Team Defenses with Favorable Opening Schedules (Fantasy Football)
This is the 3rd year that I’ve written this article and it will be the 3rd year that I start it with the same advice: Don’t draft a DEF/ST. You are much better off adding lottery ticket players at the end of your draft. If you’re forced to add your DEF/ST, or just feel like you have to, do not do so before the last two rounds of your draft. Haters will bring up how dominant the New England Patriots were last year…and they are proving my point. The Patriots DEF/ST were being drafted in the 14th Round last year. The teams you’re about to read about have ADPs all over the map. While some of them are great choices, you still shouldn’t take any of them before the 14th Round, if they fall to you, great, but when drafting a defense, you should look at them as an option for the first week or two, not a full-season investment. Even the Patriots were the DEF15 over the last eight games.
Baltimore Ravens (ADP: DEF2, 10th Round)
Opening Schedule: vs CLE, @ HOU, vs KC, @ WAS, vs CIN
In an article I wrote earlier this summer, I named the Ravens as the most likely team to be 2020’s Patriots DEF/ST, and their opening schedule has a lot to do with that. The Browns should improve but they were the #2 team in turnovers last year and both run the ball so much this could be a low scoring same, good for D/ST. Houston lost DeAndre Hopkins and still has a lot of questions on offense. Kansas City is a bad matchup but Washington and Cincinnati more than makeup for that in Weeks 4 and 5. All in all, it’s solid games in four of their first five. Even without Earl Thomas, Baltimore should have a great first month.
Indianapolis Colts (ADP: DEF18, 14th Round)
Opening Schedule: @ JAX, vs MIN, vs NYJ, @CHI, @ CLE, vs CIN
The Colts have the talent and schedule to be the DEF1 after the first two months of the season. If they can handle Minnesota in Week 2, there really isn’t a bad matchup in their first six games. Jacksonville is primed to improve but will be held back by their own defense. Minnesota is an efficient team but will start the season with no true WR2. The Jets are led by Adam Gase and a perfect D/ST matchup, the Browns can go either way but will turn the ball over, and the Bengals have a rookie QB and suspect OLine. This Colts defense was the DEF13 last year and has talent all over the field, not to mention one of the best running games in the league, which always helps a defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: DEF3, 10th Round)
Opening Schedule: @ NYG, vs DEN, vs HOU, @ TEN
The Steelers are kind of coin toss here. All four of their opening teams have a lot of question marks. The Giants should be better but were in the bottom-10 of turnovers and total yards last year. Denver was in the bottom-10 of points and total yards. Houston was bottom-10 in turnovers and sacks, the best two categories for D/ST, and Tennessee, while solid, likes to run and should keep the score low. Last year was rough for Pittsburgh, as their offense often put their D/ST in bad spots. The return of Ben Roethlisberger should change that and, if these four teams are as bad as they might be, the Steelers will have an excellent first month.
Buffalo Bills (ADP: DEF4, 11th Round)
Opening Schedule: vs NYJ, @ MIA
No team in the league has a better opening schedule than the Bills. It’s only two games, but the Jets and Dolphins are who you want in those two games. Miami was bottom-10 in just about every offensive category last year and the Jets were not much better. It gets kind of rough starting in Week 3 with the Rams but you will love your first two scores.
Chicago Bears (ADP: DEF5, 12th Round)
Opening Schedule: @ DET, vs NYG
The Bears were another team that I mentioned with Patriots’ potential and their opening schedule could rival Buffalo. The Lions and Giants were pretty bad last year but both are expected to be better in 2020. Both teams were in the bottom-10 in turnovers in 2019, which bodes well for the Bears and if Khalil Mack and Co can get after the QB as they did in 2018, the Bears will be a force to be reckoned with in 2020.
New England Patriots (ADP: DEF6, 12th Round)
Opening Schedule: vs MIA
It’s only one game, but you couldn’t ask for a better opening opponent…and somehow the best fantasy D/ST we’ve seen in 15 years is surprisingly affordable. The Patriots are likely to have a Week 1 blowout but will be a rough play for the next four weeks and then have an early bye week. They’re very unlikely to live up to their 2019 standards. If you do draft New England, try to trade them to a less savvy owner before their Week 2 matchup in Seattle.
San Francisco 49ers (ADP: DEF1, 9th Round)
Opening Schedule: vs ARI, @ NYJ, @ NYG, vs PHI, vs MIA
The talent and schedule are just about perfect but the draft price is RIDICULOUS. I can’t, in good faith, tell you to add your DEF in single-digit rounds. Week 1 vs the Cardinals is less than ideal but then you get depleted offenses and high turnover rates for the rest of your first month. The 49ers are likely to be the DEF1 in 2020, but you have to pay for that hope.
Cleveland Browns (ADP: DEF20, 14th Round)
Opening Schedule: @ BAL, vs CIN, vs WAS
You have to get past 2019’s best QB in Week 1, but the next two are worth the wait. You’ll either need to roster two DEFs or suffer through Week 1 but after you get past the Ravens you get a rookie QB and a Washington team that was bottom-10 in points, yards, and sacks allowed in 2019.
Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: DEF22, 15th Round)
Opening Schedule: @ WAS, vs LAR, vs CIN
The Eagles DEF added more talent this offseason but the fact remains that they were DEF15 last year and did not look very good. Weeks 1 and 3 are great for fantasy, but the Eagles may not be great enough to take advantage.