Are you ready for some football? In the NFL, the story is, offense sales tickets and defense wins championships. Now that the NFL draft and free agency signings are complete, takes a look at the top defenses coming into the 2018 NFL season. 

Minnesota Vikings 

The Vikings ranked as the top defense in both yards allowed and scoring defense last season. Since Mike Zimmer took over, they’ve been in the top six in fewest points allowed for three, consecutive seasons. As the offensive game has opened up, the Vikings allowed only 13 touchdowns in the air last season. Their secondary features Pro Bowl talent at both cornerback and safety positions. Harrison Smith is the playmaker and led the team with five interceptions, while Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Terence Newman are tasked with not allowing wide receivers to breathe. The fear of getting sacked is also alive and well. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter combined for 20 sacks. Both men had double-digit sacks over the past two years and are looking to make it three. 

Jacksonville Jaguars 

Jacksonville was a beast last year, ranking top 2 in total yards and scoring. They’re hurt by linebacker Paul Posluszny leaving, but they’re still loaded. Their growth after one, strong year together strengthens this unit. They arguably have the best corners in the game in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. The Jaguars retained one of the strongest defensive units in the league. Also known as “Sacksonville” they wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. The Jaguars’ defense has the ability to win games even if the offense sputters. The swag and confidence of the defense lead them to the AFC Championship Game, where they put up a tough battle against New England. 

Los Angeles Rams 

This has more to do with the Rams’ off season moves than last year’s production. The Rams had an above average defense, but with cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib on board, their defensive swag is high. Ndamukong Suh will be paired with Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. These four, big-name playmakers will push this defense into the top 10 in critical categories. The stars should push this unit to new levels. The Rams have the front and back ends of the defense covered with playmakers, which will minimize the question marks in the second level.  

Pittsburgh Steelers 

The Steelers brought pressure from everywhere. Cornerback Mike Hilton lead all cornerbacks with four sacks. Vince Williams put down the quarterback eight times, behind Cameron Heyward’s 12. The Steelers’ passing defense was weak at times, particularly when the QB failed to throw the ball. However, the Steelers can bring heat from all three levels. They finished number one in sacks in 2017 (56) and had top-10 finishes in yards and points allowed. Their passing defense will look different. Gone are Mike Mitchell, William Gay and Robert Golden. Rookie safety Terrell Edmunds has a chance to win a starting job and garner play-making ability, while Joe Haden will attempt to return to Pro Bowl form after a down season. 

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S.K. Patrick is a sports journalist from Louisville, Ky with over 5 years of sports journalism experience. Patrick graduated from the University of Louisville with his BA in mass communications and a minor in marketing. Patrick has been part of Louisville's local sports community for several years. He’s a former high school football player and little league football coach. Patrick has covered press conferences and games for U of L’s Sports Information Office. He now covers the ACC, along with Western Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati. He has reported on Rick Pitino, Bobby Petrino, Jimbo Fisher, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, and many others. Professionally he has covered the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.

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