Week 1 is now in the books and defenses had a field day with multiple defensive and special teams touchdowns filling up fantasy box scores as the season kicked off. We were also able to get a better feel for the majority of NFL defenses as opening weekend had its fair share of fireworks on the defensive side of the ball. Now, stop staring at the shiny new “1-0” record sitting proudly next to your team name, and get ready to quickly turn your attention to Week 2 as we analyze each and every D/ST play for the second week of the NFL season. Oh, and kickers too. Don’t forget the kickers.
Our top-five defensive plays for Week 2 all had successful opening weeks of the 2015 season and now draw very comfortable opposition as they look to build on early-season momentum.
The (1) St. Louis Rams (at Washington) led the NFL with six sacks in Week 1 as they pummeled the Seattle offensive line and made Russell Wilson uncomfortable from the opening snap on Sunday. Don’t let the 31 points that Seattle tallied fool you, as the Seahawks scored two defensive/special teams touchdowns. The St. Louis defense also faced a league-high 79 plays from the Seattle offense in Week 1, but allowed just 4.3 yards per play, good for sixth best in the league. This week, Jeff Fisher and the Rams will travel to the nation’s capital to face Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins. Washington only gave up one sack in Week 1, but Kirk Cousins did toss two interceptions and this St. Louis defensive front is strong enough to create plenty of havoc on the road.
With Derek Carr (hand) a candidate to miss Week 2, the (2) Baltimore Ravens (at Oakland) will be a top play. Even if Carr is healthy enough to start and the Ravens D/ST doesn’t get Matt McGloin gift wrapped for them, Baltimore still showed enough in Week 1 to warrant top consideration. The Ravens held Denver to just 219 yards of total offense and even without Terrell Suggs, this group should be able to shut down an Oakland offense that was held scoreless at home for the first 52 minutes and five seconds of Week 1. Baltimore also recorded four Week 1 sacks, and will stack up another healthy total against the Raiders on Sunday.
Our top-ranked Week 1 defense, the (3) Miami Dolphins (at Jacksonville) finished fifth among fantasy D/ST units on the week, aided by two Kirk Cousins interceptions and one electric special teams score from Jarvis Landry. This week, Miami turns its attention to Blake Bortles and the Jaguars, who are fresh off handing the Carolina Panthers the top fantasy D/ST performance of Week 1. Bortles was sacked five times last week and threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The Jacksonville offense has the look of a season-long streaming target, so fire up Miami once again this week.
The top Week 1 fantasy defense draws another decent matchup in Week 2 as the (4) Carolina Panthers (vs Houston) host the Houston Texans and their mystery quarterback. Head coach Bill O’Brien is remaining tight-lipped about his starting quarterback situation but when the options are Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, the opposing defense is going to be a strong option no matter what. Mallett did look better than Hoyer after taking over late in Week 1, but the team committed two turnovers and the Houston line allowed five sacks for good measure. Carolina is coming off a big week with five sacks of its own in addition to a pick-six, so this unit will be a solid bet to repeat in a nice home matchup.
The (5) Kansas City Chiefs (vs Denver) had a decent Week 1 performance and held the Houston Texans to just nine points until the final four minutes of the game. The yardage totals the Chiefs allowed aren’t too attractive, but garbage time was responsible for a fair amount of those issues and the Kansas City defense did stack up five sacks and two turnovers. Front-line defensive pressure will be key for the Chiefs D/ST again this week as they face Peyton Manning and Denver, who allowed four sacks to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. Denver totaled just 219 total yards in Week 1 at home and now travel to Kansas City for a divisional road matchup. Starting a fantasy D/ST against Peyton Manning may feel uncomfortable at first blush, but we play for now, not last season.
Good Defenses, Tough Matchups
The following five defenses are all solid groups, but draw unfriendly Week 2 matchups. These defenses can still be started with confidence, but temper expectations.
Week 1 saw the (6) Buffalo Bills (vs New England) shut down Andrew Luck and the Colts, and the Bills draw another home matchup with a solid offense this week as Tom Brady and the Patriots roll into town. Buffalo shut down the Indianapolis running game (64 yards) and turned its attention to Luck on Sunday, as they recorded two sacks and forced a pair of interceptions in Week 1. The matchup isn’t pretty but a home game and a quality defensive unit are still attributes to look for when starting a fantasy defense.
The (7) Denver Broncos (at Kansas City) didn’t look great on offense in Week 1, but their defense kept them in the game against Baltimore, holding the Ravens to just 173 total yards. Kansas City may not be an ideal target for fantasy defenses, as they looked solid in Week 1, but the short week and the talent on this Denver defense still make the Broncos a nice Week 2 option on Thursday.
The NFL’s opening weekend was rough for the (8) Houston Texans (at Carolina), but I'm not willing to throw this group to side quite yet. The main concern here is the Houston offense not getting rolling against Carolina and leaving the Texans defense on the field for far too long, as they were in Week 1. However, I am willing to give J.J. Watt and the Houston defensive front a shot to produce against a Carolina offense that wasn’t particularly impressive against Jacksonville in their season opener.
The (9) Seattle Seahawks (at Green Bay) defense bailed out fantasy owners with a special teams and a defensive score in Week 1, but the rest of the performance wasn’t as impressive as Seattle fell to St. Louis on the road. The Seahawks allowed the Rams to convert at a 54 percent clip on third downs, something they will need to improve this week as they take on Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. The road matchup is tough, but as we saw last week, this group still has plenty of playmakers even with Kam Chancellor out.
Was Week 1 a product of a quality (10) Cincinnati Bengals (vs San Diego) defense, or the offensive struggles of the Oakland Raiders? The answer will be presented this Sunday, as the Bengals return home to face a San Diego offense that just hung 483 total yards on the Detroit Lions. Cincinnati allowed just 63 yards rushing to Oakland as they jumped out to a huge early lead and forced the Raiders to throw, and will need a similar start in Week 2 in order to repeat that performance against a far better offense. Like the other options in this tier, the matchup is a little rough but this defense does have some momentum.
These two defenses are lightly owned in fantasy leagues and are decent options for fantasy rosters lacking a defense with solid Week 2 prospects.
The (11) Tennessee Titans (at Cleveland) were stellar on both sides of the football in Week 1 as they pummeled Tampa Bay. This week, the Titans face Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns and make an excellent streaming option. Manziel was just 13 of 24 with two fumbles and an interception after taking over for the injured Josh McCown in Week 1, and the Titans should be able to take advantage of Johnny Football and the Cleveland offense this week. Tennessee will also look to stuff the Cleveland running game that was led by Manziel with just 35 yards in Week 1. Stream away.
Jameis Winston was sacked four times and threw two interceptions in Week 1 against Tennessee, putting him squarely in the “streaming target” category for Week 2 as he faces the (12) New Orleans Saints (vs Tampa Bay). The Saints D/ST wasn’t very impressive in Week 1 against Arizona but a home matchup against a turnover-prone rookie quarterback is where fantasy points are made.
These fantasy defenses are all decent groups but are a notch below our top-12 options for Week 2.
Road matchups await the (13) San Francisco 49ers (at Pittsburgh), (14) New England Patriots (at Buffalo), (15) Arizona Cardinals (at Chicago), and (16) New York Jets (at Indianapolis) in Week 2. These four D/ST groups are fair season-long bets but you can find far more desirable Week 2 options likely sitting on the waiver wire. The (17) Cleveland Browns (vs Tennessee) are at home, but face a suddenly efficient Tennessee offense that doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did in 2014.
Thanks, But No Thanks
These five Week 2 options can be safely avoided this weekend.
(18) Green Bay Packers (vs Seattle)
(19) Washington Redskins (vs St. Louis)
(20) Detroit Lions (at Minnesota)
(21) Indianapolis Colts (vs NY Jets)
(22) Philadelphia Eagles (vs Dallas)
These bottom-ten Week 2 fantasy defenses all showed cracks in Week 1, face brutal opposing offenses, or in some cases, both. Feel free to boot these D/ST units to the curb in favor of better matchups this week.
(23) Minnesota Vikings (vs Detroit)
(24) San Diego Chargers (at Cincinnati)
(25) Pittsburgh Steelers (vs San Francisco)
(26) Jacksonville Jaguars (vs Miami)
(27) Dallas Cowboys (at Philadelphia)
(28) Atlanta Falcons (at NY Giants)
(29) Chicago Bears (vs Arizona)
(30) Oakland Raiders (vs Baltimore)
(31) New York Giants (vs Atlanta)
(32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at New Orleans)
A preliminary glance at the Week 3 NFL schedule gives us four top options with home games to look at for next week:
New England (Week 3 vs Jacksonville)
Cleveland (Week 3 vs Oakland)
Houston (Week 3 vs Tampa Bay)
Seattle (Week 3 vs Chicago)
Kickers Are People Too
High-scoring games are our target once again this week when hunting for fantasy kicker options.
1. Matt Bryant (at NYG)
2. Josh Brown (vs ATL)
3. Dan Bailey (at PHI)
4. Zach Hocker (vs TB)
5. Cody Parkey (vs DAL)
6. Josh Scobee (vs SF)
7. Adam Vinatieri (vs NYJ)
8. Steven Hauschka (at GB)
9. Brandon McManus (at KC)
10. Mason Crosby (vs SEA)
12. Matt Prater (at MIN)