2015 fantasy football profiles and projections (DEF 1-16)

Auction...............$2

Bye Week.............8

Bold prediction: Buffalo will be the highest scoring D/ST in 2015. Here's how: 1) The Bills were the only team to hold every opponent under 250 passing yards from Week 7 on last season; 2) Only the 49ers matched Buffalo's seven games with multiple interceptions; 3) Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes gave the Bills the league's first trio to record 10-plus sacks in back-to-back campaigns in nearly two decades; 4) They allowed a league-low 1.41 points per drive. The kicker? Defensive wizard Rex Ryan is now their head coach. Whether one of the NFL's best defenses can end an historic run of 15 seasons without going to the playoffs is an entirely different matter, but Buffalo's D could help your fantasy team get to the playoffs, that's for sure.

Auction...............$2

Bye Week.............9

On average, NFL.com fantasy players drafted the Seattle D/ST two full rounds before the next unit came off the board last year. Through the first quarter of the season, the reigning champs looked to be one of the draft's biggest busts, managing just 16 total points in four games (including two scoreless outings). Led by the brash "Legion of Boom" and an improved pass rush, the defense put up eight double-digit efforts in the final 12 games. Though the Seahawks finished 20th in both sacks and takeaways, they allowed just 39 total points over the final six games of the season. Coming off a heartbreaking loss that saw Tom Brady throw four touchdowns and complete a Super Bowl-record 37 passes, this unit will not lack for motivational fuel in 2015.

Auction...............$2

Bye Week.............9

After finishing the 2013 season with a paltry 67 fantasy points, Houston's D/ST reversed course the only way they know how: a healthy dose of J.J. Watt. The NFL's unanimous Defensive Player of the Year had a hand in about a quarter of his unit's 169 fantasy points. Otherwise, this Texans unit relied heavily on unsung names like A.J. Bouye and Jumal Rolle for big plays. This season, they'll have veteran Vince Wilfork to clog up the middle of the defensive line. The potential to line up Jadeveon Clowney opposite Watt for a full season could balance out the fact that Houston went from last to first in takeaways and received more sacks from Watt than the rest of the team combined. A turnover-friendly schedule with double-dates against Tennessee and Jacksonville and matchups with the questionable NFC South always helps.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............6

Despite finishing the 2014 campaign as the fourth-highest scoring unit in fantasy, the St. Louis Rams defense went through serious peaks and valleys. The highly touted corps of Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald produced ONE sack in the first five games and another solitary QB drop in the final three. In the eight games between those two droughts the entire squad rattled off 34 sacks and 16 takeaways. St. Louis finished an underachieving 16th in scoring defense, simultaneously inflated by a league-leading 10 return touchdowns allowed by the offense and special teams and masked by the first pair of consecutive shutouts since the 2009 Dallas Cowboys. Getting Long back after missing 10 games with an ankle injury and acquiring Nick Fairley in the offseason should help Defensive Rookie of the Year Donald wreak havoc on quarterbacks in 2015.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............9

The Cardinals D pieced together a top-10 fantasy season in 2014 despite losing the services of Daryl Washington, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy for all or most of the year. With Dockett leaving for San Francisco and Abraham and free-agent surprise Larry Foote moving into retirement, Arizona has some holes to fill. But the team's biggest void is on the sidelines, where newly promoted defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be charged with replicating Todd Bowles' undermanned effort in 2014. Thankfully, he gets a healthy Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu to inject some of the same ferociousness back into the defense we've seen in recent years.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............7

The NFL's highest-scoring offense covered for a decidedly average defense (tied for 13th in scoring defense) as the Packers secured their fourth straight NFC North crown in 2014. But in the world of fantasy, Clay Matthews and company pieced together enough quality performances to finish as the fifth-highest scoring D/ST. Led by a resurgent Julius Peppers, Green Bay joined Buffalo and Philadelphia as the only teams to finish top-10 in sacks (tied-ninth), takeaways (tied-ninth) and return touchdowns (tied-second). With standout rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, bounce-back veteran Morgan Burnett and second-year utility stud Micah Hyde forming one of the better young safety groups in the league, this is a unit on the rise ... even if Peppers was the second-oldest defensive lineman to start all 16 games last year.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............9

A defense that loses five players to injured reserve should be left for dead, especially when all of those players are in the secondary. But the Baltimore Ravens, who seem to have an endless pool of talent on that side of the ball, responded by allowing the NFL's sixth-fewest points (18.9). Behind perhaps the league's most prolific pass-rushing duo in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil (who combined for more sacks than five teams last year), Baltimore returns some of the best big-play potential in the league. Throw a healthy Jimmy Smith back into the mix opposite fellow corner Lardarius Webb and the Ravens should improve upon their 23rd-ranked pass defense and paltry 11 interceptions from a year ago. We haven't even mentioned rookie Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, who could be the second coming of Ray Lewis.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............4

Fresh off their heart-stopping Super Bowl win, the Patriots look primed to turn in another season of underappreciated defense. However, they will need to replace some very key pieces in order to do it. Brandon Browner (Saints), Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Vince Wilfork (Texans) all left via free agency, leaving New England in a tough position to duplicate its 25 takeaways from a season ago. The upside is that the Pats sport one of the most complete linebacker groups in Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins and the returning Brandon Spikes. Nonetheless new additions like Jabaal Sheard and Bradley Fletcher will need to contribute right away for the Patriots D/ST to retain its stature.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............10

The casual football fan probably can't name a defender on Indianapolis outside of Robert Mathis, who missed the entire season with a torn Achilles tendon. No wonder no playoff team allowed 30-plus points in a game more times than the Colts did (five) in 2014. And there's the little matter of those six touchdown passes and 639 total yards surrendered to Big Ben and the Steelers. But those same "no-name" players generated more fantasy points from sacks and turnovers (91) than all but two playoff teams. Tough secondary play, starting with Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, allows Indy's unheralded group of pass rushers to make plays; only the Vikings and Panthers matched the Colts' seven players with at least three sacks in 2014.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............5

Miami's 2014 season on defense was truly one of two halves. Through the first eight games, the 'Fins recorded five double-digit fantasy performances. They mustered fewer total fantasy points (24) in the entire second half of the year than against Jacksonville in Week 8 (26). Head coach Joe Philbin got Pro Bowl efforts from Cameron Wake and cornerback Brent Grimes in 2014, but he'll need to avoid the playmaking drought that struck the squad midway through the year: Miami recorded multiple sacks just four times and forced multiple turnovers zero times in the final eight games. Hopefully the arrival of Ndamukong Suh and the return of Dannell Ellerbe and Koa Misi to an injury-riddled linebacker corps can help a star-studded defensive unit recover from an average season.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............11

While the Browns offense was in the news this offseason for all the wrong reasons, the defense has flown under the radar after a decent but injury-riddled 2014 campaign. In reality, Cleveland has miles to go after finishing dead last against the run and racking up just 31 sacks. But Mike Pettine didn't get a full season from a single contributor on the front line. One of the best defensive backfields anchored by Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson returns after snagging the franchise's most interceptions (21) since 2008. A repeat season from the secondary gives the front seven an opportunity to improve against the run and in getting to the quarterback.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............10

No elite defense will be more in need of a fresh start than the 49ers. Though they put together decent numbers in terms of yards allowed (fifth) and takeaways (tied for fourth), last year's performance left a lot to be desired from a fantasy perspective. Consider that they averaged 167 fantasy points from 2011-2013 and just 125 in 2014. But things are looking up for San Francisco after accumulating the most games missed due to injury. Newly promoted head coach Jim Tomsula will finally have the services of NaVorro Bowman and Glenn Dorsey among the seven defenders who ended 2014 on injured reserve. If Aldon Smith can return to form after a rocky season off the field and the team can find suitable replacements for the now-retired Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith, expect the Niners to improve upon their lowest sack total (36) and most points per game allowed (21.3) since 2010.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............9

After being a fantasy darling in 2013, the Chiefs D/ST came back to Earth in 2014. Despite giving up a league-low four rushing touchdowns, the Chiefs allowed the fifth-most rushing yards (2,036). Add that to 22 fewer turnovers forced and it's easy to see how the decline happened. On the flip side, Kansas City's D/ST logged the fifth-most sacks in the league (22 of them from Justin Houston). If the Chiefs can generate a few more takeaways this season, there's no reason to believe they can't once again be a top-10 fantasy outfit.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............5

For a team that was built on defense, 2014 was an unmitigated disaster ... and it began in the secondary. Gang Green was tied with the Chiefs and Jaguars for the fewest interceptions in the league. But it wasn't just a matter of not forcing turnovers. The Jets allwed the third-most passing touchdowns last season, so they weren't stopping anyone through the air. The upside is that New York has brought back the duo of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, along with former Browns corner Buster Skrine, while drafting Leonard Williams to wreak more havoc up front. However, the biggest addition could be on the sideline where former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is now the Jets head coach. Optimism is in the air in the Big Apple.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............9

On the field, the Lions were statistically among the best defenses in the NFL. Detroit allowed the fewest rushing yards and third-fewest points of any outfit in the league. That success didn't directly translate to fantasy football, where the Lions finished just outside of the top 10 in fantasy points. In 2015, the task of becoming a top 10 fantasy defense got a little tougher with defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins) and Nick Fairley (Rams) bolting as free agents. The additon of Haloti Ngata could stem some of the losses, but he'll need help if the Lions want to avoid being a little softer in the center of the line this season.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............5

Laugh all you want about the wretched NFC South in 2014, but the Panthers defense was the best of the bunch last year and is only a season removed from being a top-three fantasy D/ST. It remains to be seen if the Panthers can regain that status -- especially without the services of Greg Hardy (Cowboys) -- but it's hard to imagine this group once again struggling the way it did last season. Nonetheless, it would be prudent not to draft them as a primary fantasy defense in 2015.

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