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This is it! Bear in mind when reading this that things are going to be very screwy this week with many teams resting their best players for the playoffs and to reduce the risk of injury even if they're out of the playoffs. While this is being written on Wednesday, rankings may change drastically by Sunday depending on which teams announce that they are resting starters. With that said, I'm going to be breaking things down a little differently this week. I've broken the teams down into categories and ranked those categories based on their relative safety.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 17 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream and start for Week 16 of the NFL and fantasy football season. Our tiered defense rankings are your guide to drafting defenses, making waiver wire pickups/adds to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 17.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 17 defenses have good matchups and are not widely owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 17 pickup or add. Just as a heads-up, when I mention DST scores, I am referring to ESPN's default PPR scoring. Let me know what you think on Twitter (@Roto_Dubs). Good luck in Week 17 RotoBallers!

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Week 17 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Tier 1 Defenses - Good/okay DSTs still fighting for a playoff spot/positioning.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. CLE)

This one is pretty obvious. The Steelers just got Joe Haden back and are going to still be getting after it against the Browns. They've got a first-round bye, and while I don't see the starters staying in for the whole game they certainly aren't going to take two full weeks off.

2. Baltimore Ravens (vs. CIN)

The Ravens are still grappling for one of the AFC Wild Card spots, so they'll be bringing the house against the Bengals. Even at full strength the Bengals have looked like utter garbage (they are dead last in total offense this season), and with nothing at all to play for I wouldn't be surprised if many of the starters don't play or come out of the game relatively early.

3. Los Angeles Chargers (vs. OAK)

The Chargers are also right on the fringe of an AFC Wild Card spot, so they'll be throwing everything they have against the Raiders this week. The Chargers might be the hottest DST in the league right now, posting eight or more fantasy points in nine of their last 11 games, and 10 of 15 games overall on the season.

4. Minnesota Vikings (vs. CHI)

The Vikings' first-round bye is not safe just yet with the Panthers and Saints lurking, so this is a must-win game if they want to take Wild Card Weekend off. This unit has been red-hot in the past couple weeks, yielding just seven points total in their last two games. Sure, those games were against the Packers and Bengals, but they still put up the counting stats--they had four sacks and four interceptions in that time frame.

5. Buffalo Bills (@ MIA)

The Bills are also in the hunt, and will come to play against Miami. Jay Cutler was picked off three times when he saw the Bills in Week 15, although he might have an easier go of it in the warmth of Miami. I'm not betting on that being the case--I'll take the Bills DST all day in this instance, especially given that the Bills also sacked Cutler three times in their last matchup. There is plenty of upside here along with a relatively high floor.

6. Carolina Panthers (@ ATL)

As mentioned above, the Panthers still have a shot at the first-round bye, so they'll likely send their starters out against the Falcons in Week 17. This defense has ripped over 10+ fantasy points in four of their last five games, and could be in for another despite the fact that the Falcons are still contending for a playoff spot. Matt Ryan is typically pretty careful with the ball, but the Panthers have forced 12 turnovers and notched 20 sacks in their last five games. I'll take the hot defense over a middling offense in this situation, and as long as the Panthers keep Julio Jones locked down they should merit serious fantasy consideration.

7. Seattle Seahawks (vs. ARI)

The Seahawks are still alive! They need some things to break their way to sneak into the playoffs, but they'll certainly be trotting out their A-squad against the unimpressive Drew Stanton and the Cardinals in the final game of the season. This team has been positively crippled by injuries, but they should eat at home against a team with absolutely nothing to play for.

8. New Orleans Saints (@ TB)

The Saints are still chasing that first-round bye. They'll get a Tampa Bay team that has stumbled all season and is certainly looking towards next season, and a possible coaching change. I see nothing but upside in a game the Saints should win handily.

9. Atlanta Falcons (vs. CAR)

Again, the Falcons are in a fist-fight for a playoff berth, so they'll be starting everyone against the Panthers. I don't have a ton of confidence in this unit given how well Cam Newton has been playing lately, but with so much on the line they make for a decent enough streamer for those in deeper leagues who may not have many options left.

 
 
Tier 2 Defenses - Good/okay DSTs that are in cruise control and have favorable matchups.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (@ TEN)

The Jaguars defense is deep and devastating. They're in cruise control having already clinched a playoff spot and no shot at a first-round bye, but I don' think their starters will be taking an entire week off. This is one where we could see one half of the starters then second-stringers for the rest of the game, but even that should be enough to put up a decent fantasy option against a lackluster Tennessee offense with nothing to play for.

11. Denver Broncos (vs. KC)

The Chiefs have already announced that Patrick Mahomes will be starting at quarterback in Week 17, and I think it's a pretty safe to say we will see limited action for Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at the very least. The Broncos upside lies in playing most of the game against non-starters and a rookie quarterback making his first career NFL start.

12. New England Patriots (vs. NYJ)

Oh hey, the Patriots locked up the one-seed again. What a ****ing shocker. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will still play a full-intensity first half because they're jerks like that. No, I'm not a Bills fan who's extremely bitter about last week and the last two decades, why do you ask?

13. Washington Redskins (@ NYG)

Team playing the Giants = fantasy-viable. Just ask the Cardinals, who dropped 21 points on a team that is literally imploding from within.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (@ DEN)

The Chiefs defense will likely be taking some minutes off just as their offense will be, but they are still playing against the Broncos, who don't have anything to play for and will likely be seeing what they have in some bench players and rookies. You could do much worse if you're in streaming mode.

 
 
Tier 3 Defenses - Teams in cruise control with neutral/bad matchups.

15. Houston Texans (@ IND)
16. Los Angeles Rams (vs. SF)
17. Philadelphia Eagles (vs. DAL)
18. Arizona Cardinals (@ SEA)

19. Dallas Cowboys (@ PHI)
20. Chicago Bears (@ MIN)
21. Detroit Lions (vs. GB)
22. Indianapolis Colts (vs. HOU)  

 

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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