Lions Defense Is Best in the NFC, but What Will the 2nd Half Hold?

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Lions Defense Is Best in the NFC, but What Will the 2nd Half Hold?
Leon Halip/Getty Images

In my Week 8 Aggregate Defensive Rankings, the Detroit Lions' defense has moved from number seven to number two behind the Baltimore Ravens

Led by Ndamukong Suh, the Lions have a ferocious front four that should be dominant for years to come. 

But we all knew that. 

What we don't know is what to expect for the second half of the season.  We definitely saw some chinks in the armor in losses to the 49ers and Falcons.  What we'll find out is how this young core will respond when their opponents aren't intimidated. 

With road tests against the Bears and Packers and the Thanksgiving Day tilt with the Packers, we won't have to wait too long to find out. 

How will the "Goodell Effect' impact Ndamukong Suh?  If he tones down his aggressiveness, will he be the same unstoppable force?  If he doesn't tone it down, will he see an increased number of flags? 

One area of concern is the Lions' rushing defense.  Although they are ranked second overall in the ADR, the Lions are ranked 30th in the league against the run.  Not surprisingly, their two losses came against teams with power running games.  That must be corrected in the second half if the Lions want to live up to their lofty expectations. 

Either way, the Detroit Lions will be a very interesting watch as we enter the second half of the season. 

Here are the Week 8 Aggregate Defensive Rankings:

2011 NFL Aggregate Defensive Rankings ( through Week 8)
 
               
 
Rank Team ADR Total Pts. / Gm Sacks Turn-
overs
3rd Down Conversion % Total Yards / Gm NFL Ranking
1 Baltimore Ravens 11.9 15.7 25 16 29.0% 263.3 1
2 Detroit Lions 16.8 18.4 24 18 29.0% 331.2 12
3 San Francisco 49ers 18.3 15.3 21 16 33.0% 329.1 10
4 New York Jets 19.6 21.7 18 16 32.0% 323.6 8
5 Houston Texans 19.6 18.1 20 14 32.0% 286.8 3
6 New York Giants 19.9 23.4 26 14 35.0% 355.3 16
7 Philadelphia Eagles 22.4 21.7 22 10 34.0% 330.6 11
8 Washington Redskins 22.6 19.9 23 10 34.0% 343.6 14
9 Cincinnati Bengals 22.7 17.6 18 11 35.0% 297.4 4
10 Cleveland Browns 26.0 20.0 18 8 35.0% 299.1 5
11 Dallas Cowboys 27.7 23.1 21 12 44.0% 328.3 9
12 Buffalo Bills  29.9 21.0 13 18 38.0% 385.9 26
13 Green Bay Packers 32.0 20.1 17 16 43.0% 391.0 28
14 Chicago Bears 32.0 21.4 15 12 36.0% 380.6 23
15 Minnesota Vikings 32.4 24.9 24 11 43.0% 368.0 21
16 Pittsburgh Steelers  32.7 17.4 20 3 38.0% 270.8 2
17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33.7 24.1 12 13 34.0% 391.1 29
18 Jacksonville Jaguars 34.5 20.4 16 10 40.0% 307.0 7
19 Seattle Seahawks 34.7 23.1 13 10 37.0% 340.0 13
20 New Orleans Saints 35.5 23.6 19 8 38.0% 346.0 15
21 Denver Broncos 36.0 28.6 18 8 40.0% 367.4 20
22 San Diego Chargers 36.6 22.7 13 11 45.0% 303.6 6
23 Arizona Cardinals 37.5 26.1 16 9 38.0% 390.7 26
24 Atlanta Falcons 38.8 23.3 13 13 44.0% 364.0 19
25 Oakland Raiders 39.5 25.4 16 11 44.0% 382.9 25
26 Kansas City Chiefs 40.6 24.3 9 15 41.0% 373.6 22
27 St. Louis Rams 41.9 27.4 17 9 43.0% 392.1 30
28 New England Patriots 45.2 22.9 15 12 46.0% 424.1 32
29 Tennessee Titans  46.4 20.7 13 10 46.0% 363.9 18
30 Carolina Panthers 48.3 25.9 16 9 46.0% 358.8 17
31 Miami Dolphins 51.9 23.7 15 4 41.0% 380.6 23
32 Indianapolis Colts 75.9 31.5 12 7 49.0% 402.9 31
               
                 

Larry French/Getty Images

 

Things to take notice of:

The gap at the top is widening.  The Baltimore Ravens are the gold standard as far as defenses in the NFL go, and it's not close right now. 

They allowed just 207 yards of total offense against the Cardinals on Sunday.  It's borderline criminal that they were facing a 24-3 deficit at one point in the second quarter.  It's time for Joe Flacco and the offense to step it up big-time on Sunday against the Steelers. 

Needless to say, the Ravens will not be as fortunate if they dig that kind of hole in the Steel City.

Speaking of the Steelers, how are they ranked only number 16 in the ADR?  Well, even though the Steelers' defense is ranked second in the NFL statistically, this statistical analysis takes into account several factors across the board, one of which is turnovers generated. 

Pittsburgh has been alarmingly deficient in that area.  If Ben Roethlisberger and the offense become more efficient in the red zone and continue to be as aggressive in the passing game as they were on Sunday against the Patriots, they should allow that defense to play downhill much more.  That should give the Steelers more takeaway opportunities.  As usual, their defense is rock-solid everywhere else.

Trending upward:  The Philadelphia Eagles

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Don't look now, but the Eagles have put together two solid defensive performances in a row.  They've moved from 10 to seven in this week's ADR.  Maybe defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's system is starting to take shape. 

We're starting to see why the Eagles are going to be so difficult to beat in the upcoming weeks.  With the elimination of turnovers, Michael Vick and the high-flying Eagles offense have been deadly efficient (especially early in games).  This is causing opposing offenses to have to throw the ball to keep up, and Philly has the corners to make that a risky proposition.

Trending downward:  The Washington Redskins

There are ominous signs in the nation's capital.  For the third week in a row, the Redskins' defense has been gashed on the ground.  Their pass defense hasn't been very good either.  They've dropped from four to eight in the ADR. 

I hesitate to use the word "quit," but the talent level on this defense is much better than what they've showed over the last few weeks.  Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's message doesn't seem to be getting through.  These dispirited efforts certainly indicate that there's a disconnect somewhere.

Biggest move of the week:  The Buffalo Bills

Yes, I've questioned the legitimacy of the Buffalo Bills' defense over the last few weeks, but credit must be given where it's due.  The Bills' D has jumped 14 spots, from 26 to 12 this week.  Buffalo came into Sunday's game against Redskins having amassed just four sacks on the season.  They definitely changed that by sacking John Beck nine times.  They also allowed just 178 yards of total offense against the Skins. 

The question remains however—were the Bills that good on defense, or were the Redskins just incompetent?  I'm probably going to lean toward the latter, but the Bills can put to rest a lot of questions this Sunday against the Jets in a huge AFC East matchup.

See you next week with a brand new ADR!

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