Week 1 is in the books! And what a week it was. We had some confirmation bias with dominant performances by teams like the 49ers and Cowboys. We some surprisingly flat performances from contenders like the Bengals, Bills, and Vikings, and then we had some supposed doormats that didn’t want to accept the tanking narrative like the Rams and the Raiders.
Overall, we did well, hitting on seven of the top 10 defenses of the week, including a strong performance from the Packers as our sleeper defense of the week, but we also learned some valuable lessons in Week 1, like why we should not be over-valuing the opponent. I preach this lesson constantly, but I also fall victim to it from time-to-time and I did so this week by ranking the Seahawks as my 6th-ranked defense in part due to their matchup against the Rams.
Now, there were some legitimate reasons for why I felt like the Seahawks defense could improve this year. They were 10th in turnover rate and 12th in sacks last season and had some solid young players and good additions, like Julian Love . I added that to my belief that the Rams were going to be bad, and I vaulted the Seahawks into my top 10. Needless to say, that did not pay off.
But it did pay off in the sense that it became yet another reminder to not simply attack bad offenses. Especially early in the season when we’re still figuring out what teams true talent level is. Other defenses that we used to attack bad offenses – the Ravens and the Commanders – did finish inside the top 10 but just barely, and they were my top two ranked defenses of the week.
We certainly don’t want to overreact to one week in any capacity, but we can still learn little lessons and this is a good one to start with.
BOD Formula and Philosophy
Just a quick reminder of the BOD formula:
(Pressure Rate x 2) + (Sacks) + (QB Hurry Rate) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)
(% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Yards per play)
It’s important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That’s why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.
While there are BOD rankings below based on Week 1, it’s important to remember will likely take about three weeks for us to have enough information to start to see which DSTs we can trust and which offenses we want to attack. Until then, we want to mitigate risk by relying on defenses that have clear talent advantages, track records of success, or offenses that we know are short-handed.
Throughout the season I’ll keep track of how many top 10 defense we correctly predicted. I know it’s not quite marking down if I nailed the number one defense each week or the number two, but it’s the most logical way I can think of to keep track of how often I defense I predicted would be a good play actually wound up being a good play. I know we always want the top defense, but I think, more often than not, if we get one of the ten performing defenses of the week, we’re not mad at the result.
SEASON RECORD FOR TOP 10 PREDICTIONS: 7-of-10 (70%)
So how do things stack up for Week 2?
It’s hard to doubt San Francisco at this point. They were my number one defense this offseason, and they absolutely throttled the Steelers in Week 1. Them and the Cowboys are the clear top two defenses in the BOD model (although we have to remember it’s only one week of stats), but I think these are the top two defenses in fantasy right now and can be started regardless of matchup. The tiebreaker for me this week is that I was higher on San Francisco coming into the year and even with Zach Wilson at quarterback, I think the Jets have slightly more talent on offense than the Rams.
Remember last week when I said Dallas wasn’t in a smash spot? Ha. Please forget I said that.
I was maybe not fair enough to the Patriots last week, since they put up a solid showing against a good Eagles defense . However, the Eagles also got a couple sacks and turnovers and finished as a top 10 unit. That’s kind of what they do. They seem to have a very safe floor, which is what you’re starting them for in Week 2 because even though the Vikings defense is bad, their offense is good and should be able to hang 20+ points against this Eagles defense like the Patriots did. However, the Eagles put up a ridiculous 46.6% pressure rate in Week 1 and remains too good to bench.
The Bills and Jets game was pretty ugly on Monday night. While most of that had to do with the quarterback situations – Aaron Rodgers getting hurt and Josh Allen playing like a rookie – the truth is also that both defenses are very good. The Jets put up gaudier numbers, thank you Josh Allen , but the Bills also got a lot of pressure even with the Jets getting the ball out of Zach Wilson’s hands early. The Bills defense get the edge here in the rankings because the Jets defense has a much tougher matchup; yet, I think both of these defenses are hard to sit right now.
The Saints were a trendy “sleeper” pick early in draft season and then leapt into the top 10 defenses drafted based on their soft schedule and talented personnel. That played out in Week 1 as they sacked Ryan Tannehill three times, hit him 10 times, and held the Titans offense to five field goals. However, another way to look at that is that the Saints were 16th in the NFL in pressure rate, and the Titans scored on five possessions despite turning the ball over three times, so it wasn’t a dominant performance from the Saints. In fact, it didn’t even get them into the top 10 based on FantasyPros scoring; however, I believe the Titans offense is better than the Panthers, and I think the Saints should have more success against Bryce Young and benefit from not having to contend with Derrick Henry and Deandre Hopkins .
I mentioned the Commanders above as a team that didn’t quite live up to my expectations in Week 1, but they did finish as a top 10 defense by putting together three sacks and holding the Cardinals’ offense to just nine points. Arizona did score a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery, and that is a potential worry with Sam Howell under center, but I don’t want to hold that against the Commanders defense right now. In Week 2, they’ll get a Broncos team that just put up 16 points against a mediocre Raiders defense . Even if Jerry Jeudy is back, he will not be 100%, so I like the Commanders to have another solid game.
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The Steelers and Browns seem to always play grind-it-out games that end up low scoring. They also both showed really poorly on offense last week. I know the Browns won, but Deshaun Watson did not look good, and he took some big hits. That’s fine against a Bengals team that looked totally lost, but T.J. Watt coming off of the edge is another story. Plus, the Browns just lost starting tackle Jack Conklin for the season.
I still have some faith in this Pittsburgh defense, even after their Week 1 showing against San Francisco , but I also think the Pittsburgh offense is not quite as good as what they flashed in the preseason. I think both teams are fringe top 10 defenses in a game that could feature very few sacks and/or turnovers if the offenses resort to a ball control style of play.
The Giants are not as bad as they looked in Week 1. They might not be as good as their performance last year, but Sunday Night Football was an “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong” type of situation. I don’t think this Cardinals offense is good. Josh Dobbs looks overmatched and he seems to love targeting an aging and injured Zach Ertz . They didn’t score an offensive touchdown against the Commanders last week, and I expect their offense to put up another bad showing this week.
The Bucs defense had two sacks and a 27.3% turnover rate last week against a good Vikings offense . I’m still not ready to proclaim that the Bucs are back to their old dominance on the defensive side of the ball, but they’re a well-coached team going against a Bears offense that looks like it still has a bit of an identity crisis. I think that makes Tampa a solid play but one that is admittedly risky.
I was intrigued by the Texans defense coming into this year after ranking 14th in turnover rate last year and drafting Alabama defensive lineman Will Anderson with his first pick, and they adding Jimmie Ward in free agency. In Week 1, the Texans did a solid job against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, albeit a Ravens team without Mark Andrews and, for the most part, J.K. Dobbins . Still, the Texans had four sacks, including one by Anderson , and were 6th in the NFL with a 41.9% pressure rate to go along with two turnovers. I think that bodes well for a showdown against Anthony Richardson and a Colts offense that looked below average until they got down big and started chucking the ball around.
The Ravens had a fairly easily matchup in Week 1, but their defense delivered five sacks and the 8th-ranked pressure rate at 32.1%. The task gets significantly harder this week against the Bengals since I don’t expect Joe Burrow to be as bad as he was in Week 1. I also can’t see this Baltimore defense getting pushed around, so I think they can remain a fringe top 10 defense.
I was bullish on the Packers last week against the Bears and mentioned that I felt like Green Bay’s lack of sacks last year was a bit misleading given their high pressure rate numbers. Well, the Packers had four sacks last week against Justin Fields and a Bears offensive line that had looked really good in the preseason. I’m not sure the sacks will follow in Week 2 since Atlanta loves to keep the ball on the ground, but I think the Packers should keep this low scoring and could force Desmond Ridder into a turnover or two if/when the Falcons do pass.
I warned you about this Denver defense last week. They finished 23rd in pressure rate, 21st in sacks and 20th in turnover rate last year. Being stingy with points and yards is great, but if you’re not getting sacks and turnovers then you’re not helping fantasy teams much. That played out again last week as the Broncos allowed just 17 points, had no sacks on only one pressure the entire game and forced no turnovers. As a result, I have them as a playable defense that’s outside the top 10 against the Commanders because I think the Washington offense is solid but turnover prone.
OK, so this is maybe our biggest change from Week 1, moving this Cardinals defense into Tier Three for a matchup against the Giants. Look, the Giants were bad on Sunday. I don’t think they’ll be this bad, but I also think last year was a big of a overperformance. The bigger concern for the Giants is that left tackle Andrew Thomas hurt his hamstring and might be out or at least limited on Sunday, while right tackle Evan Neal was a turnstile against the Cowboys. Now, this Arizona defense is not the Dallas defense, but the Giants offensive line might be a real problem.
I can see an argument for playing both the Falcons and Bengals this week in deep leagues. Jordan Love and the Packers looked really good on Sunday, but maybe that was just because it was against the Bears? The Falcons defense also looked good. For me, there are just too many unknowns to trust them. The Bengals also play a Ravens team that lost J.K. Dobbins and Ronnie Stanley is Week 1. However, they still have Lamar Jackson and should get Mark Andrews back next week, so I just can’t go there. If Andrews is out again, I’d likely move Cincinnati up.
I would prefer not to play any of these defenses this week if I had my choice.
As I mentioned above, I will update and repost this article on Sunday morning in case there are any changes with injuries or weather reports, etc. Until then, good luck to all this week!