One of the things I love about football is the importance of team chemistry. In no other mainstream sport is the team concept so vital to winning. Baseball is actually more like a series of one on one matchups, pitcher vs. batter, over and over again, masquerading as a team sport. Basketball requires five men or women working together on the court, but the NBA level is so dominated by star power and super teams now that cohesion has taken a back seat. Hockey fans will argue their side, I don’t know enough about the sport to judge, but the only close thing in this regard to football is the other football, soccer. In soccer, a team could win 1-0 and it’s possible that the man who scored the winning goal could have had the least influence over the result of any other man on his team. In both sports, if the component parts don’t work well together, no individual talent can carry the team on his back all alone. A running back needs nasty fat guys to block for him, a striker needs service in the box, and linebackers need to help stop the pass and run because the defensive line and the secondary can’t do either on their own.
There’s a word for this phenomenon that happens to be one of my all-time favorite words; gestalt. Gestalt is a German word meaning the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In football, eleven players must each perform their given role for a play to be executed. Once a group of players play a lot together they learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, develop an unspoken level of trust and begin to become something bigger than themselves. Nothing can replace time spent together on or off the field and the contagious enthusiasm it breeds. The Chiefs have a set of new Corn Hole (or Bags) tables in their locker room to at least partially to thank for their recent turnaround (http://www.kansascity.com/2011/10/10/3199471/chiefs-use-locker-room-game-to.html).
The Eagles and the Redskins game this Sunday shows two teams on opposite ends of the G (gestalt) index. The Eagles are the self-proclaimed (Vince Young does speak for the whole team, right?) super team. They added a slew of high priced free agents to a team many thought were already the most talented in the league last year. They have a quarterback who has the most ridiculously unfair skill set in NFL history and a slew of speedy weapons for him to distribute the ball to. They added an elite corner and another very good one in the off-season to an already decent defense. Meanwhile, the Redskins rely on journeymen, castoffs and recent draft picks in several key positions and have only three borderline all-pro players in Landry, Fletcher and Orakpo, and that might be being kind. And yet, the Redskins come out of their bye leading the NFC East with a 3-1 record, while the Eagles are 1-4.
You can say the Eagles have played a much harder schedule so far, but the Eagles have definitely under achieved while the Redskins have outperformed their expectations so far. Some still think the Eagles will right the ship (Vegas is not among them as the odds for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl have soared to 100:1 when they were among the preseason favorites) but this Eagles team looks all too familiar to me. For a solid decade Dan Snyder threw money at the biggest free agents available to patch holes in the team. The big signings always disappointed and the Redskins never seemed to live up to their talent level. The simple fact is that no matter how gifted a player is they will not thrive in an unfamiliar system, with unfamiliar teammates, when thrust into an unfamiliar role.
Nnamdi Asomugha is the poster child for the Eagles’ problems thus far. Regarded for years as an elite corner, he has struggled immensely this year. During those years in which Asomugha built his reputation, he was mostly left on an island with an opposing receiver in bump and run man coverage, and this is what he excelled at. The Eagles have asked him to play a lot more zone and have lined him up frequently in a safety/ corner hybrid role. They are asking him to do things he is not comfortable with and largely taken away what he is best at. Tackling used to be considered one of his strengths and he was known as one of the most physical corners in the league, but now he is missing many more tackles, perhaps because he is finding himself in unfamiliar places on the field and does not know where to expect his teammates to be.
With gestalt in mind, let’s go to the games! As always, my lines are taken from the ESPN Pig Skin Pick ‘Em Game (my entry is now in the 97th percentile http://games.espn.go.com/pigskin-pickem/en/entry?entryID=310755 ), and my pick is in BOLD.
Last Week: 10-3
Sunday 1:00 PM EST
Eagles @ Redskins -0.5
This has been the most boring Redskins team in years and I mean that in a good way. There has been no one complaining about their role OR cross dressing for press conferences. There are no huge individual egos, but the players still believe in the team and have made predictions the experts laughed at. They had a good deal of turnover in the off season but the rookies and free agents they added are familiar with the system or at least were chosen to fill a particular role that played to their strengths. Ryan Kerrigan, Jabar Gaffney, and Barry Cofield are all good examples of this. And reports came out last week that many players were still hanging out at Redskins Park over the bye week getting in extra work spurning their sole in-season vacation. The Eagles have much better players but at this point, the Redskins are a much better team.
read the rest of my picks here http://daodesam.blogspot.com/2011/10/week-six-nfl-picks.html