2022 NFL defense rankings: Best NFL defenses entering Week 15

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 14. Our NFL Week 15 previews for the best defenses in football will be provided throughout the week.

Dropped from NFL defense rankings: Kansas City Chiefs (19th), Minnesota Vikings (20th)

20. Green Bay Packers

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
  • Previously: Unranked

Two weeks to prepare for the Los Angeles Rams offense is more than anyone needs. Even without Rashan Gary, Green Bay will generate pressure against one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. It also won’t have to worry too much about the Rams’ pedestrian run game nor its often lethargic passing attack.

19. Miami Dolphins

NFL: Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Unranked

Since acquiring Bradley Chubb, the Miami Dolphins’ defense is allowing just 5.7 yards per attempt with an average 87.0 QB rating and 176.3 passing yards per game. It’s opened things up for everyone on the front seven, resulting in 14 sacks as this pass starts coming alive. There is a level of hesitation because of the competition that game against (Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Brock Purdy).

The Los Angeles Chargers scored 17 of their points in the second quarter, but they also had a 78-yard drive to open the game that stalled at Miami’s 2-yard line. The biggest takeaway from Sunday Night Football is that the Dolphins’ secondary still lacks the pieces to hold its own consistently against great offenses. It comes right before facing Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis.

18. Detroit Lions

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 17th in NFL defense rankings

There are elements to like from the Detroit Lions’ defensive performance. They did an outstanding job erasing Dalvin Cook (23 rush yards, 1.5 yards per carry). Detroit also created a pair of takeaways and held the Minnesota Vikings to a 50% red-zone conversion rate. Then you see Justin Jefferson’s line (223 yards) and it becomes apparent why this unit is still a work in progress. Garrett Wilson is going to cause some damage against the Lions’ secondary.

17. Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 18 in NFL defense rankings

After allowing 10 points and 121 total yards to the Las Vegas Raiders in the first quarter and 177 total yards with 13 points on the first three drives, the Los Angeles Rams defense largely shut things down. Las Vegas managed just 125 total yards the rest of the way, failing to convert many of its third-down attempts.

It’s a positive sign for this unit in Los Angeles, but we also have to consider the play-calling and execution on the other side. It’s fair to say neither the Rams’ defense nor the Green Bay Packers offense will be at their best for the Week 15 matchup.

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 182.4 6.6 83.9 64.1% -25.3%
Philadelphia Eagles 178.7 6.1 76.3 61.1% -20.4%
Denver Broncos 196.6 6.1 79.3 63.5% -14.2%
New York Jets 189.4 6.3 78.1 62.3% -12.8%
New England Patriots 200.6 6.7 81.1 59.1% -14.9%

16. Indianapolis Colts

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 16th 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.

Things could get ugly in Week 15. Not only do the Minnesota Vikings have an All-Poro wideout that Indianapolis can’t line up with, but it can also pound the rock with Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. This might not be pretty for the Colts.

15. Tennessee Titans

Syndication: The Tennessean
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: 10th in NFL defense rankings

The good news for the Tennessee Titans is they continue to defend the run very well. After holding the Jacksonville Jaguars to 60 rushing yards on 25 rushes, opponents are now averaging just 62.2 rushing yards and 2.89 yards per carry vs Tennessee in the past 10 games.

Related: 2023 NFL salary cap tracker

Unfortunately for the Titans, this is modern football. Trevor Lawrence hung 368 passing yards and three touchdowns on the Titans’ secondary, with tight end Evan Engram (162 yards, 2 TDs) doing most of the damage. With that effort, opposing quarterbacks have an 11-2 TD-INT rate with a 94.8 QB rating in the last six weeks. Let that tell you what Justin Herbert likely does in Week 15.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 13th in NFL defense rankings

At the surface level, holding an opponent to 16 points and a 30.7% third-down conversion rate seems like a major accomplishment for a defense. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers also aced a third-string quarterback and one of the worst play-callers in the AFC. Furthermore, the Baltimore Ravens did whatever they wanted on the ground (215 yards, 5.1 ypc), At least the Steelers don’t have to worry about their secondary being exposed until Christmas Eve.

13. New Orleans Saints

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 12th in NFL defense rankings

After allowing two late fourth-quarter touchdowns to Tom Brady in Week 13, it gets a bit easier in Week 15 for the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans – holding opponents to 187.1 pass ypg with an 86.0 QB rating in the last seven games – doesn’t have to worry about the Falcons throwing the ball effectively. However, this run defense is susceptible to some big games (553 yards allowed Week 9-11) and that bares monitoring against the Falcons’ strong ground game.

Related: NFL coaching candidates 2023

12. Carolina Panthers

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 15th in NFL defense rankings

There should be more believers in the Carolina Panthers’ defense after Sunday. Steve Wilks’ group sacked Geno Smith three times, intercepted him twice and it really shut down the Seattle Seahawks outside of a 14-point second quarter. Fantasy managers would be wise to stream the Panthers D/ST vs Pittsburgh in Week 15.

11. Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Washington Commanders at Baltimore Ravens
Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 14th in NFL defense rankings

The Baltimore Ravens certainly benefitted from the forced quarterback change, but that’s what good defenses should do. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Marcus Williams snagged an interception, Baltimore missed his playmaking skills and he is a huge piece moving forward to limit the explosive plays. Sunday also further highlighted this excellent run defense, which held its opponent under 90 rushing yards for the sixth consecutive game.

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Baltimore matches up nicely with the Cleveland Browns in Week 15. Expect life to be a little difficult for Nick Chubb, putting the game on Deshaun Watson‘s shoulders. Considering he hasn’t looked sharp since his return, we’d count on a strong box score from the Ravens’ defense.

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 75.1 3.4 9 15.32 -24.7%
Tennessee Titans 81.3 3.6 6 17.57 -27%
Baltimore Ravens 81.2 3.8 10 11.63 -14.9%
Buffalo Bills 99.8 4.2 9 3.54 -21.9%
Los Angeles Rams 101.9 4.0 8 12.04 -18.1%

NFL defensive rankings: Top 10 NFL defenses in 2022

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 9 in NFL defense rankings

Kyle Shanahan is undeniably one of the brightest offensive minds in NFL history, but quarterback Brock Purdy also made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense look foolish on Sunday. We mentioned the inconsistency of the Bucs’ run defense and that showed up with 209 yards and three touchdowns surrendered on the ground to San Francisco. Proceed with caution against the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 11 in NFL defense rankings

Everything is coming together for the Cincinnati Bengals defensively. Not only did Cincinnati hold the Cleveland Browns to a pedestrian 4.9 yards per play, it also came with a 26.7% third-down conversion rate, nine QB hits and two scores allowed on 11 drives. Add that effort to the recent stretch and the Bengals’ defense has held its last five opponents to an 83.1 QB rating with a 38.8% third-down conversion rate.

8. Denver Broncos

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 7 in NFL defense rankings

The box score looks awful for the Denver Broncos’ defense (34 points, 431 total yards). Please remember, though, that the Kansas City Chiefs offense wiped out San Francisco’s defense earlier this season. Besides, Denver picked off Patrick Mahomes three times and it held the Chiefs to seven points after halftime. Denver’s defense will recover in Weeks 15 (vs ARZ) and 16 (@ LAR).

Related: Denver Broncos coaching candidates

7. Washington Commanders

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Commanders
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 8 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.

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

Two weeks to prepare for the New York Giants’ offense will make this a great streaming defense in Week 15. It’s an even better matchup with Saquon Barkley either limited or inactive. The floor for Washington’s D/ST is three sacks and fewer than 24 points allowed.

6. 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.

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

Here are the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL entering Week 14. Data will be updated after the conclusion of Monday Night Football.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 29.3% pressure rate (1st), 53% pass-rush win rate (1st), 48 sacks
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 24.3% pressure rate (8th), 52% pass-rush win rate (2nd), 42 sacks
  3. New York Jets – 24.6% pressure rate (6th), 44% pass-rush win rate (11th), 36 sacks
  4. New England Patriots – 27.5% pressure rate (2nd), 34% pass-rush win rate (27th), 39 sacks
  5. Denver Broncos – 22.3% pressure rate (18th), 50% pass-rush win rate (3rd), 30 sacks

Top 5 defenses in NFL

5. New York Jets

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 5 in NFL defense rankings

The New York Jets have one of the best defenses in the NFL, it’s demonstrated every week. One way to highlight that is with the stat that New York held Josh Allen to season-lows in passing yards (147) and ypa (5.4). Putting that into perspective, it was only the sixth time ever that an opponent held Allen under 150 pass yards on 20-plus attempts.

Quite frankly, the Lions’ offense vs the Jets’ defense is one of our favorite matchups in Week 15. New York boasts the secondary to match up perfectly with Detroit’s receiving corps. On top of that, this is going to be a chess match between Robert Saleh vs Ben Johnson. Get the popcorn.

4. Buffalo Bills

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle
  • Previously: No. 6 in NFL defense rankings

Health makes a significant difference for the Buffalo Bills defense. We still expect the season-ending Von Miller injury to hurt come playoff time, but let Sunday demonstrate how much better this unit looks with Jordan Poyer, Matt Milano, Greg Rousseau and Tre’Davious White on the field. Buffalo held New York to just 4.2 yards per play in Week 14 with eight QB hits, seven TFLs and four sacks.

It’s exactly the caliber of performance you want to see before this unit faces the Miami Dolphins. Generating pressure on Tua Tagovailoa will be crucial, just as important is Jordan Poyer helping patrol deep. If the Bills can bottle up the Dolphins’ offense, it will climb even higher.

3. Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 2 in NFL defense rankings

The Dallas Cowboys defense made a few mistakes on Sunday, underperforming against one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Strangely, the pass-rushing duo of Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence couldn’t get home and Dallas finished without a sack. Seven of the points the Cowboys allowed can be blamed on the muffed punt, but ceding over 300 total yards and a 47% third-down conversion rate against Houston leaves something to be desired. We’d bet on Dan Quinn correcting things before this unit faces Trevor Lawrence and Co.

Related: Jerry Jones blasts ‘stupid’ and ‘biased’ Daniel Snyder report

2. Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 3 in NFL defense rankings

In Sunday’s dominant victory over the New York Giants, Haason Reddick became the first Philadelphia Eagles edge rusher with double-digit sacks since Connor Barwin (2014). He led a merciless pass rush, with Philadelphia stockpiling 12 QB hits and seven sacks. Importantly, the Eagles’ run defense also put constraints on Saquon Barkley (3.1 ypc). Justin Fields might pose some problems as a rushing threat, but Philadelphia’s secondary should have a relatively smooth Week 15 matchup against the Chicago Bears.

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1. San Francisco 49ers

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 1 in NFL defense rankings

The San Francisco 49ers have the No. 1 defense in the NFL, Tom Brady understood why on Sunday afternoon. In Week 14, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ squad hold an opponent under 70 rushing yards for the sixth consecutive game. If having the best run defense in the NFL isn’t enough, San Francsico also held Brady to a 63.7 QB rating and one garbage-time touchdown despite not sacking him once.

Related: San Francisco 49ers bracing for DeMeco Ryans to become head coach

Feedback can be sent to matt.johnson@sportsnaut.com

Week 15 fantasy defense rankings

The following defense rankings are for fantasy football purposes and only apply to Week 15.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles D/ST vs Chicago Bears
  2. San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs Seattle Seahawks
  3. Denver Broncos D/ST vs Arizona Cardinals
  4. Dallas Cowboys D/ST vs Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Carolina Panthers D/ST vs Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. New England Patriots D/ST vs Las Vegas Raiders
  7. New Orleans Saints D/ST vs Atlanta Falcons
  8. Washington Commanders D/ST vs New York Giants
  9. Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs Cleveland Browns
  10. Cincinnati Bengals D/ST vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  11. Kansas City Chiefs D/ST vs Houston Texans
  12. New York Jets D/ST vs Detroit Lions
  13. Buffalo Bills D/ST vs Miami Dolphins
  14. Green Bay Packers D/ST vs Los Angeles Rams
  15. New York Giants D/ST vs Washington Commanders

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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