For all the NFL fans out there, the next few days are going to feel like the run-up to Christmas. After what has seemed like an eternity, the season is due to finally start on Friday the 10th of September, with the opening game seeing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing welcoming the Dallas Cowboys to the Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs are the reigning Super Bowl champions, having claimed their second overall championship by defeating the bookmakers favorites the Kansas City Chiefs, with a score of 31-9.
The match was a battle of old versus new, as Tom Brady, then 43, was competing in his 10 Super Bowl, having won 6. He was facing up against the rising star Patrick Mahomes, who was only 25, but still had taken the Chiefs to victory at the Superbowl the previous year. It was the old-timer who came out on top, proving why he is widely considered the greatest quarterback of all time. While Mahomes really struggled, failing to make a touchdown pass for the first time in his career as QB 1.
While it is usually a quarterback who wins the Super Bowl MVP (as it was earlier this year as Brady won it for the fifth time) some people argue that it is the defensive line who are the players who help make championship wins possible, doing everything they can to prevent the other team from scoring, allowing the offensive players to take the glory. For that reason, we are going to look at the NFL expert picks to see if we can work out who might emulate the Buc’s success this season.
Last year’s champions are still the ones to beat
It may seem like an obvious place to start, but the Buccaneers still look to be the guys everyone else needs to worry about. In Todd Bowles, they have one of the finest defensive coordinators in the business, who organize his players so well in the Super Bowl they restricted the Chiefs to just three field goals. The key players from last year have remained, with Lavonte David and Shaq Barrett being two of the key men.
If any side comes close to matching Tampa’s defensive strength, then it could well be the Los Angeles Rams. The key man is undoubtedly Aaron Donald, who has been in the Pro Bowl team for every single one of his seven seasons in the NFL. He also is surrounded by talents such as the cornerback Jalen Ramsey and the safety Jordan Fuller.
The Washington Football Team certainly has strength in depth when it comes to young defensive talent. Chase Young managed 40 total pressures in his rookie season, which considering it was blighted with injuries, makes it even more impressive. There is also the small matter of Matt Ioannidis and Daron Payne, as well as the former first-round pick Jonathan Allen.
Ones to watch out for
The NFL is known to through up surprises everywhere you look, so don’t be shocked to see one of the following sides have the best defenses in the league. Under Matt Eberflus, the Indianapolis Colts could certainly be a powerful unit. They have Darius Leonard at their disposal, who has just become the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history, as well as star names such as Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon.
The Cleveland Browns were quick to realize their defensive struggles in the 2020 season, and have done everything they can to improve here for the upcoming campaign. They drafted cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round, and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in round 2. The Browns have also signed Troy Hill and Jaedevon Clowney, to bolster this area of the field.
The Baltimore Ravens also look strong, despite losing Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon. Linebacker Patrick Queen continues to impress and have a great cornerback duo of Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey.
Bill Belichick is arguably one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, let alone in the NFL. They missed Dont’e Hightower last season, so with him back, as well as Stephon Gilmore, we expect the Patriots to craft yet another powerful defensive line this season.
The Denver Broncos picked up Patrick Sutrain II as the 9th overall pick, who was one of the standout defensive players in this years’ draft. They’ve also added Kyle Fuller, who has previously worked with head coach Vic Fangio at Chicago with great success.
Adding Melvin Ingram to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a very smart choice, as he recorded 28 total pressures and a 17.8% pass-rush win rate last year. They’ve also signed Joe Schobert from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Then we have the San Francisco 49ers, who have Nick Bosa returning to them following his ACL injury. He is one of the most highly-rated young defensive ends, so him staying fit could mean great things for the 49ers.
Now comes the action!
We can sit here and make our predictions before the season starts, but now we can’t wait for the games to begin, to see all of these defensive lines in play!