Rankings

Week 10 NFL Defensive Efficiency Rankings

It was an exciting weekend for the AFC East, with the Jets getting a big win against the Bills, the Dolphins winning another shootout against the suddenly-offensively-competent Bears and the Patriots knocking the Colts into next Saturday. 

You’ll see three of the four teams in that division at the top of this list of the best defenses by Expected Points Added per play this year. The Bills, Jets and Patriots are each in the Top 10 in turnovers forced and yards allowed. The Dolphins…well, it’s a good thing they have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Defensive Efficiency Rankings Explained

Yards are easy to understand. As strange as it may be to say that about an Imperial unit of measurement, American football fans just get it. Expected points added EPA), on the other hand – not so much. But, at its core, EPA is another way of expressing yards. More specifically, it communicates whether the yards on a play brought a team closer to scoring based on the field position and the down and distance. And while EPA is seldom expressed with a nice, whole number, it’s more intuitive than you might think.

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. It also helps quantify the value of turnover plays. 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. Denver Broncos 

EPA/Play = -0.17

Last Week = 1

2. New England Patriots 

EPA/Play = -0.16 

Last Week = 6

I’m sure even in 2022 Patriots fans enjoy a beatdown of the Colts more than against the average team. During the last four weeks, Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise Jr. are among the best pass rushers in pressure rate (with Josh Uche having success as well with more limited rush snaps). 

Judon was one of the best edge rushers in the league in his first season donning the red sleeves, and he was keeping that up before this stretch. Wise is having a banner year in his sixth year in New England, already setting a career-high in sacks, and he’s a game or two away from a career-high in pressures as well.

3. New York Jets 

EPA/Play = -0.14  

Last Week = T-2

T-4. Buffalo Bills 

EPA/Play = -0.12  

Last Week = T-2

T-4. Dallas Cowboys 

EPA/Play = -0.12  

Last Week = T-4

T-4. Philadelphia Eagles 

EPA/Play = -0.12  

Last Week = T-4

7. Indianapolis Colts 

EPA/Play = -0.11  

Last Week = 7

The Indianapolis defense had one of its best games this past week but was put in a tough spot by the offense. New England’s pass plays lost a third of an expected point per play, and they produced positive EPA on just 35% of plays. That’s just the weaker facet of the defensive unit. During the course of the full season, Indianapolis has held opposing running games to the lowest EPA per play in the league, with two hundred-yard Derrick Henry games included.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

EPA/Play = -0.10  

Last Week = T-8

9. San Francisco 49ers 

EPA/Play = -0.08  

Last Week = T-8

T-10. Cincinnati Bengals 

EPA/Play = -0.07  

Last Week = T-10

T-10. Washington Commanders 

EPA/Play = -0.07  

Last Week = T-12

12. Jacksonville Jaguars 

EPA/Play = -0.06  

Last Week = T-12

T-13. Green Bay Packers 

EPA/Play = -0.05  

Last Week = T-15

T-13. Los Angeles Rams 

EPA/Play = -0.05  

Last Week = T-19

The Rams are coming off a game in which they held Buccaneers QB Tom Brady to less than 300 passing yards with nearly 60 attempts, but it’s still a somewhat disappointing year for this squad. There was discussion after the Super Bowl about Aaron Donald retiring, and while other parts of the roster are much more worrisome, the Hall-of-Famer’s numbers are on the downswing. 

Part of it is he hasn’t been on the field for the insane number of snaps he usually is. But beyond that, his pressure rate has dropped each of the past four years, and he’s on pace for a sizable drop-off in tackles for loss. Jalen Ramsey has also struggled to live up to his high standards, allowing nearly two more yards per target than he did the previous two years.

T-13. Seattle Seahawks 

EPA/Play = -0.05  

Last Week = T-15

T-13. Tennessee Titans 

EPA/Play = -0.05  

Last Week = T-10

The Titans showcased their defense in primetime against the Chiefs. They held Patrick Mahomes to his lowest Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of the year (5.5) one game after he had posted his best of the year (12.3) against a good 49ers’ defense. In the Titans’ ultimately-insufficient effort, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons didn’t wreak as much havoc as he has at other points this season. He’s fourth in pressures among defensive tackles this year, and two of the guys ahead of him have played an additional game.

T-17. New Orleans Saints 

EPA/Play = -0.04  

Last Week = T-12

T-17. Minnesota Vikings 

EPA/Play = -0.04  

Last Week = T-21

19. New York Giants 

EPA/Play = -0.03  

Last Week = 18

T-20. Cleveland Browns 

EPA/Play = -0.01  

Last Week = T-21

T-20. Kansas City Chiefs 

EPA/Play = -0.01  

Last Week = T-23

T-20. Chicago Bears 

EPA/Play = -0.01  

Last Week = T-19

The Bears were the latest victims of the Dolphins’ speed on offense, yielding seven completions for 159 yards on nine attempts that traveled at least 15 yards downfield. In the team’s first game without LB Roquan Smith, they allowed 12 yards per attempt on throws between the numbers that were short of 15 yards.

Of course, they already had a game under their belt without Robert Quinn, who was traded to the Eagles. He was struggling to work around double teams for a team that’s now in the bottom three in sacks per game and pressures per game.

T-20. Baltimore Ravens 

EPA/Play = -0.01 

Last Week = T-23

T-22. Carolina Panthers 

EPA/Play = 0.00  

Last Week = T-15

The Bengals rushed for 142 yards in the first half in their blowout win against Carolina, which was the second time the Panthers have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground in the first half this season. They have struggled to generate impact plays in the passing game, causing a “bust play” (a play that costs the offense at least one expected point) a league-low 12% of the time. They had their lowest rate of the season in Week 9, with three “bust” plays across 33 dropbacks.

T-22. Los Angeles Chargers 

EPA/Play = 0.00  

Last Week = T-23

T-25. Arizona Cardinals

EPA/Play = 0.01  

Last Week = T-23

T-25. Pittsburgh Steelers

EPA/Play = 0.01  

Last Week = T-27

T-27. Houston Texans 

EPA/Play = 0.02  

Last Week = T-27

29. Miami Dolphins 

EPA/Play = 0.03  

Last Week = T-27

30. Las Vegas Raiders 

EPA/Play = 0.06  

Last Week = 30

31. Atlanta Falcons 

EPA/Play = 0.07  

Last Week = 31

32. Detroit Lions 

EPA/Play = 0.11  

Last Week = 32

Prepared by Alex Vigderman

Watch More: Austin Ekeler Is Chargers’ Midseason MVP

 

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