How important are sacks to a team's success? Last year's Bills led the NFL with 54 sacks & didn't make the playoffs. Buffalo is +450 favorites to repeat as sack champion.
Ryan's Defenses Always Good
Last year's Buffalo defense was coordinated by former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. However, the team terminated Schwartz's contract after the Bills hired new head coach Rex Ryan. He replaced Doug Marrone, who stupidly opted out of his contract. Ryan is very hands on with the defense as that's where his expertise lies. So he had no use to keep Schwartz even though Buffalo's D was tremendous in 2014. Ryan hired his former Jets defensive coordinator, Dennis Thurman, to replace Schwartz.
Thurman takes over a defense that finished fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and had three Pro Bowl linemen in Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams. Dareus reportedly has recently turned down a six-year, $90 million extension. Must be nice. He's on the final year of his rookie contract. Dareus collected 49 tackles, 10 sacks and one forced fumble in 15 games last year. He has 28.5 career sacks. The Bills probably will slap the franchise tag on him next offseason if the sides can't agree to something. Mario Williams led last year's Bills with 14.5 sacks. Ryan's defenses are always among the most aggressive, attacking units in the NFL so I don't expect any drop off on that side of the ball.
'84 Bears Set Standard
The NFL record for sacks in a season by a team is 72 by the 1984 Chicago Bears. No, not the 1985 Super Bowl champions but the club the year before. Chicago had three players with at least 10 sacks that year: Hall of Famers Richard Dent (17.5) and Dan Hampton (11.5) as well as Steve McMichael. The Bears' coordinator that season? Ryan's father Buddy, the architect of that famous "46" scheme. And if you are wondering, the record for fewest sacks in a season is a scant 10 by Kansas City in 2008. That team was just 2-14. Tamba Hali led the club with three sacks.
I think that Chicago record is safe. Sure, teams are passing more these days but it's also a higher priority to protect the quarterback now. The last team to even reach 60 sacks was Carolina in 2013. The previous team before that was San Diego with 61 in 2006. Cincinnati had the fewest sacks last year with 20 and it was a playoff team.
The Baltimore Ravens are +700 second-favorites to Buffalo for the 2015 sack title. They tied for second in '14 with Philadelphia at 49 sacks. Elvis Dumervil led the Ravens with 17 sacks. They team did lose free agent linebacker Pernell McPhee, who took the opposing QB down 7.5 times. He's now with Chicago.
The New York Jets and St. Louis Rams are each +900. The Jets might have the most aggressive defense in the NFL this year even with Ryan gone. That's because no team blitzed more last season than the Arizona Cardinals. Their coordinator was Todd Bowles and he's the new Jets head coach. Remember, though, that Pro Bowl defensive end Sheldon Richardson, who had eight sacks last year, is suspended the first four games for violating NFL's substance abuse policy. And he might get more games after being charged in July with resisting arrest and several traffic violations.
St. Louis had 40 sacks last season but might have the best defensive line in football in Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn and free-agent addition Nick Fairley (he will rotate in as a reserve). Quinn had 19 sacks in 2013 (second in NFL) before dropping to 10.5 in 2014. Long struggled through injury last year and had just one sack in six games. But he had 13 in 2011. The St. Louis head coach is of course Jeff Fisher. He was on those '84 Bears.
The long shots on this prop at +10000 are Atlanta, Dallas and San Diego.
NFL Free Pick: With a Long healthy and the addition of Fairley, these Rams are scary good on defense now. They are the pick.