Well, so much for all those things we thought we knew going into the season, right? Oh, sure, we got a few things right — the Lions and Jets are bad, the Seahawks and Cardinals offenses are lethal, and Urban Meyer might be in over his head — but ultimately, there were a ton of surprises (which isn’t really surprising). Of course, fantasy football owners think hey know it all now, which is even more dangerous. We try to maintain some levity with our Week 2 fantasy defense rankings, but let’s face it, we’re not immune from some overreaction, too. We always preach looking for D/ST sleepers and streamers anyway, but we’re still trying to be cautious as we approach the second week of the season.
For instance, are the Steelers terrible offensively or is the Bills defense just that tough? We’re not sold the Steelers present a “favorable” matchup yet, which is why we’re not vaulting the Raiders to top-15 status. Ditto for the Titans (at Seahawks) and Bills (at Dolphins). That said, we are pretty convinced that the rookie QBs in Jacksonville (vs. Browns) and New York (vs. New England) are going to continue to have growing pains, at least for a while.
Likewise, we’re not worried about the Tampa defense (vs. Falcons) or Indy’s (vs. Rams), though we don’t necessarily love their respective matchups this week.
And there’s that key word — matchups. That’s what it’s all about with D/ST. We certainly still have a lot to learn about both defenses and offenses, but there are a few things we know. It looks Daniel Jones and Jared Goff will continue to be generous to D/STs, which is why we have Washington (vs. Giants) and Packers (vs. Lions) so high despite the latter laying a complete egg against New Orleans. We don’t trust Sam Darnold or Jameis Winston fully yet, so the Saints (@ Panthers) and Panthers (vs. Saints) are both in play as streamers, too. We’re also going to pick on Taylor Heinicke (vs. Giants) every chance we get until he proves us wrong, and we like the Cardinals impressive pass rush enough to put them on the start-sit bubble against the Vikings.
Again, we’ll learn a lot more as we really dig into the numbers this week, but the bottom line is there’s never an excuse for playing a D/ST in a bad matchup — you know, once we figure out what constitutes such a thing.
Note: We’ll be updating these D/ST rankings as needed throughout the week. so check back for the latest movement and analysis.
Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 2: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football
|1||New England Patriots @ NYJ|
|2||Los Angeles Rams @ IND|
|3||Washington Football Team vs. NYG|
|4||Denver Broncos @ JAX|
|5||New York Giants @ WAS. The Giants were less than impressive in Week 1 (two sacks, takeaway), but a Thursday night matchup against Taylor Heinicke in Washington should energize them. Heinicke was fairly efficient in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick (hip) last week, but he’s the type of inexperienced QB who could be rattled by the short week and New York’s big-play secondary.|
|6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. ATL. Tampa gave up its fair share of yards and scores to the Cowboys pass-happy attack, but after Atlanta was held completely in check by the Eagles (six points, 260 total yards), we expect the Bucs to show why they were considered a top-tier D/ST in virtually every draft this year.|
|7||New Orleans Saints @ CAR. The Saints thoroughly dominated the Packers in Week 1 (two sacks, two INTs, three points allowed), so even without Marshon Lattimore (thumb), they have plenty of upside against Sam Darnold and the Panthers. Carolina allowed just one sack and a lost fumble against the Jets, but the level of competition is definitely tougher this week. Darnold is still Darnold after all, and the potential for him “seeing ghosts” against a decent defense is always high.|
|8||Green Bay Packers vs. DET. Green Bay was awful against Jameis Winston in Week 1; Detroit scored 33 points against the 49ers. The Packers seem too high, right? Maybe, but their defense isn’t that bad, and Detroit did most of its damage in garbage time. Prior to that, the Lions gave up three sacks, and Jared Goff threw a brutal pick-six. With this game being played in prime-time in Lambeau (Detroit’s personal house of horrors), we expect Green Bay to come out flying and live up to this ranking.|
|9||Carolina Panthers vs. NO. Jameis Winston might not be the same old Jameis, but we know he still has some turnovers in him. The big-play Panthers defense did work against Zach Wilson and the Jets in Week 1, racking up six sacks and an INT. They also allowed just seven points until a late garbage-time TD. This will be a much tougher test, but Carolina has the talent to cause problems for almost any team, especially at home.|
|10||Pittsburgh Steelers vs. LV. The Steelers proved the doubters (i.e., us) wrong for ranking them outside the top 10 last week, getting to Josh Allen for three sacks and a lost fumble while also blocking a punt for a TD. We still have them relatively low, but it’s largely because we like the matchups more for the teams above them and the Raiders tend to be an efficient offense. Pittsburgh obviously has the talent to put up fantasy points against anyone, but this will be another tough test.|
|11||Cleveland Browns vs. HOU. Tyrod Taylor and Houston looked good in their opener against Jacksonville, but we’re not yet sold on the Texans offense. Cleveland also impressed against Kansas City — for two-and-a-half quarters. Against Houston at home, the Browns should be better and ’cause all sorts of problems with their stellar pass rush.|
|12||Buffalo Bills @ MIA. Buffalo stymied Pittsburgh’s offense for most of last week, limiting the Steelers to 252 yards and 17 offensive points. Miami struggled against a similar defense in New England, scoring just 17 points. Tua Tagovailoa had his moments, but he took two sacks and threw one of the ugliest INTs you’ll see all year. Put it together, and Buffalo should once again be worth starting this week.|
|13||Arizona Cardinals vs. MIN. Minnesota allowed three sacks against the Bengals, but if you watched the game, Kirk Cousins was frequently under pressure. The Cardinals racked up six sacks — five alone from Chandler Jones — against the Titans. This has the makings of a wacky, big-play-filled Arizona home game/Cousins meltdown. We won’t go all-in on that happening, but Arizona’s pressure alone should force some mistakes from the Vikings.|
|14||Cincinnati Bengals @ CHI. Yes, this is a “Revenge Game” for Andy Dalton, but let’s face it — right now, he has to just worry about keeping his job. With Justin Fields turning the temp on the hot season up to 11, Dalton might wilt. The Bengals have a solid pass rush (three sacks, fumble recovery against Minnesota) and are capable to forcing their former signal-caller into some mistakes. Dalton took three sacks and turned it over twice against the Rams, and he figures to face a more hostile environment at home than on the road. This one could get ugly, putting Cincinnati squarely in the streamer discussion.|
|15||Philadelphia Eagles vs. SF. The Eagles are a classic question mark D/ST. Most (including us) assumed they were mediocre, at best, heading into Week 1. Then, they shut down the Falcons to the tune of just 260 total yards and six points. They also had three sacks. The 49ers are flying high after scoring a Week 1-high 41 points in Detroit, but a second straight road game in the Eastern time zone isn’t a fun way to start the season, especially when your top RB is out (Raheem Mostert, knee) and one of your top receivers barely played the week before (Brandon Aiyuk). Consider the Eagles a boom-or-bust flier this week.|
|16||Miami Dolphins vs. BUF. The Bills weren’t great last week, but that was against the vaunted Steelers. The Dolphins disappointed against a rookie QB (one sack, no INTs) but did manage to keep the score low and recover two fumbles. We still think Miami is an upper-tier D/ST, but this probably isn’t the matchup to use them, even after Buffalo’s struggles last week.|
|17||Indianapolis Colts vs. LAR. Indianapolis is another upper-tier defense that has had a tough opening-season schedule. There’s no shame in getting lit up by the Seahawks like the Colts did in Week 1, and it’s worth noting they still managed three sacks. The Rams steamrolled the Bears, so even with the long road trip, it’s tough to imagine Matthew Stafford and Co. struggling dramatically. Indy will need a big play or two to really pay off, and we just don’t think it’s worth betting on that unless you’re determined to not pick up a second D/ST.|
|18||Chicago Bears vs. CIN|
|19||San Francisco 49ers @ PHI|
|20||Seattle Seahawks vs. TEN|
|21||New York Jets vs. NE|
|22||Kansas City Chiefs @ BAL|
|23||Baltimore Ravens vs. KC|
|24||Los Angeles Chargers vs. DAL|
|25||Las Vegas Raiders @ PIT|
|26||Jacksonville Jaguars vs. DEN|
|27||Minnesota Vikings @ ARI|
|28||Dallas Cowboys @ LAC|
|29||Houston Texans @ CLE|
|30||Tennessee Titans @ SEA|
|31||Atlanta Falcons @ TB|
|32||Detroit Lions @ GB|
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