Defenses are being phased out of some fantasy football leagues, but many still include them with special teams points attached.
While it might not seem important to draft a quality defense, this spot on your roster often makes or breaks your week. A terrible defensive performance can prove costly, while a great game from your defense could make up for an underperforming player at the skill positions.
Here are the top 20 defense/special teams units for 2015.
1. Buffalo Bills (Bye Week: 8)
2014 stats: 54 sacks, 19 INTs, 4 TDs
The Bills have an elite front seven featuring top pass rushers Marcel Dareus and Mario Williams. The hiring of defensive guru Rex Ryan as head coach and the likely emergence of Stephon Gilmore as a star cornerback should help Buffalo maintain its defensive excellence from 2014.
2. Seattle Seahawks (Bye Week: 9)
2014 stats: 37 sacks, 13 INTs, 3 TDs
The Seahawks rush the quarterback as well as anyone, intercept and defend a lot of passes and don’t play in a division with any elite quarterbacks. Injuries are a concern, but this unit is deep and talented at just about every position.
3. Houston Texans (Bye Week: 9)
2014 stats: 37 sacks, 20 INTs, 6 TDs
Led by superstar defensive end J.J. Watt and 2014 No. 1 pick Jadaveon Clowney, the Texans defense improved remarkably in 2014 and should be even stronger in 2015. Houston also finished seventh in points allowed and tied for third in interceptions last season.
4. New York Jets (Bye Week: 5)
2014 stats: 45 sacks, 6 INTs, 0 TDs
The Jets don’t force a lot of turnovers and had zero defensive touchdowns in 2014, but they consistently rush the passer to force sacks and fumbles. New York also was one of five teams to give up less than 100 yards rushing per game last season.
5. St. Louis Rams (Bye Week: 6)
2014 stats: 40 sacks, 13 INTs, 5 TDs
The Rams had an impressive 25 takeaways last season to go along with 40 sacks, and their best defensive players still are in the prime of their careers.
6. Baltimore Ravens (Bye Week: 9)
2014 stats: 49 sacks, 11 INTs, 3 TDs
Baltimore ranked second last season in sacks and sixth in points allowed. Its front seven is talented and deep, and the secondary features is led by elite cornerback Jimmy Smith. The Ravens once again will be a top fantasy defense.
7. Miami Dolphins (Bye Week: 5)
2014 stats: 39 sacks, 14 INTs, 3 TDs
Miami’s defensive line already was incredible with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, and it added an elite player in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh through free agency. Expect the Dolphins to have a top 10 defense in 2015 and finish in the top five in sacks.
8. Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 7)
2014 stats: 41 sacks, 18 INTs, 3 TDs
Linebacker Von Miller leads an elite Broncos pass rush that helped the defense give up the third-fewest yards per game last season. Denver’s defense also benefits from playing in a mediocre division and often has leads thanks to Peyton Manning’s high-scoring offense.
9. Arizona Cardinals (Bye Week: 9)
2014 stats: 35 sacks, 18 INTs, 5 TDs
The Cardinals are a threat to intercept a lot of passes and return them for touchdowns with a secondary that features ultra-talented defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyron Mathieu. Arizona also finished fifth last season in points allowed.
10. Minnesota Vikings (Bye Week: 5)
2014 stats: 41 sacks, 13 INTs, 5 TDs
The Vikings ranked 11th in points allowed, seventh in pass yards allowed and fifth in interceptions last season.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (Bye Week: 8)
2014 stats: 49 sacks, 11 INTs, 11 TDs
If newly acquired linebacker Kiko Alonso is healthy for a full season, this defense could be among the league’s best. It ranked second in sacks and tallied more defense/special teams touchdowns than any other team last season.
12. Carolina Panthers (Bye Week: 5)
2014 stats: 40 sacks, 14 INTs, 3 TDs
The Panthers probably are a bit underrated on this list. They ranked in the top 15 last season in several important categories and have a few young players ready for breakout seasons.
13. Detroit Lions (Bye Week: 9)
2014 stats: 42 sacks, 20 INTs, 2 TDs
The loss of Suh will hurt the pass rush and interior run defense, but the Lions did a tremendous job forcing turnovers last season, including a league-high 20 interceptions.
14. Green Bay Packers (Bye Week: 7)
2014 stats: 41 sacks, 18 INTs, 6 TDs
The Packers forced turnovers, found the end zone more than most teams and had a top-10 pass rush. Expect Green Bay to maintain its success against the pass (226 yards against per game) thanks to an excellent secondary.
15. New England Patriots (Bye Week: 4)
2014 stats: 40 sacks, 16 INTs, 5 TDs
New England’s interception total probably will decrease after the offseason departures of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington, but there’s plenty of special teams potential for fantasy owners with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola returning kicks.
16. Kansas City Chiefs (Bye Week: 9)
2014 stats: 46 sacks, 6 INTs, 3 TDs
The Chiefs didn’t force many turnovers last season, but they did rank fifth in sacks last season and tied for second in points allowed.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (Bye Week: 7)
2014 stats: 20 sacks, 20 INTs, 1 TD
The Bengals were 12th in points allowed last season, but they did manage to force 26 turnovers. Injuries also were an issue for Cincy’s defense in 2014, so we should see improvement from this unit in 2015.
18. Cleveland Browns (Bye Week: 11)
2014 stats: 30 sacks, 21 INTs, 3 TDs
The Browns finished tied for fourth in takeaways last season, including 21 interceptions (second-most in the league). Their pass rush isn’t anything special, but the talent in the secondary creates the potential for big plays.
19. Indianapolis Colts (Bye Week: 10)
2014 stats: 41 Sacks, 12 INT, 2 TDs
The Colts did a good job of forcing turnovers last season. They intercepted just 12 passes, but they ranked second in the league with 14 fumble recoveries. The pass rush also showed improvement and finished tied for ninth in sacks. This unit has top-20 potential.
20. New York Giants (Bye Week: 11)
2014 stats: 47 sacks, 17 INTs, 3 TDs
The Giants gave up a lot of points last season (25 per game), but they made up for it with a lot of takeaways and the fourth-most sacks in the league.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images