We wrap our GLS fantasy previews with a look at the top 12 defenses in fantasy football:
1. Green Bay Packers: You can’t ignore the defending champs, and the Packers D has all the bases covered and then some. B.J. Raji is becoming a superstar on the line, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews lead the linebacker corps and Nick Collins, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams take care of the secondary. Sacks, picks and fumbles are the name of the game in Green Bay.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: The defense is strong from top to bottom and is pretty much the same unit that dominated in 2010 — only healthier (a scary prospect for opponents). Good luck throwing or running against Pittsburgh. Points will be tough to come by against the Steelers this season.
3. New York Jets: A Rex Ryan defense is a hard-hitting, smash mouth football kind of defense. The Jets are always hard to run against and even though they lost out on Nnamdi Asomugha in the offseason, they still have a pretty impressive pair of corners (Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie).
4. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are getting all kinds of attention because of their secondary, and why not — the corners are rock solid. This is a fast, young team, but an inexperienced linebacker corps they may have issues stopping the run. Opponents will look to the ground game since throwing the ball effectively could be difficult.
5. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens and defence — eternally synonymous. This unit continues to put up solid numbers year after year because the veterans keep playing at such a high level. Their front seven is scary and even though they lost a couple of their corners in the offseason, the Ravens are always a threat to cause a turnover and take it to the house.
6. Chicago Bears: The 2010 Bears were banged up and battered, but looking ahead to this season, the group seems healthy and ready to go. They lost Tommie Harris, but Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers still make up one of the best tandems in the league. The Bears will be hard to run against again in 2011, and the secondary isn’t too shabby either.
7. New Orleans Saints: Only a year ago, this unit forced a league-high 39 turnovers while scoring a ridiculous eight touchdowns. After a bit of an off year, Gregg Williams’ super-aggressive D should reappear in 2011. The pass D is a major strength for the Saints, and if the offense can continue to put up points (which it will), teams will be forced to play catchup, which could lead to big opportunities for the defense.
8. New England Patriots: The Patriots are going with a new and more aggressive scheme this year, so expect plenty of blitzing and plenty of sacks. Many people don’t realize that New England had the second highest scoring fantasy defense last year, and with the additions of Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth, those numbers could go up.
9. San Diego Chargers: Year in and year out, the Chargers continue to put together strong teams on both sides of the ball. In 2011, there will be a lot of new faces in San Diego’s defence (Bob Sanders, Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy to name a few) plus a new man calling the plays (Greg Manusky). But despite all that, last year’s top-ranked defense will continue to cause headaches for the opposition.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Like with any defensive unit (maybe outside of the Steelers and Packers), the Falcons have their questions (for example: Which Dunta Robinson will show up in 2011?), but they also have their strengths. Atlanta was fifth in points allowed in 2010 and had 31 sacks and 22 interceptions. This is a young group that will continue to grow together and take advantage of mistakes by the opposition.
11. Dallas Cowboys: Yes, the Cowboys took the D out of Dallas last year, but this team is one of the few in the league that has mastered the 3-4. Rob Ryan is the new coordinator and he will get these guys ready to play week in and week out. The secondary will be tested, but the Cowboys have the talent to make some noise. It all starts with reigning sack king DeMarcus Ware.
12. New York Giants: It’s been one injury after another for the Giants this offseason. But despite all that, I still don’t think you can sleep on this defence. Osi Umenyiora has undergone surgery, but this team has a lot of depth and has a knack for creating turnovers. The Giants’ strength is at defensive end, so the sacks will still come in 2011.