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Quarterbacks and Defense

   by Bryan Leonard - 11/12/2010

There’s really no truer adage in pro football than the importance of quarterbacks and defense. Betting lines take these factors into account, and you can understand why. The offense revolves completely around the play of the quarterback, the only player on offense who touches the ball every play. QBs need touch, and accurate, split-second decision making all the time to keep the offense moving. They also require leadership skills, clutch ability on third and fourth downs, and even are asked to call plays or change calls instantly at the line of scrimmage based on what they see the defense doing.

Think about the Denver Broncos. Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls with Denver during the 1998 and ‘99 seasons, and was hailed by some as an offensive guru. However, notice how Denver’s offense plummeted after John Elway retired. Shanahan has been shuffling quarterbacks, as well, ever since to try to find someone capable, quickly moving from Brian Griese to Jake Plummer. Denver had great wide receivers, too, and a terrific running game with their unique zone blocking schemes. However, the lack of consistent quarterback play after Elway retired was huge in Denver’s rare playoff performances, and playoff flops.

Then there’s the old adage “Defense wins championships.” Simply put, it does. Look at the history of the Super Bowl and you find teams with great defense often winning it all. Even those Bronco teams with Elway were strong defensively. Defense was the cornerstone of the Patriots’ three titles in four years, and inbetween the No. 1 defense of Tampa Bay rolled over the Raiders and their No. 1 offense, 48-21, in the Super Bowl (as a dog, no less).

Think about these things when examining this weekend’s NFL games. Bill Parcells knows the value of a balance between quarterback play and defense and that has been evident with him building the Dolphins the last few years. Unfortunately, that balance is not always easy to attain. You can make a list of several teams that have a good quarterback and no defense (Texans, Broncos, Bills), and teams that have weak quarterback but good defenses (Titans, the Steelers the first 4 weeks without Big Ben, the Ravens before Joe Flacco arrived).

If the latter plays each other, what can a sports bettor look for? Probably a low scoring game. I recall a matchup a few years ago like that when the Bears and Redskins battled with no QB play, in a 9-7 game that sailed way under the total. The Titans and Steelers meet earlier this season when Roethlisberger was serving a suspension and it sailed way under the total in a 19-11 Pittsburgh win.

The 2000 Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl with a great defense and no QB (Trent Dilfer), but that’s the hard way to do it. Balance is a key, but quarterback play and defense are at the top of the list of NFL success.

Free Play:

Army at Kent State

This is a monster of a scheduling spot for the Black Knights who are off the Commander in Chief showdown with Air Force with a trip to Yankee Stadium to face Notre Dame on deck. They put a ton of work into last week's game only to be beaten by 20 points by their biggest rival. They entered that game off a bye and then a cakewalk affair against VMI. Yet they were never in that game as Air Force led throughout. Now with a rare chance to play and beat a vulnerable Notre Dame squad next Saturday Army may not be fully focused here.

Kent State is also off a disappointing loss as they dropped a 28-10 decision here to Temple. But we expect the Golden Flashes to rebound in a big way as they are still bowl eligible with three winnable games to end the season. Kent was competitive when stepping up in class this year against Boston College and Penn State. They have also shown the ability to dominate when playing lesser competition. After facing a very good Temple squad last week we look for Kent to take out some frustrations on an uninterested foe.


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