Week 13 delivers another 10-game slate, this time with just three games in the late window so finding pivots to our lineups after roster lock could prove to be quite tricky. But the game of the week features the San Francisco 49ers going against the Philadelphia Eagles in what could be a preview of the NFC Championship game. As is the case with most of the 10-game slates we’ve had this year, we have some obvious smash spots for some plays while we have a handful of implied totals under 40 points. Let’s take a look at the top defenses and special teams to include in our NFL DFS lineups for Sunday’s main slate!


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NFL DFS D/ST Top Tier Picks

Miami Dolphins

This is one of the higher totals on the board and the Commanders do still have an implied team total of about 20 points as of Friday morning. With that said, the Miami Dolphins defense is certainly trending in the right direction and it seems there’s a direct correlation with the return of Jalen Ramsey. The Dolphins have held six of their last seven opponents to under 18 points on offense, and in those specific games they held those six opponents to under 300 yards of offense. We saw them collect seven sacks last Friday against the Jets. Sam Howell has seen at least four sacks in eight games this year and he’s thrown four interceptions in his last two games. It’s likely a better week to pay down at this position, but if I were to spend up I’d consider the Dolphins as this Vic Fangio-led defense has been playing much better of late.

NFL DFS D/ST Mid-Tier Picks

Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets

This game has the lowest implied total on the slate (34 points) and it’s likely due to the poor quarterback play. The New York Jets will once again run with Tim Boyle who had two interceptions and two fumbles last week so ball security is obviously a big issue. Desmond Ridder got the start last week and once again turned the ball over with two interceptions. Ridder, on the season, has eight interceptions and seven fumbles (six lost). This game will likely also have some rain in the forecast in New Jersey. There’s clear talent on both defenses that could keep the point total in this game way down. If playing any of the positional pieces I’d mostly want exposure to either team’s rushing attack and maybe sprinkle in some Garrett Wilson for all the volume he gets. But this looks like it could be the ugliest game on the slate with minimal scoring.

Cleveland Browns

Perhaps we overrate the Browns a bit because of one man’s presence, that man being Myles Garrett. While they were on the cover of last week’s D/ST Coach, I did try to emphasize that it felt like a trap game for Cleveland having to go to Denver, and sure enough, they didn’t play all that well. This week they’re in Southern California to play the Los Angeles Rams. Cooper Kupp is nursing an ankle injury, but he will play. We’ve seen the Browns in this spot a few times this year priced in the low $3K range and they can provide a decent score. Teams have been running on the Browns a bit more so that does give me some pause especially after Kyren Williams’ big game last week. They’ve been difficult to throw on though, and with the presence of Garret & Co. I’m fine taking the discount on this group once again.

NFL DFS D/ST Value Picks

Denver Broncos

I don’t know what’s gotten into Denver, but I can no longer fade this group. I understand they’re on the road playing the Houston Texans. They have 15 takeaways over their last four games and they’ve allowed 63 total points in that span against the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, and Cleveland Browns. They’ve been a challenge to throw on lately. Now that could pose a problem as we’ve seen the Texans offense really round into form lately. But even Stroud has six turnovers in his last three games. I’m mildly disregarding the total because the Texans are easy favorites on this slate, but what could play to Denver’s strength is their offense. With Russell Wilson operating more as a game manager, time of possession will be crucial. They can keep Houston’s offense from building momentum with long, sustained drives. C.J. Stroud is a gun slinger, but with Pat Surtain potentially shadowing Nico Collins, this is a spot I’m willing to take the discount on Denver.

I will also say that if you don’t like the Broncos at $2,700 on DraftKings, the New Orleans Saints are a good pivot for the same price. The Saints have a similarly difficult matchup at home against the Detroit Lions, who looked horrendous on Thanksgiving against the Green Bay Packers. The game features one of the higher implied totals, but we can look to the Saints in this spot as they do have a good defense and Jared Goff does have the occasional struggle on the road and he has turned it over six times in the last two games.

New England Patriots

This is the ultimate punt if there was one on this slate. The Patriots have returned at least five fantasy points in five straight games. If they can somehow provide a similar return at this price tag, we’ll take that and run. Playing the Patriots opens up salary elsewhere. They host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday and this is a cross-country game in the 1:00 pm ET window for the Bolts. So we already have the West coast team traveling East narrative and the Chargers are coming off a pretty difficult loss on Sunday Night Football where they scored a whopping 10 points and had 303 total yards of offense. Austin Ekeler doesn’t look very explosive and Quinton Johnston is performing poorly in his rookie year. The Patriots are beat up on defense, but they have the luxury of playing at home and it’ll be a colder game than normal for Los Angeles plus there could be rain and wind in the forecast. 

And if you need a value pivot to consider, in case the matchup against the Chargers makes you uncomfortable, I think we can go with the Carolina Panthers for $100 more on DraftKings. Their peripherals are awful. They have just one sack in their last three games and zero takeaways in that span. But their secondary is pretty tough to throw on having held five straight opposing quarterbacks to under 210 yards passing. Now they are very easy to run on and this is a road game in the late window. But consider this, if you’re in the need for pivots or more exposure to the late window, keep your options open and just plug a D/ST like the Browns from the 4:00pm ET games as a “filler” when rosters lock. That way, heading into the late window you may be able to open up more salary going to Carolina which could allow you to pivot to another piece in the San Francisco/Philadelphia game. For example, going from the Browns to the Panthers can help you go from D’Andre Swift to Brandon Aiyuk or possibly DeVonta Smith. The Panthers aren’t the sexiest play but it’s a game with an implied total of 37 points.


Los Angeles Rams

I’ll be completely honest, I had the Chargers as the fade in this section initially. I don’t love paying for the most expensive D/ST on the board when that defensive unit isn’t very good and is dealing with injuries as well. But I am a Patriots fan and know how bad that group looks right now as the team fights for the right to draft either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. So while I won’t personally play the Chargers, I won’t write them up as a fade either. Instead I’ll go to the other team in Southern California, the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have one game this year returning double-digit fantasy points and it was against the Arizona Cardinals and they only returned 10 points to fantasy managers. I’m operating as if P.J. Walker gets the start as Dorian Thompson-Robinson is still in concussion protocol. That may be an upgrade for the Rams as Walker can’t even complete 50% of his pass attempts. But the Rams just don’t quite do enough on defense to give me any confidence. Sure, the presence of Aaron Donald is great and he’s a problem offensive lines have to contend with. But they only have nine takeaways and 25 sacks on the year, while allowing about 20 points per game and 330+ yards of offense. We could see a run-heavy approach from Cleveland, especially after Walker came on in relief last week and took four sacks. But regardless, I just don’t love the upside for the Rams in this matchup and will easily look to a cheaper group. Update: The Brown will start Joe Flacco at quarterback on Sunday. Doesn't change my perception of the Rams as a fade too much.