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There used to be a day, maybe in the 1970s, when balance was king. Even in the 1980s, when Eric Dickerson set his rushing records and even Marcus Allen — to the chagrin of Raiders owner Al Davis — led the NFL in rushing, a run-first attack was acceptable and also successful. But you still need a defense to win a championship. The Giants proved that last season, by putting enough pressure on Tony Romo, Brett Favre and Brady to win the franchise's third Super Bowl.

The rules have been tweaked — enforcing the five-yard bump rule — to assist the passing game. This doesn't mean that defenses aren't important, but parity has become a true reality because just about every team has some sort of passing game.

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I'm generally not a numbers' guy, but the Patriots set the NFL scoring record last season with 589 points. Brady to Randy Moss had something to do with it. However, two other teams — Houston and Jacksonville — set franchise single-game scoring records while seven other teams scored at least 400 points. Heck, even the 8-8 Arizona Cardinals scored 404 points.

NFL's most liberal teams

New England: Fans may view Patriots coach Bill Belichick as a cross between a dictator and a demon, but he's as open-minded as it comes when thinking of ways to give Brady the ability to go deep. Here's a defensive coach who loves to throw and one who actually veered away from the run, generally a safe and conservative approach for most cold-weather teams. The Patriots love to spread the field and Belichick's willingness to make it succeed led to the team acquiring Moss and Wes Welker last year. It's all about matchups and nobody exposes the limitations of linebackers and safeties better than the Patriots.

New Orleans: I would imagine Saints coach Sean Payton would be great playing video football. Payton loves having Deuce McAlister to pound the ball, but it's a sidelight to Drew Brees working out of shotgun to find receivers like Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and now Jeremy Shockey. The Saints are exciting and forward-thinking because Payton is willing to experiment and try something different like throwing to a fullback down near the goal line.

Dallas: Of course, it helps having a quarterback and Terrell Owens. The Cowboys figure to repeat as the NFC's scoring champion (28.4 points per game) because Tony Romo has two dependable weapons in T.O. and tight end Jason Witten. Few teams work the middle of the field as well as the Cowboys' passing game. Offensive coach Jason Garrett is liberal with his protections, too, because Romo has the feet and quickness to escape pressure. The Cowboys were conservative under Bill Parcells, but with the Tuna gone owner Jerry Jones returned to the risky game of signing suspended players like Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones.

Green Bay: When you think of ultra-conservatives, one of the first descriptions is that they have to be old-fashioned people. Well, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson aren't that. If they were, Brett Favre would still be the quarterback. Unlike the three previous teams, the Packers like to flew their tight end and use him more as a receiver than a blocker. McCarthy believes in the quick-drop read and throw approach and this style allows the Packers to use five blockers and put everyone else into the pass pattern. And how about this franchise's willingness to try something totally new: They have three quarterbacks and none of them, including Aaron Rodgers, has started a NFL game.

NFL's staunch conservatives

Chicago: Soldier Field may have a spaceship-like exterior above the foundation, but the inside product looks very much like it has for 15 years. The Bears still believe you can win with defense and special teams. Chicago's biggest names on offense are Devin Hester, the punt returner, Rex Grossman and wacky center Olin Kreutz. Instead of spending big bucks on a proven receiver, the Bears are attempting to make Hester a receiving star. If their experiment fails, they still believe they can win with the defense and special teams scoring 25 percent of their points.

Philadelphia: The only season the Eagles went to the Super Bowl under coach Andy Reid they employed a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Terrell Owens. They still don't have a true No. 1 receiver and even though they pass a lot more than they throw, think of those 90 receptions by Brian Westbrook as mere handoffs. The Eagles are the king of the high-percentage completion and, bottom line, they might win without Donovan McNabb, but they can't win without Westbrook, probably the most valuable player in the NFC East. Reid's offense revolves around his running back, who may not be a pounder, but he's elusive after the catch and on quick openers.

New York Giants: Even though Tom Coughlin was a changed man last season, the Giants believe in pounding the ball and once that is successful, going to play-action with Eli Manning. The strength of this team remains a dominant, injury-free offensive line and 270-pound running back Brandon Jacobs. The Giants like to play the high percentages, running and having Plaxico Burress work outside against shorter defensive backs. It's a winning formula with very few risks. How conservative is this outfit? "There's no way this organization would ever agree to use being on Hard Knocks, Jacobs said. "Let the Cowboys look for movie roles."

Carolina: The Panthers are returning to a bigger offensive line in order to utilize the strengths of running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. No more finesse blocking and being cute up front. Yes, Jake Delhomme has some Louisiana gambler in him, but this is a team that wants to play it safe and complete the short passes — I mean, throw it in the flat and let Steve Smith run with it. Speaking of Smith, the Panthers showed their strict conservatism by disciplining Smith (and taking away two game checks) for punching out a teammate. There is no room for nonsense on Jerry Richardson's team.

There are other conservatives like Tennessee, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami and Kansas City. With few receiving playmakers, Mike Shanahan probably heads up the moderates in this election season. Jay Cutler is a gunslinger with too few bullets. The Chargers epitomize moderation because they have the game's best running back while also having the ability to throw the ball.

There are many liberals, besides the top four. Look for Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, Arizona, and Seattle and now maybe San Francisco, which has Mike Martz running the offense.

Teams like Atlanta and Oakland are still looking for an offensive identity. They are waiting for their young first-round quarterbacks to make a statement and take them in a specific direction.

Liberal or conservative: Which is more effective in today's NFL? Let's face it, a team's talent is the biggest factor. But even in today's more wide-open NFL offensively, it was the conservative, defense-first Giants who won it all last year in beating the creative Patriots' offense.

So maybe defense wins championships after all.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 13, 2008

Philadelphia Eagles News

News » NFL Decision '08: Liberals vs. conservatives 2008-08-13


NFL Decision '08: Liberals vs. conservatives 2008-08-13


NFL Decision '08: Liberals vs. conservatives 2008-08-13
There is nothing more liberating than watching Tom Brady throw on 10 consecutive plays. You want conservative NFL play? How about watching a team that runs a draw on third-and-long?


Politics aside, the NFL has evolved into a passing league because the Competition Committee, the guys who make the rules, generally lean toward enabling the offense, plus there's a mandate for high-scoring games.

WHO HAS THE MAJORITY?

Which style is most en vogue these days: Liberal or Conservative? Check out Czar's take on how all 32 teams lean.
Darren Howard Name: Darren Howard
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