Super Bowl 2013: Power Ranking Defenses That Will Lead Team to New Orleans

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Brian Hoyer #6 of the Arizona Cardinals gets sacked by Ricky Jean Francois #95 and Aldon Smith #99 of the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at Candlestick Park on December 30, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game 27-13. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The adage "Defense wins championships" might not be applicable to getting a team to Super Bowl XLVII, as evidenced by the 2013 NFL Playoffs.

The Denver Broncos were the second-best defense in the league going into the postseason. Uncharacteristically, they gave up 479 yards to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.

In the Wild Card Round, the Cincinnati Bengals gave up 420 yards to the Houston Texans. The Bengals were the sixth-best defense in the league during the regular season.

In the playoffs it seems up is down regarding defense.

Each team's quarterback will play a pivotal role, but it's going to be up to the defenses to stop the likes of Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Colin Kaepernick.

Here's how each defense ranks among the teams left in the playoffs.


4. New England Patriots

Unfortunately for the New England Patriots, Tom Brady can only play on one side of the ball.

The Pats finished 25th during the regular season in total defense, which includes a secondary that surrendered 271 yards a game, 29th in the NFL.

New England has balanced that out by forcing the second-most turnovers in the league. In addition, the Patriots only gave up 20.7 points a game, ninth in the league.

The problem with relying on turnovers is that if you can't force them, you could be in trouble. In a postseason with nothing but solid defenses left, the Patriots find themselves at the bottom.


3. Atlanta Falcons

While the Atlanta Falcons ranked fifth in total defense, the divisional round showed what frailties this unit can have. Russell Wilson threw for 385 yards and rushed for another 60 in the Falcons' 30-28 win.

The first half was a very good showing, but the Falcons almost let it get away in the second in part to their horrible defensive play.

Colin Kaepernick, a much better dual-threat quarterback, will be a real test for Atlanta. He ran roughshod over the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.

The Atlanta defense hasn't been given much respect going into the playoffs. If the Falcons can shut Kaepernick down, then they should certainly be the favorites for the Super Bowl.


2. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens had a good defense in the absence of Ray Lewis and finished 17th in total defense during the regular season. Since his return, though, Baltimore has found a different level.

They have intercepted Andrew Luck once and Peyton Manning twice during the playoffs. Manning's second proved fateful as it set up the Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal.

This could also be one of the last rides for Ed Reed, so Baltimore's defense has been playing inspired football.

With the momentum Baltimore has, it's hard to go against them right now. Going up against the New England Patriots is a real feast-or-famine game.

It could end very poorly for the Ravens, however, a win would eliminate any doubts in the minds of fans as to whether this team is good enough to win it all.


1. San Francisco 49ers

When it comes to very good defenses, look no further than the San Francisco 49ers. They had the No. 3 defense in the league, giving up only 294.4 yards a game. Their scoring average of 17.1 points a game was second in the league.

There's no doubt the 49ers are the most complete team left in the playoffs.

On one side, they have Kaepernick and Frank Gore. On the other is a defense that can stop the run with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman and the pass with Dashon Goldson and Aldon Smith.

With Smith's ability to rush the passer, San Francisco can level the playing field a bit by getting after Brady or Ryan before they can release the football.