1. Minnesota Vikings Bye Week 8 This squad scored an NFL best 8 TD’s last season. The key additions of sack king Jared Allen and star safety Madieu Williams should sure up what was a shaky pass D in ’07, and place the Minnesota defense among the elite in fantasy football.
2. Dallas Cowboys Bye Week 10 If you are looking for a balanced defense for your fantasy line up, look no further than the Cowboys. They probably won’t lead the league in any fantasy statistical category, but they are sure to be ranked near the top in all of them. The additions of Zach Thomas and Pacman Jones only bolster an already impressive defensive group.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Bye Week 10 This underrated and overlooked defense led the NFL in pass defense in 2007, only allowed 16 points per game (tied for 1st), and forced a league best 27 fumbles. They also added 16 interceptions (tied for 7th), 33 sacks (tied for 11th), and 2 defensive TD’s. With all the key players back for 2008, along with a couple of nice additions in safety Eugene Wilson and rookie CB Aqib Talib, the Bucs defense should return as one of the best in fantasy football.
4. Seattle Seahawks Bye Week 4 This high-energy defense was also highly underestimated in ’07. They ranked near the top of the NFL in every statistical defensive category that matters in fantasy football, and return almost entirely intact. They may be a steal in later rounds on draft day.
5. San Diego Chargers Bye Week 9 This defense was built for fantasy football. This year’s defense is comprised of essentially the same cast that led the NFL in interceptions (30) and ranked in the Top 5 in sacks (42), points allowed per game (17), and defensive TD’s (5) in 2007. UPDATE:Super star LB Shawne Merriman is reporting that he has a torn PCL. It is unclear if he will be available to play this season, but it appears doubtful. Merriman is the heart and soul of this defense, and the single most important component to their success. Losing Merriman on defense is the equivalent of the Patriots losing Tom Brady on offense. Even if he decides to play, it is highly unlikely that Merriman can be the disruptive force he is when playing at 100%. The Chargers defense should still be fairly solid, but we suggest dropping them significantly on your draft board. UPDATE 2: Merriman has made the decision to play this season in spite of 2 torn ligaments in his knee.
6. New England Patriots Bye Week 4 They’ve been one of the more dominant fantasy defenses in recent years, but they aren’t getting any younger. While the Pats did add some from fresh faces in CB’s Fernando Bryant and Jason Webster, the losses of stars like Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, and Roosevelt Colvin to free agency could prove detrimental. This will still be a strong unit in ’08, but don’t expect the fantasy impact of year’s past.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers Bye Week 6 As usual, the 2008 edition of the Steel Curtain should be a formidable one. While this defense was at the top of the NFL charts in yards and points allowed in 2007, they only accounted for a league worst 11 interceptions. This is still a great defense to have on your roster, but they can be a little overrated in the fantasy realm.
8. Tennessee Titans Bye Week 6 Last year’s Cinderella fantasy defense, the Titans came out of nowhere, and finished in the top 10 in every fantasy statistical category. They return 9 starters, including arguably the NFL’s best DT in Albert Haynesworth, and brought back a familiar face in Jevon Kearse. This underrated fantasy defense should be stout, and may be a bargain in late draft rounds.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars Bye Week 7 The Jags D will be sporting a slightly different look under defensive guru Gregg Williams, but they have been one of the better fantasy defenses in recent years and that is unlikely to change in 2008. This is an eclectic group comprised of young talent and veteran know-how. They will be solid.
10. Green Bay Packers Bye Week 8 This defense is not flashy, but they quietly snuck up the charts last season to become one of fantasy football’s better squads. With all 11 starters back, they have all the pieces in place to repeat. The Packers defense will be one of the safer selections in your draft.
11. Chicago Bears Bye Week 8 Considered by many as “the fantasy defense” to own in recent years, the Bears fell from grace in ’07, and went bust. There were several factors that contributed to the Bears demise last season, the biggest of which was the injury bug. Healthy and eager, the Chicago defense looks to regain its elite status in the fantasy football world. While you shouldn’t expect ’05 and ’06 production from this bunch, you should see drastic improvement over last year’s slide. UPDATE: While we still expect the Bears to have a better season in '08, we are not sold on them as a top 10 defense. The first team defense has looked horrible so far in preseason. We realize it is just preseason, but this is not a positive indicator of what may lie ahead.
12. New York Giants Bye Week 4 They began their 2007 campaign as the worst fantasy defense in the NFL, but finished the season as one of the best. The 2008 edition of the Giants defense should be a good one. They added some quality players to an already talented group, but the retirement of perennial Pro Bowler Michael Strahan prevents us from ranking them any higher. UPDATE: The Giants defense took a big blow when they lost star DE Osi Umenyiora for the season with a knee injury. Their stellar pass rush, led by Umenyiora, was a big reason for much of the pre season fantasy hype surrounding this defense. They still have a chance to be a solid unit, but you should lower your expectations.
13. Indianapolis Colts Bye Week 4 One of last season’s surprise fantasy defenses, the Colts only allowed a league best 16 points per game, and finished 2nd with 22 interceptions. Many so called experts have written last year’s success off as a fluke, but if All Pro’s Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders are at 100% to begin the season, there is no reason the Colt’s defense can’t top their ’07 fantasy success.
14. Philadelphia Eagles Bye Week 7 Few fantasy defenses underachieved more in ’07 than the Eagles. While they ranked a respectable 9th in points allowed per game, and mid pack with 37 sacks, they only had 19 takeaways, by far the fewest in the league. They should rebound with a solid ’08, especially with the addition of super star CB Asante Samuel.
15. Baltimore Ravens Bye Week 10 Like the Bears, this perennial powerhouse fantasy D went bust in ’07. Unlike the Bears, we don’t see this aging group rebounding in a big way. They should better last season’s lack luster numbers, and they may show flashes of greatness, but they are too old and inconsistent to garner the attention they once received on draft boards.
16. Washington Redskins Bye Week 10 This defense had some great games in ’07, but they also had some very poor ones. The addition of DE Jason Taylor should be a big boost for this squad, but they must improve on their consistency to have a major fantasy impact.
S 17. Buffalo Bills Bye Week 6 Few defenses in the NFL, if any, did more to upgrade in the off-season than the Buffalo Bills. In spite of being one of the worst fantasy defenses through much of last season, they did show promise down the stretch, and with additions like DT Marcus Stroud and LB Kawicka Mitchell, the Buffalo D could be a fantasy force in ’08.
S 18. Oakland Raiders Bye Week 5 When you think of great fantasy defenses, The Raiders certainly aren’t the first name that comes to mind in recent years. For that matter, they probably aren’t even the 17th name, but this new look defense upgraded tremendously in the off season, and the way we see it, this group will head in one of two directions in ’08, bust or big time. We think it is more likely to be the latter. Draft them in very late rounds, or maybe even pick them up as a free agent, and you will thank us later.
19. Arizona Cardinals Bye Week 7 On one hand, this defense is great in relation to fantasy football. Their gambling style led to an amazing 6 interceptions returns for TD’s. On the other hand, that same style contributed to a poor 24.9 points allowed per game last season. In their defense, the Cards D was riddled with injuries in ’07, so they should improve there, but their lack of depth could still be an issue.
S 20. Cleveland Browns Bye Wk. 5 The addition of disruptive All Pro DT Shaun Rogers alone could take this fantasy D from ridicule to praise in ’08. They also made several other key additions. The Browns Defense will be one to watch this fantasy football season.
21. New York Jets Bye Week 5 They made wholesale changes for ’08 in order to improve on a dismal effort last season. Only time will tell for this eclectic group, but for now, consider them a back up at best.
22. San Francisco 49ers Bye Week 9 This defense is loaded with talent across the board, but a lack of chemistry and poor field position created by an awful offense put them in compromising positions throughout ’07. There is potential with this group, but a lot of it banks on the improvement of their offense. The addition of LB Takeo Spikes is a bonus.
S 23. New Orleans Saints Bye Wk. 9 This is another defense that upgraded nicely in the off-season via free agency. You should see a vast improvement in this defense, but there are still some questions with them that won’t be answered until the season starts. We like their chances to become a formidable fantasy defense in time, but they are kind of on the “wait-and-see list.”
24. Denver Broncos Bye Week 8 They brought in a lot of fresh blood in the off season, and having Champ Bailey never hurts, but this defense will have to come a long way to prove valuable in fantasy football leagues. They have potential as a decent bye week fill in; just make sure they aren’t playing the Chargers that week.
25. Houston Texans Bye Week 8 They should show minimal improvement on what can only be considered a sub par fantasy effort in ’07.
26. Carolina Panthers Bye Week 9 Few fantasy defenses have seen their stock plummet as much as the Panthers over the last 2 seasons. They have done very little to improve on a mediocre ’07 squad.
27. Miami Dolphins Bye Week 4 Bill Parcells has been brought in to right the ship, and plenty of changes have already been made to “supposedly” improve this defense, but after last season’s fantasy effort and the loss of DE Jason Taylor, The Tuna, himself, may rather go “Dancing With the Stars” than manage this team.
28. St. Louis Rams Bye Week 5 Only the Lions gave up more points than the Rams last season. The Rams have made no effort to improve in the off-season, so you can expect more of the same in ’08.
29. Cincinnati Bengals Bye Week 8 Losing arguably their 2 best defensive players in DE Justin Smith and S Madieu Williams to free agency can’t possibly help what was already a horrible fantasy defense in ’07.
30. Kansas City Chiefs Bye Week 6 Due to wholesale renovations, it is with great regret that we inform you that the Kansas City Chiefs defense will be closed this upcoming fantasy season. Please feel free to check back in 2010. Can you say massive rebuild?
31. Detroit Lions Bye Week 4 Let’s see if we have this right, we gave up the most points in the NFL last season, so we should probably get rid of our best defensive players, and replace them with mediocre ones. Just when you think Matt Millen couldn’t possibly top himself.
32. Atlanta Falcons Bye Week 7 This defense ranked near the bottom in almost every defensive statistical category with the exception of takeaways in 2007. Add to that, losing your best defensive player in CB DeAngelo Hall along with a cast of other key players. Sprinkle on hiring a little known college coach as defensive coordinator, and you have a recipe for disaster.