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NFL Offenses in Turmoil

   by Scott Spreitzer - 09/07/2009

As we approach the first week of NFL regular season action, we see several teams desperate to get things figured out on offense.

*Three different offensive coordinators were fired during the preseason (Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo), which has to be a world record for impatience at the beginning of a campaign. Hey, it’s about time pro teams started fixing problems in August rather than waiting until November!

*Many teams are trying to settle on a quarterback they can trust to move the ball and score points. There just aren’t 32 “pro caliber starters” in the sport. The position is so demanding that only a few talented superstars can thrive at the position. Since there are 32 teams, many have to make-do with managing a game and trying to stat competitive. We’ve seen quarterback wars in the preseason. We’ve seen Brett Favre come out of retirement (again). We see a lot of familiar faces in new places as teams lacking superstars play musical chairs with everyone else hoping to find a fit.

*Suddenly, wide receiver has become a soap opera position with the media. Remember when running backs were franchise icons? Now the wide-outs are the diva positions that expect to get the ball on every series, and pose in the end zone after touchdowns. Successful offenses must thrive at the QB and WR positions with running backs now in charge of picking up blitzes on pass plays, or moving the chains once the opposing defense is spread out.

As you try to handicap the coming week, and the coming season, it’s more important than ever that you focus on offenses. I still believe that defense wins championships. When it comes to January football, it’s going to be the best defenses that win games and cover spreads. In September football, when you’re talking about all 32 teams going at it week-after-week, the “tie-breaker” that separates the best from the rest is going to largely reside at the quarterback position with wide receiver talent being an important kicker.

With that in mind:

*You need to evaluate where all 32 teams stand offensively entering the 2009 campaign. How many points did they score per game in 2008? What was their third down conversion rate? Were they turnover prone? Did they only score on the worst defenses, or could they do damage against anyone?

*What’s different this year? Was the starting QB injured in 2008, but is back this year (as we see with Carson Palmer in Cincinnati?). Is there a different starter? Is it the same starter, but he’s a young guy who’s going to be a year better on the learning curve (Jason Campbell in Washington)? Is it the same starter, but he’s a veteran starting to show signs of age (Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia)? Based on each QB’s career passer rating, what do you project for the 32 starters this season?

*What additional weaponry has been added to each offense? Will Terrell Owens improve the Buffalo offense? Who helped themselves via trade or the draft?

*Once you’ve made your assessments, group all the teams into categories. List the teams who are likely to have big years barring key injuries. List the mediocrities in the middle who can score vs. losers but will struggle vs. premier defenses. Finally, list the offenses who are likely to have big trouble against everyone but the very worst defenses.

Now, you’re ready to attack the season!

I’m constantly amazed (and I say “constantly” because this really does happen every year) about how many experienced Las Vegas bettors take shots on underdogs with poor offenses. The “bet the underdog” mindset is so ingrained that they’ll invest their hard-earned money on squads that have little chance of scoring points and being competitive.

Yes, bet the underdog IF YOUR TEAM CAN SCORE POINTS! Bet the underdog IF YOUR DEFENSE IS GOING TO SHUT DOWN THE OPPONENT! Don’t just blindly bet all underdogs. You’re throwing money away by betting on teams with inept offenses. I know some established “name” Vegas bettors who’ve gotten spanked the last few years because they won’t accept the new reality. Oddsmakers haven’t properly punished the bad offenses in the pointspread (check out how few of last year’s poor offenses managed to get to .500 ATS).

As you watch the games this weekend, pay particular attention to how everyone is moving the ball. Don’t just sit on the couch and root for your bets to win.

*If you can watch a lot of games, note how many offenses are constantly getting stuffed at the line when they run, and sacked when they try to throw downfield.

*Look for signs of chemistry issues with the players on the field. Now that the games count for real, each offense’s “real personality” will come to light. A lack of confidence in the quarterback usually shows up very quickly in a team’s body language.

*Look at efficiency numbers in the boxscores. Which teams are throwing a lot of incomplete passes or interceptions? Which teams are less than 40% on third down conversions? The TV studio shows usually focus on offensive highlights. Read the boxscores to find offensive LOWLIGHTS!

There are going to be bad NFL offenses again this year. Find them now, so you can bet against them all season!

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