(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)
We are quickly headed for the end of the year, and this seems like a great time to bring up a little league management issue; I am specifically referring to your league’s end-of-season schedule. If you have watched the NFL regularly over the last 5+ years, then you are familiar with a phenomenon where the best teams sit their players in week 17, causing all kinds of chaos for fantasy owners. This makes week 17 exceptionally difficult to prepare for, and thus a week that we would want to avoid. Let me give you an example: Say the Saints win this week. They will be 13-2, and they will have clinched the top seed in the NFC. What do you think they would do with Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara in week 17 then? I’m guessing they would play them for a quarter or maybe a half, and that would be it. Your stars who got you to the precipice are suddenly abandoning you in your time of greatest need. So, what does all this mean? Well, one thing: we need to abandon week 17 for fantasy purposes. We have to end our season in week 16, the last real week where our teams will be playing at full strength. Many leagues already do this, but this is just a helpful reminder if you don’t. You don’t want to be the guy who’s team is obliterated after an amazing team.
Isn’t this article supposed to be about streaming defenses, though? Yes. Yes it is. With that, let’s get back on track. For many of you, we are looking at our last week and the time to pick one last defense. It’s plenty clear who is playing well and who is playing poorly by now, and we know the worst teams are hunting for those top picks. But how did last week go? Let’s see.
We see a ton of streamable choices from last week, and most of them predictable if you knew what to look for. Atlanta started us off by feasting on a poor Arizona offense. The Cardinals have struggled all year, and they have been a team that I love to pick on. The Colts blanking the Cowboys was more surprising as the Cowboys had been playing well. The shutout score, the first the Cowboys had suffered since 2003, proved to vault the Colts defense to the top. Moving on, the Titans shut down the Giants who, like the Cardinals, have struggled to get things going this year. Tennessee’s defense has been strong all year, so this was hardly a surprise. Then we move to Washington and their win over Jacksonville. The Jaguars are easily the most disappointing team this year, and they proved what momentum (good or bad) can do. Once they started to lose, things got uglier and uglier with each passing week. This allowed Washington’s defense to vault to the #4 spot. We will finish our recap with Carolina vs New Orleans. This game surprisingly turned into a defense battle with the Saints narrowly winning. Both defenses, as a result, were useful to us and both scored 12 points. I would hardly make a habit of targeting the Saints though. With all this being said, what should we look for in week 16? Who can get us that championship trophy?
New England (84%)
We have a longer list of names than usual, because we have a lot of desperate teams heading into week 16. Teams need wins to wrap up divisions, clinch bye weeks, or simply to make the playoffs. New England would like to right the ship. They have lost their last 2 and three of their last 5. However, it’s New England. I highly doubt they go quietly into the night. I expect the Patriots to get things right against the Bills this week, and then to win again against the Jets in week 17. What if they were to lose against Josh Allen and the Bills? I’d be nervous about their fate for the first time in around a decade.
Indianapolis (42%, stream of the week)
The Colts started the season out 1-5, and were surely going to join the list of disappointments. No one comes back from 1-5, right? Well, fast forward to today and they have won 7 of their last 8, putting them at 8-6. They cannot afford to lose again as Baltimore owns the playoff tie breaker, and they have a friendly matchup against the Giants this week. I’d be shocked to see New York pull off the upset, so I’ll roll with the Colts. It also doesn’t hurt that they have held three of their last five opponents to 10 or fewer points. Not only do I like the Colts, but I would roll with them this week as my streamer of the week.
The Dallas Cowboys are our first team on the list not in dire need of a win this week. They sit 2 games behind the Chicago Bears, so they are unlikely to steal the 3 seed. They also sit a game up in the division with tie breakers well in hand, so they are unlikely to need help here. Still, I’m sure they want to avoid a losing streak as we head into January. The Cowboys play Tampa Bay this week, who has averaged under 20 points per game over the last 4 weeks. The Cowboys defense, for it’s part, has continued to look strong each week and I expect them to rise to the challenge as the Cowboys defeat the Buccaneers.
Green Bay (40%)
The Green Bay Packers are certainly an interesting case this week. They are eliminated from the playoff picture after a loss to the Bears in Chicago, and it’s clear that Aaron Rodgers is still not right. So, how does a proud Packers franchise react to being tossed aside this season? How will they respond to being knocked out of postseason contention for a second straight year while the Bears sit pretty? I’m guessing that Green Bay comes out swinging. They face the Jets this week, so their is definitely the potential for a knockout punch early on. Still, this one would make me nervous. This is probably my last choice on the list for week 16
The Miami Dolphins are–like the Patriots and Colts–desperate for a win this week. They sit at 7-7 and should be knocked out with a loss this week. Even winning out might not be enough, but you know they are going to try. Miami plays Jacksonville at home this week in what should be a friendly matchup. The Dolphins defense has been up and down over the last 5 weeks, but you can’t get a much better matchup right now than Jacksonville. The Jaguars haven’t put up more than 21 points in the last five weeks, they have averaged exactly 13 points per game during that time, and they are 1-4 over that stretch. I like the Dolphins to win, and I like them to hold Jacksonville’s offense to minimal points. They are an excellent option if the previous top choices are unavailable. I would also start them over Green Bay. Good luck this week, and may week 17 not matter!