There were a lot of games this weekend but I have chosen to discuss 3 in depth because they pitted potential playoff team against each other.
GB @ AZ
The Packs QB Rodgers throws a nice deep ball. He doesn’t often look off his receivers though and that will get his guys hit by the safety. The Pack will throw more and run less this year. WR Jennings is able to get open by speed and good patterns but was hurt and did not return.
Ryan Grant will get most of the carries but will still average less than 4 yards per carry. I still don’t consider him a Fantasy stud.
One of the problems that the Cards D has it that they don’t keep their rush lanes which allows QBs and RBs to find large gaps to run through.
The Cards CB Rogers-Cromartie can make some outstanding plays because of his speed and athleticism. But he needs to take fewer chances jumping patterns. He gets burned when he guesses wrong.
The Cards can’t protect Warner and the O won’t go anywhere. Rookie RB Beanie Wells has his jump step back and his vision is outstanding. He will be the starter before the end of the year. The D is not playing anywhere close to the playoffs of last year. The D needs to pick it up even in the NFL NFC West.
The Cards give the ball away too often. The biggest problem is fumbles. Warner gets hit almost as soon as he makes his drop. He has small hands and tends to lose the ball when he is hit in the act of passing. Also the 3rd and 4th WRs fumble to often.
Leinart looked outstanding against guys that will be greeters at Walmart next week.
The Pack’s 3-4 is coming along nicely. They are able to put pressure on the QB but they were playing the Cards. The pass coverage is getting back to game 1 levels. The running game is still not ready for the regular season.
OVERALL: The Pack is getting into the playoffs probably as a wild card. They will be a tough out IF their 3-4 continues to develop. It won’t and they will be one and done.
The Cards are the toughest team to figure out because their D is so fickle. IF the D decides to show up and play close to the way it did in the 08 playoff run, they can play with anyone in the NFC even with the shortcomings of the O line. If not, look for Warner to retire and the Cards to sink again into the middle of the pack.
NE @ WA
The Redskins D was blitzing coming down the elevator in the hotel. They came after Tom Brady like he was seafood and steak buffet and they hadn’t eaten in weeks. They can get away with that because the Skins have a solid group of veteran CBs that can bump and run for short distances.
The Giants showed the way to beat the Pats in the Super Bowl—blitz the devil out of Brady. The Pats O line is over rated and it showed in that game. They are OK but not much better than that. Brady reads Ds as well as any QB in the game but he can’t complete passes with 4 or 5 guys in his face or sitting on his backside. In addition a lot of the best plays of the Pats involve crossing patterns that take more time than quick outs or slants.
The Skins DB Fred Smoot had the best game I have seen him play in 2 years against the Pats. He was left man to man with the second receiver and had an outstanding half.
QB Campbell was more accurate than he was late last season but his passes tend to be high which puts the receivers in jeopardy. Some of those throws will get his pass catchers killed. He still struggles on accuracy with the deep ball with air underneath. He also is not looking the safety off before he throws. He will still throw some picks due to not recognizing the underneath zone coverages.
I don’t like the pass patterns that the Skins run. Too many of them involve the WR sitting down in a spot and waiting for the ball. A WR standing is too easy to cover and leads to balls getting picked. The Pats’ O with the QB hitting the WR in motion allows the receivers to have a better chance of getting separation.
The Skins won’t have the kind of rushing attack that fantasy players are used to with Portis.
The Pats D is going to be a little more difficult to game plan against. They are using more 4-3 to go with the 3-4 that has been their base D. The flexibility that the vets in the D give the Pats makes them very dangerous.
Look for Pats Vet Fred Taylor to get the ball a lot. Laurence Maroney has a tendency to but the ball on the ground. Taylor is a much more reliable runner that fumbles very seldom. He is also an outstanding pass receiver and pass protector.
WR Randy Moss is just a beast. Not only is he big and strong, he has been focused since coming to the Pats and runs very good patterns. He is the most dangerous WR in the league with Brady throwing to him.
Joey Galloway may be 37 but he still has speed. The best underneath receiver in the league, Wes Welker, was not in the game due to injury. He makes a great difference because it allows Brady to dump the ball off if the blocking breaks down.
Brady seems to be moving very well in the pocket. We will have to see about his injury on his last play because Bill Belichick will never tell us anything.
OVERALL: I haven’t changed my opinion—The Pats are the best team in the AFC IF Brady is healthy. They will roll over the AFC East and will play either the Colts or more likely the Steelers for the AFC ticket to the Super Bowl.
The Skins are a playoff caliber team IF Campbell plays well. If not, there are going to be a lot of REALLY good QBs in the 2010 draft.
BA @ CR
BA QB Joe Flacco is really becoming a top passer. He has a rocket arm and still shows very nice touch dropping balls over the head of the DB and into the hands of his guy. This could be a more pass friendly team which will only make the Ravens more dangerous.
The change from McGahee to Rice is official. Ray Rice is now the starter at RB including on 3rd down. He is younger and has a nice jump step. McGahee had that but injuries in both college and the pros have reduced his abilities. He may be the goal line guy which would give him some value in Fantasy.
The team is helping LT Gaither by keeping the TE or a RB on his side to block against really good pass rushers. Gaither has not played as well this preseason as he did last year as the starter. RT Oher has to keep his head in the game. He cost the team a TD by jumping off side twice (although the Refs only saw it once). The Ravens went from 1st and ½ yard to 4th and 12 and then missed the field goal. That has to change if they are going to challenge the Steelers.
WR Derek Mason looks really good for a guy that missed most of training camp. Maybe he looks that quick because he avoided most of camp. He’s going to be fine. One of the reasons that the Panthers have so many long runs is the blocking ability of WRs Smith and Muhammad. There are very few long runs without WRs and TEs blocking effectively down field.
The D plays so smartly. They put you in a 3rd and 17 and then let you have 12 yards so you have to punt.
OVERALL: The more I watch the Baltimore O the more impressed I am. Given how well the D plays, this might be the year that they overtake the Steelers. The O is no longer as weak as it has been in the past mostly thanks to Flacco’s development.
CR QB Delhomme isn’t throwing into double coverage. He is staring down his receiver and that brings double coverage to the throw. He has been around too long to still be doing that. Del also isn’t seeing the field very well against teams with a good draft rush. When he gets pressured up the middle he loses vision.
WR Steve Smith makes his first appearance of the
year. We noticed that because he held on the first play of the game. But he looks very good. The only question is going to be can Delhomme take advantage of the times he gets open and get the ball to him consistently.
The Panthers have 2 rbs with injuries. Neither look too serious. Williams will be ready for game 1. Stewart is more of a question. He has missed a lot of practice time and has not appeared in any of the preseason games. However rookie RB Goodson (Texas A&M) looks quick and has good vision. If Stewart can’t go early in the year, Goodson should be more than able to give Williams some rest. Having that many good RBs should be against the rules.
The Panther O line is struggling with games up front. G Keydrick Vincent is the weak link in the line. The 9 year vet seems to have forgotten how to play DL games when the DT goes outside and the DE comes around inside.
The D struggled to stop the run last year. They ranked 20th in that area. This year they seem to be getting better.
DE Brayton and Peppers combine to make a really good pass rush combo. Peppers seems to be fine with his contract and is playing well. Rookie DE Everett Brown looks good in the pass rush as well. At 6-9 with long arms, he will be hard to throw over.
LB Diggs is really playing well. He seems more focused this year. He is attacking the run down hill including stopping a dive at the goal line. He is also covering his receiver much more closely than he has in previous seasons.
OVERALL: The Panthers will take a couple of steps back this year. The passing game is only as good as Delhomme and he seems to have regressed. The great running game will face 45 guys in the box unless he can keep them honest with the pass.
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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