With all the hype surrounding the record-breaking offensive performances this season, it's surprising to many that two of the four teams left in the playoffs are among the top four defensive teams in the league. The Baltimore Ravens (3#) and the San Francisco 49ers (#4) only trail the Houston Texans (#2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (#1) as the top defensive units in the NFL. Add the New York Giants who might have ranked low in the regular season (#27), but shut out the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card round and held the Green Bay Packers to only 20 points in the Divisional Round, and you have more teams known for defense than offense remaining in the post season.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers set a record for QB Rating. Saints QB Drew Brees passed for more yards in a season than anyone else in NFL history. Now Rodgers, Brees and their respective teams are sitting home watching teams who played better defense continue to fight for the chance to play in Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis.
The Baltimore Ravens travel to Foxboro to play the offensive juggernaut New England Patriots, led by another record-breaking QB. Tom Brady trailed only Brees for passing yards in the regular season, throwing for over 5,200 yards, 39 touchdowns and a QB Rating of 105. Sunday he will face a defense that was as stingy against the pass as any team Brady has faced.
Of the four teams remaining in the post season, it appears the New York Giants are the most balanced, as QB Eli Manning would have had an All-Pro season had Rodgers, Brees and Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford not had their careers best seasons this year. However, the Giants are in the NFC Championship Game because of their defense more so than their offense.
Likewise for the San Francisco 49ers, who, although they were able to win a four-minute shoot-out at the end of their instant classic with the Saints, shut down opposing offenses all season long to win the NFC West and earn the #2 seed and the right to host the Giants in the conference title game.
Of the four teams left in the hunt, only the Patriots have gotten to this point by literally outscoring the opposition, coming back from double-digit deficits on the strength of their unstoppable offense. The current situation is proving the age-old adage that while offense makes highlights, defense win championships.
However, make no bones about it, the league knows that while defense might win championships, offense draws viewers and viewers mean ratings and rating mean more money for commercials. Ergo, there is no question that the combination of the New England Patriots and the New York Giants would probably make the NFL the happiest of all the possible Super Bowl combinations. The New York market alone is reason enough for the league to be secretly rooting for the Giants to win this Sunday night.
At the same time, if the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers end up meeting for a re-match of their Thanksgiving night contest, the league will focus on the Harbaugh brothers coaching match-up as much as they will for the lack of excitement the thoughts of a Joe Flacco vs. Alex Smith offer.
Unfortunately for the league, the players on both teams will hopefully determine the two teams that remain after Sunday is over and while the typical uniformed fans likes to see as much scoring as possible, the purist football fan in me would love to see our Ravens pit two of the top defenses in the league against each other one more time for all of the marbles.