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Getting Defensive: Week 15

Willie Gay

Willie Gay

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs were the top matchup play among team defenses—or at least one of them. It wasn’t that Kansas City was an especially formidable defense. The Chiefs rank in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories and entered the week ranked outside the top-15 in fantasy points. But the Chiefs were playing a Denver Broncos team that ranked dead last in the league in scoring offense and inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to the position.

The table was set.

The Broncos admittedly made fantasy managers (and the Chiefs) sweat a bit, peeling off 21 unanswered points in under four minutes of game time. But that came after the Chiefs had jumped out to a 27-0 lead. And after Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay returned a Russell Wilson interception for a touchdown. Add in six sacks and another takeaway, and you have the second-best fantasy stat line by a defense in Week 14.

Now, chasing last week’s numbers can be a dicey proposition in fantasy football—especially this time of year. The last thing fantasy managers can afford as the playoffs get underway is to get caught living in the past. But that’s not the case with the Chiefs this week.

As a matter of fact, you can argue that this week’s matchup is even better.

Yes, the Houston Texans showed half a pulse last week in Dallas against the Cowboys. But after 14 weeks, the Texans are dead last in the NFL in offense and 30th in scoring offense. The Texans have committed the second-most turnovers (22), have allowed 33 sacks and are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing defenses.

If you grabbed the Chiefs before the Broncos game, hang on—Kansas City’s got another week of high-end fantasy value still in store.

If you didn’t, here’s a look around the team defense landscape in Week 15.


Philadelphia Eagles (at Chicago Bears)

When last we saw the Eagles, they were pounding the New York Giants into goo, including a defensive performance in which Philly sacked Daniel Jones seven times. That outburst thrust the Eagles past the Dallas Cowboys and into the lead for sacks this season with 49, and the team also leads the NFL with 24 takeaways. For the season the Eagles rank fourth among defenses in fantasy points, and this week they face a Bears team that has allowed 42 sacks (fourth-most in the league), has turned the ball over 18 times and is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to defenses.

Denver Broncos (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

By just about any objective measure, the 2022 season has been an unmitigated disaster—the Broncos are 3-10 and the Russell Wilson trade looks like an all-time boondoggle. But the Denver defense has done its part—the Broncos are seventh in total defense and passing defense, fourth in scoring defense and ninth for the season in fantasy points. With Kyler Murray‘s season over in Arizona, the reeling Redbirds will turn to Colt McCoy at quarterback the rest of the way, and against the Patriots in Week 14 that meant six sacks, two turnovers and a fumble returned for a touchdown.

Baltimore Ravens (at Cleveland Browns)

The Baltimore Ravens have won six of seven, but in their last three victories the Ravens have scored a combined 39 points—the Baltimore defense has essentially been carrying the team. After shutting down the Steelers in Week 14, the Ravens are eighth in the league in scoring defense, lead the AFC in run defense and sit sixth in the league in fantasy points at the position. The Browns haven’t been an especially good fantasy matchup as a whole this year, but in two games with Deshaun Watson under center, Cleveland has scored all of one offensive touchdown.

New England Patriots (at Las Vegas Raiders)

As was already mentioned, the Patriots had a big game in Arizona in Week 14, posting the fattest fantasy stat line of the week. For the season, the Pats rank sixth in the NFL in total defense, ninth against the pass and fifth in points allowed. New England paces the AFC with 45 sacks, ranks fifth in the NFL with 21 takeaways and leads all AFC teams in fantasy points. The Patriots have also been very consistent for fantasy managers, hitting double digits in fantasy points eight times in 13 games. No defense is completely matchup-proof, but the Patriots come pretty close.

San Francisco 49ers (at Seattle Seahawks)

There wasn’t a team in the NFL that sent a clearer message last week than the 49ers, who demolished the Buccaneers in San Francisco. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy stole the headlines, but the 49ers defense was even more impressive, shutting the Buccaneers out until garbage time while forcing three turnovers. The 49ers are the NFL’s No. 1 defense in terms of total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and points per game allowed. San Francisco has also logged the eighth-most sacks, sixth most takeaways and trail only the Patriots and Cowboys in fantasy points among defenses.

Dallas Cowboys (at Jacksonville Jaguars)

Fantasy managers who expected a bonanza from the Dallas defense last week against the Houston Texans were left sorely disappointed—Dallas surprisingly failed to log a single sack and finished the week well outside the top-15 in fantasy points. This week’s matchup with the Jaguars isn’t a good one on paper, either—the Jags have actually allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to defenses this season. But the Cowboys are fantasy’s highest-scoring defense in 2022, and they can’t be pleased about last week’s performance. Micah Parsons and Co. gets back on track Sunday in Jacksonville.


Green Bay Packers (at Los Angeles Rams)

The Packers haven’t exactly thrived defensively in 2022—the Pack ranks 18th in total defense and 21st in scoring defense, while managing just 24 sacks, 15 takeaways and the sixth-fewest fantasy points at the position. However, this has a lot less to do with the Packers than it does the team Green Bay in playing—Baker Mayfield‘s late-game heroics last week notwithstanding, the Los Angeles Rams are last in the NFC in total offense, 29th in scoring, first in sacks allowed with 46 and first in the NFC in fantasy points allowed to defenses this season.

Arizona Cardinals (at Denver Broncos)

With Kyler Murray out for the season, the Cardinals season is an even bigger mess than it already was—and that’s saying something. Arizona’s defense bears some of the responsibility for the team’s 4-10 record, and over the last month that defense has amassed the third-fewest fantasy points in the league. But Russell Wilson and the Broncos have spent most of this season making every team they face look like the 1985 Bears. Even after last week’s season-high 28 points, the Broncos are still dead last in the league in scoring, and Denver sits fourth in the league in fantasy points given up to defenses.

Washington Commanders (vs. New York Giants)

The Washington Commanders come out of the bye week one of the hotter teams in the NFL, and the defense has certainly played its part in the team’s success. Washington is fourth in the NFL in total defense, eighth against the pass, ninth against the run, 10th in scoring defense and eighth for the season in fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Giants are barreling in the opposite direction—the Giants are struggling offensively, haven’t won a game since Week 10 and is now allowing the 12th-most fantasy points to defenses this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers (at Carolina Panthers)

That the Steelers are viewed more as a streamer this season than an every-week starter speaks to the kind of year it has been in the Steele City. After annually ranking at the top of the league in sacks, Pittsburgh’s 25 this season ranks outside the top-20. Pittsburgh barely ranks inside the top-20 in fantasy points. And in fairness, the Carolina offense has looked better with Sam Darnold at quarterback. However, the Steelers are coming off one of their better defensive efforts of the season, and the Panthers rank inside the top-15 in fantasy points allowed to defenses.

Cincinnati Bengals (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

There isn’t a hotter team in the NFL right now than the Cincinnati Bengals, who have peeled off five straight victories after handling the Browns in Cincinnati last week. But that hot streak hasn’t translated to fantasy success for the defense, as the Bengals are actually a bottom-five unit over that span. That could change this week against a Buccaneers offense that completely fell apart last week in San Francisco. As odd as it is to write, a Tom Brady-led Tampa offense ranks dead last in the league running the ball and 28th in points scored per game.

Minnesota Vikings (vs. Indianapolis Colts)

The Minnesota Vikings are not good on defense. As a matter of fact, the 2022 Vikings have accomplished a dubious first in franchise history by allowing over 400 yards of offense in each of the last five games. That is, as they say, ungood. But this week the Vikings host a Colts team that ranks 25th in total offense, 31st in scoring offense, first in the AFC in sacks allowed, first in the league in giveaways and first in the NFL in fantasy points surrendered to defenses. Trusting the No. 32 fantasy defense in the playoffs isn’t easy. But the matchup is as good as matchups get.


Buffalo Bills (vs. Miami Dolphins)

If you have rostered the Bills defense, you will likely start them in Week 15. And it’s possible that Buffalo will have an excellent game against Miami—especially in the weather in Buffalo this weekend goes all, you know, Buffalo. But while the Bills remain fifth in fantasy points among defenses for the season, since Week 7 they rank outside the top-12 with just one double-digit fantasy performance. Also, while the Dolphins struggled last week in Los Angeles and are riding a two-game skid, Miami remains a bottom-half fantasy matchup for opposing defenses.