An elite quarterback can only get you so far, but the 2013 NFL Playoffs are proving that a strong defense is required if you plan on heading to the Super Bowl.
In the Wild Card rounds, each team with the higher ranked total defense won their game, with the exception of Cincinnati versus Houston (the Bengals rank sixth, the Texans just below at seventh).
Of the eight teams remaining for the Divisional Round, just four defenses rank in the League’s Top 10: Denver Broncos (2), San Francisco 49ers (3), Seattle Seahawks (4), and Houston Texans (7).
Each team is the favored to win their respective games, with the Texans again being the exception when they face the New England Patriots (whose defense ranks 25th in the NFL).
The Broncos are Playing as If They’re Destined for a Super Bowl Appearance
Winning 11 straight and taking the top spot in the AFC, Denver has kept opponents to an average of 18.1 points per game while scoring 30.1. Peyton Manning is running up the scoreboard, but the Broncos’ defense is keeping it lopsided.
LBs Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard are having their best seasons yet, combining for 128 total tackles and 24 sacks. Helping make quarterbacks miserable is DE Elvis Dumervil, who has managed 11 sacks and 6 fumbles himself.
The Broncos are riding a win-streak that’s lasted since mid-October. With a week to prepare for the struggling Ravens, as well as a favorable matchup against whoever is the victor of the Patriots vs. Texans game, they can probably start looking at plane tickets to New Orleans.
Everyone is Starting to Buy Into the Seattle Seahawks
The impressive comeback against the Washington Redskins has put the Seahawks in people’s sights as a favorite to win the NFC.
Despite the matchup against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome, where the QB Matt Ryan has an impressive 33-6 record, the Seahawks should win this game.
Though Ryan has played well into the end of the season, throwing eight TDs and no interceptions in the last three games, his history of bad play in playoff appearances still lingers.
Plus, Ryan has yet to face a defense quite like the Seahawks’, with the only tough matchups coming from Carolina and Dallas.
The Seahawks have only allowed 15.3 points per game, the lowest in the NFL. Richard Sherman might want to protect himself, because he’s probably going to earn a lot of ire when he waves goodbye to fans leaving the Georgia Dome early.
The San Francisco 49ers are Poised to Make That Next Step
Last year, the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants escaped Candlestick Park with a victory. So close, yet so far.
But the 49ers are a different team, playing with a chip on their collective shoulder.
If the 49ers' front is able to pressure the quarterback, expect Aaron Rodgers to force a lot of throws and make a lot of mistakes.
Though Justin Smith’s torn triceps could factor into the intensity they're able to bring, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Carlos Rogers are all capable of taking QBs off balance with one clean hit.
Though the NFL has become a pass-first league over the past few years, teams that have lived-and-died by their quarterback plays are sure to find early postseason exits.
Say it with me, now: Defense Wins Championships.