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  • Published: Feb 6th, 2010
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The Super Bowl preview from the Coach's box. The Saints have their work cut out for them.

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Overall

This is the game everyone except the fans of the other teams in the playoffs wanted to see–The top team in the AFC vs. the top team in the NFC. The game matches 2 of the top QBs and offenses in the last several years. But that is not going to determine the game. The key to the final score is most likely to be which defense makes the big plays.

Offense

The Saints’ O ranks 4th in passing and 6th in rushing. They are 1st in total yards and total points. While the passing game of Brees is the mainstay of the O, the running game will be just as critical in the Super Bowl. The Saints O balance should help them move the chains and keep the Colts’ O off the field.

While RB Thomas is the workhorse, RB Bush is the wild card. The 2 problems with Bush are inconsistency and fumbling. While he dominates some games, he disappears in others. Then there is the fumbling. In the post season he was as likely to generate a big play for the opponents by dropping the ball as he was for the Saints. He can not do that against the Colts if the Saints are going to win the game. The Vikes converted turnovers into field goals. The Colts will score TDs from Saint errors.

The O line has been banged up but has played well. They lost their outstanding LT Brown who is on IR early in the season. But the unknown third year T Jermon Bushrod stepped in and has done an amazing job. He had never started a game prior to this season and had been active only 3 times in his previous 2 years on the roster. The Colts D will try to put pressure on Brees by attacking the left side of the Saints line.

Defense

As much as the media has focuses on the offenses of both teams, game is more likely to be determined on the D side of the ball. The Saint D has been pushed around a lot this year. It is ranked 26 against the pass and 21st against the run. But it has come up with key turnovers all year. The team ranks 2nd in in the NFC in interceptions with 26 and 1st in TDs from those picks. They rank 10th in the NFC in recovered fumbles. A couple of turnovers would be very helpful in the Super Bowl.

The Saints have suffered some key injuries on the D line including former All Pro DE Grant and vet NT Clancy. Grant’s replacement McCray, DT Ellis and DE Smith are going to have to be able to put pressure on Manning so that the team doesn’t have to blitz as often. Manning picks blitzing teams apart. Smith is an outstanding pass rusher.

The loss of a NT for a 4-3 is not as critical as it is for a 3-4 but the Saints are down to their 3 string DT Ayodele. The 26 year old DT was picked up last year after he was cut by the Cowboys for the second time. He has filled in well but doesn’t collapse the pocket like Clancy can.

The second level has suffered injuries as well. LB Simoneau had been the starter for 2 years but was not able to even start the 09 season. OB Fujita has been in and out of the lineup with injuries but seems to be OK. OB Shanle AND Fujita are good against the run and can cover but are not strong at blitzing the QB.

The last line of defense will be tested often Sunday. The key to the DB crew is S Sharper. He is a vet and is the leader of the group. He needs to make some big plays to give the Saints a chance. CBs Greer and Porter and 5th DB Gay are going to have to be disciplined in their coverage. A broken zone against most NFL teams is a problem. Against Manning, it is a crisis. It will result in TDs more often than not.

The Bottom Line: The Saints are solid. They are the most balanced team in the NFC outside of perhaps the Vikes. The D is a concern but the Colts’ D is not any better.

The Saint offensive game plan should be to take advantage of the rookie corner of the Colts and run the ball to move the sticks so they can keep Manning and Co. off the field. They must be able to run the ball to win. They should also use RB Bush to challenge the LBs ability to cover the pass.

Their D game plan should be to change up their rush and pass coverages often and challenge the O line. They need to get good hits on the receivers early. The Colt receivers are young and may get SB jitters.

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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 https://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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The Dolphins will be a better team with a worse record.

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The 08 Dolphins improved every game last year and will probably do the same thing this year. But because they have a tougher schedule and more competition within the division, they may not win as many games as in 08.

I wrote a couple of years ago that Dolphin starting QB Chad Pennington has the brain of a coach, the heart of lion but the arm of a chicken. The truth hurts. But in the revamped Miami O, Pennington works well. He is extremely accurate and reads coverages like an offensive coordinator. But the lack of arm strengthen reduces the value of super speed WR Ted Ginn Jr. The Dolphins have two outstanding backup QBs as well. Chad Henne is a pocket passer with the potential to be an NFL starter. Pat White is the wild card in the Wild Cat. He is more accurate than people think, and is among the best athletes on the team.

The running game has both depth and quality. The combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams ran for over 1,500 yards and 14 TDs. Both would start on a lot of NFL teams. Brown is fully recovered from his ACL and Williams from his addiction to Marijuana.

The WR crew got another ex-Buckeye to add to starter Ginn. Brian Hartline (4th round pick) will contend for the 3rd WR spot and excels at getting open underneath the coverage. Ginn and Greg Camarillo start with Davone Bess as the 3rd WR going into camp. Starting TE Anthony Fasano and backup David Martin each got over 30 catches in 08.

A large part of the resurgence of the Dolphins offense was due to improved play on the O line. 1st overall pick LT Jake Long made the Pro Bowl as an alternate but should have been elected as the starter. Guards Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas were very solid but both lost games to injury. Assuming they are healthy in 09, they will help the O take the next step. C Jake Grove (FA Raiders) was signed to solve the problem at C handling the NT of the AFC East.

Two rookies stepped in at the DE positions to help solidify the D. Phillip Merling (2nd round) and Kendall Langford (3rd round) played well. Langford, who was one of my sleeper picks, started day 1 and got better as the season progressed. Merling did hit the rookie wall but recovered and helped with a critical interception to win the game against the Jets. NT Jason Ferguson is solid and keeps the O line off the LBs. There is some talent but very little experience behind the starting 3.

The Dolphins one problem spot last season was stopping the run. They allowed 9 games of 100 or more yards rushing and have to tighten that up.

HE’S BACK! Future Hall of Fame DE/OB Jason Taylor returns to the Fish to help on the pass rush subbing for starter Matt Roth at SLB. WLB Joey Porter is as good as any but the inside LBs are the weak point of this group. The Dolphins gave IB Channing Crowder a big money deal but are still waiting for him to prove he is worth it. His running mate inside is Akin Ayodele. Ayodele is developing but has to play the run closer to the line of scrimmage.

Despite shuffling the lineup a lot and free agent losses in 08, the D backfield is solid. Safeties Yeremiah Bell and FA Gibril Wilson (Raiders) are as good as any combo in the league if Bell can stay healthy. Wilson is a ball hawk and should improve the number of picks for the team. Will Allen has played at a pro bowl level for several years and Eric Green is capable.

If the Dolphins can be 5-2 on November 8 when they go to NE, and win that game, they will have a good chance to win the division. They are better than both the Jets and Bills but have to win tough games on the road get a repeat appearance in the playoffs.

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 https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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