The NFC East is loaded at the Defense/Special Teams position and calls home to two of the top defenses in fantasy football.
1. New York Giants
By seaons’ end this could be the best defense in the NFL. Last year, without the likes of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, they still managed 42 sacks and finished seventh in fantasy football with 204 points, although they wore down in December after the offense stopped sustaining drives which left them on the field longer.
This year, they’ve addressed depth issues and significantly upgraded their front seven by bringing in DT Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard and LB Michael Boley. And when you add the return of Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyiora to go along with DE Justin Tuck and the rest of the squad, watch out.
Special Teams: Domenik Hixon is a very dangerous return man when the Giants don’t exclusively keep him at receiver.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles defense, ranked third in the league in 2008, also finished third in fantasy with 250 points. It possesses a lot of speed and talent at the cornerback and defensive line positions and steady play at linebacker.
But this year, they’ll be forced to prove they can overcome the loss of their emotional leader, Brian Dawkins, who signed with Denver in the offseason.
Another thing the unit has going in its favor is the offense could be extremely potent this season, which means they’ll probably be playing with a lead a majority of the time, and that’s when Jim Johnson led defenses excel. His creative blitz schemes cause nightmares for opposing offenses and lead to a lot of sacks and turnovers.
Special Teams: DeSean Jackson is also an extremely explosive return man who could score multiple times this season.
3. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys possess the premier pass rusher in football, DeMarcus Ware, who finished with 20 sacks last season. The defense also became more effective once Wade Phillips took over the play calling and began to mix his blitzing more effectively. They finished 12th with 169 points in 2008.
This year, they’ll have to deal with the loss of DT Chris Canty, but there’s enough depth (Ratliff, Olshansky) and talent to tee off on the third place schedule they’ll face. And that third place strength of schedule makes them an excellent fantasy sleeper in 2009.
Special Teams: Prior to injuring himself, Felix Jones proved himself a dangerous KO returner and Terrence Newman, if healthy, is electrifying on punt returns.
4. Washington Redskins
While the Skins were the No. 4 overall defense in the NFL last year, they only ranked 24th in fantasy football with 128 points. And that’s because while they were good at keeping the opponents’ yardage down, they rarely sacked the QB or forced turnovers.
This year, they have an extremely talented big man manning the middle, and his name is DT Albert Haynesworth, who will instantly make the Skins more stout against the run and collapse the pocket. This should lead to more one-on-one opportunities for other players to get to the QB and with their talented secondary (Hall, Landry, Horton, etc.), more turnovers.
Special Teams: Antwaan Randel El is still a dangerous return man and capable of scoring once or twice in ‘09.