With the playoffs halfway through, it’s time to check in and update the NFL playoff defense rankings for the remaining playoff defenses. We are down to the final four with Kansas City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Cincinnati remaining. Let’s see how the past two games have shifted the rankings.
NFL Playoff Defense Rankings
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles defense comes into the number 1 spot after annihilating the Giants 38-7 and producing the most boring game of the weekend. Their pass rush and #1 ranked pass defense have shut offenses down throughout the season. The Eagles defensive line had no problem suffocating the Giants offensive line and QB Daniel Jones. They sacked Jones 5 times, showing just how they reached 70 sacks on the regular season. Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat continued putting up career years by recording 1.5 sacks each on the day.
Even the run defense looked pretty sharp against the Giants. They limited Saquon Barkley and the Giants from taking over in the run game despite their run defense being the weakest unit. However, it likely helped the Eagles that the Giants were in a hole early and had to throw more often. The 49ers will pose another tough challenge with Elijah Mitchell, Christian McCaffrey, and Deebo Samuel all threats to move the chains.
The secondary excelled against the Giants like its has all season. Despite playing from behind most of the game, Daniel Jones only recorded 134 passing yards and only one player had over 30 receiving yards (Richie James Jr. with 51 yards). The Giants don’t exactly have intimidating receiving weapons, but the Eagles did their job. CB James Bradberry sealed the performance with a sweet interception below.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 22, 2023
2. San Francisco 49ers
I’ve moved the 49ers down one spot and put the Eagles back at #1 after the Eagles absolutely demolished the Giants. The 49ers have a top defense, but the Eagles looked more dominant and don’t give up as many big plays like the 49ers have a tendency to.
Just one week after Dak Prescott had the best game of his career, the 49ers defense helped bring the Cowboys defense back down to Earth. While Prescott’s turnovers combined with the injury to Pollard certainly helped limit them to 12 points, the 49ers kept them from taking over the game like they did versus the Bucs.
While this season’s sack leader Nick Bosa usually takes the attention, LBs Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw shined against the Cowboys. They were all over the field once again and created havoc in pass coverage. After all, how many LBs could match up with CeeDee Lamb going deep like this.
This coverage by Fred Warner… Sheeshpic.twitter.com/ZfyiyqvV0h
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) January 23, 2023
The 49ers defense is ranked #1 in yards, interceptions scoring, and 2nd in run defense. The Eagles have one of the best run games they’ve faced all season and pose one of the toughest threats to this stifling run d. The 49ers big weakness is still giving up big plays in the passing game. They often offset these plays by coming up with turnovers (they tied for the 2nd most turnovers this season with 30), but they still cannot afford to let A.J. Brown and Devontae Smith run loose through the secondary.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals defense ranks third after having the most impressive defensive effort from this past weekend. They held the #2 ranked offense to their lowest point total since 2021 and suffocated Josh Allen all game. It’s no coincidence everyone’s talking about Bengals DC Lou Anarumo. Even after everyone said the Bills needed to avoid turning the ball over, the Bengals dominated the Bills offense who didn’t turn the ball over until the end of the game, when it was all over.
Anarumo challenged the Bills and Allen with pressure all Sunday. From the first play on he ensured that Allen felt pressure and would have trouble to get the ball out on time. Though the Bengals only sacked Allen once, their ability to send pressure with the front or CB Mike Hilton and S Vonn Bell kept the Bills confused and their timing thrown off. With Mahomes mobility threatened this weekend, look for Anarumo to make him uncomfortable with different looks and pressures.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 22, 2023
What may be more impressive about the Bengals defense and Anarumo is how they’ve been able to overcome the injury to their best CB Chidobie Awuzie. The Bengals contained WR Stefon Diggs to just 35 yards and the Bills leading receiver was Dawson Knox who only had 65 yards. Against a top 2 offense, the Bengals seemed to have no problem keeping the Bills from getting open.
Lou Anarumo, take a freaking bow. Perfectly covering 66.67% of an opponent’s offensive dropbacks is the 2nd highest mark all season. Doing it on the road in the playoffs as 6 point underdogs is insane pic.twitter.com/LNRgeiiibu
— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) January 23, 2023
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Among three defenses who held their opponents to under 13 points this past weekend, Kansas City stands as the odd one out. They are certainly a few notches below the other defenses and are carried more by their offense than the others.
The Chiefs star is DT Chris Jones who was just announced as one of the 3 finalists for Defensive Player of the Year. While Jones had no sacks against the Jaguars last week, he was the sack leader on the team which recorded the 2nd most sacks on the season. The Chiefs also have a couple other strong players along the front seven including the veteran Frank Clark who had an important sack of Trevor Lawrence and the stud 2nd year linebacker Nick Bolton.
Finally, the Chiefs have a young secondary led by the rookie first round CB Trent McDuffie. They make mistakes, give up yards, but also were opportunistic recording a fumble and interception in their win over the Jaguars. The Chiefs also play the highest rate of man-man coverage over zone in the league which matches up well against the Bengals since Joe Burrow thrives playing against zone coverage. They’ll need to capitalize on any advantages and turnovers they can get versus the Mahomes to make up for their youth.