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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Tuesday Morning QB: Close but no cigar for the Bills and the Raiders.

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football

Monday night football:

Both Oakland and Buffalo came close to winning their opening games but both fell just short.

BF @ NE

The Bills played unbelievably well. The Bills Defense provided a second way to defeat the Pats—Tampa 2 with pressure. The Pats did not look good. QB Brady was not nearly as accurate as he was in the preseason. That will come with time. But two things that will not improve much with time are the Pat D and the O line. The running game of the Bills is half of what it will be when the star RB Marshawn Lynch returns from NFL suspension. Even so, the Bills running game gashed the Pats D for 4.7 yards per attempt. The Pats D will miss Seymour who was traded to Oakland for a 2011 1st round draft choice that might never be made due to a work stoppage. During the game Pat MLB Mayo was hurt the extent of which is under the protection of Belichick Security Inc. The D backfield has never been good and will suffer this year because of less pressure on the QB that Seymour produced in previous seasons.

The Bills O looked much better than it did in the preseason. New O Coordinator Van Pelt put a great game plan together. The D held the Pats running game to 3.2 yards per attempt. The only reason the Bills lost at NE was the fumble of the kick return with just over 2 minutes left that gave the Pats the ball at the Bills 30.

SD @ Oak

Oakland looked outstanding on D. But they have had the best D under the radar in the league for a couple of years. The D is clearly better with Seymour moving all over the line causing havoc.

The O was a different matter. The one guy that cost Oakland this game and many others to come is QB(?) Russell. He gives inconsistency a bad name. He went 12 for 30 attempts for 208 yards most of which was on run after the catch. He threw 2 interceptions and 1 TD. The Raider running game was working well but they will face 47 guys in the box unless Russell can become more of a threat passing the ball.

The frustrating thing about the QB is that on one play he will make a great read and perfect throw and on the next toss a pick that will make you wonder what he was thinking—or if he was thinking at all.

The Raiders are also starting the wrong RB. Bush is the guy that should be the prime back. He is not as fast as he was in Louisville because of his leg being full of steel. But he does not fumble and can move the pile. Nothing encourages an O lineman to drive his guy out of the hole better than a 240 RB bashing into his backside. The Raiders ran the ball very well. The O line has gotten better under Coach Cable. The team also makes fewer mistakes. They committed only 6 penalties to the 9 that were called on the Chargers.

The Charger running game works better with Sproles than it does with Tomlinson. LT doesn’t look 100 percent. He has lost a step now that he is 30. It may be rust but don’t bet on it. I predict that he will not have the kind of season that Fantasy players want to see.

LB Merriman also looks more than a step slow. He is coming back from a tough injury. It takes a full 15 months to come back from that. He will get better as time goes on. Even with 1.5 legs, he is better than any of the bench guys.

Around the league

Bear all pro MLB Bryan Urlacker is out for the year. He had his broken wrist operated on yesterday. This will hurt the team badly and they will not make the playoffs.

Eagle QB McNabb has a broken rib. Two things must be said about this injury. First, the team says that we will be back in a week or two. I have had 12 broken ribs after being hit by a car. I can guarantee you that he will be out more than a week or two. If the rib is still broken and a 300+ DT falls on him, it could drive the rib into his lung which is life threatening.

Second, the rules have to be changed about tackling a player in the endzone. The second a player has possession of the ball and breaks the plain of the goaline, the ball is dead and it is a TD. McNabb was hit 6 yards into the endzone by 2 Giants. That has to be a penalty.

Ex-Raider QB Jeff Garcia was signed by the Eagles. He played with the Eagles in 2006 and started 6 games.

The Williams boys DTs for the Vikes won their case against the NFL to prevent the league from suspending them for being detected having taken a banned substance. This decision has huge implications and I will discuss them here tomorrow.

Comm. Goodell said this week he would make a decision on the Jets and Coach Mangini’s failure to put QB Favre on the injury list soon. This is worth watching just for the comedy value.

The Browns looked much better than I expected. Check out my article on which will be up on Thursday.

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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