Last week I predicted the top 5 offense’s in my post “Predicting the Top 5 NFL Offense’s of 2017.” We looked at the teams who had some of the most balanced and dangerous offensive units. Those 5 teams have the potential to score every time their offense takes the field. They’ll put up big numbers every game.
This week I’m predicting the top 5 NFL defense’s. These are the teams most likely to stop those offensive units from scoring. As we all know, defense wins championships. The Dallas Cowboys had a great offense last year, but their defense couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers from scoring in the playoffs. Last year’s leading defense in points per game (Patriots) ended up winning the Super Bowl. They didn’t play great throughout the entire game, but they played like the top defense when it really counted.
Starting with number 5 and going down to 1, here are my predictions for the top 5 NFL defense’s of 2017:
5. Houston Texans
The strength of this Texans defense is their pass-rush. Their defensive line includes two of the best pass-rushers in the league in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. The problem for those two has been staying healthy. There hasn’t been a whole lot of football played with them together, but if they can stay on the field at the same time they’ll be a nightmare for any offensive line.
Last year this defense ranked 2nd in passing yards allowed (201.6 per game). The loss of A.J. Bouye in free agency could hurt them in their pass defense, but their defensive line dominance will help them here. Their pass-rushers can get to the QB quickly, which means their defensive backs don’t have to cover for very long. There’s no knock on the Texans defensive backs, but the defensive line might cover up some of their flaws.
This defense ranked 11th in points allowed, 1st in yards allowed, 2nd in passing yards allowed, and 12th in rushing yards allowed a season ago. They did all that while not having consistent QB play almost every game. I’m also going to predict DeShaun Watson to be the starting QB for the Texans, and I think he’ll have a good rookie season. He’ll bring some consistency to the Texans QB position, allowing this defense more time to rest. I think their numbers will look similar to last year’s, if not better.
4. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens went 8-8 last season, but it was no fault of their defense. This unit ranked 9th in points allowed, 7th in yards, 9th in passing yards, and 5th in rushing yards allowed. They weren’t the same dominant defense we’ve seen from the Ravens of the past, but they were still reliable enough to keep them in games. They often kept the score low enough for their team to win, but the offense couldn’t score.
Key additions were made to this defense during the offseason. They added veterans Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson in free agency, as well as adding Marlon Humphrey in the draft. They also drafted defensive players Tyus Bowser, Chris Wormley, and Tim Williams. These moves allowed the Ravens to get younger, but add much needed experience.
Baltimore needs their defense to play at a high level if they want a shot at winning the AFC North. I have the Steelers, who they play twice, as the number 1 offense going into next season. They also play Raiders, Packers, and Lions, all who have great QB’s who throw the ball all over the field. I expect this defense to keep them in just about every game, so it will once again be on the offense to score points.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Not putting the Seahawks in the top 5 defense’s would be a crime. Seattle has been a dominant defense for several years now. Last year this defense ranked in the top 8 in points allowed (3rd), yards allowed (5th), passing yards allowed (8th), and rushing yards allowed (7th). They did all that without one of their star players, Earl Thomas. Things got a little rough without Thomas on the field, but Seattle had enough play makers on defense to keep them at the top.
Thomas will be back from injury this season, but now the question is whether or not Richard Sherman will be there. There’s been some talk about Seattle trading Sherman, but as of right now it looks like he’ll be staying. Sherman is one of, if not the best corner in football. He consistently locks down top receivers, forcing QB’s to go to their second options. If Sherman stays in Seattle, the secondary will once again be at the top.
Don’t forget about the pass-rush. They tied for 3rd in sacks (42) a season ago. The secondary’s ability to cover receivers for extended periods of time helps out their pass-rushers, but the rushers are in Seattle are for real. Bennett and company have all the talent needed to continue being a top pass-rushing unit. Even if they’re not getting sacks, they’re putting a lot of pressure on the QB, forcing bad decisions which lead to turnovers. This defense capitalizes on its turnover opportunities.
2. New York Giants
The Giants finished 2nd in points allowed a year ago. They often dominated their competition, limiting even the highest scoring teams to a low number of points. In two meeting against the Dallas Cowboys, they held them to 26 combined points. 19 points in the first meeting, and only 7 points in the second. The Cowboys offense ranked 5th in points per game with 26.3.
The weakness of this defense was surprisingly it’s pass defense. They ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed. I’m surprised by this because of how well they did against top receivers like Dez Bryant. Despite their high number of passing yards allowed, they got stops when they needed to, allowing just 17.8 points per game. With another year together, I think the Giants defensive backs will continue gaining chemistry and improve their pass defense.
Their strength a season ago was against the run, ranking 3rd in rushing yards allowed (88.6). Credit mostly goes to defensive line players Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Jonathan Hankins. Hankins isn’t on this team anymore, but the Giants made a smart move by drafting Dalvin Tomlinson in the second round. This move will allow them to continue being a dominant run defense.
1. New England Patriots
The Patriots finished 1st in points allowed last season, allowing just 15.6 points per game. After finishing as a top defense and winning the Super Bowl, what did they do? They went out and signed one of the best free agent corners in Stephon Gilmore. Not only did they sign Gilmore, they kept Malcolm Butler. Neither of these corners are in the top tier at their position, but both are solid defenders. Expect the Patriots 12th ranked passing defense to improve this year.
With Dont’a Hightower leading the way, the Patriots ranked 4th in rushing yards allowed. Part of the reason for their success against the run might be because the others teams were always throwing the ball to come from behind, but I think it would have been just as good if they weren’t. This run defense didn’t get a lot of attention. They went under the radar, but I think they liked it that way.
Bill Belichick is perhaps the greatest strength of this defense. His defense doesn’t have any superstar players, but he always finds a way to shut down opposing offense’s. He’s the best at working with who he’s got. Oh, and there’s also the benefit of having one of the greatest QB’s of all time in Tom Brady on the other side of the ball. He helps keep this offense fresh and off the field. The Patriots defense might not allow just 15.6 points per game again, but I expect them to continue dominating whoever they play.