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Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2018 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings


We're back and it feels so good! Below are RotoBaller's Week 1 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target at the end of your 2018 drafts for Week 1 of the NFL and fantasy football season.

Our tiered defense rankings are your guide to drafting defenses, making waiver wire pickups/adds 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, so we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 1 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!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Week 1 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Tier 1 Defenses

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (@ NYG)
2. Baltimore Ravens (vs. BUF)
3. Minnesota Vikings (vs. SF)

The Jaguars were the top fantasy DST by a good margin last year, scoring eight defensive touchdowns and sitting at or near the top of almost every DST scoring category, including sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and points allowed. They lost pretty much nobody in the offseason, so there is zero reason for a downturn of any kind here. A matchup against Eli Manning and the Giants just further solidifies their number one ranking for the week.

The Bills have no offensive line to speak of (or receiving corps, really) and still haven't announced a starting QB for Week 1--even when they do, it's one of A.J. McCarron, Josh Allen or (God help us) Nathan Peterman. You can feel safe streaming against them most weeks, the fact that it's the perpetually talented Ravens makes this a slam-dunk.

The Vikings are up here based purely on roster talent, and the matchup is more of a mystery. Jimmy Garoppolo was brilliant once he was handed the reins in San Francisco, but I still don't know what to think of their offense. I'm gambling on what I know with this one, and that's the fact that Minnesota's defense is really, really good at every level.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

4. New Orleans Saints (vs. TB)
5. Cincinnati Bengals (@ IND)
6. Los Angeles Rams (@ OAK)
7. Tennessee Titans (@ MIA)
8. Detroit Lions (vs. NYJ)
9. Carolina Panthers (vs. DAL)

The Saints crushed their draft on the defensive side in 2017, and that led to a vastly-improved unit over the porous defenses of years past. They've got bona fide star power at all levels with Marshon Lattimore, Cameron Jordan, Marcus Williams and Sheldon Rankins, and they added some solid pieces in free agency that should lead to even more success in 2018 (looking at you, Demario Davis). A very solid option against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the shaky Bucs offense in Week 1.

The Lions DST finally took a big step forward last year after a half-decade of futility, and they've still got enough pieces in place to find their way into Tier 3 or higher most weeks. Regardless of whether its Josh McCown (unlikely) or Sam Darnold (more likely) under center in Week 1, the Lions' ball-hawking secondary should be able to put up some interceptions, and a touchdown wouldn't shock me.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (@ CLE)
11. Kansas City Chiefs (@ LAC)
12. New England Patriots (vs. HOU)
13. Philadelphia Eagles (vs. ATL)

I, like many others, have some cautious optimism for the Browns in 2018. They pieced together a perfectly viable offense in the offseason, adding Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde, and most importantly Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. The man they call "TyGod" (or is it "Tuh-God" now?) is ultra-careful with the ball, so the upside is limited as far as turnovers are concerned for the Steelers. However, the Browns offensive line might not be able to handle the Steelers front-seven, a group that led the NFL in sacks last year. This is still Cleveland, and I'm not ready to run scared from them until they prove they're a team ready to win.

The Eagles are going to be towards the top most weeks, but with a wonky Thursday night tilt against the high-flying Falcons, I can't rank them any higher than this. They've got a ton of talent up front, especially with the additions of Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata in the offseason, so expect the big plays to pile up over the course of the season along with the victories.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

14. Buffalo Bills (@ BAL)
15. Seattle Seahawks (@ DEN)
16. Green Bay Packers (vs. Chicago)

I'm not supremely confident in the Bills chances of winning games this year, but there is still a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball after a solid offseason. Adding Star Lotulelei should help them stop the run to some extent (a skill which evaded them entirely as a team last year), and rookies Tremaine Edmunds and Harrison Phillips should make immediate impacts. Tre'Davious White and Jordan Poyer return to lead the secondary, who have some big-play potential against Joe Flacco in Week 1. If the Bills can bottle up Alex Collins, they could return some fantasy value in the opening tilt.

The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson and Dean Lowry should significantly help the defensive line take a step forward, and the Packers certainly still have a capable enough pass rush. The big question is whether or not Clay Matthews and Nick Perry can stay on the field for 16 games. The Green Bay front office spent significant draft capital on beefing up their secondary, selecting Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson to help supplement the contingent of Tramon Williams, Davon House and potential star Kevin King. Ultimately this team has a load of defensive fantasy potential, but it remains to be seen if they can capitalize on that--Week 1 against Mitch Trubisky and the Bears is a good place for them to show out.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

17. Denver Broncos (vs. SEA)
18. Los Angeles Chargers (vs. KC)
19. Washington Redskins (@ ARI)
20. Arizona Cardinals (vs. WAS)
21. New York Giants (vs. JAX)
22. Dallas Cowboys (@ CAR)

The Broncos are little more than an expensive middle-of-the-road defense at this point, but they'll get a crack at Seattle's still-terrible offensive line in Week 1. Russell Wilson always finds ways to move the ball though, so the Broncos won't make it out of Tier 5 this week, even if they are at home.

The Chargers were quietly excellent on defense last year and should be locked in as a top-12 DST for the entire season. Losing Jason Verrett (again) for the season certainly hurts, but there is star power on all levels of this unit. I expect to find them in the upper tiers most weeks, but I'm a shade nervous against a Chiefs offense that has a ton of explosive potential. This week I'm playing it safe, but how the Chargers fare against Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt will be a good barometer of what we can expect moving forward.

 

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