This article is part of our Streaming Defenses series.
You know what stinks? Drafting a defense in the 10th round, then looking at your Week 1 matchup and seeing that the defense your opponent drafted five rounds later (or scooped off waivers) is projected to outscore yours by a couple points.
Matchups have a degree of relevance at every position, but D/ST is the only spot on your roster where the opponent alone can cause weekly projections to depart from season averages by more than 20-30 percent. You're never benching Leonard Fournette, Travis Kelce or Michael Thomas, but you might bench or release the Minnesota defense – a consensus top-five unit – for a road game against Aaron Rodgers (make note of Week 2).
For those of us who didn't draft a ride-or-die unit like Jacksonville or Philadelphia, a week-to-week approach is the best method to maximize points at the position. Do I think the Detroit defense is comparable to the Houston defense? Not a chance. Would I rather have Detroit in my lineup this week? Undoubtedly. Short-term pain for long-term gain just isn't worth it so far as defenses are concerned, particularly in competitive leagues where a 1-3 start is all but a death sentence.
With that, let's take a look at the top options for those of us still in the process of finding a defense to start Week 1.
Note: These recommendations are limited to D/ST units with under 60 percent ownership on Yahoo as of Tuesday morning. Any references to fantasy points are based on Yahoo standard scoring.
Top Streaming Options for Week 1
1. Detroit Lions (vs. New York Jets)
36% Yahoo ownership
Detroit's defensive depth chart is no thing of beauty, but the on-field product will at least be adequate for as long as CB Darius Slay, FS Glover Quin and DE Ezekiel Ansah all stay healthy. Lucky for us, adequate should do the trick Monday night when the Lions step into the dream scenario of a Week 1 home game against a rookie quarterback playing behind a below-average offensive line. Regardless of how we feel about Sam Darnold as a prospect, it's safe to say there will be some early struggles with a 21-year-old QB who committed 22 turnovers in his final collegiate season. It doesn't help that WR Jermaine Kearse (abdomen) is unlikely to play, further depleting a Gang Green offense that won't get much from its tight ends. Vegas projects the Jets for just 19.25 points, sitting at +6.5 in a game with an over/under of 45.
2. Carolina Panthers (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
53% Yahoo ownership
While they don't get the pleasure of facing a rookie quarterback, the Panthers do have the strongest front seven among our handful of recommendations, creating a problematic scenario for a Dallas offense with injury/cohesion issues along the line and talent issues at WR/TE. The Cowboys still have a pair of standouts in LT Tyron Smith (knee) and RG Zack Martin, but RT La'el Collins is more name than game and LG Connor Williams and C Joe Looney are essentially unknowns. The downgrade from Travis Frederick (illness) to Looney alone might be enough to throw a wrench in the Cowboys' ground-and-pound gameplan. There are only five teams with a lower implied total (20 points) this week, and only two games have a lower over/under (43).
3. Tennessee Titans (at Miami Dolphins)
15% Yahoo ownership
Led by a secondary packed with upside, the Tennessee defense finally has enough talent to take the bold leap from subpar to mediocre (or perhaps even above average if things fall into place just right). This probably isn't a unit we'll want to target on a regular basis, but there is some appeal in a Week 1 matchup with a Miami team that still has the misfortune to be stuck in the Gase-Tannehill era. The Titans' cornerback trio of Malcolm Butler, Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan presents a favorable matchup against Gase's heavy usage of three-wide formations. Miami's implied total of 22 points isn't terrible, but it still falls in the bottom half of the league for Week 1.
4. Green Bay Packers (vs. Chicago Bears)
29% Yahoo ownership
Bears fans and fantasy owners alike have every right to be excited about this offense, but we need to temper expectations in the short term while the team figures out exactly what it has in Matt Nagy, Mitchell Trubisky and the array of new weapons. What we see in Week 1 is unlikely to match the finished product, and any sort of initial projection needs to account for the very real possibility that it just never works out. Jordan Howard is a proven commodity, but can we really be sure about Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen? This could be 2018's version of the 2017 Rams, or it could be an utterly forgettable mess. A Week 1 implied total of 19.75 is actually too pessimistic for my taste, but it's at least a useful reminder that smart money isn't buying into the hype.
5. Arizona Cardinals (vs. Washington Redskins)
21% Yahoo ownership
Arizona looks a bit vulnerable up the middle while transitioning to a 4-3 base defense under Steve Wilks, but this is still a unit with considerable upside so long as CB Patrick Peterson and DE Chandler Jones stay healthy. The team's top two draft picks from 2017 – LB Haason Reddick and S Budda Baker – are high-ceiling prospects looking to make the jump from rookie-year contributor to second-year star. I don't love the matchup against Jay Gruden and Alex Smith, but the Cardinals are at least a good bet to provide a handful of fantasy points in a pick'em with an over/under of 44.
Week 1 D/ST Rankings
1. Baltimore Ravens (vs. BUF)
2. Detroit Lions (vs. NYJ)
3. New Orleans Saints (vs. TB)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (at NYG)
5. Los Angeles Rams (at OAK)
6. Minnesota Vikings (vs. SF)
7. New England Patriots (vs. HOU)
8. Denver Broncos (vs. SEA)
9. Los Angeles Chargers (vs. KC)
10. Tennessee Titans (at MIA)
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (at CLE)
12. Carolina Panthers (vs. DAL)
13. Philadelphia Eagles (vs. ATL)
14. Green Bay Packers (vs. CHI)
15. Arizona Cardinals (vs. WAS)
16. New York Giants (vs. JAC)
17. Washington Redskins (at ARI)
18. Miami Dolphins (vs. TEN)
19. Dallas Cowboys (at CAR)
20. Houston Texans (at NE)
Looking Ahead to Week 2
1. Los Angeles Chargers (at BUF)
2. Philadelphia Eagles (at TB)
3. Los Angeles Rams (vs. ARI)
4. New Orleans Saints (vs. CLE)
5. Denver Broncos (vs. OAK)
6. Chicago Bears (vs. SEA)
7. Atlanta Falcons (vs. CAR)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. NE)
9. Houston Texans (at TEN)
10. Washington Redskins (vs. IND)
11. Baltimore Ravens (at CIN)
12. Cincinnati Bengals (vs. BAL)
13. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. KC)
14. Tennessee Titans (vs. HOU)
15. New England Patriots (at JAC)
16. San Francisco 49ers (vs. DET)
17. New York Jets (vs. MIA)
18. Miami Dolphins (at NYJ)
19. Minnesota Vikings (at GB)
20. Green Bay Packers (vs. MIN)
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Minnesota Vikings
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Houston Texans
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. New Orleans Saints
9. New England Patriots
10. Denver Broncos
11. Carolina Panthers
12. Chicago Bears
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. Tennessee Titans
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
16. Washington Redskins
17. Green Bay Packers
18. Cincinnati Bengals
19. Detroit Lions
20. Dallas Cowboys