By Jay Skurski
Knowing how defenses have fared against your fantasy players is a key part of setting your weekly lineup. With that in mind, here are the top three and bottom three defenses from 2011 against each fantasy position, and who they face Sunday.
Against quarterbacks, the top three defenses (these are unfavorable matchups for your team) were Baltimore (8.7 points per game in ESPN leagues), Pittsburgh (9.4) and Cleveland (10.4). The Ravens face Andy Dalton and the Bengals, the Steelers visit Denver for the start of the Peyton Manning era with the Broncos and the Browns play host to Mike Vick and the Eagles.
Dalton's not starting material, but both Manning and Vick should still play despite their tougher matchups.
The worst-faring teams against opposing quarterbacks last season were Minnesota (18.9 points allowed per game), New England (18.0) and Oakland (17.8) The Vikings host Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars, the Patriots visit Jake Locker and the Titans and the Raiders face Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
Gabbert and Locker aren't starters unless it's a two-quarterback league, while Rivers is a great play given the matchup.
Against running backs, the toughest defenses were San Francisco (9.1), Houston (11.5) and Miami. The 49ers face the Packers (sit Cedric Benson) and the Texans host the Dolphins (Reggie Bush is best used as a flex play). On the other side of that matchup, Houston's Arian Foster is questionable because of a knee injury. Given his high draft status, he has to start for you if he's active, but the signs are there that it might not be a big day.
The worst defenses against RBs: Tampa Bay (24.9), Carolina (23.1), Buffalo (20.1). The Bucs and Panthers play each other, while the Bills visit the Jets. Carolina's Jonathan Stewart is questionable with an ankle injury. If he misses the game, start DeAngelo Williams. Rookie Doug Martin of the Bucs is a good play, as is the Jets' Shonn Greene.
Against WRs, the best defenses were: Pittsburgh (12.3), Cleveland (13.4) and the Jets (15.2). Manning's presence means Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will start in a lot of lineups, but they shouldn't be counted on for big points. The Eagles' DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are in a similar situation at Cleveland. The only Bills receiver worth considering is Stevie Johnson, but he's questionable with a groin injury. Sitting Johnson this week isn't a bad idea.
The worst defenses against receivers: New England (28.5), Oakland (25.7), Minnesota (25.1). That makes the Titans' Nate Washington, the Chargers' Robert Meachem and the Jaguars' Justin Blackmon better options than normal.
Against tight ends, the toughest defenses were: St. Louis (3.3), Baltimore (4.4) and New England (4.7). The Rams face the Lions' Brandon Pettigrew, while the Ravens face the Bengals' Jermaine Gresham and the Patriots get the Titans' Jared Cook. I'm in favor of playing the matchups when it comes to tight ends, so you can comfortably sit any of those if you have a better alternative on your bench.
The worst teams against tight ends were: Buffalo (10.9), Green Bay (10.2) and Washington (8.8). If the Jets' Dustin Keller is active (he's questionable with a hamstring injury), he's a great play. You're starting the 49ers' Vernon Davis and the Saints' Jimmy Graham every week, anyway, but they get good matchups tomorrow.
Best of luck in Week 1!