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Ranking the top 20 defenses for Week 1 fantasy football

With prime matchups vs. non-threatening offenses, Baltimore and Philly sit atop the rankings to open the season. Here are the top 20 D/ST for Week 1.

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill celebrates a stop with strong safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox against the New York Giants during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Defense wins championships. It’s a statement you’ve probably heard before, at least if you’ve played any type of organized sport growing up. It’s also potentially something you’ve heard a drunk uncle ramble on about during Thanksgiving while the Giants and Cowboys are in a barn-burner and it isn’t even halftime.

Well, defense (and special teams) isn’t as important in fantasy football formats, but to say it won’t win you a championship would not be prudent. D/ST isn’t make-or-break, but it certainly can win you a week, perhaps an important Week 1 matchup in 2019. That’s what these rankings are for.

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Now, you’ll see the usual suspects at the top of the rankings — the Ravens get a cupcake matchup vs. the all-but-tanking Dolphins. The Eagles get Case Keenum and Washington at home. Seattle, fresh off adding Jadeveon Clowney to the mix, welcomes in the Bengals to a tough playing environment at CenturyLink Field. It’s also worth noting the top-ranked 2018 D/ST, the Bears, open the season up Thursday night against the rival Packers at home. It’s never an easy matchup vs. Aaron Rodgers, plus we don’t know what to expect from Matt LaFleur’s new offense.

With that said, let’s highlight a few value spots if you’re looking to stream in season-long leagues. With all the hype surrounding the Cardinals’ air raid offense under coach Kliff Kingsbury, there should be a considerable amount of question marks. Because of this, the Lions aren’t a bad option to stream. People forget Detroit was a top 10 defense by yards allowed last season, and limited teams to 224.9 passing yards per game, which ranked eighth. To limit the amount of time Arizona has the ball, expect the Lions to pound the rock with Kerryon Johnson. It’s also not out of the question the air raid and rookie QB Kyler Murray fail to impress in their debut in the NFL.

We can also use betting lines on DraftKings Sportsbook to help us decide which defense is favorable. An easy target is the Bills-Jets game. Right now, New York is favored by 3.0 points at home with the OVER/UNDER set at 40 points, the second-lowest total for Week 1. Both defensive units are talented, and both QBs are still pretty unproven, so we could see plenty of turnovers in this game. Turnovers and TDs are what really makes D/ST pop, so grabbing either the Bills or Jets isn’t a bad option.

If you’re feeling frisky, the Raiders come in at No. 19 on this list. This is merely a punt play, but if you share similar feelings about (elite) Joe Flacco and the lack of offensive weapons at his disposal this season, Oakland could surprise people at home in a game that has a low O/U of 43.

Fantasy Football D/ST Week 1 Rankings

Ranking Team Opponent
Ranking Team Opponent
1 Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
2 Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington
3 Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
4 Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans
5 Seattle Seahawks vs. Cincinnati Bengals
6 Los Angeles Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts
7 Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
8 Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
9 New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
10 Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers
11 New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans
12 New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
13 Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
14 Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
15 Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
16 Minnesota Vikings vs. Atlanta Falcons
17 Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
18 Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
19 Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Francisco 49ers