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What's Wrong With...
by Al McMordie - 10/07/2005
We've had a full month to assess all NFL teams. Some clubs will make adjustments and begin to fix problems. These are always teams that are well coached, or have significant depth with which to change things around. For example, last season the Buffalo Bills were getting no ground game, until they decided to throw young RB Willis McGahee into the mix. McGahee jump-started the Buffalo running game, and the team was off and running, nearly making the playoffs after an 0-4 start. The Patriots struggled a bit at times against the run early last season, and during an October loss at Pittsburgh allowed 225 rushing yards. The Pats coaching staff then inserted veteran nose tackle Keith Traylor instead of starting rookie Vince Wilfork. The move made a key difference as New England's run defense was much stronger and consistent. Here's a look at some current weaknesses of teams.
Bills: Buffalo's offense is a mess because young QB J.P. Losman clearly isnâ€™t ready for the NFL. The front office missed the boat big-time with that decision. They've already figured it out by starting QB Kelly Holcomb Sunday. Holcomb was insurance in case Losman wasn't ready, and it's time to claim that policy now before the season is lost. Buffalo is second to last in the NFL in total offense. Of greater concern is a run defense that is getting hammered, allowing 172 yards rushing each game, a whopping 4.9 yards per carry! This is a major cause for alarm, as Buffalo's run defense has been stellar the last two seasons. The loss of free agent Pat Williams and the season-ending injury two weeks ago to star LB Takeo Spikes are the reasons. And those reasons are not easily fixable.
Ravens: What's wrong with the Baltimore offense? This is no surprise, as QB Kyle Boller has always been terrible and has no skill position weapons to go to. But most surprising is the Ravens' running game, a strength in the past, which has been a joke thus far, averaging 70 yards per game and 3 yards per carry! Teams are stacking the line to stop the run. The Ravens have the second-worst scoring offense in the NFL, producing more drives that have ended in turnovers (eight) than inside the red zone (six). They have had few big plays, too. The Ravens have produced only three runs over 10 yards and two passes of 25 yards or more. That forces the Ravens to repeatedly grind out eight-to-10-play drives. It's time to break out the trick plays, Brian Billick, because at 10 ppg, Baltimore is going nowhere. Oh, their defense is tops, which explains the 3-0 'under' the total mark, a trend that is likely to continue.
Rams: Donâ€™t be fooled by the fact that the Rams are ranked 8th in the NFL in run defense. This was a porous unit a year ago under first-year defensive coordinator Larry Marmie. They did little to upgrade the defense, and the only reason they're ranked high is that 75% of their games have been against teams that can't run the football: 49ers, Cardinals, Titans. In its last game, St. Louis allowed 164 rush yards and 292 passing to the Giants! The result was a 44-24 rout. This Rams team looks a lot like last year: innovative passing offense, no defense. St. Louis is 3-1 'over' the total this season and 13-8 'over' their last 21 games. Donâ€™t expect this defense to improve until at least next year.
Vikings: What's wrong with the Vikings' run defense? Everything. This was the weak spot a year ago and one of the biggest reasons Minnesota has disappointed during a 1-3 SU/ATS start. The Vikings allow 178 rush yards per game, last in the league. All the talk in the offseason was of dealing away Randy Moss to improve team chemistry and upgrade the defense. Like a bad stock option gone wrong, nothing has worked. Minnesota is a mess, and lacks the leadership to turn it around. The Vikings' only win was against road-weary New Orleans. This purple coaching staff likely wonâ€™t last the season. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.