Two weeks into the 2012 NFL postseason and it's hard to figure what we're going to see next.
In the wild-card round, points were a little tough to come by for all eight teams, to say the least. The Packers, Ravens and Seahawks all scored 24 points in their respective wins over the Vikings, Colts and Redskins, who combined for all of 33 points. It was even worse at Houston, where the Texans and Bengals combined for one offensive touchdown, one interception for a score and six field goals. And no contest exceeded a combined total of 38 points.
But what a difference seven days makes. Last Saturday and Sunday, eight teams combined for 276 points, more than the Chiefs (211), Cardinals (20) and Jaguars (255) scored during the regular season. In losing efforts, the Broncos (35), Packers (31), Seahawks (28) and Texans (28) combined for an average of 31.5 points per contest.
So what's the point?
More precisely, it's about the points.
As the Falcons, 49ers, Ravens and Patriots each hope that their travel plans for New Orleans won't go to waste, what kind of football will we see this Sunday? Will it be more of the same from the divisional round when defenses took a holiday? Or back to what we saw in the opening round of the postseason?
And just what of Super Bowl XLVII? Should we expect a shootout of sorts between any two of these four teams? Are we officially out of the "defense wins championship" business in the modern-day NFL?
Well, let's not be so hasty to close the door. True, we haven't had a defensive player named Super Bowl MVP in 10 years, when Buccaneers' safety Dexter Jackson turned the trick for Tampa in Super Bowl XXXVII. However, in each of the last four Super Bowls, we have seen the defense take matters into their own hands.
Who could forget Steelers' linebacker James Harrison's 100-yards interception return on the final play of the first half of Pittsburgh's win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII? In each of the next two showdowns, Saints' cornerback Tracy Porter and Packers' safety Nick Collins picked off passes and returned them for touchdowns. And last year, the Giants' pass rush influenced Tom Brady into an intentional grounding penalty and put two points on the board for Tom Coughlin's team.
Still, we hear this is a quarterback-driven league and the numbers these performers are putting up these days are impressive. In 2012, an NFL record 11 signal-callers threw for 4,000 or more yards and there was another league mark set in terms of 300-yard passing performances (126).
And consider what we've already seen for next season when it comes to the teams that have already changed head coaches. Six of the eight vacancies have been filled and all six by coaches with offensive backgrounds.
So we ask the question: Does defense still win a championship? That premise may be on the verge of receiving its biggest test to date.
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. A former NFL research coordinator for ESPN, he is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru and/or Facebook at Pro Football Guru.