Defense counts just as much as offense in NFL, college football

Steve Brownlee


Oops, sorry, I’m just trying to burn into my brain the one facet of the game that the Monday morning quarterbacks on TV seem to either forget or just try to avoid when talking about the strength of teams at the pro or collegiate level.

Maybe this is why I have a “sterling” record of 48 percent picking correctly after two weeks of the NFL season.

For those of you also suffering from this affliction, just remember that for every play Josh Allen leads the Buffalo Bills downfield, there’s a Tennessee Titans or Los Angeles Rams or Miami Dolphins defense opposing them, too.

That’s every single play. I can’t think of any instances where the offense just gets to run a play without 11 guys contesting them on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

If you call special teams an extension of the offense, then call defending those special teams an extension of the defense.

While some bad defensive play has been a hallmark of the season so far, what’s really perplexing for this prognosticator is the wild swings on offense and defense. At least if I know you’re going to be bad on one side or the other of the ball, I can just pick against you.

But good play on offense is always lauded by ESPN & Fox commentators, just as their bad play is panned, too.

Then the defense just kind of gets glossed over.

When you combine the variables of good and bad on both offense and defense, you never know what you’re going to get.

Can’t you blame bad defense for the usually pedestrian Miami Dolphins’ offense scoring 14 points in the final 90 seconds to beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday?

Or how about a horrible stretch by the Cleveland Browns’ “D” for the offensive prowess of the New York Jets, when it’s usually a stretch just to call any part of their game even “pedestrian”? The Jets made up the same deficit in the final two minutes to win with retread Joe Flacco at QB.

Whether it’s injuries or poor scheming or just blown pass coverages, keep defense — often the lack of it — in mind when watching NFL games.

Now onto the picks:


Today, 8:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland — OK, if the Browns can’t lean on their defense, what can they lean on? Jacoby Brissett? I’ll take the Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin and relatively the same level of QB play in Mitch Trubisky, all of this taking Pittsburgh back to its old ways of dominating the AFC North — and in their usual ugly way. Steelers, 19-15.


Sunday, 1 p.m.

New Orleans at Carolina — Well, at least Panthers QB Baker Mayfield should find it easy to play with a chip on his shoulder after two- and three-point losses to start the season. Why not make it 0-3? Saints, 34-28.


Houston at Chicago — The Oilers — oops, Texans — haven’t looked that bad, tying somewhat-regarded Indy and losing by a TD to Russell Wilson-led Denver. But if the Bears are going to do anything, it’ll be early in the season so their later swoon will look even worse. Bears, 24-20.


Kansas City at Indianapolis — Whether the Chiefs are just a fast starter or will be the last team to lose a game this season, it’s still September and time to rev up their engines. Chiefs, 38-26.


Buffalo at Miami — It’s going to take a supreme effort to beat the Bills. And Miami only had that kind of effort for less than 15 minutes on Sunday, getting buried early by the Ravens. Buffalo won’t let them off the hook so easily. Bills, 33-24.


Detroit at Minnesota — Silly me, picking against the Lions last week. Who needs a defense when you’re averaging 35 1/2 points per game? Detroit will when they can’t put Eagles-like pressure on Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins, especially in Minneapolis. Vikings, 35-28.


Baltimore at New England — If Baltimore head man John Harbaugh didn’t level the boom after last week’s collapse vs. the Dolphins, then maybe he should apply for an assistant’s job on his brother’s coaching staff in Ann Arbor. Ravens, 31-20.


Cincinnati at New York Jets — The Bungles should be upset with an 0-2 start. But when they can’t keep QB Joe Burrow upright, who’s paying attention to the record? Jets, 19-17.


Las Vegas at Tennessee — The Titans have a leaky defense and a paltry offense. A perfect recipe for an opponent that hasn’t been able to get over the hump. Raiders, 27-22.


Philadelphia at Washington — Really, if you look at both these teams’ games against the Lions, there aren’t huge differences between them. But Philly got everyone talking with their beat-down of the Vikings on Monday night. I’ll buy that enough to take the Eagles, 26-23.


Sunday, 4 p.m.

Jacksonville at Los Angeles Chargers — I like the home team in a cross-country matchup like this as the Chargers gets their first break from playing fellow AFC West behemoths. Chargers, 27-23.


Los Angeles Rams at Arizona — The Rams didn’t exactly bounce right back from their opening-night embarrassment vs. Buffalo, struggling to a four-point win last weekend against a lightly regarded Falcons outfit. Still looking for the bounce, I’ll take the Rams, 30-24.


Atlanta at Seattle — The Seahawks had the bad fortune of knocking out 49ers’ QB Trey Lance so they could face his currently better backup, Jimmy Garoppolo. Again liking the home team in a battle of lessers, Seahawks 23-19.


Green Bay at Tampa Bay — Don’t get Tom Brady mad! You wouldn’t like (what the rest of Brady’s team now looks like) when this 45-year-old dad gets mad!

With top receiver Mike Evans out on a suspension following Sunday’s fight vs. New Orleans, what’s Brady going to do? Throw to Rob Gronkowski when the ex-Buc yells to his buddy Tom from the stands on Sunday? Packers, 24-16.


Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

San Francisco at Denver — Now with the aforementioned Garoppolo installed as 49ers’ QB for the rest of the season, San Fran can make another run at the Super Bowl. It starts a mile high in Denver. 49ers, 24-12.


Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Dallas at New York Giants — The G-men could easily become fat and happy after an unexpected 2-0 start. But divisional foe Dallas should help refocus them. Giants, 20-17.


Last week — 8-8, 50 percent. Season — 15-16-1, 48 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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