Kuechly Interception

What makes the best defense or offense in the NFL? Is it their ability to keep teams from gaining yards or first downs, or is it simply a case of not giving up points or scoring a lot themselves, regardless if it comes with an offense that gains a lot of yards or not?

There’s no clear answer. Probably points matter more, obviously. You score more, you win the game, as John Madden would probably say. There are three teams with more than 400 yards of offense this season – Cardinals, Patriots and Steelers. The first two lead the league in points per game as well. The Steelers rank sixth. But there are teams like the Panthers, Chiefs and Bills who aren’t too impressive in their ability to get the ball down the field, but all three rank in the top 10 scoring offenses in the league.

Offensive Ranking (by Points Per Game)

RKTEAMYDSYDS/GPASSP YDS/GRUSHR YDS/GPTSPTS/G
1Arizona5034419.53592299.31442120.238231.8
2New England4852404.33790315.8106288.537531.3
3Carolina4333361.12630219.21703141.937331.1
4Cincinnati4515376.33095257.91420118.333427.8
5Kansas City4096341.32640220.01456121.332126.8
6Pittsburgh4909409.13432286.01477123.131125.9
7NY Giants4256354.73199266.6105788.130725.6
8Seattle4545378.82786232.21759146.630525.4
9New Orleans4747395.63614301.2113394.429924.9
10Buffalo4208350.72517209.81691140.929624.7
11NY Jets4386365.53039253.31347112.329524.6
12Green Bay4097341.42757229.81340111.728924.1
13Oakland4352362.73196266.3115696.328423.7
14Atlanta4640386.73335277.91305108.827923.3
15Philadelphia4225352.12837236.41388115.727823.2
16Jacksonville4204350.33067255.6113794.827522.9
17Baltimore4354362.83177264.8117798.127222.7
18Tampa Bay4439369.92719226.61720143.327122.6
19Denver4100341.72843236.91257104.826922.4
20Indianapolis4035336.32969247.4106688.825921.6
21Washington4001333.42870239.2113194.325721.4
22Detroit4100341.73180265.092076.725321.1
Houston4338361.53137261.41201100.125321.1
24Chicago4175347.92787232.31388115.725120.9
25San Diego4567380.63575297.999282.724720.6
26Tennessee3926327.22691224.31235102.924520.4
27Miami3914326.22768230.7114695.524020.0
28Minnesota3790315.82149179.11641136.823819.8
29Dallas3963330.32598216.51365113.822318.6
30Cleveland3969330.83082256.888773.921618.0
31St. Louis3556296.32136178.01420118.318915.8
32San Francisco3541295.12352196.0118999.117814.8

Defensive Rankings (by Points per Game)

RKTEAMYDSYDS/GPASSP YDS/GRUSHR YDS/GPTSPTS/G
1Cincinnati4050337.52884240.3116697.219616.3
2Denver3416284.72347195.6106989.121017.5
3Seattle3699308.32646220.5105387.822919.1
4Minnesota4108342.32718226.51390115.823219.3
Arizona3802316.82734227.8106889.023219.3
6Green Bay4282356.82940245.01342111.823819.8
7Kansas City4050337.52896241.3115496.224020.0
Pittsburgh4390365.83306275.5108490.324020.0
9Carolina3772314.32726227.2104687.224320.3
10New England4094341.22899241.6119599.624720.6
11NY Jets3918326.52916243.0100283.524820.7
12Atlanta4110342.52879239.91231102.625721.4
St. Louis4275356.32879239.91396116.325721.4
14Houston3988332.32619218.31369114.126422.0
15Dallas3918326.52669222.41249104.127723.1
16Buffalo4316359.73068255.71248104.027823.2
17Washington4351362.62861238.41490124.228623.8
18Chicago4065338.82530210.81535127.929024.2
19San Francisco4741395.13239269.91502125.229124.3
Baltimore4097341.42927243.9117097.529124.3
21Tennessee4033336.12767230.61266105.529624.7
NY Giants5079423.33774314.51305108.829624.7
23Tampa Bay4046337.22910242.5113694.729824.8
24Miami4684390.33067255.61617134.830025.0
25Philadelphia4601383.43105258.81496124.730225.2
26Indianapolis4789399.13365280.41424118.730525.4
27Oakland4533377.83253271.11280106.731426.2
28Detroit4214351.22910242.51304108.731526.3
29San Diego4447370.62952246.01495124.632427.0
30Jacksonville4411367.63175264.61236103.034128.4
31Cleveland4786398.83150262.51636136.334728.9
32New Orleans5102425.23448287.31654137.838031.7

While offenses aren’t usually ranked like that, the most important stat is putting points on the board. For example, the Carolina Panthers are only 14th this season in offensive yards per game with 361.1. The 6-6 Falcons, 4-8 Saints and even 3-9 Chargers rank higher than them in this category. But the Panthers score points. Maybe it has a lot to do with their defense but the bottom line is that Cam Newton and the team get into the end zone regularly, with 31.1 points per game, third in the NFL. The Panthers only give up 20.3 points per game.

But there’s another side to shit tale. The Minnesota Vikings average just 19.8 points per game. Their defense, holding teams to 19.3 points per game, has been the driving force behind their 8-4 record this season. Yards do matter, don’t get me wrong; the top 4 defenses in the NFL in terms of keeping teams from moving forward (Broncos, Seahawks, Cardinals, Panthers) all happen to be on their way to the playoffs, three of them as division winners.

But the Patriots, for years, have been easy to gain yards against (341 per game this season) yet they don’t bend when it matters, allowing only 20.6 points per game, which is more than enough cushion when you score more than almost anyone in the NFL.

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