Fantasy Football DEF/ST Strategy for Week 15
It’s Week 15 and you’re reading an article about fantasy defenses…congrats on your trip to your league semifinals! I love writing about the other side of the ball but I also know that people are only reading if they really care about fantasy football. Week 14 brought some great performances and a repeat of one of my favorite moments in fantasy football: My Stream of the Week, always available in more than 50% of leagues, was the #1 DEF last week. I think it’s safe to say the timing could not have been better. Now, let’s see who ruled Week 14 and who we might be praising for getting us into the finals after Week 15.
Week 14 Top Performances
Washington Football Team @ SF
In case my gloating wasn’t clear in the intro: I love when my “Stream of the Week” ends up as the DEF1. I think this is only the 2nd time it has happened this season but the quarterfinals are just about the perfect time. Washington put up more fantasy points than most RBs and more actual points than quite a few offenses, scoring two TDs of their own on the week. They sacked Nick Mullens four times and forced three turnovers on the week. Add those stats to their two TDs and you get the DEF1 in Week 14.
Week 15 Matchup: vs SEA
All season long, I’ve been warning against playing D/ST against Russell Wilson and Co. but I’m going against that this week. Washington was my Stream of the Week last week and they could have easily been so again this week. Seattle has allowed 10+ fantasy points from D/ST in three of their last six games. They’ve turned the ball over three times in the last two games and allowed six sacks during that time. Those happen to be the things that Washington does well. Seattle might score, but sacks and turnovers will keep the WFT D/ST a nice play in Week 15.
Los Angeles Rams vs NE
The Rams put their top-3 bid in early in the week, beating down the Patriots on Thursday night. New England’s offense managed just a field goal in the game and the Rams sacked the QB, a combo of Cam Newton and Jarett Stidham, six times. They also picked Newton off for a TD in the 2nd quarter. As with most weeks, you score a TD, there is a spot for you in the top-3.
Week 15 Matchup: vs NYJ
The Rams are one of the best fantasy defenses, just came off of a top-2 week, and they’re playing the Jets. The Jets give up the most points to fantasy D/ST. Not sure I needed to say more than “They’re playing the Jets.” Easily the Start of the Week.
Arizona Cardinals @ NYG
The Giants’ offense only scored just seven points in this game, mostly due to inept QB play throughout. Daniel Jones returned but was clearly not 100% and his game suffered for it. He ran for no yards and was sacked six times. Jones was eventually benched and Colt McCoy did not do much better. Both QBs lost a fumble, as did Dion Lewis, giving the Cardinals three takeaways on top of eight sacks on the day. Five of those sacks were by Haason Reddick, who set the IDP world on fire in Week 14. Those stats also put them in a tie for the DEF3 spot for the week.
Week 15 Matchup: vs PHI
The Eagles offense just gave the Saints more than they could handle and New Orleans has a stronger defense than Arizona. That being said, most rookie QBs are mistake-prone and Arizona has the speed to play with Jalen Hurts. They are risky but the Cardinals’ DEF/ST could be a nice stream play this week.
Dallas Cowboys @ CIN
Sometimes the right opponent can make a bad DEF look good. The Dallas D/ST has just four top-12 finishes this season but was able to crack the top-3 against a depleted Bengals team. Dallas held Cincinnati to just seven total points and sacked the QB twice on the day. Their push to the top-3 was on the back of three fumble recoveries, one of which was taken back for a TD. It was easily the best performance we’ve seen from the Cowboys’ DEF this season and good enough to land them in a tie for the top-3.
Week 15 Matchup: vs SF
While not as strong a candidate as they were last week against Cincinnati, Dallas is still a streaming candidate against a San Francisco offense that gives up the 7th most points to fantasy DEF. The Dallas defense itself is not great but the matchup is nice. If you’re desperate, they could be a backend top-12 play in Week 15.
Week 15 Starts
Pittsburgh Steelers @ CIN
The Steelers have been one of the best fantasy DEFs this season and they are likely a big reason you are playing in your semifinals this week. They’ve also been pretty ho-hum over the last two weeks. A date with the Bengals is the perfect remedy. The Bengals give up the 2nd most fantasy points to D/ST and the Steelers scored 12 fantasy points when they played each other in Week 10. The only thing that has changed since then was that Cincinnatti lost their star QB. Expect another 10+ fantasy point performance.
Baltimore Ravens vs JAX
Tough to trust Baltimore after Cleveland just scored 42 against them last Monday but Jacksonville is a much easier matchup. The Jaguars allow the 11th most points to fantasy D/ST and seem unlikely to turn this game into the shootout that happened in Cleveland. The Ravens have picked a ball off in five of their last six games and the Jags are averaging almost two turnovers and three sacks allowed per game. Expect a bounceback for this top-5 fantasy defense.
Seattle Seahawks @ WAS
On the season, Seattle has been a sneaky play, finishing in the top-12 eight times but only cracking 10+ fantasy points twice. However, over their last three games, with the addition of Carlos Dunlap and the return of Jamal Adams, they have been a solid play. They have scored 30 fantasy points over their last three games and Washington gives up the 14th most fantasy points to D/ST. To make matters worse (better for the Seattle DEF), Washington may be missing Antonio Gibson and Alex Smith in this game.
Stream of the Week
New England Patriots @ MIA
What a world that we can consider last year’s #1 fantasy D/ST as a streaming option in the fantasy semifinals. Before you question my method, go check your waivers, the Patriots DEF is available in 52% of leagues as of this writing. And I do realize that the Dolphins are far from a pushover, but before you question my sanity, go check what New England has done to young QBs this season. Drew Lock: no TDs, two INTs. Kyler Murray: no TDs, one INT. Justin Herbert: no TDs, two INTs. I know Tua Tagovailoa has looked good but he has not faced Bill Belichick and I don’t think it is going to go well.
Other Options: Washington, Browns, Bills, Cardinals
Week 15 Sits
New Orleans Saints vs KC
Look, I know Patrick Mahomes just threw three INTs in Miami…don’t care. The Chiefs can score at will and this game has “high-scoring” written all over it. Kansas City has allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points to fantasy defenses this year and you don’t want to bet against them trying to make your championship game.
Kansas City Chiefs @ NO
In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter who is playing QB for the Saints, they are still an avoid. If Brees is back, they will score through the air and won’t turn the ball over much. If it’s Taysom Hill, they will score on the ground and control the clock. On the season, the Saints allow the 4th fewest points to D/ST. You want no part of the defensive side of this game.
Minnesota Vikings vs CHI
Who would have thought at the beginning of this season that I would be telling you to avoid Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago Bears in the fantasy playoffs? While the Bears do give up the 9th most fantasy points to D/ST, they have allowed just seven total fantasy points in their last two games. The Vikings don’t stop the run or pass particularly well and Trubisky has hit seven TD passes in the last three weeks with David Montgomery rushing for over 288 yards and three TDs during that same span. With Chicago scoring and not really turning the ball over, you can find a better matchup.
Top DEF/ST Year-to-Date
*All Stats and Scores from FantasyData.com, your league scoring may differ. Rank vs Pass/Run based on yards allowed.