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.
**Carolina, Denver, Seattle all have good matchups this week, but they are presumed to be owned in all leagues**
Week 1 Results
Washington (vs Pittsburgh) - 1 sack, 1 INT
Well, the good news this week is that it was a desert of D/ST scoring, with only two double-digit scores from the whole field of 32. After a strong start, the Steelers offense settled down and did just about whatever they wanted for the final three quarters. Looks like Washington will remain a defense to target for our offensive players, but maybe best left untargeted as a rent-a-defense.
A Look Ahead: DAL @NYG CLE - D/STs don’t get points for forcing field goals, so we’ll throw them back.
Detroit (at Indianapolis) - 2 sacks, 1 safety
The Colts line was a lot better than expected and they were able to hold Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata and company at bay for most of the game. Only a fluke safety at the end of the game kept the Lions from being a cellar dweller.
A Look Ahead: TEN @GB @CHI - Apparently “exotic smashmouth” means “give up two defensive scores”, so we might look at Lions later in this column.
Cleveland (at Philadelphia) - 2 sacks
The Browns defense looked weak against a rookie quarterback who barely played in the preseason. Let’s give Carson Wentz some credit, and let’s promise to not use the Browns D/ST again this year.
A Look Ahead: BAL @MIA @WAS - Nope.
Green Bay (at Jacksonville) - 3 sacks, 1 INT
Blake Bortles was pretty strong in this game. The Packers stout run defense gets no credit in the D/ST fantasy stat line, although it was still a solid game for a depleted front three. The Packers were actually a top half of the league D/ST, so there’s that.
A Look Ahead: @MIN @DET BYE - If this game was in Lambeau, Green Bay would be on our target list, but it’s not.
Tennessee (vs Minnesota) - NADA. ZILCH. BUPKIS.
Right game, wrong team happens sometimes in rent-a-defense. This one hurts as the Vikings were the only strong D/ST play this week and could have swung some matchups. The Titans were almost flawless on offense to begin and then the “exotic” took over, not to mention a terrible decision by Marcus Mariota, and all hell broke loose. Shaun Hill took care of the ball, and even though Adrian Peterson never got out of neutral, the Titans defense could do nothing to help when this game got away from Tennessee.
A Look Ahead: @DET OAK @HOU - One and done for the Titans.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Minnesota (at Tennessee) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 DEF TDs
The Vikings defense wasn’t dominant by any stretch, but they did have the good fortune to have Marcus Mariota throw a pass and drop a handoff where there would be no one between the Vikings defender who found the ball and the end zone.
San Francisco (vs Los Angeles) - 2 sacks, 2 INT, 0 points allowed
Week 2 Candidates
NEW YORK JETS (AT BUFFALO)
Sammy Watkins may or may not play, but even if he does, we can feel somewhat confident that he won’t be himself. The Bills have basically LeSean McCoy (who will be thwarted by the Jets stiff run defense) and… and… well not much to their advantage on offense. Even though this is a road game, the aggressive Jets defense should be able to box in the Bills offense and force their hand into multiple mistakes. The Bills best offensive lineman, left tackle Cordy Glenn, could also be out for this one.
A Look Ahead: @KC SEA @PIT - This trio of matchups doesn’t offer much appeal, but if the Jets defensive line stays red hot, we might consider them at Arrowhead.
Oakland (vs Atlanta)
The Raiders didn’t do much to slow down New Orleans, but that was in the Superdome. At home against a Falcons team that plays its home games indoors, the Raiders could feed off of the Black Hole crowd and trigger a Khalil Mack/Bruce Irvin feeding frenzy. Derek Carr and the offense has the right stuff to stake the team to a lead against the weak Falcons defense.
A Look Ahead: @TEN @BAL SD - If Marcus Mariota and company have another week of epic blunders, we may use the Raiders on the road.
Pittsburgh (vs Cincinnati)
The Steelers don’t have much in the way of talented playmakers at any level of the defense, but they do have the home crowd, an offense that should allow them to play from ahead, or at least force the issue in tempo and game script, and they are facing a familiar quarterback with an unfamiliar hole in the middle of the offensive line. Dalton has thrown multiple picks three of the last four times he has come to Heinz Field.
A Look Ahead: @PHI KC NYJ - If Carson Wentz is unmasked to any extent on Monday Night, we might stick with the Steelers
Detroit (vs Tennessee)
The Lions were not able to make Andrew Luck cowardly in Week 1, but Marcus Mariota had enough scarecrow plays that the Vikings put their owners over the rainbow. Detroit is at home, their offense is clicking, and the Titans don’t seem comfortable playing from behind. That’s enough to give Detroit consideration as a rent-a-defense this week.
A Look Ahead: @GB @CHI PHI - Lambeau is no place to play a visiting D/ST.
New York Giants (vs New Orleans)
The Giants poured a ton of money into their defense, and the results were improved in forcing field goals and stopping a fierce running game. When Drew Brees lays eggs, it usually happens on the road outdoors. Be careful if you are in a league where points allowed can produce negative points for your D/ST because the last time these two met, the score was 52-49.
A Look Ahead: WAS @MIN @GB - If Kirk Cousins struggles this week, we might look at the Giants in Week 3.
Week 3 Preemptive Pickups
If you like to devote two roster spots to a D/ST, or you suspect other teams are going to stream defenses this year, you might want to grab a top option for next week to stash away. Here are the best ones to target:
Tampa Bay (vs Los Angeles)
New York Giants (vs Washington)
Miami (vs Cleveland)
Green Bay (vs Detroit)