We are less than 13 weeks away from the start of the NFL season. Three months in Quarantine hasn’t sped up the wait by any means, but we’re slowly getting closer. Over the last two months we’re previewed D/ST’s on the rise (and decline), we’ve done pre-draft and post-draft analysis, we’ve broken down the schedule and bye weeks, even looked at return specialists. To avoid a second straight week of keying in on one D/ST let’s take an early look at Week 1. Once we get DraftKings and FanDuel prices I may take a more DFS-focused approach with a future article, but for now we can identify some teams to target for Week 1 if we aren’t going the route of investing long-term in a D/ST.
Houston @ Kansas City (-10) – O/U 56.5
Miami @ New England (-5.5) – O/U 43.5
Cleveland @ Baltimore (-9) – O/U 48.5
New York (Jets) @ Buffalo (-5.5) – O/U 40.0
Seattle (-1) @ Atlanta – O/U 48.5
Philadelphia (-5.5) @ Washington – O/U 45.5
Chicago @ Detroit (Pick ‘em) – O/U 44.0
Indianapolis (-7) @ Jacksonville – O/U 46.0
Green Bay @ Minnesota (-3) – O/U 46.5
Los Angeles (Chargers; -3.5) @ Cincinnati – O/U 46.5
Arizona @ San Francisco (-7.5) – O/U 45.5
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-4.5) – O/U 50.5
Dallas (-2.5) @ Los Angeles (Rams) – O/U 50.5
Pittsburgh (-3) @ New York (Giants) – O/U 48.0
Tennessee @ Denver (-1.5) – O/U 42.5
Right off the bat we can identify the Patriots and Bills as having favorable matchups. I believe New England originally opened as a nine-point favorite and that line quickly shifted down. The Pats and Bills open the season against weaker division rivals and they’re both at home. These teams will be drafted among the crème de la crème for D/ST’s so you will need to reach and hope they hold up for the whole season. Otherwise what is the point in drafting them early only to drop them a couple weeks later in search of another streamer? Among the other defenses that will be taken prior to the final two rounds Baltimore, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Chiago, Los Angeles (Chargers) all have some great matchups.
However, lets look at the NFC East matchup between the Eagles and Redskins. The Eagles are favored by 5.5 points and the Over/Under isn’t terrible at 45.5. The Eagles defense will be in play with the acquisitions Darius Slay , Nickell Robey-Coleman , Javon Hargrave , and Davion Taylor. This is a good matchup for the Eagles, but this is a home game for Washington and there are reasons for optimism in this matchup. For starters, the Redskins invested their first-round pick in Chase Young. A real no-brainer. Young is massive at 6’5” and 264 pounds. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime defensive prospect that will quickly improve the defensive line for Washington. Here’s the infamous image of Chase Young and J.K. Dobbins from a year ago.
Dobbins is no slouch either. He’s 5’10” and 212 pounds and Young just dwarfs him in this photo. Now I understand Young is a little closer to the foreground, so his presence does dominate the image. But if you look at the Washington defensive line it’s just full of former first-round picks: Da’Ron Payne, Montez Sweat , Jonathan Allen , and Ryan Kerrigan . The Eagles have a very good offensive line, but they took a huge hit on Monday when it was announced that Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles, after previously suffering the same injury that ended his 2018 season. The Eagles offensive line can still tout having Lane Johnson , Jason Kelce , and Andre Dillard but the loss of Brooks will be tough especially after he was named to his third straight Pro Bowl last year. Don’t sleep on the Redskins as a DFS sleeper in Week 1, or a streamer in deeeeeeeeeper leagues.
Another game that stands out to its severely low projected total is the second Monday Night Football game featuring Tennessee and Denver in Mile High. Naturally the elevation will play to the Broncos’ advantage, but this isn’t an awful spot to target either defense. The Broncos could easily be one of the first ten D/ST’s drafted this year, but if they’re around in the 14th round they could be reached for. Denver lost Chris Harris in the offseason but traded for A.J. Bouye who is a fine replacement. The Titans will easily be available to stream Week 1 but be weary of the offensive weapons Denver acquired. It’s unlikely they'll have much chemistry for a Week 1 primetime game, so the Broncos D/ST is the preferred target for this matchup.
The final game I’m taking a liking to is the game between the Packers and Vikings. The Packers do struggle to put up points in Minnesota. Over their last four road games against the Vikings, the Packers are averaging 16 points per game. Plus with a worse offensive line and no significant weapons added for Aaron Rodgers it could be another underwhelming rivalry game for the Packers. That’s not to say they may not win the game. We saw them win a 10-3 opener last season against the Bears. The Vikings lost Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander to Cincinnati but they did use one of two first-round picks on Jeff Gladney to fill in some holes in the secondary. And how can you not like the Packers defense in this matchup? They tied for third last year (with Minnesota) for most interceptions and Green Bay held Kirk Cousins to 352 passing yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions between both regular season games in 2019. Not to mention they also sacked him six times. It’s surprising to think that Cousins only threw six interceptions a year ago, but half were to Green Bay. It seems fitting since Cousins can’t keep his composure when it counts. Look at his performance during a gender reveal:
The guy almost botched a three-yard dump off. Both teams are in play for Week 1 with some favoritism going towards the Packers especially if Dalvin Cook’s holdout carries into the regular season. They can be had for a decent price tag at the moment so keep an eye on ADP developments, but this could be a low-scoring NFC North opener.
Once DraftKings releases the Week 1 prices for DFS we’ll have a heavier Week 1 preview breaking down salaries, but hopefully this gives you a good idea about the best D/ST matchups for the opening week, which can’t come soon enough.