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2022 NFL Team Defense Rankings: Ranking the Top Defenses in the NFL Heading into the Playoffs

Colder weather and high-stakes football mean the necessity for top-tier defense has arrived. Matt MacKay is here to share his updated top 10 defensive power rankings from the 2022 regular season.
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2022 NFL Team Defense Rankings: Ranking the Top Defenses in the NFL Heading into the Playoffs

The 2022 NFL regular season concluded with defenses playing a big role in the final game of the Week 18 slate. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw an interception under pressure to Detroit Lions rookie safety Kerby Joseph, which sealed the Packers' fate and eliminated them from the final seventh seed in the NFC playoffs. Most highlight reels tend to focus on offensive plays and production, but when the weather turns cold and each game becomes a must-win, defense begins to steal some of the spotlight.

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There were plenty of spectacular defensive performances, both individually and collectively, throughout 2022. The San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills are the only two defensive units that held all 17 opponents under 300 total points this season, while secondaries like the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, and Denver Broncos played lockdown coverage and physical, hard-nosed football to stifle opposing passing attacks. In a league where points and offense reign supreme, defenses have to adjust accordingly to the constantly changing rulebook and still maintain a high level of physicality.

NFL handicapper Matt MacKay is here with his top 10 NFL defensive power rankings for the 2022 regular season.

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Best NFL Defense Rankings After Week 18

1. San Francisco 49ers

It comes as no surprise that the 49ers remain atop my power rankings for the best defense in 2022. Whether it was Nick Bosa, Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson, or Fred Warner, San Francisco only allowed one of its final ten opponents to score more than 20 points to close out the regular season. Led by Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans, the 49ers' physical brand of defense resulted in opponents going 0-15 the following week after playing San Francisco.

2. Buffalo Bills

The loss of Von Miller and Damar Hamlin put a bit of a damper on Buffalo defensively, but they still have plenty of talented personnel to rely on heading into the playoffs. Linebacker Matt Milano played great and recorded an interception in a Week 18 game to eliminate New England, while Greg Rousseau, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre'Davious White, and Jordan Poyer all form an elite group of defensive talent

3. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals' defense took a big leap forward with its front seven, allowing few rushing touchdowns and locking down opposing passing attacks. The secondary boasts talented defensive backs like Jessie Bates III, Von Bell, and Mike Hilton, while Trey Hendrickson is a continuous disruptor off the edge. Cincinnati had a +96 point differential in 2022, thanks to the Lou Anarumo-led defense surrendering only 322 points this season, ranked sixth-lowest in the league.

4. Denver Broncos

It was a disastrous season for Denver in 2022 but that's based on Russell Wilson's inability to function within former head coach Nathaniel Hackett's offense, which wound up getting the first-year head coach fired before the end of the season. Justin Simmons and Pat Surtain are two of the best defensive backs in the league and they combined forces to keep Denver competitive in low-scoring contests, so they can't shoulder much of the blame for why things went awry this season.

5. New England Patriots

One of the most opportunistic defenses in the league in terms of forcing turnovers was the New England Patriots. Led by Bill Belichick, the Patriots' defense benefited from edge rushers like Josh Uche and Matt Judon upfront, while rostering talented defensive backs like Devin McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Kyle Dugger who wound up forcing big turnovers to lead New England to an 8-9 record despite a stale offense in 2022.

6. Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles started the season on fire defensively, led by Pro-Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, who was joined by a crop of talented defensive backs that included Avonte Maddox, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and James Bradberry. The run defense hindered the overall effectiveness of Philadelphia's defense, but they still have playmakers along the defensive line like veteran Fletcher Cox, Hasson Reddick, and Javon Hargrave to balance out the defense. They were one of the luckier units in terms of having a top-five offense bailing them out in high-scoring games this season.

7. Baltimore Ravens

As bad as it looked at times for Baltimore's pass defense, they tightened up under first-year Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald in 2022. The acquisition of linebacker Roquan Smith at the trade deadline gave a massive boost to the run defense, which already had talented run-stoppers like Calais Campbell, Patrick Queen, and Tyus Bowser along its front seven. Quietly, the Ravens allowed only 315 total points this season, which was better than Cincinnati to rank as the best-scoring defense in the AFC North. It's the only reason why Baltimore finds itself in the playoffs, as the offense has been anemic in the absence of Lamar Jackson.

8. New York Jets

Sauce Gardner was a smash for the New York Jets, returning immense value as the fourth overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Paired with D.J. Reed in the secondary, along with Quinnen Williams and C.J. Moseley up front, the Jets were a tough out defensively for most opponents this season. They were playing complementary football, stopping the run, and locking down opponents' best wideouts, but the loss of rookie running back Breece Hall derailed a once-promising season for Gang Green. Head coach Robert Saleh is defensive-minded based on his previous role as Defensive Coordinator in San Francisco, so as long as he remains within the organization, the defense will be emphasized and built up even stronger in 2023.

9. New Orleans Saints

Andy Dalton and the vanilla New Orleans offense weren't seen much in highlight reels in 2022 but the Saints' defense was a unit that scrapped and stayed together throughout an adverse season. Cam Jordan, DeMario Davis, and Tyrann Mathieu held it down for first-year head coach Dennis Allen, who left his fingerprints all over the Saints defensively due to his previous role as Defensive Coordinator under former head coach Sean Payton. If not for Marshon Lattimore's extended absence due to injury, the Saints may have fought for a Wild Card berth despite an underwhelming offense.

10. Dallas Cowboys

After the first two months of the season, it'd be crazy to suggest ranking Dallas' defense tenth. However, injuries to its secondary, along with an increasingly bad run defense created opportunities for opponents to churn out production and finish drives with touchdowns in the latter half of the schedule. Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs will need to be on their A-game in the NFC Wild Card round on the road against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as they have the ability to shut down opponents with elite pressure and an opportunistic secondary under Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn.

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Matt is an avid writer, editor, and researcher. He enjoys analyzing the game within the game which is fantasy sports and sports betting. Music is another constant in his daily life. Matt loves spending time with his wife and three pets. He likes to read, listen to podcasts, and is constantly motivated to create the most accurate and engaging content in the sports betting industry.


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