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Week 16 Streaming Defense Picks

By Matt Schauf 11:12am EST 12/21/16

It’s Week 16: championship week in most of our leagues.

If you’re still playing at this point, then you’re probably not scrounging for a starting QB or a TE to believe in.

Of course, if you are facing uncertainty at either of those positions for whatever reason, then our Week 16 rankings are posted to help guide you.

But I don’t think selecting streaming options at those positions makes for a worthwhile exercise this week. Defense is quite different, though.

The most reliable fantasy D/ST units tend to finish among the top 12 in about half of the NFL weeks throughout the season. Matchups and TD luck play large roles, and you might be hunting for new options every week—even if you started the year with a top unit such as Denver or Arizona.

Just like with the other positions, you can check our Week 16 rankings for guidance on our favorite D/ST options for your championship round. Unlike QB, TE and the other groups, though, the defenses won’t get individual write-ups.

So I thought it’d be worth digging into some of the potential streaming options that make the most sense for Week 16 …


Chargers D/ST at Cleveland

The ideal combo in a streaming option is a quality defense in an upside matchup. That’s what we have here.

San Diego has allowed a lot of points this season—4th most in the league. And the Chargers sit a mediocre 18th in yards allowed. But they also rank 7th in Football Outsiders’ total-defense DVOA rankings. They jumped to 1 spot ahead of Minnesota and boast above-average rankings vs. the pass and the run.

The crew has done most of its damage via takeaways, claiming the league’s 2nd most turnovers on the year. (The Chiefs lead by just 1, despite a charitable 8 in that Week 3 dismantling of the Jets.) Cleveland has actually been more protective of the ball than you might guess, ranking just 14th in giveaways to this point—including a mere 2 total in the 3 games that Robert Griffin has started.

But starting a D against the Browns carries little risk. They’ve scored the league’s 2nd fewest points and tallied the 2nd-lowest yardage total. Cleveland hasn’t scored more than 13 in a game since Week 8. The offense did turn the ball over 8 times in the 3 games before Griffing stepped back in.

There’s also more sack upside than the Chargers’ 25 for the year (less than 2 per game) would suggest. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa each rank among the league’s top 30 in QB hits, and the Browns have allowed 3 games of 5+ sacks among the past 4, with 5 games of 4+ sacks among the past 6.


Rams D/ST vs. San Francisco

Talent-wise, the Rams should probably sit higher in the season-long fantasy rankings than they do. To be fair, though, they hit this week off a pretty tough string of matchups.

The Saints, Patriots, Falcons and Seahawks – 3 of 4 on the road – all scored 24+ points on L.A. while combining for just 2 total turnovers. The Rams haven’t done too well in that category all season, tying for just 27th in the league in takeaways. But the Niners come in tied for 11th most giveaways.

Colin Kaepernick also sports the 2nd highest sack rate of any starting QB this season, going down about 40.6% more often than Blaine Gabbert.

San Francisco also hits this week after scoring 13, 17 and 6 points over the past 3 games. That means lower risk for chasing sacks and turnovers in this solid matchup.


Titans D/ST at Jacksonville

The Titans would probably rank higher on this list if they were actually a good defense, but the matchup propels them into our top 12 for Week 16.

Tennessee has allowed the 11th-fewest points per drive in the league. But it also ranks just 25th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. Combine that with a #18 ranking in total points allowed, #20 in yards, #22 in takeaways and #20 in sack rate and there’s no single aspect worth getting excited about. Except that matchup.

The Jaguars have supplied the 10th most fantasy points to defenses, a ranking that would sit even higher if not for Blake Bortles’ garbage-time heroics (perhaps most notably in the 1st meeting with Tennessee). Jacksonville sports the 6th-highest turnover rate—the surest path to big defensive fantasy points. And who knows how the team will react to HC Gus Bradley getting canned after last week’s come-from-ahead loss?

The Titans sport a definite boom/bust profile this week but are worth a long look for many championship-seeking fantasy owners.

That’s it for defenses among our top 12 who are available in at least half of ESPN leagues as of this writing. Be sure to check our rankings for any other attractive options that might be available in your league.

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