As the deadline approaches for finalizing week 1 fantasy lineups and selections, the amount of data floating through your head can be overwhelming. If you’re like me, most of this information revolves around the QB, RB’s, and WR’s. In most cases, these position groupings will have the most impact on fantasy point totals. If you happen to have that week’s top-performer at the skill positions, there is a good chance you win the matchup.
However, in the weeks with lineups void of top-end performers, having a well-rounded team can still tip the scales in our favor.
Traditionally, one of the most neglected fantasy position slots is team defense. Countless times, my defensive selection boils down to how much cap space is left over. And to be honest, this is not changing. Nor should it.
In today’s NFL, the offense has such a clear advantage that paying top dollar for a particular defense is not worth it. First, it is unlikely that a defense will completely shut down an opponent. Second, a team could successfully keep their opponents off the scoreboard without making much of a fantasy impact.
It is for this reason that my weekly research on defensive units is quick and easy. As it should be for you.
Team Defense Model Emphasis
- Lack of big plays of 20+ yards
- Percentage of drives kept in opponent territory
- Low number of first downs allowed
I have found that it is hard to predict a team’s ability to generate turnovers across seasons. For this reason, when building a team defense model, I look for the data to steer me towards units that simply make it hard for offenses to move the ball. My reasoning is simple, turnovers are likely to follow good defense. 3rd and long is a recipe for sacks and interceptions. The more often a quarterback finds himself in these situations the more likely he is to make a mistake.
The table below gives takes my areas of emphasis and ranks team defenses accordingly. No fluff, just a ranking system, and DFS salary.
With my ranking system intact, my analysis then moves to the sportsbook over-under lines. I use the point totals as a guide for projecting the team defenses which will be heavily owned. For the most part, DFS players want something quick and easy to guide their defensive selection. Nothing is easier than just taking a team involved in a projected low-scoring game.
|Away Team||Home Team||Price||O/U||Number|
|Cleveland Browns||Kansas City Chiefs||-115||Over||54.5|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||-110||Over||53.5|
|Baltimore Ravens||Las Vegas Raiders||-110||Over||50.5|
|Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||-115||Over||49.5|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Buffalo Bills||-104||Over||48.5|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Atlanta Falcons||-104||Over||48.5|
|Seattle Seahawks||Indianapolis Colts||-115||Over||48.5|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||-106||Over||47.5|
|Chicago Bears||Los Angeles Rams||-110||Over||46.5|
|New York Jets||Carolina Panthers||-108||Over||45.5|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Houston Texans||-112||Over||45.5|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||-110||Over||45.5|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Washington Football Team||-112||Over||44.5|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||-110||Over||43.5|
|Denver Broncos||New York Giants||-112||Over||41.5|
For example, a glance at the lines reveals that in Sunday’s main slate, DFS players will likely be targeting the Broncos, Chargers, and Washington Football Team. These units are involved in games predicted to be low-scoring and are slightly down the ranks in DFS salary. San Francisco’s $5,000 price tag will be out of range for most budgets.
Having identified how ownership allocation might play out, I look for alternative options allowing me to benefit when the heavily owned teams have a bad performance. In these instances, a large portion of the field moves down the ranks together, lowering the bar for my unit to keep up.
In the instance that the popular picks play up to expectations, I bank on the money I saved for better-skill position players to overcome the difference.
Sunday Week 1 Units To Target
-3rd In 3rd Down Stops Inside Opponents Own 20
-7th In 3rd Down Stops Overall
-3rd Most Sacks
At first glance, this is an unfavorable matchup as the Titans were among the league leaders in offense last season. However, Tennesee has been dealing with COVID 19 issues throughout training camp. QB Ryan Tannehill and numerous offensive linemen have missed practice time. And, for the price tag of $3400, I can find enough reasons to take a chance on a Titans let down or the Cardinals generating some turnovers.
New York Giants $3700
-6th In 3rd Down Stops Inside Opponents 20
-10th In Sacks
-13th In First Downs Allowed
DFS players will be flocking to the Broncos as the Giants project to be terrible on offense. However, there is little reason to think Denver will light up the scoreboard in week 1. In 2020, Denver was rated 28th in points scored and 24th in overall yards. While New York is far from a dominant defense, they are good enough and cheap enough to bet on the Broncos continuing to struggle.
Philadelphia Eagles – $3800
-2nd In Sacks
-3rd In 3rd Down Stops
-14th In Yards Per Play
Under Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons have always been associated with a high-powered offense. In 2020, they were ranked 16th in points per game, and 15th in yards per game. Overall, the Eagle’s defense profiles as being average. However, for $3800 I like my chances that they come up with a sack or pick off a Matt Ryan pass.