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.
**Jacksonville, Philadelphia, and Baltimore are better than any rent-a-defense, but assumed to be owned in all leagues**
Week 12 Results
Pittsburgh (vs Green Bay) - 4 sacks
A Look Ahead: @CIN BAL NE @HOU - We might come back for a prime time game against Joe Flacco and whoever the Texans start on Christmas. You could do worse than starting them at Cincinnati this week.
Kansas City (vs Buffalo) - 2 sacks
Wow I’m sorry for suggesting this one. The Bills got up off the floor and the Chiefs laid down.
A Look Ahead: @NYJ OAK LAC MIA - MAYBE Week 16 against the Dolphins, but only if this once elite D/ST shows signs of life before then.
Carolina (at New York Jets) - 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD, 1 ST TD
Yahtzee! The hit of the week, as the Panthers continue to find ways to win when their offense isn’t cutting it.
A Look Ahead: @NO MIN GB TB - The Panthers at home look like a good play for three straight weeks, especially if Aaron Rodgers isn’t back for Week 15. This week at the Superdome might be a little tougher.
Atlanta (vs Tampa Bay) - 1 sack
So much for this defensive line and pass rush heating up. They lost Desmond Trufant during the game to a concussion.
A Look Ahead: MIN NO @TB @NO - We won’t be going back to them.
Seattle (at San Francisco) - 3 sacks, 1 INT
Not a total disaster, but even against CJ Beathard, this version of the Legion of Boom is just Legion of Whimper
A Look Ahead: PHI @JAX LAR @DAL - We won’t be playing Seattle’s D/ST again this year.
New England (vs Miami) - 7 sacks, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery
The Patriots D/ST is coming to life at just the right time in fantasy leagues. Matt Moore shouldn’t be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
A Look Ahead: @BUF @MIA @PIT BUF - We’ll take our chances with New England from here on out, except Week 15 at Pittsburgh.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
New York Giants (at Washington) - 6 sacks, 1 INT, 1 DEF TD
Just in case you were getting any ideas about playing the Giants D/ST against Oakland, they are starting Geno Smith this week and Janoris Jenkins (who returned that pick for a score) is likely going on injured reserve.
Los Angeles Chargers (at Dallas) - 2 sacks, 2 INT, 1 DEF TD, 6 pts allowed
As crazy as it sounds, we might be targeting Dallas with our D/ST’s while Ezekiel Elliott is out. We’ll also love the Chargers in good matchups like the one they have this week.
Miami (at New England) - 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
A snap over your quarterback’s head in your own end is a perfect recipe for creating D/ST value
Tennessee (at Indianapolis) - 8 sacks, 1 fumble recovery
Let’s keep the Colts high on our D/ST Targets list.
Week 13 Candidates
**Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Baltimore are better than any rent-a-defense, but assumed to be owned in all leagues**
Los Angeles Chargers (vs Cleveland)
A no brainer, although the Bengals D/ST wasn’t a big hit last week, and DeShone Kizer has been keeping mistakes to a minimum. Still, the Chargers should jump out to a lead with the way their offense and the Browns defense has been playing, and that means their pass rushers will be able to tee off for a good part of the game.
A Look Ahead: WAS @KC @NYJ - After their production the last two weeks, you’d be very rational to start the Chargers D/ST from here on out with this schedule
New England (at Buffalo)
Tyrod Taylor was safe with the ball at Kansas City, but he probably won’t have that luxury against the Patriots. The Pats D/ST has been a great play two of the last three weeks, so they are trending in the right direction at the right time.
A Look Ahead: @MIA @PIT BUF - You’ve got your playoff D/ST for Week 14 and 16
Oakland (vs New York Giants)
The Raiders have been the worst D/ST in fantasy all season. You might have been tempted to play them last week against Paxton Lynch. While they did get their first interception of the year, the five sack performance was good, but not great. You’re even more tempted to go to them this week, when Geno Smith will get his first start of the year, leading a team that might be stunned to see him out there.
A Look Ahead: @KC DAL @PHI - We’ll only go to the Raiders in extreme circumstances. We might revisit this statement come Week 15 if their defense is still awake and Dak Prescott is still asleep.
Chicago (vs San Francisco)
The Bears have been a steady D/ST, with at least four sacks+takeaways in six of the last seven games. They are much more competitive at home, and they are facing a 49ers team that will be starting a banged up CJ Beathard or Jimmy Garoppolo. You’ll also get Tarik Cohen’s return prowess in your lineup.
A Look Ahead: @CIN @DET CLE - You’ll also get a D/ST to stash away for Week 16 if you can afford the roster spot.
Tennessee (vs Houston)
The Titans pass rush came to life in Week 12, equalling their sack total over the previous four games, and posting almost half of their sack total through the first ten games. This week, they get the Texans and turnover machine Tom Savage.
A Look Ahead: @ARI @SF LAR - You’ll also get a Week 15 D/ST to stash if you can afford the roster spot.
Playoffs Preemptive Pickups
Houston (vs San Francisco)
Pittsburgh (vs Baltimore)
New England (at Miami)
Buffalo (vs Indianapolis)
Minnesota (vs Cincinnati)
New Orleans (vs New York Jets)
Carolina (vs Green Bay) **Monitor Rodgers Status**
Tennessee (at San Francisco)
Denver (at Indianapolis)
Detroit (vs Chicago)
Minnesota (at Green Bay) **Monitor Rodgers Status**
New England (vs Buffalo)
Chicago (vs Cleveland)
Carolina (vs Tampa Bay)
Pittsburgh (at Houston)
Arizona (vs New York Giants)
Los Angeles Chargers (at New York Jets)