Week 13 has arrived. This is typically the most important week of the season for most leagues, as we all make that final push to make the playoffs. Before we get into the stars of Week 12 and the soon-to-be stars of Week 13, I wanted to address a quick irritation. Fantasy DEF/ST has received a bad rap on Twitter as of late, with talks of removing it from leagues altogether, and for those people, I have 3 questions:

  1. Do you like researching matchups for the best possible play?
  2. Do you like working your waiver wire for hidden gems?
  3. Why are you trying to put me out of a job?

All jokes aside, the 1st two questions form a large base of what makes fantasy football fun. A common phrase heard when listening to The Fantasy Footballers is “You don’t win your league at the draft.” It’s about staying active, working that waiver wire, and starting the right guys on a weekly basis. In no week is that more important than Week 13. So let’s examine what made the top performers successful in Week 12 and what matchups are going to put you in the playoffs after Week 13.

Week 12 Top Performances

Baltimore Ravens: vs Oakland Raiders
Putting it plain and simple, the Raiders are a matchup you attack in the world of fantasy defense. This is the 4th time in 6 games that Oakland has given up a top 3 performance. While Baltimore did allow 17 points, they were helped along but a 2nd quarter punt return for a TD and a 4th quarter fumble recovery taken to the house. That was their only takeaway in this game but they also added 3 sacks of Derek Carr and one weekly finish atop the ranks of fantasy DEF/ST.

Week 13 Matchup: @ Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is coming off of a bad game against New Orleans but plays much better at home.  In order to score here, Baltimore will need to sack the QB and that has not been their strong point lately. They only have 6 sacks in their last 5 games and 3 came in Week 12. If your playoff hopes are on the line, I’d look elsewhere if possible in Week 13.

New Orleans Saints: vs Atlanta Falcons
While not quite to the level of Chiefs/Rams, this is the 2nd week in a row that a high scoring game has given us a top performance. The Saints did 2 things very well in this game: Sack the QB and attack the ball. New Orleans jumped out to an early lead and was able to play very aggressively going after the QB, registering 6 sacks on Matt Ryan. They also punched the ball out 3 times for 3 fumble recoveries. One interception made it 4 total takeaways and a top performance on Thanksgiving for the Saints.

Week 13 Matchup: @ Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has been a tough matchup as of late but the Saints defense has really stepped up in their last 3 games. The Cowboys give up the 15th most fantasy points to defenses but haven’t given up a top 10 performance in their last 3. This will likely be another middle of the road performance but with some upside. If you can’t grab one of the better options I give later, you could do worse than the Saints.

Chicago Bears: @ Detroit Lions
Not the most surprising outcome as Detroit has given up double-digit fantasy points to opposing defenses in 4 of their last 5 games. The Bears didn’t have the spectacular game that I expected but they did enough for a top performance, registering 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. They received a boost late in the 4th quarter when Eddie Jackson recorded his 3rd pick-6 of the season for what would ultimately be the game-winning TD.

Week 13 Matchup: @ New York Giants
The Bears survived a two TD game from LeGarrette Blount last week so, despite the dominance of Saquon Barkley, they are good to go in Week 13. The Giants give up the 12th most points to opposing DEF/ST but have been stingy as of late, not giving up more than 5 points in any of their last 3 games. All that said, they still give up a lot of QB sacks and that is where Chicago will leave their mark in this one. Start the Bears.

Week 13 Starts

Kansas City Chiefs: @ Oakland Raiders
The Chiefs offense has continually put their defense in great situations all season. Despite the fact that they have given up the 5th most points this season, they are still ranked in the top 10 of fantasy DEF/ST. Games like this, where they play a far inferior opponent are where they make their bones. Look for a blowout and at least 5 sacks and 2 turnovers out of Kansas City in this one. Even better is that coming off of their bye, the Chiefs ownership % is down around 40%, so they may be available for your playoff push.

David Eulitt/Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams: @ Detroit Lions
There isn’t a ton of decision making going into this but it’s still worth mentioning. The Rams were on a bye last week so there appears to be a 1 in 10 chance they are available in your fantasy league. Go and put that waiver claim in right now so that you can take advantage of the train wreck that is the Detroit offense.

Denver Broncos: @ Cincinnati Bengals
Denver gets an injury-riddled Bengals offense being led by Jeff Driskel. Sounds like a formula for DEF/ST success. Cincinnati embarrassed themselves last week and, honestly, things weren’t all that great before they lost Dalton. If this game was in Denver, the Broncos would be my start of the week.

Stream of the Week

Miami Dolphins: vs Buffalo Bills
I’m starting to think that the Buffalo Bills offense reads my article. In the 2 games that I was sure that they were going to get destroyed and give up a ton of points to the opposing DEF/ST (Minnesota and Jacksonville), they come out and play awesome and win the game. Well, 3rd time is the charm right. Miami is only owned in around 10% of fantasy leagues and has played decent to actually good football in each of their last 3 games. They tend to give up points, but also force turnovers and get after the QB. I actually like the Bills DEF/ST as well, and they’re only owned in around 40% of leagues.

Week 13 Sits

Houston Texans: vs Cleveland Browns
When I started writing this article 3 years ago, my process to choose my start of the week was easy: Who was playing the Browns? As a northeast Ohio native, I am glad to say that the Browns have turned a corner. As of late, there isn’t even a middle ground, you cannot start your defense against Baker Mayfield and the new look Cleveland offense. The Browns haven’t given up more than 7 points since Week 6 and they are coming off of a game where they put the Cincinnati DEF/ST into negative points.

Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles: vs Washington Redskins
I don’t how many different ways I can say this…CUT. THE. EAGLES. DEFENSE. NOW. They are routinely on my don’t start list and still have an ownership % over 60%. They haven’t been good and are getting worse. Even against Colt McCoy, there is no way you can put your playoff hopes on the Eagles DEF/ST.

Minnesota Vikings: @ New England Patriots
While owned in over 90% of leagues, Minnesota has only given us one great fantasy performance in its last 4 games. With the playoffs on the line, you cannot gamble on mediocrity against one of the leagues better, and improving, offenses. The Patriots have only given up more than 5 fantasy points to DEF/ST twice this year. I’m not betting on this being the third.

Top DEF/ST Year-to-Date

All Stats and Scores from FantasyData.com, your league scoring may differ. Ranks vs Pass/Run are based on Yards per Game allowed.

Team Fantasy Points Weeks in Top 12 Points Allowed Sacks Int Fum Rec Def/Ret TD Safety Blocked Kick Rank vs Pass Rank vs Run
1 Bears 139 8 211 34 20 9 6 0 0 10 2
2 Rams 105 7 276 29 10 10 4 2 2 19 21
3 Texans 101 5 222 34 9 10 3 0 1 11 7
4 Vikings 97 7 228 36 10 8 3 0 0 5 4
5 Redskins 93 6 223 32 11 10 1 0 0 23 8
6 Chiefs 87 7 280 36 11 6 4 0 1 32 20
7 Steelers 85 6 249 39 6 6 3 2 2 6 9
8 Broncos 84 4 252 33 12 5 2 0 4 24 24
9 Dolphins 83 5 271 18 17 5 3 0 2 21 29
10 Patriots 81 4 249 17 12 6 3 0 1 25 14
11 Ravens 79 4 198 32 5 3 2 0 0 2 3
12 Browns 77 6 275 25 14 14 0 1 2 29 28

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