FanDuel Defenses to Target in Week 1

Which defenses will help your lineups win in Week 1?

After a long offseason, Week 1 is finally here, and it’s time to set those lineups. 

On FanDuel, selecting defenses isn't always about rostering the defense that might get you the most points that week. Salary matters, and overspending on a defense could leave little salary for the rest of your lineups, so it’s important to get a good value as well.

This weekly column will help you decide who is worth spending on and who will outplay their cheap price tag.

Here are five defenses to consider this week in your FanDuel lineups.

Indianapolis Colts (vs. Buffalo)

FanDuel Price: $4,300 
numberFire Projection: 10.15 points

The Colts are my favorite defense of the week. New head coach Rex Ryan isn’t known for leading impressive offenses, and he’s taking over a Bills team that last year ranked 26th in Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) per play (which measures how many points a team is adding on a per play basis compared to other teams in a similar situation, adjusted for strength of schedule), and they didn’t show much improvement in the preseason.

LeSean McCoy is new to the Bills this year but is currently dealing with a hamstring injury that may slow him down in Week 1. Playing behind the worst run blocking offensive line from last year (according to Pro Football Focus) won’t help him either. New quarterback Tyrod Taylor has attempted 35 passes for 19 completions with no touchdowns and two interceptions through four years in the NFL.

The Colts cheap price tag makes them an easy pick in both cash games and tournaments.

Carolina Panthers (vs. Jacksonville)

FanDuel Price: $4,800 
numberFire Projection: 13.83 points

In 2014, the Jaguars ranked dead last in Adjusted NEP per play and gave up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses last season, so it’s no surprise that we are projecting Carolina to score the most points of any defense in Week 1. The Panthers defense is led by Luke Kuechly, whose 473 tackles are the most in the NFL since he was drafted in 2012. 

Blake Bortles owned a -0.18 Passing NEP per drop back (which measures the points added or lost per drop back), and that ranked dead last in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 250 drop backs last season. Bortles' 17 interceptions were costly, as his cumulative Passing NEP of -97.97 was by far the worst mark in the league last season. He’s up against a revamped Panthers secondary that now includes Charles Tillman, who has 36 interceptions in his NFL career.

The hefty price tag here is the only reason they are behind the Colts as my favorite defense of the week, but don’t let that scare you away from picking the Panthers in your tournaments or cash games.

Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Oakland)

FanDuel Price: $4,600 
numberFire Projection: 11.27 points

The Bengals finished last season ranked third in the NFL with 20 interceptions. The Raiders finished 30th in Adjusted NEP per play and gave up the sixth most fantasy points to opposing defenses last season. Only Josh McCown and Bortles had a worse Passing NEP per drop back than Derek Carr and his number one wide receiver, Amari Cooper will be up against Dre Kirkpatrick, who gave up only one receiving touchdown to opposing wide receivers last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

We project Cincinnati to be only 0.45 points below Seattle, and they are $400 cheaper. Take advantage of the price savings here and roll them out safely in any of your games.

New York Jets (vs. Cleveland)

FanDuel Price: $4,400 
numberFire Projection: 9.21 points

The Jets were tied for the sixth most sacks in the NFL last season and only four teams allowed fewer points than they did last year. They brought back Darrelle Revis this year and drafted Leonard Williams with the sixth pick in the draft to keep their defense moving forward. This week they’re up against the Browns, who finished 28th in Adjusted NEP per play and 27th in points scored last season. 

As I mentioned above, McCown’s -0.09 Passing NEP per dropack was second worst in the NFL last season, and that was on a team with better wide receivers than he has now.

At $100 cheaper, you may want to stick with the Colts in cash game lineups if you're strapped for salary, but go ahead and mix the Jets into your lineups if you can, given their home-field advantage against a weak offense.

New Orleans Saints (vs. Arizona)

FanDuel Price: $4,100 
numberFire Projection: 8.94 points

The Saints are not as safe as any of the other picks above, but they have plenty of potential against an unproven Cardinals offense. Arizona finished last season 19th in Adjusted NEP per play, and scored the 24th most points in the NFL. 

Carson Palmer is back under center, but it remains to be seen whether he can stay healthy and perform at the level he did last year. With all of the questions around him, the running backs are even more of an unknown. 

Among running backs with 150 plus carries, Andre Ellington finished 31st in terms of Rushing Net Expected Points per carry (which measures the number of expected points a rusher acquires via the ground game). He’s listed as the starter ahead of free agent addition Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson who both showed promise during the preseason.

Their ceiling isn’t as high as some of the other defenses listed here, but at almost minimum price, plugging the Saints into lineups will allow for higher spending on other positions if you want to go that route.