December 4, 2020

NFL defense rankings: Ravens on top, Patriots slide heading into Week 3


The Baltimore Ravens face the Kansas City Chiefs in the biggest NFL game of Week 3, creating an iconic matchup between one of the league’s best offenses and the top defense.

While the Ravens hold the top spot in our weekly rankings, there are plenty of defenses on the move heading into Week 3. With the San Francisco 49ers falling due to catastrophic injuries, it creates new spots for teams like the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers.

For many fans, the focus is always on the top-10 defenses in the NFL. But in any given week, some clubs can surprise with their talent and execution. While the Arizona Cardinals offense draws all the attention, don’t look past one of the NFL’s most underrated defenses.

Here, we rank the top-16 defenses in the NFL heading into Week 3.

NFL Week 3: Schedule and game-by-game predictions

16. Kansas City Chiefs (UR)

Kansas City will never have a great defense, but it doesn’t need to with the best offense in the NFL. Andy Reid only asks for a group that creates turnovers and doesn’t collapse on in big moments. With Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu leading this group, the Chiefs get everything they need. Set to face Lamar Jackson in Week 3, this defense will need to find creative ways to help deliver a win.

15. Denver Broncos (13)

It’s evident how much this defense misses Von Miller and A.J. Bouye. Without a top edge rusher to create havoc and a reliable corner to line up against No. 1 receivers, the Broncos are starting to run into more issues. With Denver’s offense set to take a significant step back, thanks to Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton’s injuries, this defense will likely be worn out quickly.

14. Washington Football Team (12)

Racking up sacks and quarterback knockdowns isn’t quite as easy when your opponent has a healthy offensive line. Washington’s defense experienced that on Sunday, even more so given Kyler Murray’s stunning athleticism. We still love the front seven, but a shaky secondary prevents Washington from having a top-10 defense.

13. Arizona Cardinals (UR)

Murray is the story of Arizona’s 2-0 start and for a good reason, he’s playing at an MVP-caliber level. Lost in the incredible performances by the offense, the Cardinals’ defense is putting in work. This team is top-10 in yards per game (341), points (17.5) and sacks (seven). Upcoming games against the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets mean Arizona’s defense could garner even more respect and national attention moving forward.

12. Indianapolis Colts (UR)

We liked this defense coming into the season, at least on paper. But after Gardner Minshew completed 19-of-20 attempts with three touchdowns, it was fair to question the Colts. They responded emphatically in Week 2, limiting Dalvin Cook to 63 rushing yards and embarrassing Kirk Cousins. Heading into a Week 3 cakewalk against the New York Jets, the Colts have allowed the fewest total yards (416) in the NFL.

NFL Week 2 takeaways: Colts overpower Vikings behind defense, run game

11. San Francisco 49ers (5)

San Francisco’s defense came into the season ranked No. 1 on their list. After dropping a few spots following a humbling loss to Kyler Murray, we still felt confident in this group. Unfortunately, that’s changing due to some devastating injuries. Nick Bosa is lost for the season, Solomon Thomas might be gone just as long and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is on injured reserve. This defense can still handle the likes of the New York Jets, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, but things could get ugly after that (vs. LAR, @ NE, @ SEA, vs. GB, @ NO) for the 49ers.

10. New England Patriots (7)

After coming out sharp in Week 1 against the Dolphins, New England’s defense looked like a group without multiple starters on Sunday. Russell Wilson picked this secondary apart with a scalpel for five touchdowns and Seattle’s run game trampled the Patriots for 154 rushing yards. Things will be much easier in Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Chiefs’ offense is just around the corner. The Patriots’ defense isn’t as good as it was in 2019, but they do have a better quarterback.

NFL Week 2: Winners, losers from Seahawks’ thrilling win over Patriots

9. Los Angeles Rams (11)

Los Angeles made significant changes this offseason by hiring unknown assistant Brandon Staley as defensive coordinator and moving on from Cory Littleton, Eric WeddleClay Matthews and Dante Fowler. A revamped defense is looking sharp through the first two weeks, neutralizing passing attacks (73.6 quarterback rating), stalling offensive drives (32.9% first-down rate) and knocking down quarterbacks. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey deserve the attention and praise, but unheralded players like linebacker Micah Kiser and safety Jordan Fuller are making a big impact, too.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8)

Tampa Bay’s offense started rolling early, jumping out to a 21-0 lead before halftime. When Tom Brady was sustaining drives and putting up points, this defense had a shutout going. Once Brady turned the ball over and offensive drives stalled, the defense spent most of the second half on the field and surrendered 17 points. The turnovers (four) and sacks (five) show this unit’s potential. If Tampa Bay starts clicking on both sides of the ball, it becomes a Super Bowl contender.

6. Chicago Bears (9)

While Chicago might be catching some breaks with its opponents losing their star playmakers on offense, don’t let that diminish this defense. The Bears mauled Daniel Jones in Week 2, sacking him four times and holding him to just 6.02 yards per attempt. Heading into Week 3, Chicago’s defense has surrendered lowest quarterback rating (73.1) and third-fewest points per game (18) in the NFL. Sunday’s test against the Atlanta Falcons should be a fun one to witness.

NFL stats: Worst quarterback performances from Week 2

5. Los Angeles Chargers (6)

No one expected the Chargers to hang around on Sunday against Kansas City. It might be the result of this defense being underrated, but that should change after Week 2. Los Angeles held Mahomes under 90 passing yards in the first half and bottled up running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Getting seven quarterback hits on Mahomes and limiting Kansas City’s offense to 23 points is an accomplishment. With the Carolina Panthers on deck, a shutout is possible.

NFL odds: Point spreads, lines and notes for every Week 3 game

4. Buffalo Bills (2)

There’s a lot to like about this group, especially under the direction of Sean McDermott. Unfortunately, the Bills’ defense didn’t exactly come to play in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 328 yards with two scores and tight end Mike Gesicki dismantled the middle of this defense. If things aren’t cleaned up, Sean McVay’s offense will have its way in Week 3 and end Buffalo’s undefeated run.

3. New Orleans Saints (3)

From top to bottom, the Saints’ defense is loaded. New Orleans knows how to create pressure without sending extra rushers, making life miserable for their opponents. Keep in mind, we haven’t even seen Marcus Davenport and linebacker Zack Baun be unleashed this season. The “Sunday Night Football” battle between this defense and Aaron Rodgers should be epic, especially if star receiver Davante Adams is healthy.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (4)

The moment the Steelers saw Jeff Driskel step into the game, the eyes on every defender lit up. Teams don’t get too many opportunities to face a backup quarterback and Pittsburgh took advantage. The defense racked up seven sacks on the day, giving them 10 through two games. Pittsburgh’s front seven is doing incredible work early in the year and we expect that to continue next week against Houston’s offensive line.

1. Baltimore Ravens (1)

Just another day at the office for Baltimore’s defense. Through the first two games, the Ravens lead the NFL in fewest points allowed (22), takeaways (five) and have allowed the third-lowest quarterback rating (76.8) to opposing quarterbacks. After racking up four sacks and 13 quarterback hits in Week 2, Baltimore will need that same kind of performance in Week 3 against Patrick Mahomes and Co.

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Author: Matt Johnson