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.
**Houston, Miami, Seattle, Denver, and the New York Jets all have nice matchups and are preferred to any rent-a-defense this week, but they were also likely drafted in the top 6-8 defenses, so they are assumed to not be available as a late pick D/ST**
Week 1 Targets
Arizona (vs New Orleans) - The Cardinals have the honey badger back at full speed, and they are playing at home, where they won every game not started by Ryan Lindley last year. Drew Brees can get a little loose with the ball when he falls behind and even though this is indoors, it will still be a very hostile road environment. The Cardinals were going in the top 10 at D/ST, so they might not be available.
A Look Ahead: @CHI SF STL - If this game goes well and the Bears are as bad as we think they are, this could be a good opening season run for the Cards.
Indianapolis (at Buffalo) - Colts games are going to be on the razor’s edge this year. If the opposition can play keep away and shorten games with long run-based drives, Andrew Luck and the offense might struggle to open up big leads and take the opposing offense out of their comfort zone. Alternatively, Luck and company can string together three or four play scoring drives and blow up that plan even with a quality running game by the opponents. Tyrod Taylor’s big reveal could be a zonk, and the Bills have weaknesses in the secondary to exploit. The other incentive here is that if Colts can control this road contest, the next four are also against weak quarterbacks that can break open like a piñata filled with sacks and turnovers.
A Look Ahead: NYJ @TEN JAX - 1. Open up a lead 2. Make opposing QBs fail 3. Profit
Philadelphia (at Atlanta) - We’ve seen the Eagles offense blitzkrieg opponents in Week 1 the last two years. We’ve seen Bradford look like RoboQB in this scheme in the preseason. We’ve seen the Falcons offensive line struggle mightily. Even though this one is on the road, the Eagles defense could have batting practice against the Falcons line if they are staked to a lead, not to mention more plays and possessions equals more chance at fantasy points. The Eagles were also the best special teams unit in the league at creating big plays. The Eagles were going in the top 10 D/ST in many drafts, so they may not be an option for the waiver wire or last D/ST drafted.
A Look Ahead: DAL @NYJ @WSH - Those Week 3 and 4 road matchups look prettay prettay good if the Eagles start hot
Green Bay (at Chicago) - Now we get to the dumpsterfire watch portion of our program. Yes, the Bears are at home, but that can make poor performances sting even more when the Soldier Field crowd gets a load of their team this year. It’s still Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery is hurting, the offensive line has been shuffled a bit, the defense won’t stop the Packers from doing much. This could be a real nightmare game for Da Bears.
A Look Ahead: SEA KC @SF - We’ll revisit the Packers when they travel to San Francisco if there’s smoke coming from under the 49ers’ hood.
Minnesota (at San Francisco) - Another road D/ST, another dumpsterfire watch. Mike Zimmer is just getting the Vikings defense how he likes it, the 49ers offense is still led by Colin Kaepernick, and Navorro Bowman can’t play all 11 positions for the 49ers defense. The 49ers home field is already known for not fostering a great home crowd, when they see what the York/Baalke regime has in store for them this year, a Napa wine tasting tour might show more spirit.
A Look Ahead: DET SD @DEN - A tough trio of opposing after this appetizer to open.
Week 2 Pre-emptive Pickups
New Orleans (vs Tampa Bay) - The Saints return home to the Superdome. They were beyond poor down the stretch there last year, but they get to face the banged-up and feeble Bucs offensive line spurred on by a crowd fueled by the excitement of a new season.
Indianapolis (vs New York Jets) - If the Colts are hit in Week 1, then they are a terrific play for Weeks 2-5, with the Jets, Tennessee (road), Jacksonville, and Houston (road) up next. They lead off with five of the worst quarterbacks in the league.
Cleveland (vs Tennessee) - The Browns have a good defense and the fans should be fired up for the home opener. Marcus Mariota might be a good NFL quarterback in time, but that time has not arrived yet. Cleveland also gets Derek Carr and the Raiders at home in Week 3, so this presents double dip possibilities. Even triple drip if you want to play them against the Jets on the road in Week 1.
Pittsburgh (vs San Francisco) - The Steelers defense is pretty bad. But by the time the Week 1 slate is over, we might have learned that the 49ers team is worse, and the Steelers offense is still pretty good without Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. The 49ers traveling east for the Steelers’ home opener could be a choice cut.