Ranking the San Francisco 49ers and NFL's 5 Best Defenses

Jesse ReedCorrespondent INovember 17, 2011

Ranking the San Francisco 49ers and NFL's 5 Best Defenses

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    There has been a lot of discussion this season about where the San Francisco 49ers defense ranks among the elite in the NFL. As the weeks roll by, we have seen the 49ers consistently perform at an elite level.

    In determining where they rank, I weighed a few stats heavier than some others. 

    I value points scored much higher than yards allowed, especially in the passing game. The main things I looked at to rank the teams on this list were: points per game, forced fumbles, interceptions, sacks and rushing yards.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers field an elite defense every single year it seems. With players like Troy Polamalu and Lamar Woodley on their roster, it's almost a given. But something has been missing this season.

    Pittsburgh is shy in the turnover department this season. They are outside the top 10 in both forced fumbles and interceptions. They more than make up for it, though in veteran savvy and tough-nosed football.

     

    The Stats

    • fourth in scoring defense with 17.9 per game
    • 23rd in forced fumbles with six
    • 30th in interceptions with only four
    • 10th in sacks with 23
    • seventh in yards rushing with 96.9 per game

4. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Cincinnati Bengals defense is as hard and cold as a slab of granite in the Sierra Nevada. In every way but one, they are a balanced and efficient unit.

    The Bengals feature two former 49ers players, Manny Lawson and Nate Clements. That should tell you all you need to know about how good San Francisco's defense is. These two have been important cogs in the machine that is giving a rookie quarterback the opportunity to win close games.

    The only thing the Bengals don't do is force interceptions. They would like to have kept Jonathan Joseph, I imagine. 

     

    The Stats

    • fifth in scoring defense at 18.2 points per game
    • second in forced fumbles with 12
    • 30th in interceptions with only four
    • eighth in sacks with 24
    • second in rushing yards allowed with 86.8

3. Houston Texans

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    Wade Phillips has put together quite a fine unit over there in Houston. I imagine that if Mario Williams hadn't torn his pectoral muscle, the Texans might be sitting pretty at the top of this list.

    The offseason addition of cornerback Jonathan Joseph has been one of the keys to the Texans' success. He and his companion on the other side of the field, Jason Allen, both have three interceptions this year.

    Ranking in the top five in four of my five categories, the Texans are dominant in all areas.

     

    The Stats

    • second in scoring defense with 16.6 per game
    • 17th in forced fumbles with seven
    • third in interceptions with 14
    • second in sacks with 28
    • fifth in rushing yards with 91.3 per game

2. Baltimore Ravens

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    No matter how inconsistent Joe Flacco can be, somehow the Ravens manage to dominate on the defensive side of the ball every single year. Nobody can figure out how they do it.

    OK, maybe I kid.

    Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs—they might have something to do with it. 

    The Ravens are in the top four in four out of five of my categories.

     

    The Stats

    • third in scoring defense with 16.9 per game
    • first in forced fumbles with 15 (that is a lot)
    • 18th in interceptions with eight
    • third in sacks with 27
    • fourth in rushing defense with 90.3 per game

1. San Francisco 49ers

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    The 49ers are the No. 1 defense in the NFL, bar none. They don't let teams score, and they stuff the run. Led by all-universe linebacker Patrick Willis, the 49ers defense has a tendency to swallow up opposing running backs and crap them out the other end, sometimes injuring them in the process. 

    The incredible thing about this unit is that many of them are among the top five in their position. Justin Smith is the best 3-4 defensive end in all the NFL. Dashon Goldson, Carlos Rogers, NaVorro Bowman and Isaac Sopoaga are all elite individual players that are playing well together. 

    This many elite players on one team, playing team ball, is why the 49ers are the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

     

    The Stats

    • first in scoring defense with 15.3 per game
    • third in forced fumbles with 12
    • ninth in interceptions with 12
    • 10th in sacks with 23
    • first in rushing defense with 73.2 allowed per game.

     

    Honorable Mentions