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Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers, Starts & Draft Targets: 2016 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

We're back, gang! Below are RotoBaller's Week 1 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target at the end of your 2016 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: Purchase a full season NFL Premium Pass (including Draft Kit + DFS Premium), and also get MLB Premium + DFS for free through the playoffs. Premium DFS lineup picks, expert lineups, tools and more - seven days a week. You can see screenshots of our NFL Premium and MLB Premium and DFS tools. What are you waiting for?


Week 1 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Tier 1 Defenses: Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams

The Seahawks have been a top-five D/ST in each of the last five seasons, and there just isn't any reason to believe they won't do it again. In Week 1 they get the Dolphins, who simply aren't scary enough to knock the Seahawks out of the top tier. Ryan Tannehill and Jarvis Landry won't be able to rack up yards (not that they ever do) and I don't see Arian Foster or Jay Ajayi having room to run here.

"Smokin'" Jay Cutler has looked positively dreadful in the preseason, and they are weaker on offense on paper heading into 2016. I'll take the Texans' fearsome pass rush against Cutler and the middling likes of Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford--Alshon Jeffery will eat if healthy, but he can't do enough to keep the offense going by himself.

The Cardinals are a top-five D/ST on the season, and in Week 1 they'll get the Tom Brady-less Patriots. Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be a game-manager, and Belichick will likely lean on LeGarrette Blount and James White to move the football. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will still see a healthy number of targets, but I don't see this offense breaking 21 points.

The Rams get Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers in Week 1, so...yeah, top tier. Have fun with 11 in the box, Carlos Hyde.


Tier 2 Defenses: Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers

The Broncos and Panthers both fall in this tier, as they'll face each other in Week 1 in a Super Bowl rematch (fish harder for ratings, NFL). I'm ranking the Panthers ahead of the Broncos here, as I have no faith in Trevor Siemian to lead the Broncos to victory. The only reason they're not in the top tier is the fact that I DO have faith in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson. The Broncos stay this high against Cam Newton and company because they are, quite simply, the best defense on the planet.

The Chiefs were utterly dominant over the last half of 2015, and I have them continuing to be one of the better fantasy D/STs in 2016. They'll get Philip Rivers and the Chargers in Week 1, and that offense is going to be good enough to give the Chiefs some trouble. Expect a lot of quick hits to Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead here, but the Chiefs will rack up some sacks (resulting in Philip Rivers whining).

The Vikings D/ST actually posted ten top-10 fantasy finishes last season...I know, right? I've got them starting off the season as one of the better bets as they'll get the suspect Titans offense in Week 1. There is potential there, but I don't see Marcus Mariota having any time to find Tajae Sharpe or Rishard Matthews, and I'll believe DeMarco Murray is "back" when I see it.


Tier 3 Defenses: Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, New York Giants

The Packers D/ST quietly meanders its way to a top-15 fantasy finish year-in and year-out. I have them doing the very same this year, and they have a tasty matchup in Week 1 against the Jaguars. I say tasty only because of the likely game situation--if Aaron Rodgers starts lighting it up with Jory Nelson and Randall Cobb, Blake Bortles will have to play from behind. That means INTs, INTs and more INTs.

The Eagles D/ST has been below average over the last few years defensively, and I think it'll fall out of the top 15 in 2016. With that said, they have the Browns in Week 1, and once again I'll believe that Robert Griffin III is back when I see it.

The Giants were atrocious on defense last season (remember that game against the Saints? Woof.), and they won't be much better in 2016. However, they get Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in Week 1. The Giants will stack the box against Ezekiel Elliott, and I foresee Prescott finding out just how different the preseason and regular season are this week.


Tier 4 Defenses: Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills

The Steelers actually ranked eighth in the fantasy points in 2015, but it was mostly a result of interceptions and sacks. While those big plays are nice, you can't count on them being there two years in a row. This defense isn't above-average at any one defensive position set (possibly in the secondary), but they might warrant deep-league streaming in Week 1. I don't have any faith in Kirk Cousins in 2016, and with Matt Jones leading the run game the Redskins aren't scaring anyone.

Perhaps my homerism is playing a role here, but I like the Bills in Week 1 against the Ravens. Joe Flacco has some rust to shake off here, and I'll take the Bills' ball-hawking cornerbacks against the likes of Kamar Aiken and Steve Smith. The Bills have been decimated by injuries down low, but I still think they have enough juice in the defensive line to keep Justin Forsett, Terrance West and company in check.


Tier 5 Defenses: Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions

The Raiders seem to be the consensus "sleeper" D/ST for 2016, and there are plenty of reasons to think that will be the case. They loaded up the secondary in free agency, and All-World pass-rusher Khalil Mack anchors an increasingly intimidating pass rush. They'll be in the top half of my rankings most weeks, but I simply can't justify it with them visiting Drew Brees and the ever-explosive Saints offense in New Orleans in Week 1.

The Ravens were last in interceptions and towards the bottom of the league in forced fumbles in 2016, so they're likely ticketed for some regression towards the mean in 2016. They will be relying on aging veterans to produce, and its for this reason that I have them outside my top 20 heading into 2016. They offer very little upside in Week 1 against the Bills, as Tyrod Taylor barely ever turns the ball over and LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins are both healthy.
Tier 6 Defenses: Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns

I have my expectations tempered for the Titans this year despite the presence of some legitimate talent on the defensive side of the ball. They'll rarely make it into this column...but they get the Shaun Hill-led Vikings in Week 1. You can count on them stacking the box and doing everything they can to stop Adrian Peterson. If you need a deep league streamer, this is a sneaky-good pick.

Speaking of sneaky, how about the Browns? They get Philly in Week 1, and I just don't see Sam Bradford hanging 30 on them. Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews are the only legitimate talents (and Darren Sproles to a lesser degree) in the offense, and I expect them to move the ball deliberately and conservatively, leading to less scoring. You've gotta be pretty desperate, but the Browns are better than many other options out there.


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!


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