The New Black and Blue
By Joel Scott
Special to Pro Football Guru
Dating back numerous decades, the former NFC Central/turned NFC North was dubbed the Black and Blue. From the frozen tundra in Green Bay to the swirling winds of Chicago’s Soldier Field, there is some fascination with the cold weather equating to stout defensive play, trench warfare, and punishing feeble offenses. However when you examine the NFC these days, you realize that the new Black and Blue division is the NFC West.
When we think black and blue football we assume defense. Let’s take a look at the defenses of the NFC North and West from 2013. In terms of points allowed, the Detroit Lions ranked 15th, followed by the Green Bay Packers (24th), the Chicago Bears (T-30th) and the Minnesota Vikings--the latter giving up an NFL-high 30 points per game.
In the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks (1st), San Francisco 49ers (3rd) and Arizona Cardinals (7th) all ranked near the top in terms of fewest points allowed, while the last-place St. Louis Rams were a respectable 13th in this category.
Defenses have two jobs. The first is to stop the run, the other the pass. NFC West teams for the most part have proven to be the best division in football at both. Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle ranked second, third, eighth and 11th, respectively, in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt allowed in 2013.
Unfortunately for their opponents this past season, the results were the same for the rest of the league when enemy quarterbacks put the ball in the air. The Seahawks, featuring their “Legion of Boom” secondary, ranked first in the league in fewest yards per pass play allowed. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (7th), Niners (8th) and Rams (14th) weren’t far behind when it came to this department.
They say it is offense that wins games, but defense wins championships. That was apparent in the Super Bowl with Seattle dominating the league’s best offense, the Denver Broncos.
Also, keep in mind that the NFC West was the only division in football to have three teams with double-digit wins in 2013.
Meanwhile, the four clubs in the NFC North didn’t fare very well in either area of defense. When it came to yards per carry allowed, Minnesota was a respectable 13th in the NFL in this department but the same can’t be said for Detroit (20th), Green Bay (29th) or Chicago--the only team in the league to give up more than five yards per rush.
The same rang true for yards per pass attempt allowed, where all four clubs in the division ranked in the bottom half of this league in this statistic.
The NFC North is well aware of its issues on the defensive side of the ball. The Packers, Vikings, and Bears have all made a splash in free agency with some big-name signings. Green Bay inked defensive end/outside linebacker Julius Peppers to Green Bay, Chicago corralled defensive end Lamarr Houston and defensive tackle Linval Joseph went to Minnesota.
In any case, the longtime home of the “Purple People Eaters,” the “Monsters of the Midway,” and the other denizens of the Black and Blue Division have to be a little green with envy when it comes to today’s NFC West.
Joel Scott is a jack of all trades, and a master of none. A self-professed football junkie and elementary school teacher, you can follow Joel on Twitter at @JoelAScott12.