Questions About the NFL Playoffs: Part 3

Today’s NFL Playoffs question: Is being best, best?

Answer: Of course it is. Don’t be stupid.

By “best” I mean, is there an advantage to ranking among the top five offenses and/or defenses in the NFL when it comes to winning the Super Bowl? Over the past 10 years, the answer is a resounding “yeah, but.”

There’s certainly a trend to the graph below – Super Bowl winners have either a great offense, or a great defense, but not both. Looking at the last 10 winners, there is a clear distinction that you need one but not the other to suceed. Only the rare teams possess both – but there hasn’t been a champion since 2005 that had both units rank in the top 10.


Of the last 10 Super Bowls, eight of them had a winner with either a top-5 offense or defense (only habitual upset artists the New York Football Giants, in 2011 and 2007 as the 4th and 5th seeds, ranked in neither). Only three of the 10 had a top-5 offense, but six winners have had top-5 defenses. Only one team – the 2004 Patriots – ranked top-5 in both.

But the BEST teams? The top dogs? Not so much. Only the 2009 Saints won the Super Bowl and had the NFL’s top offense. The league’s best defense team has won three times, though – in 2008 (Steelers), 2003 (Patriots), and 2002 (Bucs).

If we apply this AC/DC trend to this year’s field, what do we see? Well, your top three offensive teams are the Saints, Lions, and Cowboys, so… not them. Falcons, Broncos, and Pats each rank in the top 10 on both sides of the ball, so they’re out.

My pick based on this stupid, meaningless analysis? The winner of the Redskins-Seahawks game. The Seahawks rank 27th in offense (despite their red-hot recent form), but are the NFL’s top defensive team. They remind me a lot of the 2008 Steelers. The Redskins are fourth offensively but 22nd defensively – not unlike last year’s Giants team.

Part 1: Do rookie quarterbacks drafted #1 overall succeed?
Part 2: What seed do you want to be?

About PolkPanther

PolkPanther is the Thornton Melon Distinguished Chair of Economics at Grand Lakes University. Follow him on Twitter @polkpanther.
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2 Responses to Questions About the NFL Playoffs: Part 3

  1. PostApocalypticRecSpecs says:

    I love this.

    It really shows how bad that 2007 Giants team was. I’ve never seen a team (in the NFL) that got so hot on offense and defense for five weeks like they did. Plaxico Burress was simply unstoppable on quick-slants and nobody could block their D-ends.

    Burress absolutely abused Al Harris in the NFC Championship game that year, best game I’ve ever seen a WR play.

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