One week after nailing eight of the top 10 defenses, we hit on six of ten this week with a few others (Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Kansas City) finishing just one point out of the top 10. The recent shift in weekly formula to double the emphasis on opponent and also factor in the last four weeks performance of each defense to highlight recent performance seems to have helped the overall weekly accuracy.
Unfortunately, I have a feeling that Week 12 is going to bring us more chaos than we anticipate. We have the weird holiday slate that takes players away from their families and has way more teams than usual playing on short weeks. Then we also have lots of injury questions around players like Kenneth Walker, Geno Smith, David Carr, Cooper Kupp, and more. We also have major turnover at the quarterback position with Joe Burrow out for the season, and the Jets finally benching Zach Wilson.
There are just tons of variables that we don’t yet have a firm grasp of, and we have way less time than normal to let those situations play out. As a result, I might be leaning towards those safe floor defenses rather than the risky upside ones this week.
BOD Formula and Philosophy
Just a quick reminder of the BOD formula:
(Pressure Rate) + (Knockdowns) + (Pass Defense Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x2)
(% Drives ending in a Score) + (Explosive Plays Allowed Per Game)
It’s important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That’s why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.
Special shoutout to Arjun Menon, who calculates the explosive plays per game formula. You can check him out on Twitter here.
Throughout the season I’ll keep track of how many top 10 defenses we correctly predicted. I know it’s not quite marking down if I nailed the number one defense each week or the number two, but it’s the most logical way I can think of to keep track of how often a defense I predicted would be a good play actually wound up being a good play. I know we always want the top defense, but I think, more often than not, if we get one of the ten performing defenses of the week, we’re not mad at the result.
SEASON RECORD FOR TOP 10 PREDICTIONS: 57-of-110 (51.8%)
So how do things stack up for Week 12?
Another week with Dallas as the top defense. They’re coming off a game in which they held Carolina to just 187 total yards while notching seven sacks and forcing two turnovers. They now rank 3rd in opponents’ scoring rate, 3rd in passes defended rate, 8th in turnover rate, and are averaging 11.5 fantasy points over the last month. They now get a Commanders’ offense that had seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks but just let up four sacks and six turnovers to the Giants. With the Commanders giving up the 3rd-most fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last four weeks, the Cowboys should be in for another strong outing.
The magic of the Raiders’ coaching and quarterback change has begun to wear off. Rookie Aidan O’Connell threw three interceptions against the Dolphins after throwing one against the Jets. In his five starts, O’Connell has only thrown over 240 yards once, and that sets up poorly against a Chiefs defense that just held the Eagles to 238 yards and sacked Jalen Hurts five times. The Chiefs rank 2nd in pressure rate, 2nd in knockdowns per game (which is sacks plus QB hits), and 2nd in opponents’ scoring rate. They’re an elite option this week.
The Dolphins handled business against the Raiders last weekend and continue a stretch of plus matchups with a showdown against a Jets team that finally benched Zach Wilson for Tim Boyle. While things can’t get much worse for the Jets than giving up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last month at an average of 17 points per game, I’m not sure how much better it will get. The Jets may also be without Mekhi Bechton, which is an issue against a Dolphins team that ranks 5th in knockdowns per game, 7th in pressure rate, and 10th in opponents’ scoring rate.
The 49ers defense went through a bit of a rough patch earlier in the season, but they’ve bounced back with a fury, and the addition of Chase Young to that defensive line only makes them more dangerous. They currently rank 1st in turnover rate, 4th in knockdowns, 6th in opponent’s scoring rate, and 10th in pressure rate. They don’t get an easy game this week against the Seahawks, but Kenneth Walker seems unlikely to play with an oblique injury and, while Geno Smith finished the game on Sunday, he suffered a shoulder injury and left the game for a few drives before Seattle remembered how bad Drew Lock is. It’s highly unlikely Geno isn’t 100%, which dings this Seahawks defense and makes me even more confident in the 49ers this week.
Denver’s offense has certainly turned things around of late and rank just 21st in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses, but going up against this Browns defense is another challenge. Cleveland ranks 1st in opponents’ scoring rate, 2nd in passes defended rate, 2nd in pressure rate, and 6th in knockdowns per game. They’re going to make life hard on Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense, and while I don’t expect that to lead to a high number of sacks and turnovers, it should keep the game low scoring and keep the Browns as a top-ten defense.
However, this Broncos defense is also a solid play. They’re averaging 11.3 fantasy points per game over the last four weeks, which is enticing in a matchup against Dorian Thompson-Robinson and a Browns offense that has given up the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last month. While Denver’s season-long stats aren’t great, they’ve forced a turnover in seven straight games and a whopping 12 total turnovers in their last three games. They’ve also given up at least 330 yards in all but two games this season and have just five total sacks in their last four games, so they’re not without their weaknesses. Still, I think this matchup against Thompson-Robinson should be good for creating a few turnovers. (It should be noted that Kareem Jackson was suspended by the NFL for repeatedly launching himself helmet-first into offensive players, so that could be a sizable loss for this Broncos defense).
The injury to Joe Burrow has robbed us of potentially watchable football in this divisional clash between the Steelers and Bengals. Now we’ll get a showdown between Kenny Pickett and Jake Browning. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect of a Browning-led Bengals offense, but it certainly didn’t look good for one half on Thursday night. The Steelers rank 2nd in turnover rate, 9th in knockdowns, and 10th in passes defended rate. It’s going to be tough for the Bengals to move the ball, which I think makes the Steelers a good bet to sneak into the top 10.
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This Jaguars and Texans game features two defenses who could be surprisingly playable in most league types. The Jaguars defense has been strong all season and put together a solid effort last week against the Titans. Jacksonville ranks 5th in turnover rate, 5th in opponents’ scoring rate, and 10th in explosive plays allowed per game. The Texans offense has been one of the least-giving fantasy matchups all season, but they’ve shown some cracks of late and now rank 17th in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses, which isn’t great but is not as much of an avoid situation as they had been.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville offense has been very giving to fantasy defenses, allowing the 5th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last month at 10 points per game. They did face the 49ers, Steelers, and Saints over that span, but they’ve allowed nine sacks and seven turnovers over their last four games. Against a Texans defense that’s 9th in pressure rate and 12th in opponents’ scoring rate, that could make Houston a play in deeper formats.
The Jets defense is finally starting to get fed up. After responding all season despite their offense continuing to put them in bad positions, they seemed to get rattled on Sunday against the Bills, giving up big plays and bad penalties, both of which are uncharacteristic for this defense. Now they face off against the Dolphins with Tim Boyle at quarterback. That could put the defense in more bad positions, which makes the Jets riskier than you’d expect given that they rank 3rd in pressure rate, 6th in passes defended rate, 7th in explosive plays allowed per game, and 11th in opponents’ scoring rate. However, the Dolphins also give up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last month, which six sacks and six turnovers in that span, so the Jets could sneak into the top 10 here in a must win game for them.
The Saints continue an impressive run of facing mediocre offenses. With Desmond Ridder announced as the starting quarterback, the Falcons are back to being an offense that doesn’t really strike fear in a defense when it comes to pushing the ball down the field. He should be a tantalizing matchup for a Saints defense that ranks 1st in passes defended rate, 8th in opponents’ scoring rate, and 9th in turnover rate. I don’t think the ceiling is incredibly high here, but I like the safe floor.
I’d rather play the Giants defense in a matchup against a Patriots team that seems to have totally lost faith in Mac Jones. The Giants’ defense isn’t great, but they’re 11th in passes defended rate, 13th in opponents’ scoring rate, and 19th in turnover rate, so they’re better than any of the other poor defenses in this tier and the next also get a good matchup against a Patriots offense that has allowed the 10th-most points to opposing defenses over the last month.
If you also wanted to play the Patriots against Tommy DeVito, I wouldn’t blame you, but the rookie looked better on Sunday and this Patriots defense ranks 16th in pressure rate, 28th in turnover rate, and dead last in knockdowns per game. They don’t allow a lot of big plays and don’t give up a ton of points, so it’s not as if the Giants are going to have a huge game, but I’m just not sure there’s the upside that people expect with a Patriots defense that is averaging just 6.3 fantasy points per game over the last month.
The Vikings have a good matchup against the Bears but one that is a little riskier with Justin Fields back. Fields is still prone to making a bad throw or questionable decision, but he makes far more plays than Tyson Bagent. This is a Vikings defense that ranks 1st in the NFL in explosive plays allowed and then middle of the pack in most everything else, so if they’re able to keep Fields from making big plays then they could certainly be playable in deeper formats.
I know people are excited to attack the Packers offense because Aaron Jones is likely out, but Jordan Love is looking better of late and Green Bay has allowed the 15th-most fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last month, so they haven’t been a great matchup. What’s more, Detroit is averaging just 5.3 fantasy points over the last month. They have a good pass rush but rank 20th in turnover rate and 22nd in opponents’ scoring rate, so they have not been a consistent fantasy unit and are not one I can trust as a top 10 pick on a short week, even if AJ Dillon is the starting running back for the Packers.
The Bills and Eagles matchup features two defenses that we generally like to play against two offenses that we really don’t really want to attack. The Bills offense looks much more dynamic under Joe Brady, using lots of pre-snap motion to create easy targets for Josh Allen. Meanwhile, their defense easily handled the Jets, but they also lost Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson, and Taylor Rapp to injury on top of all the other injuries they suffered. Their defense has responded all season and ranks 6th in turnover rate against an Eagles offense that likes to turn the ball over, but I’d rather not play either of these defenses if I didn’t have to.
The Steelers finally fired Matt Canada and, as we saw with Buffalo on Sunday, sometimes changing visions when it comes to running an offense can have an immediate impact. That being said, the Steelers look lost with Pickett under center. This Bengals defense is solid, ranking 4th in turnover rate, 11th in pressure rate, and 14th in passes defended rate. They do tend to give up big plays, but the Steelers don’t really hit on big plays, which means the Bengals could be a solid play this week, albeit a risky one if the offense puts them in some bad spots. It should also be noted that, for as bad as Pittsburgh’s offense has looked, they rank 23rd in the league in fantasy points allowed to defenses over the last month, allowing just 5.0 points per game, which has a lot to do with how much they run and how few sacks and turnovers they allow.
I know everybody wants to play the Ravens, and they’re a good real-life defense, but this is not a good matchup against a Chargers team that have given up the 2nd-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing defenses over the last month, even with all their injuries. The Ravens don’t give up big plays and can certainly get after the quarterback, but they don’t force a lot of turnovers, so I think their ceiling is lower than many want to believe.
This is where we get to the point in our rankings where we have bad defenses going up against bad offenses. The Panthers and Titans are the two lowest-ranked defenses in my BOD formula; however, over the last month the Panthers have allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points to opposing defenses and the Titans have allowed the 8th-most. The Titans get more pressure on the quarterback and have forced slightly more turnovers per game, so I guess I prefer them, but this is a complete crapshoot because it’s hard to tell which defense will implode more.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice. Keep an eye on the Rams’ injury situation as all of Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford, and Puka Nacua were banged up on Sunday. Depending on how they look in practice, that could drastically change our Cardinals ranking.
As I mentioned above, I will update and repost this article on Sunday morning in case there are any changes with injuries or weather reports, etc. Until then, good luck to all this week!