First off, congratulations to those who won their fantasy leagues. Secondly, thanks to all who followed this column all season and are still reading it now. Whether your league plays Week 17, you're looking for defenses for daily fantasy leagues, or old habits die hard, I appreciate you. Week 17 doesn't have the strongest slate of streaming options, but there are a few games I feel offer nice enough upside to mine defensive fantasy production and I break them down below.
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 16 Streaming Defenses
Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST (40.9 percent owned) vs. Cleveland Browns
The Steelers could rest starters as they have the third seed in the AFC locked up, but regardless their matchup with the Browns should be at the top of everyone's streaming radar. The Browns playmakers are injured, the offensive line is a mess, and they've been super generous to opposing fantasy defenses as a result. The Steelers have multiple sacks in seven of their last eight games and at least one interception in seven of their last eight as well. Don't overthink this one if you're still playing in Week 17 and the Steelers are available.
Oakland Raiders D/ST (13.7 percent owned) at Denver Broncos
This would be a much better matchup if the Raiders were playing at home, but even on the road, they're a solid streaming unit. The Broncos offense can't run the football and is trotting out a patchwork offensive line. That combination has resulted in opposing defenses averaging just shy of 12 fantasy points per game over the last month. Trevor Siemian has one touchdown, two interceptions and seven sacks since returning to the starting position in Week 14, and that's with him averaging nearly 45 attempts per game in that span. Also (potentially) aiding the Raiders here is the narrative of the team rallying for a big win after losing starting quarterback Derek Carr. The team still needs to win to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs, so players could have a little more motivation at play. That's not really something to bank fantasy hopes on, but it's something worth considering.
Atlanta Falcons D/ST (11.8 percent owned) vs. New Orleans Saints
Anchored by the NFL's sack leader Vic Beasley, the Falcons defense has been providing solid fantasy returns for a few weeks now. A home matchup against the Saints might seem like a bad matchup on paper but presents an opportunity for fantasy points. Drew Brees has bounced back from his disastrous Week 13-14 stretch where he threw zero touchdowns and six interceptions, but on the road he's still a streaming target. He throws for roughly 60 fewer passing yards and .5 fewer touchdowns on the road than at home in 2016, though his interception totals have held steady. Those afraid of the Saints racking up points and ruining the Falcons' fantasy potential can relax a bit. Even if that happens, the Falcons can still produce, especially since they are at home. This exact situation happened in Week 7 when the Chargers scored 30 points but the Falcons defense still notched 13 in fantasy. Turnovers and sacks can mitigate a high-scoring contest. If word comes out that Atlanta will be resting starters, then we'll want to pivot away from playing their defense. However, if all systems are go in Week 17 then the Falcons are very much worth a look.
Washington Redskins D/ST (11.2 percent owned) vs. New York Giants
Washington's defense has been up-and-down of late, but a date with the struggling Giants offense in Week 17 with their playoff hopes on the line could be a perfect fantasy situation. Eli Manning has thrown six interceptions in his last four games and been sacked seven times in that span as well. As a result, three of the last four defenses to face the Giants have scored nine-plus fantasy points. Washington has 11 mutli-sack games in 2016, and has registered at least one quarterback takedown in every game this season. Manning's accuracy was a serious problem last week against the Eagles, and could be an issue again in FedExField, where winds can be swirling. Washington offers both a safe floor and high-ceiling if this turns into a "bad Eli" game.
Dallas Cowboys D/ST (21.7 percent owned) at Philadelphia Eagles
So far it seems the Cowboys won't be resting starters in Week 17, but there's certainly that risk as they have the No. 1 seed all locked up in the NFC. Even if some starters ride the pine, the Cowboys should have opportunities for fantasy success against the Eagles. Carson Wentz has been sacked 10 times in the last five games, though the return of Lane Johnson could help shore up his protection. He has thrown at least one interception in six straight games, though. Ryan Mathews is out for this game with a hernaited disc in his neck, so Darren Sproles will have to shoulder a bigger load out of the backfield. And Wentz's pass-catching corps is still wildly unreliable. One or two turnovers and a couple sacks should be enough for Dallas to post a solid fantasy outing.