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.

Divisional Round Defenses

With just eight teams left in the playoffs, most of them offensive juggernauts, I decided to mix up the format of this column and provide quick blurbs on the good (if any) and bad aspects to each defense. So, let’s get to it!

New Orleans Saints ($3,300 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel)

The good: The Saints lead the slate in our Median Projections and they face the team with the second-lowest implied team total (21.0) on the slate. Additionally, the Saints rank third in adjusted sack rate, third in pressure rate and fifth in sacks per game this season. Given they’re eight-point favorites, Nick Foles could be forced back to drop a fair amount, resulting in plenty of sack opportunities for the Saints defense.

Credit: Scott Clause/The Advertiser via USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: P.J. Williams (26), Kurt Coleman (29), Taylor Stallworth (76), Eli Apple (25), Demario Davis (56), Marcus Williams (43).

The bad: They’re playing in the Superdome, where defenses have historically averaged 5.38 DraftKings points per game with a -1.09 DraftKings Plus/Minus. And, Nick Foles has been pressured on just 30% of his dropbacks this season, while being sacked on merely 13.5% of those pressures.

Los Angeles Rams ($3,000 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel)

The good: The Cowboys are right around the league average in yards per play and scoring rate this season and per our Trends tool, favorited defenses against offenses with comparable implied team totals have averaged 9.20 DraftKings points per game with a +1.12 DraftKings Plus/Minus.

The Rams are also the best team in the league at generating pressure, sporting a 38.4% pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions. Their push rush could find success against this offensive line since it ranks 28th in adjusted sack rate.

The bad: The 6.0 yards per play allowed on defense is tied for the fifth-highest mark in the league, trailing only the Raiders, Bengals, Bucs and Dolphins.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys boast the 10th-lowest turnover rate in the league, and even though the Rams excel at generating pressure, they’ve been mediocre at getting sacks, ranking 19th in adjusted sack rate and 15th in sacks per game. Although, that could change as Dak Prescott has been sacked on 23.8% of his dropbacks that he’s been pressured on, the 10th-highest rate in the league, per Pro Football Focus.

New England Patriots ($2,600 DraftKings; $4,700 FanDuel)

The good: The Patriots are allowing the fourth-lowest scoring rate to opposing offenses.

The bad: The Patriots have zero ability to get to the quarterback, ranking 30th in adjusted sack rate and 31st in sacks per game. In fact, their 1.88 sacks per game is tied with the Giants and only the Raiders (0.81) had a worse mark. From a clean pocket, Philip Rivers has a 75.1% completion rate, 85.1% on-target rate and 9.1 yards per attempt.

Kansas City Chiefs ($2,500 DraftKings; $4,600 FanDuel)

The good: The Chiefs defense has been stellar at Arrowhead, averaging 10.38 DraftKings points per game with a +2.73 Plus/Minus since 2014. They’ve also been slightly better than average at generating pressure, ranking 13th in pressure, and they’re first in the league in sacks per game (3.31).

The bad: The Colts’ offensive line has done a tremendous job at protecting Andrew Luck, allowing him to be pressured on just 29.3% of his dropbacks and getting sacked on 8.6% of those pressures. Also, the Chiefs defense can be exploited as they’ve allowed the fifth-highest scoring rate to opposing offenses while the Colts own the sixth-highest scoring rate this season. If the Colts’ offensive line continues to hold up, the Chiefs defense likely has a rather low floor.



Los Angeles Chargers ($2,400 DraftKings; $4,300 FanDuel)

The goodThe Chargers have some excellent pieces on defense in Melvin IngramJoey BosaCasey Hayward and Derwin James. Overall, the Chargers rank inside the top-10 in yards per play and scoring rate allowed, but there are issues as a team when it comes to being fantasy-viable.

The bad: Since Week 11 (when they got Bosa back), the Chargers rank 31st in pressure rate and 31st in sacks per game. This doesn’t bode well for them when the Patriots’ offensive line ranks first in adjusted sack rate and has the fourth-lowest turnover rate in the league. If the Chargers aren’t getting sacks and the Patriots aren’t turning the ball over, it’s going to be hard for them to score fantasy points.

Dallas Cowboys ($2,200 DraftKings; $4,200 FanDuel)

The good: The Cowboys have some great defensive players in Byron Jones, Demarcus LawrenceLeighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but they’re not a very good fantasy defense in this spot. While they rank seventh in pressure rate, they’ve failed to turn those pressures into sacks.

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) and linebacker Jaylon Smith (54).

The bad: The Cowboys will be on the road as 7.5-point underdogs against one of the league’s best offenses. The Rams’ 48.6% scoring rate trails only the Saints and Chiefs this season, and they have one of the best pass-blocking units with an offensive line that ranks sixth in adjusted sack rate. Meanwhile, the Cowboys defense ranks 27th in adjusted sack rate.

Indianapolis Colts ($2,100 DraftKings; $4,000 FanDuel)

The good: The Colts have a solid run defense, ranking fourth in rush DVOA this season, but DT Denico Autry still isn’t practicing and having a good run defense doesn’t do anything for fantasy purposes.

The bad: They’re on the road in Arrowhead against Patrick Mahomes and an offense that has scored on a league-high 52.6% of their drives. The Colts also rank 20th in pressure rate and 29th in adjusted sack rate.

Philadelphia Eagles ($2,000 DraftKings; $4,000 FanDuel)

The goodThe Eagles rank 11th in sacks per game and pressure rate, but that’s about it.

The bad: They’ll have a tough task of containing an offense that ranks only behind the Chiefs in scoring rate and has the fifth-lowest turnover rate. Even though the Eagles have been serviceable at generating pressure, the Saints’ offensive line has done well at protecting Brees, allowing him to be pressured on just 25.7% of his dropbacks and sacked on 13% of those pressures.

Be sure to check out our industry-leading NFL News and Models, along with our Multi-Lineup Builder, Stack builder, ownership projections and more. Also, make sure to check out our other tools for the 2018 season, including the Matchups pageDFS Contests DashboardNFL Ownership page, and NFL Correlations page.

Pictured above: Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh
Photo credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports