Handicapping the AFC's Top Defenses for 2015-16 NFL Season

Jason Lake

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 11:53 AM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2015 11:53 AM UTC

Remember that old chestnut about defense winning championships? It didn't work for the Denver Broncos last year, but they could be valuable football picks in 2015.

Our freshly cobbled-together power rankings for 2015 continue with a look at the 16 defenses in the AFC, where the conference seemed to fare much better last year than it did on offense. Part of the reason: the aggressive changes our top team made during the 2014 offseason, changes that should finally pay dividends for our NFL picks in the new campaign.


AFC's Top Defenses
1. Denver Broncos

2. Buffalo Bills

3. Houston Texans

4. Baltimore Ravens

5. Miami Dolphins

6. New England Patriots

7. Kansas City Chiefs

8. New York Jets

9. Cleveland Browns

10. Indianapolis Colts

11. Cincinnati Bengals

12. Tennessee Titans

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

14. San Diego Chargers

15. Oakland Raiders

16. Jacksonville Jaguars


I've Got My Orange Crush
After getting steamrolled by the Seattle Seahawks at Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos upgraded their defense by adding the likes of CB Aqib Talib, safety T.J. Ward and DE DeMarcus Ware. That was enough to move Denver all the way up from No. 15 overall to No. 4 on the defensive efficiency charts at Football Outsiders. This year, the Broncos have a new defensive co-ordinator in Wade Phillips, who worked under new head coach Gary Kubiak in Houston. Phillips is a highly respected defensive guru, and first-round pick Shane Ray should help Phillips field one of the most dominant linebacker corps we've seen in a while.


Post No Bills
While the Bills threaten to implode on offense, they had the best defense in the AFC last year according to efficiency, and now they've got Rex Ryan as their head coach. As poorly as things turned out for Ryan with the New York Jets, defense was the least of their problems; Ryan is one of a family of defensive geniuses, including father Buddy and fraternal twin brother Rob. We've got Denver leapfrogging the Bills, who traded LB Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for RB LeSean McCoy, but Buffalo should hold up just fine on defense.


Texas Flood
Houston's defense took an unexpected step back in 2013, partly because of injuries to LB Brian Cushing and CB Johnathan Joseph, among others. That cost Kubiak and Phillips their jobs, but things got better in 2014 despite the loss of their first-overall pick, DE Jadeveon Clowney, after just four games. Clowney has just been put on the PUP list as he recovers from microfracture surgery on his knee, but Clowney is eligible to come off the list during training camp. We're optimistic – for now.


So Suh Me
How about those Miami Dolphins? We're hesitant to add them to our football picks this year, but the Fins look like they're ready to make the leap on defense after finishing No. 17 in efficiency in both 2013 and 2014. Picking up fearsome DT Ndamukong Suh should do wonders for the defensive line – as long as Suh doesn't do the ol' Garvin Stomp on anyone this year.

Must Read: NFL Handicapper's Power Rankings for Top Offenses in AFC

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