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Tag:Frank Gore
Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:20 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants NFC CG preview

Can Smith and Harbaugh work some more magic Sunday? (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

These teams gave us a very good game back in Week 10 from which we came away truly believing for the first time that San Francisco’s old school style might actually still work in today’s pass-happy NFL. However, not much can be drawn on from that game, as the Giants were without Ahmad Bradshaw, hadn’t yet gelled on the O-line and were still trying to figure things out in their defensive back seven.

New York is healthy now and, as you’ve undoubtedly heard a thousand times, “playing with confidence”. Confidence does not breed success, it stems from success. Simply put, the Giants are a much better football team this time around.


1. Tougher task for Alex Smith
Alex Smith’s fourth quarter heroics last week might have been career-changing, at least pertaining to his public image. But lost in the excitement was the fact that Smith and his teammates struggled somewhat to identify blitzes throughout most of the contest.

And, until the final few minutes, Smith wasn’t comfortable against heavy coverage in the red zone. He caught fire once he started recognizing the one-on-one matchups for Vernon Davis BEFORE the snap (which wasn’t hard against the Saints’ Cover 0’s). Thus, after the snap, he didn’t have to worry about making the right decision – he just had to worry about throwing a good ball.  (To his credit, he did this extremely well.)

This week, Smith will have to worry about both. Given the mediocrity of San Francisco’s offensive tackles, the Giants’ four-man rush should be able to get pressure and force the Niners to keep backs and tight ends in to block (or at least chip). When the Giants do blitz, it’s usually a zone pass-rushing concept involving a linebacker (see Michael Boley’s two sacks at Green Bay).

Thus, all game Smith will be throwing into a more crowded secondary and without quickly defined reads. Unless Joe Staley and Anthony Davis play the game of their lives, Smith will also be throwing under some duress. Post-snap decision-making from a crowded pocket has always been Smith’s greatest weakness.

As he’s done all season, Jim Harbaugh will ameliorate Smith’s deficiencies by giving him simplified quick throws off three-step drops, utilizing play-action and, perhaps, calling throws on first down (where the coverages tend to be more basic). The Niners did this with great success in Week 10. In fact, they did it was great success throughout the season; Smith’s passer rating on first down was 101.6.

But at some point, just like last week, Smith is going to have to make a big-time throw in an obvious passing situation.


After dominating the Green Bay Packers last week, the New York Giants will travel to Candlestick Park to square off against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship. Join NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz as they break down this matchup.

2. Smith’s targets
Smith isn’t the only passing game contributor who faces a tougher challenge this week. Michael Crabtree will likely be shadowed by Corey Webster, an outstanding all-around cover corner. Because Crabtree isn’t fast enough to run away from most corners, he has to beat them with body control and agility. Often, his best routes drag over the middle. When his routes go inside, it’s easy for the Giants to give Webster help (not that he needs much).

Smith’s top target, Vernon Davis, won’t be facing Roman Harper or Malcolm Jenkins in man coverage. Instead, he’ll go against Antrel Rolle, a more athletic cover artist whom the Arizona Cardinals originally drafted in the first round as a cornerback (the Saints drafted Jenkins as a corner, as well, but after a year they admitted what had been apparent from Day One: the stiff-hipped ex-Buckeye was better suited for safety).

And unlike last week, Davis won’t have just one defender to beat, as it’s highly unlikely the Giants will play only man and have Rolle constantly defend the 250-pound tight end one-on-one.

3. Gotta make it Gorey
Expect the run-first Niners to go back to the ground this week. Frank Gore got just 13 carries against New Orleans; he needs at least 22 against New York. If Gore can pound the rock against Perry Fewell’s big nickel defense (two linebackers, two safeties and Rolle playing a utility role as a third safety/linebacker/slot corner), the Giants may decide to go back to their base 4-3.

That would make for a less athletic front seven and present a greater possibility for Davis to draw matchups against linebackers.

Let’s keep it simple and also remember that, regardless of what the defense is doing, running is San Francisco’s bread and butter. They’re built around the power run, with booming and mobile left guard Mike Iupati pulling to the right of Pro Bowl center Jonathan Goodwin and working in unison with lead-blockers Bruce Miller and Justin Peelle (or Delanie Walker if he can get healthy).

That’s the formula that got this team here. And it happens to be the formula that can keep New York’s white hot quarterback off the field.

4. Giants passing game
New York’s rushing attack is nowhere near as dreadful as it was in September, October and November, but against the league’s stingiest run defense, it still can’t be counted on. The Giants will have to ride the golden right arm of Eli Manning. He isn’t facing a porous pass defense like he did a week ago. San Francisco has three corners who can stay with New York’s frighteningly athletic wide receivers.

In the last meeting, Carlos Rogers was sensational defending the slot, making a handful of great jumps on the ball and finishing with two interceptions. Rogers is good enough to handle Victor Cruz.

What really stood out in the first divisional round game was how well the Niner defensive backs – particularly safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner – tackled. Considering the DB’s penchant for forcing fumbles, the Giants may be hesitant to put Hakeem Nicks and Cruz in the catch-and-run situations that they enjoy.

5. San Fran’s defensive line
The 49ers were able to break down the Giants’ pass protection in the last meeting, but again, this Giants line has improved immensely since then.

Still, Aldon Smith, with his explosive first step and startlingly quick hands, is a nightmare matchup for David Diehl on the left side, while Kareem McKenzie will need a little help against the speed of Ahmad Brooks on the right. Then there’s Justin Smith, who makes four or five fantastic penetrative plays a game.

In addition to rushing the passer, the Niners’ front three/four is fast and athletic enough to hunt down screen passes outside the numbers. That’s assuming Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman don’t hunt them down first.

Against this dynamic front seven, the Giants won’t be able to count heavily on Ahmad Bradshaw or ancillary options like Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum. Manning and his wide receivers will have to find ways to make big plays.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Championship games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:15 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:49 am
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Saints divisional preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The league’s No. 2 scoring offense meets the No. 2 scoring defense at Candlestick on Saturday.

Neither side has faced this tall of an order this season. Here’s the breakdown.


1. Niners inside ‘backers on Saints stars
NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are the reason San Francisco had the league’s best all-around defense in 2011. Both are smart, supremely athletic and adept in traffic and space. Thus, both can play run or pass at the highest of levels, which is why neither comes off the field much.

All season long, defenses have tried to figure out not just how to stop Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles, but how to simply line up against them. Do you use safeties on Graham and linebackers on Sproles? Vice Versa? Do you go with cornerbacks for both and risk getting run on?

The Niners might be the first team that doesn’t have to worry about personnel packages against these two, as they may put one First Team All-Pro linebacker on Graham and the other First Team All-Pro linebacker on Sproles. Whether the Niners can win those matchups is another discussion, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is extremely fortunate to be able to even consider it.

Instead of having his players focus on new strategies, he can have them focus on execution.

2. Handling the rest of New Orleans’ passing attack
The 49ers generally play zone out of their base defense and man when they go nickel or dime. Because Graham is like a third wide receiver, the Saints can stay predominantly in their base personnel if they’re more comfortable facing zone coverage. That should be the case Saturday, as San Fran’s cornerbacking trio of Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver outside and Carlos Rogers inside has been tremendous in man-to-man.

Those three are capable of matching up with Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Marques Colston – especially if safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson are providing help as free roamers over the top.

Whitner is somewhat limited in coverage (his success tends to come when linebackers are blitzing, which defines the routes quickly and makes them easier to jump). Goldson, on the other hand, is very rangy.

Both players must be careful not to overreact to the subtle fakes and body language of Drew Brees. No quarterback manipulates deep safeties better than the new single season passing yards record holder.

Pressuring Brees is critical to stopping New Orleans. (Getty Images)

3. Pressuring Brees
San Francisco is willing to blitz but often doesn’t have to, thanks to the speed of edge-rushers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Smith works extremely well with All-Pro defensive end/tackle Justin Smith on the left side when it comes to twists and stunts. That’s something the Saints left offensive line has struggled with over the years.

This season, however, athletic left tackle Jermon Bushrod has finally polished his pass-blocking mechanics and perennial Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks has ironed out the kinks he had in lateral pass-blocking movement. Nicks is also great at picking up Bushrod’s slack as a help-blocker.

The real key will be whether the right side of the Saints’ line can keep Brees clean. This Saints started clicking after their loss to the Rams, when Sean Payton tweaked the protections to give his tackles help with chip blocks from backs and tight ends. That’s the only way the Saints could survive the slow feet of right tackle Zach Strief.

If Ahmad Brooks draws even one true solo matchup against Strief on third-and-long, it means something has gone terribly wrong. (Or, it means the Niners will have gambled with an overload pass-rush on that side, which is plausible given that Bowman and Willis are both excellent blitzers.)

4. Niners run game against Saints D
The Niners make no bones about it: they’re going to win with Frank Gore, not Alex Smith. They’re a power-run offense – literally. Most of their offense derives from power plays, with left guard Mike Iupati pulling and fullback Bruce Miller or H-back Delanie Walker lead-blocking. The Saints have the personnel to stop this.

Former Niners tackle Aubrayo Franklin is a clogger inside and, when he shows up, veteran Shaun Rogers is a destroyer off the bench behind the generally incognito Sedrick Ellis. Also, defensive ends Will Smith and Cameron Jordan might not have dazzling sack numbers (Jordan, this year’s first round pick, recorded all of one), but both are superb at crashing inside or sliding down the line of scrimmage.

At the second level, Jonathan Vilma is regarded as the star (and rightfully so – he calls the signals and patrols sideline-to-sideline), but strong safety Roman Harper might be the deciding character on Saturday. Harper’s presence is what makes the Saints’ front seven so fast.

That will be especially important when backup running back Kendall Hunter, an underrated tempo-changer with better quickness and burst than Frank Gore, is in the game.

5. Niners big pass plays vs. Saints secondary
Jim Harbaugh is masterful at installing simple wrinkles in his offense each week that take advantage of the opponent’s greatest weakness. This week that means building a few downfield shot-plays into the passing game.

The Saints led the league in 40-plus-yard pass plays allowed during the regular season. The Niners know that if they keep extra blockers in for pass protection help (which their O-line needs, especially at tackle, where Joe Staley is very average on the left side and Anthony Davis, despite getting an embarrassingly nonsensical All-Pro vote, is very inconsistent on the right side), the Saints, with their green-dog heavy blitz packages, will bring the house:

In case you missed it, in last Saturday night’s broadcast, Cris Collinsworth did a great job explaining a green dog blitz. A green-dog blitz is when a defender in man coverage rushes the quarterback after he sees that his man has stayed in to block. Thanks to the speed and aggression of their linebackers, the Saints green-dog blitz as effectively as any team in football.

Thus, there are one-on-one matchups to be had downfield. Though San Francisco’s offense has been Gingrich-level conservative this season, downfield shots off play-action, particularly when the ball’s just inside midfield, have actually been a consistent element in their gameplans.

The Niners have to intentionally design their big plays because, other than maybe tight end Vernon Davis, they don’t have anyone who can conjure them naturally.

Michael Crabtree has great body control but “inexplosive” speed. Kyle Williams is quick out of the slot but not over the top. Ted Ginn has playmaking POTENTIAL but isn’t consistent enough to be considered an actual PLAYMAKER.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Divisional Round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 8:00 pm
 

Harbaugh: Frank Gore is 'not 100 percent'

By Will Brinson

Sunday, the 49ers suffered a surprising 21-19 loss to Arizona, and thought it doesn't affect San Francisco's standing in the division, there's a good reason for concern, since running back Frank Gore was limited late in the game.

Gore carried the ball just 10 times Sunday, and only twice after a 37-yard touchdown run put the Niners up 19-7 in the third quarter. On Tuesday, Harbaugh admitted, per our 49ers Rapid Reporter Michael Erier, that not all was right with Gore.

"He’s got some things," Harbaugh said on Tuesday after practice. "He’s not 100 percent."

The good news for the 49ers is that they've already locked up a playoff berth, so Gore will have an opportunity to rest over the next three weeks or so.

The bad news is they still want to try and lock down the No. 2 seed, and if Kendall Hunter only produces a 2.5 yards-per-carry average like he did on Sunday against the Cardinals, winning games down the stretch is going to be tough.

Week 14 Recap

Unlike many of the other top-tier teams in the NFL, the 49ers don't depend solely on their quarterback for success. That's a blessing sometimes, but when the health of the running back is an absolute necessity it can be problematic.

And though Harbaugh didn't say what's bothering Gore, a quick glance at his game log makes it pretty obvious when he started dealing with an injury. After getting white hot during the middle of the season, Gore suffered an ankle injury against the Giants and left with zero yards on six carries.

In the four games since, Gore hasn't crossed the 100-yard mark and only crossed into the end zone once. Given his ineffectiveness, the 49ers standing in the playoff race, his injury and how critical he is to the offense, it's somewhat surprising the team didn't start giving him more rest sooner.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 24, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Who can compete with Green Bay? Not 49ers

A. Smith was sacked nine times by Baltimore (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

So, what did we learn today from the Thanksgiving games? No. 1, Green Bay is clearly the best team in football (as if we didn’t already know that), and No. 2, at this point, there doesn’t seem to be anybody in the NFC who has the ability to keep the Packers out of the Super Bowl.

Listen, the 49ers, who fell 16-6 to Baltimore, are a great story, and what Jim Harbaugh has done this year for them has been amazing. Quarterback Alex Smith has had one of the biggest career turnarounds this season. Frank Gore is still one of the best running backs in the league, Patrick Willis is one of the best linebackers and Justin Smith is one of the most underrated defensive ends.

But as a challenger to the Packers, San Francisco still has big problems. The 49ers offensive line was porous, allowing nine sacks, and their offense wasn’t in the least bit dynamic. And they’ve still got Smith leading the team. Sure, he’s been solid this year, but he also threw a bad interception in the end zone at the end of the first half that killed a promising drive and then got caught intentionally grounding the ball with 1:28 left to go in the game.

And once the Ravens went up 13-6 on a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta, the 49ers simply didn’t have the capabilities to make a comeback. Yes, the 49ers had a short week and had to travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and that couldn’t have been easy. But if you were looking for that something special out of the San Francisco squad, it was certainly hard to spot.

So, you can count the 49ers out of the NFC title race.

As my colleague Ryan Wilson pointed out earlier today, Ndamukong Suh might have cost the Lions the game against the Packers (and perhaps their season?). At the beginning of the game, Detroit played Green Bay evenly, but the Lions top player lost his cool by trying to stomp (literally!) on his opponent and Detroit showed it's not up to playing an entire game vs. the defending Super Bowl champs.

So, you can count out the Lions.

The Cowboys? They played a Dolphins team at home, and really, they should have won by double-digits. Yes, Miami is vastly improved these past couple weeks, but Dallas is supposedly one of the better teams in the NFC. The Cowboys shouldn’t be struggling with the Dolphins so much that they needed a last-second field goal to win the game.

So, you can count out the Cowboys.

Well, who CAN compete with the Packers? The Saints? Maybe, because they’re probably the second-best team in the conference right now. The Bears? Not with Caleb Hanie running the show? The Giants? Eli Manning is having a wonderful season, but their defense has been hit hard by injuries.

Anybody?

Hell, maybe the 49ers actually could give the Packers a hard time if they were to play. After all, Ray Rice said the 49ers were the best team the Ravens have faced this year "by far." He must have been talking about the defense only.

But for now, we’re not sure if anybody in the NFC actually is good enough to play with the Packers. And now we only have eight weeks left to find out if that kind of team actually exists.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 12, 2011 7:25 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:04 pm
 

For the gambler in you, Week 10

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

Will Aaron Rodgers break the single season passing record of 5084 yards? (Note: He’s on pace for 5,238 yards) 

Yes 3/1    

Rodgers can’t continue to be this superhuman, can he? He has to slip up at least once or twice this year, right? I’d go with no, but I also wouldn’t feel very confident about that pick.

Will Patrick Peterson break the single season punt return touchdown Record of four? (Note: He currently has three through eight games)

Yes 4/1

We’re halfway through the season, and Peterson can’t figure out why teams continue to punt to him. But you know what? Teams occasionally still punt to Devin Hester -- and he, along with Gale Sayers -- are the two best kick returners of all time. Peterson might not get as many chances, but he’ll get some. And he’s so damn good, I think he could notch two more. I’d go yes, even if it’s a bit of a longshot.

Odds to win the 2011 MVP?      

Aaron Rodgers (GB) QB 1/4

Matt Forte (CHI) RB 7/1

Drew Brees (NO) QB 12/1

Eli Manning (NYG) QB 12/1

Frank Gore (SF) RB 12/1

Tom Brady (NE) QB 12/1

Calvin Johnson (DET) WR 15/1

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) QB 22/1

LeSean McCoy (PHI) RB 30/1

Adrian Peterson (MIN) RB 30/1

Obviously, Rodgers is the easy call, but at 1/4, you’re going to have to lay a ton of money in order to make any money back. If you want a long shot, I’d go Frank Gore. He’s been one of the most underrated players this season, and after a slow start, he’s rushed for 100-plus yards in each of the past five games. Since the 49ers could well end up with more than 12 wins, doesn’t Gore deserves some consideration?

When will the San Francisco 49ers clinch the NFC West division?
      
Week 11 5/1

Week 12 3/1

Week 13 3/2

Week 14 11/2

Week 15 9/1

Week 16 12/1

Week 17 20/1

In this weak division, I’ll go early. Week 12 sounds good to me.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 9, 2011 10:54 am
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Giants preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The NFC’s top team from the East will travel some 3,000 miles to face the top team from the West in a game that could ultimately decide the No. 2 playoff seed. Here’s a five-point look at this matchup between two overachieving clubs.



1. Old School offenses
If not for HD quality picture and the first-down line, you could fool yourself into thinking the year is 1990 when watching these two offenses line up on Sunday. Both are built around traditional rushing attacks, operating predominantly out of classic 12, 21 or 22 personnel (12 personnel = 1 back, two tight ends; 21 personnel = two backs, one tight end; you can guess what 22 personnel equals).

The difference is that the Niners this season have successfully run the ball, while the Giants have not (San Francisco ranks sixth in the NFL with 137.6 yards rushing per game; New York ranks 29th with 88.8).

Jim Harbaugh has good horses in Frank Gore and the more dynamic but less experienced Kendall Hunter, but it’s not a glistening backfield like those found in Philadelphia, Houston or Oakland. To compensate, Harbaugh has done a masterful job manufacturing rushing yards through formation variations, motion and subtle subterfuge. The Niners show opponents a lot of different looks with their running back and tight end alignments. And with mobile guards like Mike Iupati and, to an extent, Adam Snyder, they can frequently change up their movement-oriented run-blocking techniques. They have the most variegated ground game in the NFL.
 
The Giants would like to mimic this, but Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t been healthy and Brandon Jacobs hasn’t been impactful. More encumbering has been the shakiness of the offensive line. The center position has been particularly problematic. David Baas has battled injuries and struggled with gap-shooting defensive tackles against Miami two weeks ago; when Baas has been out, Kevin Boothe has looked how you’d expect a career backup tackle to look at center. Most telling is that recently, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has been almost exclusively aerial in his late-game play-calls.

2. The Quarterbacks
The Giants have managed six wins despite a sputtering ground game. The reason? Eli Manning has played the best football of his career. Herein lays the difference between New York and San Francisco. Both teams have former No. 1 overall drafted quarterbacks, but only one can put the game on its quarterback’s shoulders.

Manning is seeing the field clearer than ever (fortunately for him, New York’s front line struggles have not been in pass protection). His command of the offense and sound decision-making have propagated the eruptions of tight end Jake Ballard and slot receiver Victor Cruz. Ballard is an enhanced version of Kevin Boss; Cruz, with his unique body control and sticky hands, is a more explosive – though less stable – version of Steve Smith.

Something that’s not talked about often enough is Manning’s arm strength. He’s among the small handful of quarterbacks who truly can make all the throws; and he doesn’t need to be on balance or in perfect pocket conditions to do it.

Alex Smith, on the other hand, does need perfect pocket conditions. Smith is not functional with bodies around him. When he does have room, the throw usually has to target his first or second read, as he’s never had the poise to work deep in his progressions. This is one reason the Niners have spent so much time in 12 or 21 or 22 formations. When there are only three receivers running routes, defenses are more inclined to bring an eighth defender in the box, thus allowing for more one-on-one coverage concepts outside. This makes things simpler for the quarterback.

The Giants, on the other hand, are able to split into three, and sometimes four, receiver formations for long stretches and let Manning run the show.

3. Pass-rushes
These are two of the best pure pass-rushing defenses in the NFL. Pure meaning both are willing but not compelled to blitz. When they do blitz, it’s often primarily in an effort to command isolated matchups for rushers on the edge. For these defenses, those matchups will almost always be favorable.
 
For the Giants, Osi Umenyiora augments his incredible speed by being the league’s best snap-count anticipators in obvious passing situations. Opposite him, a healthy Justin Tuck is a versatile, fundamentally sharp force, and a rising Jason Pierre-Paul has willowy power and speed that make him a potentially more explosive version of Tuck. And don’t forget that linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka is a former first-round defensive end who can turn the corner.

You already know all this, though. What you may not know is that San Francisco’s pass-rushers are not too many rungs behind New York’s. Sixth-year pro Ahmad Brooks has finally learned how to apply his startling speed and fluidity on an everydown basis (even against the run, which close observers two years ago would not have predicted).

Rookie Aldon Smith plays with Manny Pacquiao-like hand-quickness to go with natural leverage that punctuates his first-round athleticism. What’s more, most 3-4 defenses don’t bank on getting pressure from their ends. But they don’t have a weapon like Justin Smith. He wears opponents out and makes three or four splash plays a week. Opposite Smith, Ray McDonald, when healthy (he injured his hamstring in Week 8) has been equally dynamic this season.

Both defenses have the versatility to create pass-rushing mismatches through position relocation and group concepts. All of the men mentioned above are outside players who can align inside, stand up as de facto blitzing linebackers or properly set up and execute crashes and stunts with teammates.

4. The Coverage Effect
These difficult-to-block four-man pass-rushes force quarterbacks to throw under duress into seven-man coverages. As they showed at New England last week, the Giants linebackers and safeties are getting more comfortable recognizing and attacking passing lanes. It helps that their cornerbacks, though inconsistent early in the season, can play press-man coverage outside.

Corey Webster has been particularly impressive in recent weeks, often shadowing the opposing team’s top receiver. He’s well equipped to defend the lithe but inexplosive Michael Crabtree.

The Niners love to play two-man out of their nickel defense. This puts cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver man-to-man on the wideouts and allows the two safeties, Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson, to roam free over the top. Rogers, who starts outside but plays the slot in nickel, is having a career-year. Brown blends into the scheme in a good way. Culliver, a precocious third-round rookie, always plays with a great sense for his surroundings.

Even if Hakeem Nicks, discreetly a top-10 NFL receiver, returns from his hamstring injury this week, the Giants are going to have a tough time consistently getting wideouts open against this Niners secondary.

5. The inside linebackers
We saved the best for last: San Francisco’s inside linebackers (and just San Francisco’s – New York’s entire linebacking corps is very mediocre).

Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman form the best inside linebacking duo in football. The past few years, Willis has rightfully been regarded as the best in the business. This season, he may be the second best on his own team, as Bowman, a 2010 third-round pick, leads San Fran in tackles.

Setting these two apart is the fact that they both play all three downs. That’s incredible in this day and age of spread offenses. In nickel and dime defense, Willis and Bowman perform coverage assignments normally reserved for defensive backs. They have the speed, change-of-direction prowess and awareness to do it. Both are quick-closing tacklers, instinctive run-defenders and innate playmakers.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 10 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 5, 2011 2:56 pm
 

For the gambler in you, Week 9

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Each Saturday, we’ll take the best -- and most clever -- odds collected by bodog.com for the upcoming week and give our take. This is important stuff, perhaps the most important post you’ll read all week. Because if you can’t lose money while watching a game in which you have absolutely no effect, what’s the point of watching sports at all?

Total number of 15-yard Penalties in the Ravens/Steelers game Week 9    
   
Over 1½ (-140)

Under 1½ (EVEN)

I don’t know, taking the under seems like a ridiculous choice to me. These two teams hate each other. To paraphrase Terrell Suggs, one team makes the other team’s urine feel warmer (or something like that). These squads aren’t fond of each other -- like, at all -- and last season in three games, they combined for 51 flags for 421 yards (an average of 8.5 penalties per team for 70.2 yards). Of course, they’ll go over.

Will the 49ers score a rushing TD and not allow a rushing TD Week 9? (The 49ers are the first team in 91 years to score, but not allow a rushing touchdown in each of their first seven games of the season)     

Yes 5/2

No 1/4

Frank Gore has five touchdowns this season. He’ll score again vs. the 21st-ranked Redskins rush defense. Meanwhile, Washington ranks 27th in rush offense. Go with the 5/2 odds and make some money. 

What will Chris Johnson's yards per carry be in the 2011 regular season? (He’s currently averaging 2.8 yards per carry)

Over/Under 3.7  
 
All right, let’s get out the calculators here. Right now, Johnson is averaging 15.3 carries per game, and since he’s currently splitting carries with Javon Ringer, that might not change. He’s looking at about another 138 carries for the rest of the season.* Which means he’d have to gain 629 yards (4.6 yards per carry) in nine games for the rest of the season in order to reach 3.8. Does anybody see that happening? Me neither.

*Unless, of course, he gets injured, which then makes this bet look awfully good.

SUPER BOWL MADONNA SPECIAL -- What will be the first song she performs for Super Bowl half-time show? 
   
Celebration 7/2

Hung Up 4/1

Like Prayer 5/1

Express Yourself 5/1

Ray of Light 15/2

Vogue 8/1

Music 8/1

Papa Don't Preach 10/1

Holiday 10/1

Material Girl 12/1

Lucky Star 15/1

Die Another Day 18/1

Like A Virgin 25/1

I only recognize seven titles on here, but good lord, how awesome would it be if she opened with “Like A Virgin?” I’d go with “Vogue,” but that’s probably as late as my knowledge of Madonna’s catalogue goes.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:31 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 6

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 3 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Rodgers  Revis  Hester Schwartz
Prisco   Gore Coleman  Hester  Morris
Brinson Bradshaw  Revis  Hester Schwartz
Katzowitz Bradhsaw Coleman  Hester  Zimmer
Wilson  Cutler Coleman  Hester Harbaugh

Week 6 was -- quite obviously -- all about the handshake. But there are other awards to get to as well. And the Eye on Offense Award was a hotly contested little battle here, but Ahmad Bradshaw, with 104 yards and three teeters in a Giants win, takes home the hardware.

On defense, things were a bit of a toss-up too, as Darrelle Revis' pick six garnered him plenty of support. But Kurt Coleman's three-pick game won the day. Although, yes, we are checking with the judges on whether or not Rex Grossman was eligible.

We're just going to go ahead and rename the Eye on Special Teams Award the Weekly Contest to Be Better Than Devin Hester.

And, as mentioned, coaching was a toss-up too, but Jim Harbaugh gets the Eye on Coaching Award ... simply for entertainment purposes?

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Ryan Wilson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
He's undefeated and doing things at the quarterback position we've seen before but rarely. I know, I know. You're sick of Rodgers. Get used to him, though. He's going to be around these here award neighborhoods for some time as the Packers are likely to enter the nine and 10 win range and start entering the 1972 Miami Dolphins neighborhood.
Jay Cutler Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
He was 21 of 31 for 267 yards and tossed two touchdowns against a very good pass-rushing Vikings defense. Perhaps more amazing: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz left six, seven and sometimes eight players in to block, and, it turns out, Cutler is a pretty good quarterback when he's not getting blasted for 60 minutes (he was sacked just once).
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Frank Gore Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
He ran for 141 yards and scored a touchdown in the team's upset of the Lions. What's truly impressive is that Gore averaged 9.4 per carry. That is special.
Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
The Giants fell apart against the Seahawks at home in Week 5, making Week 6's game against the Bills absolutely critical for them. Bradshaw was most critical to the win, running for 104 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants win.
Josh Katzowitz
Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
In a huge game for the Giants, Bradshaw, without Brandon Jacobs in the lineup, had a tremendous performance, rushing for 104 yards and three touchdowns. I imagine Eli Manning appreciated the contribution. 
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Wilson
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
He did get beat a few times against Miami on Monday night but that 100-yard interception return was spectacular. Sure, he practically knocked Brandon Marshall on his butt in a great display of non-called pass interference, but Revis is getting those non-calls now.
Kurt Coleman Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles
Obviously, Rex Grossman shares this award because without him, Coleman's three interceptions wouldn't have been possible. In related news: nothing like a BAD REX unannounced visit to make Juan Castillo seem like he knows how to coordinate a defense.
Prisco Brinson
Kurt ColemanKurt Coleman, S, Eagles
He was benched a few weeks ago, but when inserted back into the lineup he made the most of it against the Redskins. Coleman had three picks of Rex Grossman in the game and had one of his best cover days. He was benched for his poor tackling.
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
I'd love to nominate Rex Grossman, but I'm not sure that's in the spirit of the awards. Instead, I'll give it to the guy who took a pick 100 yards to the house, giving the Jets a 7-3 lead when they should have been down 14-0. Revis showed why he's the best CB in the NFL today.
Katzowitz
Kurt Coleman Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles
Vindication for the Eagles safety. A few weeks after Coleman was benched, he reemerged as Rex Grossman’s biggest foil (well, second to Grossman himself), intercepting three passes and helping Philadelphia to perhaps a season-saving win. Chances are Coleman won’t be benched this week.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Wilson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Why kick to him? Why, why, why? One more time: WHY? Kick the football out of bounds. Kick it into the stands. Kick it into the dirt. Anywhere except to him. He burned yet another team -- this time the Minnesota Vikings -- that stupidly kicked to him. And he'll keep doing that until teams finally get smart and stop doing it.
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
I'll repeat what I wrote in Week 4, the last time Hester was our Special Teams Player of the Week. "We'll never understand why any team thinks kicking to Hester is a good idea." The Vikings did it, and Hester scored. Weird how that keeps happening.
Prisco Brinson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Can it go to anyone but Hester? He ripped off a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Sunday night against the Vikings. He also returned a punt 27 yards and almost broke that one.
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR/ Bears
As long as teams continue to kick to Hester, he's probably going to keep winning this award. Hester was the difference against the Panthers two weeks ago; against Minnesota he simply squashed any hope they had for their entire season with one magnificent burst of speed.
Katzowitz
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
He’s made strides as a receiver this season, but as the Vikings -- who, for some strange reason, continued kicking to Hester -- can attest, he’s still awfully dangerous as a kick returner. Early in the third quarter, he returned a kick 98 yards for the touchdown nearly took back a punt as well. He is, as the Vikings know now, pretty good on special teams.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Wilson
Bill BelichickJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
We went to the same high school. I think we played on the same football team together though I only sorta remember him. I was concussed a lot so bear with me. He's obviously a fiery guy and though his scamper after Harbaugh was unneeded most people would have wanted to punch Harbaugh in the mouth after that obnoxious post-game reaction.
Hue Jackson Jim Harbaugh, HC, 49ers
I think Harbaugh is a crazy-arms meltdown away from a tenured professorship at clown college, but the guy has the 49ers believing something not even Mike Singletary could convince them of: they're a good football team. Through six weeks, they're 5-1. Last year, they were 6-10.
Prisco Brinson
Raheem MorrisRaheem Morris, HC, Buccaneers
After his team's horrible trip to San Francisco that saw them get blown out 48-3, he got his team ready to play against the Saints and pulled off a 26-20 upset.  The Bucs were without running back LaGarrette Blount, so Morris turned the game over to Josh Freeman, who had a big game.
Mike MunchakJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
People are complaining about Schwartz' roll in Handshake-Gate (ugh), but here's the thing: Schwartz celebrates on his own sideline. Not at midfield. I'll hand him this award just based on the fact that 90 percent of America would have punched Jim Harbaugh Sunday. He didn't.
Katzowitz
Mike Zimmer Mike Zimmer, DC, Bengals
The Bengals DC continues to be one of those long-time assistant coaches who needs to be rewarded with a head coaching job. The Bengals have the No. 2 D in the NFL, and have allowed just one opponent to score more than 20 points. Cincy hasn’t played a Murderer’s Row of quarterbacks, but still, Zimmer’s unit has been impressive.
 

 
 
 
 
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