Mmmm ... donuts
Last year the Cold, Hard Football Facts proved true an age-old football aphorism – "defense wins championships."
We discovered that the Super Bowl team with the better scoring defense won 25 times in 33 games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Following New England's victory over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII, teams with the stingier scoring defense are now a nifty 26-8 in post-merger Super Bowls and 28-10 in all Super Bowls.
The success of better defenses is a fat-filled morsel to munch on for stat-starved angry trolls when attempting to determine which team that has the upper hand in Super Bowl XXXIX. But this season it's about as fulfilling as a single measly Munchkin. After all, New England and Philly enter Super Bowl XXXIX after regular seasons in which each team surrendered 260 points (16.2 PPG), good enough for second in the NFL behind Pittsburgh (251 points, or 15.7 PPG). It's the first time in Super Bowl history that two teams enter the game with defenses that were equally stout.
Which defense is truly stronger? Other indicators don't provide much help:
• Philly allows just 4.9 yards per play (t-6th in the NFL) to New England's 5.0 yards per play (t-9th)
• New England allows 310.8 yards per game (9th) to Philly's 319.7 yards per game (10th)
• New England is stronger against the run (98.2 yards per game vs. 118.9 yards per game)
• Philly is better against the pass (200.8 yards per game to 212.5 yards per game)
There is, of course, only one way to resolve the issue. We dipped our warm, fluffy, fact-filled donuts into a sugary coating of pigskin minutiae. We pulled out something sweet that the angry trolls can sink their teeth into and savor when analyzing Super Bowl XXXIX.
We went through each team's schedule and looked at the quality of the offenses New England and Philly faced week after week. Here's what we found:
• New England faced five top-10 scoring offenses – Indy, Buffalo (twice), Kansas City and Cincinnati
• Philly faced three top-10 scoring offenses – Minnesota, Green Bay and Cincinnati
• New England's top offensive opponents were Indy (No. 1, 32.6 PPG) and Kansas City (No. 2, 30.2 PPG)
• Philly's top offensive opponents were Green Bay (No. 5, 26.5 PPG) and Minnesota (No. 6, 25.3 PPG)
• New England's average opponent ranked 16th in scoring offense
• Philly's average opponent ranked 22nd in scoring offense
• New England played two games against the two best offenses in football
• Philly played three games against the two worst offenses in football (Washington twice and Chicago)
• New England's opponents scored 5,583 points this season, or 21.8 points per game
• Philly's opponents scored 5,041 points this season, or 19.8 points per game
New England, in other words, faced a much tougher gauntlet of offensive opponents this season. Philly, for example, held teams 3.6 points per game below their average scoring output. New England, meanwhile, held teams to 5.6 points per game below their average scoring output.
The Patriots, in other words, have been more impressive on defense when we consider the quality of the offenses they faced this season.
However, Philly's D played its worst game of the season in the regular-season finale when it sat many of its top players and surrendered 38 points to Cincinnati. Had Philly committed itself to winning the game, it's very likely it would have entered Super Bowl XXXIX with the better scoring defense -- and the weight of Super Bowl history on its side.
Here are the complete regular-season schedules for each team, with the average scoring output of their opponents and the points scored against each Super Bowl participant.
|Opponent||PPG||Rank||Pts. vs. NE||difference|
|Opponent||PPG||Rank||Pts. vs. Philly||difference|
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