Tuesday November 13th, 2007

Maybe it's a natural byproduct of the dearth of talent around the league at quarterback, or even offensive coordinator. Maybe it's a measure of just how many impact injuries have wiped out teams at running back and offensive line this season. Or perhaps it's an indication that NFL defenses across the board are simply more sophisticated, more athletic and more effective than ever.

Whatever the combination of causes, the end result in Week 10 of the NFL regular season was a staggering display of offensive futility. We're talking glaringly inept. Embarrassingly feeble. In some cases, historically unsuccessful.

In case you missed it, here are just some of the many offensive lowlights we witnessed in Week 10:

• Remarkably, the Lions managed to score 21 points in their 31-21 upset loss at Arizona despite totaling minus-18 yards rushing on eight carries. How does an offense even accomplish that? It was the second-worst rushing performance in the franchise's long (mostly losing) history. For good measure, Detroit also had five turnovers, gave up four sacks, twice was called for 12 players on the field, and had a 43-yard touchdown pass called back because it had too many players (eight) on the line of scrimmage.

• The 49ers are fast becoming the league's poster child for offensive inefficiency. At Seattle Monday night, San Francisco had just six first downs in its 24-0 loss, the second time this season that it has matched its lowest first down total since 1963.

• San Francisco's 173 yards of total offense made it one of four teams this weekend that didn't even crack 200 in that department, joining the Browns (163), Chargers (173), and Raiders (193). Thanks to two Darren Sproles return touchdowns, San Diego even managed to win its game, besting Indianapolis 23-21.

• First downs, the basic measurement of offensive success in football, were hard to come by league wide. Of the 28 teams that played in Week 10, an astounding 18 of them totaled less than 20 first downs, which is a decent yard stick for an average offensive performance.

• There were six games where neither team produced 20 first downs. Atlanta (10) and Carolina (12) combined for a low of 22 in Charlotte. Chicago at Oakland generated just 28 first downs, Buffalo at Miami produced 30, Cincinnati at Baltimore totaled 33, Jacksonville at Tennessee featured 36, and Denver at Kansas City topped this dubious list with 37 first downs.

• Seven teams had 13 or fewer first downs. One of those clubs was Cleveland, which recorded just one of its 13 first downs in the second half, finishing with 163 yards of total offense in a 31-28 loss at Pittsburgh. San Diego won with 11 first downs. Atlanta was victorious with 12.

• Twelve of the 28 teams that played in Week 10, or almost half, scored one or fewer offensive touchdowns. There were three games that didn't feature multiple offensive touchdowns by either team: Buffalo's 13-10 win at Miami, Chicago's 17-6 win at Oakland, and Cincinnati's field-goal-fest of a 21-7 win at Baltimore. Six teams didn't score an offensive touchdown, and two didn't score a point (the Vikings and 49ers).

• Rushing seems to be a lost art as well. Seventeen of 28 teams rushed for less than 100 yards, and a whopping six teams won despite not running the ball for even 90 yards: Atlanta 88, Dallas 82, Chicago 78, Arizona 73, Cincinnati 70 and Buffalo 63. Only one game in Week 10 featured both teams with 100 yards or more of rushing, and that was Philadelphia's 33-25 victory at Washington.

• You know it's a bad week for offense in the NFL when Indy's Peyton Manning breaks the franchise mark for most interceptions in a game with six, once again this season bumping Johnny Unitas from the Colts record books.

• The Bengals, with all those glitzy offensive weapons, beat the Ravens 21-7 with seven Shayne Graham field goals, none longer than 35 yards. That means that Cincy lived in Baltimore's red zone all day long, without once denting the end zone.

• The anemic Vikings were 0-for-11 on third or fourth down at Green Bay, and had a paltry 19:20 of possession time. At home against the Falcons, who have never been confused for a defensive juggernaut, the pathetic Panthers converted on just three of 17 third or fourth-down chances.

As baseball's Casey Stengel once famously said of his downtrodden 1962 Mets, "Can't anybody here play this game?''

In short, from all the offensive futility that prevailed around the NFL, it was easy to notice that the record-setting Patriots were one of the four teams that didn't play. Then again, it seemed as if offense took the week off league-wide in Week 10.

• One of the more interesting trends in recent weeks has been the saga of quarterbacks who have been benched this season, only to enjoy a victorious return to the field once their replacements were injured.

Atlanta's Joey Harrington lost his starting job to Byron Leftwich, but has won two games in a row since Leftwich was injured. Buffalo's J.P. Losman got hurt and wound up being demoted in favor of rookie Trent Edwards when the Bills went on a winning streak. But then Edwards hurt a wrist, and Losman is 2-0 since returning to the lineup.

And last Sunday, none other than Rex Grossman -- the long-since forgotten man in Chicago -- rallied the Bears to a fourth-quarter comeback win at Oakland after starter Brian Griese injured his non-throwing shoulder.

Harrington, Losman and Grossman, winners all in Week 10. It makes for more quarterback questions to ponder in Atlanta, Buffalo and Chicago. Hang in there, Chad Pennington. A second chance as New York's No. 1 might still be in your future.

• As if the fact that the Colts' Mr. Clutch, Adam Vinatieri, missed that game-winning 29-yard field goal attempt in San Diego isn't astounding enough, consider the following: In the other 13 games in Week 10 besides the Colts-Chargers affair, NFL kickers converted 38 of 43 field goal attempts, with the only misses coming from 52, 53, 53, 53 and 54 yards. In other words, the league's kickers were automatic unless it was a moonshot they were attempting.

But in San Diego, Vinatieri, the greatest pressure kicker in NFL history, missed wide left from 42 yards and wide right from 29. Amazing.

• If the playoffs started today, Jacksonville and Tennessee (both 6-3) would be your AFC wild cards, giving the rugged AFC South three playoff qualifiers. New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and San Diego would be your division winners, and would be seeded in that order. The Jags would be the No. 5 seed, and the Titans No. 6.

Thus, in the AFC, the first-week playoff matchups would be Tennessee at Indianapolis and Jacksonville at San Diego.

In the NFC, the Giants and Detroit (both 6-3) would be your wild-card entries. New York is at Detroit this week, and that head-to-head encounter would wind up deciding any potential tie for the fifth and sixth seed slot. Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle and Tampa Bay would be the NFC's division winners, and would be seeded in that order.

• With the Chiefs making the switch from Damon Huard to Brodie Croyle at quarterback this week, Kansas City becomes the 17th team to start at least two different passers this season. Ten of the AFC's 16 teams have used more than one starter, with seven of 16 NFC teams needing two.

The only division to have the same four starting quarterbacks every game thus far has been the NFC East, where Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Jason Campbell and Donovan McNabb have not missed an opening bell.

* The Cowboys are going to put an end to a bunch of streaks this season, but do you realize that Dallas hasn't won the NFC East since 1998, and hasn't notched a playoff win since beating Minnesota at home in the first round of the 1996 Super Bowl tournament? That's a big gap in terms of the glory days for America's Team.

• How good has New England's offense been this season? The Patriots punter, Chris Hanson, has plied his craft just 21 times so far in 2007. He doesn't even qualify for the league leaders in terms of punting average or net yardage because the minimum is 23 kicks.

• I was a skeptic even last season, when the Ravens somehow won 13 games with Steve McNair at quarterback. But it's apparent that McNair's 34-year-old body is breaking down on him, and that Baltimore can't count on the 13-year veteran to give it much of anything at this point.

Which means that unless the Ravens feel that turning to Kyle Boller is the long-term answer -- and I don't think they do -- Baltimore's long nightmare at the quarterback position will continue unabated.

Troy Smith, anyone?

• The good news in Minnesota is that Oakland (2-7) visits the Metrodome this week. The bad news? The Vikings offense without rookie running back Adrian Peterson equals no chance. Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger or Kelly Holcomb, it doesn't matter.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.