NFL week 1 games: What are the NFL defense rankings? Highest rankings
The NFL is finally back. With everything that’s gone on in 2020, Super Bowl LIV seems like a lifetime ago. It’s only been eight months, but that’s how long the U.S. has been in quarantine. With no preseason games this year, it was hard to rank the defenses before week one.
Now that the first game is in the books, what were the top defensive performances in week 1?
If you hold a team to one touchdown all day – you’re going to earn the top spot coming out of week 1. The Ravens allowed the Cleveland Browns to make it past the Ravens’ thirty-yard line four out of eleven drives. They had a modest day attacking the quarterback, but the three turnovers, two of which came during Cleveland’s first two drives of the game, kept them in the top spot.
The Pittsburgh Steelers always have an outstanding defense of late. When quarterback Ben Rothesburger went out for the season, the defense got them to an 8-8 season. The Steelers possess a highly productive defense filled with talent.
Last season, the Steelers excelled, recording a sack or QB hit on 28% of dropbacks and a turnover on 20% of opponents’ drives. Week 1 was no different as they recorded three sacks, eight QB hits, and two interceptions. They were first in sacks & rushing touchdowns in week 1, as well.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are always a top-ten defense. Still, playing the Miami Dolphins makes them look almost perfect. The Patriots manhandled the Dolphins, recording three interceptions & seven tackles for loss.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers made a decent showing – not wowing us in week 1, but neither terrible enough to move out of the top 5. What did surprise was how well the Chargers managed against the pass without all-pro safety Derwin James, on the injured reserves list with a meniscus injury. The Chargers minus James were still able to record an interception and held the Cincinnati Bengals to a mere 173 passing yards.
The Chargers did recover a fumble and had 6.5 tackles for loss. They could have played better against one of the weakest teams in the league, but no one’s too worried yet.
The Buffalo Bills round out the top five defenses in week 1. What impressed us about Buffalo’s performance was their ability to hold Le’Veon Bell and the rest of the running backs to only 52 rushing yards. Their 8.5 tackles for loss helped silence the New York Jets’ running game. However, they also recorded a fumble recovery and interception to push Buffalo to a solid 27-17 victory.
Washington Football Team
Depending on which half of the Eagles vs. Washington game you watched, you’ll get two different opinions of the Washington Football Team’s defense. The first half was pretty bad. They only had an answer to Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end, Zach Ertz, and allowed 182 passing yards in the first half but did record an interception.
The second half was a different story. Washington was able to hold the Eagles scoreless in the second half and only eighty-eight passing yards. They added an additional interception and a fumble recovery to make things worse for Philadelphia. They also only allowed 57 rushing yards the whole game, and Young had a great debut, recording four total tackles and one and a half sacks.
The Arizona Cardinals defied expectations during their game against the reigning NFC champs. No one expected the Cardinals to be in a close game with the San Francisco 49ers, let alone win the game. Their ranking here is mostly from the expectations. Last season, the 49ers scored thirty points per game, good for second-best in the league. Arizona was able to hold them to 20 points in week one.
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams’ win on Sunday Night Football puts the defense here, but it’s also another expectation ranking. Dallas was projected by NFL.com to be one of the best offenses in the league this year. But that didn’t keep the Rams from performing well in this game.
Were they helped by injuries to Dallas and a pedantic call late in the fourth? Yes. But the Rams and first-time NFL defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, took care of things on Sunday Night. They needed to keep Ezekiel Elliot to under 100 rushing yards, which they did, and get in Dak Prescott’s face, apply pressure on twenty percent of his dropbacks.
You can’t say the Denver Broncos didn’t try on Monday Night Football. There was also no way to know Stephen Gostkowski would make the game-winning field goal after missing three of them.
What impressed us about Denver’s defense was their ability to contain Derrick Henry. Last season Henry had 257 rushing yards per game and was held to 116 in week one. Denver’s downfall was their mistakes on offense, not the defense’s performance.
New Orleans Saints
The only score in the first quarter was Tom Brady’s rushing touchdown. After that, the New Orleans Saints held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sixteen points. Brady is going to record over 200 passing yards – it’s a given. But Brady was intercepted twice, took three sacks, and seven hits. Saints also disrupted the running game, only allowing eighty-six rushing yards.
We’re only in week one of the NFL season, and it’s only a small sample size. Teams will move as the season continues and some of the upsets & bad games become blips on a chart. Expect some more jumps throughout the season. Read our other articles on the mid-tear & worst defenses in week one.