Submitted by Hank Goldberg on Friday, November 11, 2016 at 12:00 AM
by Jim Feist
So what do you prefer: offense or defense? Most casual bettors examining football like offense, which is why Monday night football games often take more action on the over. However, tell that to the Carolina Panthers. They roared through last season 17-1 and were favorites in the Super Bowl with the top scoring offense in the game...only to get pushed around and shut down by the dominant Denver Broncos' defense.
Even in the previous season when the Patriots topped the dominant Seattle defense, 28-24, the fact is that game could have gone either way. Seattle owned a 24-14 lead with eight minutes left. And let’s not forget the Pats had their best defensive team in years with the additions to Darrell Revis and Brandon Browner.
There have been some terrific offensive football teams the last decade, such as Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks, USC, along with pro passing attacks like the no-huddle Colts, Saints and Pats.
However, name the last few Super Bowl winners? The Broncos, Seahawks, Ravens, Giants (twice), Packers, Saints, Steelers (twice), Colts, Pats (four times) and Bucs, all had strong to outstanding defenses. Four years ago the Pats were favored but the better defensive team (Baltimore) shut them down in the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Six years ago everyone was impressed with the high flying Green Bay offense, but the fact is their defense was very talented under Dom Capers, ranked 5th in total defense, 5th against the pass. The team they beat in the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh, was second in total defense, No. 1 against the run. The Packer defense has slipped since and they have not returned to the big game.
Defense, in all sports, doesn't get the publicity that a flashy, exciting offense does, but there is so much truth in that age-old adage "Defense wins championships." Pittsburgh won four Super Bowl titles in six years from 1975-80 with Hall-of-Famers Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and Franco Harris on offense. But the cornerstone of that run was a defense for the ages led by L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, Mel Blount, and Jack Ham.
Note that seven of the last 14 Super Bowl champions had some major deficiencies on offense, yet won with strong all-around defenses. Denver last season was very poor at the quarterback position, but they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy because of a bone-crushing defense. Four years ago the Ravens were 16th in total offense, and in an age where passing is all the rage they ranked only 15th in passing. Five years ago the champion Giants were dead last in rushing the football. Here are the defensive rankings of the last 16 Super Bowl champions and their spread marks:
Super Bowl Champs - ATS Record - Defensive Rank
1996 Packers: 12-6-1 ATS - No. 1 (4th rushing, 1st passing)
1997 Broncos: 13-7 ATS - No. 5 (16th rushing, 5th passing)
1998 Broncos: - 12-7 ATS - No. 11 (3rd rushing, 25th passing)
1999 Rams: 14-4-1 ATS - No. 6 (1st rushing, 23rd passing)
2000 Ravens: 14-5-1 ATS - No. 2 (1st rushing, 9th passing)
2001 Patriots: 13-5-1 ATS - No. 24 (18th rushing, 24th passing)
2002 Bucs: 12-6 ATS - No. 1 (6th rushing, 1st passing)
2003 Patriots: 14-4-1 ATS - No. 7 (3rd rushing, 18th passing)
2004 Patriots: 13-5-1 ATS - No. 9 (6th rushing, 17th passing)
2005 Steelers: 13-7 ATS - No. 4 (3rd rushing, 16th passing)
2006 Colts: 12-8 ATS- No. 15 (32nd rushing, 3rd passing)
2007 Giants: 14-6 ATS - No. 7 (8th rushing, 11th passing)
2008 Steelers: 11-8 ATS - No. 1 (2nd rushing, 1st passing)
2009 Saints: 10-9 ATS - No. 25 (21st rushing, 26th passing)
2010 Packers: 12-8 ATS - No. 5 (18st rushing, 5th passing)
2011 Giants: 13-7 ATS - No. 5 (19th rushing, 29th passing)
2012 Ravens: 10-9-1 ATS - No. 17 (17th rushing, 17th passing)
2013 Seahawks: 13-6 ATS - No. 1 (No. 7 vs. rush, No. 1 vs. pass)
2014 Patriots: 11-8 ATS - No. 13 in yards, 8th in points (No. 9 vs. rush)
2015 Broncos: 10-7-2 ATS - No. 1 in yards allowed, No. 4 in points
Last season Denver's starting quarterback Peyton Manning had 9 TDs and 17 picks! Three years ago the Seahawks were a defensive powerhouse and dominated the favored Broncos in the Super Bowl, 43-8. Chalk up a pair of victories for great defenses against great offenses! Offense may get all the TV highlights, but defense is still the more likely key to football success.