2022 NFL defense rankings: Best NFL defenses entering Week 5

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. For fantasy purposes, our Week 5 fantasy defense rankings can be found at the bottom.

Related: The Most Expensive Rookie Cards, Including Tom Brady And More

Let’s dive into our NFL defense rankings coming out of Sunday’s Week 4 action. Stay tuned for Week 5 matchup previews for each of the teams in our defense rankings.

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

Dropped from NFL defense rankings: Houston Texans (20)

20. New England Patriots (UR)

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Judon gave Elgton Jenkins fits in Week 4 and the New England Patriots delivered a quality first-half performance against Aaron Rodgers. This is certainly far from a perfect defense, Bill Belichick’s secondary gets exploited when the pass rush doesn’t get home. It’s part of the reason why New England blitzes so much (25.7% blitz rate).

However, the Patriots don’t stand a change against the run right now. Even with the changes made during the offseason, New England is allowing 5.1 yards per rush and 135.8 rushing yards per game. Facing the Detroit Lions in Week 5, it could be a great Sunday for Jamaal Williams.

19. Indianapolis Colts (19)

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Playing without Darius Leonard on Thursday Night Football, the Indianapolis Colts defense still did a solid job against the Denver Broncos. Across 71 snaps, Indianapolis held Denver to 375 total yards and completely neutralized them on third down (2-of-15). We also saw the Colts’ defensive line step up for the first time this season, registering eight quarterback hits with four sacks. It’s a necessary step in the right direction, but there is a concern with a run defense that allowed 252 rushing yards in the last two games. It could be a problem in Week 6 against James Robinson and Travis Etienne.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (16)

NFL: New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and quarterback Zach Wilson got the football in the fourth quarter trailing 20-10 and then 23-20 with 3:34 to go. In both instances, the second-year passer who looked awful in his rookie season drove down the field with touchdown drives against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. We exercised some patience because of the T.J. Watt injury, but the rapid descent down the NFL defense rankings can no longer be held off.

17. Baltimore Ravens (18)

Syndication: The Providence Journal

There are going to be different perspectives on the Baltimore Ravens’ defense. From the glass-half-full perspective, it generated at least two takeaways for the fourth consecutive game. Creating takeaways is great, but it only masks underlying problems for so long. Baltimore’s pass rush is still absent for a majority of its games (five quarterback hits, one sack on 38 dropbacks in Week 4). There are no signs of that being fixed anytime soon and that puts this secondary at high risk for exposure. Keep an eye on it in Week 5, because Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins will cook on Sunday Night Football if the Ravens can’t hit Joe Burrow early.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (9)

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Bosa isn’t returning until December and Sunday highlighted why that is alarming for the Los Angeles Chargers defense. This looked like the same run defense we saw in 2021, allowing 131 yards to Dameon Pierce on 13 carries. While Los Angeles generated some pressure and takeaways against quarterback Davis Mills (10 quarterback hits, four sacks, two interceptions), it also got carved up by Nico Collins and Brandin Cooks. This might seem reactionary but when combined with the issues in Week 3 vs Jacksonville, the concern is legitimate.

15. Miami Dolphins (11)

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Already without cornerback Byron Jones, Xavien Howard left the game in Week 4 with a groin injury. It puts the Miami Dolphins in an uncomfortable position, forced to make nickel Nik Needham the No. 1 corner and pushing backups into prominent roles. All of that can expose a unit with a pass rush that loves to be aggressive. Fortunately for Miami, it shouldn’t be exposed by a bad New York Jets offense in Week 5.

14. Cleveland Browns (13)

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ordinarily, a team wouldn’t hold its ground in the NFL defense rankings after allowing over 200 rushing yards. With that said, the Cleveland Browns played without Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Taven Bryan and Anthony Walker Jr. Cleveland did hold the Atlanta Falcons to a 33% third-down conversion rate and its passing attack was a non-factor. It’s enough for us to give the Browns a slight break, but a steep drop could follow if Cleveland struggles against the Chargers’ offense in Week 5.

Related: Injuries from car accident to impact Myles Garrett for weeks

13. Jacksonville Jaguars (14)

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to blame the Jacksonville Jaguars defense for Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Trevor Lawrence lost four fumbles in Week 4, setting the Eagles’ offense up for short drives and scoring opportunities. The Jaguars contained quarterback Jalen Hurts –204 passing yards and a 26.2 QBR – on 27 dropbacks, but the Eagles’ offensive line easily set the tone on the ground (210 rushing yards). Based on everything we’ve seen from Jacksonville this season, it’s earned some grace and maintains a prominent spot in the NFL defense rankings.

12. Carolina Panthers (13)

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It’s 2021 all over again. The Carolina Panthers only surrendered 338 total yards and 4.8 yards per play on Sunday, keeping the Arizona Cardinals to a 30.4% third-down conversion rate and snagged a pick-six. None of that matters when teammates on the other side can’t sustain drives and force defenders to work with a short field. Carolina will hang around in the heart of our NFL defense rankings all year, but it won’t translate to a lot of wins.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (17)

Syndication: The Enquirer
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals are clawing their way up the NFL defense rankings. Heading into Week 5, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s unit is finding success shutting down the passing attack– opponents averaging 72.2 passer rating and 241.8 passing ypg – without blitzing a lot (17.2% blitz rate is 27th in NFL). With that said, there is no way to account for Lamar Jackson. Mark Andrews should have little trouble getting open over the middle with Rashod Bateman more than capable of getting open deep. Expect a bad performance from Cincinnati in Week 5.

Related: Cincinnati Bengals schedule

NFL defense rankings: Top 10 defenses in NFL

10. Los Angeles Rams (11)

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of things went wrong for the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football. Despite the 49ers’ offensive line missing key starters, Los Angeles managed just one quarterback hit and zero sacks on 27 dropbacks by Jimmy Garoppolo. The Rams also routinely failed to take down the likes of Deebo Samuel and Jeff Wilson Jr. in open space. It wasn’t a terrible performance – 327 total yards and two offensive touchdowns allowed – but it’s enough to prevent Los Angeles from climbing its way back up the defense rankings and there is a long way to go before it’s viewed as one of the best NFL defenses.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (15)

nfl defense rankings: kansas city chiefs
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Sunday’s Chiefs vs Buccaneers matchup, Kansas City’s defense was able to exploit a few things. That included the Buccaneers gaining a total of three yards on six rush attempts. While Tom Brady was able to throw for 367 yards, a lot of that was in garbage time as Kansas City came away with a 41-31 win over Tampa Bay.

8. Denver Broncos (7)

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos defense desperately needed Bradley Chubb to elevate his game with Randy Gregory sidelined. He showed out on Thursday Night Football in Week 5, contributing three quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks. Frankly, the entire Broncos’ pass rush dominated this game with 23 pressures, 15 quarterback hurries and six sacks. Of course, this could all be the product of facing an offensive line with multiple backups starting and players lined up in unfamiliar positions. A Week 6 matchup against the Chargers will be a far better test for Denver’s defense.

7. Green Bay Packers (6)

Syndication: PackersNews

Aaron Rodgers and an egregiously missed delay of game penalty allowed two of the New England Patriots touchdowns on Sunday. The Green Bay Packers front did an excellent job generating pressure on the Patriots’ quarterbacks, neutralizing the passing attack. However, it’s still apparent this team struggles to stop teams who are committed to running the football. Keep that in mind for the Week 5 matchup against Saquon Barkley.

6. New Orleans Saints (8)

NFL: International Series-Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints defense will look back at the performance against the Minnesota Vikings and see plenty to improve upon. However, it’s worth considering that of the 28 points allowed in Week 4, six came off turnovers. Minnesota also averaged just 5.1 yards per play and converted only 35.7% of its third-down conversions. Zone coverage was an issue vs Justin Jefferson, but this was a solid performance by one of the best NFL defenses in 2022.

NFL defense rankings: Best NFL defenses in 2022

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Getting smoked by Patrick Mahomes isn’t going to send the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plummeting down the NFL defense rankings. Even after that rough performance on Sunday Night Football, Tampa Bay is still allowing the eighth-lowest average QB rating (76.2) and just 214.3 passing yards per game. However, this game can’t be thrown out of the evaluation. Opponents are averaging 4.3 ypr and 106.8 rush ypg against the Bucs, a stark difference from a unit that suffocated rushing attacks a year ago. We still view this as one of the best NFL defenses in 2022, it’s just not quite as strong as previously thought.

4. Dallas Cowboys (5)

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys defense met expectations on Sunday and that’s a great thing. Carson Wentz suffered 11 quarterback hits, the Washington Commanders were tackled for loss six times and its entire offense only averaged 4.2 yards per play. Heading into Week 5, Dallas is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 68.9 passer rating with four interceptions and 174.7 pass ypg.

Related: Dallas Cowboys schedule

It makes for an enticing matchup against the Rams in Week 5, but Dallas should find success generating pressure against a pedestrian Rams offensive line. We’d bank on the Cowboys proving they are one of the best NFL defenses this season.

3. Buffalo Bills (4)

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Midway through the first quarter, the Baltimore Ravens already scored 14 points with 85 total yards. It clearly seemed to spark something in the Buffalo Bills defense. Baltimore scored just six points the rest of the way, held to 211 total yards on its final 47 plays. The return of Jordan Poyer (three pass deflections, two interceptions) played a huge part in the effort. With Tre’Davious White closing in on a return, we’d expect Buffalo to move up the NFL defense rankings before long.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (1)

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Weather certainly helped the Philadelphia Eagles defense on Sunday, with a wet football and soggy field playing a role in the four lost fumbles by Trevor Lawrence. Even removing those takeaways from the equation, Jacksonville’s offense still managed just 219 total yards on 46 plays (4.8 yards per play) and it scored one touchdown after the first quarter. It’s enough for Philadelphia to maintain its status as one of the top units in our NFL defense rankings heading into Week 5.

1. San Francisco 49ers (2)

nfl defense rankings: san francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the NFL. Coming off a defensive clinic on Monday Night Football, San Francisco is now allowing just 161.3 passing ypg with a 73.0 average passer rating. Sure, quarterbacks can complete underneath passes (65.1% completion rate), but San Francisco isn’t allowing big plays or touchdowns (two passing touchdowns on 129 attempts). At the same time, San Francisco is holding opponents to 2.9 yards per rush. If all of that isn’t enough, the 49ers boast a 27.6% pressure rate with the third-most sacks in the NFL (15) and they only blitz 9.2% of the time. It easily earns them the No. 1 spot in our defense rankings.

All of this should tell you what you need to know about the upcoming matchup in Week 5. The Carolina Panthers rank 20th in PFF’s Pass Blocking Efficiency and quarterback Baker Mayfield ranks 32nd in the NFL in ESPN QBR (15.3). San Franciso enters Week 5 at No. 1 in the defense rankings and it will finish next Sunday viewed as the best defense in the NFL.

Week 5 NFL D/ST rankings

Our NFL defense rankings for Week 5 are based entirely on the matchups and overall performance.

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

All and feedback on the NFL defense rankings can be sent to @MattJ_Sports on Twitter

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

Related articles

Share article

Latest News


Subscribe to stay updated.