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  • Published: Sep 5th, 2009
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NFL 2009 in a nutshell.

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AFC East

Patriots will win the division easily if they can stay healthy. If QB Brady is hurt, all bets are off and the Pats will be 2nd and out of the playoffs. The D backfield is still a problem.

Dolphins take a step back due to a harder schedule and teams pointing for that game. They will not make the playoffs but will be a better team with a worse record than in 08.

Jets will improve. The team has some key players. They will not have the kind of start they had last year but this is a good team.

Bills are a good team in a very good division. The O line is a problem and the D is coming but a year away from being really good.

AFC North

Steelers win the division but are pressed all year by the Ravens. The O line is the only soft spot on the team. If they get Roethlisberger hurt, the team will fall like Skylab. The D is still top notch.

Ravens will make the playoffs and get to the divisional round. The development of the O line will determine if they can get past that point or not. They have everything else.

Bengals will look much improved and improve their record because of the easier schedule. The D is under rated. With a healthy Palmer and Benson running the ball the O will be good. The question here is the O line.

Browns are in for another long season. Quinn will be better by 2010 but the poor running game, soft spots on the O line and ex-Jets on the D will prevent much progress on the win/loss record.

AFC South

Titans win the AFCS because they have fewer holes than the Colts. A great running game and D and a passing O that is OK is enough.

Colts fall a little due to problems on D. They will make the playoffs but not advance beyond the 2nd round.

Jaguars will battle the Texans all year for the 3rd spot in the division. Toss a coin to pick one. The team is not as good on O or D and the lack of production from the QB will keep them out of the playoffs.

Texans go as far as their D carries them. Lots of 1st round picks but not much production on D. The running game is solid but I have doubts if QB Schaub can stay healthy all year.

AFC West

Chargers win the division by default. They are very solid on D and very good passing game keep them in it as the worst division winner from the worst division in the league.

Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders Who cares? They won’t win 8 games between them. Denver will be 2nd with KC third and Oakland 55th. The best hit among these three might have been the one that broke the jaw of the Raiders assistant coach.

NFC East

Eagles win the division because everyone else is worse. They should have a little better O and an improved O line to go with a solid D.

Giants could really fall due to a total lack of NFL quality WRs. The running game can’t make up for 3rd rate wideouts and they will miss RB Ward. Manning will be glad he got his money early.

Cowboys will have to beat out the Giants for 2nd to get a playoff spot. Even if they do make it to the playoffs thanks to their coach, they will fail again in the big show. TO was not the problem. Wade Phillips is.

Redskins will be taking a QB in the 2010 draft. Campbell is not the answer now and will never be. The running game with Portis will face 47 guys on the D line. O line also need repair. This is going to be a long year for the Skins.

NFC North

Vikings will win because of a great running game and outstanding D. Favre does just enough to keep them in it. They will win in the playoffs and could get to the Super bowl if they can stay fairly healthy.

Bears take a major step forward due to QB Cutler. The D is still very solid and the running game will improve because they can pass the ball this year. They could upset the Vikes but will make the playoffs either way.

Packers will struggle on D because of the change from 4-3 to 3-4. Rogers is fine but the running game is a question as the O line gets old fast.

Lions might end up last in the Ivy League. They are not very good but no one will notice because the stadium will be empty most of the time.

NFC South

Falcons and the Saints will battle for the title. QB Ryan is really good. The running game will propel the team over NO. The D is better than people think.

Saints have as good a passing game as there is in the NFL. The D and inconsistent running game will keep them behind Atlanta.

Panthers are slipping on both O and D. The QB is a problem and the D has fallen off a little. They will be in the playoff race but fall short. The only thing that can get them in is the running game.

Buccaneers have fallen and can’t get up. The team is not good and QB Freeman is a long way from being ready to help much. Leftwich is just OK and the running game is suspect. The D is slipping also.

NFC West

Cardinals should win the West if Warner is healthy all year. The O is solid. The O line and D will determine if they get into the playoffs and how far they go.

49ers will take a step up. QB Hill is the best choice. The D is really coming on and RB Gore is as good as any. The WRs are better even without Crabtree.

Seahawks will challenge the 49ers for 2nd but fall short due to D. QB Hasselbeck looks good but not much running game and less ability to stop the run.

Rams are improving but no where close to competitive yet. RB Jackson and QB Bulger are good but injuries are already hitting the O line. LB Laurinaitis and DE Long are a good start building the D.

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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Rap up of Preseason Week 3 Key games

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

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Draft,Patroits,Belichick,Wilfork,Brady,Maroney,Taylor,Galloway,Moss,Light,Bruschi,Springs,Sanders,Super Bowl,AFC

The difference between winning and losing is work ethic and mental toughness.

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What did we learn from the British Open?

Tom Watson gave all of us that are older than dirt and even a few that are older than rock a warm feeling by his outstanding British Open. Watson is almost 60. He fought back several times and came within inches of winning the tournament in regulation. Granted, he missed a makable putt on the 18th green to fall into a playoff and then struggled in overtime. However, his performance along with that of Greg Norman last year at the British point out 2 very important points. First, the British Open requires a lot more patience than strength and more experience than power. But the most important lesson from the Open is this. Younger players in almost all sports win or lose based on work ethic and mental toughness more often than on talent and athleticism.

In general, the work ethic of the current group of golfers is not nearly what it was in the days of Nicholas, Palmer, and Player. The equipment is much better now. The athleticism is at a higher level than in the 60’s through the 80’s. One reason that Tiger Woods has been able to dominate the golf scene over the last few years is his work ethic and mental toughness against the other top golfers.

Work ethic and mental toughness show themselves in other sports

Those same two qualities show themselves in other sports as well. Check out the off season headlines Tom Brady and Tony Romo. Brady wins playoff games while Romo struggles in key situations including the 4th quarter and playoff games.

In ProSportsDaily.com the top 4 Brady headlines are “Tom Brady, Randy Moss go the extra mile to reconnect”, “Tom Brady to Randy Moss A blast from the past”, “Knee surgeon Wins High Praise from Brady”, and “Catch up time with Brady”

How about those about Romo?

From Google we see articles like “Romo says kids should play more than 1 sport‎”, “Tony Romo broke up with Jessica Simpson”, “Tony Romo fires a 69 at American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament”, and “Is John Mayer responsible for Simpson, Romo split?‎” Nothing about football, the Cowboys, or his focus and dedication to win it all in 2009. I think Jerry Jones has a work ethic problem with his QB.

Romo enjoys the celebrity status he gets from football. Tom Brady is too busy trying to win to enjoy his.

Another example of dedication, mental toughness and work ethic is Lance Armstrong. He now is second just 1:36 behind his team mate Alberto Contador. He may value the team result at this point in his life as much as the individual win. He may or may not win the yellow jersey in the end. I think that if the leader was a member of another team, he would win it as much for his team as for himself.

But he has been away for 3 years, battled back from cancer, and is 10 years older than the majority of his competitors. He is still is leading the rest of the pack.

Golf and tennis suffer the most from so many talented players lacking work ethic and mental toughness but it shows up in other sports as well. Roger Federer and the Williams sisters dominate tennis with their minds and focus as much as they do with their physical skills. Don’t expect to see that change any time soon. Work ethic and mental toughness goes a long way to winning in any sport.

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 .

Technorati Tags: NFL,Romo,Brady,Cowboys,Watson,British Open,Williams,Golf,Tennis,work ethic,toughness

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