Yesterday, we went through the first 8 weeks of the season looking for the DSTs that had the most favorable early schedule starts to the 2023 FF season. Today, we look at the opposite -- the defenses with the most UNFAVORABLE schedules off the jump for the 2023 FF season.
It's great to identify upper-end defenses like the Jets or Dolphins or 49ers…or pick whatever defensive unit you like -- but if these defenses are facing a bunch of high-end offenses out of the gates you don't want to start the FF season with them, or you will regret it fast. There are NO defenses/DSTs so good that you have to grab them for FF and start them every week without fail. Perhaps one will develop, but the trend is against that in the past few seasons -- and I'm not sure if/when it will ever happen again. NFL offenses are just too good…the rules so tilted to offense…that there is little chance there will ever be a totally dominating defense again. At least for 2023, I don't see that obvious defense to chase.
If there are no longer any 'shutdown' defenses -- then managing/streaming decent or good defenses via schedule is the best way to go -- and focusing on the early schedule is everything because 4-6-8+ weeks into the season the whole league is turned upside down with injuries, and all the projections need to adjust on the fly.
In this report out, I wanted to go through the early schedule and see which defenses/DSTs are set up to get crushed off the bat…and then we'd want to steer clear of them for 2023, no matter how good that unit is on paper.
We'll go through the first 8 weeks looking for bad matchup trends for any particular DSTs, but first we need to identify the offenses we want to AVOID. I'll go through the teams in alphabetical order and note the avoids, or potential avoids…
Buffalo -- One of the highest scoring offenses in the league two years running AND an elite QB…let's avoid for sure.
Cincinnati -- Another higher scoring NFL offense with arguably the best QB in the game, so definitely AVOID.
Dallas -- Was a very high scoring offense in the middle part of the 2022 season, like 30-40+ point games, but there was a lot of schedule help within that. Dallas is on the bubble, but I'm keeping them out as Mike McCarthy takes over the offense and as Dak started looking bad late last season.
Detroit -- An avoid offense…high scoring, good QB, great O-Line.
Jacksonville -- I'm not afraid of them. Not an avoid offense yet. They're not bad, but I don't see them as elite/avoid yet.
Kansas City -- Avoid, obviously.
L.A. Chargers -- One the bubble, but Justin Herbert is elite so let's avoid.
Miami -- The scariest offense in the league when everyone is healthy. We'll avoid.
Minnesota -- One of the better scoring teams of 2022. They get onto the avoid list.
Philadelphia -- One of the highest scoring teams from 2022 with a high-end QB.
San Francisco -- Kyle Shanahan finds ways to produce offense no matter the QB and has a nice O-Line.
Seattle -- Thought about it, but they're not at an 'avoid' level with this group.
So, the AVOID offenses for our DSTs are:
Nine 'avoids'…now, let's see which DSTs have the most 'avoids' on their early schedule…
-- Weeks 1 and 2, to start the season…
Only one DST has a dreaded 1-2 punch of facing teams from the AVOID list of offenses to start the season, and it's a well thought of/higher ADP DST -- and they are the New England Patriots DST. They start the season with PHI-MIA, and that's terrible.
-- Looking at Weeks 1-3…
We have six teams that have two of the 3 with AVOIDs, but there are no 3-for-3s.
The six DSTs with two AVOIDs in the first three weeks: LAR, NE, TB, MIA, LAC, MIN.
Most notable on here, my sleeper favorite for best defense in the NFL 2023, the Miami Dolphins. They have LAC Week 1 and Detroit Week 3.
-- Expanding to Weeks 1-4…
No DST has three avoids in the first 4 weeks.
Eight DSTs have two avoids in the first 4 weeks. Among the DSTs of interest/the better DSTs on this 'bad' list: NE, NYJ, MIA, and TEN.
-- Going to Weeks 1-5…
There are only two DSTs who have three AVOIDs on the schedule in the first 5 weeks:
LAR-DST…but they're not high on anyone's list for DSTs of interest in 2023.
MIN-DST…ditto the Rams interest (none) -- the Vikes are not high on anyone's list.
-- From Weeks 1-6…
No DST has four AVOIDs in this span, just several with three AVOID matchups: LAR, NYJ, NYG, MIN. And the Jets being the DST of high interest but has a very choppy early schedule.
-- Weeks 1-7…
Just the Vikings-DST as the only DST with four AVOIDs in the first 7 weeks.
-- Wrapping it up looking from Weeks 1-8…
Just two defenses get to four AVOIDs out of 8: MIN-DST still, joined by the NE-DST.
Trying to summarize this search…
It appears all the top defenses/DSTs of interest from the AFC East are hit with bad early season schedules EXCEPT Buffalo, and the Bills will get blasted with their schedule issues in 2nd-half of the season with five of their final 9 games with AVOID offenses to face.
I really like the Miami and Jets defensive units for the NFL, and within all the early bad matchups they still project to score well enough in all their other matchups enough to have a top FFM DST projection for the season as a whole/on average -- but it's gonna start out very choppy for MIA-NYJ-NE…too choppy for me.
Next DST report, I'll look at the possibilities of DST pairings that work for our top DSTs (like NYJ, MIA, NE) to see if schedules can be merged together to build a super DST. However, I already know from earlier research -- the attempted pairing of MIA and NYJ is a disaster, they conflict almost all season.
The reality is, for 2023, the top DSTs we like overall (NYJ and MIA) -- their schedules are too ugly to work with in most cases. But I'm going to run a system check on each top DST to see if there is a magical pairing that works.