Unless most of the teams in your league carry a backup defense, more than half of the league should be available to you every week. Perhaps instead of playing one above average defense every week, regardless of matchup, we should instead target the widely available waiver wire defenses with the best matchups in any particular week? You can always make exceptions if your rent-a-defense gets hot - heck, you might find a team worth starting all year by accident. Even if you don't, good matchups will continue to get greater in number as more QBs get injured or yanked as the season goes on. You can steal some points from bad weather come December. Each week I'll list the startable fantasy defenses on most waiver wires and rank them.
**Minnesota and Denver should be played over any rent-a-defense this week**
Week 11 Results
Miami (at Los Angeles) - 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery
The Rams jumped out to a lead and nursed it for most of the game, so the Dolphins defense did very little against Jared Goff as he played it very safe.
A Look Ahead: SF @BAL ARI - Getting the 49ers at home looked like a good matchup for a hot defense, but recent development have made it a less essential matchup for Week 12.
Detroit (vs Jacksonville) - 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD, 1 ST TD
Boom! The Jaguars shoddy special teams coverage and Blake Bortles delivers a massive week-winning kind of performance!
A Look Ahead: MIN @NO CHI - The Vikings offense is viable right now, so we’ll probably pass on a double dip for the Lions.
New York Giants (vs Chicago) - 4 sacks, 1 INT
Believe it or not, this was good enough for a top 10 D/ST play in Week 11.
A Look Ahead: @CLE @PIT DAL - Josh McCown is an inviting D/ST opponent, even on the road.
Oakland (vs Houston) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery
Like the Giants, the Raiders D/ST night in Mexico City was good enough for a top 10 Week 11 D/ST output even though they were far from dominant.
A Look Ahead: CAR BUF KC - The Raiders D/ST has been too quiet to count on in Week 11 with so many great options to choose from.
Carolina (vs New Orleans) **Thursday** - 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery
Know that were it not for a pointless block in the back on the kicker, the Panthers would have scored on special teams and made this a Week 11 rent-a-defense hit. Even without that, they were a top five option in a lot of scoring systems.
A Look Ahead: @OAK @SEA SD - Without Luke Kuechly, the Panthers D/ST loses a lot of its luster.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Pittsburgh (at Cleveland) - 8 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
I debated including the Steelers in last week’s candidates because of the opponent and likely weather issue, but the Steelers had gone over five points in typical D/ST scoring exactly once this year. Everything came together as Josh McCown as his loose ways with the ball even got in to put a cherry on this one with a defensive score allowed.
Week 12 Candidates
Atlanta (vs Arizona)
The Falcons have scored three defensive touchdowns this year, two of which came at home. We saw Carson Palmer feed the Vikings a pick six last week, and he has had a lot of trouble on the road this year in general. The Falcons D/ST could pay off big this week if their offense is humming like it has been all season.
A Look Ahead: KC @LA SF - I don’t see a matchup I would avoid on this schedule
Tennessee (at Chicago)
Matt Barkley everyone. The Titans are on the road, but they have a good pass rush and they should be able to control the game and force Barkley into throwing the ball, which means good things will happen for their defense.
A Look Ahead: BYE DEN @KC - No more Matt Barkleys coming up
New York Giants (at Cleveland)
The Giants have at least four sacks+takeaways in each of the last four games and they are facing Josh McCown. They should be able to move the ball at will on the Browns defense and set up a D/ST bonanza.
A Look Ahead: @PIT DAL DET - No more Josh McCowns coming up
Pittsburgh (vs Indianapolis) **Thanksgiving**
The Steelers D/ST roared to life against Cleveland in Week 11, and as long as they face Scott Tolzien and not Andrew Luck on Thanksgiving, we’ll have to consider them in Week 12. Ben Roethlisberger has owned the Colts defense in recent matchups, so Tolzien playing behind is a strong possibility.
A Look Ahead: NYG @BUF @CIN - No more Scott Tolziens coming up
Buffalo (vs Jacksonville)
Blake Bortles is money for opposing D/ST’s lately and Buffalo has been a solid to great D/ST play in every home game this year. The Bills still have playoffs on their mind and the Jaguars are playing for a dead man walking at head coach.
A Look Ahead: @OAK PIT CLE - We’ll come back to the Bills in Week 15.
Philadelphia (vs Green Bay)
The Eagles have only had one D/ST dud at home this year - against Atlanta. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense is no Atlanta, and their defense is forcing Rodgers to frantically come back facing large deficits. The Eagles have been a safe high floor D/ST most of the season and should be safe again in Week 12.
A Look Ahead: @CIN WAS @BAL - Probably staying away from the Eagles after this week with so many backup quarterbacks in.
New Orleans (vs Los Angeles)
Don’t laugh. The Saints have two good D/ST weeks in their last three contests, they are at home, and they are facing Jared Goff, who probably won’t be able to be as conservative as he was last week.
A Look Ahead: DET @TB @ARI - One and done.
Baltimore (vs Cincinnati)
The rent-a-defense options abound this week. The Ravens will get a home matchup against Andy Dalton and a crippled Bengals offense. Before their predictable dud against Dallas last week, the Ravens were a red hot D/ST. They are playing to stay at least tied for first while the Bengals’ season is swirling down the drain.
A Look Ahead: MIA @NE PHI - If the Ravens come through in Week 12, we might target them again facing Ryan Tannehill and a limited Dolphins offense.
Week 13 & Playoffs Preemptive Pickups
If you like to devote two roster spots to a D/ST, or you suspect other teams are going to stream defenses this year, you might want to grab a top option for next week to stash away. It’s also time to look ahead to the playoffs if you are on track to get there. Here are the best ones to target:
San Francisco (at Chicago)
New England (vs Los Angeles)
Atlanta (vs Los Angeles)
Detroit (vs Chicago)
Buffalo (vs Cleveland)
Houston (vs Jacksonville)
San Diego (at Cleveland)
Tennessee (at Jacksonville)