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Ranking the Best and Worst NFL Defenses: AFC West

Defenses matter a lot in fantasy football. If you can draft and matchup the right players against sub-par defenses, you have a recipe for success. It’s not as easy as just looking at the best and worst defenses from 2014 though, and that’s why we’re here to help.

In this eight article series, we’re going to take a look at all the defenses in the NFL. We’ll look at whether or not teams have improved for 2015, and dive into the passing and rushing defensive potential of every NFL team, one division at a time.

Today we are taking a look at the AFC West passing and rushing defenses, and their outlook for the 2015 fantasy football season. When this series is over, you will have a great grasp of which defenses to target for plus matchups.

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AFC West Passing Defense Ranking

2014 Pass Defense Ranking and Fantasy Points against Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers, per ESPN:


Denver Broncos

2014 Ranking: 5, 24, 2

The secondary was led Pro Bowl cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Pro Bowl strong safety T.J. Ward and free safety Rahim Moore who had intercepted four balls. Harris was the third best cornerback in a leading role while Talib was ninth in a supporting role by adjusted success rate, both per Football Outsiders.

2015 Projected Pass Defense Ranking: Top 10

The Broncos lost Moore to the Texans, but brought in Darlan Stewart (from the Ravens) to replace him. The team used its first round pick on the Missouri star defensive end Shane Ray to join DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller in the pass rush.


San Diego Chargers

2014 Ranking: 25, 19, 12

Safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Brandon Flowers (6th best cornerback last season, according to FBO.) held their own in the secondary. The problem was everybody else.

2015 Projected Pass Defense Ranking: Middle of Pack

The Bolts replaced strong safety Marcus Gilchrist (Jets), and Shareece Wright (49ers) with strong safety Jimmy Wilson (Dolphins), and cornerback Patrick Robinson (Saints), who was the 11th best cornerback in a supporting role by adjusted success rate. The Chargers will depend on Robinson to play well again in a complementary position. Also, the Chargers and Brandon Flowers agreed to a 4-year $36 million deal this offseason.


Kansas City Chiefs

2014 Ranking: 13, 4, 9

The Chiefs managed to have an above average ranking even though they didn’t have All- Pro safety Eric Berry. Cornerback Sean Smith stepped up last season with what was an excellent season, ranking 12th in the league in best cornerbacks in a leading role by adjusted success rate, according to FBO.

2015 Projected Pass Defense Ranking: Top Five

With the return of Eric Berry, who is now thankfully cancer free, this pass defense will return to a top-flight unit. The Chiefs also drafted cornerback Marcus Peters with the 18th pick, another weapon for defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton.


Oakland Raiders

2014 Ranking: 28, 25, 6

2013 first round pick cornerback D.J. Hayden was the sole reason this unit was 6th against wide receivers. He was also the 12th best cornerback in a supporting role, according to Football Outsiders.

2015 Projected Pass Defense Ranking: Middle of Pack

Cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers are gone, a good thing. Cornerback Charles Woodson will turn 39 in October, but they brought in the very good strong safety Nate Allen from Philly. Head coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., from Seattle, will help these players tremendously.



Rushing Defenses of AFC West

2014 Rush Defense Ranking, per DVOA and Fantasy Points Against Running Backs, per ESPN


Denver Broncos

2014 Ranking: 3, 8

The Broncos rush defense was led by a stalwart front seven with defensive linemen Malik Jackson, Terrance Knighton, Demarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe and linebackers Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, and Nate Irving holding rushing attacks to a minimum.

2015 Projected Rush Defense Ranking: Top 10

The Broncos lost Knighton to Washington and Wolfe is suspended for the first four games. Regarding the defensive line, head coach Gary Kubiak said, “Obviously, the defensive line has a few concerns as we head into training camp right now.” Marshall suffered a Lisfranc injury on December 14th, but didn’t get surgery until March 11th. The Broncos should be able to overcome this, but maybe not right away. The draft of Shane Ray could also help alleviate some of the losses.


San Diego Chargers

2014 Ranking: 15, 14

The Chargers lost middle linebacker Mant’i Teo last season for 6 games due to a fractured foot, and fellow linebacker Melvin Ingram only played nine games due to a hip injury, a major cause for the average rushing defense.

2015 Projected Rush Defense Ranking: Middle of Pack

The rushing defense not only hinges on Teo’s health, but defensive tackle Corey Liuget will need to improve on his run defense for the Chargers to become better than average. I expect the Chargers to be around the same as next season, unless Te’o plays out of his mind.


Kansas City Chiefs

2014 Ranking: 26, 10

The Chiefs defense suffered injuries to Mike DeVito, Derrick Johnson, and Joe Mays, which hurt their rushing defense. With those injuries, Josh Mauga stepped up, recording a team- high 103 tackles. Plus, they were 2nd in defense in scoring defense last season.

2015 Projected Rush Defense Ranking: Middle of Pack

This rushing defense  may struggle again for the first six weeks. 6”3 346- pound nose tackle, Dontari Poe, will miss at least the first six games after undergoing a microdiscectomy on July 15. The Chiefs run defense will hurt without Poe, but if he gets back and is healthy then they will be better than last year.


Oakland Raiders

2014 Ranking: 14, 32

Even though the Raiders DVOA was 14th, they gave up the most points to fantasy running backs last year. This is no surprise, they had a defensive line consisting of Antonio Smith, Justin Ellis, and Benson Mayowa. Justin Tuck was not as big of a factor as the Raiders were hoping for.

2015 Projected Rush Defense Ranking: Top Half

There has been talk of the Raiders potentially being a top-10 defense this season. The Raiders used their 35th pick on Florida State defensive end, Mario Edwards Jr. In they offseason they added above average nose tackle Dan Williams from Arizona and former Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, a great run defender who had 145 tackles last season. They lost Antonio Smith to the Broncos in free agency. Khalil Mack will only improve after his stellar rookie campaign. Maybe they won’t be a top ten defense overall, but against the run they will vastly improve.


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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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