Roster depth is always a critical issue in the NFL, but it seems more magnified this year with all the injuries.
Brock Berlin was under center for the Rams. Vinny Testaverde gives the Panthers the best chance to win. Sage Rosenfels gets a win for the Texans. A guy named Shaun Hill had to finish up for the 49ers. And that's just the quarterbacks; it's close to impossible to stay up with all the running backs and receivers who perform around the league each week.
Here's a little quiz you might want to take to see if you realize just how many guys play in the NFL. With many teams activating practice squad players in the final three weeks of the season, the numbers will spike.
- How many quarterbacks have thrown at least one pass in NFL games this season?
- How many running backs have at least one carry this season?
- How many tight ends have already caught a pass this season?
- How many wide receivers have already caught a pass this season?
- How many wide receivers have at least 10 receptions this season?
Keep in mind there are 32 teams in the league and teams can't have more than a 53-man roster. Most teams keep three quarterbacks, five wide receivers, three tight ends and five running backs when the season starts. It doesn't take long for injuries to chip away at rosters. This past weekend three of the top five quarterback performances came from guys who started the year as the backup. The top two running back performances were from players third on their depth chart six weeks ago. And three of the top six receiving games were by backup players.
Time to admit offense wins championships
Last year, the Colts won the Super Bowl. The Bears were billed as having the best defense in the league. The Colts were a finesse passing team from an indoor stadium. When the game got under way, the rain and wind supported the "defense wins championships" principle. Well, we all know what happened down in South Florida that night. The Bears couldn't stop the Colts.
Week 14 of the NFL season was a great reminder of last year's Super Bowl message. Offense wins championships. The Patriots and their No. 1 offense hosted the No. 1 defense in the NFL when the Steelers came to town. Thirty-four points later, the Steelers were back on the bus to the airport with a loss. Nothing exemplified the power of offense in the NFL more than the late fourth-quarter drive by the Patriots from their own 2-yard line, going nearly the length of the field to get a field goal.
The Steelers had no answer for the Brady-to-Wes Welker display that relegated a great defense defenseless. There was no Steelers coverage look that was problematic for the Patriots offense. The Steelers have a very creative package and can do more things well than any defense in the league, but they looked paralyzed in that drive. The Patriots have now scored points 68 percent of the time they have had to drive the ball more than 80 yards. Think about that statement. If they average 7 yards a play it will still take them at least 10 plays to put points on the board, and they do it close to 70 percent of the time.
The Patriots, Cowboys, Packers and Colts all play pretty good defense, but it's their offenses that will get those teams to the ultimate goal. Any team hoping to win a Super Bowl because of their defense missed their chance, because the new way to the top is when you believe the following statements:
Offense wins championships
Pass to set up the run
Spread out the formations
Get the ball out of your hand quickly
Oh, by the way, the answer to every quiz question was "C."
The significance of the numbers is important to keep in mind:
73 quarterbacks means NFL teams are now averaging close to a No. 3 quarterback on every team.
141 players who have run with the ball, excluding scrambling quarterbacks and wide receivers on a reverse, means teams have, on average, had almost five different ball carriers.
90 tight ends equates to close to every team throwing to a third-string tight end.
141 wide receivers means, on average, teams have dipped as low as their fifth wideout.