Fantasy football owners know the final week of the season is unpredictable, but most only think of key offensive players sitting out games. Defensive players can just as easily be “rested” ahead of the postseason or because teams have nothing to play for. We’ll have to stay on top of all inactives on both sides of the ball when looking for D/ST sleepers, as plenty of factors could affect our Week 18 fantasy defense rankings.
The biggest worries are injuries and COVID, of course, and the biggest focus will be on the starting QBs. Not all backups automatically struggle — and not all defenses can take advantage — but most second-stringers are at least a little less likely to have success. The Broncos (vs. Chiefs), Lions (vs. Packers), and Ravens (vs. Steelers), among others, could all be starting backups again, and if they do, all three of those defenses would be in good shape. Pittsburgh is the shakiest, but it can still make some plays against a limited offense. The Packers are also in a weird spot because they figure to be resting their players, but you can only “rest” so many guys on defense, so we still think they can have a good week against a gimpy Jared Goff (knee) or Tim Boyle.
Of course, those defenses are all highly owned. If you’re looking for some sleepers, Washington (@ Giants) is by far the top option. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of high-percentage streamers in Week 18 (at least early in the week), as most of the best matchups go to top D/STs. Tennessee (@ Texans) also looks good, and Minnesota (vs. Bears) should be in play regardless of who starts for the Bears. You could also try the Giants (vs. Washington) if you’re really a slave to matchups, but they were steamrolled by an Andy Dalton-led offense last week, so we’re not optimistic about Big Blue’s chances this time around.
Top D/STs with tough matchups include the Cardinals (vs. Seahawks), Rams (vs. 49ers), Cowboys (vs. Eagles), and 49ers (@ Rams). The Rams are still in decent shape since they’ll either be facing rookie Trey Lance or an ailing Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb), but the rest are more boom-or-bust than usual. Matthew Stafford throws a lot of INTs, so the 49ers might have a higher floor than we think, but we know the Rams can score in a hurry. The Cowboys force a ton of turnovers, but Philly is so ground-oriented, Dallas will have fewer chances than usual to force them.
The Eagles (vs. Cowboys), Broncos (vs. Chiefs), Panthers (@ Buccaneers), and Browns (vs. Bengals) have all been contributors throughout the season, but these are not the matchups in which to risk them. Consider them off limits, as even a reeling unit like Baltimore (vs. Steelers) might have more upside against a slow QB.
Again, we’ll have to keep tabs on offensive linemen, skill guys, and all defense players this week. Running backs and receivers will grab more headlines, but a key offensive guard or tackle could have just as much of an impact on the rankings below.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings throughout the week, so check back for the latest player movement.
Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 18: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football
|1||Buffalo Bills vs. NYJ|
|2||Indianapolis Colts @ JAX|
|3||Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. CAR|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs @ DEN|
|5||New Orleans Saints @ ATL|
|6||New England Patriots @ MIA|
|7||Washington Football Team @ NYG|
|8||Tennessee Titans @ HOU|
|9||Miami Dolphins vs. NE|
|10||Green Bay Packers @ DET|
|11||Minnesota Vikings vs. CHI|
|12||Los Angeles Rams vs. SF|
|13||Dallas Cowboys @ PHI|
|14||San Francisco 49ers @ LAR|
|15||Arizona Cardinals vs. SEA|
|16||Cincinnati Bengals @ CLE|
|17||Pittsburgh Steelers @ BAL|
|18||New York Giants vs. WAS|
|19||Chicago Bears @ MIN|
|20||Philadelphia Eagles vs. DAL|
|21||Los Angeles Chargers @ LV|
|22||Cleveland Browns vs. CIN|
|23||Denver Broncos vs. KC|
|24||Baltimore Ravens vs. PIT|
|25||Atlanta Falcons vs. NO|
|26||Seattle Seahawks @ ARI|
|27||Carolina Panthers @ TB|
|28||Las Vegas Raiders vs. LAC|
|29||Detroit Lions vs. GB|
|30||Jacksonville Jaguars vs. IND|
|31||Houston Texans vs. TEN|
|32||New York Jets @ BUF|