By Brandon Seal
In a “not for long” league, one thing has withstood the test of time: defense wins championships. In 2015, Peyton Manning hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after a horrific final season. In 10 games played he threw for 2,249 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions for a QB Rating of 67.9! And with his less than average performance in Super Bowl 50, the old saying couldn’t be more true. Fast forward four years to Conference Championship weekend. The remaining teams also happen to be the top four teams in points per game. The Chiefs and Rams were the best in the league at picking up yards per game at 1 and 2, respectively. Meanwhile, the Saints’ high powered offense finished 5th in yards and the Tom Bradys rounded out the bunch at 8th.
The only thing defense has won for teams such as Chicago, Baltimore, Seattle, and Houston is a trip home to watch the rest of the playoffs. The Rams are the one team left that has absolute studs all over the field on defense. Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh are monsters in the trenches, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are the best corner combo in the league, and it’s always nice to have help out deep like Lamarcus Joyner flying around. Let’s not forget the impact play of linebackers Mark Barron and Dante Fowler Jr. The Chiefs, along with leading the league in points and yards this season, also set the standard in sacks with 52. Chris Jones was a huge part of that success along with Justin Houston. With Eric Berry missing all but two games this year, Kendall Fuller has been the lone star in the defensive backfield. Outside of Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore the Saints are light on defense. The Deflatriots are working with a group of old guys and Stephon Gilmore,
A testament to the change in the mindset of the NFL is the fact that there were TWO top ten all-time QB Ratings this season: Drew Brees 6th (115.7) and Patrick Mahomes 8th (113.8) in his first year as a starting quarterback. Mahomes also threw the 8th most passing yards all time with 5,097. Surprisingly, he was topped by Ben Roethlisberger who finished with the 7th most for a single season with 5,129. Big Ben achieved the feat while throwing the 4th most pass attempts with 675. Nine signal callers finished with 30 or more TD passes and 12 topped the 4,000 yard mark. While it’s certainly a passing league, the dominance of offenses in general was evident in the running game. Eight teams finished with over 2,000 yards on the ground for the season including 3 of the teams remaining in the NFL tourney (Belicheats, Rams, Saints). By comparison, the number of teams to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards the previous 3 seasons was 6, 4, and 6.
After a historic, record-breaking season, there are three games remaining for the world to enjoy. Will defenses stand their ground to keep these high powered offenses in check? Or will we see more fireworks from the offensive side of the ball? (Maybe we’ll even get a rematch of this Week 11 laser show in Super Bowl LIII!) If I was a betting man, my money is on the offense.