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The Seahawks and Bills defensive teams are arguably the best in Fantasy Football, and according to our friends at FantasyPros.com, they have an ADP of 67.3 and 82.2, respectively.
Stephen Gostkowski and Cody Parkey finished first and second in total Fantasy points scored among kickers in most league formats last season. Their ADPs? Gostkowkski’s is 95 and Parkey has an ADP of 150.
Now, I’m not advocating that you should have utilized a draft strategy in which you picked up a team defense or kicker before your position players and their backups are in place, but part of gaining the upper edge against your league opponents is by outworking them and knowing more than they do. If the typical Fantasy Football manager still thinks that the Lions have one of the best Fantasy Football team defenses and you know that to be false, then you have an advantage over them.
Have you ever lost a weekly Fantasy Football matchup by a single point, or maybe even five points? What I’m getting at is that every Fantasy point matters, especially in the head to head world of Fantasy Football. Put in that extra effort and familiarize yourself with the top players at every position on your team, not just the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
Each week, I will analyze key defensive matchups and I’ll try to throw in some streaming options along the way, including a sneaky play or two that will give you the upper hand in your season-long and Daily Fantasy Football leagues. I’ll also provide you with some of the top starters from the oft-neglected kicker position. Let’s get started!
Top Defensive Team Plays For Week 1
Matchup: Home vs. the Cleveland Browns
Weather: 79 degrees with chance of light rain. SW winds 8 MPH
The Jets made some major personnel changes to a defensive team that scored the fourth fewest Fantasy points last season. New head coach and former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, brought back CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and added first round pick Leonard Williams to a solid defensive line that already features Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and, after he serves his four week suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Sheldon Richardson. In their week one matchup against the Browns, look for the Jets to stuff Isaiah Crowell or whoever attempts to rush the ball for the Browns. Bowles-led defenses are known to frequently employ aggressive blitzing up the middle, which should force Browns QB Josh McCown to hurry his throws to a lackluster group of receivers who have no fantasy relevance, and are no match for the likes of Revis and Cromartie and the rest of the Jets’ secondary.
Green Bay Packers
Matchup: At the Chicago Bears
Weather: 71 degrees and clear. NW winds 8 MPH
Although the Green Bay Packers have a Top 15 Fantasy team defense, which led the NFL in turnover differential and allowed the tenth-fewest average passing yards per game last season, it is the quality (or lack thereof) of their opponent that makes them such a good play this week. The Packers just seem to have the Bears’ and QB Jay Cutler’s number. They swept the 2014 season series against the Bears, and the Packers’ longtime rivals only managed to score a total of 31 points in those two matchups. For his career against the Pack, Cutler has thrown 14 touchdowns and he’s been intercepted 22 times. Cutler has a quarterback rating of just under 67, and he has lost 11 of his 12 lifetime starts against the Packers with his teams being outscored 306 to 178. Look for the Packers to try to defuse Matt Forte’s ability to run the ball by moving Clay Matthews into the inside linebacker position in non-passing situations. With Cutler at the helm for the Bears this Sunday, it doesn’t look like they will be any more successful against the Packers in this matchup since there are even more question marks surrounding their offense this season.
Matchup: At the Washington Redskins
Weather: 74 degrees and mostly cloudy. SW winds 5 MPH
The Dolphins’ defense faces a Redskins team that can best be described by using the technical term “one big hot mess.” Not surprisingly, head coach Jay Gruden jettisoned embattled QB RGIII to the sidelines and named Kirk Cousins as his starter for 2015. Cousins won just two of his six starts last season, and those wins came against the Jaguars and Titans, who had a combined 5-27 won/loss record. Sorry Redskins fans, but with running back Alfred Morris’ rushing yard totals declining in each of the last three seasons, there isn’t much hope for their ground game either. There were off the field hijinks as well. Washington’s general manager’s wife had to publicly apologize over disparaging remarks that were tweeted from her personal account. The Dolphins had to be enjoying the show as they prepared to face a Redskins offense that scored an average of 18.8 total points per game last season, the seventh-fewest in the NFL. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin knows Cousins’ style of play well. He strongly considered drafting him after the 2012 season, and it shouldn’t be too hard for him to devise a successful game plan against him. The Dolphins will look to pressure Cousins by using a pass rush that was bolstered by the signing of mega-star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh will work alongside defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon to solidify the Dolphins run defense and make Morris a non-factor in this matchup.
Matchup: At the Jacksonville Jaguars
Weather: 82 degrees and overcast. W winds 4MPH
This is a matchup in which a Top 15 Fantasy Football team defense faces an offense that is still in its infant stages. The Panthers will take on a Jaguars team that was last in the NFL with an average of just 15.6 points scored per game last season. Despite finishing 2014 tied for 10th in the NFL with 42 sacks, the Panthers only blitzed on 23.6 percent of their opponent’s plays last season. Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott wants his pass rush to come from his front four instead of having to count on the blitz. He obviously knew when best to have his defense rush the quarterback last season. According to Pro Football Focus, the Panthers were fifth in blitz effectiveness in the NFL. The Panthers are concerned that the loss of Greg Hardy to free agency will hamper their ability to get to the opposing quarterback and are hoping that Kony Ealy, who was named the starting right defensive end, will help to solidify their pass rush. McDermott believes he can further re-establish his pass rush around the veteran left defensive end Charles Johnson, and third year DT Kawann Short. Although he appears to have improved during the preseason, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, who was sacked 55 times last season, may unwittingly help the Panthers’ front four get off to a good start in 2015.
Sleeper Pick Of The Week:
Matchup: At San Francisco 49ers
Weather: 68 degrees and mostly cloudy. SSW winds 5MPH
The Vikings’ much improved Fantasy defense opens the schedule against a 49ers team offense that looks like it will struggle to find its way this season. Although he is known for his mobility, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was sacked 52 times last season. Unfortunately, he can run but is not elusive and can’t hide. Those 52 sacks against him are the most of his career, and that is a stat that the Vikings, who were tied for ninth with 41 sacks, are well aware of. Look for Vikings DE Everson Griffen to lead an attack that will keep the pressure on Kaepernick. Although the Vikings show opposing offenses a variety of looks from time to time, second-year head coach Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards like to have their defensive team initially line up in a 4-3 scheme. The Vikings are also known to frequently show the blitz on passing downs. Many times, Zimmer will initially have his defense line up in a nickel formation (five defensive backs), change the configuration as the offense approaches the line of scrimmage and finally reveal a potential blitz to the double-A-gaps (the two gaps between the center and the guards). This causes opposing offensive linemen to have to continually adjust their blocking assignments. The Vikings surrendered the seventh-fewest passing yards per game last season, and should be able to keep the 49ers mediocre receivers in check in this matchup.
Top Fantasy Football Kickers For Week 1
Cody Parkey, Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup: At Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons gave up the sixth-most points in the NFL last season and the Philadelphia Eagles scored the third-most points in football last season. Needless to say, having these two teams face each other in a dome should result in a high scoring affair. Philadelphia Eagles kicker Cody Parkey made 32 of 36 field goal attempts last season and should benefit from his team’s potent offense.
Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona Cardinals
Matchup: Home vs. New Orleans Saints
Chandler Catanzaro made 29 of his 33 field goal attempts last season and with the Cardinals offense playing against a porous New Orleans defense that gave up the second-most average yards per game to their opponents last season, you can be sure that he will have more than one opportunity to kick it through the uprights this Sunday.
Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
Matchup: At Buffalo Bills
Weather: 63 degrees and light rain. WNW winds 7MPH
With a Top 2 Fantasy defense against a Top 2 Fantasy quarterback, this has a chance to be one of the best games of Week 1. The Bills gave up the fewest receiving touchdowns and sixth-fewest total touchdowns in football last season; but at the same time, they were tied for allowing the second-highest rate of opponent field goal attempts. Andrew Luck and the Colts should be able to move the ball and if the Bills don’t allow them to cross the goal line, they are going to have to settle for field goal attempts. Adam Vinatieri, who I’ve been drafting ever since I was a little baby, made 30 of his 31 field goal attempts last season, and it wouldn’t shock me if he hit for another three in this upcoming matchup.