NFL Team Defense Rankings 2021

Having a good defense in the NFL is extremely important, as we have seen most of the recent champions post strong defensive numbers. We also have seen playoff games go lower scoring as things tighten up. Throughout the season, defensive shifts in rankings are going to occur at a high rate. A defense that has to face four good offenses in a row might struggle in the rankings before their schedule eases up a bit. Overall you can flip through each column and see what team is ranking where. Some teams are going to excel in one area of the defensive side, like defending the run. They might struggle against the pass, which is where you see two different sets of colors. Teams might also be struggling in the red zone, or have a higher turnover rate than other teams in the league. Each week these rankings update to reflect the current NFL stats.

Teams like New England and Baltimore dominate on the defensive end. There are a handful of teams in the next tier and closing in on the league’s elite defenses. If you are looking for fantasy points scored by defenses, we have them in order for you. Some teams are betting scoring in the fantasy department because they force more turnovers, while some teams like the Patriots play bend don’t break, which isn’t exactly fun for fantasy at times. If you're researching for your fantasy football draft, see our fantasy team defense rankings and all the Lineups.com Fantasy Football Rankings. They were bottom five in yards allowed, but also allowed the fifth fewest points. Seeing what teams go up against the most passing or rushing attempts can be a way to game plan for future matchups.

Having a good defense in the NFL is extremely important, as we have seen most of the recent champions post strong defensive numbers. We also have seen playoff games go lower scoring as things tighten up. Throughout the season, defensive shifts in rankings are going to occur at a high rate. A defense that has to face four good offenses in a row might struggle in the rankings before their schedule eases up a bit. Overall you can flip through each column and see what team is ranking where. Some teams are going to excel in one area of the defensive side, like defending the run. They might struggle against the pass, which is where you see two different sets of colors. Teams might also be struggling in the red zone, or have a higher turnover rate than other teams in the league. Each week these rankings update to reflect the current NFL stats.

Teams like New England and Baltimore dominate on the defensive end. There are a handful of teams in the next tier and closing in on the league’s elite defenses. If you are looking for fantasy points scored by defenses, we have them in order for you. Some teams are betting scoring in the fantasy department because they force more turnovers, while some teams like the Patriots play bend don’t break, which isn’t exactly fun for fantasy at times. If you're researching for your fantasy football draft, see our fantasy team defense rankings and all the Lineups.com Fantasy Football Rankings. They were bottom five in yards allowed, but also allowed the fifth fewest points. Seeing what teams go up against the most passing or rushing attempts can be a way to game plan for future matchups.

Select Last Year (2020-21) for Stats

What Stats Translate To A Good Defense?

We can obviously sort by points allowed and see what defenses are doing the best job at keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone. This can give us a good look at an overall defense, but let’s take it one step further and see the underlying defensive numbers that make it all up. Now a team can be a great run defense, but struggle against the pass. When we see a team dominate in points allowed, we often will see them at least top ten against the run and the pass. This is where we see complete domination, where an offense does not have any sort of advantage against you. Often we see teams potentially struggle against the run, and that shows their weakness where a defense can run on you and that also can open up the pass. On the flip side a defense could be good against the pass, and you can become more vulnerable against the run.

Getting off the field of a defense is important for a few reasons. For one it keeps you fresh. A defense consistently on the field is going to break down throughout the game, and we have seen offenses take advantage of fatigued defenses. A more obvious reason is that it gives the ball back for their offense. Defenses that force a lot of three and outs is a big piece of the pie for how good a team can be. There is a lot of correlation with teams that excel in getting off at third downs. Turnovers are not as heavily correlated with allowing points. Yards allowed and efficiency stats like pass completions and yards per carry are going to be correlated with points and being a strong defense. On occasion you will see a team play a bend and don’t break style of defense where they actually do allow a hefty amount of yards, but really shut things down in the red zone.

How To Read Defensive Team Rankings

Each column is broken down by defensive stats, and where each teams ranks within the league. You can flip through the AFC and the NFC to see where defenses rank within their own conference. If you see a team with the same number as another, that is because they are tied within that statistic. Starting from left to right, we look at the more important stats that can tie everything together. With points and yards allowed being the big indicator of a defense, you can see who dominates these areas, but also who struggles. Fantasy points are also a big part of the NFL game. Those who are curious to see who is ranking tops in fantasy points, it is shown here.

When looking at a pass defense and how they are doing, grouped together is pass yards against, pass attempts against, pass completions, and pass touchdowns against. You can also measure how much volume a defense is seeing through the air. The same stats can apply for rushing numbers against a defense. Red zone numbers and the ability to stop teams on third and fourth down are also shown. These are important stats for seeing how a defense operates. Defenses generally are no good if they can’t slow down offenses on third down, and the same goes for red zone numbers. Turnovers and sacks are also important stats to see what defenses are producing.

How An Offense Can Hurt A Defense

Sometimes a defense is going to have things stacked against them, such as a poor offense on their own side. A high turnover offense is going to put your team in bad situations, which could be simply field position. An offense that gives the opposing offense a ball at the 50 yard or even in their own territory is going to automatically put your defense in a bad spot. Offenses that turn the ball over or are continuously going three and out put their defense on the field more than they should be on. This is where fatigue sets in and playing a massive amount of snaps in a game is going to cause late game struggles as well as a strong defense against the run.

Even an offense that puts up plenty of points can make a defense look worse than what they are. Offenses that jump out to leads and put up big numbers force teams to throw the ball. Because moving the ball through the air is highly correlated with scoring at higher levels, you can see more points because of this. The loaded Chiefs offense has a good defense as well, but they might allow more points because they are on the field more due to the efficiency and volume of points that their offense is putting up.

Are Red Zone Stats Important For A Defense?

When looking at it from the offensive side, we know red zone stats are very important. We want teams to score when they are that close to the end zone. On the defensive side, it is very much the same. There is not much more deflating than moving a drive down to only kick a field goal, or worse, come away with no points. When looking at the red zone stats, we will start with volume. How many times are defenses allowing teams to get into the red zone. We saw this a few years back with the Patriots, who allowed a lot red zone trips to opposing offenses, but they also did not allow a ton of points. That is because their red zone defense was one of the best in the league. The Chiefs were like this in 2019, where they were in the bottom third of the league in volume for opposing offenses, but they ranked 9th in red zone touchdown percentage.

Red zone touchdown percentage is the amount of times an offense comes away with a touchdown after entering the red zone. Scoring inside the 20 is tough, because the field shrinks quite a bit, and there isn’t a lot of room for passing routes. You can plug more up on the defensive side and make it tougher on an offense. Being able to come away with stops is a big momentum killer for an opposing offense and to state the obvious the defense is going to want to limit points anyway.

Using Defensive Rankings For Fantasy

If you are looking at matchups for your fantasy team, you might want to see how opposing defenses are doing. Looking at the matchup for your running back, is that defense allowing a lot of yards or touchdowns is a common question asked. You might want to look at volume as well. Teams that are allowing a lot of rushing attempts against their defense will help you project volume, which is a higher weight for bigger fantasy production. Teams that are allowing a lot of rushing attempts could simply just have a bad run defense where opposing teams just decide to pound the rock, or they are constantly losing games. Teams will turn to the run if they are ahead by a wide margin. There is no surprise to see some of the teams that are allowing a lot of rushing attempts are also some of the worst teams in the league. With rushing attempts is going to come production. The correlation of touchdowns and yards will be lined up with the amount of attempts given up.

Looking at the passing game numbers, you can actually find a lot of good defenses giving up a lot of volume in the pass game. This can be because they have a very good run defense, or this could be because they are often playing ahead and that forces teams to throw more. If you look and see what teams are allowing more pass attempts against them, it shouldn’t be surprising to see teams that have strong offenses and winning records. Sometimes teams can negate this by controlling games with their offense where they milk long drives to take minutes off the clock. Defenses that struggle to get to the quarterback can make things easier on a pass offense as well. If you are looking at matchups and see a quarterback struggles in a not so clean pocket, he might have some issues that week if he is facing a good pass rush.

The red zone stats can tell about a number of things. One is that they are either allowing a lot of offenses into the red zone, or they aren’t. Of course we want to face those defenses that allow a lot of red zone opportunity, because the production will follow. We can then turn to the efficiency side of things, where we then can zoom in on teams that allow a lot of touchdowns, and that is where we see the red zone touchdown percentage. If they allow a lot of attempts and a lot of touchdowns, boom we are in business. You can also take it further and see what defenses allow the most third down conversions and the most first downs. But you are likely just going to see that those teams allow the most points anyway.

Variance In Defensive Rankings From Year To Year

We talk a lot of about high variance when it comes to sports, but we don’t often talk about why things are so consistent. If you are flipping through the years and wondering why the top defenses stay the top defenses, there are quite a few reasons. For one, defensive turnover as far as player personnel goes is pretty low. And if a team loses a player or two, the wise teams will make it a priority to fill those needs. Maintaining a strong defensive roster is important to keeping up team success. We have seen teams focus on this aspect of their team and continuously make sure to address those needs. Overall we see those strong defensive teams remain competitive at the least, but often are playoff contending teams.

Coaching is also a big part of how defenses perform year in and year out. We don’t see a lot of movement. Of course talent is always going to play a big priority, but even when the talent isn’t all the way there, coaching can help keep a defense from falling off. The Patriots have been one of the best defensive teams over the last two decades. They also view most players dispensable, because the turnover rate for the Patriots is higher than other teams. We have seen them ship players off, and they won’t resign players most of the time either. They know what they want for the puzzle they are building, and it gets put together each season.

Now on the flip side of all this, what happens when there is a major fall off, or a continuous slip from year to year. There are a few reasons for why this occurs. The Seahawks had one of the best defenses during the Legion of Boom days, but they have failed to get even close to those defensive numbers ever since. Failing to resign certain players was a big part of that, as a GM is going to be in charge of keeping those guys together. Of course you can’t keep all of them, which makes money management and drafting even more important to keep a defense up to par. Drafting strong defensive players continues to be one of the better ways to keep an already strong defense going.

Some teams have simply just prioritized offense over defense, and have failed to address those needs on the defensive side. Teams that continuously pay their offensive players big money, especially the skill positions are going to have limited funds to pay other positions. Paying those big contracts in general can put a team in a bind. Injuries to a team will also limit a defense, especially if it is a shut down corner, or a big time edge rusher. We tend to see that variance more within the season. But as a whole, that year to year variance can be because of injury, or because of regression from the year before. If a team had some good luck on their hands, they might fall back down to earth a little bit. This can work both ways where a defense could have some bad luck, and the next season they get the results they deserve based on their production.

NFL Defense Rankings FAQ

Who Has The Best Defense In The NFL 2020?

The Los Angeles Rams allowed a league-low 18.5 points per game and held teams to under 200 yards passing per game and under 100 yards rushing per game.

Who Has The Worst NFL Defense In 2020?

The Detroit Lions are the worst defense int he NFL, allowing 32 points per game and 419 yards per game. They allowed over 2,100 yards on the ground against them and over 500 points.

What Defense Had The Most Interceptions In 2020?

There were four teams tied with 18 interceptions, the Dolphins, Saints, Patriots, and Steelers. Only the Dolphins also had double-digit fumble recoveries.

What Defense Had The Most Takeaways In 2020?

The Miami Dolphins had the most takeaways in the NFL this season with 29. They had 11 fumble recoveries and 18 interceptions. Miami was one of the more improved defenses in the league.

What Defense Has The Most Sacks in 2020?

The Steelers led the league in sacks, with 52 over the 2020 season. They had a very good front seven, and it helped them become one of the top overall defenses in the league. Their defensive sack leader was led by T.J. Watt.