The Defenses and Special Teams Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
Sky’s the Limit
Here are the top two D/STs per our median projections:
- Detroit Lions ($2,900 DraftKings; $4,200 FanDuel)
- Denver Broncos ($3,600 DraftKings; $4,800 FanDuel)
The Lions will take on a Cardinals team that has lost three starting offensive linemen to injured reserve and released starting right tackle Andre Smith a few weeks ago. Overall, they’ve struggled to protect their quarterback, ranking 23rd in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. This spot for the Lions defense sets up well considering the Cardinals are implied for just 19 points and the Lions rank second in adjusted sack rate.
The Broncos check in with a sack projection of three, the second-highest mark among Week 14 defenses on the main slate. This isn’t surprising given their advantage in the trenches. The 49ers’ 25th-ranked offensive line in adjusted sack rate will be tasked with slowing down Von Miller and a Broncos defense which ranks third in the same metric.
Shoot the Gap
Dallas Cowboys ($2,600 DraftKings; $3,700 FanDuel): The Cowboys defense has hit its stride this season, allowing opposing offenses to score at the fifth-lowest rate in the league. The Cowboys rank 12th in sacks per game (2.75) and ninth in sack rate, but they’ve done well at generating pressure, sporting the fourth-highest pressure, per Sports Info Solutions. The Eagles-Cowboys game also sets up like a low-scoring affair given the Eagles and Cowboys rank 27th and 28th, respectively, in pace of play. The Cowboys +3.49 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel leads all main slate defenses.
Arizona Cardinals ($2,300 DraftKings; $3,700 FanDuel): The Cardinals are small 3-point underdogs against the Lions as of writing (see live data here), but Arizona could be a viable punt option in tournaments. The Cardinals lead the slate with a 3.1 sack projection and rank sixth in adjusted sack rate, while the Lions are implied for a paltry 21.5 points.
Buffalo Bills ($3,200 DraftKings; $4,200 FanDuel): The Bills have been stingy this season, allowing just 4.9 yards per play, which is tied with the Bears and ranks just behind the Ravens. Buffalo has the luxury of being at home, where the Bills have been reliable this season, averaging a +1.24 DraftKings Plus/Minus. It’s hard to imagine the Jets putting up an abundance of points as they’re implied for a meager 17.5 in a tough game environment against a defense that ranks 10th in adjusted sack rate.
Los Angeles Chargers ($3,500 DraftKings; $4,600 FanDuel): The Chargers are more of a tournament than a cash-game option because their pass-rush has been disappointing this season, ranking 28th in adjusted sack rate. Although, it didn’t help that Joey Bosa missed most of the season. Still, since Bosa has been back, the Chargers rank 31st in pressure rate and sack rate. However, they warrant consideration against a Bengals team that’s without A.J. Green (toe) and Andy Dalton (thumb) but with a slate-low 17-point implied team total.
Pittsburgh Steelers ($3,000 DraftKings; $4,700 FanDuel): The Steelers might have one of the biggest mismatches on the board. The Raiders’ offensive line ranks 27th in adjusted sack rate, while the Steelers rank first in adjusted sack rate, second in pressure rate and first in sacks per game. Further, the Steelers are 11-point favorites as of writing: Defenses with comparable spreads have historically averaged 10.30 DraftKings points per game with a +1.76 Plus/Minus (per our Trends tool).
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Pictured above: Von Miller
Photo credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports