Week 4 of the NFL season is in the books and with nearly every team playing a quarter of its schedule, we’re starting to getting a definitive look at where defenses stand. In a year with a shortened offseason and the elimination of preseason games, nearly every defense is getting worse in 2020.
There are exceptions to the standard we’ve seen, namely the Indianapolis Colts. Heading into Week 5, there are no lingering doubts about this team’s ability to shut down offenses. On a Sunday that was forgettable for many of the league’s top defenses, there is some shakeup coming out of Week 4.
Here, we rank the top-20 defenses in the NFL heading into Week 5.
20. Tennessee Titans (LW: 19)
When the Titans return to the field, potentially on Sunday, they will be without several starters and reserve players due to COVID-19. It’s a bit problematic with a Week 5 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, as Josh Allen has led this team to three consecutive games with 30-plus points. A close game under normal circumstances, but we may see a blowout.
19. Green Bay Packers (LW: 20)
There are moments this defense looks great, then they allow a team to march 90-plus yards down the field or miss tackles that lead to a big play. Fortunately, the bye week might be coming at the perfect time for a defense that desperately needs Kenny Clark back and Preston Smith to get back on track. On talent alone, Green Bay maintains a top-20 defense.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 18)
Cincinnati’s offense shined on Sunday with Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon delivering the big plays to spark a victory. Unsurprisingly, when the Bengals’ defense is rested, it does an admirable job keeping games close. There are still plenty of holes in the secondary, but at least this group prevents blowouts.
17. Denver Broncos (LW: 15)
The Broncos might not have Von Miller, but Bradley Chubb played like him in Week 4. A year after tearing his ACL, Chubb showed explosiveness off the edge with 2.5 sacks against the New York Jets. On top of that, Denver’s defense held New York to 4.3 yards per play. Unfortunately, the Broncos can’t face the Jets every week and the schedule is about to get rough.
16. Arizona Cardinals (LW: 13)
After two strong performances to open the season, things are starting to unravel for Arizona. The offense’s struggles are in the spotlight, for obvious reasons, but Arizona’s defense also just allowed 444 yards and 30 first downs to the Carolina Panthers. The biggest concern, first-round pick Isaiah Simmons can’t even get on the field after a rough NFL debut.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (LW: UR)
Yes, Philadelphia faced a backup quarterback who performed so poorly that his team turned to its third-string passer. But credit to the Eagles for finally delivering a win this season, with the defense playing a pivotal role. Philadelphia’s defense is allowing only 5.1 yards per play this season. There’s enough talent here for the Eagles to win the NFC East, which might be the worst division we’ve ever seen.
14. New York Giants (LW: 17)
The Giants would have won a football game in 2020 if not for Daniel Jones. Holding Sean McVay’s offense to 17 points is a major accomplishment, especially when your teammates can’t sustain drives and keep putting you back on the field. Patrick Graham deserves credit for his work with the Giants’ defense, which is allowing the fifth-lowest yards per play (5.1) in the NFL.
13. New Orleans Saints (LW: 14)
New Orleans surrendered 14 points to open the game. Given the Saints played without their top cornerbacks and the team had a COVID-19 scare hours before the game, this wasn’t surprising. Ultimately, the defense turned things around by holding the Detroit Lions to 15 points in the next three quarters. This isn’t a great defense, but it should perform well when everyone is healthy.
12. Washington Football Team (LW: 10)
Losing Chase Young and Matthew Ioannidis is already having a major effect on Washington’s defense. While Young is expected to return soon, Ioannidis is gone for the season and that’s a significant blow up front. If Washington’s front seven can’t generate as much consistent pressure, opposing quarterbacks will pick this secondary apart with ease.
11. Buffalo Bills (LW: 9)
We’re passed the point of light concern with this defense. While Buffalo surrendered only 23 points to the Las Vegas Raiders, it surrendered 300-plus passing yards for the third consecutive week. Allowing a 99.0 quarterback rating and a 67.7% completion rate is very concerning. The pressure will be on the secondary to turn things around and it better happen quickly with the Kansas City Chiefs waiting for them in Week 6.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 12)
It’s beyond time to start recognizing Kansas City’s defense. The clinic against Lamar Jackson was incredible and that same group came through against Josh McDaniels’ offense. Frankly, the defense kept the Chiefs in the game until the Chiefs’ offense finally found its stride. This is a ridiculous team and the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl.
9. Los Angeles Rams (LW: 11)
After getting pushed around by Josh Allen, Los Angeles came out swinging against the Giants’ offense in Week 4. New York finished with 159 net passing yards, along with a humiliating 3.9 yards per pass. Things will be a bit more difficult for the Rams’ defense in Week 5, but we’d still expect a multi-sack, multi-turnover performance against Washington.
8. Chicago Bears (LW: 7)
Chicago’s defense did more than enough to win on Sunday; holding the Indianapolis Colts to 19 points is a quality performance. Unfortunately, with Nick Foles struggling, this game wasn’t even close to being competitive. A short week against Tom Brady is the last thing the Bears needed and a slide feels imminent.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 5)
The Chargers seemed to be locked in defensively in the first half against Tom Brady and Co., containing a high-powered offense early. As he always does, Brady made halftime adjustments and Los Angeles could never counter. Casey Hayward isn’t playing up to his elite standard this season, which is problematic with Derwin James, Melvin Ingram and Chris Harris Jr. sidelined. This defense can still cause a lot of problems, but the injuries are taking a toll.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 4)
It wasn’t a great showing for Tampa Bay’s defense on Sunday, but it might just be that Justin Herbert is an emerging star. The secondary was particularly problematic, surrendering 290 passing yards and three touchdowns on 20 completions. There are definitely some things to clean up, but the Buccaneers are still rank as one of the best defenses statistically, allowing the fourth-fewest total yards (312) per contest.
5. San Francisco 49ers (LW: 6)
Even players San Francisco signs off the street are suffering season-ending injuries. After placing Dee Ford on injured reserve, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah likely suffered a biceps tear in Week 4. It’s just the latest blow for a defense already without Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman and Solomon Thomas. Despite the injuries, San Francisco still allows the third-fewest total yards (294.8) each week. Look for one of the NFL’s best defenses to rebound in Week 5.
4. Baltimore Ravens (LW: 1)
We can excuse the Ravens’ defense for getting torched by Mahomes, it happens to everyone. Of greater concern is Baltimore’s struggles to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Even after recording nine quarterback hits and three sacks against Washington, the overall numbers don’t look good. The Ravens rank 26th in pressure rate (15.5%), via Pro Football Reference. It doesn’t matter how talented a secondary is if the quarterback has all day to throw. We think coordinator Don Martindale can turn this back into an elite defense, but there are some new concerns.
3. New England Patriots (LW: 3)
Arguably the best defensive performance of the 2020 season. After watching Mahomes slice up Baltimore’s defense, it seemed reasonable to think no one could contain him. Leave it up to Bill Belichick’s defense to do what seemed impossible. While it wasn’t enough to win, that falls on starting a backup quarterback. Put this defense together with Cam Newton and the Patriots are a dangerous Super Bowl contender.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 2)
Pittsburgh took an early bye week due to the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak, a result that might have long-term consequences. Despite playing one fewer game, the Steelers’ defense still ranks second in sacks (15) and opponents are averaging only 2.7 yards per carry against this front. Expect Pittsburgh to make Week 5 a living nightmare for Carson Wentz, attacking one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.
1. Indianapolis Colts (LW: 8)
The Colts’ defense can’t be looked past any longer. Regardless of the schedule, this group is shutting its opponents down during a season when nearly every other defense is struggling with consistency. Indianapolis is allowing the fewest points (14) and total yards (236.3) per game. The defense allows the fifth-lowest completion rate (62.4%), sixth-lowest yards per carry (3.6) and has the fourth-most turnovers (seven) through four weeks. Xavier Rhodes looks like a shutdown corner once again and we can’t wait to see the Colts face the Browns in Week 5.
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Author: Matt Johnson