It is kind of ironic. We've been harping on all season about it being the Year of the Quarterback and the record numbers being piled up on offence; how the likes of New Orleans, Green Bay (and others) had become offensive juggernauts; and what a touchdown spectacle we could expect in Super Bowl XLVI on February 5.
But, now we are almost down to the sharp end of the season, the script has been flipped on us, a 180-degree reversal, and we are back in ages-old territory.
Get ready to say it with me (one more time): Defence wins championships.
For those who can think back to the 2000 season without breaking out into a cold sweat, that was the year Baltimore and New York Giants ground their way through the campaign behind two ordinary quarterbacks (Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins) - and defences that reduced opponents to road-kill on the Super Bowl highway.
It was a year of slim pickings in the play-offs, a grim war of attrition as the Giants routed first Philadelphia and Minnesota and the Ravens put paid to Denver, Tennessee and Oakland. The ugly mess that was Super Bowl XXXV surprised no-one, and the dark force that was Baltimore's linebacking corps rode off into the sunset like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, unrelenting and unbreakable.
The 49ers are not a surprise in defensive terms, though. New head coach Jim Harbaugh has had them on a diet of raw meat and rabble-rousing invective from the start of the season.
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Now it's happening all over again, only the theme has become almost all-encompassing as we face up to the reality of the Giants at the 49ers and the Ravens at the Patriots (all live on SS2 from 7.30pm on Sunday).
Of course, there is plenty of offensive firepower in the arsenals of New York and New England in particular, while San Francisco proved they could go toe-to-toe with the points machine of New Orleans and still be the last man standing.
But the primary MO of the Ravens, Giants and 49ers has most definitely switched the focus to the defensive side of things in these play-offs while even the Patriots and their defence, which looked to have all the solidity of blancmange for much of the season, have showed teeth in reaching the Final Four (if a blancmange can have teeth, that is).
Now, the media here has jumped firmly on the D-fence bandwagon and all previous forecasts of free-wheeling, high-scoring games are off. Neither the Saints nor Packers have survived to this stage, and the 'Mile High Messiah' conclusively ran out of surprise touchdown missiles, with the New England 'D' taking Tim Tebow and Co behind the gridiron woodshed and administering a firm beating.
Instead, we have in-depth analysis of the defensive lines of the Giants and 49ers; how Justin Tuck, Jason-Pierre Paul and Osi Umenyiora might make mincemeat of Alex Smith; and how Justin Smith might re-arrange the landscape with parts of Eli Manning.
And then there is the San Francisco linebacking crew of Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, who just might be even better than their counterparts over at Baltimore, who still hold the record for the most brown-trouser-creating moments in recent NFL history.
With the benefit of hindsight, say the pundits, we should have seen this Giants team coming. They finished the season in red-hot form and they have Umenyiora fully fit for the first time since early in the campaign. It is the kind of potent force that took them all the way to that shock beating of New England in XLII.
And yet this was also a team that lost to Washington as recently as December 18, was fairly easily handled by the 49ers, in San Francisco, in November, and gave up a combined 87 points to New Orleans and Green Bay back to back. Even WITH hindsight, this was hard to imagine.
The 49ers are not a surprise in defensive terms, though. New head coach Jim Harbaugh has had them on a diet of raw meat and rabble-rousing invective from the start of the season, while a quietly effective Alex Smith has had the benefit of a consistent approach on offence for the first time in almost his entire six-year career in the league.
Harbaugh's defence have consistently ranked in the top five all season for total yardage (4th), rushing (1st), points per game (2nd), fumbles forced (joint 2nd) and interceptions (3rd), so it is clear on which side of the ball they lean.
The one crumb of comfort for those still hoping for an offensive super-show comes with the last time these two met in the play-offs, in 2003, when it was the kind of game that made San Francisco's win over New Orleans last weekend seem ho-hum by comparison, with the 49ers hitting back from 38-14 down to clinch victory 39-38.
Terrell Owens and Amani Toomer combined to catch 17 passes for 413 yards and five touchdowns that day and Jeff Garcia was all but unstoppable in the second half - and all that against two defences that had been more than respectable up to that point.
The emphasis on the Ravens-Patriots game is slightly different, especially after Tom Brady strafed Denver for a play-off record-equaling six touchdowns in barely three quarters of one-sided play. You got the feeling Major Tom could have thrown for 10 if the circumstances had required, while the twin tight end task force of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez made every catch look laughably easy.
This is very much the Baltimore 'D' against the New England offensive line and whether the Pats can absorb the physical barrage that Lewis and Co will throw their way (which they couldn't the last time they met in the post-season, with Baltimore handing Brady one of the biggest beatings of his career).
One slightly overlooked facet, though, is whether the Ravens offence can cope with the newly-revitalised Patriots defence, which showed against Denver that, when well rested and with time to game-plan for a specialised opponent - especially in the play-offs - they remain a formidable force.
The mad genius that is Bill Belichick can still come up with ways to surprise and confound, while the return to full health of safety Patrick Chung suddenly gives the secondary more cohesiveness when they had previously looked as if they were held together by second-hand string.
Yes, this could well be a bitter defensive battle on all fronts this Sunday. But just don't be surprised if the 'D's in question, the top Dogs and all-conquering Dominators, turn out to be from New York and New England.
In which case, as I think I said last week, it's 2008 all over again...