The NFC North features two top 10 fantasy defenses and could include a third by the end of the season.
1. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have an elite defense, which finished sixth in fantasy football last season with 206 points. It probably would’ve ranked higher if its offense could consistently sustain drives and put points on the board, but even with the great Adrian Peterson, overcoming Tavaris Jackson and Gus Frerrote proved to be too much. Well, that should change if Brett Favre joins the squad.
Look for the Williams’ tandem inside, Jared Allen on the outside, plus the wealth of talent in the back seven (Greenway, Winfield, etc.) to once again enjoy a stellar season and make life miserable for the other NFC North teams.
Special Teams player: When Bernard Berrian is used, he’s explosive, as evidenced by his 82-yard return for a TD.
2. Chicago Bears
The Bears under Lovie Smith have always ranked well defensively and things should be no different in 2009. In fact, it could be even better if Cutler can come in and help lead Chicago to early leads because then the attacking Bears’ defense can do what it does best and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. In 2008 the unit finished with 202 fantasy points and eighth overall.
And with a fairly mediocre schedule this year playing the likes of the NFC West and AFC North, figure the Bears to put up antoher top 10 fantasy scoring effort.
Special Teams: Devin Hester is the most explosive special teams player in the game and good for at least four return TDs this season.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers defense took a huge step back in 2008 and was the weak link of the team, finishing middle of the pack and with 169 fantasy points. The trading of DT Corey Williams prior to the season, the loss of LB Nick Barnett and CB Al Harris to injuries during the season, and the ineffectiveness of DE Kabeer Gbaj-Biamila was all too much to overcome.
GM Ted Thompson took the necessary steps to shore up his defense by selecting DT B.J. Raji and LB Clay Mathews in the first round of the NFL Draft. But it was the signing of Dom Capers, who brings with him his 3-4 defense, which should have the biggest impact. Look for Green Bay to rebound nicely in 2009 and be a strong fantasy sleeper play.
Special Teams: Will Blackmon is a dangerous return man who brought two back to the house in ‘08. Look for a repeat effort in ‘09.
4. Detroit Lions
The Lions only receive mention in this posting because we must cover all defenses in the division. But after ranking second to last in the league (62 points) in 2008 there’s just not much to write about.
The lowlight of a season ago came on Thanksgiving Day when the Titans rattled off 35 first half points and Chris Johnson had put up over 100 yards and two TDs in the first quarter alone.
However, there is some hope in Detroit going forward as they’ve signed Linebackers Julian Peterson and Larry Foote, CB Anthony Henry, and newly hired head coach, Jim Schwartz, was the longtime defensive coordinator of those impressive Titans’ defenses. But without the players on the defensive line, you can’t execute the strategy, so wait a year or two before considering the Lions for your fantasy defense.
Special Teams: Adam Jennings is slated to handle punt returns although he’s not much of a threat to score.