The game has changed. Some will say for the worst but the casual fan and the TV ratings will disagree. Offense and defense are not the same. Spread sets dominate the passing game and zone blocking schemes the running game. Linebackers fly around the field at 235 lbs and nickel packages are base defenses. But which side of the ball is more important to field a championship team?
Is It offense?
In today's game, shootouts are common. Teams can try to field the best possible offense to contend in these shootouts are thought by some to be inevitable due to of the numerous rule changes. The only way to field an offense capable of putting up big numbers is to find either a quarterback that can carry an offense in the mold of Phillip Rivers or Drew Brees or to have a combination of scheme and skill position players that allow the starting quarterback more room for error like say, Andy Dalton or Ryan Fitzpatrick. This prior season's Jets and Bengals found ways to be consistently explosive despite not fielding the most talented of signal callers
Good skill position players are not hard to find. In fact, the 2014 wide receiver draft class could go down as the best ever. There is a role for players like for example, Tavon Austin, who presents an unorthodox skill-set. Schemes role and offensive coordinators philosophies are diverse enough to cohere explosive enough offenses. Defenses do not have that luxury.
Is it Defense
One only needs to take a look around the league to see that there is not a defense considered "elite" that does not feature mercurial talents at every level. The Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings are three of the at best seven defenses that can be considered as part of the upper echelon of the league. An elite defense cannot be manufactured.
The scheme can enhance abilities and if manned by the best of coordinators, keep talentless defenses out of the gutter. Vic Fangio and the bears serve proof of that. However, talent deprived defenses will get shredded by even the average quarterbacks. Schemes are being simplified to amplify playing speed. The Jaguars and Seahawks way of playing defense, with matchup zones, run-and-chase linebackers and one-gap concepts coming to the forefront. The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos are also familiar with all three of the named features.
To play defense at a high level, the stars have to align. Pieces need to come together at all levels, including from the sidelines where the defensive coordinator makes the difference between an average or an elite defense. I do not think it is a particularly close debate. However, let your opinion seen below.