Who has the best NFL defense in 2023? Our weekly NFL defense rankings examine every unit across the league on a weekly basis to determine the best defenses in the NFL. You can also check out our NFL offense rankings.
Let’s examine our latest NFL defense rankings, reviewing how teams performed in Week 13 and providing an early preview for Week 14.
Related: Week 14 fantasy rankings
Table of Contents
2023 NFL defense rankings: Worst defenses in NFL
32. Washington Commanders
- Previously: Last in NFL defense rankings
The Washington Commanders have the worst defense in the NFL. On Sunday, a week removed from firing Jack Del Rio, Washington allowed a 141.0 QB rating and 280 passing yards to Tua Tagovailoa on 24 attempts. Miami also went 7-for-13 on third down and averaged 6.9 yards per play. Washington’s league-worst defense faces Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Kyren Williams in Week 14.
31. Cincinnati Bengals
- Previously: 30th in NFL defense rankings
Since Week 5, the Cincinnati Bengals defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to average a 102.0 passer rating with a 72.4 percent completion rate and a 7.4 yards per attempt average. Despite pulling off the overtime win against Jacksonville on Monday night, this unit still gave up 31 points and nearly 400 total yards of offense. That included Trevor Lawrence and C.J. Beathard combining to complete 31-of-39 passes for 305 yards with two touchdowns through the air. Ugliness.
30. Tennessee Titans
- Previously: 28th in NFL defense rankings
Entering Week 13, the Tennessee Titans’ secondary allowed a 98.5 QB rating with a 12-3 TD-INT line and a whopping 7.7 yards per attempt this season. Against Gardner Minshew, Mike Vrabel’s defense allowed 312 passing yards a 100.5 QB rating. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle face Tennessee in Week 14. You know what’s coming.
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29. Arizona Cardinals
- Previously: 31st in NFL defense rankings
Weather and a Kenny Pickett injury certainly benefitted the Arizona Cardinals’ defense on Sunday. It’s also worth recognizing that Arizona didn’t record a single sack against Pittsburgh. With that said, holding any opponent to 10 points and 4-for-11 on third downs is a good day at the office for Jonathan Gannons’ defense.
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28. Los Angeles Chargers
- Previously: 29th in NFL defense rankings
We said it entering Week 13, the Los Angeles Chargers D/ST was a great streaming option for Sunday and that’s it. The shutout and 257 total yards allowed on 62 plays says far more about the New England Patriots offense than the Chargers’ defense. Although, we can at least acknowledge that Los Angeles is improving defensively.
27. New York Giants
- Previously: 27th in NFL defense rankings
On the one hand, the New York Giants recorded six interceptions with a 49.9 QB rating in their last two games. Prior to those performances against Washington and New England, opponents averaged an 89.6 QB rating, 129.5 rush ypg and scored 19 touchdowns in six games on New York’s defense. Facing the Packers in Week 14, we’ll bet on the bad version of the Giants’ defense making an appearance.
26. Detroit Lions
- Previously: 22nd in NFL defense rankings
The Detroit Lions’ defense held the New Orleans Saints to 33 total yards in the first quarter. If only the game ended after 15 minutes. In the final three quarters, New Orleans scored 28 points, accumulated 329 total yards and converted 6-of-10 third-down attempts. This isn’t a small sample size anymore, the Lions have had one of the worst NFL defenses for over a month now. Best wishes to Aaron Glenn’s unit in the playoffs.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Previously: 26th in NFL defense rankings
A fair assessment can’t be made of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in Week 13. We’ve seen it countless times this season, Bryce Young and the Panthers’ offense make just about every defense they face look like the Legion of Boom. Considering Tampa Bay surrendered a 104.9 QB rating and 293 pass ypg with a 12-3 TD-INT line from Weeks 6-13, we’ll bet on that stretch and say to avoid trusting the Buccaneers’ defense.
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24. Los Angeles Rams
- Previously: 25th in NFL defense rankings
No Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb or Amari Cooper essentially makes the Cleveland Browns offense non-existent. To the credit of defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, though, he took advantage of the matchup. Safe to say, we are not recommending the Rams D/ST as a fantasy option in Week 14 against the Ravens.
23. Carolina Panthers
- Previously: 24th in NFL defense rankings
The Carolina Panthers activated Jaycee Horn, Jeremy Chinn and Yetur Gross-Matos before Sunday’s game. What a difference it makes for a defense to have three starters back, including two of its best players. The Panthers’ run defense did an excellent job bottling up Rachaad White and Baker Mayfield had one of his best games of the season. Still, with bye weeks coming to an end, the Panthers D/ST isn’t a fantasy option but at least it’s going to improve.
22. Las Vegas Raiders
- Previously: 21st in NFL defense rankings
There’s a lot of hot-and-cold with the Las Vegas Raiders defense, which can easily be tied to the lack of talent outside of Maxx Crosby. From Weeks 4-10, NFL teams averaged just a 71.6 QB rating and 189.4 passing yards per game versus Las Vegas, but they also averaged nearly 140 rush ypg. In two games before the Raiders’ bye, they allowed a 113 QB rating and 614 net passing yards, but opponents averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. This is no longer one of the worst NFL defenses, but it’s also not a league-average unit and it should be avoided in fantasy football.
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21. Seattle Seahawks
- Previously: 15th in NFL defense rankings
Things have taken a bit of a turn for the Seattle Seahawks defensively. From Weeks 4-9, Seattle held the opposition to 174.6 passing yards per game with a 79.0 QB rating and a 37.1 percent third-down conversion rate. From Weeks 10-15, opponents averaged. a97.6 QB rating and 239 passing yards per game with an 8-2 TD-INT line and a 45 percent third-down conversion rate. With the 49ers and Eagles offenses on deck, things could get a lot worse from here for Seattle’s defense.
NFL defense rankings; Top 20 NFL defenses
20. Chicago Bears
- Previously: 20th in NFL defense rankings
We’ve steadily gained confidence in the Chicago Bears’ defense over the last two months. Across the last seven games, Chicago’s opponents posted an 11-10 TD-INT line with an 80.3 QB rating, averaging 206.3 pass yards per game. One thing you can’t do against Chicago is run the football – 60.8 rush ypg allowed, 3.2 ypc since Oct. 5 – and that makes for a fascinating Week 14 matchup against David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.
19. Atlanta Falcons
- Previously: 18th in NFL defense rankings
It was Tim Boyle and the New York Jets offense. The numbers from Week 13 look good – 259 total yards allowed, 13 percent third-down conversion rate – but countless coverage busts left Garrett Wilson wide-open deep downfield. Even Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans can take advantage of the coverage mistakes Atlanta’s secondary makes, especially with a poor pass rush.
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18. Indianapolis Colts
- Previously: 17th in NFL defense rankings
It was a rough Sunday afternoon for the Indianapolis Colts defense. Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears combined for 177 rushing yards and rookie Will Levis was able to hit several explosive plays downfield. However, six sacks and a 35.3 percent third-down conversion rate surrendered ended up making the difference in a Colts’ victory.
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17. New England Patriots
- Previously: 23rd in NFL defense rankings
There was quite literally nothing else the New England Patriots defense could do on Sunday. Bill Belichick’s group held the Chargers to 29 rushing yards on 24 carries, 212 net passing yards on 37 attempts and kept them out of the red zone. All of this is being done without multiple starters. It’s a shame one of the NFL’s worst offenses is wasting this defense nearly every week.
16. Philadelphia Eagles
- Previously: 12th in NFL defense rankings
The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense might ultimately be the reason they don’t win the Super Bowl. Even before facing Brock Purdy, Philadelphia’s secondary had allowed 1,221 passing yards (305.3 pass ypg) with an 11-3 TD-INT line and a 96.1 QB rating. We saw the same coverage mistakes and exploited matchup issues on Sunday. To make matters worse, a vaunted Eagles’ run defense allowed 136 yards and two scores on the ground. By the time San Francisco finally took its foot off the glass, it scored 42 points and averaged 8.4 yards per play. Up next, just Dak Prescott playing at an MVP-caliber level. If the Eagles lose in Week 14, it will likely be because of their defense.
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15. Houston Texans
- Previously: 19th in NFL defense rankings
If this is a sign of things to come, the Houston Texans’ defense is going to be a problem for opponents for a long time. The effort was never the question with this DeMeco Ryans’s defense, inexperience and poor execution were. In Week 13, Houston shut down Denver’s offense on third down (0-for-11), held them to 1-for-3 in the red zone and generated three sacks and three takeaways. Our biggest takeaway, however, was the breakout game from Will Anderson Jr. and Derek Stingley Jr’s emergence.
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14. Buffalo Bills
- Previously: 13th in NFL defense rankings
The problem with the Buffalo Bills defense is that the second-half performance against the Philadelphia Eagles looked exactly like the injury-depleted unit that allowed a 111.0 average QB rating and 72.4 percent completion rate to opposing quarterbacks from Weeks 7-10. A bye week should theoretically help, but Buffalo immediately has to face Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott. Unfortunately for Bills Mafia, it seems like this defense is destined for more disappointment.
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13. Denver Broncos
- Previously: 15th in NFL defense rankings
All things considered, this was a fine bend-but-do-n’t-break performance from the Denver Broncos defense. Yes, Houston averaged 5.6 yards per play and eclipsed 350 total yards, but the Broncos also held the Teans to a 25 percent third-down conversion rate. Plus, Denver’s pass rush delivered five sacks. It’s been a remarkable second-half turnaround for Vance Joseph’s guys and Joseph deserves a ton of credit.
12. Green Bay Packers
- Previously: 16th in NFL defense rankings
Like many defenses across the league, injuries have taken a significant toll on the Green Bay Packers. Jaire Alexander remains sidelined, De’Vondre Campbell has missed time, Darnell Savage just returned from IR and this team traded away Rasul Douglas. It hasn’t mattered. Green Bay allowed Kansas City to go 7-for-11 on third downs in Week 13, but it generated a critical takeaway and held Kansas City to a 50 percent red-zone touchdown rate. This defense is on the rise. Set to face the New York Giants in Week 14, the Packers D/ST is a quality fantasy option.
11. Minnesota Vikings
- Previously: 11th in NFL defense rankings
We’ve been wildly impressed by Brian Flores as of late. Coming into the season, the big concern with the Minnesota Vikings’ defense was the lack of talent and experience in the secondary. Flores has mitigated those concerns. In its last seven games before the bye, Minnesota’s defense held opponents to 213.1 passing yards per game with a 6-8 TD-INT line, 78.3 QB rating and just 91.4 rushing yards per game. The Vikings D/ST will be a quality fantasy option in Week 14 against Las Vegas.
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7. Jacksonville Jaguars
- Previously: No. 8 in NFL defense rankings
Week 13 did not paint the Jaguars’ defense in the best of lights. Taking on backup Bengals quarterback Jake Browning, this unit enabled him to complete 32-of-37 passes for 354 yards. Browning’s completion percentage was the highest for any quarterback making his first or second start in NFL history. Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell will want to burn this tape.
9. New Orleans Saints
- Previously: No. 9 in NFL defense rankings
Confidence in the New Orleans Saints defense is fading fast. New Orleans took the field on Sunday allowing 151 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry to opponents with six rushing touchdowns in six games. Detroit compiled 142 rushing yards and two scores, all the while Sam LaPorta (9-140-1) roasted New Orleans over the middle. The Saints D/ST will look outstanding in the next two weeks against the Panthers and Giants, but it could get difficult after that.
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8. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Previously: No. 6 in NFL defense rankings
A litany of injuries at linebacker has left the Pittsburgh Steelers unable to cover tight ends – Trey McBride, 8/89/1 – and Arizona rumbled its way to 150 rushing yards and two scores. The Steelers’ pass defense against wide receivers was excellent, but the issues at linebacker are a significant concern moving forward. Fortunately, the Patriots’ offense won’t even be a resemblance of a threat to Pittsburgh in Week 14.
7. Miami Dolphins
- Previously: No. 10 in NFL defense rankings
Too easy for the Miami Dolphins defense. Without Jaelan Phillips, Miami’s pass rush still managed to take advantage of a porous Commanders’ offensive line by registering nine QB hits and three sacks. The disruption and strong play in the secondary allowed the Dolphins to hold Washington to 107 net passing yards. We do anticipate tougher sledding in future matchups, but the Dolphins D/ST is an elite fantasy option against Tennessee (Week 14) and New York (Week 15).
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6. Kansas City Chiefs
- Previously: No. 5 in NFL defense rankings
Sunday marked the seventh consecutive game that the Kansas City Chiefs defense has allowed 110-plus rushing yards and the sixth time it allowed an opponent to average over 4 yards per carry. Of course, Green Bay rushing for 129 yards and averaging 5.2 ypc isn’t the big concern. Jordan Love carved up the Chiefs’ defense on Sunday Night Football, hitting precision strikes across all levels of the field for 3 touchdowns and a 118.6 QB rating. It marks the second consecutive game Kansas City allowed a 97-plus QB rating with 235-plus passing yards. If this defense takes a step back, the Chiefs’ situation is critical.
5. New York Jets
- Previously: No. 7 in NFL defense rankings
Similar to New England’s defense, the New York Jets put on a defensive clinic in Week 13 and it didn’t matter. Atlanta’s offense mustered just 3 yards per play (194 yards on 64 plays), going 4-for-13 on third-down attempts and 0-for-1 in the red zone. It didn’t matter because of the Jets’ offense. While this is an outstanding defense, it can only do so much with an anchor on its back. As the Bills and Dolphins game can attest, this Jets’ defense will collapse against great offenses when it spends so much time on the field.
4. Dallas Cowboys
- Previously: No. 3 in NFL defense rankings
DaRon Bland is feeling more reminiscent of a young Trevon Diggs, making plays at a historic rate but also giving up explosive plays. Dallas does have an excellent defense, but the season-ending injury to Diggs created a void. In matchups against the 49ers, Seahawks and Eagles, the Cowboys’ secondary allowed 768 passing yards (256 pass ypg) with a 9-1 TD-INT ratio and a 100-plus QB rating. Suffice it to say, the Cowboys’ pass defense might experience a rough patch in the next three weeks against Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa. This might be a three-game stretch to avoid the Cowboys D/ST in fantasy.
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3. San Francisco 49ers
- Previously: No. 4 in NFL defense rankings
When you’re facing the Philadelphia Eagles offense, are expectations aren’t for a defensive clinic. However, the San Francisco 49ers defense did a phenomenal job getting to Jalen Hurts on Sunday with over 20 pressures, and multiple sacks and it led to some huge missed throws. While A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith still went off for over 200-plus receiving yards, the context of this matchup makes this one of San Francisco’s best defensive performances of the season.
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2. Baltimore Ravens
- Previously: No. 2 in NFL defense rankings
The Baltimore Ravens have the best pass defense in the NFL. In their last five games, Baltimore’s opponents averaged just 165.6 passing yards per game, averaging 3.6 sacks taken per contest with a 75.0 QB rating. The Ravens are also very good in critical situations, allowing the ninth-lowest conversion rate on third downs (31.16 percent) and they have the best red-zone defense in the NFL (37.5 percent red-zone touchdown rate). One thing we will note, however, is that Baltimore allows the eighth-most points per fourth quarter (7.2).
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1. Cleveland Browns
- Previously: No. 1 in NFL defense rankings
We’re starting to see a concerning development for the Cleveland Browns defense, an unfriendly friend in our NFL defensive rankings. Football is a mental game and confidence plays a huge part in a defense’s success. Cleveland’s defense is now starting to lose its grip, spending a lot of time on the field thanks to giveaways and three-and-outs by the Browns’ offense. Statistically, the Browns still have the best NFL defense in 2023. However, history tells us these unfortunate developments out of Cleveland could lead to some unfortunate defensive regression.
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Week 14 fantasy defense rankings
Here is our Week 14 fantasy D/ST rankings for the upcoming slate of NFL games.
- Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST vs New England Patriots
- New Orleans Saints D/ST vs Carolina Panthers
- Miami Dolphins D/ST vs Tennessee Titans
- Baltimore Ravens D/ST vs Los Angeles Rams
- Houston Texans D/ST vs New York Jets
- Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST vs Cleveland Browns
- Minnesota Vikings D/ST vs Las Vegas Raiders
- San Francisco 49ers D/ST vs Seattle Seahawks
- New England Patriots D/ST vs Pittsburgh Steelers
- Green Bay Packers D/ST vs New York Giants
- Indianapolis Colts D/ST vs Cincinnati Bengals
- Carolina Panthers D/ST vs New Orleans Saints
- New York Jets D/ST vs Houston Texans
- Kansas City Chiefs D/ST vs Buffalo Bills
- Denver Broncos D/ST vs Los Angeles Chargers
NFL defense stats 2023
NFL defense rankings FAQ
What is the best defense in the NFL?
The Cleveland Browns have the best defense in the NFL right now.
What are the top 10 defenses in the NFL?
- New Orleans Saints
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Miami Dolphins
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- New York Jets
- Dallas Cowboys
- San Francisco 49ers
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cleveland Browns
What NFL defense is best for fantasy?
NFL defenses that generate a lot of takeaways and sacks, including the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are great defenses for fantasy.
What is the NFL defense rankings?
Sportsnaut’s NFL defense rankings evaluate and rank all 32 NFL defenses each week, reviewing their performances and projecting how they’ll perform in their upcoming game based on matchups and NFL defense stats.
What NFL defense is best for fantasy?
NFL defenses that generate a lot of takeaways and sacks, including the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns are great defenses for fantasy.
What team has the most sacks 2023?
The Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL in sacks with 47 through 12 games. The Ravens and Buffalo Bills are the only two NFL teams with 40-plus sacks this season entering December.
NFL team sack leaders
NFL teams with fewest sacks
- Baltimore Ravens – 47 sacks
- Buffalo Bills – 42
- Miami Dolphins – 38
- Dallas Cowboys – 37
- Kansas City Chiefs – 37
- Atlanta Falcons – 22 sacks
- New York Giants – 21
- Carolina Panthers – 18
- New Orleans Saints – 18
- Chicago Bears – 17
Who is the number 1 defense in NFL?
The Cleveland Browns have the No. 1 defense in the NFL through the first 12 weeks of the 2023 season.
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Who has the best defense in NFL history?
The 1985 Chicago Bears had the best NFL defense ever. Led by three Hall of Famers – Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and Dan Hampton – Chicago allowed just 101 total points on its way to winning Super Bowl XX, including an NFL record two shutouts in the playoffs. In addition, the 1985 Bears’ defense held opponents to a 50.2 passer rating with a 46.5 percent completion rate and 17-37 TD-INT ratio in 19 total games and opponents averaged just 76 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry across 19 contests in the regular season and playoffs.
Who has the weakest pass defense in the NFL?
The Washington Commanders have the worst pass defense in the NFL, allowing a league-high 104.0 QB rating, 28 passing touchdowns and 7.9 yards per attempt.
What is the best NFL pass defense?
The Cleveland Browns have the best pass defense in the NFL, holding opponents to a 73.2 QB rating with just 142 passing yards per game allowed through 11 games.
What’s the top 5 defenses in the NFL?
The top 5 NFL defenses are the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Who gives up the most passing yards in the NFL?
The Los Angeles Chargers give up the most passing yards in the NFL, allowing 280 passing yards per game. Entering Week 13, the Chargers are the only NFL team to allow 3,000 passing yards in 11 games.
What teams have the best defense in the NFL?
The Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have the best defenses in the NFL based on our 2023 NFL defense rankings.
Who has the best run defense in the NFL?
The Chicago Bears have the best run defense in the NFL, allowing a league-low 79.5 rushing yards per game and the second-lowest yards per carry (3.4) in the NFL.
Who has the worst defense in the NFL 2023?
The Washington Commanders have the worst NFL defense right now.
What defense allows most rushing yards?
Entering Week 13, the Denver Broncos have the worst run defense in the NFL allowing 155..2 rushing yards per game and a league-high 5.4 yards per carry.
What team has the most sacks in a season?
The Chicago Bears set the NFL record for most sacks in a season with 72 sacks in 16 games in 1984. Most recently, the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles became just the fourth team in NFL history to record 70 sacks in a single season.
NFL sack leaders 2022
- Joey Bosa, San Francisco 49ers – 18.5 sacks
- Haason Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles – 16 sacks
- Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns – 16 sacks
- Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs – 15.5 sacks
- Matthew Judon, New England Patriots – 15.5 sacks
NFL sack leaders by year
- 2022: Joey Bosa, San Francisco 49ers – 18.5 sacks
- 2021: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers – 22.5 sacks
- 2020: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers – 15 sacks
- 2019: Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 19.5 sacks
- 2018: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams – 20.5 sacks