Even With NFL’s Offensive Firepower, Defenses Win Championships

Over the last few decades, the NFL has become more of an offensive game. However, just like the old days, defenses still rule the league, at least in recent years. Even with the rule changes to help the offenses, the defenses are still the reason virtually all the champions this decade were able to win.

Since the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl following the 2010 season, the teams that have won the Super Bowl have one thing in common: Defense. Except for the 2011 New York Giants, the rest have been in the top 12 in points allowed, with five of the eight being in the top four in that category. That includes the 2010 Packers, which finished No. 2, only behind their opponent in the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the last eight years starting with the 2010 season, six times the playoff teams have finished in the top 12 in points allowed. I chose 12 because those are the number of teams that make the playoffs. The Giants are the anomaly, as was 2011 in general. In that year, only five of the teams that made the playoffs finished in the top 12 in points allowed. New York, despite ranking 25th in points allowed, took home the Lombardi Trophy. New York’s opponent, New England, was ranked 15th. Of the teams that missed the playoffs, five of the seven finished below .500.

In general, though, defense rules the day. In three of the last four years, the team that won the Super Bowl had the better defense, including this past year, as Philadelphia ranked fourth and New England fifth. In those eight years, I mentioned, there were four matchups between top 10 defenses, and Baltimore ranked just outside the top 10, or it would have been five. And every single matchup had at least one team ranked in the top five in defense, except for that 2011 season.

The best year in terms of defense was 2015, as 11 of the top 12 teams, as well as the top eight, in defense made the playoffs. Denver and Carolina both finished in the top six in points allowed and made the Super Bowl, and the dominant Broncos defense nearly-single handedly won them the Super Bowl. The only team that failed to make the playoffs that ranked in the top 12 defensively that year was the New York Jets, which barely missed the playoffs at 10-6.

Back in 2010, the top eight in points allowed also made the playoffs, including the top two, which played each other in the Super Bowl (Packers and Steelers). That was the last Super Bowl between the top two defenses. It was the last time Green Bay ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense. As a matter of fact, the Packers have only finished in the top half of the league in three of the seven years since.

The Packers finished 26th in scoring defense last season, which was why former defensive coordinator Dom Capers was fired. They also finished 21st in 2016 after two consecutive top 13 defenses. Mike Pettine will look to improve the defense significantly, and will need to if the Packers want to contend for a Super Bowl championship.

Offensively, Green Bay finished 10th in scoring 2010, and won the Super Bowl due to its defense, which as I mentioned ranked second. In the seven years since, the Packers offense has finished in the top eight in points five times. Last year was one of the two seasons in which they weren’t in the top eight and Aaron Rodgers was injured. The other was in 2015 when Jordy Nelson missed the entire season due to a torn ACL.

Green Bay will need to improve the defense in order to win the Super Bowl. For an offense that is consistently one of the best offenses in the game, the defenses have always let them down. It comes to no one’s surprise that the last time the Packers had a top 10 defense, they won the Super Bowl. If Pettine is able to do that with this team, there is no reason the Packers can’t lift the Lombardi once again.

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Jonathon Zenk is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He is a huge Packers fan, and a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. You can follow Jonathon on Twitter at @jzenk42

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