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Where does the Panthers' defense rank among the NFL's best?

Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis have helped propel the Panthers to a 13-0 record. AP Photo/Bob Leverone

The Denver Broncos lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, defensive sack rate and points scored on defense. More advanced metrics also advocate for Denver possessing the league's best defense through Week 14. The Broncos rank first in expected points added per game, in defensive efficiency per play and in the defensive component of ESPN's Football Power Index, which adjusts for variables such as opponent and venue.

If you're looking for a defense that has been nearly as good as Denver's overall and even better in the past couple of months, the Carolina Panthers could be your choice. The Panthers' defense (which had been covering for the offense before Cam Newton hit his recent MVP stride) ranks first in yards per game, yards per play and defensive EPA per game over the past seven games.

A generation ago, ranking NFL defenses was as simple as flipping through weekly stat packets to see how many yards per game each team allowed. Today, it's as simple as scrolling down to see how I've ranked them heading into the final three weeks of the season. The Broncos get top billing from me, but there is room for debate.


1. Denver Broncos

EPA: first
FPI: first
Efficiency: first
PPG: first
Points/drive: first

The Broncos' stable of pass-rushers, though diminished by DeMarcus Ware's recent injury troubles, has helped Denver lead the NFL in sack rate, Total QBR allowed and just about every other category.

A dominant defense also explains how the Broncos won their first six games even though Peyton Manning ranked 26th in QBR with a league-high 10 interceptions to that point. Spotty quarterback play caught up to the Broncos when their defense went through a five-game stretch of relatively average play. Dominant performances against San Diego and Oakland during the past two weeks represented a return to form.