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 13. We also have Week 14 NFL previews for some of the best defenses in football.
20. Minnesota Vikings
- Previously: Unranked
The Minnesota Vikings ruined the feel-good story that was Mike White, picking him off twice and forcing him to a 6.5 ypa average on 57 attempts. Of course, the 120 rushing yards allowed to the New York Jets tied to Garrett Wilson’s big day (162 yards) highlights why Minnesota’s defense can’t be trusted in the playoffs.
Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions isn’t a favorable one for Minnesota. We’ve written earlier this year that the Vikings’ secondary gets exposed when the pass rush doesn’t get home very quickly. Entering Week 14, Jared Goff averages one of the fastest average times to throw (2.4). But Detroit will also test Minnesota deep, with the third-most throws (43) of 20-plus yards.
19. Kansas City Chiefs
- Previously: No. 18 in NFL defense rankings
Perhaps Justin Reid and his teammates might want to spend a little more time studying film and learning about their opponents. Joe Burrow scored three total touchdowns and did an excellent job spreading the ball around, hitting eight different receivers. Kansas City also surrendered 106 rushing yards to backup running back Samaje Perine.
The good news for the Chiefs, it’s legitimately not worth watching the Broncos’ film on offense. Denver in arguably the worst offense in the NFL, with Wilson refusing to leaving the pocket and disastrous play-calling.
18. Los Angeles Rams
- Previously: No. 14 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.
17. Detroit Lions
- Previously: 20th in NFL defense rankings
From the worst defense in the NFL to the No.17 spot in the defensive rankings, it’s been quite the turnaround for the Detroit Lions. Young talents like Aidan Hutchinson and Kerby Joseph are starting to acclimate, playing massive roles in Detroit stiffening up against the pass. There are still plenty of mistakes made and quite a few holes to fill this offseason, but the improvement deserves national recognition.
- Detroit Lions defense (Week 9-13): 77.2 QB rating allowed, 7-7 TD-INT, 57.3% completion, 6.4 ypa, 11 sacks
With that said, we do anticipate Justin Jefferson giving Detroit a lot of problems. What this matchup comes down to is whether or not the Lions’ defensive front can get to Kirk Cousins early. If he’s uncomfortable and Detroit takes an early lead, its defense can bend its ears back and take advantage of the Achilles’ heel of Minnesota’s offense.
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|
|New York Jets||198.5||6.1||78.8||58.4%||-12.8%|
|New England Patriots||200.6||6.7||81.1||59.1%||-14.9%|
16. Indianapolis Colts
- Previously: 10th 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. Maybe things change on the bye, but that would mean Gus Bradley is making adjustments and that seems unreasonable.
15. Carolina Panthers
- Previously: 16th in NFL defense rankings
Returning from the bye, the Carolina Panthers defense has held its last five opponents to 186.4 passing yards per game with 15 sacks, a 90.1 QB rating and a 7-4 TD-INT ratio and the average QB rating allowed drops to 86.9 over the last four weeks. This is a young defense with talent at all three levels and it should pose a credible challenge to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14. With Kenneth Walker trending towards being inactive and the Seahawks young at tackle, Carolina’s defense could fare better than might be expected.
14. Baltimore Ravens
- Previously: 17th in NFL defense rankings
It’s not difficult to find reasons to be optimistic about the Baltimore Ravens defense moving forward. Pro Bowl safety Marcus Williams is nearing a return and he is going to add some much-needed playmaking to the secondary. In addition, Baltimore has now allowed just 3.8 yards per rush and 82.5 rush ypg this season.
However, the worst offense in the NFL averaged 5.2 yards per play vs Baltimore and holding this unit to nine points doesn’t erase concerns about Baltimore’s defensive issues in the fourth quarter. Facing another soft matchup in Week 14, battling the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens defense will look better because of its opponent.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Previously: 15th in NFL defense rankings
We didn’t anticipate the Atlanta Falcons’ offense providing us any answers regarding Pittsburgh’s secondary. Drake London (95 receiving yards on 12 targets) had a productive day, but Marcus Mariota isn’t nearly good enough to expose the faults on the Steelers’ defense.
Related: Pittsburgh Steelers schedule
With Lamar Jackson out for Week 14 and the Ravens’ offense an eyesore in recent weeks, the Steelers won’t face a legitimate challenger for several more weeks. Expect Pittsburgh to generate a few sacks and it shouldn’t have much issue limiting explosive plays through the air.
12. New Orleans Saints
- Previously: No. 13 in NFL defense rankings
It’s difficult to knock the New Orleans Saints defense for the loss on Monday Night Football. Midway through the fourth quarter, Dennis Allen’s group held Tom Brady to 120 total yards with two takeaways. The Saints’ offense put that all to waste and Brady engineered two touchdown drives covering 154 yards on 21 plays and only took less than five minutes off the clock.
Things will be much easier in Week 14. 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.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
- Previously: 12th in NFL defense rankings
The Cincinnati Bengals’ pass rush stepped up in a monumental way on Sunday, recording eight quarterback hits and even more pressures on Mahomes. It made the All-Pro quarterback uncomfortable enough to only complete 59% of his throws, stalling out multiple drives.
Life should be quite a bit easier against a rusty Deshaun Watson in Week 14. However, Cleveland will look to win on the ground after Kansas City broke loose for 138 rush yards and two touchdowns last week vs Cincinnati. Amari Cooper is also in for a nice day, too.
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.
|TEAM||Rush YPG||YPC||Rush TDs||EXP||DVOA|
|San Francisco 49ers||75.6||3.3||9||12.96||-24.7%|
|Los Angeles Rams||96.7||3.9||7||15.05||-18.1%|
NFL defensive rankings: Top 10 NFL defenses in 2022
10. Tennessee Titans
- Previously: No. 7 in NFL defense rankings
The results from Sunday shouldn’t be much of a surprise. With a banged-up defensive line, NFL MVP candidate Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ receivers were going to expose Tennesse’s secondary. In the last three games, the Titans have now allowed an average 104.2 QB rating with a 6-0 TD-INT rate and 289 pass ypg. On the bright side, one of the NFL’s best run defenses held Philadelphia to 67 yards on 24 carries (2.8 ypc).
Facing Jacksonville in Week 14, Tennessee should fare well against the Jaguars’ sporadic offense. In what projects to be a rare productive day for the Titans’ offense, that will allow its pass rush to become more aggressive with its pressure. Jacksonville might hit a few chunk plays on Sunday, but it likely won’t deliver multiple game-changing blows that light up the box score.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Previously: No. 10 in NFL defense rankings
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wiped out the Saints’ run game (66 yards on 25 attempts) and forced Andy Dalton to make quick, accurate throws under pressure. It worked out nicely against one of the NFL’s worst offenses over the last month.
Our concern is the run defense against the San Francisco 49ers. Tampa Bay has allowed 150-plus rushing yards five times this season, most recently on Nov. 27 against the Cleveland Browns. Brock Purdy won’t have to do anything if Shanahan’s scheme runs right through Tampa Bay.
8. Washington Commanders
- Previously: No. 9 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.
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.
7. Denver Broncos
- Previously: No. 8 in NFL defense rankings
The Denver Broncos have a playoff-caliber defense, it’s just being weighed down by an offense that looks like it belongs in the USFL. Denver held its opponent under 200 passing yards on Sunday, the eighth time it has accomplished that feat in 2022. Even with Bradley Chubb long gone, the Broncos’ secondary keeps showing out.
Related: Denver Broncos coaching candidates
With that said, the Chiefs’ offense is a different beast and Denver will join the long list of good defenses that struggled vs Mahomes. Travis Kelce will remain the prioritized target, but the key matchup to keep an eye on is Isiah Pacheco vs a Broncos’ run defense allowing 120.1 rush ypg.
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.
- Dallas Cowboys – 29.3% pressure rate (1st), 53% pass-rush win rate (1st), 48 sacks
- Philadelphia Eagles – 24.3% pressure rate (8th), 52% pass-rush win rate (2nd), 42 sacks
- New York Jets – 24.6% pressure rate (6th), 44% pass-rush win rate (11th), 36 sacks
- New England Patriots – 27.5% pressure rate (2nd), 34% pass-rush win rate (27th), 39 sacks
- Denver Broncos – 22.3% pressure rate (18th), 50% pass-rush win rate (3rd), 30 sacks
6. Buffalo Bills
- Previously: No. 6 in NFL defense rankings
There are positives to take away from the Buffalo Bills’ Thursday Night Football victory over the New England Patriots. Playing without Von Miller – out for at least a month – Buffalo held New England to 10 points, 242 total yards and a 25% third-down conversion rate. However, his was a short week against a below-average offense.
Related: NFL games today – 2022 NFL schedule
We’re not really going to see Buffalo’s secondary and pass rush tested until it faces the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 18. As for this matchup, Tre’Davious White vs Garrett Wilson is going to be a great battle. New York’s run-heavy approach will be tested against a Buffalo front that has allowed just 3.5 yards per carry and 78.7 rush ypg in the last three weeks.
Top 5 defenses in NFL
5. New England Patriots
- 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.
4. New York Jets
- Previously: No. 3 in NFL defense rankings
All things considered, the New York Jets proved on Sunday why they have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL. Justin Jefferson finished with 45 receiving yards on 11 targets and averaged under 6.5 yards per catch for only the second time this year. Ultimately, what cost New York was its low sack rate (5.4%) and allowing the Minnesota Vikings to convert 50% of their 18 third-down attempts. It doesn’t shake our confidence in one of the best NFL defenses this season, even with Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs looming.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
- Previously: No. 4 in NFL defense rankings
Our attention on Sunday focused on whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles could bottle up Derrick Henry. With Jordan Davis back, creating one of the deepest interior defensive lines in the NFL, Philadelphia held Henry to 30 yards on 11 carries. An inability to stop the run was our only small concern with Philadelphia’s defense.
With Saquon Barkley limited, if he even plays at all, we won’t get a definitive answer regarding this run defense. While that takes a long-term question off the table, Philadelphia is in a great position to pressure Daniel Jones and force him into some bad decisions on Sunday.
2. Dallas Cowboys
- Previously: No.2 in NFL defense rankings
The Dallas Cowboys defense wasn’t flawless on Sunday Night Football, but Dan Quinn’s group flipped a switch late and it captures one of the best NFL defenses entering Week 14. In the past seven games, opponents are averaging just 169.9 pass ypg with a 33.7% third-down conversion rate and 28 sacks taken.
Now, we arrive at why the Dallas Cowboys are the No. 1 defense in Week 14 fantasy rankings. The Houston Texans offense is averaging just 173.5 passing yards and 75.2 rushing yards per game since Oct. 30. In that six-game stretch, Houston threw 10 interceptions and took 20 sacks. Guaranteeing a defensive touchdown feels wrong, but holding Houston to single-digit points with multiple turnovers and five-plus sacks, that is doable.
1. San Francisco 49ers
- Previously: No. 1 in NFL defense rankings
The San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the NFL and Week 13 is the latest piece of evidence. Facing a Miami Dolphins that looked unstoppable, San Francisco recovered from the 75-yard touchdown it allowed to open the game by holding Miami to 233 total yards and 10 points on its final 44 plays. The Dolphins’ offense failed to convert any of their nine third-down attempts and Nick Bosa (three sacks) eviscerated the offensive line.
Tampa Bay has faced trouble against much softer run defenses this season and its offensive line has looked overmatched at times. This is a matchup where San Francisco holds a massive advantage in the trenches. While Tom Brady might not get picked off, three sacks and low yardage totals is doable for San Francisco.
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Week 14 fantasy defense rankings
The following defense rankings are for fantasy football purposes and only apply to Week 14.
- Dallas Cowboys D/ST vs Houston Texans
- San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Philadelphia Eagles D/ST vs New York Giants
- Buffalo Bills D/ST vs New York Jets
- New England Patriots D/ST vs Arizona Cardinals
- Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs Pittsburgh Steelers
- Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST vs Baltimore Ravens
- Kansas City Chiefs D/ST vs Denver Broncos
- Tennessee Titans D/ST vs Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST vs San Francisco 49ers
- Los Angeles Rams D/ST vs Las Vegas Raiders
- New York Jets D/ST vs Buffalo Bills
- Cincinnati Bengals D/ST vs Cleveland Browns
- Carolina Panthers D/ST vs Seattle Seahawks
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.