Disrespected defense could change quickly

The Vikings had the worst defense when it came to points surrendered last year. But rating them the worst this year, even in the division, isn’t quite so simple with all the change in place.

When it comes to “expert opinions” – which are often shockingly divergent expert opinions – the one area where there may be the greatest disparity heading into the 2014 season is that the Vikings have the worst defense in the division.

It’s hard to base an alternate argument for a team that allowed an average of 30 points a game. You don’t win many games in which the other team scores 30. When you AVERAGE 30, that’s a big river to swim across – much less with a team that had a revolving door at quarterback.

Still, the argument can be made that if the Vikings’ diaper dandies come through as expected, they could have the best defense in the division.

Arguably, the most defensive respect being afforded by the experts is to the Chicago Bears. However, this is the same Bears team that had an unprecedented number of starters that were in the final year of their contracts. A funny happened on the way to transition. They brought most of them back to keep the band together.

According the Bears’ own official/unofficial depth chart, the Wheeze Kids are in Chitown. At a time when many franchises are involved in a youth movement, the current 11 starters in Chicago are, well, very experienced. On the defensive line, they have Jared Allen (11th season) and Jeremiah Ratliff (10th season). At linebacker, they have Lance Briggs (12th season) and D.J. Williams (11th season). In the secondary, they have Charles Tillman (12th season) and Tim Jennings (9th season). Veteran savvy? No question. But, it’s like the frat house being run by eighth-year college seniors. This is a group ripe to fail and, unless the second line of the defensive depth chart is ready to step up and improve, the Bears defense is far from rock solid.

Green Bay has been the Big Daddy of the NFC North for this decade because they are capable of scoring enough points to win shootouts and get enough defense to win games.

As far as the Packers are concerned, there are two words that should be noted – Letroy Guion. Green Bay lost nose tackle B.J. Raji for the season and, it can be argued (perhaps not effectively) that losing Raji to a 3-4 defense dependent on Raji occupying two offensive linemen and creating blitz lanes is almost as important as losing Aaron Rodgers. This defense is one or two key injuries away from being rancid – and those injuries don’t include A.J. Hawk. Opposing offenses are better with Hawk in the lineup.

Detroit, well, is Detroit. You can contend that the Lions have the potential for the best defensive line in the league with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah, but it gets worse the farther away they go from the line of scrimmage. The linebackers are pedestrian in Detroit. The defensive backs are dismal – 13 of their 75 remaining players are defensive backs because they’re desperate.

Sports Illustrated has spoken and it has said the Vikings will finish 4-12, much of the backup contention being that there are quarterback questions and the Vikings are coming off a season in which it had the worst defense in the only stat the counts – points allowed.

Yet, when one looks at the reality of the situation and knowing how fluid the NFL is – fates change quickly.

The worst defense in the division? Not so fast, my friend.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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