Ranking the 2013 AFC Defenses

Written by Admin
Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Continuing on with theme we starting early in the week of ranking AFC and NFC units, today we take a look at the defenses in the AFC. Defensive numbers are largely a reflection of how well your team plays as a whole, and the strength of the offenses that are on your season schedule. Either way, lets dive right in and give it our best shot:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: The best defenses this year will certainly be in the NFC, but the Steelers will start atop the rankings on the AFC side. After having the highest rated defense from 2012, the Steelers are going to have some new faces on the team. The loss of James Harrison and co. will certainly take its toll, but the Steelers hope that some young talent can step in and play well. The leader of that new young talent; first round pick Jarvis Jones. Jones should have an immediate impact, and with all the veteran help around him he should be able to learn fairly quickly. Mike Tomlin won't allow his defense to be sub-par.

2. Denver Broncos: The Broncos are a tough defense to scope when you look at them as a whole. They finished 2012 as the second ranked defense in the entire NFL, but they, like the Steelers, will have some new faces on defense. They lost Elvis Dumervil and Tracy Porter, but they add the likes of Terrance Knighton (formerly of the Jaguars) and Rodgers-Cromartie. It will surely be a formidable defense under Jack Del Rio, but perhaps there are too many new piece to quite declare them number 1 before we see how things play out. Nonetheless, the Broncos will still be far and away the best defense in their division, and will certainly allow Manning and his offense to do their thing.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals suffered through a lot of injuries in 2012, and yet still finished with the 6th ranked defense overall. They add James Harrison and Margus Hunt, who should be immediate impact players in 2013. They play in a division known for great defenses elsewhere, but the Bengals have slowly put together a top-tier defense themselves. Look for the pass rush to lead the way again for the Bengals in 2013, as they finish solidly in the top 2 on defense in their division and in front of Baltimore once again.

4. Baltimore Ravens: The defending Superbowl champions still deserve some respect on the defensive side of the ball. While the defense isn't what it once was, they still hope to uphold their reputation as a stout force on the defensive side. They lost a lot; Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, etc. But they also brought in some talent: Chris Canty, Michael Huff, Elvis Dumervil, and Matt Elam. The offense will most likely take some pressure off the defense once again, so look for the Ravens to finish in the top 10 in 2013 from a stats perspective.

5. Houston Texans: The Texans defense faltered a bit down the stretch last season. While they have no glaring holes, JJ Watt is really the only superstar on the defense. They add Ed Reed, but at his age he is probably a downgrade from what they had in Glover Quinn. The loss of Conner Barwin hurts the team as well, as he played well in the scheme while healthy. They drafted some talent on defense, but don't expect an immediate impact from many of those players just yet. Nonetheless, the Texans are talented enough to finish far and away above any other team in the AFC South on the defensive side of the ball yet again.

6. Buffalo Bills: The Bills defense was a huge disappointment last season. After spending boatloads of money in free agency, they hoped to finish in the top 10 defensively. That didn't happen. They drafted some talent to help solidify the D, but they must get some more production from the likes of Mario Williams and co. The Bills will finish with the top defense in the East, but they will not be as dominant as fans have recently hoped.

7. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins did some work this offseason on the defensive side. They trade up to draft Dion Jordan, a player that I thought was far and away the best defensive player in the draft. They also signed Brent Grimes and Dannell Ellerbe, two players that should have huge immediate impacts. They finished 21st overall on defense in 2012, but look for them to improve on that heading into the new season. There is some buzz in Miami right now.

8. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs simply have too much talent on defense to have another busted year on defense. Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, and Sean Smith will be the core of a pretty solid defensive roster for the Chiefs. They barely finished in the top 20 on defense a year ago, but with the roster they have now, they should be able to improve upon that fairly quickly in the near future.

9. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have a pretty damn decent defense, and hardly anybody knows about it. They finished in the top 10 defensively a year ago (a little known fact). This defense will look quite different, however. They let Cason and Jammer walk and brought in Derek Cox from Jacksonville, changing the secondary by quite a bit. They also drafted Manti Te'o who, despite my feelings on his level of play, will walk in and be an immediate starter for the Chargers. San Diego will be interesting to watch on defense in 2013.

10. New York Jets: The strength of the Jets team, and yet they still rank only 10th out of 16. They finished as a top 10 defense in 2012, but that may not matter much in the 2013 season. Dawan Landry is a downgrade from his brother LaRon. Going from Revis to first round pick Dee Milliner is also a downgrade (obviously). Coples looks like he can be a good player eventually, but he isn't what the team need him to be yet. The defense will keep them in most of their games, but not be able to single handily win games.

11. New England Patriots: The Patriots are slowly dropping down this list. Early in the offseason it appeared they were starting to strengthen the defense by keeping the likes of Aqib Talib and adding Tommy Kelly into the mix. Since then, however, they have released Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, leaving them with some holes in the middle of their defense. While they won't be facing much of a rushing threat outside of Buffalo within their division, it is still an obvious concern. Both Love and Deaderick played well for the team, and their releases are questionable. This team will once again be carried by Tom Brady, but fans would have liked to see the defense keep improving like they have in years past.

12. Cleveland Browns: The Cleveland Browns have been doing a pretty good job at getting slightly better every season over the past couple of years. The talent they brought in this offseason outweighs what they let walk, and that should help the Browns' D get out of the bottom 7 or so in the league in total defense. Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo are serious additions, and should allow the Browns to do some creative things on defense if they so desire. I see them finishing around 20th in the league this season on defense.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars don't look like much of a defense when you look at them on paper. Gus Bradley, the new head coach, will be the difference maker here. They let Terrance Knighton walk in free agency, but the additions of Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, and Brandon Deaderick do a lot more than just compensate for that loss. Bradley recently stated that they are moving Tyson Alualu to the 5-tech at DE, a position that suits him well and should allow him to improve his impact greatly. Dwayne Gratz is a lateral move from the oft injured Derek Cox, who they let walk in free agency, and 2nd round pick Jonathan Cyprien is a big upgrade over Dawan Landry. These key newcomers should keep them from the bottom of the league on defense.

14. Indianapolis Colts: The Colts look as though they will continue to struggle on defense in 2013. Sure, they added LaRon Landry, Ricky Jean-Francois, Greg Toler and Erik Walden, but these are all mid-level players that will be learning the new scheme. They let Dwight Freeney walk, and Robert Mathis is aging fast. The amount of staggering turnover this defense will see forces me to put them towards the bottom due to all the question marks about how this unit will play out.

15. Tennessee Titans: I've said it time and time again; this Titan roster is a melting pot of players who fit different schemes. The defense struggled heavily in 2012, and I don't see much changing in 2013. Munchak really has a mess as far as matching up players with where they fit on defense, and there isn't much depth there to help him out. Wreh-Wilson out of UCONN should help a bit, as should Bernard Pollard, but is that really enough to change things in Tennessee?

16. Oakland Raiders: It could be a rough ride in Oakland on defense this season. An already sub-par unit lost Rolando McClain, Michael Huff, and many more. They added an aging Tracy Porter and a questionable starter in Mike Jenkins, and their draft class has many question marks as well. DJ Hayden may have a bright future in the NFL, but with his massive injury last season he may not be 100% to start his career. There will be a lot of growing pains in Oakland due to the high roster turnover, but it may ultimately be for the best down the road.