CHISportsNation

The phrase “Defense wins championships,” may not have quite the same impact it once did, but defense remains an integral part of any championship team. We have still seen in multiple Super Bowls in the past decade, a top tier defense defeating a top-tier offense (Patriots over Rams, Buccaneers over Chiefs, Broncos over Panthers, Seahawks over Broncos). With that said, which teams’ defense are looking like the elite? And which ones will hinder a potential top-tier offense?

Tier 1: Best of the Best

1- Buffalo Bills

2- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3- Los Angeles Chargers

4- New Orleans Saints

5- Baltimore Ravens

6- Los Angeles Rams

7- San Francisco 49ers

8- Miami Dolphins

Any of these teams could end up as the top defense of 2022, and I would not be surprised. The Bills had the 2nd-ranked defense last season, now they add elite EDGE rusher Von Miller and first-round CB Kaiir Elam at their two main weak spots. The Buccaneers defense retains most of its core from the team that shut down the Chiefs in the Super Bowl in 2021, and upgrades from Ndomukong Suh to Akiem Hicks. The Chargers defense last year was good against the pass but struggled against the run. To help with the latter issue they made a splash, picking up Khalil Mack, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Austin Johnson, and to reinforce the secondary they got JC Jackson and Bryce Callahan. They are talented across the board. The Saints defense last season shut down Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 9-0 in Tampa Bay. They lose CJ Gardner Johnson and Marcus Williams, but replace them with Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye, while keeping their front 7 intact. The Ravens defense struggled last season with injuries. Now with a new DC and healthy, they’ll look to bounce back, led by Marlon Humphrey surrounded by a new safety pairing of Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams and a reinforced DL with Michael Pierce. The Rams lost multiple starters to free agency, but still have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, veteran Bobby Wagner, as well as many underrated players like Jordan Fuller. The 49ers defense isn’t strong in the secondary, but they added Charvarius Ward and still have a dangerous group of pass-rushers. The Dolphins secondary is stacked with talent, and along with a rejuvenated front 7, was the reason they won 8 of 9 to end the season.

 

Tier 2: Good

9- Pittsburgh Steelers

10- Philadelphia Eagles

11- Denver Broncos

12- Cleveland Browns

13- Tennessee Titans

14- Dallas Cowboys

15- Green Bay Packers

16- Cincinnati Bengals

These defenses will be solid for their teams, but they can’t be relied on to single-handedly win games consistently. The Steelers always are among the sack leading teams, even as their core ages. The Eagles secondary has gotten a lot of late reinforcements in James Bradberry and CJ Gardner Johnson, helping solidify a position of weakness that overachieved last season. The Broncos moved on from Von Miller last season but have a strong pass rushing duo of Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory, while Patrick Surtain II looks to break out this season. The Titans pass rush is dangerous as we saw in their playoff matchup against the Bengals. Ditto for the Cleveland Browns, who have more star power. The Cowboys relied heavily on splash plays last season, like takeaways and sacks, so that will likely go down, but they have a perennial DPOY candidate in Micah Parsons. The Packers defense overachieved last season, but they will slightly improve with Jaire Alexander’s return. The Bengals defense showed out in the postseason, but wasn’t very consistent in the regular season.

 

Tier 3: Average

17- Carolina Panthers

18- Washington Commanders

19- Minnesota Vikings

20- New England Patriots

21- Indianapolis Colts

22- Chicago Bears

23- New York Jets

24- Las Vegas Raiders

These defenses will have good, average, and bad games. They will sometimes not be the liability but sometimes also will be. The Panthers defense contains many young players of intrigue and was the main catalyst for the team’s fast start in 2021. The Commanders defense underperformed last season, but still have one of the best DLs in the league. The Vikings no longer have the benefit of Mike Zimmer propping up their defense, and last season they struggled immensely in 2 minute drills. The Patriots lost quite a few contributors from last year’s team, but Bill Belichick remains a defensive mastermind. The Colts made some nice additions to their defense like Yannick Ngakoue and Stephon Gilmore, but the loss of Matt Eberflus will be felt. The Jets defense is young and still going through Robert Saleh’s transition. The Raiders defense lacks consistency at safety and interior DL.

The Bears are transitioning to a 4-3 defense under Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams but will remain mostly running nickel. There is a large amount of roster turnover. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks are gone, and while those are sizable losses, compared to last season’s defense specifically it isn’t too much because both missed double-digit games. The EDGE depth is strong, with Robert Quinn (possible trade candidate), Trevis Gipson, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Dominique Robinson. The IDL isn’t quite as strong as in the past, as after the Bears missed out on Larry Ogunjobi, they signed Justin Jones, who is solid. Blackson, Watts, and Pennel make up decent depth but you don’t prefer them as starters. At LB, they have a top LB at Roquan Smith, and Nicholas Morrow, who is primed for a breakout season. Behind them they are severely lacking depth. At corner, Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon figure to be the CB duo of the future, but due to injuries to Tavon Young and Thomas Graham Jr, nickel seems like a major question mark again. At safety, Eddie Jackson seems to have the perfect running mate again, 3 years after the team let Adrian Amos go, in another Penn State safety, Jaquan Brisker. This defense is young and will have growing pains, but a core is mostly there to return to greatness as soon as 2023.

Tier 4: Bad or Worse

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. Detroit Lions

  3. Kansas City Chiefs

  4. Jacksonville Jaguars

  5. Houston Texans

  6. Arizona Cardinals

  7. Atlanta Falcons

  8. New York Giants

The Seahawks defense has a good safety duo and Jordyn Brooks, but no pass rush and a dearth of experience at CB. The Lions defense is similar to the Bears, being young and having building blocks like Aidan Hutchinson and Amani Oruwariye. The Chiefs have some individual talent on defense, but always seem to not be able to reach the sum of their parts, plus lost Charvarius Ward. The Jaguars made a splash this offseason to improve from 32nd ranked defense to 28th, at least their LBs aren’t a weakness now, and we’ll see how Travon Walker does. The Texans hired Lovie Smith as their HC, and he made their defense respectable last season considering the lack of talent. The Cardinals lost Chandler Jones and are severely lacking acorss the defense outside of Budda Baker. Ditto for the Falcons and outside Grady Jarrett and AJ Terrell. The Giants hired Wink Martindale, but are weak at every position group.

There are my rankings for the 2022 NFL season. Let’s hope the Bears exceed these expectations and the Packers falter.

 

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