A popular slogan used by coaches and managers throughout history is, “Defense wins championships.” In fantasy football, defense doesn’t make or break your season, but it does play a significant role in helping your team make the playoffs. The better fantasy defenses can be equivalent to even the top RB’s, which shows that they do make an important impact and should not be disregarded. When drafting a defense, there are several things an owner has to be aware of. Schedules, Special Teams Units, and age are 3 things that must be taken into account when drafting a defense.
Here are the top 15 defenses for the 2008 fantasy football season:
1. Minnesota Vikings
2. San Diego Chargers
3. New England Patriots
4. Chicago Bears
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
6. New York Giants
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Green Bay Packers
10. Indianapolis Colts
11. Baltimore Ravens
12. Seattle Seahawks
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15. Denver Broncos
Last year, the Minnesota Vikings were 2nd only to the Chargers defense last season. With the addition of DE Jarod Allen,the Vikings bolstered a pass rush that struggled at times last season. But where Minnesota’s D really stands out are in two areas, stopping the run, and scoring TDs. Minnesota makes opponents one-dimensional, forcing them to throw the football. With the addition of Allen and the progress LB Chad Greenway made last season, look for the Vikings to be even better this year and eclipse last year’s 38 sack total.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers return as a top fantasy defense. CB Antonio Cromartie impressed everyone last year with his hands and his speed, picking off 10 passes and scoring 2 defensive touchdowns. Linebacks Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman are two of the best pass-rushing outside linebackers in the league and helped the Chargers get to 42 sacks last season, even though Merriman missed 4 games due to suspension. It will be hard for the Chargers to garner 30 INTs again this season but they should have a very solid season on the defensive side of the ball.
Two more defenses that should have better years than last season are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers underperformed last year from a fantasy standpoint. S Troy Polamalu played through injury and it affected his performance. Though, even with all of its struggles, the Steelers found 2 players who could emerge this season. LB Jerome Harrison is 30 years old and shouldn’t have had a career year last season. With 8.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles, Harrison got stronger as the season went along and should have an even better year this year. On the other side of the field, LB Lamar Woodley also had some of his own moments. While he only put up 4 sacks, Woodley put constant pressure on the quarterback when he played and will seem like a steal in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. Though still very raw, Woodley has a lot to improve on but under defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau, he has one of the best mentors in the game.
The Dallas Cowboys return all of their starters from last years defense, and then a bit more. Controversial CB Adam “Don’t call me Pacman” Jones can play a big role in both the defense and the special teams. Dallas’s special teams units have struggled recently and the possible addition of Jones, who is awaiting reinstatement, would help them out immensely. Another addition this off-season was MLB Zach Thomas. While Thomas is at the end of his potential Hall of Fame career, he is still making tackles left and right. Reports out of Cowboys camp is that he has the most tackles during practice on a daily basis. Rookie CD Michael Jenkins is going to see reps with the 1st team defense due to a groin injury to Pro Bowl CB Terrance Newman. Jenkins will play most of the year in nickel and dime package but is a big upgrade over Nathan Jones and Jacque Reeves. The only major issue regarding the Cowboys defense is S Roy Williams. This has been a tumultuous off-season for Williams, who even admitted to being afraid of one on one coverage during an interview. He’s been called out by teammates and has had talks with coaches regarding his fear. Theteam plans on using CB Anthony Henry in certain situations, and against better Tight Ends. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys adjust to certain offensive sets and to see if Williams really takes a seat on certain downs.
Defense to Watch:
Oakland Raiders– This is a very very young defense. Rookie S Michael Huff was drafted to stop the run and prevent the deep ball, two things that killed the Raiders last season. Pro Bowl CB Deangelo Hall left Atlanta to become the shut down guy for this up and coming franchise. Hall will team up with Nnamdi Asomugha, Gibril Wilson, and Huff to make up one of the tougher secondaries in the league. DE Kalimba Edwards was brought in to create depth along a line that struggles against the run. The key of this defensive group will be the linebacking corps. Robert Thomas, Kirk Morrison, and Thomas Howard have had bright spots throughout their playing days in Oakland but are extremely inconsistent. Perhaps with better players around them, they will perform on a higher level. Oakland also faces a light schedule in terms of offensive production. With games against the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Raves, Kansas City Chiefs (2), Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Bucs, Buffalo Bills, and the streaky Houston Texans, the Raiders will have 9 games against the bottom half of the league in terms offense.
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