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2010 Player Rankings: Defenses
Updated: September 9, 2010
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Green Bay Packers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2007 128 19 9 36   2 4
2008 137 22 6 27   2 7
2009 143 30 10 37 1   4
Avg 136 24 8 33 0 1 5

Few if any teams hawk like the Packers; their 30 INTs led the NFL last year, and they’ve finished third and sixth in the two previous seasons. And with the ball in their hands, the Green Bay defense turns positively offensive; over the past three seasons no team has more than the Pack’s 15 defensive touchdowns. Imagine how good their secondary could be if they started generating a real pass rush. The downside to Green Bay’s defense is that last year’s defensive POY Charles Woodson and opposite corner Al Harris are 33 and 35, respectively, with 26 seasons of NFL experience between them. There are other playmakers in the Packer secondary—Nick Collins, Tramon Williams—and Clay Matthews is an emerging star, but just how much can you trust a defense that gave up 51 points with its season on the line? If the points allowed don’t concern you, Green Bay’s defense will generate plenty of its own scoring to warrant serious fantasy consideration. The Pack didn’t return a kick for a touchdown last year after posting two in each of the previous seasons; with the likes of Williams, Will Blackmon, and Jordy Nelson handling those chores, a bounceback would seem to be in order.

Philadelphia Eagles YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2007 87 11 8 37     2
2008 150 15 14 48 1 2 5
2009 160 25 13 44 2 2 4
Avg 132 17 12 43 1 1 4

By almost any measure, Philly’s first season with Sean McDermott at the helm was a success: they finished second in defensive TDs, third in sacks, fourth in INTs, and seventh in fumble recoveries in 2009. The “almost” references the 58 combined points surrendered to Dallas in the regular season finale and first-round playoff loss, but by that point the Eagles’ defense had likely boosted your fantasy team as far as it needed to go. This year’s edition adds first-round pick Brandon Graham and veteran Darryl Tapp to a deep and aggressive pass rush; speedy Ernie Sims and the return of Stewart Bradley, who missed all of last year with a torn ACL, to shore up the linebacking corps; and second-round pick Nate Allen to fill the void left by last year’s departure of Brian Westbrook. All the pieces are in place for another strong defensive showing, and if your league’s scoring system rewards kick returns it’s worth noting that special teams guru Bobby April joins DeSean Jackson to give the Eagles a serious leg up in that area as well.

New York Jets YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2007 101 15 6 29   3 2
2008 137 14 16 41   1 5
2009 112 17 14 32   1 2
Avg 117 15 12 34 0 2 3

It’s easy to anoint Rex Ryan as Gang Green’s savior, but fantasy-wise the Jets actually took a slight step backwards in 2009; to wit, they had more sacks, more fumble recovers, and more than twice as many defensive touchdowns in 2008 as they did under Ryan last season. However, the step backwards was a small one, and the Jets’ D was still pretty doggone good paced by all-world corner Darrelle Revis and the linebacking corps of Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, David Harriss and Bryan Thomas. With a year of experience in Ryan’s schemes, the addition of Jason Taylor to the pass rush, and upgrades such as Antonio Cromartie and first-round pick Kyle Wilson to the secondary, the Jets will be even more formidable in 2010. If Ryan is able to squeeze anything out of former first-round pick Vernon Gholston, being converted from linebacker to end, they could be downright dominant. The Jets are also excited about using Brad Smith more in the return game after the versatile slash-type player averaged 31 yards per kickoff return on just 10 opportunities.

Tier 2
Baltimore Ravens YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2007 102 17 6 32   3 1
2008 144 26 8 34 3   6
2009 120 22 10 32   1 3
Avg 122 22 8 33 1 1 3

It’ll be extremely difficult for blockers to get to Ray Lewis now, what with roughly one third of a ton of defensive lineman (Haloti Ngata and Terrence McCoy) to get through first. The Ravens also added playmaking linebacker Sergio Kindle to a unit that already includes Jarret Johnson (6.5 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (4.5 sacks in an injury-shortened season), and a healthy Ed Reed is expected to return to centerfield in the Baltimore secondary. Over the past two seasons only the Packers have more interceptions or defensive touchdowns than the Ravens, and those two things aren’t unrelated; Baltimore loves to turn the tables on a pick and bring it all the way back the other way. The Ravens are consistently one of the first fantasy defenses off the board, but you know what you’re getting—and you won’t be disappointed. The return game adds little to the mix, though Donte‘ Stallworth could handle punt return duties and provide a bit of a spark.

Minnesota Vikings YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2007 158 15 17 38 1 1 8
2008 125 12 13 45 3 1 3
2009 116 11 13 48 1 2 1
Avg 133 13 14 44 2 1 4

The Williams Wall, thanks to the maze that is our courts’ appeals process, will return intact; playoff hero Ray Edwards will be back, perhaps on a one-year deal looking for a payday; and Jared Allen’s mullet should grow back after he sheared it for his summer wedding. That’s the core of the Vikings defense, meaning that once again they’ll be tough to run on and get plenty of sacks. However, Minnesota has seen its defensive TD total decline each of the past two seasons; to reverse that trend, they’ll need improved linebacker play—perhaps from E.J. Henderson, slated to return after breaking his leg last December. The secondary also needs to step up its play after finishing in the bottom five in the league in INTs last year. Cedric Griffin may not be ready for the start of the season after tearing his ACL in the NFC title game, which means Minnesota will need immediate contributions from veteran Lito Sheppard and rookie Chris Cook. What the Vikings have been missing in defensive TDs, 2009 ROY Percy Harvin has helped them find in the return game.

Pittsburgh Steelers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2007 104 11 14 36   1 2
2008 129 20 9 51 1   3
2009 109 12 10 47     3
Avg 114 14 11 45 0 0 3

The Steelers defense is a brand name like Bacardi, or a movie franchise like the Jason Bourne series: you know what you’re going to get going in, and though there might be some slight differences you know you’re going to enjoy it. The Steelers have 47 and 51 sacks the past two seasons and scored three defensive touchdowns each of those campaigns; that’s unlikely to change, with the likes of James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley (23.5 sacks between them) unleashed on defenses once again. If Troy Polamalu can stay healthy Pittsburgh’s D goes from merely formidable to elite, as the Head & Shoulders spokesmodel is good for a couple turnover touchdowns all by himself. The Steelers also focused on improving their special teams units over the offseason, and return man Stefan Logan wasn’t all that bad even before the upgrades.

New Orleans Saints YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2007 110 13 10 32 1   5
2008 92 15 7 28 1 3  
2009 167 26 13 35   1 8
Avg 123 18 10 32 1 1 4

Add to the list of things that went right for the Saints last year an opportunistic defense that not only created the second most takeaways but took a league-high eight of them to the house—a whopping eight more than the previous season. Give plenty of credit to DC Gregg Williams and his aggressive style, but you have to wonder if he’ll be able to create the same magic without Charles Grant (second on the team in sacks) and Scott Fujita (seventh in tackles, second in fumble recoveries). The secondary should get even faster with first-round pick Patrick Robinson joining a talented group that already includes Tracy Porter, but unless the Saints get pass-rushing contributions from Alex Brown and Bobby McCray those numbers may start trending in the wrong direction. Reggie Bush is still a threat in the return game, but he was merely ordinary in that capacity last year with a long of just 23 yards.

Chicago Bears YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2007 157 16 17 41 1 6 2
2008 136 22 10 28 1 1 6
2009 111 13 15 35 1 2 1
Avg 135 17 14 35 1 3 3

The Bears have struggled to get to the passer the last two seasons, but the offseason addition of prize free agent Julius Peppers should alleviate that problem—unless, of course, he’s bitten by the same injury bug that cost Brian Urlacher most of last season and annually seems to claim large chunks of the secondary. If Lovie Smith is able to get everyone to the field in one piece, the Chicago defense is chock full of playmakers—from Peppers and Urlacher to Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, and Zackary Bowman. The numbers form the past two seasons don’t match up with the talent (only one defensive touchdown last year), but there’s no doubt this group has the capacity to post elite fantasy defense stats. The same can be said for the return game, which has produced just three touchdowns the past two seasons combined after busting off six in 2007. So long as Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are allowed to hold on to their return game duties, there’s some serious upside to the Chicago D/ST unit.

Dallas Cowboys YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 9
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2007 128 19 10 46     4
2008 117 8 14 59 1 1 1
2009 102 11 10 42   2 1
Avg 116 13 11 49 0 1 2

Over the past three seasons no team has more sacks than the Cowboys, and yet they’ve failed to translate that pressure into either INTs (28th and 30th the past two seasons) or defensive scores (just one each in 2008 and 2009). The draft didn’t produced the expected help in the secondary, though Dallas did land the eventual replacement for the aging Keith Brooking in Sean Lee. So unless you see a significant upgrade somewhere in the Cowboys’ returning secondary, you’re bound to get more of the same in 2010: plenty of sacks from Demarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Jay Ratliff, but not a whole bunch more help with your defensive fantasy scoring. If Felix Jones and Patrick Crayton remain in their roles as return men, special teams scoring would bump up the Dallas D/ST a notch; however, Jones might be the ‘Boys’ starting running back and Crayton may not have a roster spot.

New York Giants YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2007 139 15 10 53   1 5
2008 110 17 5 42 3   3
2009 104 13 11 32   1 3
Avg 118 15 9 42 1 1 4

The wheels fell off for the Giants’ vaunted pass rush last season, yet they still managed to find a way to score three defensive touchdowns. Big Blue’s offseason focus came on the defense, where they drafted Jason Pierre-Paul and Chad Jones and signed Antrel Rolle to address the front and back ends of their pass defense. If the Giants are able to avoid the injuries that blew up their defensive line last season, and if Pierre-Paul is as big a pass-rushing sensation as his handstand video on YouTube was, then the sack numbers should tick back up. And better secondary play, especially at the safety position, should make harried passers pay more dearly than they have in the past. Domenik Hixon doesn’t get the ink of other return men, but he has the skills to bump up the Giants’ D/ST unit in leagues where returns matter.

   
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