An enormous percentage of your focus each week is involved with decisions about QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs. That makes the amount of planning that you dedicate to team defenses far less extensive. While that is understandable, it still behooves you to maximize your chances of winning by examining all of your existing options. Particularly since our fantasy seasons have now progressed into the most critical weeks. Some of the most proficient defensive units will not be available on your waiver wires. But here are three units that should deliver favorable results, if you prefer to stream a defense in Week 14.
Rams at Cardinals
Each time that the Cardinals have been included in this column, I have been relatively confident that it would be the last. Simply because this unit contains multiple playmakers, has achieved consistent success on the field, and has remained among the point leaders in fantasy leagues. Arizona now ranks seventh in total defense, and is allowing opponents 316 YPG. They have been especially formidable versus the run, as their 83 YPG average is the NFL’s fourth best. The Cardinals have also generated 23 turnovers, including 15 INTs, which is the league’s sixth highest total. This formidable group will create significant challenges for the 25th ranked offense of St. Louis, which will attempt to lean heavily upon its ground game. But Zac Stacy will encounter great difficulty accumulating yardage, which will align him with an extensive list of backs that have been neutralized by Arizona this season. That will enable a Cardinal pass rush that has already produced 34 sacks, an extended opportunity to tee off against Kellen Clemens, who will be harassed into errors. Arizona is still available in 56% of all ESPN leagues, and should supply needy owners with an excellent option again this week.
Other Favorable Matchups
Raiders at Jets
Even though Oakland’s does not reside among the leagues’ most imposing defensive units, they have been respectable throughout the season. While they rank 19th in total defense, they have excelled at stuffing opposing ground games. Despite some uncharacteristic difficulty in containing Dallas RBs DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar in Week 13, the Raiders are still 10th against the run, while permitting rushers just 3.9 YPC. They have also been opportunistic, as only four teams have recovered more fumbles than the 10 that Oakland has manufactured. Plus, the team has also generated 31 sacks, and their ability to harass opponents will serve them well this week. Because only one team has turned the ball over with greater frequency than the Jets. Gang Green has now supplied opponents with 27 giveaways. That includes a league worst 20 INTs, which has played a large role in Geno Smith being pulled from three consecutive contests. While he will start once again this week, his hold on the slot is extremely tenuous. It is easy to envision Oakland’s complex blitz packages causing massive issues for Smith, which should lead to a procession of stalled drives, and additional turnovers. The Raiders are available in of 89% all ESPN leagues, and are worthy of consideration for stream-conscious owners.
Dolphins at Steelers
In a week that is chock-full of teams with low ownership that are either (a) not the beneficiary of a favorable matchup or (B) simply are not units that you have any business starting whatsoever, we will now shift our focus to Pittsburgh. Not only do the Steelers remain available in numerous leagues, but they should deliver for owners this week. They currently rank 13th in total defense, and have surrendered just four TDs to players not named Calvin Johnson in their last five home games. That degree of stinginess should persist this week, versus a Miami offense that ranks just 26th. The Dolphins’ often anemic ground game has struggled most significantly, averaging only 89 YPG and 4.0 YPC. While their 17th ranked passing attack has been somewhat more effective, Ryan Tannehill has already tossed 13 INTs, while leaving big plays on the field due to his inaccuracy. Mike Wallace has accumulated 209 yards and two TDs in the past two weeks, but had averaged 53 YPG and scored once prior to that span. His former teammates (and coaching staff) will be highly focused on this matchup, and will be particularly inspired in their efforts to neutralize Wallace. Only five teams have yielded fewer TDs through the air than Pittsburgh, and their encounter with Miami projects to be highly successful.