Strong Defense Wins Championships… or Does It?

Jan 29, 2018

Credit Ben Hershey /

The conventional wisdom in sports is that offense may get the glory, but defense wins championships. That’s not great news for the Patriots, who are a stronger offensive team. But Mark Otten, who heads the sports psychology laboratory at California State University at Northridge, says “Pats fans should not despair.”

Otten and his colleagues analyzed five decades worth of post-season records - 515 football teams – and found that both offensive and defensive strength was correlated with post-season wins. It’s what Otten calls a “null result,” and it doesn’t do much to inform bets about who will come out on top in SuperBowl LII.


What’s more, Otten says the pressure of the Super Bowl can completely change a player’s – and a team’s – performance. If they’re confident, even rookies can put in a star performance. And, if there’s a droop in that confidence, even the best can choke.

“The research would tell us that, in the play-offs, everything changes,” Otten says.

Of course, if we already knew who was going to win, it would be no fun.