Is it too early to start streaming defenses? Well, if you read our preseason D/ST tiers and draft strategy article, then you already know our answer is a resounding, “no.” We always advocate playing matchups when it comes to start ’em-sit ’em decisions at this position. Of course, it’s tough to play matchups in the opening week because we don’t really know how good or bad offenses and defenses are. Truthfully, we probably won’t have a great idea until the end of the month, and even then, the sample size is small. Still, that didn’t stop us from putting together our Week 1 fantasy defense rankings, which, yes, are influenced by matchups.
They’re not all about matchups, though. The Buccaneers and Steelers, two of our top-three preseason D/STs, are still right on the start-sit bubble despite games against potentially high-scoring opponents Dallas and Buffalo, respectively. The Ravens, our preseason No. 1, are down to No. 8 against a solid Raiders offense, while preseason top-10 defenses Buffalo (vs. Steelers), Washington (vs. Chargers), and Indianapolis (vs. Seattle) are well outside the starters tier because of tough matchups.
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Of course, if you drafted them and they’re your only D/ST (likely), you’ll probably feel like you have to play them. That’s fine. They’re at least very talented. They could get a pick-six, return TD, or rack up a couple takeaways and a few sacks. Defense can be a bit random, as much as we like to think we can predict it. But other decent D/STs, like the Packers (vs. Saints), Broncos (@ Giants), and Chargers (@ Washington), are possibly sitting on your waiver wire and take on notoriously turnover-prone quarterbacks. There’s no guarantee these defenses will produce, but….Russell Wilson or Jameis Winston? Josh Allen or Ryan Fitzpatrick? Justin Herbert or Daniel Jones? Which QBs would you rather have your D/STs going against?
A few other popular sleeper defenses that you might have drafted late are definitely off limits in Week 1. The Saints (vs. Green Bay), Cardinals (@ Titans), and Browns (@ Chiefs) are major risks. You’re better off taking a risk with the Jets (@ Panthers), Panthers (vs. Jets), or Eagles (@ Falcons).
Week 1 is tough. You don’t want to cut a sleeper RB or WR so you can stream a defense this early, but we’ve all lost matchups because of a 10-point difference in our D/ST vs. our opponents’. Defense isn’t like running back or wide receiver where a supremely talented player can produce decent stats with a short TD and a bunch of touches, which isn’t uncommon for the best of the best. Defense requires more to really pay off, and you wouldn’t go into a week starting a flex in a terrible matchup if you had a similar option with a much better matchup.
The waiver wire is full of other worthwhile options at defense, so at least consider it. If streaming isn’t your thing, more power to you. Start your drafted D/ST and hope for the best. It’s the beginning of a new season, so you have to embrace the “anything is possible” mentality. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’ll do our best to help you out as much as possible.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings as needed throughout the week. so check back for the latest movement and analysis.