What to look for in this weekends games.

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football

Baseball playoffs

We would like to thank the Rays, Twins and Reds for stopping by in the playoffs. Please pick up your parting gifts as you leave. The series will be between the Yankees and the Phillies.

College Football

#1 Alabama @ #19 South Carolina – The ol’ Ball Coach will wish he still had the talent from his Florida days. Bama wins

#2 Ohio State v. Indiana – Forget about the injuries on O, you and I could score the Indiana D if you were having a bad game. The OSU D stops a good Indy O and OSU wins.

#3 Oregon @ Washington St. – Oregon runs up 50+ points and makes a case for jumping over OSU into 2nd.

#8 Auburn @ Kentucky – Auburn QB Cam Newton passes a bad Ky D silly. Auburn wins big.

#9 Arizona vs. Oregon St. – Az had a major letdown after a big win over Iowa and squeaked by Cal. They had better not have a let down here because the Beavers are tough. They have lost 2 games to top 6 teams.

#11 Arkansas @ Texas A&M – Ark is banged up after getting thumped by #1 Bama. The week off should help. TAM lost a tough game last week against Oklahoma St. Arkansas should win but this could be close.

#12 LSU @ #14 Florida – This should be the game of the week. Both teams have serious flaws but play hard. LSU has to keep the turnovers down. I think Florida wins close in a minor upset.

#23 Florida St. @ #13 Miami – FSU looked bad against the only tough team they have played Oklahoma. Miami played close against #2 Ohio St and got a nice win last week against a good Clemson team. Miami wins.

NFL

Ravens -7 vs. Broncos – The Ravens are for real but could have a let down (and some injuries) from the win last week over Pit. Ravens should win and cover the spread.

Bucks @ Bengals -7 – The Bengals are better than they looked against the Browns last week. They win and cover with the running game leading the way.

Browns @ Falcons -3 – The Browns winning streak ends at 1. Falcons cover easily.

BEST BET – Saints -6 @ Cards – A change of QBs by the Cards won’t help. Saints cover easily.

BIG GAME OF THE WEEK – Vikings @ Jets -4 This is a must win for both. The Vikes are the better team but are not playing like it. The game will boil down to the play of the of the QBs. Farve will be pressured and is not having the season he did last year. The addition of WR Moss will help next week but not that much this week. The Jets had better cover Moss on the fly pattern or they will get burned. The key to the Jets is the play of QB Sanchez. As he develops, the team will get better. The Jets will not have the running game they enjoyed last week because of the Vike’s DTs the Williams brothers.

The Vikes need it more and win a close game.

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. His first non-fiction work is at the publisher now and he has also published several novels on

and edits .

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What to look for Sunday in the Wild Card round.

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nfl

Ravens @ Pats

Ravens

The Ravens turned their season around about 5 weeks ago. Prior to week 12 they were a pass first run second team. The team was putting too much pressure on QB Flacco asking him to win the game rather than be just part of a balanced O. From game 13 on the Ravs were in their heavy set (2TE) 34% of their snaps. That allowed them to run the ball much more effectively. RBs Rice and McGahee were devastating. In the final game McGahee ran for 167 yards. Rice will be key as a receiver as well as a runner. The Pats LBs have real trouble covering a back and Rice is an outstanding receiver.

The running has helped the passing game. In the last 4 games, Flacco has thrown for 7 TDs with just 1 pick. That is key for the Ravs. They need to be able to keep the Pat D from loading up the box. A couple of play action passes will do that.

The Raven D is not what it has been over the last few years in part because of injuries. They have struggled to cover the inside routes. Their pass D has been the key weakness on the team in recent games. The injury situation got a lot better because DT Ngata will start after having a full practice Thursday. He was limited on Wednesday. The pass D will be vastly improved if FS Reed can recover from a groin injury and start after having a full practice Thursday. Those two make a huge difference. Noga takes up 2 and sometimes 3 blockers which frees the LBs to run to the ball. Reed in the backfield insures that all WRs will have their head on a swivel waiting for the big hit from Reed.

Pats

The Pat O was hurt badly by the injury last week to WR Welker. Welker is one of 3 active WRs that has over 100 catches in the last 3 seasons. He is the underneath guy to pull coverage from Moss going deep. The key to the Pats passing game is the short pass to Welker. Welker is the safety valve for QB Brady and the passing game could struggle without him.

There is good news in the running game because according to NFL sources, RB Taylor should be back. Taylor is a great receiver as well as experienced in picking up blitzes. Both will be critical to keep the Pat O rolling.

The Pat D is another issue. This year they have struggled to stop the run without DL Seymour who they traded to Oakland and LB Vrabel to the Chiefs. The D also lost several players to FA including LB Colvin and Seau as well as S Harrison. The result was a D that tried to hang in rather than dictate to the O. The team has not been able use its complex Ds because the players that were smart enough to make adjustments were gone. Opponents have been able to run and pass against the simpler Ds because the team does not have the skill to compete. To stop the running game they are going to have to stack the line including using Reed at the point of attack. That will weaken the pass coverage and open things up for Ravens passing game.

Packers @ Cardinals

Packers

The Pack has been one of the hottest O’s in the last few weeks of the season. QB Rodgers has been on fire. In 5 of the last 7 games he has had a passing rating over 100. His passing has opened up the running game for RB Grant. Rodgers has as good a set of receivers as any team in the league. WRs Driver and Jennings are outstanding. They both are deserving of double coverage. TE Lee is solid and stretched the D down the middle. The O has avoided key injuries that have hurt the D.

One key to the game is the O line keeping pressure off the QB. They have allowed 51 sacks which is a concern if the Card D comes to play like they did in their playoff run last year.

The Pack D has lost pro bowlers CB Harris and OB/DE Kampman as well as key reserve LB Thompson. Even so, the team is playing well. The young LB crew has put pressure on opposing QBs regularly. Rookie OB Mathews is the key blitzer that has taken Kampman’s place. Pressure is key because the D backfield is vulnerable.

Cards

The Cards were bombed by the Pack last week. They put incredible pressure on QB Warner. The Cards did hold out some of their key players but suffered a major injury when WR Bolden went down. Bolden is a quick healer but is not expected to play Sunday. WR Breaston is going to have to pick up the slack. The other key injury is LT Gandy who is on IR. Bridges has replaced him but is not at all reliable to keep Warner upright. The entire O line has struggled at times to protect the passer. When they give Warner any time at all he will slice up any defense. But he can’t pass when he is on his behind.

The running game is not stable. RB Hightower fumbles way too often and rookie RB Wells struggles to pick up the blitz. The running game is solid in some games and disappears in others. They are going to have to be able to run the ball at least enough to keep the blitzes to a minimum.

The D is great in one game and terrible in the next. They have the talent but don’t seem to have the motivation in every game. Last year during the playoff run they were outstanding. They should be motivated to win in the playoffs.

Admittedly, I am a huge Warner fan. You will know in the first 2 possessions who is going to win. If Warner has time to throw and the Cardinal D shows up, it will be a close game. If not, the Pack will win easily.

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 football,NFL Playoffs,Ravens,Patroits,Packers,Cardinals,Warner,Brady,Bolden,Welker,injuries

QB Jason Campbell is the starter because the Redskins couldn't get anyone else.

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Cambell will start but his feelings have been hurt—again. Campbell has struggled in the second halfs of seasons. The Redskins were 6-2 at the half pole but fell off the cliff and out of the playoffs in the second half. Part of Cambell’s problems were due to the injury to RB Clinton Portis and the failure of the running game to keep up the pace. Injuries in the O line caused more pressure and fewer accurate passes. Coach Jim Zorn tried to get several QBs via trade but failed. Unlike the Denver situation, Cambell took it like a man and settles in again under center.

Campbell has talent and a great arm but has had very inconsistent mechanics. Under pressure he tends to forget his mechanics and fall back to old habits. It is impossible to be a consistent passer with bad mechanics. But until they find someone else, he’s the guy. As insurance the team has vet Todd Collins in reserve. Collins is 36 and is past the point where he can be a full time starter. Run and shoot QBs Colt Brennan and URFA Chase Daniel are also in the mix.

Portis had more injuries than the Republican Guard in 08. He was leading the league at the 8 game mark with over 900 yards and then suffered hip, knee, neck and back. He struggled to a little over 500 yards in the second half of the season. He is not 100 percent yet and will be used very sparingly in preseason. Ladell Betts backs up Portis and is very solid. FB Mike Sellers didn’t have his usually solid season last year despite being elected to the pro bowl.

As Campbell lost accuracy, the WRs lost catches. Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El are one of the better combos in the league. Both started out hot and cooled as more throws hit the ground. Moss has lost a half step and is 30 this year. Randle El is the underneath guy and one of the most physical receivers in the league. He an excellent down field blocker. There are no long runs without the WRs and TEs making blocks down field. The team wants youngsters Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly to develop to provide another deep threat. They will compete for the 3rd WR spot left open by free agency. The TE is 2 time pro bowl Chris Cooley. He is consistent and Campbell’s relief valve.

The O line that has gotten so much praise got old all of a sudden. Long time RT Jon Jansen and G Pete Kendall are gone. Derrick Dockery replaces the latter and Stephon Heyer or vet Mike Williams will play RT. Chris Samuels started strong but wore down. He is nearing the end of the road. C Casey Rabach and RG Randy Thomas have to play the way they did in the first few games before they too were nicked up. Overall the O line has to improve to get the O back on track.

The Redskins D quietly ranked in the top 10 overall last year. The D is a fantasy football favorite. Now they have added the $100 million dollar man in DT Albert Haynesworth from the Titans. He joins a very deep and talented but aging group in starters E Phillip Daniels, DT Cornelius Griffin and E Andre Carter. The bench includes former starters T Kedric Golston, T Anthony Montgomery, DE Renaldo Wynn and the versatile T/E Lorenzo Alexander. IF this group stays healthy the D line is outstanding. But Haynesworth came in limping and Daniels is coming off a knee injury that kept him out almost all of 08.

1st round pick Brian Orakpo was handed the SLB spot day 1. He is converting from DE at Texas. He joins the undersized and overachieving MB London Fletcher and WLB Rocky McIntosh. Fletcher was snubbed last year but played at an all pro level. McIntosh is solid. The bench includes SLB insurance H.B. Blades, Alfred Fincher, Chris Wilson, and former 1st round bust Robert Thomas. Blades is fine but the rest are suspect.

LCB Carlos Rogers, RCB DeAngelo Hall and FS LaRon Landry are young and talented. Landry is coming on strong but needs to finish more plays by improving his ball skills. Hall has to overcome inconsistency. SS Chris Horton has to avoid a sophomore slump. The 7th round pick was a standout in training camp last year and played well. CB Fred Smoot, S Reed Doughty, S Kareem Moore, CB Justin Tryon and CB Kevin Barnes are the backups now but Smoot is in danger of being cut.

OVERALL: The Redskins were great in the first half of last year. Despite getting Haynesworth, they are not Super Bowl threats. They don’t have enough passing to prevent teams putting 47 guys in the box to stop Portis. The team will go as far as Campbell takes them. That may be to the playoffs but won’t be much farther.

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,Fantasy Football,Redskins,Titans,Texas,College Football,Campbell,Zorn,Portis,Betts,Randle El,Moss,Cooley,Samuels,Rabach,Heyer,Jansen,Griffin,Haynesworth,Daniels,Orakpo,Landry,Hall,Smoot

Giant Boot Camp 09 takes a toll on the players

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Giant head coach Tom Coughlin is infamous for running a tight ship and a physical training camp. This year seems to be a little tougher than most. No fewer than 16 players are nursing early camp injuries of various severity. CB Corey Webster (hip), CB Aaron Ross (leg), WR Steven Smith (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (hamstring), OL Guy Whimper (toe), OT Cliff Louis (ankle), OT Kevin Boothe (pectoral) and DE Maurice Evans (hip) DT Fred Robbins (knee) and DE Justin Tuck (foot) OG Chris Snee (leg) C Shaun O’Hara (triceps) OG Rich Seubert (shoulder) WR David Tyree (knee) and DT Anthony Bryant (undisclosed) all have missed time at the camp. There are more people lined up at the trainer’s room than customers waiting to dump their rides in on Cash for Clunkers program. Even so, don’t look for the pace or intensity of the camp to change. That would not be consistent with Coughlin’s personality.

QB Eli Manning has his new deal. Now all he needs is a couple of dependable receivers. Manning is the offensive leader of the team but has struggled in the playoffs. His production fell off a cliff last year without Plaxico Burris. His second WR Amani Toomer was allowed to leave in free agency. Manning has to get a new best friend target he can depend on. That won’t be easy given the group of candidates. I would not pick Manning for my Fantasy Football team.

The Giants plan to have Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon as starters. Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss and David Tyree provide the only experienced backups available. The starters have not impressed during OTAs and so far in camp. Tyree has a knee problem and may well not survive the final cut. Manningham and Moss show promise but Manningham had consistency problems at Michigan. The best hope for the team may be rookies Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden. The problem is that generally a WR doesn’t blossom in the NFL until his second or third year. Manning still has TE Kevin Boss who is a dependable pair of hands.

The running game is solid but lost a key component when backup Derrick Ward (1.025 yards in 08) was allowed to leave in free agency. RB Brandon Jacobs (4th round 05) was one of the all time great steals in the draft. He is a beast and even DTs don’t want to tackle him when he has a full head of steam. Anything that big that moves that fast should have the words “US Air Force” on the side. His only problem is that he runs upright and is subject to injury. His primary backup now is the speedy Ahmad Bradshaw. The question is can Bradshaw run inside like Ward did? Andre Ware and rookie RB Andre Brown provide further depth.

The O line has been one of the great strengths of the team. The lineup has been the same for 2 years and the combination of LT David Diehl, LG Rich Seubert, C Shaun O’Hara, RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie provide protection for Manning and the push the runners need. Rookie LT Will Beatty has real potential but needs to get stronger. He may move into LT in 2010 and allow Diehl to move back to G. The bench is solid with T Guy Whimper, T Andrew Carnahan, and G Tutan Reyes being the prime candidates.

New defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has a toy box full of goodies with which to play. The D line has LE Justin Tuck, LT Barry Cofield, RT Fred Robbins and RE Osi Umenyiora coming off of knee surgery that cost him all of 08. Assuming Osi is healthy, there isn’t a better group in the league. They also have great depth of DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DE/DT Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard and DT Jay Alford. Canty and Kiwanuka would start for a lot of NFL teams.

Injuries and changes make the LB group a little less solid. MLB Antonio Pierce is the leader. SLB Danny Clark is smart but not a great playmaker. He is a journeyman. WLB Michael Boley was signed to play that position but was injured. Last year 4th round pick Bryan Kehl stepped in and hasn’t given the spot back yet. 2nd round pick in 09 SLB Clint Sintim will challenge Clark and Boley and Gerris Wilkinson will try to unseat Kehl.

The starting group of LCB Aaron Ross, RCB Corey Webster, FS Michael Johnson and SS Kenny Phillips is as good as any in the league. Ross and Webster are playing at a pro bowl level. 08 first round pick Phillips stepped in to the SS spot and solidified it. CB Kevin Dockery, CB Bruce Johnson and CB Travonti Johnson provide strength at CB but there is not much at safety.

OVERALL: The Giants will be a force again in the playoffs if they survive Camp Coughlin. The NFC is wide open and the Giants will go just as far as Manning and the receiving corps takes them. My expectation is that they will make the NFC Championship game but home field and the success of Manning et. al. will determine if they make it to the Super Bowl.

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,Coughlin,Giants,Manning,Toomer,Burris,Hixon,Manningham,Snee,Bradshaw,McKenzie,Beatty,Reyes,Jacobs,O’Hara,Seubert,Fantasy Football,Kiwanuka,Umenyiora,Tuck,Webster,Ross,Johnson,Phillips

The Chiefs' Plan in 09—Build around their Cassel

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Kansas City GM Scott Pioli has bet a lot on QB Matt Cassel but didn’t give up an arm and a leg to acquire him. Even though Cassel never started at USC and had one good year behind a group of pro bowl players, Pioli had very little to lose. The Chiefs needed a QB and Cassel’s question marks are far fewer than any rookie he could have gotten in the second round.

Cassel is a slightly above average QB in the Pat style O that KC will implement. However, he needs to be more accurate in the red zone to help the pathetic O of the 08 Chiefs claw its way to the middle of the pack. He will need an improved running game and a lot more protection from the line to make the Chiefs competitive.

The success of the running game depends on RB Larry Johnson staying healthy and focused all year. He is still capable of pro bowl level play but injuries and demands for a new contract or a trade have prevented him from showing it over the last two seasons. There is nothing behind him comes close to quality depth.

Cassel will miss the speed of Randy Moss—he’ll even miss the speed of Wes Weilker. What he has is a group of inconsistent less than average speed WRs that tend to drop as many balls as they catch. Both projected starters Dwayne Bowe and Mark Bradley fall into that category. The one hope for the team is vet Bobby Engram is he is healthy. He hasn’t been for the last several years.

Don’t expect any help from the TE. Pioli traded all pro Tony Gonzalez. Now Cassel will have one of the following candidates at the position: Brad Cottam, Sean Ryan, Tony Curtis, or maybe Jake O’Connell. The reason you haven’t heard of most of these guys is they have yet to do anything to get noticed.

In what can only be described as the Bill Belichick way, Pioli and the new head coach Haley managed to piss off one of their best players G Brian Waters over his off season conditioning. Haley wants to have a lighter more mobile line. Waters doesn’t fit that mold. The rest of the line is good and bad. UFA G Mike Goff is solid and is a natural leader. The Chiefs can use all the leadership it can find. LT Branden Albert has a lot of talent and is starting to show it. C Rudy Niswanger and RT Damion McIntosh are very average hole fillers with a little up side. They will get better or get replaced next year. There is not much on the bench to help should someone go down.

On the D line the ends could be very good to outstanding. The problem is finding a NT. The switch to the 3-4 moves DT Glenn Dorsey to DE. He is outstanding when healthy and motivated. Having one of his running mates at LSU on the line may help. I really like rookie DE Tyson Jackson. Jackson did not have as good a year in 08 as he did in 07 because he was double teamed every play. He needs to be more effective at splitting doubles and getting into the backfield. Either Ron Edwards or Tank Tyler will be NT. Neither is capable of being effective at the spot. The depth is inconsistent and lacks athleticism.

OB Mike Vrabel came to KC in the Cassel trade and will be the director of Defense for the team. He knows the D and provides leadership on that side of the ball. UFA MLB Zach Thomas provides leadership as well. IB Derrick Johnson has spectacular ability. The team just wishes it showed a little more often. Projected starting OB B Tamba Hali and reserves Turk McBride and Andy Studebaker are former DEs trying to figure out how to play their new spot. Reserve Monty Beisel is a capable fill in.

At least the DBs know each other and what they are supposed to do. CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr have upside and were decent last year. Flowers needs to tackle a little better. SS Bernard Pollard and FS Jarrad Page start their 4 year together and should be getting better. 08’s performance didn’t show much improvement. Mike Brown and Jon McGraw are vets that can play and 4th round pick Donald Washington has potential.

OVERALL: The only thing that will keep the Chiefs out of the AFC West basement is the Raiders. They have the potential to get better but it won’t happen this year.

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 Football,NFL Draft,Fantasy football,Chiefs,Patroits,Belichick,Pioli,Albert,Cassel,Vrabel,Bowens,Moss,Welker,Johnson,USC

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

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