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

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Saturday's Niblets from around the net for 03/14/09

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Fryingpan Sports

Saturday’s Niblets from around the net for 03/14/09

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By Bill Smith

Best comment this week:

From Sportsbook on Capologist is the NFL MVP

Comment:

You are right and it is unfortunate, but I have a feeling that this will get settled in the 11th hour like it was last time. Last time, the economy was good. This time, the NFL will look even worse if they can’t settle this mess and keep the fans happy.

Also, this will be Goodell’s first test. Yes, we know he’s a sheriff and can suspended players when necessary, but what about the labor talks? How competent is he with that?

My Analysis: we will all find out how good a negotiator he is soon enough. But it takes two parties committed to getting a deal done to accomplish a contract. My fear is that the campaign rhetoric coming from the candidates to replace Gene Upshaw as the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association indicates that Goodell may not have a reasonable partner with whom to bargain.

UPDATES ON PREVIOUS COLUMNS:

The 08-09 Cavilers are not your fathers team.

Thursday night the Cavs on their west coast road trip came back from a significant deficit to beat the Suns. While wins on the road don’t necessarily translate to NBA Championships, their road record against really good teams shows they have taken another step toward becoming a championship caliber team.

My Analysis: They are showing the physical style of play to beat teams in the east but can also play an up and down game to compete with the wide open style of the western conference.

Big name cuts in the NFL have little to do with the salary cap.

Big names continue to get cut. The Rams cut both OT Orlando Pace and WR Torry Holt. The Ravens cut CB Samari Rolle. We usually see these cuts after June 1 so that the cap hit can be spread over a couple of cap years. This year there is no cap in 2010 onto which a team can spread the hit. As a result, the teams are making all their cuts now.

News from around the net:

A-FRAUD Jersey has been baned by MLB.

One of the fastest selling jerseys in the MLB has been banned. The Commissioner’s office announced that it will outlaw the shirts.

My Analysis: While that may not be a violation of free speech guaranteed in the Constitution, it is at least proof that the truth hurts. A-Fraud probably called the Commish and complained that it hurt his feelings.

The Cincinnati Bungles do something right!

The Bengals signed WR FA Lavernious Coles. Former Jet Coles is not only a vet, he is a true professional and a gentleman.

My Analysis: Maybe the Bungles have learned that players that hang out in the Hamilton County Correctional facility don’t really help you win games.

Syracuse basketball team shows real grit in the Big East Tournament.

Syracuse and Connecticut played a marathon 6 over time game Thursday night. Despite the fact that both teams will be in the Big Dance, the teams fought it out until after 1AM eastern time. Syracuse finally won the game. It was one of the most exciting games I have seen in a very long time.

As the winner, they got to play a tough West Virginia team on Friday night. The team showed great grit in fighting all the way against a much more rested Mountaineer club. Orange was behind much of the game and clawed their way to as much as a 5 point lead late in the second half. But for the Orange, this year nothing is easy. WV tied the score and forced the game to overtime. Even though the Orange looked deflated as the clock hit 0.0, they somehow found the energy deep inside them to win it in overtime.

My Analysis: In many ways, the grit of the Orange reminds me of the way that the Cavs grind out wins. This game was sloppy at times due to fatigue but the intensity of play is what makes college sports so special. Things only get screwed up when the “adults” get in the way of the kids playing the game.

Two Ohio State NFL Draft prospects use their pro day at OSU to try to recover from bad 40 times at the combine.

CB Malcolm Jenkins ran a relatively respectable unofficial time of between 4.46 seconds and 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day according to Plain Dealer reporter Doug Lesmerises. His teammate RB Chris Wells unofficially ran between 4.34 seconds and 4.46 seconds.

My Analysis: The pro day will help Wells much more than Jenkins. Times between 4.46 and 4.53 will cause some teams to categorize him as a safety rather than a CB. That could drive him down in the draft to at best a late 1st early second round pick. Jenkins has to hope that his work on the field will convince at least one GM that he can be a shut down corner worthy of a top 15 selection.

Wells should regain the status as the top running back in the draft with his time. However, his durability will still be a concern.

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 .

My email is [email protected]

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