4 NFL Teams Most Dependent on Their Special Teams

Caleb GarlingCorrespondent INovember 20, 2011

4 NFL Teams Most Dependent on Their Special Teams

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    It's tough to ever get past that cliche that football is a game of inches. Passes are tipped, dropped or caught due to a matter of inches. Tackles are missed, broken or made due to a matter of inches. First downs are achieved or denied by inches. The game is a brutal sum of small addition.

    Which is why it's almost funny how little respect special teams gets. Last week I argued Devin Hester should be in the hall simply because of the fact no return man has ever been inducted — despite the impact they have on the game. 

    Today there are a handful of teams that are making their money on special teams and in no small way should that "third football unit" be forgotten.

Chicago Bears

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    The Chargers made the mistake of punting to Hester today, twice, and almost paid for it: two returns for 59 yards. Why would you do that?

    Anyway, Hester has as many touchdowns this year as Matt Forte, and one less than goal line hawk and fantasy scourge Marion Barber. The Bears have relied on their third rail for some time now and as long as their offense keeps looking like a broken down Chevy, they'll continue. 

    Oh yeah, and Adam Podlesh and his squad are averaging a net of 3.5 yards allowed per return. Impressive.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Tedd Ginn Jr is averaging 12.5 yards per punt return and 29.0 yards per kick return. Not only that, but he single-handedly won the Niners' game against the Seahawks to start the season. 

    Andy Lee is booting the crap out of the ball too. He and the punting team are averaging a net punt of 43.8 yards per kick, second best in the league.

    In addition David Akers, before his tough day today, was leading the league in field goals made. This is in part due to a sputtering offense, but, the fact that Akers is picking up the slack consistently (92 percent accuracy coming into today) should be noted.

Arizona Cardinals

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    My man crush on Peterson is becoming overwhelming. He's averaging 17.6 yards per return his rookie year (yes, that's a little inflated due to one 99-yard return) and has already notched a hat trick of TDs.

    When you watch him run with the ball you can just "feel" a guy who's simply a better athlete than anyone else on the field, pound for pound. He's going to keep Arizona a threat to score on any punt for years to come — provided teams don't stop kicking to him or the Cards decide they want to keep him fresh for coverage and yank him (which would be sad).

New Orleans Saints

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    I know the Saints have other weapons than special teams, but the third rail does need some recognition. Coming into today, John Kasay was third in the NFL in field goals made, with two of his five misses coming from 50-plus yards out.

    Punter Thomas Morestead and his crew are booting away the league's best net return of 43.9 yards.

    And Darren Sproles, that wily, multi-use ball carrier and tricky fantasy play, is always a threat to take it the distance — or at least darn close.