PRO PS WELCOME TO THE NFL – Wild Card Sunday

Posted: January 7, 2018 in All Things Power Spread

Now that Power Spread has found its way into the NFL, I will be taking a look at the NFL Playoffs from a PS Perspective 

TEAMS

Buffalo Bills

Coaches

With all the surprises in the NFL this year the Bills may be the biggest surprise to me. I really felt that the coaching staff was a bad match with the inherent personnel. Especially on offense. Plus there was a lot turnover, not only with the coaching staff, but the front office as well. Sean McDermott learned his craft at with the Eagles under Andy Reid then as the Panthers DC under Ron Rivera. He’s done a great job of galvanizing the team and organization in a very short time.

The above being said, this is still not a very good team. They play hard for McDermott but they have struggled all year. Especially the 2nd Half of the year where they even struggled with a Miami team the last week that was experimenting with their backups looking forward to 2018. This is the weakest team in the playoffs, but their enthusiasm and “nothing to lose” attitude makes them dangerous.

Offense

I was right in my preseason assessment. The Bills offensive talent doesn’t fit the heavy power west coast package of Rick Dennison. Dennison is a long time Shanahan/Kubiak guy with the Broncos. What’s easy to forget is he also had a brief experience with Josh McDaniel’s experiment with power spread in Denver back in 2009-10. He would also know Mike Shanahan’s son, Kyle, who has experimented with ProPS for a few years now.

So while their offense has had it’s share of struggles with a more conventional west coast attack, there have been signs all year of Dennison finding ways to use the legs of dual threat QB Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is not at his best sitting in the pocket. He needs to be on the move in both the run and passing game. Any pure drop back needs to be with quick spread passes to space, which isn’t Dennison’s MO. You will see a lot of play action rollouts, which work – for a while – but once the Defense catches up to the scheme, there isn’t enough variety for the offense to adjust. I can’t see this offense succeeding long enough or at crucial times late in the game.

Defense

This is McDermott’s forte. He learned under the great Jim Johnson of the Eagles (under Andy Reid) in the 90s. All the mix of blitzing/coverages seen today in football had a lot to do with Johnson’s genius in the 90s. McDermott can get a bit complicated, but overall does a nice job of mixing coverages and bringing some pressure. He’s not as aggressive as his former boss Rivera when it comes to pressure, though. The Bills Defense has some talent – not a lot – and plays sound. Again, I don’t think this is good enough to win in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Coaches

Doug Marrone has done a great job with what Gus Bradley started. Bradley actually had the Jaguars going in the right direction. The team had been making good personnel moves. The teaching and motivation seemed very good. The schemes were not bad and getting better. I felt the Jaguars were on the rise, in spite of their bad year in 2016 and promoting Marrone, who was on the previous staff, was a wise move. Marrone has his long time OC Nathaniel Hackett with him and kept Bradley’s pupil Todd Wash as DC. Bradley and Wash go back to their big days at the great North Dakota St – winners of the last 7 of 8 FCS championships.

Offensse

Nathanial is the son of famous West Coast OC Paul Hackett. The younger Hackett does a nice job of mixing the WC passing game with Power Spread concepts. Marrone and Hackett were actually experimenting with this early on when they were at Syracuse together. Blake Bortles is another dual threat type like Mariota – not as good a runner – but definitely a better improviser than pocket passer. Like Tennessee, Jacksonville’s Offense has been up and down as they try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Late in the yr before the 2 meaningless games, Bortles and the passing offense showed signs of coming to age. The more that Hackett can find ways to use Bortles legs and improv skills through mis-direction and play action, the better off they will be. Plus, as I always say, Tempo with simple scheme and play design always helps the QB and offense.

Defense

Todd Wash has some nice talent on defense. Like his mentor Bradley, he is in the long line of coaches that ended up under Pete Carroll at some point.  He and Bradley before him ran the 4-3 Hybrid aggressive D that Carroll runs. It’s a solid scheme but doesn’t mix a lot and takes top personnel moves to be really successful. Dan Quinn and more so Gus Bradley have started evolving the Carroll 4-3. More blitz pressure and mixed coverage. Bradley is now at San Diego actually running a lot of 3 man fronts and big blitzes similar to what John Pagano was doing previously. Wash keeps a lot of the 4 man fronts due to personnel, but is definitely following suit with his mentor in blitz mixes and good aggressive pressure. The Jags D has been one of the surprises of the year in the NFL.

Carolina Panthers

Coaches

Ron Rivera just got a contract extension and has done a nice job with this team. Many fans think they should have done better with a talent like Cam Newton at QB, but it’s tricky with his type of abilities. He’s a much better runner than passer and would work better in a pure Power Spread scheme. The risk of injury to the “franchise” player is something the NFL has yet to evolve. For now, as long as the QB is the big individual in such a team oriented sport and the money trail follows from there – this commodity must be protected. Thus we have ProPS. Coaches racking their brains to find ways to use the vast assets of such a commodity without getting him injured. Rivera and OC Mike Shula have done their best.

Offense

Shula is the son of the great Don Shula and was always an original – Sid Gillman West Coast passing attack that changed football forever. Things changed when he was hired by Rivera as a QBs coach for Cam Newton. With Rob Chudizinski he learned about the power spread from one of it’s originators – Gus Malzahn – Newton’s coach in college. Together Rob and Mike formed their own unique version of ProPS. A combo of Gillman/Walsh + PS. The big battle is keeping Newton healthy. When Newton’s is held back and forced into a drop back passer he is not nearly as effective. His threat as a runner opens up the offense in a very powerful way. It’s now playoff time. Stakes are high. Expect Newton to fly free and make this offense tough to stop.

Defense

Rivera promoted DBs coach Steve Wilks to take over for former DC Sean McDermott this year. I really feel Rivera had more say in the Defense and there was an increase in blitz aggression from previous years. At times the coverages were too stagnant – too much man on man – and Carolina was burned by the top QBs. At other times there was a good mix of blitz/coverage. Seemed to get better as the year went on. Carolina went stagnant on Offense throughout the year, but this Defense could be ready for a playoff run.

New Orleans Saints

Coaches

Sean Payton has finally crossed over to the “Power Spread”. What a brilliant combo. Payton’s offensive genius with PS Concepts. Add in Drew Brees experience in the Spread. Not only as a player – but as a player/coach at this point. I have no doubt any input from his is taken in high regard.  In addition the Saints Defense has taken an upward turn with DC Dennis Allen. I honestly didn’t expect either of these things to happen. The personnel moves by the Saints are usually solid. Talent + Top Schemes have put this team back in the playoffs

Offense

You will see all kinds of great use of Space and Time by Payton that wasn’t his MO in prior years. He actually learned the R&S at an early age, then combined it with West Coast ideas he picked up in his career. His schemes were really his own creation. His play calling second to none. His QB, Drew Brees, came from the spread pass attack of Joe Tiller which hearkens back an original R&S guru in Jack Neumeir. Neumeir’s lineage included the likes of Dennis Erickson, John L Smith, Bobby Petrino, and Mike Price. They all had different slants to the spread – some more power oriented, some more spread. Tiller was definitely on the spread side. Payton liked to keep a strong run game – more like the power one back spread of Erickson. This fit well with Brees quick release in a Spread WC pass attack. The Saints went to a SB with this scheme combined with Patyon’s play calling and Bree’s passing.

The defenses caught up with a lot of what Payton was doing. This year he made a huge adjustment. Not only in scheme, but more importantly, concept. The offense now uses Space and Timing more than ever before. Brees has to be a great ball handler now with all the play action and misdirection. What helps all this is the addition of their All Purpose rookie RB Alvin Kamara. He can do it all – almost like the old Single Wing TB. His partner at RB, Mark Ingram is also a flexible athlete with more power. The saints shift sets a lot – from heavy power to pure spread. They will call any play at any time from any set. All with Payton’s innate and brilliant sense of timing. Brees’ surprising ball handling + great decision making and quick release make this offense very tough to stop. The Saints are for real.

Defense

Only a couple of years ago the Saints Defense was a mess. For all of Patyon’s brilliance on Offense, his defense acumen leaves much to be desired. He never got what Rob Ryan was trying to do. He’s not the only one, but adding Dennis Allen to the mix only made it worse. The players were so confused and ready to revolt at the end. Payton gave up on Rob and went all the way with Allen. Allen has been a smart DC for a long time. I do think that Rob Ryan has a creativity that will one day make it’s way back into the NFL very soon. I also think he helped expand Allen’s vision as to the kind of Aggressive Flexible Variety a Defense can have. Allen’s Defense this year has shown more of an Aggressive blitz mix than I’ve ever seen from him before. Combined with a subtle simple coverage mix that he’s known for – the Saints really came on the second half of the year. They also have found the right personnel – speed guys – that work for this aggressive DScheme.

PROGNOSTICATION

PS Football in Flux

DON’T BET ON THESE GAMES! Totally unpredictable this year. Again, a lot will come down to who can stay aggressive with the PS portion of  ProPS. The first 2 WC games were great examples of this thought.

Andy Reid’s Chiefs once again came out of the blocks with great aggressive PS strategies on both sides of the ball. Tennessee adjusted, went No Huddle and let Mariota use his legs. Dick Lebeau always plays an Aggressive Mix on Defense. Sure enough Andy shut it down in the 2nd Half and voila – the Titans were your unlikely comeback winner.

The Rams great young coach Sean McVey surprisingly went conservative with his Offense. Combined with the inexperience of his team this was disaster. They needed to be playing fast and hard – not thinking. Perfect opportunity with an inventive ProPSAR scheme to go Tempo the whole game! Not at the end when it was too late. Meanwhile Sarkisian did it again. Very inventive plays for the Falcons on Offense. Matt Ryan is still struggling with this style of Offense, but it was good enough yesterday and may be good enough versus the Eagles.

Experience wasn’t the deciding factor in these games. It had an effect for sure as both the Titans and Rams started slow. But in the end it was the aggressive PS team that won. Expect the same today

Picks

Buffalo at Jacksonville

Jacksonville has had the much more solid year. Both teams will be inexperienced in this one – no edge there. There may be a lot of sloppy play early, but over the long haul I expect Jacksonville to prevail. Jacksonville has more talent overall, though the Bills combo of QB Taylor, RB McCoy, WR Benjamin could be explosive – if schemed properly. That’s the big question. Will Rick Dennison really stretch his mind – get out of the box – and will McDermott let him. Probably not. I actually see more chance for interesting schemes from Jacksonville. The Talent, the Schemes.

The one thing the Bills do have that can’t be overlooked is they have played with great Morale all year. I don’t know what McDermott does, but he has these guys fighting. It reminds me of what Dan Quinn’s done in Atlanta, but unlike Quinn, these aren’t McDermott’s players. Most are from the Rex Ryan regime. So it’s been quite amazing. One problem though. Jacksonville has also played inspired all year. Gus Bradley had them in the right direction and a lot of his coaches / players are still there.

Everything points towards Jacksonville in this game. This is the closest thing to a lock we may see all playoffs, but with all of Football this year – there are NO locks. Wouldn’t be surprised to see some crazy fluke win by the Bills as they shock me once again, but have to go strong probability on Jacksonville.

Carolina at New Orleans

Just like the Rams/Falcons yesterday this game is a real toss up to me. This could even be the game of the week – or playoffs. Carolina has looked really bad at times this year. New Orleans hasn’t. For that alone I like the Saints. But like the Falcons, the Panthers have that all important experience. Unlike the Rams, though, the Saints also have some experience. Mainly Brees and Payton. Also watch out for Ted Ginn Jr using his speed in the new ProPS of Payton versus his old team!

Talent wise these teams are closer than you think. Carolina has had talent for a long time now, but the Saints made some great personnel moves lately and are right there with the Panthers now. The new PS schemes on both sides of the ball for the Saints will also make them very tough to beat. The Panthers will let Cam Newton loose, which should really help their offense – as long as he doesn’t get hurt. Both Defenses will be tough – edge probably goes to Carolina here due to their veterans, BUT… the Saints DBs have played much better than Carolina all year. Unfortunately the Saints are missing their top SS Kenny Vaccaro. Their CBs take away the post in man coverage, but Tampa Bay burned them down the sideline late last week. Will Carolina try the same with the strong arm of Newton?

This game is an absolute toss up. I expect both Offenses and Defenses to play well. Both teams could make a run to the Super Bowl. The Saints have a lot of confidence from the year if this game is close. The Panthers have more experience. The Saints have more injuries. Will the Panthers really go 0-3 versus the Saints this year? A ton of variables.

The Falcons experience prevailed yesterday. DIFFERENCE – Saints are more experienced than the Rams + Carolina has not played as consistently as Atlanta. I could easily see Cam pulling this out late, but at home I’ll take the Saints. Brees could pull it out as well. Unlike yesterday, I’ll make it 2 for 2 for the home teams today, but again, if you are a gambler- STAY AWAY! Especially from this game. Just enjoy what should be a great game.

 

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  1. […] PRO PS WELCOME TO THE NFL – Wild Card Sunday […]

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