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Archive for September, 2010

Let ‘Er Fly — The NFL as a passing league

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 28, 2010

Monday night showcased the 180th contest between the Bears and Packers, the most ever between two teams.  Classic, tough, smash-mouth football.  The black and blue division. Run the ball and pound your opponent…

Wait a minute?  What’s that?  You mean quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler passed for a combined 537 yards?  That the leading rushers for each team was fullback John Kuhn with 31 yards, and quarterback Jay Cutler with 37 yards?

Yeah.  This ain’t your father’s NFL anymore that saw players like Bob Griese pass for 2,252 yards and 22 touchdowns and make the Pro-Bowl.  It’s a passing league, and running the ball has taken a backseat.

Besides winning the turnover margin, passing the ball efficiently and having a high yards-per-attempt has the highest correlation to winning ballgames in the NFL. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

According to Michael Signora of NFL information, through the first three weeks of the season, there have been 5 quarterbacks to throw for 400+ yards in a game, which is the highest in NFL history.

With rules being put in place to increase scoring, passing is becoming the standard to win in the NFL.  Gone are the days when running the ball and stopping the run are keys to success.  This is not meant to downplay the running game, but according to Advanced NFL stats, the highest correlation to winning in the NFL is passing the ball efficiently, and stopping the pass.  Passing efficiency is best measured by the yards-per-attempt, or YPA.

The next time you hear the old adage of you can’t win without stopping the run, that is simply not the case in today’s NFL anymore.  The highest correlation to winning in the NFL is passing the ball efficiently and having a high YPA, and stopping the pass.


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Chris Johnson thrives on the big play — but just how good is he?

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 16, 2010

Nearly three years later, and some things never change.

I remember watching Eastern Carolina take on Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl back in December of 2007.  Relatively unknown Chris Johnson was known amongst some around college football, but nothing near today’s status as the best back in football.

I watched him put up 223 yards on the ground, including a 68-yarder that he housed putting Boise up 10-7 in the first quarter.  Not only that, he also chipped in 32 yards receiving and 153 yards returning kicks, good for an NCAA bowl-record 408 all-purpose yards.

I was amazed.  Players such as Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, and others stole the headlines in college in 2007.  But this Chris Johnson guy?  Wow.  More explosive than any of them.  And forget a dime.  If there was any currency smaller than a dime, C.J. could cut on that.  Why had I never seen him before?

As I watched Johnson play, I started thinking to myself.  The Dallas Cowboys needed a running back after the 2007 season.  Julius Jones was listed as a starter, but his contract was set to run out at the end of the season, and Marion Barber was clearly the more effective back.  While running back wasn’t a position of need, perhaps Johnson could slide down to the Cowboys in round three?

Chris Johnson is the most explosive running back in the NFL, scoring a touchdown run of 50+ yards in 8 of 32 contests. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America)

Ha.  Not a chance.  If people hadn’t heard of Johnson during the season, they heard of him when he exploded out of the blocks and posted a 4.25 40-yard-dash time.  He was selected 24th overall in the 2008, two slots after Dallas selected running back Felix Jones.  The type of blazing speed Johnson possesses has made C.J. one of, if not the NFL’s best running backs.  Johnson set the NFL on fire in 2009 as he became only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season with 2,006.

Johnson is the epitome of the big play.  Entering his third year, C.J. has 8 plays of 50+ yard touchdown runs, in just 32 games.  Let me say that one more time.  He has a touchdown run of 50 yards or longer in 25% of his career games.

Unreal.  The scary part is that it is not out of the realm of possibility for him to not only keep it up, he might even…improve?  No one is going to catch him from behind.  That’s just not going to happen.  Point blank.  However, most backs like C.J. get their big runs by getting to the corner.  Johnson has a unique ability for a back with his speed.  Several of his long runs — like his most current 76-yard TD in week one — are inside runs, not outside runs.  And what’s the shortest distance between two points?  A straight line.  Unlike other scat backs who look to run laterally and get to the corner, Johnson can run inside, and going north and south will net you far more yards than east and west.

C.J. doesn’t have the power that Adrian Peterson has, but his burst, top-end speed, and incredible feet make him the superior back.  There’s still a long season ahead, but Johnson just might be the first back in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in two consecutive seasons.

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NFL Football is upon us in less than 24 hours — Thoughts on Minnesota at New Orleans

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 8, 2010

Wow, I really need to get into a habit of updating this.  After that hiatus, I have fallen out a bit.

In less than 24 hours, the 2010 NFL season will be upon us.  We all finally got our first taste of real football this past weekend with NCAA football kicking off.  Boise and V-Tech?  Boise looked good don’t get me wrong, but they were an experienced team going up against a very young VT defense.  There was no reason for them to lose that game, but let’s not act like anyone thinks they’re the third best team in the country.  It’s kind of ridiculous that after the first week, we pretty much know Boise will be playing in a National Title game.  Playoffs are needed, just like the NFL.

Which gets me back to point.  The NFL season awaits us as the Vikings and Saints will do battle at 7 :30 p.m. Thursday night on ESPN in a rematch of the NFC title game last year in which Brett Favre got destroyed by the Saints — to which he still has not fully recovered.  Regardless, no one expected a 40-year old man to go out there last season and set the league on fire like he’s 30.

Brett Favre injured his ankle during last year's NFC Championship game and is still not fully recovered.

Minnesota in 2010

No Sydney Rice for 8 games, and an ankle that requires injections of lubricant lead us to believe that Favre will not repeat his statistical performance of last season.  Even if he was healthy and had Rice for the whole year, it’s hard to surpass 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only SEVEN interceptions!  Are you kidding me?  Brett Favre throwing just seven picks?  (Don’t worry he returned to form just in time for the playoffs.)  His 68.4-percent completion percentage and quarterback rating of 107.2 broke his prior career highs of 66.5-percent and 99.5 quarterback rating.  No way anything remotely close to Favre’s 09 performance happens again.

However, I fully believe that Adrian Peterson is going to take the reigns back from Chris Johnson as the best running back in the league.  The Vikings got pass happy last season, and rightfully so.  But now, the Vikings are going to lean heavily on Peterson this year, and I don’t doubt for a second that he will get the job done.  I think his fumble issues are a thing of the past, and that was really his only knock.  He’s stronger than C.J., just as fast, and while doesn’t have the wiggle that Johnson has, breaks more tackles and is a better red-zone back.

No Sydney Rice for 8 games will hurt Minnesota a lot, although their defense is still one of the best in the league.  Jared Allen gets all the attention, but Ray Edwards completes the pass-rushing duo for Minnesota, and then you’ve got the big ol’ Williams brothers in the middle with Pat and Kevin.  Then when you throw in former Hawkeye Chad Greenway, you can see why the Vikings have one of the better front sevens in the league.

I think the Vikings go 10-6 in 2010 and squeeze into the playoffs as a wildcard, with Green Bay running away with the NFC North at 13-3 or 12-4.  Missing Rice for 8 games and Favre playing on a bum ankle will take Minnesota down a notch from last year, although they will still be competitive in 2010, don’t expect to see Favre riding off into the sunset.  His best chance last year ended up in Tracy Porter’s hands with might be one of the most ill-advised throws you will ever see in the playoffs from a veteran such as Favre.

My thoughts on the Saints tomorrow.

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