Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The option to defer

When teams win the coin toss in the NFL, they have the option to receive the opening kick off or to kick to the other team first (i.e. defer until the second half).

Who should elect to receive the opening kick:
  • Ball control offenses like Miami, Jacksonville. These teams do not play well from behind. They prefer to grind out long drives keep the other team off the field. Best for them to play with a lead.
  • Teams with good defenses. Who cares if the other team gets the ball first to start the second half. Let's score now and let our defense takeover the game.
  • Bad teams like the Chiefs. They need to score and keep the game close. They need to get something going. These teams might be out of the game by halftime. Their best shot is to strike early.
Who should defer:
  • Teams who are matched against a similar opponent. One more possession in the second half might make the difference.
  • Teams with strong passing attacks. Even if they are down a little after the first half, teams with strong passing games are generally built to comeback. They can afford to see how the first half shakes out.
  • The Dallas Cowboys. The 'Boys drafted a kickoff specialist who can boot the ball into tomorrow. They should use this weapon immediately and force the other team to start on the 20. Game on.

1 comment:

GnightMoon said...

I think it's a lot more complicated.

You note ball control offenses, but what if they pound out a long drive to start the second half? That can be even more devastating than starting the first half with one.

Teams with good defenses can immediately get the ball back and start the game with an advantage.

How often do you see "Bad teams like the Chiefs" march down the field on the opening possession for a touchdown?

Even the passing teams are not always good at coming from behind - look at the Saints and Cardinals last season. They were much worse off playing from behind.

I think deferring is usually the better option. The two factors to really think about:

1. Your halftime offensive adjustments vs. the defensive adjustments of the opposing team. If you are going to win the adjustment battle, kick off to start.

2. How good the opposing offense is on opening drives. The Shanahan Broncos were always lethal on that scripted opening possession. Atlanta is looking real strong to start games this season. Don't let these sort of teams start with the ball.