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mesaSteeler
02-11-2010, 07:29 PM
Is the AFC North outdated?
By James Walker
ESPN.com
http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/print?id=9447

Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall and Ray Rice all rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2009, but their teams failed to win more than 10 games and make a deep postseason run.

If you look at various rule changes over the years and the two teams playing in Super Bowl XLIV, one thing is clear:

The NFL wants offense and scoring -- and plenty of it.

So what does this mean for the future of the AFC North?

It's one of the few divisions which, from top to bottom, continues to try to win championships with great defense and a strong running game. Last season, three of the four teams in the AFC North had 1,000-yard rushers and top-five defenses. Yet none of those teams finished with more than 10 wins or got within striking distance of capturing this year's Super Bowl title.

Is The AFC North Stuck In The Past?

On Thursday's Football Today podcast, AFC North blogger James Walker discusses whether the division is outdated. Listen
The Baltimore Ravens were the only team to advance past the wild-card round. Then they were dominated by the Indianapolis Colts, 20-3, the following week.

Want more evidence that the NFL is a pass-happy league?

Consider that 27 out of 32 teams passed the football more than they ran in 2009. Of the five teams that ran the football 50 percent or more, only the New York Jets won in the playoffs.

"I certainly think it's a quarterback-driven league and it's a pass-first league," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "You need to be able to do those things very well."

Steelers ahead of the curve

When it comes to the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers, directly or indirectly, were ahead of the curve.

Despite their lengthy history of ground-and-pound football, the Steelers began passing the ball more often than running it the past two seasons. That included most of their title run in 2008 when the fate of the season rested on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's arm down to the last drive in Super Bowl XLIII.

Run-pass ratios in the AFC North
Team Run pct Pass pct
Browns 51.3 48.7
Bengals 50 50
Ravens 46.2 53.8
Steelers 42.2 57.8
Source: ESPN Stats & Information.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Pittsburgh had the highest pass percentage in the division this past season by a sizable margin. The Steelers threw the football 57.8 percent of the time and ran just 42.2 percent of time.

As a result, Roethlisberger became Pittsburgh's first 4,000-yard quarterback, and Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes also gained more than 1,000 yards receiving.

Many have criticized offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for gradually changing Pittsburgh's longstanding identity. But the Steelers are adjusting with the times and remain ahead of the curve in the AFC North in terms of putting together a high-powered offense. Pittsburgh was ranked seventh offensively in the NFL last season.

"That Steeler offense is a handful for anyone, and they will probably be better than ever next year," Williamson said. "They can throw with most teams, and I think they can run."

Baltimore had the second-highest pass percentage in the AFC North at 53.8. But that number was heavily influenced by a ton of passing in the first half of the season.

The Ravens eventually reverted back to what they do best and became a run-dominant team the rest of the year. They even ran the football an astounding 52 times in a postseason win over the Patriots.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco made good strides in his second year, but the Ravens' passing game still needs a lot of work to become elite. The inability to keep up with Peyton Manning and the Colts cost Baltimore in the divisional round.

Five most run-heavy teams
Team Run pct Pass pct
Jets* 59 41
Browns 51.3 48.7
Panthers 51.3 48.7
Bengals* 50 50
Titans 50 50
* Made the playoffs.
"We've got to get better, because if we ever get involved in a shootout, I want to win the shootout," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said during the team's season-ending news conference. "We don't want to have the Pro Bowl game, but if we ever get involved in that, I want to be able to win a game like that. And I want to be able to win a 6-0 game, too. That's my goal."

The two Ohio teams were among the most run-heavy clubs in the NFL last season. The Cleveland Browns had the second-highest percentage (51.3) of running plays called in the league, and the Cincinnati Bengals were fourth (50 percent).

Cleveland's quarterback situation is in flux. It clearly is the worst in the division. Brady Quinn and former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson went back and forth as Cleveland's starter. New team president Mike Holmgren hasn't committed to either player for the 2010 season. The Browns reportedly are kicking tires around the league to see if they can strengthen the position.

The Bengals captured the division and had the most regular-season wins (10) but were one-and-done in the playoffs. Cincinnati struggled passing last season and didn't have any reliable receiver outside of Chad Ochocinco.

There is a debate in Cincinnati about how much blame can be placed upon Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. But with no receiver or tight end depth, and an offensive line that struggled to pass protect, the Bengals' passing game was limited on many levels.

"In the end, it was their downfall," Williamson said of the Bengals. "Their passing game was such a liability this past year, and that's what held them back from being a true contender."

QB play is key

The AFC North currently is competing in one of the NFL's golden ages for quarterbacks.

In 2009 alone, there were at least four sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterbacks leading their respective teams to the postseason.

Manning with the Colts, Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings and Tom Brady for New England are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Also, Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals has the potential for an early entry into Canton.

In addition, star quarterbacks such as Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb all littered the playoff field.

There were 10 quarterbacks who threw for more than 4,000 yards last season. That makes it extremely tough for AFC North teams to shut down every opponent defensively over the course of a 16-game season and three or four additional games in the playoffs. At some point, teams in the division will have to air it out and put points on the board in order to win a championship.

"I know this: It's very, very important to have your quarterback play well to be successful," Holmgren said recently. "I think if you looked around the league everyone knows that."

In a division usually focused on defense, look for a majority of moves in free agency, with trades and the NFL draft to be geared toward improving offenses in the AFC North.

No one wants to be left behind.

SteelerEmpire
02-11-2010, 09:07 PM
If the rest of the team players did what their paid six figures or millions to do...EACH GAME... it would all balance out... .... everyone hates a ' SLUGGARD' .....

RoethlisBURGHer
02-11-2010, 11:58 PM
The Ravens have to be run-heavy because they have no receivers for Flacco to throw to.

The Bengals were surprisingly run heavy compared to past years. However, Palmer was off most the season.

The Browns could only win when running the ball because I have seen potatoes play quarterback better than the Browns two starters last year.

The Steelers would have made the playoffs if they would have run a bit more. They were pass happy when they shouldn't have been at times last season and it cost them. However, our offense won us more games than our defense last season too.

tony hipchest
02-12-2010, 12:07 AM
The Steelers would have made the playoffs if they would have run a bit more. They were pass happy when they shouldn't have been at times last season and it cost them. However, our offense won us more games than our defense last season too.how do you figure? :tap:

our defense went 9-7.

our offense failed to score more than 2 td's in 8 of 16 games.

our defense held the opponents offense to 2 td's or fewer in 10 of 16 games.

:noidea:

*ST fg's purposfully omitted even though they = offensive fail and defensive success*

steelerdude15
02-12-2010, 01:36 AM
So if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?
continues to try to win championships with great defense
Lets see here for a second, 2000 Ravens, 2006 and 2009 Steelers... defense defense defense. Of course we did throw alot in 2008 and 2009, I still believe running is important. You can't pass every single play of the game. You need to switch it up to confuse the defense of the opposing team. It helps open up the offense and helps tires the opposing defense, plus it helps with clock control.

mikegrimey
02-12-2010, 02:54 AM
So if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?

Lets see here for a second, 2000 Ravens, 2006 and 2009 Steelers... defense defense defense. Of course we did throw alot in 2008 and 2009, I still believe running is important. You can't pass every single play of the game. You need to switch it up to confuse the defense of the opposing team. It helps open up the offense and helps tires the opposing defense, plus it helps with clock control.


Don't stop there either, remember the Bucs and Giants won superbowls largely predicated on the play of their defense (especially the Bucs who had the mighty Brad Johnson at the helm).
Don't forget the three patriot superbowls too---they were foremost a defensive team until 07.

In fact take all the SB winners of the decade, hell, even include the last one and you get:

Offense lead: Colts (2006) and Saints (2009) you can even throw in the Rams SB victory in 99 so the list isn't that short

Defense lead: Ravens, patriots, buccaneers, patriots, patriots, steelers, giants and steelers.

RoethlisBURGHer
02-12-2010, 01:28 PM
how do you figure? :tap:

our defense went 9-7.

our offense failed to score more than 2 td's in 8 of 16 games.

our defense held the opponents offense to 2 td's or fewer in 10 of 16 games.

:noidea:

*ST fg's purposfully omitted even though they = offensive fail and defensive success*

Fourth quarter leads that the defense didn't protect. Allowing the Bears and the Bengals to score in the final seconds of games. If the defense makes a stop in either of those games, the Steelers are in the playoffs.

truesteelerfan
02-12-2010, 01:31 PM
What a dumb article! It's been almost 368 days since we won the title, now we're outdated? I'd love to see us run every single play in a game if we won! Balance is nice, but it's also nice to be able to tell a team we're going to run this next play....and we still do it successfully!

steelerdude15
02-12-2010, 03:32 PM
Don't stop there either, remember the Bucs and Giants won superbowls largely predicated on the play of their defense (especially the Bucs who had the mighty Brad Johnson at the helm).
Don't forget the three patriot superbowls too---they were foremost a defensive team until 07.

In fact take all the SB winners of the decade, hell, even include the last one and you get:

Offense lead: Colts (2006) and Saints (2009) you can even throw in the Rams SB victory in 99 so the list isn't that short

Defense lead: Ravens, patriots, buccaneers, patriots, patriots, steelers, giants and steelers.
Thank you my friend, this is all true. Defense is not outdated nor is running, but yes this is starting to become a more pass type league.

WH
02-12-2010, 05:12 PM
Can I skip the article and say ''suck it author''?

Psyychoward86
02-12-2010, 05:24 PM
Can I skip the article and say ''suck it author''?

permission granted :coffee:

this guy needs to lay down the ol' puffer

Cinnjerm
02-12-2010, 05:25 PM
You know as far as the "run vs. throw" argument goes, I say I'm still on the side of throw first. A. Because personnel-wise it's less predictable since there are more option to throw to than run. B. Statistics prove it to be more productive and a more effective use of ball possession (at least until the end of the game with a lead). C. As of late, many of the rules restricting defensive play have been crafted with the pass in mind.
Besides, If BA would come up with an effective red-zone offensive package no one would be talking about which is better. Through the past two years there have been far more trips to the opponents territory.

SMR
02-12-2010, 05:33 PM
Can I skip the article and say ''suck it author''?

lol, I'm with you dude!
:applaudit:

tony hipchest
02-12-2010, 06:49 PM
Fourth quarter leads that the defense didn't protect. Allowing the Bears and the Bengals to score in the final seconds of games. If the defense makes a stop in either of those games, the Steelers are in the playoffs.ben spotted the bungles 6 points. the offense might wanna think about scoring more than 6 points vs. the browns.

tthen we would be in the playoffs. we could go round and round with this.

to answer the question the afc north is not outdated. we are the only division that has no domes, or teams housed south of baltimore. there is a certain brand of winning football in december-february that has stood the test of time.

trying to throw 50 times outside, during a hurricaine or blizzard, is not that formula.

Steeldude
02-13-2010, 01:12 AM
and what did the steelers' lack of a running game and a defense get them this year?

jjpro11
02-13-2010, 02:01 AM
i think this guy is confused with the Big 10.. justa year ago two teams from the AFC North played in the AFCCG and one won the Super Bowl.

JEFF4i
02-13-2010, 04:01 AM
Blah blah blah, all that this article is.

Why? It's just situational playcalling.

With Mendy back there, we can run the ball all over someone and win, easily. Remember the Broncos game?

But, if we have to score, if we can't afford to let up for any reason, then we unleash BEN!

What does this mean? Defense is on the field less=good. Big Ben is probably getting sacked less=good. Hopefully we get more wins=good.

I've said it for a while, I like Tomlin, but his situation playcalling has been week, and we first really saw it in the Jaguars game, his first post-season.

Payton showed in the Super Bowl what having a super-potent offense (#1 in points) used correctly along with Special Teams and Defensive playcalling can do.

MassSteeler
02-13-2010, 06:33 PM
People think too much. Seriously, the Saints won the SB with a high powered passing attack and now the defensive/running approach is outdated, even though it won a championship just last year. Basically, these writers just analyze things too much.

GBMelBlount
02-13-2010, 06:54 PM
Is the AFC North outdated?
By James Walker
ESPN.com


Consider that 27 out of 32 teams passed the football more than they ran in 2009.

Of the five teams that ran the football 50 percent or more, only the New York Jets won in the playoffs.



Soooooo.....about 1 out of 5 teams win a playoff game every year BUT only 1 out of 5 teams that ran more than they pass won a playoff game this year?.....

Wow. Talk about a completely meaningless point. :doh:

mojawi
02-14-2010, 01:56 PM
I would expect more from ESPN. What a poor article. The Ravens use Rice to cover up that fact Flacco is average, it's the Bengals..., and it's pretty widely acknowledged the Steelers couldn't protect early leads and lost to bad teams. Running the ball is more indicative of a team protecting a late lead. Plus, Ben threw for 4,000+ yards. Uh, that means he throws a lot. Poor job, ESPN.

Psyychoward86
02-14-2010, 02:01 PM
I would expect more from ESPN


el oh el

steelerdave1969
02-14-2010, 02:33 PM
I honestly think that if the Steelers could get their Ratio closer to 50-50 and Run the ball Well then they can dominate on defense again in 2010. But they must improve their running game whether its more or not.. they Must Run the Ball Better when The Have tp tp Finish Games..

Dino 6 Rings
02-15-2010, 12:36 PM
Remind me again how the pass happy offense of the Colts worked in the Super Bowl against the Saints.

17 points?

And the Pass Happy offense of the Patriots? How'd they do again against the Giants? 14 points?

Out Dated my assss. The Jets had a rookie at QB, that's why they lost the AFC Title game, same thing happened to Ben in 04. The Ravens and Steelers were both in the AFC title game in 08/09. How did those pass happy offenses do that year?

You don't have to run it more than you pass, you just need to have balance. Ask Payton how badly he wishes he would have at least checked out once on that 2nd to last drive and handed the ball off to keep the defense honest instead of passing 8 times in a row leading into the game winning INT.

How about those Cardinals, unable to run the ball, score too quick and leave way too much time on the clock and allow the Steelers two minute drill to win the Super Bowl. Sometimes, sometimes running the ball is important too.

Just because the Saints won with a "passing" attack, doesn't mean it works every time. 5 Turnovers by the Vikings otherwise the Vikings out gained them by nearly 250 yards in the NFC Title game and would have won that game by 17 points at least.

Saints won it all, good for them, do it again and prove to me that Pass Happy wins it every time.

Enjoy that first place schedule too.

MaidenIndiana
02-15-2010, 01:04 PM
Let's see here this past SB featured the two highest scoring offenses in the league this year and Vegas had the over/under set at 55 pts. Yet there was only 48 pts scored, 41 if you throw out Porter's interception return, while the Saints outscored the Colts 31 to 7 after spotting them a 10 point lead. Yeah I didn't think that there was any defense being played in that game. Of course Joseph Addai had run for 55 yds on 5 runs and the Colts had the lead before they went back to their pass happy offense. Yeah that worked out

T.Richardson
02-17-2010, 08:56 PM
So if everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?

Lets see here for a second, 2000 Ravens, 2006 and 2009 Steelers... defense defense defense. Of course we did throw alot in 2008 and 2009, I still believe running is important. You can't pass every single play of the game. You need to switch it up to confuse the defense of the opposing team. It helps open up the offense and helps tires the opposing defense, plus it helps with clock control.

well..i seem to remember Fitz and Warner torching the defense, and the Offense winning the game. I wouldnt count that as a defensive win.

tony hipchest
02-18-2010, 10:12 AM
well..i seem to remember Fitz and Warner torching the defense, and the Offense winning the game. I wouldnt count that as a defensive win.yep. we were an offensive juggernaut in SB XLIII. :rolleyes:

we scored a whopping 2 td's! :cheer:

T.Richardson
02-18-2010, 11:08 AM
yep. we were an offensive juggernaut in SB XLIII. :rolleyes:

we scored a whopping 2 td's! :cheer:

the defense sure was a juggernaut! 400+ totals yds allowed, 300+ passing yards allowed, allowing 23 points, sure looks like a number 1 defense to me.. lets not forget the 64 yd TD run by Fitz late in the 4th quarter, when the Steelers had the lead. :rolleyes:

The offense scored 20 points, 2 field goals, 2 TD's.. good enough for a win. :cheer:

tony hipchest
02-18-2010, 11:44 AM
the defense sure was a juggernaut! 400+ totals yds allowed, 300+ passing yards allowed, allowing 23 points, sure looks like a number 1 defense to me.. lets not forget the 64 yd TD run by Fitz late in the 4th quarter, when the Steelers had the lead. :rolleyes:

The offense scored 20 points, 2 field goals, 2 TD's.. good enough for a win. :cheer:

a field goal happens when the offense FAILS to score (and in the case of the superbowl that happened far too many times inside the 10 yd line).

2 td plays with about 15 snaps is a poor conversion rate.

offense = 12 points
defense = 6 points
special teams = 9 points (2 fg + 3 ep)

nobody has EVER shut down kurt warner in a super bowl. he has more yards passing in them than any other qb ( including the likes of montana, elway, bradshaw, brady who have all played in 4 or more).

larry fitzgerald had one of the best post seasons ever for a wr, he putting his name up there with jerry rice. the fact that we were able to shut him down for all but 2 plays was a feat unto itself.

i expect our offense to score more than 2 td's vs the likes of the cardinals defense.

i dont expect our defesne (or any defense for that matter) to be able to shut out the likes of montana and rice, especially when the opposing coach knows our team as well as anybody.

kirklandrules
02-18-2010, 02:54 PM
It's not about how many times you run or throw. It's about getting those tough 2 or 3 yards when you have to. And those tough 2 or 3 yards happen to be in 2nd and short and 3rd and short as well as red zone situations. And where did we have problems converting? 2nd and short, 3rd and short and the red zone. So it's not how often you run, but can you do it when you really have to. This year we could not run when we had to and we became very one dimensional. I've said it a few times, our failure to run can be blamed on two things: 1) no committment to run; 2) lack of a true FB. Our philosophy was to throw ourselves to victory and we found that there were plenty of times we really needed to get that short 2 yards to extend drives of score TDs. Additionally, our O-Line would have looked much better if we had a true FB ... not an H-back or TE or HB all posing as Dan Kreider (or Jon Wittman or Tim Lester). We need a FB that we can line up and pound it up the gut for the needed yards even though the other team knows it's coming. Even though Barry Sanders has a boat load of highlights, don't forget how many tackles for losses he had because he was not given a true FB. So I hope we pick up a bruiser either in the draft or out on the streets and decide to start punching the other team in the mouth. Combine that attitude with our passing attack and we will have an awesome offense.