Great defense and the Green Bay Packers haven’t been mentioned in the same sentence all too often over the last decade or so.
That could all change in 2022.
Could the Packers have the No. 1 defense in the NFC North? It is entirely possible. Here are our power rankings ahead of the 2022 season:
1. Green Bay Packers
Key players: Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, De’Vondre Campbell, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rasul Douglas, Adrian Amos
2021 ranking: 9th in NFL
Green Bay’s defense took a big step forward under Joe Barry last season, ranking ninth overall, 10th in pass defense, 11th in run defense, and 14th in scoring defense.
They achieved this without All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander for much of the season.
The Packers have added defensive linemen Devonte Wyatt and Jarran Reed, as well as inside linebacker Quay Walker, to an already-strong defense.
Green Bay has Pro Bowlers at every level on defense, and the secondary can be special this season.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Key players: Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Eric Kendricks, Andrew Booth, Harrison Smith, Lewis Cine
2021 ranking: 30th
Despite ranking 30th in total defense last season, the Vikings have a lot of talent on this side of the ball.
Minnesota needs Pro Bowl pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith to stay healthy. This could be an excellent duo.
In Hunter’s last full season, he made 14.5 sacks in 16 games. Smith had 12.5 sacks in 2020.
The Vikings also strengthened the secondary in the draft. Andrew Booth helps at cornerback, and they have an excellent safety trio of All-Pro Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, and first-round pick Lewis Cine.
3. Chicago Bears
Key players: Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker
2021 ranking: 6th
Last year’s sixth-ranked defense will likely take a step back after losing edge rusher Khalil Mack and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. They are tough to replace.
Chicago still has three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Robert Quinn and two-time All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith.
The Bears improved their secondary by drafting Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.
Overall, this can still be a good defense, but they are unlikely to finish sixth in total yards allowed again this season.
4. Detroit Lions
Key players: Aidan Hutchinson, Michael Brockers, Josh Paschal, Jeff Okudah, Amani Oruwariye, DeShon Elliott
2021 ranking: 29th
The Lions’ defense is trending in the right direction, there is no doubt about that.
Detroit has focused on strengthening its defensive line, and it enters 2022 with good depth up front. The pass rush should be improved with the addition of Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal.
But there are still big questions at inside linebacker and in the secondary.
Work still needs to be done defensively, but the Lions should improve their ranking from a year ago.