The old adage as it goes in the NFL (or any other sport really) is that defense wins championships. Top-flight defenses are what wins when it matters most — in the playoffs, when the weather dips into a frigid state and when it becomes “men’s football,” for lack of a better term.
That’s when the teams with the best defenses rise to the top, and it’s usually those teams that are left hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl winners.
How things have changed.
Las Vegas released its Super Bowl odds earlier this week. The three teams favored to come away as victors on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis are the Green Bay Packers, the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.
Coincidentally, those are three of the worst defenses in the NFL, at least in terms of yards allowed. The Saints look like world beaters compared to the Packers and Patriots, as they were ranked 24th in yards allowed. The Pats and Packers, meanwhile, finished 31st and 32nd respectively.
Under the old adage then, there’s no way any of these teams can win the Super Bowl, yet, they’re the favorites. The game is undeniably changing and offense has become the focal point of the game. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are the three best quarterbacks in football right now and thus, they play on the three best teams.
Still, there are lingering doubts about whether or not teams can win in January and February with bottom-of-the-barrel defenses. As The Washington Post pointed out Wednesday, 38 of the 45 Super Bowl winners had top-10 defenses.
“If the defenses aren’t real good, I think there’s some vulnerability there … if you gave me my choice, I’d want a great defense first.” former Bills coach Marv Levy told the Post. “I once made a comment that offense sells tickets, kicking wins games and defense wins championships. I think that still holds true, to me. That’s no disrespect to all these great quarterbacks and what they’ve done. [But] I have a little apprehension about a team that is vulnerable on defense, no matter how potent their offense is.”
There’s no denying the incredible offensive firepower that each of these teams bring to the table, particularly with the Packers and Patriots doing so outdoors in cold-weather climates. Yet, if one of those teams are able to come away with the title, they’d certainly been the exception to an old rule.
At the same time, they may offer the latest proof that a new era is indeed here to stay in the NFL.