What to look for in the Saturday Divisional round games.

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nfl

Cards @ Saints

Cards QB Warner had just another day at the office. Against one of the most improved Ds in the league he went 29-33 for 379 yards and 5 TDs without a pick. The Pack had no answer for Warner. They blitzed him and he picked man to man coverage apart. They rushed 3 and kept 8 in coverage and he found holes in the zones. The O line protected Warner for the most part and sub WRs did well to make up for the loss of WR Bolden.

On D, the Cards and the Pack allowed the score board to look like the something out of Pinball Wizard. Neither D could put consistent pressure on the others QB. The Pack was so focused on Warner that they allowed RB Wells 6.5 yards per attempt. They were lucky that their O was putting up so many points or Wells would have had more than his 14 carries. If the Cards are going to have any chance to stage the upset the D is going to have to play like they did last year in the playoff run to the Super Bowl. The passing game of the Saints is equally lethal. The Cards are 23rd in pass D. The D may be missing DE Campbell, LBs Davis and Hayes. If they can’t go the D will be in even more trouble. Get your popcorn ready, this could be a wild offensive show.

Saints

The Saint’s D coordinator Williams isn’t sleeping too well this week. He has nightmares of Card WRs running wide open through his D backfield. The Saints D had played much better this year than last but it has had a tough time against high percentage passing attack. The good news is that CB Jenkins is hampered by a hamstring but is expected to play. The bad news is that Boldin is optimistic about playing as well. The Saints are ranked 26th in pass D. The key to the game for the Saints D will be their ability to pressure Warner better than the Pack did.

The Saints O is outstanding. They are 1st in both yards and points, 4th in passing and 6th in rushing. The team stumbled into the playoffs with 3 straight losses. The O is going to have to play like they did early in the season and not in the last 3 games. They scored only 44 points in those losses. The 23-10 loss to the Panthers could have been explained by the team resting a lot of the key players but not the losses to the Boys and the Bucs. The problem was not rushing. They ran for 124 against the Bucs. The problem was not turnovers or completion percentage. The Saints may get RB Thomas back. That will help them get a running game going again.

The problem was they could not get the ball into the endzone. The game will depend on the Saints finding their scoring punch again. If they are forced to kick field goals to score, they will lose.

Both teams have a questionable D. But the Saints are struggling on O and the Cards are hotter than the sun. I will go out on a limb and pick the Cards in a huge upset.

Ravens @ Colts

Ravens

The Birds did a great job pressuring the Pats D with the running game. The O scored 33 points but got a lot of help from the Pats. They won’t get that kind of help from the Colts.

The O is going to have to get more out of the passing game. They won 3 of their last 4 games but those wins were against the dregs of the NFL. Against a team that scores like the Colts, 4-10 for 34 yards and a pick will not get it done. QB Flacco has not stepped up to the challenge like most expected him to do. The O line isn’t the problem, accuracy and lack of game breaking receivers are the critical issues. The coaching staff doesn’t trust Flacco to win games for them and they shouldn’t. He has crumbled in big games like against the Steelers. The running game is solid but won’t score often enough to keep the Ravs in the game. They will have to depend on the passing game and it will let them down.

The weakest part of the Ravs D is the pass defense. They are 5th against the run and 8th against the pass. They depend on pressure on the QB to control the pass. They won’t be able to get enough pressure on Manning to stop the Colts passing game.

Colts

The Colt O is devastating but it is one dimensional. They are #2 in passing but dead last in the running game. They are going to have to run the ball a little to keep the chains moving. The one advantage they have is that they can play catchup really well. Manning is playing at a very high level. The team lost 2 games but in both cases Manning and company were pulled early.

The Colt D has played great in some games and lousy in others. They rank 24th against the run and will get a lot of practice stopping it against the Ravs. The key injuries on D are all probable. That should help as the D has suffered a lot of injuries during the season. The rest the wounded got will help them.

The key to stopping the running game has been S Sanders but he is on IR again. The Colts’ D will struggle stopping the run but will get the win due to their O.

Saturday I will discuss the Sunday games.

Your fantasy football doesn’t have to be over.  Run a pro football franchise all year long for free at http://sportsims.net/.  Tell them Coach Smith sent you.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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Beware of off season moves up the NFL draft board.

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By Bill Smith

Note to NFL Draft fans: Tomorrow I will outline my scouting procedure for evaluating talent on game tapes.

Draft fans that try to figure out which guys in the draft are gems and which are fools gold are at a major disadvantage. The NFL teams get a lot more game tape than we do. They also get to interview the kids, and they are kids after all. But there are some things we have that too many NFL teams don’t seem to understand.

The biggest factor that bad NFL teams miss is the rise of players after the season. At 22, a lot of guys have the look of a player in shorts and a tee shirt. Add a good body with a little athleticism and a guy can pass the “eyeball test” easily.

A former division 3 college DE showed up at our tryouts one year when I was the D coordinator for a semi pro team. He was 6-5 275 pounds and looked like Tarzan. In the workout, he dazzled the other coaches. In the 5 workouts prior to putting on pads, he was unstoppable. He had instincts, speed, agility, and quicks. It was a different story when we put on pads. In shorts, he was all league. In pads he was all done. He may have looked like Tarzan but he played like Jane. After the first day in pads, we never saw him again.

Don’t be fooled by fast risers after real football is over. Those changes to the draft board are based on tee shirt workouts. QBs that can’t look like Payton Manning against air will turn to dust and blow away when the pass rush comes and there is an NFL corner covering their target. Any D lineman can look great getting around a 50 year old coach holding a blocking bag. The question is can that same tee shirt stud get around a 325 pound 25 year old NFL quality LT? Here is a hint. If the kid couldn’t succeed on the field against college players, forget him. He will be a non factor against NFL players.

I don’t care how good he looks at the combine or in pro day workouts. If I didn’t grade him high in games on the field, he is off my draft board. So given the number of Internet draft sites and mock drafts, which ones should we trust?

For the top players and juniors, the grades after the bowl games are going to be a lot more accurate than later grades. Those grades are based on play on the field not tee shirt stats.

For players in all star games, consider the moves on draft boards after those games. I do put a lot of faith in performances in all star game workouts in pads and in the game. The fact that teams don’t have a much time to practice together and the rules of the games put the player‘s abilities on display better than in regular college games. In addition, the rosters of those games are much more balanced than USC vs. Whats-a-Matter U. Every player has a minimum amount of skills that levels the playing field of all star games.

I have been watching the draft closely for more than 50 years. While these guidelines do sometimes miss a stud, they are 98% accurate in eliminating busts. The way that the top teams stay on top is to have great choices in the middle and later rounds of every draft. That is the only way you can be at the bottom of the draft every year and still stay competitive year after year.

The hardest thing to do in sports is to keep an NFL team competitive while you reload. Anyone that has followed my suggestion and gotten a team on SPORTSIMS.NET will realize that after a month or 2. To do that, you have to be thinking a season or two ahead. Taking a player that needs a couple of seasons development before he can contribute only works if you do it a couple of seasons before your starter is done. Good teams do that as a matter of policy. Bad teams do not. Good teams get a guy in the 4th round or later that develops into a solid starter. Bad teams cut their lower choices.

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 .

My email is [email protected]

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