2011 NFL Playoffs: Ranking The Best Remaining Defenses

Jason KarlAnalyst IIIJanuary 15, 2011

2011 NFL Playoffs: Ranking The Best Remaining Defenses

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    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 17: Justin Forsett #20 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by (L-R) Pia Tinoisamoa #59, Julius Peppers #90 and Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Be
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Defense wins championships. I hate this adage, mainly because my Philadelphia Eagles don't know what it is.

    The final eight teams all have great defenses, filled with defensive studs, and turnover machines. Most of the games from here out will be defensive battles.

    If you notice something, it is that the 3-4 defense is the way to go. Five of the eight teams run that type of scheme, and all five teams have elite defenses.

    Let's get this party started:

8. Seattle Seahwaks

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 02:  Safety Earl Thomas #29 and cornerback Marcus Brown #32 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate a defensive play against the St. Louis Rams during their game at Qwest Field on January 2, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Gre
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    I really hate putting the Seahawks last, but I need to.

    Young guys like Earl Thomas, Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu lead the young but much-improving defense.

    Thomas especially is making a name for himself, as he has shown why he was the best safety in last year's draft class.

    The fact of the matter is, though, if Marshawn Lynch does not pull out the miracle run, the Saints would have most likely won the game because they had no problem at all throwing against the Seahawks secondary.

    After the Seahawks, comes the difficult decisions on ranking the defenses.

7. New England Patriots

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  (L-R) Jermaine Cunningham #96 and Jarrad Page #44 of the New England Patriots celebrate a defensive stop in the second quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Patriots are the best team in football. They have an unstoppable offense and a defense that forces turnovers. In fact, they were second in takeaways with 38, behind only the New York Giants.

    Despite forcing so many turnovers, the one thing that will keep the Patriots from winning it all is their inconsistent defense.

    They beat up on bad offenses, which inflates their stats, but in reality, the defense can be rushed on and passed on.

    New England gave up 367 yards per game and 21.8 points per game.

6. Atlanta Falcons

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 24:  Quarterback Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals is sacked by John Abraham #55 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on October 24, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This may come to a shock to Falcons fans, but with the remaining defenses, it should not.

    The Falcons have a sack artist in John Abraham, and a solid defense all around. They have many underrated guys, almost no one talks about in linebacker Curtis Lofton and cornerback Brent Grimes.

    That being said, the Falcons also have a solid rush defense lead by Jonathan Babineaux.

    The Falcons had 31 turnovers, but that is behind some of the other teams on the list.

    Atlanta gave up 332 yards per game and 17.8 points per game.

5. Baltimore Ravens

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 09:  Linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens pauses during a break in the action against the Kansas City Chiefs during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Mis
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Ravens still have an elite defense, especially led by Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed.

    The Ravens force defense and Ray Lewis certainly intimidates opponents with his bone-crushing hits and defensive plays.

    A guy who makes the Ravens run defense stout is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who needs to be recognized around the league as a top 3 defensive tackle.

    Baltimore gave up an average of 318 yards per game and 17.8 points per game.

4. New York Jets

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on during warm ups against the Indianapolis Colts during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Say what you want about Rex Ryan, but he is an elite defensive play caller.

    Last Saturday, his defense shut down Peyton Manning and the Colts to only 16 points. Ryan confused Manning and knew when to send the blitz and when not to.

    For the Jets to go to the Super Bowl, the Jets defense needs to play like they did against the Colts.

    Darelle Revis, the second-best cornerback in football, can literally shut out the No. 1 target on the opposing team, like he did with Reggie Wayne.

    The Jets gave up 291 yards per game and 17 points per game.

3. Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets looks for a receiver as Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears rushes at Soldier Field on December 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Jets 38-34. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Led by Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, the Bears have one of the best defenses in years.

    Peppers give this defense a sack artist who terrorizes other quarterbacks and is a pain to gameplan against.

    Urlacher and Briggs force a combined 15 fumbles, showing they are two of the best at their position.

    The Bears give up 314 yards per game and 17.6 points per game.

2. Green Bay Packers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers sacks Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Clay Matthews is the best pass rusher in the league; there I said it.

    He is as fast as most safeties and as strong as most defensive tackles. This athletic phenom cannot be stopped, even with a double team; he just never quits on the play.

    But the real key to the Packers defense is Charles Woodson. Every defensive coordinator must gameplan against him because he plays all the positions on the field on the defensive side of the ball, except the defensive line.

    He blitzes from the corner spot, or he may come in as a linebacker.

    Not to mention the Packers have the best defensive coordinator in the league in Dom Capers.

    The Packers defense gives up 309 yards per game and 16.9 points per game.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 02:  Defenders Larry Foote #50, Lawrence Timmons #94 and James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackle tailback Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (P
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Can anyone really question the Steelers at No. 1 on this list?

    They have defensive stars across the entire defense, but the key to this defense is Troy Polamalu.

    Without him, the Steelers defense is good, but without him, they are elite and the best in all of football. Polamalu is a beast against the run, and is a playmaker at the safety on the field.

    He is rangy and can cover the entire field. How this guy was not a top 5 pick is beyond me.

    The Steelers give up 277 yards per game and 17 points per game.