Vic Fangio photo from USA TODAY Sports
Vic Fangio photo from USA TODAY Sports

Prior to 2008, the average points per game, per team for a season had never exceeded 22.0 in the Super Bowl era.

Since 2008, that average has been below 22.0 just twice — at 21.5 in 2009 and 21.7 in 2017.

The all-time NFL record for average points per game, per team — including all 32 NFL teams — was set in 2013 (23.4 points).

Through the first five weeks of the 2018 season, that average is running at an NFL record of 23.9.

The all-time record for average total points scored per game was also set in 2013 (46.82). Through all but the Monday night game of Week 5 of the 2018 season, the average total points per game stands at a record pace of 48.48.

So there would appear to be two lessons to be learned here.

The first is that if you bet on NFL games, the smart play these days in many instances is going to be the over.

I personally don’t bet because I’ve always hated the losing a lot more than I’ve ever enjoyed the winning, but if you must, the numbers probably don’t lie.

More to the point, however, is it appears the best way to a Lombardi Trophy these days is to build a super-powered offense — witness the Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, Saints, Rams, etc.

Or is it? Not so fast, my friends

The Super Bowl LII champion Philadelphia Eagles were 7th in total offense and 3rd in points scored, while the runner-up Patriots were first in total offense and second in points scored. Yet the Eagles also finished 4th in total defense and 4th in points allowed, while the Patriots were 5th in points allowed but just 29th in total defense.

In 2016, the Patriots won a Lombardi trophy after ranking 4th in total offense and 3rd in points allowed, while the losing Falcons were 2nd in total offense and 1st in scoring. The Patriots also were 8th in total defense and 1st in points allowed, while Atlanta was 25th in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed.

In 2015, the champion Broncos had the lesser offense but superior defense to the losing Panthers, and in 2013, Denver was far superior on offense, but the champion Seahawks were way ahead on defense.

Only once in the past five years, in 2014, did the superior offense beat the better defense, when the Seahawks and Patriots were actually even on offense but Seattle had the NFL’s top defense.

Even that year, however, the Patriots were no slouches on defense, finishing 13th in total defense and 8th in points allowed.

So, the message here would appear to be pretty clear. Yes, a high-scoring, dominating offense is a great way to win games, get to the playoffs and eventually reach a Super Bowl.

But in the vast majority of cases, a great defense will still beat a great offense, and it is still defense that wins championships.

So what does that mean for the 2018 Chicago Bears?

As dominant as the Bears ‘D’ has been, and realizing that is likely to continue to improve as it gains experience and learns to play together, Chicago is probably already playoff contenders.

But when you look at the rankings on offense of the past 10 Super Bowl participants, as I’ve laid out above, the Bears are still unlikely to go deep in the playoffs with an offense that currently ranks 24th in offense and 7th in points scored — particularly when you realize those rankings are badly skewed by one performance against the Bucs' NFL-worst defense.

What the Bears have accomplished in their first four games is almost remarkable considering just a month ago they were a solid consensus pick to finish at the bottom of their division and among the lower-third of the 32 NFL teams.

Based on the past five seasons, Ryan Pace is obviously on the right path in targeting a super defense first while the offense tries to catch up.

But the Bears are probably still at least a year away from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders unless the offense starts to catch up quickly.