Don't get me wrong, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman and J.J. Watt are important. They and their ilk are the most important players when doing defense rankings, and that's why the Seattle Seahawks are the top defense.
But Brian Hoyer and Bobby Rainey are pretty significant pieces to that particular puzzle, as well.
My first attempt at these weekly defense rankings had the Vikings' defense and special teams at No. 11. It's not a great defense, but Cordarrelle Patterson had a return touchdown a week ago, and they've notched three interception and forced three fumbles through two games. And they were playing a pretty awful Cleveland offense.
When it came down that Hoyer was starting in place of Brandon Weeden, the Vikings rose a good bit . It's not that Weeden is great, but you know, he beat out Hoyer to begin with. Hoyer has only ever been an emergency guy. Minnesota moved to fourth.
And then that trade. I saw that Cleveland had sent Trent Richardson to the Colts while I was at work, and spent the next little bit just assuming "Well, the Vikings are No. 1 this week now." Of course, I later remembered that the best defense in the NFL, the Seahawks, are hosting the worst non-Hoyer offense going, one that has its fans hoping for the improvement of Tim Tebow. I couldn't, in good conscience, slot the Vikings in as the best defense. But they are second. Because yes, Sherman and Tillman and Watt matter. But good lord, if you can play against Hoyer and Rainey and, I don't know, Chris Ogbonnaya, that matters a heck of a lot too.
(This is the defense rankings, but consider this a bonus tip: If you have Trent Richardson and any kind of viable backup option, use the backup this week. He will come into Sunday on his fourth day on a new team, against one of the top few defenses in football. Going forward, I'm comfortable with it as a Colts fan, but for Week 3? Noooo thank you.)
So. Seahawks first, Vikings second. And now, to discuss the defenses who aren't playing super-sad offenses. Their respective weekly rankings are (in parentheses). The full chart is at the bottom of the page.
Buffalo Bills (No. 9) - The defense has picked off two passes so far, recovered a pair of fumbles, and scored a touchdown on a 74-yard fumble recovery. It's playing against the Jets, who, sure, have been competitive in two games, but they turned the ball over four times against New England and twice against Tampa Bay. The Jets have scored 28 points total in two games. In what really ought to be a low-scoring game, I expect at least a couple of forced turnovers from Buffalo. If they can take one of those turnovers all the way in the opposite direction, they'll more than earn this ranking.
Kansas City Chiefs (No. 13) - ESPN's consensus ranks have the Chiefs' defense at No. 26. It's possible, with a short week and a new-fangled complicated offense in Philadelphia Thursday night, that they'll just get blown off the field. But this is a Kansas City defense that currently ranks as the best in the NFL (all the common caveats apply, two games, etc., etc.), and has only allowed 18 points in two games while tying for the league lead with nine sacks. I've been as impressed with the new Chip Kelly offense as you have, but one hard hit to Michael Vick - and the Chiefs' defense is as capable as hard hits as any out there - and it might all fall to pieces. It's a high-risk, high-reward play, but there are playmakers on this Kansas City defense.
Detroit Lions (No. 20) - Hey, I'm as surprised as you are, but Detroit is tied for second in the league in interceptions, and they didn't have the virtue (as No. 1 Denver has) of playing the Giants in Week 2. Okay they did pick off Christian Ponder and Carson Palmer. But they do have a froggy little defense. I expect this to be a moderately high-scoring affair (Washington's bad defense will cause that on both sides), but there will likely be some turnovers to be had.
Oakland Raiders (No. 32) - Text I sent earlier today:
Could I have just included that question in the body of this? Yeah, sure I could have, but then you wouldn't have seen that I'm one of the super-cool kids who updated to iOS 7 Wednesday, and am therefore the coolest or something. Anyway, this week contains some of the saddest matchups imaginable. But this, one of the best offenses in years versus a defense that has allowed 36 points and has no takeaways and has accrued half those stats against that same Jacksonville team I was just talking about? I really want to find the 2.7 percent of fantasy leagues in which the Raiders are starting, and just talk to those people. I assume they are all in Oakland.
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Here are the overall rankings for Week 3:
|3||Chicago Bears||at Pittsburgh|
|5||New England Patriots||Tampa Bay|
|6||San Francisco 49ers||Indianapolis|
|7||Houston Texans||at Baltimore|
|9||Buffalo Bills||at NY Jets|
|10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||at New England|
|11||New York Jets||Buffalo|
|12||Dallas Cowboys||St. Louis|
|13||Kansas City Chiefs||at Philadelphia|
|14||Cincinnati Bengals||Green Bay|
|16||St. Louis Rams||at Dallas|
|17||Tennessee Titans||San Diego|
|18||Cleveland Browns||at Minnesota|
|20||Detroit Lions||at Washington|
|21||Arizona Cardinals||at New Orleans|
|22||New Orleans Saints||Arizona|
|23||Atlanta Falcons||at Miami|
|24||Philadelphia Eagles||Kansas City|
|25||Indianapolis Colts||at San Francisco|
|26||New York Giants||at Carolina|
|27||San Diego Chargers||at Tennessee|
|28||Green Bay Packers||at Cincinnati|
|29||Carolina Panthers||NY Giants|
|31||Jacksonville Jaguars||at Seattle|
|32||Oakland Raiders||at Denver|