NFL's best defense in 2017? Seahawks, Texans, Giants boast loaded units

The Houston Texans finished No. 1 in total defense in 2016 -- and that was without J.J. Watt for most of the season. With the three-time Defensive Player of the Year returning to action in 2017, Houston's unit should be scary. But that's not the only defense with talent to spare ...

As the NFL kickoff game approaches, one question comes to mind: Which NFL team boasts the best defense heading into the regular season?

I'm sticking with the team that finished No. 1 in total defense a year ago: the Houston Texans. This physical unit has a healthy J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney for the first time. But the player who puts the Texans over the edge is X-factor Whitney Mercilus. I haven't seen the other answers to this question, but any shortage of support for the Seahawks' defense would continue the strange lack of respect this historic unit has received over the last decade. Seattle's group ranks among the best defenses of all time after leading the league in points allowed four straight seasons. 2016 was seen as some huge down year because the 'Hawks finished just third in points allowed. The core group of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner remains intact and poised for one last great run. The Giants are stacked on defense with a dynamic pass rush and a secondary that can match up with anybody. I still think the defensive line needs to add depth, but the defense is set up to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. The Jags have yet to live up to the hype, but they certainly look like a premier defense on paper: two shutdown corners ( Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye), an improved D-line (adding Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell the last two offseasons) and a stout linebacking unit ( Telvin Smith, Myles Jack and Paul Posluszny). Now the group just needs to play up to its promise. At the start of every season for the last several years, I've said the Seahawks will have the best defense. I haven't been far off. This unit has enviable speed and experience. No one -- including the Patriots, at times -- can figure out Pete Carroll's feisty unit.

The 'Hawks might have the best middle linebacker in the game (Bobby Wagner) and also boast three Pro Bowlers in the secondary. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril up front. This unit is so fun to watch and will be again in 2017.

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