Defense wins championships.
If we were seeding a bracket of sports cliches, that one would be a #1 seed, right? How many times have we heard it this year? It's become a bit on the Arrowhead Pride post-game show, every week, for the same dude to call in and comment, with minor variations, "Great win for the Chiefs, but should we be worried about this defense?"
A caveat - I know nothing has been decided yet. No NFL team has been crowned champion; no one has hoisted the 2018 (2019?) Lombardi trophy. But I'm here to tell you that defense is not going to win a championship this year – because in the 2018 NFL playoffs, defense will be watching from the couch.
Football Outsiders just released its Week 9 DVOA ratings. For those unfamiliar with the concept of DVOA, here's a primer. In short, DVOA is "a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation."
Football Outsiders calculates DVOA for offense, defense, and special teams. The 2018 Chiefs currently rank, as they have nearly all year, 1st in offensive DVOA (the Rams briefly lead the Chiefs early in the year). The Chiefs have also lead all nine weeks of the 2018 season in special teams DVOA. Despite ranking 27th (where they place currently) or lower (32nd in multiple weeks previously) in defensive DVOA the entire season, the Chiefs currently boast the best team DVOA rating in the NFL, and it isn't close – because the Chiefs' offense and special teams are that good.
But back to that whole "defense wins championships" thing. If it wasn't already obvious that defense isn't a thing anymore in the 2018 NFL season, here are some eye-opening numbers for you. These are the top 10 teams, through Week 9, in defensive DVOA:
CHI, BUF, HOU, DEN, SEA, JAX, NYJ, ARI, MIN, BAL
These 10 teams have combined for a 38-48-1 record. If the season ended today, more teams in this group would have a top 10 draft pick (four: BUF, ARI, DEN, and NYJ) than would make the playoffs (three: CHI, HOU, and MIN). One of the three playoff teams here, the Bears, are also top 10 in offensive DVOA (10th) – so even they are not here solely on the strength of their defense.
Contrast that to the top 10 teams in offensive DVOA:
KC, LAR, LAC, NO, CAR, ATL, NE, PIT, GB, CHI
These 10 teams have combined for a staggering 59-19-2 record. There are eight playoff teams in this group, and only one team (GB) with a losing record. All four top seeds – KC, LAR, NO, and NE – are in this group. Only one team, CHI, is also top 10 in defensive DVOA (1st). The others rank as follows:
Barring a radical shakeup in the second half, only three top 10 defenses will make the playoffs: Chicago, Minnesota, and Houston. The next best odds belong to Seattle, which has just a 34% chance to make the playoffs. Baltimore is next, at 24%. Most of the best defenses in the NFL are staying home.
So if you think the Chiefs are going to get shut out by the '85 Bears in the Super Bowl, stop thinking that. It's not going to happen. Offense has ruled this season, and offense will rule these playoffs. And that bodes well for the juggernaut that is the 2018 Chiefs.