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Projecting the Top 10 NFL Defenses for 2024

The National Football League in 2024 is an offense-driven league dominated by elite Quarterbacks and innovative offensive coaches that grab the headlines and drive the marketing of the organization as a whole.

At it’s heart, though, the NFL remains a battle of wills. It’s the ultimate team sport, where one’s mettle and fortitude are tested to the very limits every single week. Look past the flair of high-flying passing attacks and really zoom in. It’s a struggle. A grind. Blood, sweat, and tears. Being tougher and more physical than your opponent still matters.

Defense still matters.

Just ask the back-to-back Super Bowl Champions how much defense matters, even in today’s NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs offense struggled, even with All-World QB Patrick Mahomes under center all season. However, the Chiefs boasted the league’s No. 2 ranked scoring defense and finished 4th in Success Rate and 6th in EPA/play. Without that level of shutdown D in 2023, the Chiefs never even sniff their 2nd straight championship.

So, which units will show up in 2024 and remind the NFL world that defense still matters? Let’s dive in to my projected Top 10 Defenses for 2024.


The Jets were the league’s best defense over the 2nd half of 2023 by most advanced metrics. They return an impressive group at all 3 levels, while also adding high end talent at key positions like Haason Reddick on the Edge and Javon Kinlaw along the IDL. The one thing we know HC Robert Saleh can do is coach up a defense, and I project that this group will be the league’s best overall defensive unit in 2024.


The Steelers were one of two teams (Saints) to finish in the Top 10 in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, Success Rate (SR), Drop-back EPA, Drop-back SR, Rush EPA, and Rush SR as well as Points Allowed in 2023. For this season, the team is expecting to get a healthy Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick back, and when you consider the improvements made at ILB in adding FA Patrick Queen and 3rd Rd. pick Payton Wilson to go along with the league’s best pass-rushing duo in TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith, there’s not much to dislike about this defense.

If the CB room sees Joey Porter Jr. live up to his lofty self-expectations this season, and the team stays healthy along the DL, Pittsburgh should take another step forward on Defense in 2024.


The Browns defense went from good to incredible under DC Jim Schwartz in 2023, finishing as the top ranked unit in EPA/play, SR, Drop-back EPA, and Drop-back SR. Despite finishing a mediocre 14th in scoring defense, and struggling against the run all year, Cleveland’s smothering pass defense forced opponents into one-dimensional attacks and plenty of mistakes last season.

For 2024, the Browns return the majority of their elite starting lineup and have also added some force up front to hopefully help their run defense this season. I expect another stellar performance from Cleveland, and though some of their advanced metrics may regress some this season, I expect an improvement in points allowed in 2024.


The Niners D was an up and down unit all season in 2023, but what they absolutely refused to do was let opposing offenses score points, finishing as the 3rd ranked scoring defense, despite ranking a mediocre 15th in Success Rate and 26th in Rush EPA. They were top 10 in most other areas, though, thriving off a dominant pass rush and high-end secondary play. The defense wasn’t nearly as dominant as their full-season numbers would suggest towards the end of the year, but they still had the ability to shut make big plays and out-physical their opponents. I expect more of the same in 2024, despite the switch at Defensive Coordinator from Steve Wilks to Nick Sorenson.


Saints Head Coach Dennis Allen can still coach defense. The Saints joined the Steelers as the only teams in 2023 to field a Top 10 defense in the metrics I listed above for Pittsburgh. Their traditional numbers were less gaudy (13th in Yds allowed, 22nd in rush yds allowed) but they did come away with a Top 8 scoring D and forced teams into a ton of mistakes (4th in takeaways with 29). The unit is getting a little older, and some of their recent swings on the Edge haven’t panned out like they hoped, but the reality is this is a well-coached unit that can cover up some personnel deficiencies with great schematics and execution. I expect them to be a tough unit again in 2024.


The loss of Dan Quinn will be tough for a group that had consistently ranked as one of the league’s best during his tenure as DC, but the talent should continue to shine through for Dallas despite his absence. The Cowboys ranked 4th in EPA/play in 2023, relying on turnovers and pressure to overwhelm offenses. Dallas also finished 5th overall in scoring defense and yards allowed last year.

Led by All-Pro talents like Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence up front and a ball-hawking secondary, the Cowboys should still be extremely tough to beat through the air. The question will be can the Rush D show up to the party this year? If they can be better against the run, this ranking could end up being too low.


I am bullish on a Chicago defense that played like one of the best units in the league in the 2nd half of 2023. It’s a big enough sample size to feel really good about their chances of replicating their late season success where from weeks 10-18 they were 3rd in EPA/play and 7th in Success Rate. Specifically against the pass, Chicago became an impenetrable force led by the play of CB Jaylon Johnson and bolstered by the arrival of DE Montez Sweat. The Bears are well-coached on that side of the ball and are returning the majority of their talent in 2024. They should be fun to watch on D this year.


Head Coach DeMeco Ryans is a defensive guru, and his unit continually got better as the 2023 season progressed. They finished 11th in scoring D in 2023, but really showed out against the run, holding opponents to a paltry 3.5 yds/carry on the ground. They were 3rd in defensive Success Rate over the back half of the season, and they’ve added premiere talent to the defensive front in DE Danielle Hunter and LB Azeez Al-Shaair., and their secondary looks to take a leap with CB Derek Stingley, Jr. ready to establish himself as one of the premiere corners in the game. This is a dangerous Texans team in 2024, and it’s not all because of CJ Stroud and the offense.


The Pats were impressive across the board in 2023 under former HC Bill Belichick, and they return a lot of the talent that produced the 8th best unit in total EPA/play and one of the toughest run defenses in the league, giving up only 3.3 yds/attempt and finishing 2nd in Rush EPA over the course of the season.

If new Head Coach Jerod Mayo can pick up where Belichick left off (a big ask for a 1st year head coach replacing one of the greatest defensive minds and arguably the best HC of all time), the Pats D should be tough sledding for opposing offenses again in 2024.


The Ravens had the league’s best defense outside of Cleveland in 2023, finishing 1st in scoring and 2nd in EPA/play. So why the fall all the way to 10 for next season? That’s the Mike McDonald effect. The new HC in Seattle and former DC in Baltimore was the glue holding it all together for a defense that played out of it’s mind for the majority of the season. His departure, along with the losses of key contributors like Jadavion Clowney and Geno Stone, plays a big factor in my decision to rank them this low ahead of 2024.

Still, the Ravens should be stingy on the ground and continue to force turnovers (1st in takeaways in 2023) this season, but the overall ceiling of the unit is lowered because of their more significant losses.

Just Missed: Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Las Vegas Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons


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