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Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

Some Notes on the Defenses
October 13, 2007

Maybe it’s the effect of fantasy football’s steady takeover, but I’ve been talking offense a lot here recently. Not today. This one's about defensive stuff, so fantasy obsessives may feel free to search down for the word ‘Vinny’.

(Have they gone? Okay, let's whisper)

Defense, they say, wins championships. You may have heard that already. By extension, some people say defense is most important in the post–season, and offense is key for the regular season. But I'm not convinced. Aside from the fact that I don't recall many regular season record–winners that didn't have something going on defensively – opportunism at least – the first five weeks of this season suggests that defense is important, right here, right now, in October.

Look at the truly horrible teams of the NFL, and name me one that has a good defense but a weak offense. Did you say Chicago or the Dolphins? Shame on you – you've been listening to reputations again (are you SURE you're not a fantasy owner?). In yards conceded by the defense, the Bears and the Dolphins rank among the league's ten WORST teams, both within a sneeze of 345 yards/game. The Rams, Jets, Bills, Browns and of course the Bengals all rank even lower.

Which got me calculating: is there a unheralded team out there that has a working or workable defense that is just waiting for the offense to show up and make a late run? After looking past the glut of AFC South teams with impressive defenses (all four – Titans, Colts, Jags and Texans are in the top 11), six names stand out.

Three aren't entirely surprising. We're all just a little perplexed at the Saints, but we know the offense is AWOL right now; the Buccaneers rise to competitiveness was suggested in our season preview (in The American newspaper); and we've been tempted to believe in the Cardinals before, so we'll skim them for now.

The other three are intriguing.

The Atlanta Falcons, at No.15 in defensive yards/game, aren't exactly dominant, but they are still playing, keeping up their end of the bargain in case one of their quarterbacks fancies seizing the opportunity. If that happens, second place in the division is still accomplishable.

Everybody has forgotten the Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, they looked horrible last time we saw them, but the Eagles have some history with late surges, and the bye week may have given them time to solve some issues. If McNabb and Westbrook are both sufficiently fit, this team has the No.9 defense in the league and three defensively porous teams out of their break. Do not be surprised if they're back in the wildcard picture for December.

And now the shocker: the Kansas City Chiefs. In my mind and my preseason predictions, this was a team going nowhere, and despite having a top 10 defense, there's no avoiding the fact that they have No.24 rush defense in quite the wrong division (cause or effect?). But I saw them having no pass offense, and it's the rush offense that's rancid. In fact, it's LAST. That's right, the Larry Johnson offense is producing the LEAST rush yards in the league.

I can't help feeling that maybe he needs a fullback who is a fullback rather than a tight end (Kris Wilson). Or just the tiniest threat of a passing game? (Well, whaddayaknow, we ended up back on offense after all).

Vinny Alert!
Really, I can't believe it. He's back again, the veteran of 20 seasons, now on his eighth team. Surely in the era of the forward pass there's enough options at quarterback that a team shouldn't have to sign a guy who predates the forward pass. He's actually been in the league eight years longer than his latest team. When he was first drafted, it was to replace Steve DeBerg (and if you put those two careers end to end, that's about half the history of the NFL).

I tried to look up his career statistics, and the early entries were in Latin. There's at least one player in the league who wasn't even born when Testaverde was drafted. Testaverde was drafted the same week The Simpsons first appeared as part of The Tracy Ullman Show – so long ago, people could still remember who Tracy Ullman was. The world population still began with a '4' (and no, it wasn't just 4).

Vinny will back up David Carr. But when somebody says 'Testaverde is like having an extra QB coach on the sidelines', all I can think is 'Yes, but why ISN'T he a QB coach on the sideline? Why is he still wearing pads?'. The answer, of course, is yards. He has a lot of yards. – sigh – ...okay fantasy fans, get ready to sign him. Because you know how well Carr avoids those sacks.


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