NFL offenses seem to be ahead of the defenses early in this 2021-22 season.
Through five weeks, the NFL is setting offensive records for league-average completion rate (66 percent), passer rating (95.9), passing touchdowns per game (1.7) and the second-highest points per game (23.8).
There are some defenses that are shining around the league in recent weeks as coordinator schemes are beginning to take shape and players are being put in positions to be successful.
1. Buffalo Bills
After Sunday night’s 38-20 win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, the Buffalo Bills can say they boast the most complete team in the NFL.
Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are gurus, so it should come as no surprise to the Bills defense how good they are on that side of the football. Rookie defensive end Greg Rousseau has been a pleasant surprise for them off the edge.
The Bills enter Week 6 allowing the lowest passer rating (60.7), fewest yards per play (4.3), points per game (12.8) and posting the fifth-highest pressure rate (24.8 percent).
2. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers used all of their 2020 draft picks on the defensive side of the football. The approach didn’t come as a surprise, as second-year head coach Matt Ruehle comes with a defensive background.
Last season the defense showed promise with players like Brian Burns and Shaq Thompson playing big roles.
Carolina added pass rush specialist Hassan Reddick to the mix, and he’s been as good as advertised.
The Carolina Panthers have the 2nd-best defense in the NFL, according EPA per play
They just added the 2019 DPOY Stephon Gilmore 🤯 pic.twitter.com/jX1SPp1gJR
— PFF (@PFF) October 6, 2021
The trade for 2019 DPOY Stephon Glimore only makes this defense better. Just wait until rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn returns from injury.
3. Denver Broncos
Out in Denver they can play defense. It’s the offense that’s abysmal. This lack of production has caused problems on the defensive side of the ball in recent weeks.
Vic Fangio’s D has been shredded. They are on the field way too much and are fatigued late in games.
— bsir (@bsir2021) October 10, 2021
Elite pass rusher Von Miller needs help in making the opposing teams’ quarterback uncomfortable. Fangio is too good of a defensive mind to not fix the issues.
4. Arizona Cardinals
The “Valley of the Sun” is on a big run. From the Phoenix Suns making it to the NBA Finals to the Phoenix Mercury currently playing for the WNBA title.
Adding to the festive sports atmosphere out West is the success of the undefeated (5-0) Cardinals. The only team without a blemish on its record.
Find a better goal-line defense. We dare you. pic.twitter.com/dFz8qrqFwe
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 10, 2021
Led by sack masters Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt, the pressure up front is allowing the back seven to ballhawk and make plays.
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph loves to bring pressure, and he’s doing a ton that this season.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Tomlin can’t be too happy about a 2-3 record but his team is playing defense at a high level.
With Ben Roethlisberger struggling and his receivers being 50/50 when it comes to catching the football, defense is where “The Burgh” hangs its hat.
I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. When this @steelers DEFENSE is healthy and on the same page, they are one of the best in the NFL. They seem healthy. Seemed to have a great practice all week for that matter. The time to right the ship in now. @PghSteelersNow #NFL pic.twitter.com/Falwdvrkoz
— Ed Thompson (@ThompsonFoto12) October 7, 2021
Even without injured star edge T.J. Watt and Devin Bush at times this season, the Steelers are still a good defensive unit. If they wanna fully turn this season around they’ll need Watt and Bush healthy. With Tomlin in the lead chair those odds should favor them generously.
New Orleans Saints — Led by Cam Jordan, DeMario Davis and Marshon Lattimore, this unit is tough and gritty. Safety Malcolm Jenkins brings vet savvy and high football IQ back to the team that drafted him.
Dallas Cowboys — The team hired Dan Quinn, the architect of the “Legion of BOOM,” to beef up one of the NFL’s worst defenses in 2020. Quinn has simplified things and allowed his playmakers to flourish.
Drafting do-it-all rookie Micah Parsons was huge for the Boys. Cornerback Trevon Diggs spent most of 2020 in chase mode as receivers torched him weekly. Now he’s got six interceptions in five games under Quinn.
Chicago Bears — Maybe Matt Nagy has finally figured out if he plays rookie Justin Fields his defense is good enough to win him the amount of games needed to make the playoffs. The defensive guys wanted the talented rookie from Ohio State to start at the beginning of the season. They felt they could play complementary football with him, and on Sunday they did just that, suffocating a Raiders team that came into the game 3-1. Khalil Mack tortured his former team all game off the edge.