Niblets for September 2010

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Best comment of the month:

Frederic Bernotas on What did we learn from week 2 in College Football?

After all this it is possible that the Wolverines will get into the Big 10 season with 4 wins, although subsequently, exactly what after that? Conference competition breaks along with The Hoosier’s formidable offense. Subsequently Michigan visits Michigan State, Iowa and visits to State College Pa. to face the Nittany Lions. Multiple issues in between these days and the finish of the season, so you’ll forgive me if I’m a little more cautious about making proclamations about this team and this year.

Frederic, your caution is wise. The Blue were 4-0 last year going into the Big 10 season and won only 1 more game the rest of the way.

Updates on previous columns:

Pro Football Niblets and Fantasy tips

I would like to thank my readers for not skewering me on my Pro Best bets. We will try to do a little better from now on. At least the Fantasy pickups were good. The Eagles have named Vick as their starter from now on, Ram WR Clayton remains hot and Packer RB Jackson has a nice upside.

In Dallas, things are continuing to heat up. After the interstate rivalry against the Texans this week, the team has a bye. If the Boys don’t win this week, it will almost certainly be bye-bye to HC Phillips.

What did we learn from week 2 in College Football?

Texas, Penn State, Wisconsin and Florida continue to struggle. What we saw last week was not a fluke.

Niblets fresh from the cob:

Announcement: Starting in October, the Digital Sport Network will debut on

This will be the best sports programing on the Internet and the list of personalities includes Chuck Booms who had the top show on Fox Sports Radio, Bud Shaw from the Plain Dealer, and Harry Petsanis from SportsTalk radio. I will be appearing on the broadcast talking about the Browns and the NFL 2011 draft. I will let you know when I will be on.

The NFL QB carrousel continues to spin.

Beside Vick, 7 QBs that rode the bench in Game 1 will start for their teams. The most notable is the Panthers deciding to bench QB Moore in favor of rookie Jimmy Clausen. Not that it makes any difference but Buffalo has benched QB Edwards in favor of Fitzpatrick. In another insignificant move, the Raiders will start Gradkowski over Campbell for whom they traded.

Best Bets in the Pros:

3 Colts -3 vs Broncos – The Colt O is too much for the Broncos.

2 Falcons +5.5 vs. Saints The Saints are on a short week and traveling again.

1 Pats -12.5 vs Bills – Fitzpatrick will be begging the coach to put Edwards back in at half time.

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 He has also published several novels on

and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL Football,College Football,Vick,Texas,Penn State,Wisconsin,Florida,,Digital Sports Network,Edwards,Fitzpatrick,Bills,Eagles,Raiders,Clausen,Panthers,Gradkowski,Colts,Broncos,Falcons,Saints,Patroits,Browns,NFL Draft,2011 draft

What to look for this weekend in football

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Pac10 Championship—sort of

Oregon beat Oregon State 37-33 for the league title and the Rose Bowl ticket. In the end, it was the running and passing of the Ducks that won the game. The Ducks will give Ohio State all they want.

SEC Championship We finally get to see #1 Florida against #2 Alabama. It should be a defensive struggle again this year like it was last season. However, Bama seems to have a little more explosiveness to their O than the Gators. The game will be determined by turnovers and will be low scoring and close. The Bama D is as good as the Florida D so the game will depend on the QB’s ability to move the ball on the opponent. Most experts think that Bama will win but I can’t go against Tebow. When the game is in the balance he always seems to find a way to win.

Big12 Championship

#3 Texas will have their way with a good but too young #22 Nebraska team in this game. The game will be the showcase for QB Colt McCoy and should elevate him to a Heisman award as much for his body of work as for this season. The Huskers are a year away from challenging for a B12 title.

#5 Cincinnati @ #15 Pitt

The Bearcats are playing for a BcS game and should win. Pitt looked very ordinary last week in a loss to West Virginia. I expect the Cats’ D to be too much for the talented but turnover prone Panthers.

USA Conference Championship

If you haven’t seen Houston QB Keenum, take a look at this game. He is fun to watch. The Houston O is a wide open passing game that will throw the ball all over the East Carolina D. Nobody is going to want to get paired with Houston in a bowl game.


Eagles @ Falcons

QB Vick makes his return to Atlanta but won’t be a factor. Both teams are chasing after a playoff spot. The loser will likely be out of the race. The Falcons play well at home but the Eagles should win.

Titans @ Colts

QB Young will have his winning streak ended with a thud but most likely it won’t be his fault. The Titan D has been playing better with Young at QB because he has been able to keep drives alive with his legs. The problems in the pass D of the Titans will be exploited by Manning. The Colts won’t blow them away because they tend to play down to competition but the Colts will win.

Cowboys @ Giants

Well, it’s December and time for the Boys to take their annual dive. Everything points to a Boys win but Romo doesn’t play well after Turkey day. The Boys need a win to keep up on the Eagles. I have to think that the Boys will find a way to lose rather than Giants winning the game.

Vikings @ Cards

IF QB Warner plays, this should be a good close game filled with offense. But I don’t think he will and the Vikes will win. QB Leinart couldn’t beat the Titans last week and folds under a good pass rush. The Vikes turn up the heat on D and win the game.

Ravens @ Packers

The Ravens have struggled in the last couple of weeks but should find the Pack D a little easier to run on. But in the end, the Pack O will be too much for an aging Raven D. Pack wins in a close game.

Seattle fires their GM.

Tim Ruskett, the GM that replaced Coach Holmgren in that role. Some people are assuming that Holmgren will come back to take that job along with the Presidency of the team. I don’t think that will happen. Holmgren didn’t have a great history drafting players. Check out my analysis of his draft history on

Browns lose all hope.

The Browns lost their best player on D—NT Rogers and best player on O—RB Lewis to the IR. What will hurt even more, their best player overall in Mr. Everything, Cribbs. Cribbs let a kickoff free ball lay in the end zone against the Bengals. That was not a brain cramp; it was a signal that he has given up on the team, the coaching staff and his chance for getting the contract that he was promised. Again, I will comment on this more in my weekly article on

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: Oregon State,Oregon,Pac10,NCAA Football,Rankings,BCS,BCS Championship game,Ohio State,Florida,Alabama,Texas,Nebraska,SEC Championship game,Big 12 Championship game,Cincinnati,Pitt,Houston,East Carolina,Eagles,Falcons,Titans,Colts,VICK,Cowboys,Giants,Vikings,Cardinals,Ravens,Packers,Browns,Seahawks,Holmgren

Tuesday Morning QB for 09/22/09

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The Steelers running game is struggling – Steeler RB Parker tweaked his hamstring and did not play in the last half of game 1. He carried 14 times for 47 yards in game 2. His injury is contributing to the problem but is far from the cause. The fact is that the Steeler O line is the weak link in the team. LT Starks is the best of the group and he is barely above average. QB Roethlisberger has been sacked more often that the Whopper. The running game is struggling. It won’t change anytime soon. Look for the Steelers to pass more. If they fail to get to the Super Bowl, the O line will be the culprit.

Things are a little tight in Titanville Tennessee is now 0-2 after losses to both Pittsburgh and Houston. They are now going to play the Jets. Last year the Jets were the first team to beat the Titans. They are now 2 games behind Ind and have injuries to deal with. The problem is this—if they go 0-3 they will have to win 10 of the remaining 13 games to have any chance to make the playoffs in the AFC.

Other teams in trouble –

Dolphins – At 0-2 the Fish are 2 games behind the Jets and the Jets have already played NE and won. The D is solid but the O is struggling to score TDs rather than FGs. I predicted that they would be a better team with a worse record in 09.

Eagles – Philly without McNabb is a 6-10 team. The O doesn’t go without him. Kolb is not the answer and neither is Vick or Garcia. McNabb is going to be out for another 4 weeks. If the team is 2-4 it is going to be a tough road back to the playoffs.

Panthers – Other sites had Carolina winning the NFC South. I told you before game 1 that the Panthers were a flawed team that would not make the playoffs. Delhomme is a bad QB and you can not win with a bad QB.

The NFL Changes the blackout rules—sort of. Comm. Goodell announced that the NFL Channel would broadcast any games that were blacked out after midnight Sunday. That would be a really nice idea except that those that can’t afford a ticket to the game aren’t likely to be paying $85 a month for Direct TV or Dish Network.

Dallas game almost blacked out The game was nearly blacked out because Jerry Jones Inc. had not sold all non-premium seats prior to 72 hours game time. Dallas was requiring seat licenses for around 5K each for those seats. The only way JJ was able to get rid of them was to sell them for face value without the license fee to allow the game to be shown on TV locally. Now there are rumors that those that paid the license fee will sue JJ to get their money back.

WR Crabtree (Tex. Tk) is still unsigned. His representatives say he may sit out the entire year rather than sign for the offer from the 49ers. The fact is that he will fall in the draft next year because NFL GMs won’t want to deal with his inflated sense of self value.

The NBA may use replacement refs. No matter where they get the new guys they can’t be much worst than what we saw last year. Refs that think they are the show are a problem. Refs that become the show with bad calls or no calls depending on the relative star power of the players involved are a crisis.

Comm. Goodell can eliminate the rookie salary pool in a non-capped year. One of the things that the league is considering is the elimination of the rookie salary pool if a new agreement can’t be signed before the start of the 2010 season. That will cost the vet players some money but won’t stop the Cowboys and others from trying to buy a championship.

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL Football,NFL Draft,Steelers,Parker,Roethlisberger,Titans,Colts,Doplhins,Eagles,McNabb,Panthers,Delhomme,blackouts,Goodell,Cowboys,Jones,Crabtree,NBA,NBA Officials,strike,Rookie salary pool

The Lion's rookie QB Matthew Stafford is the real deal.

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Let me start off by saying that I think the Lions missed a marketing opportunity by failing to sign Mike Vick. PETA has guaranteed that it will send around 100 protesters to any stadium in which Vick plays. The Lions could have doubled their attendance if they could have convinced PETA to protest inside Ford Field.

I wanted to see the preseaon game between the Lions and the Falcons because I had not seen the Lions since Thanksgiving Day. They don’t make the nationally televised game often. The one feeling I came away with is that Stafford is the real deal. He is going to put up decent numbers in Fantasy Football.

Stafford can make all the throws and the Lions have sped up his delivery a little. Given the challenges that the team has on the O line, that is a very good thing. Stafford has always been able to read the D and has decent touch. He has an above average arm and the leadership to keep the O focused. He was impressive against a D that made the playoffs last year. I will be amazed if he does not start week 1.

Vet Daunte Culpepper looks healthy for the first time in a while. He is a capable starter and a well above average backup. Culpepper has slimmed down and it has helped him move in the pocket to avoid the rush. Drew Stanton may not make the team.

WR Calvin Johnson can be as good as he wants to be. There is some question about his work ethic. He has all the tools and a couple of QBs that can get the ball to him deep. He has to continue to develop. The new offense stresses timing patterns so he will also have to be more consistent running patterns. The #2 WR is a question mark. Neither Bryant Johnson nor Dennis Northcutt will get the job done well enough to prevent CJ from facing double coverage on every play. One bright spot could be Keary Colbert. Colbert has always been able to get open but he drops too many passes. If he can make the ball his friend, he could become that solid #2. Ronald Curry and Derrick Williams have potential but are far from being good enough now to step into that role. The rest are training camp fodder.

College TEs don’t block much if at all. Rookie Brandon Pettigrew was the best combo TE possessing both some blocking and decent speed and hands. At least he is willing to try to block which even some NFL TEs don’t.

The running game in undergoing a major transition from the Denver zone blocking scheme to a power running game. Last year starter Kevin Smith looked lost in game 1. With the power game you hit the hole that is assigned. Smith was dancing too often waiting for a hole to open. In the NFL those that hesitate are lost. Former Seahawk Maurice Morris may be a better option. The FB is solid with 87 year old Terrelle Smith who still has enough pop to drill a LB in the BOB (back on backer) play.

We know who the Lion Offensive linemen will be. We just not sure how they will play. The starters will be LT Jeff Backus, LG Daniel Loper, C Dominic Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman and RT Gosder Cherilus. Backus is over rated but not too bad. Raiola is solid at C. Cherilus has a lot of potential and is developing nicely. Loper is a first time starter and an unknown quantity. Peterman is a journeyman with limited athleticism but work hard. There is some experience on the bench. Both Ts Jon Jansen and Ephraim Salaam have started in the league. Jansen was one of the best but has been hurt the last 2 seasons at Washington.

The best thing about the D line is the upside of E Cliff Avril. He is young and athletic. E Dewayne White is solid. Beyond that there are questions all around. In football terms NT Grady Jackson is older than rock and has very little stamina. He does anchor against the run while he has energy but is recovering from a knee problem. T Chuck Darby is nothing special. The Lions were hoping that solid vet E Jared DeVries would be in the rotation but he is on the IR with an Achilles injury and will likely retire. Two reserves with upside are DTs Andre Fluellen and Sammie Hill. Both are nasty and big. They also need to get better conditioned and more instictive.

Vets MLB Larry Foote and SLB Julian Peterson join youngster WLB Ernie Sims in the second line of defense. Peterson must provide pass rush. Foote will be solid in the middle against the run. Jordon Dizon moves outside to better use his speed. DeAndre Levy is the primary inside backup.

The Lions revamped their D backfield again this year. They have a lot of the “P” word—potential. Potential gets more NFL coaches fired than anything else. CB Phillip Buchanon will frustrate you because he has all the tools but doesn’t make many big plays due to bad ball skills. CB Anthony Henry has been around. The Browns determined he was not good enough for their D. Enough said. I really liked FS Louis Delmas in college. The only question is can he adjust to the speed of the NFL game quickly enough? I like SS Daniel Bullocks more than most do. He is solid against the run but must study more tape so that he can overcome some athletic shortcomings with knowledge of the game.

OVERALL: The Lions will be better but when you go 0-16, that’s not saying a lot. They have to solve the problems on the O and D line to be competitive in the NFC North. At the very least the combination of Stafford and Johnson will be fun to watch.

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Draft,Fantasy Football,Lions,Seahawks,Browns,Stafford,Johnson,Backus,Avril,Foote,Peterson,Delmas,Colbert

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: Colts,Payton,Manning,Vick,injury,NFL,NFL Draft,Patorits,Titans,Cardinals,Dolphins,Freeney,Harrison,Johnson,Ugoh,Saturday,Addai,Brown,Lilja,Mathis,Sanders,Bethea,Super Bowl

Niblets for July

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Note: We will continue our preview of the NFL teams on Monday.

Comment of the Month: From Steve on Vegas projects the Browns to win 7 games(???)

Go Browns!!! I think the Browns have more potential this year than the Bengals. The Bengals have had the same team in the past and can’t win. The Browns do have new systems but new is better than old and crappy.

Steve: I am a recovering Browns fan and have the receipts for a number of new TV sets to prove it. The TVs got so depressed with the Browns play that they committed suicide.

I hope I am wrong but I don’t like what I see from Mangini. The Bengals will be better on D with Rivers coming back and Palmer will make the difference. I still will bet the under.

Updates on Previous Columns:

The world vs. Lance Armstrong

Despite an outstanding effort, it looks like Lance is not going to win this Tour. He has announced that he will compete for the Radio Shack team next year.

What should the NFL do with Mikey Vick?

Mikey met with Comm. Goodell this week. The rumor is that he will be allowed to practice with a team but will face a suspension of between 2 and 6 games. First he has to find a team. So far not a single NFL team has expressed interest. The UFL has said he would be welcome to play for them.

Niblets fresh off the Cob:

Pro sports leagues and the NCAA files suit against the State of Delaware for single game betting law.

The NFL finally got the support of the NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA in opposing the recently passed single game betting plan that Delaware enacted to help reduce that state’s budget deficit. The suit was filed in Federal Court in Delaware.

The NFL makes the 2010 Draft a TV mini-series

On Thursday the NFL announced that the 2010 Draft would conduct round 1 on Thursday April 22 at 7 PM Eastern Time. Rounds 2 and 3 will be done on Friday with the remainder held on Saturday. I hope none of the players that attend the draft will fall out of the first round. Does Madison Square Garden serve breakfast?

Is FA WR Marvin Harrison on an NFL black list or just a victim of age?

Harrison is still a free agent despite several teams needing WR help. The question is why? There was the problem with a man that was shot with Harrison’s custom gun outside the receiver’s bar. The victim was shot again and is in stable condition.

According to his agent, several teams have expressed some interest in Harrison. Don’t believe it. He may catch on (excuse the pun) during training camp if an injury happens but don’t bet on it. Harrison will be 37 before the start of the 09 season and has lost a lot more than a step.

The Vikings are doing more than waiting for Favre (and you thought this was a Favre free site!)

The Vikes have signed a new deal with pro bowl DB Antoine Winfield. Winfield will continue to play LC this year. At 32, his days at CB may be limited. But he is a key to the Vikes D and could play safety in the future.

NBA Water Cooler talk

The Cavs offered LeBron James an extension the second they were allowed to by league rules. Don’t expect him to jump to sign it. However he said he was considering it. That is good news for the Cavs.

Allen Iverson is without a contract. He thinks he has been blacklisted. No Allen, it is the economy. He was offered a 5 million mid level exception by Memphis in July but there is a difference of opinion whether the deal is still on the table. Memphis has not commented. Look for the 2010 free agent pool to be a lot more shallow than some think. The money just will not be there for many clubs to offer maximum contracts.

Minnesota’s 5th overall pick Ricky Rubio has told his team in Spain and the NBA that he wants out of the Spanish league ASAP. That should reduce Rubio’s buyout and get him into the NBA.

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Draft,Browns,Mangini,Armstrong,Vick,Goodell,Harrison,Vikings,NBA,LeBron,James,Cavilers,Iverson,Timberwolfs,Rubio

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