Scheming on Defense

It’s already Halloween weekend — past the halfway point for most fantasy football leagues. Since many people are too busy surrendering to ill-conceived couples’ costumes to consider our fair and just trade offers, let’s look at another way to gain an advantage come playoff time: D/ST matchups.

Obviously, if you’re trailing the pack you’ll have more important roster moves to make six weeks before the season ends. Others will, too, and quality defenses might offer themselves up during the bye week scramble. But there will come a time over the next month — sooner if your roster is deep enough — to consider whether there are better options in week 14 than the Eagles defense at the Rams or Carolina hosting Minnesota. And there most definitely will be.

Right now, four teams currently owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues — two are in the single digits — are looking at excellent playoff-week matchups. They’re also solid streaming options in the coming weeks that could help navigate a bye week along the way.

Don’t worry about how badly you’ll be mocked on the message board for rostering two (or three!) defenses. They’re the ones dressing up like salt and pepper shakers or whatever.

Chicago Bears (9 percent owned)
You might have heard about the rookie-QB-led Bears taking down the 4-2 Panthers last week behind two defensive TDs and only seven total pass attempts. The game was horrible to watch, with Carolina only mustering a single field goal and Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky attempting only three passes all day. This young, aggressive Bears defense enters Week 8 sixth in the league in sacks and seventh in total yards per game. With the Packers on the downswing, there’s an outside chance the Bears have something to play for Week 14 against a Cincinnati team that has struggled offensively, particularly on the O-line.

Week: Opponent (opposing D/ST points per game rank)
14: @Cincinnati (8)
15: @Detroit (6)
16: Cleveland (2)

Buffalo Bills (44 percent owned)
The Colts are a mess and not even this rare bout of truth from a Gannett-owned newspaper can help them. The Bills might not be a great team, but they grind it out with the running game and only give up 3.4 yards per carry on the other side. The Colts are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses in the league, and Buffalo is tied for third in the league with nine interceptions. There’s no reason for Indy to rush Andrew Luck back in December just to prove they can beat a team other than the 49ers and Browns.

Week: Opponent (D/ST points per game rank)
14: Indianapolis (1)
15: Miami (11)
16: @New England (31)

Green Bay Packers (28 percent owned)
The Packers are holding out hope that Aaron Rodgers can return in time for a late-season playoff push. It’s pretty unlikely, but a Week 14 visit to Cleveland would obviously help. The Browns’ 19 turnovers (17 INTs!) are five more than the second-worst team in the league. Their defense is actually decent, meaning even more opportunities for the offense to turn the ball over, no matter who is behind center. And Carolina, Green Bay’s Week 15 opponent, is of a similar mold — their 13 giveaways is tied for third-worst in the league, and they’ve rushed for only three TDs (Green Bay’s defensive weakness).

Week: Opponent (D/ST points per game rank)
14: @Cleveland (2)
15: @Carolina (5)
16: Minnesota (20)

Los Angeles Chargers (10 percent owned)
The Chargers surprisingly have a lot in common with the Jacksonville Jaguars, fantasy’s number-one scoring defense to date. Los Angeles is giving up an abysmal 4.9 yards per carry — the only team worse is Jacksonville. But the Chargers’ pass defense is top 10 in yards per attempt thanks in part to a relentless pass rush, whose 23 sacks this year trail only three teams… including Jacksonville’s league-leading 33. Another related similarity: the Jaguars give up the second-fewest yards per game, with L.A. fifth. Joey Bosa vs. the Jets championship week?

Week: Opponent (D/ST points per game rank)
14: Washington (12)
15: Kansas City (32)
16: New York Jets (10)

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