Many fantasy owners stream defense/special teams (DSTs). This may work throughout the regular season, but it gets tougher during the fantasy playoffs. Some teams have good playoff schedules and others have brutal ones. While streaming is always an option, ideally finding a DST that has good matchup through Week 16 is ideal. Some fantasy teams that have a bye in the playoffs in Week 14 may just look for a DST that has good matchups in Weeks 15 and 16.
Note: DST scoring is based on points allowed (not yards) and standard scoring for sacks, interceptions, etc.
Best DST Matchups
The Dolphins aren’t necessarily known for their defense, but their playoff schedule is so good, they may be worth grabbing. They are owned in 1 percent of leagues, but all three of their playoff opponents are in the top five when it comes to teams that allow the most fantasy points to DSTs. Miami starts with the New York Jets in Week 14 (they had three sacks and an interception the last time they met). The Jets allow the most fantasy points to DSTs. In Week 15, the Dolphins face the Giants (third-most fantasy points to DSTs) and in Week 16, they face the Bengals (fourth). It’s not going to be pretty, but if you have the Bears (see below), it may be worth grabbing the Dolphins instead (yikes).
New York Giants
The Giants are another team not known for defense, but the playoff schedule is too good to ignore. In Weeks 15 and 16 they face the Dolphins (second-most fantasy points allowed to DSTs) and the Redskins (fifth). When the Giants played the Redskins in Week 4, they only allowed three points. They had three sacks, four interceptions and a defensive touchdown. If they can replicate that success, they are a great fantasy streamer.
Good DST Matchup
While the Bills game in Week 14 is neutral in terms of points allowed to DSTs, the Ravens have a great matchup in Week 15 against the New York Jets (most fantasy points allowed to DSTs) and a good matchup in Week 16 against the Browns (ninth). The Ravens are likely owned, but fantasy owners should be confident starting them in the playoffs.
Worst DST Matchups
The Bears have the worst schedule by far. Last year's top-scoring DST is barely in the top 12 this season but is still owned in more than 90 percent of leagues. In the fantasy playoffs, the Bears face three teams who are among the stingiest in fantasy points allowed to DSTs — the Cowboys, Packers and Chiefs. It's easy to see why as those are three of the league's top offenses. These are tough matchups, even for a solid defense like the Bears.
The Titans DST has played well at times (and has two defensive touchdowns in the past three weeks), but their playoff schedule is one to avoid. The Titans face three teams who are in the bottom 10 in terms of fantasy points allowed: the Raiders, Texans, and Saints. While this DST is decent in a good matchup, it should be avoided in the fantasy playoffs.
Bad DST Matchup
Throughout the season, the Bills have been a solid starting DST. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in the past five weeks. They’ve had at least two sacks in each game in that span as well. However, in the fantasy playoffs, they face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14, who allow the fewest fantasy points to DSTs and the Patriots (ninth fewest) in Week 16. Avoid relying on the Bills DST if possible.
Don't Rule Out
The Lions are a DST to target for the owner who was a bye in Week 14. This Sunday, Detroit is in Minneapolis to face the Vikings. However, in Weeks 15 and 16, the Lions get the Buccaneers and Broncos. Both are in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points allowed to DSTs as you have turnover-prone Jameis Winston leading Tampa Bay while Denver has rookie quarterback Drew Lock running the show. The Lions DST has had some good games and has been able to get to opposing quarterbacks, just be sure it's a good matchup before you plug this DST into your lineup.
The opposite of the Lions, the Eagles are a great DST for someone who is still playing week to week. Philadelphia has great DST matchups in Weeks 14 and 15 (Giants and Redskins) before facing the Cowboys in Week 16. If you are playing in Week 14 and the Eagles are available in your league (they are in about 25 percent of them), grab them for the first two weeks of the playoffs and if you make it to Week 16, drop them for another DST.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)