The upcoming playoffs represent a spirited battle for the hearts and minds of a copycat league.
On one side are offensive juggernauts such as Green Bay, New Orleans and New England, each led by an elite quarterback.
The Packers, Saints and Patriots bludgeon teams through the air and are quite content to win shootouts on a weekly basis. Green Bay and New Orleans have already topped the 500-point mark, with New England needing 36 points today against the Bills to make it a cozy threesome.
In 2005, the NFC champion Seahawks led the NFL with 452 points.
On the other side in this philosophical tug-of-war are defensive-minded clubs such as the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens. Despite averaging only 22.5 points per game cumulatively, those three teams have combined for a 34-11 record heading into today's season finales.
Unlike last year, when the Super Bowl champion Packers ranked in the Top 10 on both sides of the ball, the top contenders in 2011 rely on one dominating unit to provide the winning edge.
When Drew Brees of New Orleans topped Dan Marino's 27-year-old record for most passing yards in a season during Monday night's 45-16 rout of Atlanta, it merely confirmed what we already knew.
"It's a passing league,'' said Panthers Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith. "Nobody wants to watch a game where it's three hours and a cloud of dust.''
In the first 91 years of the NFL, only five quarterbacks topped 4,800 yards in a season. This season, five may accomplish the feat.
With their absurd third-down conversion rate of 56.3 percent, Brees and the Saints maintain ball possession and camouflage a shaky defense.
How bad are the Packers and Patriots on defense?
All you have to know is Green Bay (14-1) and New England (12-3) have allowed more total yards than the reeling Buccaneers.
Every week, defensive coordinators reach for the Maalox. Pass defense is a lost art, partly due to a series of rules designed to enhance scoring.
"Dan Marino had to face guys that were able to be bumped all the way down the field, up to the point where the ball left his hand,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.
Nineteen of the league's 32 teams are yielding an overall completion rate of at least 60 percent and opposing quarterbacks are hitting passes at a 71.7 percent rate against the Colts.
It's beginning to look doubtful whether this generation will ever see an NFL defense to rival the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens or 2002 Buccaneers.
That doesn't mean people have stopped trying.
The ability to slow down the offensive stampede has been a hallmark in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Now the 49ers have crashed the party, challenging the Ravens and Steelers as perhaps the most physical team in the league.
San Francisco's offense is functional, if not exceptional. Frank Gore remains one of the NFL's most reliable backs and rookie coach Jim Harbaugh utilizes a low-risk attack that has committed an NFL-low 10 giveaways.
This postseason could shape the way other organizations structure their approach.
If the Patriots and Packers meet in the Super Bowl, some clubs might decide the best formula for success is to simply outscore the opposition. Of course it helps when you have Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Brees under center.
Should the Steelers, Ravens or 49ers reach the big game at Indianapolis, it will serve as a reminder that stingy defense can still fuel a championship quest, even in the age of weekly 34-31 matchups.