Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 17: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football



We said it last week, and we’ll say it again — if there’s one even mildly positive thing this reserve/COVID carousel does, it’s create more D/ST sleepers. Our Week 17 fantasy defense rankings reflect that — or at least, will reflect that — but season-long stats, both in terms of defenses themselves and matchup numbers, shouldn’t be completely thrown out. 

As we saw last week, sometimes backup players can play reasonably well. Still, when a second- or third-string QB is under center, we want to pick on those offenses. It’s not a shock to see those players perform well for a series or two when everything is scripted, but they often wear down as the game goes on. All we need from our D/STs to pay off is one big play, so we’ll take our chances. 

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker

Heading into Week 17, some of the more traditional favorable matchups go to some of the top-drafted D/STs. New England (vs. Jaguars), Tampa Bay (@ Jets), and Buffalo (vs. Falcons) are all looking great. The highly owned Rams (@ Ravens) should pay off again this week, too, and even the Steelers (vs. Browns) have some upside against the reeling Baker Mayfield.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker

The Saints (vs. Panthers), 49ers (vs. Texans), and Eagles (@ Washington) have seen big upticks in ownership thanks to a string of favorable matchups lately, and they should come through again this week. Going a little deeper, the Bears (vs. Giants), Chargers (vs. Broncos), Seahawks (vs. Lions), and maybe even the Giants (@ Bears) are your top sleepers this week, at least as of Monday. More figure to emerge throughout the week. 

On the other side of the coin, the Colts (vs. Raiders), Chiefs (@ Bengals), Packers (vs. Vikings), and Cowboys (vs. Cardinals) all have neutral-to-bad matchups, but given how well all of those D/STs have been playing lately, we’re not overly worried about any, especially since three of the four are at home. Moreover, most of these defenses thrive on takeaways and big plays, and they could all certainly get one or two and stay pay off even if they allow yards and points. 

The D/STs we’re not touching this week are Arizona (vs. Cowboys), Cincinnati (vs. Chiefs), Denver (@ Chargers), and Baltimore (vs. Rams). Arizona is similar to some of the D/STs we listed above, but it’s been struggling lately and doesn’t look like the same unit that scored all those points earlier in the season. You can still take a chance on them making a big play at home, but against the Cowboys, we’re not excited willing to risk it.

Like we said, more D/STs will emerge throughout the week depending on who winds up on the reserve/COVID list. However, be aware that defenses that lose key players (like the Chargers losing Joey Bosa last week) can take a dip in the rankings. It’s fantasy championship week, so you better believe you’re going to need to be extra vigilant. 

Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest analysis and player movement.

Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 17: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football

Rank Player
1 New England Patriots vs. JAX
2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ NYJ
3 Buffalo Bills vs. ATL
4 New Orleans Saints vs. CAR
5 San Francisco 49ers vs. HOU. Davis Mills has Houston’s offense playing much better, but the 49ers defense has been among the highest-floor units in fantasy since Week 10. In the seven games in that span, San Francisco has averaged just over three sacks and 1.7 takeaways while allowing 18.6 offensive points per game. Even with Houston playing better, we expect some mistakes here, putting the 49ers in position to have a high floor and a high ceiling.
6 Indianapolis Colts vs. LV. The Colts are second in the league in takeaways (31), and the Raiders have been turnover machines lately, coughing it up 10 times in their past three games. That’s enough reason to trust the Colts at home in this one. 
7 Philadelphia Eagles @ WAS. Washington continues to spiral, scoring fewer than 18 offensive points in each of the past five games. Even worse, it’s twice allowed five sacks in the past three games. Philadelphia has had some monster performances this year, like last week’s showing against the Giants, and this is another good spot for the Eagles to go off.
8 Chicago Bears vs. NYG. The Bears haven’t had multiple takeaways in a game since Week 4, so clearly this hasn’t been a high-ceiling play. But the Giants are an absolute mess offensively, turning it over eight times in the past three games and averaging just 11.5 offensive points in its past six. The Bears will have a decent fantasy day regardless of who starts for New York. 
9 Miami Dolphins @ TEN. The Titans are a tough offense to figure. In Weeks 11, 12, and 15, they turned it over 13 times and scored 39 total points. In Weeks 14 and 16, they scored 40 points and didn’t turn it over once. Through it all, though, the Titans have allowed a decent number of sacks, and with Miami turning up the pressure (25 sacks in six games in Weeks 9-15), the Dolphins should have a solid floor with a potentially high ceiling.
10 Los Angeles Rams @ BAL
11 Green Bay Packers vs. MIN
12 Kansas City Chiefs @ CIN
13 Dallas Cowboys vs. ARI
14 Los Angeles Chargers vs. DEN
15 Seattle Seahawks vs. DET
16 Cleveland Browns @ PIT
17 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CLE
18 New York Giants @ CHI
19 Arizona Cardinals @ DAL
20 Cincinnati Bengals vs. KC
21 Carolina Panthers @ NO
22 Tennessee Titans vs. MIA
23 Denver Broncos @ LAC
24 Las Vegas Raiders @ IND
25 Atlanta Falcons @ BUF
26 Baltimore Ravens vs. LAR
27 Detroit Lions @ SEA
28 Minnesota Vikings @ GB
29 Washington Football Team vs. PHI
30 Jacksonville Jaguars @ NE
31 Houston Texans @ SF
32 New York Jets vs. TB


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