PS Dynamic Opposition has taken over the NFL – Wild Card Sunday

Posted: January 7, 2019 in All Things Power Spread
a-wild_card_weekend

Over the last two to three years, Power Spread has exploded on the NFL scene. This year every NFL team runs some version of PS with concepts and schemes evolving at a surprisingly fast rate. Teams maximizing their Space Time & Talent through Aggressive Variety in all three phases of the game – Offense, Defense and Special Teams.

A Wild Ride

The Power Spread explosion in the NFL this year created all kinds of Chaos from which evolved a New Order. Here’s what we have seen:

  • PS Evolution – Schemes/Concepts developing rapidly.
  • No more room for passive football. Dynamic Opposition!
  • Evolution in all 3 Phases of the game including Special Teams.
  • Injuries like never before. The concept of Team needs to Evolve.
  • Aggressive Variety the Key in both Scheme and Talent. Space Time Team.
  • Expect more interesting football in the playoffs. Eyes Wide Open!

San Diego – oops – LosAngeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

RAVENS PS2020

Who would’ve thought, but John Harbaugh actually too a leap foward in PS Schemes this year. Starting with his Defense and Special Teams, then suddenly going full PS with a dual-threat QB in the middle of the year! He’s now at the forefront of PS Football on all 3 fronts heading into the 2020s!

Psycho All Game Long! – The First PS2020 Defense

DC Don Martindale, via Rex and Rob Ryan, has blasted the Ravens Defense into the 2020s of PS Aggressive Variety with a hint of Flexibility. This is not only a PS Defense, but the first PS 2020 Defense. This Defense mixes coverage and pressure every single play ala the great college DC Brent Venables. What they also do to a high degree that Venables or no one else in the college game does is mix their fronts and looks on almost every play. Maybe a little too complicated for college kids or even young pros, but the Ravens have a lot of seasoned vets on their team.

The original Psycho D of Rex Ryan & Vic Fangio was an aggressive mix with most or all players standing at the line of scrimmage, meant only for passing downs. Now with Martindale, it is more a Rob Ryan/Joe Lee Dunn style where anything can happen on any play. And it doesn’t need to be 11 men on the LOS or 9 in the box. It can be out of the 3-4, 3-3, 2-4, 4-3. Safeties back or blitzing. Cover 0 or Cover 7. Plus, a lot of pre-snap movement. For example. a 30 or 26 – Pre-snap motion from a Cover3 look into Cover0 or Cover2 look into Cover6.

Any Team in any Space at any Time!

PS Special Teams

Every team is now experimenting in all sorts of ways on Special Teams this year. Kickoffs, Punts, Returns, Coverage, Fakes, and even Kick Blocks. Check it out when you can. Just the Kick Blocking alone is an interesting study. All sorts of unique alignments, schemes and techniques.

Up the middle explosions or wide ultra swim moves. Doubling+Tripling down on one lineman or backing everyone off and jumping around waving hands. Teams are doing everything they can not only to block kicks, but more so to simply distract kickers. And it’s working. Never has there been so many crucial kicks missed in one season.

I won’t say Harbaugh is doing anything more special than any other team. But for this former Special Teams Guru, he’s always working on something. Watch the Ravens play and you will see these same Kick Blocking innovations and more. Different coverage alignments, punting schemes, fakes, etc.

PS2020 with a PS101 Offense

The Ravens Offense is suddenly going full blast PS101 with a Read Option dual-threat QB on Offense. This is a first for an NFL Team and believe me there were other talented dual threat QBs out there – they simply weren’t utilized in a full PS Offense.

Even Chip Kelly didn’t come in and run his PS Read Option this much. He actually watered down his schemes as he tried to mix in the West Coast Offense. He had the right idea – ProPS – but just didn’t go about it in a balanced cohesive manner. It eventually backfired as he kept using passing spread QBs in his run oriented spread.

Unlike Kelly, the Ravens are not just running one style of Read Option – for example, the original Zone Read schemes of Rich Rodriguez’s West Virgina in the early 00s. With OC Marty Mornhinweg’s creative West Coast background they are continually varying their sets and schemes. Yet it’s all rooted in this PS101 Concept. Clear, Simple, Cohesive. The first of it’s kind in the NFL.

In the middle of the year Joe Flacco got hurt, then was effectively benched in favor of dual-threat rookie Lamar Jackson. The Ravens barely lost one game since. Literally. Flacco showed up when Harbaugh did – 2008, but Harbaugh finally found a way to marry Power and Spread. Something he’s been attempting to do for some time.

Spread to PS to PS2020

Spread Offense actually started in the 1920s with Rusty Russell. From there Francis Schmidt, Dutch Meyer, Sid Gillman, Tiger Ellison, the R&S Triumvirate and the PS Triumvirate all led the way to what we are about to witness.

From Jack to Jim to John, the Harbaughs will be forever linked with this football innovation. The Dad had the inklings of Gillman’s West Coast and Tiger’s R&S, but loved his running game. Jim cemented the ProPS as the way to mesh Power running with Spread passing. Now John has gone full blast with PS ideas in all three phases of the game as we head into the 2020s – a decade of 100% Power Spread.

Do the Chargers even have a chance??

After the above intro to the incredible PS2020 explosion by the Ravens, one would think I would not give the Chargers any chance at all. Here’s the thing – they actually had a better year! In fact, for many this is definitely a Charger win even though they are on the road. They were arguably the 2nd best team in the AFC this year after the Chiefs, who just happened to be in the same division.

The Chargers may not be the most talented or most progressive team scheme-wise, but their offense has been really good all year and their defense is improving fast.

Phillip Rivers and the Offense

I’ve always felt that Rivers was a Hall of Fame QB in the mold of a Dan Marino or Dan Fouts. Absolutely perfect as a Gillman West Coast QB. His release is the fastest maybe ever except for the two mentioned above. His decision making and experience is grade A and he stays healthy due to the quick release. He’s arguably the best pocket passer in the game and has been for a long time.

OC Ken Whisenhunt has shifted with the changing landscape and runs a subtly unique ProPS Gillman+ combo scheme. It lets Rivers move around some. Mixes heavy power with spread passing. The route designs are great. It’s similar to the Rams Offense, but doesn’t make extreme use of space/time as the Rams do. With Rivers it’s still very effective.

What helped out both Rivers and Whisenhunt this year was the addition of Center Mike Pouncey. He has really solidified the Oline. Along with a really good group of WRs led by Keenan Allen and the long awaited emergence of RB Melvin Gordon, the Chargers definitely will have their chances. Even versus the PS2020 Defense of the Ravens.

Improving Defense

The defense lacks talent at LB and it certainly hurts that Jatavis Brown is now injured, but they have a speedy athletic DLine led by Bosa and Ingram. They’re CBs aren’t bad, their FS has been a liability on run and pass all year. Fortunately their SS Derwin James is a big time star in the making. Like Baltimore’s Safeties, he’s a threat in blitz, run or coverage at any time.

Their DC Gus Bradley has a conservative background. 4-3 Cover 2 or 1 with Man or Zone underneath. He’s a smart coach though and has incorporated some Aggressive Variety from former DC John Pagano, who has ties to the Raven’s Psycho D described above. Bradley blitzes and mixes more now – even employing many 3-4/3-3 looks, but will still get conservative in pressure situations.

Here’s the thing – Bradley is good at keeping his schemes clear and executable. His teams are usually disciplined. The Chargers use a lot of players on Defense, but after the early part of the year, have remained relatively healthy. Even with the loss of Jatavis Brown, they may match up well versus the misdirection of Baltimore because of their cohesion and discipline right now. Though , they are on the light side in the middle (especially at LB) and can be pounded on. Hard to know.

Prognostication – Ravens Switch

Like so many, I’d love to see Rivers get that Super Bowl Marino never did. As the year progressed, I really saw the Chargers as my darkhorse Super Bowl Champion. Another Philly Story. The Chargers are a solid good team, but they pulled out a lot of close games and they do have some holes.

Here’s something else – one of their 4 losses was to this same Raven team only a couple of weeks ago – at Home! Some will blame bad weather- but it wasn’t that bad. The Ravens simply overpowered the Chargers with their PS2020 schemes on both sides of the ball. Constant pressure started to unnerve Rivers. Plus a PS run/pass game moved the ball the whole game. The Chargers will make adjustments for this game, but will they be able to come up with enough to make the difference?

Lastly, the unpredictables also favor Baltimore. IF Lamar Jackson gets hurt the Ravens could go back to their passing spread with veteran Joe Flacco. IF the game goes to the wire, Baltimore has the big special teams edge with Harbaugh’s experienced guys vs a Charger SpTeams unit that has only recently started to improve. Their first year kicker had a surprisingly good year, but is new to the playoffs.

Probability-Ravens / Heart-Chargers

I originally felt that we could have 4 Road Wins this weekend, but changed my view when my PS Meter showed Dallas as the winner at home on Saturday. This has a lot to do with their tough D and it’s the same with Baltimore on Sunday. Like the Cowboys/Seahawks, I expect a close game, but have to lean towards the Ravens.

One last note. There is a chance of a letdown by the Ravens due to their amazing victory over the Browns last week. Plus, they have been flying at such a high energy the entire second half of the season. But I don’t see it. Not for this game anyway. I think they will still be riding a high and will handle any adjustments the Chargers bring from their last battle.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

Philly Woes

During last year’s playoffs I wrote a lot on Doug Pederson‘s amazing ProPS Concepts and the chances they had to win an improbable SuperBowl. I even went as far as predicting the Eagles making a run in the playoffs with or WITHOUT QB Carson Wentz based on the incredible job done by Pederson. Well, this year things have changed. Not just for the Eagles but all around the NFL.

Power Spread Everywhere!

Most will blame the Eagles woes on their Injuries. Well, for sure their injury situation has been horrible. Even worse than the year before. But there’s an underlying factor most won’t see or understand. The NFL is making leaps year to year now in PS Football. Honestly, the jump the league made from 2016 to 2017 surprised me. The jump this past year astounded me! Pederson is by far not the only coach doing all kinds of innovative strategies with PS Football. In fact, only a year later, he may not even be in the Top 5 anymore!

But Pederson is still VERY good. The Eagle’s lost a lot of close games, were defending champions for the first time ever and had all those injuries. For them to fight and get to the Playoffs again is another tribute to their Head Coach. He also lost his OC and QB coach in the off-season. A lot happened in a short time. As I told my Eagles Friends – hang on! Just find a way in the playoffs, because in today’s PS Chaos anything can happen!

Jim Schwartz Passive Defense

Most will give Schwartz an excuse. The injuries hit harder on Defense than Offense. Almost his entire Defensive Backfield was wiped out. Injuries to major LBs and Lineman as well. BUT….let’s hold on a minute…

There are always things one can do when it comes to PS Football. Injuries mean less talented and experienced players in the scheme. The old way of thinking was “I have to back off my aggression or get burned”. This is a misnomer. You are going to get burned either way – especially versus all the PS Offense going on today in the NFL. So take your chances and stay aggressive!

Why you ask? Think about it. Understand that an injury depleted unit WILL give up big plays and yardage. Even in a prevent “bend don’t break” concept, the defense will give up points because they won’t be good enough to keep PS Offenses out of the end zone.

So what do you do? You play aggressive. Give up some big plays. BUT ALSO MAKE BIG PLAYS! This won’t happen from passive concepts. BIG PLAYS=BIG ENERGY. Energy is the best shot at raising the level of inexperienced players during a game.

No matter how much a team works during practice, there will be a lot of mistakes with an injury riddled unit. Stay aggressive – get more aggressive and raise the energy. Don’t let the mistakes kill. Let them motivate!

By the end of the year the injuries on Defense slowed down and Schwartz started to get more aggressive again. This will help the Eagles in the playoffs. But god forbid they have more injuries on Defense now. Schwartz may go back to the old Tampa2 and give up 50+ points to a top offense. This would effectively end the Eagles reign.

The Bears are for Real!

In Matt Nagy’s first year as Head Coach he made two great moves to ensure a playoff run for his first year team. He hired OC Mark Helfrich, formerly the assistant to Chip Kelly at Oregon. He kept DC Vic Fangio from the old regime.

Bears Monster Defense

Fangio is a protege of the original Blitzburgh Zone Blitz that completely changed the way Defense is played. He then helped build the Baltimore Psycho Defense with Rex Ryan. He actually shut down Helfrich’s Oregon offense for one game when he coached under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

Fangio is not a super aggressive DC, but he’s tricky. He’s no longer cutting edge, but still very effective. With talent, Fangio can do a lot. He runs mostly 3-4 vs run sets and 2-4 vs pass. He almost suckers the Offense to sleep with some vanilla zone or man coverage schemes, then suddenly brings an inventive zone blitz or man/zone hybrid coverage. This is why he needs the talent.

He won’t mix enough for average players to have success, but with some talent he can really cause havoc with his Surprise Attacks out of a Bend Dont Break concept. This is why fans have been upset with him before saying he never blitzes. It just LOOKS like he never blitzes or mixes coverage.

By the way, the Bears Defense has a lot of talent to make this work. Acquiring Khalil Mack at the start of the season was HUGE. Along with some top DLineman and LBs, Mack cemented the mixed pressure concepts of Fangio. What’s more, the Bears already had a dynamite secondary with top Press CBs in Fuller and Amukamara and two rising Safeties in Jackson and Amos. Injuries have stayed low and the continuity has made this a top 5 Defense all year long.

Bears potentially explosive offense

Helfrich is a Gillman West Coast guy, but a label does this man a disservice. He is very innovative in his own right. He has always been known as a Passing Game Guru. His time with Chip Kelly introduced him to the great power of the spread. He is no longer just a West Coast coach, but a full PS innovator.

With the Bears he has used Trubisky’s talents at QB brilliantly. Trubisky is constantly on the move in both the run and pass game. At times the Bears run so much Read Option I almost want to call them a PS101 or a PS2020 team like the Ravens. But there is still a lot of normal pro pass spread mixed in. For now it’s an innovative form of ProPS heading towards PS2020.

Unfortunately for the Bears they do not have the same talent on the Offensive side of the ball as the Defensive. Many attribute the Offensive success to Nagy since he is a long time coach under Andy Reid. Nagy certainly contributes a lot, but Helfrich is often overlooked. Together they max out the talent on this side of the ball. The Bears may not have a top offense, but it’s dangerous because of their scheme.

Prognostication – Eagles

The Eagles finally won some close games at the end of the year and are hot entering the playoffs. The Bears have been good all year. It’s in Chicago, which will help the Bears, but their inexperience could be a big factor. Think “Rams” last year. Very talented team that was for real, who simply weren’t ready for playoff pressure.

Nick Foles and the Pro Spread Passing Game

The Eagles got hot at the end of the year for two reasons. The Defense started to play more aggressive again as I said above and Foles was the QB again. I know this irks all those Wentz fans out there in Wentzylvania, but Carson is simply not a great QB at this time.

Wentz continues to show potential, but still struggles with inconsistency in the pure pro passing spread or if you will, West Coast Spread, used in the NFL. Of course in Pederson’s ProPS system, Wentz does more than just operate in a pure passing spread. The problem is that Pederson struggles to find ways to evolve Wentz’s skillset.

At this point in his career Wentz is much better at improving than sitting in the pocket. He will make big plays out of the pocket because of his height and strong arm, but he also makes a lot of mistakes in the pocket. And I’m not talking just the sacks, fumbles and interceptions. He misses open guys and makes slow decisions. A lot. His stats are impressive because of his talent and Pederson’s coaching. But he still has a ways to go.

With Foles, everything is easier in this offense. The passing spread happens quicker, which in turn opens up space for power. Foles makes much faster decisions. Not always the right ones, but he’s a more dangerous passer than Wentz. He can’t run like Wentz, but he can move some. For now he’s the best choice. Wentz’s injury may once again be a blessing in disguise.

Bears Inexperience

This team has two very veteran Coordinators but a lot of youth and a first year HC. I do believe this is going to take its toll in a tight game. The Bears may stay close because of their Defense and the home field, but I don’t think they can get over the hump. If the Offense doesn’t come through or makes a lot of mistakes it could be an easy victory for Philly.

Because the Eagles are still dealing with a lot of injuries, I think this game stays close. The Defense is still hurting in the backfield. Schwartz still gets conservative under pressure so the Bears should be able to get some points with their innovative ProPS offense. It will come down to Foles and the Eagles Offense getting enough points on that tough Bears Defense. Again this is where I give Philly the experience edge.

Eagles in a close one

Maybe an easy win, but I doubt it. Relatively close or even very close, but the Eagles prevail. Even if they need a last second win, I trust Jake Elliot who now has playoff experience and is an expert with pressure due to his Tennis background.

If the Eagles suffer more injuries, then the Bears have this. Even with the inexperience. Foles is struggling some with bruised ribs. I do not want to see Nate Sudfeld in there. Though Pederson’s brilliant schemes may win the day even if Sudfeld does have to play. But this isn’t optimal.

The Bears will come after Foles – but probably not enough to knock him out of the game. They will keep it close, but experience prevails. For now…

~DP

Comments
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