Roundtable: Your Defensive Portfolio

Which defense(s) are you targeting above your normal level of exposure? Or do you have one slam-dunk option you plan on riding in virtually every contest?

Defense/special teams is a great spot for GPP players to diversify their lineups from the field. That's especially true in weeks like this one that comes packed to the gills with juicy matchups. There'll be a lot of suboptimal quarterbacking on the field, and a handful of flat-out punchless offenses in general. Which defense(s) are you targeting above your normal level of exposure? Or do you have one slam-dunk option you plan on riding in virtually every contest?

Dan Hindery: There are definitely some nice plays at the top of the price range. But I've been finding myself gravitating toward the lower end of the pricing scale in tournaments, due to trying to fit in as many high-priced running backs and wide receivers as possible. 

Green Bay is one defense whom I will be overweight on in tournaments. First, they're going to come at low ownership because they struggled down the stretch last season and are involved in a game with an over/under of 51. I like low-owned defenses in general, and especially when I am getting into a different salary range (with most paying up for the top defenses).  Second, the Packers fit into a broad category that I like to target. In general, home favorites are the highest scoring defenses. There is less of a correlation with implied team totals than many think since very few of the fantasy points come from score-related factors. Most of the scoring plays come when the opposing team is forced to pass a lot and play from behind, more likely for underdogs. Third, there are some specific factors favoring Green Bay. In the last three meetings against the Packers, Russell Wilson has thrown 10 interceptions and taken 10 sacks. The Seattle line is beaten up and features multiple linemen making their first start as Seahawks.

James Brimacombe: There's no slam-dunk defense pick this week. One could argue the Bills defense against the Jets, but they are priced up already because of that. You could be sneaky and play the opposite side of that and go with the Jets defense on the cheap. My favorite defenses overall are the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, and Buffalo Bills. I will be dividing up my ownership at defense and playing about 20 percent of each.

Justin Howe: I'm glad someone else is thinking Jets. That game looks setup to be a nasty slugfest. The Jets offense will be historically bad, of course, but the Bills will probably join them toward the bottom.

That said, points scored isn't what we should be chasing in our defenses. They don't affect the fantasy score as much as we all think; splash plays are where it's at. Sacks and takeaways rule the roost with their hefty fantasy scoring - and units that consistently score touchdowns on defense and kick returns are a great GPP tilting factor. All of that makes the Rams a studly pick, with guru Wade Phillips squaring off against Scott Tolzien. The Bills and Steelers have cherry quarterback matchups as well. I'm also looking at the Falcons defense, which has blossomed into a high-impact unit and could really squeeze the woefully uninspiring Mike Glennon.

Jason Wood: I'm playing the Rams quite a bit, although Aaron Donald's holdout is causing me a bit of consternation. I love the Rams as a season-long defense thanks to Wade Phillips. Normally I would be reluctant to overvalue a single coach's impact on a unit, but Phillips is different. The veteran defensive play-caller has a history of improving every unit he takes over, and he generally leaves his team better off than he inherited it. 

The other thing I love about the Rams this week is how chalky Scott Tolzein is going to be because of his discounted preseason salary. I accept Tolzein as a value play, but I also think he's more than capable of completely crapping the bed. Let's remember the Colts traded real assets for Jacoby Brissett just a week ago. That's not something you do if you're comfortable with your backup quarterback. Combine that with center Ryan Kelly's injury, and I could see the Rams crushing the Colts and many DFS owners (who are counting on Tolzein) in the process.

John Mamula: There are a few defenses that peak my interest this week but not one that I will invest a heavy percentage (more than 25%) on in my GPP tournaments. I will be spreading out my exposure among the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, and Pittsburgh Steelers. All of these defenses are in a spot where they could generate multiple turnovers and perhaps a defensive touchdown.  I will also have a small percentage (less than 5%) of the Bengals and Vikings defenses in my tournaments.

Chris Feery: The Rams and the Texans are at the top of my list for Week 1. As Jason already indicated, adding Wade Phillips tends to lead to marked improvement on the defensive side of the ball. The Rams have some intriguing pieces in place to begin with, and I fully expect him to work his magic and make this into one of the top units in the league. For this week, Aaron Donald’s holdout is making me nervous as well, but the Rams should still have a field day with the Colts.

As for the Texans, Narrative Street leads us to an inspired performance as the Houston area comes together for a little breather after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. I already had the Texans circled for Week 1 when the schedule came out, but the expectation that the club will have even more pep in its step leads me to add several stars as well.

The Bills and Steelers are the other obvious choices, and I may have some exposure there as well. I’m a pretty big advocate for finding a contrarian defense to key in on for GPP lineups, but none are really jumping out for the opening week. The Bengals, Falcons, and Panthers are worthy of consideration, but I’ll be leaning heavily on the two defenses at the top of my list.

Justin Howe: The bottom line is that I love using defenses to diversify my portfolio. All DFSers agonize over a theoretical half-point difference between two wide receiver options, but they often just plug-and-play a defense, oblivious to the impact the position can have. I get why - defensive scoring is clustered tightly and less predictable than offensive positions - and I do that myself at times. But if I'm entering multiple lineups, I'm throwing in some low-owned teams in the hopes of banking a surprise touchdown or six-sack/three-interception week. Those differences can swing a lineup majorly.