The NFL’s worst defensive line has been the focus of the debate for the past few seasons, with the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Jadeveon Clowney emerging as one of the NFL’s best.
The best teams have played together and won.
But this season, the league’s best defenses are playing with one another and one another is struggling.
And they have the ability to win.
It’s a new season, and the competition is getting stiffer.
Here are the best defenses in the NFL heading into Week 16.
New England Patriots – 6-0 The Patriots have lost two straight games by double digits and have been outscored by 20 points or more in five of their last six.
They’ve also been outgained by an average of more than 2,000 yards per game.
They’re the top-ranked defense in football and are coming off a bye week, which should be a boost to their cause.
The problem is, they are also coming off one of their worst seasons, losing by 17 points in the first game of the season.
This will be their third loss of the year.
It could have been worse.
San Francisco 49ers – 6.5-1 The 49ers have won nine of their past 10 games, including a 24-24 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
They won the last two, including Sunday’s 34-23 win over the Carolina Panthers.
The Niners’ offense should have the weapons to be a dominant force, but they have been unable to consistently score points.
The defense is better than the offense.
Denver Broncos – 6,0-1 A healthy Manning has helped the Broncos win four of five, but their offense has struggled.
They averaged just over 34 points per game last season and have struggled to generate points on their own.
This should be another good season for Peyton Manning and the offense, but this will be a tough test for Denver’s defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 6 The Steelers have won five straight games and have played better than any team in the league over the past two seasons.
But their defense has not been nearly as strong as they could be.
The Steelers are averaging just under 28 points per contest and have allowed nearly 200 yards per contest.
They could be an even better unit if they can win out and keep their quarterback, but there is no reason to believe they can.
Baltimore Ravens – 6 Pittsburgh’s offense was on fire in the early going, but the defense has been a disaster.
The Ravens have given up an average per game of 24.6 points.
Their defense has allowed the second-most points per turnover of any team.
It would take a miracle to stop them.
Arizona Cardinals – 6 If you have to pick one team to win the NFC West, this is it.
The Cardinals have won four of six and are the only team that could take a step back if they lose their last three games.
Their offense has improved, but that will take time and effort.
Green Bay Packers – 6 This could be the biggest test for the Packers.
They have won six straight games, but have given a combined total of 27 points to the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers.
They haven’t given up more than 21 points in a game all season.
Baltimore Colts – 6 After a great first two weeks, the Colts have dropped a fourth straight game, losing at home to the Minnesota Vikings and at the Denver Broncos.
They were outscattered by a huge number of running backs.
New Orleans Saints – 5-1 It’s hard to believe that the Saints are this close to a playoff berth after a 2-14 start, but New Orleans is still a playoff contender and the question is whether the team can win more games.
They are not giving up more points per play, but it’s tough to trust a team that has lost by an absurd margin in six straight.
Dallas Cowboys – 5.5 The Cowboys were one of only two teams to reach the playoffs last season, but after they were blown out by the San Francisco Raiders in the NFC Championship Game, they’ve been out of the postseason picture.
They should win at least three more games, and a playoff appearance could be in their future.
Kansas City Chiefs – 5 Kansas City has been one of two teams that can win the AFC West, but with the Chiefs having the best record of any division in the West, that’s tough.
Miami Dolphins – 5 The Dolphins lost at home against the Arizona Cardinals, but a win in Miami would seal their fate.
Atlanta Falcons – 4.5 Miami’s offense has been better than anyone’s defense, but its defense has struggled to produce points.
They allowed an average rating of 105.4 points per team during the losing streak.
Denver Nuggets – 5 With the Nuggets playing without guard Kenneth Faried, they have struggled defensively, allowing an average opponent rating