NFL Fantasy Football Week 13 Rankings: Defenses

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IDecember 5, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 11:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots lies on the ground after missing a pass as Champ Bailey #24 and D.J. Williams #55 of the Denver Broncos look on during an NFL game at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Every week, we try to give you the best defensive plays based on projections, statistical information, and how teams match up. While we don’t get every defensive play right, the Bruno Boys utilize enough factors in our rankings that we hit the mark more often than not.

With numbers and analysis unmatched by any other site, you need to keep checking in with the Bruno Boys to see where the defensive units rank, especially as it’s fantasy playoff time.

This week some of the best defenses of 2009 have the preferred matchups going into Week 13. Although others may be lower in the rankings, if you need a spot-starter or play the waiver wire, there are still some sneaky plays that could end up being the best of the day after the games shake out this weekend. Time to see who those teams may be this week.



5-Stars (* * * * *) - Bruno Boys Top Plays of the Week

4-Stars (* * * *) – Bruno Boys Very Solid Plays of the Week

3-Stars (* * *) – Bruno Boys Average Plays of the Week

2-Stars (* *) – Bruno Boys Try to Avoid Playing this Week

1-Star (*) – Bruno Boys Do Not Start Unless You COMPLETELY Have To

Key Abbreviations: YPG (Yards Per Game); PPG (Points Per Game)


1. (Pittsburgh Steelers) vs. Oakland Raiders

One thing you can say about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense this season, they are not the same unit that was so dominant a year ago. Their numbers look nice, as they’ve allowed just 288.4 yards and 18.5 points per game with 35 sacks and 16 turnovers. But the difference is the defense cannot make that key stop that wins games like they did in 2008.

Last year, if you gave the Pittsburgh defense any kind of lead with six minutes to go, like the team did in Week 12 against the Baltimore Ravens, the game was considered in the bag. If you wonder how does that matter to the fantasy ranks, well it must if the Steelers do not rank near the top like they did a year ago (currently 12th in standard scoring leagues).

Last season, Pittsburgh’s defense was the best across the board with no team even coming close to comparison. In 2009, that is not the case. For this week, though, Pittsburgh should come in at No. 1 against an Oakland Raiders team who will struggle to move the ball on the ground, likely leading quarterback Bruce Gradkowski into multiple turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: *****


2. (San Diego Chargers) vs. Cleveland Browns

The Chargers defense is looking as it did in 2007, putting together dominant fantasy performances. This week could be their best of the year as they get set to face a Cleveland Browns offense that is absolutely horrendous. Even with safety Eric Weddle out and linebacker Shawne Merriman possibly being sidelined to rest his knee, the San Diego defense is still an outstanding play.

You can expect something similar to the results they got against the Kansas City Chiefs (an 18-point effort), possibly even a bit better. On the year, the Chargers defense has given up 317.7 yards and 19.9 points per game while adding 28 sacks and 19 turnovers. 

Bruno Boys Stars: *****


3. (Denver Broncos) at Kansas City Chiefs

After playing horrendously the previous four weeks, the Denver Broncos finally looked like the unit that shocked the fantasy world to start the year with a dominating performance against the New York Giants on Thanksgiving night. Now, they get their first of two meetings against the Kansas City Chiefs, and it looks like the Broncos defense will get the opportunity to post back to back double-digit fantasy point totals.

Kansas City is totally inept on offense and outside of running back Jamaal Charles, they do not have a playmaker quarterback Matt Cassel can rely on. This season Denver has allowed 295.0 yards and 17.2 points per game with 32 sacks and 17 turnovers. Look for the Broncos defense to improve those numbers across the board in Week 13. 

Bruno Boys Stars: *****


4. (Cincinnati Bengals) vs. Detroit Lions

Perhaps we need to rank this defense lower, since the Cincinnati Bengals seem to play well against the good teams (double digits against the Pittsburgh Steelers , Baltimore Ravens, and Chicago Bears) but put up average weeks against some of the worst offenses in the league (the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns).

That should tell you how tough ranking defenses can be, as even the best matchups do not always seem to work out. Consider this the week we get the Bengals defense ranked in the right position, as they should be able to limit a banged up Detroit Lions offense.

Obviously, you have been rolling with this unit the last couple weeks at the minimum, so there is no need to bench them here. This season Cincinnati has given up 297.6 yards and 15.8 points per game while totaling 26 sacks and 18 turnovers. 

Bruno Boys Stars: ****


5. (New Orleans Saints) at Washington Redskins

After watching the Saints defense dominant quarterback Tom Brady and his high-flying New England Patriots offensive attack, it is time to say the New Orleans defense needs to be started every week, even if they are playing against the best of offenses.

Even with the Washington Redskins’ offense playing better than usual against the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s tough seeing them not make a few mistakes against a defense that is always looking to attack. On the year, the Saints’ defense has given up 333.8 yards and 20.1 points per game while adding 26 sacks and 32 turnovers. With the mistakes typically made by quarterback Jason Campbell and New Orleans’ defense leading the league with 22 interceptions, it just spells for a big fantasy day.

Bruno Boys Stars: ****


6. (Chicago Bears) vs. St. Louis Rams

Many experts are down on the Chicago Bears’ defense, as it has been average all season long. But, when the match up is right, it needs to be started. An idea backed up by the double digit performances against the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. What this defense has shown is they are predictable, which is great for fantasy owners. They play real bad (negative outings) against great offenses, average against good/mediocre offenses, and great against bad offenses.

If the St. Louis Rams do not qualify as bad (didn’t many like to start any defense playing the Rams?), then we’re not sure what else could be. The Bears’ defense will put up at least an average ranking with the upside to be one of the best units in Week 13. If you don’t like those kinds of odds, you’re crazy. On the year, the Bears defense has allowed 339.8 yards and 23.7 points per game while totaling 22 sacks and 19 turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: ****


7. (New York Jets) at Buffalo Bills

Both of these units impressed in their games last week, with the New York Jets’ defense picking off Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme four times while only allowing six points to Carolina. The Buffalo Bills’ offense racked up 31 total points while only committing one turnover. Who comes out on top in their Thursday night showdown?

Go with the Jets, who have been at worst an average defensive play every week. Buffalo should make more mistakes against New York, who will apply more pressure than the Miami Dolphins ever could a week ago and have a secondary who is by better by a wide margin.

The last time these two teams met, the Jets allowed 16 points with two turnovers for an average fantasy day. That is the bare minimum you can expect for this weeks rematch between these two clubs. On the season, New York has given up 283.9 yards and 17.7 points per game with 21 sacks and 21 turnovers. 

Bruno Boys Stars: ****


8. (Minnesota Vikings) at Arizona Cardinals

A good offense will take on a good defense in a game that could be played again in the playoffs. Every week, we talk about the pressure Minnesota’s defensive line can provide, which should take you back to another team whose edge rushers gave Arizona nightmares.

The Indianapolis Colts totaled four sacks and created three turnovers in a double-digit fantasy day back in Week Three against the Cardinals. That could be the kind of day you see from the Vikings’ defense this week. On the year, Minnesota has allowed 303.5 yards and 18.5 points per game while adding a league leading 40 sacks and 19 turnovers.

If quarterback Kurt Warner is for some reason held out of this game, this defense goes to No. 1 in our rankings. Even with Warner in, he is not mobile enough to get away from the pressure the Vikings defense will be bringing this weekend. 

Bruno Boys Stars: ****


9. (New England Patriots) at Miami Dolphins

There has only been two times where the New England Patriots’ defense got scorched so bad it had a negative fantasy day. One was against the Indianapolis Colts, and the other came against the New Orleans Saints this past Monday. After the miserable game against the Colts, New England followed it up with a double-digit fantasy day against the New York Jets, where it forced five total turnovers.

Could the same thing happen in Miami? There is a pretty good chance considering the Dolphins have a young signal-caller in Chad Henne, who has shown he can make some big-time mistakes. The reason the Patriots’ defense is only an average play, though, is because of the running game of Miami, who could still total up a lot of yards and put some points on the board.

With that being said, New England could finish the fantasy day a lot higher than where we have it ranked if its defense responds like they did after their tough loss against the Colts. On the season, the Patriots have given up 313.4 yards and 18.4 points per game while totaling 19 sacks and 23 turnovers. 

Bruno Boys Stars: ***


10. (Philadelphia Eagles) at Atlanta Falcons

No Matt Ryan and possibly no Michael Turner for the Atlanta Falcons—did we make a mistake having the Eagles defense this low? There is a good chance of that, but what we saw when those guys went down early against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was that Atlanta has backups who can get the job done.

Although Tampa Bay does have a bad defense (especially compared to the Eagles), you have to hesitate a moment before saying the Eagles are going to be the stars of Week 13. This is an average play with a ton of upside considering how banged up the Falcons are, but keep in mind that Atlanta’s playoffs hopes are on the line and they’ll come out firing no matter who is on the field for them.

It will be interesting to see how Philadelphia attacks an offense that has much different variables in the starting lineup, but no matter how they play, this ranking seems to be the floor for what they may be able to do. This season the Eagles have allowed 304.9 yards and 20.7 points per game while adding 31 sacks and 25 turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: ***


11. (New York Giants) vs. Dallas Cowboys

After a scorching start to the fantasy year for the New York Giants’ defense (where it scored a whopping 60 points in its first five games in standard scoring leagues), the unit has been nothing but lackluster in their last six games, a span in which it is averaging a point a game (yes, the Giants only have six points in standard leagues in the last six weeks!).

With all that being said, New York did post double-digits in the first meeting with the Dallas Cowboys back in Week Two despite giving up 31 points. The odd thing that usually happens is when two teams meet and an offensive explosion happened in the first meeting, the second game tends to be a defensive battle.

Look for that to happen this time around with both teams knowing the importance of this game. This year New York’s defense has given up 290.5 yards and 23.7 points per game while adding 23 sacks and 19 turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: ***


12. (Dallas Cowboys) at New York Giants

As mentioned above, both teams have explosive offenses, but in the second meeting the defenses could be battling to grab their team the victory. The potential of the offenses doing extremely well keeps both units in the average ranking, though. Dallas has been much improved since their bye week in Week Six, and the main reason is their success in getting after the quarterback.

If the Cowboys can pressure quarterback Eli Manning, there should be no reason why they don’t have success in fantasy land. Even though it was tough to trust the Dallas defense in the beginning of the year, especially after their negative point total against the Giants, its play of late has been tough to ignore. On the year, the Dallas defense has allowed 327.6 yards and 16.5 points per game while totaling 28 sacks and 13 turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: ***


13. (Buffalo Bills) vs. New York Jets

Do you remember the last time these two teams met? New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez was picked off five times in leading his team to a loss back in Week Six. One thing that doesn’t get mentioned in that game is how great running back Thomas Jones played, totaling 210 of his teams 318 yards on the ground that day.

With all the success the Jets had running the football, you can expect the team to try and not allow Sanchez to make many mistakes in this one. Add that Sanchez is a bit banged up, and you can see why the skepticism is there for the Bills defense to once again put up a huge game.

Buffalo should produce a couple turnovers with their attacking secondary, but not enough to make them anything more than an average play for Week 13. This season the Bills have allowed 362.9 yards and 22.0 points per game with 20 sacks and 25 turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: ***


14. (Indianapolis Colts) vs. Tennessee Titans

One thing is true about the Tennessee Titans’ offense, they will run the ball and they will get their yards. The key to stopping them is to making sure those yards do not come in the red zone and make quarterback Vince Young stay in the pocket to make throws down field. Even though Young did drive his team to a last second victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the fact that you had not seen that kind of play from him all game still leaves hope that a defense can be successful against Tennessee.

The Colts have the pressure from their edge rushers that could force Young out of the pocket, but the athleticism from their linebackers to keep him from running. That means it could be a tough day for Young, which means a big day for fantasy owners of the Colts’ D. Indianapolis will struggle to hold the Titans down to nine points like their last outing, but could add to their two turnovers and one sack total from their Week Five meeting. This season the Colts have given up 332.2 yards and 16.7 points per game while adding 26 sacks and 21 turnovers. 

Bruno Boys Stars: ***


15. (Baltimore Ravens) at Green Bay Packers

Ever since their bye week back in Week Seven, the Baltimore Ravens has been average with a couple of incredible games sprinkled in. Last week’s game is what you should expect from this defense against the Green Bay Packers, an average game at best while contributing three fantasy points (in standard leagues). After watching Pittsburgh Steelers third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon look strong behind center, Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, could have a big day.

The Ravens' secondary is their weak point and an area the Packers seem to have the biggest opportunity to exploit. Look for Rodgers to sling the ball all over the field on Monday night, leaving Baltimore’s defense in the middle of the pack this week among the defensive units. On the year the Ravens have given up 308.9 yards and 17.1 points per game, while totaling 21 sacks and 17 turnovers.

Bruno Boys Stars: ***