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Getting Defensive

Getting Defensive: Week 13

by Gary Davenport

Do you remember when the Jacksonville Jaguars Defense was good?

 

Pepperidge Farm remembers.

 

Kidding aside, fantasy owners who spent a mid-round pick on the Jaguars expecting to acquire an every-week starter aren't laughing even a little. Over the first month of the season, things went roughly according to plan—the Jaguars ranked either just inside or just outside the top five fantasy defenses, depending on scoring.

 

Then the bottom fell out. From Week 5 to Week 12, the Jaguars free-fell outside the top TWENTY-FIVE defenses in terms of fantasy points.

 

The Jaguars weren't just untrustworthy as a weekly starter. They couldn't be trusted period.

 

Week 12 was the nadir. Rock bottom. The final indignation. Playing against a Buffalo Bills team that ranks at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of offensive categories and toward the top of the league in giveaways, the Jaguars allowed 327 yards of total offense and 24 points in the team's seventh straight loss.

 

Not one sack from the "Sacksonville" pass rush. Not a single takeaway from the "Teal Curtain" secondary.
Not one.

 

Now the Jaguars have to face the white-hot Indianapolis Colts—a team that has peeled off five consecutive wins and allowed just 11 sacks in 11 games.

 

We were wrong about the Jags in 2018. Terribly, horribly, completely wrong. Stop chasing last year's production and/or hoping for a turnaround that isn't coming. Stay away from the Jaguars. Far, far away.

 

Here's a look around the Week 13 slate at the best (and worst) team defenses for use in fantasy football.

 

THE NO-DOUBTERS

 

Chicago Bears (at New York Giants)

 

The Chicago Bears are producing defensively the way fantasy owners expected the Jaguars to in 2018. The Bears aren't just the No. 1 scoring fantasy defense—they're the top defense by several fantasy points per game. The Bears rank fourth in total defense, fourth in scoring defense, sixth in sacks and first in takeaways. If those gaudy numbers aren't enough to pique your interest, consider this little nugget—the Bears opponent in Week 13 (the Giants) rank in the top half of the NFL in fantasy points allowed to defense and are tied for the NFL lead with 38 sacks allowed.

 

Los Angeles Rams (at Detroit Lions)

 

If you watched Matthew Stafford throw a game-sealing pick-six against the Bears on Thanksgiving, or watched the Rams score two defensive touchdowns in Week 11 against the Chiefs, then that should be all the impetus you need to roll out LA this week at Ford Field. The Rams are going to score points Sunday against the Lions. Lots of them. That's going to force a depleted Lions Offense to take chances. Lots of them. Those risks are going to lead to mistakes. Mistakes lead to turnovers. Turnovers equal fantasy points. Oh yeah—and Aaron Donald something something, too.

 

Seattle Seahawks (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

 

The days of the "Legion of Boom" are done, and the Seahawks aren't big-time fantasy producers in 2018. But the Seattle defense has crept into the top half of the NFL and would rank substantially higher had they not already played the Los Angeles Rams twice this season. This is another situation that's more about the matchup than the defense anyway. The 49ers offense was anemic on the road in Tampa last week, San Francisco has crept into the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to defenses and CenturyLink Field isn't an easy place to play—especially with the Seahawks riding a nice hot streak right now.

 

Buffalo Bills (at Miami Dolphins)

 

That the Bills have four wins with one of the worst offenses in the NFL is a testament to both head coach Sean McDermott and a defense that ranks second in the NFL, allowing just 305 yards per game. The Bills haven't quite as effective from a fantasy perspective, largely due to a relative lack of big plays—but the team still ranks inside the top-10 in fantasy points. Buffalo has a good chance of bettering that ranking in Miami in Week 13—the Dolphins have allowed 28 sacks, turned the ball over 16 times and rank fourth in fantasy points given up to defenses this year.

 

Houston Texans (vs. Cleveland Browns)

 

Spurred on by solid seasons from defensive end JJ Watt and safety Tyrann Mathieu, the Houston defense has had a lot to do with the winning streak that propelled the team into first place in the AFC South. The Texans have also been a viable fantasy asset, ranking inside the top-10 in most scoring systems. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has the Browns playing much better offensively than earlier in the season. But only four teams in the NFL have allowed more sacks than the Browns, who before last week hadn't won an away game since 2015.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (at Oakland Raiders)

 

The 2018 Chiefs are an object lesson in the disconnect that can occur between NFL value and fantasy value. In the former regard, the Chiefs are one of the most porous defenses in the league, ranking toward the bottom in both total defense and scoring defense. In the latter, however, the Chiefs rank inside the top-five in fantasy points in many scoring systems thanks to the third-most sacks (36), 17 takeaways and three defensive touchdowns. Add in a top-10 fantasy matchup with the hapless Raiders, and Week 13 is cash in on the disconnect time.

 

STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

 

Miami Dolphins (vs. Buffalo Bills)

 

Were the Dolphins a bit better defensively, the team would be in the "no-doubter" category given their outstanding matchup with a Buffalo Bills team that has surrendered the most fantasy points to team defenses in 2018. But the Dolphins are not a good defense—29th in total defense, 23rd in scoring defense and 29th in sacks. However, the Dolphins have been good at taking the ball away (22 times—seventh-best in the NFL), the Bills are third in the NFL in giveaways and Buffalo hasn't played well at all away from home this season.

 

Green Bay Packers (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

 

It's been a disappointing season and then some for the Green Bay Packers, at least in part because the defense hasn't played well. But this year the Arizona Cardinals have made a habit of making every defense they face look like the '85 Bears. In 10 of the teams 11 games, the Cardinals have failed to amass 300 yards of total offense. Arizona is dead last in the NFL in scoring (14.1 PPG) and leads the NFC in fantasy points allowed to linebackers. Last week against the Chargers, the Redbirds scored 10 points and failed to accrue even 150 yards of offense in a blowout loss.

 

Tennessee Titans (vs. New York Jets)

 

The Titans haven't been much of a factor in fantasy football leagues this year, and after getting their doors blown off by Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11, not many fantasy owners are eager to roll the Titans back out there again. However, this call has a lot more to do with who Tennessee is playing than the Colts themselves. The New York Jets are a hot mess offensively, ranking 26th in scoring and in the bottom five in a number of other categories. Most importantly, the Jets are third in fantasy points allowed to defenses this season.

 

New Orleans Saints (vs. Dallas Cowboys)

 

Drew Brees and the Saints Offense get all the ink, but the New Orleans defense isn't cat food, either. Through 11 games, the Saints rank inside the top-15 in both total defense and scoring defense. The Saints lead the NFL in run defense, giving up just 73.2 yards per game. That last number could be important Thursday against the Cowboys, who are playing better of late but still rely heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and the run game. The Cowboys are also tied with the Giants for the most sacks allowed this season, and the Saints always play well under the roof of the Superdome.

 

Carolina Panthers (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

 

On one hand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't look the part of a good fantasy matchup—the Buccaneers are averaging a league-best 454.3 yards per game and rank ninth in the NFL in scoring. But while the Buccaneers have been great at moving the football, they have also been mistake-prone. Tampa's 29 turnovers are far and away the most in the NFL, and the Bucs rank fifth in fantasy points given up to defenses. After three straight losses, the Panthers are desperate to get things back on track. Desperation is a powerful motivator.

 

CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS

 

Minnesota Vikings (at New England Patriots)

 

Through 11 games, the Vikings Defense has performed as advertised for fantasy owners, trailing only the Chicago Bears in fantasy points. Minnesota's 36 sacks are tied for third-most in the NFL, and the team's 16 takeaways rank inside the top-10 as well. However, this week that stout fantasy defense gets a matchup that's about as bad as matchups get. In news that should surprise approximately no one, the Patriots rank toward the bottom of the NFL in fantasy points given up to defenses. The game being at Gillette Stadium just makes things that much worse.

 

Baltimore Ravens (at Atlanta Falcons)

 

From a yardage allowed perspective, the Ravens are the best defense in the NFL, surrendering just 295.4 yards per game. The Ravens are also coming off a stellar fantasy effort a week ago that saw the team ride a special teams and defensive touchdown against the woeful Oakland Raiders to the No. 1 spot at the position. However, this week's matchup in Atlanta presents a much stiffer challenge than Oakland. The Falcons may be all but eliminated from postseason consideration, but they remain seventh in the league in total offense and 27th in fantasy points given up to team defenses this year.

 

Washington Redskins (at Philadelphia Eagles)

 

For much of the 2018 season, the Washington defense has done right by fantasy owners. Over the first 11 weeks of the year, the Redskins ranked inside the top-five in many scoring systems from a fantasy points per game standpoint. But last week against the Cowboys, the Redskins had their worst fantasy outing of the season—31 points and over 400 total yards allowed. Washington's still a good defensive team, but the team's offensive woes are beginning to take their toll. With Philly's collective backs against the wall and Washington reeling from the Alex Smith injury, the Redskins are a risky fantasy play in Week 13.

 

Gary Davenport

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report and a contributing author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2017 and 2019 FSWA awards for Football Writer of the Year. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.