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Reason # 2 Why The 2011 NFL Season Was Terrible

February 16, 2012

By Ross Mitchell

The 9-7 New York Football Giants are Super Bowl Champions. A team that was 7-7 in Week 15, finished 32nd in rush offense, 25th in total defense, and had their head coach on the hot seat as late as January are now the toast of Manhattan. Granted they had an absolutely brutal schedule going down the stretch 9-7 is still one game over .500. I know they beat New England twice (including the Super Bowl). I know they had to win in Green Bay and win in San Francisco just to get to Indianapolis. They answered the bell, I cannot dispute that. Four teams had the chance to put them away and none did. But come on, this is the best team in the league? A team that was a Tony Romo-to-Miles Austin completion from being eliminated from playoff contention now lifts the Vince Lombardi trophy? Unreal. Congratulations to them. Take nothing away from them, but this brings me to my next point as to why the quality of play in NFL is the lowest it has been since the turn of the millennium:

The NFL is a week-to-week league.

“Any Given Sunday” applies more now than it ever has in the history of the league. And this isn’t a good thing. It’s not because there is so much parody and every team has dynamic offensive playmakers who can change the game on a whim. Tell me who on the Cleveland Browns fits that description? Who on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Indianapolis Colts or the Washington Redskins or the St. Louis Rams strikes fear into their opponents heart? Teams like the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs have one-to-two players who fall in this category. By the way, I just named half the league.

Yet the 2-14 Indianapolis Colts beat the Houston Texans. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Green Bay Packers with Kyle Orton making his first start at quarterback for the team. The New Orleans Saints lost three times during the regular season, two of those losses were to the Buccaneers and the Rams (who in sixteen games beat the Saints and the Browns)! The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks. The 15-1 Green Bay Packers allowed more yards than they gained!

And then we have the Super Bowl champion New York Giants who also lost to the Seattle Seahawks. The Giants finished the regular season with a +/- point differential of -6! The Washington Redskins went 2-0 against the New York Giants. So for everyone shouting “Eli Manning beat Tom Brady twice!“, Rex Grossman beat Eli Manning twice! What is going on?

The Chicago Bears were arguably the best team in the NFL before their two offensive stars (Jay Cutler and Matt Forte) suffered season ending injuries. The same Bears team finished the regular season with one less victory than our new reigning champions. The Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants had the same record! In fact 13 of the 32 teams were either at or within one game (both over and under) 8-8. Last season there were six teams who fit that bill.

(I had to get at least one Chicago Bears point in there)

The point is this: No longer are there any dominant teams. No longer are there any true heavyweights. Each team is fatally flawed. Each team is one or two injuries away from being the Indianapolis Colts. Proof of this is, yes, the Indianapolis Colts. They lost one player and their season was done. This didn’t happen as many as five years ago. In 2007 when Tom Brady went down Matt Cassel stepped right in and the Patriots won 11 games. In 2001 when Drew Bledsoe was injured in Week 2 against the New York Jets, Tom Brady led them to a Super Bowl. And it wasn’t because either quarterback was of Pro-Bowl quality. On the contrary, it was because the teams were so well constructed that the “next man up” mantra truly applied. Where would the Patriots be now if Brady got hurt? Where would the Giants be if they had to rely on David “Shell Shocked” Carr for an extended period of time? The Saints and Drew Brees? The Falcons and Matt Ryan?

Of the teams to make the playoffs in 2010 (Bears, Packers, Seahawks, Falcons, Saints, Eagles, Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs, Colts), six teams had their starting quarterback miss at least one game to injury. Of those six teams, only Pittsburgh returned to the playoffs (Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Indianapolis all missed. Also Seattle had a new quarterback, shifting from Matt Hasselbeck to Travarius Jackson…ouch). Only the Jets were at a disadvantage by having their incumbent quarterback return for all 16 games.

(If anything a point can be made that a dominant passing game matters more than anything else. You can have massive holes in every other aspect of the game but as long as you can throw the ball better than your opponent, you have a legitimate shot at winning (see the New England Patriots). This is really just a lead in to my next post)

But this is the era we live in. This is what we have to look forward to, presumably. While we were all up-in-arms about the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks qualifying for the playoffs at the conclusion of the 2010 season, they went on to beat a “superior” 11-5 New Orleans Saints, a team that at the time was defending Super Bowl champions. One year later the 8-8 Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers who were defending AFC champions. And of course, we leave as we began, the 9-7 New York/New Jersey Giants defeated the 13-3 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. I’m stumped. I’m baffled. And I am certainly not encouraged. What does next season hold for the NFL? I can’t say for sure, but at this rate, a Redskins-Browns…alright I’m not ready to go that far. We can still count on those teams to be lousy.

Part III coming soon!

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