NFL Defense Rankings 2024: Ravens Best in Class, Jets and Browns Close Behind

    Which team has the best defense in football? What about the worst? Find out where each franchise fits in our 2024 NFL Defense Rankings.

    High-flying offenses are all the rage, but it’s hard to make deep postseason runs without good defense. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.

    Defense experienced a mini-renaissance in 2023, as scoring was down across the NFL. However, there still were as many great defensive units as there were groups that couldn’t stop a nosebleed.

    With the season now behind us, we put together updated NFL defense rankings. It’s an imperfect science, as numerous factors go into evaluating an NFL defense. But with help from traditional stats and advanced metrics like DVOA, we compiled an initial list that likely will evolve throughout the offseason.

    2024 NFL Defense Rankings

    32) Washington Commanders

    Just a wretched group, one that only got worse after Washington traded Chase Young and Montez Sweat before the deadline. The Commanders ranked 31st in FTN Fantasy’s DVOA metric, which is kind of like football’s version of baseball’s WAR stat and measures a team or unit’s overall efficiency.

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    Washington also gave up the most points and yards and registered the second-fewest team sacks. This is a very bad defense.

    31) Denver Broncos

    Seemingly overnight, the Broncos went from being one of the NFL’s best defenses to one of its worst. Denver finished 30th in DVOA and gave up the fourth-most yards in the league. The one saving grace: 26 turnovers, which ranked ranked tied for 12th.

    30) Arizona Cardinals

    The Cardinals have some young talent on defense, but this unit still has a long way to go. Arizona gave up the second-most points in football and ranked dead last in DVOA. The Cards probably should go defense in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, but the allure of a top receiver prospect might be too much to ignore.

    29) Los Angeles Chargers

    This group had way too much talent to be as bad as it was on defense. Plus, head coach Brandon Staley, who got fired in December, allegedly is a top defensive mind. Regardless, none of it worked, and the Chargers endured another woeful season on defense.

    28) Carolina Panthers

    This is a tough group to evaluate. Carolina ranked fourth in yards allowed, but it also gave up the fourth-most points and finished 25th in DVOA. The arrow was pointing upward by the end of the season, but there’s a lot of work to do.

    27) Cincinnati Bengals

    The Bengals gave up a whopping 374.6 yards per game, which ranked 31st in the NFL. Cincy was slightly better in points allowed (21st) and DVOA (23rd), but the results still weren’t good. Too often the Bengals’ defense allowed opposing teams to put together long drives, making life even harder for an offense that didn’t have Joe Burrow under center.

    26) New York Giants

    Giants fans won’t like it, and it’s true that New York looked better in-game than it does on paper. Nevertheless, the Giants ranked 27th in yards, 26th in points, and 28th in sacks. To their credit, the Giants led the league with 31 turnovers. Still, this is a group that needs a serious infusion of talent.

    25) Seattle Seahawks

    This defense is long in the tooth and likely will be addressed in the draft. There’s hope for Seattle, though, as new head coach Mike Macdonald is a defensive wizard and should get the Seahawks back on track.

    24) Philadelphia Eagles

    A defense that was overrated in 2022 finally got exposed in 2023 and now appears in need of a total reset. The Eagles ranked near the bottom of the league in points, yards, and turnovers and finished 29th in DVOA. Fixing the defense should be Philly’s top priority this offseason.

    23) Indianapolis Colts

    The Colts have the epitome of a below-average defense. This group isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t any good. In 2023, Indy ranked in the bottom half of the league in yards and points allowed while generating the 16th most turnovers.

    22) Tennessee Titans

    This was a transitional year for the Titans’ defense, which saw star safety Kevin Byard traded to the Eagles before the deadline. Even when Tennessee’s defense lacked talent, then-head coach Mike Vrabel ensured it played hard and avoided big mistakes. What will the standard be under new head coach Brian Callahan?

    21) Miami Dolphins

    Vic Fangio and Jalen Ramsey were supposed to turn this group into one of the game’s best defenses. But Ramsey’s debut was delayed due to a knee injury, and Fangio now is in Philadelphia.

    There still are good players in Miami, but Ramsey is a year older, Xavien Howard is gone, and Bradley Chubb is rehabbing a torn ACL. The arrow is pointing downward.

    20) Atlanta Falcons

    The Falcons got stronger as the season went on, ultimately finishing 24th in DVOA. Don’t be surprised if this group emerges as a top 10 unit in 2024, especially with Raheem Morris now in charge.

    19) Green Bay Packers

    The Packers are in the same boat as the Falcons. Few expected much of this defense entering last season, but the group exceeded expectations and played well in the second half of the campaign. Rich in young talent, Green Bay is trending upward on both offense and defense.

    18) Los Angeles Rams

    The Rams had a decidedly average defense that was undone by an inability to create turnovers. Los Angeles finished with just 15 takeaways, which ranked third-fewest in the NFL. This group has major needs in the secondary.

    17) Houston Texans

    Another ascending group, the Texans’ defense followed DeMeco Ryans’ lead in 2023 and put together an impressive season. Houston finished in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, but the best is yet to come from a defense that boasts Will Anderson Jr., one of the best young defenders in the game.

    16) Chicago Bears

    The Bears had one of the NFL’s worst passing defenses in 2023, but they also had the league’s best rushing defense. Chicago surrendered a league-low 86.4 yards per game and also ranked a respectable 12th in total yards per game. The 30 sacks weren’t nearly enough, though.

    15) Detroit Lions

    The Lions carry themselves as if they have one of the game’s best defenses. And while Detroit plays a physical brand of defense, the reality is Dan Campbell’s group is average across the board. That includes DVOA, where the Lions finished 13th.

    14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    This defense is getting old and might be entering a transition period. Keeping safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was huge, however, and should go a long way toward ensuring the Bucs don’t experience a major dropoff next season.

    13) Minnesota Vikings

    We might have this group too high, as the Vikings ranked middle of the road in most categories and didn’t generate many sacks or turnovers. Minnesota was great against the run, though, and finished 11th in DVOA.

    12) Buffalo Bills

    You could see this defense’s regression coming from a mile away. The Bills were old and slow, and their coaching was questionable. Sure, there were some vintage moments, but Buffalo’s defense faded as the season progressed.

    With multiple veterans released since the end of the season, it’s tough to know what the future holds for this once-great defense.

    11) Jacksonville Jaguars

    The Jags were an overall disappointment last season, but their defense was surprisingly solid. Especially good against the run, Jacksonville finished 10th in DVOA and has an emerging star in edge rusher Josh Allen.

    10) Las Vegas Raiders

    You might be surprised by the Raiders ranking in the top 10, but hear us out. Vegas was 12th against the pass, ninth in points, and 13th in sacks. The Raiders also finished eighth in DVOA. There are good players on this defense, and they clearly love playing for Antonio Pierce.

    9) New Orleans Saints

    Perpetually underrated, the New Orleans defense once again turned in a solid campaign that flew under the radar. Turnovers were the story, as the Saints ranked fourth in the NFL with 29 takeaways. They need to get younger on the defensive line, though.

    8) New England Patriots

    It was a weird year for this defense, which was on the field too much thanks to New England’s miserable offense. The Patriots held their own, finishing top 10 in both yards and DVOA, but the defense generated just 36 sacks and 18 turnovers, both of which ranked near the bottom of the league.

    That said, the defense was playing without its best player, edge rusher Matthew Judon, and top cornerback, Christian Gonzalez, for much of the season. Expect big things from this defense in 2024.

    7) Pittsburgh Steelers

    Pittsburgh’s defense finished in the top 10 in most categories, including sixth in DVOA. Like the Patriots’ defense, this unit had to overcome a terrible, anemic offense — and almost always was up to the challenge.

    6) San Francisco 49ers

    The 49ers have a very good defense, but is it overrated? The group’s numbers all check out, as the Niners rank top 10 in virtually every category, but something about the San Fran defense didn’t pass the eye test in 2023. Subjective gripes aside, this defense should be a force next season.

    5) Dallas Cowboys

    The Cowboys arguably have the most talented defense in football, and that talent translated to undeniable success in 2023. But, you might be surprised by some of Dallas’ stats: 13th in turnovers; 13th in sacks; fifth in yards; fifth in points; and fifth in DVOA.

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    Nevertheless, this is a great unit led by Micah Parsons, the best defensive player in the game.

    4) Kansas City Chiefs

    The Chiefs used to win despite their defense. But in 2023, defense led the way as Kansas City won its third Super Bowl in five seasons. The Chiefs’ defense is talented enough to absorb potential losses in free agency, and the group remains in the capable hands of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

    3) New York Jets

    The Jets’ defense faced high expectations before the season, and the group largely delivered. Robert Saleh’s defense deserves a ton of credit for playing hard and keeping the team competitive despite the struggles of New York’s Aaron Rodgers-less offense. This unit should be great again in 2024.

    2) Cleveland Browns

    The Browns weren’t quite as good as the top team on this list — but they were close.

    Cleveland ranked first in yards allowed, generated the fifth-most turnovers in the league, and finished second in DVOA. The Browns also racked up the sixth-most sacks in football in what was a fantastic year for this ascending group.

    Which Team Has the Best Defense in the NFL?

    1) Baltimore Ravens

    What else is new? Baltimore doesn’t always have the game’s best defense, but John Harbaugh typically has his group in the top tier. Last season saw one of the best Ravens defenses in years, as Baltimore ranked first in DVOA, points allowed, and team sacks. There shouldn’t be any dropoff in 2024.

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