What to look for in the AFC Conference championship game.

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Tomorrow: The NFC Conference championship game.

Jets @ Colts

Jets

The Jets are the only surprise in the playoffs. They were not even supposed to make the post season but here they are after upsets of the Bengals and Chargers. The O depends on the run WAY too much and that could be the downfall of the Jets. RB Thomas did not practice on Thursday but the absence was not injury related. They can not hope to win without a huge game from him.

The game plan of the Jets will be run the ball and hope to keep the Colts O off the field. The Colts are vulnerable to the run. But the Jets will face 46 guys in the box if they cannot pass for more than 100 yards against the Colts.

QB Sanchez has not been asked to do much passing the ball. In both games the Jets have been ahead. They will get behind against the Colts and it will be up to Sanchez to pass them to catch up. There is a great deal of doubt he can do that. The media has made a lot about rookie Sanchez winning his first 2 playoff games. He has not won them. Rather, he has not lost them for the Jets.

The Jets O line did a very solid job protecting the QB giving up just 1 sack in 2 games. More significant, C Mangold was able to handle the NT of the Chargers letting the Gs get to the second level to block for the run. He should be able to do the same against the 4-3 of the Colts.

The D of the Jets has been outstanding. It continued to stifle the opponents offense ability to pass and run. They have gotten 5 sacks in the two playoff games but have consistently put pressure on the opponent QBs. There is “but” coming however. The team has played 2 offenses that have been down in the last few games. The Bengals couldn’t score more than 24 points in any of their final 5 regular season games. Palmer looked old and was inaccurate and RB Benson was hurt and not nearly at 100%. The Chargers had only 1 good offensive effort against the wounded Titans in their last 5.

The key to the Jets D will be putting heat on QB Manning. They can disregard the run because the Colts are last in that category in the league. They also need to find a way to cover the receivers for an extended period of time. Otherwise Manning will pick the pass D apart.

Colts

For the Colts, its Manning, Manning and Manning. They have not been able to run the ball all year and will not be able to run against the Jets. The passing game should be helped by the return of WR Wayne. He had a full practice Thursday. They will need all their weapons in the passing game to compete. If they could find a way to run just a little, it could make a huge difference in the amount of pass rush the Jets can generate.

The D is hobbled by injury. They are looking for any help they can get particularly in the D backfield. They have signed S Darrick Brown (Saints) and have looked at FA CB Deltha O’Neal (Texans) due to injuries. S Sanders is on IR and S Bethea was limited in practice due to injuries. Reserve CB Powers will likely not play due to a foot injury. Bethea is critical because with the loss of Sanders, he is a key run defender.

The bottom line: I don’t think that Sanchez can take advantage of the injuries in the pas D of the Colts. The Colts can score a lot faster than the Jets. I will take the Colts to win but probably under the total points projected by Los Vegas.

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.

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 is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday morning at 11. He has also published several novels on

and edits .

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  • Author:
  • Published: Nov 7th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Around the NFL for 11/7/09

Around the NFL for 11/7/09

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The winds of change blowing through Cleveland

GM George Kokinis was frog walked out of the complex on Monday. Owner Randy Lerner told the press that he was going to hire a football guy with solid credentials to help rebuild the organization. Good luck with that. Nobody with “solid credentials” would touch that job with a 100 yard stick. For my full analysis of the Browns situation, check out my article on NFLDraftDog.com

The Colts lose 3/4ths of its D backfield

The biggest loss was all pro S Sanders. The Colts give up nearly a full yard per rushing attempt more without Sanders on the field. He is gone for the year. Starting CB Jackson is also out for the season. CB Hayden is out for a couple of weeks with a knee.

Cards @ Bears

The O line of the Cards is going to have to do a lot better this week than they have so far this year if the team is going to win on a regular basis. Warner needs protection and he hasn’t gotten it. The D is playing a full level below the way they did during the playoff run last year.

The Bears have their own problems. Their O line has put QB Cutler under way too much pressure and the WRs have not done him any favors either. The Bear D will play well but the Cards’ O line won’t. The Bears win.

Ravens @ Bengals

The Bengals won in Baltimore and the Ravens need this game badly. It looked like the Raven D was nearly back to the Super Bowl years in performance against the Broncos last week. But that was a mirage. The Broncos had not played a good D up to that game.

The Bengals are winning based on a D playing better as a unit than their individual players indicate they can. That has to continue against a really good Raven O. The running game has also been a center post of their game with RB Benson.

This game will come down to which team generates the most turn overs. The Raven D will and they win in a close game.

Chargers @ Giants

The Giants need this game. Their O has suffered due to the lack of NFL quality receivers. The D has been put in too many bad positions by the O failing to convert 3rd downs. The lack of a passing threat has been mostly responsible for the low yards per attempt of the running game as well.

The Chargers have been very inconsistent as well. They are 4-3 but 2 of those wins have come over Oakland which hardly counts. RB Thomlinson seems to be getting back to form since the bye. Rivers will be better as the running game returns. Because the Giants need the game worse they should win.

Cowboys @ Eagles

The Boys are playing like girls. They need this game but the Eagles have been playing much better in the last few weeks. The Eagles will pressure QB Romo into errors and they will win the game.

Steelers @ Broncos

The fall of the Broncos continues as the Steelers have righted the ship. When the Steeler D puts pressure on Bronco QB Orton he will make mistakes. The Steelers live on errors and 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 .

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  • Author:
  • Published: Oct 31st, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
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Around the NFL for Week 8

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This week is the half way mark in the season. Tuesday we will look at what the playoffs look like as well as the second half. But this week there are a couple of key games to watch.

DV @ BA

The second half of the Bronco schedule is a lot harder than the first half. They play the Steelers next along with the Giants, the Colts and the Eagles. Sunday we will see if the Bronco O is a competitor for the Super Bowl or just a pretender. Their O line has not faced a D like the Ravens even if the Ravs are not playing as well as they have in the past.

The Bronco D has played well against some of the weakest offenses in the history of the NFL. We will see how they look against a balanced Raven O. QB Flacco is playing very well and will challenge a questionable Bronco defensive backfield.

The Ravens have to tighten up the D. The pass coverage has been far below what it was in previous years. This season they replaced both CBs and Foxworth and Washington have not produced like McAlister and Rolle have in recent years. As a result, the D is giving up more passing yards and forced to blitz more.

The Ravens need the win much more than Denver and win the game.

SF @ IN

The 49ers have played well and are 3-3 going into Indy. Smith is going to start at QB which has been the weakness of the team. RB Gore is healthy and the Colts have trouble stopping the run. S Sanders is back for the Colts and that will help against Gore.

The 49er D has been very strong but has not faced an O like Manning and Co. The SF O and the Colt D are a standoff. It will be the Colt O that gives Indy the win.

MN @ GB

The return of Farve is all the media is talking about. But those that have watched Viking games realize that Favre is the icing not the cake itself. RB Peterson is the key player on the O for the Vikes. The Pack D has played well but has gotten most of their numbers against weak teams like the Browns and the Lions.

However, the key will be the Viking D against a very potent O of the Pack. The Packers have suffered injuries on the O line and the Viking pass rush will be the difference. If the Vikes can put enough heat on Pack QB Rodgers, the Vikes will win in a close game.

The Vikes won at home and should win again in Favre’s return.

AT @ NO

The Monday night game should be a very good one. The Falcons come in 2 games behind the Saints at 4-2. They really need to win to get within striking distance of the division leader. The Falcon O has scored 21 points in each of the last 2 games. That won’t be nearly enough against the NFL’s top offense. They will need to play the best game defensively of the season and still score 35 to have a chance to win.

The Saints D has played way above expectation. It has been helped by the pressure that the O puts on the opposition. Very often the D can just worry about rushing the passer because the Saints are so far ahead of the opponent. The D has not faced a team that could match them score for score as the Falcons can on a good day.

But their visit to the Big Easy will be anything but and the Saints win comfortably.

QB changes around the league

The Titans will start Young to see what he can do. At 0-6, its about time. I will have some additional suggestions for them next week.

Despite cries of protest and the most abysmal lack of offense in years, the Browns will continue to start Anderson. He has a passer rating of 40.6. If a QB goes 0-1 without an interception, the rating is 39.6. He is completing just 43.8 % of his throws. Quinn has a pr of 62.9 and a 60.8 completion rate. Give him a chance.

The 49ers have replaced QB Hill with former 1st overall pick Smith. Hill had a qb rating of 79.6 but Smith in very limited action has a 118.6. I don’t believe that Smith is that much better than Hill and in more extensive action will prove it. We will see how he does against an only fair D backfield of the Colts.

Raider fans have to be wondering what the D could do if Davis had not cut the vet QB Garcia. Russell has a rating of 47.2. The only QB with any experience on the team is Gradkowski who has proven beyond a doubt he isn’t an NFL qb. Like the Browns, the Raiders will have a very long 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 did we learn from weekend 2 in football?

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In the Pros

Carolina and Delhomme are both very over rated. “DelInt” threw 4 picks against the Eagles. All the experts picked the Panthers to win but as I predicted here on Friday, the Panthers are paper tigers. The Eagles went to Panther land and kicked butt. The Eagles are now in trouble due to an injury to McNabb. He was hit by 2 players in the endzone AFTER he was down. I will have more to say about that tomorrow.

A couple of other teams showed they may be road warriors. The Jets upset the Texans on the road. It was a nice win led by rookie Sanchez passes. He was 18-31 272 yards 1 TD and 1 pick. Nice start for the rook.

The Jaguars look better than anyone thought. They went into Indy and should have won the game. They ended up losing 14-12. Clearly there is something wrong with the Colts and it has nothing to do with the D not having S Bob Sanders.

The 49ers were road warriors going into Arizona and getting the win. The win was led by the D. Arizona is going to have to improve on the O line to win consistently.

The Bronco D played better than expected at Cincinnati. They held Benson to 76 yard rushing and Palmer without a TD. They also got 2 picks. The Bengal receivers had caught the Dropsy Flew on Friday and had not recovered. The Bengal O line is one thing holding them back.

The Chiefs played the Ravens tough. The Chief D scored 1 TD and set up the second.

I told you so.

As predicted, the Bears went to GB and gave the Packers all they wanted and more. A single bone head play beat the Bears.

It took the Vikes the first series in the second half to finish the Browns. Quinn started and didn’t look too bad. The Browns O line is horrible particularly the right side. Several penalties on St. Clair and others slowed the O. They cannot win if they kick field goals inside the 10. Farve did just enough let the Vikes sneak by the Browns 34-20. The lack of ball control by the O let a great effort by the Browns D go to waste.

The Redskins came close to beating the Giants. The lack of catches will make Manning’s life miserable this year. The WRs will cause more picks than he will. Now the Giant problems at WR got worse with the ankle injury to Nicks. Initial reports say he will be out 2 to 4 weeks.

The Dolphins played pretty well but the Falcons are really good. A tougher schedule and not being able to sneak up on teams will result in a worse record for the fish. Pennington is going to have to stop throwing picks.

Drew Brees threw 6 TDs in the opener for the Saints. Of course it was against the Lions. Matt Stafford had a tough day but helped the Lions to 27 points. That was 3 weeks of scoring for last year’s team.

Bonehead play of the day

Leading by 2 points in the second half, the long snapper Patrick Mannelly did a direct snap to the up man to fake a punt and go for the first down. That might not have been a bad move if the Bears had been deep in the Packer end of the field. But the Bears were inside their own 35 and it was 4th and 11. The Pack took over and kicked a field goal to take the lead and never looked back. A lesser coach would throw the 12 year vet under the team bus but Smith probably will not.

The Paul Brown “I’d rather be lucky than good” award

The Broncos used a tip drill on the Bengals by throwing the longest pass play in the final minute of the game in NFL history. With the ball on the 13, the pass was tipped by a Bengal and it was caught by Brandon Stokley who ran it in for a TD.

College Football

#3 USC is still USC and #8 Ohio State is the same as well. The OSU D played very well until the game was on the line then folded and let USC march the ball down for the winning TD.

#5 Oklahoma State was too busy reading their clippings from a nice road win to prepare for their game Saturday. They are not the real deal. Houston passed the OSU D into the ground.

#16 TCU had a nice win at Virginia. # 7 Penn State held Syracuse scoreless until the 2nd string was in for the 4th quarter.

#18 Notre Dame will probably move up two spots after a close loss to Michigan. The Michigan D has come around faster than I though. ND is as usual over rated.

Three different radio hosts picked #19 North Carolina as a sure thing to cover the spread against UConn. I went the other way and picked UConn to win. They came close and only a holding penalty in their own endzone prevented OT and gave the game via safety to NC.

Best analysis of the weekend

Deion Sanders on the NFL channel had the best piece of analysis when he said that the Panthers are in danger of losing their locker room due to the management granting Delhomme a new deal with 20 mil guaranteed right after he intercepted them out of the playoffs and despite the fact his current deal wasn’t up. They snubbed DL Julius Peppers who deserved the deal to give it to DelInt. Sanders is exactly right and it was a comment that only an ex-player would know to make.

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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Now that Payton is Payton again will the Colts win it all?

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In discussing the attempt to return to the game of Mike Vick, Payton Manning described the problems he had just by missing training camp last year due to an infection in his knee. He said it took him until the middle of the season to really get the timing and feel of the pocket back. The statistics prove it. Prior to game 9 Payton threw 9 ints and 10 TDs. From game 9 to the end of the season he threw 17 TDs and only 3 picks.

The Colts are just beginning to see their window to the Super Bowl start to close. Payton is 33. He is the key to the Colts offense. Two of his critical protectors are on the wrong side of 30 as well. All pro C Jeff Saturday is 34 and RT Ryan Diem is 33. WR Marvin Harrison is gone. The Colts will only go as far as their O takes them.

Payton is poised to have his typical MVP quality season. He will miss WR Harrison but has Reggie Wayne to run deep patterns and former 3rd WR Anthony Gonzalez and always reliable TE Dallas Clark to run underneath routes. The battle for 3rd WR will be something to watch.

The running game has not missed a beat with Joseph Addai replacing long time starter Edgerrin James in 06. But injuries have slowed Addai in 07 and 08. Addai has to return to the explosive style he had in his rookie year or he might get replaced by 1st round pick rookie Donald Brown. Brown has great football smarts and catches the ball out of the backfield well. Mike Hart tries to return from an injury that ended what had been an impressive rookie campaign in 08.

The line is solid but there are question marks. C Saturday is healthy and well paid with an extension. LT Tony Ugoh stepped in and played very well. He and RT Diem are well above average. The questions are at G. G Ryan Lilja is coming off surgery. His return would go a long way to answer the issues at G. Both projected starters Charlie Johnson and Mike Pollak had injuries cut into their 08 seasons. If the Gs are healthy, the line will be fine. If not, Payton will have to depend on his pocket awareness more than usual.

The Colts D line had a ton of problems last couple of seasons. Their super pass rusher Dwight Freeney was out for half of 07 with injuries. He was used a little more sparingly in 08 and started 14 games. DT Ed Johnson, the undrafted rookie that played so well in 07 was cut in 08 for extreme stupidity. He was arrested for speeding and police found marijuana in the car. He is back on double secret probation by the team.

DE Raheem Brock and DTs Eric Foster and Keyunta Dawson will likely join Freeney on the D line. The Colts have added depth with Johnson, Adrian Grady, Marcus Howard, Antonio Johnson, Curtis Johnson, Robert Mathis and Fili Moala just to name a few. There is enough talent there to provide a good rotation on the D line.

The linebacking group will provide the most interesting training camp contests. None of the three positions is a lock. MLB Gary Brackett has the best chance of holding his spot but the outside backer positions are up for grabs. Clint Session started at SLB last year but could be moved to the other side. Tyjuan Hagler and Freddy Keiaho were allowed to test free agency but were resigned on the cheap. Either of them might start. Philip Wheeler looked good in OTAs and will get a chance at starting.

The star among the DBs is SS Bob Sanders. He hits so hard he often hurts himself as well as the player on the business end of his tackles. He is the key to the Colts stopping the run. FS Antoine Bethea had a below average season last year and had better return to form. If not he will lose his spot to any one of the outstanding safeties in waiting including Melvin Bullitt, Brannon Condren, Matt Giordano and Jamie Silva. All 4 can play either safety position. The Colts hoped that both FA Kelvin Hayden and injured Marlin Jackson would return. Hayden was resigned and Jackson looks fine. That pair is as good as any in the AFC. If he has recovered from surgery Michael Coe should be the nickel. If not, Brandon Anderson or Brandon Foster will play it.

OVERALL: There is no doubt that the Colts will return to championship form. 5 key games will determine if the Colts have home field or have to play on the road in the playoffs. Wk 2 @ Miami, Wk 3 @ Arizona, Wk 5 @ Tennessee, and Wk 13 vs Tennesee are key. But the Wk 10 vs New England is the game that should decide home field between these two major super bowl threats in the AFC.

I think the Colts will be better but not good enough to beat NE and will not make the Super Bowl.

.

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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The Pats hope Brady is Brady.

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QB Tom Brady had the most replayed and discussed injury in the recent history of the NFL in game 1 last year. All Coach Bill Belichick wants is his QB back to where he was before the injury. All reports are positive and it looks like Brady is back at close to 100%. The Pats have added some key veterans that make the team better. That’s all very bad news for the rest of the AFC.

Over the last few years, the Pats have been plugging in younger players. Last year, they went 11-5 without the best QB in the league. Now they have him back and the team will be much better than 07 or 08. There is no experience behind him.

The running game is a lot more solid that it looks from the outside. It is deep and talented. Starter Laurence Maroney has underachieved and has been injury prone but help has arrived in the form of vet Fred Taylor. Maroney will have to improve or Taylor will get the majority of carries. Vets Sammy “the versatile” Morris and Kevin Faulk the 3rd down back are joined by rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis in reserve.

As if the receiver corps didn’t have enough speed, the Pats added the aged but still fast Joey Galloway to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Welker should be totally uncovered with so much D attention having to be given to Moss and Galloway. Greg Lewis and Brandon Tate are capable backups. TE remains a trouble spot.

The offensive line is back intact and is solid but unknown. That is just the way Belichick likes it. T Matt Light and G Logan Mankins hold down the blind side while the much improved G Stephen Neal and T Nick Kaczur are on the right. C Dan Koppen is as good as any in the league and has the advantage of working against one of the best NTs in the league Vince Wilfork everyday in practice. The reserves may change but the starters are mostly young and all solid.

The key to the NE D is the front three and there is more than a little tension there. While Es Richard Seymour and Ty Warren are quiet, Wilfork is unhappy and clamoring for a new deal. But he will be there deal or not. The front three have been outstanding at defending both the pass and the run. They work seamlessly with the backers to provide more different looks than there are snowflakes in New England in the winter. Key reserves are T Titus Adams and E Jarvis Green and swing man Le Kevin Smith.

Grizzled vet IB Tedy Bruschi gets a second year to work with running mate in Jerod Mayo. Mayo had an outstanding rookie year after learning to do his job rather than freelancing. Brushi and Belichick will keep him under control and continue to get the maximum out of his unique athletic ability. OB Adalius Thomas is outstanding and Pierre Woods finally gets a shot at starting because of the retirement of Junior Seau (we think). Reserve Shawn Crable would start for most NFL teams.

The youth movement has hit the D backfield as well. The new starters at safety will be James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather who ended up playing a lot last year due to injury. Rookie Patrick Chung looked very good in OTAs and is challenging for a starting spot. CB Shawn Springs will start on one side but the other CB is totally up in the air. The leader going into training camp is Terrence Wheatley who had the job last year but is returning from injury. Vets Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler will both challenge Wheatley for his job. Bodden was signed as a FA and just a couple of years ago was considered one of the better CBs in the league and still has some skills.

OVERALL: The Pat haters will not like this but look for NE to get back to the AFC Championship game and perhaps the Super Bowl. They are the most likely to win it all.

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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