It's the fantasy playoffs! If you aren't in the fantasy playoffs in your league, start a few paragraphs lower than this. Also, your league is weird.
Regular readers of my weekly D/ST rankings are by now familiar with my objective, numbers-based system for ranking defenses. It is built on three parts: overall scoring average, recent scoring average, and consistency. The thinking on that is that, in the regular season, you'd rather have a defense that you can rely on. A defense that averages 13 points a game is nice, but if it's scoring 26 in half the weeks and zero in the other half, doesn't that scare you? I know I'd gladly sacrifice a couple points and use a defense that averages 11, but never scores less than 10.
Maybe you disagree with that regular-season logic, but I stand by it. But we aren't in the regular season anymore. In the playoffs, we have to deal with a slightly different animal.
If you're the top seed and the big favorite in your matchup, okay, whatever, stick with the strategy. But if you are someone who squeaked into the playoffs, you might need to aim higher. It's a dream-big sort of week, and in those situations, you can be a little more laissez faire with the consistency rating. If you need a home run or your season's over, you don't care nearly as much if your defense falls to zero, so long as that 26 is available in the quiver.
So this week, I'm offering two rankings. There will be one for the playoff Favorites, and it will be based entirely on the typical objective system. But the second one, the one for the Underdogs, will be weighted differently, with consistency downplayed. I stand by the system in general, but at this point in the season, it's all about need, and consistency isn't as helpful if you can guarantee yourself eight defensive points and a loss.
That said, here's a look at some defenses of interest this week:
New England Patriots (No. 2 Favorites, No. 4 Underdogs): As it stands, it looks like the Browns will be playing either Alex Tanney or Caleb Hanie this week. That means a lot of handoffs to Willis McGahee and a lot of balls flung to Josh Gordon with a prayer. But it also pretty much has to mean good things for the Patriots, who must be looking at their opponents and giggling.
Oakland Raiders (No. 10 Favorites, No. 6 Underdogs): I have no idea how this will go. The Raiders are only 16th in D/ST fantasy scoring this year, with only a slight increase lately and tremendous inconsistency. But holy geez, are the Jets awful of late. Alex Tanney and Caleb Hanie might actually be an improvement over Geno Smith and Matt Simms (probably not, but whatever). The Raiders have 17 takeaways on the season; the Jets have twenty-seven giveaways. Eventually, you'd think the Jets would figure out some sort of strategy, though I have no idea what it would be.
Carolina Panthers (No. 15 Favorites, No. 13 Underdogs): Soft factors alert. The New Orleans Saints come into this game embarrassed and licking their wounds; you're unlikely to find an angrier team anywhere. And this game is in New Orleans, where defenses have an average score of negative-one points per game against Drew Brees and the turf. As good as Carolina is, I think their winning streak comes to an end this week.
Here are the overall rankings for Week 14:
|Rank||Favorites ranking||Opponent||Underdogs ranking||Opponent|
|1||Seattle Seahawks||at San Francisco||Seattle Seahawks||at San Francisco|
|2||New England Patriots||Cleveland||Cincinnati Bengals||Indianapolis|
|3||St. Louis Rams||at Arizona||St. Louis Rams||at Arizona|
|4||Houston Texans||at Jacksonville||New England Patriots||Cleveland|
|5||San Diego Chargers||NY Giants||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buffalo|
|6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buffalo||Oakland Raiders||at NY Jets|
|7||Baltimore Ravens||Minnesota||Baltimore Ravens||Minnesota|
|8||Cincinnati Bengals||Indianapolis||Buffalo Bills||at Tampa Bay|
|9||Buffalo Bills||at Tampa Bay||San Diego Chargers||NY Giants|
|10||Oakland Raiders||at NY Jets||Houston Texans||at Jacksonville|
|11||Arizona Cardinals||St. Louis||Arizona Cardinals||St. Louis|
|12||San Francisco 49ers||Seattle||Jacksonville Jaguars||Houston|
|13||New Orleans Saints||Carolina||Carolina Panthers||at New Orleans|
|14||Pittsburgh Steelers||Miami||Pittsburgh Steelers||Miami|
|15||Carolina Panthers||at New Orleans||San Francisco 49ers||Seattle|
|16||Jacksonville Jaguars||Houston||New Orleans Saints||Carolina|
|17||Minnesota Vikings||at Baltimore||Kansas City Chiefs||at Washington|
|18||Philadelphia Eagles||Detroit||Miami Dolphins||at Pittsburgh|
|19||Miami Dolphins||at Pittsburgh||Denver Broncos||Tennessee|
|20||Green Bay Packers||Atlanta||Green Bay Packers||Atlanta|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs||at Washington||Minnesota Vikings||at Baltimore|
|22||Denver Broncos||Tennessee||Indianapolis Colts||at Cincinnati|
|23||New York Jets||Oakland||New York Jets||Oakland|
|24||Cleveland Browns||at New England||Philadelphia Eagles||Detroit|
|25||Washington Redskins||Kansas City||Cleveland Browns||at New England|
|26||Chicago Bears||Dallas||Tennessee Titans||at Denver|
|27||Tennessee Titans||at Denver||New York Giants||at San Diego|
|28||Indianapolis Colts||at Cincinnati||Chicago Bears||Dallas|
|29||Dallas Cowboys||at Chicago||Washington Redskins||Kansas City|
|30||Atlanta Falcons||at Green Bay||Dallas Cowboys||at Chicago|
|31||New York Giants||at San Diego||Atlanta Falcons||at Green Bay|
|32||Detroit Lions||at Philadelphia||Detroit Lions||at Philadelphia|