NFL players and coaches like to talk about the four quarters of the season. As we wrap up week 4, the first quarter comes to a close and we can start to see some emerging trends from the 2009-2010 season. Quarterbacks are running the league as usual, but defensive schemes and time share running backs are the en vogue modifications that separate winning and losing teams at the ÂĽ mile mark of the season.
The Role of a QB
My girlfriend and I have been together for a long time now; six years or so. We share household chores, one of which is the laundry. Despising the task, we agreed to split it up: I take the clothes into the basement and then move them around between washing machine and dryer all day. I donâ€™t mind doing this too much, and even if I did, our roles are predestined as her allergies wonâ€™t allow her to enter the cat haven that is the basement of our 4 flat. Then I bring up all the laundry before dinner and her job is to fold it all and put it away. Itâ€™s a fair deal; you should try it. However one of my firm beliefs in life is that anything worth doing is worth doing completely. Donâ€™t just half donkey it; commit!
Sunday night, as I stumbled into bed around midnight, wanting nothing more than to collapse into the sweet embrace of my 19 year old, perfectly broken in pillow, I was harshly greeted with a sharp pillow zipper across the face. Why you ask? Because she didnâ€™t complete her part of the bargain. Clearly she is trying to kill me.
This relates to the NFL most aptly in the Jets semi-humiliating loss at New Orleans. Rookie phenom Mark Sanchez looked a lot more rookie and not very phenomenal as he turned the ball over four times, twice leading to scores for the Saints. The defense held the NFL scoring leaders to only 10 points, a miracle by any standards, but Sanchezâ€™s turnovers led to the Jets first loss of the season. Coupled with the pillowcase disaster, it made for a difficult Sunday.
Defense, like pitching, wins playoff games. But currently, itâ€™s winning regular season games as well. Take a look at early season division leaders, and youâ€™ll notice a shutdown defense as the common thread. The Giants continue to stifle opponenst wit ha scheme developed by current St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spaguolo. Apparently, the language isnâ€™t translating in the Lou. The Giants dominated the Chiefs and look forward to hosting Oakland, who should springboard them to the 5-0 start they were unable to secure last year.
The Jetsâ€™ blitzing defense has given Houston QB Matt Schaub, New England QB Tom Brady, and even New Orleans QB Drew Brees, fits of rushed inaccuracy. Even after Sundayâ€™s loss, the defense still has them atop the division.
Speaking of the Saints, their defense looks to be much improved this year. The 2009-2010 Saints look much like the 2006 Colts. Amazingly skilled quarterback, with enough knowledge of a complex offensive system to change plays on the fly and lead a team on a long run in the playoffs as well as a multi-faceted run game, multiple quality receivers and now a defense that has the speed to keep opponents off balanceâ€¦this team could be the one you donâ€™t want to face this year. Plus they have this hilarious commercial that cracks my brother up every time they play it.
Last but not least, the Minnesota Vikings put on a pass rush clinic last night in the first annual Brett Favre Homecoming Game. So much happened in this matchup that it probably deserves its own post, so Iâ€™ll just focus on the defense. The Williams wall pretty much locks down any opposing running back, as the Vikings have led the league in rush yards allowed over the last 3 seasons. Jared Allen, his mullet, and his 405 horsepower engine simply abused whichever combination of linemen, tight ends and running backs that the Packers put out there to stop him. The Vikings are another team that feature a potent running game, stalwart defense and savvy quarterback combination that frequently succeed in the playoffs.
Gone are the days of the 30 carry a game RB, much to the dismay of fantasy owners around the country. When our league started, San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson was the unquestioned number one player in the game. Today he splits carries with Darren Sproles. Dallas RB Marion Barber was thought to have entered last year as a primary feature back in the league. He ended up splitting carries with Felix Jones and now is in a triple time share with Tashard Choice as well. Edgerrin James was unseated by Joseph Addai from his long tenured role in Indianapolis a few years ago, and today, only four years after being drafted we see Addai splitting carries with newly drafted Donald Brown.
Ronnie Brown canâ€™t shake Ricky Williams down in Miami, despite being probably the most effective director of the Wildcat system in the league. At least 3 guys are running the ball in Pittsburgh, after U of I standout Rashard Mendellhallâ€™s coming out party. Heck, even the unstoppable Adrian Peterson yields occasional carries and third down responsibilities to veteran Chester Taylor.
The point is that teams understand that the most effective running game is one that never stays the same. Certain guys are better between the tackles, certain guys catch the ball better out of the backfield, certain guys pick up the blitz, and most importantly, history has shown us that only the rarest of running backs can stand up to season after season of abuse suffered at the line and the bottom of pileups. You need to distribute your carries among a bigger group of players if you hope to have any or all of them around for a prolonged period of time. Itâ€™s not fun for fantasy, and maybe it takes a little away from real life football and its records, but in the end, your team will be better served by a committee.
Not much of a recap I guess. Maybe somebody else will do a better one.
Item of the week is this thatâ€™s perfect if youâ€™re a quarterback, running back, and especially if youâ€™re a speedy, mulleted lineman.