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Fantasy football D/ST road map: Top streaming options for Weeks 13 through 18

The Falcons have scored double-figure fantasy points just twice this season, but face a favorable schedule the rest of the way. Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Fantasy football streaming defense (D/ST) enthusiasts might have steered their teams into certain playoff berths -- or at least contention for them -- at this stage, but the challenge will only heighten as we reach these critical weeks.

One of the primary reasons that's true is the greater stress fantasy managers experience in making those close start-or-sit decisions during the playoff weeks. If we're going to struggle so much with whether to start Tank Dell against the New York Jets or Jayden Reed against the New York Giants in Week 15 -- and I anticipate that there will be a contingent that faces this very decision when the time comes -- how are we going to feel when we're taking chances on bottom-10 defenses like the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Washington Commanders, rather than trusting the more talented Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills or Miami Dolphins, with our seasons on the line? (And, yes, we might be doing just that, as you'll soon read.)

Remember, team defense production in fantasy is an entirely different beast than it is at any of the skill positions, and that does not shift during our playoff weeks. In fact, one advantage we have from a streaming perspective is that the data we have at hand to make these decisions is as crisp and informative as it'll be at any stage of the season.

Keeping that in mind, let's refresh our D/ST road map for the season's final six weeks, giving you a handy guide to help make your weekly lineup decisions.

Opponents to exploit with D/STs

From my assessment of these teams' offenses, but also accounting for schedule-adjusted, points-allowed data over both the past five weeks and the season as a whole, here are the five most fantasy-friendly matchups for a defense:

1. New York Giants: Whether it's Tyrod Taylor or Tommy DeVito at quarterback, this offense is one of the game's weakest, adding a league-high 6.2 fantasy points per game to opposing D/STs for the season.

2. Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young's development has gone poorly, costing coach Frank Reich his job, with the offense adding a second-most 5.3 points per game to opposing D/STs this season.

3. New York Jets: Even Aaron Rodgers' dreams of a Christmas Eve return won't dramatically change the fact that this offense has added a league-high 11.0 points on average to opposing D/STs the past five weeks.

4. New England Patriots: Mac Jones doesn't seem to be getting any better, and neither Bailey Zappe nor Malik Cunningham seems likely to substantially improve the offense if installed in Jones' stead.

5. Chicago Bears: Justin Fields' return has improved this offense, but keep in mind that the Bears have committed 29 turnovers, third most in the league, in his most recent 20 starts.

Other plus-matchup offenses: Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Commanders.


Opponents to avoid with D/STs

These are my five least fantasy-friendly matchups:

1. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are the most well-rounded offense in the league, and their opponents have had 5.2 fantasy points per game subtracted from their D/STs' totals this season, most in the league.

2. Dallas Cowboys: Since their Week 7 bye, their offense leads the league in most categories, including costing opposing D/STs 6.0 points on average in that time span.

3. Philadelphia Eagles: They totaled 86 points and 908 yards against three of the league's best-regarded defenses (Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Bills) in their past three games.

4. Buffalo Bills: In the past five weeks, they've subtracted 3.9 points per game from opposing D/STs' totals.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Defensive struggles aside, their offense can put up points, and they have committed only 12 turnovers in 11 games this season.

Other bad-matchup offenses: Ravens, Texans, Detroit Lions.


Updated D/ST week-by-week road map for Weeks 13-18

Taking into account the matchup grades above, listed below are highly regarded defenses you can and cannot trust the rest of the way, picks for the rest of the season as a whole, and week-by-week streaming picks, taking you through the fantasy playoffs.

Heavily rostered D/STs you can generally trust: The Browns (89.9% rostered in ESPN leagues), New Orleans Saints (67.5%) and Jets (64.3%) all rank among the position's top 12 for the season in fantasy points, and each faces merely one member of the "other bad-matchup offenses" group in its final six games (Browns face the Texans in Week 16, Saints face the Lions in Week 13 and Jets face the Texans in Week 14). Using simply seasonal, schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed data, their remaining schedules rank sixth, fourth and eighth best, respectively, at the position.

Heavily rostered D/STs you should generally avoid: The Bills (89.0% rostered) and Ravens (84.8%), fourth and second in fantasy points for the season, are both on bye in Week 13. They then face a combined five of my top-five least favorable positional matchups in their final five games (Bills face the Cowboys in Week 15 and Chargers in Week 16, and Ravens face the 49ers in Week 16). The only plus matchup either draws is the Bills' Week 17 game against the Patriots.

The D/ST to lock in for Weeks 13-18: The Green Bay Packers (75.5% available in ESPN leagues) tangle with the Chiefs this coming week, but then get a generally soft schedule over the final five weeks (@NYG, TB, @CAR, @MIN, CHI), with the Minnesota Vikings championship-week matchup their toughest. If not them, the Falcons (83.5%) have a similarly strong remaining schedule, as five of their final six opponents rank among the league's bottom half in ESPN's Offensive Efficiency metric.

Picks for Week 13 only: The challenge here is that six teams are on bye, including three of the top 10 in D/ST fantasy points, so this might be a popular week for streaming across all fantasy leagues. Fortunately, there are several great streaming opportunities, led by the aforementioned Falcons (@NYJ) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (85.0% available, CAR). Additionally, the Chargers (88.9%, @NE) and Los Angeles Rams (96.0%, CLE) are worth a look if you miss out on the former two.

Avoid: The Sunday afternoon rematch of the 2022 NFC Championship Game between the 49ers (91.6% rostered) and Eagles (58.7%) in Philadelphia is one to avoid on the defensive front. The early over/under (46½) is tied for the week's second highest.

Picks for Week 14 only: The Texans (92.3% available, @NYJ) and Packers (@NYG) visit New York to capitalize upon the Big Apple's sorry offenses, pushing both to the top of the streaming defenses pile in the final week of byes (two teams are off). The Jaguars (73.8%, @CLE) could also take advantage of the Browns' injuries at both quarterback and running back.

Avoid: The Eagles' brutal schedule stretch continues with a Sunday night showdown with the Cowboys (98.7%) in Dallas, and both defenses scored only four fantasy points in their Week 9 meeting. The Jets (HOU), meanwhile, could have their hands full with C.J. Stroud and the Texans.

Picks for Week 15 only: The Falcons (@CAR) scored a season-best 13 fantasy points in their first meeting with the Panthers in Week 1, and the rematch could be similarly fruitful. The Rams (WAS) and Bears (93.8% available, @CLE) also stand out on the streaming front. Also consider the Chargers (@LV on Thursday Night Football) on the short week, as they scored 16 fantasy points in the team's Week 4 meeting.

Avoid: Now it's the Cowboys who are in the tough stretch of their schedule, and their matchup with the Bills is one to avoid defensively on either side of the field. The Cowboys might be the No. 1 defense in fantasy, but they've totaled fewer fantasy points (7.0) in three games against the top eight teams in ESPN's Offensive Efficiency metric than they've averaged in their eight other games (17.4).

Picks for Week 16 only: It's another strong week of streaming choices, with the Packers (@CAR) and Commanders (66.1% available, @NYJ) possessing the most appealing matchups. Other defenses to consider include the Texans (CLE), Arizona Cardinals (@CHI) and Denver Broncos (NE).

Avoid: The Ravens (@SF) and Dolphins (87.0% rostered, DAL) are heavily relied upon fantasy defenses that have no business being near a starting lineup in this week.

Picks for Week 17 only: During the championship week in many fantasy football leagues, three defenses stand out as streaming candidates. The Jaguars (CAR) are the headliner among that bunch, but both the Rams (@NYG) and Falcons (@CHI) should be worth your while as well. All three are certainly worthy of consideration, even ahead of the three well-known defenses listed next under "avoid."

Avoid: The Lions (50.0% rostered, @DAL), Patriots (58.0%, @BUF) and Dolphins (@BAL) all have tough road assignments that don't look worth the risk, at least this far in advance of championship week.

Picks for Week 18 only: If this week counts as part of your league's championship matchup, as it does in ESPN standard leagues, bear in mind that playoff-clinched -- and sometimes also playoff-eliminated -- teams often rest their starters for part or all of their regular-season finales. That will have a bearing on the Week 18 matchups, meaning that this list is the most likely to change in the week leading into gameday Sunday. Assuming all teams play competitively at an equal level, the Buccaneers (@CAR) stand out in what will be the rematch of their favorable Week 13 meeting, as do the Packers (CHI in a rematch of their 14-fantasy-point Week 1), Broncos (@LV) and Cincinnati Bengals (85.0%, CLE).

Avoid: The Dolphins (BUF) and Pittsburgh Steelers (84.2% rostered, @BAL) not only face poor matchups, but could be playing games that have major playoff implications.

Best of luck to you down the stretch, and here's hoping all of your defensive streamers are as fruitful as the Indianapolis Colts of Week 9 (seriously, go look up their score)!