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 .

Technorati Tags: nfl football,NFL Playoffs,Ravens,Patroits,Packers,Cardinals,Warner,Brady,Bolden,Welker,injuries
  • Author:
  • Published: Dec 19th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on What to look for in week 15 of the NFL.

What to look for in week 15 of the NFL.

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Colts 35 Jags 31

The Colts played down again to the opposition. The first 3 quarters the O looked very average. But great teams find a way to win games in which they have not played their best. The Colts did that. They have clinched home field so it will be interesting to see how much they play their stars. In the past when they have rested their stars after clinching the top spot they have lost early in the plahyoffs. When they have been challenged to get to the post season, they have done well. Fantasy owners need to watch out for Colts on their team.

Cowboys @ Saints

The popping your hear is the coming from the oil on the frying pan in which Boys coach Phillips is being cooked. Most experts say the only way he gets out of the frying pan is to win out including at least one game in the playoffs. Forget it. Phillips is gone even if he wins the Super Bowl, which he will not. The Boys’ O is top 5 but that is very misleading. They have piled up big numbers against the lesser teams on their schedule. Romo and the Boys struggle against an aggressive D. The Saints are a very aggressive D.

The Saints seem to be going for a perfect season because they have never been 13-0 before. Coach Payton won’t take the foot off the gas except for players nursing injuries. The Saints were playing outstanding ball up to week 12 then had two close calls in a row. Payton will want to make a statement with a national game and will do his best to get the team playing at the top of their game against the Boys. Saints win easily.

49ers @ Eagles

With their win over the Cards last week, this becomes a critical game for the Niners. They need to keep wining and hope the Cards fall again. They are not in a position to get into the hunt for a wild card. The Eagles need the game badly as well. By kickoff, they will know if a win will give them a 2+ game lead on the Boys. QB McNair has been hot and the Eagle D will be blitzing coming down in the elevator. The Birds will be too much for the Niners. Eagles win.

Dolphins @ Titans

Both teams need this game as well. The Fish are chasing the Pats. At 7-6 they trail the Pats by 1. The Titans’ playoff hopes are on life support at 6-7. Young is questionable with a injury so Collins may start. The running game of the Titans has really come around in the last few weeks as the O line is now healthy. But the Dolphins have been getting outstanding play from QB Henne in place of Pennington. The difference will be the Dolphins’ D. The Fish win.

Bengals @ Chargers

The Bengals not only have to overcome a bad loss to the Vikes but the loss of WR Henry. It looked like Henry was starting to turn his life around. The O of the Bengals was just not crisp at all last week. While part of that was due to the Vike D, part was the team showing the pressure of the playoff run. They would be helped by getting the #2 spot to avoid the Wild Card round. A win over the current #2 Chargers would put the Bengals in their spot with 2 to go as the Bengals would own the tie breaker. The O line is going to have to play better particularly in pass protection.

The Chargers are up on Denver by 2 games. But they know that they can not stop because the Broncos will probably win 2 of the next 3 games. The Chargers looked very good last week in beating the Boys on the road. The Bengals will play hard but not win again and see their lead in the AFC North shrink.

Bears @ Ravens

The Bears do not travel well. The Ravens are working hard to catch up to the Bengals or to get to a wild card spot. But they have the Steelers right on their tail feathers. The Birds have had an up and down season but are holding onto the 6th playoff spot now. With 2 other teams also having a 7-6 record to keep that spot they have to keep winning. The Birds beat the Bears and creep a little closer to the playoffs.

Packers @ Steelers

The Steelers have fallen and can’t seem to be able to get up. The Pack is hot winning 4 in a row after losing 3 straight. The O has really come on and now is able to run the ball better. But the O still depends on the arm of QB Rodgers. In addition to his 102 passer rating he has run for 3 TDs.

The Steelers are really down after a loss to the 1-11 Browns. He got sacked 8 times by a team that couldn’t find a bag at a Kroger grocery store. The Pack is playing outstanding D and is very effective at the pass rush. This one will get ugly quickly. Even at home the Pack win in a walkaway.

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: Oct 31st, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Around the NFL for Week 8

Around the NFL for Week 8

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This week is the half way mark in the season. Tuesday we will look at what the playoffs look like as well as the second half. But this week there are a couple of key games to watch.

DV @ BA

The second half of the Bronco schedule is a lot harder than the first half. They play the Steelers next along with the Giants, the Colts and the Eagles. Sunday we will see if the Bronco O is a competitor for the Super Bowl or just a pretender. Their O line has not faced a D like the Ravens even if the Ravs are not playing as well as they have in the past.

The Bronco D has played well against some of the weakest offenses in the history of the NFL. We will see how they look against a balanced Raven O. QB Flacco is playing very well and will challenge a questionable Bronco defensive backfield.

The Ravens have to tighten up the D. The pass coverage has been far below what it was in previous years. This season they replaced both CBs and Foxworth and Washington have not produced like McAlister and Rolle have in recent years. As a result, the D is giving up more passing yards and forced to blitz more.

The Ravens need the win much more than Denver and win the game.

SF @ IN

The 49ers have played well and are 3-3 going into Indy. Smith is going to start at QB which has been the weakness of the team. RB Gore is healthy and the Colts have trouble stopping the run. S Sanders is back for the Colts and that will help against Gore.

The 49er D has been very strong but has not faced an O like Manning and Co. The SF O and the Colt D are a standoff. It will be the Colt O that gives Indy the win.

MN @ GB

The return of Farve is all the media is talking about. But those that have watched Viking games realize that Favre is the icing not the cake itself. RB Peterson is the key player on the O for the Vikes. The Pack D has played well but has gotten most of their numbers against weak teams like the Browns and the Lions.

However, the key will be the Viking D against a very potent O of the Pack. The Packers have suffered injuries on the O line and the Viking pass rush will be the difference. If the Vikes can put enough heat on Pack QB Rodgers, the Vikes will win in a close game.

The Vikes won at home and should win again in Favre’s return.

AT @ NO

The Monday night game should be a very good one. The Falcons come in 2 games behind the Saints at 4-2. They really need to win to get within striking distance of the division leader. The Falcon O has scored 21 points in each of the last 2 games. That won’t be nearly enough against the NFL’s top offense. They will need to play the best game defensively of the season and still score 35 to have a chance to win.

The Saints D has played way above expectation. It has been helped by the pressure that the O puts on the opposition. Very often the D can just worry about rushing the passer because the Saints are so far ahead of the opponent. The D has not faced a team that could match them score for score as the Falcons can on a good day.

But their visit to the Big Easy will be anything but and the Saints win comfortably.

QB changes around the league

The Titans will start Young to see what he can do. At 0-6, its about time. I will have some additional suggestions for them next week.

Despite cries of protest and the most abysmal lack of offense in years, the Browns will continue to start Anderson. He has a passer rating of 40.6. If a QB goes 0-1 without an interception, the rating is 39.6. He is completing just 43.8 % of his throws. Quinn has a pr of 62.9 and a 60.8 completion rate. Give him a chance.

The 49ers have replaced QB Hill with former 1st overall pick Smith. Hill had a qb rating of 79.6 but Smith in very limited action has a 118.6. I don’t believe that Smith is that much better than Hill and in more extensive action will prove it. We will see how he does against an only fair D backfield of the Colts.

Raider fans have to be wondering what the D could do if Davis had not cut the vet QB Garcia. Russell has a rating of 47.2. The only QB with any experience on the team is Gradkowski who has proven beyond a doubt he isn’t an NFL qb. Like the Browns, the Raiders will have a very long season.

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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Rap up of Preseason Week 3 Key games

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There were a lot of games this weekend but I have chosen to discuss 3 in depth because they pitted potential playoff team against each other.

GB @ AZ

The Packs QB Rodgers throws a nice deep ball. He doesn’t often look off his receivers though and that will get his guys hit by the safety. The Pack will throw more and run less this year. WR Jennings is able to get open by speed and good patterns but was hurt and did not return.

Ryan Grant will get most of the carries but will still average less than 4 yards per carry. I still don’t consider him a Fantasy stud.

One of the problems that the Cards D has it that they don’t keep their rush lanes which allows QBs and RBs to find large gaps to run through.

The Cards CB Rogers-Cromartie can make some outstanding plays because of his speed and athleticism. But he needs to take fewer chances jumping patterns. He gets burned when he guesses wrong.

The Cards can’t protect Warner and the O won’t go anywhere. Rookie RB Beanie Wells has his jump step back and his vision is outstanding. He will be the starter before the end of the year. The D is not playing anywhere close to the playoffs of last year. The D needs to pick it up even in the NFL NFC West.

The Cards give the ball away too often. The biggest problem is fumbles. Warner gets hit almost as soon as he makes his drop. He has small hands and tends to lose the ball when he is hit in the act of passing. Also the 3rd and 4th WRs fumble to often.

Leinart looked outstanding against guys that will be greeters at Walmart next week.

The Pack’s 3-4 is coming along nicely. They are able to put pressure on the QB but they were playing the Cards. The pass coverage is getting back to game 1 levels. The running game is still not ready for the regular season.

OVERALL: The Pack is getting into the playoffs probably as a wild card. They will be a tough out IF their 3-4 continues to develop. It won’t and they will be one and done.

The Cards are the toughest team to figure out because their D is so fickle. IF the D decides to show up and play close to the way it did in the 08 playoff run, they can play with anyone in the NFC even with the shortcomings of the O line. If not, look for Warner to retire and the Cards to sink again into the middle of the pack.

NE @ WA

The Redskins D was blitzing coming down the elevator in the hotel. They came after Tom Brady like he was seafood and steak buffet and they hadn’t eaten in weeks. They can get away with that because the Skins have a solid group of veteran CBs that can bump and run for short distances.

The Giants showed the way to beat the Pats in the Super Bowl—blitz the devil out of Brady. The Pats O line is over rated and it showed in that game. They are OK but not much better than that. Brady reads Ds as well as any QB in the game but he can’t complete passes with 4 or 5 guys in his face or sitting on his backside. In addition a lot of the best plays of the Pats involve crossing patterns that take more time than quick outs or slants.

The Skins DB Fred Smoot had the best game I have seen him play in 2 years against the Pats. He was left man to man with the second receiver and had an outstanding half.

QB Campbell was more accurate than he was late last season but his passes tend to be high which puts the receivers in jeopardy. Some of those throws will get his pass catchers killed. He still struggles on accuracy with the deep ball with air underneath. He also is not looking the safety off before he throws. He will still throw some picks due to not recognizing the underneath zone coverages.

I don’t like the pass patterns that the Skins run. Too many of them involve the WR sitting down in a spot and waiting for the ball. A WR standing is too easy to cover and leads to balls getting picked. The Pats’ O with the QB hitting the WR in motion allows the receivers to have a better chance of getting separation.

The Skins won’t have the kind of rushing attack that fantasy players are used to with Portis.

The Pats D is going to be a little more difficult to game plan against. They are using more 4-3 to go with the 3-4 that has been their base D. The flexibility that the vets in the D give the Pats makes them very dangerous.

Look for Pats Vet Fred Taylor to get the ball a lot. Laurence Maroney has a tendency to but the ball on the ground. Taylor is a much more reliable runner that fumbles very seldom. He is also an outstanding pass receiver and pass protector.

WR Randy Moss is just a beast. Not only is he big and strong, he has been focused since coming to the Pats and runs very good patterns. He is the most dangerous WR in the league with Brady throwing to him.

Joey Galloway may be 37 but he still has speed. The best underneath receiver in the league, Wes Welker, was not in the game due to injury. He makes a great difference because it allows Brady to dump the ball off if the blocking breaks down.

Brady seems to be moving very well in the pocket. We will have to see about his injury on his last play because Bill Belichick will never tell us anything.

OVERALL: I haven’t changed my opinion—The Pats are the best team in the AFC IF Brady is healthy. They will roll over the AFC East and will play either the Colts or more likely the Steelers for the AFC ticket to the Super Bowl.

The Skins are a playoff caliber team IF Campbell plays well. If not, there are going to be a lot of REALLY good QBs in the 2010 draft.

BA @ CR

BA QB Joe Flacco is really becoming a top passer. He has a rocket arm and still shows very nice touch dropping balls over the head of the DB and into the hands of his guy. This could be a more pass friendly team which will only make the Ravens more dangerous.

The change from McGahee to Rice is official. Ray Rice is now the starter at RB including on 3rd down. He is younger and has a nice jump step. McGahee had that but injuries in both college and the pros have reduced his abilities. He may be the goal line guy which would give him some value in Fantasy.

The team is helping LT Gaither by keeping the TE or a RB on his side to block against really good pass rushers. Gaither has not played as well this preseason as he did last year as the starter. RT Oher has to keep his head in the game. He cost the team a TD by jumping off side twice (although the Refs only saw it once). The Ravens went from 1st and ½ yard to 4th and 12 and then missed the field goal. That has to change if they are going to challenge the Steelers.

WR Derek Mason looks really good for a guy that missed most of training camp. Maybe he looks that quick because he avoided most of camp. He’s going to be fine. One of the reasons that the Panthers have so many long runs is the blocking ability of WRs Smith and Muhammad. There are very few long runs without WRs and TEs blocking effectively down field.

The D plays so smartly. They put you in a 3rd and 17 and then let you have 12 yards so you have to punt.

OVERALL: The more I watch the Baltimore O the more impressed I am. Given how well the D plays, this might be the year that they overtake the Steelers. The O is no longer as weak as it has been in the past mostly thanks to Flacco’s development.

CR QB Delhomme isn’t throwing into double coverage. He is staring down his receiver and that brings double coverage to the throw. He has been around too long to still be doing that. Del also isn’t seeing the field very well against teams with a good draft rush. When he gets pressured up the middle he loses vision.

WR Steve Smith makes his first appearance of the
year. We noticed that because he held on the first play of the game. But he looks very good. The only question is going to be can Delhomme take advantage of the times he gets open and get the ball to him consistently.

The Panthers have 2 rbs with injuries. Neither look too serious. Williams will be ready for game 1. Stewart is more of a question. He has missed a lot of practice time and has not appeared in any of the preseason games. However rookie RB Goodson (Texas A&M) looks quick and has good vision. If Stewart can’t go early in the year, Goodson should be more than able to give Williams some rest. Having that many good RBs should be against the rules.

The Panther O line is struggling with games up front. G Keydrick Vincent is the weak link in the line. The 9 year vet seems to have forgotten how to play DL games when the DT goes outside and the DE comes around inside.

The D struggled to stop the run last year. They ranked 20th in that area. This year they seem to be getting better.

DE Brayton and Peppers combine to make a really good pass rush combo. Peppers seems to be fine with his contract and is playing well. Rookie DE Everett Brown looks good in the pass rush as well. At 6-9 with long arms, he will be hard to throw over.

LB Diggs is really playing well. He seems more focused this year. He is attacking the run down hill including stopping a dive at the goal line. He is also covering his receiver much more closely than he has in previous seasons.

OVERALL: The Panthers will take a couple of steps back this year. The passing game is only as good as Delhomme and he seems to have regressed. The great running game will face 45 guys in the box unless he can keep them honest with the pass.

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,Packers,Cardinals,Rodgers,Warner,Jennings,Rogers-Cromartie,Grant,Wells,Leinart,Walmart,3-4,Patroits,Redskins,Brady,Campbell,Portis,Taylor,Maroney,Moss,Galloway,Welker,Belichick,Ravens,Panthers,Flacco,McGahee,Rice,Gaither,Mason,Smith,Delhomme,Brayton,Peppers,Diggs
  • Author:
  • Published: Aug 27th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on The Cards' season will depend on how the D plays.

The Cards' season will depend on how the D plays.

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t

The Cardinals remarkable run in the 08 playoffs had little to do with the offense. It was the much improved play of the D that made the run possible. The only way the team makes the playoffs in 09 will be if the D continues to improve. So far in the preseason, that is not happening.

Kurt Warner is one of the great stories in football over the last few years. He continues to play at a very high level even though he is 38 years old. He has to stay healthy for the team to have any chance at a winning record. The protection he has gotten for the last 4 season in Arizona has been poor to average. If he is healthy, he will have another pro bowl year and is a great pick in the fantasy draft. Matt Leinart has had a good preseason and looks like he is finally able to read D and use his obvious physical abilities. He has clinched the backup position. The 3rd QB will be between Brian St. Pierre and undrafted Tyler Palko. That will depend on which has looked better in camp. St.Pierre was given a chance to challenge for #2 but failed totally.

WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are the best combo in the league. 3rd WR Steve Breaston came on strong last year in both the return game and catching passes. But he is hurt with a knee and PCL injury but should be fine for game 1. Jerheme Urban and Early Doucet are very talented and need only more experience to become starting quality. TEs have a lot of potential but little production. Leonard Pope is projected as the starter with Stephen Spach and Ben Patrick as the backups. Pope is a big target but is too tall to be an effective blocker. Spach is coming off a major injury and Patrick is suspended for the first 4 games. Vet Anthony Becht should make the team and is a better blocker then any of the others. How long he stays will depend on how the others develop.

The running back situation is also a little clouded. Last year rookie Tim Hightower was celebrated by some as the Cards’ answer at RB. But in 143 attempts he averaged 2.8 yards per carry. That is more than a yard under what is considered average around the league. He can catch and block a little but is not the plow horse that the team needs to carry 250 times a year. The team realized that and drafted Beanie Wells (Ohio St.). Wells has the ability to be a starting back with power and break away speed but has a history of injury. He has yet to play in the preseason but is expected to see action this week. There is no viable bench strength.

The O line had an up and down year in 08. They were up during the playoffs but down the last half of the regular season. LG Reggie Wells is not well known but is very good. T s Mike Gandy and Levi Brown are average but Brown is young and should develop. C Lyle Sendlein is coming back from injury last year. G Deuce Lutui needs to keep focused. He is very inconsistent. The bench is barely OK. G Elton Brown and C Donovan Raiola have some starting experience. The staff thinks T Herman Johnson potential but I don’t see it.

The D line seemed to turn their top effort on and off like the light in a refrigerator. It was on in the playoffs and they looked outstanding. It has been off so far this preseason. The starters in the 3-4 are LE Darnell Dockett, NT Gabe Watson, RE Calais Campbell. Dockett is the only dependable player there. Watson has a history of injury putting him out for long periods of time. There is no reliable backup at NT. Campbell is the new guy replacing UFA Antonio Smith. We have seen a few flashes from Campbell but he is going to have to work harder every snap. Bryan Robinson has experience at E and NT but the team would prefer to play him at E if Campbell fails. NTs Alan Branch and Rodney Leisle have two things in common. They have the weight to play the position but have not had much production.

At LB, the best part is inside. IBs Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes are very good. Dansby can do it all including cover receivers and Hayes is an outstanding run stuffer. OLB Chike Okeafor is a fair blitzer but he and Clark Haggans are getting old. The team drafted both OLBs Cody Brown and Will Davis to replace them in the future.

The D backfield has the potential to be outstanding. Starting CBs Bryant McFadden and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are both potential stars. McFadden came from Pittsburgh and is starting quality with upside. Rodgers added the Cromartie to his name just before the draft to remind everyone he is the cousin of start CB Antonio Cromartie of San Diego. Rodgers is not quite to his cousin’s level but is coming fast. Safeties Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle are very good as well. Wilson is all pro and plays like it. Rolle was a very good CB who is a better FS. The nickel back is CB Ralph Brown and rookie Greg Toler has looked good in camp.

OVERALL: The Cards O is fine IF Warner is healthy. The D will determine how far the team can go this year. If it plays like it did during the playoffs, the team should make the playoffs in 09 and do some damage there. If not, it will be a huge disappoint to the Cardinal fans that expect the team to be back in the Super Bowl. That isn’t going to happen but they are in a weak division and have a good shot at the division title.

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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The Packers hope the 3-4 will produce a better pass rush. Don't bet on it.

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t

The Packers offense is good enough to win. The D has been good but not good enough. The specific shortcoming was lack of a solid pass rush. The team is trying to convert to the 3-4 but still have 4-3 personnel. They may take a step back before getting enough 3-4 talent.

There isn’t much of a problem with the QB. The only area in which QB Aaron Rodgers has struggled in is 4th quarter comebacks. He also is not as productive inside the red zone as he is in the middle of the field. But that comes with experience. This is his second year as the starter and he should get better in that aspect of his game. He has all the physical skills to be a top QB. He just needs time to develop. Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm will battle for the 2nd QB spot.

HB Ryan Grant averaged less than 4 yards per carry. I am not a Grant fan. He tends to dance more than he should and seemed somewhat tentative after injuring a hamstring in the preseason. He is over valued in Fantasy drafts this year. The team plans to run more and we will see how that works out. FB Korey Hall is a good receiver and more than adequate lead blocker. Brandon Jackson backs up Grant and is just OK.

The receivers are outstanding. The starters are Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. In a somewhat short list of WR these two will have very good years for Fantasy Football. James Jones and Jordy Nelson are solid backup one of which will replace Driver when he retires or is traded to the Jets. Donald Lee. and Jermichael Finley are in a training camp battle for the starting TE spot. Both are a little above average receivers.

The line is back in tact. It has LT Chad Clifton, LG Daryn Colledge, C Jason Spitz, RG Josh Sitton and RT Allen Barbre. Clifton is getting old and his performance slipped last year no matter what you read elsewhere. RT Barbre is the weak link and is the most likely to be beaten out in training camp. The rest are OK and look better in pass protection because of Rodgers getting rid of the ball quickly. They deterioration of the running game is in part their fault. C Scott Wells and T/G T.J. Lang are the prime backups. The wild card is veteran free agent Mark Tauscher. He is recovering from knee surgery and may be signed if there is an injury or lack of production.

The D line starts rookie B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins at the ends and Ryan Pickett at NT. Jenkins missed most of the year with a chest injury and his condition is not clear yet. Pickett is new to the NT job and should be able to do a decent job. He is not going to collapse the pocket often. The team is betting that Raji has enough athleticism to handle the DE spot. The bench contains Es Johnny Jolly and Justin Harrell. Both have experience but Harrell is coming back from an injury again.

The real issue to the success or failure of the 3-4 will be the linebackers. The change to a 3-4 is a game of Chinese checkers. DE Aaron Kampman moves to OB. OB A.J. Hawk moves inside. Kampman was all pro at 4-3 DE. Whether he can or will be effective at OB is very much up in the air. He has been silent on the move. Hawk should thrive inside if he is allowed to use his instincts to blitz more. Nick Barnett starts inside but is coming off an injury and was inconsistent when healthy. He is still out due to surgery last season. Former DE Jeremy Thompson wasn’t very good at that so there is no reason to believe he will do any better at OB. Rookie Clay Matthews and former starter OB Brady Poppinga are the primary bench strength.

The DBs are solid and deep. Charles Woodson and Al Harris are as good as any in the league. They have excellent depth in CBs Will Blackmon, Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood. FS Nick Collins was all pro last year. The only semi-question in this group is SS Atari Bigby. He is recovering from surgery and did not participated in the OTA.

OVERALL: The Pack will be fine offensively. I think the change to the 3-4 will take a couple of seasons to improve the D. Look for them to battle the Bears for second in the division behind the Vikes.

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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