(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
Welcome to Week 1 of the regular season. Each week, I will be striving to pick the best defenses available on the waiver wire. I will also throw in defenses that have a surprisingly low ownership percentage, just in case you’re the lucky one who can grab them. Let me start by quickly explaining why and how I stream defenses, and what it means. When I go into a fantasy draft, I usually follow some ironclad rules. I don’t draft a quarterback in the first 10 rounds…barring Aaron Rodgers falling to me in the 4th or Russell Wilson falling to the 7th. I don’t draft a tight end until the first 8-10 names have gone off the board. And I don’t draft defense or kicker until the very last two rounds. Defense and Kicker tend to have a lot of turnover/ unpredictability, and there are always plenty of options since only 12 of them are started in a given week. Last year, Jacksonville mostly went undrafted at the season’s opening. With 20 options always sitting there, it’s almost impossible not to like something that’s free. So, why spend an 8th round pick on Jacksonville (their ADP right now) when you could spend nothing?
To stream defenses, we are going to look at a few things:
- Talent of the defensive unit…can they stop people?
- Matchup…how bad is the other offense, or how turnover prone are they?
- Ownership percentage (based on yahoo leagues)…how likely is it I can actually get this team?
Without further ado, let’s take a look at week 1. I consider streamers any defense owned in less than half of leagues.
Los Angeles Chargers
I’m starting off with an elite unit because it is still only 95% owned. Sure, this means you probably cannot grab them. However, it also means 1 out of every 20 people can. That’s enough where I’m going to say you need to pick them up right now if possible. It doesn’t hurt to check for the chance at a free elite unit. The only unit I would definitively rank over the Chargers is Jacksonville, and then I would have LA in a close bunch with the Rams, Vikings, and Eagles.
New Orleans Saints
Here is another excellent unit that is only 86% owned. New Orleans improved a lot last year with the breakout of rookie corner Marshon Lattimore and they have a juicy matchup in week 1. The Saint are playing the Buccaneers, who are without their quarterback. I love chasing backup quarterbacks when I look for a defense. While the Saints are probably already owned, it’s still worth checking in case you are one of the lucky ones. If you get them (almost 1 in 6 can), I would hold on and roll with them for now.
Here is our last stud defensive group that has a surprisingly low ownership percentage for week 1. The Ravens are 90% owned but they have one of the best match-ups I think we will see all year. The Ravens are hosting the Buffalo Bills, and the Bills are starting Nathan Peterman. Why do you remember that name? Peterman is the guy who threw 5 interceptions in one half of a game last year. Also, the Ravens led the league in interceptions last year with 22. Oh yeah, I want a piece of that! As I mentioned before, the Ravens are 90% owned, but they are probably my favorite start of the week if they are out there. One out of ten will be lucky enough to snag them.
The Falcons represent a drop in pedigree from the previous options, but they are still solid. In fact, I would consider playing them for most of the season if I had them. What makes the Falcons a great option for week 1 is their juicy ownership percent (35%), their opponent (Philadelphia Eagles), and the current state of their opponent. If this game was being played in week 7 or 8, I would stay away because Doug Pederson has shown us what he can do with his full arsenal of weapons. However, he doesn’t have Carson Wentz. He also doesn’t have Alshon Jeffery. Let’s add on that Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement, and Jay Ajayi have been banged up, and suddenly the Eagles have lost some of their bite for week 1. We will finish by saying that Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles has not looked great this preseason, and you can see why I want a piece of the Falcons. Feel confident if you start the Falcons week 1.
Detroit Lions (stream of the week)
A constant theme of defensive streaming will be chasing backup quarterbacks and rookie quarterbacks. A guy is likely to make mistakes if he isn’t used to seeing the field. Well by picking the Lions, we are ultimately picking on Sam Darnold. I like Sam Darnold as a prospect and to find eventual success in the league. However, Darnold will be playing in his first NFL game this week, and he plays for the most critical sports city in the country. The Jets don’t exactly have an intimidating running game behind Cleveland castoff Isaiah Crowell and veteran Bilal Powell, and I think they will be passing a lot once Detroit jumps ahead. I love it when bad teams are forced to pass. I also love it when rookie quarterbacks have to play on the road. Sure enough, the Jets have to travel to Detroit in week one. The Lions are only 39% owned, so they should be available in most leagues. They are my top streamer pick of week 1.
The Indianapolis Colts were a perennial playoff team when Andrew Luck was healthy. The key phrase there is when Andrew Luck was healthy. He hasn’t been healthy for a long time now, and I’m not so convinced he lights it up in week one. The Bengals have a solid secondary, and I think they could take advantage of an ugly first week back. How will Luck respond when he takes that first big hit of the regular season? There is also concern about the running game. Marlon Mack appears to be out for week 1, and both rookies (Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines) have shown some fumble concerns in the preseason. This all could add up to a great day for the Bengals defense. While I am slightly worried that Luck could be fine and the old Indy offense could shine, I’m willing to take that chance on a unit that is only 10% owned.
We finish up with the Tennessee Titans, another unit that is only 14% owned. Tennessee travels to Miami to face Ryan Tannehill, Kenyan Drake, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker (broken finger), and the rest of the gang. Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t fear the Dolphins offense at all. Kenyan Drake looks like a very talented running back, but otherwise, there is nothing here to give me concern. Let’s also not forget that Tannehill missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and he wasn’t exactly tearing up the league even when he was fully healthy. Tennessee is a solid defense with a great week 1 matchup for us to exploit, and I’m happy to roll with this unit for week 1.
“Matchup … How bad is the other offense…” The Chargers are facing Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins etc. and the Chiefs beat the Chargers twice last season.
Hey Mark, thanks for reading and commenting! While the Chargers don’t have the best week one matchup, I love their unit overall. Also, I expect Patrick Mahomes to be more turnover prone than Alex Smith was, creating more opportunities for defensive scores. The Chiefs may put up points, but I always bet on a young qb to make mistakes
Mike, Do you still think it was a good idea to stream against the Chiefs? Personally, I like to stream against weak offenses.
One would definitely react to Bosa being out of the game and adjust their expectations accordingly. I still stand by chasing after young quarterbacks who are unproven when picking a defense, and a mega talented defense (like the chargers when fully healthy) is a good option to roll with. One of the biggest problems for the defense today specifically was Mahomes having to much time in the pocket. Bosa playing would have completely changed the game in my opinion.