What if I told you I could make a case for 2017 being the best defense you've had over the last 4 years? Way better than 2017. Noticeably improved from 2018. Not even 2016 holds a candle to them. You'd say that's kind of ridiculous right? Check this out: Opponent's Points Per Game 2018: 6th 2017: 13th 2016: 5th 2015: 16th 2017 Doesn't look too great here. Keeping them out of the endzone is the number 1 goal, right? How could anyone come to the conclusion the D was doing their job better than the division round years? Let's go deeper... Opponent's Yards Per Game 2018: 7th 2017: 8th 2016: 14th 2015: 17th Wait... what? Everything else lines up, except suddenly 2017 got way better. So you shut teams down from running up and down the field, but allowed them to score at will when they got a chance? Hmm... need 1 more stat to make this a bit clearer... Opponent's Yards Per Play 2018: 5.4 (13th) 2017: 5.1 (8th) 2016: 5.5 (16th) 2015: 5.6 (19th) Hold the phone! 0.3 yards per play that 2017 has over 2018 is MORE than the 0.2 that 2018 has over your abysmal 2015. That's a huge discrepancy. For context, that 0.3 ypp 2017 has over 2018 is exactly what they are apart from the single best D in the league that year (would jump from 8 to 1). So how is it possible a team can give up the 8th fewest yards per play, but still end up 13th in yards per game? Conversely, how is it a team in 2016 can give up the 16th most yards per game but only allowed the 5th most points? That's nuts! What is the connecting tissue here? What happened in 2017 that didn't happen in 2016 or 2018? One more stat... Average Drive on Offense 2018: Time 2:59 (2nd) Plays 6.27 (2nd) 2017: Time 2:50 (5th) Plays 6:09 (5th) 2016: Time 2:57 (2nd) Plays 6.04 (5th) 2015: Time 2.54 (2nd) Plays 5.82 (12th) If you haven't put it together by now, 2017 is the year Zeke missed games. Your Time of possession is better with Zeke in, your plays per drive is better, your points allowed is much better regardless of how your defense is playing. Giving up 5.1 ypp in 2017? doesn't matter, if Zeke isn't in the opponent will get enough drives to put up points. Giving up 5.5 ypp in 2016? Doesn't matter, with Zeke setting Cowboy rookie records, your scoring defense was the best you've had in decades. Khalil Mack doesn't make the opponent's points per game jump nearly 10 rankings. Neither does Aaron Donald, both have played on D's that lost them Football games because the offense wasn't there. Zeke has only ever played on stellar D's, and that's no accident. He is the single most valuable defensive force in the national football league. Tony Pollard could run for 120 yards against NYG, but they're likely going to have an advantage in the time of possession because of Saquon. Now with those extra drives maybe Eli throws picks and you're good. But maybe he doesn't. You won't be missing Zeke on offense nearly as much as you'll be missing him on defense.