Loyal readers know we have two constants when it comes to assessing D/STs: Play the matchups (with waiver wire streamers and sleepers if you have to), and touchdowns are fluky. Both were on display in the season's opening week, as the only D/STs to score were the 49ers, Bucs, Titans, and Jets. All but the Titans had what looked to be good matchups, too. Not all of the matchup-based start-or-sit calls worked out, as both the Cowboys and Eagles disappointed against the Giants and Redskins, respectively, and the Vikings and Pats came through against the Falcons and Steelers, respectively, but it's a long season and we're still learning which offenses will truly be favorable and unfavorable matchups. Our Week 2 fantasy defense rankings stay the course and look for bad QBs to pick on and talented, big-play D/STs who can take advantage of any vulnerabilities.
The obvious QBs to go after are the two rookies, Kyler Murray (@ BAL) and Gardner Minshew (@ HOU). Perhaps just as obvious are Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. NE), Jameis Winston (@ CAR), Sam Darnold (vs. CLE), and Josh Allen (@ NYG), all of whom figure to keep committing turnovers. Eli Manning (vs. BUF) and Case Keenum (vs. DAL) also aren't completely off the hook, as they both have track records that can't be ignored.
A bunch of "good" D/STs have mediocre-to-tough matchups this week, so be ready to head to the waiver wire if you were counting on the Vikings (@ GB), Jaguars (@ HOU), Steelers (vs. SEA), and Rams (vs. NO), among others. Even deep sleepers, like the Bengals (vs. SF) or 49ers (@ CIN), can pay off, so don't be afraid to take some chances.
Reminder: These rankings will be adjusted throughout week, so check back often for updates and analysis!
7Carolina Panthers vs. Buccaneers. Jameis Winston was supposed to thrive in Bruce Arians' new offensive scheme. Week 1 saw him throw three brutal INTs and take three sacks while playing at home against a defense that had two INTs all of last season. Heading on the road for a Thursday night matchup against a Panthers defense that just limited Jared Goff to 186 yards and an INT doesn't seem like a recipe for redemption.
Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense
Chicago Bears @ Broncos. The Bears mostly shut down the Packers offense last Thursday, sacking Aaron Rodgers five times and limiting them to 10 points. Even though they're on the road this week, we like the QB matchup much more for the Bears, who should rack up sacks and get a takeaway or two.
New England Patriots @ Dolphins. The Pats defense was dominate against Pittsburgh, and Miami looked completely inept against Baltimore, turning it over three times. Put it all together and you have an easy start 'em call for New England.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cardinals. Kyler Murray struggled in his regular-season debut, taking five sacks, throwing an INT, and getting numerous balls swatted back in his face. And that was at home against the weak Lions defense. Traveling to the East Coast to face a solid Ravens D could be too tall of a task for the diminutive QB, at least at this stage in his career.
Denver Broncos vs. Bears. How bad did Mitchell Trubisky look last Thursday? Officially, he only threw one INT, but he nearly had a couple more go the other way. He also took five sacks and will be facing a fiercer pass rush this time around in the form of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Things could go from bad to worse.
Houston Texans vs. Jaguars. Rookie Gardner Minshew held his own in his debut, completing 22-of-25 passes for two TDs. Perhaps more impressive, he only took one sack, though he did toss an INT. A noisy road environment will bring a new set of problems for Minshew, and J.J. Watt will certainly be ready to welcome him to life away from home in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns @ Jets. The Browns had 43 hung on them by Tennessee last week, but if you take away a pick-six and a 75-yard screen-pass TD, it was only 29. Yeah, that doesn't make it sound any better. Fair enough, but one plus is they did generate four sacks, and considering they were second in the NFL in takeaways last year, they should be due for a few soon. Speaking of due, Sam Darnold didn't throw an INT in Week 1, but he also didn't impress, taking four sacks and averaging just 4.3 yards per attempt. He shined under the Monday night lights early last season, but we think this will be a nice bounce-back game for Cleveland's D/ST. (Update: Darnold will miss this game due to mono, meaning the Browns will get to pick on Trevor Siemian, giving them even more upside.)
Carolina Panthers vs. Buccaneers. Jameis Winston was supposed to thrive in Bruce Arians' new offensive scheme. Week 1 saw him throw three brutal INTs and take three sacks while playing at home against a defense that had two INTs all of last season. Heading on the road for a Thursday night matchup against a Panthers defense that just limited Jared Goff to 186 yards and an INT doesn't seem like a recipe for redemption.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Lions. The stats from Week 1 don't really support this ranking for the Chargers, but we planted a flag for them in the preseason and will stick with that for at least another week. Detroit tore up a porous Arizona defense in Week 1, but its trademark offensive line woes were on display, as Matthew Stafford took three sacks and fumbled twice (losing one). The loss of S Derwin James might prove too big of an obstacle in the Chargers' quest for every-week fantasy relevancy, but we expect Joey Bosa and co. to have a better pass-rushing performance against a much worse line this week.
Buffalo Bills @ Giants. So, Eli Manning somehow was sacked only once and avoided throwing an INT in Week 1? He is so due for a dumpster-fire performance. The Bills didn't quite live up to our expectations last week, but they did produce four sacks and a takeaway. We expect even better against Manning and his so-so group of receivers.
Dallas Cowboys @ Redskins. Dallas salvaged its disappointing fantasy day with a pair of cheap fumble recoveries against the Giants, but only one sack, no INTs, and no three-and-outs (if you're into that sort of thing) is a bit concerning. On the other side, Case Keenum looked good against the Eagles, connecting for 380 yards and three TDs without throwing a pick and taking only one sack. Perhaps we're being too stubborn by sticking with the Cowboys in the top 10, but this defense is too good and Keenum and the 'Skins O-line have too much baggage for us to think Dallas can't put up a good amount of fantasy points in this one.
New York Giants vs. Bills. New York was terrible against the Cowboys in Week 1, but that wasn't a shock given the matchup. The Bills are another story. While Buffalo can move the ball and score points, Josh Allen is clearly still in the "turnover-prone" stage of his career. He fumbled away two possessions and threw away another two to the Jets last week. In 13 career games, he has 14 INTs and 10 fumbles, and he's taken 29 sacks. The Giants won't have to do much to fall into some points in this one, and the Bills playing their second straight road game in the same stadium is also an odd anomaly that's worth mentioning.
New York Jets vs. Browns. Baker Mayfield might not throw three INTs again, but the Browns offensive line is a serious worry, allowing five sacks. The Jets proved opportunistic against Buffalo, so as long as C.J. Mosley is back, the Jets have upside playing at home in a prime-time game.
Indianapolis Colts @ Titans. We tabbed Indy as a season-long sleeper, and Week 1 actually went fairly well considering they were on the road against a potent offense. The Colts sacked Philip Rivers four times and forced two turnovers, showcasing talent at every level. The Titans looked good offensively in Week 1, but Marcus Mariota took four sacks and we know Tennessee can get stagnant at times. The Colts should be better against a less dynamic offense and put up a decent amount of fantasy points.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seahawks. Pittsburgh was out of sorts in every way on Sunday night, but Seattle struggled to move the ball at home against Cincinnati in Week 1. This is a good bounce-back spot for the Steelers, as Seattle allowed four sacks in Week 1 and has a notoriously leaky O-line.
Green Bay Packers vs. Vikings. The Packers defense made life miserable for Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears last Thursday, and the accolades, including those from QB Aaron Rodgers, quickly followed. Is Green Bay's D/ST really that good? Probably not, but it's certainly an improved unit that should have more upside playing at home. Minnesota's new "ball-control" style offense shouldn't yield many fantasy points to defenses, but Kirk Cousins is prone to making mistakes in big games, so this isn't a terrible matchup for the Pack.
Minnesota Vikings @ Packers. The Packers offense didn't inspire a lot of confidence last Thursday, and the Vikings D did a number on the high-powered Falcons, but Aaron Rodgers generally doesn't turn the ball over, especially at home. Minnesota could pay off on sacks and points allowed alone, but its ceiling is lowered.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Saints. The Rams have the talent to put up numbers against anyone, but New Orleans is about as tough as it gets. A solid Week 1 on the road (three sacks, two takeaways) certainly gives Rams owners hope, but unless we see something from worrisome from New Orleans on Monday night, it might be a good idea to find a one-week fill-in.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Raiders. If Kansas City couldn't make life miserable for rookie Gardner Minshew and the Jags, why do we think it will be better against Derek Carr and the Raiders? We knew it would take this revamped defense some time to jell, and perhaps more relevant, the big guys up front won't be playing in 100-degree heat and high humidity this week. But Oakland proved competent on Monday night against the Broncos, so unless the "short week" gets them, Kansas City is only a mediocre streaming option.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Texans.
Tennessee Titans vs. Colts
Seattle Seahawks @ Steelers.
Washington Redskins vs. Cowboys.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. 49ers.
San Francisco 49ers @ Bengals.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Falcons.
New Orleans Saints @ Rams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Panthers.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Eagles.
Arizona Cardinals @ Ravens.
Detroit Lions vs. Chargers.
Miami Dolphins vs. Patriots.
Oakland Raiders vs. Chiefs.