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Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2023 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Ravens Defense - Fantasy Football DST Rankings, Draft Sleepers, IDP Targets

The start of the 2023 NFL season is just around the corner and it is time to begin thinking about what fantasy football defense will be in your lineup for Week 1. If you are not spending an earlier draft pick on an elite fantasy football D/ST, then you should be looking at each team’s Week 1 matchup and decide who you can confidently plugin for the very first week.

These rankings and tiers will be based on how good I expect the D/ST to be this season, how weak their Week 1 opponent is offensively, and how much upside I see their defense having for Week 1 strictly. It's important to note that lower-tier defenses can only be started when having a great matchup, while the elite defenses are must-starts every week regardless of who they are playing.

Be sure to also read my fantasy football defense (D/ST) draft targets article to get more of an idea of what fantasy defenses you should be targeting for the entirety of the 2023 NFL season. Good luck RotoBallers!

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How To Determine What Defenses To Start 

When it comes to the top fantasy football defenses each week, you should be looking at which units have the most upside and can help you win your matchup. Defenses are often overlooked in fantasy but the top ones each week can outscore starting RBs and WRs. 

There was at least one 15+ fantasy point defense in every single week of the 2022 season. To put this into perspective of how crucial this is for your fantasy team, Ja'Marr Chase averaged 15.3 half-PPR points per game last season. When your D/ST can outscore or match your opponent's first-round pick, you have an incredible chance to win that matchup. 

To determine this upside, you need to be targeting defenses that can cause several turnovers and get to the quarterback constantly that game. Turnovers, sacks, and defensive touchdowns are what create high ceilings for these fantasy defenses.


Tier 1 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

Rank DST Opponent
1 Washington Commanders ARI
2 Baltimore Ravens HOU
3 San Francisco 49ers @PIT
4 Philadelphia Eagles @NE

Washington Commanders D/ST vs. ARI (Yahoo % Rostered: 66%)

WAS favored by 7, Total ~ 39, Implied score: 23-16, 16 points against

Washington has one of the most underrated defenses in the entire league. Led by what is arguably the most dominant defensive line in all of football, the Commanders were a great defense in 2022 and only improved the unit in the off-season.

Arizona will be at the bottom of the league this season with Kyler Murray injured, along with the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, This is an offense that I want to play defenses against all season.


Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs. HOU (Yahoo % Rostered: 93%)

BAL favored by 10, Total ~ 44, Implied score: 27-17, 17 points against

The Baltimore Ravens are locked in as a top-eight fantasy defense for 2023. This is a unit that allowed the third-fewest PPG in 2022. John Harbaugh has hung his hat on having an elite defense and this will not change in 2023.

While second-overall pick C.J. Stroud is an excellent prospect and has a bright future ahead of him, Houston’s offense still needs time to develop. With one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL consisting of Nico Collins, Robert Woods, John Metchie, Noah Brown, and Tank Dell, Baltimore’s defense will have a field day in Week 1 and win matchups for many fantasy managers.


San Francisco 49ers D/ST @PIT (Yahoo % Rostered: 100%)

SF favored by 2.5, Total ~41, Implied score: 22-19, 19 points against

I had the San Francisco 49ers as the best fantasy football defense for the 2023 season. This is a unit that has a reigning Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Pro linebacker.

The addition of former Eagles' DT Javon Hargrave makes this defense even more dominant than it already was. They will be a handful for Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.

Philadelphia Eagles D/ST @NE (Yahoo % Rostered: 99%)

PHI favored by 4.5, Total ~45, Implied score: 25-20, 20 points against

The Eagles were as consistent as a defense can get in 2022, as they put up an absurd 70 sacks on the season. The team did lose some key pieces in free agency but replaced every level while keeping their core defensive pieces.

While New England’s offense is much improved, Mac Jones has not performed great thus far in his career and has a high turnover rate. Eagles offer a very high ceiling in this Week 1 matchup. 


Tier 2 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

Rank DST Opponent
5 Dallas Cowboys @NYG
6 Jacksonville Jaguars @IND
7 Denver Broncos vs. LV
8 Seattle Seahawks vs. LAR
9 Buffalo Bills @NYJ
10 New York Jets vs. BUF

Dallas Cowboys D/ST @NYG

DAL favored by 3.5, Total ~46.5, Implied score: 25-21, 21 points against

The Cowboys have been a top-2 fantasy defense in each of the last two seasons, along with the New England Patriots. This is a unit that causes more turnovers than any other defense in the league.

With Micah Parsons moving to the defensive line, the defense looks to be even more dangerous. Along with the additions of rookie defensive tackle Mazi Smith and former DPOY Stephon Gilmore, Dallas is in a position to finish as a top-3 fantasy defense once again.

While the Giants proved to be much improved offensively under Brian Daboll, Dallas still had eight sacks in their two contests against the team while allowing just 16 PPG. The ceiling that the Cowboys’ defense has every week is just too good to pass up on.

Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST @IND (Yahoo % Rostered: 22%)

JAX favored by 4.5, Total ~45.5, Implied score: 25-20, 20 points against

Jacksonville is one of my favorite defenses to target late in drafts this year. This is a unit that was the top fantasy defense over the last five weeks of the 2022 season. This will be fourth-overall pick Anthony Richardson’s first career regular-season start.

While Richardson does have great athletic ability, he will go through struggles and turn the ball over early on -- not to mention the Colts possibly being without their star RB Jonathan Taylor.

This is a team defense that I am attacking. Factoring in their friendly schedule to start the season, and ability to score defensive touchdowns at a high rate, the Jaguars D/ST should be on your radar for all upcoming drafts. 

Denver Broncos D/ST vs. LV (Yahoo % Rostered: 74%)

DEN favored by 4, Total ~44, Implied score: 24-20, 20 points against

Denver starts the season with matchups against LV, WAS, @MIA, and @CHI. This is a very talented unit that you can confidently start in three out of the first four weeks. With their defense healthy and at full strength, the Broncos should be much better in 2023 under Sean Payton.

While the Raiders do have some dangerous pieces on their offense, the team's quarterback play and offensive line are still very questionable, as PFF ranked them as the 14th-worst offensive line heading into the 2023 season. I would confidently fire this defense up for Week 1.

Seattle Seahawks D/ST vs. LAR (Yahoo % Rostered: 13%)

SEA favored by 4.5, Total ~47, Implied score: 26-21, 21 points against

Seattle was tied for the ninth-most fantasy PPG in 2022. To put this into perspective, the Jets' and Commanders' defenses had the same PPG. With the additions of sixth-overall pick Devon Witherspoon and former Giants’ safety Julian Love to an already solid unit, this Seahawks secondary has a ton of potential.

The Rams offense should have their key players back and healthy in Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Cam Akers. However, this is a team that is clearly heading into a rebuild soon and it may start as early as this season.

The offensive line of the Rams is the biggest question mark for their offense, and Seattle is a terrific Week 1 option because of that.

Buffalo Bills D/ST @NYJ (Yahoo % Rostered: 99%)

BUF favored by 2, Total ~44, Implied score: 24-22, 22 points against

The Bills are another defense that finds a way to end in the top five regardless of injuries suffered. They have finished inside the top four among fantasy defenses in each of the last two seasons. Buffalo will get their key defensive players back such as Von Miller and Micah Hyde, along with the signing of free-agent linebacker Leonard Floyd.

The Jets' offense improved significantly with the acquisitions of Aaron Rodgers, Dalvin Cook, Allen Lazard, and Mecole Hardman. However, the Bills’ defense is similar to the Jets -- I would not bench them unless I had a much better option. Buffalo’s defense still offers a sustainable floor even against Aaron Rodgers. 

New York Jets D/ST vs. BUF (Yahoo % Rostered: 95%)

BUF favored by 2, Total ~46, Implied score: 24-22, 24 points against

I have the Jets as an elite matchup-proof defense heading into the season. This is a defense that still allowed the fourth-fewest PPG and the third-fewest pass YPG in 2022, despite being ranked second to last in time of possession per game due to their inconsistent QB play.

Aaron Rodgers controlling the offense will help this defense get more rest and perform at the level that we know they can play at. Buffalo is one of the toughest matchups for any defense, but the Jets are just one of the defenses that I will not be benching under any circumstances.


Tier 3 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

Rank DST Opponent
11 New Orleans Saints vs. TEN
12 Minnesota Vikings vs. TB
13 Green Bay Packers @CHI
14 Atlanta Falcons vs. CAR
15 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. SF
16 Carolina Panthers @ATL

New Orleans Saints D/ST vs. TEN (Yahoo % Rostered: 69%)

NO favored by 3, Total ~41, Implied score: 22-19, 19 points against

New Orleans is another one of my favorite targets when drafting a defense late. You can confidently start this defense for the first eight weeks of the season.

While we don’t completely know what to expect from Tennessee’s offense with the addition of All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, there are still noticeable question marks for them, including Ryan Tannehill's play. PFF ranked the Titans as the worst offensive line in 2022 and I don’t expect this to change much, making every defense that plays against them a solid start.

Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs. TB (Yahoo % Rostered: 4%)

MIN favored by 6.5, Total ~45.5, Implied score: 26-19, 19 points against

This ranking has absolutely nothing to do with Minnesota’s defense as they are one of the worst in the league. However, Tampa Bay is an offense that I will be attacking with defenses all season long.

Baker Mayfield is expected to start Week 1 and went 2-8 in games he started last season. The Bucs also have an unproven running back room and an offensive line that just lost their starting center Ryan Jensen for the entire season.

Every defense that matches up against Tampa Bay has a top-10 fantasy upside for that week. 

Green Bay Packers D/ST @CHI (Yahoo % Rostered: 35%)

GB favored by 2, Total ~44, Implied score: 23-21, 21 points against

Green Bay is another defense that starts the season off with favorable matchups. Chicago’s offense should be significantly better but the offensive line and pass game are still a question for them. The Packers' defense offers a pretty safe floor in Week 1.  

Atlanta Falcons D/ST vs. CAR (Yahoo % Rostered: 3%)

ATL favored by 3.5, Total ~40, Implied score: 22-18, 18 points against

Atlanta will try to win games by dominating time of possession and locking their opponent up. The defense added one of the best safeties in the entire league in former Bengal Jessie Bates. This will be first-overall pick Bryce Young’s first career regular-season start and may make some rookie mistakes early on.

Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST vs. SF (Yahoo % Rostered: 60%)

SF favored by 2.5, Total ~41, Implied Score: 22-19, 22 points against

Pittsburgh’s defense will be much better with their DPOY T.J. Watt back, along with the additions the team made to their secondary. Unfortunately for them, they have to open the season against Kyle Shanahan and one of the top offenses in the league.

While Brock Purdy could struggle coming off a torn UCL, I would not be playing defenses against this loaded offense under any circumstances.    

Carolina Panthers D/ST @ATL (Yahoo % Rostered: 11%)

ATL favored by 3.5, Total ~40, Implied score: 22-18, 22 points against

Carolina has an underrated defense that will cause problems for some offenses in 2023. Atlanta is a tough offense to play against as they ran the ball more than any other team in 2022.

With their elite offensive line play and the addition of star-prospect Bijan Robinson, the Falcons will dominate time of possession with that dominant run game that they proved to have. I would only play this defense in cases where the 15 ahead of them are all somehow taken. 


Tier 4 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

Rank DST Opponent
17 Cleveland Browns vs. CIN
18 Cincinnati Bengals @CLE
19 New England Patriots vs. PHI
20 Las Angeles Chargers vs. MIA
21 Kansas City Chiefs vs. DET
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @MIN

Cleveland Browns D/ST vs. CIN (Yahoo % Rostered: 11%)

CIN favored by 1.5, Total ~47.5, Implied score: 25-23, 25 points against

Cleveland had very little pass rush success outside of Myles Garrett in 2022, as he accounted for almost half of the entire team’s sacks. They will look to change that this season with several additions to the defense including Zadarius Smith.

The Bengals are one of those offenses that you shouldn’t be playing defenses against for the most part. Burrow is recovering from his calf injury and may come out the gate slowly. I still would not play this defense unless you have to.

Cincinnati Bengals D/ST @CLE (Yahoo % Rostered: 60%)

CIN favored by 1.5, Total ~47.5, Implied score: 25-23, 23 points against

I believe this defense will take a step back in 2023 as they lost their two starting safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. Their pass rush is inconsistent and will struggle even more with their inexperience in the secondary. This unit had just 30 sacks in 2022, which ranked as the fourth-fewest in the league.

The Browns offensive line is one of the best in the league and their weapons will be a handful for this Bengals defense. If Deshaun Watson returns to his Houston Texans self in any capacity, they will torch this defense in Week 1.

New England Patriots D/ST vs. PHI (Yahoo % Rostered: 85%)

PHI favored by 4.5, Total ~45, Implied score: 25-20, 25 points against

Bill Belichick always finds a way to keep this defense elite, as they’ve finished as a top-two fantasy defense in each of the past two seasons. This is still a defense that I would be targeting solely because of their consistency and every-week starting potential.

They do start the season off with an extremely difficult matchup against the reigning NFC champions. This defense does still have touchdown upside against any team, but I would still avoid playing them in Week 1.

Los Angeles Chargers D/ST @MIA (Yahoo % Rostered: 10%)

LAC favored by 3, Total ~51, Implied score: 27-24, 24 points against

The Chargers have a stacked defense that can play at an elite level if they stay healthy. This is just a tough game to start the season with, as the Dolphins and Mike McDaniel have proved to be able to dominate any defense in their way with the playmakers they have. 

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST vs. DET (Yahoo % Rostered: 60%)

KC favored by 6.5, Total ~54, Implied score: 30-24, 24 points against

This is a defense that lost Frank Clark and Juan Thornhill and will more than likely be without their best defensive player Chris Jones at the beginning of the season. The Lions are a tough offense to play against as they ranked inside the top-five in PPG last year. I would avoid playing Kansas City’s defense entirely in Week 1, especially if Jones is still holding out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST @MIN (Yahoo % Rostered: 19%)

MIN favored by 6.5, Total ~45.5, Implied score: 26-19, 26 points against

Tampa Bay does have elite players on their defense, but there is just too much inconsistency. The Vikings had an elite offense in 2022 and I do not expect this to change much heading into the new season.


Tier 5 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

Rank DST Opponent
23 Chicago Bears vs. GB
24 Tenessee Titans @NO
25 Las Vegas Raiders @DEN
26 Miami Dolphins @LAC
27 New York Giants vs. DAL
28 Los Angeles Rams @SEA
29 Detriot Lions @KC
30 Arizona Cardinals @WAS
31 Indianapolis Colts vs. JAC
32 Houston Texans @BAL

As all of these teams are underdogs for the first week and not in a good spot, these are the defenses that I would not be playing in Week 1 under any circumstances. They offer low ceilings and significantly low floors that can hurt your chances of starting your season 1-0. Avoid all of these choices entirely and try to get a defense in the top 2-3 tiers for your first fantasy week of the season.  

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