When the Buffalo Bills lost starting cornerback Tre’Davious White to a season-ending injury, questions about their pass defense began to fester. But the play of safety duo Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer has been Pro Bowl caliber. That duo has covered up mistakes by the other corners all season.
In Week 17, the Bills held Falcons QB Matt Ryan under 200 yards passing, marking the sixth time they’ve done that to a passer this season. Their pass rush, which was very good at the beginning of the season, has once again found its footing and has begun to wreak havoc the last couple weeks.
The one area of concern is the Bills’ run defense which has been up and down all season. The wrong playoff opponent could send them on their way early if they don’t shore that area up. Buffalo is second in the NFL in points allowed at 17.4 per game, with just 16.7 the past three games.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 3, 2022
2. New England
After a one-year hiatus, Bill Belichick has fixed the New England Patriots defense. Belichick continued his mastery of rookie quarterbacks as the Patriots made the day for 2021 No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence miserable. In typical Belichick fashion leading up to the game, he gave Lawrence a ton of praise, only to “Sic The Dawgs” on the prized rook after kickoff. The Pats defense accumulated five pass deflections, three interceptions, two sacks, nine QB hurries and nine QB hits. They allowed a paltry 253 yards on 46 plays defended. They lead the league in points allowed (16.9) heading into week 18. Cornerback J.C. Jackson has eight interceptions this season and 26 in his four-year career.
The Patriots have a top ___ defense in the NFL? pic.twitter.com/SuVfXS8EMG
— PFF (@PFF) November 21, 2021
3. New Orleans Saints
Offensively the Saints have struggled with the retirement of Drew Brees, and then the season-ending injury to starter Jameis Winston, who was playing well. But that defense has kept them in the playoff race all season, and they still have a shot to make it with a win in Week 18 and a Niners loss. Cameron Jordan, Marshon Lattimore and DeMario Davis lead the D.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been elite with his schemes, and Nawlins has held opponents to 19.7 points per game, good for fourth in the league.
"Guess who? Cam Jordan!" 🥵🥵
Cam and Kwon take down Darnold again 💪
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/L71OwurGIi
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 3, 2022
4. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals limped into Dallas in need of a win against Dallas. Even though Dak Prescott finished with three touchdown passes and a solid 105.0 QBR, he needed 38 pass attempts to reach 225 yards passing. Chandler Jones was up to his usual game wrecker ways, and safety Budda Baker made plays around the line of scrimmage, at the linebacker level and in the secondary.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons looked like the chameleon he was at Clemson terrorizing ACC offenses. With star defensive lineman J.J. Watt returning for the playoffs, this defense is once again looking SCARY!!!
1-0 every day. pic.twitter.com/eloou4KDRb
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 3, 2022
5. Green Bay
The Green Bay Packers have been the best and most consistent team in the NFL this season. But their defense has seen a ton of injuries.
Sunday night they got after Vikings backup Sean Mannion while slowing down Vikes wide receiver Justin Jefferson and holding running back Dalvin Cook to just 13 yards on nine carries.
If the Pack are going to play defense like this with home field advantage at Lambeau Field, their chances of reaching the Super Bowl greatly increase. They’re expecting cornerback Jaire Alexander back for the playoffs and could also get linebacker Za’Darius Smith back in some packages as well. Cornerback Rasual Butler was a huge in-season addition with his five interceptions, including two game-clinchers versus the Cardinals and Browns.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 3, 2022
Tennessee Titans — Their defense has been the catalyst to a (11-5) season and No. 1 seed in the AFC with offensive workhorse Derrick Henry hurt. With King Henry returning, this team is DANGEROUS. Harold Landry and Jeffrey Simmons have had All-Pro seasons.
Dallas Cowboys — Defense has been good all season, but too many costly breakdowns in loss to Arizona.
Kansas City Chiefs — KC’s defense that couldn’t get off the field on third down in a loss to the Bengals. The unit had been lights-out for a few weeks before surrendering over 400 yards passing and four touchdowns to Joe Burrow.
L.A. Rams — Despite erratic play by Matt Stafford, the Rams survived a scare in Baltimore. Aaron Donald and Von Miller had back-to-back game-clinching sacks. That’s what they expect from two future Hall of Famers.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Edge rusher T.J. Watt at 21.5 is just one sack from tying Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s NFL record of 22.5 in a single season. Mike Tomlin has a team left for dead with a chance at the postseason in Week 18.
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