Rams, Packers and Vikes just outside the top 10

The Rams' special-teams units were the only bright spot last year, and their adding PK Josh Brown places them just outside our top 10. But two NFC North teams are on the Rams' heels. Here is how the rest of the special-teams units rank:

11. St. Louis Rams
The Rams had a tough year in 2007, but their special teams were very solid. Dangerous punt and kick returner Dante Hall showed he has the quickness and instincts to be an impact player for St. Louis. The Rams were one of the best in the return game, but their coverage units were very inconsistent. The special-teams units were tested often because the Rams ranked 24th in offense and 21st in defense. The bright spots on the Rams' coverage teams were LB Quinton Culberson, RB Travis Minor and FB Richard Owens. P Donnie Jones has outstanding leg strength but needs to be more consistent at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line. Brown was acquired in the offseason to replace Jeff Wilkins. He should do well in St. Louis.

12. Green Bay Packers
The Packers made marked improvement in 2007 led by rookie PK Mason Crosby and P Jon Ryan, who played in the CFL. Both players showed poise under pressure and should get better in 2008. Green Bay fields a group of returners who were effective at changing field position, including CBs Charles Woodson, Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams. All three athletes have great instincts and quickness to hit a crease and get upfield. The Packers' coverage units were some of the best in the league, anchored by LB Tracy White, DE Jason Hunter, SS Charlie Peprah and FB Korey Hall.