Krykslants: Time for NFL teams to go all-in on offence

It’s not that defence doesn’t matter in the NFL anymore. It’s just that offence matters so much more.

Want to build a winning NFL franchise in the late 2010s, and in the years to come? Then you’d better go about building a great offence, not a great defence.

Things have been trending in this direction throughout the decade, to the point that in 2018 you cannot have a great team without being great on offence. Period. You can’t even be competitive without being above-average on offence.

That means you must (a) have a good-to-great quarterback, (b) surround him with good playmakers at receiver and running back, behind an able offensive line, and (c) employ clever schemes in both the pass and run, custom-built around your good-to-great quarterback’s talents.

That’s how Kansas City, New Orleans, New England, the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers are doing it now.

All six of those teams rank at, or near, the top in most pertinent offensive categories, including top 10 in total offence. But you know what? Not one of them ranks in the top 10 in total defence.

Of course, it all starts with the quarterback.

You can max out in (b) and (c) above – as was the case last year in Kansas City – but your QB cannot be an anchor. He cannot hold you back. Otherwise you, at best, can only flicker greatness on offence, not shine it brightly most the time.

Every NFL franchise that refuses to embrace this top-down philosophy – of prioritizing the scoring of as many points as possible – is living in the past, and doomed to failure.

Now, you can’t field a defence that’s completely horrible, one so porous it can’t even stop an ant. For proof, see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who offensively rank No. 2 in total yards per game (447) but turn the ball over way too much and, just as ruinously, rank last defensively in scoring, allowing 34 points allowed per game.

Such exceptions aside, the top four NFL teams in scoring offence so far in 2018 are Kansas City (36 points scored per game), New Orleans (35), Los Angeles Rams (33) and New England (30). Their combined record through Sunday: 30-5.

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In contrast, the top four teams in total defence so far in 2018 are Baltimore (305 total yards allowed per game), Jacksonville (313), Buffalo (314) and Dallas (314). Their combined record through Sunday: 12-21. All four, losing record.

Maybe not the Cowboys, but the Ravens, Jaguars and Bills all have been constructed to win with defence first. Where is it getting them? Nowhere. Those days are gone.

They need to join the new club. Fast. Or they’ll be further left behind in what clearly has become the dawning in 2018 of the golden age of NFL offence.

That old football saying that you win games with offence, but championships with defence? Yeah, it’s gone with the wins.

FIVE FAST FACTS: Todd Gurley has scored a TD in a Rams-record 12 straight games … Bill O’Brien’s Texans are 27-1 when leading at halftime, the NFL’s best record in that category since 2014 … WR Michael Thomas set a Saints record with 211 receiving yards vs. the Rams … The Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford 10 times, a Minnesota record … Patrick Mahomes has passed for 300-plus yards in his last eight games of a two-year, 10-game career. The QB he replaced in Kansas City, Alex Smith, on Sunday passed for 300-plus yards for the 12th time in his 14-year, 164-game career.

TAKING A KNEE: Further to the column-topping item, above, it’s not that defensive-minded head coaches all should suddenly be out of a job.

But the people who hire them – owners, club presidents or GMs – must understand that they might need to help those guys out ASAP to figure out how best to win the new way.

For example, the Jaguars currently are stuck with conservative-minded football czar Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone. In classic rock terms, they’re still writing Merseybeat songs and it’s 1968.

Similarly, the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals are trying to rebuild with defensive head coaches Todd Bowles and Steve Wilks, respectively. And Cincinnati still has relic defensive-minded head coach Marv Lewis, doing the same thing.

The prime example, though, may be the Buffalo Bills.

First-time, second-year GM Brandon Beane and first-time, second-year head coach Sean McDermott deserve credit for a fabulous job in delivering a sharp upgrade on defence via the draft and free agency, and coaching up that defence on the field.

Too bad it’s come at the expense of the offence, at the worst possible time maybe in NFL history.

For instance, last year McDermott (before Beane arrived as GM) passed on drafting either Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson with the No. 10 overall pick. Instead McDermott traded down with Kansas City, to No. 27, thereby enabling the Chiefs to gladly snare Mahomes at 10th overall, beating out Houston and Arizona (then coached by Mahomes-loving Bruce Arians) for that right.

Of all Bills blunders this young century, that might go down as the worst.

McDermott and Beane have only compounded the mistake with a series of further QB misjudgements.

Trading Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland in March wasn’t one of them. In three years of starting in Buffalo we all saw Taylor’s ceiling, and it was unsatisfactorily low: barely getting the Bills into the playoffs, then failing to do anything to beat a team (Jacksonville) the Buffalo defence held to 10 points.

Since shipping away Taylor, the ‘Mc/Beane’ duo hasn’t acquired a veteran QB anywhere near as serviceable.

The Bills burned a fifth-round draft pick last year on QB Nathan Peterman, who in nine appearances including playoffs has proven to be, statistically, one of the worst passers in league history, with 13 interceptions in 133 throws. The Bills continue to stick by Peterman, refusing to move on from the mistake, and enlarging it with each embarrassing time they play him.

Buffalo signed A.J. McCarron this past spring as the presumptive ‘bridge’ veteran QB, who’d play until this year’s No. 7 overall draft pick Josh Allen – a young man of considerable physical talents who might or might not pan out – was ready. But McCarron flopped in training camp, started only one preseason game (at Cleveland, in which he was dreadful) and finally was dealt to Oakland come September, for a fifth-round pick.

That left Peterman as the only veteran QB after cut-downs weekend. The Bills not only seemed fine with that, McDermott named him starter six days before the opener at Baltimore, over the rookie Allen.

Disaster.

Even though Peterman crumbled against the Ravens and was yanked in the third quarter of a 47-3 loss, Mc/Beane kept him as the No. 2 QB, behind the quickly promoted Allen.

It wasn’t until Week 6 that Mc/Beane signed another veteran passer, someone they’d worked with for years on the Carolina Panthers: long-time Cam Newton backup Derek Anderson. When Allen hurt his throwing elbow that week in a loss at Houston, McDermott’s offensive coaches had to scramble to prepare Anderson to play in Week 7 at Indianapolis, over Peterman.

If Peterman was worth still carrying on the roster, shouldn’t he have started at Indy over the barely prepared Anderson? Of course. But he wasn’t. We all know why.

Poor Anderson threw three interceptions in a blowout loss to the Colts.

Anderson started again a week ago Monday in a 25-6 loss to New England, but got concussed. That’s why Peterman had to be elevated this past Sunday against Chicago, ahead of newly signed emergency backup Matt Barkley, and threw three picks in a 41-9 defeat.

McDermott was asked afterward if he believes Peterman is an NFL quarterback.

“I believe he is,” he said.

Going so far down these awful Buffalo QB roads proves the point I’m about to make.

In today’s and tomorrow’s NFL, a franchise has little chance to compete, especially with the best, unless it can properly assess quarterbacks at both the college and pro levels, then develop the ones they choose to bring in, then implement cutting-edge, tailor-made schemes that best accentuate their talents.

Teams without such proven talent evaluators/developers must go get them. Now. Win the off-season bidding wars to come.

Then wholly empower the man or men you get.

Better yet, anoint one singular czar of quarterbacks, and give him power over even the GM and head coach if necessary to select which draft QB to select, which free-agent QB to sign, what kind of offensive system would best maximize the No. 1’s talents, and which QB coach (if not himself) to hire to wring the most out of those talents.

Someone such as a Bruce Arians, a long-time NFL coach (now retired) with a long track record of making good QB roster decisions, who knows how to coach up a QB – as he did with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and, at his last stop in Arizona, even a QB we’d all thought was long washed up, Carson Palmer.

Any NFL team henceforth that goes into even one more off-season without having such a proven, empowered QB talent evaluator and developer on staff is derelict, and asking to lose.

Flacco, not Harbaugh, to blame for Ravens’ woes

An NFL Network report Sunday morning said John Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens could be in immediate jeopardy.

After losing at home later in the day, 23-16, to the Ravens’ arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harbaugh retained his job through the night Sunday, and into Monday afternoon.

Harbaugh has been the Ravens’ head coach for the past 11 seasons. He won the franchise’s second Super Bowl after the 2012 season when then fifth-year QB Joe Flacco performed at a spectacularly high level.

But Baltimore has made the playoffs only once since, after the 2014 season. And after a promising 3-1 start this year that included a 26-14 thumping of the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Ravens have lost four of five.

Owner Steve Bisciotti is reportedly frustrated and impatient. The locals too. Empty seats now stare at Bisciotti at M&T Bank Stadium for non-Steelers home games.

It would be very un-Ravens-like to fire a head coach in mid-season, especially one who’s won a Super Bowl. But the toughest portion of a difficult 2018 schedule is behind the Ravens.

Harbaugh should be allowed to finish the season. A wild-card playoff berth is not only possible but a good bet. Then, with Baltimore’s NFL-best defence, who knows after that.

Go about starting over (again) on offence next year. Because the man more responsible than anyone for Baltimore’s recent playoff drought is not Harbaugh but the under-performing Flacco.

Numerous head-to-head matchups ahead for NFL’s Super Seven

By the week, it’s becoming clearer that the NFL in 2018 has a Super Seven.

And the winner of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta come Feb. 3 seems highly likely to come from this group.

The Super Seven comprise the only teams left with fewer than three losses. Namely, in this approximate order:

  • New Orleans Saints, 7-1
  • Kansas City Chiefs, 8-1
  • Los Angeles Rams, 8-1
  • New England Patriots, 7-2
  • Los Angeles Chargers, 6-2
  • Carolina Panthers, 6-2
  • Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-2-1

Two of them squared off on Sunday, the Rams and Saints, and it was a thriller. A few weeks earlier we saw the Chiefs and Patriots square off in another candidate for game of the year.

Lucky for us, we’ll see a bunch of additional head-to-head matchups involving these Super Seven by the end of the regular season on Dec. 30.

First, this Thursday the Panthers and Steelers go at it – one of the best TNF matchups of the year.

Over the final seven weeks we’ll see the Saints play the Steelers once and the Panthers twice, the Steelers additionally play the Chargers and Patriots, the Chiefs play the Chargers and, perhaps most tantalizingly of all, the Chiefs and Rams swapping helmet paint on Monday night, Nov. 19, in Mexico City.

As these teams beat each other up, it could open the door for two or three other teams to expand the septet, or supplant one or two of them from it. The likeliest candidates would include the Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1), Philadelphia Eagles (4-4), Atlanta Falcons (4-4) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-3).

TV ratings continue to rise

The NFL continues to score big ratings jumps this season.

Sunday night’s matchup of pre-eminent quarterbacks Tom Brady (of New England) and Aaron Rodgers (of Green Bay) drew a 15.6 overnight rating, per reports.

That’s not only up 63% year-over-year in the same Sunday night Week 9 timeslot, it’s a record for the timeslot, ProFootballTalk.com reported. The Patriots beat the Packers 31-17.

What’s more, the big Sunday late-afternoon game between then-undefeated Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints – won by the latter 45-35 – drew a 15.2 rating on FOX, up 7% from last year.

With more matchups of top teams ahead, expect ratings to remain strong into the playoffs.

QUARTERBACK RANKINGS

All 32 starting QBs, after Sunday games:

  1. Tom Brady, New England. (1) Still the best. Then there’s the rest.
  2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay. (2) Belichick gushed about his Sunday game.
  3. Drew Brees, New Orleans. (3) Picked apart a good Rams defence.
  4. Philip Rivers, LA Chargers. (4). Absolutely better than ever.
  5. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City. (5) 300+ yards, career average.
  6. Russell Wilson, Seattle. (6) Good not great isn’t enough to beat Chargers.
  7. Matt Ryan, Atlanta. (10) Since Week 3: 17 TDs, 1 INT.
  8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh. (9) 8 TDs, only 2 INTs in last month.
  9. Jared Goff, LA Rams. (7) A prolific day but lost shootout.
  10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit. (8) No chance when sacked 10 times.
  11. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota. (11) 18/22 vs. Detroit in must win.
  12. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia. (12) Coming off a bye.
  13. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis. (13) Coming off a bye.
  14. Cam Newton, Carolina. (14) Seven straight games with 2+ TDs.
  15. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati. (16) Coming off a bye.
  16. Deshaun Watson, Houston. (19) Big reason for six-game win streak.
  17. Alex Smith, Washington. (17) Lost three starting OLs to injury.
  18. Derek Carr, Oakland. (18) Still not much is his fault. Seriously.
  19. Joe Flacco, Baltimore. (15) Just has to play better than that.
  20. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay. (NR) Little magic til garbage time.
  21. Dak Prescott, Dallas. (21) Played Tennessee on Monday night.
  22. Eli Manning, NY Giants. (22) Coming off a bye.
  23. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago. (23) Tiny role in 41-9 win in Buffalo.
  24. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland. (25) Seems to be turning the corner.
  25. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee. (24). Played Dallas on Monday night.
  26. Case Keenum, Denver. (27) First game without a pick. Still lost.
  27. Brock Osweiler, Miami. (28) No TDs the past two weeks.
  28. Sam Darnold, NY Jets. (26) Last 3 games: 47% COMP, 2 TDs, 7 INTs.
  29. Nick Mullens, San Francisco. (NR) A “With the Beatles” debut.
  30. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville. (30) Coming off a bye.
  31. Josh Rosen, Arizona. (31) Coming off a bye.
  32. Nathan Peterman, Buffalo. (NR) Not all his fault. But, man.

THIS WEEK

Quick thoughts on Week 10 games (all on Sunday unless noted):

  • Panthers at Steelers, Thursday, 8:20 ET: Carolina has won three in a row, Pittsburgh four straight.
  • Lions at Bears, 1 ET: The Law of NFC North Equalization demands a Detroit win.
  • Saints at Bengals, 1 ET: New Orleans coming off consecutive wins at Ravens, at Vikes, vs. Rams.
  • Falcons at Browns, 1 ET: Atlanta has won three straight, Cleveland has lost four straight.
  • Jaguars at Colts, 1 ET: The battle to climb out of the AFC South basement.
  • Cardinals at Chiefs, 1 ET: NFL’s version of the silence of the lambs.
  • Bills at Jets, 1 ET: There will be offensive gaffes. And punts. Lots of punts.
  • Redskins at Buccaneers, 1 ET: Tampa Bay can’t stop anyone, so Redskins OL woes ought not matter.
  • Patriots at Titans, 1 ET: Five straight wins for New England, going on six.
  • Chargers at Raiders, 4:05 ET: This could wind up as Oakland’s ugliest loss of the year.
  • Dolphins at Packers, 4:25 ET: Aaron Rodgers is mad and frustrated. Will take it out on Miami.
  • Seahawks at Rams, 4:25 ET: Rematch of their seesaw October thriller in Seattle.
  • Cowboys at Eagles, 8:20 ET: Winner jumps closer to Redskins in tight NFC East.
  • Giants at 49ers, Monday, 8:15 ET: What can Niners QB Nick Mullens do for an encore?

BYES: Ravens, Texans, Broncos, Vikings.

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@JohnKryk

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies