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, Denver, Houston, Minnesota, Seattle have great matchups this week but are presumed to be owned in most leagues**
Week 3 Results
Miami (vs Cleveland) - 4 sacks, 1 fumble recovery
The Dolphins gave us a handful of points, but this was a disappointment. Hue Jackson coached his arse off getting Cody Kessler ready and using Terrelle Pryor on some quarterback snaps to keep the Dolphins off balance. We also learned that the Dolphins defense, despite holding down the Seahawks in Week 1, is just not very good
A Look Ahead: @CIN TEN PIT - No thanks.
Dallas (vs Chicago) - 2 fumble recoveries
The Cowboys controlled this game from beginning to end, but could not force Brian Hoyer into any big mistakes. As good as their running game is, as strong as Dak Prescott has been as a rookie fourth round starter, the Cowboys defense just lacks the punch to be a good fantasy play.
A Look Ahead: @SF CIN @GB - The 49ers only had one turnover in the blowout loss to the Seahawks last week. Look elsewhere.
Green Bay (vs Detroit) - 3 sacks, 1 Interception
In another game that gave us the perfect game script, the Packers let up on the Lions in the second half and allowed them back in the game. The Packers missing five key players on defense hurt their cause here, but for a half it looked like this could be a fantasy bonanza if Matthew Stafford started getting loose with the ball. He didn’t.
A Look Ahead: BYE NYG DAL - Bye bye
Tampa Bay (vs Los Angeles) - 1 sack, 1 fumble receovery, 1 interception, 1 DEF TD
Finally a hit as Kwon Alexander took Case Keenum to the house, making the Bucs one of the best D/ST plays of the week. The Bucs pass defense is terrible, so this could be the last time we turn to them this year.
A Look Ahead: DEN @CAR BYE - Even Trevor Siemian can easily move the ball against this defense.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Kansas City (vs NY Jets) - 6 INT, 2 fumble recoveries 1 DEF TD, 1 ST TD, 3 pts allowed
Ryan Fitzpatrick turned back into a pumpkin a month before Halloween. The Chiefs defense hasn’t woken up, but we will certainly give any team playing the Jets a second look when the matchup is good.
Buffalo (vs Arizona) - 5 sacks, 4 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 ST TD
The Bills flummoxed Carson Palmer all afternoon and came out of the locker room more fired up than anyone expected after a very poor pair of games to start the season.
Cleveland (at Miami) - 1 sack, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
Raise your hand if you had the Browns as the better D/ST play in this matchup.
New England (vs Houston) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, 0 pts allowed
Brock Osweiler looked like a backup quarterback, and not a good one. The Patriots quietly have assembled one of the best defenses in the league.
San Diego (vs Indianapolis) - 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT, 1 DEF TD
The Chargers aren’t known for their D/ST prowess and this was not a good matchup on the road, but perhaps they are turning the corner.
Atlanta (at New Orleans) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
Drew Brees is going to have to throw a ton to make up for the deficiencies in the Saints pass defense, so in leagues that don’t penalize for points/yards allowed, they could be an opponent to target.
Los Angeles (at Tampa Bay) - 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 DEF TD
It was not a dominant defensive performance by any means, but one Robert Quinn sack turned a potential scoring drive for Tampa into a score for the Rams and anyone that played their D/ST.
Week 4 Candidates
New England (vs Buffalo)
The Patriots should just be owned in every league and started in most games from here on out. This week against Tyrod Taylor and the Bills would be too good to pass up no matter who starts at quarterback. The Patriots defense has quality at every level, and starting next week, they will have Tom Brady to build big leads to nurse. Pick them up and play them this week just to secure them for the long haul.
A Look Ahead: @CLE CIN @PIT - The Patriots should be a top-ranked D/ST again next week.
Cincinnati (vs Miami) **Thursday**
The Bengals D/ST should have no problem notching some sacks and takeaways against a Miami offense that coughed up three giveaways and a defensive score to the ragtag Browns defense last week. The short week of preparation coming off of an overtime game should only hurt the Dolphins defense with the Bengals enjoying home cooking.
A Look Ahead: @DAL @NE CLE - The Cowboys haven’t been a generous offense, so we’ll move on after this week.
Washington (vs Cleveland)
The Browns were surprisingly effective against the Dolphins, but Miami still posted six points in most league formats. If Washington can build a lead in this one, they could fare better than the Dolphins, and Josh Norman is a pick six waiting to happen. Maybe it was Hue Jackson and Cody Kessler that deserve all of the credit, but we could also be looking back in a week and saying, wow the Dolphins defense is bad.
A Look Ahead: @BAL PHI @DET - Washington and Norman will go back to the waiver wire next week.
San Diego (vs New Orleans) -
The Chargers have been a tomato can defense in recent years, but they have assembled one of the best cornerback trios in the league and they are actually a top 10 D/ST to date in a lot of formats with at least four sacks+takeaways in every game this year. Drew Brees turns mortal on the road outdoors, and he’ll have to take chances to keep up with the points his defense gives up each week. The ballhawks in the Chargers secondary could have a quite a day Sunday.
A Look Ahead: @OAK DEN @ATL - The Chargers D/ST will go back to the waiver wire this week, but we could revisit them.
Week 5 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:
Los Angeles (vs Buffalo)
New England (at Cleveland)
Indianapolis (vs Chicago)
Green Bay (vs New York Giants)