Welcome to another season of NFL football – there will be elation and there will be despair. When each of those happen and to who, though, is truly anyone’s guess.
Each week we’ll use this space to try and identify a Defense/Special Teams squad, as well as some Individual Defensive Players, that might do better than you think. Don’t expect the usual names – we’re looking under the radar for pick-ups that might be available on the waiver wire, or for Week 1, still available late in the draft.
D/ST sleeper: Detroit Lions. They open on Monday night at home against a New York Giants team that’s had an awful offense all preseason, led by a potentially putrid offensive line, mediocre running backs, good-but-diminutive receivers, and no NFL-caliber tight end on the roster. Plus Giants QB Eli Manning led the league with 27 interceptions last year. The Lions defense has been less than the sum of its parts the last few years – but count on a roaring start to 2014. Five of the Lions’ first six games are against teams with bad-to-questionable offenses (exception is Week 3 vs. Green Bay), although their schedule gets harder from there.
DL sleeper: Ndamakong Suh, Detroit Lions – Tying into the above, Suh is ranked as a low-DL2 option heading into the year, as he’s toned down his act but hasn’t really ramped up his production as much as fans would like. Still, with a season-opening prime time game against an ideal opponent, count on Suh doing something noteworthy, hopefully football-related.
LB pick: Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia Eagles – The third-year player had a very strong 2013, and showed versatility with four sacks the three picks. With a season-opening assignment against the Jaguar, who will try to throw the ball, the floodgates could open for Kendricks. He came on strong late last year, and the Eagles’ fast-moving offense actually helps in IDP because the Eagles defense gets stuck on the field longer. Kendricks is clearly a top-20 LB and could ascend to top-10 status this season.
DB pick: Brandon Flowers, San Diego Chargers – The Bolts’ defense was mediocre at best last year, but they open in Arizona against a team with major questions at running back and a QB who is prone to interceptions. Flowers will definitely man one of the starting cornerback spots – so expect him to make some down-field tackles and possibly even get his hands on the ball.