The Cleveland Browns knocked off the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6 of the 2023 NFL season. With QB Deshaun Watson, RB Nick Chubb and offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin all out, the Browns once again rode their defense, and a few timely mistakes by the 49ers, to a huge upset.
After Week 6, Cleveland is squarely in the 2023 AFC playoff picture.
While a national analyst might believe the Browns offense is “very well coached,” it is clear that the team is led by Jim Schwartz’s unit. That has mostly been true in two of the three Cleveland victories while the offense joined the defense in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans.
The big picture question, which we bring to you this Tuesday as a part of our Community Conversations, is whether a team can depend on a great defense to make it to the playoffs if the offense isn’t up to snuff?
The 2022 season provides us with some insight. Using DVOA (just one overarching measure), four of the top 10 defenses in the NFL did not make the playoffs: New England Patriots, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints and Washington Commanders. None of those four teams were among the top 20 offensive units in the league.
The worst offense to make the playoffs while being among the top 10 defenses was the Dallas Cowboys who were the 14th best offense.
Based on last year and the direction the NFL has been heading for over a decade, it is clear that it is better to be good on offense than on defense. Being great on defense isn’t enough if a team’s offense isn’t close to average while being bad on defense can be overcome by a good offense.
What about in 2023? Are the Browns so good on defense that being ranked 27th on offense (current DVOA) doesn’t matter?
What do you think? Is the NFL so offensive-heavy that a great defense isn’t close to enough? How “bad” can an offense be in 2023, if a defense is great, and still make the playoffs?
Jump down and share your thoughts on “defense wins championships” in 2023 and beyond