All good things must come to an end, and fantasy football is no different.
As a matter of fact, in the majority of fantasy leagues, Week 16 represented the end of the line. A champion will be crowned in the next day or so—likely propelled by a big week defensively from the likes of the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
Nice of the Jaguars to show up for once.
However, for some leagues there's still one more week to play. One very important week. Championship week.
The problem with Week 17 title games, of course, is that some teams could be resting players. There are a couple of teams that stand out in that regard this week, and they'll be mentioned here (assuming that their respective defenses are fantasy relevant anyway). But there are still plenty of teams playing for either a spot in the postseason or seeding, so there shouldn't be any shortage of options available to fantasy owners.
This week's edition of Getting Defensive is admittedly a truncated one, as it's Christmas Eve and believe it or not there are a few people who would actually like to see me today. But I wouldn't dare leave all four of my faithful readers hanging.
So here we go. One last ride. For all the marbles for those folks playing this week.
I hope this column was at least nominally useful for you this year, I hope very much to be back doing it in 2019, and I want to wish all you folks out there all the best this holiday season.
Baltimore Ravens (at Cleveland Browns)
After watching the Ravens absolutely dominate one of the better offenses in the NFL en route to the top defensive score in most fantasy leagues last week, Baltimore's effectively a must-start regardless of matchup. The Browns are playing well and no easy out, but the Ravens are at home and playing for the AFC North title. Don't overthink things here.
Houston Texans (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
After last week's debacle in Philadelphia, fantasy owners may be a bit leery about trusting the Texans in a title game. Don't be—the Jaguars are a pile of stinky poo offensively, the Jags rank third in fantasy points allowed to defenses and back in Week 7 the Texans held the Jaguars to just seven points and posted a top-seven stat line. Dance with who brought you.
Seattle Seahawks (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
There's at least some risk the Seahawks might rest some dinged-up players in Week 17 after clinching a Wild Card spot, but whether Seattle's the No. 5 or No. 6 seed remains in question. Besides, a short-handed Seahawks Defense would just level the playing field a little against the dumpster fire that is an Arizona Cardinals team that ranks first in the AFL in fantasy points given up to defenses.
Los Angeles Rams (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
The Rams can't win the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC any more, but locking up a bye for the Wild Card round remains on the to-do list. That should mean LA's starters playing until Sunday's home tilt with a 49ers team that's seventh in fantasy points surrendered to defenses is well in hand. In Week 7, the Rams led all NFC defenses in fantasy points during a 39-19 blasting of the Niners in Santa Clara.
Philadelphia Eagles (at Washington Redskins)
The Eagles are in desperation mode and then some in Week 17, as they need a win and help to make the playoffs. Philly didn't look great defensively last week, but this matchup's a great one—since Week 10 no team has allowed more fantasy points to defenses than the Redskins, and Washington just surrendered a top-three fantasy stat line to the Titans in Week 16.
Buffalo Bills (vs. Miami Dolphins)
Complements of three takeaways and a sack last week against the New England Patriots, the Bills were a top-10 fantasy option in some scoring systems. Buffalo now trails only the Ravens in total defense and leads the NFL in pass defense, and on Sunday the Bills host a Miami Dolphins team that looked like it was ready for the season to be over last week against the Jaguars.
Chicago Bears (at Minnesota Vikings)
There's some genuine reason for concern here—the Bears didn't light it up from a fantasy perspective last week against the 49ers, and the Vikings are playing much better offensively of late. But the Bears are fantasy's No. 1 defense this season by a wide margin, and back in Week 11 the Bears were the No. 3 fantasy defense for the week when facing the Vikings at Soldier Field.
STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
New England Patriots (vs. New York Jets)
The Patriots weren't as productive last week as I'd hoped, but they still manage to crack the top-10 in most scoring systems in their win over the Bills. With the Patriots trying to hold onto the No. 2 seed in the AFC (and a first-round bye) there won’t be any slowing down by New England Sunday against a Jets team that ranks fifth in fantasy points allowed to defenses in 2018.
Green Bay Packers (vs. Detroit Lions)
No, I haven't been hitting the egg nog early. OK, maybe I had a little. But despite last week's depressing showing against the Jets on the road, the Packers remain a viable streaming option in Week 17 against a floundering Lions Offense. Detroit hasn't topped 17 points scored in its last five games, and the team ranks inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to defenses over that span.
Miami Dolphins (at Buffalo Bills)
The Miami offense was hot garbage in last week's loss to the Jaguars, but the defense actually played pretty well, tallying six sacks and allowing less than 250 yards of total offense. No team in the AFC has given up more fantasy points to defenses in 2018 than the Bills, so the Dolphins should make for an appealing final-week spot-start.
New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina Panthers)
The Saints are one of the teams that could rest players in Week 17—New Orleans has locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But frankly I think the Saints could still make hay in this one even with a few subs on the field. The Panthers scored just 10 points at home last week against the Atlanta Falcons with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, may rest Christian McCaffrey this week, and Teddy Bridgewater should keep the Saints Offense on track OK in Brees sits.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Oakland Raiders)
Yes, the Chiefs are not a good defensive team from an NFL perspective—a fact that was on vivid display on Sunday night. But thanks to Kansas City's penchant for making big plays (especially sacks), the Chiefs are still a top-10 fantasy defense for the year. With the AFC West on the line and a top-five matchup for defenses on tap, the Chiefs will go out with a bang.
CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS
Jacksonville Jaguars (at Houston Texans)
Yes, the Jaguars finally showed up last week—Jacksonville's best fantasy outing of the season pulled the team inside the top-10 defenses in scoring for the season. But the Jaguars are facing a Houston team on the road playing for a division title that handled the Jaguars in Week 7 to the tune of a 20-7 final that wasn't as close as the score. Thanks, but no thanks.
Dallas Cowboys (at New York Giants)
Remember those teams I mentioned that might be resting players in Week 17? The Cowboys are right at the top of that list, as Dallas is locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC regardless of what happens Sunday in New York. The Giants are just a middling matchup for opposing defenses this season anyway, and it's entirely possible some of the Dallas defenders could take this game off—despite Jerry Jones' assertions to the contrary.
Tennessee Titans (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
The biggest game of Week 17 is now the "win-and-in" matchup between the Colts and Titans that has been flexed to Sunday night. The Titans put up a big stat line last week against the Washington Redskins, but this isn't the reeling Redskins. This is a smoking-hot Colts team that dropped 38 points on the Titans back in Week 11. Even with the game in Nashville, the Titans are a risky play.