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Fantasy football rankings, Week 14: Defense/special teams

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You're in the playoffs, but are you the favorite or the underdog? That might dictate your defense selection.

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

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