Some defenses have gone from deadbeats to worldbeaters in the 17 weeks The Shadow League has been featuring the NFL’s top defenses.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
There was a time this season when the Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t stop a nosebleed on D. Their offense was being hung out to dry and under pressure, feeling it had to score 35-40 points a week in order to win games.
That’s changed the last eight weeks as the Chiefs and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have found something that works. KC allowed 403 yards per game and an unacceptable 50 percent conversion rate on third down over its first seven games, which led to a 3-4 start.
The past eight weeks they’ve held opponents to 325 yards per game and a 32 percent third-down conversion rate. That’s a recipe for winning, and the Chiefs have done it often. The two-time defending AFC champions are the No. 1 seed in the AFC with two weeks to play. Big test at Cincinnati this week looms.
% of drives allowing a score | Chiefs:
📉 Weeks 1-7: 49.3% (4th-highest)
📈 Weeks 8-16: 22.9% (lowest) 👀
— PFF (@PFF) December 30, 2021
2. Miami Dolphins
Coming into the season the expectations for the Miami Dolphins were high as a team but even higher for their defense. They struggled from the onset, beginning the season 1-7. The defense has dominated, the offense has played complementary football during this eight-game winning streak.
The Fins have become a more cohesive unit on that side of the football, led by rookies Jaelen Phillips and Jevon Holland. It really feasted on the Saints on “Monday Night Football,” holding them to 164 total yards and three points. Nawlins rookie QB Ian Book was sacked eight times. Brian Flores has this defense “BITING.”
Gettin' after it! 💪
5️⃣4️⃣ yards lost.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 30, 2021
3. Tampa Bay Bucs
Last season’s run to the Super Bowl was spearheaded by a dominant defense that is starting to play that way again as the playoffs approach. All-world linebacker Devin White is leading the recharged Bucs D that harrased Carolina with seven sacks and eight tackles for loss, chasing Cam Newton to the bench. A lot of that was because of the Bucs, but awful QB play from Carolina also played a role. They get the Jets this weekend, so that’s more curry chicken for the defense.
— xz – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 28, 2021
4. Dallas Cowboys
The biggest surprise on the defensive side of the football this season has to be the Dallas Cowboys. The hiring of Dan Quinn and subsequent drafting of Micah Parsons has changed the Cowboys defense as a whole. Their pass rush, which features Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, is downright lethal. Add in cornerback Trevon Diggs (11 INTs) and you have a defense capable of making a long run come January. The pressure is on Dak and the offense to keep pace.
Who's had the biggest impact on the #DallasCowboys defensive turnaround? The players, the coaches or both?
Our writers share their opinions on today's mailbag presented by @MillerLite.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) December 30, 2021
5. Buffalo Bills
In a big (33-21) win over division rival New England, the Bills took back first place in the AFC East and set themselves up nicely for a division title. Safety Micah Hyde led a defense that forced Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones into two interceptions and a bunch of rushed throws. Hyde is playing at an All-Pro level. He and Jordan Poyer are the only safety duo with at least five interceptions each for a team that’s second in the NFL in lowest points allowed per game (17.6).
Despite two consecutive losses, the New England Patriots are still a top defense, allowing a league-low 17.3 ppg. The problem the past two weeks is they’ve been on the field way too much. They’ll need to get that corrected these last two weeks of the regular season. Rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore (Alabama) is third in the league with 42 pressures amongst first-year players.
“You can see guys in the locker room. They don’t want to let this slip.”
— Andrew Callahan (@_AndrewCallahan) December 24, 2021
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