NFL Playoffs: Defense is Dead
Did you enjoy that low-scoring slug fest between Seattle and Atlanta where every inch was difficult to come by? Yeah, the one that featured 24 points in the fourth quarter. The same game that had more than 900 yards of total offense. Atlanta won 30-28.
It was the lowest scoring game of the weekend by 11 points.
Defense in the NFL is dead.
All eight teams that played last weekend were in the top 12 of the league rankings in points allowed. Seattle and San Francisco yielded the fewest points in the league. Denver and Atlanta joined them among the top five. The Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks gave up the second, third, and fourth fewest number of yards during the regular season. Elite defensive teams rely on their offense to advance when the money is on the line.
Two of the last three Super Bowl winners have scored 31 points. This weekend 31 points would have been good enough to win only two of the four games. Green Bay scored 31. It was the fifth highest total of the weekend and sent the cheese heads home to Wisconsin. Interestingly, Packer fans shouldn't complain about not stopping Colin Kaepernick. There is no stopping anybody in the modern NFL. They have a right to wonder how five of their nine possessions ended without points.
The three teams that scored on more than half their possessions advanced to conference title games. Only Baltimore out of the five teams who failed to score on 50-percent of their drives is moving on. Usually teams rack up big chunks of yards in garbage time, but this weekend three of the four teams to out-gain their opponent won. The average winning score was 38.5 points. Teams that were victorious produced just under 415 yards per game.
During the division round no team scored more than 24 points. That was an aberration. Three of the four teams who won simply did not need to produce any more offense. Joe Webb's presence, Andy Dalton's inaccuracy, and Robert Griffin III getting injured created a situation where teams were limited in how many points they could tally. When good teams meet, offense rules the day.
The most exciting game of week 17 with something on the line was Minnesota's 37-34 win over Green Bay. In week 16 Seattle blitzed San Francisco 42-13. The 49ers won in New England 41-34 during the showcase game of week 15. Washington beat Baltimore 31-28 and New England handled Houston 42-14 in match-ups between playoff squads during week 14. At this point it should not be surprising that when quality teams play a lot of points are scored.
As you begin to think about the final four teams, ask yourself who will produce the most points. The Patriots averaged an NFL best 34.8 points a game this season. Without Rob Gronkowski available might Baltimore be able to slow down New England? Atlanta scored 22 more point during the regular season than San Francisco, but Falcon defensive end John Abraham re-injured his ankle against Seattle. Can Atlanta stop Kaepernick, or at least contain him enough so that Matt Ryan can win the game through the air?
One thing is certain: the teams that score more points on Sunday will play in the Super Bowl.