Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Houston's defense could be a fantasy winner

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Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, be sure to check our weekly lineup rankings.

Start of the week


Texans defense vs. Dolphins: It's impossible not to love the Houston Texans in fantasy football, not just this week, but for the entire season. This unit should open the 2012 campaign on a very high note, as the Dolphins and rookie Ryan Tannehill come to town in what could be a blowout. With no legitimate weaspons in the offense outside of Reggie Bush, the Miami Dolphins will have a tough time doing anything against the Texans.

Start 'em


Eagles defense at Browns: Yes, I am picking on rookie quarterbacks this week. A disappointment in fantasy land last season, the Philadelphia Eagles have a great matchup against Brandon Weeden and a Cleveland Browns' offense that could be forced to play without Trent Richardson at full strength. Regardless, the aggressive Eagles defense could be in line to post some tremendous fantasy football totals in this Week 1 matchup.

Seahawks defense at Cardinals: The Seattle Seahawks came out of nowhere to finish a solid seventh in fantasy points among defenses last season, and there's no reason to expect their success to end in 2012. Their first contest comes up against the Arizona Cardinals, who just named the inconsistent John Skelton their No. 1 quarterback. Look for Seattle to pressure the Fordham product and force multiple turnovers.

Sleeper alert - Vikings defense vs. Jaguars: Until Blaine Gabbert proves that he's taken a step forward after what was an awful 2011 campaign, I'm going to play the defensive matchups against him. Enter the Minnesota Vikings, who will be fired up to play hard in front of their home crowd. With Jones-Drew reportedly playing a limited role after his holdout, the Jacksonville Jaguars could find it tough to score points in this contest.

Sit of the week


Chiefs defense vs. Falcons: I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see the Atlanta Falcons turn into the 2012 version of last year's Detroit Lions. That means a ton of points on the scoreboard and terrible fantasy matchups for opposing defenses. So even with Kansas City getting back safety Eric Berry and expected to be better on the defensive side, I would still sit this unit down in what could turn into a high-scoring affair.

Sit 'em


Bengals defense at Ravens (Mon.): The Cincinnati Bengals' defense emerged into quite a nice option in fantasy land last season, ranking among the top 12 at the position based on points. Still, a tough Week 1 matchup on the road against the Ravens makes this unit far less attractive from a fantasy perspective. Joe Flacco has also been a much better quarterback on his home field, so Baltimore should put up some points here.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Coming off a preseason injury, can fantasy owners trust Hakeem Nicks in 2012? (Click image for further analysis.)

Redskins defense at Saints: Remember the "Drew Brees rule" from last season in Start 'Em & Sit 'Em? Basically, just about any defense facing Brees and the Saints offense needs to be dragged into a reserve spot on your fantasy football league. The Washington Redskins draw that unfortunate status this week, as the Boys from the Bayou will be tough to stop on offense after a tumultous offseason. Keep the Skins on the bench.

Owners beware - 49ers defense at Packers: I know, the San Francisco 49ers were the top overall defense in fantasy football last season. And yes, it's tough to bench them unless you have another solid defensive option available. Just keep in mind that playing on the road versus Aaron Rodgers and what figures to be an explosive Green Bay Packers' pass attack is just about the worst matchup a defense can have in any given week.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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