NFL Power Rankings: Top 15 Defenses Through Week 5

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Top 15 NFL Defenses

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Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Everybody is claiming that the NFL is now a league driven by offense, but as we have seen in recent history, and so far this season, defense is still very important.

Sure scoring points is nice, but you cannot win unless your defense can stop the other team from scoring points.

A quick glance at the standings through five weeks of the season shows that the teams that are at the top of their divisions are also in the top half of the defensive statistics.

Ranking defenses in football is more of a tricky proposition than ranking offenses.

On the offensive side of the ball you can look to see how many points and yards a team is accumulating and rank accordingly. On defense, the story goes much deeper than points and yards allowed.

Sure, looking at how many yards and points a defense gives up is one way to determine how well they are playing, but there are other factors to consider when ranking defenses. Sacks and turnovers are also important factors when considering how good a defense is. How good is a defense at getting off the field in third down situations? Can they make their opponents one dimensional? These are all important questions when considering how good a defense is.

Given these questions, these power rankings do not just go down the line ranking the defenses in the order of least points or yards allowed.

Here is a look at the top 15 defenses currently in the NFL as I see them.

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15. Green Bay Packers

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Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

The Packers are currently tied for the league lead in sacks (18), but have mastered the art of the bend without breaking defense as they continue to give up yards in bunches. They do a good enough job keeping other teams out of the end zone, still this unit is going to have to do more than just sack the quarterback if they want to get back to the Super Bowl this season.

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14. Baltimore Ravens

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Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

The Ravens show up lower on this list than they would have been in recent history, but they are still getting the job done on the field.

Even though their sack numbers are down, likely due to the absence of their best pass rusher Terrell Suggs, they are still very good a taking the ball away.

While the Ravens defense is surrendering yards this season, they are only allowing 17.8 points per game which is good enough for seventh in the league.

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13. New England Patriots

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Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE

The Patriots defense is not exactly a world-class unit, but they are significantly better than they were last year.

They have forced 14 turnovers so far this season which means they are good at doing their most important job which is to get the ball back to Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.

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12. Dallas Cowboys

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Cowboys defense is one of the best in the league in yards allowed per game (277.5), but they have yet to rack up many sacks (9) or turnovers (4).

If the Cowboys can find a way to get to the quarterback more and force more turnovers, they have a chance to shoot up these rankings.

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11. San Diego Chargers

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John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

The Chargers defense is making opponents one dimensional by allowing only 74 yards per game on the ground which is good enough for 5th best in the league. The Chargers also have 10 takeaways and their improved defense is one of the main reasons they look like the team to beat in the AFC West.

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10. Miami Dolphins

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Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The Dolphins defense has kept them in almost all of their games this season while their offense continues to find its legs under rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

So far this season, the Dolphins have 15 sacks and 8 takeaways. They have also been the main reason why they have won two games so far this season, despite many people believing they could be the worst team in the league.

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9. Philadelphia Eagles

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Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

The Eagles are currently in the top 10 in points allowed, yards allowed and third-down defense. They have done all of this while only managing seven sacks and seven turnovers. Once the Eagles get their pass rush back to the level it was at last season, this defense could ascend to a truly elite unit.

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8. Atlanta Falcons

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Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

It appears that Mike Nolan has a magic touch as a defensive coordinator. The biggest question facing the Falcons this offseason was whether or not their defense was good enough for them to compete. After 13 sacks and 14 takeaways so far this season, this Falcons unit looks primed to help take this team on a deep playoff run in 2012.

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7. Minnesota Vikings

vikings
Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

The Vikings are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL at 4-1.

Their defense is currently in the top 10 in most statistical categories and have one of the most feared pass rush duos in the NFL in Jared Allen and Brian Robison.

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6. St. Louis Rams

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Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

The Rams have quietly constructed one of the best young defenses in the NFL.

Led along the line by Chris Long and in the secondary by feisty veteran Courtland Finnegan, the Rams continue to make life miserable for opposing offenses and more interesting in the suddenly stout NFC West.

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5. Seattle Seahawks

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Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

The Seahawks currently lead the NFL in total defense, allowing only 258.6 yards per game.

Some people questioned their selection of Bruce Irvin, but he has shown already this season what kind of pass rusher he can be. The Seahawks defense plays a physical brand of football that gets a significant boost from playing in one of the loudest stadiums the league has to offer. They just need to figure out how to play that way on the road.

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4. Arizona Cardinals

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Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Much like the Vikings, the Cardinals are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL at 4-1. The Cardinals defense started to come on towards the end of last season and has carried that momentum over to 2012. Their pass rush, led by Daryl Washington and Sam Acho, has racked up 17 sacks so far this season.

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3. Houston Texans

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Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Wade Phillips has the Texans defense playing at a high level again in 2012.

J.J. Watt and his 8.5 sacks make him an early contender for Defensive Player of the Year. The biggest question facing this Texans defense moving forward is how much they will miss leading tackler Brian Cushing if he is out for the rest of the season.

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2. San Francisco 49ers

49ers
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

It is nearly impossible to consistently move the ball against the 49ers defense.

49ers linebacker Patrick Willis may get all of the publicity, but his teammate NaVorro Bowman may be the best linebacker in the NFL right now. The only thing preventing this defense from being the best in the league is their lack of sacks (9) and turnovers (10), but there is nothing for this defense to be ashamed of.

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1. Chicago Bears

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Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

The Bears defense is a nightmare for opponents to handle on so many levels.

They lead the NFL in sacks (18) and interceptions (13) all while holding opponents to an average of less than 300 yards per game. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Bears defense is their ability to score points, taking five of their interceptions back for touchdowns.


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