It's the last full week in November, and that means a couple of things. It's the stretch run for the fantasy playoffs. And it's the week of Thanksgiving.
If you are gearing up for the former and happen to have the Dallas Cowboys defense, you're probably feeling pretty thankful. Because Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and the Dallas pass rush are fixing to feast on Turkey Day.
The Cowboys are coming off not just a great performance last week against the Minnesota Vikings. It was the biggest road win in Cowboys history. And the defense certainly played its part in that 40-3 drubbing. Dallas sacked Kirk Cousins seven times, notched 13 QB hits, eight tackles for loss, a takeaway and held the Vikings to just a single field goal.
"Exactly what I expected," Kearse said. "We knew we were going to come in and knock them off their horse."
Now the Cowboys face the rival Giants in a battle of 7-3 teams trying not to fall too far off the pace in the NFC East. It's a rematch of a Week 3 win in New York. In that game, the Cowboys (who lead the league with 42 sacks) got to Daniel Jones five times, picked him off once and allowed 16 points.
The Giants are a good team. But they are a good team that has allowed 30 sacks (seventh-most in the league).
Grab that third helping of turkey, settle into a comfy chair and fire up the Cowboys defense in Week 12.
San Francisco 49ers (vs. New Orleans Saints)
Monday's shellacking of the Cardinals felt like a demonstration of what the 49ers are capable of when everything is working. San Francisco completely shut down the run, logged three sacks, picked Colt McCoy off twice and allowed just 10 points. For the season, the 49ers have the NFL's No. 1 defense in terms of yards allowed. The league's No. 1 run defense. The No. 4 scoring defense. The seventh-most sacks. And the fifth-most fantasy points among defenses. Add in a Saints team allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to defenses, and there's a lot to like about this matchup.
Denver Broncos (at Carolina Panthers)
The 2022 season has been a nightmare for the Broncos, but it has been Russell Wilson playing the role of Freddy Krueger, not the defense. The Denver defense ranks third in total defense, third in pass defense and third in scoring defense. There haven't been a lot of big plays though, so the Broncos rank just inside the top-15 in fantasy points. This week brings a great matchup with a reeling Panthers offense that ranks last in the NFC in total offense and has turned the ball over 15 times on the way to allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing defenses.
New England Patriots (at Minnesota Vikings)
The Cowboys aren't the only elite fantasy defense playing on Turkey Day. In the nightcap, the highest scoring defense in fantasy football will journey to the Twin Cities to attempt to deepen the emotional trauma that Kirk Cousins feels after last week's beatdown. The Patriots aren't as good at rushing the passer as Dallas, but the Pats rank inside the top-10 in sacks, in the top-five in takeaways, fourth in the NFL in total defense and first in the AFC in points allowed. The Vikings aren't a great matchup on paper, but after watching Dallas demolish them they also shouldn't scare anyone off New England.
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Green Bay Packers)
The Eagles stumbled a bit last week in Indianapolis before gutting out a win at the end, but the defense was a decent fantasy play, parlaying four sacks and a takeaway into a finish at the back end of the top-10. For the year the Eagles rank second in total defense, second against the pass, seventh in scoring defense, first in the NFL with 21 takeaways, third in sacks with 33 and third among defenses in fantasy points per game. The Packers offense has looked a bit better of late, but Green Bay is still a top-12 fantasy matchup for opposing defenses.
Buffalo Bills (at Detroit Lions)
Might as well hit all three games on Thanksgiving. The Bills have actually faded defensively in recent weeks—After leading the league in fantasy points among defenses over the first six weeks of the season, the Bills are just 17th in fantasy points since Week 7. But the Bills remain a top-five scoring defense that has logged a respectable 28 sacks and ranks second in the NFL with 18 takeaways for the season. The Lions are riding a three-game winning streak, but this still feels like a game where the Bills will play from ahead and the Lions will be forced to press offensively in the second half.
New York Jets (vs. Chicago Bears)
Last week's loss to the Patriots was an absolute soul-crusher for the Jets, and apparently quarterback Zach Wilson's postgame assertion that the offense didn't let the defense down didn't sit well with some in the New York locker room. The frustration is understandable—the Jets defense has dragged the offense kicking and screaming to a 6-4 record. The Jets are seventh among defenses in fantasy points after 11 weeks, and this week Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley and company will either face a banged-up Justin Fields or avoid him altogether.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Cleveland Browns)
Things haven't come easy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on either side of the ball this season, but the Bucs are coming out of the bye with some positive momentum ahead of Sunday's trip to Cleveland. As a whole, the Browns haven't been a good matchup for opposing defenses this season, but Tampa's strength in stopping the run—the key to slowing down the Cleveland offense. It's an admittedly small sample size, but over the last two weeks the Browns have surrendered the third-most points per game to defenses—in no small part because the team fell behind and had to abandon the run.
Baltimore Ravens (at Jacksonville Jaguars)
The Ravens don't get the run they should as a potential Super Bowl contender in the AFC, and the Baltimore defense doesn't get the credit it deserves—largely because of early-season issues on the back end caused by injuries. Even while the Ravens were giving up yards and points, the team made enough big plays to remain fantasy-relevant—Baltimore is sixth among fantasy defenses in points, and last week's four-sack, three-takeaway effort against the Panthers was the second-best stat line of the week. The Jaguars have been rather stingy to opposing defenses in 2022, but the Ravens have earned status as an every-week play in the lion's share of matchups.
STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
There's no shortage of fantasy-relevant players in Kansas City, but the defense isn't usually considered to be one of them—for the season the Chiefs defense barely ranks inside the top-20 in fantasy points. But this play has a lot less to do with the Chiefs themselves than who they are playing. The Los Angeles Rams have spent most of the season at the top of the league in fantasy points allowed the defenses—and that was with Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp on the field. With Bryce Perkins in line to start for the Rams in Week 12, the Chiefs are the kings of the streaming plays this week.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Indianapolis Colts quietly posted one of their better defensive efforts of the season last week, albeit in a loss—facing one of the league's most potent offenses, the Colts notched three sacks, took the ball away twice and allowed just 17 points. Now, the Colts go from facing one of the NFL's best offenses to facing one of the worst—the Steelers are 27th in the league in total offense, 28th in the NFL in scoring offense, tied for fifth in giveaways with 14 and fourth in fantasy points per game allowed to defenses. The Colts should dine heartily on leftovers on Sunday night.
Miami Dolphins (vs. Houston Texans)
The Dolphins enter Week 12 in first place in the AFC East. Tyreek Hill has been as advertised at wide receiver. Tua Tagovailoa is garnering some MVP buzz. All is well and good in the universe. But the Miami defense has been—OK. The Dolphins are 21st in the league in total offense, 22nd in scoring defense and just 25th in fantasy points among defenses. If ever there was a week for Miami to post a solid stat line though, this is it—the Texans are in free-fall offensively. Houston ranks dead last in total offense, 30th in scoring offense and third in fantasy points per game allowed to defenses.
Pittsburgh Steelers (at Indianapolis Colts)
The good news for the Pittsburgh Steelers defensively is that the team got star edge-rusher T.J. Watt back two weeks ago. The bad news is that Watt's presence didn't stop Pittsburgh's shaky pass defense from being carved up like a Butterball by Joe Burrow last week. However, the Steelers don't face Cincinnati's high-octane attack in Week 12. They face a Colts team that is tied for the league lead in sacks allowed, ranks 31st in the NFL in scoring at 15.7 points per game and who leads the AFC in fantasy points per game surrendered to defenses.
Carolina Panthers (vs. Denver Broncos)
Not much has gone well for the Carolina Panthers this season, and the struggles have extended to the defense—Carolina ranks 22nd in total defense and 20th in scoring defense. However, the Panthers have logged enough sacks and takeaways to lurk on the fringes of the top-20, and Carolina have shown at least some ability to score when the matchup is right. They don't get any righter than the Broncos—Denver is the lowest scoring team in the entire National Football League, and the Broncos have given up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to defenses in 2022.
Chicago Bears (at New York Jets)
To be clear, the Bears have not played well defensively this season. Only three teams in the league are allowing more rushing yards per game than Chicago. The Bears are 28th in the league in scoring defense. Only the Raiders have amassed fewer sacks this season than the 15 the Bears have tallied. And the Bears are a bottom-10 defense in terms of fantasy points. However, none of that matters in Week 12. Sunday the Bears travel to New York to take on a Jets team that barely cracked 100 yards of offense last week—including amassing just two yards of offense in the entire second half.