1. San Diego Chargers - Things you look for in a fantasy defense. One, sacks. The Chargers finished with 42 sacks last year, 2nd in the AFC, led by sack machine Shawne Merriman. Two, interceptions. Last year, they had 8 more than any other team in football. They have one man to thank for that, Antonio Cromartie. He IS the new Deion Sanders of the NFL. Some of the plays he made last year were the most exciting plays ever in the history of the NFL. Three, TD's scored. Mostly thanks to Cromartie, the Chargers finished with 5 TD's, good for second in the AFC. Four, points allowed. San Diego surrendered an average of 17.8 points per game and that was with a tough schedule. This is the defense to have, going into the 2008 season.
2. Minnesota Vikings - The Vikes were a bit of a late bloomer in 2007. The defense didn't really come around until Week 12 when they picked off the eventual Super Bowl quarterback, Eli Manning, 4 times. They finished the season 1st against the run and 1st in defensive TD's. To help improve their pass defense, this past offseason they acquired former KC Chiefs sack master, Jared Allen. The Vikings have, by far, the best offensive and defensive lines in football. A wise man once told me that whomever controls the line of scrimmage controls the game. Good thing Favre left Green Bay, because the NFC North is in the control of the Vikings.
3. Seattle Seahawks - The defending NFC West champions quietly had one of the best defenses in the NFC last year. They finished first in interceptions, led by Marcus Trufant with seven. The Hawks also finished third in sacks and average points allowed. There's a lot of uncertainty with the offenses in NFC West right now and a solid defense, like this one, could really clean up.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Its not as good as the 2002 squad, but the 2008 version of the Bucs defense is one of the most formidable ones in the NFC. Last year, they led the NFC in points and yards per game and like the 2002 defense, led the league in passing yards per game. This is one of the more well rounded defenses in football. Great defensive line, solid linebacking corps, and play makers in the secondary. As long as the offense is respectable and doesn't have the defense on the field all the time, this unit should really take off in 2008.
5. Dallas Cowboys - This defense is loaded with stars, no pun intended.... okay pun intended. DeMarcus Ware, Roy Williams, Terence Newman, Tank Johnson and Adam "Don't call me Pacman anymore" Jones. Whether or not all this talent will cash in remains to be seen, but I'd be willing to take a chance on them. Ware is a sack monster and Williams and Jones will get their hands on a lot of passes this year. This will be the best Cowboys defense since their Super Bowl years.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers - There's a lot to like about this defense. They have a great defensive coordinator in Dick LeBeau, a very talented safety in Troy Polamalu that creates a lot of turnovers, and what is shaping up to be possibly one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL. If Lawrence Timmons plays like a first round pick, LaMarr Woodley builds off his success from last year and James Farrior and Harrison continue to play at a high level, the Steelers will be near the top of the league in defense once again. But that's a might big IF as the Steelers have the toughest schedule in the NFL this year.
(Photo by Peter Diana / Post-Gazette)
7. Chicago Bears - After the 2006 season, the Bears defense was expected to once again led this team to the top of the NFC North and beyond. A tougher schedule, injury problems and problems on offense led to a very disappointing season. This year, I'm expecting this unit to bounce back. Brian Urlacher, in my opinion, is the best linebacker in football. He'll be leading this defense once again and I think they'll look more like the 2006 team than last years' team. The question marks on the offense could mean that they'll be on the field a lot and that could spell a lot of trouble for this defense from a fatigue standpoint. The points allowed average won't be great, but they should still get sacks, picks and TD's. If your league is Defense/Special teams, this unit deserves a higher ranking with Pro Bowl returner, Devin Hester.
8. San Francisco 49ers - This is a bit of a gamble pick on my part. Last year, the 49ers were not anything special on either side of the football, but I think things will turn around this year. On paper, this defensive unit looks pretty good. They shelled out a lot of money for Nate Clements last off season to play opposite Walt Harris and have one of the best cornerback tandems in football. It didn't really work out that well since everyone ran all over them. This year, they added Justin Smith to the defensive line and Takeo Spikes to the linebackers, giving them one of the best linebacking corps in football. I think these improvements from this past offseason, will pay off and make them one of the top 10 defenses.
9. Indianapolis Colts - For years, everyone said, "Only if the Colts had a defense...". Well last year, the Colts had a defense. They gave up the least amount of points per game in the NFL and were third in yards allowed. This is a solid defense but it really relies on a few players to work. Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney are the heart and soul. If they guys are hurt, this defense is average at best.
10. Tennessee Titans -This is a defense with a lot of strength up front and lead the league in run defense before Albert Haynesworth got injured. Like the Colts, this defense relies a lot on a couple players to be successful. Haynesworth is one of them. The secondary consists of a lot of ball hawkers and finished third in the NFL in INTs.