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For winning in NFL, 'D' comes before 'O'

Nov 4, 2008 5:08 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | Most casual bettors like offense, which is why NFL Monday Night Football often gets more action on the over.

There have been some terrific offensive football teams the last few years, such as USC and Texas in 2005, LSU and Florida the last two years, and pro passing attacks like the Rams, Colts, Dick Vermeil’s Chiefs and last year’s Patriots.

However, the last four teams to play for the Super Bowl (Bears, Colts, Giants and Pats) mostly did it with defense. In 2006 Indy was unusual, in that its run defense was poor during the regular season before catching fire in the playoffs. That year Chicago was No. 1 in total defense.

Last season it was defense shutting down offense as the Giants topped the high-flying Patriots, who had previously won three Super Bowls with a better defense than offense. Their 2002 team didn’t make the playoffs and the reason was obvious – the second worst run defense.

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.

Four of the last seven Super Bowl champions had major deficiencies on offense, yet won with strong all-around defenses. The 2005 Steelers were 23rd in passing. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens went five straight games without an offensive touchdown, yet went 14-5-1 against the spread en route to winning the Super Bowl.

At left are the defensive rankings of the last 12 Super Bowl champions and their spread marks. Note: All the champs were statistically very strong defensively, with the exception of the 2001 Patriots and the 2006 Colts.

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IN ‘DEFENSE’ OF NFL
SB Champs
ATS
Def Rank
96 Packers  12-6-1 ATS No. 1
97 Broncos: 13-7 ATS No. 5
98 Broncos: 12-7 ATS No. 11
99 Rams: 14-4-1 ATS No. 6
00 Ravens: 14-5-1 ATS No. 2
01 Patriots: 13-5-1 ATS No. 24
02 Bucs: 12-6 ATS No. 1
03 Patriots: 14-4-1 ATS No. 7
04 Patriots: 13-5-1 ATS No. 9
05 Steelers: 13-7 ATS No. 4
06 Colts: 12-8 ATS No. 15
07 Giants: 14-6 ATS No. 7