Defense is the best Defense
Last time we talked it was about the defenses on the AFC side of the bracket. I will tell you now that with one exception I consider the AFC the weaker defensive conference. It’s almost as if some teams just use their defenses because someone has to play while their offense rests. That isn’t the case in the NFC bracket. Teams use their defenses to win
National Football Conference
6. Philadelphia Eagles
The defending world champions got in the tournament by somehow winning 5 of their last 6. This defense is not the same as last year. The defensive back meeting room must be a ghost town with all the injuries they’ve had. Still, this is the most disruptive defense left playing. Yes, the most disruptive. 27.56% of the plays ran against this defense ended as tackles for loss, hits on the quarterback, sacks or interceptions. You can put up points against the Eagles but it isn’t as easy as some
5. New Orleans Saints
Saints led the NFC in points scored (through 15 games) and led in a lot of their games. This resulted in them seeing a lot of passes and they finished 26th in yards allowed per attempt at 6.8. The run defense was stout though allowing only 3.7 yards per attempt. That was good enough to tie the Dallas Cowboys for 2nd best in the NFL. While teams had success in the air against the Saints they paid a price. The 48 sacks this defense had was third in the league. I ranked them here because they couldn’t get off the field on third downs. The 40.9% success rate of their opponents was 25th in the NFL.
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4. Los Angeles Rams
Say this with me and no disrespect to the Kahlil Mack fans in the crowd. “Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in football.” Doesn’t that feel better? It feels a lot better than a lot of opposing quarterbacks have felt after facing Mr. Donald. His 20.5 sacks tie him with Lawrence Taylor and leave him half a sack behind Reggie White. That’s some good company. The Rams have talent on defense. They were 11th in yards allowed per play and 5th in takeaways. They were 13th in stopping opponents on third down. There is a lot to like here. However, they also gave up 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. That finished 31st in the NFL.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The legion of boom is a part of NFL history. This defense is very different but shares some of the same traits . They know how to get off the field. They allowed just 36.1% of third downs to be converted. That’s 5th best in the NFL. Only 49% of red zone trips by opponents finished with touchdowns. That was also 5th in the league. When it matters they make plays. In Bobby Wagner, they have a player that can change games. You can attack them on the ground though. They ranked last in the league in yards allowed per rushing attempt.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas is a throwback. I mean that as a compliment. They run the football and they stop the run. The 3.7 yards per rush was second in the NFL. This is another defense that does many things well. 15th in tackles for loss, 14th in sacks, 7th in quarterback hits, 6th in interceptions. Solid all the way through. Only one team cracked 30 points on them all season and that was the New York Giants in the last game of the year. I have to wonder how focused the defense was. When it is focused it does a nice job of making teams one dimensional. Only 22 of the 44 trips opponents made to the red zone resulted in touchdowns. That’s 7th best in the NFL.
1. Chicago Bears
The Bears went from being a very good defense to downright scary when Kahlil Mack moved to the Midwest. He is as versatile as any and is “one of those guys” that offensive coordinators have to included in their scheme. This defense is so much more than Mack though. It is the number one defense in these categories: Points allowed to opponents, takeaways, 1st downs allowed, Interceptions, Yards allowed per pass attempt, rushing yards allowed…You get the picture. They were a top 10 defense in every single metric I looked at including 3rd down stops (4th in the league) and red zone trips resulting in touchdowns (also 4th in the league) They may not be the Monsters of the Midway but as an offense I wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley.