What to look for in the Sunday Divisional round games.

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nfl

Cowboys @ Vikings

Cowboys

Prior to this season the Boys folded in December. When JJ issued his threat to blow up the team and the coaching staff this season unless the Boys got into the playoffs and did well, the team got the message. This team has played a lot better than they did in previous seasons but I am not on the Boy bandwagon yet.

The O has been solid but the last two games were played against an Eagle D that seemed to give up after being in a position to win the NFC East. In the upset win over the Saints, QB Romo had a QB rating of 104. In the two games against the Eagles he had ratings of 86.1 and 106. That is a great improvement over last year when he finished the year with ratings of 44.9, 66.2 and 55.8 in the 3 losses. The improved Romo is the key to difference in this years team. The Boys will need as much passing as he can generate because they will not be able to get much on the ground against the Vikes.

RB Jones ran for 148 yards but that is misleading. Take out the two long runs and he had a 4 yard average. That is VERY average. Starter Barber is probable but is coming off a knee and won’t be close to 100%.

The other key to the turnaround is the play of the O line. The line had been living on an undeserved rep. In the latter part of the season they started to play up to that rep. They will have to against an outstanding D line of the Vikes.

The Cowboy D has also had the habit of playing up or down to the competition. The key will be pressure on QB Favre. If they can pressure him, they will have a chance. The pass D ranked 20th giving up over 200 yards per game. Balanced offenses give them problems. The Vikes can be very balanced when they chose to be.

Vikings

The Vikes tend to throw too much on O. That habit tends to get them in trouble. QB Favre can light up the scoreboard but can also throw enough picks to kill the team’s playoff hopes. The Vikes ended the season just 2-3 in December including an embarrassing loss to the Panthers. Favre had a passer rating of 73.7 in that loss. The team ranked 8th in passing.

The running game is solid with the leagues best back Peterson. But he has 1 100 yard game in the last half of the season. The O line had not been opening holes for the running game and Peterson has gotten beaten up. Peterson has to get over 100 yards for the Vikes to win. That is going to require the O line to play at a higher level. G Hutchinson is probable for the game. He would help the O line a great deal.

The Viking D is solid as well. It ranks 2nd against the run but 19th against the pass. The key to the Vikes winning the game is shutting down the Boys running game and forcing Romo into mistakes. Given enough pressure, he will make errors.

This is a very hard game to call but I think the Vikes have just enough to beat the Boys. The Cowboys will not be able to run and will not be able to keep up with Favre and the Vikes.

Jets @ Chargers

Jets

The Jets beat a Bengals team that was inexperienced in the playoffs. That is not the case with the Chargers. The game will depend on how hot Jet QB Sanchez can get. The Jets took advantage of an easy schedule and even then needed gifts from both the Bengals and the Colts to get into the playoffs. The O has the top ranked running game. That is a good thing because in the last 3 weeks of the season, Sanchez had passer ratings of 49.7, 78, and 60.2 and threw just 1 TD with 9 picks. That is not going to scare experienced playoff teams. RB Thomas is their top guy but he had only 3 100 yard games in the last half of the season. He is 31 and they hope it is not an indication that he is showing his age.

The Jets are going to have to be able to throw better than that to win.

The Jet D ranked 1st in scoring D, passing D and yards. They are 8th against the run. They have been playing very well under Coach Ryan. However, they have not beaten an O like they will against the Chargers.

Chargers

QB Rivers has had an outstanding season. He has a passer rating of 104. The running game is ranked 31st which caused Rivers to throw a lot. The passing game is ranked 5th. He has a solid group of receivers WRs Jackson and Floyd and TE Gates. The running game has Tomlinson but he is a shadow of what he was a few years ago. Neither he nor RB Sproles has gotten the running going. The Chargers used the franchise tag on Sproles. That was a mistake because he will never be able to be a starting RB. The O line came together after recovering from early season injuries. It still can not run block.

The Charger D is middle of the road in terms of yards but ranks 11th in scoring D. NT Scott is their 3rd guy in that spot but has come on nicely. The loss of All Pro NT Williams has reduced the ability to stop the run and the team ranks 20th in that department. They are 11th against the pass and have a pair of pro bowl LB in Merriman and Phillips. They have not played up to their rep this season. The D backfield is led by CB Cromartie. The D can play at a very high level but is inconsistent.

Given all that, the Chargers should be able to score on the Jets through the air. I am not sure that QB Sanchez can keep up with Rivers. The Chargers win.

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

26-7.

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 Football,nfl playoffs,divisional round,Cowboys,Vikings,Favre,Peterson,Jets,Bengals,Chargers,Colts,Thomas,Thomlinson,Sproles,Rivers,Sanchez

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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  • Author:
  • Published: Dec 31st, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on What to look for in New Years Day bowl games.

What to look for in New Years Day bowl games.

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football

OUTBACK BOWL Northwestern 8-4 Auburn 7-5

This game pits the Big 10 vs. SEC. NW wins over two ranked teams (Iowa and Wisconsin) in the last two games gave them hope they can break a 6 bowl losing streak. This is the first New Year’s day bowl since 97. QB Kafka has thrown for 2898 yards but only 12 TDs and 7 picks. He has to produce the majority of the O because the running game has struggled. RB Fields has averaged just 3.0 per attempt this year. The NW D is solid and is led by DE Wootton who should be a top 15 pick in the NFL Draft. The NW D will have to find a way to contain the Auburn running game or it will be a long day.

Auburn had its usual fast start 5-0 only to lose 5 of their final 7 games. QB Todd had a nice season with 2377 yards 21 TDs and just 6 picks. He was able to take advantage of opponent defenses focused on stopping the 13th best running game in Division 1. RB Tate is the key. He ran for 1254 yards at a 5.8 per attempt and scored 8 TDs. He should be a 3rd round pick in the draft.

The Tiger D is led by LB Coleman and DT Ricks both of whom are good draft prospects.

Auburn is the better team that played a better schedule and will win.

GATOR BOWL Florida St. 6-6 #16 West Virginia 9-3

This is the last game on the sideline for legendary coach Bowden. He is second in all time Div. 1 wins. Bowden’s problems in the last few years have been on D. He has not gotten the super athletes on D to be competitive at the highest level. This year’s D has 3 draftable players. CB Robinson is a 1st round prospect. OB Watson is a 3rd round prospect. I really like SS Rolle and he would be a steal in the 5th round. QB Ponder is hurt but had a good year. His replacement Manuel has thrown more picks (6) than TDs (2). The running game is capable with RB Thomas averaging 5.2 per attempt.

WV has won 4 straight bowl games. They took advantage of a below average Big East to get to 9-3. QB Brown is supposed to be 4th round prospect but don’t expect that. He has struggled this year an the team has averaged 211 per game passing which ranks a dismal 84th. On O also watch OT Capers who may be a 2nd round pick.

On D the team has been good but has no senior super stars. The FSU team will play their hearts out for Bowden and despite being the underdog, I expect a close game and maybe an FSU win.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL #12 LSU 9-3 #13 Penn St. 10-2

LSU should have at least on player taken in each of the 7 rounds of the draft. Potential 1st round pick WR LaFell is 6-3 and is the prime target in the endzone for LSU. Look for OT Black and RB Scott to be picked in 2nd and 4th round respectively. Scott is a slasher who averaged 4.7 per attempt but injuries held him to just 116 carries. He is questionable for the game. The Tiger O ranks 108th which is not good looking at a solid Penn State D. The LSU D is led by SS Coleman (3rd or 4th round) and DE Alem (4th or 5th). While the D started out well, it has struggled to get off the field in the last 4 games giving up over 380 yards a game.

PS QB Clark was the leading passer in the Big 10 but tended to throw picks at the worst times against the toughest competition. His 2009 performance has dropped him from a possible 4th round pick to undrafted Free Agent status. Junior RB Royster has yet to decide if he will enter the draft. He averaged 5.9 per attempt and would be a 2nd round pick most likely.

The strength of PS is the D which is led by DT Odrick (1st round), ILBs Lee (2nd) and Hull (5th) .

The line is PS by 3 and that looks about right. If Scott doesn’t play it could be a lot worst than that.

ROSE BOWL #7 Oregon 10-2 #8 Ohio State 10-2

OSU Coach Tressel has suspended 3 players for the game including WR Small. That won’t help an O that has struggled this year. They have only 1 draftable Senior on O—C Cordle. The O line has been bad and QB Pryor has run for his life rather than running for first downs. The Bucks have the 106th ranked passing O. Pryor has not improved in his 2nd year as starter. In fact, he has become less accurate with worse mechanics than last year. The running game ranks 19th with a gagle of backs contributing including Pryor.

The OSU D ranks 5th in rushing D. That D will be tested often by the Ducks who rank 6th in rushing. S Coleman and DT Worthington are both prospects in the last half of the 2010 Draft.

Oregon’s RB James hides in the back pocket of the Duck O line then bursts out to rip off big gains. USC never could find him let alone tackling him close to the line. James replaced RB Blount who was suspended for hitting a player after the Boise State game. QB Masoli has a passer rating of 130 and has a great target in TE Dickson (2nd or 3rd round). The Ducks are 7th in scoring and will give the Buckeye D all they want.

Big 10 teams usually lose the Rose Bowl but that has been against USC most often. But the line is Oregon by 5. It shouldn’t be that close. However the best bet here is the under at 51.

SUGAR BOWL #3 Cincinnati 12-0 #5 Florida 12-1

The big question in this game is which Bearcat team will show up? Their coach is on his way to South Bend. This is big game not only for Cincy but for the Big East. This is their chance to show the football world that they are just as good as the big boys. Cincy is ranked 6th in total O and scoring but that was not against the kind of D speed that Florida has. They will depend on QB Pike (2nd or 3rd) to WR Gilyard (top 20). The Cincy O ranked 7th in passing despite the loss of Pike for a good deal of the season. RB Pead has average 6.6 per attempt. They won’t have that success against the Gators.

On D, Cincy has been solid led by DE Daniels and SS Webster both late round prospects. The team has been good against the run but a little soft vs the pass.

Florida has coaching questions of its own. Coach Meyer announced he was leaving the sideline but a day later that it was only a leave of absence. QB Tebow has been the bell cow of the team and is the spiritual leader. No other player in the draft has as many different views of his pro potential than Tebow. Experts rank his anywhere from top 3 to the middle of the 4th round. I will have a detailed scouting report later. He has 2413 yards passing with 18 TDs and 5 picks. He added another 859 yards rushing with 13 TDs. WR Cooper (3rd or 4th) is solid. The O line has been a little shaky but has blocked enough to allow RB Demps to average 7.7 per carry.

The Florida D is led by LB Spikes (1st) DE Cunningham (3rd) and OB Stamper and Doe. Look for them to keep the pressure on Pike all day.

Florida is a 13 point favorite and it shouldn’t be that close. But Cincy has fooled teams before.

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: New Year’s Day Bowls,NFL,NFL Draft,Outback,Northwestern,Auburn,Gator Bowl,Florida State,West Virginia,Capitol One Bowl,LSU,Penn State,Rose Bowl,Ohio State,Oregon,Sugar Bowl,Cincinnatim Florida
  • Author:
  • Published: Aug 24th, 2009
  • Category: NFL Football
  • Comments: Comments Off on Rap up of Preseason Week 2 Key games

Rap up of Preseason Week 2 Key games

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nfl

Chargers @ Cardinals

The Charger O  line is not playing nearly as well as it did last year. They are giving up sacks more often than they should. Even all pro tackle McNeil is slacking. LG Goff is not doing the job.

The SD Defense looks sharp in the red zone but not so much in the middle of the field. They totally stopped QB Kurt Warner and the Cardinal O in two 1s vs 1s series in the red zone. They picked Warner off in the endzone and forced a 4th down when the Cards had the ball 1st and goal inside the 10 from a great kick return.

In the middle of the field Warner was able to find receivers wide running open. The Card running game was just OK against the Charger D. They did not have their #1 pick RB Beanie Wells. He is out with ankle problems.

Matt Leinart was the 3rd QB in the game against the Chargers. He came in with only 8:35 left in the game but drove the team from his own goal line to the Charger 11 in 5:32. But on 2nd down and 3 he threw into double coverage incomplete. On 3rd overthrew WR Long in the endzone. On 4th he again threw into tight coverage and turned the ball over on downs. He looked sharp until he got to the red zone then couldn’t convert. In 2 games Leinart has a passer rating around 78. He is fighting journeyman Bryan St. Pierre for the backup spot.

The Card #1 D did a good job but the team just doesn’t have the depth of a top NFL team. Last year they had very few injuries on D. If they sustain some this season, the D will not be good enough to get the Cards back in the playoffs.

Giants at Bears

The Giants were focused on stopping the run with Forte. The Bears were passing more than running and passed the Giants #1 D crazy. The O line of Chicago looks very solid. Future Hall of Fame T Orlando Pace looks healthy for the first time in 3 years. The Giants D could not get to Jay Cutler much. Cutler was 8-13 121 yds 1 TD.

Forte looks very strong. He is finding holes and exploiting them. Given the improved QB and O line, he should be very close to the first teer RBs in fantasy football. Kevin Jones looks good as the #2 RB but is going to have to hold onto the ball better. The only problem the Bears O has is a lack of depth at QB, WR and in the line. Hester is the #1 WR which takes him out of the return game for the most part. The Bears receivers will look better than they are due to Cutler. This team is going to challenge for the NFC title if the key players stay healthy.

The Giants looked like they were in San Jose instead of Soldier Field. They are much better than they looked. The O line was harassed consistently by the Bears D. However, the lack of any NFL quality receivers will haunt this team the entire year. Eli Manning is not going to have as productive a year as he did last year. He just doesn’t have the guys to catch the ball. Look for more INTs and fewer TDs.

There is nothing wrong with the Giants running game. Brandon Jacobs is a beast. He was the only weapon the Giants had that worked against the Bears top D. He tore huge holes in the D line. He is a top teer RB in FF.

The Giants D will come around. It looked shell shocked against Cutler. They will be susceptible to the pass if their pass rush doesn’t produce more pressure than it did against the Bears.

Dolphins v Panthers

Miami: O sharp Pennington is accurate and has the touch that some lack. He has timed up even the new WR like Patrick Turner (3rd round USC) and Hartwell (4th round Ohio State). The running game looks very sharp against a good Carolina D. Brown is running hard inside. Getting Thomas back at guard has helped.

Other than stopping the run of Williams, the Dolphin D did real well. They are putting a lot of pressure on the opponent QBs. The D seems much more aggressive than it was last year. That should help.

Carolina: Delhomme is still inaccurate too often. He misses wide open WRs deep. Then there is Williams.

On the Carolina 2nd possession, he had been held to 1 yard on 4 carries. On 2nd and 8 from the Dolphin 26, he started left and changed direction when he saw the hole was not there. He was then hit in the backfield by 2 Dolphins, spun off it, was hit again by another broke that and scored avoiding two more tackles. That is why he is one of the top backs in Fantasy football.

RAMS vs FALCONS

Turner is an arsonist—he burns up defenses. He has a combination of speed and vision that is very rare. 2nd RB Norwood is also outstanding. He has excellent vision and a second gear that prevents him from getting caught from behind.

Falcon QB Matt Ryan is continuing to develop. He is seeing the field like a vet and has the arm to make all the throws.

The Rams look good and horrible from one play to another. The O line is still very poor. They are going to have to do a much better job protecting QB Bulger if they expect to win many games. They block the same way for a pass as they do for a screen. They touch the D lineman and let them right in.

RB Jackson has his jump step back and looks good. I still don’t recommend drafting him in Fantasy due to problems on the O line and the probability that the Rams will be playing from behind a lot in 09. Ex Falcon WR Robinson looks really improved. He is catching the ball in traffic, and running better routes. Getting open against the Rams isn’t that hard.

Ram tackling is awful. They couldn’t tackle a lamp post because it would be moving too fast. The #1 D gave up 9 yards per play in the first Q. There were a couple of semi-bright spots on D including 2nd round pick James Laurinaitis. He picked off a pass, blitzed effectively and best of all attacked the run down hill.

Cleveland vs. Detroit—See my complete game analysis at

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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Coach Del Rio's chair is more uncomfortable than a 110 degree Florida day in August

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t

The pressure is on Jack Del Rio to win or find a good real estate agent. Jacksonville has the bad luck of playing in the same division with two perennial powerhouse teams in the AFC South. But the time for excuses is over. Win now or …

The offense has struggled for the last several years and the off season moves have not helped. QB David Garrard has to produce this season to improve the record and get into the playoffs. He has to win to keep his job as well. Garrard has lost more weapons that he got in return in the off season. Fred Taylor is gone along with his top 3 receivers from last years team. For the OTA’s, Del Rio bought three cases of “Hello My name is” labels.

Garrard was a 80-83 passer rating QB throwing about as many TDs as picks until 2007. That year he burned up defenses with a rating of 102.2 with 18 TDs and only 3 picks. After getting back from an injury in week 11 he threw 12 TDs in 6 games but was out again week 17. There was great anticipation for his 08 season but the golden coach turned back into a pumpkin and he ended up with a rating of 81.1 with 15 TDs and 11 picks.

His familiar targets are gone. Former 1st round picks Matt Jones and Reggie Williams were busts and ex Brown Dennis Northcutt had a breakout season and left as a FA. His new receivers will include Torry Holt, who has to trim his beard so he won’t trip over it, and a bunch of no names. That list includes the significantly underachiever Troy Williamson and Mike Walker, Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard, Tiquan Underwood, Nate Hughes, Maurice Dupree, and Todd Peterson. Garrard will have to depend on TE Marcedes Lewis because I see a lot of drops in the list of WRs.

The running game is totally in the hands of Maurice Jones-Drew. The super-sub is going to have to prove he can carry the big load. But as he has gotten more carries in his three years, his average has gone from 5.7 in 06 to 4.6 in 07 to 4.2 in 08 with 197 carries. At 5-7 208, you have to wonder if he can take the pounding from a 275 carry season. He is an above average receiver. The ex-RB now FB Greg Jones will use his 254 lbs to clear the way for MJD and will get more than the 2 carries he got last year.

The Offensive line last year was—well offensive. The starters will be totally different this year. There is talent there and it had better come together quickly. Both projected starting guards Maurice Williams and Vince Manuwai are coming back from injuries that cost them the entire 08 season. They are both talented but have to prove they are ready to contribute again. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were the teams first 2 picks. Monroe should start at LT with Britton being a key reserve. C Brad Meester is excellent but RT Tony Pashos will be pushed by ex-Eagle UFA Tra Thomas.

Everyone on the D line is going to have to step it up. The group of DEs Derrick Harvey and Reggie Hayward and DTs John Henderson and Derek Landri are projected to start. Henderson was outstanding when his running mate was Marcus Stroud and gets a lot more double teams without him. Hayward is coming off a season ending injury. The line must generate more sacks and pressures if the D is going to get back to the top of the league. Chances are they will not.

The linebacking is shaky at best and there is no quality depth. Daryl Smith will play outside this season and Justin Durant will be in the middle. Both are changes from last year. The jury is out on how this configuration will perform.

The D backfield will undergo another shakeup this season after a below average 08. CB Rashean Mathis is the only proven player and was not as good last season as in 07. SS FA Sean Considine has a lock on the position but I think he is over rated. FS Reggie Nelson is athletic but very inconsistent. The rest are just the rest and nothing special.

OVERALL: Jacksonville will at best be 3rd in the division and unfortunately have a new coach in 2010.

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 Pats hope Brady is Brady.

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QB Tom Brady had the most replayed and discussed injury in the recent history of the NFL in game 1 last year. All Coach Bill Belichick wants is his QB back to where he was before the injury. All reports are positive and it looks like Brady is back at close to 100%. The Pats have added some key veterans that make the team better. That’s all very bad news for the rest of the AFC.

Over the last few years, the Pats have been plugging in younger players. Last year, they went 11-5 without the best QB in the league. Now they have him back and the team will be much better than 07 or 08. There is no experience behind him.

The running game is a lot more solid that it looks from the outside. It is deep and talented. Starter Laurence Maroney has underachieved and has been injury prone but help has arrived in the form of vet Fred Taylor. Maroney will have to improve or Taylor will get the majority of carries. Vets Sammy “the versatile” Morris and Kevin Faulk the 3rd down back are joined by rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis in reserve.

As if the receiver corps didn’t have enough speed, the Pats added the aged but still fast Joey Galloway to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Welker should be totally uncovered with so much D attention having to be given to Moss and Galloway. Greg Lewis and Brandon Tate are capable backups. TE remains a trouble spot.

The offensive line is back intact and is solid but unknown. That is just the way Belichick likes it. T Matt Light and G Logan Mankins hold down the blind side while the much improved G Stephen Neal and T Nick Kaczur are on the right. C Dan Koppen is as good as any in the league and has the advantage of working against one of the best NTs in the league Vince Wilfork everyday in practice. The reserves may change but the starters are mostly young and all solid.

The key to the NE D is the front three and there is more than a little tension there. While Es Richard Seymour and Ty Warren are quiet, Wilfork is unhappy and clamoring for a new deal. But he will be there deal or not. The front three have been outstanding at defending both the pass and the run. They work seamlessly with the backers to provide more different looks than there are snowflakes in New England in the winter. Key reserves are T Titus Adams and E Jarvis Green and swing man Le Kevin Smith.

Grizzled vet IB Tedy Bruschi gets a second year to work with running mate in Jerod Mayo. Mayo had an outstanding rookie year after learning to do his job rather than freelancing. Brushi and Belichick will keep him under control and continue to get the maximum out of his unique athletic ability. OB Adalius Thomas is outstanding and Pierre Woods finally gets a shot at starting because of the retirement of Junior Seau (we think). Reserve Shawn Crable would start for most NFL teams.

The youth movement has hit the D backfield as well. The new starters at safety will be James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather who ended up playing a lot last year due to injury. Rookie Patrick Chung looked very good in OTAs and is challenging for a starting spot. CB Shawn Springs will start on one side but the other CB is totally up in the air. The leader going into training camp is Terrence Wheatley who had the job last year but is returning from injury. Vets Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler will both challenge Wheatley for his job. Bodden was signed as a FA and just a couple of years ago was considered one of the better CBs in the league and still has some skills.

OVERALL: The Pat haters will not like this but look for NE to get back to the AFC Championship game and perhaps the Super Bowl. They are the most likely to win it all.

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

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

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