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Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Ohhhhh it is good to be back, RotoBallers! I'm getting this bad boy kicked off a little earlier this year since I've got a wife at home who's ready to go into labor anyyy minute now. The nerve of that kid, coming right before football season.

Below are RotoBaller's Week 1 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 1 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh year now writing this weekly column. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 1.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker. Below we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 11 defenses have good matchups and are not widely-owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 1 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 1 RotoBallers!

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Week 1 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues and Tier 5 being desperation plays or good defenses in horrendous matchups.

Returning for this year: Confidence Ratings - since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start," then the confidence rises from there. I take a lot of factors into account here--opponent injuries, home field advantage, weather, etc. The first few weeks I obviously have less data to work with, so the defense's personnel and matchups matter more significantly.


Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Baltimore Ravens Defense @ MIA 12.5
2 1 Philadelphia Eagles Defense vs. WAS 11.15
3 1 Los Angeles Chargers Defense vs. IND 10.75

With so much turmoil in the Dolphins locker room and, frankly, a lack of talent, the Ravens are the surest thing for me in Week 1 despite being on the road. While the Ravens did finish as a top-five fantasy DST in 2018, they took some major hits to their roster in the offseason, including C.J. Mosely, Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. They did add Earl Thomas in free agency, and the addition of third-round linebacker Jaylon Ferguson should help plug some of the holes up the middle. Ultimately the Ravens are likely a worse team than last year, but it's still a strong overall unit with a great match-up in Week 1. The Dolphins aren't even sure if they're starting Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick and we're 10 days from kickoff.

Like the Ravens, the Eagles suffered some major losses on defense in the off-season. Jordan Hicks, Michael Bennett AND Chris Long are now no longer in Philly, but they were able to add Malik Jackson and Zach Brown to replace them. This is still a talented roster despite the losses, but it's unlikely that they'll find themselves in my top five in most weeks. However, with a home matchup against the Redskins in Week 1 they are pretty much a gimme for me. Case Keenum has nobody of note to throw to besides the oft-injured Jordan Reed, and an aging Adrian Peterson leading the charge on the ground. The Eagles could pay major dividends in this one.

I'm very interested to see what happens with the Colts offense now that Andrew Luck is permanently out of the picture. Jacoby Brissett started 15 games in 2017, and his numbers were anything but inspiring (13:7 TD-INT, 41.5 QBR). He led the league in sacks taken, which is proof of just how putrid the Colts' offensive line was. That line is now anchored by talented stalwarts Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith (among others), and they allowed a league-low 18 sacks in 2018. Unfortunately, they'll be tasked with stopping Joey Bosa, Thomas Davis and first-round pick Jerry Tillery in Week 1, and Brissett brings the entire offense down simply by not having the gun-slinging firepower of Andrew Luck. In his first start on the road, I'll bet on the defense all day, especially one as talented as the Chargers.


Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
4 2 Seattle Seahawks Defense vs. CIN 9.6
5 2 Cleveland Browns Defense vs. TEN 9.3
6 2 Dallas Cowboys Defense vs. NYG 8.65
7 2 Denver Broncos Defense @ OAK 8.2

The Browns' roster improved in just about every facet over the last two years, and their defense is no exception. They finished second in the NFL in takeaways in 2018, and although the 14 fumble recoveries are unlikely to be repeated, they also scored ZERO defensive touchdowns. By sheer probability they should be able to add enough to make up for the regression in fumble recoveries. The addition of Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson should be huge for their sack totals, and the game plan is for second-rounder Greedy Williams to fill the hole left by Jabrill Peppers' departure. Toss in a home matchup against Marcus Mariota and the Titans' bottom-six offense from last year (they didn't improve much in the off-season) and you've got a recipe for fantasy success.

With the defensively-minded Vic Fangio at the helm of the Broncos, I expect big things from this DST this year. They lost Bradley Roby and Darien Stewart in the secondary, which will likely be felt, but Kareem Jackson was added to hopefully ease the blow. They also have probably the best one-two punch as far as pass-rushing is concerned in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, so you can expect the sacks to come early and often. They'll face a Raiders line that improved in the off-season thanks to the addition of Trent Brown, and we'll see what Richie Incognito has left in the tank. The Broncos may rank higher as the year goes on, but the Raiders offense SHOULD be improved with the additions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs. The Broncos are still in the top two tiers and should be a fine play this week, simply not as a top-five option.


Middle and Lower Tier Defenses

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
8 3 Chicago Bears Defense vs. GB 7.5
9 3 Arizona Cardinals Defense vs. DET 7.35
10 3 Los Angeles Rams Defense @ CAR 6.9
11 3 Buffalo Bills Defense @ NYJ 6.5
12 3 Detroit Lions Defense @ ARI 6.1

I don't think I need to go into too much detail on the Bears. Khalil Mack leads a defense that is stacked with talent, almost all of which is returning from last year. They were third in the NFL in sacks, and first in picks, touchdowns and total takeaways. The only reason they're in Tier 3 is the matchup against the Packers. They look like they're going to unleash Aaron Jones finally, Aaron Rodgers is healthy and has a potent trio of wide receivers to throw to (Davante Adams, Marques Valdez-Scantling, Geronimo Allison). The Bears are startable still but their upside is limited.

The Bills are going to be under-ranked just about everywhere this year, and I swear I don't think that just because I live in Buffalo. The Bills led the NFL in passing yards allowed per game in 2018 (179.2), but their middling defense against the run brought their overall numbers down pretty significantly. Still, they allowed fewer than five yards per play, one of only three teams in the NFL to do so. This is a talented overall defense, and they've got some legit playmakers in Jerry Hughes, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer and Lorenzo Alexander. Top-10 overall pick Ed Oliver should help the Bills step up against the run, and they've got a pretty easy schedule to start the season. This is a DST I'm particularly interested in adding since they'll be useful for more than just Week 1. My expectations are tempered given that the Jets will test that run defense with a fully-functional Le'Veon Bell, but this is still a very under-rated unit that should give Sam Darnold fits.


Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
13 4 New York Jets Defense vs. BUF 5.7
14 4 New England Patriots Defense vs. PIT 5.45
15 4 Kansas City Chiefs Defense @ JAC 5.2
16 4 New Orleans Saints Defense vs. HOU 4.8
17 4 Minnesota Vikings Defense vs. ATL 4.35
18 4 Oakland Raiders Defense vs. DEN 3.5

The Chiefs are an absolute question mark for me heading into Week 1. They hemorrhaged yards last year (405.5 yards per game), but still finished as a capable fantasy DST thanks to an NFL-best 53 sacks and 27 takeaways. They turned over their defense almost entirely, trading Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Steven Hunter (among others) for Frank Clark, Alex Okafor and Tyrann Mathieu (among others). There is talent to be found here, but the complete overhaul has me scratching my head on how to project them. I've got them dead-center of my rankings on the road against the Jaguars, who have a theoretically healthy Leonard Fournette and Nick Foles now under center.

The Vikings Defense bounced back in a big way last year, ranking fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (309.7) and tied for third in sacks (50). They'll have to deal with the departure of Sheldon Richardson, but they've got studs at every line of the defense. Linval Joseph anchors the run-stopping unit, a hopefully rejuvenated Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr lead the pass rush and Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith should provide stability in the secondary. This team will be a top-10 option for me most weeks, but on the road against the Falcons it's tough to rank them as such. Matt Ryan's got a lethal tandem of weapons in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and Devonta Freeman looks fully healthy and ready to do damage.

The Raiders were pretty darn bad last year, but I've got some faith in them to rise up the ranks in 2019. LaMarcus Joyner will be a big asset when it comes to stabilizing rookies Jonathan Abram and Trayvon Mullen in the secondary, which will hopefully lead to an improvement over last year's middling pass defense. First-round pick Clelin Ferrell is going to have to help support the Raiders run defense, which was bottom-three in the NFL in 2018. They'll rarely find themselves any higher than Tier 4 for me, but a home matchup against the Joe Flacco-led Broncos offense leaves the door open for them as a desperation play this week.


Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
19 5 San Francisco 49ers Defense @ TB 2.9
20 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense vs. SF 2.5
21 5 Green Bay Packers Defense @ CHI 2.25
22 5 Houston Texans Defense @ NO 1.8
23 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Defense @ NE 1.5
24 5 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense vs. KC 1.15

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