One of the great things about being 8-2 or 9-1 at this stage of the fantasy football season—other than, you know, being 8-2 or 9-1—is the roster flexibility it affords and the risks it frees you up to take. You might be playing for a regular season championship, which comes with a prize in many leagues, and it’s possible you still need another couple wins to secure a first-round bye. If your team is good enough to be 8-2 or 9-1, though, then you probably don’t need that last depth back or receiver to get those last few wins.
In other words, it’s time to put those spots to use in ways that could pay big dividends in the playoffs. Specifically, it’s time to hunt for defenses with weak schedules the rest of the way, especially in Weeks 14 through 16, the fantasy football playoffs in most leagues. If you’re headed to the playoffs and some have roster spots to burn, here are the defenses you should be targeting with an eye on the near future.
All defenses included have ownership rates of less than 50% going into Week 11, and are listed in descending order of remaining schedule strength, based on 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). Greater weight was placed on fantasy playoff schedule than Weeks 11 through 13
Indianapolis Colts (average defensive aFPA of remaining opponents: 30th)
Remaining schedule: vs. Titans, vs. Dolphins, at Jaguars, at Texans, vs. Cowboys, vs. Giants
First and foremost, the Colts get home games in Weeks 15 and 16, and are likely to be favored in both of those contests. That’s generally additive for a fantasy defense, and a matchup with Eli Manning could be particularly lucrative in fantasy championship week. The Colts could also help you get those last couple wins you need in the regular season, with games against the Titans, Dolphins and Jaguars, none of which are particularly foreboding. You may need to go in another direction in Week 14, though, with a road matchup at the Texans.
Buffalo Bills (28th)
Remaining schedule: BYE, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins, vs. Jets, vs. Lions, at Patriots
You’re not going to want to use the Bills in Week 16 at New England, and they’re on a bye this week, but they can start for fantasy owners every other week of the season. There’s nothing intimidating about matchups with the Jaguars, Dolphins, Jets and Lions, especially with three of those games at home. The Jets and Lions, Buffalo’s first two opponents during the fantasy playoffs, are ranked 28th and 21st, respectively, in defensive aFPA.
Tennessee Titans (27th)
Remaining schedule: at Colts, at Texans, vs. Jets, vs. Jaguars, at Giants, vs. Redskins
There’s nothing attractive about Tennessee’s immediate schedule. You shouldn’t be scrambling to play them in road games at the Colts and Texans. After that, though, the Titans could be among the best defenses in the fantasy game. The Jets, Jaguars and Giants are all ranked 25th or worse in defensive aFPA, making the Titans a great option in the last week of the regular season, as well as the first two weeks of the playoffs. Washington, meanwhile, is ranked 27th in points per game, and 26th in yards per game and yards per attempt.
Denver Broncos (19th)
Remaining schedule: at Chargers, vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at 49ers, vs. Browns, at Raiders
Ignore those first three games. That’s not why the Broncos are here. You’re 8-2 or 9-1, remember? You can afford to roster two defenses for the rest of the season, especially when one has a chance of turning a major profit in the playoffs. So grab another defense for the rest of the regular season, or continue streaming at the position. Then, when the postseason begins, turn to the Broncos. The 49ers, Browns and Raiders are ranked 26th, 20th and 27th, respectively, in defensive aFPA. Matchups with Nick Mullens and Derek Carr during the fantasy playoffs could make the Denver defense a surprise hero across the fantasy landscape. It has been a down year for the unit compared with recent history, but fantasy owners who invest in them now may forgive them their season-long shortfall over three potentially lucrative weeks in December.