Grading All 28 NFL Defenses in Week 8

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Introduction

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

Throughout the 2012 NFL season, one of the big storylines has been offenses, which have dominated the league. The average game this season features 45.6 combined points, meaning each team is averaging 22.8 points per game. That would make the 2012 season the fourth highest scoring in history, and the highest scoring since 1965. So no season since the Super Bowl era has featured as many points in an average game.

Quarterbacks, in particular, have been dominating the league this season. The average passer rating for a quarterback these days would have sent a quarterback to the Pro Bowl 20 years ago, and it would have led the league in the 1970s. The game’s top teams these days are almost all quarterbacked by great quarterbacks, notably Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Eli Manning and the New York Giants, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Oh, and then there’s 36-year old Peyton Manning, who appears well on his way to taking home his fifth Most Valuable Player award.

But week eight of the NFL season featured a lot more defenses shining than offenses. The average team scored just 20.75 points, a significant decrease from the league average, and four teams failed to score double-digit points (including two in the same game). With that being said, the following 28 slides will rank all 28 defenses for their week eight performance. This factors in how well the opposing offense played compared to their usual game. It also takes a look at turnovers, sacks, and defensive scores.

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28. St. Louis Rams

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots basically had their way with the St. Louis Rams last Sunday. The Rams couldn't stop the pass, as Brady threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns, spreading the ball around to Rob Gronkowski (146 yards, two touchdowns), Danny Woodhead (five for 56), Wes Welker (six for 48), and Brandon Lloyd (two touchdowns). And the Rams couldn't stop the run, as Stevan Ridley gashed them for 127 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. That's 8.47 yards per carry against a defense that had been playing pretty well this season. The Patriots had 28 by halftime and 38 by the end of the fourth quarter, turning the game into a laugher.

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27. New Orleans Saints

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Saints are on track to end up as one of the worst defenses in the history of the National Football League, and their Sunday Night Football battle against the Denver Broncos was embarrassing even for them. Peyton Manning torched the Saints for 305 yards and three touchdowns, and ageless wonder Willis McGahee rushed 23 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. Oh, and Ronnie Hillman added 86 yards on 14 carries. That's 530 yards of total offense for the Broncos. They scored 34 points, and it's actually a wonder they didn't score more.

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26. Minnesota Vikings

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Vikings' were gashed at home by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Josh Freeman threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and Doug Martin rushed 29 times for 135 yards and a score. The Buccaneers scored 36 and had the game over by the third quarter, stopping the Vikings on a couple of late drives in the fourth quarter.

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25. Philadelphia Eagles

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

It was a miserable debut for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, as the Eagles allowed touchdowns on the game's first three drives and field goals on the next two. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Falcons had to punt for the first time. The game's first drive was as draining as it gets for Philly fans, as Atlanta marched down the field, 80 yards on 15 plays, successfully converting all five third down opportunities. For the game, Matt Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns, including a 63-yard touchdown to Julio Jones, who burned Nnamdi Asomugha on the play. The Eagles did stop the Falcons' run, holding Michael Turner to 58 yards on 24 carries, but it really didn't matter as the Falcons led by double digits throughout most of the game.

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24. Arizona Cardinals

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

The Cardinals have a pretty solid defense but the 49ers moved the ball on them at will. Quarterback Alex Smith, hardly the most accurate quarterback in the league, completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. The 49ers controlled the ground game too, running 29 times for 113 yards. This was a game that was over before it even started.

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23. Kansas City Chiefs

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas City Chiefs couldn't do a good job stopping the Oakland Raiders from moving the ball. Carson Palmer threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and Darren McFadden rushed 29 times for 114 yards. The Raiders scored 26 points and cruised to an easy road victory over a division rival.

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22. Washington Redskins

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

No one gave the Redskins' defense much of a chance going into their week eight game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they were even worse than I expected. Ben Roethlisberger torched their secondary, throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, third running back Jonathan Dwyer rushed 17 times for 107 yards (6.3 yards per rush). The Steelers didn't turn the ball over once and controlled the entire game by taking an early lead. They scored 27, but 20 came in the first half and the next seven in the third quarter.

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21. Seattle Seahawks

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

For one of the league's best defenses, the Seattle Seahawks could not get the job done against the Detroit Lions. Matt Stafford torched Seattle's secondary for 352 yards and three touchdowns (plus an interception), spreading the ball around enough so seven different players had three receptions. When the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, Stafford led a game-winning touchdown drive, keeping the Lions' slim postseason hopes alive.

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20. Detroit Lions

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Lions didn't do a good job of stopping Seattle's weak offense, as rookie Russell Wilson threw for 236 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Veteran Marshawn Lynch rushed 12 times for 105 yards and a score, and the Seahawks scored 24 points (17 in the first half), which is well above their season average.

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19. New York Jets

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Their offense certainly didn't help their defense, but the Jets couldn't get anything done against the Dolphins and backup quarterback Matt Moore, who threw for 131 yards and a touchdown on just 19 pass attempts. But he didn't turn the ball over. The combination of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas rushed 29 times for 101 yards, a touchdown, and a lost fumble. The Dolphins scored 30, but only 23 were by the offense (blocked punt touchdown). Overall, the Jets' defense was poor but not awful.

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18. Tennessee Titans

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

The Indianapolis Colts do not have a good offense, despite thriving rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and the Tennessee Titans held them to 19 points on Sunday. That's essentially an average defensive performance. Luck threw for 297 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, and Donald Brown and Vick Ballard rushed 26 times for 135 yards. The Colts put together a great touchdown drive in overtime, highlighted by five straight runs by Brown and a key third down completion from Luck.

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17. Green Bay Packers

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Packers' defense didn't impress me against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have one of the worst offenses in the league. Blaine Gabbert threw for 303 yards and a touchdown, without a turnover. Rashad Jennings wasn't very effective on the ground, with 59 yards and a lost fumble on 17 carries, but he's the backup to Maurice Jones-Drew for a reason. The Jaguars' 15 points is in line with their average season total.

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16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Buccaneers' defense had a good day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Christian Ponder threw for 251 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, while Adrian Peterson rushed 15 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Vikings turned the ball over three times and scored just 17 points in a Thursday Night Football home loss.

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15. Indianapolis Colts

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

The Colts' defense played pretty well against Tennessee. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 236 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions, while veteran running back Chris Johnson carried 21 times for 99 yards. But the Titans scored just 13 points, including just three in the final two quarters.

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14. Pittsburgh Steelers

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Pittsburgh Steelers did something that no team has been able to do so far this season. They stopped Robert Griffin III. Well, sort of. Griffin led the Redskins to just 12 points, completing 16 of 34 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed six times for just eight yards. But here's the catch. The Redskins dropped ten passes. Ten. Let's say that a normal team drops two of those eight passes. RGIII's numbers now look like this: 24 of 34 for 257 and likely two touchdowns. Sorry, Pittsburgh, but you didn't stop RGIII. It may have been his worst game as a pro but that's only because he's been one of the most valuable players in the league so far this season. Other than RGIII, the Redskins carried 15 times for 78 yards on the ground (5.2 yards per rush). I give the Steelers credit for torching the Redskins' defense but it's honestly difficult to count them as one of the best defenses from week eight. They played well (12 total points) but not great (10 drops, one sack, no turnovers).

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13. Dallas Cowboys

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

I was actually impressed by the Cowboys' defense on Sunday. They allowed 22 points throughout the game (remember, seven came on an interception touchdown by the Giants), including no touchdowns in the second half. That gave their offense an opportunity to overcome a 23-0 deficit. The Cowboys also held Eli Manning to just 192 yards and an interception, a passer rating of 58.4.

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12. Carolina Panthers

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Panthers lost 23-22 on Sunday, but their defense played well. They allowed just 16 points (take away an interception touchdown), and forced three turnovers from Jay Cutler (two fumbles, one interception). They also collected six sacks.

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11. Oakland Raiders

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas City Chiefs' weak offense couldn't do much against the Oakland Raiders. So is that the result of the Chiefs' weak offense or the Raiders' defense? The Raiders intercepted Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel once each, and forced three turnovers on the ground. The Chiefs had success on the ground, carrying 22 times for 102 yards, and for whatever reason, stud Jamaal Charles carried just five times (for 4 yards).

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10. New York Giants

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

Talk about a complicated game to rank. The Giants' defense blew a 23-0 lead and almost allowed a devastating game-winning touchdown pass to Dez Bryant in the game's final seconds. They were torched by Tony Romo for 415 yards, and Jason Witten (18 catches, 167 yards), Miles Austin (nine catches, 133 yards), and Dez Bryant (five catches, 110 yards). But they also forced four interceptions from Tony Romo, including an interception touchdown from Jason Pierre-Paul, and they sacked Romo four times. Oh, and Bryant and Felix Jones also lost fumbles, giving the Giants' defense six total turnovers. I chose to rate them very high because six turnovers is an incredible amount, plus the defense did come up with a big stop to win the game at the end (regardless of how close it was to being a touchdown).

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9. Chicago Bears

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Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The Bears' powerful defense stopped struggling sophomore quarterback Cam Newton on Sundsay. Newton completed just 20 of 39 passes, and threw two interceptions, one which was returned for a go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. He also fumbled twice, and got lucky when teammate Louis Murphy pounced on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. On the ground, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams combined for just 75 yards on 28 carries. The only weakness of the Bears' defense was allowing a go-ahead field goal in the final three minutes (their offense bailed them out with a walkoff field goal).

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8. Jacksonville Jaguars

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

Nobody gave the Jacksonville Jaguars any chance against the powerful Green Bay Packers' offense. But the Packers scored just 17 points on offense during the game, including only seven in the first three quarters. Aaron Rodgers threw for only 186 yards and lost a fumble on the ground, although two touchdowns and no interceptions did help win the game for the Pack despite their struggling run game (26 rushes for 66 yards).

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7. Miami Dolphins

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Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

The Jets have an anemic offense but they still couldn't do anything against a strong Miami Dolphins' defense. Mark Sanchez threw 54 times, averaging just 5.25 yards per attempt, and the Jets are not the kind of team that can win football games when their quarterback has to throw 54 times. Shonn Greene played well, rushing 15 times for 77 yards, but it meant very little as the Jets' only touchdown came down 30-3.

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6. San Diego Chargers

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Cleveland Browns have one of the league's worst offenses, yet they had a bad game, even by their standards, against the Chargers. The one positive was running back Trent Richardson, who carried 24 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, but rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden completed just 11 of 27 passes for 129 yards (a 55.4 passer rating).

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5. Atlanta Falcons

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Falcons faced an Eagles team that had everything on the line Sunday. Their head coach is coaching for his job, their quarterback is playing for his job, and the team hadn't lost after the bye week during Reid's entire tenure in Philly. And the Falcons shut them down, holding the Eagles to just 17 points, the final seven a garbage touchdown after the outcome of the game had already been decided. Vick didn't turn the ball over, but he also averaged just 5.4 yards per attempt as a passer. On the ground, LeSean McCoy rushed 16 times for just 45 yards, at 2.8 yards per rush. The Falcons collected three sacks of Vick and controlled the entire game.

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4. New England Patriots

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The St. Louis Rams took a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game when Sam Bradford connected with Chris Givens for a 50-yard touchdown. And that was it for the Rams offense, as the Patriots scored the next 45 points to cruise to one of the biggest victories in the NFL this season. Bradford threw for 205 yards and an interception, and was also knocked out of the game temporarily. Backup Kellen Clemens threw an interception too. On the ground, the Rams ran 23 times for 107 yards, but it had no effect on the game, as they were playing from behind the whole time.

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3. Cleveland Browns

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Browns' defense kept them in the game against the San Diego Chargers, even though their defense could do nothing. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers threw for just 154 yards on 4.5 yards per attempt, and couldn't lead the Chargers into the end zone. Ryan Mathews carried 24 times for 95 yards and a score, but he did lose a fumble.

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2. Denver Broncos

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Broncos' defense almost took home my honor of top defense of the week, but I couldn't put them higher than number two. Against the high-scoring Saints and MVP-caliber quarterback Drew Brees, the Broncos allowed just 14 points, the final seven a garbage touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Brees threw for just 213 yards, averaging barely five yards per attempt, and the Saints' ground game was its usual: ineffective and underused.

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1. San Francisco 49ers

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Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Ariona Cardinals just could not compete against the powerful San Francisco 49ers' defense. It was like watching a college football team try to move the ball against an NFL team. The Cardinals had nine rushes for seven yards, and at quarterback, John Skelton threw 52 times for just 290 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. The 49ers did a pretty good job of stopping Larry Fitzgerald, who caught five passes for 52 yards.


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