Q&A: Defense is the best offense

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Q. In American Football, teams from the National Football Conference (NFC) have won the last 13 Super Bowls. Why is this Conference so much stronger than the American Football Conference (AFC)?

A. This is a complex issue, but there are essentially two reasons for this disparity. The 1980s and 1990s have not, per se, been dominated by the NFC so much as by a handful of well-managed clubs - Dallas, San Francisco, Washington and the New York Giants - who all just happen to be members of the NFC; so perhaps the NFC's dominance is illusory.

However, there is also a noticeable difference between the coaching styles generally found in the two Conferences, dating from the 1960s, when the Conferences were separate companies recruiting staff from different pools of talent. The best NFC teams rely on aggressive defense and low-risk, run-based offense. AFC teams are more pass-oriented and flashy, but are defensively lightweight.

Even when coaches change conferences these philosophies dominate. In a sport where "offense wins games, but defense wins championships", this gives the NFC the tactical edge over the AFC, a position reinforced by the fact that, as teams mostly play games within their own conference, the AFC's best sides never learn to deal with the NFC power game. - Andrew Okey, Lancaster


Q. Which leading sportsperson has made the most come- backs after his or her initial retirement? - Kevin Maguire, Batley

Q. In basketball, what are the positional roles of the guard, point guard and forwards? I find it confusing, for example, that Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls is a guard but is usually the top points scorer. - Stephen Penny, London N19

If you know the answers to any of these questions or have a sporting question of your own, write to Q&A, Sports Desk, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Fax: 0171-293 2894