Fantasy Football: Defenses With Favorable Opening Schedules

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I will start this article with a suggestion (and link to my previous article): DON’T DRAFT A DEFENSE. The only exception to this rule is if your league requires you to fill your roster or if you are drafting after the 4th preseason game and teams have made their final cuts. My primary reasoning here is that DEF/ST is unpredictable and usually score the same amount of points. Your DEF/ST should be a revolving door as you start the team playing the worst offenses every week. Work the waiver wire diligently and you should be fine all season without wasting a draft pick. Use that pick on a lottery ticket and trade bait before the season starts. However, once Week 1 is upon us, you will have to start someone. So, here are a few teams that have opening schedules that should benefit their fantasy defense.

Check out where Andy, Mike, and Jason’s defensive unit rankings for 2017.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2016 DEF/ST Fantasy Rank: 14th   Current DEF/ST ADP: 12th
Opening Schedule: @ CLE, vs MIN, @ CHI, @ BAL, vs JAX

My intention when researching these teams was to just look at the first 3 weeks and look for teams with 2 to 3 good matchups. The Steelers might have 5 great matchups to start the year. The QBs they face to open the season are as follows: Kizer, Bradford, Glennon, Flacco, and Bortles. Yes, Yes, Yes, Meh, Yes, please! The addition of TJ Watt makes me think they are going to get after the QB this year and they are projected to score the most fantasy points of any DEF/ST over the first 5 weeks. Not bad for a team going as the 12th defense off the board.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Editor’s Note: The Buccaneers/Dolphins game was moved to Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma. 

2016 DEF/ST Fantasy Rank: 6th   Current DEF/ST ADP: 14th
Opening Schedule: @ MIA, vs CHI, @ MIN, vs NYG

For the most part, I will be focusing on the opposing QBs and Tampa has to like what they see. Jay Cutler hasn’t played since last November, had a limited preseason, and averages more than one interception per game over his career. This defense should be very familiar with Mike Glennon and Sam Bradford isn’t scaring anyone. Whether you start them again in Week 4 will take some time to decide. If Eli is throwing picks, the Bucs should get you through September without many lumps.

Buffalo Bills

2016 DEF/ST Fantasy Rank: 13th   Current DEF/ST ADP: 18th
Opening Schedule: vs NYJ

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There won’t be too many times I’ll tell you to start the Buffalo defense in 2017 but they may be the “Start of the Week” in the opening weekend. The Jets offense may be the worst the NFL has ever seen and it’s not rocket science to tell you to start the DEF/ST that is playing them. In all honesty, the best DEF/ST strategy for 2017 is “start whoever is playing the Jets.”

Al Pereira/ Getty Images

Carolina Panthers

2016 DEF/ST Fantasy Rank: 5th   Current DEF/ST ADP: 9th
Opening Schedule: @ SF, vs BUF

Full disclosure, you may have to draft Carolina and I do not recommend that. But if they are there for you in the last round or free agency, their first 2 weeks look good. I don’t love that they travel cross-country in Week 1, but if there was ever a week when that was negligible, it’s Week 1. Carolina’s offense should give San Fran all that they can handle and that should make things easier for this defense. Week 2 brings the fire-sale that is the Buffalo Bills. Neither of these 2 offenses has more than 1 or 2  playmakers and that lack of firepower should play out well for the Panthers over the first 2 weeks.

Atlanta Falcons

2016 DEF/ST Fantasy Rank: 9th   Current DEF/ST ADP: 15th
Opening Schedule: @ CHI

Another one week start to begin the season. The Falcons are free in drafts after performing rather well in 2016. The open their season with the Chicago Bears and Mike Glennon. Outside of Jordan Howard, the cupboard is bare in Chicago. The addition of Dontari Poe bolsters what is becoming an excellent front 7 in Atlanta and I think they will be able to slow Howard if he’s all they have to worry about.

Hopefully this has shown you why it’s safe to wait on DEF/ST in your draft. At least 3 great Week 1 plays will probably be available on your waiver wire come opening Sunday. And since you now realize that streaming DEF/ST is the way to go, don’t forget to check back every week as I will be giving you a weekly team defense recap and Start/Sits all season long.