In today’s world of professional football it’s very easy to forget that there’s three, on field, aspects to every game. Offenses continue to be the focal point of most professional football leagues with league officials continually adjusting, altering and changing rules to better fit scoring and offensive numbers. With all the offensive adjustments, defenses have to work twice as hard to make sure that they’re discipline to not cost their team a game. The NFL has done a fantastic job over the last few years making the offensive unit the most important part of their game, they’ve made it tougher for defenses to keep up with the offensive changes to the rules. With all those changes to the offensive side of the ball, the NFL has had to focus more than ever on defense; making sure their defensive unit is disciplined and well coached. The defensive side of the ball has received some help, but it’s been little to nothing to make that big of an impact on the game. The one aspect of professional football that the NFL has basically erased from existence is special teams. They’ve all but eliminated kickoffs from the sport, punts are rarely returned due to the different rules in place and the only element of special teams that’s relevant is extra points and field goals. Well, for those fans missing special teams, have no fear because the CFL has you covered.
To the North of the NFL landscape, the CFL has flown under the radar to fans for years and thanks to multiple issues with the NFL, alternative football such as the CFL is finally getting a chance to shine. The CFL for years has received NFL castoffs, college players who never got a shot at the NFL and country born players who never dreamed of going South. Players and coordinators are migrating North to showcase what they can do – specific reason? Special teams. The CFL welcomes kick returns and punt returns. They have a 5 yard halo rule to allow returners to run the ball back which makes one of the most exciting plays in professional football relevant. And relevant it is. The CFL has benefited from the lack of special teams in the NFL; they have reaped the awards of better and faster players, as well as smarter coordinators. The lack of importance placed on special teams in the NFL has hurt the product overall. There’s more dead space, or dead time, in the game. In the CFL, you don’t have to worry about that as returns are a specialty.
42. That’s the number to keep in mind, 42. That’s the pace that the CFL is on for kick and punt returns touchdowns this year. Last year? The CFL had six all year. Only six. While the number 42 looks really good in comparison to last year, it’s most impressive when place to the current record in a season of 24, The CFL has already had 17 returns, as of this writing, in 33 games. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that’s averaging .5 returns for touchdowns a game! That’s extremely impressive considering the average is well below .05 returns per game.
The CFL understands the importance of special teams. Something that fans, players, and coaches to the South are slowly forgetting. The NFL is phasing this element out of the game, while their counterparts to the North are embracing it. Earlier this week, the Edmonton Eskimos traded one of their better veteran wide receivers to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for a return specialist because it was one area of the game they were struggling. They reaped immediate rewards with the trade as Edmonton’s game Ottawa was their best return game to date. And yes, when the trade happened, that’s exactly how the trade was viewed: a wide receiver traded for a RETURN SPECIALIST.
It’s yet to be seen if the NFL continues to slowly phase the special teams element out of football. If they do, I believe it will be a mistake because special teams hold value; the CFL is proving this point every week. If the NFL does eventually phase that part out, the CFL is going to continue to find themselves with riches in special teams play. As long as the CFL continues to improve on their special teams play, they should draw more eyes to their game because fans love watching a great kick return taken to the house for a touchdown: it is one of the most exciting plays in all of football.
But we all know, opinions are like……well, you know how the saying goes, you can use your imagination.
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