Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 3: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football

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We're strong advocates of playing matchups with D/STs, but we fully admitted the past two weeks that it's tough to say with any certainty what constitutes a favorable or unfavorable matchups this early in the season. After two weeks of results, we have a little more clarity, and based on what we've seen, it's tough to spot many "safe" waiver wire streamers or sleepers in our Week 3 fantasy defense rankings.

That's partly because of the schedule makers, and it's also partly because there have some disappointments among some popular preseason D/STs. Washington has looked positively mediocre despite having a favorable, short-week home matchup in Week 2 (29 points allowed, no takeaways against the Giants). The Giants, who we also projected to be a decent streamer, struggled last week against Taylor Heinicke (30 points allowed, one INT, two sacks). This week, Washington plays the Bills and the Giants play the Falcons. The former is a tough matchup, and the latter is a favorable matchup -- assuming you trust the Giants.

WEEK 3 PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker

Given some of the week's other matchups, you might have to trust one or both of those two teams. The Dolphins (@ Raiders) and Colts (@ Titans) both are in less-than-ideal spots again (and have performed less-than ideally all year), while the 49ers (vs. Packers), Seahawks (@ Vikings), Bears (@ Browns), and Rams (vs. Buccaneers) are all facing tough opponents, too. There's a chance most or all of these D/STs were drafted in your leagues, and it's tough to feel good about any of them. The Rams are the best overall unit and at least playing at home, but Tom Brady and the Bucs usually don't give up many fantasy points.

WEEK 3 STANDARD RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker

To make matters worse, some of our favorite QBs to pick one are playing downright bad D/STs. Sam Darnold and the Panthers are facing the Texans, and Daniel Jones and Giants get the Falcons. It's tough to trust either Houston and Atlanta, especially after Carolina and the Giants played well in Week 2.

WEEK 3 DFS LINEUPS: FanDuel | DraftKings | Yahoo

There are a few legitimate sleepers, though. We always like to pick on rookie QBs, and the Broncos (vs. Jets), Saints (@ Patriots), and Cardinals (@ Jaguars), will get to further help educate Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, and Trevor Lawrence, respectively, on the ways of the NFL. All three D/STs are in our top-12, with the Saints and Cardinals being available in many leagues. The Panthers (@ Texans) and Browns (vs. Bears) are also in another good spots and will potentially be facing rookie QBs. The Browns are heavily owned, but the Panthers are available in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues and riding high after two good games. The Raiders (vs. Dolphins) are also in play as a streamer regardless of who starts for the Dolphins, and we might even be willing to recommend the Titans if Jacob Eason is starting against Indianapolis.

MORE WEEK 3 DFS: Best stacks | Best values | Lineup Builder

Other than that, you're likely stuck with whoever you drafted. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but those obvious streamers simply aren't there this week. We could be overlooking a legitimate breakout D/ST simply because of reputation, such as the Bengals (@ Steelers), who don't have a terrible matchup, but we're not quite sold on them yet. If you are, take a chance. If not, set it, forget it, and hope for a random return TD.

WEEK 3 FANTASY: Sleepers | Busts | Start 'em, sit 'em

Note: We'll be updating these D/ST rankings as needed throughout the week. so check back for the latest movement and analysis.

Fantasy Defense Rankings Week 3: Who to start, sit at D/ST in fantasy football

Rank Team
1 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CIN. Pittsburgh wasn't particularly strong last week against Derek Carr and the Raiders, but Joe Burrow was horrendous against the Bears, throwing three INTs and taking four sacks. Expect the Steelers ultra-talented D/ST to get back on track at home this week.
2 Carolina Panthers @ HOU. Davis Mills on a short week against one of the hottest fantasy D/STs out there? Yes, please.
3 Denver Broncos vs. NYJ. Zach Wilson saw Sam Darnold's ghosts last week en route to four INTs, and while that was against those same spooky Patriots, you can bet a solid Broncos defense can make him do hallucinate out in Denver. The Broncos haven't put up huge fantasy numbers yet (three sacks, three takeaways), but they're not allowing many points or yards. There's little to reason to think the zero-dimensional Jets will break through. 
4 New England Patriots vs. NO. We've seen Good Jameis and Bad Jameis in New Orleans' two games this year. Which will see in New England? It's much more likely we get the bad, as New England's defense has been swarming to start the year (six sacks, five takeaways, 23 offensive points allowed). We know the Saints can run an efficient offense, but with very few legitimate playmakers, there's only so much Winston and RB Alvin Kamara can do.
5 Buffalo Bills vs. WAS. Taylor Heinicke looked like a stud in his short-week start in Week 2, but we're not going all-in on him yet. Buffalo is fresh off a six-sack shutout of the Dolphins and limited the Steelers to 17 offensive points the week before that. There's no reason to consider benching Buffalo this week.
6 Baltimore Ravens @ DET. Baltimore has been a major disappointment, getting lit up by the Raiders (mild surprise) and Chiefs (no surprise). We'll chalk it up to bad matchups, though injuries aren't helping either. Still, a matchup with the Lions could be just what the Ravens need to get-right. Baltimore did have three sacks in Week 1 and two takeaways last week, so the pieces are there if they can just put it all together. Jared Goff and the Lions are the perfect team to do that against.
7 New Orleans Saints @ NE. Mac Jones has been better than most rookies in New England's ball-control offense, but he's still a rookie and took three sacks against the Jets last week. The Saints made Aaron Rodgers look like a first-year QB in Week 1 before getting roasted by Sam Darnold in Week 2, so we're not sure what to make of this defense. Ultimately, the talent is there, and with Marshon Lattimore (thumb) due back soon, the Saints will be even tougher in all phases. We're expecting a solid bounce-back game here.
8 Arizona Cardinals @ JAX. Arizona has been another "tale-of-two-weeks" team, looking like champs against the Titans (six sacks, three takeaways) and chumps against the Vikings (one sack, no takeaways). Jacksonville even made Houston look good in Week 1 before struggling even more against Denver in Week 2, so we're expecting Arizona's fierce pass rush to again cause problems, this time befuddling rookie Trevor Lawrence.
9 Cleveland Browns vs. CHI. A banged-up Andy Dalton (knee) or overmatched rookie Justin Fields? Yeah, we'll take our shot with Cleveland at home in that situation. The Browns are another disappointing defense, though they showed they can take advantage of a rookie in the second half last week against Houston. Fields is the more scary of the two Chicago QBs, but he struggled in his first extensive regular season action last week (27.7 QB rating, INT, two sacks), so it's clear he's still learning the ropes. Given the lack of obvious starts this week, the Browns have to be considered given the situation.
10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ LAR. The Bucs are too talented to be held down by even decent offenses, as we saw last week when they piled up three INTs and two D/ST TDs against Atlanta. The Rams have been efficient so far this year, but Matthew Stafford is no stranger to throwing bad picks himself, so Tampa still should produce a solid floor here. The ceiling isn't as high as usual, but it's tough to recommend sitting Tampa for one of the D/STs below it on this list.
11 Las Vegas Raiders vs. MIA. The surprising Raiders (five sacks, three takeaways against the Ravens and Steelers) now get either a hobbled Tua Tagovailoa or Jacob Brissett. Even though we haven't seen a high-ceiling game from Vegas yet, you gotta think the potential is there for it against one of those shaky QBs, especially out in the new Black Hole, which should be going crazy for its 2-0 team.
12 Los Angeles Rams vs. TB. We're giving L.A. a lot of respect here, as Tampa doesn't allow many fantasy points to defenses. Of course, the Bucs have played two bad defenses this year, so perhaps they're not as efficient as we think. Either way, it's tough to sit the Rams if you drafted them as one of the top-three D/STs in your league and they've given you two three-sack, two-turnover games so far. The ceiling is low here, but the floor is pretty high.
13 New York Giants vs. ATL. The Giants couldn't take advantage of Taylor Heinicke on short rest, so why do we think they can get to Matt Ryan? Well, for starters, have you seen Ryan and the Falcons the past two weeks? They managed just six points in Week 1 against the Eagles, then gave up two pick-sixes against the Bucs last week. Somehow, some way, defenses get fantasy points against Atlanta, and the potential for that is always enhanced when Atlanta is away from home. The Giants have big-play talent all over their back-seven, so expect at least one or two splash plays.
14 Tennessee Titans vs. IND. Another injured QB situation, as Tennessee's porous defense will face either Carson Wentz playing through two sprained ankles or Jacob Eason. Even the Titans can take advantage of that, right? Consider Tennessee a boom-or-bust option, especially if Wentz plays, but it figures to be a top streamer either way. 
15 Indianapolis Colts @ TEN. Tennessee has allowed nine sacks this year, so if nothing else, Indy's stellar D-line can cause problems similar to what Arizona did to the Titans in Week 1. The Colts managed a pair of takeaways and a D/ST touchdown last week against the high-powered Rams, so we're betting on talent here and still ranking the Colts in the top 15. 
16 Washington Football Team @ BUF. Washington has been a major disappointment this season, allowing 49 points and failing to really take advantage of a short-week home matchup against Daniel Jones last week. Still, we know this is a talented group, and with six sacks this year, the pass rush can still be disruptive. Buffalo is a tough offense to hold down, but Pittsburgh had a good day against the Bills in Week 1 thanks to a blocked punt TD and three sacks, and Miami managed two takeaways and a sack against the Bills in Week 2. Perhaps Washington uses the extra rest to finally wake up and deliver a decent fantasy day.
17 Atlanta Falcons @ NYG. Daniel Jones might be putting his turnover-prone ways in the past, but we're not completely sold on his efficiency yet. He's still taken six sacks this year, so even Atlanta's poor defense has some boom-or-bust upside. 
18 Green Bay Packers @ SF
19 Kansas City Chiefs vs. LAC
20 San Francisco 49ers vs. GB
21 Chicago Bears @ CLE
22 Seattle Seahawks @ MIN
23 Cincinnati Bengals @ PIT
24 Miami Dolphins @ LV
25 New York Jets @ DEN
26 Houston Texans vs. CAR
27 Philadelphia Eagles @ DAL
28 Dallas Cowboys vs. PHI
29 Los Angeles Chargers @ KC
30 Minnesota Vikings vs. SEA
31 Detroit Lions vs. BAL
32 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. ARI

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