High-powered offenses, stingy defenses, and Super Bowl champions

Al Bello

How often do the highest-powered offenses in the NFL actually win a Super Bowl? What about the stingiest defenses? Some people recognize that the NFL has become a passing league, and others hang on to the idea that defense wins championships. In the last five seasons, what can we see?

Penalties, injuries, clock management, turnovers... Regardless of what occurs during the course of a game, all that matters in the end is the final score. Let's take a look at the last five seasons to see who the highest-scoring offenses and stingiest defenses were, compared to the respective conference champions and eventual Super Bowl champ.

All stats shown are for the regular season.

This post is strictly intended to show statistics, not to try to identify schemes or coaching philosophies.

Off Pts/ game Def Pts/ game AFC champ NFC champ SB champ
2012 Patriots Seahawks Ravens 49ers Ravens
2011 Packers Steelers Patriots Giants Giants
2010 Patriots Steelers Steelers Packers Packers
2009 Saints Jets Colts Saints Saints
2008 Saints Steelers Steelers Cardinals Steelers

Super Bowl winners and their rankings for offensive/ defensive points per game:

2012 Ravens: 10th/ 12th

2011 Giants: 9th/ 25th

2010 Packers: 10th/ 2nd

2009 Saints: 1st/ 20th

2008 Steelers: 20th/ 1st

How far did the leaders in each category make it each season?

2012 Patriots (offensive points leader): AFC Championship game

2012 Seahawks (defensive points leader): NFC Divisional round

2011 Packers (offense): NFC Divisional round

2011 Steelers (defense): AFC Wild Card round

2010 Patriots (offense): AFC Divisional round

2010 Steelers (defense): Super Bowl

2009 Saints (offense): Super Bowl Champ

2009 Jets (defense): AFC Championship game

2008 Saints (offense): Missed playoffs, finished 8-8

2008 Steelers (defense): Super Bowl

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Not much, at least regarding Super Bowl victories. We know that for any NFL team, making it to the postseason is step No. 1, and then everything resets back to zero.

Only once in the last five seasons has the #1 scoring offense won a Super Bowl, and only once has the stingiest defense won a title. Also noteworthy is 2008, the Saints had the No. 1 scoring offense in the league, but missed the playoffs entirely when they finished 8-8 in the regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has given up the fewest points per game three of the last five years, and went to the Super Bowl twice (winning once).

The Patriots and Saints have had the No. 1 scoring offenses four of the last five seasons and have reached only one Super Bowl (won by New Orleans in 2009.)

WHAT ABOUT OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE BALANCE?

In 2011, the NY Giants had the 25th-ranked defense, but won the Super Bowl (offense was ninth). In 2009, the Saints had the 20th-ranked defense, and won the Super Bowl (but the offense was No. 1). The 2008 Steelers had the 20th-ranked offense and won the Super Bowl (but defense was No. 1).

A high-powered offense can obviously hide a malignant defense, and vice-versa. But regardless of who were the most prolific offenses or stingiest defenses during the regular season, all of that gets erased once the postseason begins, and it's anyone's game.

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