2022 NFL defense rankings: Buffalo Bills dog with Los Angeles Rams struggling

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.

While it’s important not to overreact too much to Week 1, the first game of the 2022 season provided plenty of useful information to evaluate as we go forward. Some teams with high expectations (Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles) fell short, but others delivered with promising signs for the future.

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 2 fantasy defense rankings can be found at the bottom.

Also Read: The Most Expensive Rookie Cards Ever – Includes NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL

NFL defense rankings – Reviewing Week 1 performances with a look at Week 2

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

Dropped from NFL defense rankings: New England Patriots (20), Tennessee Titans (18)

Let’s dive into our NFL defense rankings for Week 2, reviewing every performance from Week 1.

20. Las Vegas Raiders (19)

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Many questioned how the Las Vegas Raiders defense would fare in 2022 with holes in the secondary. In Week 1, Keenan Allen quickly reached 66 receiving yards before exiting in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Las Vegas did do a quality job containing Mike Williams (10 receiving yards on two targets) and Austin Ekeler (2.6 ypr), but Justin Herbert still had a 129.4 QB rating. Las Vegas clings to a top-20 spot in the NFL defense rankings for now, but it could lose it quickly.

Related: Winners, losers from NFL Week 1

19. Indianapolis Colts (17)

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts certainly don’t have one of the best NFL defenses in 2022, especially when Shaquille Leonard is sidelined. Davis Mills made quick work of the Colts’ secondary, posting a 98.9 passer rating with 240 passing yards and hitting nine different pass-catchers. There’s room for the Colts to improve, especially when Leonard returns. Let’s see what Indianapolis does next Sunday against Trevor Lawrence.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (UR)

Syndication: The Enquirer
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

After closing out the 2021 season on a high note, the Cincinnati Bengals defense carried that momentum into Week 1. Of the 23 points the Pittsburgh Steelers scored on Sunday, 17 came immediately after a Bengals’ turnover. Defensively, Cincinnati surrendered just 267 total yards in five quarters and it held Pittsburgh to a 26.6% third-down conversion rate. If the Bengals deliver a quality performance in Week 2 against Pittsburgh, there’s plenty of room to climb up in the weekly NFL defense rankings.

Related: NFL QB Rankings – Check our top-20 quarterbacks, find out why Josh Allen is No. 1

17. Carolina Panthers (13)

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll start with the glass half full perspective for the Carolina Panthers. A new-look secondary held the Cleveland browns to 138 passing yards on 34 attempts, an elite 4.3 ypa. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean as much when you remember they faced Jacoby Brissett. The real concern for Carolina is how easy Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (187 yards, 5.7 ypr) did whatever they wanted against this defensive front. Considering the upcoming schedule (vs NYG, vs NO, vs ARZ, vs SF), we’ll find out quickly if this is the Achilles’ heel of the run defense.

16. Kansas City Chiefs (UR)

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City’s defense did just enough to come out on top over the Las Angeles Chargers in Week 2. Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson recorded a 99-yard pick-six of Justin Herbert in what was a game-changing play. If the seventh-round pick can continue playing at the level we’ve seen through the first two weeks, a weakness on the Chiefs’ defense might be solved. Meanwhile, Pro Bowl defensive lineman Chris Jones has now recorded three QB hits, two sacks and a forced fumble through two games.

Related: Kansas City Chiefs schedule

15. Los Angeles Rams (Previously: 9)

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

We’re concerned about the Los Angeles Rams defense. We knew this would be a top-heavy group heading into the season, forcing a top-five unit in previous seasons down to 9th in our NFL defense rankings. Against the Buffalo Bills, we witnessed a pass rush that generated just one quarterback hit and a single sack when excluding Aaron Donald. Meanwhile, Jalen Ramsey and the entire Rams’ secondary was repeatedly torched by Buffalo’s receiving corps. If the complementary players don’t step up in the weeks ahead, Los Angeles is in trouble.

14. Minnesota Vikings (16)

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

A revenge game for Za’Darius Smith brought even more juice out of the Minnesota Vikings’ defense. Harrison Smith (90.4 PFF coverage grade) looked like his old self and this pass rush generated the seventh-highest pressure rate (9.3%) in Week 1. It earns a slight bump in the NFL defense rankings for Week 2, but we need to see how Minnesota fares against a unit that isn’t starting three backup offensive linemen.

Related: Takeaways from NFL Week 1

13. Philadelphia Eagles (6)

Syndication: Detroit Free Press

It’s a steep drop in the NFL defense rankings for the Philadelphia Eagles heading into Week 2. D’Andre Swift (144 yards, 1 TD) and Jamaal Williams (2 TDs) ran for whatever they wanted, with Swift averaging 9.6 ypr. Frankly, the Detroit Lions offense might have scored even more than 35 points if Jared Goff was even a marginal quarterback. There is talent for days at every level of this defense but it didn’t translate to a quality performance in Week 1. Philly gets a few days to figure things out before a daunting matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

Related: Philadelphia Eagles schedule

12. Denver Broncos (10)

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We’re honestly surprised by Denver’s struggles on defense in the team’s ugly Week 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Facing a team with two rookie starting offensive tackles, the Broncos got to Geno Smith for four quarterback hits and a mere two sacks. Meanwhile, the veteran journeyman completed 17-of-18 passes in the first half. This unit played better in the final two quarters, but it didn’t look like one of the top-10 NFL defenses in Week 1.

11 Cleveland browns (12)

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fair to say the Cleveland Browns enjoyed facing their former quarterback. Baker Mayfield completed just 59.2% of his pass attempts in Week 1, suffering six quarterback hits and coughing up the football four times. As for our concerns heading into the season about Cleveland’s run defense, it responded with five tackles for loss and surrendered just 2.8 ypr on 19 attempts. Expect the Browns to feast on the New York Jets in Week 2, which will subsequently push them further up the NFL defense rankings.

10. Dallas Cowboys (11)

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys defense played winning football in Week 1. Micah Parsons (five pressures, two sacks) proved he is ready to win Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. Dallas also kept Tom Brady (1-1 TD-INT, 53.4 QBR) in check with just 19 points allowed. However, the Dak Prescott injury is going to put a lot more weight on this defense’s shoulders. It’s especially troubling for a unit that just allowed 127 yards to Leonard Fournette and now faces the Bengals in Week 2.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (15)

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers grab a top-10 spot in the NFL defensive rankings for now. Unfortunately, the likelihood of a torn pec for T.J. Watt puts this in jeopardy. Pittsburgh dominated on Sunday, generating five takeaways in regulation, sacking Joe Burrow seven times and holding the usually uber-accurate quarterback to a 62% completion rate. Just as important, for a run defense that allowed 5 ypr in 2021, Joe Mixon averaged just 3 ypr on Sunday.

8. Green Bay Packers (4)

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Not allowing Jaire Alexander to shadow Justin Jefferson far more often was foolish and the Green Bay Packers top defender was right to call out the decision. Green Bay did a nice job pressuring Kirk Cousins, Minnesota just schemed things up so he could dump the football quickly. The Packers should fare much better against the Chicago Bears in Week 2, but it’s clear this isn’t one of the best NFL defenses right now.

7. Miami Dolphins (12)

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Talent was never the question with the Miami Dolphins’ defense, it was all about execution and timing. Kicking off Week 1, Miami took advantage of a New England Patriots offense that lacked continuity. The Dolphins racked up six pass deflections, four tackles for loss, three takeaways, two sacks and allowed New England to reach the red zone just once.

6. New Orleans Saints (3)

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints might have a problem. A year ago, this unit boasted one of the best run defenses in the NFL with opponents averaging just 3.7 ypr and 93.5 rushing yards per game. In Week 1, Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Mariota combined for 192 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Not only that, the Saints’ pass rush recorded just one quarterback hit and zero sacks. Maybe this is going to be a one-game fluke, but these are numbers you don’t want to see before facing Tom Brady.

NFL defensive rankings: Top 5 defenses in 2022

5. Baltimore Ravens (8)

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Concern surrounding the pass rush prevented the Baltimore Ravens from being even higher in our NFL defense rankings. In Week 1, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s group came alive against the New York Jets. Baltimore registered 11 quarterback hits and that only strengthened a lockdown secondary. The Ravens held the Jets to 4.8 yards per play and nine points allowed with just a 14.2% third-down conversion rate allowed. Tougher competition will prove far more challenging, but Baltimore moves up the defense rankings on a Sunday when others struggled.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (7)

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is why you acquire Khalil Mack. Opponents already had a tough time dealing with Joey Bosa, now they must account for two of the best pass rushers in the NFL. In a season-opening win, Mack (three) and Bosa (1.5) combined for 4.5 sacks and six quarterback hits. The two struggled a bit more against Kansas City in Week 2, tallying a combined three QB hits with a half sack. Despite this, the Chargers defense was able to hold its own with cornerback J.C. Jackson making his team debut and Asante Samuel playing extremely well in the narrow loss.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5)

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The unit that ranked No. 1 in the NFL defense rankings before injuries struck last year is back. Dallas couldn’t get anything going offensively, even before the Prescott injury. Tampa Bay held the star quarterback to a 15.3 QBR with a 48.3% completion rate. The Buccaneers also didn’t allow Ezekiel Elliott to break off a run of more than seven yards. Expect another phenomenal defensive clinic in Week 2 against the Saints.

2. San Francisco 49ers (1)

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

On a day when linebacker Dre Greenlaw had the worst game of his NFL career and Tashaun Gipson made a costly blunder in coverage, the San Francisco 49ers defense still dominated. The Chicago Bears averaged just 3.6 yards per play and San Francisco’s pass rush kept Justin Fields under frequent pressure, surrendering just 19 points. The weather will be much better against the Seattle Seahawks and the 49ers’ defensive line should feast.

1. Buffalo Bills (2)

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills proved why they are the best defense in the NFL. Even without No. 1 cornerback Tre’Davious White, Leslie Frazier’s group made it a miserable Week 1 for Los Angeles. Buffalo didn’t need to blitz, with its four-man rush generating an astonishing 15 quarterback hits and seven sacks. Credit to the likes of Jordan Phillips (1.5 sacks), AJ Epenesa (1.5 sacks), Von Miller (2 sacks) and Greg Rousseau. If Buffalo’s pass rush is this dominant, they’ll be the No.1 NFL defense in 2022 throughout the year.

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

Week 2 D/ST rankings

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

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

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