Week 1 Defenses to Stream (Fantasy Football)

by Ryan Melosi | @RTMelos | Featured Writer
Sep 4, 2018

Hopefully, you avoided one of the most common draft mistakes and let someone else in your league reach on the Jacksonsvilles and the Minnesotas because, well, if you didn’t I have some bad news for you. If you follow me on Twitter (you probably don’t) or listen to Bobby and Tags on the podcast (you probably do), you may have seen that we in the fantasy community can’t predict top defenses very well at all. Over the last five years, we haven’t seen one top-ranked defense by ADP finish at the top of the position.

“Well, why am I reading this if we can’t predict defenses?”

Well, we can project defenses on a weekly level. But as the data in the link above shows, we’re very, very bad at doing it before the season starts. There are always teams that fail to live up to the hype and there are always teams that come from nowhere. The NFL is chaos. Beautiful, addicting, fun chaos.

Projections are far from an exact science and this is especially evident on the defensive end when a pick-six or a return touchdown is often the difference between a mediocre or great week for our D/ST. We’re not going to be able to predict these, so outliers will happen. But what we can do is use historical trends such as ~14% of sacks resulting in fumbles or ~10.5% of interceptions get returned for touchdowns to give us an idea of what sort of point total we could be looking at.

I’ll be using my own projections, but we also have our site’s projections that can be found here if you’re so inclined.

This weekly recurring article will look at defenses with a below 75% ownership on Yahoo. 75% might seem high, but with how many people are streaming defenses I don’t think ownership values are as significant as they are for other positions. At the end I’ll post the full list of projections in case your league (like mine do already) has defenses available that are owned in more than 75% of leagues.

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1) Detroit Lions (vs. NYJ) – 37% owned
The Lions are six and a half point favorites at home versus the New York Jets who are starting what will be the youngest opening-day-starting QB in NFL history, Sam Darnold. The third-overall pick is a great NFL prospect, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll struggle in his opener. The Lions won’t have the best defense in the league, but they were sneakily competent against the pass last year, coming in 16th in passing according to FootballOutsider’s DVOA rating. Combine that with the Jets porous offensive line, and we have the Lions as not only our top streaming option but what should be a top play across the board.

2) Green Bay Packers (vs. CHI) – 30% owned
Home favorites are always a good idea and the Packers are getting seven and a half points at home against the rival Chicago Bears in Week 1. Mitch Trubisky is looking to take a huge step forward in his second year, and Green Bay’s defense, like Detroit above, probably isn’t going to set the world on fire, but rookie cornerback Josh Jackson had a huge preseason and the Bears don’t exactly have a ton of options in the passing game. Going up against an offensive line that ranked 23rd in adjusted sack rate last season, the Packers should be a fine Week 1 bet.

3) New England Patriots (vs. HOU) – 73% owned
I’m sure everyone will be quick to point out Deshaun Watson‘s comeback, but the fact remains that only DeShone Kizer and Trevor Siemian threw interceptions at a higher rate than him last season. The guy was a turnover machine. Behind an atrocious offensive line that ranked 30th in adjusted sack rate last season and projects to be even worse this year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Texans put up plenty of points while also giving plenty to the New England defense.

Overall Projections

Team Opponent Projected Points
Baltimore vs. BUF 9.86
Jacksonville @ NYG 8.38
New Orleans vs. TB 8.00
New England vs. HOU 7.87
Detroit vs. NYJ 7.72
Los Angeles Chargers vs. KC 7.57
Denver vs. SEA 7.41
Pittsburgh @ CLE 7.33
Seattle @ DEN 7.20
Minnesota vs. SF 7.13
Cincinnati @ IND 6.86
Tennessee @ MIA 6.82
Los Angeles Rams @ OAK 6.73
Green Bay vs. CHI 6.70
Washington @ ARI 6.69
Buffalo @ BAL 6.27
Dallas @ CAR 6.24
Indianapolis vs. CIN 6.20
Arizona vs. WAS 6.19
Philadelphia vs. ATL 6.15
Chicago @ GB 6.06
Carolina vs. DAL 6.05
Atlanta @ PHI 5.97
Miami vs. TEN 5.91
New York Giants vs. JAC 5.73
San Francisco @ MIN 5.70
New York Jets @ DET 5.63
Kansas City @ LAC 5.50
Cleveland vs. PIT 5.16
Houston @ NE 5.07
Tampa Bay @ NO 4.51
Oakland vs. LAR 4.33



  • Everyone is excited that Nathan Peterman is starting over Josh Allen, myself included, but it’d be foolish to expect him to throw another five interceptions. Baltimore was the top defensive play even with Josh Allen projected to start. They will be a chalk DFS play.
  • New Orleans was my go-to defense in my drafts with two cake matchups to start in Tampa Bay and Cleveland. If you can still get them, do it.
  • Detroit came in fifth, but it seems like they should be more of a top three play this week.
  • Denver feels high to me on a gut level. I hate picking against MVP-caliber quarterbacks, which Russell Wilson surely is.
  • Atlanta’s projections actually went down once Nick Foles was inserted, but I’m calling the model’s bluff on that one. Foles played terribly this pre-season and the Falcons defense should be ascending. They’re closer to a top 12 play than a bottom 12.

We’ll get to a bigger streaming slate in Week 2. With everyone drafting their Week 1 defenses there wasn’t a lot left. The number one piece of advice for this week is to go grab Detroit’s defense if they’re still available.

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Ryan Melosi is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive and follow him @RTMelos.

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