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Week 3 Defense (DEF) Streamers, Starters & Rankings: 2023 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

With the first two weeks of the 2023 NFL season in the books, we now have a pretty good understanding of what teams are doing and can better predict what defenses to start based on the trends over their first couple of games played.

There were some hits from our Week 2 D/ST rankings, along with some underwhelming defenses. One of these disappointments was the 49ers defense, which I had as the second overall defense in their matchup against the Rams. They ended up tied for 15th among all defenses in Week 2. Outliers like this have to be expected and should not change the way we approach this.

Nine defenses put up double-digit fantasy points in Week 2. Compared to some starting RBs in lineups, Josh Jacobs, Travis Etienne, and Alexander Mattison all failed to reach that double-digit mark in full-PPR leagues. This further proves that you should not be overlooking defenses as they can be crucial to your fantasy matchup each week.

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How To Determine What Defenses To Start 

When it comes to determining the top fantasy football defenses each week, you should look at which units have the most upside and can change the trajectory of your matchup. Defenses are often overlooked in fantasy, but as stated above, the top ones from each week can outscore some of your opponent's key starters. 

As mentioned, nine defenses scored double-digit fantasy points in Week 2. All nine of these defenses had something in common, as they caused at least two turnovers or had at least four sacks. Three of the nine also scored one or more D/ST touchdowns.

To maximize the upside of your defense each week, you need to target defenses that can cause several turnovers and get to the quarterback constantly. Turnovers, sacks, and defensive touchdowns are what create high ceilings for these fantasy defenses. To determine a somewhat safe start at defense, you should look at low point totals and teams that can hold their opponent to single digits.


 Tier 1 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 3

Rank DST Opponent
1 Dallas Cowboys @ARI
2 New England Patriots @NYJ
3 San Francisco 49ers vs. NYG
4 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. HOU
5 Kansas City Chiefs vs. CHI

Dallas Cowboys D/ST @ARI (Yahoo % Rostered: 100%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: DAL favored by 12.5, Total ~43, Implied score: 28-15, 15 points against

There’s no need for much explanation with this one. Dallas has the best defense in the league as of right now and is a must-start, first-tier unit every week regardless of their matchup. Despite Arizona dominating the Giants' defense in Week 2, the Cowboys are on an entirely different level and will have Joshua Dobbs in shambles as they did Zach Wilson.

Update 9/21: Cornerback Trevon Diggs is believed to have suffered a torn ACL during practice, per Adam Schefter. Diggs is the team's top corner and will be a significant loss for this unit. Regardless, they are still the number one defense for Week 3 and have an outrageous ceiling against the Cardinals.

San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs. NYG (Yahoo % Rostered: 100%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: SF favored by 10.5, Total ~44.5, Implied score: 27-17, 17 points against

The 49ers are another defense that is a must-start every week, regardless of their mediocre Week 2 performance. This defense has four interceptions on the season and faces Daniel Jones in Week 3, who has already thrown three in two games. Factoring in Saquon Barkley (ankle) being out for Thursday, the Niners' defense has monstrous fantasy potential this week.

New England Patriots D/ST @NYJ (Yahoo % Rostered: 65%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: NE favored by 3, Total ~37.5, Implied score: 20-17, 17 points against

Despite New England’s defense scoring 11 total fantasy points through the first two weeks, they are set up for an explosion-type game here. Zach Wilson has been picked off four times on just 48 pass attempts while completing a mere 54.2% of his throws. This is an offense you should be targeting with Wilson under center and the Patriots are set up to have a ridiculous day defensively.

Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST vs. HOU (Yahoo % Rostered: 16%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: JAX favored by 9.5, Total ~44.5, Implied score: 27-17, 17 points against

Jacksonville has forced the second-most turnovers in the league -- only behind Dallas with six takeaways through the first two games. This defense was a top-12 unit in Week 2, despite facing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

While rookie C.J. Stroud is averaging over 300 pass yards a game thus far and has yet to throw an interception, he has been sacked a league-high 11 times through the first two games. Considering their pass rush and ability to force turnovers, the Jaguars are locked in as a top-five fantasy defense for Week 3.

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST vs. CHI (Yahoo % Rostered: 40%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: KC favored by 13.5, Total ~47.5, Implied score: 31-17, 17 points against

The Chicago Bears have been awful offensively through two games. Justin Fields has turned the ball over four times and has been sacked 10 times, which is tied for the second-most in the league. The Kansas City Chiefs are a completely different defense when Chris Jones is on the field, as they held Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars to just nine total points in Week 2. This defense is an incredible option this week.


Tier 2 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 3

Rank DST Opponent
6 Pittsburgh Steelers @LV
7 Cleveland Browns vs. TEN
8 Philadelphia Eagles @TB
9 Buffalo Bills @WAS
10 Baltimore Ravens vs. IND
11 New York Jets vs. NE

Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST @LV (Yahoo % Rostered: 60%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: PIT favored by 1.5, Total ~45, Implied score: 23-22, 22 points against

T.J. Watt is the best defensive player in football right now, as Pittsburgh’s defense had a convincing Week 2 performance after getting blown out by the 49ers in Week 1. They are locked in as a must-start defense in Week 3 against a Raiders offense that was overwhelmed by the Bills this past week.

Cleveland Browns D/ST vs. TEN (Yahoo % Rostered: 64%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: CLE favored by 4, Total ~41, Implied score: 22-18, 18 points against

Cleveland’s defense put up another great performance in Week 2. The defense has allowed just 17 points on the season and was giving Pittsburgh’s offense trouble all game. The injury to RB Nick Chubb hurts them a ton, as they’ll be on the field more without an efficient run game. Regardless, I’m still confidently firing this unit up against a Ryan Tannehill-led offense. 

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

Consensus Vegas Odds: PHI favored by 5.5, Total ~46, Implied score: 26-20, 20 points against

Through the first two weeks, Philadelphia’s defense hasn’t been quite as dominant as we saw in 2022. While they have allowed 20+ points in each game played, this unit has still forced five turnovers in those two games. Both James Bradberry (concussion) and Reed Blankenship (ribs) missed Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Despite this, Philadelphia still put up a top-12 fantasy defensive performance.

Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0 and have put up over 20 points in each of the first two games. Granted this was against the Vikings and Bears, who have two of the worst defenses in the entire league. This offense has to come back down to earth at some point and the Eagles are the team that can do it. I would confidently fire Philly’s defense up in Week 3 and expect double-digit fantasy points.

Buffalo Bills D/ST @WAS (Yahoo % Rostered: 98%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: BUF favored by 6.5, Total ~44.5, Implied score: 26-19, 19 points against

Despite still being without Von Miller, Buffalo’s defense has allowed a mere 32 points in their two games played. While they have just three sacks on the year as a result of their weak pass rush, the defense still looked dominant in Week 2 as they forced three turnovers and allowed just 10 points to the Raiders.

The Washington Commanders are averaging 27.5 points per game through the first two weeks and have looked promising under offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. While Sam Howell and the offense have looked great during their 2-0 start, the second-year QB has been sacked 10 times while playing defenses that are not on the level of Buffalo. You should confidently be starting the Bills defense in Week 3 as they are locked in to be a top-10 unit. 

Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs. IND  (Yahoo % Rostered: 76%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: BAL favored by 8.5, Total ~44.5, Implied score: 27-18, 18 points against

Baltimore’s defense went into Cincinnati without their two best secondary players and performed well. The Bengals' longest offensive play went for just 14 yards and it was clear that they were struggling against this Ravens defense, led by Roquan Smith. This defense has put up six sacks through two games and has allowed just 33 points. With Anthony Richardson’s status being in doubt and the Colts O-line being as weak as it is, Baltimore’s defense is in a great spot for Week 3.

New York Jets D/ST vs. NE (Yahoo % Rostered: 91%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: NE favored by 3, Total ~37.5, Implied score: 20-17, 20 points against

This is still one of the best defenses in the entire league, however, their inconsistency on offense only hurts them on defense. Mac Jones has more pass attempts than any other QB through the first two weeks of the season. It’s evident that Bill O’Brien wants to throw the football a ton this season and this benefits the Jets considering their elite pass defense. While I have them just outside of the top ten this week, the Jets are still a solid start as always.


Tier 3 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 3

Rank DST Opponent
12 New Orleans Saints  @GB
13 Green Bay Packers vs. NO
14 Seattle Seahawks vs. CAR
15 Miami Dolphins vs. DEN
16 Washington Commanders vs. BUF

New Orleans Saints D/ST @GB (Yahoo % Rostered: 87%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: GB favored by 1.5, Total ~43.5, Implied score: 23-21, 23 points against

This New Orleans defense has quietly been one of the best in the league thus far in 2023. The team has allowed less than 20 points in each of their two games while putting up seven total sacks. This matchup does depend heavily on whether RB Aaron Jones and WR Christian Watson suit up for Green Bay. Regardless, this is a defense that has a high floor each week and can be locked into lineups confidently.

Green Bay Packers D/ST vs. NO (Yahoo % Rostered: 35%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: GB favored by 1.5, Total ~43.5, Implied score: 23-21, 21 points against

The Packers have a solid all-around defense but have allowed 20+ points in each game, and showed very little life in their Week 2 loss to Atlanta. Derek Carr and the 2-0 Saints have won two close games and depended heavily on their defense to get stops. Carr has been sacked a hefty eight times in the first two weeks and has thrown an interception in each game. Green Bay is a solid play and offers a sustainable floor in Week 3. 

Seattle Seahawks D/ST vs. CAR (Yahoo % Rostered: 8%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: SEA favored by 4.5, Total ~42.5, Implied score: 24-19, 19 points against

Carolina is another team that I like targeting when starting a defense this year. However, Seattle has allowed 30+ points in each of their first two games and Bryce Young will only get better with each start. The Seahawks D/ST is a solid start but not one that I would bank on, barring another defensive touchdown.

Update 9/21: Panthers rookie QB Bryce Young (ankle) is not expected to play Sunday at Seattle, per Adam Schefter. QB Andy Dalton is expected to start in place of Young. I would keep the defense in this same spot or drop them down a little if anything. It will be more difficult for Seattle to gameplan for Dalton in a short amount of time and the veteran showed that he can still play at a solid level last year.

Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. DEN (Yahoo % Rostered: 54%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: MIA favored by 6.5, Total ~48.5, Implied score: 28-21, 21 points against

After a bad Week 1 performance, Miami’s defense put up a great second week as they had four sacks and forced two turnovers against New England. This defense has shown to be able to get to the quarterback consistently. Russell Wilson looks much better than he did last season and Denver is healthy for the most part offensively. Miami isn't the worst start but I would recommend playing those listed above them.

Washington Commanders D/ST vs. BUF (Yahoo % Rostered: 39%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: BUF favored by 6.5, Total ~44.5, Implied score: 26-19, 26 points against

The Commanders have one of the best defensive lines in the entire league. Washington has accounted for 10 sacks through two games and put up double-digit fantasy points in each. This could be a defense that’s matchup-proof even against a team like the Bills, but I would personally stay away. Buffalo's offense looked as explosive as ever during their Week 2 blowout and I don’t expect this to stop anytime soon.


Tier 4 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 3

Rank DST Opponent
17 Carolina Panthers @SEA
18 Atlanta Falcons @DET
19 Indianapolis Colts @BAL
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. PHI
21 Cincinnati Bengals vs. LAR

Carolina Panthers D/ST @SEA (Yahoo % Rostered: 8%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: SEA favored by 4.5, Total ~42.5, Implied score: 24-19, 24 points against

Carolina’s pass rush has shown up through two games as they’ve put up four sacks in each of them. However, the continuous injuries on this defense make me want to stay away from them altogether. Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks looked much better in their Week 2 win against the Detroit Lions. I would not be starting the Panthers defense in Week 3.

Atlanta Falcons D/ST @DET (Yahoo % Rostered: 7%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: DET favored by 3.5, Total ~45.5, Implied score: 25-21, 25 points against

Atlanta has an average defense with a considerably high floor in fantasy. This is a good unit to have if you just want guaranteed positive points in your matchup. Jared Goff and the Lions are a much better home team than on the road, making this difficult for the Falcons. Considering that David Montgomery (hip) is likely out, Detroit will have no choice but to pass the ball a ton. While I would not be playing this defense for the most part, they are a better option than several other teams.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST @BAL (Yahoo % Rostered: 16%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: BAL favored by 8.5, Total ~44.5, Implied score: 27-18, 27 points against

While the Colts do have eight sacks on the season, forced three turnovers, and scored on defense, the team has given up 51 points in two games played. The Ravens didn’t allow a single sack against Cincinnati in Week 2 and showed dominance despite missing two starting offensive lineman and their starting running back. I would only be starting matchup-proof defenses against Baltimore as of right now and Indianapolis is not one of those.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST vs. PHI (Yahoo % Rostered: 39%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: PHI favored by 6.5, Total ~46, Implied score: 26-20, 26 points against

While the Bucs’ defense has looked great through two games, it was against two very bad offensive lines and this is far from the case with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cincinnati Bengals D/ST vs. LAR (Yahoo % Rostered: 45%)

Consensus Vegas Odds: CIN favored by 2.5, Total ~43.5, Implied score: 23-21 21 points against

The entire Bengals team has been a major disappointment through two games. As suspected, the departure of their two starting safeties has been detrimental to this defense. Matthew Stafford and the Rams have surprised many without Cooper Kupp. I would stay away from Cincinnati’s defense until further notice.


Tier 5 Defenses – Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 3

Rank DST Opponent
22 Denver Broncos @MIA
23 Las Vegas Raiders vs. PIT
24 Tennessee Titans @CLE
25 Arizona Cardinals vs. DAL
26 Los Angeles Rams @CIN
27 Detroit Lions vs. ATL
28 Los Angeles Chargers @MIN
29 Houston Texans @JAX
30 Minnesota Vikings vs. LAC
31 Chicago Bears @KC
32 New York Giants @SF

These are the defenses that I would not be playing in Week 3 under any circumstances. These teams are either going up against a top offense in the league, aren’t a good defense in general, or both. They offer low ceilings and significantly low floors that can hurt your chances of winning your fantasy matchup.

Avoid all these choices entirely and try to get a defense in the top two to three tiers for Week 3. Thanks for reading, and good luck RotoBallers!

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