2022 NFL defense rankings: Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots climb after 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 6 fantasy defense rankings can be found at the bottom.

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Let’s dive into our NFL defense rankings entering Week 6, reviewing how some of the best defenses in the NFL performed in Week 5.

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

Dropped from NFL defense rankings: Cleveland Browns (14), Miami Dolphins (15), Pittsburgh Steelers (18)

20. Los Angeles Chargers (16)

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting Dêjà Vu from the Los Angeles Chargers defense. In 2021, this was one of the worst run defenses in the NFL with opponents averaging 4.6 yards per rush and 138.9 rushing yards per game. After yielding 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb on Sunday, running backs have now totaled 457 rushing yards, five touchdowns and 63 ypr in the last three weeks. Los Angeles can hold its own against the pass, but the Denver Broncos will know what to exploit on Monday Night Football in Week 6.

19. Houston Texans (UR)

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

Opponents can run at will against the Houston Texans’ defense this season. However, don’t assume facing one of the worst teams in the NFL means life will be easy for the quarterback. On Sunday, Trevor Lawrence completed just 25-of-47 attempts with a 0-2 TD-INT ratio and a season-low 54.0 quarterback rating. As the Texans head into their bye week, they can feel good about a secondary responsible for a 5-6 TD-INT ratio with a 72.1 quarterback rating and 59.7% completion rate on the season.

18. New York Giants (UR)

NFL: International Series-New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We certainly wouldn’t advise trusting the New York Giants defense on a regular basis, but defensive coordinator Don Martindale is getting the most out of this group. Playing without Azeez Ojulari and Leonard Williams, New York shut out the Green Bay Packers’ offense in the second half and didn’t allow Aaron Rodgers to complete a single deep pass in the entire game. We’ll see how this unit fares in Week 6 against Lamar Jackson, but it’s noteworthy that opposing quarterbacks are completing just 22.2% of passes 20-plus yards downfield this season (Next Gen Stats).

17. Tennessee Titans (UR)

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Washington Commanders
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans defense certainly isn’t the same without edge rusher Harold Landry, but it still manages to play quality football most weeks. Things looked bleak early when Dyami Brown escaped for a 75-yard touchdown, but Tennesse did allow just 5.4 yards per play on the other 57 reps by the Washington Commanders’ offense. One area where this team really stood out is allowing Washington to convert just 1-of-11 third-down attempts and holding it to 2.5 yards per rush. Heading into the bye week, the Titans’ defense deserves a lot of credit for this three-game winning streak.

Related: NFL Week 6 schedule

16. New England Patriots (20)

NFL: Detroit Lions at New England Patriots
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Shutting down the Detroit Lions isn’t easy. Heading into Sunday’s matchup, Detroit led the NFL in total yards per game (436.8), total points (140) and yards per play (6.5). Those numbers are going to plummet heading into Week 6 after the New England Patriots pitched a shutout, holding Detroit to 312 total yards and 4.9 yards per play. That’s more than enough for Bill Belichick’s group to move up the defense rankings, especially since it has now allowed just 27 points and a 38.4% third-down conversion rate in October. Expect another quality performance, though Nick Chubb will cause New England some fits (644 rushing yards allowed), against the Cleveland Browns.

15. Baltimore Ravens (17)

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.

14. Carolina Panthers (12)

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the same story with the Carolina Panthers’ defense. They keep a game close early, finding ways to overcome their offense giving an opponent fantastic field position or even a pick-six. The signs of exhaustion start to show in the third quarter, with the likes of Brian Burns, Frankie Luvu, Jaycee Horn, Shaq Thompson and Derrick Brown worn out from spending a majority of the game on the field. Things won’t get any better in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams. Carolina’s defense will look stout early, getting to Matthew Stafford, then its energy will run out after repeated three-and-outs and turnovers from Baker Mayfield before this defense collapses at the end.

13. Green Bay Packers (7)

Syndication: Journal Sentinel

Talent isn’t responsible for the Green Bay Packers plummeting in the NFL defense rankings and neither are injuries. Instead, it all comes down to defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Small warning lights went off in Week 1, when Barry refused to make in-game adjustments and let linebackers and safeties cover Justin Jefferson instead of Jaire Alexander. A few weeks later, Green Bay’s defense looked passive against third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe and they had no answers for a predictable Patriots’ offense. Week 5 simply highlighted all the reasons why Barry is a terrible fit for this group.

Fans can’t even feel confident about this unit in Week 6 against the New York Jets. This would seemingly be the perfect matchup for Green Bay to send blitzes, attacking one of the worst offensive lines in the AFC and making Zach Wilson uncomfortable. Instead, based on what we’ve seen from Barry, he’ll treat Wilson like Tom Brady and this defense will allow long scoring drives.

12. 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. Entering Week 6, Indianapolis is now surrendering the seventh-lowest yards per play (4.9) and scoring rate (30.5%).

Related: Indianapolis Colts schedule

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. The good news for the Colts is this pass rush could build off this performance and cause problems for Lawrence.

11. New Orleans Saints (6)

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It’s evident the New Orleans Saints defense isn’t quite as good as previous editions. A week after getting torched by Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf feasted. When Cameron JORDAN (1.5 sacks, two QB hits) couldn’t get home, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith dropped dimes deep downfield to Lockett (104 yards, two TDs) and Metcalf (88 yards, one TD). We also saw more signs of trouble from this run defense, allowing 142 rushing yards on 16 touches to Kenneth Walker III and Rashaad Penny. New Orleans avoids plummeting in the NFL defense rankings thanks to worse performances by others, but there are red flags here.

Best defenses in NFL

10. Cincinnati Bengals (11)

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. Cincinnati moves up the rankings before Sunday Night Football, but its performance could swing it from No. 8 to No. 12.

Related: Cincinnati Bengals schedule

9. Jacksonville Jaguars (12)

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

It would have sounded absurd entering the season to say the Jacksonville Jaguars have one of the best NFL defenses in 2022. Entering Week 5, though, Jacksonville ranked sixth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA defense ratings. A lot of the credit goes to the front seven, which entered Sunday with the eighth-highest pressure rate (27.4%) and quarterback knockdowns (18) in the NFL. Sunday’s performance only elevated the Jaguars’ placement in the NFL defense rankings, holding the Houston Texans to 248 total yards on 56 plays. Moving forward, Jacksonville must improve against the run because this front has allowed 326 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the past two games.

Looking ahead to Week 6, we’re very excited about the Jaguars vs Colts matchup. Indianapolis should feature Jonathan Taylor early and often, but its offensive line is one of the worst in football right now. Facing a front five with 58 pressures and 32 hurries allowed through five games, the Jaguars pass rush should feast.

8. Los Angeles Rams (10)

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams keep readily maneuvering their way back up the NFL defense rankings. On Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles only allowed 239 total yards on 53 plays (4.5 yards per play) and Dallas converted just 5-of-15 third-down attempts. Thanks to Aaron Donald (two sacks, two quarterback hits) and Jalen Ramsey, (one sack, one quarterback hit), the Cowboys offense couldn’t sustain drives when its defense didn’t either gift it points or immediately set it up in scoring range. While the Rams have lost two consecutive games, its defense only allowed three touchdowns and 566 total yards and 566 total yards (283 ypg) during that span.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (9)

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.

Related: Kansas City Chiefs schedule

Entering Monday Night Football, Kansas City has the fifth-highest pressure rate (28.9%) with the eighth-most quarterback hits (29) and it earns its reputation as one of the best run defenses in the NFL (3.3 ypr, 65.8 rush ypg allowed). Expect the Chiefs to create plenty of problems for Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs.

6. Denver Broncos (8)

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 group, but it earned an ascension in the Week 6 NFL defense rankings.

NFL defense rankings: Top 5 NFL defenses in 2022

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

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5)

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense suffocated the Atlanta Falcons early, holding them to 89 total yards and 3.3 yards per play in the first half. Credit to Atlanta for showing some life in the fourth quarter, responding to a 21-0 deficit with 116 total yards and two touchdowns. It’s a nice effort and the Falcons’ offense is underrated, but it’s also fair to say Tampa Bay might have taken its foot off the break. Entering Week 6 at No. 5 in our NFL defense rankings, Tampa Bay should wreak havoc on the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (2)

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

It’s the slightest dip in the Sportsnaut NFL defense rankings for the Philadelphia Eagles, but it might only be temporary. It’s not as if this unit disappointed against the Arizona Cardinals. Philadelphia held Kyler Murray to an 80.5 passer rating and only allowed 17 points. The drop is simply the result of the pass rush (two QB hits, one sack) not getting home as much on 42 dropbacks. We anticipate improvement against the Cowboys’ offensive line in Week 6 and it could be a very low-scoring game if Dak Prescott can’t play.

Related: Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott a ‘longshot’ to play in Week 6

3. Dallas Cowboys (4)

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Sensational. A defense that relied upon creating takeaways in 2021 is now even better this season and the turnovers didn’t start flooding in until Week 5. The Dallas Cowboys defense recorded 11 quarterback hits, six tackles for loss, five sacks and scored a touchdown on Sunday. The Los Angeles Rams managed just 323 total yards and that figure drops to 248 on 63 plays (3.9 yards per play) if you remove the Cooper Kupp touchdown.

There are a variety of things that make this one of the best NFL defenses entering Week 6. First, Micah Parsons (nine QB pressures in Week 5) is responsible for 24 pressures through five games even as he deals with minor injuries. DeMarcus Lawrence remains an elite pass rusher, defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa is thriving in his second season and defensive end Dorance Armstrong is the latest breakout player. Dallas will be tested against the Eagles’ offense on Sunday Night Football In Week 6, a clash between a phenomenal pass rush vs an elite offensive line. Don’t miss it.

2. Buffalo Bills (3)

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Utter domination from the Buffalo Bills defense in Week 5. Facing rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, Buffalo held Pittsburgh to 139 total yards in the first half on Sunday. While the Steelers managed to tack on some yardage to make the box score look better, it still finished with a 33% third-down conversion rate and got shut out in four red-zone trips. Despite several key injuries in the secondary, Buffalo is allowing just 11.6 ppg this season to opponents with at least two sacks every game and eight interceptions. Up next is a battle of strength vs strength against Patrick Mahomes. Considering the opponent, a rough performance won’t swing the NFL defense rankings too much.

1. San Francisco 49ers (1)

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers holding the No. 1 spot in the NFL defense rankings might be temporary. Everything this unit showed on Sunday against Carolina warranted the title of best defense in the NFL. Unfortunately, edge rusher Nick Bosa (groin) and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (left leg) were quickly ruled out after suffering their injuries.

Related: San Francisco 49ers schedule

We’ll put those potential losses into context. Entering Week 5, per Pro Football Focus, Bosa led the NFL in hurries (14), quarterback hits (10), sacks (six) and recorded 30 pressures in four games. Meanwhile, Moseley (72.0 PFF coverage grade) had emerged as a Pro Bowl candidate. If both are headed for a long-term absence, it’s going to have a massive impact on this defense.

Week 6 NFL D/ST rankings

Our NFL defense rankings for Week 6 are based entirely on the matchups and overall performance.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST vs Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Philadelphia Eagles D/ST vs Dallas Cowboys
  3. Los Angeles Rams D/ST vs Carolina Panthers
  4. San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs Atlanta Falcons
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST vs Indianapolis Colts
  6. Dallas Cowboys D/ST vs Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Indianapolis Colts D/ST vs Jacksonville Jaguars
  8. Carolina Panthers D/ST vs Los Angeles Rams
  9. Cincinnati Bengals D/ST vs New Orleans Saints
  10. Green Bay Packers D/ST vs New York Jets

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

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