Welcome to Denny’s Deals for week one fantasy football defenses!
Fantasy defenses are as perplexing as they are frustrating. They’re fickle and volatile and dependent on the least predictable parts of professional football.
Throw in the complexities of a daily fantasy salary, and selecting becomes an exercise in trimming precious minutes, hours – even days – from your lifespan.
I’m experimenting this season with something I like to call Streaming Scores – numbers assigned to each and every defense indicating how good or bad their matchup is that week. A team’s Streaming Score doesn’t incorporate the how stifling or generous a certain defense has been. It’s entirely matchup based.
Why go this route? Because more than 60 percent of weekly top-12 fantasy defenses in 2013 had one thing in common: They were favored by Vegas.
The number of Vegas favorites who notched top-12 fantasy defense performances varied from week to week, of course, with Week 9 seeing just five favorites score among the top-12 defenses and Weeks 2, 11, 15, and 16 seeing nine favorites rank as top-12 units.
I designed Streaming Scores for re-draft leagues, but I think they have obvious usefulness for week one fantasy football defenses as well.
Streaming Scores incorporate Vegas lines, projected points totals, home field, and various other factors that have proven at least somewhat predictive in determining which defenses will generate turnovers and sacks. Choosing week one fantasy football defenses will never lend itself to a purely scientific approach because – to put it simply – the football is oblong and weird things happen.
As the precocious fantasy writer Chris Raybon pointed out in a recent study of defenses in daily fantasy, these fickle units have a terrifyingly low floor (2.64 points) and a pretty hefty ceiling (13.36 points). And like anything else in daily fantasy, we’re going to make decisions based on the type of game we’re playing.
Below are two defensive suggestions for DraftDay’s 50/50 games and head-to-head matchups, and a couple options for large tournaments. For the former, I’m going to suggest week one fantasy football defenses with high Streaming Scores who present the safest plays for. For the latter, I’ll present high-volatility week one fantasy football defenses with solid Streaming Scores.
50/50 Games and Head-to-Heads
Chicago Bears ($5,300) vs. Buffalo Bills
Chicago’s defense, a fantasy disaster for much of 2013, is available for a very reasonable Week 1 price. A dozen week one fantasy football defenses are pricier on DraftDay.
The Bears get the Bills’ highly dysfunctional offense at home to start the year. Chicago’s Streaming Score of three doesn’t jump off the page, as there are nine defenses with higher Streaming Scores. That’s in large part because Buffalo’s ultra run-heavy attack isn’t all that conducive to an armful of turnovers.
Still, Chicago is at home, they’re favored, and I expect EJ Manuel to be forced to throw in this one. That’s usually a very good thing for opposing defenders. The Bears are a premiere defensive play for 50/50s and head-to-heads.
Pittsburgh Steelers ($4,350) vs. Cleveland Browns
The Steelers’ defense is just as safe as the Bears’ defense, and they’re almost $1,000 cheaper in their Week 1 matchup against a Cleveland offense with very limited offensive options.
Pittsburgh is among DraftDay’s 10 cheapest defensive plays, and I’m using them in quite a few contests. The Steelers’ Streaming Score of five is a top-4 score for the season’s opening week.
I don’t think the Browns will be able to hide the struggling Brian Hoyer in this one. The Steelers-Browns throw down is projected to be the third lowest scoring affair among week one fantasy football defenses, according to Vegas odds makers.
New York Jets ($4,850) vs. Oakland Raiders
The Jets’ defense – their secondary, in particular – is going to somewhere between bad and horrendous this season. The team’s backup cover guys are banged up. There’s a small chance I’ll see some action at cornerback for Gang Green this week.
That shouldn’t stop us from deploying New York’s defense against the Raiders, who will be starting a rookie quarterback on the road in an early-game cross-country matchup.
Yes, of course we’d rather have pick-six machine Matt Schaub starting for the Silver and Black, but let’s not mistake Derek Carr for Aaron Rodgers. The Jets’ secondary is awful, sure, but thankfully, they won’t have to be elite to capitalize on a favorable matchup.
The Jets’ are the 17th most expensive defense on DraftDay this week. I think the Carr news is enough to scare daily gamers away from Gang Green as a locked-in defensive option. That screams for exploitation from gamers who believe in the power of matchups.
The Jets’ Streaming Score of seven is the highest among all week one fantasy football defenses.
Philadelphia Eagles ($5,500) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I don’t think the Jaguars will be the defensive streaming target they were a year ago, but on the road as a heavy underdog to a Philadelphia defense with a more-than-respectable front seven? I like the Eagles.
This will be a tremendously popular Week 1 play, so if you want to go contrarian, you might look beyond the Eagles as your best option.
Philly’s Streaming Score of 6.5 is the second highest of Opening Week. Vegas’ points total and line say the Jags should be forced to throw in this one – a decidedly good thing when Chad Henne is running the show.
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