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.
**Seattle, Kansas City, and Denver should be played over any rent-a-defense this week**
Week 15 Results
Atlanta (vs San Francisco) - 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery
Well, it was fun while it lasted. It was a weak week around the league for D/ST scoring, so hopefully this result wasn’t too crippling.
A Look Ahead: @CAR - It was easier to picture a Cam Newton meltdown in this game a week ago. Not a preferred rent-a-defense.
Baltimore (vs Philadelphia) - 1 sack, 1 INT
Carson Wentz wasn’t great in this game, but he played well enough to have a two-point conversion with the contest on the line at the end.
A Look Ahead: @PIT - Avoid the defense facing the Steelers at Heinz Field
New York Giants (vs Detroit) - 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT, 6 pts allowed
Not a terrible result by Week 15 standards, but not enough to swing a week. The Giants defense played well, but didn’t have any huge splash plays.
A Look Ahead: @PHI - Carson Wentz is levelling off, but this is still a Thursday night game. Not off the rent-a-defense table.
Houston (vs Jacksonville) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 safety
If Brock Osweiler hadn’t spotted the Jags a lead, this could have been a lot better for the Texans. It was still solid by Week 15 standards.
A Look Ahead: CIN - Newfound starting quarterback Tom Savage could give the Texans a shot of adrenaline, but AJ Green could also be back for this one.
Buffalo (vs Cleveland) - 5 sacks
The Bills got after Robert Griffin III III and made him a mostly ineffective passer, but it didn’t result in any takeaways.
A Look Ahead: MIA - Probably best to pass after Matt Moore’s Week 15 performance on the road against the Jets.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Miami (at New York Jets) - 3 sacks, 3 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 ST TD
Bryce Petty finally paid off.
Indianapolis (at Minnesota) - 5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, 6 pts allowed
We were on the Colts last week at home, nothing. On the road against a quarterback that is usually safe with the ball, big points.
Dallas (vs Tampa Bay) - 4 sacks, 3 INT, 1 fumble recovery
We’ve been waiting for a Jameis Winston interceptionfest, and the Cowboys finally gave us one. The Cowboys have been a good D/ST two weeks in a row.
New England (at Denver) - 4 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 pts allowed
The Patriots had their best D/ST performance since Week 3, and they needed it with the Broncos putting the clamps on Tom Brady.
Arizona (vs New Orleans) - 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
Remember the vaunted Cardinals D/ST that was highly drafted this year? They came through with their best performance since Week 5 thanks to a Calais Campbell defensive score.
Week 16 Candidates
Tennessee (at Jacksonville)
The Titans should get after Blake Bortles the week after Gus Bradley was fired. Were it not for Brock Osweiler’s implosion and a kickoff return score, the Texans D/ST could have been one of the plays of the week in Week 15.
New England (vs New York Jets)
The Patriots D/ST has come up small in good matchup after good matchup this year, but they awoke on the road last week against Trevor Siemian. This week against Bryce Petty and/or Ryan Fitzpatrick and/or Christian Hackenberg, they could end up being the play of the week.
Green Bay (vs Minnesota)
The Packers D/ST is actually the #3 unit in fantasy leagues over the last two weeks. They draw a Vikings team that fell apart at home last week, so much so that the lowly Colts D/ST was a strong play. The Vikings could regroup and summon up an effort to keep their very thin playoff hopes alive, but Lambeau magic looms.
Dallas (vs Detroit)
The Cowboys no-name defensive line is starting to make themselves known just in time for a playoff run. A primetime home game for the second straight week could spur them to their third straight strong D/ST performance.
San Diego (vs Cleveland)
Robert Griffin III III’s play is clearly not measuring up and he could be pulled during the game. The Chargers have been forcing a lot of turnovers and even though they are out of the playoff race, they are still good enough to consider on the road.
Houston (vs Cincinnati)
The Texans were put in a hole by their quarterback last week, limiting their D/ST upside, but this week Brock Osweiler has been benched, so perhaps Tom Savage can manage this game and keep the Texans defense in control in a crucial primetime game.
Week 17 Championship 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 look ahead to the finals if you are in the semis. Here are the best ones to target:
Pittsburgh (vs Cleveland)
Tennessee (vs Houston)
Tampa Bay (vs Carolina)