The game of football has evolved over the last decade plus. Fullbacks have disappeared, wide receivers are getting paid big bucks, teams use a variety of guys in the backfield and everything is just so much more about getting your playmakers the ball in space. While all these things might be true and everybody knows the names of the superstars with the ball in their hands, to me there’s no doubt that the game is still won and lost in the trenches. If you can dictate the pace of the game and set the tone up front, you put yourself in a very good position to succeed. Therefore I wanted to take a look at which teams have the most dominants fronts on both sides of the ball. I expect about eight of these ten teams to make the playoffs in 2018.
It was really hard to compile this list, because of all the moving pieces, players being injured and just what these defenses have become as units. So the base I judge them on is the way they are constructed right now. Therefore, I couldn’t quite put the Seahawks and definitely not the Texans on this list, since they have suffered immensely with injuries to top of their three best defensive players. Sometimes the major statistics, like total yards allowed, can be misleading, for example, until a week ago, the Denver Broncos were the number one defense in terms of yardage allowed. Even though they still have an excellent trio of cornerbacks combined with Von Miller to rush the passer and they could easily bounce back big-time next season, that’s absurd, considering since after a hot start to the season at 3-1, they gave up an average of just over 30 points per game during an eight-game losing streak. The numbers I do care about are points allowed, takeaways, third down and red zone percentage allowed. Most importantly though, I want to look at the scheme each unit runs, how well they execute, and what my eyes tell me.
With the NFL regular season moving into a phase, where all games seem to be of higher magnitude and teams are trying to make a playoff push, I wanted to take a look at the league’s landscape and where I’d rank all 32 squads heading into week 13. All those teams, which are currently part of the playoff picture or in the hunt, have crucial matchups coming up on their schedule and a lot of them still play each other to determine who will be there in the end. I’d like to point out at this point, that standings are secondary and that this list is about how well teams are playing as of right now.
With another crazy week of college football, which included four of the top 13 teams in the country losing, I decided to make my own top 25 rankings. I largely agree with the top ten of the CFP and AP lists, I just flipped around numbers six to eight a bit. After that, I trust what I see when I put on the games each Saturday (and when I study the tape throughout the week). Of course I also have to take an outlook for each program into consideration as well, because I just can’t put any two-loss team from the Power Five, which doesn’t even have a chance to play in the conference championship game, above one who still basically controls their own destiny and has a chance to leave a mark on me and the committee. Without further ado, here’s my list:
This week I want to give some love to the big guys. We always talk about the skill players and try to rank, so I thought I’d rank the best O-lines in the NFL right now.
Defenses run the table right now. Other than Pittsburgh’s and Atlanta’s high-powered offenses it’s the defensive units that have carried the premier teams over the first five weeks. Sure those team’s offenses make the critical plays and Tom Brady will be the main figure in New England from now on, but the top defenses have made the winningest teams go. The criteria for what makes those units elite has changed over the past decade or two, since the focus has shifted more to being able to lock down receivers and mix coverages well, but I feel like being able to make offenses one-dimensional by shutting down the run has a lot of value.
After putting up my All-NFL roster one-and-a-half weeks ago and Kam Chancellor showing me why he should be on there (even though he didn’t perform anywhere near that in the regular season and I only two strong safeties on there), I decided to list the best units for each position group. So this is not about individual performances but rather about what the entire unit has done for their respective team. Again this is only about the regular season. Let’s see where Kam’s Legion of Boom stacks up.