Several solid D/STs are on bye this week (Bills, Cowboys, Steelers), but fortunately, only one “favorable matchup” (Jaguars) is out. That opens the door for some risky potential sleepers and waiver wire pickups to enter the top 15 of our Week 7 fantasy defense rankings.
The Cardinals (vs. Texans), Panthers (@ Giants), Saints (@ Seahawks), Dolphins (vs. Falcons), and Giants (vs. Panthers) are all available in roughly half of leagues, and all are decent plays in a tough week. The Jets (@ Patriots) are also in play if you’re willing to trust them. It’s a bit surprising the Cardinals and Saints are so widely available given that they’ve been two of the best D/STs in fantasy this year, but you can find them in close to 50 percent of Yahoo leagues.
A couple D/STs that are normally in play are in rough matchups this week. The Bears (@ Buccaneers) are in the toughest spot, but the Broncos (@ Browns) are also not a recommended play. Even if you have the Bills or Steelers and the Bears are available on your waiver wire, you should look to the teams mentioned above.
It looks like an especially good week for a few of the top defenses, with the Rams (vs. Lions), Bucs (vs. Bears), and Patriots (vs. Jets) all in great matchups. Unfortunately, the starter’s tier drops off pretty noticeably after around eight or nine. The Colts (@ 49ers), Browns (vs. Broncos), and even the Seahawks (vs. Saints) are in play, but they have fairly low ceilings.
At least a few owners won’t feel great about their defense this week, but that’s not unusual, especially when the bye weeks start. Fortunately, one big play is all it takes for a defense to have a decent day, so just hope that return TD or a few takeaways and try to get through it.
Also, this is a good reminder to plan ahead. Several defenses that are good plays this week (Packers, Cardinals, Dolphins) were much more widely available prior to this waivers period. If you had the roster space to look ahead to Week 7 and grab one of these D/STs prior to Week 6 as a free agent, you wouldn’t have to fight the crowd.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest analysis and player movement.
Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 7: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football
|1||Los Angeles Rams vs. DET. The Rams are coming off their best fantasy showing off the season, limiting the Giants to 11 points and piling up four sacks and four takeaways. The Lions don’t turn it over much (eight all year), but they struggle to score (15.2 ppg since Week 1) and have allowed three or more sacks in half their games. When you factor in the familiarity (and possible contempt) this defense has for former teammate Jared Goff, you can bet the Rams will be fired up for this matchup.|
|2||Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. CHI. The Bears are another mediocre offense that perhaps surprisingly doesn’t turn it over much (five all year), but with 3.7 sacks allowed per game, the potential for mistakes is always present. The Bucs have nine sacks and five takeaways over their past three games, and this feels like a spot where they’ll batter a rookie QB who figures to be in more passing situations than usual.|
|3||New England Patriots vs. NYJ. After a horrible beginning to the season, the Jets have been solid against poor Tennessee and Atlanta defenses (three sacks allowed, two turnovers, 23.5 offensive ppg). The Pats have disappointed this year, but they’re better than those defenses. When these teams met in Week 2, New England held the Jets to six offensive points while racking up four sacks and four turnovers. It’s unlikely they’ll dominate like that again, but New England has plenty of upside.|
|4||Arizona Cardinals vs. HOU. Houston has scored fewer than 10 offensive points in three of the past four games. They’ve also turned it over nine times and allowed 12 sacks in that span. Until Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) comes back, this is an offense you want to start D/STs against. Arizona has been one of the best and most consistent fantasy defenses all season (10 sacks, 10 takeaways in past four games), so if anything, they’re ranked too low here.|
|5||Carolina Panthers @ NYG. Maybe it’s injuries, maybe it’s Daniel Jones’ true colors showing. Either way, the Giants have struggled the past two weeks, committing six turnovers and allowing four sacks. Mike Glennon was part of that in Week 5, but in Week 6, it was all Jones. The Panthers have found a way to fantasy points every week except Week 4 against Dallas, and they should do it again in a neutral-to-positive matchup.|
|6||New Orleans Saints @ SEA. Geno Smith was slightly better than expected on Sunday night, only turning it over once and leading the Seahawks to 20 points on the road against Pittsburgh. The Saints have been up and down for fantasy purposes, but one thing they do consistently is get interceptions (nine, with at least one in each game). Ultimately, we still don’t trust Smith, even at home. A well-rested Saints defense should get multiple sacks and for multiple turnovers.|
|7||Green Bay Packers vs. WAS. Taylor Heinicke has regressed over the past two weeks, as Washington has turned it over four times and averaged just 17.5 ppg. However, Washington doesn’t allow sacks (six all year), but the Packers have racked up 13 QB takedowns over the past four weeks. Their streak of multiple turnovers ended at four last week, but this is still an opportunistic defense that can take advantage of favorable home matchup like this.|
|8||Indianapolis Colts @ SF. The Colts have had a brutal schedule this year, but they’ve started to perform better defensively over the past three weeks (seven sacks, six takeaways). The 49ers have been a neutral matchup most of the year, but because of QB issues, they’ve turned it over five times and allowed eight sacks. Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) should be back this week, but a hobbled Jimmy G isn’t exactly a plus. The Colts should continue posting solid, starter-level numbers.|
|9||New York Giants vs. CAR. By fantasy stats, the Giants D/ST has been terrible this year, but they’ve quietly racked up four takeaways the past two weeks. Bad matchups (Cowboys, Rams) have yielded a lot of points, so perhaps a game against a much lower-powered offense will help New York actually perform well. Sam Darnold has regressed (six INTs, 12 sacks the past three weeks), so we’ll trust the Giants at home.|
|10||Baltimore Ravens vs CIN. The big-play talent on Baltimore’s defense is finally starting to showing up. Limiting the high-powered Chargers to six points — the second time in the past three weeks they’ve held an opponent to fewer than eight offensive points — shows the overall potential of this group. The Bengals are a solid offense, but they’ll still allow some sacks and turn it over once or twice.|
|11||Cleveland Browns vs. DEN. Teddy Bridgewater struggled mightily against a relatively mediocre Raiders’ defense last week (five sacks, three INTs). Cleveland is struggling mightily itself (84 offensive points allowed the past two weeks), but playing at home on a short week figures to help the Browns. They’ve had multiple sacks in all but one game, and they dominated against some mediocre offenses earlier in the year (13 offensive points, 11 sacks against the Vikings and Bears in Weeks 3 and 4). They can have similar success against another mediocre offense on Thursday.|
|12||Denver Broncos @ CLE. With Baker Mayfield (non-throwing shoulder) banged up and both star RBs hurting, Cleveland’s firepower is limited. We saw that manifest itself with five sacks allowed and three turnovers last week. Even on the road, we like the Broncos to get back on track and put up some points on a short week.|
|13||New York Jets @ NE. The Patriots have multiple turnovers in four straight games, including two that have been returned for TDs. However, it’s worth noting that their only game this year without a turnover was against the Jets in Week 2. The Jets have done next-to-nothing outside of a seven-sack game in Week 4, so it’s tough to trust them against anyone, but this is a boom-or-bust spot. If you want a “safer” floor, you can try one of the defenses just above or below New York. If you’re willing to gamble for a potentially bigger payoff, go with the well-rested Jets.|
|14||San Francisco 49ers vs. IND. Carson Wentz has been solid this year, which is best shown by the fact he hasn’t thrown an INT since Week 2. That’s a big negative for San Francisco, but we know Wentz has sloppy games in him. The 49ers have had brutal matchups since Week 2, but in the first two weeks, they looked solid, racking up four takeaways and a TD against Detroit and limiting the Eagles to 11 offensive points. This matchup figures to be closer to those, so we think the 49ers have a solid floor and a relatively low ceiling.|
|15||Seattle Seahawks vs. NO. This is another situation where we’re betting against a QB with a sloppy history. Jameis Winston has been mostly stable this year (four INTs), but he’s had three multi-sack games, and Seattle is typically better at home in prime time, at least in neutral matchups. We’ll take a shot here in a week with few reliable options.|
|16||Miami Dolphins vs. ATL. The Falcons are allowing a lot of fantasy points per game to D/STs, but that’s largely because of a brutal Week 2 against Tampa in which the Bucs had three INTs and two TDs. The Dolphins have been arguably the most disappointing fantasy defense this year, and outside of a solid Week 3, they’ve done very little. Tough matchups have been part of that, but even a London matchup against Jacksonville resulted in just two sacks, one takeaway, and 23 offensive points allowed. You could do worse in a tough week, but you can also do a lot better.|
|17||Cincinnati Bengals @ BAL|
|18||Atlanta Falcons @ MIA|
|19||Las Vegas Raiders vs. PHI|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles @ LV|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs @ TEN|
|22||Chicago Bears @ TB|
|23||Washington Football Team @ GB|
|24||Tennessee Titans vs. KC|
|25||Houston Texans @ ARI|
|26||Detroit Lions @ LAR|