This Just In: Defense Wins Games

News and notes as the NFL gets ready for Week 13 of the season...

It's no coincidence that 13 of the top 15 defenses entering Week 13 are part of teams sitting in strong playoff contention.

With six teams averaging more than 25 points per game and more than half the league averaging at least 23, teams that can get a few extra possessions per game have a distinct advantage.

The offensive onslaught came to the forefront in a record-setting Week 12 when the 32 teams combined for 837 points. That didn't just break the previous record, it shattered it by 49 as the 16 games averaged 52.3 total points.

After 12 weeks, games were averaging 45 points, more than the 43.4 last season, which was a record since the 16-game schedule began in 1978.

- The NFC game of the week is in Washington, where the Redskins are more concerned with staying in good wild-card position than they are about trying to track down the Giants. The NFC East has a league-high .670 winning percentage, and this promises to be a hard-fought duel between the Giants' league-leading running game and the Redskins' third-ranked ground attack going up against two of the NFL's top seven defenses.

- The titanic battle in the AFC will be Pittsburgh at New England. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady through for 399 yards and four touchdowns in last year's meeting, and Matt Cassel enters with consecutive 400-yard passing games. But Pittsburgh brings a ferocious defense that leads the league in rushing, passing and overall yards allowed.

- Under the radar is an important NFC North clash in Minnesota. The Vikings and Bears lead the division at 6-5, with Chicago winning the first meeting. Two of the league's top five run defenses will try to contain Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, second in the NFL with 1,180 rushing yards, and Bears rookie Matt Forte, who is fifth with 909.

"You could say this is the biggest game we've had in the division in a long time," said Bears head coach Lovie Smith. "They're a good football team. They've been playing well, especially here of late. We know them well. They know us well. Should be a heck of a game."


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