The Ravens may have a fourth-place schedule after finishing the 2021 season 8-9, but it’s shaping up to be a gauntlet after the AFC’s influx of star talent brought along big-name defenders. The Ravens took part in adding both starter-quality defenders and much-needed depth, but teams on their schedule did the same. Here are four defenses with the personnel to give the Ravens the most problems in 2022.
The 4 Best Defenses the Baltimore Ravens Will Face in 2022
1. Buffalo Bills — Week 4
2021 Defensive Ranking: 1
Defensive Players Lost: DL Star Lotulelei, DL Harrison Phillips, DL Vernon Butler, EDGE Mario Addison, EDGE Jerry Hughes EDGE Bryan Cox Jr., EDGE Efe Obada, CB Levi Wallace
Defensive Players Added: DL Tim Settle, LB Marquel Lee, DL DaQuan Jones, DL Jordan Phillips, EDGE Von Miller
The Bills are the early championship favorite and for good measure. In 2021, the Bills finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in total defense, total yards per play, passing yards, first downs allowed, third down conversion rate allowed and points per game.
Now, it’s unreasonable to expect they will repeat as No. 1—it’s difficult to do so as teams traditionally regress, but the pieces are all there for them to still be one of the NFL’s best. The secondary boasts cornerback Tre’Davious White and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The Bills also drafted Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam after trading up for the No. 22 overall pick in the 2022 draft.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers — Week 14, Week 17
2021 Defensive Ranking: 24
Defensive Players Lost: DL Stephon Tuitt, LB Joe Schobert, EDGE Taco Charlton, CB Joe Haden
Defensive Players Added: DL Larry Ogunjobi, LB Myles Jack, LB Genard Avery, CB Levi Wallace, S Damontae Kazee,
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is still strong and worthy of this list, but it’s Lamar Jackson’s struggles against Pittsburgh that brings them to No. 2 on this list. In five games against the Steelers, Jackson has thrown more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (4), and in addition has six fumbles (two lost). Part of the reason is the consistent pressure the Steelers’ defensive line has put on Jackson, sacking him 16 times.
The Steelers have one of the league’s best sack artists in outside linebacker T.J. Watt, and just re-signed safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the richest deal for a safety in history. The loss of Tuitt will hurt but the addition of Ogunjobi could soften the blow.
3. Cleveland Browns — Week 7, Week 15
2021 Defensive Ranking: 5
Defensive Players Lost: DL Ifeadi Odenigbo, DL Malik Jackson, LB Malcolm Smith, EDGE Takkarist McKinley, LB Mack Wilson, CB Troy Hill, S M.J. Stewart
Defensive Players Added: DL Isaac Rochell, DL Taven Bryan, LB Chase Winovich, EDGE Stephen Weatherly
The Browns have the defensive makeup to be the best in the NFL. Their secondary was ranked No. 3 by PFF with cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II and Greedy Williams paired with safeties John Johnson III and Grant Delpit. Their pass rush is also fear-inducing, with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on either side. These division games are historically low-scoring physical battles and this season’s matchups look to follow the trend.
4. New Orleans Saints — Week 9
2021 Defensive Ranking: 7
Defensive Players Lost: DL Jalyn Holmes, LB Kwon Alexander, S Marcus Williams
Defensive Players Added: DL Jaleel Johnson, LB Eric Wilson, EDGE Taco Charlton, EDGE Kentavius Street, S Marcus Maye, S Daniel Sorensen, S Tyrann Mathieu
The loss of Marcus Williams (to Baltimore, no less) would be a large factor had the Saints not immediately landed Marcus Maye and eventually Tyrann Mathieu. Last season, the Saints were one of four teams to allow fewer than 20 points per game and were one of four teams to allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. They swept the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, including a Week 15 shutout.
Their defensive line can consistently generate pass rush and their secondary matches up well against the Ravens. This will be an underrated contest midway through the season.