Analysis

NFL Week 15 Team Defensive Efficiency Rankings

NFL Week 15 Defensive Rankings

The home stretch of the NFL Regular Season is upon us. Bye weeks are now a thing of the past and playoff hopefuls now have only 4 more games to state their case that they belong in the postseason.

The narrative of the season thus far is that scoring has been down. Defenses have had the upper hand in slowing down the evolution of big play offenses. Teams are scoring an average of 22 points per game, the lowest mark since 2017.

However, Week 14 brought change, as the 46-point combined average was the third-highest of the season. 

This high-scoring week was not the only major change to describe the state of defenses. The San Francisco 49ers have taken over the top spot in our EPA per play rankings after holding Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to 7 points.

Defensive Efficiency Rankings Explained

This season, we’ve taken a weekly temperature on the efficiency of each offense and defense. This article will once again check in on how each NFL offense ranks in EPA/Play. If you’re unfamiliar with EPA, it stands for Expected Points Added and is simply a way to measure whether or not a play brought a team closer to scoring.

For example, it’s easy to understand that a gain of five yards on fourth-and-4 is good, whereas a gain of five yards on fourth-and-6 is bad, and EPA can contextualize that in a way that net yards cannot. 

To put into context the worth of a big turnover, another example would be a quarterback throwing a pick-six on first-and-goal from the opponent’s 1-yard line. Conventional wisdom would say that was a 14-point swing – because we expected the offense to score a touchdown in that situation – and EPA would reflect roughly that. 

1. San Francisco 49ers

EPA/Play = -0.15

Last Week = T-1

2. New England Patriots

EPA/Play = -0.14

Last Week = T-1

T-3. Dallas Cowboys

EPA/Play = -0.13

Last Week = T-3

T-3. New York Jets

EPA/Play = -0.13

Last Week = T-3

Even in a 20-12 loss to the Bills, the Jets defense once again rose to the occasion against one of the premier offenses in the league. The defense held Josh Allen to just 5.4 yards per attempt and a 36.7% positive pass rate, the lowest and 2nd-lowest for Allen this year, respectively. On the ground, the Jets held the Bills to -0.16 EPA per attempt, their 4th-lowest of the year. 

A cause for concern on the Jets’ defensive front was the loss of Quinnen Williams in the second quarter with a non-contact calf strain. Currently listed as day-to-day, Williams is having an All-Pro season. Going into Week 14, he ranked 1st among interior defensive linemen in Total Points on the pass rush and 11th in Total Points on run defense.

5. Denver Broncos

EPA/Play = -0.12

Last Week = T-3

6. Philadelphia Eagles

EPA/Play = -0.11

Last Week = 6

7. Washington Commanders

EPA/Play = -0.10

Last Week = 7

8. Buffalo Bills

EPA/Play = -0.09

Last Week = T-8

T-9. Indianapolis Colts

EPA/Play = -0.07

Last Week = 10

T-9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

EPA/Play = -0.07

Last Week = T-8

Nothing went well for the Bucs in Santa Clara on Sunday as they fell to the injury-plagued 49ers 37-7. The Bucs allowed 197 yards on the ground, the second-most all year, and let Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy throw for 10.7 adjusted net yards per attempt and amass an SIS Independent Quarterback Rating of 137.5. Both of those numbers led the league in Week 14. 

The Bucs are now fully entrenched in a division race with the Panthers who are gaining ground. If the offense isn’t going to step up, the defense will have to quickly lick its wounds and carry this team to the playoffs.

11. Baltimore Ravens

EPA/Play = -0.06

Last Week = 11

T-12. Carolina Panthers

EPA/Play = -0.05

Last Week = T-12

T-12. Cincinnati Bengals

EPA/Play = -0.05

Last Week = T-12

T-14. New Orleans Saints

EPA/Play = -0.03

Last Week = T-14

T-14. Pittsburgh Steelers

EPA/Play = -0.03

Last Week = T-14

T-16. Miami Dolphins

EPA/Play = -0.02

Last Week = T-14

T-16. Tennessee Titans

EPA/Play = -0.02

Last Week = T-14

The Titans defense was gashed by Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, allowing 36 points. They allowed 368 passing yards and 3 TDs from Lawrence, with 162 and 2 going to Evan Engram. This lack of pass defense has become a theme during this 3 game losing streak, as the Titans have allowed the 2nd-highest yards per attempt and the highest EPA per pass play over this time. Coming up next? The current runner-up for the lead in passing yards, Justin Herbert

T-18. Cleveland Browns

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-19

T-18. Green Bay Packers

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-19

T-18. Houston Texans

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-23

T-18. Jacksonville Jaguars

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-23

T-18. Kansas City Chiefs

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = T-23

T-18. Seattle Seahawks

EPA/Play = -0.01

Last Week = 18

24. Los Angeles Rams

EPA/Play = 0.00

Last Week = T-23

T-25. Arizona Cardinals

EPA/Play = 0.01

Last Week = 27

T-25. Minnesota Vikings

EPA/Play = 0.01

Last Week = T-19

The Vikings defense was once again exposed against Jared Goff and the Lions, allowing 34 points. The Vikings have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, as they have allowed an NFL-high 8.1 yards per attempt and the 7th-highest positive pass percentage at 47.6%. Additionally, they rank 29th in EPA per play on early downs, a sign of true inadequacy on defense. 

Luckily, the Vikings play four teams that rank 13th or worse in EPA per play on offense to finish the year. Certainly, this will be an interesting unit to monitor when breaking down potential playoff matchups. 

T-25. New York Giants

EPA/Play = 0.01

Last Week = T-19

T-28. Chicago Bears

EPA/Play = 0.02

Last Week = T-28

T-28. Los Angeles Chargers

EPA/Play = 0.02

Last Week = T-28

30. Las Vegas Raiders

EPA/Play = 0.03

Last Week = 30

31. Atlanta Falcons

EPA/Play = 0.06

Last Week = 31

32. Detroit Lions

EPA/Play = 0.07

Last Week = 32

James Weaver contributed to this article

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