Power rankings for the NFL’s 10 best defenses



Below are the predictions of the top 10 NFL defenses for the 2015 season:

10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Now, don’t expect a reincarnated “Steel Curtain” defense this upcoming season. However, they are back to the respectable defensive days of the Steelers with former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Long time Steelers’ linebacker coach Keith Butler will carry on LeBeau’s legacy in Pittsburgh by running the 4-3 scheme. With injuries to Ryan Shazier, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, among many others, the Steelers weren’t given a fair opportunity to shine defensively, despite already allowing the sixth lowest rushing yards per game in 2014. While the latter two listed may be gone, players like Bud Dupree, Shazier, and Stephon Tuitt are expected to have vital roles to help pro bowlers Lawrence Timmons and Cameron Heyward facilitate the defense efficiently. Not to mention, their preeminent anticipated offensive performance this year will be so threatening, the defense will have a cake walk in helping lead their team as a favorite to come out of the AFC. (2014 finish: 18th in yards and 18th in points)

9. Arizona Cardinals: An injury ridden season held the Cardinals from contending for the Super Bowl despite an impressive 11-5 campaign. The majority of their losses occurred on defense, as Calais Campbell, Tyrann Mathieu, Daryl Washington, and Darnell Dockett missed time. Now that Dockett has been let go, Washington’s status is unknown for the future, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is now the Jets’ head coach, the Cardinals will have a lot of voids to fill. Campbell and Mathieu will be returning healthy, and rookie Markus Golden out of Missouri will need to step up and solidify the gap left from John Abraham’s departure. Last year, with all of these injuries and obstacles to overcome, the Cardinals still finished fifth in the league in points allowed per game with 18.7. This leads to expectations for a stronger performance this year. (2014 finish: 23rd in points allowed per game and 5th in points per game).

8. Houston Texans: With acquisitions in the off season that include Benardrick McKinney and Vince Wilfork, the Texans look to sustain one of the stronger defenses in the league. Led by arguably the cornerstone of the NFL in JJ Watt, the defense is expected to light up all sorts of noise, including with their pass rushing threats on both the defensive line and linebacker corps. The significantly talented Jadeveon Clowney will be returning to the Texans lineup healthy with an effort to elevate the pass rushing game when Watt may be occupied with double teaming. Fixing up their pass defense that was 20th in the league last year, the Texans have brought in Rahim Moore to team up with Jonathan Joseph as leading veterans to improve the team’s overall game. Additions via the draft such as Kevin Johnson, who was relentless in shutting down opposition at Wake Forest, with 30 pass deflections in the span of two years, will add to their threatening defensive front. (2014 finish: 16th in yards allowed, 7th in points allowed)

7. Detroit Lions: As arguably the second best defense in 2014, there most likely won’t be much improvement this season. Instead, there will probably be regression in the quality of their play, as Ndamukong Suh was shipped out to Miami this off season. While Haloti Ngata may be a stellar replacement at defensive tackle, he is on the wrong side of 30 and not quite as impactful as Suh. Suh was a game changer that you had to game plan for. Filling in the void will be arduous to say at the very least. This is not to take away from the spectacular cast of defenders the Lions have right now, with caliber players like DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, and pro bowler Glover Quinn. The defensive side of the ball will still remain a strength of their game, one that will be elite even. However, with Suh gone and no real defensive threats acquired in the draft, it’s hard to imagine a repeated performance. (2014 finish: 2nd in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed)

6. Denver Broncos: The Broncos will yet again possess a defensive prowess that will be supremely successful and wreak havoc on a multitude of levels. However, the absence of Terrance Knighton will hurt. Knighton ended up signing via free agency with the Washington Redskins, which caused a massive hole to fill in the Broncos’ defensive line. Besides the possibility of maybe moving Shane Ray to the defensive end spot, the defensive line will probably take a step back this year after Knighton’s departure. This is not to say that the defense will not execute their responsibilities in an elite fashion like they were able to in 2014. With perennial pro bowlers like Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and the pass rushing extraordinaire Von Miller, the Broncos are still destined for greatness on the defensive side of the ball. They will be successful with the players I listed and clear up and comers in Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall, and Chris Harris. (2014 finish: 3rd in yards allowed and tied for 16th in points allowed)

5. New York Jets: With the additions of Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis in the off season, the Jets are in store for another elite season defensively. While offensively speaking it may be different, the Jets defense has always over performed, whether or not they have a star studded cast. These additions are vital to their success and vital to improving their pass defense that was last in interceptions and third in touchdowns allowed. Not to mention, the trio of pro bowlers Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and the supremely talented first round draft pick Leonard Williams, will form one of the top three defensive line corps in the NFL. While Ryan’s defensive legacy will be one to miss at MetLife, newly appointed head coach Todd Bowles is a no nonsense figure that will demand perfection. If there was anyone to carry the torch of coaching defense for the Jets franchise it would be Todd Bowles. The former Cardinals defensive coordinator, who was dealt an unfair hand of injuries, will find a way of overcoming any obstacle coming his way, like he did in Arizona. (2014 finish: 6th in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed)

4. Kansas City Chiefs: With the sublime news of Eric Berry’s cancer free results, the Chiefs can only feel ecstatic and feel even more optimistic going into the season. Pro bowler Derrick Johnson will also be returning, following a torn ACL last season, which should immensely improve this defense. Pass rushing anchors like defensive tackle Dontari Poe, outside linebacker Tamba Hali, and resigned outside linebacker Justin Houston are expected to be even more dangerous this upcoming season. Houston, who just signed a six-year, $101 million deal, is coming off a surreal campaign of 22 sacks. Houston looks to carry that momentum into this season if he stays healthy. If this cast stays healthy, one must feel confident about their elite status defensively. Additions via the draft with players like Marcus Peters should help defensive coordinator Bob Sutton feel secure about his defense’s performance. (2014 finish: 7th in yards allowed, 2nd in points allowed)

3. Buffalo Bills: The Bills undoubtedly have the most ferocious and tenacious defensive line in the NFL right now. With Mario Willliams, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, and Marcell Dareus, the Bills are expected to carry their 2014 campaign into 2015. Dareus, who came into the season failing his physical, managed to notch 10 sacks and 49 tackles for an all pro vote this past season. Despite the departure of Kiko Alonso – who would have probably elevated this team’s ranking higher on this list had he not been traded – Preston Brown is expected to continue solidifying the middle linebacker spot this season. Brandon Spikes’ absence from the team, while not on respectable circumstances, won’t really hurt the Bills’ chances of sustaining a high level of success. After leaving the scene of an accident, the Bills had no choice but to let the middle linebacker go, and Preston Brown may be able to not just fill in the void but elevate the production of that position. Even secondary players like Corey Graham and Stephon Gilmore are ones not to shy away from, as the two led the Bills’ third best pass defense by only allowing 205 yards per game. (2014 finish: 4th in points per game allowed, 4th in yards per game allowed)

2. Miami Dolphins: Around the week 13 mark of the season, the Dolphins were the second best defense in the league. Although that mark would eventually collapse to 11th in terms of yards allowed. To expect them to slip like that again would not be a wise decision, especially considering their acquisition of Ndamukong Suh in the off season. At only 16th in the NFL in sacks last year, the Dolphins were in need of a threatening pass rush  that they will need to contend in a tough AFC East. Adding Suh, with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon at the defensive end spots, can only help validate the prediction for this team to succeed defensively. A future interior linebacker stud in Jelani Jenkins, who accounted for 110+ tackles last year and 3.5 sacks, combined with Brent Grimes at cornerback definitely suggests future success in 2015. (2014 finish: 11th in yards allowed, 20th in points allowed)

1. Seattle Seahawks: Back to back….to back no. 1 defenses are what to expect from the Seahawks this upcoming season. Already holding that crown in 2013 and in 2014, the Hawks are coming back healthy with the cast and crew still at a relatively young age. More importantly, no key players were sent away. Byron Maxwell was the only real defensive starting change this off season, and the Hawks, in terms of caliber of play, went with a lateral move in Cary Williams from the Eagles. Besides that, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, and the rest of the legion of boom will continue to live on in 2015. The only obstacle they will overcome is that of remaining healthy, as Wagner was out for five games himself. While there may not be a lot of other pressing injuries sustained by their star players, the consistency in staying healthy, like the Hawks have had for the past three years, is rare to come by. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, KJ Wright, and Wagner have missed a combined six games since 2012, which is very impressive to come by. As long as this team can sustain the health they have had to continue excelling on the field as the best in the league, don’t be surprise for a recurring performance. (2014 finish: 1st in yards allowed, 1st in points scored)