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Quarterbacks and Defense

   by Bryan Leonard - 11/17/2011


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 before finally getting Jay Cutler, though a little too late to safe Shanahan (and Cutler). 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).
Look no further than the Colts this season. Indy was expected to be an AFC contender again and QB Peyton Manning’s injury really wasn’t thought of as that serious until September when rumors abounded that he may be done for the season. Their offense has been mostly a joke without him.
Think about these things when examining this weekend’s NFL games. Carolina was awful last season on offense but took a QB with the No. 1 overall pick and Cam Newton has surprised many with his above-average play. And the Panthers have been scoring points and rolling up yards, something they couldn’t do in 2010.
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, he wasn’t able to find a QB and they are winless because of it. You can make a list of several teams that have a good quarterback and no defense (Panthers, Bills, Pats) and a team like Jacksonville that has a good defense but no QB play.
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 last 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.

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