Have you ever experienced the nail-biting suspense of a close football game? Time is running out on the game clock, and both teams are giving it their all until the final whistle sounds. At the end, one team will prevail, and the other will suffer the woes of defeat. But what determines who wins and loses? Let's inspect.
The National Football League, more commonly referred to as the NFL, features two opposing sides: the offense versus the defense. The offense tries to score points while the defense tries to stop the other team from scoring. Both sides of the ball are ranked statistically. These statistics can help narrate the story of the game. Today, we are examining the 2018 NFL defense rankings. But, before we do, let's learn a little more about defense.
What Is Defense and Why Is It Important in Football?
Before diving straight into the 2018 NFL defense rankings, it's important for us to gain an understanding of what an NFL defense does and why it's an important component of the game. The basic principles of the defensive side of football are actually quite easy to understand for any novice or casual fan of the NFL. Now we'll dive into how defense works in the NFL.
How Does Defense Work?
The basic role of a defense in football is to stop the other team's offense from scoring. Both the offense and the defense field 11 players on the field at the same time. College and NFL games are comprised of 4 quarters. Each quarter is 15 minutes long. The winner is decided by whichever team that ends up with the most points at the end of 60 minutes. Therefore, stopping the other team from scoring is a task that is paramount to winning. Now that we have a basic understanding of what a defense does, let's dive into it's importance to the game.
Why Is It Important?
There is a common phrase used by sports professionals and enthusiasts alike: "defense wins championships." This statement is a basic way to emphasize the importance of defense of football. If other team cannot score the football, then they cannot possibly win the game. The main characteristic of a good defense in football, is a defense that can physically impose their will on to the other team, not giving the opposing offense any space to breathe or flourish.
College and NFL teams both spend millions on improving their football teams. Winning means everything in this profession. Every other team is constantly trying to get better and find competitive edges over another. NFL defense rankings are one of the tools used by a football team's management to evaluate the status of their team's performances. These rankings provide a tangible way to dissect their performances on the playing field.
What Are the Rankings Based On?
The new age of analytics in football has brought on a whole new wave of statistics. These new statistics are used by a team's management to help determine what moves to make to improve the team. There are hundreds of these statistics, and quite frankly, many of them can be hard to understand for the casual football fan. Let's look at some basic NFL statistics used to determine NFL defense rankings.
A standard football field is 100 yards long. The more yards a team gains, the more times they are likely to score. Holding the other team to fewer yards, usually means the defense is not allowing many points to be scored against them.
As discussed earlier, whichever team has the most points at the end of the games. Some better NFL defenses can give up a lot of yards, but still prevent a team from scoring by causing turnovers or a missed field goal. These defenses tend to bend but not break.
A turnover in football is when a team loses the ball to the other team by fumble or interception. Some good NFL defenses can allow a lot of points and yards, but they cause turnovers at key points in the game. These defenses are referred to as "opportunistic" defenses.
A defense that has all three of these qualities would be considered elite by any standard. Many good defenses in the NFL possess at least one or two of these qualities. Now that we know the basic principles of NFL defense rankings, we can explore the actual rankings themselves.
NFL Defense Rankings 2018
Now it's time to examine the top 25 NFL defense rankings based on ESPN's 2018 Defensive Power Rankings. These rankings are based on the first 10 weeks of the 2018 NFL regular season. We will examine them from worst to best.
25. Cleveland Browns
The young and aggressive Browns defense leads the NFL in turnovers, but it hasn't led to many wins. The young Browns need more time to grow.
24. Detroit Lions
The Lions have a poor pass and rush defense this season. Other teams move the ball against them with ease landing them with 6 losses this season.
23. Denver Broncos
Von Miller is the key to this defense. When he is disruptive and causing turnovers, the Broncos tend to win those games.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have forced only eight turnovers in nine games this season. That's not good enough to win with such a meek offense.
21. Miami Dolphins
Miami has allowed over 164 yards rushing per game five times this season. They have only won one out of those five games.
20. Indianapolis Colts
After leading the sack category early in the season, the Colts have plummeted to the bottom in that category. A promising start now looks to be in peril of falling apart.
19. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys defensive philosophy is to bend and not break. Although losing Sean Lee hurts Dallas, the young Cowboys defense looks promising.
18. Atlanta Falcons
A barrage of injuries have devastated the Falcons defense in 2018. Once some key players return from injury, the Falcons defense should be better.
17. Cincinnati Bengals
After a somewhat promising start, the Bengals have allowed over 500 yards per game the last 3 weeks. This led to the firing of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
16. Baltimore Ravens
To see the Ravens' defense ranked in the middle of the pack in 2018 is a shock. Usually atop the standings, the Ravens are danger of missing the playoffs this season.
15. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks' defense is outperforming their expectations this season. Can they stick with it?
14. Tennessee Titans
Defensive minded head coach Mike Vrabel has his defense playing disciplined. They are the least penalized team in the NFL.
13. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles don't give up many points, but their defense doesn't force many turnovers. No doubt the defending Super Bowl champs are struggling.
12. Washington Redskins
The Redskins sure are stingy with allowing points. One weakness, however, is their passing defense. Teams that can pass will cause problems for Washington.
11. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are tied in the lead for sacks this season. With the lack of a dominant edge rusher, the Packers have gotten creative in their defensive schemes.
10. Houston Texans
After starting the season 0-3, the Texans won 6 games in a row led by stellar defensive play. Other teams simply cannot run against them.
9. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are an average defense statistically, but are giving opponents only 3 chances in the red zone per game in 2018.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings allow the least amount of 3rd down conversions in the NFL. A team will win a lot of games doing that.
7. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears lead the NFL in turnovers forced which has led to league leading 82 points. An elite defense like the Chicago's can the pressure off young quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
6. New England Patriots
The Patriots defense has struggled much this season, but has a way of creating turnovers at the right times. Would you expect anything else from the Patriots?
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers defense is led by their front seven defender rushing and passing attack. The sacks are piling up and so are the wins.
4. LA Chargers
The Chargers philosophy is to defend every blade of grass. Allowing only 15.5 points per game on their six game winning streak, the Chargers are practicing what they preach.
3. LA Rams
With all the talent on the Rams defense they should be ranked number 1 on this list. They have been gashed by the run this season, which could spell trouble in the playoffs.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The biggest surprise of the season has been the Chiefs' defense. Tied for the lead in sacks and wielding a potent offense, the Chiefs look like real contenders in 2018.
1. New Orleans Saints
Despite being the hottest team in the NFL, they are a few defects in the Saints' armor including a 31st ranked pass defense. The Saints need to shore things up if they want to make it to the promised land this season.
As we've learned, there are many factors that go into NFL defense rankings. NFL defense rankings are a good indicator of what teams are really contenders, and which teams may be pretenders. But what does this mean for the rest of the season? I guess we will all have to find out.