Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, August 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM
The dress rehearsals in the third full week of NFL Preseason action are the closest thing we’re going to see to REAL FOOTBALL until the regular season begins in a couple of weeks. Those begin THURSDAY and run through the weekend. To get you prepared for those games and the coming campaign, we’re going to spend a couple of days in the NOTEBOOK reviewing the yards-per-play averages from 2012. We’ll do the NFC today, and the AFC on Wednesday.
Yards-per-play is arguably the single best stat for capturing REAL FOOTBALL. It’s important to have full recall of what happened last year as you try to anticipate what’s going to happen this year. Many rosters and styles are virtually the same. Coaching changes were made in many spots. It’s important to review WHY that happened. Again, these are the full regular season stats from 2012…
BEST NFC OFFENSES
New Orleans 6.2
San Francisco 6.0
NY Giants 5.9
Tampa Bay 5.8
There are 16 teams in the NFC, and exactly half of the conference ended at 5.8 or better. So, we used that as a cut-off point. It’s amazing that Washington and San Francisco could post such big numbers with inexperienced QB’s running their attacks (or with Alex Smith running it before Colin Kaepernick took over in SF). Seattle was right there too with rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s still too early to say if that means the league is about to evolve into an era with running quarterbacks. That’s a strategy that works great before the injuries!
WORST NFC OFFENSES
Green Bay 5.5
St. Louis 5.3
Dallas and Detroit just missed having an elite YPP number. But, they were so bad at committing turnovers that they truly deserve to be in the bottom half. YPP doesn’t account for turnovers, and those teams were disaster areas in that regard.
Green Bay is a big surprise, as the team struggled to find its potent attack of prior seasons because of injuries and other issues. That was a great underreported story last year…and hasn’t been on the radar much during summer coverage either. You’re surely aware that the bottom three teams all fired their head coaches, bringing in replacements who are more offensive minded. Heads start to roll below 5.4!
BEST NFC DEFENSES
San Francisco 4.7
Green Bay 5.2
St. Louis 5.3
Once again we cut it off at the midway point. More evidence that defense wins championships! San Francisco represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. Of course, San Francisco also had one of the best offenses. So…you need to be great at BOTH to have a shot at going the distance. Seattle graded out very well. Green Bay had a better defense than many realized, which kept them in the championship hunt until they ran into the 49ers.
WORST NFC DEFENSES
Tampa Bay 5.9
NY Giants 6.0
New Orleans 6.5
This is where some surprises jump out. Atlanta was near the bottom of the league, even while earning the #1 seed. The inability to get stops eventually derailed their Super Bowl hopes. Washington lost to a superior defensive team in the playoffs as well. You’re hearing a lot of optimistic talk this year from followers of Tampa Bay and the NY Giants. Those teams better fix their defenses before talking any trash.
We’ll run these same numbers for the AFC tomorrow. Then, we’ll pick out a key storyline each day Thursday through Sunday as we guide you through the dress rehearsals. Some really good games this week where likely contenders want to set a tone for the coming campaign.
DRESS REHEARSAL HIGHLIGHTS THIS WEEK
New England at Detroit (Thursday)
Carolina at Baltimore (Thursday)
Seattle at Green Bay (Friday)
NY Giants at NY Jets (Saturday)
Kansas City at Pittsburgh (Saturday)
Cincinnati at Dallas (Saturday)
New Orleans at Houston (Sunday)
Minnesota at San Francisco (Sunday)
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