NFL Week 5: Defensive Efficiency Rankings

Joey Bosa

As the season’s first quarter comes to a close, we look at the team defensive efficiency rankings in terms of EPA per play to find which units are excelling and which have holes to patch. 

1. San Francisco 49ers (-0.23 EPA/Play)

The 49ers’ defense has been dominant in every facet. The unit ranks sixth in passing yards per attempt allowed (6.2), first in rushing yards per attempt at 2.9, and tied for first with 15 sacks. Nick Bosa has been one of the main contributors to the 49ers’ success, becoming one of the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year. Bosa leads the league in sacks (6) and pressures (25). 


2. Buffalo Bills (-0.21 EPA/Play)

The Bills’ defense has been impressive against some of the best offenses in the league, even playing without cornerback Tre’Davious White, who is due back from injury soon. In addition, the Bills have improved their pass rush and rank top 10 in both pressure and sack percentages. Free agent acquisition Von Miller and second-year draft pick Greg Rousseau have combined for 7 sacks. 

T-3. Philadelphia Eagles (-0.19 EPA/Play)

T-3. Jacksonville Jaguars (-0.19 EPA/Play)

The Jaguars have been the surprise of the first quarter of the season so far, and not only because of their offense. The team’s defense has gotten it done both in pass coverage and rushing the passer, as it ranks in the top 10 in Total Points Saved in both categories. Josh Allen has taken a big step forward in pass rushing and ranks seventh in Pass Rush Total Points with 10 (he finished last season with 14). Rookie LB Devin Lloyd has also made his presence felt in coverage, ranking second among linebackers in Pass Coverage Total Points (14).

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-0.18 EPA/Play)

6. Cincinnati Bengals (-0.17 EPA/Play)

7. Denver Broncos (-0.15 EPA/Play)

8. New Orleans Saints (-0.12 EPA/Play)

9. Dallas Cowboys (-0.11 EPA/Play)

10. Green Bay Packers (-0.10 EPA/Play)

11. Carolina Panthers (-0.09 EPA/Play)

12. Chicago Bears (-0.07 EPA/Play)

The Bears have been successful in pass coverage thus far, ranking 10th in EPA per pass. Safety Eddie Jackson ranks sixth among all defenders in Pass Coverage Total Points (17), and cornerback Kindle Vildor ranks 23rd (10). Also, Roquan Smith ranks seventh in Run Defense Total Points (7) and leads the league in tackles (50).


T-12. Pittsburgh Steelers (-0.07 EPA/Play)

14. New York Giants (-0.06 EPA/Play)

15. Indianapolis Colts (-0.05 EPA/Play)

T-16. Kansas City Chiefs (-0.03 EPA/Play)

T-16. Washington Commanders (-0.03 EPA/Play)

The Commanders’ defense has struggled in pass coverage, allowing 8.0 yards per attempt (fifth-worst in the league). However, it ranks second in pressure rate at 45% and 18th in sack percentage. With the return of Chase Young expected over the next few weeks and positive regression in the pass rush, the Commanders have an opportunity to improve their ranking over the next few weeks.

T-18. New York Jets (-0.02 EPA/Play)

T-18. Los Angeles Rams (-0.02 EPA/Play)

T-20. New England Patriots (-0.01 EPA/Play)

T-20. Las Vegas Raiders (-0.01 EPA/Play)

T-22. Arizona Cardinals (0.0 EPA/Play)

T-22. Los Angeles Chargers (0.0 EPA/Play)

T-22. Houston Texans (0.0 EPA/Play)

T-22. Cleveland Browns (0.0 EPA/Play)

The Browns have run into some unfortunate circumstances on defense, resulting in a dip in their overall performance. An ankle injury to Jadeveon Clowney and a car accident that has left Myles Garrett with injuries to his bicep and shoulder have taken away two of the top pass-rushers in the game. However, even with these injuries, the Browns are seventh in pressure rate (40%). However, they are 20th in sack percentage.

26. Baltimore Ravens (0.01 EPA/Play)

The Baltimore defense has been disappointing thus far, mainly due to two second-half collapses against the Bills and the Dolphins. In the first half of games, the Ravens rank sixth in EPA per pass ( -0.17) and are 17th in EPA per rush (-0.02). In the second half of games, the Ravens rank in the bottom five in both categories. 


27. Minnesota Vikings (0.02 EPA/Play)

28. Miami Dolphins (0.03 EPA/Play)

29. Tennessee Titans (0.04 EPA/Play)

30. Atlanta Falcons (0.05 EPA/Play)

31. Seattle Seahawks (0.09 EPA/Play)

32. Detroit Lions (0.17 EPA/Play)

James Weaver contributed to this report.

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