Defense Wins Championships, Week 14

Updated: December 3, 2013
Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions

Defense Wins Championships

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 | Week 12 | Week 13

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a bye. Maybe you’re lucky enough to even be in your league’s fantasy playoffs right now. But whether you are or you are not, the playoffs are here: are you f*$@ing ready?

You sure as hell better be, because it’s entirely to late to overhaul your roster now! Everywhere, that is, except your D/ST: streamers at this position and others can be almost as active in the postseason as in the regular season. I say almost, because many of you have playoff pairs already picked up to play matchups for 2+ weeks in the fantasy playoffs.

As always, let’s first look briefly at week 13′s results:

Top scoring D/STs from Week 13 (ESPN Standard)

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

  1. Lion D/ST (5.19) versus Green Bay [21]
  2. Dolphins D/ST (9.21) at NY Jets [17]
  3. Seahawks D/ST (8.80) versus New Orleans [15]
  4. Panthers D/ST (9.99) versus Tampa Bay [15]
  5. Bengals D/ST (3.80) at San Diego [11]
  6. Colts D/ST (7.25) versus Tennessee [10]
  7. Eagles D/ST (5.93) versus Arizona [10]
  8. Titans D/ST (3.93) at Indianapolis [9]
  9. Raiders D/ST (1.83) at Dallas [8]
  10. Giants D/ST (5.61) at Redskins [8]
  11. 49ers D/ST (7.20) versus St. Louis [8]
  12. Redskins D/ST (4.62) versus NY Giants [7]
  13. Jaguars D/ST (4.72) at Cleveland [7]
  14. Rams D/ST (4.59) at San Francisco [6]
  15. Packers D/ST (0.84) at Detroit [5]
  16. Cardinals D/ST (1.99) at Philadelphia [5]
  17. Bills D/ST (7.07) versus Atlanta [4]
  18. Cowboys D/ST (9.04) versus Oakland [4]
  19. Chargers D/ST (4.71) versus Cincinnati [4]
  20. Browns D/ST (9.13) versus Jacksonville [3]
  21. Bears D/ST (6.09) at Minnesota [2]
  22. Steelers D/ST (6.61) at Baltimore [ 2]
  23. Chiefs D/ST (1.97) versus Denver [1]
  24. Vikings D/ST (1.32) versus Chicago [1]
  25. Patriots D/ST (7.29) at Houston [1]
  26. Buccaneers D/ST (4.76) at Carolina [1]
  27. Falcons D/ST (2.02) at Buffalo (Toronto) [0]
  28. Ravens D/ST (8.75) versus Pittsburgh [0]
  29. Jets D/ST (8.90) versus Miami [-2]
  30. Saints D/ST (3.84) at Seattle [-3]
  31. Texans D/ST (0.24) versus New England [-3]
  32. Broncos D/ST (5.61) at Kansas City [-4]

Some wonky things with the D/ST scoring this past week: only 4 D/ST TDs were recorded, and two of those teams scored 5 or fewer points (Kansas City, 1, and Green Bay, 5).

Detroit was by far the most impressive performance, destroying the Packer line for 7 sacks of Matt Flynn. Combined with one interception and their usual stingy run defense, the Lions stuffed the Packers. Matt Flynn looked bad to my eye, and his numbers were very bad too – it’s hard to say if he would have been much better with a more effective offensive line, but logic suggests he would have. They should be a profitable fade if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play this weekend.

FantasyPros ECR rated Detroit the #26 option, whereas we had them #17 (with just 5.2 points). I’m not sure if that counts as a victory, but if it does, it is minor.

The number 2 D/ST, Miami, should look familiar: they were our #2 D/ST this week as well! Geno Smith played himself out of the game, and his starting role may not be guaranteed going forward. Oops. Get in while you can on the fade, because it might not long – next 4 four the Jets are v Oakland, @ Carolina, v Cleveland, @ Miami again. If the Dolphins scored 17 at NYJ, consider getting the replay at home in week 17! Either way, the above are all solid choices to cash in on Smith while you can.

Not to get too excited though, as FantasyPros rated Miami very highly as well in their ECR (#4). In fact, a number of teams looked very similar in both sets of rankings. Cleveland (5th in ECR, 3rd here), Baltimore (6th in ECR, 7th here), Seattle (7th in ECR, 6th here), Buffalo (8th ECR, 11th here), and Dallas (9th in ECR, 4th here) all rated similarly so I will dismiss here. The minor differences are interesting, but a consideration for another time, and many of these teams performed very disappointingly this weekend.

New England appeared to be a strong choice, but we rated it a fairly average 7.8 (8th place) versus #3 for the ECR. The 49ers were rated #2 in ECR, but just a surprising 10th in by our metric here – in reality, they finished with a slightly better-than-average 8 fantasy points (tied for 9th). The other strong outlier at the top, Arizona, was rated #10 by the FantasyPros Experts – the Cardinals scored 5 points in reality, slightly more than our much closer projection here of just 2 points.

Otherwise, it was a weird week for D/ST scoring.

But enough from week 13. It’s playoff time. Time. To. Win!

Week 14 projected D/ST scoring (ESPN Standard)

  1. Patriots D/ST (11.42) versus Cleveland (low variance)
  2. Ravens D/ST (9.05) versus Minnesota (low variance)
  3. Broncos D/ST (8.93) versus Tennessee
  4. Raiders D/ST (8.78) at NY Jets (high variance)
  5. Steelers D/ST (8.62) versus Miami
  6. Cardinals D/ST (8.49) versus St. Louis (low variance)
  7. Bengals D/ST (7.99) versus Indianapolis
  8. Buccaneers D/ST (7.60) versus Buffalo
  9. Rams D/ST (7.54) at Arizona (high variance)
  10. Jets D/ST (7.48) versus Oakland
  11. 49ers D/ST (7.14) versus Seattle
  12. Seahawks D/ST (6.91) at San Francisco (high variance)
  13. Chiefs D/ST (6.83) at Redskins
  14. Dolphins D/ST (6.38) at Pittsburgh
  15. Texans D/ST (6.35) at Jacksonville
  16. Bills D/ST (5.53) at Tampa Bay
  17. Chargers D/ST (5.53) versus NY Giants
  18. Bears D/ST (5.48) versus Dallas
  19. Colts D/ST (4.91) at Cincinnati (high variance)
  20. Saints D/ST (3.43) versus Carolina
  21. Jaguars D/ST (4.36) versus Houston
  22. Vikings D/ST (3.60) at Baltimore
  23. Panthers D/ST (3.43) at New Orleans (high variance)
  24. Redskins D/ST (3.18) versus Kansas City
  25. Giants D/ST (2.94) at San Diego
  26. Cowboys D/ST (2.32) at Chicago
  27. Eagles D/ST (0.51) versus Detroit
  28. Lions D/ST (-0.41) at Philadelphia
  29. Browns D/ST (-0.42) at New England
  30. Titans D/ST (-1.69) at Denver

Off the board: Atlanta/Green Bay (due to Green Bay’s QB uncertainty)

Tier 1 – Patriots, Ravens

Neither of these two teams should be a surprise up top. The Patriots have been banged up all year, but they do retain some strengths – most notably this week, they’re lined up to face a concussed Brandon Weeden. They could field 11 men with a pulse this Sunday, or maybe 10 guys and a housecat, and still trounce the Browns, allowing them to sit handily atop the projection table for week 14. Brandon Weeden is that bad – and I say that as someone who bought into the entire Browns offense in week 13, Weeden included.

“But what about New England’s ___________?” Yeah, there are injuries. I don’t think it matters. Yeah, they’ve been shaky, but again, I don’t think it matters. It doesn’t take a smart person to determine you can profit by fading the worst of the worst QBs, and Weeden is almost as bad as it gets. Realistically, he’s the Browns third string QB. Watching him play is difficult. The Patriots entered the weekend as a top 16 D/ST, and I think they have enough tools to make his day very long indeed.

As for the Ravens, I ran the numbers for Baltimore facing Christian Ponder, but it likely doesn’t matter which Vikings QB suits up – as we saw last time there was a switch, the expectations didn’t chance for Minnesota’s opponent. There’s Adrian Peterson and a whole lot of nothing on this team, and the Ravens are in a fine position to exploit that at home. The is the final game of Baltimore’s strong 3-game stretch, which they’ve managed to exploit so far for 15 points and then 0. Here’s hoping you got out last week! The Ravens appear to be a very strong play, but they are closer to tier 2 than they are to the Patriots.

Tier 2 – Broncos, Raiders, Steelers, Cardinals

At least two of these four is liable to be on your waiver wire. The Cardinals may be too well-owned, but they should be available in some leagues. Of these four teams, the Cardinals also have the most long term value – if you are looking for a D/ST to start in multiple weeks during your playoffs, they are the one to target over all other tier 2 options. Arizona also gets an excellent matchup at home this week against the Rams. The longer this team remains in the playoff hunt in particular, the longer they’re going to rank well here, and the Cardinals sit just 1 game behind the 49ers.

The Jets fade this week belongs to the hapless Oakland Raiders. However, we’ve been able to successfully predict a couple of their higher scores, and they do rank as the D16 on the year so far. The Raiders haven’t been the greatest at forcing turnovers, but the Jets have been the best at providing them – if you do decide to follow along with the Smith fade, do pay attention to Jets QB news throughout the week. I have to imagine that no matter who gets the start, he’ll be on a short leash this Sunday, which makes the Raiders QB a good start regardless.

As for the Broncos, would it surprise anyone to see Ryan Fitzpatrick fall to earth like he has? The offense around him is lackluster at best, and he is no special talent either at the NFL level. He’s thrown more and more interceptions as his starting tenure has lengthened, and the Broncos pass rush is set up to give him fits.

The Steelers gets their crack at Miami, who just handled the Jets handily. In light of this, and in light of Pittsburgh being such a bad D/ST on the year (D26 in standard scoring), this is my least favorite of the options on this scoring tier. The Dolphins have still been letting up sacks more than any other team, and the Vegas total for this game is somewhat low (41). If the Jets are the high variance upside play, the Steelers are the low variance, low upside “safe” play of the weekend. It’s the fantasy playoffs: “safe” D/ST plays are less desirable.

If I were to rate these teams by preference for week 14 only, I would prefer Broncos -> Raiders -> Cardinals -> Steelers.

Tier 3 – Bengals, Buccaneers, Rams, Jets

There are plenty of streaming options available above, so it’s unlikely that streamers will have to resort to units on this tier or below. However, there are still some quality options in a pinch.

The Bengals are one of the year’s strongest D/STs (D2 coming into the week), and they are at home against a very boom/bust Colts team. The reason why this play isn’t ranked higher is because of those booms – if this is a week where the Colts “go off” and score well, the Bengals D/ST is going to have to struggle to keep up for you. However, do not take this projection wrong – I expect the Bengals to score well most of the time, and to be a fairly strong play for your week 1. For my money, I would start the Bengals over the Steelers and the Cardinals, but perhaps not over the Raiders or the Broncos. It would be very difficult to bench the Bengals D/ST at home against almost any team, to be honest, but either way the Bengals are clearly the best of this tier.

In one of the bigger surprises of the week, the Buccaneers occupy a space I had thought reserved for its opponent, Buffalo. However, upon further review, it makes perfect sense. The Buccaneers have picked up their pace over their last few weeks, and have returned to respectability. The Bills can be a very one dimensional team, and those can typically be exploited by D/STs for fantasy scoring. However, I would look elsewhere.

The Rams are the high-variance option of choice on this tier. For those of us looking for a stupid high score this week at any cost, consider high variance choices in this order: St. Louis, Oakland, Seattle, New England, then Indianapolis.

Trash or Treasure?

I would consider the following D/STs to be worth holding on your bench for a future week: Carolina, Seattle, Cincinnati, Kansas City (borderline), Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee, St. Louis, San Francisco, Arizona, and maybe Denver. As far as I can tell, everything else should be safely dropped in most formats. If you’re holding anything else, ask yourself: “In week X, will there be comparable or better value to this team on the waiver wire?”

In all cases, value is variable – but if I’m holding any D/ST besides the list above in my playoff leagues, I am probably going to drop it for something new this week. If you’re looking for week-specific playoff information, take a look at this discussion on Reddit: Week 13 D/ST Scoring. I cannot emphasize it enough, but if you have questions about playoff schedules and teams to target, check there first. Your question may very well have been answered already.

Unfortunately, the nature of this model requires Vegas lines to function – any look into the future is sketchy at best, since I am not a professional linesmaker.

Psst. You forgot the Packers/Falcons

No I didn’t. Both teams are just bad, and let’s be honest: why on earth would you start either one this week? But they’ve been omitted in the rankings because Vegas has the game off the board. There’s some sort of quarterback for the Packers that’s injured, Isaac Rodsters or something? Abraham Rozinski? I can be so forgetful sometimes. Whatever his name, he sounds important, and I think we need time to hear about his status before we can analyze this game properly.

Best of luck in week 14. If you’re not in the playoffs, game on: kick some ass to prep for next year.



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