Going into the 2022 NFL season, we’ve never seen as many elite offenses as we have on paper. There are legitimately 16 teams that could lead the NFL in points per game this year.
But what defenses are going to actually be able to stop them when it matters the most? As we head into the new seasons, there are a few units that could be equally strong this season.
So what defense will be the best in 2022 and who could surprise us all? Today, we are ranking the best defenses for the 2022 season from 32-1. Let’s move on to see how we can apply these NFL power rankings of defenses, which could help your NFL betting this season.
All 2022 NFL futures odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook (unless noted) and are current as of Thursday, May 26, at 12 p.m. ET.
NFL Defense Power Rankings
32. Atlanta Falcons
Let’s start out by being optimistic about the Falcons. Atlanta could have a really good secondary — A.J. Terrell was fantastic last year, and they added veteran Casey Hayward Jr. They’ll need Richie Grant to play better in Year 2, but this secondary is well above average.
With that said, the front seven isn’t any good. They have one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL and ranked dead-last in sacks last season with 18. To make matters worse, they didn’t add any veteran help.
They will likely be playing a ton of young players this season, so the hope is that they can improve with more snaps.
31. Houston Texans
If there is one team with a worse front seven than the Falcons, it’s the Texans. They don’t have a single player that puts any fear into an offense. That’s why they finished second-to-last in yards per game allowed (384.4) and rushing yards allowed (142.2) last season.
Houston did upgrade the secondary in the draft and in free agency, bringing in Derek Stingley, Jalen Pitre and Steven Nelson. They are very young there, but there are at least some bright spots to look forward to this season.
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30. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers had a really strong defense at the beginning of the season, but they fell off once they started to play better teams. Carolina ended up with the No. 2 defense in yards per game allowed, but No. 21 in points per game.
Too often, they were exposed when they played a good quarterback. Carolina finished 30th in red-zone percentage and 26th in takeaways.
The Panthers pass rush should still be good, and they’ll be hoping Jaycee Horn can emerge as a shut-down cornerback. But the rest of the talent and depth leaves a lot to be desired.
29. Detroit Lions
If Aidan Hutchinson can be as good as everyone thinks, Detroit has a chance to finish much higher than this in 2022. Their defense had moments last year where they looked competent, but they lacked any kind of pass rush on the edge.
Still, this defense is likely a year away or two from being a top-10 unit. They were awful in the red zone last season (allowed touchdowns on 70% of trips) and finished as the fourth-worst third-down defense. Hutchinson helps, but they still need to improve.
28. Chicago Bears
The Bears hired a new head coach in Matt Eberflus, who will get Chicago back to playing fast on defense. They loaded up on defensive backs in the draft and have a pretty good linebacker corps as well.
However, the biggest question is how they are going to replace Khalil Mack, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Akiem Hicks. This is one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL, and they could really struggle to stop the run without those four players.
27. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle had the No. 12 ranked scoring defense last year, allowing only 21.5 points per game. However, that was with Bobby Wagner leading the defense.
The Seahawks decided to release Wagner this offseason and didn’t do much to replace him. Their front seven is very shaky without him, and they need the secondary to be excellent in order for them to have a chance of repeating that success.
They finished second-to-last in the NFL in passing yards per game last season, and it’s hard to imagine them being much better in that area in 2022. However, Pete Carroll is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, so don’t be surprised if he gets this unit to play well above the talent level.
26. New York Giants
The Giants could have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL fairly soon. The addition of Kayvon Thibodeaux is exactly what they needed. They have multiple high draft picks on the interior defensive line, and Azeez Ojulari was excellent as a rookie in 2021.
The only reason they are ranked so low is due to their secondary. The Giants lost James Bradberry this offseason, and they are awfully thin at cornerback.
New York has the the potential to be better than No. 26, but this team still might be a year away from making any noise on this side of the ball.
- Bet Tip: Kayvon Thibodeaux to win Defensive Rookie of the Year (+400) at Caesars Sportsbook
Thibodeaux has the second-best odds to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he’ll certainly get the opportunity to do so in his first year with the Giants. If he can make a contribution early on and stay healthy, he’ll be in the conversation all year long.
25. New York Jets
The Jets should get a big influx of talent this year. Carl Lawson will return from his injury that cost him the entire 2021 season, and they were able to grab Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson in Round 1 while adding Jordan Whitehead in free agency.
This is a very young defense that is going to need some time to gel. But they are starting to put the right type of talent together on both sides of the ball to be a contender.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars spent a ton of money and draft capital on their defense this season, but they basically had to. This was the No. 28 scoring defense in the NFL last season, allowing nearly 27 points per game.
But how quickly can Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd turn around this unit? They did add some veteran talent, but those two rookies are going to be the key for them in 2022 and beyond.
23. Minnesota Vikings
On paper, the Vikings don’t have a lot of holes on their defense. But their biggest issue has been health. Can Danielle Hunter finally stay healthy? Will Za’Darius Smith return from the back injury that cost him most of the 2021 season?
If the answer is yes to both of those, don’t be surprised if the Vikings have a top-10 unit in 2022. However, this defense could also dip some with Mike Zimmer now out of the picture in Minnesota.
22. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders lost a few key pieces on defense this offseason, including Yannick Ngakoue, Solomon Thomas and Casey Hayward. However, they were able to make that up by signing All-Pro defensive end Chandler Jones.
Jones and Maxx Crosby will be one of the best defensive end pairings in the league, but the secondary is the concern here. Their cornerback depth chart is a bit concerning, and they don’t have many proven options on the roster.
If the Raiders struggle to get stops on defense this season, it will likely be due to their extremely young secondary.
- Bet Tip: Maxx Crosby to win Defensive Player of the Year (+6000) at Caesars
Crosby was in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year last season after leading the NFL in pressures, quarterback hits, and hurries. But now that he has Jones on the other side, there is a chance he can turn more of those pressures into sacks.
Considering he is only 24 years old and has improved in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, this is a really good bet based purely on value and talent.
21. Washington Commanders
Washington’s defense should be much better this year after they lost Chase Young early in the 2021 season. This is a much different unit when he is on the field.
However, Washington’s secondary has to play better and limit big plays down the field. This team has a lot of talent in the cornerback room, but they certainly didn’t play to it.
It’s still a shock to see that they allowed nearly 26 points per game last year considering all of the talent they have on that side of the ball.
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals finished No. 16 in scoring defense last season, but they fell off a cliff midway through the season.
One of the big reasons was due to injuries and inadequate depth on the defensive line. Relying so heavily on J.J. Watt and then losing him to injury caused them to really regress near the end of the year.
Arizona hopes that players such as Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders can help improve the front seven, but the secondary is still a major problem.
19. Tennessee Titans
The Titans had the No. 6 scoring defense last season, but a lot of that had to do with six games against pretty poor offenses in the AFC South. However, to their credit, they did beat the Rams and 49ers thanks in part to their strong defensive line.
The Titans do have a really good pass rush, and with Bud Dupree now fully recovered from his torn ACL in 2020, they have a chance to be even better.
With that said, Tennessee is relying a lot on their its cornerbacks, including Caleb Farley, Elijah Molden, and Roger McCreary. They’ll need those three players to perform well to have a top-20 defense once again.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
There were times last season when the Chiefs were dominant on defense. In other games, it was the reason they lost.
The key for Kansas City is clearly Chris Jones. When he is healthy, this unit is fantastic. Without him, it’s painfully average.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Chiefs lost Tyrann Mathieu this offseason, but they did replace him with Justin Reid. With that said, the secondary is a major question mark, and it could be the reason why they don’t have quite as much success this season on that side of the ball.
17. San Francisco 49ers
It feels weird to rank the 49ers this low considering they did finish as a top-five team in points per game last season, but there are still some big question marks with this unit.
The secondary is still one of the worst in the NFL, and they are once again relying on Jason Verrett to stay healthy. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead are both excellent players, but they need someone else to emerge and take some pressure off of them.
Admittedly, this is probably too low for the 49ers. But until the secondary gets better, it’s tough to imagine them repeating the defensive success they had last season.
16. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins had a top-five scoring defense in 2020 before regressing in 2021. So how will the defense look in 2022 without Brian Flores? That remains to be seen.
The good news is that they still have a ton of talent on defense, specifically in the secondary. If Xavien Howard and Byron Jones can stay healthy, this should be one of the better defenses in the NFL this season.
15. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have one of the NFL’s best players, in Myles Garrett and they were able to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney this offseason. They even have one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL in Denzel Ward. Those three players alone should be able to carry this defense.
Still, they lack the interior defensive line talent and depth to be a top unit in the NFL. But the hope is that they can have a solid rotation and the rest of the defense can make up for that weaknesses.
If they can find production on their interior defensive line, the Browns have a chance to have a pretty good defense in 2022. It would also help if players like Greg Newsome, Greedy Williams, and Grant Delpit can all finally stay healthy.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles did not have a good defense last year despite having a lot of depth on paper. So, they addressed their defense in the offseason by signing veterans Haason Reddick and James Bradberry.
They also traded up for Jordan Davis, who is one of the biggest and most athletic defensive tackles in NFL history. He’s not going to be an every-down player for them in 2022, but he could instantly upgrade their run defense.
13. Cincinnati Bengals The offense gets a ton of praise in Cincinnati, but it’s the defense that came up clutch in the playoffs for the Bengals. They were able to create a big play whenever they needed one and ultimately stopped Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in overtime with an interception.
The Bengals didn’t add a ton to their defense this offseason, but they are hoping first-round pick Daxton Hill can give them more versatility in the secondary.
Keep an eye on second-year EDGE rusher Joseph Ossai, who looked really good in training camp before injuring his meniscus. He could fill a big role as the No. 3 defensive end on the roster this season.
12. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts had a sneaky good offseason on defense, adding defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. They traded for Yannick Ngakoue, who had a nice season under Bradley in Las Vegas. Then, they added one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Stephon Gilmore to pair with Kenny Moore, the league’s best slot cornerback.
But the most important player to this defense might be second-year defensive tackle Dayo Odeyingbo. He’s now fully recovered from his torn Achilles and should be a star in the middle of their defense.
The Colts don’t quite have the talent of some of the top defenses in the league, but don’t be surprised if they rank as one of the better scoring defenses again this season.
11. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers didn’t make the playoffs last season due to their defense. All they needed to do was stop Josh Jacobs on a long third-down run, but they couldn’t do it.
So what did the Chargers do this offseason? They loaded up on defense.
The Chargers kicked off the offseason by trading for former All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack to pair with Joey Bosa. Then, they signed the best cornerback on the market in J.C. Jackson to help revamp their secondary.
The Chargers have stars all over their defense, but they need players like Kenneth Murray and Drue Tranquill to play better. This team is talented enough to win the Super Bowl on both sides of the ball, but they desperately need to find better depth outside of their stars.
- Read our 2022 NFL Offense Power Rankings for more ways to bet the upcoming season.
10. Baltimore Ravens
No team in the NFL had more injuries than the Baltimore Ravens last season, and it greatly impacted their defense. At one point, all of their top four cornerbacks were on the injured reserve list.
But the Ravens are healthy now, and they’ve added some serious talent to the defense this offseason. Marcus Williams is one of the best free safeties in the NFL, and they selected Kyle Hamilton in Round 1 of the NFL Draft.
The key for this defense will be the pass rush. If Odafe Oweh can take a step up in Year 2, the Ravens could have a scary good defense in 2022.
9. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys had the No. 1 scoring offense in the league last season, but it was their defense that carried them in the second half of the season. The Cowboys created the most turnovers in the league, as Trevon Diggs led the NFL in interceptions with 11.
There will undoubtedly be some regression to the mean, and they did lose an important player in Randy Gregory. But when you have Dan Quinn leading the defense and Micah Parsons making plays, you are in a good spot.
Bet Tip: Sam Williams to win Defensive Rookie of the Year (+4000) at BetMGM Sportsbook
Pass rushers usually win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. They’ve now done so in each of the last three seasons. The Cowboys “reached" on Sam Williams in Round 2, but he finished second in the SEC in sacks and was coveted by Quinn.
With Gregory now off the roster, Williams has a chance to play a ton of snaps on a defense that should create a bunch of sacks. If Williams can get 7 or 8 sacks on this defense, he’ll be in the conversation for the award.
At 40:1, it’s worth throwing a few bucks on Williams given his college production and incredible athleticism (4.46 40-yard dash).
8. Los Angeles Rams
When you have a defense with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, you are going to be good. And the Rams have an excellent chance to finish as a top-10 scoring defense for the third-straight season.
They did lose Von Miller this offseason in free agency, but they signed arguably the best linebacker in the NFL in Bobby Wagner. They have a superstar on all three levels of their defense and should be excellent again this season.
Bet Tip: Aaron Donald to win Defensive Player of the Year (+700) at Caesars
Donald missed out on what would’ve been his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021, but as long as he remains in the league, he’ll be a contender to win it. Few players are as menacing as the seven-time All-Pro, and as one of the stars for the reigning Super Bowl champs, all eyes will be on him again in 2022.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers finished at No. 7 in scoring defense for the second consecutive season despite a ton of injuries to their secondary. They added talent to their defense this offseason, bringing in Logan Ryan and Logan Hall.
The only real concern for this defense is their age. They are older in a few spots, and they don’t have a ton of depth. Otherwise, this is a really good unit that could finish around No. 7 again this season.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are one of the toughest defenses to figure out. On paper, they should be elite. They’ve got the reigning defensive player of the year in T.J. Watt and another Pro Bowl defensive lineman in Cameron Heyward.
However, they finished 22nd in points per game last season and didn’t make any big changes to the defense. They rely on a bunch of sacks and splash plays, but can be exposed through the air against good quarterbacks.
They did lead the NFL in sacks for the fifth year, in a row but they also allowed the most rushing yards per game last season (146.1).
The Steelers should be fine this season, but the days of having a dominant defense are likely over. Look for them to create a bunch of turnovers, as usual.
5. Green Bay Packers
Instead of helping Aaron Rodgers on offense in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Packers took two Georgia defenders to keep the front seven dominant. Green Bay already had a good defense last year despite a ton of injuries.
With Jaire Alexander back, this defense has a chance to finish as a top-three unit in points and yards allowed. It would be a shock if they allowed more than 21 points per game this season.
One area they must improve on is in the red zone. They allowed a touchdown on 66% of their opponent’s red zone trips, which was fifth-worst in the NFL. That can’t happen if the Packers want to be known as an elite defense in 2022.
4. Denver Broncos
The Broncos finished second in points per game last season, but they did feast on a lot of bad offenses early in the season. They also had Vic Fangio coaching the defense, who is one of the best defensive minds in NFL history.
Still, this should be a very good unit again this season. Denver might have the best secondary in the NFL. The key for them will be their pass rushers, as Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory have both had problems staying on the field.
If they can both stay healthy and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they’ll have a legitimate shot at finishing as the best defense in the NFL.
3. New Orleans Saints
One of the defenses that could easily finish at No. 1 this season in points per game is the New Orleans Saints. They silenced Tom Brady last year in Tampa Bay, and they only got better this offseason.
New Orleans added Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye to its secondary, which should only make this unit more dangerous. Keep an eye on Pete Werner and Zack Baun as well, as the former Big Ten stars could have breakout seasons at linebacker for the Saints.
2. New England Patriots
The Patriots finished third in points per game allowed last season (19.3), but the Bills exposed them in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. New England just looked far too slow, especially at linebacker.
They have since moved on from Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and they are hoping that some of their young players can replace them in the starting lineup.
The biggest loss will be J.C. Jackson, who left in free agency for the Chargers. Replacing him will be difficult. There just isn’t a lot of talent in the cornerback room for New England.
Still, Bill Belichick will coach this defense, so you know they’ll be good. However, the ceiling might not quite be as high as it was in previous seasons.
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills had the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL last season (18.3) and they got better this offseason.
Buffalo added one of the league’s best EDGE rushers in Von Miller, and he’ll now place across second-year player Gregory Rousseau, who had his moments as a rookie.
They also selected Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam and will get back Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White back from a season-ending knee injury.
If the Bills can get some better play from their young players (A.J. Epenesa, Carlos Basham, etc), this defense should be able to finish No. 1 in points and yard allowed again.