Defense Wins Championships, Week 12

Updated: November 19, 2013

Welcome back to Defense Wins Championships!

Each week, there will be an accompanying discussion thread for the week on Reddit’s /r/fantasyfootball. Please join me there all week! I try to answer every question posted in the D/ST discussion threads – so far this year, we’ve had more than 7,000 comments posted on Reddit! A huge “thank you” is owed to Nando Di Fino and the CBS Sports Fantasy Football Today podcast for the kind words last week about my work here on Nerdball and Reddit.

Week 1 (and basic methodology) | Week 2 | Week 2, part 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11

It’s so important to compare results with projections and/or rankings. As always, we start with the results from the previous week:

Top scoring D/STs from Week 11 (ESPN Standard)

#. Team (expected score) versus/at Opponent [actual score]

  1. Bengals D/ST (7.24) versus Browns [26]
  2. Bills D/ST (8.32) versus NY Jets [21]
  3. Seahawks D/ST (12.63) versus Minnesota [16]
  4. Giants D/ST (10.03) versus Green Bay [14]
  5. Bears D/ST (9.18) versus Baltimore [13]
  6. Buccaneers D/ST (6.53) versus Atlanta [13]
  7. Browns D/ST (4.61) at Cincinnati [9]
  8. Cardinals D/ST (11.60) at Jacksonville [9]
  9. Saints D/ST (6.70) versus San Francisco [8]
  10. Texans D/ST (9.06) versus Oakland [7]
  11. Broncos D/ST (6.45) versus Chiefs [6]
  12. Packers D/ST (5.50) at NY Giants  [6]
  13. Eagles D/ST (3.40) versus Washington [6]
  14. Chargers D/ST (5.59) at Miami [6]
  15. Raiders D/ST (3.10) at Houston [5]
  16. Panthers D/ST (7.00) versus New England [5]
  17. Colts D/ST (8.55) at Tennessee [4]
  18. 49ers D/ST (3.59) at New Orleans [4]
  19. Dolphins D/ST (5.79) versus Chargers [3]
  20. Patriots D/ST (5.41) at Carolina [3]
  21. Steelers D/ST (2.18) versus Detroit [3]
  22. Ravens D/ST (2.73) at Chicago [2]
  23. Redskins D/ST (-0.24) at Philadelphia [0]
  24. Jaguars D/ST (5.28) versus Arizona [0]
  25. Titans D/ST (5.86) versus Indianapolis [-1]
  26. Chiefs D/ST (1.10) at Denver [-1]
  27. Vikings D/ST (-0.93) at Seattle [-2]
  28. Jets D/ST (8.69) at Buffalo [-2]
  29. Lions D/ST (6.02) at Pittsburgh [-3]
  30. Falcons D/ST (4.63) at Tampa Bay [-4]

On Bye: Cowboys, Rams

With 11 weeks over and just 5 (or 6!) left to go in fantasy football this year, it’s make or break time for many owners. When waiver wires are barren of positional players, D/STs are an excellent place to find value deep in the season. How did our projections from last week allow us to do this?

Cincinnati and Buffalo (20+ points)

Both teams had three INTs. Both teams had defensive TDs – Cincinnati even piled on a second, and damn near had a third! Both teams recovered fumbles. It was a monster day for the 8th and 9th ranked D/STs last week. It’s important to note that the weather had a very strange presence during both of these games – I’m not sure what to read into the results given that, and that’s going to be a constant theme this week.

This puts owners of both in a difficult position, given that both teams are on a bye this week. If you’re looking to carry a second D/ST, then they both make good stashes until week 13. Both teams face solid ROS schedules, even during the fantasy playoffs. However, neither are truly as irreplaceable as the Seahawks D/ST, so use proper discretion when deciding between stashing and picking up a key waiver wire addition at RB/WR.

Seahawks, Giants, Bears, and Buccaneers (10+ points)

The Seahawks (1st), Giants (3rd), and Bears (4th) all projected very highly last week, and the Buccaneers were projected as a high variance, slightly above-average play of 6.53 (12th).

The Seahawks D/ST continued its roll, proving to be worth a stash through their bye week. They are perhaps even going to be playable in week 13 versus the Saints at home, unlike the Kansas City Chiefs at Denver last week! If you’re hesitant to fade Drew Brees (and I wouldn’t blame you), angle toward the Cleveland D/ST this week. In addition to a solid rating this week, they’ll rate very well next week against Jacksonville.

The Giants D/ST came through yet again for owners. Four straight scores of 10+ for a team that looked as bad as any to start the season. The FantasyPros ECR for NYG was #20 last week. Few analysts were on board with this play both last week and this week, but they paid off big both times! Either we’ve gotten lucky (possible), or using Vegas as an indicator was awesome: we could clearly identify NYG as a healthy favorite in the games, quantify that edge, and value the D/ST appropriately. Vegas helped quantify just what to expect from Scott Tolzien where other methods failed.

The Bears D/ST did exactly as we expected: a high variance game with a defensive TD. The weather was so bad that the game was suspended for a couple hours – a delay that was so long that when it resumed, the weather was no longer the same destructive force we projected getting played through originally! This game could have gone much worse, and was the perfect exhibition of why the Bears D/ST was nothing more than a high variance matchup play. Hell, they’ve now made Brandon Jacobs, Pierre Thomas, and Ray Rice each look like RB1s! They may be a risky but unexciting value again this week against a lackluster Rams offense in week 12.

The Buccaneers D/ST is made up of a strong group of players, and they’ve played well at times. It should never truly be a surprise to see them here, and the team in general looks to have life in it once again after some heartbreaking losses.

Cardinals, Browns, Saints, Texans (7+ points)

The Cardinals did exactly what we expected. They held the Jaguars to just 14 points, they collected a couple sacks, and they forced a couple turnovers. The only thing keeping them in this scoring tier rather than higher is a lack of defensive scores. It’s fair to feel disappointed over a score of 9 against the Jaguars, but realistically, scoring 9 after a “bad” game shows exactly why this was such an awesome low variance play.

The Texans were slightly disappointing, but still scored a respectable 7 points. Any streamers who were in a must-win week 11 game likely should have gone with the Giants D/ST instead, so their average score should have had a relatively minor impact. The real strength should come this week where the Texans get Jacksonville at home. They’re bad, but they’re not Jaguars bad. The Texans are 10 point favorites this Sunday.

Oh, the Jets… the damn New York Jets

Heh. Oops. The Jets defense played fine given the circumstances, or at least played like an average team: conceding an uninspiring 4.7 yards per play, but due to facing some fields after 3 Geno Smith interceptions and a pick-6, they simply allowed too many points.  Going into their bye week, they faced a New Orleans team that was very vulnerable to the run. They won that game by not letting Geno Smith lose it – 19 pass attempts versus 36 runs. Coming out of their bye, Smith passed more – 23 times, before getting yanked – and then any dedication to the run had to be abandoned fairly early in the game, compounding the blowout loss. All around worst case scenario for the Jets D/ST. This is another game in which the weather may have had a screwy impact as well.

KC Chiefs

Not really sure what people were expecting if not what actually happened. Can anyone really be surprised? The harder question last week wasn’t whether to start the Chiefs or something else, it was whether or not to start the Chiefs or an empty roster spot. Turns out the empty roster spot was the winner! This Peyton Manning kid might be good some day if he keeps at it.

Week 12 projected D/ST scoring (ESPN Standard)

  1. Panthers D/ST (10.48) at Miami (low variance)
  2. Ravens D/ST (10.38) versus NY Jets (low variance)
  3. Texans D/ST (9.72) versus Jacksonville (low variance)
  4. Chiefs D/ST (8.61) versus San Diego
  5. Browns D/ST (7.83) versus Pittsburgh
  6. Raiders D/ST (7.77) versus Tennessee
  7. Saints D/ST (6.98) at Atlanta (high variance)
  8. Bears D/ST (6.94) at St. Louis (high variance)
  9. Jets D/ST (6.81) at Baltimore
  10. Cardinals D/ST (6.58) versus Indianapolis
  11. 49ers D/ST (6.46) at Washington
  12. Colts D/ST (6.32) at Arizona (high variance)
  13. Lions D/ST (6.21) versus Tampa Bay
  14. Dolphins D/ST (6.07) versus Carolina
  15. Steelers D/ST (6.01) at Cleveland
  16. Cowboys D/ST (5.87) at NY Giants (high variance)
  17. Titans D/ST (5.83) at Oakland (low variance)
  18. Giants D/ST (5.59) versus Dallas
  19. Rams D/ST (5.55) versus Chicago
  20. Chargers D/ST (3.41) at Kansas City
  21. Broncos D/ST (2.30) at New England
  22. Redskins D/ST (2.15) versus San Francisco
  23. Jaguars D/ST (0.65) at Houston
  24. Buccaneers D/ST (0.43) at Detroit
  25. Patriots D/ST (-0.29) versus Denver
  26. Falcons D/ST (-2.45) versus New Orleans

On bye: Seahawks, Eagles, Bengals, Bills

Unrated: Packers/Vikings (no widely available scoring total for the game has been posted yet)

Tier 1

We have three clear tier 1 choices this weekend: Carolina, Baltimore, and Houston.

Panthers D/ST (70% owned) should not be sat for any team. They scored slightly worse than I was expecting on Monday night, although the Panthers still came away with an impressive 24-20 win against the Patriots. Still, a matchup at Miami is too much to turn down this weekend. Expect lots of sacks, lots of turnovers, and a great chance at either a low score, defensive TDs, or both.

Ravens D/ST (55%) make the ideal one-week streaming choice for most people. There’s minimal ROS value here, but I’ll buy into a lottery ticket for Geno Smith blowing up on the road. The Ravens have been aggressively mediocre all year long, but here’s their chance to shine. For his part, Geno Smith rates almost as bad as Eli Manning right now – the two New York QBs have combined for a laughable 33 interceptions this year.

Texans D/ST (87%) owners most likely had to buy into them before the Oakland game in week 11: a Jacksonville game on the schedule is like a beacon for streamers, visible from weeks away – and Houston has another one in week 14! They’re owned in most leagues by now, but where they aren’t, they should be.

Tier 2

If you have the Chiefs D/ST, you’re almost certainly not sitting them. San Diego’s offensive line is almost as stingy as Denver’s on the year, but San Diego has been able to maintain their rate through injuries to their starting linemen. Kansas City no longer leads the league in sacks (Buffalo, albeit through 11 games instead of 10, has taken the lead), but I would expect them to notch more than the 0 sacks they had in week 11.

The Browns D/ST (15% owned), Raiders D/ST (10%), Saints D/ST (46%), and Bears D/ST (74%) all make for excellent choices this week for streamers. The Browns should be most peoples’ first target: Their excellent matchup this weekend is valuable, but they get the second best in the game next week at Jacksonville. The Raiders seem hard to trust, but their track record this year has been solid with five scores of 10+ points this year. If you’re looking for something with a little more upside, the high variance Saints and Bears should fit your purposes perfectly; if you need 12+ points or bust, they’re the direction you should be looking instead. In almost every case, I would still value the Browns as the highest of these four.

With so many streaming options among the top 8 choices this week, there should be little need to stretch below these teams for a starting D/ST. If forced to stretch deeper, I would value Arizona the highest among the leftovers, followed by Pittsburgh and Tennessee.

A few closing notes:

  • If you have the 49ers D/ST, you obviously didn’t start them last week @ New Orleans, so don’t get cute this week – Washington is not a good matchup away, and they should probably be sat across the board.
  • If you have the Giants D/ST, you can comfortably drop them in all formats. They did their job, they were awesome, and now they’ve got a murderers’ row of QBs and offenses lined up to finish the year. In a real pinch, they can be started this week for a roughly average score, but I wouldn’t risk it if possible. Thank them and move on.
  • I hope we’ve all learned our lesson with the Chiefs D/ST: the Patriots D/ST is similarly impossible to start this weekend.
  • I am tentatively assuming that Green Bay will rate ~6.60 and Minnesota will rate ~5.70, but this is with handicapping the total myself. The real numbers should be widely available before waivers clear, and I will update the post here and on Reddit when it does.

ROS / Playoff Options

Last week, I highlighted a few potential start/sit choices for the fantasy playoffs. If you have questions about a team not mentioned, don’t be shy about asking in my D/ST thread on Reddit! Otherwise, the same assessments should apply today.

Best of luck in week 12!


@dtlerch on Twitter

/u/quickonthedrawl on Reddit

t4blog at gmail dot com


Don’t forget to check into /r/fantasyfootball throughout the week! I maintain a running D/ST thread, in which you can ask any question about fantasy football. If I can’t answer it, maybe someone else can? Intelligent discussion is always encouraged!

Owners who keep up to date on Reddit will be more likely to score big D/ST points on Sunday.

Win Your League This Week? Want to thank the Nerdball staff for helping you achieve glory? Feel free to throw something in the tip jar. It's up to you how much you want to donate, so be as generous as you want!


  1. Eddy21

    November 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    You listed your week 12 projections as week 11 projections. BTW, love your work. Thanks!

  2. Aaron

    November 21, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Alright Texans or Chiefs in a must win where I am a major underdog? Who has the most upside?

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