During the last decade experts have declared the NFL a league based strictly on high flying offenses. Quarterbacks are succeeding immediately out of college, and offenses appear to moving up and down the field, chewing up yards at a record pace each week.
As proof, look no further than the fact that three quarterbacks are on pace to set the NFL single-season passing record and shatter the mark former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino set in 1984 with 5,084 yards.
With that said, defense still wins championships, and this past decade has taught us that. Some of the best offenses in NFL history have failed to win a championship during the 2000's so far, and if they did, they didn't win as many as those experts predicted they would.
Back in the early part of the new century, Rich Gannon’s Raiders found out that defense rules the day, and that's all it takes; one day, one game, 60 good minutes of rushing the passer. Kurt Warner and the greatest show on turf also found out, and with a different team, Warner found out twice in the decade, as the Steelers beat his Arizona Cardinals.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also found out in 2007, when he led the Patriots to an undefeated regular season as the quarterback of the team that finished with the second most productive offense in the history of the game. Brady, Randy Moss, and company averaged 36.81 PPG, as only the 1950Rams scored more (38.83 PPG).
That offense also set records for points scored in a year, and point differential. Brady’s 50 touchdown passes set a new NFL record, and wide receiver Randy Moss who caught 23 of them from Tom terrific, also broke a record. However, they scored just seven points through three quarters in Super Bowl XLII versus the New York Giants, and 14 total, as a ferocious defensive pass rush derailed the Pats perfect season.
The 00, and 01 Rams, 04 Colts, 06 Chargers, and 07 Patriots are not the only proof that defense trumps offense in the post season. According to Cold Hard Football facts, of the 46 most prolific offenses in NFL history, dating back to 1941, only 12 won and NFL, or AFL Championship.
Even the Packers last season had a higher ranked defense than they did offense, and while I believeAaron Rodgers is next QB on the list, in terms of high powered offenses being stopped in the Super Bowl, it won’t be the Patriots defense that does it.
The Pats defense is so bad that offensive players are becoming Pro Bowl candidates on it. While I'm just kidding about that stat, injuries, and poor play has forced resident genius and head coach Bill Belichick to use wide receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater on the defensive side this season.
The Patriots defense is on pace to be historically bad, and three time Super Bowl Champion quarterback Tom Brady is becoming increasingly frustrated with the overall situation. New England is on pace to allow the most passing yards in the history of the league. Even though Brady says everything is OK with his coach, the sideline blow up with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien proves that the pressure of literally carrying his team on his arm is getting to him.
During the past two weeks The Patriots have allowed over 900 total yards to the Colts, and Redskins, who have a combined record of 4-22, and an average total offensive rank of 24th in the NFL
QB Rex Grossman of the Redskins threw for 252 and two touchdowns. He led an offense that converted half of its third down conversions, and going back to last week’s game versus the Colts, the Pats defense have allowed two of the worst third down offenses in football to convert at a 58.6 (17-29) percent clip.
Even the Pats run defense, which was the only light at the end of the tunnel, turned out to be a freight train this past week named Roy Helu. Washington’s rookie running back rushed for 126 yards, as the Skins racked up a 170 yards on the ground. A season high versus the Pats defense.
Washington totaled 462 yards, and had three players with at least 81 yards receiving on the day. New England's horrible secondary allowed six plays of greater than 20-yards, including a 49, and a 51 yard play.
Those that defend the Patriots will tell you that they do not give up the points that match the yards they allow. I will tell you that Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Rashard Mendenhall, will take all of those yards as Tom Brady watches from the sideline. By the way, the top three defenses in the AFC in terms of points allowed per game are the Steelers, Ravens, and Texans, so New England’s 21.1 points per game (14th) pale in comparison to 15.2 15.5, and 16 respectively.
Common Opponent: Indianapolis Colts:
If you think Rex Grosman tore into the Patriots defense, that was nothing compared to what Dan Orlovsky did as a starter the week before, as the Colts played the Ravens, and Patriots in back-to-back weeks.
Orlovsky, who is the third starting QB trying to replace No.18 this season in Indianapolis, turned in a Manning like performance in New England, especially during Manning's best time of the game, the fourth quarter. Making his first NFL start in three years, and currently quarterbacking the second winless team of his career (08 Lions), Orlovsky led the Colts to 21 fourth quarter points.
The Patriots defense began the final frame with a 28-point lead (31-3), but after Orlovsky completed 12-of-13 passes, and threw two late touchdowns, New England managed to escape with a seven point win, for their fifth win a row.
For the game, Orlovsky was 30-of-37 for 353 yards, and tossed two touchdowns. He completed 81 percent of his passes, and luckily for the Patriots, he simply seemed to run out of time to complete the comeback.
The seven year- 18 game veteran posted his first QB rating north of the century mark (113.2) in his career, and led a Colts offense that converted a season high 67 percent (10-of-15) on third down. Indy wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had some guy named Manning throwing to him for the last two seasons, set a career high against the sorry New England secondary with nine catches for 150 yards, and two touchdowns.
Because of his numbers against New England, many thought Orlovsky stood a chance at some sort of success last Sunday versus the Ravens defense. They were wrong. Orlovsky completed less than half his passes for 136-yards, while the Colts could manage just 167 total yards of offense.
He was sacked four times, and threw one interception on the day. While the Pats have a great offense, they simply fail to possess two of the proven keys for a successful playoff team. They obviously don’t have a defense, and their rushing attack is not near good enough to keep the Ravens, or for that matter, and decent defense in the playoffs.
Why the Pats could beat Baltimore in the post season:
While I do think the Ravens will win the division, I don't think they will win both of their remaining road games( Sunday night in San Diego, or New Year's Day in Cincinnati). That could cost them the bye week, and possibly the division. Having to travel to New England during the second week of the post season, and face Tom Brady at home, with possible foul weather, could even out any advantages the Ravens may have.
Furthermore, as vulnerable as the Pats defense is, the offense can score a lot of points. Sunday’s unexpected shootout with the Skins was the 10th time this season, and fifth time in a row the Patriots scored 30 points, a 30.5 point average that ranks only behind Green Bay, and New Orleans. At 424.4 yards a game, the offense ranks second to the Saints, and is fifth on third down conversions.
It's also a pretty good bet that Brady and Belichick have not forgotten about the last time Baltimore played the Patriots at home in the playoffs. The Ravens were not exactly quiet after beating up Brady and his team, 33-14 on Wild Card weekend during the 2009 playoffs.
Why they will not:
Simply put, the Ravens are a better team than the one that delivered that playoff beating two years ago, and will use the Patriots, regardless of where the game is played, like a scout team for the next round of the playoffs.
Sure, Brady and tight end Rob Gronkoski will get their yards, and possibly one or two touchdowns, but look for the Ravens to score at least five. The Patriots have no rushing attack, and just like they did two years ago with the less aggressive Greg Mattison calling the defense, AFC sack leader, Terrell Suggs, and the rest of the Ravens defense will rush Tommy terrific relentlessly. Brady may even be forced to blows with his offensive coordinator by the time Baltimore's defense is finished with him.
The Ravens “D” forced four Brady turnovers (3INT-1 FR), and with a much more attacking style this year with Chuck Pagano calling the defense, those numbers could double. Doubt it do you; just ask Big Ben this year. On offense, even the Ravens run of the mill passing attack would have their way if needed, but it’s highly likely offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will stick with Ray Rice, who could produce 250 yards of total offense.
Joe Flacco completed just four passes for 34 yards during the Ravens playoff win two years ago. With the speedster Torrey Smith burning good secondary’s consistently, Flacco may only have to complete two long ones this time, as the Ravens should dominate the day.
What’s it all mean in the scheme of things?
The Raven's pummeled Brady at Gillette Stadium two years ago, as Ray Rice ran 81 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play to set the tone for the day. Look for Flacco to pop a long one to Torrey Smith quickly, as the Ravens settle to Rice, and eat Brady alive on defense.
Post Season Prediction (regardless of where the game is played)
Ravens 34 Patriots 17