Instant Debate

Best defensive division in 2016? NFC West, AFC West make strong cases

Since 2013, the Seattle Seahawks have ranked no lower than second in total defense, setting the defensive standard for the entire NFL. Last season, the Denver Broncos put on a defensive show in the playoffs and Super Bowl 50. Striving for top-tier defenses -- like those groups in Seattle and Denver -- a number of teams (Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants) have beefed up their units in the offseason.

After Thursday's offensive debate, it's time to survey the defenses of all 32 teams heading into the 2016 campaign. Which will be the best defensive division this season?

Any team that has to play the NFC West knows those games are going to be hard-fought. The Seahawks have boasted the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense in each of the last four years. Their defense is a headache for every team; they have studs everywhere, beginning with the defensive line and ending with arguably the best two safeties in the game ( Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor). In Arizona, Bruce Arians loves to bring pressure, and bringing in Chandler Jones to play opposite Calais Campbell is huge. Not to mention, Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the league. The Cards have a ton of weapons.

I believe the Rams have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL -- Aaron Donald is unblockable and Robert Quinn is an elite edge rusher. There is a little bit of a youth movement in San Francisco, but the unit is still fairly stout. I have to go with the AFC West on this one. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 because of their defense. They have some of the best edge rushers ( Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware) and defensive backs ( Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., T.J. Ward, among others) in the league. The Chiefs create so many takeaways and turn them into points, and their defense is stingy, tough and very physical. There was a lot of excitement last season in Oakland with Khalil Mack earning All-Pro honors at two positions. Adding some choice defensive pieces in free agency (FS Reggie Nelson, LB Bruce Irvin and CB Sean Smith) will help immensely. San Diego still has work to do on the defensive side, but the group is coming along. The NFC West had two top-five units in total defense last year (Seattle at No. 2 and Arizona at No. 5). These two groups make it miserable for offensive coordinators because they suffocate the run and make it very hard to get any rhythm in the pass game. The Rams are in the process of building a very good D, as well. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland all have fairly young defenses and are only going to get better. Each of these teams is built around its defense. Statistically, the Broncos dominated last season and I'd like to see them repeat that performance. The Chiefs have a good nucleus of players and the Raiders are building their core group -- these two should possess top-10 units in 2016. The Seahawks are becoming historically good with the level in which they play defense every year. The Cardinals are solid all around, and the trade for Chandler Jones gives them a potent edge rusher. I think the Rams are a middle-of-the-road defensive team, but if their offense improves, I think their defense will see more production. They also have one of the best fronts in the league.

Then, whatever the 49ers can throw into the mix, that's a pretty good NFC West. Even with all of the uncertainties in the offense, San Francisco's defense is decent. The Seahawks have set the standard the last several years, and I don't expect anything different in 2016. The Arizona Cardinals are coming along and could challenge some of the league's best defenses if they stay healthy. Recently, the Rams' D has been dominant at times and should improve this season. Without question, this division is the best in the league.

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