Defense Wins Championships

We’ve all heard that. Offenses put butts in the seats but defenses put hardware on the mantel. I think this theory still carries weight even in the pass-happy, pinball machine scoring NFL today. This year’s crop of Lombardi trophy hopefuls will put that to the test though with some outstanding offenses mixed in. Overall power rankings are a story for another time. Let’s rank the defenses from worst to first in each conference and see if we get any surprises. AFC here we go NFC will get you tomorrow.

American Football Conference

6. Kansas City Chiefs

It’s no secret that the Chiefs have a dynamic offense with Pat Mahomes operating the controls. Did you know that they are second in the league in sacks with 49? (Trailing only Minnesota) They were fourth in hits on the QB with 103. This defense can pressure the passer. Yes, some of that is opportunity. They had the second most plays ran against them. The dark spots on this defense far out way the bright ones.

5. New England Patriots

There always seem to be chinks in the Patriots armor and they never seem to matter. The Patriots are not an aggressive defense. They ranked 30th in sacks and 31st in tackles for loss. They are able to pressure the opposition QB when needed. Their 93 Hits on quarterbacks were 10th in the league and 18 interceptions when was good enough for third. They don’t have the firepower to dominate an offense the entire game but when it matters they’ll be a tough out.

4. Houston Texans

This defense has name recognition. JJ Watt, Whitney Merciless, Jadeveon Clowney, Tyrann Mathieu to name a few and I think Justin Reid could develop into a great free safety. Put them all together and what have you got? A pretty vanilla defense really. They do a lot of things well. Ranked 11th in both sacks and tackles for loss and 8th in picking off opponents. They led the NFL in yards per rush giving up 3.5 per attempt. Why not more love? Here’s why they allowed the 2nd fewest trips to the red zone among playoff teams but allowed the 2nd most touchdowns to opponents. It’s the playoffs, teams will get to the red zone.

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3. Los Angeles Chargers

I admit that before the season I had Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram penciled in to reek havoc on offenses and get a bakers dozen sacks each. Didn’t happen, Ingram had 7 and Bosa 5.5 sacks. I will note that Bosa only played in 7 games. The Chargers are similar to the Texans in that they do lots of things well on defense but don’t have that one thing they are outstanding at to hang their helmet on. I gave them the nod over the Texans here because of red zone numbers. Opponents only found the end-zone 52.1% of the time. (vs 72.5% for the Texans).

2. Indianapolis Colts

Faith is a powerful thing. Frank Reich and Matt Eberflus have this defense believing it can stop anybody. That’s evidenced by them winning 9 out of the last 10. In the single game they lost the defense gave up 6 points. You can’t win in the NFL if you can’t score more than 6 points. They were 4th in yards allowed per rush at a paltry 3.9. That doesn’t tell the whole story. Look at these numbers: 79, 89, 112, 83, 93. Those are the rushing yards allowed the past five games. The one game over a hundred yards? That was to the Dallas Cowboys and the top ground gainer in the league Ezekiel Elliott.

1. Baltimore Ravens

Different driver same defensive steamroller. Dean Pees moved on but Don Martindale the new coordinator didn’t miss a beat. The Ravens get my vote as the defense I’d least like to scheme against. Number 1 in total yards allowed and yards per play. They were 3rd in first downs allowed. The only category they weren’t a top 10 defense was turnovers (18th). This is a nasty suffocating defense. They’ve won 6 of the last 7 with the only loss coming in overtime to the high powered Kansas City.

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