The defense may now call their first witness
Okay. We’ve got a Pro Football Focus article that touts the Seattle Seahawks and tries to squelch the optimistic expectations from the Rams camp. It isn’t the first time this has happened, and you can be confident that it won’t be the last time. You see, Pro Football Focus looks at the NFL through an electron microscope. It’s great for diagnosing a historic problem. But it’s horrific for turning that lens to predict the future. Why?
Los Angeles Rams
Much like the problem of fairly ranking a defensive back like Jalen Ramsey, whose very presence on the field forces quarterbacks to throw elsewhere. PFF ranks what happened, not what didn’t. That means that their bias will continue to lean towards players who stay with a team, and not do justice for players who play for new teams. If all the NFL coaches and many entire organizations wanted Matthew Stafford on their team, but PFF data analytics concludes that he is not an upgrade, who do you trust more? Data analytics once held that defensive lineman Aaron Donald is just average on run defense. So where do you draw the line on data and where to use it?
That’s where we come in. After all, when we want to know an answer that isn’t readily available, we go out and find the answers and share what we know. So let’s start with the Super Bowl winners and the simple correlation of the ranking of their defense that year. We’ll look at the past four Super Bowl winners, since the LA Rams hired head coach Sean McVay in 2017, and see where the defenses ranked in pass run and total defense?
Team Run Pass Total Yds
Bucs 1st 21st 6th
Chiefs 26th 8th 17th
Pats 11th 22nd 21st
Eagles 1st 17th 4th
Team Run Pass Total Pts
Bucs 1st 20th 8th
Chiefs 17th 8th 7th
Pats 7th 20th 7th
Eagles 2nd 20th 4th
So what does this data tell us?
Top-10 scoring defense
Well, for starters, the common thread seems to be that any team hoping to win a Super Bowl must have a Top-10 NFL scoring defense. For all of the last four Super Bowl victors, they all were able to boast having a defense that ranked among the Top-8 in scoring allowed. But conversely, two defenses were as stout in yards allowed, while two defenses were of the bend-but-not break variety where the defense allowed opposing teams to move the ball but stiffened when it came to scoring.
Another common thread among the winners is the fact that stout run defense, at least a Top-10 run-scoring defense, appeared in three of the past four Super Bowl-winning teams. That lies in stark contrast to the fact that three of the four winners had the 20th-ranked pass-scoring defense.