September normally places defense ahead of offense

September 18, 2007 7:55 AM
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In September, it’s more likely that defenses are ahead of offenses in pro and college football.

This might not seem the case when you watch Oklahoma roll up 51 on Miami, or the Colts score 41 on the Saints opening night. Don’t forget that the Colts/Saints game went UNDER the total as the high-powered Saints offense, No. 1 in the pros last season, was totally out of sync.

In fact, the first week of the NFL season, UNDERS ruled by a whopping 11-5 edge. This is nothing new.

A year ago, UNDERS were 11-5 in the first NFL week. Quarterbacks need to develop timing with receivers. Offensive linemen have to learn to mesh on blocking schemes and pocket protection. All of that takes time, patience and practice. As we know, preseason doesn’t offer much time to practice as coaches are more concerned with keeping starters healthy than getting the offense finely tuned.

All of which makes another interesting year for sports bettors who play totals.

Last year, the OVERS had a slight edge of 25-19-1 in Weeks 3-4. Part of it is was that oddsmakers adjusted their lines based on what happened the previous week. Also, offenses began to mesh together better after Week 1. Certainly teams like the Bears, Falcons, Chiefs and Bucs hope so, after scoring a combined 15 points in the first week.

Another factor to keep in mind is that the NFL changed the rules a few years ago to aid the offense, outlawing the "horse collar tackle." That essentially was when a defensive player tackled the ball carrier by grabbing his shoulders, which is no longer legal. The league also enforced the 5-yard rule, which was designed to help wide receivers get downfield faster instead of being mugged at the line of scrimmage by linebackers and defensive backs.

A defensive player can still bump the wideouts when the ball is snapped, but has to be careful not to after the offensive player advances five yards past the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, a penalty will be enforced.

It’s not easy being a defensive player in the pros anymore! Passing yardage and scoring did increase during the 2004 season when those rules were enforced. In fact, during that season the UNDERS were 43-27 the first five weeks of the season, but the OVERS were 92-71 from weeks 7-17.

Let’s face it: We’ve seen some truly putrid offense performances thus far. The Browns have all kinds of offensive line problems, averaging just 221 total yards at home (2.9 yards per rush) against the Steelers. They then traded starting QB Charlie Frye to Seattle. It was the first time in NFL history a QB had been dealt prior to Week 2 after starting in Week 1!

”¡ The Ravens turned the ball over 6 times in a sloppy Monday night loss to the Bengals.

”¡ Joey Harrington showed why he’s with his third team as the Falcons scored just 3 points at Minnesota.

”¡ The St. Louis Rams, with the No. 11 offense in the league last season, looked totally out of sync offensively (238 total yards) in a 27-13 home loss to Carolina.

”¡ The Jacksonville Jaguars spent all of preseason throwing the football because they have a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter. He is trying to open up the offense, but it’s clear you can’t do it overnight. The Jaguars scored just 10 points in the opener against a Tennessee defense that was dead last in the league in 2006.

The Jaguars changed their quarterback, offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, wide receiver coach and special teams coach since the end of last season. Still they had some of the same problems that plagued them at the end of last year.

Bottom line: Keep a close tab on yardage and totals in September and early October. A lack of scoring and UNDERS can surface early in the season, but that can change when the offenses begin to get click.