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Fact or Fiction: Top offense or top defense?

Posted May 23, 2015

The Giants.com staff debates if its better to have a No. 1 offense or No. 1 defense

It is better to have the No. 1 scoring offense than the top defense.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Can I take both? No? OK. I think this a very difficult question to ask. Are we talking points or yards? How did the team get there? Are they balanced on offense or live and die with the pass? Did the defense get there by playing a bunch of teams with quarterback issues? With every circumstance being equal on both sides of the ball, I’m going to go with defense. Defense travels better than offense in bad conditions, and seems to be more consistent in the playoffs than the great offenses out there.

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DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Offense gets you to the postseason. Defense wins the titles. Even in this offense-heavy era of the NFL, look at the team that has gone to back-to-back Super Bowls and won one: the Seattle Seahawks, who have the best defense in the game and beat the No. 1 offense for their title.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - This very situation played out at MetLife Stadium following the 2013 season in Super Bowl XLVIII as the best scoring defense showcased by the Seahawks crippled Denver’s best scoring offense in a 43-8 rout. Seattle has actually boasted the league’s number one scoring defense in each of the last three seasons and that ranking has resulted in three consecutive postseason berths including back to back Super Bowl appearances. Those numbers seem to prove a consistent defense is much more reliable year round than an explosive offense. Using the Giants as an example, in their two most recent Super Bowl campaigns (2007 and 2011), you could certainly make the case it was their defense clicking at the right time that helped them make the playoffs and ultimately win the Lombardi Trophy.

Brett Jones will have a smooth transition from the CFL to NFL.

JOHN SCHMEELK: This is ambiguous. What does smooth mean? Be good enough to be a NFL starter right away? Good enough to make the 53? Play well in the preseason? I will say this. It will take until he sees live full contact action in the preseason before he realizes exactly how much different the CFL is from the NFL. There will be struggles early but I think he is smart enough and hardworking enough to get through it.

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DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Nothing is smooth for a first-year player, especially when he’ll have to adjust to bigger, faster, stronger players as well as rule changes, including the defensive linemen not playing one yard off the ball. But that’s not saying that he can’t or won’t. They don’t just give out Grey Cups and Offensive Lineman of the Year awards to everyone.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - I’m going fiction here only because of the term ‘smooth.’ This doesn’t mean Brett Jones doesn’t have what it takes to make the transition but to me smooth means no bumps in the road, no obstacles, etc. A smooth transition would be real impressive considering he’s not just making the jump from the CFL to the NFL but this is his first taste of football in the U.S. Jones went to college in Canada and is entering just his third year of professional football. To put things in perspective, many first round picks in the draft out of top college programs in the U.S. don’t have smooth transitions to the NFL especially those that play on the offensive line. Case in point, the top two offensive linemen in the 2014 draft (Falcons’ Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M, St. Louis’ Greg Robinson out of Auburn) both had their fair share of ups and downs during their rookie campaigns. After Atlanta’s starting left tackle Sam Baker suffered a season ending injury in the preseason, Matthews had to switch from the right side to the left side and Robinson also changed positions between tackle and guard. Jones isn’t expected to change positions but, for a center, life in the NFL is much different than in the CFL where defensive lineman plays a full yard off the line of scrimmage. That’s one of many adjustments he’ll have to make during his rookie campaign.

Spags game plan in SBXLII was better than Bill Belichick’s in SBXXV vs. Buffalo.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Belichick’s gameplan featured a lot more risk and was far more unconventional, so I’ll go with Super Bowl 25. To let Thurman Thomas run wild and focus on punishing wide receivers after they made contact with the football is a calculated risk, but one that worked out in the end.

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DAN SALOMONE: Fact - This is splitting hairs, but just the historical context of what the Patriots had accomplished heading into that game put the Giants’ defensive performance over the top. New England set just about every record that season, including becoming the only team to go undefeated in the regular season since the NFL expanded to 16 games. But because of the Giants, the 1972 Dolphins are still popping champagne.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Don’t get me wrong both defensive gameplans were impressive and well executed but to me the difference maker was time of possession in Super Bowl XXV. The Giants set a Super Bowl record by holding the ball for 40 minutes, 33 seconds against the Bills so you can argue the team’s best defense was actually its offense which wore down Bruce Smith and company with lengthy drives anchored by Ottis Anderson. In Super Bowl XLII, time of possession was just about even and the pass rush was so effective in flustering Tom Brady. He was sacked five times, lost a fumble and New England failed to pick up a first down when it took over at its own 26 yard line, down by three, with 35 seconds left in the game. The most impressive stat: Spagnuolo’s crew managed to hold a Patriots offense that set all types of records throughout the season to just 274 total yards and 14 points (they hadn’t scored less than 20 in a game all season).

Notching 10 TD's is more difficult than getting 10 sacks.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Let’s go to the numbers! Last year, 24 players had 10 touchdowns or more, while only 19 had 10 sacks or more. Conclusion? It is more impressive to get ten sacks! The league is so high paced and high scoring now, touchdowns, especially short ones near the goal line aren’t that hard to come by. With the football getting out of the quarterback’s hand faster and faster, sacks are getting more and more difficult to compile.

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DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I’m saying “fiction” simply because people underestimate the difficulty of double-digit sacks in a season. For example, the great Michael Strahan accomplished it in only six of his 15 seasons and only once in his final four seasons.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Recent rule changes have helped the league showcase offense so that fact alone means any defensive feat is much more difficult to pull off. Let’s not forget the pace of the game is constantly speeding up and quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball faster. Plus, every top pass rusher in the league isn’t necessarily an every down player because of defensive rotations and perhaps weaknesses against the run. While the numbers show the contrary (in each of the last three seasons more players have collected at least 10 sacks than 10 touchdowns), I still think reaching double digit sacks is a bigger challenge than finding the endzone as many times. Yes, offenses rotate players as well and very few running backs are workhorses so there’s no guarantee you’re going to be on the field for goal line packages but sacks usually fluctuate throughout the season and droughts are quite common for even those who have a knack for getting to the quarterback.