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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    274

    A Breakdown of What's Truly Better: A Top Offense or Top Defense? (1990-2008)

    It’s the age old argument, what is more important to the success of a team, having a top defense or a top offense? Many of us have for years been told by announcers, players, and reporters that “Defense wins championships”. However, you never do see any facts to back up that claim. It’s as if this something one must accept as a football fan, just like accepting Elway is the king of the comeback and that Al Davis is the crypt keeper. I decided to look into this issue a little further, to see if that classic line could withstand my analysis. This will be a three part series that looks at the three eras of playoff football. 1970 to 1978 (8 Playoff teams), 1978 to 1990 (10 Playoff teams) and 1990 to 2008 (12 Playoff teams). I will be primarily looking at points per game because when it comes down to offense or defense, the name of the game for each is scoring points and preventing points respectively.

    Making The Playoffs

    I started with the 1990-2008 era to get that out of the way, since it has the most seasons in it (19). What I found was extremely surprising. First what I did was write down the offensive and defensive ranking for each playoff team for each season. Then I calculated how many teams finished in top twelve offensive rankings and the top twelve defensive rankings. The reason I picked the number 12 was because that is how many teams make the playoffs (I will change this to 10 and then 8 for the other eras). What I found was that in terms of getting into the playoffs, the difference between a top 12 offense or a top 12 defense is practically nil. A top 12 defense has a 69.74% chance of making the playoffs while a top 12 offense has a 70.18% chance of making it. I also found the average offense ranking of the teams that made the playoffs to be 9.03, compared to the average defensive ranking of 9.37. Once again, very little difference.

    Making And Winning A Super Bowl

    I then looked at all teams that made the Super Bowl and once again was surprised by my findings. I put all the offensive rankings of SB teams in one list and all the defensive rankings in another and then found the average ranking for offense and defense. The average offensive rank was 5.63 while the average defensive rank was 7. I then decided to look solely at Super Bowl winners, since that’s the ultimate goal for any NFL team, except for the Lions who probably only want their fans to stop wearing paper bags over their heads, smalls steps folks! I found the average offensive ranking of SB winners to be 6.74 while the average defensive ranking was 4.89.

    So even though it appears that a top defense or offense is interchangeable when it comes to making the playoffs and that having a better offense slightly trumps a better defense when it comes to making a SB, when it comes down to winning championships, defense still prevails.

    Part two will look at the 1978 to 1990 era of football and will be completed in the next couple of days.

    Here are the statistics I used.

    Defense: 159/228= 69.74%
    Offense: 160/228= 70.18%

    OFF+DEF Total Combined Ranking= 18.46

    OFF Total Ranking Average= 9.03

    DEF Total Ranking= 9.37

    Average Offensive Ranking of SB teams= 5.63
    Average Defensive Ranking of SB teams= 7

    Average Offensive Ranking of SB winning teams= 6.74
    Average Defensive Ranking of SB winning teams= 4.89
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    I like McDaniels, he will be a good coach. Just not for this team. Belichick needed his Cleveland stint to become the coach he is now and McDaniels is showing the same signs.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Las Manzanitas, NM
    Posts
    30,908

    Smile Statistics

    Quote Originally Posted by MJA View Post
    It’s the age old argument, what is more important to the success of a team, having a top defense or a top offense? Many of us have for years been told by announcers, players, and reporters that “Defense wins championships”. However, you never do see any facts to back up that claim. It’s as if this something one must accept as a football fan, just like accepting Elway is the king of the comeback and that Al Davis is the crypt keeper. I decided to look into this issue a little further, to see if that classic line could withstand my analysis. This will be a three part series that looks at the three eras of playoff football. 1970 to 1978 (8 Playoff teams), 1978 to 1990 (10 Playoff teams) and 1990 to 2008 (12 Playoff teams). I will be primarily looking at points per game because when it comes down to offense or defense, the name of the game for each is scoring points and preventing points respectively.

    Making The Playoffs

    I started with the 1990-2008 era to get that out of the way, since it has the most seasons in it (19). What I found was extremely surprising. First what I did was write down the offensive and defensive ranking for each playoff team for each season. Then I calculated how many teams finished in top twelve offensive rankings and the top twelve defensive rankings. The reason I picked the number 12 was because that is how many teams make the playoffs (I will change this to 10 and then 8 for the other eras). What I found was that in terms of getting into the playoffs, the difference between a top 12 offense or a top 12 defense is practically nil. A top 12 defense has a 69.74% chance of making the playoffs while a top 12 offense has a 70.18% chance of making it. I also found the average offense ranking of the teams that made the playoffs to be 9.03, compared to the average defensive ranking of 9.37. Once again, very little difference.

    Making And Winning A Super Bowl

    I then looked at all teams that made the Super Bowl and once again was surprised by my findings. I put all the offensive rankings of SB teams in one list and all the defensive rankings in another and then found the average ranking for offense and defense. The average offensive rank was 5.63 while the average defensive rank was 7. I then decided to look solely at Super Bowl winners, since that’s the ultimate goal for any NFL team, except for the Lions who probably only want their fans to stop wearing paper bags over their heads, smalls steps folks! I found the average offensive ranking of SB winners to be 6.74 while the average defensive ranking was 4.89.

    So even though it appears that a top defense or offense is interchangeable when it comes to making the playoffs and that having a better offense slightly trumps a better defense when it comes to making a SB, when it comes down to winning championships, defense still prevails.

    Part two will look at the 1978 to 1990 era of football and will be completed in the next couple of days.

    Here are the statistics I used.

    Defense: 159/228= 69.74%
    Offense: 160/228= 70.18%

    OFF+DEF Total Combined Ranking= 18.46

    OFF Total Ranking Average= 9.03

    DEF Total Ranking= 9.37

    Average Offensive Ranking of SB teams= 5.63
    Average Defensive Ranking of SB teams= 7

    Average Offensive Ranking of SB winning teams= 6.74
    Average Defensive Ranking of SB winning teams= 4.89
    OK. Time to study. Can I use my slide rule? No, I mean am I able to use a slide rule?

    Oh, man! Can I go back to my locker and get my pencil?

    It was my understanding there would be no math.

    Bro, before you get to part 2, can we sneak a peek at the final answer?

    It's D, isn't it?
    "Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes." ~ Publilius Syrus

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Colorado Springs
    Posts
    432
    Not to overburden you, but I suggest looking at whether a bad-to-mediocre defense is more likely to hinder a teams chances at making the playoffs / winning a championship or a bad-to-mediocre offense. That might tell a different and just as interesting story. I mean...as long as you're waist-deep in the numbers.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    8,226
    I cant think of very many teams that have won the Super Bowl with a suspect defense ....

    Although after watching how the Broncos,49ers played during their Super Bowl years I have always valued top offenses more ....

    As I think they was two of the better offenses in SB history .....As well some of the best teams ever .... They 49ers are alrdy regarded as one of the best .....The Broncos Super Bowl teams will never get enough credit for how good they was ....

    The 98 team could put points on anybody imo and on defense did the two things I see as most important...keeping other teams out of the endzone and stoping the run....

    That year they was getting a jump on teams almost every game and going into half with a two score lead ....

    Whats significant about TD's 2000 yrd season ...... He to my knowledge was the only one out of the 10 ten all time rushing yds in a single season to win a Super Bowl that year...


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,538
    You should points scored vs points allowed for this instead yards allowed and yards teh offense picks up, if you werent already doing that.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Posts
    202
    I think in looking at our Broncos last year it's simple to say that it's better to have a great defense. Top ranked offense and bottom ranked defense equals eight wins. Although, I do believe you can have a mediocre defense and top ranked offense, such as the '07 Patriots, and do pretty well, if you can get large leads quickly. But then you look at teams like the Super Bowl winning Ravens and realize that the offense just has to limit turnovers and punt when necessary to win, or not lose, games.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    274
    Quote Originally Posted by Bioengineer View Post
    You should points scored vs points allowed for this instead yards allowed and yards teh offense picks up, if you werent already doing that.
    I did use points, points per game.
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    I like McDaniels, he will be a good coach. Just not for this team. Belichick needed his Cleveland stint to become the coach he is now and McDaniels is showing the same signs.

  8. #8
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    Jul 2004
    Location
    Bozeman, MT
    Posts
    6,074
    I also agree that defense trumps offense in the playoffs and SuperBowls. I did think it was common hat, considering offensive scoring always goes down in the playoffs (even by the most elite offdensive teams) while defense can maintain.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    274
    Quote Originally Posted by One5 View Post
    I think in looking at our Broncos last year it's simple to say that it's better to have a great defense. Top ranked offense and bottom ranked defense equals eight wins. Although, I do believe you can have a mediocre defense and top ranked offense, such as the '07 Patriots, and do pretty well, if you can get large leads quickly. But then you look at teams like the Super Bowl winning Ravens and realize that the offense just has to limit turnovers and punt when necessary to win, or not lose, games.
    Well, if the goal this year is to just make the playoffs, a top offense over a top defense or vice versa is pretty much irrelevant. The only time defense actually trumps offense in average ranking is by SB winning teams. From what I found, teams that made the playoffs or lost in the SB had a better average offensive ranking than average defensive ranking.
    http://goallineblitz.com/game/signup.pl?ref=30412676
    MMO Football Game

    I like McDaniels, he will be a good coach. Just not for this team. Belichick needed his Cleveland stint to become the coach he is now and McDaniels is showing the same signs.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    190
    All I know is that I watched for years as Kyle Boller, one of the worse Qb's ever to play the game, won many games as a Raven. He is one of the most un-athletic, non-instinctive, garbage, awful players ever to play the position, and yet, they won often. So defense might not win championships, but it will certainly win many, many games that otherwise would be blowouts.

  11. #11
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    Mar 2008
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    Winnipeg
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    31,901
    Quote Originally Posted by MJA View Post
    It’s the age old argument, what is more important to the success of a team, having a top defense or a top offense? Many of us have for years been told by announcers, players, and reporters that “Defense wins championships”. However, you never do see any facts to back up that claim. It’s as if this something one must accept as a football fan, just like accepting Elway is the king of the comeback and that Al Davis is the crypt keeper. I decided to look into this issue a little further, to see if that classic line could withstand my analysis. This will be a three part series that looks at the three eras of playoff football. 1970 to 1978 (8 Playoff teams), 1978 to 1990 (10 Playoff teams) and 1990 to 2008 (12 Playoff teams). I will be primarily looking at points per game because when it comes down to offense or defense, the name of the game for each is scoring points and preventing points respectively.

    Making The Playoffs

    I started with the 1990-2008 era to get that out of the way, since it has the most seasons in it (19). What I found was extremely surprising. First what I did was write down the offensive and defensive ranking for each playoff team for each season. Then I calculated how many teams finished in top twelve offensive rankings and the top twelve defensive rankings. The reason I picked the number 12 was because that is how many teams make the playoffs (I will change this to 10 and then 8 for the other eras). What I found was that in terms of getting into the playoffs, the difference between a top 12 offense or a top 12 defense is practically nil. A top 12 defense has a 69.74% chance of making the playoffs while a top 12 offense has a 70.18% chance of making it. I also found the average offense ranking of the teams that made the playoffs to be 9.03, compared to the average defensive ranking of 9.37. Once again, very little difference.

    Making And Winning A Super Bowl

    I then looked at all teams that made the Super Bowl and once again was surprised by my findings. I put all the offensive rankings of SB teams in one list and all the defensive rankings in another and then found the average ranking for offense and defense. The average offensive rank was 5.63 while the average defensive rank was 7. I then decided to look solely at Super Bowl winners, since that’s the ultimate goal for any NFL team, except for the Lions who probably only want their fans to stop wearing paper bags over their heads, smalls steps folks! I found the average offensive ranking of SB winners to be 6.74 while the average defensive ranking was 4.89.

    So even though it appears that a top defense or offense is interchangeable when it comes to making the playoffs and that having a better offense slightly trumps a better defense when it comes to making a SB, when it comes down to winning championships, defense still prevails.

    Part two will look at the 1978 to 1990 era of football and will be completed in the next couple of days.

    Here are the statistics I used.

    Defense: 159/228= 69.74%
    Offense: 160/228= 70.18%

    OFF+DEF Total Combined Ranking= 18.46

    OFF Total Ranking Average= 9.03

    DEF Total Ranking= 9.37

    Average Offensive Ranking of SB teams= 5.63
    Average Defensive Ranking of SB teams= 7

    Average Offensive Ranking of SB winning teams= 6.74
    Average Defensive Ranking of SB winning teams= 4.89
    CPs for the effort!!!!

    I appreciate when members take the time and do the research. It is time-consuming and sometimes laborious work, but it makes for good articles.

    Nice one!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    274
    Quote Originally Posted by bighuka View Post
    All I know is that I watched for years as Kyle Boller, one of the worse Qb's ever to play the game, won many games as a Raven. He is one of the most un-athletic, non-instinctive, garbage, awful players ever to play the position, and yet, they won often. So defense might not win championships, but it will certainly win many, many games that otherwise would be blowouts.
    I think you misread my point. The numbers point out three things, that having a top offense or defense does not matter when it comes to making the playoffs, that having a top ranked offense is better than having a top ranked defense when it comes to making the SB and that having a top defense is better than a top offense when it comes to actually winning a SB.
    http://goallineblitz.com/game/signup.pl?ref=30412676
    MMO Football Game

    I like McDaniels, he will be a good coach. Just not for this team. Belichick needed his Cleveland stint to become the coach he is now and McDaniels is showing the same signs.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Denver.
    Posts
    2
    Another thing to consider would be the offenses and defenses of the losers of the Super Bowl.

    If say... The mighty Pittsburgh Steelers were to thump an offensive powerhouse like say... The Cardinals... Then that matters a lot. Likewise if the Colts thumped the Bears, that too would say a lot.

    Seeing how it generally goes overall would say quite a bit, so it's not enough to just look at the winners. One also has to look at what they overcame in that game.

  14. #14
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    Dec 2006
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    Denver, Colorado, United States
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    21,841
    Quote Originally Posted by Alastor View Post
    Another thing to consider would be the offenses and defenses of the losers of the Super Bowl.

    If say... The mighty Pittsburgh Steelers were to thump an offensive powerhouse like say... The Cardinals... Then that matters a lot. Likewise if the Colts thumped the Bears, that too would say a lot.

    Seeing how it generally goes overall would say quite a bit, so it's not enough to just look at the winners. One also has to look at what they overcame in that game.
    In the case of Colts and Bears, the Bears could not overcome Rex Grossman LOL

    Hooray, beer!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    531
    Quote Originally Posted by Alastor View Post
    Another thing to consider would be the offenses and defenses of the losers of the Super Bowl.

    If say... The mighty Pittsburgh Steelers were to thump an offensive powerhouse like say... The Cardinals... Then that matters a lot. Likewise if the Colts thumped the Bears, that too would say a lot.

    Seeing how it generally goes overall would say quite a bit, so it's not enough to just look at the winners. One also has to look at what they overcame in that game.
    The Bears didn't have Tommie Harris or Mike Brown. They were also very inconsistent from the 2nd half on. The defense in the SB was not the real 06 D. Then you have to factor in Grossman did really, really bad in the 2nd half.

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