One of the biggest strategies in fantasy football is streaming defenses. Each week owners will look at matchups and make waiver wire acquisitions to find their starting defense. Here are fantasy football defenses to stream in week 1. (Note: All defense mentioned are owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues)
1. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins finished the 2020 season as the eighth-ranked fantasy defense. They have really built the unit well and have one of the best cornerback duos in football with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Although they lost Kyle Van Noy, they still should have a solid defense in 2021.
Their matchup in week 1 is favorable. Miami plays New England, who struggled on offense last season. That was with Cam Newton at quarterback. Although Mac Jones impressed in the preseason, he is still making his first career start against a good secondary. With Miami’s corners likely being able to shut down the Patriots’ wide receivers, they can stack the box and make Jones beat them. They should be able to have a decent game against the rookie. The Dolphins are rostered in just 37.1 percent of ESPN leagues.
2. Minnesota Vikings
While last season didn’t go so well for the Vikings on the defensive side of the ball, there is some reason for optimism. Danielle Hunter is healthy and will greatly improve their pass rush. Patrick Peterson was also signed at corner, which should help a bit. Pair those players with their already good linebackers and the Vikings can improve on their 27th-ranked fantasy defense from a season ago.
In week 1 the Vikings play the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow will be in his first regular-season game since tearing his ACL last year. Although the Bengals did improve the offensive line from a season ago, there are still glaring holes in it. Hunter could have a field day getting after the quarterback and make it hard for the Bengals to move the ball. On top of the offensive line being underwhelming, their top pick, Ja’Marr Chase, has not impressed in preseason. Minnesota is on just 29.2 percent of fantasy rosters at the moment.
3. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers had a young defense in 2020 after spending all of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. They proved to be decent, as they ranked 19th in fantasy scoring last season. With young players like Donte Jackson, Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn, the Panthers have a lot of players that could continue to blossom.
In the Panthers’ first game of the year, they are playing the New York Jets in a revenge game for Sam Darnold. The Jets had the worst offense in the league last season. They have made moves this offseason to try and improve it, like signing Corey Davis and drafting Zach Wilson. With Wilson being a gunslinging, rookie quarterback, the Panthers could make his debut tough. Carolina’s defense is available in over 82 percent of ESPN leagues.
4. New York Jets
A 25th-ranked fantasy defense last year, the Jets tried to go out and make improvements. Unfortunately, pass rusher Carl Lawson is out for the season after signing with the team this offseason. The Jets drafted some solid defenders in Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood. On top of that, C.J. Mosley is coming back after opting out last season.
The Jets play their old quarterback in Darnold, making this an interesting matchup. Darnold hasn’t developed into a great quarterback and the Jets of all teams know that. He will have Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore to help him out, but it’s hard for an offense to be dynamic if they don’t have a great quarterback. The jury is still out on whether Darnold can be successful, but until he proves he can be, the Jets are a solid pickup for week 1. The Jets’ defense is available in over 96 percent of ESPN leagues.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
In 2020, the Jaguars had one of the worst fantasy defenses in the league. They ranked 29th. There are still a lot of talented young players on the defense, but they need to show improvement. C.J. Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson and Josh Allen were all early draft picks who need to continue to grow. Having Myles Jack in the middle of the defense always helps. The signing of Shaquem Griffin at corner should also improve things.
A popular theme in streaming defenses this year is going to be whoever plays the Houston Texans. That’s the matchup for the Jaguars in week 1. The Texans have the lowest Super Bowl odds and look like they are headed for the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Even though the Jaguars’ defense isn’t projected to be good, the Texans will be starting Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, do not have a solid offensive line and signed plenty of running backs who are past their prime. The Jaguars should at least be able to keep it a low-scoring game. Jacksonville’s defense is only owned in 1.4 percent of ESPN leagues.
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