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Browns Rams LIVE Thoughts

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The logo of the Browns Backers Worldwide.

The logo of the Browns Backers Worldwide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Browns Rams LIVE Thoughts

This is a VERY thin crowd tonight.
Nice play on 3rd and 2 to Bess
Good 37 yard pass to Gordon
Runs are going nowhere.
Good pass protection vs blitz
Draw play gets the 1st.  Great call.
The pressure up the gut allowed the blocked pass.  It was not Weeden’s fault.
What Cameron misses Little catches.  Bad play by the TE.  Weeden is not showing much touch.  The pass to Little via Cameron was way too hot.
Again run gets nothing
Two incompletes force a FG.  Clev 3 St coming up.
=
Penalty on Groves (head butt) gives the Rams good field position.
Bradford had all day to throw.  That is not a good sign
On 2nd down Sheard had some pressure.
Blitz fails to get pressure.  1ST down
Jackson attacks the run which is a good sign
Browns blitz and the screen catches them for 17 yards
RB Pead fumbles on a taylor hit and Skrene picks it up.
Jackson shows good vision on the run.
Gordon breaks a tackle for a nice gain.
Barnidge with a good catch.
Greco with a good block down field on the screen.
Cameron with a nice pattern and catch
Jackson great effort on the run right.  Broke a tackle
O line gets no push on run up the gut on the 2nd down run to the 2 and a half
Pass to Lewis TD Cleve 10-0
=
KO +8
Jackson made the tackle 5 yards down the field again
Skrine with a nice play
Robertson does a great job of getting coverage on 3rd 5
90 yard punt return by Benjamin Clev 17-0
=
KO +8
Winn rocks the runner for a gain of 3
Blitz doesn’t get there and the pass goes for 59 yards.  Ward did not keep deep against Givens.
Run up the gut by Richardson gets 12
Up the gut again for 5
Givens gets the TD.  The Rams #1s move right down the field against the 2nd team D of the Browns
CL 17-7
=
PN Butler -5
Gilkey good push on the run
Butler pulls back too quick but didn’t get called
Campbell looks sharp on a read and a quick pass to
Jackson looks good running and catching.
Marecic can’t block at all.
Butler pulls early again and gets away with it.
Campbell scrambles for the 1st down.
Norwood with a nice pattern and catch.
Jackson catches and makes a tackler miss to get 4 yards
Campbell missed Ogbonnaya on 3rd and 3
41 FG Graham CL 20-7
=
KO +12 Graham
Groves gets the sack.
Middle of the D gives up a 12 yard run.
Blitz doesn’t get home but the WR missed the catch.
After the 2 min warning the Browns didn’t get the snap call and blow the 3rd down play with a sack.
The team was not organized and missed a chance to keep the Rams off the field in the 2 min.
=
Rams get the ball on their 40 after a poor punt
Blitz By 2nd team is not getting to the QB.
Mingo gets to the QB even after a trip attempt
Fort and Wade stop a QB run by Davis.
54 yard FG GOOD CL 20-10
==
On a 1st down run Mingo stood his ground and turned the run inside.
The 2nd team Zone is not working.  The players are not breaking down in their zones to cover in time.
Sanford does a great job getting a sack.
Mingo puts pressure on Davis and forced him to throw it away.
P Davis gets held as he rushed
JMJ made a tackle that Fort missed on 3rd and 26.
=
Hoyer in at QB missed a WIDE open TE Davis
Then Hoyer almost threw a pick but the receiver rounded off the route and did not get open.
Three and out again.
Stacy runs for 6 up the gut
A second run gets the 1st
T Wade makes a good play and Quick missed the pass
Kitchin levels Stacy on a reception
T Wade called for interference.
Bademosi provides great coverage on a deep pass
Davis misses a wide open 81
55 y FG Cl 20-13
=
The Browns are able this year to throw screen passes unlike with the Shurmur regime
Jackson is running hard from the handoff or with the reception.
Cooper gets on the ground to get the ball.  Good catch.
Roosevelt makes a great catch but Hoyer threw it out of bounds.
FGA 54 WIDE LEFT BY Bogetay
On 3rd and 4 the Browns total blitz fails.  WR Wide open get the ball to the 30
Cole does a great job staying home against a reverse.
Staples makes the 4th down play tackle of QB Davis to turn the ball over to the Browns.
=
Paul Davis deflected the ball and Staples picked it off.
Maysonet has very good vision and speed.  Can he take a big hit?  He also tries to take the ball outside too much.  He has to stay with the hole called unless he sees a bigger opening.
Critical 3rd and 3 Hoyer finds a wide open Robinson and hits him for the closing TD.
CL 27-13 3:01 LEFT 4TH QUARTER
KO+6
ST allows a return to the 30
=
38 misses Radway and the Rams score 58 yards CL27-19 after the unsuccessful 2 point attempt
Edwards catches the on-side kick at the 50
Maysonet has surprising strength running inside.  He breaks tackles well.
Browns 3 and out again with a punt going into the endzone netting just 21 yards.
15 double covered gets by the deepest and drops the ball inside the 5
Holding on Kearney gives the Rams life
The Hail Mary almost scores.  The receiver Blake had the ball in the endzone but Justin Cole pulled the ball way to end the game.
My Conclusions:
Offense
              The first string O played better than I expected.  The Rams are good on D and the Browns moved the ball through the air well.  The running game suffered without Richardson or Hardesty.  While the loss of the later is no big deal, the loss of TRich is a major issue.
              The #1 O line is not getting much of a push up the middle.  The lack of timing with the 3rd and 4th backs didn’t help.  But the issue runs deeper than that.  Last year the Browns could not convert 3rd and short opportunities.  RB Lewis looked good and will only get better with more work.  Jackson is running hard but there are not many holes to run through.  The total O depends on the play action pass.  Without an effective running game the D will not react to the play action.
              The O line did pretty well protecting the QBs.  The Rams D line is very good but the #1 and #2 O lines both held their own in the passing game.  That was good to see.
              I am also concerned about the inability to convert inside the 20.  The O will have to be more effective inside the 20.  It was good to see Weeden throw the 2 yard TD pass to take the lead to Lewis.  Last year the team had major issues scoring TDs inside the 20.
              The Browns 2nd and 3rd teams are not as good as those of the Rams or a lot of other teams as well.  There is talent there but it will take time to allow those units to develop.  The coaching staff is focusing on getting the first team ready for the opener.  At this point in the season that is the most important thing.
              The bottom line on the O is that there were no turnovers and the Browns got 2.  Weeden looked very good and Hoyer looked OK.  Weeden dealt better with pressure around him and does not stare down the receiver as often as he did last year.  If an NFL QB stares down his receiver he ends up throwing picks more often than completions.  Hoyer is not seeing the field consistently and that is a problem.  While he may have the best grasp of the system, he does not have the arm to ever be a starter.
              It is important that the Offense scored 20 points.  That is more than they averaged last season.  But the team won only because the special teams scored.  Otherwise the game would have gone to overtime tied at 20 all.
DEFENSE:
              The big question of this season was if the Browns new 3-4 could get pressure on the passer and still do better stopping the run.  The answer after game 1 of the preseason is NO on both counts.  Even in the all out blitz the Browns were not getting to the QB.  There were some plays by the front 7 but often they were due as much to errors by the O line than outstanding scheme or D play.
              I was concerned about Sheard making the transition to LB from DE.  We had heard that he was doing very well but I was not impressed so far.  Jackson sometimes attacks the run but too often still makes tackles 4 or 5 yards down field.  Robertson made some big plays.  He showed he can be the coverage ILB.
              Without the hammer Jackson who is now in Atlanta, the Rams still got big yards up the gut against the Browns 3-4.  Had the score not been so lopsided, the Rams running game would have done a lot more damage.  I was encouraged with the play of Mingo.  He was running around and making plays.
              The D will get better as it internalizes the new scheme.  But against a questionable line with an extra injury the front 7 was not getting pressure on the QB without a blitz.  That is not a good sign.
              The issues with the defensive pass coverage will be exacerbated if the blitz is not getting to the QB.  The loss of the 2nd and 3rd CBs hurt but it was the safety play was particularly horrendous.   The safeties were beaten early and often.  That was an issue last year and based on the Rams game it has not gotten much better.  The Rams are weak at WR.  Even so, they were often running open through the Browns backfield.  Ward is much better at the line than in deep coverage.  The team’s failure to get a quality vet FS is hard to understand.
Bottom line on Defense:
              This team has a lot of work to do.  When they blitz they have to get to the QB.  The team is not good enough in the backfield to cover up for a poor rush.  There were some good plays but not enough.
Special Teams:
              I have been very hard on ST Coach Tabor.  I blamed him for not cutting a long snapper that lost his stroke and a punter that was damaged goods.  But despite losing the long time kicker Dawson, the special teams did very well.  The 4th quarter punt into the endzone from the 41 was pathetic but other than that they were solid.  Great PR by Benjamin for the TD and a solid blocking job for him.  The FG kicking was OK.  The issues of not cutting bad ST players may have been Shurmur not Tabor.
              I am not ready to endorse Tabor yet but am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Overall:  The Browns won.  That alone is different.  They beat a team that is solid and may challenge for a playoff spot this season.  The win was good.  But as always there are many things this team needs to work on to contend in the AFC North.  For more on the Browns/Rams game check out our weekly podcast on http://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/.
That’s what I think.  Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits http://fryingpansports.com.  He has also published several novels on and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.  Follow him on twitter @NNRonDSN to get the schedule of Special News, Notes and Rumors broadcasts.  You can hear the previous shows on http://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/.
He also edits .  
To keep up with the News, Notes & Rumors podcasts, follow me on twitter @NNRonDSN.
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The Steelers are having off field problems with their players.

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Star QB Ben Roethlisberger is in his third scrape since joining the team as a rookie. First there was the motorcycle accident that cost him a chunk of the preseason and slowed him early in 06. At the time he was not wearing a helmet. Most teams have included in their contracts a prohibition of “dangerous” activities for key players. Those conditions usually include riding motorcycles.

Then last year he was accused of sexual battery by a woman in Las Vegas. The woman was a worker at a casino and reportedly was asked by Roethlisberger to come to his room and fix a TV. She claims that Roethlisberger prevented her from leaving the room and forced her to have sex. The woman in that case did not go to a hospital or immediately inform police of the incident. According to reports, the woman decided against filing a criminal complaint but did file a civil suit against the QB. While Roethlisberger insisted he had done nothing wrong, there was a confidential settlement, presumably including a payment of some sort, with his accuser.

Again this off season, a 20 year old college student has accused Roethlisberger of sexual assault that reportedly occurred in a ladies bathroom in a bar in Milledgeville Georgia. The QB has a home in the area. This time the accuser both reported the alleged attack immediately and got treatment in a local hospital. The police took a report and are investigating. The police have requested a DNA sample from Roethlisberger.

Reportedly, there was video tape coverage of everything that happened or did not happen in the area of the bathroom. However, that tape mysteriously got taped over before it could be viewed by local police despite the fact that the bar security guy told a local TV station that they do not recycle tapes. Another twist to the story is that Roethlisberger was accompanied to the bar by 3 lawmen including 2 off duty Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol officers and a local deputy sheriff that was on duty at the time. It was the latter that took the original complaint from the accuser.

Steelers WR Santonio Holmes has been accused of assault by a Florida woman. She claims that he threw a glass of alcohol in her face on March 7 at the Rain Night Club in Orlando. While Orlando police refused to take a report, she has filed a civil lawsuit. Art Rooney 2 issued the following statement: “We are disappointed to learn about the recent incident involving Santonio Holmes in Florida. While we are continuing to gather the facts, I cannot comment further until we have more information and have spoken to Santonio and his representatives.” Reportedly Holmes offered the woman some money but nothing was paid to her at the time. Now the suit asks for 15K which is not a lot of money given his income.

We don’t have much more information about this incident but the issues that the Steelers are facing point out two things. First, every team in the league is more worried about their players doing something stupid in the off season than getting hurt in the off season OTAs. Of course that does not apply to Mangini allowing a player to run a contact drill without shoulder pads like he did with RB Davis last year.

The Steelers have been known as a high character and tight discipline team. We have not seen this from Pittsburgh before. So why now?

Frankly, it has nothing to do with Pittsburgh. The entire world has very little discipline or good judgment. Just look at the pinheads we send to Washington. A regular part of any sports broadcast could be devoted to the police blotter. Sports, politics, movies and music stars all seem to be lacking judgment. So what is the common factor? Youth.

The combination of a lot of money and a lack of age and experience can be a dangerous. Every pro league has this problem. Not only are very young rich men likely to put themselves in questionable situations but they are targets for anyone looking for a quick buck. As the economy gets worse, players are going to have to realize that more and more non-players are looking for just that kind of opportunity. There are also a gaggle of money hungry ambulance chasing lawyers that will talk accusers into filing a suit.

Players have to show better judgment than to put themselves in a situation where they are alone with women or in a position to be accused of inappropriate behavior. I can not understand why at his age he would be going to a college bar and inviting co-eds under 21 back to a VIP room for free drinks. What part of that seemed like a good idea at the time? If he showed that same kind of decision making on the field, he would be a 3rd string QB.

All pro leagues need to do a better job reminding players not to put themselves into these kind of situations. Unions need to be reminding players as well. DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA and his counterparts in the other player unions need to not only make annual presentations to the rookies but also to the vets. Parents should have taught their kids better as well.

None of us know what happened in any of these cases or who is telling the truth and who is not. Thank God in the US everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But the leagues, teams and the players take PR hits any time something like this happens. Given the future financial struggles of pro sports, no team can afford to lose even a few fans due to accusations of bad behavior.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think and thanks for checking our site out.

Your fantasy football doesn’t have to be over. Run a pro football franchise all year long for free at . Tell them Coach Smith sent you.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday afternoons at 1 Eastern. He has also published several novels on

and edits .

Technorati Tags: Roethlisberger,NFL,DeMaurice Smith,Holmes,Steelers. lawsuit,Georgia,sexual assult,NFLPA,off season,preseason
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What to look for in the Saturday Divisional round games.

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Cards @ Saints

Cards QB Warner had just another day at the office. Against one of the most improved Ds in the league he went 29-33 for 379 yards and 5 TDs without a pick. The Pack had no answer for Warner. They blitzed him and he picked man to man coverage apart. They rushed 3 and kept 8 in coverage and he found holes in the zones. The O line protected Warner for the most part and sub WRs did well to make up for the loss of WR Bolden.

On D, the Cards and the Pack allowed the score board to look like the something out of Pinball Wizard. Neither D could put consistent pressure on the others QB. The Pack was so focused on Warner that they allowed RB Wells 6.5 yards per attempt. They were lucky that their O was putting up so many points or Wells would have had more than his 14 carries. If the Cards are going to have any chance to stage the upset the D is going to have to play like they did last year in the playoff run to the Super Bowl. The passing game of the Saints is equally lethal. The Cards are 23rd in pass D. The D may be missing DE Campbell, LBs Davis and Hayes. If they can’t go the D will be in even more trouble. Get your popcorn ready, this could be a wild offensive show.

Saints

The Saint’s D coordinator Williams isn’t sleeping too well this week. He has nightmares of Card WRs running wide open through his D backfield. The Saints D had played much better this year than last but it has had a tough time against high percentage passing attack. The good news is that CB Jenkins is hampered by a hamstring but is expected to play. The bad news is that Boldin is optimistic about playing as well. The Saints are ranked 26th in pass D. The key to the game for the Saints D will be their ability to pressure Warner better than the Pack did.

The Saints O is outstanding. They are 1st in both yards and points, 4th in passing and 6th in rushing. The team stumbled into the playoffs with 3 straight losses. The O is going to have to play like they did early in the season and not in the last 3 games. They scored only 44 points in those losses. The 23-10 loss to the Panthers could have been explained by the team resting a lot of the key players but not the losses to the Boys and the Bucs. The problem was not rushing. They ran for 124 against the Bucs. The problem was not turnovers or completion percentage. The Saints may get RB Thomas back. That will help them get a running game going again.

The problem was they could not get the ball into the endzone. The game will depend on the Saints finding their scoring punch again. If they are forced to kick field goals to score, they will lose.

Both teams have a questionable D. But the Saints are struggling on O and the Cards are hotter than the sun. I will go out on a limb and pick the Cards in a huge upset.

Ravens @ Colts

Ravens

The Birds did a great job pressuring the Pats D with the running game. The O scored 33 points but got a lot of help from the Pats. They won’t get that kind of help from the Colts.

The O is going to have to get more out of the passing game. They won 3 of their last 4 games but those wins were against the dregs of the NFL. Against a team that scores like the Colts, 4-10 for 34 yards and a pick will not get it done. QB Flacco has not stepped up to the challenge like most expected him to do. The O line isn’t the problem, accuracy and lack of game breaking receivers are the critical issues. The coaching staff doesn’t trust Flacco to win games for them and they shouldn’t. He has crumbled in big games like against the Steelers. The running game is solid but won’t score often enough to keep the Ravs in the game. They will have to depend on the passing game and it will let them down.

The weakest part of the Ravs D is the pass defense. They are 5th against the run and 8th against the pass. They depend on pressure on the QB to control the pass. They won’t be able to get enough pressure on Manning to stop the Colts passing game.

Colts

The Colt O is devastating but it is one dimensional. They are #2 in passing but dead last in the running game. They are going to have to run the ball a little to keep the chains moving. The one advantage they have is that they can play catchup really well. Manning is playing at a very high level. The team lost 2 games but in both cases Manning and company were pulled early.

The Colt D has played great in some games and lousy in others. They rank 24th against the run and will get a lot of practice stopping it against the Ravs. The key injuries on D are all probable. That should help as the D has suffered a lot of injuries during the season. The rest the wounded got will help them.

The key to stopping the running game has been S Sanders but he is on IR again. The Colts’ D will struggle stopping the run but will get the win due to their O.

Saturday I will discuss the Sunday games.

Your fantasy football doesn’t have to be over.  Run a pro football franchise all year long for free at http://sportsims.net/.  Tell them Coach Smith sent you.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Football,nfl playoffs,divisional round,Super Bowl,Cardinals,Saints,Warner,Ravens,Colts,Manning,Flacco,sportsims.net
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What to look for Saturday in the Wild Card round.

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The Coaching Carousel

Seahawks—Mora is out and rumors are flying that USC Coach Carroll will be his replacement. I believe that will happen. However, in compliance with the NFL policy of requiring an interview of at least one minority candidate, the team has asked to interview others. The Hawks were 10-6 and in the playoffs in 07 but stumbled to 4-12 last year under then lame duck coach Holmgren. Mora had been named “HC in waiting” in the 08 pre season and took over to begin the 09 season. He went 5-11.

Raiders—The Cable will be cut. HC Tom Cable is hanging on by a thread. And worse yet, Owner Davis is standing above him with a pair of scissors. Cable doesn’t have much respect in the locker room or in the bosses office. He asked for a meeting with benched former 1st pick over all QB Russell but the later blew his coach off and left town. Cable will be gone soon.

Jets @ Bengals

The Jets beat Cincy 37-0 in week 17. That will not be the case in the Wild Card round. There is no chance that Bengal QB Palmer will cooperate like he did in that game completing just 1 out of 11 attempts. Also, Cincy RB Benson was held out of that game. He will play Saturday.

Jets

The Jets will rely on the running game because they don’t trust their rookie QB Sanchez. He has not thrown a TD in the last 2 games. Since week 8 he has thrown 4 TDs and 10 picks. The running game is built around 2 pro-bowl players (C Mangold and G Faneca) on the line and RB Jones carrying the rock. He has scored 14 TDs (because they didn’t trust Sanchez throwing in the red zone) but has only averaged 4.2 per attempt. The Bengals held Jones to 2.9 per carry in the game last week. That was similar to his production against the Falcons where he was held to 2.7 per attempt. If he can not reach 4 per carry, the Jets will lose. The danger is that they will fall behind without passing and be forced to throw the ball. That will cost them a win as well.

The Jet D has played well over their heads. HC Ryan has inspired the D to become the #1 D in the league. However that ranking is a bit misleading. They had a schedule where the teams against whom they played were not up to their 08 level. In their division neither the Bills nor the Dolphins were healthy enough to reach their 08 performance. Their non-division opponents like the Panthers were down as well. CB Revis is a pro-bowl player and is the classic shut down corner. He will be on WR OchoCinco. But there are 2 big questions. 1 Can the Jets get pressure on Palmer and 2 can they stop the running of Benson and company? To win they will have to do both.

Bengals

This team has to have a short memory because they stunk the place up last week. But they were resting a number of their top players. The motivation will be significantly greater this week. Palmer has to be more accurate. But more than that, the receivers have to catch the ball. Out of his 10 incompletions last week he had 5 drops.

Benson will be the key to the game. If the O line can give him just a little room, the Jets will be chasing Benson all day long. That is the key to keeping the D honest and giving Palmer time to throw.

Defensively, they need to force the Jets into 3rd and long. That means shutting down the run on 1st and 2nd down.

Even though the Jets won easily last week, I am picking the Bengals to win. I don’t think Sanchez is up to the challenge of the playoffs.

Eagles @ Cowboys

Eagles

The Birds laid an egg last week in Dallas or this game would have been in Philly. The biggest question of all is the health of RB Westbrook. If he is healthy or even 90%, the Birds have a good chance to win. If not the Boys will get to the divisional round. Philly needs him in the passing game as much as they need him to run the ball. He takes a lot of heat off of WR Jackson and opens up the passing game. He is also the relief valve for QB McNabb. The Birds allowed 4 sacks in each of their last 2 games and that has to stop if they are going to win. Westbrook had 20 catches in last weeks game.

Pass protection is critical against a revitalized Boys D.

The Eagle D has played well but rested several of their key player last week. They have to get in Romo’s face and stop the run to win. DTs Patterson and Bunkley have to keep the blockers off MLB Trotter to be successful.

Cowboys

The O has been playing much better down the stretch than they did in the past few seasons. Romo has not thrown the picks he has in the past after Dec. 1. After following their previous script losing the first 2 games, they won the last 3 including last week 24-0 over the Eagles. Romo has thrown 9 TDs with just 2 picks since 12/1. That is significantly better than he has done in the last 3 years when he was the starter. The running game has gotten better in the second half of the season as well. From week 11 on RB Barber has carried at least 14 times a game. He is averaging 4.4 per attempt. Romo needs the running game to work in order to be effective.

The Boys D has been different in the last few weeks also. HC Phillips took over the D and made a great difference. The Boys blitz more and have been more effective at getting to the QB. The D shut out both the Redskins and Eagles in the last 2 weeks. CBs Jenkins and Newman have to keep WR Jackson in their sights. When the Boys blitz, they will have to cover Jackson man to man. That can burn them.

The D won’t have to worry too much about the run because the Eagles won’t run much.

I have believed that the Boys would fall on their face in December 09 and they fooled me. But I no longer believe in the Eagles. The Boys will win.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL FOOTBALL,NFL Playoffs,Seahawks,Mora,USC,Raiders,Davis,Cable,Jets,Bengals,Eagles,Cowboys,Romo,Phillips
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Around the NFL for Wile Card week.

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The Coaching carousel spins.

Redskins—Zorn is gone. Former Denver coach Shanahan is in and has total power. See there is not a “no win” policy in Washington. Shanahan is smart and will get a lot more out of the talent that is there. The biggest problems with the Redskins are the O line and QB. The D is solid but has suffered because it has been on the field nearly 40 minutes a game. Shanahan will get the running game going and will move on from QB Campbell soup can.

Browns—Mangenous is still there. Browns Pres. Holmgren announced today that Mangini and his minions will be given one more season. Most observers had hoped that the team would at least demote or fire OC Daboll because he was clearly over his head in that spot. Holmgren is an offensive coach and all the Browns fans can hope is that the he will be puppet master calling the shots for the O.

There are a couple of things going on here that made that decision reasonable. First, there is a 75% chance that there will be no NFL football in 2011. For all the reasons I have published here months ago, there will be no agreement in time to prevent an uncapped year in 2010 and little chance that the two sides will agree to a deal before the drop dead date early in 2011.

The second reason is that I believe the rumors that have Jon “Chuckie” Gruden joining the team after football returns as head coach of the Browns. I would love that combination. I believe it would finally turn the team around. Both Holmgren and Gruden realize what a big job this is going to be. But both thrive in turn around jobs.

Steelers—The staff of coach Tomlin is paying the price for the team not making the playoffs. OL coach Zierlein and not so special teams coach Ligashesky have been fired. This is a move to take some heat off the HC chair. If the team comes around next season, Tomlin will keep his job. If not he will be the next one to get the pink slip out of Steel town.

Giants—O line coach Waufle was fired yesterday. The O line was one of the best in the league in 08 but disintegrated in 09. It caused QB Manning to run for his life on almost every play. The way the team rolled over and died late in the season, the O line is not the only problem. Look for more changes in the Big Apple.

Bears—The Bears fired OL Luke Butkus and quality control/wr assistant coach London. The problem on the O line was age not coaching. OT Williams was the only top 3 round pick in the last 6 years for the team. C Kreutz is a year past serviceable, Gs Garza and Omiyale are “never was” guys that are below starting quality and RT Shaffer is a journeyman. The WR problem is lack of WRs. The combination of Bennett, Davis and Hester don’t equal one #1 NFL quality guy.

Chiefs—Kansas City is trying to become “Patriots West.” As I have written before the only way that coach Haley saved his job was to bring experienced coordinators in like training wheels on a bike. Former ND and Pat OC Weis has been named OC. Look for current DC Pendergast to be the next causality. There are rumors that ex-Brown coach Crennel will be named DC. That might give Haley enough experience on his staff to make up for his lack of it.

The INs and the OUTs.

INs

Jets—The Jets got REALLY lucky being scheduled in their last 2 games against two teams that had already clinched their playoff position. The Jets won those games and they are in. They are playing a little better than they were earlier in the year but you can’t go far with a rookie QB at the helm unless you come from Pittsburg.

Ravens—The Birds won the games they were supposed to win to get WC spot. They are matched up against the Pats and that should be a great game.

Cowboys—Who says threats don’t work to motivate players and coaches? JJ threatened to blow up the team and start over if they missed the playoffs and the team responded. They beat the Eagles easily to win the NFC East. Let’s see how far they go. They will meet the Birds again in the Wild Card round.

Packers—The Pack beat the Cards easily and that will be the Wild Card game. The Cards rested a number of players that were nicked up. They will play this weekend.

The OUTS

Broncos—After a 6-0 start, the team disintegrated going 2-8 and failed to make the playoffs. It was only the 2nd team since the playoffs were expanded to 12 team to go 6-0 and not make the big dance. The problem is the head coach. He ticked off his all pro QB Cutler so badly that he was forced to trade him. Then he benched his all pro WR Marshall twice losing all those games. McD is not qualified to be head coach of a peewee team.

Texans—This team is just not talented enough to be much over .500. They have had some good drafts in the early picks but not enough guys contributing from the middle and late rounds to get over the hump.

Dolphins—One of my readers asked why I didn’t talk more about the Dolphins. Here you are. The Fish amazed everyone in 2008 going from the 1st overall draft pick to the AFC East championship. This year they were scheduled against other playoff teams and that and key injuries to their QB and RB proved to be too much to get to the playoffs for a 2nd year in a row. They are a really good team that has found their QB of the future in Henne.

Steelers—A Steeler team that can’t run the ball won’t make the playoffs. They are going to have to solve the O line problems to both protect the QB and create holes for the RBs. Their D missed Polamalu most of the season. The D has become far too dependent on him to correct mistakes that the other players make.

Giants—A combination of injuries and guys getting old in a hurry killed their chances for the playoffs. This team will be reworked in a big way in the off season.

Falcons—This team was another surprise in 08 that failed to make the dance in 09. They are getting better but had a lot of injuries that hurt its chances of making the post season.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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What to look for in the BcS Championship game.

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#1 Alabama

This is the year that Bama needs to win it all. They have 14 senior player that will be given serious consideration in the 2010 NFL draft 9 of whom should be drafted. They have as always some nice underclass talent but with that many guys leaving, a number of the key juniors will likely declare for the draft as well. They can not replace that many front line guys without taking a step back next season. This is their best chance to win the big prize.

Bama O

Bama can throw the ball but make no mistake about it—They need to run the ball to win. RB Ingram (So.) won the Heisman trophy and is outstanding. He has great vision and a very quick first step. He has decent speed and very seldom goes down at first contact. He is patent and uses blocks as well as any back in college. Those qualities are not developed. You either have them or you don’t. He is a good receiver and gets to the edge on screens often. He has 30 catches this year for an average of 10.2 yards which is a lot higher than most RBs.

QB McElroy has a passer rating of 142 but that is a little misleading. He has taken advantage of Ds that played 46 guys at the line of scrimmage to stop the run. He has thrown 17 TDs and has had just 4 picks. He throws a catchable ball with accuracy. He does not throw well under pressure and that could be a problem against Texas.

The Tide has good but not excellent receivers. Soph WRs Jones and Maze are the stars. Jones (6-4) is the big guy over the middle and has 42 catches and 4 TDs. Maze (5-10) is the speed guy with 30 catches for a 17 yard average and 2 TDs. TE Peek (3rd round) is a combo end with the ability to catch and block for the run. He has 26 catches and 3 TDs.

The O line is outstanding. It is led by All American Johnson (2nd) and Davis (6th). The team run blocks as well as any O line in recent years. They pass block well but were recruited to block the run.

Bama D

The D that stopped Florida is led by 2 All Americans (AA)—Butkus winner LB McClain (Jr.) and S Arenas (2nd). Arenas and SS Woodall (3rd) give the Tide the best pair of safeties in college. McClain was suffering from stomach problems but he is fine now. DT Cody (top 20 1st round) anchors the D line. He is the 4th rated DT in the draft. He fights through double teams to create havoc in the O backfield.

The D stuffs the run and lets the back line make up for any mistakes covering receivers. Given the quality of the back line, that has worked well. But against Texas, they are going to have to be more concerned about getting pressure on the QB and stopping the pass.

Texas

Texas will go as far as AA QB McCoy (1st) takes them. The team has depended more on his arm than on the run and the D put together.

Texas O

McCoy came back this year to win a championship. Texas was 18th in passing but 55th in rushing on O. McCoy has thrown for 3512 yards with 27 TDs and 12 picks. Because the running game has under produced, this year McCoy has taken more chances throwing the ball into coverage than he did last year. That accounted for more picks this year.

McCoy had more rushing attempts than leading RB Newton. Newton averaged 5 yards per carry on 102 attempts. AA second team WR Shipley (late 1 early 2) is by far the leading receiver with 106 catches and 11 TDs. The next highest is WR Williams (So.) with 38.

The O line is led by AA C Hall (4th), OT Ulatoski (3rd) and late round prospect G Tanner. The line pass blocks very well. They have not been as successful run blocking. This year the running game has not been up to usual Texas standards. When they have had a close game, they have struggled to close out the game by running.

Texas D

The Texas D may be the most under rated part of this game. The D held Oklahoma to 13, and T exas Tech to 24. They also saved the year for the Horns by keeping Nebraska to 12 points when the O struggled big time. The key to the team on D is the line. DT Houston (2nd) is the key along with DEs Jones and Acho who are both juniors. Houston keeps at least 2 OL guys busy and that frees up the LBs to attack the ball. OB Kindle (1st) is a force rushing the passer or stopping the run. He is also dangerous in pass coverage. His running mates Norton (late or FA) and Muckelroy (2nd) are returning starters and are under appreciated.

The D backfield is good but not great. CB Beasley (FA) is the bell cow but all 4 starters returned this year.

Prediction

I expect a low scoring game. I don’t see either team exploding offensively. The over/under is 45 and the under is the best bet. The line is Bama by 4. I expect them to win but it may be closer than that.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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