Week 1 – finally! While we don’t want to get too cute with our Week 1 fantasy football lineup decisions, due to a lot of uncertainty at the dawn of a new season, it is still a good exercise to give some consideration to the upcoming matchups facing your players.
If your players, even fringe starters, are facing a weak defense, you want to get them in your lineup relative to similarly ranked players with neutral or tough matchups. This article points out a few defenses expected to be poor right out of the gate against the run and pass, that owners should factor into their start and bench decisions.
Against the Run
In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys ranked last (worst) in fantasy points allowed versus running backs, giving up roughly 115 rushing yards and 25 fantasy points per gams. In 2014 it looks to be no different as the injuries keep piling up for the Cowboys. Linebacker Sean Lee is out for the year due to a torn ACL, defensive linemen Demarcus Lawrence is on Injured Reserve (IR) with a fractured foot, Anthony Spencer is still working his way back from microfracture surgery and George Selvie is dealing with a shoulder injury. On top of that, defensive back Orlando Scandrick is suspended four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. With so many holes being filled with backups, rookies, and unproven players, it is no shock the Cowboys top this list.
Upcoming opponents: SF, @TEN, @STL, NO
In 2013, it wasn’t all that bad of a campaign for the Buffalo Bills against the run as they had some standout performances from rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Bills did prove mediocre against the run ranking 13th for the season, however, over the last five weeks (when Alonso wasn’t playing like a beast), they ranked 27th. Coming into 2014, things have only gotten worse. Alonso tore his ACL back in July and will miss the entire 2014 season. Stevenson Sylvester, Alonso’s backup, was placed on IR with a knee injury. To top it off, linebacker Nigel Bradham will miss Week 1 serving a one-game suspension. Not that you weren’t starting Matt Forte anyway, but expect a plus game (potentially big plus) from him this week.
Upcoming opponents: @CHI, MIA, SD, @HOU
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers didn’t exactly have the greatest success stopping the run in 2013. In fact, they ranked 25th in the NFL at the end of the regular season, allowing 125 yards per game. The loss of B.J. Raji, starting nose tackle and probably their best run defender, for the season due to a torn right bicep doesn’t help the Packers’ chances. The arrow is pointing in the wrong direction for this run defense.
Upcoming opponents: @SEA, NYJ, @DET, @CHI
Against the Pass
Here they are again. That really says something about this defense this year. This is the number one defense that I absolutely expect to be outright terrible against the pass. Last year the Cowboys gave up 6,645 yards and 432 points, the second most in team history. Despite switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, little was positive from the Cowboys 2013 campaign. Going into this season, they lost two of their leading rushers in defensive end Demarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to free agency. This certainly won’t help pressure opposing quarterbacks, which should allow all the time they need to tear up this Cowboys’ secondary.
Upcoming opponents: SF, @TEN, @STL, NO
Like the Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings lost their leading pass rusher Jared Allen to free agency. Certainly, this bodes well for opposing quarterbacks, especially when their names are Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler. Having to face these three potential top 10 quarterbacks twice doesn’t give the Vikings’ defense a chance to get any better than they were last year.
Upcoming opponents: @STL, NE, @NO, ATL
Surprise, surprise! The Jacksonville Jaguars will be on this list every year until they seriously start addressing their secondary. The total focus of the Jaguars this offseason was their offense: using the third overall pick in the NFL Draft on QB Blake Bortles, signing running back Toby Gerhart via free agency, and adding wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson via the draft. Yes, the Jaguars also added defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood. All these additions don’t do much for a team that, in 2013, only had 31 sacks, which ranked last, and 21 takeaways, which ranked 25th. The line may have gotten a little stronger from last year, but their secondary will put the team defense at the bottom of the barrel again.
Upcoming opponents: @PHI, @WAS, IND, @SD