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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Around the NFL for week 17.

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The NFL is looking into playoff teams holding out their starters in the final games.

Comm. Goodell—STAY OUT OF IT. You can not tell a team they have to risk their championship hopes just to satisfy your ego and the degenerate gamblers that are dumb enough to bet on the final games of the regular season. You don’t have that power and shouldn’t. Let the teams do what they think is in their best interest. But Goodell will probably end up fining teams that refuse to go all out in the final games. If a star QB or RB gets hurt in the last game and is out for the playoffs, the team should sue the NFL for gross stupidity.

 

It looks more and more like there will be no NFL football in 2011.

The NFLPA and owners have not gotten very far in working out a new deal.  If there is no agreement by Feb. 1, there will be an upcapped year in 2010.  I will detail what will happen next week in this column.

 

Chiefs @ Broncos—Dunce McDaniel pulls another stupid move.

According to that famous philosopher Forrest Gump “Stupid is as stupid does.” Bronco coach McDaniel has benched All Pro WR Brandon Marshall and TE Tony Scheffler to prove who is boss. McDaniel has ticked off Marshall by benching him early in the year. McD claims that Marshall isn’t tough enough despite the fact that the WR played more than half last year with a hip that needed surgery. He waited to have the operation until after the season because he wanted to be there for his team mates. McD is acting like a spoiled 3 year old. His temper will cost the Broncos one of 2 active WRs with 100+ catches in 3 straight seasons. McD should be gone and Marshall stay.

The Broncos must win to keep their playoff spot. It won’t be any easier without their top 2 receivers.

 

Pats @ Texans

The Pats have their playoff spot locked up but the Texans need some help. They should get it because the Pat stars will be making at best cameo appearances. Texas wins and waits to see if they make the big game.

 

Bengals @ Jets

The Bengals are in and the Jets are hanging on to the last Wild Card spot by a thread (tie breaker). With 5 teams tied at 8-7, the Jets must win to stay there. The Bengals will probably rest some key starters nursing injuries. The Jets beat Indy last week in the second half because the Colts pulled their starters. The Jets will win again because the Bengals won’t risk QB Palmer.

 

Giants @ Vikings

Normally the Vikes would be backing off in their final regular game. I think we will see them try their best to win because they have been stumbling in the last few weeks losing 3 of the last 4. You won’t see DT Pat Williams or TE Shiancoe but expect everyone else to play. They have a chance to reclaim the 2nd playoff spot and a bye in the Wild Card round with a win and an Eagle loss or tie.

The Giants are out of the big dance. They were hoping to steal the Cowboy’s ticket but blew that chance with the loss to the Panthers last week.

 

Packers @ Cards

The Cards still have an outside chance of getting a bye with a win and losses by the Vikes and Eagles. That won’t happen and this game will be a preview of the 4-5 Wild Card matchup between the two teams. The Cards will have to stop fumbling the ball to get very far. They have gone 3-2 over the last 5 games.

The Pack has been playing very well winning 7 of their last 8 after a mid season swoon. They seem to be playing better on D every week. They have improved in their 3-4 despite the loss of some key players. They will put pressure on QB Warner. The game will depend on the ability of the Cards to run the ball and protect the passer. If the Cards do, they will win. If not they will not only lose this game but likely the Wild Card game as well.

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

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

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What did we learn from week 14 in the NFL?

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The Steelers are really bad.

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

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

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

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

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

The Colts and the Saints stay perfect.

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

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

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

The Bengals are who we thought they were.

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

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

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

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

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

Look for the Eagles to win the NFC Least.

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

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

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

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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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What to look for this weekend in football

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College

Pac10 Championship—sort of

Oregon beat Oregon State 37-33 for the league title and the Rose Bowl ticket. In the end, it was the running and passing of the Ducks that won the game. The Ducks will give Ohio State all they want.

SEC Championship We finally get to see #1 Florida against #2 Alabama. It should be a defensive struggle again this year like it was last season. However, Bama seems to have a little more explosiveness to their O than the Gators. The game will be determined by turnovers and will be low scoring and close. The Bama D is as good as the Florida D so the game will depend on the QB’s ability to move the ball on the opponent. Most experts think that Bama will win but I can’t go against Tebow. When the game is in the balance he always seems to find a way to win.

Big12 Championship

#3 Texas will have their way with a good but too young #22 Nebraska team in this game. The game will be the showcase for QB Colt McCoy and should elevate him to a Heisman award as much for his body of work as for this season. The Huskers are a year away from challenging for a B12 title.

#5 Cincinnati @ #15 Pitt

The Bearcats are playing for a BcS game and should win. Pitt looked very ordinary last week in a loss to West Virginia. I expect the Cats’ D to be too much for the talented but turnover prone Panthers.

USA Conference Championship

If you haven’t seen Houston QB Keenum, take a look at this game. He is fun to watch. The Houston O is a wide open passing game that will throw the ball all over the East Carolina D. Nobody is going to want to get paired with Houston in a bowl game.

NFL

Eagles @ Falcons

QB Vick makes his return to Atlanta but won’t be a factor. Both teams are chasing after a playoff spot. The loser will likely be out of the race. The Falcons play well at home but the Eagles should win.

Titans @ Colts

QB Young will have his winning streak ended with a thud but most likely it won’t be his fault. The Titan D has been playing better with Young at QB because he has been able to keep drives alive with his legs. The problems in the pass D of the Titans will be exploited by Manning. The Colts won’t blow them away because they tend to play down to competition but the Colts will win.

Cowboys @ Giants

Well, it’s December and time for the Boys to take their annual dive. Everything points to a Boys win but Romo doesn’t play well after Turkey day. The Boys need a win to keep up on the Eagles. I have to think that the Boys will find a way to lose rather than Giants winning the game.

Vikings @ Cards

IF QB Warner plays, this should be a good close game filled with offense. But I don’t think he will and the Vikes will win. QB Leinart couldn’t beat the Titans last week and folds under a good pass rush. The Vikes turn up the heat on D and win the game.

Ravens @ Packers

The Ravens have struggled in the last couple of weeks but should find the Pack D a little easier to run on. But in the end, the Pack O will be too much for an aging Raven D. Pack wins in a close game.

Seattle fires their GM.

Tim Ruskett, the GM that replaced Coach Holmgren in that role. Some people are assuming that Holmgren will come back to take that job along with the Presidency of the team. I don’t think that will happen. Holmgren didn’t have a great history drafting players. Check out my analysis of his draft history on NFLDraftDog.com.

Browns lose all hope.

The Browns lost their best player on D—NT Rogers and best player on O—RB Lewis to the IR. What will hurt even more, their best player overall in Mr. Everything, Cribbs. Cribbs let a kickoff free ball lay in the end zone against the Bengals. That was not a brain cramp; it was a signal that he has given up on the team, the coaching staff and his chance for getting the contract that he was promised. Again, I will comment on this more in my weekly article on NFLDraftDog.com.

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
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  • Comments: Comments Off on Around the NFL for 11/7/09

Around the NFL for 11/7/09

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The winds of change blowing through Cleveland

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

The Colts lose 3/4ths of its D backfield

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

Cards @ Bears

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

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

Ravens @ Bengals

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

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

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

Chargers @ Giants

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

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

Cowboys @ Eagles

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

Steelers @ Broncos

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

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

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

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