I know, I know—you're tired of seeing Darth Hoodie's smiling mug at the top of this column. Tired of hearing about the fantasy exploits of the New England Patriots Defense.
Frankly, I'm rather tired of writing about them. The problem is that the Patriots keep making hay in that regard.
In Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Patriots allowed 315 total yards and 13 points while piling up five takeaways—one of which was returned for a touchdown. For what feels like the umpteenth time this season, the Patriots finished the week as a top-three fantasy defense. For the year, the Pats are the No. 1 fantasy defense by a massive margin. In many scoring systems, there's a bigger gap between the Patriots and the No. 2 defense than there is between that No. 2 defense and the No. 12 defense.
That's not a gap. It's a gargantuan gulf. A monumental maw.
In Week 16, the Patriots play host to the Buffalo Bills in a game that may well decide the AFC East. The Bills aren't the Bungles—Buffalo is a 10-win team that ranks outside the top-20 in fantasy points allowed to team defenses.
But if the Patriots are on your roster and you're playing in Week 16, that defense all but certainly played a big part in getting you this far.
In this penultimate week of the fantasy football season in many leagues, you have to roll the Pats out there without hesitation.
Pittsburgh Steelers (at New York Jets)
It's the Steelers who trail the Patriots in most fantasy scoring systems—thanks largely to a league-leading 49 sacks and 35 takeaways, which trails only the aforementioned Patriots. Of course, big play and sack production is only half the battle in fantasy football—having a favorable matchup is also vitally important. In that regard, the Steelers get the best of both worlds in Week 16 in the form of a matchup with a New York Jets team that leads the NFL in fantasy points allowed to team defenses this season. It's a championship week perfect storm.
Denver Broncos (vs. Detroit Lions)
When last we saw the Denver Broncos, they were getting lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree at Arrowhead by the Kansas City Chiefs. That Week 15 beatdown came against one of the NFL's best offenses. This week's home matchup with the Detroit Lions, um, does not. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Lions managed just 295 total yards, turned the ball over three times and allowed two sacks. With an undrafted rookie starting at quarterback, the Lions have become a plus matchup for opposing defenses, ranking inside the top five in fantasy points allowed to the position since Week 12.
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Baltimore Ravens (at Cleveland Browns)
The last time the Browns and Ravens tangled didn't go so well for Baltimore—the Ravens surrendered 530 yards of offense and 40 points in a 15-point loss that also happens to have been the last time that Baltimore tasted defeat. Quite a bit has changed since—in both directions. The Baltimore defense is playing nearly as well as the offense—the team is inside the top-five for the season in many fantasy scoring systems. The Browns have barreled in the opposite direction, struggling a week ago on offense in Arizona against one of the more porous defenses in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
Fantasy owners of the San Francisco 49ers defense are no doubt nervous after last week's performance against the Atlanta Falcons—and rightfully so. In a stunning seven-point loss, the Niners weren't able to get much going in the big-play department, posting just two sacks and one takeaway. However, while the Niners were getting shocked in Santa Clara, the Rams playoff hopes were dealt a crushing blow in a blowout loss in Dallas. When these teams met in L.A. in Week 5, the Rams were held under 160 total yards of offense and scored just seven points.
Minnesota Vikings (vs. Green Bay Packers)
At first glance, trusting a defense taking on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 16 might not seem like such a hot idea. But there are a couple reasons to consider the Vikings this week. The first is the Vikings themselves—Minnesota has been on a roll defensively of late, notching seven (yes, seven) takeaways last week in Los Angeles and ranking first in fantasy points among defenses over the past three weeks. The second is a Green Bay offense that ranks 22nd in the NFL in total offense and a so-so 14th in the NFL in scoring.
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Cincinnati Bengals (at Miami Dolphins)
This is the latest in a string of matchups featuring teams that share a couple things in common. The first is that defensively they are…not good. The second is that both are excellent fantasy matchups for fantasy defenses in 2019. Both the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals rank inside the top-three teams in terms of fantasy points allowed to defenses this season, which gets both teams on the streaming radar. The tiebreaker? A Miami team that leads the NFL in sacks allowed with 54 going up against a Cincy pass rush featuring Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Sam Hubbard.
Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Oakland Raiders)
I can see that look you have on your face. Yes, the Chargers were just destroyed at home by the Minnesota Vikings, but there's not a lot the defense could have done in a game where the Chargers Offense turned the ball over seven times. In recent weeks the Oakland Raiders have fallen completely apart, losing the Oakland Coliseum finale last week to a Jaguars team that had lost five in a row by at least 17 points per contest. Over the past month, no team in the AFC has surrendered more fantasy points per game to opposing defenses than the floundering Raiders.
Atlanta Falcons (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
The Falcons opened some eyes with Sunday's big win over the San Francisco 49ers, but the reality is the team's been playing much better since their bye week capped a horrendous 1-7 first half of the season. Since that Week 9 bye, the Falcons are quietly a top-five fantasy defense with four solid stat lines in six weeks. This week the Falcons play host to a Jaguars team that has stalled out offensively. Last week in Oakland against a Raiders Defense that isn't scaring anyone, the jags had just 262 yards of offense and 17 first downs. The Falcons are a sneaky-good title week play available in most leagues.
Indianapolis Colts (vs, Carolina Panthers)
As is normally the case, this column is written on Monday before Monday Night Football, and it's entirely possible that the Colts will get carved up like a Who-Ville roast beast in Week 15 in the Superdome. But that has no bearing on their viability in Week 16, when they will be taking on what's left of the Carolina Panthers. Carolina's 29 turnovers this season are more than all but three teams in the NFL, and the Panthers are seventh in fantasy points allowed to team defenses this season. If rookie Will Grier gets the start over Kyle Allen at quarterback, so much the better.
Washington Redskins (vs. New York Giants)
This is another matchup similar to the Bengals visiting the Dolphins on Sunday—the Giants and Redskins are both just playing out the string, and both teams rank inside the top-10 in fantasy points given up to team defenses this season. The Giants wound up being an OK fantasy start last week against the Dolphins, but of these two NFC (L)East bottom-feeders the Redskins are the preferable play. Partly it's simply a matter of Washington being at home and having a slightly better fantasy matchup. But Washington also has a pretty good pass rush that should have success against Eli Manning.
Pittsburgh Steelers (at Baltimore Ravens): Assuming the Ravens beat Cleveland in Week 16, they'll have home-field advantage in the AFC bracket locked up. That means second-stringers playing a Pittsburgh team fighting to get into the postseason tournament.
Denver Broncos) vs. Oakland Raiders): The final two games of the 2019 season for the Broncos are about as good as it gets from a matchup perspective. First it's David Blah and the Lions, then the free-falling Oakland Raiders—and both games are at Mile High.
Buffalo Bills (vs. New York Jets): The Bills are in the playoffs but will likely have to play through to the end in an effort to avoid a Wild Card round game at Kansas City. That should mean good things in a great matchup at home against the rival Jets.