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Is The Best Defence Really a Good Offence?

A Super Bowl 50 Case Study: Is The Best Defence Really a Good Offence?


There is an old maxim which is applied to many areas of life, particularly warfare, business, and sports, and that is this: “The best defence is a good offence.”  This adage is liberally applied when analysing association football, NFL, and basketball teams (among others).  Many punters will automatically back teams that have displayed offensive strategies and strengths, and will shy away from more defensive teams.


The idea seems logical enough.  If your team’s offence is really good, you can keep the opposing team away from your side of the field.  The farther away you can keep the ball, the harder it is for the opposing team to get it back across so they can score.  And since it is on their side of the field, it is easier for you to score.


Interestingly enough, however, that does not mean that the old bromide is always true.  For a case study, we can look at the surprise victory of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 earlier this year.


If you happened to be following NFL back in 2014, you know that the Broncos were actually at the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, where they were facing the Seattle Seahawks.  That year, statistically speaking, the Broncos were really strong offensively.  In fact, they had the highest-scoring offence in the history of the NFL.  And the Seahawks still managed to beat them, because they had an amazing defence.


That was a lesson that the Broncos learned from, because this year, their approach was the exact opposite of what it was in 2014.  Instead, they mirrored what the Seahawks did to them, and they developed an incredible defence—one of the strongest in NFL history. 


At Super Bowl 50, they went up against the Carolina Panthers, another team with a powerful offence.  The vast majority of bettors were convinced that the Broncos didn’t stand a chance, and that the Panthers would trounce them with a massive lead.  Instead, the Broncos took the lead right from the start of the game and held it to the end. 


If you watched this game, you would have learned a lot about how a strong defence can dominate a game.  It’s a strategy many people find “ugly” in NFL, because it isn’t as dramatic to watch—but it really does work.  The team with the strong defence simply puts up an exhausting wall of resistance and waits for the opposing team’s offence to batter themselves against it.  Once the opposing team is demoralised and drained, it is much easier to get the ball past them and score.


While this case study looks at the NFL, you can easily apply the lessons learned here to any sport you watch which involves an interplay of offensive and defensive tactics.  That includes association football, rugby, basketball, and others. 


Take note that this does not mean you should replace the old bromide with a new mantra that “the best offence is a good defence!”  You do not want to simply change out one dogma for another.  The biggest lesson here isn’t that offence can’t win—it is that you should question your assumptions when you are betting and look at the context of a game before you draw any conclusions.


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