AFC North Defensive Power Rankings for the 2017 NFL Season
The draft and free agent acquisitions are finalized, so it’s time to take a look at the four teams in the AFC North division, to see which has the best AFC North defensive power ranking for the 2017 season.
Cleveland Browns – 4th in the AFC North Defensive Power Ranking
Ask any expert and they’ll likely tell you that the Browns are right at the bottom of the NFL in terms of their defensive power ranking. The Browns got the first pick of the draft this year, after a dismal 2016 season where they managed to win only a single game at the tail end of the season.Are things looking up for the Browns? Not yet, but their draft picks will help them to start building a foundation for the future.Myles Garrett is arguably the best talent to come out of the 2017 NFL draft. 141 tackles and 41 sacks over the past three years at Texas A&M only hint at how good of a player he is. Networks like Sports Illustrated and ESPN have called him the best defensive end to come out of the draft, and his four-year contract with the Browns will allow him to develop while bringing value to the team. Other drafted players like Larry Ogunjobi and Jabrill Peppers will have something to offer the team in the future, but their presence will probably not mean a drastic improvement for the defense in this year’s season.Along with new talent on the field, the Browns will now have the services of Gregg Williams, previous defensive coordinator for the Rams, Saints, Red Skins, and one-time head coach for the Buffalo Bills. Williams will implement a base defensive alignment of 4 – 3.
Cincinnati Bengals 3rd in the AFC North Defensive Power Ranking
On paper, the Bengals 2016 defense wasn’t much to get excited about, especially when considering points that they conceded throughout the season. And, when you get down into some of the finer stats, you’ll see that they weren’t strong in turnovers, and they gave up too many rushing yards throughout the year.In 2017, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have the team train for a base defense of 4 – 3, and there have been some key changes made to try and improve the defensive game.There will be some important starters in the team this year, including some versatile rookies. Carl Lawson was acquired by the team in the fourth round of the draft. There are some who are predicting that Lawson will become an effective hybrid player with capabilities as a defensive end and linebacker. He might not be a starter right away this year, but there will definitely be a role for him to play in specific situations. Adding this kind of depth could pay off for the Bengals. Vontaze Burfict will continue to be important for the defense. When he’s on the field he brings a new dimension to the team and even helps the other players to pick up their game. Just look back to 2015 when he returned from injury, and it’s clear that the defensive stats improved noticeably.The Bengals aren’t likely to be amongst the best in the NFL and they’re not even in the top half of their division, but they still have a solid defense (when it works) that places them near to the middle of the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2nd in the AFC North Defensive Power Ranking
The Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler will run a base defense configuration of 3 – 4 for the start of the 2017 Season. The Pittsburgh team had a successful 2016 campaign and finished off the year with an 11 – 5 record and a first place title in the AFC North. Their defense was strong all year, and statistically left them within the top half of the NFL. However, just as their defense was one of the highlights of the year, it was also their undoing when they played for the AFC Championship against the Patriots. The 17 – 36 loss was not characteristic of their year, and the defense failed to do anything to contain Tom Brady.The team is still a formidable force in the AFC North, and their defensive power sits just behind the Baltimore Ravens. The team has added depth to their defensive game with the addition of T.J. Watt to the team, a rookie outside linebacker who was considered to be one of the best defensive players in round one of the 2017 NFL Draft. His last year in college football saw a record of 59 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and a very impressive defensive touchdown at a critical point of the season. If he can translate his talent to the NFL, then the Steelers defense will continue to be strong.The big question for the Steelers and for Keith Butler will be whether they’ve learned from their AFC Championship playoff loss. We’ll find out when they play the Patriots again, later this year.
Baltimore Ravens 1st in the AFC North Defensive Power Ranking
The Ravens aren’t just ranked 1st in our defensive power ranking for the AFC North; their defense is also considered to be amongst the top 10 in the NFL as a whole. Dean Pees, defensive coordinator, will train the team with a base defense of 3 – 4.Fans of the Ravens and anyone who has watched them play will know that their defense is highly physical and without any unnecessary flashiness or embellishment. Quite simply, this is a defense that gets the job done. This year they are aiming to improve upon an already strong defense, by bringing in experienced free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr. The team also used the NFL Draft to strengthen their defense, bringing in highly rated rookies like Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser.“T-Sizzle” Terrell Suggs will continue to be an essential part of the Ravens defense, and even at 34 years of age he’s still one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Without too many injuries in the team, you can expect the Ravens to have the best defense in the AFC North and one of the best defenses in the entire league. The team will be hoping that they’ve done everything right, especially as they seek to take the division title back from the Steelers this season.