Week 10 in the NFL has come and gone. Without question, Week 10 in the NFL was the best week of action the NFL has seen all season. A month of preseason football and 10 weeks of regular season football (almost four months) later and we’ve finally had a full slate of watchable games. The afternoon and evening games alone contained two games in which there were seven lead changes. Yet, up until this point, the NFL games have been borderline unwatchable. Why is that? There are two reasons why but only one can be true.
First, the obvious answer, the games have been unwatchable because the games have been blowouts because defense is no longer a luxury. There are a few teams that still rely heavily on their defense, which are Denver, Seattle, St. Louis, and Minnesota, but they are few and far between. A team built solely on defense is a delicate procedure in today’s NFL. With all the rules designed to promote offense, illegal contact, spot fouls, 800 ways to commit roughing the passer, few teams are concerned with the notion of an elite defense. Offense is king. It has been for a while. So, I think we can eliminate lack of defense as the cause of all of the awful we have seen. Next!
The next answer is not obvious to some, but is gaining a strong following to the underground numbers junkies like myself. It’s an issue that does not technically even start, or end, with the NFL. In fact, it started in college football and has spread its way to the NFL and high school football. The issue is the spread offense. Whether it’s the Air Raid, Spread Option, or Pistol, as the spread offense has (for lack of a better term) spread, offensive line play has suffered. I could bore you with facts, but sometimes not even facts can tell you what only your eyes can. It’s a simple test, the eyeball test. Watch a few games. Think back on what we’ve seen the first 14 weeks. What do your eyes tell you?
Much like elite defenses, elite offensive lines are hard to come by. Unlike defenses, elite offensive lines are hard to come by. Not because the talent is not there. Not even because the rules aren’t in favor of them. Instead, it’s because the principles, from high school on up, are no longer there. Again, I’m not going to bore you with numbers. Just look at the elite offenses of the NFL versus the ones that struggle. Denver Broncos fans need to look no further than their own team. Even in a win, Trevor Siemian spent much of the day on his rear end and taking shots to the chest. Whereas, Drew Brees, while uncomfortable at times, was still given room to operate. When the offensive line sucks, it ruins one of the most important concepts in all of football: Timing.
No matter how elite the quarterback, time is time. If there is no time to work through progressions, maneuver in the pocket, or have the opportunity to let downfield routes develop, then there is no time to be elite. Back to the example of Denver, when Siemian has time, he looks like a veteran. When he doesn’t, he looks like a first-year starter. Even with a league that favors offenses and high scoring affairs, a weak offensive line can bring that all crashing down.
While I have no illusions that poor offensive line play is the sole issue the NFL should be concerned about. Different topic for a different article. That being said, it is a large contributor. The eyes can sometimes deceive but, in this case, they do not lie. Offensive line play in the NFL is a bad look.