In response to zbellino's comment:
#4 The *only* thing that matters is not execution, but it is 90% of football -- the rest is composed of strategy (game planning and adjustments), tactics, and luck. The vast majority of plays occurr in situations where the defense knows what the offense is going to do. The Giants were completely predictable that game... how many absurd 3rd and longs did they convert? How many third/second and shorts did they convert with runs? They scored a TD on a drive late in the game where everyone knew they were going to be passing, they were in a spread formation themselves, and what did they do? They passed the ball effortlessly on a woeful NE secondary. At will .... NE knew what was coming.
Z, listening to fans' criticisms of the Pats' offense (not just last year but also this year too), I think #4 is a point that needs to be stressed over and over, because I don't think fans get it. Simply put, "unpredictability" in play calling is overrated.
This is not to say that being unpredictable is unimportant. It is one way plays can work--if you disguise what you're doing or deceive the defense by showing one thing and doing another it can be highly effective. But teams don't win by trying to utlize disguise and deception on every single play. Many plays are designed to take advantage of match-ups--to force a weaker player to defend a better player, to get a slower LB on a faster wide receiver, to force a corner to cover two guys at once, etc. The defense may be aware what the offense is doing, but they're still at a disadvantage because they are forced into unfavourable match-ups by the play design. The Pats offense the past two years has used this strategy a ton . . . it's what they do, whether it's putting Gronk up against smaller players or against slower players, putting Welker against less agile players, or using the hurry-up to force the defense to play with the wrong players on the field. In addition to winning with match-up advantages, good teams employ a third strategy--which is simply beating the other team by taking advantage of the talent they have on offense and out-executing the defense. If you have big, powerful run-blocking linemen and a good running back, you can line-up showing everyone in the world that you're going to pound the ball down the middle of the field and dare the defense to try to stop you. If instead of powerful guys, you have fast, agile guys then you can use plays that take advantage of speed instead of power.
So deception is one strategy, but it's only one: match-ups and playing to one's strengths are also strategies that work and are often more important.
Fans seem to hate the shotgun offense and spread formations that telegraph passes. Sure, teams pass about 80% of the time when they're in shotgun. Despite offensive coordinators working on developing a running game from the shotgun, it's still primarily a passing formation and everyone on defense knows that. But teams use it all the time. Fans seem to hate it, but professional OCs continue to use it. Why? Because it creates lots of match-up problems and (for teams like the Pats) allows them to play to their strengths. Sure the defense knows what the Pats are going to do. But the important question is whether the defense can stop them. Usually, they can't.
The last thing I'll say about unpredictability is that a lot of fans think its a polarity--either run or pass. Really, unpredictability is more complex than that. You can show run, but are you running left, running right, running up the middle, using traps and different blocking schemes? All of these things keep defenses guessing and are part of "unpredictability" even if a run is fairly certain. Same in the passing game . . . what route combinations are you using? Are you challenging deep, the perimeter, or short? Which receivers are going to be challenging which parts of the field and which defenders? You can show pass, but still have the defense guessing where and how you are going to attack them.
The reason football is way more interesting (at least in my mind) than any other of the big team sports is because the strategy is so complex. When I hear things like "we shouldn't use the shotgun" or "empty backfield is dumb because the RB is wasted" or "we can't ever throw more than 40 times" or "we need to run at least 25 times a game" I just wonder if fans really appreciate what they're watching and just how good the coaches we have are.