Welcome to Week 14 and the start of the fantasy football playoffs for the majority of leagues. Before we take a look at Week 14 though, let’s travel back a week. In Week 13, thirteen D/STs scored in double digits with ESPN’s basic scoring and four more teams had eight points or better. That’s over half of the league scoring eight points or more, so the good news is there are plenty of teams we team owners can start in the playoffs that won’t hurt us, but which teams will get you those five or six extra points over your opponent’s. Of course, this is the hard part, it’s unpredictable when a team will luck into a defensive touchdown. Hopefully, our preparation holds.
Those of you who have already started the Tennessee Titans this week are most likely pretty happy with the result. I didn’t trust them anymore and dropped them from all of my teams. I don’t regret this in the least, just like I won’t regret not starting Derrick Henry next week on the one team I own him. Sure, he had a great game this week, but how has he done the previous thirteen weeks and why is Week 15 more likely to be like Week 14 than it is to be like Week’s 1-13. The answer is, it’s not. So, stick to your plan and start D/STs that have been dependable and move on to Week 15.
This week, I’ve decided to list D/STs in tiers. Any team not listed I’d consider a risky start though arguments can be made even for Chicago and the LA Rams as they face-off Sunday night.
D/ST Playoff Starts
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets
In their first matchup against the Jets on the road in Week 10, the Bills scored double digit D/ST points. They intercepted two passes and sacked Josh McCown three times in his first start this year. They also held the Jets to only ten points. A month later at home, the Bills should be facing Sam Darnold returning from injury and once again have a strong performance. Darnold had been struggling in the few games preceding his absence with injury, throwing only two touchdown passes in his last three games. The Jets have few weapons to scare the Bills defense who should get after Sam Darnold in his return. One note, however, coach Todd Bowles has yet to name a starter for this week’s game, but Darnold is trending toward the start.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Cincinnati Bengals
The Chargers were not one of the thirteen teams to score double digit points in Week 13. They finished with eight, tied with the Buffalo Bills. However, they get a much weaker opponent this week when they face the Bengals at home. Last week, a punt return for a touchdown was the main reason the Chargers got to eight points, but Pittsburgh is a strong offense. The Bengals, on the other hand, lost two fumbles and an interception to the Broncos and gave up four sacks. The Chargers should achieve similar numbers with a better overall secondary than the Broncos and similar pass rushing skills up front. Quarterback, Jeff Driskel has very little NFL experience and is missing a key component of the offense in A.J. Green who will miss the rest of the season. The Chargers should dominate this matchup at home and is a good candidate to lead all D/STs this week.
Denver Broncos @ San Francisco 49ers
Last week, the 49ers gave up one interception and two lost fumbles to the Seattle Seahawks while also yielding three sacks. Denver faced the Bengals and achieved similar numbers with just one more sack. This week should be more of the same for the Denver defense who has one of the best playoff schedules for the fantasy football playoffs. The 49ers do get back two receivers this week, but their usage prior to their absences doesn’t really favor an improvement on offense. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb should each get sacks this week as Denver blasts through the softest part of their schedule.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Oakland Raiders
The Steelers are coming off of a couple of poor D/STs performances. This matchup against Oakland should get them back on track though. Oakland’s offensive line is prone to giving up sacks against stronger defensive lines and the Steelers should be able to get to Derek Carr. Pittsburgh’s secondary has been the weakest part of the team of late, as they have in recent years, but against the Raiders if they can stop Jared Cook they will be golden. Both Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds from the safety position should be capable of doing the job and this will prevent the Raiders from putting many points on the board.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In Week 1, the Buccaneers went wild on the New Orleans Saints, but things have changed greatly. The Saints have only lost once since the loss to Tampa. DeSean Jackson is no longer getting long touchdown receptions every week as he did early in the season and Jameis Winston is on his second stint as the starting quarterback as the position has struggled to find consistency. Tampa is still capable of scoring points, but the Saints defense is also capable of shutting them down. I think the latter is more likely this week as the Saints are coming off of only their second loss of the season and still have a chance for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints should sack Winston multiple times and the pressure they are able to put on him will lead to multiple turnovers which will outweigh any garbage time points Winston is able to put on the board.
Houston Texans vs Indianapolis Colts
The Texans are winners of nine straight games. They haven’t been spectacular but they have been getting the job done on both sides of the ball. The Colts hadn’t given up a sack since Week 5 until giving up three to the Jaguars last week. The Texans’ secondary isn’t quite as good as the Jaguars’, so if they are able to sack Andrew Luck, I wouldn’t expect more than one, but they can force Luck into some turnovers and keep the points to a minimum. I don’t like the Texans against the Colts as much as I like them most weeks, which is why they fall in tier 3, but they should win the turnover battle which gives them a chance to also put extra points on the board.
Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Ravens have a tough matchup against the Chiefs, but unlike a lot of teams the Ravens can put pressure on Patrick Mahomes. How Mahomes reacts to this pressure remains to be seen, but he has been more turnover prone when pressured as evidenced by the end of the Rams and Chiefs game in Los Angeles. I still expect the Chiefs to score in this matchup, but the Ravens do have a path to fantasy success this week if they are able to get to Mahomes and consistently pressure the quarterback.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
I expect Miami to look better at home against the Patriots than they did in their first matchup this season. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back and Miami should be able to field three receivers we’ve heard of again this week with the return of Danny Amendola. However, Miami is far from a high scoring offense and, though they have protected the ball well lately, will they be able to when trying to catch up with the Patriots. I expect the Patriots to run a ton this week and score almost at will against the Dolphins defense, which will put pressure on the Dolphins offense to play catch up for most of the game which will lead to multiple turnovers.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
This is the Giants first appearance this year as a Start ’em in one of my D/ST articles, but how can you not like the Giants against a Mark Sanchez led Washington team. Washington quarterbacks have suffered two broken legs in their last three games which tells you they are struggling in pass protection. This week will be no different despite the Giants not having great defensive stats. With Mark Sanchez taking snaps, turnovers are likely, but points are not. The Giants may have their best D/ST day of the year and continue their recent improved play.