Apr 29, 2008
As everyone in this industry, including us, is working on preliminary 2008 player and team projections, it seems that it’s wide open as to which team deserves the #1 ranking for defensive teams.
But to me, it’s a pretty easy call: the Minnesota Vikings.
Last year was a big year for DT/ST touchdowns, as four teams had eight of them, and several more were in the 5-6 range. The Vikings, however, had an amazing eight defensive scores, to go along with a special team touchdown, so they led the league with 9 DT/ST TDs.
This is a defense that struggled in the secondary for most of the year, but the deeper we got into the season the better they performed on the back end. Through their first eight games, for example, they were the 7th worst defense in (fantasy) points allowed to QBs, yet a few weeks later they were basically middle of the pack, and they were the 12th best in the league their final five games.
I honestly can’t say for sure that CBs Cedric Griffin and Marcus McCauley will be very good corners, but they might be, and it’s fair to say that Griffin, McCauley, and Antoine Winfield form a solid trio, and their coverage should be better this year with Madieu Williams added. And while I fully understand how it’s dangerous to assume your secondary will be ok no matter what if you can rush the passer, one has to believe that the addition of Jared Allen, one of the best pass-rushers in the league (and perhaps the best overall DE in the biz) will help their coverage.
This is an opportunistic defense that has a nose for the endzone and is absolutely loaded with talent and playmakers after adding the deadly Allen. They’re already great against the run and with offenses rendered one-dimensional, they’re going to be able to force a lot of turnovers and make a lot of big plays. The one issue is that they don’t have a great return man, but they should be good for 1-2 special team scores.
All of this stuff is great, but consider this: The Vikings play in the NFC North. This is a division that will feature a rookie LT blocking for either Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton, and the Vikes get to play the Bears twice. The Lions will start a rookie at RT, and Jon Kitna is a turnover machine who gets sacked a ton, and the Vikes play Detroit twice. They also play the Packers, who no longer have Brett Favre, one of the toughest quarterbacks to sack of time. Their schedule doesn’t look all that great otherwise, with games against Indy, NO, TB, Jac, and NYG, but they do also get Car, Ten, Hou, Atl, and Ari, which are solid matchups. You could argue that 11 of their 16 matchups are either favorable or medium for fantasy.
The best news is that they probably won’t go off the board until after 2-3 other defenses do, so they should be a good value.
If you’ve noticed over the years, we’re usually able to identify 1-2 defenses that will be breakout units and good values, and we’ve hit some major homeruns the last 4-5 years.
This year, the #1 choice is clear.