Credit: Eric Turner

In most fantasy football leagues, the regular season is winding to an end. In standard leagues Week 13 is the last week of the season, and but depending on your settings it could be later. It’s great if your team has clinched a playoff spot, but for most participants, the real challenge to bring home the gold is to win the league’s playoff tournament.  There is always a certain amount of luck involved with a elimination style tournament bracket, and usually at this point in the season there are few game changing moves that owners can make to adjust their rosters.  The waiver wire is thin, and most likely the team that carried you into the playoffs is the one that you should ride going for a championship.

However, there is one position that could make a difference down the stretch, and oddly enough it is one of the most overlooked during the year.  Team defenses.  Picking a team defense can be a maddening experience, especially in recent years as offenses have become more proficient.  Unless you have one of the top 5 defenses during the year that have some consistent results, the best strategy is often to pick a D that is going up against a mistake-prone hapless offense.  This so-called “streaming” strategy is even more important in the fantasy football playoffs because the stakes are higher. It is also very manageable because the matchups are known in advance, and bench players become less important as bye weeks have already passes and injuries are either already known or less likely to occur with fewer games remaining. I would encourage teams to drop their backup wide receiver that they will likely never play, and pick up a 2nd or 3rd defense that have favorable matchups in the fantasy playoffs. 

I’ll admit this advice was best given a week or two ago for the truly ambitious managers who want to plan ahead, but if any of these defenses are still available, then it is best to act fast and lock them down for the final few weeks of the year.

 Kansas City Chiefs

Week 14: vs San Diego

Week 15: @ Baltimore

Week 16: vs Cleveland

The Chiefs have the best playoff matchups, and I was surprised to find them available in one of my leagues last week.  They are owned in over 75% of leagues, so only a minority of managers will have the opportunity to grab them, but they are worth the waiver wire request if there.  The Chiefs have already held the San Diego Chargers to 3 points in Week 11, and then their matchups against the banged up Ravens (down their top quarterback, running back, and wide reciver for the rest of the year) and the hapless Browns in a potential fantasy playoff championship game is a enviable matchup for any defense.  Expect lots of low scoring turnover opportunities, with higher potential for a defensive touchdown than in most games.

 Cincinnati Bengals

Week 14: vs Pittsburgh

Week 15: @ San Francisco

Week 16: @ Denver

This is a team you would not want to use in Week 14, against one of the top offenses in the league, but have above average matchups in the final two weeks of standard fantasy playoffs.  San Francisco has been a shell of its former self, and is starting its backup quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. Denver, although one of the best overall teams in the league, has had quarterback issues and has transitioned to a run-first team.  Particularly in the frigid conditions of a late December game in Denver, there is likely to be low scoring affair.

Notes on a few other teams that are unlikely to be available on the waiver wire, but if they are should be grabbed immediately:

New England Patriots – Playoff matchups against Houston, Tennessee and the New York Jets. Those first two matchups are particularly attractive, but unfortunately the team may not be available in most league waiver lists.

Seattle Seahawks – the consensus #1 defense the past few years plays Baltimore, Cleveland, and St Louis in the final 3 games. It doesn’t get much better than that. If you already own them, play them confidently for the next three weeks.

Denver – the consensus #1 defense this year, has a difficult playoff matchups vs Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.  I wouldn’t abandon a team that has been this good all year, but if you happen to have one of the other defenses I mentioned above, it might be a good idea to sub in a team with a better matchup.

Hopefully at least one of these teams is available in your league or already on your team because a team defense can make the difference in a tight championship matchup.  Best of luck in the playoffs!