By Dylan Lerch
Fantasy Football Staff Writer
Welcome back! In Week 15, I outlined the rationale behind determining my defense and special teams rankings. Please consult that post for a detailed outline of the derivation of the rankings.
QB, RB, WR and TE rankings are also available for Week 16, please check them out as well.
Here are the week 16 D/ST rankings:
3. Green Bay
5. New England
8. NY Jets
13. San Francisco
15. Tampa Bay
16. San Diego
17. New York Giants
20. St. Louis
22. Kansas City
26. New Orleans
If you weren’t expecting Chicago to be the top-rated team this week, you probably haven’t been paying much attention this year! Let’s start with the numbers: With a game total of just 36.5 and Chicago favored by 5, Arizona can only expect ~16 points. Chicago have raked in 2.6 sacks per game, and Arizona have allowed an NFL-worst 3.6. This helps Chicago D/ST have a fairly high baseline score this weekend in case the turnovers don’t turn into points – however, Chicago is #2 in the league in interceptions (1.5 per game), and Arizona are last in the league in interceptions thrown. If you have Chicago on your roster, don’t get cute. Just start them!
Owners of Denver have probably been fairly happy with them all year, but this is the week you’ve been waiting for: Cleveland, at home, during championship week. Favored by almost 2 TDs, Cleveland’s expectation here is just a shade higher than Arizona. I have Denver looking at about half a sack less than Chicago and the 4th best turnover score (Chicago, Arizona, Atlanta, then Denver, representing the highest upside plays).
But really, did you come here for someone to tell you that Chicago and Denver are good starts this week? :)
Now for some more widely available D/STs (Ownership % in ESPN Standard):
Green Bay, 73.8%
New England, 74.1%
Green Bay and New England are in very similar spots this week. The Packers get the Titans at home while the Patriots are in Jacksonville, but the spreads are similar: 14.5 for New England and 12.5 for Green Bay. Factoring in the totals, we arrive at about 17.5 points allowed by New England and 16.5 by Green Bay. Their sacks and turnover ratings are virtually identical this week, and both D/STs offer you similar consistency versus upside.
Indianapolis and Carolina should be no surprise either, and they should be your targets in deeper leagues if you’re holding Seattle, San Francisco, NYJ, Miami, Arizona, San Diego, and, well, just about everything else.
I have Indianapolis rated with higher upside, but both should be similarly consistent. The Colts don’t collect many sacks, but the Chiefs allowing sacks at a pretty high rate balances that out. It’s a similar story with interceptions: Kansas City has thrown more than all but one team, although Indianapolis is one of the worst in the league at picking off the QB.
Carolina gets the Raiders at home, and with the spread at about 8.5, we can expect a fair amount of garbage time which increases the likelihood of interceptions. Continuing the similarities between this game and the game in Kansas City, Oakland throws a boatload of interceptions and Carolina haven’t been very good at capitalizing on them. Still, I think both teams are primed for a very good outing, and the numbers here back that up.
Tier 1: Chicago & Denver
Tier 2: Green Bay, Houston, New England
Tier 3: Indianapolis, Carolina, NYJ, Miami, Seattle, Washington, Arizona
Tier 4: SF, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, San Diego, NYG
Overall, it's fixing to be a very good week for D/ST scoring!
Also, a note: These rankings are just a guideline. In attempting to strip human subjectivity out of fantasy football, I do present a problem: what happens when I suggest you sit your "stud" D/ST like Seattle, who is on fire, for someone like Carolina? Ultimately, you're the only person who can choose your own starters. If you know you won't be able to stand losing your playoff matchup with the Seahawks on the bench, then by all means, start Seattle! Just don't expect me to agree with your choice. :)
Best of luck this week, especially in the championship games!
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