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With week ten in the books we can say goodbye to another team’s unbeaten record, and already my assessment of who might be in the scrap for playoff places from last week is looking outdated. There are all kinds of themes presenting themselves such as the number of penalties being called, the number of injuries this year, what actually constitutes a catch these days, but having touched upon it whilst recording the podcast with Dan yesterday I want to look somewhere else.

We were discussing the Pro Bowl voting being open, and Dan fell into the classic trap of listing the glamour positions, and somehow missed out tight ends and offensive linemen whilst discussing offence before I got to tackle defensive players (in fairness, due to time constraints I didn’t get a chance to look at safeties or special teams either). Now the Pro Bowl is given a lot of focus when discussing a player careers, but there is also a lot of name recognition that influences the voting. This shouldn’t be that surprising given the popularity of not only football, but fantasy football with its heavy emphasis on offensive skill players. However, football is a team sport that relies on eleven players performing a very specific set of synchronised tasks on each snap of the ball that all interact to achieve the desired task, be it offence, defence, or special teams.

In my brief sojourn into American football training, it quickly became apparent how reliant you are on those around you carrying out their jobs whilst you have to focus on yours. The helmets restrict your peripheral vision so you can’t second guess what is happening around you, and if you try then it is too late anyway. Football is a game of power, speed, and split second timing; and that’s at the amateur level. Those of us who write about the NFL may talk about bad players, but even those at the bottom of the depth chart are likely to have physical gifts we can only dream of. However, even the most talented of the high profile players aren’t going to get very far if their colleagues are struggling. If you want proof of this, look at the performance of Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who is coming into the prime of his career, and whose play is demonstrably being affected by the play of the offensive line in front on him. Right now he is too quick to pull the ball down and run when being rushed, but this is hardly a surprise given that he is the most sacked quarterback in the NFL so far this season, and imagine how bad those numbers could be if there was a less mobile quarterback behind that line.

So whilst I understand the focus on the spectacular plays, and the popularity that the fantasy game has brought to the league, there are an awful lot of players who are critical to your team’s successes who are not getting the love they deserve. The run stuffing defensive tackle who occupies two linemen so the star linebacker can make the tackle, the punt gunner who gets down the field fast enough to force a fair catch, the long snapper who only gets noticed when he fails to deliver a perfect ball to the punter or holder, or the blocking tight end who rarely catches a ball but is likely a huge part of your team’s running attack or ability to protect the quarterback. The sad fact is though, that as crucial as these players are, there are not the stats to always accurately explain what is going on. Whilst the headlines are over losing Dion Lewis, and Julian Edelman, the Patriots have also lost three tackles this season and yet somehow they are still finding ways to win. I don’t think either the Patriots or the Panthers are going unbeaten this season, it is just too hard and the margin for error is so small, but you wouldn’t bet against the Patriots going deep into the playoffs this season.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at tonight’s game the week after Dan claws back two games on me.

Gee:    Week 10   6-8             Overall   75-72
Dan:    Week 10   8-6             Overall   72-74

Titans @ Jaguars (-2.5)

We have the Tennessee Blues taking on the Jacksonville Golds in this week’s colour rush Thursday night game, which I am really looking forward to seeing for the two teams playing rather than the kits. I am curious to see what Mike Mularkey is doing with the Titans, and to get another look at Marcus Mariota. The Jaguars offence is coming together nicely, although they as a team need to cut out the mistakes, but I really like the two Allens in receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. I will back the Jaguars in this one as they seem to be gaining some momentum even if their last minute win against the Ravens was lucky.

Gee’s Pick:     Jaguars
Dan’s Pick:    Jaguars

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