NFL: Three Great Defenses to Keep an Eye On

“Defense wins championships,” the saying goes, and a few teams in the NFL are certainly hoping that’s the case. We may be experiencing a pass-happy era in the NFL, but the offenses don’t look quite so explosive when they match up with these superior squads. Next time you tune in to an NFL game, take your eye off the ball and check out the clever scheming and impressive physical play that the NFL’s best defenses employ. Here are three defenses that are particularly fun to watch.

Seattle Seahawks

Why they’re great: The Seahawks had the best defense in the league last year. They also had the best defense the year before that. That’s thanks in a large part to strong secondary play from cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and safeties like Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks front seven is no joke, either. With some great young players still under contract, the Seahawks defense is poised to stay strong this year and for a few years after that. There’s are plenty of reasons to believe that Seattle will have the league’s best defense yet again this year.

What to watch for: The Seattle Seahawks defense hasn’t looked ideal the first two games this year, and that was partly thanks to the absence of S Kam Chancellor. Chancellor is holding out for a better contract, so look for opposing teams to try to exploit weaker safety play downfield against the Seahawks. Once Chancellor gets a contract he’s satisfied with and returns to the team, this defense should be back to its old self again.

Buffalo Bills

Why they’re great: The Bills had one of the best defenses in the league last year, and that was before they hired defensive guru Rex Ryan at head coach. They have some remarkable talent on that side of the ball. Ryan’s defenses are designed to stop teams in their tracks rather than to prompt turnovers, but Buffalo’s squad got a lot of turnovers last year. Bills fans will hope that they’ll get the best of both worlds, with Ryan’s late-down blitzes leading to interceptions for Buffalo’s talented corners.

What to watch for: The narrative for the Bills is “great defense plus great defensive-minded coach equals even better defense,” but in reality that’s a bit more complicated than it looks on the surface. The Bills used a 4-3 defense (four linemen and three linebackers) last year; this year, they’ll use a 3-4 scheme. Rex Ryan’s particular brand of 3-4, however, has one of the linebackers line up like an end. In a way, this is similar to the 4-3 that they’re changing from. Expect Buffalo to be comfortable with this “new” defense, thanks to its similarity and the fact that Buffalo played 3-4 as recently as 2013.

Denver Broncos

Why they’re great: First of all, it’s worth noting that the Broncos defense has actually been pretty great for the past couple of seasons, despite being overshadowed by the Peyton Manning-led offense. This season, the defense may finally outshine the offense. Denver was the third-best defense last year in terms of yards allowed, and they’ve hired a new defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips. OLB Von Miller is one of the best in the league, and he’s gotten off to a strong start in the first two weeks of the season.

What to watch for: New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips likes to get aggressive with his front seven, so watch the battle at the line of scrimmage carefully – it could be more high risk/high reward for Denver than usual. Penalties have been a concern for Denver’s defense over the past few weeks, so keep an eye out for discipline problems, too.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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