We show the power of defense last year in the playoffs when the Denver Broncos parlayed the league’s best defense into a Super Bowl trophy.
It didn’t matter than Denver’s offense was rather anemic in the postseason. The defense was stifling and overpowering.
Could a defensive team lead a franchise to a Super Bowl win this season? Sure, although none of these units are as dominating as Denver’s was last year. I believe three of the remaining eight defenses have the ability to be the main reason for their team winning the Super Bowl. Defense will be paramount because this is an offense-heavy postseason. If you can play defense, you have a shot.
Below are the remaining defenses ranked in order:
- Houston: If the Texans had solid quarterback play, they’d be a Super Bowl favorite. This defense is real, even without 3-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. The Texans had the No. 1 overall ranked defense in the NFL. It is strong against the pass, which will help against Tom Brady and crew at New England on Saturday. It is also strong against the run. The Patriots will fight to score on the Texans. But because of the Texans’ anemic offense, we won’t see this defense go very far. I know Denver did it last year, but this defense isn’t as good as Denver’s was in 2016 and its offense is worse than Denver’s was. But this is the best unit in this year’s tournament.
- Seattle: The Seahawks still have a very strong defense that can be a difference-maker in the postseason. It is not as dominant was it was three years ago when it was historically good and dominated the No. 1 offense, Denver, in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks miss injured safety Earl Thomas, but the defense is still effective. A key is this Saturday’s game at Atlanta. If the Seahawks can get by the Falcons, they can win the Super Bowl. But Atlanta’s offense will be challenging. It is the highest-scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 33.8 points per game. If Seattle can slow down Matt Ryan and crew, the Lombardi Trophy is the limit.
- Kansas City: I was tempted to put the Chiefs’ defense in front of the Seahawks. It may not be as strong overall, but Kansas City can play some swarming defense. It rushes the passer well with Justin Houston and Dee Ford. Kansas City had a league-high 33 takeaways (18 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries). It was also tied for the league-high with 5 defensive touchdowns. This defense plays with a purpose.
- Pittsburgh: The Steelers’ defense has gotten much better down the stretch than it was earlier in the season. The Steelers are healthy and their young players are coming along. This unit can rush the passer and it kept Miami standout running back Jay Ajayi in check last week. It is an elite defense and it is a step down from Kansas City’s defense, but the Steelers have a real chance to win the Super Bowl because of the combination of an explosive offense and a capable defense.
- New England: This defense isn’t unlike Pittsburgh’s defense. It is a unit that is playing much better recently that it did in the midseason. This isn’t a top defense and it’s not as strong as the units we have seen in the Bill Belichick era. But it can hold its own and it’s well-coached. I don’t see this defense being a negative for New England during this postseason.
- Green Bay: The Packers’ defense was dreadful in the middle of the season and was the reason why it lost four games in a row. Green Bay allowed more than 30 points in five of six games. Yet, it has buckled down. It is not perfect, especially against the pass. But linebacker Clay Matthews is playing well and the unit as a whole is spirited. I don’t believe this unit will be a huge help to the Packers. But I don’t think it will kill them, either.
- Dallas: The Cowboys are getting healthier on defense, which will help. But I’m not sure how much. The Dallas defense isn’t awful, but it isn’t very dynamic, either. It has had trouble finding a pass-rush all season and has been pretty average. With the Atlanta and Green Bay offenses, standing in Dallas’ way of the Super Bowl, it will put a lot of pressure on the Cowboys’ young offense.
- Atlanta: The Falcons are the opposite of Houston — if they had just an average defense, they would be the Super Bowl favorites. Atlanta averages 33.8 points a game. However, it gives up points in bunches as well. It has allowed opponents to score 26 points or more in 10 games. Atlanta allowed 406 points and is the NFL’s 25th-ranked defense in total yards. The Falcons can win the Super Bowl, but there are going to be some wild games along the way if they do.