We had a pretty solid week, getting six of the top 10, including four of the top five. However, we missed by not having Atlanta, Detroit, and Carolina, and Buffalo was trending as a top-10 defense until two garbage-time touchdowns after building a 28-10 lead. Those are the things you can’t account always account for, so I’m feeling pretty good about how the process has been going of late.
We’re also far enough into the season that we need to keep in mind season-long rankings but also recent performance. In the writeups below you’ll hear me mention season-long stats as well as fantasy performances over the last six weeks to try and create a balance analytical approach.
As a reminder, every week I do a YouTube DST video called Pick 3(DST) where I give you three defenses I like during the week and one that I’m fading. We have some fun with it, but I think it gives a lot of the same reasoning I present here, so check it out for some video fun. And my BOD Leaderboard is available on Public Tableau, where you can see my updated BOD rankings, plus a leaderboard for the individual defensive stats I use for the BOD formula, and some of the offensive stats that I think can help us determine which DST to play or not. Also, make sure to always check back with this article over the weekend because I will my updated rankings as the week goes on when we get injury news or troubling weather information, etc.
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What is the BOD Ranking Formula?
Last year I introduced my Best Overall Defense (BOD) rankings formula, and I’ll be using it again this year. I’ll give a quick overview of the formula below, followed by my general strategy for streaming defenses, and then my Week 12 fantasy football defense (DST) rankings. Good luck in Week 10 everyone!
The BOD (Best Overall Defense) formula takes into account my favorite stats for picking the right defenses (both positive and negative) and weighs them in a formula. You can view the RANKINGS AND COMPLETE LEADERBOARD of all the stats I use here. I tweaked the formula as the season went on last year, and I feel like it gives us a pretty good indicator of who has the best defenses for fantasy purposes. If you don’t want to click that link, the formula is:
(Pressure Rate x 2) + (Sacks) + (QB Hurry Rate) + (Pass Break-Ups) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)
(Missed Tackles)+ (% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Yards per play)
It’s important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That’s why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.
Picking The Right Defenses To Pickup and Start
Just a quick recap of my general philosophy and what we discussed at length last year: when choosing a defense, you want to look for defenses that get consistent pressure and takeaways. Sacks and turnovers are more valuable for fantasy defense than preventing yardage and even, to a certain extent, preventing points. If a defense allows a stingy yards-per-play number, that’s great and I’ll cite some of those numbers below. However, they better also be able to get into the backfield or force turnovers, or else it won’t really matter in the long run.
Essentially, we need to move away from points against as being the most important factor in choosing a fantasy defense. In 2021, NFL offenses gained 343.6 yards per game and scored 23.0 points per game. While that’s down from the 24.8 scored in 2020 (most likely because of the deep safety defenses), it’s still the third-most in the Super Bowl era.
With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can’t continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we’re used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.
Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.
58-53 correctly predicting top-10 defenses
I want to track how correctly I pick the top 10 this year, so I’ll keep track using FantasyPros total points. If anybody has other suggestions, let me know.
Week 12 Defenses To Start and Stream: Tiered Rankings
Confidence Ratings (out of 15) – Since every league’s DST scoring is different, projections don’t always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of just a point projection. This is the best way to see just how much I like one team over another. Not all one or two-spot differences are the same.
A zero means “do not start,” and then the confidence rises from there. Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues.
The Cowboys and 49ers stand out ahead of the pack for me this week. Not only because they are two elite defenses but also because they both have strong matchups.
The Cowboys are going to get the Giants on Thursday afternoon, which means Richie James will likely be unable to recovery from his knee injury in addition to New York losing Wan’Dale Robinson for the season. That leaves just Darius Slayton and Kenny Golladay on the outside, so, really just Darius Slayton. The Cowboys can key in on Saquon Barkley and fire up that front seven which leads the NFL in both sacks and tackles for a loss.
The 49ers also have an elite pass rush, ranking 5th in sacks and 8th in tackles for a loss. Despite their injuries in the secondary, they have also held up well against the deep ball, which should help against Chris Olave. What’s more, Alvin Kamara got his ankle rolled up on in the third quarter last week and only played one snap after that. Nobody is talking about it yet, but I’m not confident he’ll be 100%.
The Jets are another team that could benefit from an injury to the opposition as Justin Fields will either miss this game or play through a dislocated shoulder. While it is his non-throwing shoulder, any big hit or any forceful landing on that shoulder is sure to be immensely painful, so you have to wonder how much Fields runs even if he is active. This Jets defense has been elite for most of the year, so I love them against a banged-up Bears offense.
The Eagles have also let us down a bit of late, but they remain a tough defense to sit. They have incredibly stingy corners, allowing a league-leading 4.7 yards per pass attempt, which will make life hard for Aaron Rodgers. Philly is also 1st in the NFL in turnover rate, 3rd in the NFL in sacks, 11th in tackles for a loss, and 6th in the rate of offensive drives that end in a score, so I like them against a downhearted Packers team.
The Commanders have also been an underrated unit and should welcome Chase Young back this week (even though I thought that last week). They’re 8th in the rate of offensive drives that end in a score, 3rd in pressure rate, 11th in sacks, and 3rd in tackles for a loss. They have also been the 4th-ranked fantasy defense over the last six weeks, averaging 10.3 points per game. Atlanta runs a lot, which means teams often aren’t able to rack up sacks and turnovers, but I still think you need to play Washington here.
The Chiefs also make tier two because of their matchup against a Rams offense that gives up a league-worst 15.1 points to opposing defenses. They are without Cooper Kupp and just cut Darrell Henderson, so this is a team in turmoil. Their defense has also underperformed all year, so I don’t expect them to be able to stop the Chiefs, which will lead to a pass-happy Matthew Stafford and some interceptions from Kansas City. Just beware of the garbage time points.
I almost had the Steelers in tier three, but the Colts have actually looked okay these last two weeks. Still, they give up the 3rd-most points to opposing fantasy defenses, and this Steelers team is a different beast with T.J. Watt back. I still think Pittsburgh is a good play here. But the Colts are also in play after they showed up against the Eagles. I’m still a bit worried about them without Shaq Leonard; however, the Steelers give up the 7th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses, so there should be a safe floor with Indy.
I also like both New England and Minnesota, but prefer the Pats. New England is actually the number-one defense over the last six weeks, scoring 14 points per game. They’re 2nd in sacks, 2nd in pressure rate, 2nd in the rate of offensive drives that end in a score, and 7th in turnover rate. The only reason they’re in tier three is that the Vikings only give up 6.4 points per game on average to defenses.
However, the Vikings themselves are a top-10 defense over the last six weeks, averaging eight points per game. I am not a Mac Jones believer, and New England allows opposing fantasy defenses to score 8.8 points per game, so I think there is a bit of a safe floor with Minnesota this week.
The Bills, Ravens, and Dolphins are all trendy picks, but I’m cautious about all for various reasons. The Bills will likely be without Tre’Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds, AJ Epenese, and Gregory Rousseau. Those are not small losses against a Lions team on a three-game winning streak. The Ravens have been tremendous of late, but Jacksonville, for all their struggles, allows only 6.3 points to opposing fantasy defense, that’s the 5th-lowest in the league. This is not as easy a matchup as some think.
Lastly, the Dolphins are in a good spot against a Houston team that allows the 2nd-most points to opposing fantasy defenses, but Miami’s defense has been bad. They’re 29th in turnover rate, 24th in sacks, 25th in pressure rate, and 31st in tackles for a loss. It makes them a riskier option than people think.
Denver and Carolina are both in play here because of the concerns about each offense. However, Carolina has actually been the vastly better defense of late. They are 11th with 6.5 points per game over the last six weeks, while Denver ranks just 25th, averaging 4.2 points per game over that same span. I want to trust Denver because Sam Darnold is starting, and he’s been awful, but this defense hasn’t been good and doesn’t have Bradley Chubb. I weirdly think I might prefer Carolina.
I think people are too harsh on the Bucs’ defense. They’re 3rd in the NFL in the rate of offensive drives that end in a score, 6th in pressure rate, tied for 4th in sacks, and 6th in tackles for a loss. They were missing some pieces in their secondary earlier, but they’re healthy now; however, they also face a run-heavy Browns offense that allows the 7th-fewest points per game to opposing fantasy defenses, so it’s not a high-ceiling game.
The Titans are the 5th-ranked defense over the last month with 10.2 points allowed per game. However, the Bengals should get Ja’Marr Chase back, and even if Joe Mixon is out, this secondary in Tennessee is a bit of a concern. They are 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game and 19th in passing touchdown rate allowed. If the Bengals receiving corps is at full strength, they could hit some big plays.
However, all of these are potential plays in 12-team leagues as you can see how closely I have DSTs 9-17 ranked. It’s going to be about trusting your gut this week.
The Bears are also a trendy pick because Zach Wilson isn’t good, but remember that this team traded away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith. The defense isn’t good. Lastly, Seattle is a defense I really like, but the Raiders give up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses, so it’s not really a great matchup.
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