Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5 NFL Teams That Did The Least With The Most

Yes, all of these teams suffered from some key injuries throughout the season but that is no excuse, good teams are able to overcome injuries. These are not good teams.

5. Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are probably the most habitual member of this list. It seems at the beginning of every season Jerry Jones somehow sells us all on the Cowboys being contenders only to have "America's Team" fall short every year. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, an injury to Tony Romo in the second to last game of the season most likely saved Jason Garrett's job. This means that Cowboys fans can most likely look forward to an identical season next year hopefully resulting in Garrett being fired.

4. Detroit Lions

The Lions are a superbly talented team on paper but they have a fatal flaw in team discipline. That flaw is what ultimately cost Jim Schwartz his job. Correcting the discipline issues will most likely be the main focus of the new coach. If the Lions front office does a good job in selecting the right man for the job, there is no reason they can't be back in contention as soon as next season.

3. New York Giants

The Giants gave up 89 more points than they scored and only managed a record of 7-9. Eli Manning had a very bad season and at points during the season it appeared that the team may have lost faith in both Eli and head coach Tom Coughlin. Neither Coughlin or Eli appear to be going anywhere so it will be up to them to regain the form that brought the Giants to the Super Bowl just a few short years ago or suffer though another season like this one again next year.

2.Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons played so well in the 2012-2013 season that they were able to convince TE Tony Gozales to return for one more expecting to make a run for the Super Bowl. I bet this years 4-12 record had Tony rethinking that decision by mid season. The Falcons primarily suffered from some pretty awful O line play. Focusing on getting better protection for Matty "Ice" and opening some holes for Jacquizz Rodgers should put the Falcons back on the playoff short list in the coming year despite losing Gonzales to retirement.

1. Houston Texans

At the beginning of the season many people had the Houston Texans in the playoffs if not competing for the AFC championship, boy were we, I mean they, all wrong. The Texans had many problems this year, not the least of which is the apparent rapid aging at their skill positions. I'm afraid this past season could be the catalyst for a potentially long rebuilding phase for the Texans. We'll have to wait and see what direction the new coaching staff and the Texans front office take with their roster for next year.

Monday, January 13, 2014

This Is A Passing League... Or Maybe Not...

We've all heard NFL analysts, coaches and sports writers alike proclaim, "this is a passing league" over and over again. For many teams that may be the case  but despite having one of the all time best QB's in the league, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are proving the axiom, "zig when everybody else zags" still has some merit.

Belichick has always been at his best putting together game plans that put his players in the best position to be successful. This year however has been exceptional even for him. In the opinion of a growing number of NFL Observers, no team has done more with less than this years Patriots. Yes they still are lead by Tom Terrific but one super star does not an NFL team make, much less a team that is playing next week for the AFC championship against the Peyton Manning led Broncos.

Over the past few weeks the Patriots have evolved into a smash mouth running team riding on the shoulders of Legarratte Blount. Blount is a Tamp Bay Buc's cast-off probably best known for punching Byron Hout during his college career after his Ducks were beaten in the opening game of the 2009 season. Over the last two games Blount has run for 355 yards and 6 TD's.

Blount's break out over the last two games is only part of the Patriots new focus on pounding the rock. Over the last two weeks the Patriots had over 500 total yards of offense attributed to their running game. Passing league or not the Patriots are proving you can win in the playoffs with a strong running game. More than anything else Bill Belichick is proving that nothing trumps a good game plan. Knowing your personnel, what they can and can't do and how to get them on the field in those situations that allow them to do the things they do best, that's how you do more with less. That's the formula for winning, both in and out of the NFL.

Should Bronco's Fans Be Worried About Their Teams Defense?

After pitching a shutout leading 17-0 going into the 4th quarter of last nights playoff game in Denver, the Broncos gave up 17 points to the Phillip Rivers led Chargers in the final quarter. What happened? Should we all be worried about the ability of the Broncos defense? I wouldn't be so fast to jump to that conclusion, here's why:

Many people believe that the primary goal of a defense is to prevent yards, create turnovers or prevent scoring. All of those things are true so what does that mean? Well, it means the real goal of a defense is to control the outcome of the game overall. One often overlooked way to control the outcome of a game is to use the clock to limit the amount of available possessions. If an offense doesn't get enough possessions they cannot score points. Sounds simple, but finding ways to limit those possessions and knowing when and how to utilize your assets to their best effect in limiting possessions is not always obvious. When Knowshon Moreno scored that touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Broncos it became a 3 possession game. The primary goal of the defense became limiting possessions rather than limiting scoring or giving up yards. The goal was to use the clock as the best defense.

Using this strategy puts all the pressure on the opposing offense. They are no longer simply trying to defeat your defense they are also trying to defeat time. This forces the offense to take bigger risks and often times creates mistakes. Think of it in terms of probabilities. A pass has more risk than a run, a deep pass has more risk than a short pass. If you can force the opposing team to take more risks you improve your odds of having something good happen.

It's the same thing with possessions. Each possession is an opportunity for the opposing team to score. Limiting their possessions swings the odds into your favor. If team A is up by 3 TD's and they manage the clock well enough that the opposing team is only able to attain 2 possessions it doesn't actually matter what the outcome of those 2 possessions are, team A has won the game by controlling the clock.

I think the first three quarters of Sunday afternoons game were a far better indicator of Denver's ability to shutdown opposing teams. Too me the activity in the fourth quarter demonstrates that the Bronco's coaching staff has a solid grasp of their teams abilities and knows more ways to guide the Broncos to wins than shootouts. I actually view the end of yesterdays game as a positive going into next weeks game against the Patriots.