Defenses win games, but bettors love offenses

Oct 29, 2013 3:00 AM

So what do you prefer: offense or defense?

Most casual bettors examining NFL picks like offense, which is why Monday night football games often take more action on the OVER.

There have been some terrific offensive football teams that last a decade, such as Oregon, USC, along with pro passing attacks like the Broncos, the no-huddle Patriots and the Greatest Show on Turf Rams.

However, name the last few Super Bowl winners? The Ravens, Giants (twice), Packers, Saints, Steelers (twice), Colts, Pats (thrice) and Bucs.

The last two seasons everyone was impressed with no-huddle Patriots, but the defense was second worst in yards allowed in 2011 and 25th last season. 

New England got bounced from the AFC title game as a favorite in January and two years ago the better defensive team shut them down in the Super Bowl.

Last season the Ravens used their experienced defense to make a remarkable run through the postseason, upsetting the far better offensive teams (Broncos, Patriots). Baltimore then came up with a goal line stand to win the Super Bowl. How appropriate.

Three years ago everyone was impressed with the high flying Green Bay offense, but their defense was very talented. 

Under Dom Capers in 2010, Green Bay ranked 5th in both total defense and against the pass. The team they beat in the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh, was second in total defense and No. 1 against the run.

Four years ago was a bit of an aberration with the high flying Saints and Colts meeting in the Super Bowl, but more often than not the superior defensive team stands out.

In 2008 the Arizona Cardinals had the flashy offense and were the big surprise, but the top defensive team in the league, Pittsburgh, topped them in the big game.

In 2007 defense shut down offense as the Giants topped the record-setting Patriots’ offense.

The 2002 season the Super Bowl was a fascinating matchup that pitted the No. 1 offense, Oakland, against the No. 1 defense in Tampa Bay. The Raiders averaged 28.1 ppg, while the Bucs ranked 18th in scoring at 21.6. This is partly why the Raiders were a 4-point favorite, but Tampa Bay prevailed 48-21.

While not getting the publicity that a flashy, exciting offense does, 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: Six of the last 12 Super Bowl champions had major deficiencies on offense, yet won with strong all-around defenses.

Last season the Ravens were 16th in total offense, and in an age where passing is all the rage they ranked only 15th in passing. Two years ago the Giants were dead last in rushing the football.

Many laughed at Baltimore in 2000 when they went five straight games without an offensive touchdown, but the Ravens laughed all the way to the Super Bowl, going 14-5-1 against the spread, dominating with a ferocious defense. 

The last two years the Giants and Ravens had injuries and some clunker defensive games in the first half of the season, but were beasts down the stretch. 

Offense may get all the television highlights, but defense is still the more likely key to football success today.

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]

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