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SPF's Week Nine Pre-Pregame Show

Posted: Nov 04, 2007

It's it the "Clash of the Titans!" 

The Colts-Pats game deserves the hype that it is getting.  Both teams have built long term consistently excellent football teams in the "salary cap era " - something that is supposedly impossible.

This week's Patrick Snow column tells the story from SPF's perspective:  the SPF teams need to watch both these teams and start modeling their success.

Both the Colts and the Pats have found the blueprint for building not only a winner but a compelling winner - find a great coach, give him a great QB that he allows to be great, surround that QB with weapons, and have a solid defense.  This is the future of NFL football.

There are two reasons for this shift.  First, the salary cap went up providing more dollars for more offensive weapons.  Second, the NFL has changed pass coverage rules to favor the WR, especially if he is strong, tall, and fast.  If an NFL team has a WB that can deliver the ball and a line to protect him, then they are going to start seeing success.

With all the understandable hype surrounding the Colts-Pats game, it is almost as if there are no other games this Sunday.  However, this is not the case.  All but two of SPF's 13 teams are on the field.


Jacksonville at New Orleans
(NFL Films Video Preview)

The Jags have been SPF's whipping boys for a reason.  They are the prime example of what Patrick wrote about - a game managing team that tries not to lose.  For their efforts, the Jags have the most fraudulent 5-2 record in the NFL right now.  Even RB Fred Taylor admits this in this quick interview.  The Jags have lost two at home to the only teams that mattered (the Colts and the Titans).

It is so sad because the Jags have plenty of offensive weapons.  Last week against the Bucs, Del Rio's favorite whipping boy, Matt Jones, helped win the game with a spectaculor TD catch.

The Saints on the other hand have found their offensive rhythm.  This has led them to win three straight to nearly balance out their 0-4 start to the season.

Old way vs. new way.  AFC South vs NFC South. This game could prove our point better than any other on the schedule.

Carolina at Tennessee
(NFL Films Video Preview)

Carolina coach John Fox likes to focus on his team's 4-3 record, but his tone and body language tells SPF that he knows his team is likely going nowhere.  Perhaps Fox needs to take a page from his opponent this week.

As Scott Fowler wrote so succinctly, "the Tennessee Titans on a good day are Johnny Cash. They are a stripped-down, authentic, physical football team."  Although the key to the Titans is defense, this doesn't mean that Jeff Fisher can't succeed.  Fisher's teams are built around athletic QBs that challenge the defense through their versatility that are complemented by strong running games.

Fisher's defenses are risk-taking and exciting.  They don't sit back and wait.  They disrupt and dismantle their opponents.  Carolina's D has this same potential.  Maybe Fox should try and find a Vince Young type of athlete at QB and mimic Fisher's success.  Unfortunately for him, he might not get another chance if the Panthers don't make the playoffs.

(The only chink in Fisher's armor is his past tendency to pick borderline guys.  Pacman is back in the news, and Titans rookie RB Chris Henry is facing a suspension.  Maybe it is time to stay away from players named "Chris Henry".)

Arizona at Tampa Bay
(NFL Films Video Preview)

Jon Gruden and Jeff Garcia won't come out and say it, but you can hear in their voices and see in their body language in the postgame comments after their loss to the Jags that they know that they just suffered an unacceptable loss.  Playoff teams can't lose at home to first time no name starters.

The problem lay at the feet of the man who previously had made the Bucs a division leader all season - Jeff Garcia.  Garcia threw 3 picks against Jax after not having any all season up to that point.  Garcia also missed Joey Galloway on at least one or two TD passes.  The mind and heart might be there, but Garcia's arm was suspect in his prime, and he's at least five years past that point now.

Gruden's Bucs are a perfect example of SPF's theme this week regarding NFL offenses.  (A) They don't have enough weapons, and (B) their coach has too strong of a hand on the tiller.  The Bucs are not out of the playoff race by any stretch.  There's blood in the water in the NFC South as Gruden has been saying.  However, they just don't look like they have the goods this season, especially with the Saints coming on.

Looking at the Tampa Trib's mid season grades, the problem is fairly obvious - QB play and o-line play which are the two things that must be in place for long term success.  These issues have dogged Gruden from day one in Tampa.  He's a hometown boy who already has a Super Bowl under his belt, but something just isn't clicking in Tampa.

The Cardinals have weapons.  SPF wouldn't be surprised if they stole one on the road.

Washington at NY Jets
(NFL Films Video Preview)

It might be time for Joe Gibbs to head back to the NASCAR circuit.   Although he invented the smash mouth style of play, that style is out of fashion unless you have Jeff Fisher's roster and approach.  A 52-7 loss to New England should leave no doubt about that.

DC Gregg Williams might need to be moved into the driver's seat for 2008.  He is the perfect example of a coach who can make any defensive personnel work well.  The Redskins roster has tons of offensive playmakers and an OC in Al Saunders whose track record demonstrates he knows how to take advantage of them.

Gibbs was largely brought in as a figurehead to cover up owner Dan Synder's ineffective meddling.  Snyder needs to learn from Jerry Jones' experiment with Parcells.  Snyder has similarly reached the point of diminishing returns with Gibbs. 

SPF has a ton of respect for Gibbs so it is our hope that he will take a step back and allow Saunders to open the playbook.  Watching to his press conference, we're not so sure he's getting the picture.  Based on Saunders past history as well as Gibbs, the decisions not to attack the defense more aggressively must be getting made by Gibbs. 

A young QB like Jason Campbell cannot be expected to succeed when the offensive game plan allow the opposing defense to keep the ball in front of them.  The defenses the Redskins face are running down hill.  That dynamic has to be changed immediately.

This week is a great place to start.  The Jets are horrible so the Skins can afford a few mistakes.

Cincinnati at Buffalo
(NFL Films Video Preview)

"We are not overmatched.  Maybe we are out-played, out-executed, or out-coached, but we are not overmatched."  This roughly paraphrases Marvin Lewis' postgame thoughts after losing to the Steelers yet again.  He's right, but Carson Palmer's comments later in that same clip point out the real issue - the Bengals are 2-5.

SPF's theme this week surrounds the Colts-Pats game and the way that those two teams are built on effective offenses.  Past those two teams, the Bengals may have the pieces to be next in line despite their poor season thus far.  Why?  Carson Palmer and the WRs are as good as any group in the NFL.

This season might be done, but the Bengals have everything the need in place.  Marvin Lewis is a Dungy-like defensive coach.  He just needs an offseason to clean up that side of the ball.  Lewis was considered a top defensive mind before getting the head gig in Cincy.  There's no reason to believe that he can't built the Bengals' D into an effective unit that doesn't let Carson Palmer down.

The biggest problem the Bengals might have is whether owner Mike Brown, a known cheapskate, will allow Marvin Lewis to spend some money.  Taking all the borderline guys like Chris Henry was done because their character made them bargain risks during the lower salary cap years.  Now that the cap has been raised and the league rules have made these type of guys even worse risks, teams must pay for their talent.

San Francisco at Atlanta
(NFL Films Video Preview)

"We need to learn how to win the game."  That was Bobby Petrino's main point in his post game press conference following the Falcons' road loss to the Saints.  On paper, the Falcons are one of those teams that have nothing going for it - no clear QB, an unproven coach, and a sagging defense.

SPF thinks that the Falcons are a lot closer than they appear to be right now.  Yes, they are no longer Michael Vick and friends, and that has had a direct impact on their struggles this season.  Too much of the roster was built around Vick.

However, Petrino has the potential to be a long term success as the Falcons' coach.  This great AJC article about the long and sordid history of the Falcons shows one consistent thread - underwhelming head coaches. 

Only once did the Falcons have a solid to great coach, Dan Reeves, and he took them to their only Super Bowl.  The article tells how the team passed on both Steve Spurrier and Bill Belichick at different points over the years.  Petrino might be the best coach they've had outside of Reeves, and they need to let him build this team over the next few years.

The fact that Petrino went away from "game manager" Joey Harrington to Byron Leftwich (a player who actually has shown an ability to challenge a defense) shows that he understands where the NFL is going.  Leftwich and whatever QB the Falcons pick at the top of the draft will set this team on the right path come next season,whether it is with Leftwich under center or a young QB he might draft in 2008.

The Saints have already shown that having a great offense will help you stay in the race over the long haul.  They started 0-4, yet they are now the odds on favorite of winning the division.  The Falcons would be wise to follow their model rather than the Bucs or the Panthers.


New England at Indianapolis
(NFL Films Video Preview)

 We don't have anything left to say.  Thanks to both teams for their continued excellence. 

SPF thinks that this game will live up to the hype and then some.

Houston at Oakland
(NFL Films Video Preview)

Let's see... good coach (maybe not), good QB (jury's still out), weapons for the QB (nope), and solid defense (probably).  This pathetic checklist is the reason that SPF had very little faith in the Texans at the beginning of the season.  The team got off to a nice start, but it all fell apart after WR Andre Johnson went down.  Suddenly, hot QB Matt Schaub looked very pedestrian.  The Texans switched to Sage Rosenfels this week due to Schaub's injury.  The fact that no one is really crying (and some may be privately celebrating) speaks volumes for how far Schaub has fallen.

The Texans franchise has specialized in filling their front office, coaching staff, and roster with good talent in a league that demands greatness in order to win.  The Texans struggles along with the Bucs (as well as the Seahawks and Broncos outside the SPF Footprint) are starting to feel like a sign that the WCO offense is over.

Kubiak's tenure as the Texans' coach needs to end when the season finishes.  The Texans need to look at the Falcons and realize that decent, midlevel coaching just earns an NFL franchise years of ineptitude.


Dallas at Philadelphia
(NFL Films Video Preview)

This "national" game might exemplify our theme as well as the Colts-Pats.  As Randy Galloway points out, the Eagles used to be the dominant team in the NFC East, but now the Cowboys have the better talent

Give Jerry Jones credit, he saw where the NFL was headed.  Bill Parcells served a great purpose, but his lack of any real success in Dallas (deep playoff runs, Super Bowls) proved the larger point.  Parcells is better at the old method that is quickly being dismissed - keeping it close and winning with smart play.  That wasn't enough.

Jones let Parcells bring discipline into the locker room, but he also loaded up on weapons.  Now, Wade Phillips gets to reap the benefits.  Wade has the coaching experience, but he also got his OC picked for him.  So far, it is all working out beautifully.

On the other side of the field, Andy Reid's Eagles let Donovan McNabb win as a one man show.  He never had enough weapons, but that didn't matter a few years back.  Today, it does.

Signing QB Tony Romo to a long term deal is just one more sign that the Cowboys are heading in the right direction.  Expect the Cowboys to ruin Philly's night tonight.

related tags

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New Orleans,
Southern Pro Football,

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