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Fantasy football defense guide: Which teams, matchups are best?

The Jaguars' defense has been the gold standard in fantasy football this season, while the Colts' offense is a soft matchup for most opposing defenses. / Getty Images / Joe Robbins

Defenses can feel like an afterthought in fantasy football, but veteran players know how much impact they can have on any given week.

On average this season, about two defenses per week post at least 20 points. On the other hand, defenses lose points about four times weekly. That’s quite a double-edged sword.

Just about every defense will have a big week and an awful week eventually, but there are some units who are more consistently useful than others — and plenty of them are usually useless. The best defenses aren’t fully matchup-proof, but they’re pretty close.

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Some owners prefer to hotswap defenses against weak opponents. Since there are fewer reliable defenses than team owners in most leagues, at least a few people will have to survive with this strategy.

For anyone who wants a better lay of the land when it comes to defenses, I’ve crunched the numbers to identify the best defenses, as well as the softest and toughest opposing matchups for defenses based on the first eight weeks of the NFL season.

Top defenses

The Jaguars have just one blip on an otherwise impressive resume and are this year’s gold standard at the position. The Lions and Bills have yet to produce a negative week and post at least 10 more often than not.

The Ravens are boom or bust, with three 20-point games and three with four or less. Seattle, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are similarly boom or bust, but they’re more reliable than the rest of the league.

The remaining units range from too inconsistent to just plain dismal.

Best matchups

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Several opposing offenses offer strong potential for those who prefer playing hot potato with their defense. Many of these won’t be too surprising.

The Browns, Colts, Bears, Dolphins and Broncos all lack ideal options at quarterback. As such, they have been ripe matchups for opposing defenses thus far.

The Giants, without Odell Beckham Jr. or a competent offensive line, are an offense to be picked on. The Bengals’ offense has been surprisingly generous, too.

Worst matchups

A good chunk of the league offers very little upside for opposing defenses.

Never start any defense who’s facing the Patriots — that’s usually common sense. The Saints, Chiefs, Eagles and Vikings have been stinging defenses this year, too.

The following offenses are also to be avoided for defensive matchups, to a lesser degree than those already mentioned: Bills, Buccaneers, Chargers, Cowboys, Falcons, Jaguars, Rams, Seahawks and Steelers. If you own one of the top defenses, you might feel OK rolling the dice against these nine, but be prepared for a backfire.

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