NFL Playoff Predictions: 5 Reasons Patriots' Defense Hinders Super Bowl Chances

Mike StangerCorrespondent IDecember 26, 2011

NFL Playoff Predictions: 5 Reasons Patriots' Defense Hinders Super Bowl Chances

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    Defense wins championships.

    Fortunately for the New England Patriots, this mantra has become somewhat obsolete in today's pass-happy, offense-driven NFL.

    However, there is still some modicum of truth to it.

    Of the past 10 Super Bowl winners, only three of them have not had a defense ranked in the top ten—the '01 Patriots, '06 Indianapolis Colts and '09 New Orleans Saints.

    While the Patriots can find hope in those numbers, they shouldn't find comfort in being in the minority either.

    Indeed, employing a French-like defensive philosophy by surrendering 412 yards per game may work against the Tyler Palko-led Kansas City Chiefs, but it will prove fatal against the blitzkrieg of a championship-caliber offense.

    Yes, the Patriots have their own championship-caliber offense to match, but is it enough to cover up for the defense's foibles?

    Perhaps. But there is also reason to believe that the defense may cause the wheels to come off the Patriots' drive to the Super Bowl.

Time of Possession

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    As the saying goes—possession is nine-tenths of the NFL.

    Okay, maybe that's not exactly how it goes, but the revision works within my narrative.

    The Patriots' defense is currently ranked 25th in time of possession. Of the seven teams worse than them, only the Broncos have a shot of making the playoffs.

    This may not seem like a big deal, but it can prove to be a death knell for the Pats. By allowing the opposition to control the clock, the defense doesn't give the offense many opportunities to score.

    For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense had the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game (39:22) against the Patriots. 

    Even for the high-powered Patriot offense, this is a high hurdle to scale—it managed to produce only 17 points in that game.

    The Patriots can't afford to let the opposition continue to control the clock in such disproportionate numbers in the playoffs.

Lack of a Dominating Pass Rush

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    When Andre Carter went down for the season against the Denver Broncos, he took 10 of the Patriots 38 sacks with him.

    Others need to step up their game.

    Mark Anderson has tallied nine sacks this season and may play more of role in the pass rush.

    Against the Miami Dolphins, Dane Fletcher stepped up. He needs to maintain that level for the postseason.

    Likewise, Shaun Ellis shelved his Casper the Friendly Ghost impersonation in registering a sack against the Dolphins. The Pats can't afford to have him crawl back into the woodwork.

    Unless others can fill the void left by Carter's absence, the lack of a pass rush could be problematic for the Pats in the postseason.

Turnover Differential Dependence

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    The Patriots' defense has done an excellent job creating turnovers—ranking fourth in the league with 30—giving the Pats a plus-14 turnover differential.

    Alas, turnovers have been a saving grace for the Pats' defense—but will the turnover differential continue?

    In other words, is the turnover differential an oasis or is it just a mirage?

    If the wellspring of turnovers suddenly goes dry in the playoffs, the Pats may be in trouble. This defense is not capable of dominating anyone, especially a playoff team.

    For the Pats to succeed in the playoffs, they need their opponents to continue the gift of giving.

The Secondary Shuffle

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    Look, the Patriots have been decimated by injuries in the secondary. That's an unfortunate truth and one the Pats have no control over.

    Tragicomically, the Patriots have had to use Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman, Sergio Brown and Phillip Adams in the secondary.

    With such a motley crew playing in the defensive backfield, it's amazing that the Pats' defense has been able to cover anybody.

    Unfortunately, excuses won't garner any sympathy from the opposition.

    The thought of Slater being that last line of defense between Steeler wide receiver Mike Wallace and the endzone should make any Pats' fan shudder.


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    The Patriots' defense is historic—historically bad. No team has won the Super Bowl with the last-ranked defense in the NFL.

    Go back and read that again. Notice the negative there?

    While history isn't fate, it's not just some quaint little story that should be be dismissed off hand.

    Right now, the Pats' defense is analogous to the Maginot Line, which isn't a good thing. That's something the Patriots and their fans shouldn't ignore.

    After all, those who ignore history are destined to watch the Super Bowl from their living room.