The NFL season is finally here, and now it is time to get your lineup ready for Week 1. Those who did not draft one of the top defenses/special teams (D/ST) might need to explore the NFL fantasy football rankings to find one of the top Week 1 streaming defense options. Based on the Awesemo rankings and projections, below are some of the best streaming options this week and their availability in most ESPN leagues.
Week 1 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings & Streaming Options
Miami Dolphins (63% Available)
The Dolphins were a tough defensive team last year, allowing just 21.1 points per game. They were one of only six teams in the NFL to allow fewer than 22 points per game. While they did not exactly thrive in limiting yardage, they provided excellent production in two key areas. First, their 18 interceptions were tied for the most in the NFL. Second, their 41 sacks also ranked inside the top 10 in the league.
Star cornerback Xavien Howard returns this season and should be happy after restructuring his contract during the offseason to gain additional money and guarantees. He certainly provides a tough foe for the Patriots and rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who beat out Cam Newton for the starting job. The Patriots did make plenty of additions to their offense during the offseason, especially at tight end. Still, they could be conservative out of the gate in Jones’ first start. In what could be a favorable matchup, the Awesemo projections have the Dolphins projected to score 6.58 fantasy points, which is the ninth most for any D/ST in Week 1.
Minnesota Vikings (69% Available)
If just looking at last season’s stats, the Vikings might not seem like a defense to pursue. They allowed 29.7 points per game, which was the fourth-highest mark in the NFL. They did not really shine in any facet of the defensive game, allowing the sixth-most yards rushing per game and eighth-most passing per game. Their 23 sacks were the fifth fewest as well. On the bright side, they did record 15 interceptions, which tied them for the seventh most in the league.
The Vikings knew that they needed to address their defense during the offseason, and they have the potential to be stouter against the run after the addition of defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. They will also get back defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who opted out of the 2020 season. In an attempt to improve their passing defense, they signed veteran corner Patrick Peterson.
Week 1 brings a matchup against the Bengals, who have plenty of weapons. However, they still have some concerns on the offensive line, and Joe Burrow will be making his first start since tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 11. He barely saw the field during the preseason, so it could take him some time to get comfortable again. During his rookie season Burrow had one or no touchdown passes in six of his 11 games as well. It would not be a surprise to see the Vikings generate an interception or two while holding the Bengals offense in check. The Awesemo projections expect them to score 5.8 fantasy points, which is more than the Ravens (5.7) and Browns (4.1), two D/STs that are both rostered in more than 60% of ESPN leagues.
Carolina Panthers (82% Available)
The Panthers defense was not as bad as the Vikings was last season, but they did not exactly stand out either. They were middle of the pack in terms of points allowed per game (25.1), yards passing per game (239.1) and yards rushing per game (121.0). Unlike the Vikings, though, they generated just seven interceptions.
As far as big moves go, the attention this offseason surrounded the Panthers offense when they traded for quarterback Sam Darnold. They will also get back Christian McCaffrey after injuries limited him to just three games last year. Carolina did improve their defense, though, notably adding Haason Reddick for pass-rushing help. He registered 12.5 sacks with the Cardinals last season, which were by far the most in his career. In an attempt to sure up their secondary, they used the eighth overall pick in the draft on cornerback Jaycee Horn, who should immediately step into a starting role.
With their improvements on the defensive side, the Panthers could be a viable streaming option in a home matchup against the Jets. It is not an easy spot for rookie Zach Wilson, who has to make his first career start on the road. The Awesemo projections have them projected to score 7.44 fantasy points, which is the fifth-highest mark of any D/ST for Week 1.
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