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2012 Season Recap - Part II

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Editor's Note: The Sports Boss was the third-best NFL handicapper (61%, +1,808) on VegasInsider.com in 2012. Sign up now for his discounted 2013 season package!

Part I · Part II · Part III
Top 5 Offenses

1) New England - No surprise here as the Patriots and Tom Brady were rated #2 offensively in each of the prior 3 seasons before securing the top spot last year. The top rated offense was fueled by a rushing attack that was ranked #5, passing game ranked #3, and a miscellaneous statistical bucket I track (for stats that are not either directly related to passing or rushing such as total first downs, time of possession, turnovers, etc…..) that was rated #1 in the NFL. Add it all up and the Patriots were the most robust offense in the NFL last season – and much more efficient in their rushing attack than many perhaps expected to see.

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2) Washington
- Another rookie quarterback, this time Robert Griffin III, led the Redskins to the playoffs and their best offense rating since I have been tracking these statistics. Previously, starting in 2011 and working backwards, the Skins offense was ranked #24, #29, #22 in those three seasons – which just goes to show what a dynamic QB can do for a franchise, especially when working with one of the best offensive minds in the game, Mike Shanahan.

3) Denver - Like the Redskins above, the Broncos had not enjoyed an offense ranked in the Top 20 in any one season since I started tracking this in 2009 until last season, when new QB Peyton Manning enjoyed a huge season and led Denver to the #3 overall offense in the NFL. Although the Broncos were just #14 in rushing offense, their passing offense led the NFL, along with their miscellaneous statistics. Look for things to only improve offensively this season in the Mile High city as top slot wide receiver Wes Welker left the Patriots to join rival Denver this offseason.

4) Seattle - Continuing with the theme of solid QB play for the top offenses in 2012, the Seahawks, led by rookie QB Russell Wilson, also make their first appearance in the Top 23 offenses in the NFL since my first season tracking these statistics in 2009. Like Brady, Griffin III, and P. Manning above, strong and smart QB play, along with a balanced offense led the ‘Hawks resurgence last season.

5) San Francisco - Perhaps it’s surprising to see a pair of NFC West teams among the Top 5 offenses in the NFL – but that is precisely what occurred last season as just like the Seahawks, the Niners made a move at QB inserting Colin Kaepernick and the offense took off with his insertion. The 49ers continue with their trademark smash-mouth football of HC Jim Harbaugh, checking in with the #3 rushing attack – however, the addition of the athletic Kaepernick really pushed the offense to that next level, a key reason SF reached the Super Bowl last season. CK is the 3rd first year starting QB of 2012 to lead a Top 5 offense.

Top 5 Defenses

1) Denver - Most people were drawn to the Broncos offense believing that is the unit that drove their 13-3 top mark in the NFL last season (tied with Atlanta). But when breaking down the numbers the Broncos defense was the bigger part of the equation, checking in with the top rated unit in the NFL. Denver truly had a dominant defense during the regular season checking in with the #1 rushing defense, #3 passing defense, and the #2 miscellaneous defense. And the two statistics that are extremely critical to success in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball, yards per pass attempt allowed and sacks – the Broncos led the NFL in both areas. With perhaps playing with a lead in 2013 even more so than in 2012 look for the Broncos defense to once again get after the passer, force turnovers, and be among the best units in the NFL.

2) San Francisco - In 2011 SF had the #4 overall defense in the NFL; in 2012 that unit moved up to #2, only trailing the Broncos because of a pass defense that was ranked just #7 in the NFL. As a sidebar the Broncos did truly have the better pass defense last season according to both the statistics, and stat specific SOS as Denver faced the #16 schedule versus opponents passing offenses, while San Francisco faced the #19 schedule versus opponents passing offenses. San Francisco was one of only two teams (Denver) to rank in the Top 7 of all 4 buckets tracked.

3) Pittsburgh - Second straight season the Steelers posted the 3rd best defense in the NFL, and the fourth straight season that PIT has posted a total defensive rank in the Top 4. The Steelers continued playing championship level defense in 2012, but it was the offense that betrayed them settling in at #20 – the first time they were outside the Top 13 since inception in 2009. Look for HC Mike Tomlin and his defense to continue playing strong heading into 2013, and for the Steelers to contend for at least a playoff berth come December.

4) Chicago - The Bears posted their best mark since inception in 2009, settling in at #4 overall defensively. However, like Pittsburgh, Chicago’s offense checked in at #22, which is ironically consistent with each of the prior three seasons (’11 - #21, ’10 - #23, ’09 - #24). Until the Bears improve on that side of the football they will struggle to compete with the elite of the NFC – which is a big reason ownership fired defensive minded HC Lovie Smith and brought in offensive mind Mark Trestman to run the team. How Trestman communicates and works with QB Jay Cutler will go a long way to deciding how successful a season the Bears enjoy in a rugged NFC North.

5) Seattle - Like division rival San Francisco and former division rival Denver, the Seahawks are one of three teams to have ranked in the Top 5 both offensively and defensively last season. The Seahawks defense has climbed the rankings steadily in each season since 2009 (#22, #21, #12, #5) – and a lot of the credit for that has to go to both HC Pete Carroll, along with former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (now head coach in Jacksonville). New Seattle DC Dan Quinn joins the staff from the Florida Gators where he was DC last year, and how quickly the team adjusts to his schemes will tell a big part of the success Seattle could enjoy in 2013.

  
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