Tier One - Must Starts
- Chicago – They probably don’t deserve to be here based on Week 1 performance, but the facts are too big to ignore: at home, wanting to make up for a lackluster opening game, and facing one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Look for their defense to be pumped up and absolutely smoke the Chiefs.
- Baltimore – Baltimore keeps their must-start status despite only going for 11 fantasy points last week. Granted, they were facing one of the NFL’s elite offenses, and this week they play host to a team that’ll be starting a very green QB (Jets’ Kellen Clemens). The Ravens will surely pressure him and will cause a few turnovers.
- Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh keeps their #3 spot here this week as they scored well – as anticipated – last week, and get another pretty lousy offense to deal with this week. The Bills may present a few more problems than the Browns did, but the Steelers looked like they’d be able to wreak havoc on just about anyone last week
- Jacksonville – If the Viking defense can run roughshod on the poor Falcons, imagine what a rabid Jaguar D will do. Expect at least 2 turnovers and a couple of sacks to boot.
Tier Two - Solid Starts
- Cincinnati – Their D was flying all over the field last week against a rather vanilla Raven offense. This week, they face the very sluggish Brown offense. Expect them to rattle whoever the Browns throw out there at QB.
- Minnesota – The Viking defense shoots up the weekly rankings after an impressive drubbing of the lowly Falcons. This week’s opponents will most certainly pose a more difficult challenge, plus the game is in Detroit. The Viking D will again be stout against the run and should pressure QB Jon Kitna into a few key mistakes.
- Indianapolis – The Colts came out with guns blazing, both on offense AND defense last week. This week’s opponent should not be as formidable on offense, but Vince Young did do a number on the Colts on a few occasions last year, so be warned.
- Seattle – The Hawks were among the better fantasy defenses last week and should continue their solid play against a Cardinal offense that had some issues against the Niners last week.
- Denver – They were a “best of the rest” last week, but deserve moving up a bit this week after putting up double-digits against the Bills. They’re at home this week, and will face an Oakland offense that could easily stall against the Broncos.
- New England – The Pats drop down a bit this week, not due to the videotaping scandal, but due to the fact that they’ll be facing one of the more solid offenses in the league and heck, they only put up 11 points against the Jets last week.
Tier Three - Best of the Rest
- Dallas – Yes, they gave up 35 points to a Giant offense that was thought would struggle. Yes, they have some key injuries on defense, but this defense is chock full of playmakers and will eventually put up big numbers. Could certainly happen here this week against a poor Fin offense.
- Green Bay – The Pack might be a sneaky fantasy pick this season. They put up a very solid 14 points against the visiting Eagles last week and face a Giant team this week that is completely beset by injuries. Only detriment is that the game will be at the Meadowlands, not in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.
- Carolina – They looked good against the Rams last week, although they didn’t put up big fantasy stats. This week should be no different, but expect at least double-digit fantasy points.
Track Record – Week 1
- Chicago – 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT (7 fantasy points). Nowhere close to being the best scoring fantasy defense this week, but they did look pretty solid for most of the game. They’ll make up for it eventually and will start putting up huge fantasy stats.
- Baltimore – 1 TD, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries (11 fantasy points). The TD was nice but the Cincy offense was rollin’ and QB Carson Palmer didn’t throw a pick. The Raven offense will eventually gobble up a lesser offense.
- Pittsburgh – 6 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 INTs, 7 points against (23 fantasy points). Chalk that up partially to the inept Brown offense, partially to the fact that the Steelers’ D will be a solid fantasy start each and every week.
- New England – 1 TD, 5 sacks (11 fantasy points). Maybe the name value pushed their rank up too much, maybe missing Harrison was actually a big deal. Either way, the Pats will continue to be a solid fantasy start each week.
- Jacksonville – 2 sacks, 1 INT, 13 points against (5 fantasy points). Definitely not starting fantasy defense numbers from the Jags this week. This was an ugly game all around and the Jags should rebound.
- Dallas – 1 sack, 1 INT (3 fantasy points). Wow. Ouch. Maybe this D isn’t as good as advertised. Maybe the Giants are better than many thought. Either way, the Cowboys do have a bunch of playmakers on D and they should be a solid fantasy start most weeks.
- San Diego – 3 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 INT, 3 points against (22 fantasy points). Bolts looked great on Sunday against the NFC champs. Is the Bear offense really that putrid or is this Bolt D really that good? Maybe a bit of both. Don’t be afraid of starting the Bolts’ D against most offenses.
- Houston – 1 TD, 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 INTs, 3 points against (28 fantasy points). First Yahtzee! of the year after the Texans, as I predicted, would smoke the Chiefs and cause plenty of havoc on defense.
- Minnesota – 2 TDs, 6 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 points against (33 fantasy points). Wow, maybe they should have been a top-tier fantasy defense this week against the Falcons. Guess you can throw just about any defense at the Dirty Birds and get great results. Move the Vikes up a bit overall after this solid effort.
- Miami – 2 sacks, 2 INTs (6 fantasy points). Not horrible numbers for the Fins. They got to Skin QB Jason Campbell a few times. They’ll be a lower-level start this season but could be impressive against real weak offenses.
- Carolina – 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries, 13 points against (6 fantasy points). Hey, in NFL terms, the Panther D was awesome. Only allowing 13 points to the Rams at home is pretty solid. Look for them to build on this win and improve even more defensively, which could mean better fantasy stats.
- Denver – 2 sacks, 1 INT, 7 points against (11 fantasy points). About what we expected from the Broncos’ D against a pretty vanilla offense.
Note: League scoring used for this column is 2 points for safety, fumble recovery, blocked punt or FG, 1 point for blocked PAT or sack, 6 points for defensive or special team TDs, and anywhere from 10 to 2 points based on points allowed.