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 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 .

Technorati Tags: NFL Playoffs,NFL Football,Playoffs,point spreads,Colts,Jets,Bengals,Chargers,Manning,Sanchez,Thomas,Sanders
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  • Published: Jan 19th, 2010
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on What did we learn from the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs?

What did we learn from the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs?

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Note: I will discuss the NFC tomorrow.

Ravens 3 @ Colts 20

Ravens

The Raven O just couldn’t match the fire power of the Colts. RB Rice had only 13 carries because the Ravs fell 14 points behind in the 2nd quarter. Flacco played better than expected going 20-35 for 185 but had 2 very costly picks. Rice also lost a fumble.

The Ravens’ D was hoping that they would create turnovers. They picked off Manning once but the Ravs were unable to convert that to a touchdown because S Reed fumbled the ball returning it.

Reed is considering retirement and that would hurt the D badly. Reed and LB Lewis are the heart of the D. In 2010, the O is going to have to provide more points because the D will be older and not as versatile.

Colts

The Colts O was a little rusty but thanks to the D was able to win the game and move on to face the Jets. They were not able to run the ball effectively. They averaged only 1.7 yards per carry. That could cost them against the Jet D. The most important stat from the game is 6 runs resulted in lost yardage. There could be a lot more than 6 against the Jets. Manning had a good not great game. He was 30-44 for 246 and 2 TDs with 1 pick.

The Colts D allowed only 87 yards but that is misleading. They gave up 4.6 per carry. Had the Ravs not fallen so far behind, the Colt D would have had to deal with a lot more than the 19 running plays by the Ravs. The Jets are the top running team in the league. Unless the Colts’ D can do better against their run, they could be in some trouble.

Jets 17 @ Chargers 14

Jets

The Jets pulled off the only upset of the weekend. The key to the game was the ability of the Jets to run the ball. They ran 39 times for 169 yards and a 4.3 yard average. The Charger D could not stand up to the ground game. The injuries at NT cost the Chargers the chance to move on. Pro Bowl C Mangold handled the NT man to man allowing the guards to get to the second level to block the backers. The running game also allowed the Jets to throw when they wanted to rather than in only 3rd and long situations. QB Sanchez was just good enough to get the win. He was 12-23 for 100 yards and 1 TD with 1 pick. If the Jets can run the ball as well against the Colts, they will have a real shot at a win.

The Jets D was outstanding. They were helped by the fact that the Charger O was not as sharp in the last month of the season. The Jets D shut down the Charger running game and made the team one dimensional. That allowed the pass rush to pressure Rivers. That pressure resulted in 2 interceptions.

Chargers

The Chargers were on an 11 game winning streak going into the playoffs. However, they had not been sharp offensively. The Chargers had struggled with the Browns, Cowboys, Bengals and Redskins in December and had in those games averaged 25 points a game against those teams. Their only blowout was a 42-17 win at the Titans in week 16. That offensive sluggishness continued into the Jets game.

The biggest problem was the total lack of a running game. RB Thomlinson had 12 carries for 24 yards. There were no big runs like there were in previous playoff games. The lack of a running game was devastating to the Charger O.

The Charger D struggled with the Jet running game. The inside backers were not able to get to the ball because they were being blocked by the OGs of the Jets. That put a great deal of pressure on the DBs to make the tackle. Some times they did but often they did not. When the Charger safeties came up to help against the run, the Jets passed.

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 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 .

Technorati Tags: NFL Football,nfl playoffs,divisional round,Ravens,Colts,Manning,Flacco,Jets,Chargers,Sanchez,Bengals,Redskins,Browns,Cowboys,Titans,Thomlinson

What to look for Saturday in the Wild Card round.

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The Coaching Carousel

Seahawks—Mora is out and rumors are flying that USC Coach Carroll will be his replacement. I believe that will happen. However, in compliance with the NFL policy of requiring an interview of at least one minority candidate, the team has asked to interview others. The Hawks were 10-6 and in the playoffs in 07 but stumbled to 4-12 last year under then lame duck coach Holmgren. Mora had been named “HC in waiting” in the 08 pre season and took over to begin the 09 season. He went 5-11.

Raiders—The Cable will be cut. HC Tom Cable is hanging on by a thread. And worse yet, Owner Davis is standing above him with a pair of scissors. Cable doesn’t have much respect in the locker room or in the bosses office. He asked for a meeting with benched former 1st pick over all QB Russell but the later blew his coach off and left town. Cable will be gone soon.

Jets @ Bengals

The Jets beat Cincy 37-0 in week 17. That will not be the case in the Wild Card round. There is no chance that Bengal QB Palmer will cooperate like he did in that game completing just 1 out of 11 attempts. Also, Cincy RB Benson was held out of that game. He will play Saturday.

Jets

The Jets will rely on the running game because they don’t trust their rookie QB Sanchez. He has not thrown a TD in the last 2 games. Since week 8 he has thrown 4 TDs and 10 picks. The running game is built around 2 pro-bowl players (C Mangold and G Faneca) on the line and RB Jones carrying the rock. He has scored 14 TDs (because they didn’t trust Sanchez throwing in the red zone) but has only averaged 4.2 per attempt. The Bengals held Jones to 2.9 per carry in the game last week. That was similar to his production against the Falcons where he was held to 2.7 per attempt. If he can not reach 4 per carry, the Jets will lose. The danger is that they will fall behind without passing and be forced to throw the ball. That will cost them a win as well.

The Jet D has played well over their heads. HC Ryan has inspired the D to become the #1 D in the league. However that ranking is a bit misleading. They had a schedule where the teams against whom they played were not up to their 08 level. In their division neither the Bills nor the Dolphins were healthy enough to reach their 08 performance. Their non-division opponents like the Panthers were down as well. CB Revis is a pro-bowl player and is the classic shut down corner. He will be on WR OchoCinco. But there are 2 big questions. 1 Can the Jets get pressure on Palmer and 2 can they stop the running of Benson and company? To win they will have to do both.

Bengals

This team has to have a short memory because they stunk the place up last week. But they were resting a number of their top players. The motivation will be significantly greater this week. Palmer has to be more accurate. But more than that, the receivers have to catch the ball. Out of his 10 incompletions last week he had 5 drops.

Benson will be the key to the game. If the O line can give him just a little room, the Jets will be chasing Benson all day long. That is the key to keeping the D honest and giving Palmer time to throw.

Defensively, they need to force the Jets into 3rd and long. That means shutting down the run on 1st and 2nd down.

Even though the Jets won easily last week, I am picking the Bengals to win. I don’t think Sanchez is up to the challenge of the playoffs.

Eagles @ Cowboys

Eagles

The Birds laid an egg last week in Dallas or this game would have been in Philly. The biggest question of all is the health of RB Westbrook. If he is healthy or even 90%, the Birds have a good chance to win. If not the Boys will get to the divisional round. Philly needs him in the passing game as much as they need him to run the ball. He takes a lot of heat off of WR Jackson and opens up the passing game. He is also the relief valve for QB McNabb. The Birds allowed 4 sacks in each of their last 2 games and that has to stop if they are going to win. Westbrook had 20 catches in last weeks game.

Pass protection is critical against a revitalized Boys D.

The Eagle D has played well but rested several of their key player last week. They have to get in Romo’s face and stop the run to win. DTs Patterson and Bunkley have to keep the blockers off MLB Trotter to be successful.

Cowboys

The O has been playing much better down the stretch than they did in the past few seasons. Romo has not thrown the picks he has in the past after Dec. 1. After following their previous script losing the first 2 games, they won the last 3 including last week 24-0 over the Eagles. Romo has thrown 9 TDs with just 2 picks since 12/1. That is significantly better than he has done in the last 3 years when he was the starter. The running game has gotten better in the second half of the season as well. From week 11 on RB Barber has carried at least 14 times a game. He is averaging 4.4 per attempt. Romo needs the running game to work in order to be effective.

The Boys D has been different in the last few weeks also. HC Phillips took over the D and made a great difference. The Boys blitz more and have been more effective at getting to the QB. The D shut out both the Redskins and Eagles in the last 2 weeks. CBs Jenkins and Newman have to keep WR Jackson in their sights. When the Boys blitz, they will have to cover Jackson man to man. That can burn them.

The D won’t have to worry too much about the run because the Eagles won’t run much.

I have believed that the Boys would fall on their face in December 09 and they fooled me. But I no longer believe in the Eagles. The Boys will 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 https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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