Week 12 Fantasy Defense Rankings: Sleepers, busts, waiver-wire D/ST streamers to target

Week 12 Fantasy Defense Rankings: Sleepers, busts, waiver-wire D/ST streamers to target

For the first time since Week 3, there are no byes weeks in the NFL. That will make it a lot easier to find streamers, sleepers, and top plays in our Week 12 fantasy defense rankings, especially with several offenses establishing themselves as prime matchups for D/STs week-in and week-out.

The Jets, Broncos, 49ers, Jaguars, and Cowboys are among the offenses that have been low-scoring, sack-prone, turnover-prine, or all of the above this year. All rank in the top-11 in fantasy points per game (FPPG) allowed to defenses. As such, the opponents of each of these teams can be trusted as starting unit this week, and you can throw in Bengals opponent (vs. Giants), as Cincinnati will be starting backup QB Brandon Allen from here on out.

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

The Dolphins (@ Jets) and Saints (@ Broncos) have the most upside of the top units on the slate. The Dolphins are a top-five scoring defense and the Jets rank last in the NFL in yards and scoring average, so Miami should put up strong numbers, especially if they log another return TD (three on the season). Meanwhile, the opportunistic Saints defense gets to take on a Broncos offense that entered Week 12 with a league-high 21 turnovers. New Orleans (13 takeaways) should be able to take advantage of that.

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

Aside from the teams playing poor offenses, a few elite defenses have emerged, as well. The Colts (vs. Titans), Steelers (vs. Ravens), and Ravens (@ Steelers) are three of the better defenses in the league and are virtually matchup-proof. They aren’t in easy matchups this week, but each team should have a chance to limit their opposition well enough to be considered startable defenses in Week 12. The Colts, in particular, should fare well against a Titans offense that they held to 17 points in Week 10.

In terms of streamers, there are a few options. The Washington Football Team (@ Cowboys) might not be a safe play considering that they’re playing the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, but the short week and their pass rush should give them a high floor against an offense that has struggled. Meanwhile, the Seahawks (@ Eagles) could make an intriguing lower-owned option against an Eagles offense that has allowed the most sacks and is led by Carson Wentz, who leads the league in interceptions thrown. The Giants (@ Bengals), Bengals (vs. Giants), Cardinals (@ Patriots), and Packers (vs. Bears) are also widely available and worth considering.


This week, trusting either the Buccaneers or the Chiefs isn’t exactly appealing. These teams are facing each other in what could be an offensive shootout. Most weeks, both will be considered top-12 defenses, with the Bucs usually occupying a top-five spot, but for this week, it may be best to leave them on the bench. The floor for both units is low, as one is facing the best QB in the league right now (Patrick Mahomes) while the other is facing the greatest QB in NFL history (Tom Brady).

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Week 12 Fantasy Defense Rankings

WEEK 12 FANTASY: Sleepers | Busts | Start ’em, sit ’em

Rank Team
1 Miami Dolphins @ Jets. The Dolphins didn’t have their best outing of the season against the Broncos in Week 11, but they are still a top-four scoring defense (20.2 points per game) and get to take on the Jets in Week 11. The Jets are averaging a league-low 14.9 points per game and 268.6 yards per game, and the last time the Jets played Miami, they were shut out (the Dolphins had 12 fantasy points in that outing). The Dolphins should have a chance to do similar damage to the Jets this time around, especially with the team looking for a bounce-back opportunity following a disappointing loss to the Broncos.
2 New Orleans Saints @ Broncos. The Broncos lead the league in turnovers this season with a mark of 23 and were allowing 10.3 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to D/STs before their Week 11 effort against the Dolphins. The Saints should be able to capitalize on that with their defense that ranks fourth in total yardage allowed (302.2), eighth in scoring (22.2), and tied for fourth in sacks per game (3.2).
3 Los Angeles Rams vs. 49ers. Though the 49ers are coming off a bye, they are still banged up. Nick Mullens will start at quarterback, and there are questions about whether Raheem Mostert (ankle), Tevin Coleman (knee), and Deebo Samuel (hamstring) will play. Even if some of those weapons return, the Rams allow just 18.7 points per game on the season and have averaged 3.4 sacks per contest, both of which rank second in the NFL. They should be ready to pressure Mullens and force him into some mistakes, as Mullens has eight turnovers in six games this year.
4 Cleveland Browns @ Jaguars. In three consecutive weeks, the Browns have held their opponents to 17 or fewer points. Against the Eagles last week, they totaled three turnovers, a safety, and a defensive TD. Now, they get to take on a Jaguars defense that just struggled against the Steelers and saw Jake Luton throw four interceptions. The Browns should feast and get plenty of pressure on Luton, even with Myles Garrett (COVID) out another week. (Update: The Jaguars are switching to Mike Glennon at quarterback, but this is still a good matchup for Cleveland.)
5 Seattle Seahawks @ Eagles. Carson Wentz has been awful this year for the Eagles. He has thrown a league-high 14 interceptions and has been sacked 40 times, which also leads the league. He just doesn’t look comfortable out there and will continue to turn the ball over when he’s under pressure. The Seahawks just had one of their best defensive games of the season when they held the Cardinals to 21 points and sacked Kyler Murray three times. They should be the latest team to find success getting after Wentz behind his banged-up offensive line.
6 Washington Football Team @ Cowboys. Washington’s defense played well against the Bengals and limited them to nine total points on the day. That came despite Joe Burrow playing more than half of the game before his season-ending injury. Washington ranks as the NFL’s top pass defense (allowing 195.4 yards per game), is averaging 3.2 sacks per contest (fourth most in the league), and held the Cowboys to just three points the last time these two teams played. The Cowboys looked better on offense against the Vikings, but even if they score more, Washington should still get plenty of pressure on Andy Dalton and could force some turnovers.
7 Green Bay Packers vs. Bears. Currently, the Bears are the second-worst offense in the NFL behind only the Jets. They are averaging just 300.9 total yards and 19.1 points per game on the year. In three of their past four games, they have scored 17 or fewer points. The Packers will be able to slow down the Bears, as they can get pressure on Nick Foles and limit his solid group of receivers with Jaire Alexander and other members of the secondary. The Bears have allowed 7.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to defenses this year, good for eighth most in the league before Week 11, so expect the Packers to come close to that point total.
8 Indianapolis Colts vs. Titans. The Colts proved that they can keep up with strong offenses last week when they scored 7.0 fantasy points against the Packers by forcing four turnovers and recording a sack. Just a couple of weeks ago, they held the Titans to 17 points and returned a blocked punt for a TD, so they have double-digit upside even against one of the NFL’s better offenses. At this point, the Colts defense should continue to be strong and while they’re not entirely matchup-proof, they should be a top-10 play most weeks if they can stay healthy.
9 New York Giants @ Bengals. Joe Burrow tore his ACL against Washington and will miss the remainder of the season. That was a crushing blow to the Bengals offense, and they will have trouble moving the ball without him. In less than one half of play with Burrow gone, backup QB Ryan Finley was sacked four times, threw a pick, and didn’t lead a scoring drive. For his career, he has completed less than half of his passes and has more interceptions (3) than TDs (2). (Update: Brandon Allen, who has career 46.4-percent completion percentage in three starts, will be starting for Cincinnati.) The Giants have limited five straight opponents to 23 or fewer points, and there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t do the same against this Bengals team.
10 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Ravens. In two career starts against the Steelers, Lamar Jackson has turned the ball over seven times. That includes a four-turnover game from earlier this season. The Steelers are the NFL’s best team at getting pressure on QBs (3.8 sacks per game) and also lead the NFL in takeaways by a wide margin (21, the next most is 17). They should have a chance to contain the Baltimore offense, but their ceiling is a bit lower than usual, as Jackson could get it going at any time. 
11 Cincinnati Bengals vs. Giants. While the Giants look like a good play against the Bengals, Cincinnati isn’t a bad streaming option either. The Giants have turned the ball over 15 times this year, good for the eighth most in the league, while Daniel Jones has been sacked 31 times. If the Bengals can get pressure on Jones, they should be able to sack him a few times. He has only had three games this season where he has been sacked fewer than three times, so the Bengals D/ST’s floor should be high this week.
12 Arizona Cardinals @ Patriots. The Patriots offense is no longer what it was when Tom Brady was at the helm. They rank seventh in the league in scoring average (20.9 points per game) and have turned the ball over 15 times which is tied for the eighth most in the NFL. The Cardinals defense has been up-and-down this season, but they’ve tended to do well against lower-tier offenses like Washington, the Jets, and the Cowboys without Dak Prescott. They should slow down Cam Newton and Co. enough to be a fine streamer.
13 Baltimore Ravens @ Steelers. Normally, the Ravens are a no-brainer defense to trust. However, they were without two of their top run defenders last week, Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell, and could be without them again on Thanksgiving. If they are, they may have a tough time containing the Steelers’ well-balanced offense, a unit that has only allowed 1.8 FPPG to D/STs this year. The Ravens could still post streamer-worthy numbers, but if there was ever a week to consider starting another defense, this would be the one.
14 San Francisco 49ers @ Rams. Ahead of their Monday Night Football matchup against the Buccaneers, the Rams were allowing 6.1 FPPG to D/STs. That’s good for the 12th most in the NFL. The 49ers are getting healthier on defense, and if they can get Richard Sherman back from IR, they should have a chance to turn Jared Goff over. Last time they faced off, the 49ers limited the Rams to 16 points and got an interception of Goff, so if they repeat that production, they should pan out as a streamer.
15 Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington. The Cowboys have improved on defense in recent weeks after allowing five straight weeks of 30-plus-point games, but they still are prone to giving up big plays to receivers. Washington should pose an easier matchup for Dallas, as Washington has averaged only 20 points per game and 324 yards per game (both bottom-five ranked numbers), but it’s still tough to trust the Cowboys to contain any offense.
16 Tennessee Titans @ Colts. The Titans have 15 takeaways on the season, tied for the seventh most in the NFL. While the Colts rank only middle-of-the-pack in turnovers per game, the Titans could force Philip Rivers into some mistakes if they pressure him. That’s a big if, but it’s one that at least gives the Titans some upside.
17 Chicago Bears @ Packers. Usually, the Bears are a top defensive play but against the Packers, it’s hard to trust them. The Packers just lost a turnover-riddled game to the Colts and will want to clean up those issues against the Bears. While Chicago will be able to fight back somewhat since they are top 10 in both yards allowed and scoring defense, but if the Packers don’t turn the ball over, it will be a long day for the Bears.
18 Minnesota Vikings vs. Panthers
19 New England Patriots vs. Cardinals
20 Carolina Panthers @ Vikings
21 Denver Broncos vs. Saints
22 Los Angeles Chargers @ Bills
23 Houston Texans @ Lions. Matthew Stafford didn’t look good against the Panthers as he battles through a thumb injury. As Houston’s Thanksgiving game draws nearer, that will be a situation to watch. They could be a solid streamer if Stafford doesn’t play or is less than 100 percent. They could also make for a sneaky DFS sleeper depending on his status.
24 Detroit Lions vs. Texans
25 Buffalo Bills vs. Chargers
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chiefs. Normally, the Bucs will be a top-10 play on defense, but against a Chiefs offense that has scored a league-high 32.3 points per game, it’s hard to recommend trusting them in this one.
27 Kansas City Chiefs @ Buccaneers. The Chiefs defense has been good against teams not named the Raiders, but they’re playing Tom Brady and a strong Bucs offense in Week 12. It’s best to sit them in this one.
28 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Browns
29 Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seahawks
30 New York Jets vs. Dolphins
31 Atlanta Falcons vs. Raiders
32 Las Vegas Raiders @ Falcons