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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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nfl

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.

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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 .

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What to look for Sunday in the Wild Card round.

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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 .

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What to look for in the Saturday January 2nd bowl games.

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PAPAJOHNS.com BOWL South Carolina 7-5 Connecticut 7-5

Despite losing a key player to tragedy and being out-manned regularly, UConn has played a handful of ranked teams close only to lose heartbreaking game after game. Starting CB Jasper Howard was murdered on Oct. 18th. The team carries his memory and his jersey as a rally flag. The heart and hard work was rewarded with an overtime win over Notre Dame followed by a couple of wins to end the season.

UConn’s O scores 31 points per game and is fairly balanced between the run and the pass. The running tandem of Todman and Dixon provide a good ground attack despite not having even an average O line. QB Endres took over half way through the year and has done fairly well completing 64% with 6 TDs and 4 picks. His favorite target is WR Easley (5th round). The D has gotten better over the year but still is young. It is led by DE Witten (4th) and FS Vaughn (5th).

The Ol’ Ball Coach Spurrier still throws the ball all over the place. “Running backs, we don’t need no stinkin’ running backs” seems to be the game plan for SC. QB Garcia has a rating of 124.5 with 2733 yards and 17 TDs. He has had 394 attempts while the top 2 running backs had a total of 211 carries.

The SC D has been very erratic. They allowed 41 points to a bad Georgia O and then held a highly rated offense of #4 Mississippi to just 10. The D is led by OB Norwood (late 2nd) and SS Stewart (6th).

While UConn has won 3 straight, SC has lost 3 of their last 4. SC is a 5 point favorite but I doubt they will win that big. This could be another upset.

COTTON BOWL #19 Oklahoma St. 9-3 Mississippi 8-4

Ole Miss QB Snead needs to have a good game to impress NFL scouts. He came into the season as a top QB draft prospect but has fallen to the point he would be better off to stay for his senior year. He has completed only 54% with 20 TDs and 17 picks. RB McCluster (3rd) is just 5-7 169 and will have to play WR in the NFL. WR Hodge (6th) and G Jerry (5th) are also prospects on the Rebel O.

The Rebel D has been inconsistent. They held the high powered O of Arkansas to 17 then let a below average O of Miss St. score 41. DE Hardy (1st or high 2nd) is the highest rated player on the team but FS Lewis should be a late round pick.

Oklahoma St. had a disappointing season as well. They were expected to compete for the Big 12 South title but lost to Houston in the pre-league schedule then had lopsided losses to Texas and Oklahoma. QB Robinson is a 3 year starter but had a less than expected senior year. He had a passer rating of 135 but that was down from 149 in 07 and 167 in 08. He is a late round prospect. The O line is led by top OT prospect Okung (early 1st) and G Lewis (6th). RB Tolson (6th) averaged 5.4 with 11 TDs.

The OSU D features CB Cox (2nd) and safeties Sexton and Antoine who are marginal prospects in the 7th round.

Mississippi is a 3 point favorite but expect OSU to win in an upset.

LIBERTY BOWL East Carolina 9-4 Arkansas 7-5

Hog QB Mallett led the team to the 10th best passing game in division 1. He threw for 3425 with 29 TDs and just 7 picks. His top receiver Childs had only 45 catches. Mallett spreads the ball around. G Petrus (4th) heads up his protection.

The Hog D is horrible. It allowed 33 points to LSU in their overtime loss. Only DT Sheppard has a chance to be drafted from that group.

EC’s D will challenge Mallett. It is led by DE Wilson (3rd), DT Ross (7th) and S Eskridge (6th). The D has played very well this year and seem to be getting better each week. The O is led by RB Lindsey. Most experts don’t believe he is a pro prospect but at 5-10 200 he is big enough. Behind an average line he averaged 5 per carry. I like his toughness.

The line is Hogs by 8 but I don’t think so. Take the points and EC may win outright.

ALAMO BOWL Michigan State 6-6 Texas Tech 8-4

This game will be ugly quickly. MSU had a horrible pass D even before the suspensions of several starters on D. TT G Carter (5th) and T Winn (fa) will protect QB Potts. He will be throwing the ball without concern for the MSU d. TT is an 8 point favorite. MSU will be very lucky to keep it that close.

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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What did we learn from week 14 in the NFL?

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The Steelers are really bad.

Losing to the injury depleted Browns was the last straw for the Steelers’ attempt to defend their Super Bowl title. The team started off 6-2 but after 5 straight losses are now 6-7 and done. The O line has totally failed to protect QB Roethlisberger who has suffered from concussions. On Thursday it allowed 8 sacks to a Browns’ D that couldn’t find one at a Kroger grocery store. The line is also struggling to open holes for the running game. The most surprising thing was a duct-taped D was more physical than the Steelers on O. The O line has deteriorated badly and has been neglected in the draft. There will be major changes on the line next season.

The Pit D hasn’t stepped up either. They are soft against the run and are not able to cause turnovers the way they did last year. No matter how the last 3 games turn out, there will be major changes on the D as well.

Things are getting so bad that there are rumblings that Coach Tomlin may be part of the problem. Can it be that he has already lost the support of the team in just his 3rd year? That is possible so you can add his name to the slightly warm seat list.

Did the win against the Steelers save Mangini’s job?

After the big win in Cleveland, there has been some talk around town that the win might save Magenous’ job. The issue is still open depending on what happens in the next 3 games. We have seen a national game win before. Last year a 1-3 Browns team beat the undefeated Giants. That Browns team went on to win 2 more games the rest of the way. To see my entire article on this check out NflDraftDog.com.

The Colts and the Saints stay perfect.

The Saints game wasn’t pretty but they came back and won. The Colts looked good wiping out the Broncos. Both face interesting games this week. The Saints host the Pats and the Colts go to Jacksonville that is still in a position to get to the playoffs.

The Broncos are falling and they won’t get up.

Denver lost last week and they will not make the playoffs. After a 6-0 start they have gone 2-5 and are now 2+ games behind the hot Chargers. Their only 2 wins were against the lousy Chiefs and the broken Giants. They are still 1 game up on the rest of the Wild card group but have a tough schedule down the stretch. So much for the Coach of the Year award for McDaniels.

The Bengals are who we thought they were.

The team is a lot better but has not yet gotten to the point where they can win a big game. They may be better prepared by playoff time but I don’t expect them to go too deep this year. But watch out next season because this team could be really good next year.

The Cardinals need to improve their O line before they get Warner hurt more.

We have seen what happens to the team when Warner is out and it isn’t pretty. The O line is terrible. It made no difference if the 49ers blitzed or not because they got to Warner either way.

The Dolphins took a big step toward a wild card or more.

The win over the Jags was big because it knocked Jacksonville out of the playoff spot as of now and put them in the 6th spot. Now they are looking at the Division lead currently held by the Pats. The Pats would have been in a tough spot had they lost to the Panthers but pulled out the win. The Fish have both Pit and the Titans left which is a tougher run than the Pats with the Jags and Bills left. Both teams will play the Texans. If the Fish make the post season they will have earned it.

Look for the Eagles to win the NFC Least.

The Cowboys took a major hit with their loss to the Chargers. With the wins over the Giants the Birds took control of their division. The Giants chances are on life support. The Boys have a heartbeat but need a pacemaker badly to keep going. The Eagles can end the Boy’s chances and Phillips coaching career by beating them in week 17.

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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  • Author:
  • Published: Dec 12th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on What to look for in the NFL for week 14.

What to look for in the NFL for week 14.

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Saints @ Falcons The Saints are undefeated and were rolling until they had a lucky win over the Redskins. If the Saints play the same way they did last week, the winning streak could end. Otherwise if QB Ryan is not playing for the Falcons, this game will be over quickly.

Packers @ Bears Both teams are struggling to overcome injuries. The Pack will be missing NT Pickett and might be without DE Jolly and LB Barnett. The Bears lost MLB Urlacher early in the season. In addition they may be without WR Hester, OT Pace, LB Briggs and DL Harris.

The Bears have not gotten the production out of QB Cutler that they expected. Part of that is his fault but part is due to a lack of a running game, below average protection, and drops by a lesser group of receivers that he had at Denver.

The Pack has playoff hopes and must win this game to keep their wild card chances alive. The D has been playing well particularly in their win last Monday against the Ravens. They still have to play at Pittsburgh and Arizona. They need this game in case they lose one or both of those games. Packers will win but it could be ugly.

Broncos @ Colts The Colts looked good against Tennessee last week after struggling to pull out a win over the Texans the week before. The Colts seem to play up or down to the competition but are still perfect. They have clinched their division and have only home field to worry about now. They have an easy schedule the rest of the way.

The Broncos are a game behind the Chargers in the division. Their 6-0 start is a distant memory since they have lost 4 out of the last 5. The win last week against a very weak Chiefs team was little help. The Broncos have an easy schedule after this game but need to stay close to top of the division but at 8-4 they are in good shape for a wild card. The big question for them is will QB Orton be playing? If not, it will get ugly for them quickly. Either way, the Colts should win at home.

Chargers @ Cowboys Both teams need this game to stay on top of their division. It should be a very fun game to watch. The Chargers are up by 1 game and the Boys are tied with the Eagles. Both have injuries. The key for the Boys will be containing the passing game of the Chargers. The visitors must pressure Boy QB Romo to slow down a good O. The Chargers should win if LB Merriman is healthy enough to play. Otherwise it’s a tossup.

Eagles @ Giants The Birds need a win to keep pace with the Boys. The Giants are a game behind both and need to win out to insure a shot at the post season. Giant QB Manning is limping on a bad foot but the O seems to play better at home.

The Eagles won 40-17 in their earlier meeting. But they had Westbrook then and he is sidelined with a concussion. After a disaster in week 10 against the Chargers, the Birds have won 3 straight. They looked very good last week against the Falcons.

While the Birds need this game but the Giants need it more. But the O fails the Giants who are struggling to run the ball this year and the Eagles win on the road.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Bengals @ Vikings This is a key game for Cincy. It is a chance to prove that they are a contender not a pretender. A win over the NFC North leader will clinch the AFC North for Cincy. But even more important is the ability to prove that they are among the very best in the league. The key for Cincy will be run blocking. If they can manage to run the ball against the Vikes, it will slow down the pass rush and allow the Bengals to balance their O.

The Vikes have looked solid except for a bad game last week at the Cards. The last 4 game are critical for the Vikes if they want to get the 2nd seed and a bye week in the post season. The game should be close but I can’t see the Bengals pulling it out. The Vikes win by a field goal.

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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  • Author:
  • Published: Nov 7th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Around the NFL for 11/7/09

Around the NFL for 11/7/09

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The winds of change blowing through Cleveland

GM George Kokinis was frog walked out of the complex on Monday. Owner Randy Lerner told the press that he was going to hire a football guy with solid credentials to help rebuild the organization. Good luck with that. Nobody with “solid credentials” would touch that job with a 100 yard stick. For my full analysis of the Browns situation, check out my article on NFLDraftDog.com

The Colts lose 3/4ths of its D backfield

The biggest loss was all pro S Sanders. The Colts give up nearly a full yard per rushing attempt more without Sanders on the field. He is gone for the year. Starting CB Jackson is also out for the season. CB Hayden is out for a couple of weeks with a knee.

Cards @ Bears

The O line of the Cards is going to have to do a lot better this week than they have so far this year if the team is going to win on a regular basis. Warner needs protection and he hasn’t gotten it. The D is playing a full level below the way they did during the playoff run last year.

The Bears have their own problems. Their O line has put QB Cutler under way too much pressure and the WRs have not done him any favors either. The Bear D will play well but the Cards’ O line won’t. The Bears win.

Ravens @ Bengals

The Bengals won in Baltimore and the Ravens need this game badly. It looked like the Raven D was nearly back to the Super Bowl years in performance against the Broncos last week. But that was a mirage. The Broncos had not played a good D up to that game.

The Bengals are winning based on a D playing better as a unit than their individual players indicate they can. That has to continue against a really good Raven O. The running game has also been a center post of their game with RB Benson.

This game will come down to which team generates the most turn overs. The Raven D will and they win in a close game.

Chargers @ Giants

The Giants need this game. Their O has suffered due to the lack of NFL quality receivers. The D has been put in too many bad positions by the O failing to convert 3rd downs. The lack of a passing threat has been mostly responsible for the low yards per attempt of the running game as well.

The Chargers have been very inconsistent as well. They are 4-3 but 2 of those wins have come over Oakland which hardly counts. RB Thomlinson seems to be getting back to form since the bye. Rivers will be better as the running game returns. Because the Giants need the game worse they should win.

Cowboys @ Eagles

The Boys are playing like girls. They need this game but the Eagles have been playing much better in the last few weeks. The Eagles will pressure QB Romo into errors and they will win the game.

Steelers @ Broncos

The fall of the Broncos continues as the Steelers have righted the ship. When the Steeler D puts pressure on Bronco QB Orton he will make mistakes. The Steelers live on errors and 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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