D/ST is always a rollercoaster in the early part of the season, but as we accrue more matchup data, soon we’ll be able to say confidently which matchups are favorable and unfavorable. In the mean, our Week 3 fantasy defense rankings are here to help serve as a guide for D/STs are must-starts this week and which units look like sleepers worth streaming off the waiver wire.
Just like with NFL power rankings, the chalk always serves as the easiest parts of the list. Pittsburgh (@ Browns), Dallas (@ Giants), and Buffalo (@ Dolphins) will almost always reside near the top of the list, but strong matchups against what we think are potentially turnover-prone QBs make them even more intriguing this week. Denver (vs. 49ers) has a tougher game slated, but its plethora of defensive playmakers should capitalize against a team now missing its starting QB (Trey Lance) and RB (Elijah Mitchell).
For other squads, what a difference a week makes. After vaulting up the D/ST lists with strong Week 1 play, Baltimore (@ Patriots) and Cleveland (vs. Steelers) both took a step back in Week 2. Baltimore allowed Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa to go off for a career day, while Cleveland gave up a whopping 31 points to the Jets in a loss. These teams have decent matchups in Week 3 — a disorganized and downright-erratic New England offense and a Mitchell Trubisky-led Steelers team on the road on short rest. We still like these units as starters, but after last week’s letdowns, clearly there are reasons to be worried.
Philadelphia (@ Commanders) gets a rivalry game against former QB Carson Wentz, no stranger to pick-sixes; the Bengals get what should be another favorable matchup (@ Jets) against a backup QB; and the Saints (@ Panthers) will have a much easier Week 3 now that they’re done battling Tom Brady. All three defenses can be used this week, but, again — Joe Flacco has been solid and the Bengals flopped against Cooper Rush, so this isn’t a slam dunk. We’re still trusting the historical trends here and predicting these D/STs will come through.
Looking for sleepers? The Bears (vs. Texans) have shown signs of life early and now draw a home game with a Texans squad that struggles to run the ball, protect the pocket, and convert on third downs and in the red zone. Going a little deeper, the Giants (vs. Cowboys) can unleash their underrated pass rush on Cooper Rush and his banged-up O-line, while Carolina (vs. Saints) could cause some turnovers at home against a sloppy Jameis Winston and his ailing running game. The Chiefs (@ Colts) will look to exploit Matt Ryan’s deficiencies, as he was a sitting duck last week without Michael Pittman (quad).
Of course, we also have some fades. The Dolphins (vs. Bills), 49ers (@ Broncos), Packers (@ Buccaneers), Patriots (vs. Ravens), and Colts (vs. Chiefs) all have rough matchups. Only the Dolphins and Colts are truly “off limits,” but check your options before blindly starting the rest.
Again, we’ll continue to learn more about this position going forward, but in the meantime, continue to pick on shaky QBs and offensive lines. Don’t be afraid to take some chances in deeper leagues, either. For instance, the Jets should be able to get some sacks on the Bengals, and the Cardinals should get an INT or two on Matthew Stafford, so even in what look to be “bad” matchups, there are points to be had. Talent always matters, but matchups tend to be more predictive at D/ST.
Good luck in Week 3, and come back throughout the week for the latest updates and player movement.
Dallas Cowboys @ Giants
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Browns
Buffalo Bills @ Dolphins
Cleveland Browns vs. Steelers
Denver Broncos vs. 49ers
Baltimore Ravens @ Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles @ Commanders
Cincinnati Bengals @ Jets
New Orleans Saints @ Panthers
Chicago Bears vs. Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Packers
Los Angeles Rams @ Cardinals
New York Giants vs. Cowboys
Kansas City Chiefs @ Colts
Carolina Panthers vs. Saints
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Jaguars
Arizona Cardinals vs. Rams
San Francisco 49ers @ Broncos
New York Jets vs. Bengals
Minnesota Vikings vs. Lions
Las Vegas Raiders @ Titans
Atlanta Falcons @ Seahawks
Green Bay Packers @ Buccaneers
New England Patriots vs. Ravens
Detroit Lions @ Vikings
Seattle Seahawks vs. Falcons
Houston Texans @ Bears
Indianapolis Colts vs. Chiefs
Washington Commanders vs. Eagles
Miami Dolphins vs. Bills
Tennessee Titans vs. Raiders
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Chargers