NFL Week 7: Who's Hot, Who's Not on Defense
Heading into Week 7 of the NFL season, we aren't certain about much. Each week now we, as fans, have been waiting for the good teams to emerge and the bad teams to fade away and yet each week, it has yet to happen.
Teams will bounce back from a horrific loss by knocking off the former Super Bowl champs like Tampa Bay did. Teams like Oakland and Cincinnati will quietly keep winning while teams like Washington completely disappear in the blink of an eye.
The league has hardly had an identity through six weeks; regularly a staple of the NFL is its season-by-season identity. That being said, we are now in an apparent "quarterback friendly" era, and defense may not be at the same premium it once was but this is still the NFL and a couple of big sacks here and there couldn't hurt.
Here is the a look at who is hot and who is not on defense heading into Week 7.
Who's Hot: Minnesota Vikings Defensive End Jared Allen
Allen finds himself in a not-so-familiar situation this season up in Minnesota. Since 2008 when Allen signed with the Vikings, they have been, for the most part, a competitive team with a distinct personality.
They were a smash mouth team on both sides of the ball, the pace of game dictated by the offensive line or the defensive line. They prided themselves on stopping the run.
That reputation gradually changed with the aging of Pat Williams, and his eventual retirement in addition to the dinged-up state Pat's partner in crime, Kevin Williams, found himself in. Allen is now the unquestioned leader on the Vikings defense, and he is living up to it.
Allen leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks through six weeks, and his numbers have only improved on a week-by-week basis. He had 0.5 sacks in Week 1 against San Diego and since then he has recorded at least one sack in each game.
Allen also has two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered and an interception. Allen has plenty more cattle to rope in this season.
Who's Hot: Dallas Cowboys Linebacker DeMarcus Ware
Few players on the defensive side of the ball jump off the television screen quite like Ware does. His uncanny knack for timing snap counts, coupled with his quickness off the ball, make him a big-play threat on every snap.
Other than his rookie season in 2005, Ware has recorded double digits in sacks every year, most notably 2008 when he had 20 sacks. This year, through five games for America's team, Ware has seven sacks, two of them coming in big moments in this Sunday's valiant effort against New England.
The elite defenders in the NFL, in my eyes, should be looked at like the elite offensive threats. Quarterbacks can catch fire one week and carry it into the next week. That's what we have coming with Ware.
Ware and the Cowboys have the yet-to-win St. Louis Rams at home this coming weekend, and Ware should stay hot.
Who's Hot: New York Jets Cornerback Darrelle Revis
For a while, the two most uninviting islands in pop culture were Revis Island and the island from ABC's Lost. Lost is no longer on the air, and Revis Island had lost a little bit of its "mojo" through five weeks. Until Monday night.
Revis got back to doing what he does best against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night; he set the tome for the rest of his team with an unforgettable "pick six."
Revis did much more than take that ball and run it back 100 yards Monday night; he revitalized his team on both sides of the ball and saved his team's season.
The Jets roll out of Monday night with momentum, and so does Revis.
Who's Hot: San Francisco 49ers Defense
49ers' rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh has his usually mediocre team sitting at 5-1, first in the NFC West standings and has himself sitting atop the Coach of the Year standings as well. Praise has been given to Harbaugh, quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore plenty.
The team's defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, is emerging as the ace up Harbaugh's sleeve. He has the team clicking on all cylinders.
The 49ers are tied for third in the league with 17.0 team sacks and give up the fifth fewest total yards per game in the league as well. They have now won four games (three on the road) in a row against Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Detroit.
They shut down Cincinnati, showed their ability to make big plays against Philadelphia, completely obliterated Tampa Bay, and as recently as Sunday in Detroit came from behind to win on the back of their run game and their defense.
Half of their remaining games are against NFC West teams, which is nothing but good news for the team and its fans.
Who's Hot: Baltimore Ravens Defense
The Baltimore Ravens era of defense prowess is now in its 12th consecutive season. Ray Lewis set the tone in the mid 90's and the additions of Ed Reed in 2002 and Terrell Suggs in 2003 firmed up the vaunted defense we have all grown to love watching.
This season, the Ravens are the third-best run defense and seventh-best pass defense in addition to having the league's most fun defensive name, Haloti Ngata.
Minus the now inconspicuous Tennessee loss, Baltimore has shut down each team they have played thus far this season. They seemingly made mincemeat of Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez.
This past Sunday against Houston, they did their thing shutting down the Arian Foster-Ben Tate run game and limiting a Andre-Johnson-less Matt Schaub.
The Ravens "D" is back.
Who's Not: Green Bay Packers Secondary
The Packers may be 6-0 but their recipe for success has had one fatal flaw thus far. Their secondary, despite the big names and the bravado that go along with them, have yet to perform at a level they are capable of.
I'm sure cornerback Charles Woodson and free safety Nick Collins aren't happy with the numbers but that doesn't change the fact that well, they're still the numbers.
The Packers give up the third most passing yards per game at 299.7, almost a polar opposite of their fifth-best run defense (84 yards per game allowed).
Teams only score an average of 19 points against Green Bay, but that is because of tremendous depth defensively at all the skill positions, as well as their ability to make big plays at the blink of an eye.
Their secondary needs to tighten up and start to crack down on opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Who's Not: Detroit Lions Run Defense
The Lions find themselves in a position similar to that of Green Bay. They're a step below undefeated at 5-1, and until Sunday's home loss against San Francisco were 5-0. They have emerged this year as a definite playoff team and possibly trouble for their wild card match up in round one of the playoffs.
They have a good young quarterback, decent run game, outstanding receiving core, and they rush the passer better than almost anyone. The one thing they struggle to do, is stop the run.
This is a common trend with NFL defenses of late, they are either built to stop the run, or rush the pass, but rarely can they do both above average.
The Lions have been run on 25 times a game, for an average of 5.2 yards a carry. If you're giving up five yards a carry as a defense, big picture, you're in trouble.
The Lions blew a 10-point home lead this past Sunday against San Francisco, by not being able to stop the run. They need to shore up that line, fast.
Who's Not: Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Secondary
Sure, Drew Brees threw three interceptions this past Sunday against Tampa Bay, but New Orleans also had two of the five best receiving days in the league. Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston each caught seven passes for over 100 yards, in the same game.
Tampa Bay is a very hard to figure out 4-2 team. Especially when you factor in that 48-3 home drubbing they took at the hands of San Francisco.
Speaking of San Francisco, just two weeks ago, Alex Smith went into Tampa and threw only 19 passes but managed to hit seven different targets for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns.
It's a real sign of trouble when the 49ers (despite their 2011 success) have seven different guys catching passes on you.
Who's Not: Miami Dolphins Pass Defense
The Dolphins pass defense has gotten so poor that even Mark Sanchez threw for 200 yards, no interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 95.6 against them Monday night.
The Dolphins have the league's second worst pass defense, giving up over 300 yards in the air per game. They have been scored on through the air 11 times, and only come up with two interceptions. On average, opposing quarterbacks have a 107.34 quarterback rating against them.
They should have seen this coming, though, considering that home Monday night game against New England in Week 1 when Tom Brady threw for over 500 yards like it was nothing.
Who's Not: Indianapolis Colts Defensive End Robert Mathis
The 30-year-old Mathis finds himself in uncharted waters this season. His team, always an AFC South favorite (times an overall AFC favorite) is missing star quarterback Peyton Manning and in turn essentially missing their everything.
The Colts defense, for as long as Peyton has been around, has been one of the league's best. They were built to play with the lead (via Peyton Manning) and in turn, built to rush the passer.
This year, as all football fans know, the Colts are not very familiar with "the lead.. As such, teams have been running the ball and burning the clock, negating Mathis' specialty.
It shows in his season stats. He has just 12 tackles and 3.5 sacks through six weeks and with Pittsburgh coming up this Sunday, I don't see him breaking out anytime soon.