Well, I hope most of you took the easier/smarter plays this past week as far as streaming defenses went. Baltimore and Green Bay both turned in solid outings, while the rest of the recommendations from this space (Atlanta, Jacksonville, San Francisco, New Orleans) disappointed. Rather than focus on what went awry in those games, let's turn our attention to Week 14 instead and attempt to highlight low-owned defenses in great spots to produce. After all, Week 14 marks the start of the fantasy postseason in most leagues. Every point means that much more from here on out.
As always, I'll rely on the streaming D/ST qualifications previously established by Matt Harmon and Matt Franciscovich in this column: good matchups, home teams, favorites, and obviously talented defenses. Let's get to it.
Week 14 Streaming Defenses
Cincinnati Bengals D/ST (49.3 percent owned) at Cleveland Browns
The Bengals are pretty highly-owned, but if available in your league make them a priority. The Browns led the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses heading into their Week 13 bye, and not much should change once the team returns to action. Whether it's Josh McCown or Cody Kessler or (gulp) Robert Griffin III under center, the Bengals should be able to take advantage of the situation. McCown owns the second-highest sack rate in the league in Weeks 1-12, while Kessler owns the third-highest. McCown also boasts the fifth-highest interception rate, though Kessler has been a bit better at protecting the football (just two interceptions on 192 attempts). If RGIII does start, as this ESPN report suggests, it'll be his first game action since Week 1. Any way you look at it, the Browns offense will be ripe for the picking on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST (11.1 percent owned) vs. New Orleans Saints
The Bucs defense deserves more respect, both in real life and in fantasy. This unit has two-plus takeaways in four straight games, allowing point totals of 17, 10, three (five if you count the safety vs. Seattle), and 21 in that span. The front seven has taken gelled with all of the talent it possesses and is wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks with 12 sacks in the last four games, and 20 total since the team's Week 6 bye. Since Week 10, this defense has allowed a passer rating of just 67.3, and that includes games against Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, and Alex Smith. While the Saints defense is risky to stream against, the Bucs defense is playing so well of late and at home in Week 14 that there are enough positive factors to overlook the whole "Drew Brees" part of the equation.
Indianapolis Colts D/ST (2.5 percent owned) vs. Houston Texans
Even though the Colts defense isn't what one might call "stout," any team facing Brock Osweiler in their home stadium is worth streaming consideration. Osweiler has thrown five touchdowns to four interceptions over the last month, leading his offense to 20 points or fewer in three of the last four games. The Texans pass defense remains strong, but if Andrew Luck can build a lead in front of his home crowd and force Osweiler to sling it, the Colts could find some chances for fantasy success. All it takes is one big play for the Colts defense to turn in a respectable fantasy outing, and Osweiler will give them opportunities.
Detroit Lions D/ST (4.0 percent owned) vs. Chicago Bears
One way or another, the Lions defense has been getting it done over the last six games. From Weeks 7 to 9, it was the pass rush with seven sacks, while over the last three games the aerial defense stiffened with six interceptions. Since Week 6, no team has scored more than 20 points against Detroit, further helping their fantasy output. Up next for the Lions is a home matchup against the Matt Barkley-led Bears. Barkley currently owns the worst interception rate in the NFL (4.6 percent), so the Lions should have opportunities for big plays and big fantasy points in front of their home crowd.
Atlanta Falcons D/ST (5.7 percent owned) at Los Angeles Rams
I wrote up Atlanta's defense last week as one to stash for the fantasy playoffs, but that was before the loss of Adrian Clayborn, one of the team's best defensive lineman. Still, a road trip to face Jared Goff and the Rams still has the potential to be a defensive fantasy bonanza for the Falcons. Goff owns a 7.62 sack rate and 3.2 interception rate, both relatively high totals. The Rams offensive line is a mess, and if the Falcons can get out to a quick lead that could set up Vic Beasley for a sack fest as the Rams switch to a pass-heavy approach. In Goff's three starts the Rams are allowing roughly 8.7 fantasy points per game to opposing defenses.
San Diego Chargers D/ST (16.1 percent owned) at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers as a team appear to be in freefall after an embarrassing performance in primetime against the Seahawks. Since the team's Week 7 bye, they've been bleeding fantasy points to opposing defenses, allowing eight or more fantasy points in four of their last six games. The Raiders' four fantasy points in Week 12 are the lowest total in that span. A huge part of the problem for the Panthers are injuries along the offensive line to Ryan Kalil and Michael Oher. Making matters worse, Trai Turner left the game briefly on Sunday with an injury, but did return. This doesn't bode well for a matchup with the Joey Bosa-led front seven of the Chargers, who have been pressuring opposing quarterbacks a ton lately, even if they only have three sacks to show for it in their last three games. With the league-leader in interceptions (Casey Hayward) backing them up, this could be a perfect storm game for the San Diego defense. There's always risk streaming against Cam Newton and co., but this looks like a great week to take a shot.