Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Defenses for Week 1

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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 Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson will not be featured. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Start of the week


Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns: In short, the Steelers defense has owned the Browns in recent seasons. In their last eight meetings, Pittsburgh has recorded 31 sacks against them. In their last 27 games, the Browns have been held under 300 passing yards by the Steel Curtain. Oh, and that's not all ... in their last 54 contests, the Browns have thrown for a mere 45 touchdowns including one or fewer in the last 12 meetings.

Start 'em


New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins: The Patriots should be much improved on the defensive side of the football, as the addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis makes this unit even stronger than the one that ranked among the 10 best in fantasy football a year ago. The Dolphins are hoping to see improvement in Ryan Tannehill, but the fact of the matter is that he turned the ball over a ton in 2013. That's a real positive for New England.

New York Jets vs. Oakland Raiders: Streaming fantasy defenses is all about finding opponents who turn the football over, and turnovers happen with inexperience. As a result, it's hard not to like the Men in Green this week against rookie quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders. I'd be shocked if coach Rex Ryan didn't dial a ton of pressure to rattle the Fresno State product, so fantasy leaguers should also expect a few sacks.

Sleeper alert - Chicago Bears vs. Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel did not look good in the preseason, and his top wideout (Sammy Watkins) is inexperienced and dealing with injured ribs. That's all you need to know if you like to stream defenses, as the Bills are a prime matchup for the current Monsters of the Midway. Chicago's defense is available in most leagues on NFL.com right now, so go out and grab them if you're looking for a nice sleeper.

Sit of the week


Houston Texans vs. Washington Redskins: A lot of people are expecting the Texans to be a major player in fantasy football after the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. However, I find it tough to believe one player alone is going to transform a defense that ranked dead last in fantasy points just one year ago. So while this is a unit to keep an eye on, I'm not starting the Texans defense until I see it on the field.

Sit 'em


Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: If you have been watching HBO's "Hard Knocks," you're probably very familiar with a number of the Falcons players on defense. And while some of their stories are memorable, this is not a unit you want to start in your fantasy league ... not against Drew Brees and the Saints, at least. Last season, defenses facing this explosive offense averaged the fifth-fewest fantasy points (5.06 PPG).

San Diego Chargers vs. Arizona Cardinals: You might not know it, but the Chargers had one of the five worst defenses in fantasy football last season. And while a few key additions should mean a more formidable unit in 2014, the Bolts still aren't a team you want to start on the road against a talented offense like the one in Arizona. While Carson Palmer does turn the ball over at times, the Cards are likely to score some points.

Owners beware - San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys: The Niners have had one of the top defenses in fantasy football over the last few seasons, but the loss of Navarro Bowman (knee), Aldon Smith (suspension) and possibly Ray McDonald (suspension?) leaves this unit with some major question marks. The Cowboys have a strong offensive line and will score some points as well, so it could be a slow start to the season for San Francisco's defense.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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