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Defenses (DEF) to Start in Week 16: Fantasy Tiers & Rankings

By Anthony Quintano (Flickr: Super Bowl XLVIII (48) New York New Jersey) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsFor those of you fantasy football owners out there who are still in the hunt and have questions about defenses, RotoBaller has got you covered with around-the-league analysis of the Week 16 NFL matchups.

Just like every other week of the fantasy football season, we’re here to give you the insight to help make your defense streaming and Week 16 lineup decisions a bit easier. Unlike every other week there are two Saturday games in Week 16, so be sure to stay on top of your league’s waiver wire options and set your lineups in time. Good luck in your playoff matchups, RotoBallers!


Week 16 Defenses: Playoff Tiers & Rankings

Tier 1: New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks

There are four juicy matchups to cover for this weeks first tier, starting off with the Patriots heading to New Jersey to take on Geno Smith, Percy Harvin and Eric Decker who have been putting up 16 points per game. The Jets have turned the ball over 22 times and have let up 44 sacks on the year, and in all honesty losing is probably the best thing that can happen to them at this point in terms of the order of the draft. New England's defense has been stout all year including this past week against the Dolphins. They've been allowing 20 PPG, have generated 23 takeaways and 36 sacks on he year, and you can expect more of the same this week against New York.

Green Bay travels to Tampa Bay and hopes the warmer weather can heat their offense up to the level they were at prior to their week 15 loss to Buffalo. But their defense had another good performance and will look to continue that roll into the playoffs. They're now averaging 23 points allowed per game and have racked up 32 sacks, making a juicy matchup against a Tampa offense averaging 18 per game that has allowed 42 sacks. They've also turned the ball over 31 times and are going up against an opportunistic Green Bay defense with 25 takeaways on the year.

Buffalo is coming off of a great win against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and lost to Peyton Manning and the Broncos the week before. Next week they face off against Tom Brady and the Patriots, but this week they get a reprieve as they take on Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, James Jones and the Raiders. Oakland has been averaging just 15 per game, and has turned the ball over 27 times on the year. They've only allowed 23 sacks on the year, but four of those came this past week against the Chiefs, and this week they have the tall task of taking on the Bills pass rush that has 49 sacks so far. Buffalo has also only been giving up 18 per game and has generated 30 takeaways on the year.

The Seahawks head to the desert for their game against Arizona. Seattle's defensive dominance has been well documented at this point, and with Ryan Lindley taking over the reigns for Arizona's offense that wasn't exactly lighting things up with Drew Stanton, this could spell trouble. They've only been putting up 21 per game, but have taken care of the ball with only 13 giveaways. But now they will have an inexperienced leader going up against the leagues best team that's only allowed 17 per game and has racked up 29 sacks. All of these first tier teams are stone cold starts in all leagues this week.


Tier 2: Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos

Tier two is full of good defenses with pretty good matchups, starting off with the Eagles taking on the reeling Redskins. Robert Griffin, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris have only been able to put up 18 per game and have given up 53 sacks including 7 this past week against the Giants. This Eagles pass rush has been dominant with 47 sacks to go along with their 25 takeaways while they've been giving up 25 PPG.

The Texans host the Ravens in a game in which we'll look at both sides of the ball. Houston's defense has only been allowing 20 PPG to opponents and has 31 takeaways to go with their 31 sacks. Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Justin Forsett and their offense have been putting up 27 per game and have only turned the ball over 17 times helping out their O-Line that's only allowed 16 sacks on the year. Baltimore's defense has been dominant as well only allowing 19 PPG and racking up 45 sacks on the year. The Texans have averaged 23 per game and have only allowed 24 sacks on the year, but will be led by Tom Savage this week as they lose their second QB for the season due to injury.

The Lions take on the Bears in Chicago and bring with them one of the leagues best defenses. They've only been allowing 17 PPG and have generated 24 takeaways and 39 sacks on the year. They take on a Bears offense that's in a tumultuous situation to say the least. They've been putting up 22 per game and have turned the ball over 25 times, their O-Line hasn't been helpful either allowing 31 sacks prior to their Monday night game against the Saints.

One of league's hottest defenses has been the St. Louis Rams, and they host the New York Giants this week who have been putting up 23 PPG. Other than Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning doesn't have many viable weapons to work with, which is part of the reason for their 27 giveaways and 29 sacks allowed. They're going up against a Rams defense that has allowed 12 total points in their last three games and is averaging just 21 PPG allowed. They've also found their pass rush with 17 of their 36 sacks coming in the past four games.

The Arizona Cardinals will be looking to avenge their week 12 loss to Seattle in which their defense allowed 17 points and scored 10 fantasy points in standard leagues. They've been averaging just 17 PPG allowed and have generated 25 takeaways and 33 sacks on the year. The Seahawks are finally playing with that defending champion vibe and have been averaging 24 PPG under Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Doug Baldwin. They've only turned the ball over 12 times so far, but have let up 38 sacks and are going up against a formidable pass rush.

Rounding out the second tier we find the Denver Broncos who travel to Cincinnati to take on Andy Dalton, AJ Green, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard who have been averaging just 22 PPG. They've only turned the ball over 21 times on the year and have let up less than 20 sacks, but are going up against an improving Denver defense that's only been allowing 22 PPG to opposing offenses. They've only generated 21 takeaways so far but have racked up 38 sacks. Their fantasy numbers may not dazzle this week, but they shouldn't burn you either with a sub-five performance. That goes for all these teams in the second tier. They're the highest upside lowest floor teams just outside the "locks" of the week, and should be a fantasy manager's main target for streaming this week.


Tier 3: Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers

The third tier is where things start to get dicey for this fantasy championship week, but we look at both teams involved in three games, starting off with the Chiefs heading to Pittsburgh. The Chiefs have only been allowing 18 PPG and have racked up 38 sacks so far, but don't look for the turnover battle to be a big factor for Kansas City as they've only managed 10 turnovers while the Steelers have only turned the ball over 18 times. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell have been lighting defense up recently, averaging 28 per game, but they have let up 32 sacks on the year. Pittsburgh's defense has been a bit more suspect than their offense though, allowing 24 PPG to opponents and only managing 17 takeaways and 24 sacks. They'll be taking on a Chiefs offense that takes care of the ball with only 16 giveaways, and that's been averaging 23 PPG and has allowed 39 sacks.

One of those Saturday games I mentioned involves the Chargers staying in California for their contest against the 49ers. San Francisco's offensive struggles have been well documented and they're now officially eliminated from playoff contention as they take on a pretty good Chargers defense. They've been allowing 21 PPG but haven't been able to generate many turnovers or much of a pass rush. Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree have only been able to put up an average of 18 per game and their O-Line has allowed 49 sacks on the year including six this past weekend to the Seahawks. Their defense on the other hand has been playing pretty well, allowing 20 PPG to go with their 23 takeaways and 32 sacks. But Phillip Rivers, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates are capable of a blowout any week, even though their 22 PPG average may not suggest such. They've only turned the ball over 17 times on the year and have allowed 30 sacks on Rivers.

Miami hosts the Vikings who seem to be putting the pieces together slowly under the leadership of Teddy Bridgewater. They've been averaging 20 PPG offensively and haven't been too careless with the ball with only 18 giveaways on the year. One of their issues offensively however is the fact that their O-Line has given up 44 sacks including four this past week against the Lions. The Dolphins defense has racked up 34 sacks to go along with their 23 takeaways and 22 PPG allowed average.

Finishing off the third tier we look at both sides of the Carolina Cleveland matchup. Cleveland's defense has been pretty reliable other than their week 15 performance against the Bengals. They've been allowing 21 PPG and have generated 27 takeaways and 29 sacks on the year. Carolina's offense has been fairly lackluster, averaging just 21 per game and allowing 40 sacks on Cam Newton. Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson shouldn't be too hard for the Brown's defense to contain even if they don't have Joe Haden back, but I think he'll suit up this week.

The Panthers defense has been improving and is almost starting to look like what we expected them to at the beginning of the season. They've been allowing 26 per game, but have racked up 5 sacks and 5 turnovers in their past two games, and will look to continue that hot streak against a reeling Cleveland offense trying to learn how to play with Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football will need to watch the tape of his first start more times than he'd like to and try to improve upon that, but it will be a long process. The receivers need to learn how to play with him too and the offense as a whole will still be going through growing pains this week against Carolina. That's one reason the Panthers are a viable streaming option this week in all 12+team leagues, which goes for all these third tier squads.


Tier 4: Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, New York Giants

This week's fourth tier should be avoided under the majority of circumstances given the fact most leagues are in their fantasy championship games. Sadly we start off with the Bengals who haven't been this low in my rankings in quite some time, and this is after their "impressive" shutout of Cleveland. They're taking on Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and CJ Anderson who have been putting up 29 per game. While Manning was ill and looked like his injury may have been affecting him, it didn't look like anything serious enough to cause concern for this week. Cincinnati's defense has looked better recently, and is still at 21 PPG allowed, but hasn't been able to generate turnovers or sacks all season, and the Bronco's have been great about not allowing those either.

Dallas host Indianapolis in a game with crazy playoff implications. This game has all the makings of a shootout with these high-powered offenses going up against defenses that have been reeling recently. Dallas has been allowing 23 per game, and has decent turnover and sack numbers, but they're going up against an offense averaging 30 per game that hasn't been giving up too many sacks either. TY Hilton, Colby Fleener and Andrew Luck can put up tremendous numbers against anybody and I wouldn't want to trust any defense against them during the playoffs. On the other side of the ball we find the Colts defense taking on Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray. They've been putting up 27 PPG and will be looking to perform better at home as weird as that sounds. Indy has been allowing 23 per game and has racked up 36 sacks, but with both teams having so much to play for, I'm steering clear of this one.

In a situation that couldn't be any more different than that of the Cowboys vs the Colts, the Titans take on the Jaguars on Thursday in a game that only has implications to the top 5 picks of the draft. Neither team can stop their opponents, or put up points themselves and this game has as good of a chance of being a low scoring affair as it does of being a blowout. Both teams pass rush have been one of their few bright spots on the year, and both O-Lines have struggled, but I wouldn't be looking to trust either of these defenses during the playoffs, no matter their opponent

Minnesota travels to Miami to face off against the Dolphins who have been putting up 23 per game. While Miami's playoff chances took a major blow this past week in their loss to the Patriots, there's still a slim chance and you know they'll be laying it all on the line. Minnesota's defense has been fairly underrated this year as they've been giving up 21 per game and have generated 38 sacks, but they're too inconsistent to be trusted and are taking on a formidable offense.

Chicago hosts divisional opponents in the Lions and would love to play spoiler for a team that finds themselves ahead of the Packers for the division lead. The Lions have only been averaging 20 PPG but have looked better recently with 34 points in their three games prior to week 15's matchup against the Vikings. The Bears defenese has been giving up 29 per game prior to their Monday night game against the Saints and shouldn't be trusted in any fantasy week, let alone the playoffs.

Finishing out the fourth tier we come to the Giants who head to St. Louis to take on a Rams squad that has been playing their hearts out. They're still only averaging 21 per game offensively but have put up at least 22 in four of their last five games. They've allowed over 40 sacks on the year and the Giants formidable pass rush has generated 41 themselves, but that's about the only thing in New York's favor on that side of the ball. All of these fourth tier teams have too little upside to instill any sort of faith in them for fantasy manager's playoff runs.


Tier 5: Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With this being the championship game in standard leagues, I'm really not going to get into many of these fifth tier matchups. There's only a couple of teams in each league with decisions to make and if you're lucky enough to be in that situation, you shouldn't be looking at any of the teams this far down the rankings. The Raiders take on the Bills, and while Buffalo's offense hasn't exactly been lighting things up, don't even consider Oakland with this much on the line in the fantasy playoffs.

Washington hosts the Eagles and would love to play spoiler against their division rivals, the only problem is they don't have a good enough defense to contain the high-flying Eagles who have been putting up 30 per game.

The entire NFC South is a complete mess, but arguably the two biggest disappointments have been the Saints and Falcons. They face off in their fight to keep up with the Panthers for the division but both have pretty bad defenses and high potent offenses.  With both teams averaging over 25 points allowed and scored per game, and with low turnover and sack numbers, I'm avoiding this game at all costs.

The New York Jets have the pleasure of hosting Tom Brady and company in a game that they wish had more meaning than it does. They've been giving up 26 per game while the pats have been averaging 32 PPG and haven't been turning the ball over or allowing sacks.

Tampa Bay plays host to Aaron Rodgers and company who will be looking to rebound in a big way after their disappointing loss to the Bills. Tampa has been giving up 26 per game while the Packers have been scoring 31 per. And while the sack numbers look as though they could be in Tampa's favor, there's not enough there to trust the Buccaneers defense this late into the fantasy playoffs. That goes for all of these teams in the fifth tier this week, it's simply not worth the risk.