Commentary

Will defense hold contenders back?

The Saints, Patriots and Packers are all pretty bad on defense; it might not matter

Originally Published: December 15, 2011
By Aaron Schatz | Football Outsiders
Hakeem NicksAP Photo/Kathy WillensGreen Bay may be undefeated but its pass defense is anything but sound.

It's often said that "defense wins championships," but some of this year's top teams are certainly hoping that's not true. New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots fans are worried that no matter how good the offenses, their teams simply can't stop opponents consistently enough to go far in the postseason. Green Bay Packers fans don't have the same worry, mostly because they haven't yet seen their team lose a game this year, but it's no secret that the Green Bay defense has been giving up loads of yards, as well.

Based on play-by-play analysis, all three teams rank among the top 10 offenses that Football Outsiders has tracked in our database, which goes back to 1992. However, all three teams have problems on defense: Although the Packers' defense has improved to 21st in our ratings right now, the Patriots are 29th and the Saints are 30th.

If they continue at their current paces, all three teams will show up on lists of "the worst defenses to ever make the playoffs." It's actually not an issue with points scored; thanks to their predilection for turnovers, none of these three teams will likely sit on the list of most points scored against a playoff team. But when it comes to yards per play, these teams are lousy. How far can they go in the playoffs with such poor defenses?