The Miami Dolphins should make the playoffs in 2018

Introduction

There is a prevailing notion among NFL oddsmakers that the Miami Dolphins are going to miss the playoffs in 2018. In fact, according to oddsshark.com, the team is projected to win 6.5 games this season. However, one can argue that the organization’s rededication to the running game should propel them into the playoffs.

  Miami Dolphins (Week 1-5 of 2016)

The Miami Dolphins started the 2016 campaign with a record of 1-4 because they were trying to make Ryan Tannehill the focal point of the offense. This is because the organization wanted to prove that Tannehill’s contract extension signed in 2015 wasn’t a mistake. Therefore Ryan was allowed to pass the ball 31.2 times a game over the first five weeks.

Ryan Tannehill spent the majority of the team’s offensive possessions in shotgun formation last season. In fact, according to pro-football-reference Tannehill made 78.6 % of his throws from shotgun formation. Once the football was snapped, he dropped back 1-3 steps in the pocket and threw it quickly to a comeback, crossing, curl or out route. The strategy would increase the likelihood of a quick drive occurring as it opened the door for a quick touchdown, 3 and out or turnover.

As a consequence of this, the defense was forced to go back on the field without the proper amount of rest. Which led to the unit giving up more yards and points late in games because they were not able to regain some energy between possessions to be able to stop the opposing offense. Over the first five games, the defense spent 35 minutes and 56 seconds on the field.

Miami Dolphins ( After Week 5 of 2016)

After the 5th game, the organization began to reduce Ryan Tannehill’s role in the offense and decided to implement more of the running game. Ryan went on to average 2.1 fewer passes per game for the rest of the season. Conversely, the running back group saw a significant increase in their carries as they went from 18.2 to 25.1 per game.

A prime example of this was during the first two downs of a series, Ryan Tannehill would hand the ball off to Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins wanted to accomplish two goals with the strategy to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down.

If the strategy was successful, the Dolphins called a play action pass where Ryan would fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the crossing route fifteen yards downfield. However, on occasion, Ryan would fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily which allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route.

The midseason change in philosophy significantly reduced the amount of time the defensive unit spent on the field as they went from 35 minutes and 56 seconds to 31 minutes and 33 seconds. After the change, the organization compiled a record of 9-2 which allowed them to finish 10-6 and capture a wild card spot.

Miami Dolphins ( 2017)

Unfortunately, the Miami Dolphins didn’t carry the philosophy into the 2017 season as they reverted to early 2016 form. Jay Cutler was allowed to pass the ball 32.8 times a game in 13 games. This played a significant role in the defense having to be on the field for 30 minutes and 36 seconds and the team compiling a 6-10 record.

Miami Dolphins ( 2018)

Fortunately, the Miami Dolphins organization has hinted that he wants the running game to be a focal point of the offense again. Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is excited about Kenyan Drake’s skill set stating that:

” if you had three Kenyan Drakes, you’d be really excited because he’s a guy that can play all three downs.”

The Denver Broncos should make the playoffs in 2018

The Denver Broncos upgrade at quarterback should allow them to improve their win total and make the playoffs.

Introduction

There is a prevailing notion among NFL oddsmakers that the Denver Broncos are going to miss the playoffs in 2018. In fact, according to oddsshark.com, the team is projected to win seven games this season. However, one can argue that the acquisition of Case Keenum is the final piece needed for them to make the playoffs.

Denver Broncos 2017

Members of the Denver Broncos organization stated before last season that they wanted the running game to be a staple of their offensive system. Head coach Vance Joseph noted during the league meetings that:

“C.J. (Anderson) is very capable. Even (Devontae) Booker in the last month of the season showed what he can do. So we have two backs that will run downhill but we’ve got to block better up front, and we will.”

The organization was able to follow through on their desires to run the ball as they averaged 28 rush attempts per game at 4.1 yards a carry. The positive results generated from the running game played a significant role in Denver having a firm grip on the time of possession. The Broncos were 6th in time of possession spending 31:28 minutes on the field.

Despite spending over half the game on the field, the offense was unable to score points as they were 26th in this category averaging 18.1 points per game. The Broncos inability to score can be directly tied to their poor quarterback play.

Trevor Sieman and Brock Osweiler completed less than 60% of their passes in a combined 14 starts last season. The lack of accuracy played a crucial role in Denver only accumulating 19 passing touchdowns.

Denver Broncos 2018

The subpar quarterback play led the Denver Broncos to sign Case Keenum to a 2-year contract worth $36 million this off-season. Case helped the Minnesota Vikings reach the NFC Championship Game by completing 67.6% of his passes and throwing 22 passing touchdowns.

The Denver Broncos upgrade at quarterback should allow them to improve their win total and make the playoffs. This is because they only got outscored by an average of 5.2 points per game last season.

The Houston Texans Should Miss The Playoffs (2018)

 

Introduction

There is a mistaken assumption among NFL oddsmakers  that the Houston Texans are the biggest threat to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South. In fact, 5Dimes has given both teams the same odds to win the division as the Texans and Jaguars are listed at +190. Unfortunately the read option offense should prevent the team from achieving the goal

Houston Texans 2017

Throughout last season, the Houston Texans have implemented the read-option offense which allows Deshaun Watson to analyze the defense and determine what play to run. For instance, Watson will receive the snap in shotgun formation and begins the process of giving the ball to the running back while paying attention to the defense.

If the linebackers/ safeties freeze to see what play the team is running or take a step forward to stop the run, he will pull the ball to throw it. This is because it is tough for the linebackers/ safeties to catch up to a receiver 5-10 yards ahead of them within a matter of seconds.

As a result, Deshaun Watson knows he will have a wide open receiver downfield or single coverage on the receiver. Therefore, he will throw an intermediate or deep pass to a receiver on a curl, out, in, corner or post route. However, If the linebackers/ safeties decide to stay back in coverage, he lets the running back have the ball and run it.

Although the offense increases the chances of significant plays happening to lead to quick scores; It opens the door for the team to have the ball for less time because of a quick touchdown, 3 and out or turnover. As a consequence of this, the defense is forced to go back on the field without the proper amount of rest.

Which led to the unit giving up more yards and points late in games because they are not able to regain some energy between possessions to be able to stop the opposing offense. In Deshaun Watson’s last 3 games prior to the torn ACL, the offense has been on the field for an average of “27:03” thus the defense was on the field for 32:57.

A Solution

Due to this, it would behoove the Houston Texans to drastically alter their offense from the read option to a heavy run and play action attack. For instance, during the first two downs of a series, Deshaun Watson will hand the ball off to the running backs in an attempt to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down.

If the strategy was successful, the Texans would call a play action pass where Deshaun can fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the crossing route fifteen yards downfield.

However, on occasion, Deshaun can fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily which allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route. As a result of this, the Texans offense was able to stay on the field for a more extended period which means that the opposing team had less time to feast on their defense.

Conclusion

If the Houston Texans continue to implement the read-option offense, they will overexpose their defense causing them to lose close games. But if they alter the attack, the defense will get the proper rest between drives thus performing to their maximum potential increasing the likelihood of the team winning games.

The Minnesota Vikings Should Fall Short Of Super Bowl Expectations (2018)

Introduction

Over the past two months, NFL pundits have repeatedly stated that the Minnesota Vikings made the right decision in signing Kirk Cousins to a three-year, 84 million dollar contract. In fact, former Vikings wide receiver and the co-host of First Things First, Cris Carter stated that the team made the right decision because “Kirk Cousins is the final piece to propel the Vikings to a Super Bowl.” However, this is not the case as Cousins should be the catalyst for the Vikings to fall short of their super bowl expectations.

When an organization decides to invest a large sum of money into the quarterback position, the quarterback will immediately become the focal point of the offense. This is because the organization wants to give the quarterback as many opportunities as possible to prove that their investment in him was the right decision. Due to this, the team would call a lot of passing plays to give him a chance to demonstrate that he is a franchise quarterback and is capable of making all the necessary throws to lead the team to victory. While it is reasonable to expect an organization to give their new investment many opportunities to prove themselves at a certain point, it will affect the performance of the rest of the team. For instance, if Allen gets the chance to throw a lot, the offense will spend less time on the field because of incompletions, interceptions or sacks that result in short drives. As a result, the defense would have to go back on the field without the proper amount of rest which leads to the unit being more susceptible to giving up yards and points. Since they would be unable regain some energy between possessions to be able to stop the opposing offense.

Kirk Cousins in Washington

A perfect example of this is how the role of Kirk Cousins within the offense changed after the Washington Redskins applied the franchise tag in 2016. Throughout the 2015 season, the Washington Redskins decided to implement an offensive system that was centered around the running game and the play-action passing game. For instance, during the first two downs of a series, Kirk Cousins would hand the ball off to Alfred Morris or Matt Jones in an attempt to force the opposing team to stack the box and set up a manageable third down. If the strategy was successful, the Redskins called a play action pass where Kirk would fake the handoff and go in the opposite direction to throw the ball to the flat or the crossing route fifteen yards downfield. However, on occasion, Kirk would fake the handoff to freeze the defense momentarily that allowed the receivers to get some separation as they try to complete a slant, in or out route. As a result of this, the Redskins offense was able to stay on the field for a more extended period, which means that the opposing team had less time to feast on their defense. In fact, according to teamrankings.com, the Redskins offense was on the field for an average of “31:29” thus the defense was only on the field for 28:31. Due to this philosophy, the Washington Redskins won the NFC East with a 9-7 record.

However, it was an entirely different story over the next two seasons because the team made wholesale changes to the offensive system. This is because the organization wanted to see if he could lead the team to victory while being the focal point of the offense before giving him a big contract. As a result, the Redskins went from a run-heavy offense to more of a passing offense to evaluate his decision making; and ability to make all the throws without having the running game to preoccupy the defense. For instance, the Redskins dialed back on the play action bootlegs where he would fake the handoff to the running backs and roll out in the opposite direction to hit the wide open receiver. In place of the conservative offense, they decided to call the traditional three to five step drop passing plays to gauge whether Cousins can make the right decision with the football when the defense is ready for a pass. For instance, Kirk would take a 3 to 5 step drop from under center and proceed to throw the ball to a receiver on a curl, crossing and corner routes as well as screens.

Although it is reasonable to expect a team to give their potential investment many opportunities to prove that he deserves a long-term commitment at a certain point, it will affect the performance of the rest of the team. Since the team had Kirk Cousins throw the ball a lot, the offense spent less time on the field because of incompletions, interceptions, sacks or big plays that result in short drives. As a result, the defense went back on the field without the proper amount of rest which led the defense to be more susceptible to giving up yards and points. Since they would be unable regain some energy between possessions to be able to stop the opposing offense. In fact, according to teamrankings.com, the Redskins offense was on the field for an average of “29:36” thus the defense was on the field for 31:24. Unfortunately, over these two years, the team compiled a record of 15-16 with one tie, and they failed to make the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings

As a result of this, the Minnesota Vikings should experience a significant change to the offensive system. During the 2017 season, the team implemented an offensive system centered around the running and short passing game. For example, Case Keenum would give the football to the running backs on first and second down in an attempt to get the defense to stack the box. If the strategy were successful, Case would line up in shotgun formation to throw the ball to receivers on a crossing, corner, curl or out route. The game plan allowed Minnesota to consistently move the chains and stay on the field for long periods of time. According to teamrankings.com, the unit was on the field for 32:07 which meant the defense was able to get plenty of rest between defensive possessions. Unfortunately, the Vikings are going to feature more of the passing game in 2018 because of the substantial commitment to Kirk Cousins. The expected change in the offensive system should increase the likelihood that the defensive unit spends more time on the field. The extra wear and tear should cost the team a game or two during the regular season which should alter the race for home-field advantage.