De-fense (clap clap clap), De-fense (clap clap clap) we all love to cry. But the question is, who are the best ones out there? And more specifically, who are the best ones against the run, and who is best against the pass? With the fantasy regular season almost over, who should you be targeting this week to give you that last nudge into the Nirvana that is the fantasy playoffs. I’ve used my ROPED Index, that measures pass defense efficiency and RORD Index, that measures run defense efficiency to help you identify which of your awesome roster (yours is awesome by the way) to start in week 13.
ROPED Index: Week 13
For the fourth straight week and for nine of twelve weeks totally, the Jaguars have been the top pass defense in the NFL. They have not allowed more than a 60% completion rate in any of the last 7 weeks, have allowed the fewest passing yards, passing touchdowns, and fantasy points to receivers (17.95 ppg) and have totaled the most sacks (41) and have the highest adjusted sack rate (10.2%) through 12 weeks. They are quite simply a nightmare to face as they are strong at all three levels of the defense, and boast the best tandem of cornerbacks in the league in A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. In week 13 they face an AFC South division tilt against the lowly Colts, who have the 23rd ranked Jacoby Brissett at quarterback (per my ROPE Index), and their best receiver, TY Hilton, is only 32nd in fantasy points per game for receivers with 8.18 ppg.
The other defenses to avoid if you have receivers facing them are the Ravens and Steelers who average just 20.87 and 22.75 ppg to receivers this season. The Ravens lead the league in interceptions with 18 and the Steelers have the second most sacks (38), but are coming off their lowest ROPED Index rating of 2017 with 27.3% in the narrow victory over the Packers.
Though the Raiders have the worst pass defense in the NFL based on the ROPED index and should be targeted by starting all your receivers against them whenever possible, they play the Giants in Week 13 and new starting quarterback Geno Smith. This week I’m taking every opportunity to make clear that Smith is one of the worst quarterbacks I’ve ever graded and is the fourth worst starter of the last 10 years (Blake Bortles, Marc Bulger and Blaine Gabbert are the others), per my ROPE Index. I would probably look to start the Oakland defense this week if you’re in a pinch.
The Buccaneers have the lowest adjusted sack rate and have allowed the most passing yards in the league this year and travel to a cold Lambeau Field to face Brett Hundley coming off his breakout game. Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are all worth a start this week.
The Giants are a mess and despite have conceded 28 fantasy points or more to receivers in five of the last six weeks. They face the Raiders this week and despite the Silver and Black missing two of their top receivers (Michael Crabtree suspended, Amari Cooper remains in the concussion protocol), Jared Cook actually leads the Raiders in receiving yards and is a must start this week.
The Texans have been a sneaky poor pass defense in recent weeks and have conceded over 35 fantasy points to receivers in four of the last five weeks. This week they face a Titans team that has Rishard Matthews coming off his best game of 2017, and the ever reliable Delanie Walker, who’s averaging 8 points per game over the last five weeks.
RORD Index: Week 13
Like the ROPED index retains its top pass defense in the Jaguars, the Eagles have been the top rated run defense for each of the past 8 weeks, and by quite a margin. Their 74.9% rating means they stay on course to beat the record for the highest RORD rating I’ve recorded (since 2010), the 2014 Lions (72.2%). Their fantasy points allowed to rushers remains sensational at just 8.69 points per game and last week against the Bears, the Eagles allowed just 6 (yes 6) rushing yards and 0.6 fantasy points. They lead the league in tackle for loss percentage, with one in five runs they face ending behind the line of scrimmage. This week they face the Seahawks, who are 26th in fantasy rushing points per game, even with Russell Wilson, who is the only viable fantasy option against the Eagles’ fearsome front.
The other defenses that you should look to avoid pitting your fantasy running backs against are the Vikings and Broncos, who allow just 10.82 and 11.45 points per game to rushers and face the Falcons and Dolphins respectively in week 13. Devonta Freeman looks likely to return from his concussion this week, but given how well Tevin Coleman has performed in the last three weeks (averaging 15.43 rushing points), we’re likely to see a split workload against the Vikings’ top rated defensive front. I don’t think anyone would be looking to start any Dolphins running backs unless you’re desperate, but even so, the Dolphins have the second worst rated rushing attack per my RORO Index, and the worst rated fantasy rushing attack (8.5 points per game).
The Panthers have the second best fantasy rushing defense, but face the number one rushing attack in the Saints in New Orleans in week 13 and at this stage of the season, no one is dropping either Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara from their line ups.
Though the Bills had a much stronger week 12 run defense against the Chiefs (5.5 fantasy points allowed), they’d allowed 638 yards and 130 rushing fantasy points over the previous three weeks and the threat of the New England passing game will open up rushing opportunities for Dion Lewis. The Patriots have established Lewis as their feature back, and he had his first 100 yard rushing game of 2017 in the week 12 victory over the Dolphins, and should be a must start this week.
Alex Collins has been given the bulk of the rushes (16.7 average) over the past four games for the Ravens and is averaging 9.63 points per game over that period. He faces a Lions run defense that has allowed an average of 28 fantasy points to rushers over the last month, including two rushing touchdowns per game.
For the Bears, they have the prime opportunity to bounce back from their 6 rushing yard display last week against the Eagles, as they face the 30th placed fantasy rushing defense in the 49ers. Jordan Howard had been averaging 11.5 rushing points per game over the previous five weeks and should be a must start against a 49ers team that is rushed on more than any other team in the league this season (48.2%).