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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Tuesday QB—Projecting the playoffs at the 3/4th pole.

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AFC Seeds

  1. Colts At 12-0 there is little chance anyone will beat the Colts for home field.

  2. Chargers SD has a lead over Cincy in the AFC record. If SD can beat Cincy at home in week 15 they will clinch this spot.

  3. Patriots The loss to Miami last week eliminated any chance of the Pats to avoid the Wild Card round but they have an easy schedule the rest of the way. Their key game will be in week 17 against the Jags who might be fighting for a playoff spot themselves.

  4. Bengals  Cincy has the toughest remaining schedule of the top 4. I can’t see them winning at the Vikes and then at the Chargers to win the 2nd spot. Instead, they will likely lose both and end up in the 4th spot even if they can beat the Jets.

  5. Broncos Denver will probably lose 2 out of their 3 games left winning only against Oakland but their hot start has kept them in the race. They will lose to the Colts and the Eagles but hang on by a fingernail to the 5th spot.

  6. Jags or Ravens The Jags have a 1 game lead in the overall standings and 2 in the Conference loss column over the Ravens but the Jags have to play Indy at home and NE on the road. I expect them to lose both giving them a 9-7 record with an 8-4 within the AFC. I project the Ravens to have the identical records in both. The playoff spot will be determined by net points within the conference.

NFC Seeds

  1. Saints The only threat to a 16-0 record for the Saints will be the home game against what by then should be a crumbling Cowboy team in week 15. Other than that and some new injuries, this Saints team could march through the schedule unbeaten. To insure home field throughout the playoffs, they will have to be prefect.

  2. Vikings If the Vikes get by Cincy next week at home, they should go the rest of the way without another loss. They will have to face the Saints in the playoffs at NO and that won’t be easy. Arizona showed the path to beating the Vikes last week by running multiple crossing patterns against the Vike zone.

  3. Cardinals only if Warner stays healthy The Cards are the toughest team to project because they look like world champs one week only to look just weak the next. But they have the easiest schedule with a game at SF and DT and games at home against the Rams and the Pack. Only the Packers are good enough to beat them with a healthy Warner but anything can happen.

  4. NFC (L)East team This had better be the Boys unless Coach Phillips wants to be unemployed and see Jones tear the team apart and put it back together crooked. The Eagles look like the team to beat for the 4th spot with a shot at sneaking into #3 if they win out. I project them at #4

  5. Packers The Pack could end up with the 3rd best record in the conference but can’t catch the Vikes for the division crown. They will be a tough out in the playoffs.

  6. The loser of the Eagles/Cowboys fight for the NFC Least title. This division has been a major disappointment this season. The Giants have a chance to overtake the Cowboys because they hold the tiebreaker.

Around the NFL

Weis is dialing for dollars.

Ex ND coach Weis is making the rounds of teams that might be looking for an Off Coordinator. Reportedly he visited the Bears yesterday and is scheduled to be in Cleveland today. There are rumors that he may be named OC this week replacing the often criticized Brian Daboll. Weis coached QB Quinn at ND and may be hired just as a consultant to help his development.

Cleveland owner Lerner backing off his “football Czar” talk.

After a particularly disgusting series of losses, Learner told the press he was going to look for an experienced NFL guy to oversee the operation. After a couple of games that were 2 bottle of Tums disgusting, he has not mentioned it since. There is a 40% chance that Mangini survives. The talk now is to hire a football guy that might be able to work with Mangini as HC without any input to the draft.

Eagles coach Reid to get a new contract.

Eagle management has recognized that Reid would be a top candidate for other NFL jobs opening after the season. They will give Reid a new deal.

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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  • Published: Nov 7th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
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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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Around the NFL for 10/17/09

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There aren’t many decent games this weekend. Most of the games are either the very good against the very bad or 2 bad teams playing each other. Here are a couple I like.

Game of the week NY Giants 5-0 @ New Orleans 4-0

Two undefeated teams meet to decide the early inside track to the top seed in the playoffs. The Giants come in off the closest thing the NFL has to a game week bye beating Oakland easily. The two issues that the Giants have to find an answer to are RB Jacobs who is under performing and the injury to their QB. QB Manning has a foot problem that is not going to get better during the year. It is a problem because there is no quality backup.

The D has played as well as it ever has and is holding the opponent to a 24% 3rd down conversion rate. That is outstanding. They have 14 sacks and is holding the passing game to 4.9 yards per passing attempt.

The Saints have played much better on D than anyone expected them to. They have stuffed the run holding opponents to 3.7 per carry. There is no question about the power of the O through the air. QB Breez is a top player and has a passer rating of 108.4. But the running game is struggling. RB Bell ran very well but has been hurt and should return this week. The Saints have had a week off and that should help but the Giants are the 2nd best team in the conference and will win on the road.

Baltimore 3-2 @ Minnesota 5-0

This game could end up 6-3 without the benefit of a 50 MPH wind like Buffalo/Cleveland faces last week. The Ravens have the most improved player in the league this year in QB Flacco (90.2). He was a care-taker last year but is making plays to win games this season. He will be without his LT Gaither (neck) but still should make some plays. The question is will he make enough? The running game has passed from McGahee to Rice and the latter is averaging 5.8 per carry. They will have to run the ball this week because the Vikes D puts a lot of pressure on the QB in passing situations.

The Vikes have had running problems this season. RB Peterson is fine averaging 4.9 per carry but his partner Taylor is not. He is getting only 2.5 per attempt. Peterson is not a 30 carry a game guy. The Vikes are going to have to find someone to reduce the burden on AP. Favre is doing what he needs to in order win. The D is outstanding but has not yet played up to their level last year. They are giving up too many yards on the ground and have trouble getting off the field despite an easy schedule so far.

The Ravens are mad and will come in and take Minnesota out of the undefeated category.

Chicago @ Atlanta

Two 3-1 teams face off in a critical game for both because they are chasing undefeated teams leading their respective divisions. This game could determine which team gets a wild card spot in the NFC. Both teams have struggled with the running game averaging only 3.8 per attempt. But this game highlights two of the best young QBs in the game—the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (102.9 passer rating) and the Bears’ Jay Cutler (89.3). There will be a lot of balls in the air.

Both teams depend on a well above average D. The Bears have allowed 78 points and the Falcons have given up just 68. The Bears are +3 and I will take the points and Chicago.

Denver 5-0 @ SD 2-2

The Chargers have their backs to the wall in the division. No question that DV has been very lucky to be undefeated. SD is 2.5 games behind and needs a win to get back into the race for the division. DV has 2.5 signature wins including the .5 win over NE because they won the toss in overtime. QB Orton has proven to be a good fit for the short and medium throws he is asked to make. He has assembled a passer rating of 97.4. RB Moreno is averaging 4.2 but struggles to get the key short yard 3rd down coversions. The Bronco D has played well but racked up better numbers against Cleveland and Detroit. The one thing that the D has been able to do is put pressure on the QB. The team has 16 sacks with DE/LB Dumervil having half of those.

The Chargers are struggling running the ball averaging only 2.7 yards per attempt. RB Tomlinson has been a non factor most of the season so far. The team placed the Franchise tag on RB Sproles to keep him in SD. But he is only getting 2.4 yards per carry. The lack of a running game has put a lot more pressure on the passing game and QB Rivers. He has a passing rating of 90.6 which is hard given the lack of quality protection from the O line and the opponent knowing you have to pass on almost every down.

Denver will run out of luck soon but not this week. The Broncos put the SD hopes for the division title on life support.

Stinker of the week:

There are several nominees for this “honor” but one stinks beyond all others. The NFL should pay people to watch the Rams @ the Jags. The winner? The UFL.

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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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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  • Author:
  • Published: Sep 5th, 2009
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  • Comments: Comments Off on NFL 2009 in a nutshell.

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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