By David Schoenfield
Page 2

I've been keeping track. I've heard or read about 127 different theories on how to win in the NFL playoffs over the past two weeks on various pregrame shows, halftime shows, postgame shows and radio shows, on Web sites and at the water cooler.

But are these theories true? I looked at 10 of the most prevalent theories, to see if what is said is actually true -- or just popular myth.


Theory popularized by: Football coaches, analysts and writers since the age of Rockne; the 2000 Baltimore Ravens; the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The numbers (examining the 52 Super Bowl teams since 1978, which is the advent of the 16-game schedule and more liberal passing rules)

Steelers defense
The Steelers' D allowed the fewest yards and points this season.

Ranked in regular-season top 5 in fewest yards allowed: 24 of 52 Super Bowl teams
Ranked in regular-season top 10 in fewest yards allowed: 35 of 52 Super Bowl teams

Ranked in regular-season top 5 in most yards gained: 24 of 52 Super Bowl teams
Ranked in regular-season top 10 in most yards gained: 38 of 52 Super Bowl teams

When's the last time you heard an analyst say, "Offense wins championships!" Fact is, a great defense is no more important than a great offense in reaching the Super Bowl. Taking it a step further, 10 teams which led the NFL in total yards reached the Super Bowl while five teams which led in fewest yards reached the Super Bowl.

Of the 12 playoff teams this season, five were in the top 10 in defense while nine were in the top 10 in offense.

Theory applied to 2004 playoff teams
The Broncos were the only playoff team in the top 5 in both offense and defense (although they were hurt by a -10 turnover margin). New England (9th in defense, 7th in offense) and Philadelphia (10th in defense, 9th in offense) were the only other teams in the top 10 in both offense and defense.

Atlanta takes the biggest hit. Despite their 11-5 record, the Falcons ranked just 14th in defense and 20th in offense.

The Steelers ranked No. 1 in defense, but were only 16th in total yards. However, as we'll see in another theory, there is a catch there.


Click here for Theory No. 2