Sep 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers (90) defensive end Robert Quinn (94) and defensive end Chris Long (91) huddle up before a game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the NFL Top Five Defenses in 2014


Seattle reigned supreme in 2013 as the best NFL defense.  Will anyone unseat them in 2014?  Here are the top five projected.

#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lovie Smith has built some of the best defenses in recent memory both as a coordinator in St. Louis and later as head coach in Chicago.  Not only did he inherit a strong cast of talent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a flurry of free agent signings brought in Pro Bowl level help like Alterraun Verner.  If Lovie is as good of a coach as he was for the Bears, those young stars like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David should help Tampa Bay become a dynamic force defensively.

#4 – San Francisco 49ers

Consistency breeds expectations.  The San Francisco 49ers have fielded one of the top NFL defenses ever since Jim Harbaugh became head coahc.  They have a talented starting lineup with a near infinite well of depth behind them.  At the same time, their best player NaVarro Bowman is coming off a bad knee injury and star pass rusher Aldon Smith is facing more off-the-field problems.  So that should hold them back some, but the 49ers always seem to compensate.

#3 – Seattle Seahawks

Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman aren’t going anywhere.  Michael Bennett is locked up as well. The core of the Seattle Seahawks remains intact and thus so their defense.  At the same time, it’s hard to ignore how much they lost in free agency including Walter Thurmond III, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant.  Will their celebrated depth help carry the day?  For the most part, yes.  However, the losses should knock them out of the top spot.

#2 – New Orleans Saints

It was one of the best coaching jobs in NFL history.  Consider that the New Orleans Saints were the worst defense in the league arguably ever in 2012.  A year later they hired Rob Ryan and jumped up to 4th overall.  Fast forward to the off-season and they made a huge additions with three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd who will join Kenny Vaccaro on the back end.  Lastly throw 6’3″ monstrosity Stanley Jean-Baptiste in at corner and suddenly the weaknesses of the Saints defense have disappeared.  If things progress as they should this group could be even better this season.

#1 – St. Louis Rams

The early part of the 2013 season was rough for the St. Louis Rams defense, but they soon found their foothold and finished strong.  Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have assembled a young, dynamic cast of player with the defensive line being the heart of it.  Robert Quinn and Chris Long remain at end, but now are joined by violent interior pass rusher Aaron Donald, potentially giving the Rams the best pass rush in the NFL.  Provided their secondary progresses as it can, this team is going to dominate games thanks almost entirely to their pass rush.  History has shown that is typically all that’s needed.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: New Orleans Saints NFL San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks St. Louis Rams Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • David A Maupin

    If the Bears play to their potential on paper than they very well could sneak into top 5. Top 10 I feel is a safe bet now. I expect a lot of improvement over last season. We have better talent and are much deeper than last year at every position.

    • Erik Lambert

      That would make me, personally, very happy but I have to be realistic. They are in the middle of a transition. I like what they did in the off-season, assembling a very strong cast for their defensive line and secondary. If the linebackers step the forefront (and stay healthy) this group is in for a turnaround. Top 5? I don’t think they are quite there yet.

  • David Whited

    I think you are seriously overlooking Kansas City! Both Hali and Houston will be back healthy and the addition of Dee Ford on third downs will be a lot for QB’s to deal with.

    • Erik Lambert

      KC is good. I think they will be top ten if they stay healthy but not top 5 in my mind because of their secondary.

  • David Whited

    One more thing to keep in mind is that all three of your NFC West teams will also have to stop Denver, San Diego, and a KC offense in its second year with Reid and ranked 6th in points the second half of last season.

    • Erik Lambert

      Based on what Seattle did to Denver, I’m not too worried about your warning, David.

      • David Whited

        That’s a solid point. As much as I hate the Donkeys, I think we all know that offense was better than the score reflected, and it’s gotten better. No team is looking at the AFC West as a gimme to beef their defensive stats in 14′.

        • Erik Lambert

          The AFC West needs to get more physical if they want to compete with the NFC West. The Super Bowl reflected that much.

    • Panther Hines

      Once…that wont settle the score for the entire season, 15 other games. KC and SD aren’t anything special that other teams and division’s wont have to face

  • MIKE MACAULAY

    crazy when i read the title i was 50/50 on STL being in the top 5 with the rest of the NFC in. AZ, SEA, and SF finished in the top 7 in OPP PPG and OPP yards. STL was middle of the pack. Their front four will be nice but their back seven is arguably one of the weakest in the league. The only thing memorable a rams db has done was grabbing VD’s junk.

    • Erik Lambert

      Their secondary is better than people think. Janoris Jenkins is a solid corner and I think Trumaine Johnson is going to take a big step forward this year. Then you throw in Lamarcus Joyner, who is a playmaker with versatility and they will find ways to make it happen, especially behind that front.

      • Nathan Kearns

        Moreover, St. Louis played without T.J. McDonald for most of last season (broken leg) and with no nickelback after Finnegan went on IR.

        They also played without a defensive coordinator, after Tim Walton essentially got demoted halfway through the season for his soft zone coverage and lack of creativity. Gregg Williams was the Rams biggest pickup of the offseason

        • Panther Hines

          You mean they suffered injury like every other team? Having depth is part of what makes good defense’s elite

          • Nathan Kearns

            Well, luckily this isn’t a ranked of the 2013 defenses, right? They did plenty to address the lack of depth in the secondary, which I assume is why St. Louis is ranked so highly in the article. Personally, I see St. Louis as a borderline-Top 5 defense, with the potential to move higher up that list if the rookies (Mo Alexander, Lamarcus Joyner, Marcus Roberson, etc.) can step up in the secondary.

      • Panther Hines

        Why didn’t they last year? Worsr defense in their own division. Which is still pretty good but to say top 5 would mean only one team in the entire NFL could hang with the NFCW

  • boldness

    Wow no Bengals Smh got stars on all 3 levels and a continuous top 10 defense we were top 5 last year without Geno and Leon hall Smh crazy

    • Erik Lambert

      Bengals lost Zimmer, which I consider huge.

  • Adam McCabe

    Wow no KC!?!?

    • Erik Lambert

      Top 10 because of their front seven. No top 5 because of their secondary.

    • Travis Crouch

      Did You Watch THEORY Playoff Game The Was Up By Like Thirty And The Def Blew It I Know THEORY Was A Couple Of Injury But At The End Of The Season THEORY Was Had ING Out points

  • joe

    Eagles D will take strides, they came on strong at the end. I expect Marcus smith to make a faster impact than people think. With malcolm jenkins, Jaylen Watkins, nolan carroll, Reynolds, they have a much more solid and versatile db core. Smith will help them do their jobs better with his speed and the new stunts they can run with the more solid options around all positions. Versatility is key, theyll never know if he’s gonna drop back or plow ahead. Boykin is gonna kill it too. Can do dime packages now!!! Cant wait.

    • joe

      Not top 5 but much better, noticeable to national media better.

      • Erik Lambert

        I expect they will improve as well but I’m not sold on their additions to the secondary. I felt they could’ve done better in that area and felt Marcus Smith was a reach in the 1st round of the draft.

        • joe

          More teams wanted to take him though and were willing to, cardinals one. They picked next, marcus told the media that they were gonna or Washington at 34. Few scouts have been saying he’s gonna get better and better. Only played 3 full years on defense and got results fast. Jaylen Watkins had an ankle problem at the combine and said he could run a 4.3 easily (4.42 at combine). I just hope smiths ceiling is as high as they say. Bill Davis seems to be an evil genius, so I hope it pans out. If other teams were willing to reach, maybe it was a good thing.

  • Cyteria Knight

    Erik, are you on drugs? Why aren’t the Carolina Panthers on this list?

    • Erik Lambert

      Because they lost Mike Mitchell and Captain Munnerlyn. Plus we don’t know the situation regarding Greg Hardy.

      • Panther Hines

        R u kidding me? They lost two guys playing for vet minimum contracts who nobody else even andwnted heading into last season and now they’re not top 5 after teetering the entire season last year between 1&2? The ENTIRE front 7, which IS the best in the World, is returning. Added competition for TWO UDFAs that started last season in the way of PROBOWLERS (not one but TWO), get Godfrey back, spend half their draft adding to that slew of talent, and somehow fall out of the top 5 while 2 unproven division rivals, who weren’t even close to being on the same level last year (one of which lost the best CB in the NFL), move ahead of them? Hardy isnt getting kicked off the team or suspended indefinitely but even if he did they have Alexander, Addison and Kony Ealy, who most mocks had being drafted in the first round, to fill in! Not to mention the natural progression of rookies in regards to Star, Short, White AND Lester!! Complete madness…

        • Erik Lambert

          Nothing mad about it at all, PH. I think you’re devaluing the losses of Mitchell and Munnerlyn simply to make your point. Mitchell signed a $25 million deal with Pittsburgh. That is not chump change. Munnerlyn signed a vet minimum deal less because he can play and more because of his height. I don’t see anybody they added to that secondary who can make a difference. Kony Ealy is not Greg Hardy. More than that though they suffered from a bout of good health in 2013, something that tends not to happen twice in a row. I also believe they’ll be on the field more often because I think that offense will not be able to run the ball like they did last year.

          • Panther Hines

            You’re over-valuing Mitchell and Munnerlyn. They both play with a chip on their shoulder and I like both of them but the fact is that both are avg at best. Mitchell never even cracked a starting line up in Oakland, Munnerlyn shopped around the league and nobody wanted him so both ended up signing in Carolina for the smallest deal possible. Thats who they are and thats all thats needed when you have a front 7 like that. Neither player just got that much better in their 5th year in the league, that didn’t happen. The guys brought in via free agency are more proven, last year’s rookies are more prepared, Godfrey is healthy and he’s a hell of a player and they got deeper in the draft. Ealy isnt Hardy, right, but we dont need two Hardys. One is enough when paired with CJ, Short and Star. Also returning Dwan Edwards, Colin Cole, Alexander, Addison and more. Its the best d line in the NFL. Kuechly, arguably the best MLB in the NFL, and his wingmen will also be back and 100% healthy. The defense is better and deeper than 6 months ago. The offense will look different and may have trouble at LT but they’ll be just fine. As of today, they ARE the defending NFCS champs and that shouldn’t be understated

    • 65yt

      And their D looked awful against 49ers in Post Season.
      It was over in the 2nd qtr.

      • Panther Hines

        Not bc of their defense

    • Marquis Pierre

      No secondary…

  • erik

    To all of those who mention that St. Louis has an incompetent back 7: Ogletree had an outstanding year, James Laurinaitis is a rock solid MLB, Janoris Jenkins is a number one corner, TJ McDonald had a very strong rookie showing at SS, despite missing half the season. Add in Lamarcus Joyner and you have a very competent back 7, that will not be having to cover for very long, because *cough cough* the Fearsome Foursome is back. #SackCity.