The defense vs. position rankings are here to give you a look into the top defenses in the league against each position last season, while also providing a look ahead at what to expect this year.
Be sure to check out the other parts in this series:
Defense vs. Position Rankings: 32 – 21
32. Washington Redskins
The Redskins’ defense was a quarterback’s best friend last season. Washington allowed 264 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game to opposing quarterbacks. The main culprit was cornerback David Amerson. Quarterbacks had a whopping 140.2 rating when throwing at Amerson and he allowed 10 touchdowns. Washington finished with just 36 sacks and seven interceptions in 2014. The Redskins have a new defensive coordinator in Joe Barry but Washington will remain a favorite of daily fantasy players with the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Falcons, Saints and Patriots on the schedule this season.
31. Chicago Bears
The once proud Bears’ defense has fallen on hard times. Chicago allowed just under 280 yards a game and 34 total touchdowns in 2014. The secondary was exploited without Charles Tillman, who played only two games because of a triceps injury. Chicago was also hurt by atrocious safety play and decided to move on from the much-maligned Chris Conte. The bottom line is the Bears’ defense had gotten old and soft under Marc Trestman. It didn’t help that Chicago faced Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers (twice) either. John Fox is installing a 3-4 defense and while improvement is likely, daily fantasy players shouldn’t shy away from quarterbacks like Rodgers in Week 1.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles probably played the worst overall pass defense in 2014 when you consider some of the quarterbacks that had big games against them. Kirk Cousins threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Austin Davis threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Mettenberger threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Those are all career highs. It’s no wonder Chip Kelly spent the offseason re-tooling his defense. Philadelphia’s secondary was abysmal in 2014, allowing an NFL-worst 287 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. Time will tell if all the new faces give daily fantasy players pause to pay for quarterbacks against the Eagles’ defense.
29. New Orleans Saints
One year after improving the Saints’ defense, Rob Ryan’s unit took a big step back in 2014. New Orleans allowed 263 yards per game and intercepted just 12 passes. The best way to describe the Saints’ defense last season is confusion. There were a lot of mental lapses and the players never looked like they were on the same page. The Saints did have to play against Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan (twice) but their defense also allowed Mike Glennon to look like a superstar. The Saints made a lot of changes this offseason to improve their defense but quarterbacks will always have opportunities against Ryan’s risk/reward scheme.
28. New York Jets
For all the talk about Rex Ryan’s defense, quarterbacks had big fantasy performance against the Jets last season. New York allowed 253 yards per game, 31 total touchdowns and intercepted a league-low six passes. What a difference Darrelle Revis makes. One reason quarterbacks had success against the Jets was secondary play. Injuries and lack of talent prevented Ryan from playing as aggressively as he likes, allowing quarterbacks to have more time in the pocket. The Jets also faced some of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (twice). With Revis back and new coach Todd Bowles’ blitzing scheme, don’t expect New York’s defense to be so kind to quarterbacks this year.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have traditionally been one of the toughest fantasy defenses on quarterbacks but that wasn’t the case in 2014. Pittsburgh allowed 264 passing yards and 1.9 touchdowns per game. Age has really caught up to the Steelers and they no longer pressure the quarterback like they did in the past. Pittsburgh recorded just 33 sacks last season. The Steelers ranking this low is even more surprising when you factor in they got to feast on quarterback-needy teams like the Buccaneers, Jaguars, Texans, Jets, Titans and Browns (twice). Keith Butler replaces long-time coordinator Dick LeBeau, so this remains a defense in transition.
26. New York Giants
The Giants registered 47 sacks and 17 interceptions last season but they also allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for 260 yards per game and 25 total touchdowns. New York’s pass defense really struggled in the red zone, where it allowed 14 of its 25 scores. The Giants also had trouble against running quarterbacks. New York gave up 377 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Russell Wilson ripped them for 107 yards. The Giants are a defense that could improve against quarterbacks in 2015 if they get better play in the red zone. However, with Jason Pierre-Paul’s status now up in the air, their front seven could be unexpectedly depleted heading into the season.
25. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders weren’t awful versus the pass in terms of yardage last season. They allowed 247 yards a game, which is respectable. However, they also gave up 29 touchdowns and only picked off nine passes. The Raiders also had just 22 sacks, despite the addition of Khalil Mack. Oakland has some nice pieces to work with on defense but when facing quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers (twice) and Peyton Manning (twice), it’s hard to have prolonged success without pressure and creating turnovers. Oakland won’t be a pushover for quarterbacks in 2015 but they won’t be a defense to shy away from either.
24. Denver Broncos
The Broncos’ defense is a classic example of the difference between real football and fantasy football. The Broncos allowed 240 passing yards per game but often those yards came late when Denver was comfortably ahead. The Broncos gave up a lot of garbage time yards and touchdowns to quarterbacks but at the end of the day, fantasy points are fantasy points. Denver’s defense finished the year with 41 sacks and 18 interceptions, so their overall numbers aren’t bad. Quarterbacks just threw the ball against them so often when their teams was behind in the second half last year, they usually ended up having solid fantasy days.
23. Atlanta Falcons
It’s surprising the Falcons aren’t further down on the list given the fact they had arguably the worst defensive talent in the NFL last season. Then again, Atlanta’s defense was just as bad against the run too, so quarterbacks didn’t have to do everything on their own. The Falcons only allowed 20 passing touchdowns in 2014. However, the 285.5 yards per game Atlanta gave up through the air was second worst in the league. The Falcons did face Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees (twice) and Cam Newton (twice) but overall the schedule wasn’t daunting. The biggest problem was a front seven that generated only 23 sacks. New head coach Dan Quinn will try to change that but it’s going to take some time.
22. Arizona Cardinals
You wouldn’t think a secondary that includes Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and Tyrann Mathieu would allow many fantasy points to quarterbacks but that wasn’t the case with the Cardinals last season. Arizona gave up a surprising 274 yards per game through the air. A lot of that had to do with personnel issues. By the end of the season, the Cardinals’ defense had lost numerous players to injury. Also, the offense was struggling so badly without Carson Palmer that Arizona’s defense simply wore down at the end of the year. Don’t expect the Cardinals’ defense to be so generous to opposing quarterbacks in 2015.
21. San Diego Chargers
A big reason for the Chargers ranking down this far is because of San Diego’s performance against running quarterbacks. The Chargers allowed 363 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to opposing quarterbacks last year. The Chargers’ defense only gave up 224 yards per game passing. However, Colin Kaepernick ran for 151 yards and San Diego had to face Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, so their overall numbers against quarterbacks are a little skewed. The good news for the Chargers’ defense is there are no running quarterbacks on the schedule this year. The bad news is they still get Manning twice and Brady is replaced by Aaron Rodgers.
20. Tennessee Titans
For a team that picked No. 1 in this year’s draft, the Titans’ defense did a decent job defending quarterbacks in 2014. Led by defensive end Jurrell Casey, Tennessee recorded 39 sacks and gave up 248 passing yards per game. While the Titans’ pass defense did show some promise, one reason quarterbacks didn’t always put up huge numbers against Tennessee was because they were too busy handing off. The Titans allowed 137.2 yards per game rushing, which was second-worst in the NFL. LeBeau comes from Pittsburgh to run the defense and the team signed Brian Orakpo to team with Casey. Daily fantasy players certainly won’t sit quarterbacks going up against the Titans. However, Tennessee’s defense will have to improve versus the run or it can limit a quarterback’s output because of the gameplan.
Defense vs. Position Rankings: 20 – 11
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay allowed 267 yards and 1.8 touchdowns per game last year. The Buccaneers had some games in particular where they were just awful. Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford really torched the Bucs’ defense. As you might expect with a 2-14 team, plenty of players underperformed last year. High-priced free agent Michael Johnson was so bad that he only lasted one season in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers also cut ties with safety Dashon Goldson. In two seasons, Goldson recorded one interception and was a constant liability in coverage. Lovie Smith is a successful defensive coach, so Tampa Bay is likely to improve in his second season at the helm, but daily fantasy players aren’t going to blink at paying for Tony Romo or Drew Brees when they face the Bucs.
18. Dallas Cowboys
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did a great job improving a defense that was historically bad a season before he took the unit over. Predicted by many to be the worst pass defense in the league before the season, Dallas held opposing quarterbacks to just 22 touchdowns. The Cowboys gave up passing yards (262 a game) but stiffened up in the red zone, allowing just seven passing touchdowns. Dallas’ defense improved despite registering only 28 sacks and using a patchwork secondary. Marinelli will need to find more magic in 2015. The Cowboys face Tom Brady (maybe), Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers, to go along with two meetings each against the Eagles and Giants. Ouch.
17. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are loaded with talent on defense but teams that have success against them usually have a quarterback that can exploit their secondary. Carolina’s front seven is so dominant, it’s tough to just line up and run the football on them. Quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers that can push the ball down the field give Carolina’s defense the most problems. The Panthers weren’t terrible versus the pass, allowing 244 yards per game and 25 touchdowns. However, while nothing is easy against Carolina’s defense, most offenses find it easier to rely on their quarterback rather than running into a brick wall led by Luke Kuechly. Don’t shy away from elite quarterbacks when they play Carolina but average signal callers won’t be worth the money against them.
16. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens allowed 270 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2014 and they really struggled inside the red zone. Baltimore gave up 21 passing touchdowns last year and 13 came inside the red zone. Safety Matt Elam continued to struggle. Quarterbacks have a rating of 128.4 when throwing at Elam. The Ravens front does pressure the passer. They finished with 49 sacks last season but if quarterbacks have time in the pocket, Baltimore’s secondary can be exploited.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars only rank this high because of their awful rush defense. Jacksonville actually gave up 260 yards passing per game, 24 total touchdowns and only intercepted six passes in 2014. However, teams were so busy running over the Jaguars, especially in the red zone, that quarterbacks didn’t always put up monster fantasy numbers against them. The Jaguars did record 45 sacks and are building a strong front seven behind tackle Sen ‘Derrick. However, it’s not time to avoid quarterbacks just because they’re facing the Jaguars’ defense.
14. Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ defense tends to give up yards but Dom Capers’ aggressive 3-4 scheme also generates a lot of takeaways. Last season Green Bay allowed 243 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks but recorded 18 interceptions and 41 sacks. The Packers’ defense was also stingy in the red zone, allowing just four touchdown passes on the year. Green Bay had one of the best corner tandems in the NFL with Sam Shields and Tramon Williams but Williams is now in Cleveland. He’ll be a big loss with Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, and Tony Romo all on the Packers’ schedule this year.
13. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were a tale of two defenses in 2014. They dominated against bad quarterbacks but struggled against good ones. Playing in the AFC South, Indianapolis was able to beat up on Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee for six games. The Colts also had the good fortune of playing the Browns and Redskins. However, Peyton Manning (269 yards/3 TDs), Nick Foles (331 yards/1 TD), Ben Roethlisberger (522 yards/6 TDs) and Tony Romo (218 yards/4 TDs) all lit up the Colts’ defense. There’s no question Indy’s defense is improving but it’s still a work in progress.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Mike Zimmer did an excellent job in his first season with the Vikings. Minnesota held quarterbacks to 237 yards per game in 2014. The Vikings do have some talented young building blocks on defense in corner Xavier Rhodes, defensive end Everson Griffin and outside linebacker Anthony Barr. However, most weeks it was Zimmer’s defensive gameplans that were the difference. Minnesota’s high ranking is even more impressive when you consider they faced Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford (twice) and Aaron Rodgers (twice). With Zimmer calling the shots, the Vikings are certainly a defense on the rise. Just don’t shy away from Rodgers when he faces them quite yet.
11. New England Patriots
It’s not surprising that a secondary led by Darrelle Revis was tough on quarterbacks. Safety Devin McCourty and a front seven that produced 40 sacks certainly had something to do with that as well. The Patriots did allow 257 yards per game but they were ahead in a lot of games. New England’s defense could be much more fantasy friendly to quarterbacks this season. Revis and Brandon Browner are gone from the secondary. That has to be music to the ears of Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Sam Bradford and Peyton Manning. All of those quarterbacks play the Pats this season and are worth considering against what should be an overrated pass defense.
10. St. Louis Rams
The Rams’ defense allowed 257 yards per game last season but only 18 total touchdowns. The strength of St. Louis’ defense is its front, which is arguably the best in the NFL. Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and Chris Long are able to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. The unit got off to a slow start in 2014 with just one sack in the first month of the season but the Rams finished the year with 40. Now the team adds Nick Fairley to the mix, so the rich get richer. St. Louis’ defense is becoming one of the top units in the NFL. If you find yourself trying to choose between a quarterback playing the Rams and one playing another team, consider going with the other option.
Defense vs. Position Rankings: 10 – 1
9. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ defense gave up 27 passing touchdowns in 2014. That sounds bad but Miami ranking this high is actually a testament to the Dolphins’ pass defense considering they faced Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (twice) last season. Miami only allowed 231 yards per game through the air, it just needs to do a better job of preventing passing touchdowns. Cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Cameron Wake are studs and help is on the way. Miami landed prize free agent Ndamukong Suh this summer. The Dolphins will have one of the NFL’s top defensive fronts, which should make life miserable for quarterbacks on a weekly basis.
8. Houston Texans
Led by Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, Houston’s defensive line harassed quarterbacks all season. The Texans recorded 38 sacks and forced an NFL-high 34 takeaways. That was without the services of the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick, Jadeveon Clowney, who missed most of the season with a knee injury. Houston did allow 257 passing yards per game and 26 total touchdowns to quarterbacks in 2014 but eight games against the Jaguars, Titans, Redskins, Raiders, Bills and Browns helped bolster their numbers. Don’t look for quarterback value against the Texans’ defense. They feast off the second-tier signal callers.
7. Cleveland Browns
While the media was focused on the Johnny Manziel circus, the Browns’ pass defense was putting together a pretty good season in 2014. Cleveland allowed just 235 yards per game through the air and 22 touchdowns last season. The Browns’ ballhawking secondary led by Joe Haden also intercepted 21 passes. Cleveland’s strong secondary will be even better this year with the addition of Williams. If there’s one area where the Browns’ pass defense needs to get better it’s in the red zone. Cleveland allowed 13 of its 22 touchdowns in the red zone a year ago. The Browns don’t face many elite quarterbacks in 2015 but when they do, it may be wise to look elsewhere for better value.
6. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers didn’t allow many passing yards in 2014 (232 per game) but they did give up 29 touchdowns. One thing that helped San Francisco’s overall fantasy numbers against quarterbacks is the 49ers led the NFL with 23 interceptions. They also racked up fantasy points against the inferior quarterbacks on their schedule. No defense in the NFL will look more different this season. Defensive end Justin Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retired, while cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perish Cox left via free agency. Depending on your scoring system, San Francisco gave up between 14-16 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last year. Look for that number to rise in 2015.
5. Detroit Lions
Thanks largely to a defensive line that generated 42 sacks and helped pressure quarterbacks into 20 interceptions, the Lions allowed just 250 yards and 1.4 touchdowns per game last season. Obviously, two big reasons for Detroit’s success in 2014 are gone, as Suh and Fairley are playing elsewhere. The Lions signed Haloti Ngata to fill the void but it will be impossible to replace a disruptive force like Suh. Detroit ranked in the Top 5 versus quarterbacks last year, despite facing Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers (twice). The Lions will be put to the test again in 2015 with Rodgers, Brees, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and whoever starts for the Eagles on the slate.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs suffered a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball last season but still managed to be tough on opposing quarterbacks, holding them to just 219 passing yards per game. That was second-best in the league only to Seattle. Kansas City’s success was thanks to a defensive line led by Justin Houston that recorded 46 sacks. The Chiefs’ secondary, on the other hand, tied for an NFL-low six interceptions last year. Kansas City also benefitted from playing a schedule that included the Titans, Rams, Jets, Bills, Cardinals and Raiders (twice). The Chiefs should once again be among the toughest defenses for quarterbacks to face, especially when they get them at home.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals lost defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to the Vikings last year but they were still tough on opposing quarterbacks. Cincinnati had more interceptions (19) than passing touchdowns allowed (18) in 2014. The secondary played extremely well considering the Bengals had a league-low 20 sacks on the season. To put that in perspective, J.J. Watt had 20.5 sacks by himself. It’s pretty impressive the Bengals ranked as a Top 3 fantasy defense versus quarterbacks with only 20 sacks because they faced Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger (twice). Cincinnati plays great team defense, so expect them to once again be tough on opposing quarterbacks in 2015.
2. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have one of the most talented front sevens in the NFL. That group terrorized quarterbacks last year and led the NFL in sacks with 54. Jerry Hughes, Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are all studs and will have no trouble switching to Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. The unit registered 57 sacks in 2013 in the same system. Buffalo allowed a league-low 16 passing touchdowns last season. The Bills’ defense will be just as tough, if not tougher, on quarterbacks this year, so daily fantasy players should take notice.
1. Seattle Seahawks
It’s not a shock to anyone that the Legion of Boom was the toughest defense for quarterbacks to face. Led by Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Seattle’s pass defense allowed an NFL-low 199 passing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks and just 17 touchdowns. The Seahawks did have the luxury of feasting on the Redskins, Raiders and had four games against the Rams and Cardinals with backup quarterbacks. However, Seattle also faced Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo, so their numbers are pretty legit. The Seahawks will again be a defense daily fantasy players will want to avoid when selecting quarterbacks most weeks.