Week 17 is “do or die” for nine NFL teams and has seeding implications for seven more. If you’re still playing in a fantasy league, it’s likely in a championship match-up and just as “do or die” for you as the teams on the gridiron.
While it would be great to have the Seahawks, Panthers or Bengals this week, odds are they are not available free agents in your league. In fact, you might just be playing a team with one of those defenses at in the championship game. If you’re stuck on which defense to go with, below is a list of defenses that could be available in your league and help you come out on top at the end of week 16.
Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville
The Colts could get a first-round bye with a win and losses by the Patriots and Bengals. They get the Jaguars at dome-sweet-dome this Sunday in a pretty sweet looking match-up. The Colts defense was been a roller coaster ride this season, but lately the ride has been all thrills. In the last two weeks combined, the Colts have scored 34 D/ST points and only allowed 10 points. Those numbers are on an elite D/ST level and keep in mind how well this team can play at home where they have knocked-off the Broncos and Seahawks this season.
Miami vs. New York Jets
Let’s try Miami one more time… Yes, they did only score 2 points last week, but hey… Geno Smith! Miami’s best defensive game of the season came in week 13 at the Jets when the Dolphins put up 17 D/ST points. At home against a struggling rookie QB with a playoff birth on the line, expect a great effort from Miami and one that should result in a double-digit output. Ragging on Geno Smith might not be as advisable after he’s only turned the ball over three times in the last four games, but the Dolphins have been one of the best D/ST units against QBs this season. A defensive struggle in Miami can be expected.
Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland
Remember the days when the Steelers D/ST was one of the top D/ST picks in fantasy draft? Yeah, it seems like eons ago that the old “Steel Curtain” was an elite D/ST choice, but lately they have been on an up-swing. In week 12, the Steelers had its best D/ST outing of the season has they dropped 21 points on the Browns in Cleveland. Since then, the Steelers are scoring just over 10 points per game and have even scored four D/ST touchdowns. While Pittsburgh will need all the stars to align just right to make the playoffs and likely not make it, they should give the Browns a hell of a fight in this last stand.
New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay
The Saints are in the rare position of needing a win to make the playoffs, but also having a chance at getting a first-round bye. At home this season, New Orleans has scored 10 D/ST points per game. Tampa has nothing to play for and will likely take a look at one of its second and third string players. The Saints’ pass defense has become one of its strong suits this season and in all likelihood they will run up the score and force the Bucs to play into their hands.
Philadelphia @ Dallas
While most will prefer a home team playing a weak opponent, this could be a nice sneaky pick-up. With Tony Romo doubtful, the Cowboys will turn to back-up QB Kyle Orton. On paper, he’s a pretty good back-up, but how much can you really trust a back-up in a pressure-packed primetime game? It’s likely that Nick Foles and the Eagles can run-up the score early and force Orton to pass. Yes, the Eagles rank near the bottom of the league in pass defense, but they are coming off a 22 point D/ST effort against a tough Bears squad. The Eagles have also been putting a lot of pressure on QBs lately and sacked Jay Cutler five times last week.
With over five years of fantasy football experience Darren has won a high percentage of leagues and is an expert on IDP. When not setting a line-up, he works as a freelance writer for The Miami Herald.