The fantasy playoffs are in full swing, and if you’re spending valuable time studying Week 15 D/ST options, that means you dodged the Thomas Rawls injury, avoided the dud from Dez Bryant, and weaved through Week 14 without facing the inferno that is the Seattle passing game. Bravo. This also means we have work to do in order to stuff your Week 15 lineup full of as many points as possible with the top D/ST and kicker options the fantasy world has to offer.
Before we look at D/ST plays for coming weeks and break down the Week 15 slate, let’s spend a brief moment discussing roster management. At this point in the season, fantasy benches should be trimmed like the branches on the tree that is spewing pine needles in your living room. Speculative players who will not see your starting lineup should be cut, and players that could potentially block your opponent should be added. This absolutely includes D/ST options from the waiver wire. If you own the Jets D/ST, but the Bucs D/ST is still available, add them if possible to reduce the options available to your opponent. A few extra defenses on your bench won’t hurt the scoring potential of your starting lineup and could play a role in forcing an opponent into starting a less than desirable option.
Now that our public service announcement is complete, below you will find Week 15 D/ST options broken into tiers, D/ST rankings for Weeks 16 and 17, as well as Week 15 kicker rankings.
Editor's Note: For updated rankings, fantasy news columns, IDP, injury analysis, dynasty and much more, check out the Rotoworld Season Pass.
A Lot To Like
The (1) Seattle Seahawks (vs Cleveland) are rolling and the next inferior opponent in their path is Cleveland. Seattle just wrapped up a brief two-game road trip to Minnesota and Baltimore, where they allowed 13 total points and zero offensive touchdowns. Isaiah Crowell’s surprise rebirth in Week 14 will be short-lived as Johnny Manziel and the Browns are chewed up by the Seahawks D/ST this week.
Matt Cassel will be served up to the (2) New York Jets (at Dallas) this week, which makes this defense an elite play. In his two starts since Tony Romo’s latest injury, Cassel has completed only 50 percent of his passes and thrown one interception to go with a goose egg in the touchdown column. Running the ball is the only possible way Dallas can move offensively with Cassel under center, and the Jets are the best run defending team in the NFL. This game should get ugly in a hurry.
Fantasy owners should not bet against the (3) Carolina Panthers (at NY Giants) right now, and this group just served the Atlanta Falcons a warm, delicious donut in Week 14 while holding Matt Ryan’s crew to 230 total yards. Eli Manning looked good on Monday night, but is not enough to scare the Panthers, who have forced 13 turnovers in the last four weeks.
The (4) Kansas City Chiefs (at Baltimore) just held San Diego to three points for the second time in four weeks, and this unit has held four of their last six opponents under 300 yards of total offense. This week, the Chiefs D/ST travels to Baltimore to face either Matt Schaub, the chairman of the pick-six society, or Jimmy Clausen, who led the Ravens to two field goals last week. Giddy up.
The (5) New England Patriots (vs Tennessee) are second among NFL defenses in sacks this season and looked strong on Sunday night at Houston, sacking Brian Hoyer six times. Next up for the Patriots D/ST is Marcus Mariota and the Titans, who managed one touchdown (on a trick play) in Week 14, and tallied a whopping 24 rushing yards in the process. Mariota has been sacked 11 times and thrown four interceptions over the last three weeks, making the Titans an excellent target for the New England defense, who will be playing at home as huge Vegas favorites.
San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sacked nine times by Cleveland last week and has been taken down 15 times over his last three games. This makes the (6) Cincinnati Bengals (at San Francisco) a great Week 15 option, and while Gabbert has been responsible with the football, he has been held under 200 passing yards in three of his five starts this season. The Bengals D/ST is a quality group that should be able to take care of business on the road.
Matt Hasselbeck has led the Colts to one offensive touchdown over their last eight quarters of play, and is dealing with arm and rib ailments at the spry age of 40. This is a recipe for success if you own the (7) Houston Texans (at Indianapolis) D/ST, as there is a strong likelihood that old Charlie Whitehurst makes an appearance under center at some point on Sunday with Hasselbeck playing at far less than 100 percent. The Texans have held opposing teams to 187 passing yards per game over their last six outings and that number will not budge after facing the Colts.
Editor's Note: This is your chance to try FanDuel risk free! Sign up today and if you lose your first contest, you’ll be refunded the entry fee up to $10. Play now.
Second Tier, But Playable
The key for the Eagles over the last two weeks has been their running game, but the (8) Arizona Cardinals (at Philadelphia) should put an end to that trend this week. Arizona has held six of their last seven opponents to less than 100 rushing yards, and just bottled up Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson in consecutive weeks. The Cardinals D/ST is a solid bet this week on the road at Philadelphia against Sam Bradford and the Eagles, who have at least one turnover in five-straight games.
The (9) Denver Broncos (at Pittsburgh) are playing very well defensively, but are matched up with the NFL’s second-best offense this week in the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a tough spot for fantasy footballers, but perhaps there is reason for optimism in this matchup. Pittsburgh has turned the ball over multiple times in six of their last seven games, and has been held under 85 rushing yards in three of their last four outings. The Denver defense will be able to flex its run-stopping muscles in this matchup, but keeping Large Ben under control will be the key. Still consider this group startable, but at the back-end of the top-10 due to the matchup.
The Rams spoiled a nice Week 14 streaming spot for Detroit by rumbling for 203 rushing yards, but the (10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at St. Louis) are still a worthwhile option this week against St. Louis. Rams quarterback Case Keenum has thrown for 136 and 124 yards in his two starts this season, so keeping Todd Gurley in check is the only challenge for the Bucs D/ST. This is quite an obstacle of course, but Tampa Bay has held opposing teams to 59.3 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks and should be ready to face this task.
The (11) St. Louis Rams (vs Tampa Bay) have been slumping on defense lately, but the Bucs failed to take advantage of an insanely good matchup with New Orleans in Week 14, which makes the Rams D/ST look more appetizing this week. Jameis Winston has completed only 58.4 percent of his passes this season and has thrown more than one touchdown pass in just one of his last seven outings. The Rams are worth a look this week in hopes that they can repeat their productive Week 14 performance.
Starting the (12) Indianapolis Colts (vs Houston) this week is not for the faint of heart, but the Houston Texans will be trotting out T.J. Yates at quarterback this week. If you can slap on your Beats by Dre headphones and ignore the 96 points the Colts have given up over the last two weeks (gulp), you’ll notice that Yates completed just 16 of 34 passes in a Week 11 start and hadn’t thrown an NFL touchdown since 2011 prior to this season. The Colts D/ST is not good, but they have forced nine turnovers over the last four weeks and that is the goal in this matchup with Yates.
San Diego has put a pathetic three points on the board in three of their last four games, averaging 67.0 rushing yards per game along the way. This week, the (13) Miami Dolphins (at San Diego) face Philip Rivers and his gang, who have allowed 11 sacks over their last three games. The Dolphins have had their defensive struggles, but are worth a look this week.
Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler has a yards per attempt average of 6.7 this season, making the (14) Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Denver) an interesting Week 15 option. For reference, that low mark is down in Colin Kaepernick and Sam Bradford territory and just a few exits from Matt Cassel-ville. Pittsburgh has been forcing turnovers and stuffing the run at a decent clip in recent weeks, which means they have the potential to excel in a matchup with the Broncos, who lean on their running game exclusively.
The Atlanta Falcons were shutout in Week 14, as their 2015 nosedive continues. The Falcons have turned the ball over 12 times in their last four games, which puts the (15) Jacksonville Jaguars (vs Atlanta) on the map this week. The Jaguars D/ST turned in a nice Week 14 performance and are a solid bet to do it again this week.
You Can Do Better
(16) Green Bay Packers (at Oakland), (17) Minnesota Vikings (vs Chicago), (18) Detroit Lions (at New Orleans), (19) Dallas Cowboys (vs NY Jets), (20) Washington Redskins (vs Buffalo), (21) Buffalo Bills (at Washington)
(22) Chicago Bears (at Minnesota), (23) Atlanta Falcons (at Jacksonville), (24) Oakland Raiders (vs Green Bay), (25) Tennessee Titans (at New England), (26) Baltimore Ravens (vs Kansas City), (27) San Diego Chargers (vs Miami), (28) Philadelphia Eagles (vs Arizona), (29) New York Giants (vs Carolina), (30) San Francisco 49ers (vs Cincinnati), (31) Cleveland Browns (at Seattle), (32) New Orleans Saints (vs Detroit)
Preliminary Week 16 Rankings (Yahoo ownership percentages in parenthesis)
1. Seattle (99%) vs STL
2. Kansas City (86%) vs CLE
3. Carolina (96%) at ATL
4. Pittsburgh (38%) at BAL
5. Buffalo (69%) vs DAL
6. Denver (96%) vs CIN
7. Detroit (31%) vs SF
8. Cincinnati (75%) at DEN
9. Tennessee (14%) vs HOU
10. Houston (61%) at TEN
11. Miami (22%) vs IND
12. Oakland (4%) vs SD
Preliminary Week 17 Rankings (Yahoo ownership percentages in parenthesis)
1. Carolina (96%) vs TB
2. Kansas City (86%) vs OAK
3. Cincinnati (75%) vs BAL
4. Denver (96%) vs SD
5. NY Jets (74%) at BUF
6. Pittsburgh (38%) at CLE
7. Seattle (99%) at ARZ
8. Washington (11%) at DAL
9. St. Louis (80%) at SF
10. Houston (61%) vs JAX
11. Tennessee (14%) at IND
12. Jacksonville (3%) at HOU
Kickers Are People Too
1. Steven Hauschka (vs CLE)
2. Stephen Gostkowski (vs TEN)
3. Graham Gano (at NYG)
4. Cairo Santos (at BAL)
5. Chandler Catanzaro (at PHI)
6. Matt Prater (at NO)
7. Kai Forbath (vs DET)
8. Mike Nugent (at SF)
9. Brandon McManus (at PIT)
10. Jason Myers (vs ATL)
11. Connor Barth (at STL)
12. Sebastian Janikowski (vs GB)
13. Adam Vinatieri (vs HOU)
14. Nick Novak (vs MIA)
15. Josh Brown (vs CAR)