Unless most of the teams in your league carry a backup defense, more than half of the league should be available to you every week. Perhaps instead of playing one above average defense every week, regardless of matchup, we should instead target the widely available waiver wire defenses with the best matchups in any particular week? You can always make exceptions if your rent-a-defense gets hot - heck, you might find a team worth starting all year by accident. Even if you don't, good matchups will continue to get greater in number as more QBs get injured or yanked as the season goes on. You can steal some points from bad weather come December. Each week I'll list the startable fantasy defenses on most waiver wires and rank them.
**Arizona and Seattle have great Week 2 matchups, but are assumed to be owned in most leagues**
Week 1 Results
Pittsburgh (at Cleveland) - 7 sacks, 1 INT, 1 ST TD
A punt block score and relentless pressure on DeShone Kizer created the big D/ST we were looking for, plus an outstanding debut by OLB TJ Watt
A Look Ahead: MIN @CHI @BAL - The Vikings offense looked like one of the best in the league in Week 1. Pass.
Carolina (at San Francisco) - 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 3 pts allowed
A Look Ahead: BUF NO @NE - The Bills offense looked viable against the Jets and head coach Sean McDermott coached this defense last year, so they are a pass and throw back to the wire D/ST.
Los Angeles Rams (vs Indianapolis) - 4 sacks, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 2 DEF TD, 1 safety
Scott Tolzien was a gift that kept on giving in this game, throwing two easy pick sixes to fuel the Rams to one of the top two scores this week in every format.
Buffalo (vs New York Jets) - 1 sack, 2 INT
Josh McCown was actually competent and did a lot in the short passing game, keeping this from being a laugher and D/ST bonanza.
A Look Ahead: @CAR DEN @ATL - Toss em back when they aren’t facing the Jets.
Cincinnati (vs Baltimore) - 1 sack, 1 INT
Had the wrong side of this one as the Bengals line was much, much worse than the hastily assembled Ravens offense.
A Look Ahead: HOU @GB @CLE - Hello Deshaun Watson on a short week of prep! Worth a look.
Atlanta (at Chicago) - 4 sacks
A Look Ahead: GB @DET BUF Aaron Rodgers? No Thanks.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
Jacksonville (at Houston) - 10 sacks, 1 INT, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 DEF TD
Welcome to the elite, Jaguars D/ST. Just how elite may depend on how much this was a product of a poor Texans offensive line and quarterback play.
Baltimore (at Cincinnati) - 5 sacks, 4 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 0 pts allowed
The Ravens were high on their defense coming in and it appears the Bengals offensive line and Andy Dalton’s play behind it are worse than even the most pessimistic projections. We’ll continue to sort out just how much of this was the Ravens D excellence and Bengals offense incompetence this week.
Philadelphia (at Washington) - 4 sacks, 1 INT, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 DEF TD
Jim Schwartz’s group kept Kirk Cousins in his discomfort zone all day. They have a good test vs. the Chiefs this week.
Detroit (vs Arizona) - 1 sack, 3 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
Could it be that Carson Palmer is done?
Washington (vs Philadelphia) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
Ryan Kerrigan’s pick six carried the day for this D/ST
Week 2 Candidates
Baltimore (vs Cleveland)
This one is as simple as they come. An elite D/ST that was probably undrafted in most, if not all leagues, facing a rookie quarterback in his first road start who took seven sacks in his NFL debut.
A Look Ahead: @JAX PIT OAK - Blake Bortles is up next, so the Ravens will be a ride them while they’re hot D/ST
Oakland (vs New York Jets)
The Raiders D/ST didn’t create much against the Titans, but the home crowd in the Black Hole should create a feeding frenzy when the grounded Jets come to town.
A Look Ahead: @WAS @DEN BAL - If Kirk Cousins and Washington offense creates a good D/ST score for the Rams this week, we might stick with the Raiders in Week 3 despite the road game.
Jacksonville (vs Tennessee)
This unit has the look of an elite D/ST, and one that might not have been drafted in many leagues. This week they return home and face a much better offense than Houston, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t one of those mostly matchup-proof D/ST’s. The chance to ride them for most or all of the year increases the value of picking them up and playing them this week.
A Look Ahead: BAL @NYJ PIT - We will keep the Jaguars D/ST in as long as they produce
Cincinnati (vs Houston) **Thursday**
The Bengals defense is still missing Vontaze Burfict, but Adam Jones will be back as Deshaun Watson, who wasn’t prepped to start this summer, makes his first NFL start on a short week of rest in Week 2.
A Look Ahead: @GB @CLE BUF - Aaron Rodgers appearing on a schedule is our cue to drop a D/ST
Los Angeles Rams (vs Washington)
The Rams beat up the tomato can Colts offense. Washington is more formidable, but the Eagles went into their house and harassed Kirk Cousins all afternoon. Aaron Donald’s return and Wade Phillips’ effect on this defense could make this a good D/ST play.
A Look Ahead: @SF @DAL SEA - It’s a short week game on the road, but it’s also Brian Hoyer. The Rams could be a good hold.
Houston (at Cincinnati) **Thursday**
Why not? Andy Dalton was beyond terrible behind a line that wasn’t much better, JJ Watt plays for the Texans and the short week can make both offenses generous to opposing defenses. The Texans were likely drafted in most leagues, but could be dropped after a goose egg in every key defensive category in Week 1.
A Look Ahead: @NE TEN KC - If they weren’t dropped this week, the Texans D/ST will be dropped soon.
Week 3 Preemptive Pickups
Jacksonville (vs Baltimore)
Miami (at New York Jets)
Green Bay (vs Cincinnati)
New England (vs Houston)
Los Angeles Rams (at San Francisco)