Each week we rank the top five NFL defenses, and this week, the San Francisco 49ers land in that coveted top spot. But with a game against the high-powered Dolphins looming can they stay there?
1. San Francisco 49ers
Led by steadily rising defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, the San Francisco 49ers are the best defense in the NFL. Last Sunday shutout of the Saints, was the culmination a four-game stretch where Ryans unit allowed just 40 points over that time frame. Boasting the league’s top run defense, San Fran held the Saints to a measly 63 yards on 2.9 yards per carry.
Not many defenses can call every level of their unit borderline elite, but the Niners can do so.
That unit will face its second-stiffest test season of the season when the Miami Dolphins and former offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel come to town. Last time a juggernaut offense came to the Bay, the Chiefs hung 45 on the Niners.
Niners have outscored their opponents 57-0 in the second half during their last four games.
Best defense in the league? 🔒 pic.twitter.com/AjT3LyBK8T
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 30, 2022
2. Dallas Cowboys
As Micah Parsons goes, so does the Cowboys defense. And with Parsons the front-runner to win NFL DPOY, the defense is humming. The defense has held opponents to a 27 percent third-down conversion rate the last few weeks, a product of its league-leading pass rush that’s produced a league high 44 sacks.
While the run defense is still a work in progress, it hasn’t hurt them as of yet.
The Cowboys defense has been lights out 💥 pic.twitter.com/hfFCB4mRjZ
— PFF (@PFF) November 30, 2022
3. New York Jets
Led by stud defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and rookie lockdown corner Sauce Gardner, the Jets defense has quickly become one of the league’s best. And despite a below-average offense most of the season, the defense has helped lead the team to a surprising 7-5 record. This season opponents have averaged a paltry 185 passing yards per game, and they’ve only allowed three touchdown receptions, versus 10 interceptions.
Their 34 sacks are good enough for seventh in the league. If backup-turned-starter Mike White can continue to play well the Jets could be a playoff team.
The New York Jets Defense have given up a total of 196 points this season which is the 5th lowest in the NFL & 2nd lowest in the AFC 👀 pic.twitter.com/mbcD9t3utA
— 𝙅𝙀𝙏𝙎 𝙈𝙀𝘿𝙄𝘼🛫 (@NYJets_Media) November 28, 2022
4. Washington Commanders
The strength of the Commanders team is their defense. Led by a defensive line that boasts four former first-round picks, Jack Del Rio’s unit has begun to play like they should. They’ve been dominant up front, and as a result their back seven has played better, making plays and turning interceptions into pick-sixes.
Over the summer Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp showed up at Commanders camp for a visit and he told the d-line he wanted to see them in the opponents backfield more, and they’ve taken heed.
“It’s a pack. If y’all are going to hunt together, y’all will eat good. But the lone wolf dies.”
“No wolf eats by himself. But the pack? You don’t want it nowhere near you.”
That unit is the main reason for the team’s turnaround from 1-4 to 7-5.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Known for high-powered offense led by QB Joe Burrow, the Bengals making this list is a real rarity. But when you hold Derrick Henry to 63 yards rushing and win a road game in Tennessee you deserve some love. The Bengals defense as a whole has been better this season.
While they gave up some big pass plays to the Titans, the ability to take Henry away played a huge role in the Bengals’ very surprising road win without some key pieces on both sides of the football. This week they host Patrick Mahomes and the dynamic Chiefs offense. Can they do it again?