The NFL in 2019 is not what is used to be.
Where the adage of “defense wins championships” is a tired one, it has often held true in the modern NFL.
This season, there has been an offensive revolution. And the proof is in the playoffs: The top four scoring offenses in the NFL during the regular season are the final four teams alive in the playoffs, the first time that has happened in NFL history.
Move over, defense
This past year, the NFL regular season saw an offensive renaissance with teams scoring an average of 23.3 points per game, the third-highest rate in league history.
With innovative offensive coaching minds, an influx of young offensive talent on the field and rules that favor quarterbacks and receivers over pass rushers and cornerbacks, the league has bucked the trend that saw offenses stagnate in years prior.
NFL offenses mark a playoff milestone
The teams that best took advantage of that offensive surge succeeded during the regular season. One of those offensive juggernauts will win the Super Bowl.
This season marks the first time in modern league history that the top four scoring offenses have reached their conference championship games.
If the Saints beat the Eagles today, 2018 will be the first time in the Super Bowl era that the Top 4 scoring offenses each reached the Conference Championship game
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 13, 2019
Where the teams playing in the wild-card round won behind stifling defense, the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers were largely overwhelmed and overmatched when taking on the big boys this weekend. They were all losers.
A bad defense has a good shot at winning Super Bowl
There’s nary an elite defense in sight. Outside of the Patriots, one could argue that there aren’t even good defenses remaining in the playoffs.
The Patriots were seventh-best in scoring defense this season, allowing 20.3 points per game. The Saints have shown flashes, but fielded the league’s 14th-ranked scoring defense, allowing 22.1 points per game.
The Rams field a unit filled with top-shelf defensive names like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. But the product on the field hasn’t reflected that pedigree as Los Angeles ranked 20th in the league allowing 24 points per game.
And the Chiefs. Well. The Chiefs are just plain bad on defense, despite their mysterious dominance over Andrew Luck’s Colt’s on Saturday. Their 24th-ranked scoring defense allowed a whopping 26.3 point per game.
Perfect storm of talent, play-calling
Defensive shortcomings haven’t mattered for any of those teams. Most of the time, the offensive powerhouses on each team have had enough fuel to outscore their opponents. Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Jared Goff have proven to be too overwhelming too often.
Pair those quarterbacks with powerful running games led by Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Todd Gurley (and C.J. Anderson now too, apparently) and Sony Michel, and the remaining offenses pose defenses with a pick-your-poison dilemma. The Chiefs haven’t looked the same since releasing Kareem Hunt, but with Mahomes regularly performing magic tricks from behind center, Kansas City still may field the most imposing offense in football.
And it’s not just talent on the field. With Rams coach Sean McVay, Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Saints coach Sean Payton on the sideline, arguably the league’s three most innovative and aggressive offensive minds are calling the shots.
As for the Patriots? They’re led by the man whom many have begrudgingly conceded is greatest coach in football history, Bill Belichick – a brilliant leader with one of the league’s most coveted offensive coordinators in Josh McDaniels on his sideline.
Where’s the D?
So what happened to the top defenses this season?
Among the league’s top five units, three of them met first-round exits in the playoffs. The top-ranked Chicago Bears (17.7 ppg), second-ranked Baltimore Ravens (17.9 ppg) and fourth-ranked Houston Texans (19.8 ppg) all met their demise in the wild-card round when their offensive counterparts ground to a halt.
Everyone wants their own McVay
Such is the state of the modern NFL. It’s the reason teams this offseason have desperately attempted to copy the success of the Rams by hiring coaches in the mold of McVay – young offensive-minded leaders like Kliff Kingsbury, Matt LaFluer and Adam Gase, with the Cincinnati Bengals reportedly eyeing Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor as their next head coach.
Each of those hires was made with the goal of achieving what one of the league’s elite offenses will now assuredly achieve this season – win the Super Bowl.
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