On Friday, CBS Sports analyst Jared Dubin published an article where he ranked the NFL’s top 10 defenses for the 2021 season, using 2020 rankings for yards and points allowed, Football Outsiders’ DVOA and other metrics — and also allowing for the changes each team has made in the offseason.
Here is his list:
10. Indianapolis Colts
9. New Orleans Saints
8. Los Angeles Rams
7. Denver Broncos
6. Miami Dolphins
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Baltimore Ravens
3. Cleveland Browns
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Washington Football Team
The first thing you notice is that Dubin doesn’t consider the Kansas City Chiefs to be among the league’s top defenses this season.
The second thing that pops out is that the Chiefs will be playing four of Dubin’s top five defenses — and if they are able to reach the Super Bowl, could end up playing the fifth one, too.
Finally, you realize that the Chiefs will be playing one of the top 10 defenses — the Broncos — twice. In all, Kansas City will face one of the NFL’s best defenses six times — and four of those matchups will be in the first six weeks of the season.
Most of the rest of the AFC West will have similar problems. Three of Dubin’s top 10 defenses are in the AFC North and one is in the NFC East. Those are the two divisions the AFC West is playing this season, so the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers will also play those four teams — in addition to facing the Broncos twice.
Of course, this is just one analyst’s opinion of how the NFL’s defenses will stack up this season; it’s rare for preseason expectations to exactly match reality. Still... if the Chiefs' offense continues to be one of the league’s best in 2021, it looks like it won’t be because they didn’t face the league’s best opposition.
And one final thought: since the last day of the 2020 regular season, the Chiefs have known they would be facing these defenses in 2021. It could easily be one of the reasons (although obviously not the only one) that they decided to place so much emphasis on rebuilding the offensive line this offseason.
Let’s hope the rebuild will be successful.