Does Offense or Defense Get Teams to the Super Bowl?

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Green Bay Press Gazette Super Bowl XLV edition

To try to answer this popular question, I looked at the regular season offensive and defensive ranking of Super Bowl teams over the last eight years, based on total yards gained or given up. The numbers below are the teams’ NFL rankings, offense first, then defense. The * denotes the Super Bowl winner. I’ve also included the Packers’ rankings over the last eight years.

2010

  • *Packers – 9/5
  • Steelers – 14/2

2011

  • *Giants – 8/27
  • Patriots – 2/31
  • Packers – 3/32

2012

  • 49ers – 11/3
  • *Ravens – 16/17
  • Packers – 13/11

2013

  • *Seahawks 18/1
  • Broncos – 1/19
  • Packers – 3/25

2014

  • Seahawks – 9/1
  • *Patriots – 11/13
  • Packers – 6/15

2015

  • Panthers – 11/6
  • *Broncos – 16/1
  • Packers – 23/15

2016

  • Falcons – 2/25
  • *Patriots – 4/8
  • Packers – 8/22

2017

  • Eagles – 7/4
  • Patriots – 1/29
  • Packers – 26/22

Bet on the Eagles?

In the past eight years, only one Super Bowl team has been in the top seven in both offense and defense: the current Eagles, who finished seventh in offense and fourth in defense during the regular season.

While the Eagles had the more statistically dominant season, they now must rely on their backup quarterback. Yes, but he’s not your typical backup – and he’s coming off one of the greatest playoff passing performances ever – a 141.1 passer rating against the Vikings.

Here’s a final bit of trivia. The Patriots have played in the Super Bowl seven times in the last 20 years, with Tom Brady always being their quarterback. Though they’ve won five and lost two, not one of the games was decided by more than six points, and three of the wins were by just three points.

Other Comments

Clearly, offensive juggernauts propelled the 2011 Patriots, 2013 Broncos, 2016 Falcons, and 2017 Patriots to the big game.

The defenses spearheaded the 2010 Packers, 2010 Steelers, 2013 49ers, 2015 Broncos, and 2013 and 2014 Seahawks to the title game.

Teams with a good balance of offensive and defensive talent include the 2010 Packers, 2014 Seahawks, 2016 Patriots, and 2017 Eagles.

Teams that have gone to the Super Bowl despite terrible defenses include the 2011 Giants, 2016 Falcons, and 2011 and 2017 Patriots. The Pats would have had the worst defense in the league in 2011, but for the Packers.

No Super Bowl teams on the list have had a terrible offense. Only the 2013 Seahawks were in the bottom half of the league in offensive ranking, and then barely so.

The answer to that eternal question appears to be that either a strong offense or a strong defense can get a team into the Super Bowl.

Expect another nail-biter.

About The Author

Rob is currently twiddling his thumbs on Whidbey Island in Washington. He likes to do research, although he has no shortage of opinions. He saw his first live Packers game in 1958, the only win of the year.

4 Comments on "Does Offense or Defense Get Teams to the Super Bowl?"

  1. Cheese

    Oh look, the Packers 2017 offense is ranked worse than their defense. Surprise surprise..
    McCarthy is such a great play caller. One of the best!

  2. Deepsky

    To further confuse things, the Patriots defense is a bend but don’t break defense. They allow teams to move the ball consistently, but they don’t give up big plays. Then in the red zone, they shut things down.

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