from Aug 18th but...
They Ravens had 24 interceptions and returned four for TDs. They ranked sixth overall vs. the run. The only question is when will Peter Boulware return from offseason operation. Ray Lewis is a great player and leader.
2. New England
The Patriots had 29 interceptions in 2003 and returned five for TDs. They gave up just 238 points and held three teams without a score -- the next best team was Dallas with 260. The Patriots should be just as good in 2004.
The Dolphins had 44 sacks and 22 INTs in '03. They gave up 261 points, which was good for third best. The glaring question is what effect will the loss of Ricky Williams have on the defense. And will Zach Thomas and Adewale Ogunleye be back to start Week 1.
The Cowboys were the No. 1 ranked defense in 2003 and should be better in '04 -- they gave up 260 points last season, which was second best in the league. They had only 13 INTs and were minus-4 in takeaways. They should improve in both categories this year. Look for the team to play more 3-4 defense this year. They will need Darren Woodson back as soon as possible.
The Eagles have lost both corners from 2003, but this team only had 13 INTs last year and 18 less sacks than the previous year. The team needs a big year from Jevon Kearse and its young corners. The Eagles defense went from No. 4 overall in '02 to No. 20 in '03 mainly due to injuries.
The defense made great strides last season going from 20th overall the previous year to sixth overall. The team has good defensive linemen. Safety Deon Grant will help the pass defense, which had only 15 interceptions. Jack Del Rio is a very good defensive coach.
The Panthers have very good defensive linemen, maybe the best in the league as a group. The defense was one of eight with 40 or more sacks last season -- Deon Grant is a big loss at safety. Linebacker Mark Fields returns after miss all of last season. The team statistics last year was not as good as 2002.
The Broncos had only nine INTs last year and just 18 over the past two years. The additions of Champ Bailey and John Lynch should help. The offense does a great job with ball control -- 1,047 plays. Last year the team only had one sack from someone other than the defensive line. The loss of DE Bert Berry will hurt the pass rush.
The No. 2 ranked defense in '03 lost CB Antoine Winfield, but gained Troy Vincent. The unit only had 10 INTs last year and just 18 takeaways. Does anyone remember the last time a Bills safety had a pick? Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray does a very good job.
The Seahawks improved a great deal last year (had 40 sacks) under the guidance of defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, who is entering his second year. Top draft pick Marcus Tubbs, a run stopper, and the addition of Grant Wistrom should help the defense. Wistrom however, needs to stay healthy.
New defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau makes this defense -- which was ranked ninth overall last season -- even better. The unit will be younger and faster than in '03 and second-round draft pick Ricardo Colclough is key. In addition, second-year S Troy Polamalu needs to play at a high level.
This may surprise you, but Minnesota has helped itself a great deal over the past two years in both the draft and free agency -- Antoine Winfield and Brian Williams are two good corners, plus the unit has also added speed at linebacker. The team will be without DE Kenny Mixon for the first four games. Ted Cottrell is the new defensive coordinator.
The Titans had the 12th ranked defense last year -- No. 1 vs. the run and No. 30 vs. the pass. Tennessee was very good against the run and did not allow a 100-yard rusher at home. The unit had 21 INTs and 38 sacks. This defense however needs DT Albert Haynesworth to play big. The team lost Jevon Kearse and Robaire Smith to free agency and Peter Sirmon to injury. Tennessee needs to control the ball on offense like it did last year.
14. Green Bay
The defense ranked 17th overall last season -- had 21 INTs and 34 sacks -- but will look to improve under new defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. The Packers need to get CB Mike McKenzie into camp with the right attitude. Their first three draft picks in the 2004 were defensive players -- top pick Ahmad Carroll is fast, but not that tall.
Brandt's defensive rankings
2003 defensive ranking in parentheses
1. Baltimore (3)
2. New England (7)
3. Miami (10)
4. Dallas (1)
5. Philadelphia (20)
6. Jacksonville (6)
7. Carolina (8)
8. Denver (4)
9. Buffalo (2)
10. Seattle (19)
11. Pittsburgh (9)
12. Minnesota (23)
13. Tennessee (12)
14. Green Bay (17)
15. Washington (25)
16. Tampa Bay (5)
17. Chicago (14)
18. St. Louis (16)
19. Detroit (24)
20. Indianapolis (11)
21. Kansas City (29)
22. Houston (31)
23. New Orleans (18)
24. Atlanta (32)
25. San Francisco (13)
26. N.Y. Jets (21)
27. Oakland (30)
28. Cleveland (15)
29. N.Y. Giants (22)
30. Cincinnati (28)
31. San Diego (27)
32. Arizona (26)
This ranking is all about faith in former Bills head coach Gregg Williams and his ability to improve defenses. This defense finished 25th in '03 after ranking fifth in '02. Sean Taylor could win defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Newcomers Phillip Daniels, Cornelius Griffin and Shawn Springs are good players who should help the unit.
16. Tampa Bay
This may be too low, but this defense finished fifth in 2003 with lots of injuries -- it did not force turnovers like it did in 2002. Ian Gold and Mario Edwards are good free-agent pickups, while Anthony McFarland will play in Warren Sapp 's place at tackle. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin continues to do an outstanding job.
New head coach Lovie Smith comes from the St. Louis Rams where their defense was very good in forcing turnovers. Chicago's first two draft picks were defensive linemen. The team finished 14th overall on defense in '03 and was last in sacks with 18. The team has some good young defenders going into this season.
18. St. Louis
This rating is based on DE Leonard Little (not suspended by the league) playing all games. In 2003 the team had 42 sacks and 24 INTs (three returned for TDs). The Rams have a lot of good young players on defense.
Just a guess based on more speed and good front four. The team finished 24th overall and gave up 379 points -- only five teams gave up more. Getting Andre' Goodman and Chris Cash back should help the pass defense. Plus the addition of new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is like having 12 men on the field.
The team was plus-10 in turnover margin in 2003, but had only 11 sacks. The offense needs to control the clock like it did last year. The team needs to replace LB Marcus Washington 's loss to the Redskins.
21. Kansas City
This ranking is all about new defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and the fact that the unit forced turnovers (plus-35) the past two years. The Chiefs play better at home than on the road -- 206 of their 332 points allowed came on the road. The defense returns the same players from last year and rookie DT Junior Siavii should help the run defense.
22 through 32
Every one of these teams will have a tough time on defense. I doubt if any will get you many fantasy points.
One for the thumb...