The 2015 Denver Broncos rode the NFL's best defense all the way to the Super Bowl, they are a big part the Broncos are NFL Odds favorites in 2016. Here are the top 5 defenses in the AFC.
Defense wins championships. Look at what the 2015 Denver Broncos were able to accomplish: They won Super Bowl 50, even while their starting quarterback, Peyton Manning, was falling apart before our eyes. Denver did it with defense – the most efficient defense in the NFL, according to the advanced stats at Football Outsiders.
Manning won't be back this season, but the Orange Crush defense will be. The Broncos lead our Top 5 AFC defensive units for the 2016 campaign, and there's a pretty big gap between themselves and the rest of the conference. Expect to see Denver early and often in our NFL picks this year.
1. Denver Broncos
Forget about the AFC – Denver's defense could end up dominating the entire league again this year. Despite losing DE Malik Jackson (now with Jacksonville) and LB Danny Trevathan (now with Chicago) in free agency, the Broncos still have a fearsome 3-4 package up front. They also have one of the best secondaries ever assembled, anchored by CB Aqib Talib and Safety T.J. Ward.
2. New England Patriots
The Pats were only No. 12 on last year's defensive efficiency rankings, but they come back in 2016 with a revamped unit, adding former Broncos DT Terrance Knighton to their 4-3 package. New England's real strength will be in the secondary, where CBs Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan rejoin safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung for another run at the Super Bowl. But should the Patriots really be on top of the NFL odds list with +600 (at Bovada)?
3. Oakland Raiders
Oakland's defense improved by leaps and bounds last year, moving up from No. 26 to No. 15 on the efficiency charts. Even bigger things are expected this year, with LT Khalil Mack coming off his first Pro Bowl and CB Sean Smith joining the team after spending the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Speaking of whom...
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Losing Smith won't help a Kansas City defense that ranked No. 6 overall in efficiency last year, but the Chiefs look like they have a star in CB Marcus Peters, who led the NFL with eight interceptions and 17 passes defended – as a rookie. The front seven should also get a boost with the return to health of four-time Pro Bowl LB Justin Houston, who led the league with 22 sacks in 2014.
5. Buffalo Bills
Rex Ryan inherited the NFL's No. 2-ranked defense when he took the head coaching job last year, but thanks to injuries and incompetence, that defense fell all the way to No. 24 on the efficiency charts. Getting safety Aaron Williams (neck) back on the field should help Buffalo's secondary return to form; the bigger question marks are in Ryan's base 3-4 package, where last year's first-round pick, LB Shaq Lawson, had shoulder surgery in May and might not be ready for the start of the new season.