Fantasy Football Rankings 2012: Top Defensive Matchups of Week 1
Far too often, fantasy football games can be decided by how well your defense performs.
Sure, it's nice having a top-notch unit; however, the opposing offensive matchup is always vital when it comes to a defense lighting up the fantasy scoreboard.
So the key here is to find the most favorable matchup, because a team that can accumulate sacks, force turnovers and limit an opponent's yards ultimately advances nicely. The Houston Texans are a prime example this week as Wade Phillips' crew plays host to the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are starting a rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, and lack any elite receivers to stretch Houston's pass defense. This is not the only matchup that significantly favors the defense, either.
Therefore, let's rank the best defensive fantasy matchups offered from Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season.
4. Seattle Seahawks (at Cardinals)
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The Arizona Cardinals don't have the pass protection to match up with the Seattle Seahawks' front seven.
Chris Clemons is going to have a field day any time he's blocked one-on-one, and in pass situations you can count on rookie Bruce Irvin making some noise as well.
Now yes, Arizona has an upgraded receiving corps with Michael Floyd to complement Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Seattle's suffocating secondary that consists of Brandon Browner, Marcus Trufant and Richard Sherman will blanket any spread formation.
Therefore, that leaves the Arizona's best offensive production to come from running back Beanie Wells.
Wells did top over a grand in 2011 but he was quite inconsistent also. Seattle's front seven was solid against the run a year ago and you can expect the same in 2012. If anything, this is where the Card's production will occur, though, as linebacker Bobby Wagner is only a rookie.
Nevertheless, expect Seattle to rack up sacks and force some turnovers. Arizona won't see many scoring opportunities, and another slow start for the Card's is in the making.
3. New England Patriots (at Titans)
All the New England Patriots have to do is zero in on Chris Johnson.
The Tennessee Titans don't have an established passing attack and Jake Locker still must prove himself under center.
With that, Bill Belichick will bring the house to the inexperienced quarterback and get his defense in great position to constantly make plays. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower were excellent additions to the front seven and cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty possess impressive instincts.
Johnson will face a defensive front focused on isolating his production because forcing Locker to beat New England through the air is the more favorable game plan. To also force that upon Tennessee, the Patriots offense will push the pace and try to make the Titans keep up.
Doing that also takes away carries from Johnson and in turn, leave more opportunities for Belchick's secondary to cause turnovers. Even if Tennessee moves the rock through Pats' territory, New England proved to be stout when backed up toward its own goal line last season.
Titans kicker Rob Bironas is a good play here, though, because he'll be Tennessee's best chance to score as the offense will get shut down near the red zone.
2. Buffalo Bills (at Jets)
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Throughout the preseason, the New York Jets mustered only one touchdown, and that came in Game 4 from the backup unit.
In short, the Buffalo Bills defense is ready to eat and ready to show off some of its new faces this week.
Mario Williams and Mark Anderson will be bolting at the snap to wreck havoc in the backfield while rookie Stephon Gilmore locks down in coverage. Last season, the Jets didn't have the best pass protection and it has only gotten worse for 2012.
And with Williams and Anderson causing much pressure, this also puts Marcell Dareus in more one-on-one situations. As you can see Gang Green is covered by Buffalo up front and whether it's Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez, some quickly developing plays must occur to counter any rush.
That's where Gilmore and the secondary enters, because he can take away half the field and allow Aaron Williams to see more playmaking opportunities. Not to mention the Jets don't have a true No. 1 receiver and Santonio Holmes doesn't beat single coverage enough to warrant double coverage.
Buffalo creates much quarterback pressure and halts anything on the ground from the Jets. And with turnover chances increased, this is your best bet for a Week 1 shutout.
1. Houston Texans (vs. Dolphins)
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The Houston Texans' dominance over the Miami Dolphins will be eerily similar to that of the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets.
Miami is sending Ryan Tannehill out to face one of the league's best-overall units from 2011, and the Texans will only be stronger in 2012.
Brooks Reed and J.J. Watt are to imposing pass-rush forces, as is Connor Barwin and rookie Whitney Mercilus. Houston's front seven is just too well-disciplined against the run and rarely bites on play-action fakes, either.
Considering that the Dolphins don't present an elite ground game, we can't expect the Texans to respect it that much, either. Now, Miami does have a better-than-advertised receiving corps with the underrated Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee.
Unfortunately for the 'Fins, neither will find openings versus guys like Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning from Wade Phillips' secondary. Add in the potential level of pressure that will get put on Tannehill, and the Dolphins will be down rather quickly.
Not so much turnovers here as sacks, but hardly any scoring opportunities for Miami to win the field position battle.
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