NFL Power Rankings Week 3: Ranking All 32 Defenses in the NFL
As we enter Week 3 of the season, we've seen just enough to make a power rankings list of all 32 defenses in the NFL.
While some defenses have been a pleasant surprise like the Houston Texans, others like the Kansas City Chiefs have been a disappointment thus far.
What makes a defense great is its ability to stop the run, so this list is largely based upon how good the team's run defense is.
So without further ado, here's the power rankings for all 32 defenses in the NFL.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
There isn't another team in the NFL that is in more disarray than the Kansas City Chiefs. They have lost two young and talented players on both sides of the ball, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry. To make matters worse, both are likely out for the entire season.
On the defensive front, they have allowed a league-high 89 points in two games, which alone is enough to deem them as the worst defensive team in the NFL.
31. Miami Dolphins
It has been a rough start of the season for the Miami Dolphins defense. Their first two games have been against the high-powered offenses of the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans.
Nonetheless, their defense has allowed an average of 483.5 yards per game, which is high enough to rank them last in that respective category.
The Dolphins' schedule doesn't get any easier as well. They will play the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers the next two weeks, so don't expect them to be making a climb up the power rankings any time soon.
30. Carolina Panthers
It's tough for any defense to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. The Carolina Panthers defense managed to keep him off of the field for most of the first half of last week's game, but Rodgers finally found his groove and the rest was history.
Besides that first half against the Packers, the Panthers defense hasn't looked all that great. They have allowed an average of nearly 300 yards passing per game and have only sacked the opposing quarterback three times.
To make matters worse, they have also lost their Pro Bowl linebacker John Beason for the year. It's tough for any team to overcome the loss of the best player on its roster.
29. Indianapolis Colts
What determines a good defense is how well it can stop the run.
The Indianapolis Colts defense has done no such thing this year and has allowed an average of 136.5 yards a game on the ground.
The Colts must be missing Bob Sanders right about now, who was instrumental in the run support from the safety position.
28. St. Louis Rams
If run defense measures how good a defense actually is, then the St. Louis Rams are lucky to be ranked at 28.
They have allowed an average of 177.5 yards per game, which is more than 20 yards more than the next worst team.
Baltimore Raven Ray Rice is probably licking his chops at the thought of running all over the Rams defense this upcoming Sunday.
27. Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders defense faltered last weekend as it allowed 223 yards rushing to the less-than-impressive Buffalo Bills running game.
They have also allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL with 58 in two games.
With Nnamdi Asomugha now out of the mix, the Raiders defense will no longer have the luxury of eliminating the opponent's top receiving threat for the entire game. This will only continue to hurt the Raiders defense in all aspects of the game.
26. Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons defense simply hasn't looked all that great thus far.
They had a shaky start against the Chicago Bears in the opening week and allowed Jay Cutler to pick them apart in the passing game. They then proceeded to allow 447 total yards to the Philadelphia Eagles offense.
The Falcons have a myriad of talented players on their defense, so expect them to fly up the power rankings at some point in the season.
25. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals were never known for their defense, and it's the same story again in 2011.
The Cardinals defense has allowed an average of 343 yards passing, which is the third-most in the NFL. They also allowed a rookie quarterback in Cam Newton to throw for over 400 yards in his first career game in the NFL
Luckily for the Cardinals defense, it will be matching up against the Seattle Seahawks, who arguably have the worst offense in the NFL.
24. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have a glaring hole on defense, and it is their ability to stop the run.
The Broncos moved ex-linebacker Elvis Dumervil to defensive end, but he has yet to even make an appearance on the field due to injuries.
Moreover, recently drafted Von Miller was brought in to predominantly rush the passer, so it's unrealistic to expect the rookie to make an impact in stopping the run.
Since the defense lacks an impact player at the defensive tackle position, it is likely that the Broncos run defense will continue to struggle for the remainder of the year.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of stopping the run, that's exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense doesn't do.
The Buccaneers defense has allowed an average of 156 yards per game on the ground, and its struggles will likely continue as it takes on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3.
Their pass defense isn't anything special either, ranking 19th in the NFL.
22. Buffalo Bills
After a 2-0 start, the Buffalo Bills could very well be the surprise team in 2011.
However, wins against the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders aren't necessarily something to write home about. Their first challenge will be attempting to stop Tom Brady, which something that no NFL team has done recently.
Buffalo's 21st-ranked defense could plummet if Brady comes into Buffalo and continues his recent trend of success.
21. Minnesota Vikings
Now that the "Williams wall" has been disbanded, the defensive line of the Minnesota Vikings just isn't the same anymore.
Their defense is getting old, and they are quickly losing their reputation as one of the league's premier defenses.
20. Cincinnati Bengals
Even though the Cincinnati Bengals currently have the eighth-ranked pass defense in the NFL, that doesn't necessarily tell the whole story.
The Bengals secondary has gone up against the unimpressive passing attacks of the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos, so it's safe to say that it hasn't truly been tested yet.
However, with a young core of talented players like Carlos Dunlap, Leon Hall and Rey Maualuga, don't be surprised to see this defensive unit progress throughout the year.
19. San Diego Chargers
For whatever reason, the San Diego Chargers are not the same defense from a year ago.
Despite the fact that the Chargers defense held Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards rushing in the first game of the season, they still have the 26th-ranked run defense in the NFL by allowing an average of 126.5 yards per game.
Their pass defense also ranks 16th in the NFL, but that number can be a bit misleading since Tom Brady had something to do with it.
Either way, last year's top-ranked defense needs to step it up if the Chargers want to take the AFC West, which is currently up for grabs.
18. Cleveland Browns
Don't look now, but the Cleveland Browns currently have the fifth-best defense in the NFL when it comes to total yardage.
Joe Haden and T.J. Ward lead a solid Browns secondary that also ranks second in the league by allowing 165.5 yards per game.
So why are the Browns ranked only 16th on this list?
It's because they played the Cincinnati Bengals and the Peyton Manning-less Colts in their first two games.
17. New England Patriots
If it wasn't for Tom Brady, there is no way the New England Patriots would be 2-0 with the way their defense has played.
The Patriots defense has allowed an average of 381 yards per game through the air. I understand that is partly due to facing Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers offense, but there is no excuse for surrendering 419 passing yards to Chad Henne and the Miami Dolphins offense.
If their defense wasn't oozing with talent, the Patriots wouldn't have even cracked the top 20 on this list.
16. Washington Redskins
With a defense that is loaded with talent, the Washington Redskins are 2-0 and currently sit atop the NFC East.
The Redskins' 26th-ranked rush defense from 2010 has been vastly improved. They are now allowing an average of 84 yards per game on the ground. Considering one of those games was against the New York Giants, that is actually quite impressive.
15. Seattle Seahawks
Despite being 0-2 and having one of the worst offenses in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks are quietly having a respectable defensive year thus far.
Despite giving up 33 points to the 49ers in week one, 26 of those points came on kick returns and field goals.
Their 12th-ranked pass defense and 15th-ranked run defense means the Seahawks defense isn't the reason they aren't winning any games.
14. New York Giants
The New York Giants defense is known for its pass-rush, and it certainly has plenty of it.
With Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck chasing after the quarterback every play, the return of injured Osi Umenyiora makes the Giants defensive line one of the scariest in the NFL.
Their third-ranked run defense in the NFL certainly drives that point home.
13. New Orleans Saints
What a tough way to start the year.
The New Orleans Saints opened their season against the Green Bay Packers, then traveled back home to take on the Chicago Bears.
Next up on their schedule, the Houston Texans.
The Saints have a very solid defense, but in no way is it one of the best in the NFL.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles defense is lucky to be ranked this high in the power rankings.
Dream team or not, the Eagles won't go far this year if they can't stop the run. With the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL, run-first teams like the New York Giants pose a threat to the Eagles defense.
However, what does have them ranked remotely high is their pass defense, which ranks fifth in the league. Even that number seems a little low for a defensive backfield consisting of Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel.
11. Green Bay Packers
It's hard to leave the Green Bay Packers defense out of the top 10, but their pass defense is literally the worst in the NFL.
They have given up an average of 400 yards through the air in the first two games, which is unlike the Packers defense that we know. To make matters worse for the defending Superbowl champs, they lost safety Nick Collins for the year with a neck injury.
If it wasn't for their reputation and sixth-ranked run defense, the Packers might not have even cracked the top 20 on this list.
10. San Francisco 49ers
If it wasn't for a few big plays given up to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, the 49ers could have one of the best defenses in the NFL.
What stands out about the 49ers is their run defense, which could be the toughest to run against in the NFL.
Led by standout linebacker Patrick Willis, the 49ers defense has allowed an average of 54.5 yards per game, which is good enough to rank them first in the NFL.
Once cornerback Shawntae Spencer and safety Dashon Goldson return from their injuries, the 49ers 25th-ranked pass defense should see some improvement.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Who would've thought that the Jacksonville Jaguars would have a top 10 defense in the NFL?
Even though they gave up 32 points to the New York Jets last Sunday, they held the Jets offense to only 283 yards of total offense. The Jaguars also intercepted quarterback Mark Sanchez twice and held the Jets to only 101 yards rushing.
All together, the Jaguars have the fifth-ranked run defense in the NFL by allowing an average of 72 yards rushing per game.
The Jaguars might not be a flashy defense, but they just find a way to get it done.
8. Chicago Bears
Don't let the defensive statistics fool you. The Chicago Bears are always known for their defense, and this year is certainly no exception.
Their defense shut down the high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense in Week 1, but then faltered against the Saints last Sunday. However, letting the Saints score 30 on your defense while playing in New Orleans is nothing to be disappointed about.
The Bears defense can also see a lengthy drop in the power rankings next week when they take on the Green Bay Packers at home. It will be a pivotal matchup that could decide whether or not the Bears defense is a contender or a pretender.
7. Baltimore Ravens
When you think of defenses in the NFL, one of the first that might come to mind is the Baltimore Ravens defense.
With Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed constantly looking for someone to hit, the Ravens are always considered to be one of the top defenses in the NFL.
And to the surprise of many, the Ravens defense wasted no time in showing the world that it is still a force to be reckoned with. They held the Pittsburgh Steelers offense to only seven points and forced just as many turnovers.
If it wasn't for last weekend's meltdown at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens would be ranked much higher on this list.
6. Dallas Cowboys
With new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan at the helm, the Dallas Cowboys defense could suddenly become one of the top dogs in the NFL. They have allowed an average of 283 yards of total offense in the first two games, along with compiling a league-leading 10 quarterback sacks.
After being sacked six times last weekend, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith will certainly be having nightmares of DeMarcus Ware and company.
While their pass defense is only a middle-of-the-pack squad, their run defense has only allowed an average of 59.5 yards per game, which is good enough to rank them second in the NFL.
5. Tennessee Titans
To the surprise of many, the Tennessee Titans defense has been impressive in the early goings of 2011.
Their pass defense is currently ranked third in the NFL by allowing a measly 172 yards per game. Granted, their first game was against the less-than-impressive Jaguars offense, but they then proceeded to shut down the balanced offensive attack of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Titans will also have the opportunity to build on their recent success during the next two weeks of the season. They will be matching up against the subpar passing attacks of the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Any defense that has both Troy Polamalu and James Harrison roaming the field will be ranked in the top five year in, year out.
It also helps when you have "role players" like Lamar Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Ike Taylor, who would all probably be considered stars on many other defense in the NFL.
Despite the Steelers' Week 1 hiccup against the Baltimore Ravens, the defense rebounded gracefully by shutting out the Seattle Seahawks in a Superbowl XL rematch. Even though it was against the Seahawks, shutting out another team in the NFL is truly quite a feat, anyway you look at it.
3. New York Jets
The New York Jets defense is picking up right where it left off in 2010.
After having the third-ranked defense in the NFL last season, the Jets have only allowed a total of 27 points to the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars. In their game against Jacksonville, the Jets defense picked of quarterback Luke McCown four times and only allowed 203 yards of total offense the entire game.
Their recent success will likely continue when they take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 3.
2. Detroit Lions
Even I am surprised to see the Detroit Lions defense ranked so high. However, they are worthy of such an honor since their defense has been downright filthy this year.
In two games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Lions defense has allowed a total of 23 points. Their defensive success could very well carry into the middle of the season since the first offensive juggernaut they play in 2011 will be the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7.
The Lions have one of the best defensive lines in all of football. They are consistently able to supply a pass-rush, even when they only bring a four-man rush.
If a defense is able to do that on a regular basis, opposing offenses will struggle in the passing game when seven men drop back into coverage.
1. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans had one goal this offseason, and that was to improve their defense. One way to do that is to bolster the pass-rush, which is exactly what the Texans did by drafting rookie J.J. Watt in the first round. Then, they moved Mario Williams to outside linebacker.
The Texans also upgraded the cornerback position by signing free agent cornerback Jonathan Joseph to a hefty deal.
All of these moves are certainly paying dividends, as the Texans now have the top-ranked defense in 2011. They have allowed an average of only 271 total yards a game and given up a total of 20 points in the first two games this season. Both of those statistics are good enough to rank them first in the league.
I'd say that's worthy of the top spot in the defensive power rankings.