Sorry for the cliche, but defense wins championships. What’s most intriguing about this Super Bowl is that that sentence alone doesn’t reveal which team I’m picking to win Lombardi’s latest hardware.
This is only the third time in Super Bowl history that the top-ranked scoring defense (Pittsburgh, 232 points) has faced the second-ranked scoring defense (Green Bay, 240 points). Only a touchdown separates the two defenses, but I’m going with the team that gave up fewer points.
Put me down for Pittsburgh 20, Green Bay 17.
I’m not a betting man, because I follow the one universal rule of gambling – don’t bet more than you’re willing to lose. And I hate losing.
But I love researching numbers. Statistics speak to me, and I understand their language. Of the past 44 seasons leading up to a Super Bowls, the top-ranked scoring defense has qualified 19 times. Those 19 top defenses are 14-5.
Compare that to the 13 times that the top-ranked overall defense has reached the Super Bowl. That defense is 10-3. Those two records alone – 14-5 and 10-3 – are enough for me to hand my prediction to the Steelers.
By the way, in games featuring the NFL’s top-ranked offense, that team is 10-11.
Top offenses are great, and sexy, and tempting, and fun to watch. But they don’t beat top defenses. Not in the Super Bowl, anyway. The high-flying Buffalo Bills of 1991 fell victim to the top-ranked scoring defense of the New York Giants. The vaunted 2002 Oakland Raiders with NFL MVP Rich Gannon lost to Tampa Bay’s defense, which actually scored more points in that game than the Raiders’ offense. San Francisco returned to its championship form in 1984 with a great defense, beating Dan Marino and Miami with its record-breaking offense.
You could make an argument that the Orange Crush defense Denver had in 1977 might have beaten Dallas that day, if the Broncos didn’t turn the ball over six times.
Defense wins championships. You don’t score, you can’t win.
Pittsburgh 20, Green Bay 17.
About the Author
Written by Scott Farrell
Scott Farrell is the publisher of ScotSports.com in Dallas, Texas. He is a former sports writer for The Dallas Morning News, and also works as a freelance statistician for TV sports productions, most recently for ESPN at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. Farrell has covered high school sports in Dallas for 21 years, and has also worked in athletic media relations at SMU, Fresno State and Texas-Arlington. He won Best Sports Coverage Awards from the Texas Press Association three times and Best Sports Writing once. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.