As Ravens fans, we commonly find ourselves in discussions about the greatest defenses of all time. Sometimes it's just trying to see if this team measures up to the 2000 team and other times we find ourselves in the presence of Bears or Steelers fans who want to plead their case for the 1986 or 1976 teams respectively.
I find it annoying when Bears or Steelers fans want to talk about the greatest defense of all time in a context that does not include the playoffs. Should we just stop playing the games or keeping score when the playoffs arrive?
The Steeler fan argument: '76 defense was the best ever over 9 games (completely agree) and best in the regular season since the Ravens played an easy schedule (the Steelers allowed 9.9 def PPG in the RS). The Steelers lost the AFCC 24-7 and factoring out the points allowed directly by the offense and special teams (none) allowed 11.0 PPG defensively in 16 games.
The Bear fan argument: The '86 defense was best because the points allowed per game were only a little more than the Ravens and they played a tougher schedule. What about the playoffs? Weren't the Bears 1 and done? The Bears fan then wants to add the 1985 playoff run with 2 shutouts and the 46-10 rout in SB XX. Parts of 2 different seasons. My advice to Bears fans that don't want to sound bitter...go with the '85 Bears who allowed 9 non-defensive points, so they gave up 9.5 def PPG over the RS + playoffs (19 games). They have a legitimate claim to the greatest playoff defense ever.
The problem with both those arguments is that they don't comprise a complete season. The 2000 Ravens dominated a weak RS schedule with by far the lowest PPG (9.4 def PPG and 10.3 overall PPG) of any 1978 or later playoff team. They then, stepped up their game against the best teams in football and allowed just 4 defensive PPG in their 4-game playoff run.
The basis for comparison for the 2000 Ravens is this...They allowed 167 defensive points in 20 games, or 8.35 per game. I will consider any adjustments relative to PPG in the league or anything else you might care to suggest, but that is the bogey for any comparison, and a team that does not play 19 or 20 games (make the SB) would be considered only with a jaundiced eye.