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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Defense

Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate weekly look at NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Fantasy superstars such as Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley will not be featured in this column. All player matchups are based on a PPR scoring system. For your final starting lineup decisions, check my weekly fantasy football lineup rankings.

Start 'Em

Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens
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Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
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Start of the Week

You won't find many Week 1 defensive rank lists that don't have the Ravens in the top three, at the very least. That's due to a great road matchup in Miami against a Dolphins offense that is starting Ryan Fitzpatrick and has a questionable line after the trade of OT Laremy Tunsil. Baltimore's defense should put up huge totals this weekend.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
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Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
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Cleveland's defense got better in the offseason with a few big additions, and a road matchup against the Titans makes this unit a must start. Marcus Mariota's stock seems to be sliding, and the Browns could force him to throw often in game script goes against him. I'd expect this AFC North defense to post top-10 totals.

Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
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Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
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Seattle's defense isn't the same elite fantasy team it once was in the past, but it is a nice option when the matchup is favorable. That's the case this week, when the Seahawks host a Bengals team that's without its top wideout, A.J. Green. What's more, Pro Football Focus rated Cincinnati's offensive line a meager 27th in the league.

Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
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Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
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This might have been a sit 'em for the Chargers' defense a few weeks back, but the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck puts Jacoby Brissett under center. That means around a 10-point decline (based on 2017 vs. 2018) in scoring average and a big dip in yardage too. I'd get this talented squad in your starting lineups in a nice home matchup.

Start 'Em:Cowboys D/ST vs. New York Giants, Eagles D/ST vs. Washington Redskins
Sleepers:Jets D/ST vs. Buffalo Bills, Bills D/ST at New York Jets

Sit' Em

Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
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Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
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Sit of the Week

The Jaguars' defense might very well improve on a disappointing 2018 season from a fantasy perspective, but it won't start in Week 1. That's due to a brutal matchup against Patrick Mahomes and a Chiefs offense that makes life tough on opposing defenses from a fantasy perspective. I'd fade the Jaguars this week.

Houston Texans
Houston Texans
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New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
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Houston might end up fielding one of the better fantasy defenses in the league at year's end, but an opening-week matchup against the Saints makes them a hard fade for me. Last season, opposing defenses averaged just 1.5 sacks and a meager 2.38 fantasy points when facing Drew Brees and his offense on their home field.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots
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Pittsburgh's defense has a tough road opener against Tom Brady and the Patriots, who should still produce plenty of points even without Rob Gronkowski on the field. While it might be tempting to roll with the Steelers due to question marks on New England's offensive line, I'd keep them on the sidelines in this difficult road matchup.

Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
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Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
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The Colts' defense was actually a viable fantasy option when the matchup was right last season, but this week doesn't offer such a scenario. The Chargers might not be at full strength without Melvin Gordon, but this offense should still produce at home. Game script could also keep the Colts defense on the field quite often.

Sit 'Em:Falcons D/ST at Minnesota Vikings, Panthers D/ST vs. Los Angeles Rams
Busts:Titans D/ST at Cleveland Browns, Bengals D/ST at Seattle Seahawks

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. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for all of the latest fantasy football news, notes and in-depth analysis!

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