New England Patriots: Ranking the top 5 defenses of the 21st century

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New England Patriots

New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) and linebacker Josh Uche (55) Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have reeled off a quick four game win streak that has completely changed the direction of their season. Initially they looked like an afterthought, crawling out to a 2-4 start and throwing away a handful of winnable games. Now at 6-4, they are firmly entrenched in the Wild Card race, and look like they could actually be a serious playoff contender this season.

One of the biggest reasons for that quick turnaround has been the play of the Patriots defense. They have struggled at times this season, but recently they have looked like one of the top units in the NFL. It’s no surprise that their best stretch of play has coincided with New England’s recent win streak.

The Patriots grade out as one of the best defenses in the league too. They rank fifth in the league in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which is a statistic that measures a team’s efficiency by comparing the success of every play run during a game to a league average that is based on the situation and the opponent. So based on the situations and opponents New England has faced, their defense has performed as the fifth best unit so far this season.

The more basic numbers all paint a similar picture. New England is second in the league in points allowed, despite still not having had a bye week yet. Opponents are only getting 5.2 yards per play, as they have generally shut down their opponent regardless of the circumstance. So that begs the question; how good is this defense compared to some of the Patriots’ recent defenses?

Of course, we won’t know the answer until the season is over, but after another defensive clinic, this time over the Cleveland Browns, it seemed like a good time to reminisce about some of the dominant defenses New England has fielded recently. While we won’t include the 2021 Patriots on this list just yet, I will revisit this ranking once the season concludes and see where they stand then. But for now, let’s take a look at the New England Patriots top 5 defenses of the 21st century.

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