Once the fantasy playoffs hit, the usefulness of the waiver wire pretty much runs out. There are no more sleepers. There are no more bye weeks. There is only Zuul. Which means your starting roster (pending any late-season injuries) is pretty much set in stone, with maybe a few players rotating through the flex spot. This leaves most of your bench for luxury pickups, such as the high-upside handcuff to the top running back owned by that annoying guy in your league, or a defense with a prime playoff schedule.
Each week, I write about low-owned fantasy defenses to "stream" and play that Sunday before casting them back into the waiver pool. You can read the Week 13 edition here. This time around, I'm going to highlight some under-the-radar defenses with favorable matchups in the fantasy playoffs worth grabbing a week (or two) early. This way, instead of missing out on a potential matchup-winning defense on waivers, savvy owners will already have them rostered and waiting in the wings. And for the record, this article operates under the assumption that most leagues are using standard NFL.com playoff settings, which either begin in Week 14 of 15, depending on league size. My apologies if your 18-team, 2QB, IDP league started the playoffs last week.
Before I get to the stash-worthy defenses, it's worth noting that this column isn't to say one should cut loose a top-10 defense that has carried them through the fantasy regular season. Plenty of those units have juicy matchups on the horizon as well, though some do face a murderer's row of high-powered offenses and road games. Take a look at these lists before diving into streaming options below, and adjust your waiver priorities and bench space accordingly. It also wouldn't be outlandish to roster a few of these defenses, if one has a better Week 16 matchup than the other, for instance.
Stud fantasy defenses with GOOD playoff schedules
Stud fantasy defenses with BAD playoff schedules
Atlanta Falcons D/ST (5.6 percent owned)
The Falcons defense has yet to notch 10 fantasy points this year without the help of a defensive touchdown, but currently features a rejuvenated pass rush anchored by Vic Beasley. This defense has multiple sacks in five straight games and faces two highly-sacked passers in Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton during the postseason, each of whom boasts a sack rate in the bottom-11 in the league. Their other opponent is rookie Jared Goff, who we don't have a ton of actionable data against yet. However, the two defenses to face him so far (Dolphins, Saints) have finished seventh and 10th in fantasy scoring in their respective weeks.
Washington Redskins D/ST (10.8 percent owned)
The Washington defense has been remarkably consistent this year, posting fewer than six fantasy points just three times. The Eagles offense seemingly have an impressive fantasy points allowed figure, but that was before the offensive line, receiving corps, and running backs fell apart. As a result, this offense has allowed three top-12 scoring finishes in the past four weeks. Cam Newton's offensive line is melting before our eyes, leading to his high sack rate (7.32 percent, sixth-highest) and penchant for turnovers (three in the past two weeks). The Bears will be starting some combination of Matt Barkley and/or Jay Cutler under center, though Alshon Jeffery will be back from his suspension.
Miami Dolphins D/ST (21.7 percent owned)
The Dolphins defense has improved by leaps and bounds since the team adopted a run-first approach with Jay Ajayi in Week 6. The team averages 2.5 sacks and nine fantasy points per game in that span, and has intercepted nine passes after only securing one in the first five games of the season. The Cardinals offense is a mess and Carson Palmer looks cooked, while the Jets will either be starting turnover machine Ryan Fitzpatrick or a quarterback ill-equipped for the NFL game (Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg). The Bills are a tough draw, but the Dolphins sacked Tyrod Taylor four times when these teams met in Miami back in Week 7. The tides could turn even more in the Dolphins' favor if the conditions get wintery and/or sloppy in Buffalo the second time around.
New Orleans Saints D/ST (3 percent owned)
The Bucs are looking like a frisky team in the NFC South right now, so it's unfortunate the Saints draw them twice during the fantasy playoffs. Their fantasy points against ranking is misleading too, as that number is inflated by a poor stretch in Weeks 2-4 where the Bucs gave up a combined 50 fantasy points (nearly 17 per game) to opposing defenses. The Saints stop unit is improving, though, with three seven-plus fantasy point outings in its last four games. The Cardinals matchup in the middle is enticing, as is the home date with the Bucs in Week 16, where New Orleans typically plays better. Still, there's more risk with the Saints than others on this list.
Tennessee Titans D/ST (16.0 percent owned)
The Titans are riskier than the rest of the bunch, as their secondary is an absolute mess (and they just cut Perrish Cox). Fortunately, they don't face any elite passing offenses, but they've allowed 21-plus points in each of their last seven games. That being said, those with the bench space and confidence in their squad making the fantasy championship could stash the Titans for Week 16 against the Jaguars and hope Blake Bortles goes full Bortles with multiple back-breaking turnovers.