If you’re reading this, then congratulations! You’ve made it into your league’s fantasy playoffs. Unless you are lucky enough to have an every week play like the (and it still feels weird writing this) Jacksonville Jaguars on your team, it’s time to start looking ahead to Week 14. The following defenses are worth stashing on your bench, and could be the difference between a finals appearance and an early exit.
Let ‘em Ride!
(1) Detroit Lions- Available in 22% of ESPN leagues and 29% of Yahoo leagues, the Lions could very well be sitting on your league’s waiver wire, waiting for you to pluck them for yourself. Detroit’s fantasy playoffs schedule is extremely favorable, making them an ideal stash. In Week 14, the Lions travel to Tampa and face a lackluster Bucs squad. Even with a health Jameis Winston, the Bucs offense has been a massive disappointment this season. Whether it is Winston or Fitzpatrick leading the team in Week 14, the Lions defense should feast. In Week 15 the Bears come to Detroit for their second matchup of the season. In Week 11, the Lions had a sack, fumble recovery, and defensive touchdown. I like the odds of them have just as good of a day again. And in your league’s championship round, Week 16 sees the Lions travelling to Cincinnati. Obviously there is the the threat of AJ Green; however, the Lions have fared well against other top-tier receivers all season, and could very well keep Green in check for the game with sufficient pressure on Andy Dalton.
(2) Philadelphia Eagles- While only available in 16% of ESPN leagues and 13% of Yahoo leagues, you may be fortunate enough to still have a shot at snatching the Eagles defense for your playoff run. The Eagles have been steamrolling teams since October and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Philadelphia has become a must play each week. It is mind-boggling that they still are available at all! Further, like Detroit, Philly has three potentially great matchups during the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, the Eagles are on the road against the Rams. I know, I know. The Rams have an incredible offense. However, as proven against the Vikings, the Rams do have some weaknesses against strong defenses. Enter the Eagles. Goff will be feeling the pressure in this heavyweight NFC bout, which will have major playoff ramifications for both teams. The moment may be too big for the Rams, which bodes well for Philly. In Week 15, the Eagles are on the road again, this time against division rival New York. The Eagles should overpower the Giants’ offensive line all game, becoming close friends with Eli along the way. In Week 16, the Eagles are home against a struggling Raiders squad that has been in a downward spiral for most of the season. The Eagles should earn you many points on your way to a championship.
Weeks 15 & 16 Plays
(1) Baltimore Ravens- Available in 16% of ESPN leagues and 12% of Yahoo leagues, the Ravens defense have been flying under the radar, racking up a ridiculous amount of fantasy points for most of the season. However, with a tough Week 14 matchup against the dangerous Steelers, they are best left on the bench until Week 15. After this, be ready to ride the Ravens. In Week 15, the Ravens are fortunate enough to play the Browns, always a tasty matchup for fantasy defenses. In Week 16, the good times continue, as the Colts will travel to Baltimore. Importantly, the Ravens will most likely be fighting for a Wild Card spot, making them more likely than a team like Philadelphia to play a full 60-minute game, a potential game changer in the fantasy championships.
(2) Carolina Panthers- Available in approximately 30% of ESPN leagues and 38% of Yahoo leagues, the Panthers could very well give you an edge in your league’s Semi-Final matchup, as well as the Championship round. In Week 15, the Panthers host the Packers. While there is a chance that Aaron Rodgers returns for that game, that is looking less certain each day. If Rodgers is out, the Panthers and their experienced defense should give Hundley a lot of trouble all game, which will see you rack up the points. Further, in Week 16, the Panthers host the Bucs, who as previously mentioned, have not been a threat all season. Regardless of who is at quarterback, the Panthers should dominate for your team.
(3) Washington- Available in approximately 90% of ESPN leagues and 89% of Yahoo leagues, Washington can be an option for those in deeper leagues, with fewer attractive options at your disposal. In Week 15, Washington plays Arizona. With Gabbert feeling overconfident after a couple of average games at starting QB, he might just be due for a couple of risky shots leading to undisciplined picks. Washington might not have the best track record, but counting on Blaine Gabbert to throw an interception doesn’t seem like a big stretch. Week 16 sees them up against the Broncos, who have had trouble on offense all season. If the waiver wire is thin, you should be able to count on Washington to get some pressure on whoever is in at quarterback for the Broncos by then.
Week 14 Only!
(1) Cincinnati Bengals- Available in approximately 31% of ESPN leagues as well as 34% of Yahoo leagues, the Bengals’ defense may be a great option during the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Week 14 sees them hosting the Bears. The Bengals have been improving the last couple of weeks on defense and should make moving the ball quite difficult for the Bears and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. This bodes well for your fantasy team as you seek a spot in the Semi-Finals.
(2) Buffalo Bills– Available in approximately 79% of ESPN leagues as well as 81% of Yahoo Leagues, the Bills defense is a great option for those in deeper leagues. In Week 14, they host the Colts. As long as the Bills are starting the right quarterback (unquestionably Tyrod Taylor), they will still be motivated to play hard. Jacoby Brissett has been a fun story for the Colts this season, but expect them to be seriously overmatched by a fairly talented Bills defense, allowing you to rack up the points as you cruise to the Semi-Finals of your league.
Photo courtesy of: The Zone Report