Defense has always been one of the most interesting slots in fantasy football. It varies more than any other position from week to week. It is also the position that is most affected by the opposing team.
Picking the best defense for a given fantasy week is very different from picking the best defense for winning games in the NFL.
Given that and given the upcoming matchups in Week 1, here are five defenses that you should consider starting for your fantasy teams.
The first team to look at is the Philadelphia Eagles defense. While the Eagles do not have an elite defensive unit, they have a great opponent in Week 1. The Cleveland Browns have one of the worst offenses in the league.
The Browns offense is so woeful that it caused ESPN analyst Matthew Berry to rank the Eagles defense No. 1 this week.
In 2011, the Cleveland offense ranked 30th in the NFL with a measly 13.6 points per game. Unfortunately, it has not done anything this offseason to warrant expectations of improvement in 2012.
In the Eagles favor, the Philadelphia defense—led by defensive end Jason Babin—allowed only 11.5 points per game and held opponents to an average of 265 total yards over the final four games of the 2011 season.
Due to the strength of its opponent more than anything else, the Eagles defense is a solid option for Week 1 fantasy.
The New York Jets defense is always a solid bet. Already one of the top defenses in the NFL in 2011, the Jets have used it to fill up the few holes that they had.
Safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell were the two most vital pickups. However, perhaps the most exciting pickup was rookie defensive end Quinton Coples, a likely defensive rookie of the year candidate.
The Jets defense was fifth in the NFL in total defense and passing defense last season, despite being constantly put in bad situations by its own offense. The big offseason pickups may make this one of the best defenses that the Jets have ever had.
In Week 1, the Jets will face the rival Buffalo Bills. The Bills are not slouches on offense. Nevertheless, they have had fits in recent years with the Jets defense. The Bills went five straight games against the Jets from 2009 to 2011 without scoring more than 14 points in regulation.
The Jets perhaps deserve to be ranked higher, but the defenses that follow keep them back at No. 4.
Some people seem to have forgotten just how good the Chicago Bears were in 2011 before quarterback Jay Cutler got injured. The Bears defense was formidable in 2011, and it looks likely to be just as strong this year.
The Bears were ranked fifth against the run in 2011 and should be helped out in Week 1 by their offense. Expect Cutler and the Bears to have good time of possession against a very weak Indianapolis Colts defense.
The best news for the Bears is that eight time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is back at practice and healthy. This will ensure a good game for the Bears on Sunday.
Colts rookie sensation quarterback Andrew Luck will have some good days in the NFL. However, playing the first game of his career against the Chicago Bears and alongside an overall weak offense does not bode well for him.
If the Bears defense is available in your league, grab it for Week 1. Unless of course you already have one of the next two teams.
The Houston Texans are heavily favored to win on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. It has the potential to be a blowout. A big part of that is the Texans defense, a unit that has gained a lot of respect around the NFL since 2011.
A lot of experts have picked the Texans to be the best fantasy defense in Week 1. This is an easy pick to defend. The Texans have a star-studded defense, while the Dolphins have one of the least talented rookie quarterbacks in the league in Ryan Tannehill and a wide receiving core that has major problems.
The Texans defense is a safe pick and one that you should feel good about. There is only one defense that I would rather have.
Picking the very best defense is always tough in fantasy football. For Week 1 of the 2012 season, I drafted the Detroit Lions. The Lions have a quality defense. However, this pick has more to do with expectations for the St. Louis Rams offense.
The Rams were dead last in the NFL with a historically bad 12.1 points per game in 2011. They have made some questionable offseason moves—including signing offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive tackle Wayne Hunter. These moves may lead them to be even worse on offense in 2012.
If the Lions are still available in your fantasy league—which they very well may be—grab them now before one of your competitors does.