2022 NFL defense rankings: Best NFL defenses entering Week 14

Who has the best NFL defense in 2022? Our weekly NFL defense rankings examine every unit across the league on a weekly basis to determine the best defenses in the NFL.

Bookmark this page throughout the 2022 NFL season for weekly analysis and previews of matchups for the top-20 teams.

Let’s dive into our NFL defense rankings 2022, reviewing how the top 20 teams performed in Week 13. Stay tuned for Week 14 matchup previews in the coming days.

20. Minnesota Vikings

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Unranked

The Minnesota Vikings ruined the feel-good story that was Mike White, picking him off twice and forcing him to a 6.5 ypa average on 57 attempts. Of course, the 120 rushing yards allowed to the New York Jets tied to Garrett Wilson’s big day (162 yards) highlights why Minnesota’s defense can’t be trusted in the playoffs.

19. Kansas City Chiefs

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 18 in NFL defense rankings

Perhaps Justin Reid and his teammates might want to spend a little more time studying film and learning about their opponents. Joe Burrow scored three total touchdowns and did an excellent job spreading the ball around, hitting eight different receivers. Kansas City also surrendered 106 rushing yards to backup running back Samaje Perine. The good news for the Chiefs, it’s legitimately not worth watching the Broncos’ film on offense.

18. Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 14 in NFL defense rankings

Take Aaron Donald off the field and the Rams’ secondary gets exposed. Geno Smith torched Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, turning 28 completions into 367 yards and three touchdowns with a 116.1 QB rating. While the Las Vegas Raiders offense has had its share of issues this season, Davante Adams will roast this cornerback group.

17. Detroit Lions

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 20th in NFL defense rankings

From the worst defense in the NFL to the No.17 spot in the defensive rankings, it’s been quite the turnaround for the Detroit Lions. Young talents like Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph are starting to acclimate, playing massive roles in Detroit stiffening up against the pass. There are still plenty of mistakes made and quite a few holes to fill this offseason, but the improvement deserves national recognition.

  • Detroit Lions defense (Week 9-13): 77.2 QB rating allowed, 7-7 TD-INT, 57.3% completion, 6.4 ypa, 11 sacks

NFL defense stats – Best pass defenses in NFL

Here are the best NFL pass defenses entering Week 14, based on passing yards allowed per game, yards per attempt, average QB rating allowed and completion rating surrendered.

TEAM Pass YPG YPA QB rating allowed Completion Rate DVOA
Dallas Cowboys 179.8 6.5 83.2 63.4% -21.7%
Philadelphia Eagles 178.5 6.0 73.6 60.3% -20.5%
Denver Broncos 184.5 5.9 78.5 63.2% -12.8%
New York Jets 198.5 6.1 78.8 58.4% -12.6%

16. Indianapolis Colts

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 10th in NFL defense rankings

We’ve returned to the version of the Indianapolis Colts defense when they are one of the worst run-stopping units in the NFL. Adding the 240-yard effort from the Dallas Cowboys to the equation, Indianapolis has now allowed 533 rushing yards, 5.2 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns in the last three games. For good measure, opponents have also averaged a 48.7% third-down conversion rate along with a 98.2 QB rating in that stretch. Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson will enjoy their matchup against the Colts, quite a lot.

15. Carolina Panthers

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 16th in NFL defense rankings

Returning from the bye, the Carolina Panthers defense has held its last five opponents to 186.4 passing yards per game with 15 sacks, a 90.1 QB rating and a 7-4 TD-INT ratio and the average QB rating allowed drops to 86.9 over the last four weeks. This is a young defense with talent at all three levels and it should pose a credible challenge to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.

Related: Carolina Panthers coaching candidates

14. Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 17th in NFL defense rankings

It’s not difficult to find reasons to be optimistic about the Baltimore Ravens defense moving forward. Pro Bowl safety Marcus Williams is nearing a return and he is going to add some much-needed playmaking to the secondary. In addition, Baltimore has now allowed just 3.8 yards per rush and 82.5 rush ypg this season.

However, the worst offense in the NFL averaged 5.2 yards per play vs Baltimore and holding this unit to nine points doesn’t erase concerns with Baltimore’s defensive issues in the fourth quarter. Facing another soft matchup in Week 14, battling the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens’ defense will look better because of its opponent.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 15th in NFL defense rankings

We didn’t anticipate the Atlanta Falcons’ offense providing us any answers regarding Pittsburgh’s secondary. Drake London (95 receiving yards on 12 targets) had a productive day, but Marcus Mariota isn’t nearly good enough to expose the faults on the Steelers’ defense. With Lamar Jackson uncertain for Week 14 and the Ravens’ offense an eyesore in recent weeks, the Steelers won’t face a legitimate challenger for several more weeks.

Related: Pittsburgh Steelers schedule

12. New Orleans Saints

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 13 in NFL defense rankings

The New Orleans Saints defense played well enough to win in Week 12. We questioned the run defense, but it held its own with the San Francsico 49ers finishing under the 100-yard mark on 29 carries. Jimmy Garoppolo also wasn’t great, averaging just 6 ypa with a 94.7 quarterback rating. All told, New Orleans only allowed 13 points to a Kyle Shanahan offense.

It’s the week-to-week variation of this defense that prevents it from being higher in our rankings. With that said, Dennis Allen has always had Tom Brady‘s number and it could be even easier considering the state of Tampa Bay’s offense.

  • Tom Brady stats vs Saints (2020-’22): 72.8 QB rating, 7-8 TD-INT, 59.7% completion, 245.4 pass ypg, 6.3 ypa

11. Cincinnati Bengals

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals
Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 12th in NFL defense rankings

The Cincinnati Bengals’ pass rush stepped up in a monumental way on Sunday, recording eight quarterback hits and even more pressures on Mahomes. It made the All-Pro quarterback uncomfortable enough to only complete 59% of his throws, stalling out multiple drives. Life should be quite a bit easier against a rusty Deshaun Watson in Week 14.

NFL defense stats – Best run defenses in NFL

Here are the best NFL run defenses in 2022, based on yards per carry, rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns and run defense DVOA. NFL team defensive starts are prior to Week 14.

San Francisco 49ers 75.6 3.3 9 12.96 -24.2%
Tennessee Titans 83.1 3.8 5 10.23 -29.1%
Baltimore Ravens 82.5 3.8 9 10.21 -13.4%
Buffalo Bills 101.8 4.2 8 -2.15 -22.3%
Los Angeles Rams 96.7 3.9 7 15.05 -18.2%

NFL defensive rankings: Top 10 NFL defenses in 2022

10. Tennessee Titans

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 7 in NFL defense rankings

The results from Sunday shouldn’t be much of a surprise. With a banged-up defensive line, NFL MVP candidate Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ receivers were going to expose Tennesse’s secondary. In the last three games, the Titans have now allowed an average 104.2 QB rating with a 6-0 TD-INT rate and 289 pass ypg. On the bright side, one of the NFL’s best run defenses held Philadelphia to 67 yards on 24 carries (2.8 ypc). Facing Jacksonville in Week 14, Tennessee should fare well against the Jaguars’ sporadic offense.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal
  • Previously: No. 10 in NFL defense rankings

We’ve mentioned repeatedly this season that there is a maddening level of inconsistency with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ run defense. They’ve allowed 150-plus yards four times and held an opponent under 75 yards four times. In Week 12, Nick Chubb led the way with 116 yards and a touchdown, part of a 189-yard effort from Chubb, Jacoby Brissett, and Anthony Schwartz.

Tampa Bay sacked Brissett four times and only allowed 23 points in five full quarters, but the inconsistency could be a problem with the San Francisco 49ers and Bengals’ offenses looming. Fortunately, Andy Dalton’s penchant for inaccuracy and an ineffective Saints’ ground game don’t pose much of a threat to Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football.

8. Washington Commanders

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Commanders
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 9 in NFL defense rankings

As the Washington Commanders head into their bye week, fans can finally prepare for the return of Chase Young. When the former No. 2 pick rejoins the defense in Week 15, he’ll simply be strengthening a group responsible for 25 sacks with an average 82.6 QB rating, 5.9 ypa and a 34.3% third-down conversion rate surrendered in the last nine games. Two weeks to prepare for the New York Giants’ offense will make this a great streaming defense in Week 15.

Related: Washington Commanders deny benching Carson Wentz for draft-pick purposes

7. Denver Broncos

NFL: Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 8 in NFL defense rankings

The Denver Broncos have a playoff-caliber defense, it’s just being weighed down by an offense that looks like it belongs in the USFL. Denver held its opponent under 200 passing yards on Sunday, the eighth time it has accomplished that feat in 2022. Even with Bradley Chubb long gone, the Broncos’ secondary keeps showing out. With that said, the Chiefs’ offense is a different beast and Denver will join the long list of good defenses that struggled vs Mahomes.

Related: Denver Broncos coaching candidates

NFL team defense stats – Best pass rush teams in NFL 2022

Here are the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL entering Week 12. Data will be updated after the conclusion of Monday Night Football.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 30.2% pressure rate (1st), 51% pass-rush win rate (2nd), 45 sacks
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 24.2% pressure rate (7th), 53% pass-rush win rate (1st), 36 sacks
  3. New York Jets – 24.7% pressure rate (5th), 44% pass-rush win rate (10th), 34 sacks
  4. New England Patriots – 27.5% pressure rate (2nd), 34% pass-rush win rate (28th), 37 sacks
  5. Denver Broncos – 22.4% pressure rate (18th), 51% pass-rush win rate (2nd), 26 sacks

6. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Power
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 6 in NFL defense rankings

There are positives to take away from the Buffalo Bills’ Thursday Night Football victory over the New England Patriots. Playing without Von Miller – out for at least a month – Buffalo held New England to 10 points, 242 total yards and a 25% third-down conversion rate. However, his was a short week against a below-average offense. We’re not really going to see Buffalo’s secondary and pass rush tested until it faces the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 18.

Related: NFL games today – 2022 NFL schedule

Top 5 defenses in NFL

5. New England Patriots

nfl defense rankings: new england patriots
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 2 in NFL defense rankings

The last to games demonstrate why NFL defensive stats require context. While the New England Patriots defense ranked No. 1 in several categories, it was also a product of its schedule. In two games against the Bills and Minnesota Vikings, New England surrendered 524 passing yards, with a 5-1 TD-INT ratio, a 113.2 QB rating and its opponents combined for 57 points.

Considering the struggles vs Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson, we could see DeAndre Hopkins fare well in Week 14. Fortunately for New England’s defense, the Arizona Cardinals aren’t well-coached and Kyler Murray has regressed this season.

4. New York Jets

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 3 in NFL defense rankings

All things considered, the New York Jets proved on Sunday why they have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL. Justin Jefferson finished with 45 receiving yards on 11 targets and averaged under 6.5 yards per catch for only the second time this year. Ultimately, what cost New York was its low sack rate (5.4%) and allowing the Minnesota Vikings to convert 50% of their 18 third-down attempts. It doesn’t shake our confidence in one of the best NFL defenses this season, even with Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs looming.

Related: NFL insiders project historic contract extension for Justin Jefferson

3. Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 4 in NFL defense rankings

Our attention on Sunday focused on whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles could bottle up Derrick Henry. With Jordan Davis back, creating one of the deepest interior defensive lines in the NFL, Philadelphia held Henry to 30 yards on 11 carries. An inability to stop the run was our only small concern with Philadelphia’s defense. If we get a repeat performance vs Saquon Barkley, that remaining doubt will be erased.

2. Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No.2 in NFL defense rankings

The Dallas Cowboys defense wasn’t flawless on Sunday Night Football, but Dan Quinn’s group flipped a switch late and it captures one of the best NFL defenses entering Week 14. In the past seven games, opponents are averaging just 169.9 pass ypg with a 33.7% third-down conversion rate and 28 sacks taken.

Now, we arrive at why the Dallas Cowboys are the No. 1 defense in Week 14 fantasy rankings. The Houston Texans offense is averaging just 173.5 passing yards and 75.2 rushing yards per game since Oct. 30. In that six-game stretch, Houston threw 10 interceptions and took 20 sacks. Guaranteeing a defensive touchdown feels wrong, but holding Houston to single-digit points with multiple turnovers and five-plus sacks, that is doable.

1. San Francisco 49ers

NFL: New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 1 in NFL defense rankings

The San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the NFL and Week 13 is the latest piece of evidence. Facing a Miami Dolphins that looked unstoppable, San Francisco recovered from the 75-yard touchdown it allowed to open the game by holding Miami to 233 total yards and 10 points on its final 44 plays. The Dolphins’ offense failed to convert any of their nine third-down attempts and Nick Bosa (three sacks) eviscerated the offensive line. With the defensive line healthy, San Francisco should feast vs Tom Brady in Week 15.

Week 14 fantasy defense rankings

The following defense rankings are for fantasy football purposes and only apply to Week 14.

  1. Dallas Cowboys D/ST vs Houston Texans
  2. San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  3. Philadelphia Eagles D/ST vs New York Giants
  4. Buffalo Bills D/ST vs New York Jets
  5. New England Patriots D/ST vs Arizona Cardinals
  6. Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST vs Baltimore Ravens
  8. Kansas City Chiefs D/ST vs Denver Broncos
  9. Tennessee Titans D/ST vs Jacksonville Jaguars
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST vs San Francisco 49ers
  11. Los Angeles Rams D/ST vs Las Vegas Raiders
  12. New York Jets D/ST vs Buffalo Bills
  13. Cincinnati Bengals D/ST vs Cleveland Browns
  14. Carolina Panthers D/ST vs Seattle Seahawks

Stats courtesy Football Outsiders, Pro Football Reference, ESPN, and Pro Football Focus.

This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.

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