How early did you reach up to grab your defensive squad this year?
Did you need to draft Pittsburgh or try to reap the benefits of Billy Cundiff’s touchback parade?
Did you check out with two rounds remaining and allow the machine or your infant to select your defense and kicker?
However you approached the matter, there are points to be stolen from the team defense slot. It’ll take a few weeks for the truly inept and nauseating offensive squads (and defenses) to be exposed, but we have our suspicions about which teams will make the short list.
Work the wire. Find the sweet spots and take advantage of scuffling units. You can start immediately with Week 1.
Exclude: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, Philadelphia
Heroes Week 1
San Diego vs. Minnesota: The Chargers were one of the greatest statistical anomalies in recent memory with tremendous run and pass defense efforts and miserable special teams coverage. San Diego added several veteran members to the defense, including Takeo Spikes and former superhero Bob Sanders. Sanders’ presence in the secondary changes the complexion of the secondary and should help in run support against Adrian Peterson.
New England at Miami: The Patriots made a number of moves that had pundits scratching their heads. They added Albert Haynesworth to team with Vince Wilfork in the heart of the defense to blow up opposing running games. Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter will work off of the edges to force Chad Henne into mistakes. I believe that Henne will finish with decent numbers in the box score because of his efforts in catch-up mode, but there will be a crooked number in the turnover column.
Tennessee at Jacksonville: Luke McCown is slated to start for Jacksonville now that David Garrard was released. There’s always an element of danger in these situations, as McCown might just play with the house’s money and come out gunning downfield. Remember what Derek Anderson did under similar circumstances in Cleveland back in 2007. If McCown does open it up, the potential is there for a high turnover count.
Denver vs. Oakland: I have gotten a few notes about my “Denver love” in this series of Lineup Calls pieces. I merely look at the Oakland logo on the schedule and shrug my shoulders.
Look, nobody appreciates the value and talent of a healthy Darren McFadden more than I do. He’s a special playmaker who will make his share of plays. However, I’m not banking on a repeat of last year’s madness (the Raiders scored 98 points in last year’s meetings).
Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller are there to give this defense an immediate upgrade. The best I can say of the Oakland receiving corps at this point is that they’re really fast. Jacoby Ford is fun, but can they get him the ball? Is Darrius Heyward-Bey ready to play? How about the rest of the wounded receiver corps?
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati: The Browns made a huge move in the secondary by selecting Joe Haden in 2010. This year, they added Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard to the defensive front. I’m looking for Taylor to stuff Cedric Benson at the line and set up disadvantageous passing situations for Andy Dalton. Dalton will press downfield and misfire.
Ninjas Week 1
Atlanta at Chicago: The Falcons bolstered the defensive front by bringing Ray Edwards onboard to work opposite John Abraham. The thought of two top-notch pass rushers working against the questionable Chicago offensive line immediately elevates this unit. Jay Cutler will need to slide in the pocket and be decisive, or this is going to be a long, long day.
San Francisco vs. Seattle: The 49ers underwhelmed a year ago. Patrick Willis and company are bringing a new attitude under Jim Harbaugh and will bring the heat on the jump-passing Tarvaris Jackson. The Seattle offense has yet to find any level of performance, and I’m not looking for a big push in Week 1.
Houston vs. Indianapolis: I’ve written a ton about the roster moves made by Houston to bolster the defense. Wade Phillips takes the reins and will look to rough up Kerry Collins to claim an early lead in the AFC South. The Texans shan’t shut the Colts down altogether, though I suspect that J.J. Watt and Mario Williams wreak havoc on the statuesque Collins.
Flops Week 1
New York Giants at Washington: Linebacker Jon Goff tore his ACL to join the seemingly unending parade of injured New York defenders. I still love the depth up front and they’ll pressure Rex Grossman. However, the secondary gives me pause. Grossman might just keep chucking the ball downfield.
New Orleans at Green Bay: I don’t know what else to say. We love the speed with which the Saints play and the pressure put on opponents to force the ball downfield. Most weeks, the Saints will rate a strong play. This is a different animal. If you’re expecting some letdown from Aaron Rodgers and company once Kid Rick finishes singing, you’re kidding yourself.
New York Jets vs. Dallas: The battle of brothers Ryan will take center stage on Sunday night. The Cowboys have a loaded offense with Tony Romo back under center. Issues in the Dallas secondary may create a more wide open game than you’d anticipate at first glance. If the Jets are able to get things rolling early with Shonn Greene on the ground and Santonio Holmes downfield, this could open up.