2022 NFL defense rankings: Reviewing best NFL defenses after Week 4

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.

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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. Tennessee Titans (UR)

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Tennessee Titans
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This certainly isn’t the version of the Tennessee Titans defense we expected coming into the season and plenty of that is because of the Harold Landry injury. However, we have seen this group step up since getting mopped off the floor by the Buffalo Bills in Week 2. Tennessee neutralized big-play opportunities for the second consecutive game and its opponents have now committed four turnovers with a combined 134 rushing yards in the last two games.

19. Indianapolis Colts (19)

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Indianapolis Colts entered with one of the best run defenses in the NFL and Derrick Henry ended that quickly. Henry caused most of the damage against Indianapolis, accounting for 147 of the 243 total yards allowed. Ryan Tannehill (17-of-21 with two touchdowns) also enjoyed some success on Sunday, but Tennessee was really carried by its defense generating takeaways. With Darius Leonard (concussion) likely out for Thursday Night Football, we’d expect the Denver Broncos to try and replicate Tennesse’s plan, using Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.

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. Kansas City Chiefs (15)

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Looking at Sunday’s Chiefs vs Buccaneers matchup, Kansas City’s defense can exploit some things. The left side of Tampa Bay’s offensive line is its Achilles heel and you can bet Chris Jones spends most of the night on that side. We also aren’t seeing the best version of Tom Brady right now and that could be enough for this game to sneak under the under.

13. 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

12. 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.

11. 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.

NFL defense rankings: Top 10 defenses in NFL

10. 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

9. Los Angeles Rams (11)

NFL: Los Angeles Rams At Arizona Cardinals
Michael Chow/The Republic

Another step in the right direction for the Los Angeles Rams defense. While we’ve seen Kyler Murray enjoy some success against this unit, the best versions of the Rams’ defense know how to stop him. It was evident in Week 3 as Los Angeles surrendered just nine points before Arizona used garbage time to pad its numbers.

While the San Francisco 49ers have given the Rams some problems in a past, it could be a much different story in Week 4 with the 49ers’ offensive line in a bad state. We’re counting on the Rams’ pass rush to create havoc in this one, betting on three sacks and a possible interception or fumble lost for Jimmy Garoppolo.

8. Denver Broncos (7)

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos had no answers for Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams on Sunday. Las Vegas rode its duo in Week 4, seeing them capture 266 of the 377 total yards with Jacobs also contributing two touchdowns. It’s certainly not enough to send Denver plummeting down the NFL defense rankings, especially because the Raiders’ offense was held in high regard entering the season. We’ll just need to see more in Week 5 and that should happen considering the state of the Colts’ offense, especially with Jonathan Taylor possibly sidelined.

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. 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.

4. 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.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2)

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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need just one play to recapture their momentum and it happened on the Aaron Jones fumble. A potential 21-3 deficit provided this defense with new life and they locked down the Packers’ offense the rest of the way. This remains one of the best NFL defenses in 2022 and it will cause a few problems for Mahomes in Week 4.

This is a clash of strength vs strength. Tampa Bay’s pass rush is one of the best in the NFL, but the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line rates as the second-best in the NFL. Another element to watch is how much blitzing Todd Bowles deploys vs Patrick Mahomes. If the Buccaneers deliver another strong performance, they’ll grab the No. 1 spot in the NFL defense rankings.

2. San Francisco 49ers (2)

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers defense swarms opponents and takes just about everything away from them. Through three games, San Francisco allows just 148.3 pass yards per contest with eight sacks and three interceptions. Running the ball also isn’t a great option, demonstrated by the 2.8 yards per rush surrendered. It’s neck-and-neck for the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles in our NFL defense rankings.

Looking at the Rams vs 49ers matchup, San Francisco holds an advantage. Joseph Noteboom (12 pressures, three sacks allowed) is likely going to struggle against Nick Bosa. However, Cooper Kupp should be able to exploit San Francisco in the slot. Expect a low-scoring game.

1. 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 the No. 1 spot in the NFL defense rankings, but the 49ers and Buccaneers are right behind.

Week 5 NFL D/ST rankings

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

  1. Buffalo Bills D/ST vs Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs Carolina Panthers
  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.

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