Saints, Ravens among 4 underrated fantasy football defenses

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) and the New Orleans Saints will host the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season. File Photo by Laurence Kesterston/UPI
1 of 5 | Cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) and the New Orleans Saints will host the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season. File Photo by Laurence Kesterston/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens are among four defense/special teams units being underrated in fantasy football drafts.

Many of your fantasy football league competitors will look at rankings and snag the first defenses listed when they make their draft-day decisions.


That strategy isn't always best, as some of those defenses require more investment, based on their average draft position. Those defenses also might face tough matchups within the first few weeks of the season, making them shaky starts.

For that reason, I picked out a group of underrated defenses you should consider: the Saints, Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons.

The San Francisco 49ers are the top defense/special teams unit in my annual Top 200 overall rankings. My individual rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends also are available for your preparation. These rankings will be updated for injuries and other developments.

Defensive end Malcolm Roach (97), linebacker Demario Davis (56) and the New Orleans Saints will face quarterback Ryan Tannehill in Week 1. File Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI


The Saints, led by an elite pass defense, allowed the fifth-fewest yards and ninth-fewest points in the NFL last season. They will start this season with a healthy star cornerback in Marshon Lattimore and face a string of lackluster quarterbacks to start the season, including Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield, Jordan Love, Mac Jones and rookies Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson.

The Saints defense is being undrafted in some leagues, which is a mistake. They should provide Top 10 upside at the start of the season. They will begin the campaign with a home game against the Titans, who scored the fifth-fewest points and totaled the third-fewest yards in 2022.

I expect the Titans to experience success with their Derrick Henry-led rushing attack, but don't see this game as a high-scoring shootout. The Saints defense should benefit from that and help fantasy football teams. They deserve a roster spot.

Linebacker Odafe Oweh (L) and the Baltimore Ravens will face rookie quarterbacks in two of the first three games this season. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI


The Ravens allowed the third-fewest points and ninth-fewest yards last season, but are being picked after the 15th round in fantasy drafts.


They will start the season against the Houston Texans and Stroud, their rookie quarterback who will be making his NFL debut.

The Texans offense totaled the second-fewest yards and third-fewest points last season. They also owned the worst rushing defense in the league.

The Ravens, who enter the season with a healthy rushing attack, led by running back J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson, should find plenty of room to run against this struggling unit. That success should lead to a wide margin in time of possession and fewer offensive possessions for the Texans.

I would avoid starting the Ravens in Week 2, when they face quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, but they can return to your lineup for most of the season, when they face underwhelming offenses.

The Cincinnati Bengals defense allowed the sixth-fewest points in the NFL last season. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI


The Bengals will play on the road against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. The Browns offense struggled in 2022, but is expected to improve behind quarterback Deshaun Watson in 2023, despite the loss of running back Kareem Hunt and not many offensive additions.


I don't expect that improvement to happen immediately. The high-powered Bengals offense didn't have a ton of success against the Browns last season, but look for that to change in 2023. The Bengals made improvements to their offensive line and return a crew of arguably the best wide receivers in the NFL.

That talent could lead to an early lead for the Bengals, as the Browns attempt to find an offensive rhythm. If the Browns are forced into throwing the ball, I expect this defense to take advantage to force multiple turnovers.

The Bengals also will face the Los Angeles Rams, Titans and Arizona Cardinals within the first five weeks of the season. They will be a must-start unit during that stretch.

The Atlanta Falcons defense struggled last season, but could be useful in Week 1 for fantasy football teams. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI


The Falcons only should be on your team if you are desperate for a defense. They finished 27th in yards allowed last season, but start the 2023 campaign with winnable home matchups against the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers.

Their season opener against the Panthers will be quarterback Bryce Young's NFL debut. I would recommend throwing them in your lineup in the hopes that Young makes a few mistakes in his first game, leading to offensive struggles for the Panthers.


The Falcons also are expected to return one of the league's best rushing offenses. The addition of first-round pick Bijan Robinson and elite run blocking linemen should result in similar success in 2023. Look for the Falcons to dominate time of possession in a gritty home victory in Week 1.

The Falcons defense could find more success after Week 4, when they play a stretch of teams including the Texans, Washington Commanders, Buccaneers and Texans. Keep them in mind for future streaming consideration.

Defenses to avoid

Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets

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