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Sports

Silverman: Best Defense In The NFL? Giants, 49ers, Jets Vie For That Honor

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By Steve Silverman
» More Columns

The Giants were not the defensively dominant team that they should have been in Week 1 against the Cowboys.

In an era when offensive football teams tend to dominate – especially during the regular season – the Giants are one of the few teams that have the potential to stop opponents and punish them with hard-hitting and skilled defensive play.

The Giants are acknowledged to have the best front four in the NFL, but they didn’t get a sack or a hard hit on Tony Romo in the opener. That can’t happen again and there’s no reason to think it will.

However, if the Giants can’t run the football on offense and the front four is not productive on defense, the dreams of back-to-back Super Bowl titles will disintegrate quickly.

But 31 years of covering the NFL have taught me not to write off quality teams after one or two bad games, especially at the beginning of the season.

The Giants will still be one of the top defensive teams in the league this year, and they will probably battle the 49ers for honors as the best defensive team in the league.

The 49ers had perhaps the most impressive opening game of the season because they went into Green Bay and shut down the league’s best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.

Getting off to an explosive start is becoming Jim Harbaugh’s NFL calling card. He works his team harder in training camp than many other coaches do, and that helped the Niners get off to a 9-1 start last year. They were much more ready to compete than the Packers, who still appeared to be licking their wounds from the beating the Giants imposed on them in the Divisional Playoff round last year.

The Jets are not going to be anyone’s pushover either on the defensive end. The combination of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie has always looked good on paper, and they served notice that they will dominate this year in coverage. Linebackers David Harris and Calvin Pace also were also solid. The Jets helped themselves by running the football 36 times.

That’s how the Jets will become contenders this season. They can’t play the passing game that everyone else plays. Even if Mark Sanchez is coming off a sensational game, he only threw the ball 27 times. The Jets won’t be able to keep that type of run-pass ratio on an every-game basis, but Rex Ryan has to shoot for a 50-50 run-pass ratio most weeks.

The Eagles had a terrible offensive performance against the Browns in Week 1, but the defense kept an offensively inept team out of the end zone. That’s not anything for Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to hang their hats on, but the Eagles have one of the best defensive teams in the league – at least from a personnel standpoint. DeMeco Ryans is one of the most underrated middle linebackers in the NFL. Defensive end Jason Babin had four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble and safety Kurt Coleman had two interceptions. They will get tested severely by the Ravens this week.

The Broncos played an excellent brand of defense in the second half against the Steelers. The presence of cornerback Tracy Porter makes a huge difference in the secondary. Everyone knows that Champ Bailey is a Pro Bowl-level cover man, but now that he has a high-level partner at the other cornerback slot, the Broncos are a legitimate defensive power.

The other defense to take note of following their Week 1 performance is New England’s. Bill Belichick doesn’t stay behind the curve long. His team’s defense was inferior last year but the Pats still made it to the Super Bowl. He obviously took note of the Giants’ and 49ers’ performance last year and spent much of the offseason reconfiguring the defense. New England shut down Tennessee’s explosive ground game in Week 1. Speedy Chris Johnson had four yards on 11 carries.

If they can continue to stop the run at anything close to the level they did in Week 1, the Pats will no longer be a one-dimensional team defined solely by Tom Brady’s exploits.

Who do you think is the best defensive team in the NFL? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

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