Updated October 6th ~ Find most current team defense rankings here.
With the season starting in a mere two days, there is not a whole lot to update, but at Top Fantasy Football we try to keep you as current as possible, and a few teams have been making moves, up and down.
Even the most savvy owners in fantasy football are so busy focusing on offense, and who got traded where, that they fail to recognize who's moving around the NFL on defense. As an example this year, Albert Haynesworth made the move from Nashville to Washington, thus lowering the Titan's defensive prowess, and making the Redskin's defense more staunch. So while you're sitting down to do your offense research, spend some time on defense too. A solid defense/special teams unit can perform as well as a top RB or wide receiver most weeks. The trick is finding value. We'll look at the top 25 in the league, and simply rank the rest. Let's face it, if you're using one of the last half dozen or so, you're in trouble anyway.
- Pittsburgh Steelers ~ Not much of a surprise here. The new era steel curtain was second in sacks and tied for sixth in interceptions, and they just keep adding talent. Look for rookie defensive end Evander "Ziggy" Hood to make an immediate impact in 2009. With guys like James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Lawrence Timmons, Lamar Woodley and James Farrior it's hard to even consider any other defense at number one. Add to all of this that last season the Steelers had a brutal schedule, compared to the more balanced 2009 version. Bye Week 8.
- New York Giants ~ The Giant's D just keeps getting better. I've seen a few sites this year (Yahoo for one) who seem to think they should be at number one. They see the return of Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka this year, and they added linebacker Michael Boley, a 100 tackle monster. While it's hard to imagine anyone besting the Steelers D, NYG has a shot. Bye Week 10.
- Minnesota Vikings ~ Many expect to see the Titans or Ravens here, but Minnesota's consistency raises their value. They have been first against the run for three seasons straight. Last year they were also 2nd in forced fumbles which may explain why they average about six touchdowns a season for their fantasy teams. As long as the brothers Williams (Kevin and Pat) can stay on the field and out of Roger Goodell's doghouse they should finish in the top 5 at D. Oh and did I mention 100+ tackle monster E.J. Henderson is back this season to join top DE Jared Allen and top DB's Cedric Griffen and Antoine Winfield? Bye Week 9.
- New York Jets ~ This pick may raise some eyebrows. Don't the Ravens belong here? Yes and no. New Jets coach Rex Ryan left Baltimore and took his skills to New York. He also took a few of his old Ravens with him. The team also added Bart Scott (former Raven), Jim Leonhard, and Lito Sheppard to a team that already has one of the best DB tandems in Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes. Expect bigger and better from the Jets D this season. Let us not forget the team also sports special teams fiend, Leon Washington, who has something to prove this year. The Jets will go later than the fourth defense off the board, so they make a nice sleeper pick. Bye Week 9.
- Baltimore Ravens ~ Despite rotating players in and out of their line-up, the Ravens are always a top performing defensive unit. The loss of the defensive genius Rex Ryan and the fact that some of these guys are getting long in the tooth, like defensive jaggernaut, Ray Lewis, is the only reason they are not in my top three this season. Sooner or later they have to start slipping. Defensive ends Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs have their work cut out for them in 2009. Bye Week 7.
- Dallas Cowboys ~ This ranking may be another eyebrow raiser, but the Cowboys led the league last season with 59 sacks in 2008. Their interception totals were low, but I expect an improvement there in 2009 with Gerald Sensabaugh replacing the oft injured Terence Newman. With guys like Demarcus Ware (20 sacks), Bradie James (over 100 tackles) and the addition of veteran Keith Brooking, this is another great sleeper D for 2009 who you can get later than the 6th defense off the board. Bye Week 6.
- Philadelphia Eagles ~ The Eagles are an unpredictable group on defense; up and down, never consistent, and now they've lost Stewart Bradley for the season. Yet, there is hope for a solid fantasy campaign in 2009. They have Asante Samuel, and Quintin Mikell as a solid DB tandem, top defensive end Trent Cole. But what really bodes well for fantasy owners is the talent on special teams. The Eagles now have two prime return specialists in Quentin Demps and Ellis Hobbs, and who knows if rookies LeSean McCoy or Jerry Maclin will get in on the fun as well. I think we might see a lot of special teams points from this '09 squad. Bye Week 4.
- Chicago Bears ~ Da Bears have relied more on their defensive history the last few years than actual production, but a lot of that has been injury related, and there's been (to my thinking anyway) an overall malaise that comes from being on the field all the time because your offense simply sucks. This season the team starts out healthier and there is a refreshing optimism courtesy of instant offensive viability thanks to the trade for Jay Cutler. The big names are still there; Urlacher, Briggs, Ogunleye, Payne and Tillman. It should be a solid fantasy productive year for the Bears D. Bye Week 5. Update- The Chargers move down, but Chicago also faces the easiest schedule in 2009 and they've looked improved this preseason.
- San Diego Chargers ~ The Chargers defense were fantasy studs in 2007 and fantasy duds in 2008. Much of that can be attributed to the loss of Shawne Merriman to injury. He is to the Chargers what Ray Lewis is to the Ravens. He is back in '09 with his team that already includes top linebacker Stephen Cooper and top DBs Quentin Jammer and Eric Weddle, the tackle monster. Oh, and let us not forget special teams demon, Darren Sproles. I expect a renaissance year for the Chargers D. Bye Week 5. Update- Shawne Merriman's current high profile legal woes are sure to impact his performance, and if lost for any time at all the entire defense is weakened as we saw last season. Keep an eye on how this develops.
- Tennessee Titans ~ The Titans had a great year from a fantasy defensive perspective in 2008, but the loss of DE Albert Haynesworth leaves a big hole, figuratively and literally. I expect their defense will struggle this year to achieve the production they had last season. They still have Cortland Finnegan, Kyle Vandenbosch, Nick Harper and Keith Bullock, but the team also has to get used to a new defensive coordinator in Chuck Cecil. Bye Week 7.
- New England Patriots ~ The Patriots just died on defense last year, and almost all of it can be attributed to a rash of injuries that plagued the team all season. But there were shining reminders of their defensive viability. Rookie Jerod Mayo had 100 tackles, and will only improve in his second season. Brandon Merriweather looked excellent, and he'll be joined this season by IDP sleeper rookie, Patrick Chung. And let us not forget veterans Adalius Thomas, Derrick Burgess, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour. I see a big defensive rebound in 2009 for fantasy teams. Bye Week 8. Update- Tedy Bruschi has retired and taken a job as an NFL analyst, and Richard Seymour was oddly enough, traded to the Oakland Raiders. The departure of Seymour hurts the Patriot's defense the worst, and knocks the defense down a spot in the rankings.
- Green Bay Packers ~ The value of the Packer's fantasy defense in 2009 rests squarely on the shoulders of Aaron Kampman who will move from defensive end to outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Dom Caper's 3-4 scheme. This switch in schemes will have a positive trickle effect on guys like AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett. Atari Bigby is a top safety. Rookie BJ Raji should be an immediate impact player against the run. Tramon Williams is there to help aging CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris, and Will Blackmon is always a threat on special teams. Bye Week 5. Update- With a few preseason games in the books for using their new 3-4 defensive scheme, The Pack look more formidable already.
- Miami Dolphins ~ Miami was a surprise on both sides of the ball last season. While I doubt their offense will shine as brightly, I do expect similar production from their defense. They were 8th last season in fantasy production, and while that doesn't bring your fantasy house down, it certainly won't hurt you as a low end option. DE Jason Taylor returns to the fold which now has LB Channing Crowder top 5 DB's Gibril Wilson and Yeremiah Bell. Bye Week 6.
- Carolina Panthers ~ The Panthers defense was off their game in 2008, but they should rebound nicely in 2009 to make them a low end #1 option. Julius Peppers has stopped squawking about a trade. With Jon Beason, Thomas Davis (who should both be healthy by the regular season), Richard Marshall and Chris Harris, the team can be formidable. Bye Week 4.
- Washington Redskins ~ The Titans loss is the Redskins gain, and Albert Haynesworth's addition makes them instantly credible as a fantasy defensive option in 2009. London Fletcher is still a consistent high-end 100 tackle linebacker. Rookie Brian Orakpo looks like the real thing. There are some questions in their secondary with LaRon Landry and Andre Carter, but the 'skins should be a definite sleeper pick as a low end starting fantasy defense. Bye Week 8.
- Houston Texans ~ The Texans make a big jump in my book on defense this season, breaking into the top half of the league. DE's Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye lead the team. Stud linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Zac Diles are another year improved. Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing should provide immediate value, along with the addition of DE Antonio Smith from Arizona. Bye Week 10. Update- DeMeco Ryans looks to have regained his former level of play, with 23 tackles on the preseason.
- Seattle Seahawks ~ The Seasquabs gave up 14.5 points per preseason game; good for 6th in the league. New defensive additions, DE Nick reed, and LB Aaron Curry are already showing their value. Strong safety, Jordan Babineaux is getting the starting nod this season, and has looked the part so far. Bye Week 8.
- Indianapolis Colts ~ The Colts didn't look terribly solid defensively in the preseason, going 1-3 under new coach, Jim Caldwell. Don't let the stats fool you though, they should be solid during the regular season. Top guys like Marlin Jackson, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis barely played. That said, I'm still moving them down a spot. Bye Week 6.
- Buffalo Bills ~ The Bills had a brutal preseaon schedule, and still managed to look respectable on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie DE Aaron Maybin will start alongside Aaron Schobel, and help solidify things upfront. Look for sophomore DB Leodis McKelvin to be explosive both on defense and special teams in 2009. Bye Week 9.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers ~ The Bucs were 2nd against the rush this preseason, but their numbers against the pass were atrocious. Expect that to change, as new coach Raheem Morris, a former defensive backs coach, is not going to tolerate a sloppy secondary. Derrick Brooks and cato June are gone, but Barrett Ruud, and top DBs, Ronde Barber and Tanard Jackson are still there though all three saw limited preseason action. Bye Week 8.
- New Orleans Saints ~ The Saints gave up a paltry 9.5 YPG in their four preseason contests. It doesn't mean much, but it shows promise. DB's Roman Harper and Darren Sharper will be joined by Tracy Porter who lost his rookie season to injury. But Porter can make big plays in the secondary this season. Bye Week 5.
- Cleveland Browns ~ Another defense showing promise and upward mobility. They gave up 17.5 YPG in preseason play; good for 11th. Their offense is terrible, but their defense could keep them in some games. Look for linebacker D'Qwell Jackson to lead the way again. Bye Week 9.
- Atlanta Falcons ~ The team still has top DE John Abraham, DB Erik Coleman and 2008 linebacker rookie surprise, Curtis Lofton to front the defense. However, veteran Keith Brooking has moved on to Dallas, Lawyer Milloy is now a Seahawk, and Michael Boley is a Giant. Add to this mix a much harder schedule in 2009 and you have a defense on the decline. Bye Week 4.
- Cincinnati Bengals ~ The Bengals have looked defensively sharp in the preseason, surrending only 13.5 points a game. Team leader Dhani Jones is back, and look for rookie LB Rey Maualuga, and last season's injured rookie LB, Keith Rivers to be both have 100 tackle seasons. Bye Week 8.
- Arizona Cardinals ~ The Cardinals line-up have looked dismal during the preseason on the defensive side of the ball. Only the Raiders have played worse. While they are so-so against the rush, no one was worse in 2008 against the pass, and if the preseason looks we've had are any indication, 2009 will see them near the bottom again. This is one bird that isn't soaring in 2009. Bye Week 4.
- Jacksonville Jaguars ~ Bye Week 7.
- San Francisco 49ers ~ Bye Week 6.
- Oakland Raiders ~ Bye Week 9.
- St. Louis Rams ~ Bye Week 9.
- Detroit Lions ~ Bye Week 7.
- Denver Broncos ~ Bye Week 7.
- Kansas City Chiefs ~ Bye Week 7.
Previous 2009 Defensive Rankings