.

Chicago ranks in the bottom-half of the league in sacks, interceptions and fumble recoveries, but facing Kirk Cousins this week gives them a solid opportunity to force positive regression.

Cousins has shown extreme home/away splits this season, shown below:

Games Completion % Passing Yards/Game Passing Touchdowns Interceptions
Home 7 74.24% 264.4 12 2
Away 5 61.86% 231 5 8

The Bears have been gashed on the ground this season ranking 31st in rush defense efficiency according to our numbers. Luckily, Washington has been almost equally inept at running the ball, ranking 28th when adjusted for strength of schedule.

I’m still not convinced that Chicago is a #good defense, but as three-point home favorites facing a quarterback that has played very poorly on the road this season, the Bears are in a favorable spot this week.