Conversely, for example, the St. Louis Rams finished 14th despite being projected 27th.
This season, there are many who believe San Francisco will be the number one team while others believe last year's second ranked defense (Denver) will claim the throne.
But some of us believe the Seattle Seahawks could be ready for a takeover, and somewhere in this slideshow, you'll find out why!
Please keep in mind that it is very early in the season and there are a ton of factors and events that haven’t happened yet which will undoubtedly affect these rankings from a final standpoint, so make sure to check back often as we fine tune things.
For now, let’s have some fun and see what the “future” holds.
10. Green Bay Packers:
From 5th to the league’s worst then back to the 11th ranked defense, this unit has been nothing but impossible to understand over the past three years.
But a lot of that inconsistency has to do with injuries and the adding and subtracting of players over the same course of time.
This season, the Packers return with everyone in tact except for the departure of veteran Charles Woodson, which will be felt.
But with a full year under their belts, the addition of DE Datone Jones and—believe it or not—the addition of RB Eddie Lacy to ease the usage of the defense, this squad should humbly hover around the 10th place mark in 2013.
9. Miami Dolphins:
The Dolphins made a number of huge off-season strides in 2012, both to the offense and defense.
The Dolphins lost linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby but gained linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe which they hope is a better gain than loss.
The other key addition for Miami will be CB Brent Grimes.
The Dolphins also added DE Dion Jordan, CB Jamar Taylor, CB Will Davis, LB Jelani Jenkins and S Don Jones via the NFL draft which should help tremendously.
The interesting part to it all is the obvious upgrades on offense, which should help keep the defensive unit’s usage to a minimum.
Keep in mind one aspect: You can’t put perfume on a pig, and if this defense want to improve from their 21st ranking a year ago, these immediate additions MUST come together rather fast.
8. Carolina Panthers:
The Panthers ranked 10th last season and instead of targeting offense in the draft, Carolina decided to add MORE defense.
Luck Kuechly was a standout player beyond expectation and he’ll now have DT Star Lotulelei on the field with him which will only make this defensive squad better.
The Panthers did lose a few players in the offseason namely LB James Anderson and they may inadvertently suffer the most from Ron Rivera NOT adding more offensive talent for Cam Newton.
Only time will tell.
7. Houston Texans:
The Houston Texans are an interesting unit. Over the past few years, a bunch of talent has left for greener pastures yet little replacements of equal caliber have entered the scene.
Still Wade Phillips has engineered stellar units year in and year out.
The Texans helped themselves by adding veteran Ed Reed and they should have LB Brian Cushing back for the 2013 season.
Cushing is a major part of the defensive unit and without him on the field this team noticeably struggled.
And of course, there’s the freak of nature J.J. Watt who is only going to get better—unbelievable to even recognize.
The area of concern here, for me anyway, is a “youth-brigade” for depth and development.
We’re still very early in the year, so this projection could obviously change between now and September, but for now, 7th seems fair enough.
6: Cincinnati Bengals:
Since Mike Zimmer came to town, this team has climbed from No. 15, to No. 7 and to No. 6 in the past three years.
That’s observation number one.
The Bengals also have nearly every single starter returning in 2013 except for one.
That’s observation number two.
The Bengals, of course, added James Harrison which is observation number three.
What this all means is the Bengals have been highly consistent for the past three years, they've been on a constant defensive rise over the past three years and finally have their strong-side (SAM) backer in Harrison which is as good of a situation as it can get.
I can easily see this team doing better than another year ranked sixth, but for now, let’s first see how Harrison (a lifetime pass-rushing specialist in a 3-4 scheme) transitions to the 4-3 at 35.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers:
Dick LeBeau REALLY has his work cut out for him in 2013.
Prior to this season, though, this Steelers’ team has been the model of defensive consistency as they have been ranked 1st or 2nd in the past three years.
That was then; this is now.
The Steelers also lost a few veterans which always seems to hurt, so when you add it all up, I do see a step backwards in 2013.
Ironically enough, the future looks very bright.
4. Chicago Bears:
The Bears have a tall order ahead of them if they are to repeat the same performance that ranked them 5th overall in 2012.
There are, however, a few key areas of interest that could help them do such a feat and perhaps even better themselves in the process.
The addition of James Anderson will be better than most people think. This is a fast outside-inside backer who is used to playing in a system that “rolls” coverage and run support to the weak side which Chicago hopes to deploy this season.
The addition of D. J. Williams will help ease the pains of the missing Brian Urlacher at MLB.
Williams was an incredibly versatile linebacker for Denver (2004-2012) and should wind up being an upgrade over Urlacher who was in decline the past two or three years anyway.
The turnovers may decline a bit, but with the majority of the 2012 starters returning and two key acquisitions, this team should hover around the 4th or 5th spot.
3. Denver Broncos:
The Broncos put on quite a show last season. From a defensive standpoint, this team rose from the ashes in just two short years, clawing their way to the number two spot in 2012.
They were ranked 32nd just two years ago.
I do feel that this squad will take a step backwards in 2013, albeit a small step.
The loss of Elvis Dumervil will be felt even with the addition of Shaun Philips, and the addition of rookies Sylvester Williams and Kavon Webster will undoubtedly have an effect, but it will take time to come into fruition.
The Broncos also reached out and added Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Stewart Bradley. These two players are bound to be gambles at best, even if they appear to be savvy investments.
Bradley was a monumental failure in Arizona and DRC has been coined as an underachieving one-trick pony.
The worst possible situation here is that the Broncos allow DRC to compete as an outside corner and keep up-and-coming Chris Harris as a slot/nickel man.
2. San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers had six different players up front that were Top 10 individuals and the secondary ranked 4th overall.
In general, this team was a very balanced team defensively which made the decision tough to preliminarily put them at number 2.
So why second?
The 49ers lost Dashon Goldson and replaced him with rookie Eric Reid.
I know, it seems a weak argument. To be honest, however, my reticence behind the rookie simply coming in and replacing Goldson—at Goldson’s level—is a big task, ergo, an easy assumption that it may not happen in year one.
Don’t get me wrong, this team can certainly challenge anyone for the Top defense in 2013, but these are preliminary rankings.
So who’s number 1?
1. Seattle Seahawks:
This Seattle team ranked out as the league’s 4th overall defense in 2012 which is a huge improvement from their near league worst defense ranking two years ago.
What makes this team even more enticing in 2013 is the addition of DE Cliff Avril and CB Antoine Winfield.
The Seahawks plan to put more emphasis on the pass rush from the front lines which should help their pass coverage that was already ranked 6th in 2012.
The addition of ProFootballFocus.com’s number one ranked corner (Antoine Winfield) will only help seal the deal.
It’s hard NOT to give them an early ranking of number one, but easy to see this team is poised for a takeover.