Five NFL stats you shouldn’t let fool you

Stats can tell you a lot, and most of the time they’re accurate. However, sometimes stats tell lies. Sometimes stats tell you teams or players are better or worse than they actually are. Through five weeks of the NFL season, that’s been the case. Here are five NFL stats you shouldn’t let fool you as the season goes on. 

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DSC_0048” by Brian J. McDermott is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. New England Patriots – 6.8 points allowed per game

Through five games, the New England defense has allowed an average of 6.8 points per game. This number has put them in the conversation with some of the best defensive units of all-time. While the Patriots are a good defensive team, they shouldn’t be in that conversation.

In their first five games, the Patriots have played the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, Bills and Redskins. The only team on that list with a winning record is the Bills (4-1), but they have the interception prone Josh Allen as their quarterback. Between the other four teams, there’s a combined one win. To this point in the season, the Patriots have had the easiest schedule in the NFL.

There’s not one offense the Patriots have played that’s averaging more than 20 points per game right now. The best offense they’ve faced was the Steelers’, who are averaging 19.8 points. Three of the other four teams are averaging 15 points or less and are currently the three worst offensive teams in the league (Redskins, Jets and Dolphins).

Basically what I’m saying is, the 6.8 points allowed per game average won’t last through the season. The last team to average less than 10 points allowed was the 1977 Atlanta Falcons, who averaged 9.2 points allowed per game. Since then, the closest team to doing it was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. They averaged 10.3 points allowed.

New England will likely keep their points per game average below 10 points per game over the next few weeks, as they play the Giants, Jets and Browns in their next three games. After that, the Patriots take on the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs in five straight weeks.

I’ll give the Patriots credit for what they’ve done, because averaging 6.8 points allowed per game isn’t easy, regardless of who you play. However, this number makes the Patriots seem way better than they actually are.

 

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Von Miller, Kirk Cousins” by KA Sports Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2. Von Miller – 2.0 sacks

We’ve all been a little surprised by the lack of sacks Von Miller has totaled through the first five game of the season. It’s not often we see a player of Miller’s caliber with just 2.0 sacks in five games. It has been a rough season for Miller and the Broncos’ defense so far, and it’s even tougher now that Bradley Chubb is out for the year.

We shouldn’t worry too much about Miller though. There has only been one time in Miller’s career he’s had less than 10 sacks. That season came in 2013 when Miller played in just nine games. Every other year of his career, Miller has finished with 10.0 sacks or more.

Bradley Chubb being out will definitely make things harder for Von Miller, but there have been years when Miller’s been the only real sack artist on his team. Most recently was in 2017 when the second leading sack artist had 5.5 sacks. Don’t expect Miller’s sack total to stay this low.

 

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Cleveland Browns vs. Washington Redskins” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

3. Baker Mayfield – 68.5 passer rating

If there’s ever been a sophomore slump from an NFL quarterback, it’s Baker Mayfield’s 2019 season so far. Mayfield finished his rookie season with a passer rating of 93.7 after completing 63.8% of his passes for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

So far in his second season, Mayfield has a passer rating of just 68.5. One of the biggest reasons for that is Mayfield’s completion percentage. Through five weeks, Mayfield has completed 55.9% of his passes. He’s also thrown twice as many interceptions (eight) as he has touchdowns (four).

Being an inaccurate passer has never been who Baker Mayfield is. In college, Mayfield completed 68.5% of his passes. He completed more than 70% of his passes in his last two seasons at Oklahoma.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Mayfield, but it seems like he’s trying to do too much. As the season goes on, expect him to calm down and start playing like who he really is.

 

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DeAngelo Hall, Adam Thielen” by KA Sports Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Minnesota Vikings – 191.0 passing yards per game

As things currently stand, the Minnesota Vikings rank 29th in passing yards per game, averaging 191.0. That number is down from the 252.2 per game they averaged last season, which ranked 13th.

It’s no secret the Minnesota wide receivers have been frustrated with the passing game so far. They’ve made it clear the Vikings need to pass the ball more. That’s exactly what they did last week against the Giants. In that game, Kirk Cousins threw for 306 yards. 130 of those yards were to receiver Adam Thielen alone.

I think the Vikings’ coaching staff may have got a little too excited about the 111 yard game running back Dalvin Cook had on the ground in their first game of the season. That game was followed up by 154 and 110 yard rushing performances in their second and third games.

With Cook running so well, the Vikings thought they didn’t need to pass the ball. That was until the Bears held Cook to 35 yards in Week 4. The Vikings found a balance against the Giants, leading to Cook having another rushing performance over 100 yards and the passing offense looking good.

The 191.0 passing yards per game the Vikings have averaged through five weeks will quickly go up. This is a much better passing team than they’ve shown so far, especially with one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league in Thielen and Diggs.

 

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Dallas Cowboys” by KA Sports Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

5. Ezekiel Elliott – 77.2 rush yards per game

With 386 rushing yards in five games, running back Ezekiel Elliott is currently ranked 8th in the NFL in rushing. The lowest he’s finished in his career is 10th, and that was in a season in which he missed six games due to suspension.

The biggest reason why Elliott is further down on the rushing list this season than we’re used to seeing, is because he’s averaging 77.2 rushing yards per game. Prior to this season, the lowest rushing yards per game Elliott has averaged is 95.6, which happened last season when Elliott led the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons.

I wouldn’t expect this current pattern to continue as the season goes on. The Dallas Cowboys have relied heavily upon the run game for years, and I don’t see any reason why it’s going to stop now. Dallas hasn’t had much opportunity to run the ball over the last few weeks because they’ve dug themselves into early holes. That should change against the Jets, and then moving forward.

Running the ball is what the Cowboys do best, and they must get back to that if they want to have another successful season. Rookie running back Tony Pollard may be another reason why Elliott’s numbers have taken a hit, but when it comes down to it, the Cowboys should soon realize they have to rely on their best offensive player to carry them.

Top 10 greatest QBs of all-time

Today is the big day! The day where we find out who the winner of Super Bowl LIII will be. The match up is the five time champion New England Patriots versus the one time champion Los Angeles Rams.

All week long we here at Fourth Quarter Sports have been helping you refresh your memory on some of the biggest moments of both the teams and all the Super Bowls. By this time, I’m sure you have read them all, but don’t forget about the top 10 coach-QB duo that was postED Saturday afternoon for you to enjoy.

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Now it’s time for us to find out who the top 10 greatest QBs of all-time are. Keep in mind that several of these QBs are still playing and could climb higher, while others see their stats and accomplishments fall. We also have to pay close attention to the decade in which these QBs have played. So let’s take a look at who is in the top 10.

 

10. Fran Tarkenton – Minnesota Vikings/New York Giants (1961-1978)

Tarkenton could’ve very well made the top 10 list with his head coach because of the success they had together. If Tarkenton had stayed with Minnesota his entire career instead of spending six years with Giants, that probably would have been the case.

Tarkenton was a nine time Pro Bowl QB who threw for 47,003, 342 touchdowns and 266 interceptions. Tarkenton also won one MVP and made three appearances to the Super Bowl, although  he lost all three.

 

9. Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts (1955-1973)

Unitas was a part of two different eras in the NFL. Those eras are before and during the Super Bowl years. The first was in 1966 when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. But Unitas was able to get himself one as well in Super Bowl V. He also won three NFL Champions during his career. That is what made me decide to put him on the top 10 list.

During his time with the Baltimore Colts, he also earned 10 Pro Bowls and three MVPs while throwing for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns.

 

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8. John Elway, Denver Broncos (1983-1998)

Elway could be another one of those guys who you think might not be top 10, but he does have a pretty decent resume. In 15 years, he was a Pro Bowl selection nine times. He also played in five Super Bowls, in which he won two, along with an MVP honor.

As he ended his career, he finished with 51,475 yards passing and 300 touchdowns. He also ran for another 33 touchdowns while throwing 226 interceptions. He certainly put the Denver Broncos on the map and has continued to do so as a team executive in the current days.

 

7. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins (1983-1999)

Marino had a nice career for a QB from the ’80s. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help when you compare him to the top six QBs. Marino’s failure to win a Super Bowl is what hurt him from being in the top five.

He was Rookie of the Year in 1983 and also won one MVP, as he was selected to nine Pro Bowls. His 61,361 passing yards is the most by any QB in that era. He also finished with 420 touchdowns and 252 interceptions.

 

Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, playing against the Carolina Panthers on October 19, 2014.” by Mike Morbeck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (2005-present)

I can’t help but put Aaron Rodgers up this high. Many people think he should be higher. Although I may agree, he’s still playing and is well into the top category. By the time he’s finished, he could be placed higher. With his impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio, I don’t see why not.

Rodgers has a career passer rating of 103.1, which is an NFL record. His highest passer rating in a season was in 2011 when he averaged 122.5. That was the same year he won his very first Super Bowl title.

He has also earned seven Pro Bowls and two MVPs while throwing for 42,944 yards, 338 touchdowns and 80 interceptions. That is a 4.23:1 ratio, which is a another NFL record. Rodgers has been one of the best QBs over the last decade.

 

5. Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers/New Orleans Saints (2001-present)

Brees is another current QB who may be able to move up on the list. But without an MVP and only one Super Bowl, it might be tough. Despite his unsuccessful attempts to win MVP, he has still managed to to break a lot of the passing records.

As a 12-time Pro Bowl QB, Brees has thrown for 74,437 yards, 520 touchdowns and 233 interceptions. Those yards are the most by in QB in NFL history. He also has the highest career completion percentage and single-season completion records. He also has the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass, including the most touchdowns in a game (7). He has already passed so many greats ahead of him and will likely continue to do so.

 

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4. Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers (1991-2010)

Favre played longer than he should’ve, but didn’t really gain much from it. He got one Super Bowl early in his career and added a few MVPs along the way.

The 11-time Pro Bowl QB also had 71,838 passing yards and 508 touchdowns, both of which were NFL records until Peyton Manning and then Drew Brees broke them. The record that Favre still owns and probably will for a very very very very long time, is the most interceptions in NFL history with 336. That’s not a great record to have as a QB, but Favre will be holding onto that one for a while.

 

3. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos (1998-2014)

Manning is the best QB to ever use the word “Omaha” on the field to confuse the defense. It helped him make a great career out of it. In fact, he won five NFL MVPs and two Super Bowls in his 16 year career.

He was also honored to 14 Pro Bowls during that time and went 2-2 in his four Super Bowl appearances. He had a total of 71,940 passing yards and 539 touchdowns, which were both NFL records until Brees took the yards away. Brees will also be looking to take the touchdowns record away from Manning and leave them with a tie for most touchdowns in a game at seven. But Manning’s 55 touchdowns in a season record may last longer than we think.

 

2. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers/Kansas City Chiefs (1979-1994)

The best QB in the ’80s was probably Montana, though he only won four Super Bowls in his 15 seasons, he helped make the Niners into one of the biggest names of their time.

With two MVPs and eight Pro Bowls, Montana was out to prove he was the best. Until the emergence of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you might have agreed. But we are talking about two different eras of football. Montana’s stats may not look great in the NFL today. He finished his career with 40,551 yards and 273 touchdowns. By the time Tom Brady is done, he would have doubled Montana in both categories.

 

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1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2000-present)

Brady has already added more MVPs and Super Bowls than what Montana had. Brady has five Super wins and he is not looking to be done yet, as he’ll be leading his team for another chance at six.

The 14-time Pro Bowl selection has had a season best touchdown to Interception ratio of 28:2. He also has the most games won by any QB, with 232 and a current count of 517 touchdowns with 70,514 passing yards. Brady will also likely pass Manning in total yards and touchdowns next season.

And to think, Brady was the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL draft. That’s just amazing.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Of course, you can’t make a top 10 list like this without all the debate of one player being better than another. It’s never easy thinking of the top 10 greatest QBs without having a debate.

 

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  • Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills (1986-1996)
  • Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams/Arizona Cardinals (1994-2009)
  • Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (1956-1971)
  • Otto Graham, Cleveland Browns (1946-1955)
  • Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (1989-2000)
  • Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (1984-1999)

I hope you enjoyed this list as much as you will enjoy the Super Bowl. Don’t forget to remind yourselves of some of those memories we spoke earlier.

For Rams fans: click here

Patriots fans: here

Want a recap of their first Super Bowl game? Click here

And then of course, the most memorable moments and mistakes that happened in all of the Super Bowls thus far.

You can also comment and give us your feedback on who you think should be on this list. Let’s hear it!

Top 10 Head Coach-QB duos of all-time

By now, you have all been given a week full of Super Bowl memories that involve both the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams before they get set to kick off Super Bowl LIII tomorrow.

Along with the best of the Rams and Patriots Super Bowl history are a list of the most memorable moments and most mistakable moments in Super Bowl history.

But now it’s time to see who the greatest of all-time really is. Who’s the greatest quarterback? How about greatest coach-QB duo? In the next set of articles, we will be telling you exactly that.

Brady’s back!” by Andrew Choy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

First, we will look into the coaches that helped these QBs become great. Just keep in mind that not all coaches or QBs are on their individual list, so you will have to return back on Sunday to find out who the greatest QB of all-time is.

Until then, let’s get right into the list of coaches and QBs. Know that not all duos won Super Bowl titles, but still deserve to be recognized.

 

10. Mike Shannahan and John Elway, Denver Broncos (1995-1998)

These two made the most of their four seasons together. Shannahan could possibly be the main, if not only reason Elway was able to win two Super Bowls. They moved on from a defensive-minded head coach in Wade Phillips to focus more on the offense and QB John Elway.

It’s not that the Broncos were bad with Philips, but after failing to win two previous Super Bowls and Elway getting older, their time was running out. In their four years together, they won back-to-back Super Bowls. Elway did whatever he had to to get the first one, including a helicopter spin late in the game.

 

9. Joe Gibbs and Doug Williams, Washington Redskins (1986-1989)

These two were also together for a short four seasons and had success early. They only managed to get one Super Bowl title, but that one was history making, as Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He also picked up MVP honors in the game after battling back from injury.

Williams had the capability to win games, but it wasn’t until he came to Washington to Gibbs where he started get the wins. One of which was against John Elway’s Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. Gibbs coached the Redskins to three total championships. One before and one after Williams was with the team. Had Williams came earlier in his career, there is no saying how many titles the two could have won.

 

8. Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys (1989-1993)

The ’80s was full of greater QBs. That will explain why there’s several of them on here. However, Aikman was part of a transition into the ’90s. The short time he was with coach Johnson, they had a lot of success, as they won two titles in four years. Aikman also had the Hall of Fame running back Emmit Smith running wild with him and Johnson. Had they all stayed together for a longer time, they might have already had the franchises 6th title.

 

7. Marv Levy and Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills (1986-1996)

This was a great duo, as they dominated their division by winning it six out of 10 years. They even won four conference championships to get them into the Super Bowl four times, but they came up short in each one. The one that has to hurt the most is the one against Bill Parcells’  New York Giants, as they had a chance to kick the game-winning field goal, but it was wide right off the foot of K Scott Norwood.

They just simply couldn’t find themselves on the winning side of a Super Bowl, but that shouldn’t discredit them as one of the top duos, because it’s never easy to win the big one.

 

6. Don Shula and Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins (1983-1995)

Speaking of winning the big one, or failure to do so, the Miami Dolphins of the ’80s had several chances to get there. They, like the Bills, won their division five times. What makes it interesting is that both the Bills and Dolphins were in the division then as they are now. They combined for 11 of the 13 divisional titles.

But the Super Bowl appearances and titles is not impressive. Despite having coach Shula and Dan Marino together for 12 years, the Dolphins only made it to one Super Bowl in which they lost. But the individual success of Marino himself had helped the Dolphins be successful. It wasn’t without the coaching of Shula to get him there.

 

5. Tom Landry and Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys (1969-1979)

The earlier stages of the the Super Bowl era featured a lot of the Dallas Cowboys and Roger Staubach. Staubach and coach Landry won several division championships in the 10 years they were together. At which time, they had made it to the Super Bowl five times, winning it twice. If Staubach hadn’t left for the military during the middle of his playing career, we might have been able to see more from this duo.

 

4. Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983)

One of the teams that beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl was this Steelers team. They did it twice in back-to-back seasons. In fact, the Steelers won it four times during Bradshaw and Noll’s time together. Both of which were back-to-back over a six year span.

They also won the division eight times, as they were one of the more dominant teams earlier in history. That explains why they are the only team to have a record six Super Bowl titles. Had Bradshaw thrown less interceptions, they could have been way ahead in number of titles, but with his mediocre play the Steelers still managed to have success.

 

3. Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers (1959-1967)

The first ever Super Bowl winners have to be on the list, because without Lombardi, there wouldn’t be a Lombardi trophy. But that isn’t the only title they have. They won the first two Super Bowls and an additional five league championships.

If league titles counted back then, the Packers would have the most wins in terms of championships. Both Starr and Lombardi would be the most winningest coach-QB duo of all time. Let’s not forget about the fact that they won these seven titles in eight years of being together. They could easily be the No. 1 duo of all-time.

 

2. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (1979-1988)

Unfortunately for the Packers, Montana and Walsh came along 20 years later and helped change the way the game was played. If you were to compare the stats, you would see why. But we won’t get into that, because Montana had one of the best, if not the best wide receiver to pass the ball too. That is what helped the Niners be successful during all of the ’80s.

Remember when I told you the ’80s was full of great QBs? Montana might be the greatest from that decade, as he and coach Walsh won six division titles on their way to winning three Super Bowls together. Now, if it wasn’t such a stacked position back then, we might have seen him win even more Super Bowls.

 

1. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, New England Patriots (2000-present)

The best coach-QB duo has got to be these guys. When you look at where all the other QBs were drafted, their success would be a mirror image of that. Brady wasn’t a top QB in his draft class. In fact, he was drafted 199th overall by the Patriots, which made him the seventh QB drafted in that class.

But with Belichick, Brady looked like an elite quarterback. That has been something they continue to prove, as they have won 16 divisional titles and have made it to their ninth Super Bowl. As of now, they sit with five Super Bowl titles, looking to add their sixth, which will give them a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most titles. Brady and Belichick will be the first coach-QB duo to get six titles together in the history of the NFL. There’s no question these two are the best pairing in NFL history. What they have done will never been done again.

 

Honorable Mentions:

With only 10 spots available for the top duos, there were bound to be some duos left off. That is where the honorable mentions come in.

  • Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (2002-2008)
  • George Seifert and Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (1989-1996)
  • Bill Parcells and Phil Simms, New York Giants (1983-1990)
  • Bud Grant and Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings (1972-1978)
  • Sean Payton and Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (2006- present)
  • Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2009)

Will Brady and Belichick get their 6th title? Or will they be stuck at five and hoping for Brady to get one more before he turns 45 and retires?

We’ll talk more about Brady and some of these QBs in our next article the morning of Super Bowl LIII, but tell us if we got it right!

Where is your favorite coach-QB duo ranked? Are they in the top 10? Do you think they deserve to be there if they aren’t already? We’re interested in hearing your opinion, so don’t forget to comment below!

Top 15 Super Bowl moments of all-time

After taking the time to look back at some of the best Super Bowl moments for both the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, we turned our attention to the best moments of their first Super Bowl match. As we prepare ourselves for another encounter between the two teams, we will look back at some of the greatest Super Bowl moments of all-time.

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There are several different moments in the 53 year history we could call great. Narrowing it down to just 15 makes it even harder, but we at Fourth Quarter Sports have come together to make it the best we can. So let’s take a look at the top 15 Super Bowl moments of all-time.

 

15. Max McGee’s Touchdown, Super Bowl I

Many people may not think of this as one of the best moments in Super Bowl history, but most of us probably don’t even know who Max McGee is or what team he payed for. He played for the Green Bay Packers in the first ever Super Bowl. His touchdown was the first ever touchdown scored in a Super Bowl. It was a 37-yard pass from QB Bart Starr to open the game. The Packers never looked back.

What makes this moment more special, is that McGee wasn’t even suppose to play after he missed curfew. It’s not like he was the superstar WR on that team. He only caught four passes in the 1966 season. But on that day of Super Bowl I, he was the hero with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, as the Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

 

14. Joe Namath’s Guarantee, Super Bowl III

How could you not put a moment like this on the list? This is known to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history. The best part about it was when quarterback Joe Namath publicly guaranteed a Jets victory. He walked off the field with one finger pointing to the sky as he did what he said he would do. Namath made the guarantee three days prior that the Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts. He did it with a balance of passing and running plays, as running back Matt Snell totaled 121 yards and a touchdown.

Namath and Jets had a 16-0 lead heading into the second half, where the Colts made the decision to change quarterbacks and go back to Johnny Unitas. He led them to a scoring drive. However, it was too late for Unitas and the Colts, as Namath and Jets won the game for the first time in the AFL after the Green Bay Packers won it the past two years in the NFL.

Hear more about how Namath felt after they won here.

 

13. Devin Hester returns opening kickoff against Colts, Super Bowl XLI

It was Super Bowl XLI when we saw the Chicago Bears against the Indianapolis Colts. It was also the first Super Bowl game that featured two African American head coaches (Bears’ Lovie Smith and Colts’ Tony Dungy), which means there is a historical fact to this moment as well. But this was likely the worst moment of the game for the Bears, as they lost to the Colts 29-17 after leading 17-3 at halftime. So why is Devin Hester on the list? Well, he did something that has never been done. That was taking the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. It went down in history as the fastest TD in the Super Bowl, scored in just 14 seconds.

Let’s keep in mind that Hester was just a rookie returner who led the league in both kickoff and punt returns with six total. This kick return was the first ever opening kickoff return for a TD in a Super Bowl. There were eight other guys who were able to return a kickoff for a TD in a Super Bowl, but none were as special as this one.

Check out the return here.

 

12. John Riggins’ big score, Super Bowl XVII

Riggins was known as “The Diesel” during his time in the NFL. It was moments like this that gave him the name. In the Redskins’ first ever Super Bowl, they were down to the Miami Dolphins 17-13 with 10 minutes left to play. They faced a 4th-and-1 situation on the Dolphins’ 43-yard line. Riggins ran over Dolphins DB Don McNeal for the decisive score that put the Redskins ahead for good. He was the workhorse for the Redskins’ first Super Bowl win, carrying the ball a record 38 times for 166 yards in a Super Bowl. The touchdown run at the moment was the longest run from scrimmage in the history of the Super Bowl.

Check it out here.

 

11. Montana, 49ers win in Bill Walsh’s final NFL game, Super Bowl XXIII

If you thought the Niners were the team in the 80’s, you thought right. That was mostly because of the coach-QB duo of Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, who had a lot of success together, including three Super Bowl titles. This is the most memorable Super Bowl moment, because this was the last game Bill Walsh coached in the NFL.

This Super Bowl was the closest of the three they won together, and the second against the Cincinnati Bengals. This was a Niners team that was down 16-13 with three minutes remaining in the game. The ball was at their own 8-yard line. The Niners were not worried, as they had “Joe Cool” ready to lead the drive, which he did as they capped off a 92-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to WR John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining. That’s the way to end a coaching career. Let’s not forget that Montana and the Niners made it back to the Super Bowl without Walsh and crushed the Denver Broncos 55-10.

Take a look at the game-winning drive of Super XXIII.

 

10. John Elway “Helicopter” Spin, Super Bowl XXXII

Elway and the Broncos struggled to win Super Bowls. In fact, Elway had lost his first three Super Bowl appearances until this Super Bowl, where he pulled out all the stops to get his first Lombardi Trophy. It was Elway’s determination that helped the Broncos pull off this win against the defending Super Bowl champion Packers. Elway took us all on a thrill ride, as he gave us one of the most iconic moments in Super Bowl history.

The Broncos and Packers went back and forth all game, as the Broncos ultimately came out on top 31-24. It was the third quarter drive that was 13 plays and 92-yards that gave the Broncos the lead back in a tied game. One of those plays was an 8-yard scramble for a first down by Elway, in which he dove and got hit by multiple Packers defenders while spinning through the air like a Helicopter. The Broncos followed that up by getting a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Terrell Davis.

Want to watch Elway fly like a Helicopter? Look here!

 

9. Redskins’ Williams becomes first African American QB to win a Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXII

From one successful Broncos Super Bowl to one of the Elway losses. It was Super Bowl XXII when Elway and the Broncos built a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter. But what would happen next is something that none of us would’ve predicted.

It was a second quarter full of touchdowns, five to be exact. All five were scored by the Washington Redskins and their QB Doug Williams. Williams and the Redskins scored 35 points in a quarter which was the most points ever in a single postseason quarter in NFL history at the time. The first touchdown was an 8-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Ricky Sanders, which tied a record for the longest pass in a Super Bowl game. Sanders and rookie running back Timmy Smith both set Super Bowl records: Sanders for receiving (193) and Smith for rushing (204).

Williams also made history, as he was the first African American QB to win the Super Bowl. He also put himself in the record books with all his success in that one game alone.

Watch this great performance by the Washington Redskins and Doug Williams here.

 

8. The Fridge’s TD, Super Bowl XX

Is your refrigerator running? Maybe you should want it too? That’s what the Chicago Bears did in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots. It was already a 34-3 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter, so why not have some fun? Bears coach Mike Dikta made the decision to go with his 300+ pound defensive linemen to run the ball for a 1-yard touchdown. That linemen was rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who lived up to his first-round draft status. Perry became the first 300 pound guy to score a touchdown, and Bears Hall of Fame RB Walter Payton loved it.

Check out the run here.

 

7. Swann is sensational, Super Bowl X

It’s not everyday you can be sensational, unless your name is Lynn Swann and you played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in ’70s. In this Super Bowl, Swann earned MVP honors, as he played the best game of his career. In this game, he made two sensational catches. The first was a juggling catch while falling to the turf for a 53-yard gain, and the other catch was a score on a 64-yard touchdown. It would help the Steelers win their second consecutive Super Bowl, and first of two against the Cowboys.

Check out the catches here.

 

6. Bills’ Norwood missed FG, Super Bowl XXV

When you’re down one point with 2:16 remaining, you have no real pressure on you besides getting into field goal range. That is actually what the Buffalo Bills QB did against the New York Giants, as they were down 20-19. Bills’ QB Jim Kelly marches the team down the field and gets to the Giants’ 29 with eight seconds left. What happened next was part of a long losing streak in the Super Bowl. The Bills had a losing streak in the Super Bowl that will always be remembered. This play is the worst of them all. Bills’ kicker Scott Norwood set up for a game-winning 47-yard field goal, but he misses wide right and their streak continued.

Watch the missed kick by Norwood here.

 

5. Desmond Howard’s 99-yard return, Super Bowl XXVII

In another Super Bowl the Patriots lost, it came down to the speed of one man. That man was Desmond Howard, as he stopped the Patriots momentum from completing a comeback. It was a late score by New England in the third quarter to close within 27-21. That was until Green Bay’s Desmond Howard returns the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the Packers’ 35-21 win.

Howard was a nearly unstoppable force as a return specialist, like we saw from his college days. He led the NFL in punt return yardage and touchdowns in 1996, along with the Super Bowl MVP award when he finished with 244 total return yards.

See Howard’s phenomenal run here.

 

4. James Harrison’s 100-yard pick six, Super Bowl XLIII

From a great kickoff return touchdown to an even greater interception returned for touchdown. It was a memorable Super Bowl for the Steelers, as they had two unforgettable plays to help them clinch their 6th Super Bowl (tied most in history). This play was the first one, where James Harrison grabbed an interception off of Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner late in the first half to give them a 17-7 lead. He took the interception 100 yards for a touchdown with seconds remaining in the half. It was the longest play in Super Bowl before it was broken by Jacoby Jones’ 109-yard kickoff return touchdown in Super Bowl XLVII.

Watch the big boy run down the sideline for a score here.

 

3. Dolphins complete perfect season, Super Bowl VII

There is nothing like having a perfect season. There is only one team ever in the NFL who has won all their games. That team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The closest team to come to that was the 2010 New England Patriots with their 18-1 record. But the Dolphins were too good and had no worries about their record, besides ruining the chance to shut out the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl. The only real mistake they made in the game was trying to make something out of an already broken play, when kicker Garo Yepremian attempted to throw a forward pass after a blocked kick and Redskins cornerback Mike Bass would get the team’s only touchdown of the game.

What the Dolphins complete their perfect season here.

 

2. Santonio Holmes goes toes in for the victory, Super Bowl XLIII

This is the second part of an amazing Super Bowl by the Steelers. As you previously read, Harrison made a clutch interception at the end of the first half to put the team ahead by 10 points. But after watching Kurt Warner ledd his team back, the Steelers found themselves down by three with little time left. That was just enough time for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to find WR Santonio Holmes in the end zone.

This final drive was all Holmes, as he had four catches for 73 yards. Despite being in tight coverage, Holmes catches the ball and somehow nabbed a game-winning touchdown pass on the tips of his toes, just barely staying in bounds with less than a minute left on the clock.

Don’t miss that great catch here.

 

1. David Tyree helmet catch, Super Bowl XLII

This was the Super Bowl the New England Patriots were supposed to be undefeated in, as they were up 14-10 late in the fourth quarter. It looked like things were going in that direction for the Patriots, until this happened…

New York Giants QB Eli Manning escapes two tackles and launches a pass down field on 3rd-and-five. Giants WR David Tyree jumped and pinned the ball against his helmet for a 32-yard catch that will go done in history as one of the greatest catches of all-time. But that wasn’t game-winner. The Patriots had one more chance to stop the Giants march, until four plays later when Manning connects with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown, as the Giants shock the previously undefeated New England Patriots.

 

Honorable Mention

As amazing as all these plays have been, there will certainly be many more plays left off. Some of which are in the honorable mentions find below.

Honorable mentions:

  • Jacoby Jones’ 109-yard kickoff return touchdown – Super Bowl XLVII
  • Dyson 1-yard short against Rams – Super Bowl XXXIV
  • Malcom Butler’s goal line Interception- Super Bowl XLIX
  • Adam Vinatieri’s FG for Patriots first Super Bowl win – Super Bowl XXXVI

Others have yet to be determined. Going into this, I wanted to focus on some of the records and first ever moments that led to some plays making it in over others. I couldn’t ignore the first ever Super Bowl with Vince Lombardi as the coach. I mean, the title is named after him. What memorable moments will this year’s Super Bowl bring?

And also don’t forget to return this weekend for some more Super Bowl talk. Please share your thoughts about the top moments in Super Bowl history!

The Canton Worthy: Defensive Backs

After looking at head coaches on Wednesday and then linemen on both sides of the ball yesterday, I wrap up the week (but not the series) looking at a group of defensive backs up for the NFL’s Hall of Fame. Three of these men played the bulk of their careers as free safeties, while the other two were corners. Interestingly, the last three all played together in 2009 for the Denver Broncos*, and four out of five of these players played in Denver at some point in their careers, while three out of five played for the Jets–but never together.

*That Broncos squad, Josh McDaniels’ first, went 8-8 while the defense ranked third against the pass.

For my comparisons throughout this series, I’ve been looking at the Hall of Fame list posted on pro-football-reference.com. According to the last, there is no distinction between safeties or cornerbacks. Instead, PFR refers to all of those players as “defensive backs.” So, instead of breaking these five players down by position like I did yesterday with guards and tackles, I’ll be comparing them to fellow defensive backs.

However, I will be comparing them to defensive backs of a certain era–from 1989 until 2013, the former because that’s the earliest any of these five began his career, and 2013 because that’s the last year that any of these guys played.

Veterans Day with the Baltimore Ravens” by Maryland National Guard is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Steve Atwater, Free Safety: Denver Broncos, 1989-1998 & New York Jets, 1999

Atwater, known for his bone-crushing hits over the middle, went 20th overall to the Broncos in the 1989 draft out of Arkansas. Over the next decade, he started at least 14 games every season. He picked off 24 passes, forced five fumbles, recovered eight fumbles and collected 1,125 total tackles. He made All-Pro in 1991 and 1992 while reaching eight Pro Bowls in a span of nine years. He was one of the team’s defensive leaders when Denver won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

 

John Lynch, Strong Safety/Free Safety: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1993-2003 & Denver Broncos, 2004-2007

Over the years in Tampa Bay, John Lynch led a revolution that helped transform the Bucs from the Yuks into a Super Bowl winner. The Stanford product went in the third round of the 1993 draft to Tampa, where he’d patrol the center of the field for the following 11 seasons. In that time, he went to five Pro Bowls, made All-Pro twice, and won Super Bowl XXXVII. Lynch later left for Denver, where he made another four Pro Bowls before retiring. In the end, that’s nine Pro Bowls, two All-Pro selections, seven trips to the playoffs and one championship.

 

Ty Law, Cornerback: New England Patriots, 1995-2004; New  York Jets, 2005, 2008; Kansas City Chiefs, 2006-2007; Denver Broncos, 2009

Ty Law was another first round pick, going No. 23 to the Patriots out of Michigan in 1995. He was part of the team that lost Super Bowl XXXI to the Packers, but then he collected three Super Bowl rings at the start of the Brady-Belichick Dynasty. By the time he retired as a member of the Broncos, he’d made five Pro Bowls (four with the Patriots, one with the Jets) and had been named All-Pro twice. He finished his career with 53 interceptions, seven of which he returned for touchdowns, which is the 11th most all-time.

 

Champ Bailey, Cornerback: Washington Redskins, 1999-2003 & Denver Broncos, 2004-2013

Before getting dealt to the Broncos for running back Clinton Portis prior to the start of the 2004 season, Champ Bailey had already intercepted 18 passes and collected 312 total tackles while getting voted into four Pro Bowls as a five-year member of the Redskins. Over the next 10 seasons in Denver, he’d be named All-Pro three times while making another eight Pro Bowls. He led the league in interceptions with 10 in 2006 and finished his career with 52.

 

Ed Reed, Free Safety: Baltimore Ravens, 2002-2012; New York Jets, 2013; Houston Texans, 2013

The 24th overall pick out of Miami (Fla.) in the 2002 draft, Reed played 11 years for the Ravens before splitting his final season between the Jets and Texans. In his first decade-plus in Baltimore, Reed was named the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, won one Super Bowl, made nine Pro Bowls and was elected All-Pro five times. Throughout his 12-year career, Reed intercepted 64 passes, which is seventh all-time. His 1,590 interception return yards is the most all-time.

 

The Breakdown

Which of the five of Atwater, Lynch, Law, Bailey and Reed gets into the Hall of Fame? Remember two things: 1) Only a maximum of five finalists can be inducted in a given year, and 2) I’ve already selected center Kevin Mawae and guard Alan Faneca. I have at most three remaining spots between these five and three offensive playmakers I’ve yet to discuss.

Based on those factors, I believe only one defensive back has a shot at making it into Canton this season. Right off the bat I’m going to eliminate three of them: Steve Atwater, John Lynch and Ty Law. Each of those three defensive backs previously had shots to make it, yet failed. This year, they face even tougher competition with first-time nominees Champ Bailey and Ed Reed.

And it’s at those two that I’m going to take a closer look.

There are 26 defensive backs in the Hall of Fame. Of those 26, five retired after 1999: the ageless Darrell Green, Rod Woodson, Deion “Primetime” Sanders, Aeneas Williams and Brian Dawkins.

As far as longevity, both Bailey and Reed stack up with those five. Bailey made more Pro Bowls than any of those players, while Reed made more than all but Woodson. Only Woodson and Sanders made more All-Pros than Reed, while Bailey only edges out Green in that category. Regarding interceptions, only Woodson’s 71 overshadow Reed’s 64. Meanwhile, Bailey’s 52 interceptions only beats Dawkins’ 37.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Bailey and Reed both compare very well to the five defensive back members of the Hall of Fame from around their era. Much like with the discussion I had yesterday about guards Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson, though, the two will be compared against each other as their careers overlapped from 2002-2013.

Starting with longevity, Bailey gets the edge as he started longer at his position. Bailey also has a 12-9 edge regarding Pro Bowls. But, in less time as a starter, Reed has more All-Pro selections, 5-3. Reed won a Defensive Player of the Year award while Bailey never did. Reed also collected 12 more interceptions than did Bailey (again, in fewer years), and Reed was part of a Super Bowl-winning squad whereas Bailey never reached that height.

For the time being, Ed Reed gets my vote for Canton. Perhaps, after the next article, I’ll re-visit Bailey.

But for now, I’ve used three of my maximum five slots: Ed Reed joins Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca.

The underwhelming NFL Coaching Carousel spins on!

The NFL coaching Carousel is in full swing!

If you’re a fan of the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns or Green Bay Packers, may God have mercy on your souls.

If you’re a fan of the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins or Cincinnati Bengals, I’m praying for you.

You might be a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you are……well, something’s gotta give, right?

NFL coaching carousel - Bruce Arians
Bruce Arians” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Days before the NFL’s Divisional Round kicks off, five of the eight teams searching for a new head coach have filled those vacancies. Only one of those hires comes within the range of “inspiring.” Three teams have yet to make a move, but two out of three of those teams appear to be headed toward the same realm of an uninspired hire.

 

NFL Coaching Carousel Vacancies Filled

Arizona Cardinals

Coach Fired: Steve Wilks, one season, 3-13

Coach Hired: Kliff Kingsbury, USC Offensive Coordinator

The Cardinals have certainly taken the boldest route in the NFL coaching carousel, hiring Kingsbury away from USC, where he was hired as the offensive coordinator last month. Before that, he spent six seasons as the head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, accumulating a career record of 35-40, including going 19-35 in Big XII play. In his first three seasons in Lubbock, he had two winning seasons. In his last three, he had zero.

So, why was he hired? Last year the Cardinals took quarterback Josh Rosen out of UCLA with the No. 10 pick in the first-round. Kingsbury is being viewed as a “quarterback whisperer,” akin to Bruce Arians (to whom we’ll get in a minute) and Rams head coach Sean McVay. Kinsbury first coached Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield at Tech, before then coaching Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. The Cardinals are banking on him getting the same type of production out of Rosen he did with Mayfield and Mahomes.

But being a head coach is so much more than that. Kingsbury has his work cut out for him with not only unlocking Rosen, but also fixing an offensive line that resembles Swiss cheese and re-tooling skill players that faltered in 2018.

Another point of praise for Kingsbury is that he only lost at Tech because he had bad defenses in the most pass-happy Power 5 conference. Well, guess what? The NFL is becoming more pass-happy by the second, and the Cardinals ranked 26th in points allowed and 20th in yards allowed defensively in 2018 under a defensive-minded head coach.

 

Cleveland Browns

Coaches Fired: Hue Jackson, two-and-a-half seasons, 3-36-1; Gregg Williams, half-season, 5-3

Coach Hired: Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator

This NFL coaching carousel hire screams three things: lack of inspiration, lack of imagination and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, circa 2015.

Recall, after the 2015 season, the Bucs fired head coach Lovie Smith in order to promote offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who had been getting some looks for head coaching vacancies elsewhere. Bucs management/ownership went with Koetter, who had spent 2015 improving quarterback Jameis Winston’s play, because they felt that partnership would only grow.

Skip to now, and the Bucs just replaced Koetter with Arians after going 19-29 over the past three seasons with zero playoff appearances.

And that’s why Kitchens was hired. He spent half of 2018 as Baker Mayfield’s offensive coordinator and seemed to get the most out of the rookie signal-caller. Sure, Cleveland interviewed others, but an in-house promotion of a guy with only eight games under his belt as a coordinator is uninspiring. Though no other team looked at Kitchens as a head coach candidate, he would have been sought for offensive coordinator openings. That struck fear into the Browns ownership, so they kept him around the only way possible: with a promotion.

 

Denver Broncos

Coach Fired: Vance Joseph, two seasons, 11-21

Coach Hired: Vic Fangio, Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator

Let’s start with this: Fangio is an upgrade on Joseph. Joseph, who was the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator before coming to Denver, flat-out failed as a head coach. Fangio may very well succeed, but he’s got some rebuilding to do in Denver and the AFC West, a division that holds two of the four remaining AFC playoff teams in the Chargers and Chiefs.

Fangio will need to hire an excellent offensive coordinator, but he may not even get that chance. Word is that John Elway, Football Czar, may insert into that role former Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, taking away from his new hire a chance to implement his own favored scheme in Denver.

But the problem bigger than the defense is the lack of identity on the opposite side of the ball. Undrafted running back Philip Lindsay was a great find, but the Broncos need a quarterback. Case Keenum is not the answer.

Will Fangio, a defense-first guy, choose to spend the No. 10 pick in the draft on a QB? Or will he force Elway to go defense?

After whiffing on a defensive hire last time around, it was surprising to see Elway go that route again. Now the pressure’s on him to give Fangio the tools he needs to succeed.

 

Green Bay Packers

Coaches Fired: Mike McCarthy, (mostly) 13 seasons, 125-77-2; Joe Philbin, four games, 2-2

Coach Hired: Matt LaFleur, Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator

Not to be confused with Peter LaFleur, Matt LaFleur just wrapped his second season as an offensive coordinator. His first came with the Rams in 2017 when he didn’t even call the plays. The 38-year-old then left for the Titans, where he called the plays for Mike Vrabel, leading the offense to rank 27th in points scored and 25th in yards.

Exciting!

But, hey, every team is looking for The Next Sean McVay. The Packers are betting the last years of Aaron Rodgers’ Canton-worthy career that LaFleur is it.

Good luck with that, Cheese Heads.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach Fired: Dirk Koetter, three seasons, 19-29

Coach Hired: Bruce Arians, former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach

Surprisingly, of the five teams to have made their NFL coaching carousel hires, the Bucs are the only team who went with a retread, poaching Arians out of retirement to take over for Koetter as the next Jameis Winston Whisperer.

This isn’t a thrilling hire, especially when considering the team was linked, at times, to Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and outgoing Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, but it’s a solid one. In five seasons with the moribund Cardinals, Arians had three seasons of at least 10 wins, two playoff appearances, and even won a playoff game there. But in his last two seasons there, the Cardinals went 15-16-1. Yet, without him (and Carson Palmer), the team cratered to a 3-13 record.

Will he get the most out of Jameis Winston? Will anyone get the most out of Jameis Winston? Winston is entering his walk-year, so he’ll be playing for keeps. Sometimes, though, that hurts a team. Arians needs to find a solid running back (sorry, Peyton Barber) to fit in with Winston, tight end O.J. Howard and a solid receiving group led by Mike Evans.

The defense needs a lot of work, too, but Arians has already started the revamping by hiring former Jets head coach Todd Bowles as his new defensive coordinator.

Of the five hires thus far, this is the best.

 

NFL coaching carousel
Hue Jackson” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Still Vacant

In this NFL coaching carousel, the Cincinnati Bengals are linked to Hue Jackson, because of course they are. But recently it’s been reported the team is intent on hiring one of these three coaches: Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken or Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor. Any of those three would be a better call than Jackson.

The Miami Dolphins could be biding their time to make a play for one of the Harbaugh brothers, and hiring either of them would re-start a carousel, either in college or the pros. The Ravens are said to be working on an extension for John, and Jim’s said he’s staying at Michigan. But Miami’s owner, Stephen Ross, has big money to throw around. Surely, he could convince one of Jack Harbaugh’s sons to take over an essentially quarterback-less squad.

Mike McCarthy is rumored to be looking only at the New York Jets, but who else are they talking to? McCarthy won a Super Bowl with the Packers, but his final years in Green Bay left much to be desired. However, I don’t know that former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is a better alternative. The Jets need to get this right. The progression of last year’s first-round pick, quarterback Sam Darnold, depends on it. A dark-horse candidate would be Baylor’s Matt Rhule.

*****************

As the NFL coaching carousel continues, here’s to hoping Bengals, Dolphins and Jets fans come out happy. And football fans in general, too. Because so far, this round of the Coaching Carousel has been completely dull.

I’m ready for a surprise.

I’m ready for a coaching hire that rocks the NFL’s landscape. Make the NFL coaching carousel exciting!

New Year’s resolutions for every AFC team who missed the playoffs

A new year has come, and with it the many resolutions we swear to. Each year we promise we are going to go to the gym more, or see the world more. Some short lived, some we actually see through.

NFL teams have New Year’s resolutions just like us. Below I’ve provided you with the resolutions for every AFC team who did missed the playoffs. I decided to keep the playoff teams out, because it is pretty obvious what their resolution should be. Win a Super Bowl.

Gregg Williams” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Just like ours, some are probably not going to be seen through, while others I think have a chance of happening up to the kickoff of 2019. Along with the teams, I also provided resolutions for each division and what they hope to accomplish for 2019.

Part two, the NFC resolutions will come out early next week.

 

AFC East

Resolution: For any team but the Patriots to win the division next season

New England has had a stranglehold on the crown for ten years straight. I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s getting pretty old. No one has seemed to come close to the top. It really has made the division a laughing stock in the league. One has to assume the Patriots’ success has to be tied to the fact that New England plays the Bills, Jets and Dolphins twice a year. This year the Patriots’ road to clinching the division was through Buffalo and the Jets at home. The NFL will be a better place if just one team decides to be consistently competitive in the AFC East.

New York Jets

Resolution: Get Jim Harbaugh/No sophomore slump for Darnold

The Jets’ resolution is two parts. The first, the Jets have to do whatever it takes to ensure Sam Darnold does not go through a sophomore slump in 2019. They cannot afford to have Darnold regress in 2019 with a new coach. Darnold did not have an overly impressive rookie season. Though he had a bunch of bright spots, the Jets need Darnold to have a coming out party in 2019 to show 2018 was not a waste. Something good has to come out of this miserable season.

The second part of this resolution is in regards to the recent reports the Jets are pursuing Michigan’s Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Though the reports have been refuted by Ian Rappaport, Jets ownership has been supposedly going to make the Michigan man an offer he can’t refuse. One that is well north of his already lucrative seven million a year contract. If that part can happen, you can almost guarantee Darnold is going to take steps in the right direction in 2019. They just  may be able to take over as the Kings of New York, at least for one year.

Buffalo Bills

Resolution: Spoil Josh Allen

The Bills’ resolution revolves around taking care of their prized possession, Josh Allen. I am fairly confident Allen has proven to most he has all the tools and intangibles to be a productive quarterback. The issue is, he did not have the ability to display those skills on a consistent basis. He is not good enough to make bad receivers look good. Throwing the ball to the likes of Robert Woods or Zay Jones did not help out Allen at all. No offense to them, but they are not clear cut number ones who can change the course of a game. The Bills have struck out as of late trying to get viable weapons at the Wide Receiver positions. Drafting Sammy Watkins, who ended up being a bust. Making a trade for Kelvin Benjamin, which showed the front offices incompetency. They need to do better for Allen. If they can’t get someone to throw to, then write a big check on the insurance policy and revamp the offensive line. Do something that will help Josh Allen carry this franchise to success, not make it harder.

Miami Dolphins

Resolution: Hire a coach with the intention of keeping them for more than three years

The Dolphins magically were on the cusp of a possible playoff birth with a few weeks remaining in 2018. The most inconsistent team in the NFL this year, the Dolphins looked like a dangerous playoff team one week, only to look like a team with no identity the next. The quick flashes of great play though were not enough to keep Adam Gase’s job, as he was fired a few days after their embarrassing 42-17 loss to the Bills.

The Dolphins are starting another off-season in the all to familiar position of finding a new head coach. They yet again let go of another coach after three seasons and mediocre numbers. Gase was 23-25 with one playoff appearance in three years. Wins matter, and owners have zero patience when it comes to waiting for them, so I get the move. 2019 has to be different for the Dolphins though. Thus their new year resolution has to be the either finding the right man for the job, who brings them back to the winning culture of the past, or they grow enough patience to at least give their new coach the time to get it right. I am not talking Marvin Lewis kind of time, but maybe four years, especially if they show some kind of promise. No Dolphins coach has lasted more than four seasons since Don Shula left in 1995. 2019 needs to be the year that changes.

 

AFC North

Resolution: The Browns win the division next year

This resolution is pretty easy for me. The North has long been dominated by the Steelers and Ravens. There needs to be a change, since the Steelers are looking more like a circus than a football team and the Ravens are too boring for the NFL’s liking to be the face of the North. Enter Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. The North needs the Browns and Baker Mayfield to win the division in 2019 in a big way.

Cincinnati Bengals

Resolution: DO NOT HIRE HUE JACKSON

So the Bengals already accomplished my resolution for 2019, which was to fire Marvin Lewis and just start over. I honestly didn’t think that it would actually happen, so I am kind of surprised. I figured the only way he was to leave was if he just resigned. But the Bengals finally decided they are better than being mediocre every year.

I naturally felt good for the city of Cincinnati and all of their fans. That was until I remembered they hired Hue Jackson earlier in the season. There is a big possibility of him being their next Head Coach. Jackson saw great success while he was their offensive coordinator, enough success that landed him the job in Cleveland. Judging by the fact Bengals ownership allowed Lewis to stay their head coach for 16 years, they just may pull the trigger on a familiar face and name.

So now my resolution for the Bengals has transformed into them NOT HIRING HUE JACKSON. If they were to do that, you can bet they would be winless against the Browns and probably every team during the duration of his tenure there. Based off of the Bengals’ track record, that may be a long time!

Cleveland Browns

Resolution: Keep Gregg Williams as their Head Coach

The Browns are in unfamiliar territory. They are coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent memory and for once are going into an off-season with a lot of expectations. None of that will matter though if they decide to go in a different direction and get them a new head coach not named Gregg Williams.

The Browns clearly transformed once Jackson was let go and Williams took over. They adopted his demeanor and played with a relentless drive to win. Besides that, Williams, along with his offensive coordinator Eddie Kitchens, were able to harness Mayfield’s talent and bravado and turned it into a style that led men on and off the field. Williams is the perfect fit at head coach because his attitude matches his starting quarterback. No nonsense, “not here to make friends” mentality, that done right can result in many wins for a team and fanbase that has not seen many.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Resolution: Hope Ben Roethlisberger retires

It is time. The Steelers need an obvious shot of life right now. One of the most historic, iconic NFL franchises is being viewed as a joke right now. To many Steeler faithful, that is unacceptable.

Julius in Remember the Titans said it best when he told captain Gary Bertier that “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” The Steelers have a mixed bag of personalities, egos and talent that have brought them a long way, but the name that leads them all is their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team goes as far as he does. Recently, though putting up gaudy numbers, his attitude and questionable leadership skills have been dragging down a proud organization and fanbase. From him putting everyone on retirement watch to him blowing his injuries out of proportion, to calling people out on radio shows, Big Ben’s attitude is rubbing off on the rest of the team finally and the Steelers need him out.

They need 2019 to be the year he exits the league on his own, because the Steelers will never let him go, so in turn they will continue to get worse.

 

AFC South

Resolution: Prove they are a strong division

The South once again has two teams in the playoffs. An underrated division going into the season, the South has once again proven that in a dogfight, they will win. They need this momentum to carry forward into 2019 and make sure what we saw in 2017 and 2018 was not a fluke. Their division as a whole needs to be more competitive outside their own and prove the only reason why two teams represent the south for the second year in a row is not that of the fact that they have a weak division.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Resolution: Make people forget how bad the 2018 season was

I do not care what the Jaguars have to do, but they need to do something that makes their fans forget just how disappointing the 2018 season was for them. Very similar to when the Raiders went 6-10 in 2017 after going 12-4 with a playoff appearance the year before, the Jaguars came into 2018 with a tremendous amount of hype and expectations. Not only did they fall short to the lofty expectations, but they also managed to make 2018 into a train wreck, where there are more questions than answers.

Bortles was their answer, but now he is not. Fournette was poised to be the next great NFL running back to start 2018, but it ended with his future as a Jaguar in question. Jalen Ramsey was more worried about other teams’ quarterbacks other than his own. Their elite defense crumbled under the pressure of carrying their team once again to the playoffs.

The Jaguars need something to happen. Anything to happen to make everyone talk about something else and not how bad 2018 was in Jacksonville. From either firing their coach to making a big signing or trade, Jacksonville needs some kind of reprieve from the madness and aggravation.  

Tennessee Titans

Resolution: Make Marcus Mariota the main man

The Titans are a well-disciplined football team. They play smart fundamental football and take away a gutsy failed two-point conversion call late in the fourth because they did not want to tie against the Chargers, then I may be writing about the Colts right now instead.

Just like the Dolphins, the Titans played inspired football, only to follow it up with dismal performances which make you question which team is the real Titans. Part of their success is that they finally got Derrick Henry moving. He provided a jolt to the team and put an identity to them. The issue is though, Henry is not the answer. Mariota is. Until they provide him the weapons he needs, Tennessee will find themselves in this situation more often than not. They need to make sure that going into the 2019 season, Delanie Walker is not their number one weapon in the passing game. They need to make a big but smart splash in either free agency or the draft that builds Mariota’s confidence to see if he is the franchise quarterback they all thought he would be a couple of years ago.

 

AFC West

Resolution: Their two playoff teams right now need to make it to the Super Bowl

This resolution is more for the teams who are in the playoffs right now, the Chiefs and Chargers. The West needs to have one of their two teams in Super Bowl, and at the very least make the AFC Championship. The Chiefs for the past couple of season have been on top of the division, only to be bounced out in their first playoff game. That cannot happen this year as the top dog in the AFC. The Chargers are riding the coattails of Philip Rivers in what could be his last chance of a Super Bowl. The Chargers have disappointed the West way too much in the past and could use a run from the second-best team record-wise in the AFC, but the fifth-ranked team in the playoffs.

Denver Broncos

Resolution: Build around Phillip Lindsey

When the Broncos have been successful, there has always been a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback behind it. When the Broncos made the Super Bowl, it was with either Elway or Manning under center.

Denver will not find that with Case Keenum. He is a game manager, not a game changer. There is nothing wrong with that though, as long as you have a good running back who can carry the load. The Broncos have struck out in recent memory with drafting running backs, so it is pretty ironic that the one they found success with is one they did not draft. Phillip Lindsey is a dynamic multi-faceted running back who played more of a role in Broncos’ victories than Keenum did.

Elway needs to realize this and bring in a coach who will build a system around him who will run first to set up the pass, which I think is the exact system Keenum will excel in. The question is, will Elway do this or try to sign a big-name quarterback?

Oakland Raiders

Resolution: Settle on any place to play their home games this year that is not in San Francisco

It is well known the Raiders most likely played their last game in Oakland Coliseum. Yes, it is sad, but long overdue. The Raiders are the only NFL team who was still playing their home games on a converted baseball field. Though it helped win two of their games this year, they deserve a lot better. One of the solutions that was suggested was to have their home games played in Levi Stadium, which is the home field for the 49ers.

That is like recommending Michigan play its home games in Ohio State’s stadium. It is just a bad idea. The Raiders hate the 49ers and the Niners hate the Raiders. It is just how it is, and I do not see good things happening if the Raiders and Niners shared a field for 2019. Though it is not ideal, I would rather see them play at UNLV or even Bishop Gorman High School in Vegas (before you question my decisions just Google them and you will see their facilities rival those of top Division 1 football programs.)

Yes, I get the Raiders have a lot more problems than where to play, but if they want their loyal fans continuing to come, then they need to provide them with a better solution than playing at their rivals home.  

Will an elite NFL defense prevail in the playoffs?

A 43-40 thriller ending in a field goal to win the game as time expires, or a 15-6 defensive game full of turnovers. Which game would you rather watch? Most people would choose the high scoring affair. NFL fans have always loved the shootout between two of the league’s best offense’s, but this season, defensive teams are changing that way of thinking.

Elite NFL defense
Cowboys at Redskins 10/29/17” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Over the past two weeks of the season, we’ve seen incredible defensive performances from a couple of NFC teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. In all my time watching football, I’ve never enjoyed watching defense’s play as much as I have these two defense’s over the last two weeks.

The Dallas Cowboys earned themselves a 13-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 13, while the Chicago Bears earned themselves a 15-6 victory over the Los Angeles Rams last night. Both the Saints and Rams were one loss teams and the number one seed in the NFC at the time they took on these defensive teams.

No only were they two of the best teams in the NFC and NFL, but they are both teams who rank in the top three in points per game. The Saints average 34.4 points per game, while the Rams average 32.7 points. The number for both teams was even higher before being shut down.

With these two defense’s beating two of the league’s best offense’s over the last two weeks, it’s made me wonder how the NFL playoffs will play out this year. Will an elite NFL defense prevail? Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Can an elite NFL defense carry a team in the playoffs?

Before we take a look at if an elite NFL defense can win in the playoffs, we have to look at if an elite NFL defense can carry a team to the playoffs. Below are the current top 10 defensive teams in the NFL in points allowed.

  1. Baltimore Ravens (18.5)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (18.9)
  3. Chicago Bears (19)
  4. Tennessee Titans (19.5)
  5. Houston Texans (19.9)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (20.8)
  7. Jacksonville Jaguars (21)
  8. Seattle Seahawks (21.6)
  9. Denver Broncos (21.7)
  10. New Orleans Saints (21.8)

Of the top 10 defensive teams in the NFL, seven teams currently hold a playoff spot. Of the other three teams, there are two who are still in the hunt for the playoffs (Titans and Broncos). That leaves us with one top 10 defensive team with no chance to make the playoffs this season. Based on these numbers alone, can an elite NFL defense carry a team to and in the playoffs? Yes, but there’s more we need to look into first.

How many top defensive teams have a top 10 offense?

To get a more clear picture of just how far these top defense’s have taken their teams, we have to look at the offense accompanying them. Below are the current top 10 offensive teams in the league.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (36.2)
  2. New Orleans Saints (34.3)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (32.7)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (28.2)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (28.2)
  6. New England Patriots (28)
  7. Chicago Bears (27.6)
  8. Indianapolis Colts (26.8)
  9. Seattle Seahawks (26.6)
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25.5)

Four of the teams with an elite NFL defense also have a top 10 offense. Those teams are the Saints, Chargers, Bears and Seahawks. All four of those teams currently hold a playoff spot. That leaves us with three top 10 defensive teams in a current playoff spot who don’t have a top 10 offense.

Those three teams are the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. Those three offense’s currently rank 13th, 23rd and 12th. Then there’s the other two teams (Titans and Broncos) who are fighting for a playoff spot. Their offense’s rank 27th and 20th. Looking at these numbers, can an elite NFL defense team carry a team in playoffs? Only three teams with a defense in the top 10 and no top 10 offense currently have a playoff spot, so the numbers lean towards no.

Can an offense carry a team to the playoffs?

Now we have to look at the reverse side of things. How many teams with a top 10 offense are in a current playoff position? Eight of the 10 teams currently hold a playoff spot. Another one of those teams is in the hunt for the playoffs.

We already know four top 10 defensive teams have top 10 offense’s, meaning only four of the top 10 offense’s have top 10 defense’s. Again, those four teams are the Saints, Chargers, Bears and Seahawks.

These numbers indicate that an elite offense is more likely to lead a team in the playoffs than an elite NFL defense, as the other four teams in playoff position are the Chiefs, Rams, Steelers, and Patriots. The worst any of those teams rank offensively is sixth. None of them have a top 10 defense.

I talked briefly about the defensive performances by the Bears and Cowboys earlier, but now let’s look at some games in which a top 10 offense bested a top 10 defense. Most recently, Patrick Mahomes and the number one ranked offense overcame the number one ranked defense of the Ravens. The Saints also beat the Ravens earlier in the season.

We’ve also seen games in which the Seahawks’ offense was able to beat the Cowboys’ defense and the Colts’ offense was able to beat the Texans’ defense.

Conclusion: An elite NFL defense won’t prevail on their own

The numbers support an elite offense being able to carry a team farther than an elite NFL defense. However, the best formula looks to be from balanced teams. Those four teams who rank in the top 10 both offensively and defensively. Again, those teams are the Saints, Chargers, Bears and Seahawks.

While it’s good to have a top 10 offense or a top 10 defense, it’s obviously better to have both. All four teams who have a top 10 offense and defense are currently holding playoff spots. The teams who prevail in the playoffs won’t be the teams who are good on just one side of the ball. Instead, they’ll be the teams who are playing their best football on both sides of the ball come playoff time.