Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


Prep for Playoffs Now! Drafting Defense Based on Playoff Opponents

While it is never smart to think you will have the same defense at the end of the season that you draft at the beginning, there may be some leagues in which it is a must. Whether it be a best ball league (acceptable) or a league which limits roster moves (unacceptable!), if you need to find a defense in the draft who will be there for you come crunch time, then this is for you.

The good thing about team defenses are their unpredictability, meaning you can still find good value even in the final round. This can be a crap shoot but there are always a few surprises in this area every year. How many of you are glad you drafted the Bears defense now? While there are some elite defenses the likes of the Jaguars or Vikings, it is very rare for defenses to repeat as number one. Even if you end up with a defense like the Saints or the above-mentioned Bears, this can work for you. The best part about the Bears and Saints defenses? They also have an early bye week, so you will not have to worry about a lack of points late in the season.

Let us now take a look at the defenses that can be targeted to give you the best matchups during the playoffs of Weeks 13 through 17 to give you an edge come fantasy playoff time.

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!


Defenses to Target Late

Houston Texans

The Texans should benefit greatly from the return of both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on the defensive side of the ball just as much as getting Deshaun Watson back at quarterback. If both players can stay healthy and finally pair for a full season with Jadeveon Clowney, the defense could finally turn into the wrecking crew which we have expected it to be in recent years before the slew of injuries took it away. Coming into the season, the Houston Texans have the second-easiest strength of schedule, which is directly due to their 4-12 finish last season.

In the main playoff weeks of 13-16, the Texans have three relatively easy defensive matchups against the Browns, Colts and Jets, followed by a Week 16 tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles. With the Browns and Colts game both being played at home in Houston, the Texans defense with the front seven as well as an improved secondary with newly acquired Tyrann Mathieu anchoring will be all over the Browns quarterback whether it be Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield and Andrew Luck bringing pressure and causing turnovers for Deshaun Watson and the offense to score.

If you need to play them in Week 16 against the Eagles, you can since this game is also at home in Houston. Depending on how Carson Wentz comes back this season behind the top-rated offensive line, you may have a vulnerable quarterback with a shaky receiving corps. Especially if Alshon Jeffrey continues to suffer from the injury bug which has followed him from Chicago. If this happens, it will be a weakened wide receiver group led by the likes of Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and Mike Wallace. While the offensive line is highly rated coming into the season this could change If All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters is not healed from his own injury or if right tackle Lane Johnson has another PED suspension which would take him out for the entire season at this point.

Denver Broncos

Unlike the Texans second-easiest strength of schedule, the Denver Broncos is the fourth-hardest. But when it really counts in the playoffs, it is as soft as sleeping on a marshmallow. With games against the Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders, the Broncos opponents are delightful when it comes to non-powerful offenses. While three of these games, the Bengals, 49ers and Raiders are on the road none of these teams will have a distinct home-field advantage. When it comes to Cincinnati, it will be winter on the river. Meaning windy and cold. This means a lot of the running game from both sides of the ball and this, in turn, means fewer drives and lower scoring making this a great defensive matchup for the Broncos.

The following week the team heads to the big bell bottom. A stadium so far away from the city it represents, no one wants to travel there even for a Super Bowl. With the injury to Jerick McKinnon taking him out for the season, it will rely heavily on whether or not Jimmy Garoppolo really is better than Tom Brady. If he is, the 49ers may pile on the points in this game. If not? Well, the Broncos' pass rush with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will make it a long day for the best-looking man in the NFL. Eric Decker retired, remember?

In the only home game in this stretch, the Broncos will take on the Browns and whichever quarterback is starting for them at that point in the season. Whether it is Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield the offense, they could be stumbling to the finish of another disappointing season behind Hue Jackson. While the loss of Aqib Talib from the secondary will hurt the front seven, Miller and Chubb will be good enough to mask the deficiency and with Case Keenum behind center the running game and short pass game should keep the Cleveland offense off the field for major parts of the game again making this a likely lower-scoring game.

In the final game of the fantasy season, the Oakland Raiders should prove to be a shipwreck. If Jon Gruden has his way, we may see a starting lineup of A.J. McCarron, Doug Martin, Jordy Nelson and newly signed Brandon LaFell on offense. Either way at 27.4 years of age he has built the oldest team in the league for this season and while they may be good locker room guys, they will also start breaking down by the end of the season, especially under the pressure of Gruden giving the impression that if they do one thing wrong, he may just get rid of them. With the trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears, they have unofficially thrown in the towel for this season as their win total has already gone from under 8.5 -135 to under 7.5 -155 in a matter of 24 hours. The experts in Vegas don’t have any confidence in the Raiders and neither should you. This lack of confidence should be directly relatable to your immense consideration for using the Denver Broncos, not just for the season, but especially come playoff time.

Los Angeles Rams

The last of our defenses to talk about, the Los Angeles Rams strength of schedule falls in between the other two teams at 19. The difference between the other two teams and the Rams is the offense. Whereas the Broncos are starting a new quarterback and after a game or two a rookie running back, and the Texans are hoping for Deshaun Watson to be completely healthy, the Rams have no such concerns.

With Jared Goff taking a major step forward in his second season, more importantly, his first without Jeff Fisher, he looks to be going in the right direction and is the perfect type of quarterback to lead the Rams team. Add to this the incredible season by Todd Gurley who rebounded from a disappointing 2016 season to the tune of 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns on 279 rushes while adding another 788 yards and 6 touchdowns on 64 receptions in the receiving game. This allowed him to be the AP offensive player of the year, NFL MVP and most importantly for us, the number one fantasy running back. While it is not a guarantee he will finish at number one again, a top-five finish is surely ahead which will keep the offense humming in a down NFC West thus allowing the defense with newly happy Aaron Donald and an elite secondary to clamp down on opponents.

In their four playoff weeks, which come off their Week 12 bye week, they have three road games as well as only one home game, but their home game is against what should be the hardest opponent. In Weeks 13 and 14 the Rams will head on the road to take on the two bottom NFC North teams in Detroit and Chicago. While both should be better this season, this is just an assumption at this point and is still unknown. Can the Lions finally muster a rush game with Kerryon Johnson? Maybe, but with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh patrolling the line they will need to throw it with Matthew Stafford. When they do throw, they will find it just as difficult with the likes of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters clamping down on the receivers.

We are still cautious on the Bears, as we do not yet know what to expect from the Matt Nagy offense, but with the addition of Khalil Mack this weekend, we can reasonably conclude the defense will be better. This should make this a lower scoring game than first thought and with the Rams defense set to match, we should not have much offense in this matchup.

Moving on to the final two weeks of the playoffs, it starts with a rematch against the Eagles from a game last season in which Carson Wentz was injured and Nick Foles came on to the scene. This time around the Rams defense is better equipped to stop an Eagles offense which might take a step back this season. Considering the injury to Wentz and the ailing Alshon Jeffrey, the Rams will be able to slow this team down if not stop them before moving into a week 16 game against division foe Arizona Cardinals.

While David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are great, there is not much more to say about the Cardinals. If Sam Bradford can remain healthy this could bode well for tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, but this has not been the case in his career and the likelihood of Josh Rosen being installed at quarterback by this point lead to the belief the Cardinals will not be an explosive or in some senses even a decent offense. The Offensive line was bad in 2017 and will season-ending injuries suffered in the preseason they have only gotten worse. Whether it be the immobile Bradford, or the equally statuesque Rosen, both will be moving for their lives against the front seven of the Rams defense while the secondary will shut down Fitzgerald, Johnson and company in the passing game.

While the Rams are one of the first defenses to be taken in drafts, they are well worth the price as it should still be a last-two round pick. Please, I beg you. If your league mates are the types of players who drop defenses on a bye week, make sure you are the first one to pick them up. If you are already in the playoffs, just drop your defense for the Rams if they are dropped and don’t worry about your defense in Week 12. They are that good and could make all the difference come playoff time.

More Fantasy Football Draft Strategy

More Recent Articles


Engel's Angles: ADP Insights, Perspectives on Aaron Judge and Ketel Marte (Premium Content)

Spring training exhibition play has just opened and expert draft season is here. The trends are being firmly established on how to draft, and where to draft certain players. We all know pure ace top starters are going to be taken very early, and there will be a high emphasis on garnering top speed merchants.... Read More

RotoBaller Friends & Family Industry Mock Draft: What the Experts Were Thinking

The RotoBaller Friends & Family Mock Draft has become an annual tradition where we gather some of the biggest names from the fantasy baseball world and put together a mock draft just as spring training has commenced. Thanks to RT Sports for once again hosting and providing a custom draft site where readers could follow... Read More

H2H Points League Draft Strategy

Points leagues are essentially the rawest version of fantasy baseball. These are not players, these are stat-lines and you want to put up as many points per week as possible. Do not get too attached to underperforming players who have name-value and potential. There is a stark difference in draft strategy when it comes to... Read More

2020 Catcher Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Leagues

Spring Training is upon us! Pitchers and catchers have reported and we finally have some box scores to desperately over-analyze. The catcher position can really be a headache for dynasty owners trying to plan for the future. Needless to say, it is not a position that many MLB teams count on for offense, leaving fantasy players... Read More

Questionable Closers: An Early Look at Some Unsettled Bullpens

As anyone who has played fantasy baseball for even five minutes knows, bullpens around the league are always in flux. There are fewer and fewer closers who are no doubt, always in for the ninth inning, always healthy, never slumping, and always celebrating wins for their team. We're seeing more and more teams go with... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Aaron Civale

With Mike Clevinger sidelined to start the year and Corey Kluber off to Texas, the Indians will rely on the emergence of Aaron Civale to bolster their typically-formidable rotation. Civale impressed in his rookie season with 10 starts, 57.2 innings pitched (IP), a 3-4 win-loss record, 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 46 Ks. Due to the... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Didi Gregorius

The Philadelphia Phillies finished 2019 with a record of 81-81, which was only good enough for a fourth-place finish in the NL East. They have since added the likes of Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius to improve their chances of a division title in 2020. They have also brought in highly-touted manager Joe Girardi to... Read More

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Shortstop

If you're keeping up with the Keeper Value Rankings, you know we've already covered First Base, Second Base, and Third Base. Today, we will address Shortstop. These rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based... Read More

ADP Showdown: Anthony Rendon vs. Rafael Devers

The first two rounds in your fantasy draft can be challenging because each available player is tremendously skilled with significant upside. Every pick looks desirable, so it’s important to try to determine which player has a greater likelihood of producing superior fantasy production. This can be accomplished by examining overall production and team context.  This... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Staff Rankings

Below you will find RotoBaller's 2020 fantasy baseball rankings, tiers and auction dollar values for the 2020 MLB season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Mixed, Head-to-Head, Points, AL/NL Only, Two-Catcher Top 2020 prospects, Dynasty leagues, Keeper values Export the rankings easily... Read More

MLB Closers and Saves: Fantasy Baseball Depth Charts

Saves are an important component for many fantasy baseball leagues. Closers are one of the most volatile positions in fantasy baseball, and one of the highest turnover positions in MLB. Each year, closers drop like flies and many MLB teams make in-season changes due to injuries or poor performance. Stay on top of all closer depth... Read More

Industry Expert Mock: ADP Surprises

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut break down the recent RotoBaller Friends & Family industry mock draft to see how the experts fared and look at some of the most surprising picks, for better or worse. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and... Read More

Fantasy Insider Angles - Thor, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and More (Premium Content)

Success in baseball isn’t always just about pure numbers. For those who play the game and are inside the clubhouse, it’s also about creating the right chemistry and environment. As the New York Mets opened spring training this season, there was a fresh air of optimism around the team. It also seemed to extend to... Read More

Points League Ranker Tool - NFBC

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Brought to you by RotoBaller's Nicklaus Gaut (@Nt_BurtReynolds), this Points Rankings tool uses RotoBaller's 2020 MLB projections to build out custom rankings for NFBC Points Leagues. The tool uses the default NFBC scoring settings. All fantasy baseball platforms have different scoring settings for their points leagues.... Read More

Points League Ranker Tool - CBS

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Brought to you by RotoBaller's Nicklaus Gaut (@Nt_BurtReynolds), this Points Rankings tool uses RotoBaller's 2020 MLB projections to build out custom rankings for CBS Points Leagues. The tool uses the default CBS scoring settings. All fantasy baseball platforms have different scoring settings for their points leagues.... Read More

More Recent Articles


XFL Week 3 - Quarterback Risers and Fallers

We previously looked at target and opportunity risers and fallers, based on the first three weeks of XFL data. Now, it's time to evaluate the quarterbacks, for better or worse. With three weeks already in the rearview mirror and plenty of numbers stored from players showcasing their talent all around the country, it makes sense... Read More

NFL Scouting Combine Preview - Woo Fantasy Podcast

RotoBaller fantasy football analyst Brandon Murchison is joined by John Laub to preview the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine. In depth analysis of the incoming prospects from a fantasy prospective. Where do these players rank going in and how should you value them after the testing is done? Find out in this episode of Woo Fantasy!... Read More

Mike Williams - Dynasty Buy or Sell?

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano discuss the dynasty value of Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams. Will he be as effective without Philip Rivers at quarterback in 2020 or is he a player to sell now? Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us... Read More

XFL Week 3 - Opportunity Risers and Fallers

I'm afraid some folks out there won't like this because they never wanted the XFL to establish itself, but we're already at a point when we can't count the number of games players with the fingers of our hands! That's right, it's been three weeks and 12 matches already. We previously looked at target risers... Read More

NFL Draft Combine Preview: Wide Receivers

The diva position of the NFL has seen an influx of playmakers enter the league in recent years. With so many teams moving to spread offenses, gone are the days of the third year breakout formula that many fantasy owners were used to. Opportunities are growing in these passing attacks each season, meaning we see... Read More

XFL Week 3 - Target Risers and Fallers

I'm afraid some folks out there won't like this because they never wanted the XFL to establish itself, but we're already at a point when we can't count the number of games players with the fingers of our hands! That's right, it's been three weeks and 12 games already. With three weeks already in the... Read More

Biggest Surprises of 2019 - Quarterback

The quarterback position in fantasy football is always one that either gets seriously overvalued, or seriously underrated. We all saw just how much of a difference maker someone like Lamar Jackson could be this year, or Patrick Mahomes last year. This year, we saw Mahomes get drafted extremely early, and while he was still good,... Read More

What Went Wrong with Odell Beckham Jr?

"What Went Wrong?" is a Rotoballer offseason series exploring fantasy players who underperformed their ADP. We'll explain why they fell below expectations and try to determine what it means for their value going forward. Finally free from the decrepit arm of Eli Manning and away from the torturous New York media, Odell Beckham Jr was... Read More

NFL Draft Combine Preview: Running Backs

What always seems to be the highlight for fantasy owners as preparations begin before the NFL Draft is the running back position. Owners clamor to get their hands on the new blood in the league as it has recently shown that it can pay off big time. We've seen the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Christian... Read More

RB Opportunity Share and Impact (AFC East & North): 2019 Review

We wrap up with our coverage of each of the eight NFL divisions, discussing the teams that are part of them and the running backs that were part of those teams in 2019. To present those teams and players I use a set of easy-to-read charts: treemaps. The graphics will hold all of the players... Read More

Dynasty Price Check - Adam Thielen

Many of you have already begun planning and building your 2020 rosters. This includes best ball owners who have assembled teams in that popular format. A number of owners in redraft leagues are inspecting the early rankings, while those of you who are involved in dynasty leagues have continued your process of relentless roster evaluation. As... Read More

XFL DFS Lineup Picks For Week 3: The Checkdown

Check out this week's XFL fantasy football preview including game breakdowns, player analysis, DFS lineup picks and more for week three of the 2020 XFL season. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune... Read More