This article is part of our Streaming Defenses series.
If you're still reading this column you've probably done something right (reaching a fantasy championship), but I'll also suggest you've done something not so great in joining a league that counts Week 17. There are always a few playoff teams in position to rest starters, and some of the lesser teams will use this week as an opportunity to evaluate younger players. Tough luck for anyone that reached their title game relying on Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Thomas, as Dallas and New Orleans are the two teams locked into specific playoff seeds (Nos. 1 and 4 in the NFC).
My Week 17 defense rankings account for the obvious rest situations, with the Saints and Cowboys dropping lower than usual while their opponents (Panthers, Giants) get a boost. Granted, there's still little reason to use a struggling Carolina defense in the Superdome, especially given that Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is no slouch.
The rankings assume players like Eli Manning, Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill will start for their respective teams, but I won't be surprised if Kyle Lauletta, Kevin Hogan and David Fales make appearances at some point. While this isn't something we can rely on, it's at least worth considering if any new comes out before Sunday.
A messy week works just fine for our purposes, providing 14 defenses worth starting by my initial estimation. That does include some of the usual suspects like Houston, Chicago and Minnesota, but it shouldn't be too hard to find a good option on waivers.
Note: These recommendations are limited to D/ST units with under 60 percent ownership on Yahoo as of Tuesday morning. Any references to fantasy points are based on Yahoo standard scoring.
Top Streaming Options for Week 17
1. Seattle Seahawks (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
54% Yahoo ownership
Already locked in as an NFC wild card, Seattle likely will travel to Dallas for the opening round of the playoffs, though a Week 17 loss plus a Vikings victory over the Bears would instead send the Seahawks to Chicago. Presumably hoping to avoid the tougher matchup, Pete Carroll confirmed Monday he won't rest starters against the Cardinals. Available in many leagues after Sunday's matchup with Kansas City, the Seahawks defense now lands in the best spot possible, playing host to an Arizona team that's given up the second most fantasy points to team defenses. With the Bills looking borderline competent of late, the Cardinals have become the premier matchup for D/ST streaming, limited by Josh Rosen's erratic play behind a terrible offensive line. Meanwhile, the Seattle defense is No. 10 in fantasy scoring, averaging 9.0 points at home and 6.3 on the road.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)
55% Yahoo ownership
Jeff Driskel hasn't been quite as bad as I expected, yielding 11 sacks and three turnovers in four starts while guiding the Bengals to a 1-3 record. On the other hand, he's produced just 5.7 yards per pass attempt as a starter, and his athleticism hasn't translated to rushing production (17 carries for 68 yards). This may be the week when he finally crumbles, heading into a hostile environment against an angry team that probably believes it was cheated out of a win (and possibly a playoff berth) by some sketchy officiating during Sunday's 31-28 loss in New Orleans. Now needing a win along with some help from Cleveland, the Steelers still have something to play for Week 17. Oddsmakers apparently buy into the idea of a romp, listing the Bengals as 16.5-point underdogs with a measly implied total of 14.5.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (at Washington Redskins)
52% Yahoo ownership
Josh Johnson is another backup quarterback who has surpassed some extremely modest expectations, but he's still a good target to pick on with D/ST streaming, considering the Redskins yielded nine or more fantasy points to each of their last six opponents. Now left with no shot at a playoff berth while their Week 17 opponent has everything on the line, Washington is listed as a 6.5-point home underdog with an implied total of just 17.5. The Eagles have a weak group of cornerbacks, but the rest of the defense has really picked things up over the past five weeks (4-1 record), piling up 14 sacks and nine takeaways.
4. Buffalo Bills (vs. Miami Dolphins)
34% Yahoo ownership
The Dolphins have completely collapsed since the Miami Miracle in Week 14, getting outscored 58-24 in back-to-back losses to the Vikings and Jaguars. Now left with nothing to play for besides maybe Adam Gase's job, the Dolphins will finish out another mediocre season in Buffalo, where we should see sub-freezing temperatures and possibly some snows. Coming off a three-takeaway performance Sunday in New England, the underrated Bills defense may end up facing Fales or Brock Osweiler at some point in Sunday's game. The Dolphins are 3.5-point underdogs with an implied total of 17.5.
5. New York Giants (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
18% Yahoo ownership
The Giants have come back to earth from an unexpected second-half surge, but they do have an excellent opportunity to finish their season on a high note, playing host to a team that's locked in as the No. 4 seed in the NFC. Jason Garrett might decide to open the game with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper in the lineup, but it's a safe bet we'll see Cooper Rush, Darius Jackson and Noah Brown after halftime (and likely sooner). While the Big Blue defense hasn't done much to inspire confidence this season, it still figures to have a clear edge playing against backups in a cold-weather home game.
Week 17 Rankings
1. Houston Texans (vs. JAC)
2. Seattle Seahawks (vs. ARI)
3. Los Angeles Rams (vs. SF)
4. Baltimore Ravens (vs. CLE)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. CIN)
6. Chicago Bears (at MIN)
7. Philadelphia Eagles (at WAS)
8. New England Patriots (vs. NYJ)
9. Minnesota Vikings (vs. CHI)
10. Buffalo Bills (vs. MIA)
11. Los Angeles Chargers (at DEN)
12. New York Giants (vs. DAL)
13. Green Bay Packers (vs. DET)
14. Kansas City Chiefs (vs. OAK)
15. Cleveland Browns (at BAL)
16. Indianapolis Colts (at TEN)
17. Miami Dolphins (at BUF)
18. Jacksonville Jaguars (at HOU)
19. New Orleans Saints (vs. CAR)
20. Carolina Panthers (at NO)