One analyst believes the Bucs' strong defensive tackle play has made end Simeon Rice more dangerous
Defense wins championships, right? Apparently a few NFL teams are beginning to listen to that old adage.
The Chiefs and Colts have won games this season because of their defense, not in spite of it. And Indy needed every bit from its 'D' in Week 2 when a stout Jaguars defense kept Peyton Manning and the Colts offense in check. Meanwhile, in the NFC, the Bears, Buccaneers and Redskins were a combined 16-32 last season but have a 5-1 cumulative record this year, thanks largely to defenses that rank third, fourth and sixth in scoring, respectively.
Picking the most impressive of that bunch after just two weeks is a tough task, but our panel of experts is up to the challenge. Let's see what they had to say about the defenses for the Chiefs, Colts, Redskins, Jaguars, Bears and Bucs.
"Although the Chiefs and Colts have made dramatic defensive improvement, I think the Buccaneers defense has been the most impressive. This unit has been among the NFL's best for a long time, but it has been absolutely sensational the last two weeks, allowing an average of only 197.5 yards per game. Going back to last season, the Bucs haven't permitted an offensive touchdown in 12 successive quarters, which is one shy of the franchise record. Tackles Anthony McFarland and Chris Hovan set the tone as quick, disruptive forces that stuff the run and generate enough inside pressure to help free ends Simeon Rice and Greg Spires to attack from the outside. And with so much dominance up front, linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly can take away just about everything else an offense attempts to do. It looks like the 2002 season all over again when Tampa Bay rode this defense all the way to a Super Bowl victory."
"Right now, it looks like there are 10 to 15 teams that have good to way-above-average defenses. I'm not sure which ones have impressed me the most, but the ones that have caught the most people by surprise are the Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those two defenses have basically manhandled their first two opponents."
"Washington. Watching the Redskins against Dallas on Monday night, their defense is relentless. They fly to the football and get little help from their offense. Gregg Williams, their defensive coordinator, has them organized, prepared and enthusiastic. I was thoroughly impressed with their performance against the Cowboys on Monday night."
"It is great to see that the Chiefs and Colts finally seem to have a defense to complement very good offenses. Both franchises should be given credit for going after free agents in the offseason and then coming right back in the draft with key additions. Tampa Bay has been playing good defense for six years, and with a little offensive help from Brian Griese, Cadillac Williams and Michael Clayton, they are back in the hunt. Last year, I thought Gregg Williams and his Redskins defense did the best job with LaVar Arrington out for most of the season by using an attacking style that dominated opponents. This year, I have to put the Bears in the top spot because they are dealing with an unproven rookie quarterback in Kyle Orton who needs tons of support from the defense. The Bears are giving up just 7.5 points a game, and with some improvement to the running game, that may be enough defense to turn this franchise around."
"I would have to say the Kansas City defense has been the most impressive so far. I give it to them since they've shut down the two-most potentially dangerous offenses faced by the teams on this list. The Week 1 performance against the Jets was very impressive, an eye-opener for a unit that had so many new parts to start the season. And they were able to keep it together on the road, holding off a Raiders team with dangerous offensive weapons of its own. In the long run, however, it could be the Bears defense that winds up most impressive, for the simple fact that this group will be the deciding factor in games to come, possibly determining the fate of the team."
"You can make a case for all six teams. They've all done something better than expected after the first two weeks. I think when you evaluate after two games, it's hard because of the quality of some of the offenses that the defenses played against. For example, Chicago played against the 10th- and 29th-ranked offenses. Tampa played against the 24th- and 30th-ranked offenses. The Colts surrendered only 10 points, making them the best in that regard. In saying all of this, if I had to pick one defense this weekend, I would probably play Tampa Bay. I think what the Bucs have done is way beyond expectations."
"Indianapolis, easy. We knew that Washington, Jacksonville, Chicago and Tampa had impressive defenses, and I'm still not convinced that Kansas City's is as improved as it has looked. But Indianapolis' defense has been incredible. What, one touchdown in two games? They have speed all over the defense, the line is better, the secondary is better, everything's better. They're still not the best defense in football, but they are the most impressive considering where they came from. This keeps up, and the defense is going to start ragging Peyton Manning for having to carry him."
"There is no question that Kansas City has improved the most. This was a defense that was in desperate need of an infusion of new players. The club brought in Sammy Knight, Patrick Surtain, Kendrell Bell and drafted rookie linebacker Derrick Johnson from Texas. The Chiefs are a completely different football team. But the best defense might be in Chicago. If they continue to get the kind of play from Kyle Orton that they got on Sunday -- and in the weakest division in the NFL -- the Bears could easily win the NFC North."
"Of the Kansas City, Indy, Washington, Jacksonville, Chicago and Tampa defenses, I like Buffalo. Two weeks doesn't tell you much statistically, though the Bills rank second in total defense so far. More importantly, they ranked second overall in defense in 2003 and 2004, a long-term achievement by current NFL standards. Personnel remains about the same from 2003 and 2004, so another high finish seems likely. Buffalo plays a conservative, position-oriented scheme. The defense is led by a future NFL head coach, Jerry Gray, who's got the gift. They've got at least one blue-chip veteran at every position. I would not want to have to play against the Bills defense -- though I sure wouldn't mind playing against their offense, which is why great "D" may not translate into a postseason invitation."