The saying goes that “defense wins championships", and while the Pittsburgh Steelers demonstrated this to be true in the NFL, the same doesn’t always hold true for fantasy football.
However, while a defense may not lead you to the promised land in fantasy football, having a solid squad that you can plug in week after week makes the journey a little bit easier.
With that in mind, continue reading to find out who the solid defenses are for 2009 in our downloadable Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye: 8)
The Steelers had an unbelievable year in 2008, as they finished first in yards allowed (237.2), passing yards allowed (156.9), and points allowed (13.9) per game as well as finishing second in rushing yards allowed (80.3) per game, and total sacks (51). They added 20 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, and 1,125 tackles. In 2009, the toughest offenses they will face are the Chargers, Vikings, Packers, and Dolphins. Their weaker opponents include the Lions, Raiders, Chiefs, and Browns (twice).
Look for more of the same in 2009 from the top defensive unit of a year ago. While the team did lose cornerback Bryant McFadden to the Arizona Cardinals and linebacker Larry Foote to the Detroit Lions, the Steelers return nine of 11 starters on defense.
Look for William Gay to replace McFadden, and former first round pick Lawrence Timmons to replace Foote—helping the Steelers not to miss a beat. Evander Hood, the 2009 first round draft pick, will be a nice welcome addition to an aging defensive line.
With the great Dick Lebeau as the defensive coordinator, expect more of the same in regards to pressure packages and taking opposing offenses out of their element.
2. Baltimore Ravens (Bye: 7)
While the Steelers dominated the NFL stat books on the defensive side of the ball last season, the Ravens (who finished first among fantasy defenses), weren’t far behind.
They were second in yards allowed (261.1) and passing yards allowed (179.7) per game, and also finished third in rushing yards allowed (81.4) and points allowed (15.3) per game.
Baltimore had the most interceptions in the NFL with 26, and added 13 forced fumbles, 34 sacks, and 960 tackles.
While the team had some big losses in the off-season (linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leohnard, cornerback Chris McAllister, and coordinator Rex Ryan), they did make some good additions in the secondary where they needed help (cornerbacks Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr).
Even with Ryan gone, the team will continue to attack opposing offenses the same way they did in the past. They still have their top players, and will continue to dominate in fantasy leagues.
This year their toughest opponents will be the Chargers, Patriots, Colts, and Packers. Their weaker opponents will be the Raiders, Lions, Chiefs, and Browns (twice).
3. New York Giants (Bye: 10)
The Giants statistically didn’t finish in the top three a year ago in any of the major categories, but were consistently putting up top five to 10 defensive numbers—a big feat considering that many key members of their team, who had a big impact during their Super Bowl run in 2007, were missing (end, Osi Umenyiora, to name one).
Having him return, along with three big off-season additions (end Chris Canty, tackle Rocky Bernard, and linebacker Michael Boley), means the team will again be near the top of the defensive ranks.
Losing coordinator Steve Spagnuolo does sting a bit, but won’t have that big of an impact because of the solid mix of veteran leadership and youth they have on the team.
In 2008, the Giants gave up 292 yards per game, 95.8 of those being via the rush and 196.2 via the pass. They gave up 18.4 points per game, had 42 sacks, 17 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, and 1,036 total tackles.
The toughest offenses they will face are the Saints, Chargers, Falcons, and Cardinals. The weakest offenses they will encounter will be the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, and Buccaneers.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 4)
The Eagles were once again dominant defensively in 2008, as they ranked third in yards allowed (274.3) per game, passing yards allowed (182.1) per game, and sacks (48).
Furthermore, they ranked fourth in rushing yards allowed (92.3) per game, points per game (18.1), and forced fumbles (22).
The icing on the cake were the 15 interceptions and 1,016 tackles the team ended the season with.
In 2009, the Eagles’ toughest opponents are the Saints, Chargers, Falcons, and Panthers. Their weaker opponents are the 49ers, Raiders, Chiefs, and Buccaneers.
One constant when it comes to the Eagles is their defense. They always know how to bring the pressure, taking opponents out of their games often.
Losing safety Brian Dawkins is going to be a big blow, but the team has a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball to pick up the slack.
The team has a good offense, which won’t put the defense in any bad situations, thus allowing them to be aggressive, which will free them up to make plays.
5. Minnesota Vikings (Bye: 9)
The Vikings defense has been dominant against the run in years past, and the story wasn’t much different in 2008—Minnesota allowed the least amount of yards on the ground, giving up 76.9.
The pass defense, though, prevented them from being a top five defense overall, as they allowed 215.6 yards through the air for a total of 292.4 yards per game. The team gave up 20.8 points per game, added 45 sacks, 22 forced fumbles, 12 interceptions, and 1,023 tackles.
With one of the strongest defensive lines in the game (Kevin and Pat Williams to go along with end Jared Allen), this team will continue to be one of the best in the NFL against the run.
If the team can provide a little more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and the backfield can cover their guys, this team could make the leap into the top five. If not, don’t fret, because the Vikings will still be a top-10 defense.
The best offenses they will see in 2009 are the Cardinals, Giants, Panthers, and Packers (twice). The weaker offenses they will see are the Lions (twice), 49ers, Rams, and Browns.
6. Tennessee Titans (Bye: 7)
The Titans’ defense put up impressive numbers a year ago, helping their team to the best regular season record in the AFC. The unit gave up just 293.6 passing yards per game, 93.9 of those being rushing yards and 199.8 of them passing yards.
The Titans were fantasy gold last season—giving up a mere 14.6 points per game as they racked up 23 forced fumbles, 20 interceptions, and 44 sacks...all while amassing 1,086 tackles.
This year’s tough opponents are the Patriots, Bills, Cardinals, and Chargers, while the defense will have a easier go of things against the Rams, 49ers, Jets and Seahawks.
The team lost its best player on defense to free agency in the off-season, tackle Albert Haynesworth. Although he was dominant, the Titans have back-ups who can help fill his shoes.
Don’t believe us? Well, then, just remember that Haynesworth missed the final two weeks of the regular season and the defense didn’t miss a step.
There is still a lot of talent on this squad, and the Titans will repeat last season’s success, if they can again lean on their defense to stop the competition and give them good field position.
Meanwhile, their running game will look to wear the opponent’s defense down, while keeping their own unit fresh with long, methodical drives. Expect similar results from the Titans this season as they had last year.
San Diego Chargers (Bye:5)
New York Jets (Bye: 9)
New England Patriots (Bye: 8)
Chicago Bears (Bye: 5)
Miami Dolphins (Bye:6)
Washington Redskins (Bye: 8)
Dallas Cowboys (Bye: 6)
Green Bay Packers (Bye: 5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye: 8)
Carolina Panthers (Bye: 4)
Seattle Seahawks (Bye: 7)
Indianapolis Colts (Bye: 6)
Buffalo Bills (Bye: 9)
Houston Texans (Bye: 10)
Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye: 7)
Arizona Cardinals (Bye: 4)
Oakland Raiders (Bye: 9)
San Francisco 49ers (Bye: 6)
Atlanta Falcons (Bye: 4)
New Orleans Saints (Bye: 5)
Cleveland Browns (Bye: 9)
Cincinnati Bengals (Bye: 8)
Kansas City Chiefs (Bye: 8)
Denver Broncos (Bye: 7)
St. Louis Rams (Bye: 9)
Detroit Lions (Bye: 7)