NFL playoffs highlight focus on powerful offenses
Anyone who’s watched or listened to a sports broadcast in their life has surely heard the tired, but generally accurate mantra of ‘defense wins championships’ from the announcers.
The past three NFL Super Bowls have done a particularly good job of reinforcing this idea, with the Seattle Seahawks’ vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ defense embarrassing a high-powered Denver offense in 2014, the New England Patriots defense’s game-winning goal line interception in 2015 and the Denver Broncos’ fearsome pass rush patiently dismantling Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in 2016.
This year, however, the NFL playoff picture is shaping up quite a bit differently. This postseason has demonstrated a strong resurgence of offensive domination on the playing field, and many of the playoff games elapsed so far have unraveled into offense-vs-offense shootouts. Teams that pride themselves on elite pass-rushing units like the Broncos, Raiders, Texans, and Seahawks have all been eliminated due to anemic offensive performances. Powerful secondary defenses were similarly ineffective this postseason. Of the final four teams that remained, only the recently eliminated Green Bay Packers ranked in the top five for interceptions this season. The Patriots, Steelers, and Falcons ranked just 15th, 16th and 18th in interceptions respectively.
What these teams lack in defensive studs, they make up for with stellar offenses. The Atlanta Falcons pack a hefty offensive air-ground combination punch with WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman, as do the Pittsburgh Steelers with WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’veon Bell.
The Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots don’t have quite the same amount of explosive raw talent at these positions, but they’ve made up for it throughout the season with incredible production from QBs Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, both of whom have proven themselves more than capable of devastating opponents with pass-heavy game plans (at least, up until the Falcons defense mopped the floor with the Packers earlier today). The finalists all have competent defenses, but none come close to the absolute domination we’ve seen late in the playoffs in years past.
A more offense-centered game would benefit the NFL in general as well. Football games are, after all, technically a product of the organization, and a more entertaining product would likely help the organization combat its low rating woes this season (unfortunately, this means more money in Roger Goodell’s seedy pockets).
What effect will this have on the upcoming draft? In the past few years, defensive standouts have been drafted immediately as their offensive counterparts have fallen unusually far down in the selection process. After this Super Bowl, it will be interesting to see whether teams stick with this model, or try to find themselves the next Julio Jones, Aaron Rodgers or Rob Gronkowski.