2015 Outlook: The Super Bowl runners-up got off to a lackluster start in 2014, yielding an average of 23.5 points over their first six games. From there, though, the Seahawks regained their elite form (11.3 ppg) and wound up yielding the fewest yards per game (267.1) and points per game (15.9) in the league. Despite posting seven fewer sacks (37) and 16 fewer combined takeaways (23) than they did in 2013, the Seahawks still managed to finish as fantasy's No. 3 unit. With the nucleus of Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor returning, Seattle's D remains the cream of the fantasy crop.
2015 Outlook: The Bills were one of the NFL's biggest surprises in 2014, with eight double-digit fantasy outputs en route to finishing as the No. 1 overall unit. Under former DC Jim Schwartz, Buffalo paced the NFL with 54 sacks and yielded the fewest points per drive (1.4) and third-fewest yards per play (4.9). With former coach Doug Marrone out, the Bills will feature Rex Ryan's aggressive scheme. Buffalo's secondary could use some work, but the front seven can go toe-to-toe with any in the league. Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes combined for 34' sacks last season.
2015 Outlook: The Texans' defense can be summed up with one name: J.J. Watt. The all-world DE has been the single most dominant defensive player in the league over the past three seasons, posting 51' sacks and 53 tackles for loss. Despite disappointing seasons from LB Brian Cushing and DB D.J. Swearinger, the Texans allowed opposing offenses to score on a league-low 26.6 percent of drives. Overall, Houston finished fourth in fantasy scoring in 2014. While the Texans' surrounding cast doesn't rival that of the Seahawks, Watt's presence alone gives this squad top-five upside.
2015 Outlook: The Rams' D -- which is chock-full of playmakers and boasts one of the league's most intimidating defensive lines -- finished as fantasy's No. 9 unit last season. And it could have been even better if it hadn't had such a dismal start, which included just one sack in the team's first five games. The Rams rebounded in a big way, reeling off 39 sacks -- and posting the third-most fantasy points -- over the final 11 games. With ascendant edge rusher Robert Quinn and talented second-year DT Aaron Donald, the Rams have the firepower to give quarterbacks fits on a weekly basis.
2015 Outlook: Rex Ryan's squad topped double-digit fantasy points just once last season and finished as fantasy's No. 27 unit. As they did in 2013, the Jets struggled to generate takeaways, forcing a league-low 13 turnovers. That number should go up in 2015 thanks to the offseason additions of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in the secondary. The Jets also have one of the league's better front sevens, which includes emerging stars Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and rookie Leonard Williams. New coach Todd Bowles should be able to transform this unit into a viable fantasy option.
2015 Outlook: Despite topping double-digit fantasy points only four times, Denver managed to finish as the No. 11 unit in 2014. The reason? Only the Seahawks gave up fewer yards per play (4.7). The Broncos faced a league-low 21.8 rushes per game while limiting opposing offenses to just four pass plays of 40 yards or more, fewest in the NFL. With Wade Phillips taking the reins at defensive coordinator, look for Denver to feature a deadly 3-4 scheme, featuring pass rushers Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and rookie Shane Ray coming off the edge.
2015 Outlook: Gone are the days of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but the most recent version of the Ravens' D proved more than capable of being a fantasy asset. In 2014, Baltimore was tied with New England as the No. 6 defense. The duo of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil had a lot to do with that, combining for 29 of the Ravens' 49 sacks. Baltimore also excelled against the run, with only Seattle and Detroit yielding fewer yards per carry (3.6). ILB C.J. Mosley started all 16 games in his impressive rookie campaign, finishing seventh in total tackles (133). With Mosley and ILB Daryl Smith anchoring the D, the Ravens will remain a solid fantasy play.
2015 Outlook: After a hot start in which the Dolphins topped double-digit fantasy points in six of their first eight games, Miami cooled considerably down the stretch. The unit compiled just 15 fantasy points from Week 10 on; the only team worse over that span was the Saints. The Dolphins made the offseason's biggest free agent splash by landing DT Ndamukong Suh, who they hope will help stabilize a porous unit (121.1 rushing ypg allowed, ninth most). With Suh demanding constant attention, DEs Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon (18 sacks combined in 2014) figure to have more room to make noise off the edges.
2015 Outlook: The Cardinals took owners on a roller-coaster ride last year, topping 10 fantasy points seven times while also turning out four performances of zero or fewer points. With former D-coordinator Todd Bowles now with the Jets, the most blitz-happy unit over the past two seasons will be in the hands of in-house replacement James Bettcher. The Cards struggled to generate sacks (35) in 2014, but they managed to hold opposing offenses to the fifth-fewest ppg (18.7) thanks in part to a strong secondary. With veteran DE Calais Campbell anchoring this unit, Arizona has some upside, depending on the matchup.
2015 Outlook: Don't read too much into the Lions' No. 5 fantasy ranking in 2014; with stud DT Ndamukong Suh now in Miami, this unit figures to take a step back. Suh anchored a stout run D that yielded a meager 3.2 yards per carry. And while the Lions did trade for Haloti Ngata, he represents a considerable downgrade at the position. That said, Suh wasn't solely responsible for the Lions' yielding the third-fewest points in the NFL in 2014 (282). DE Ziggy Ansah is a rising pass-rushing talent, and DeAndre Levy emerged as one of the NFL's top LBs, posting 151 total tackles and 2' sacks.
2015 Outlook: Under first-year coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings markedly improved from the league's worst fantasy defense in 2013 to tied for No. 11 last season. Still, Minnesota was far from consistent. The Vikings topped double-digit fantasy points five times, but they also posted two or fewer fantasy points seven times. Generating takeaways was a problem; only six teams posted a lower turnover total than the Vikings' 19. Minnesota, however, does have some emerging young talent in DE Everson Griffen, LB Anthony Barr, FS Harrison Smith and rookie LB Eric Kendricks. The Vikes have plenty of sleeper potential.
2015 Outlook: The Super Bowl champs have been a perennial top-10 fantasy option, but they're no lock to continue that trend in 2015 without All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis. Still, the Pats have some value with up-and-coming pass rusher Chandler Jones, who missed six games last season but still posted six sacks. Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins form one of the league's best young inside linebacker duos. And this offseason, New England wisely retained FS Devin McCourty and bolstered its pass rush by adding OLB Jabaal Sheard. Vince Wilfork's presence will be missed on the interior, but Bill Belichick's defense still offers a high weekly fantasy floor.
2015 Outlook: A middling unit on paper, the Packers actually flashed one of the highest fantasy ceilings in 2014, with two games of 20-plus fantasy points. Veteran OLB Julius Peppers had a bit of a renaissance in his first season with Green Bay, racking up seven sacks to go along with four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two pick sixes. Despite struggling mightily with its inside linebackers, Green Bay has seen its secondary flourish thanks to one of the league's best safety duos in Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Packers once again have fantasy potential, but consistency could be a problem.\
2015 Outlook: The Eagles' second-place fantasy finish in 2014 came as a shock to everyone. Philly found the end zone a staggering 11 times (tops in the league) while also compiling 49 sacks (tied for second) and 28 takeaways (tied for sixth). You can't expect the touchdown figures to stay at that level, but don't completely write off the Eagles as a streamer option. They feature one of the NFL's most aggressive special-teams units and are a weekly threat for big defensive plays, with emerging talents (DE Fletcher Cox, ILB Mychal Kendricks) and big-name offseason pickups (ILB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell) patrolling all three levels.
2015 Outlook: Following a breakout 2013 fantasy season (second overall), the Panthers took a step back last year, finishing No. 19. With DE Greg Hardy (15 sacks in 2013) on the commissioner's exempt list for most of 2014, Carolina's pass rush generated 20 fewer sacks. Still, there were positives aplenty: Only the Eagles forced more fumbles (22), the special-teams unit averaged a league-high 15.5 yards per punt return, and Luke Kuechly has officially taken the torch as the NFL's premier MLB. His presence, along with that of Thomas Davis and rookie OLB Shaq Thompson, makes the Panthers a priority streamer.