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Tag:San Francisco 49ers
Posted on: January 7, 2012 11:43 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 12:01 am
 

Harbaugh prepared for Saints, gets them next week

Dallas' last loss caused one fan to take up arms. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

We joked on Friday's playoff preview podcast that maybe Jim Harbaugh was trying to stick it to archnenemy Jim Schwartz one last time by suggesting last week that the 49ers would focus most of their bye-week preparation on facing the Saints in the NFC Divisional round, even though there was a chance they could face the Falcons or Giants.


Harbaugh and Schwartz had trouble executing the post-game handshake back in October, when the 49ers went into Detroit and beat the then-undefeated Lions. (Turns out, the feud may have been brewing for months.) And we're guessing Schwartz relished the thought of going to San Francisco and beating Harbaugh in the 49ers' first playoff game since 2002.

First he and the Lions would have to get past the Saints in the Superdome.  Things starting well enough, but Drew Brees did what Drew Brees does and the final score wasn't close. Whether Harbaugh's Jedi mind trick backfired or if he really did spend most of the week planning for the Saints, New Orleans will take the field in San Francisco next Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

So do the 49ers have a chance? Absolutey.

No word yet on the Vegas line (we'll guess Saints -7) but slowing Brees (forget about stopping him) in 2011 has proven nearly impossible. He threw for 5,476 yards during the regular season, including seven consecutive games of more than 300 yards, including 25 touchdowns and three interceptions.

But the 49ers aren't helpless; they have one of the league's most physical defenses (they were No. 3 overall, first against the run and eighth against the pass). San Francisco also has the advantage of playing at home, although Brees this season was just as effective outdoors as he was in a dome (69.6 percent vs. 72.1 percent; 95.7 passer rating vs. 118.7). As part of the preparation, Harbaugh might look at two games that show that the Saints are fallible.


Record-shattering Drew Brees threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints poured it on in the second half for a 45-28 NFC wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night. 

First: the Seahawks' wild-card win over the Saints during the 2010 playoffs. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in that game and the Saints didn't have an answer for him. They also scored 41 points. The 49ers don't have a workhorse like Lynch in their backfield, at least one who's healthy. (And they also don't score a ton of points.) Their running game ranks 24th, and Frank Gore, who has been banged up for most of the year, is near the bottom of the league among all running backs in terms of total value and value per play, according to Football Outsiders.

Second: during Week 2 of the 2010 season, the 49ers played the Saints tough in San Francisco, back when Mike Singletary was still patrolling the sidelines and Alex Smith was perpetually a play away from getting benched.

New Orleans won 25-22 on a last-second field goal. Gore rushed for 112 yards on 20 carries (5.6 yards per carry) in the game, and Smith threw for 275 yards, completing 23 of 32 passes. Brees, meanwhile, managed just 254 yards in the air. (In the 30 regular-season games since, Brees has thrown for fewer yards once.)

But 20 months later and both teams are different. The Saints' offense is as finely tuned as any offense ever, and the 49ers have gone from eight years of losing to winning 13 games, the NFC West and the No. 2 seed in the conference. Harbaugh, who should be the unanimous choice for coach of the year, has his toughest job in front of him: convincing his team that they can hang with New Orleans.

It's not impossible -- San Francisco had their chance last year, Seattle capitalized on their opportunity, and the hapless Rams pulled if off this season -- just improbable.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:15 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 5:44 pm
 

Super Bowl Odds: Pre-Playoffs Gambling Guide

Who's got the best odds to win the Super Bowl? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

You might think gamblers are degenerates. And you might be right. But the guys who create the lines (read: "Vegas") are usually pretty good with their NFL-related accuracy. Let's take a look at what Vegas thinks about the various Super Bowl contenders.

In the meantime, check out a special edition of the Pick-Six Podcast with Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com, where we break down the best bets for Wild-Card Weekend as well as the Super Bowl favorites:

Team: Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Odds
: +160
How it Ranks with Other Odds: 5
What Has to Happen: The Packers only have to win three games, two at Lambeau Field and one in Indy. They'll have to beat, if the seeds hold up, some combo of the Falcons/Giants and Saints/49ers. What makes things problematic for the Packers is that every single team in the NFC playoffs, with the exception of the 49ers, has to the firepower to keep pace with them offensively. The defense needs to get hot and commit turnovers. And Greg Jennings and the offensive line need to get healthy quickly. On the bright side, three of the other five playoff teams are dome teams; Lambeau is not the friendliest place for them.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Super Bowl (re) Matchup of Packers vs. Steelers at +700. Because the NFL will make this happen just to take care of all the fans who got screwed out of their seats in last year's game.

Team: New England Patriots
Super Bowl Odds: +350
1-12 Scale Value of Bet: 6
What Has to Happen: The Pats defense has to get much better than it was in the regular season. An upset would be a huge help for the Patriots, since they'd get either the Bengals or the Broncos, instead of having to play both the Steelers and (most likely) the Ravens in order to get to the Super Bowl. A team that can score and play defense is kind of nightmare for New England.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Super Bowl (re) Matchup of Patriots vs. Giants at +1900. Then you can email your favorite Boston sports fan clips of "The Catch" for two consecutive weeks.

Team: New Orleans Saints
Super Bowl Odds: +500
1-2 Scale Value of Bet: 7
What Has to Happen: The Saints have to win three games, and two of them could be on the road and outdoors. So it's a little nuts that they have better odds than the Ravens and 49ers, both of whom are No. 2 seeds in their respective conferences. That's partially playing to the public, though, as well as
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Longest touchdown will be OVER 55.5 yards. The odds on this are basically even (-115) and you could argue that under's a much better bet. But this means for 60 minutes, every time Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford start to uncork a pass you're going to be screaming your face off. And that's always fun. Oh, also: MEGATRON.

Team: Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl Odds: +600
1-12 Scale Value of Bet: 9
What Has to Happen: Just two games and a couple things stand out. 1) If Houston can hang on, Baltimore will probably only play the Texans and the Steelers or Patriots to get to Indy. 2) They only have to play two games! 3) They're 8-0 at home in 2011. 4) They've either beaten everyone who's in the playoffs (twice in the case of the Steelers and Bengals) or they match up well with those teams.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: The OVER of the Super Bowl at 53 ... without knowing who's there. Even if the Ravens only give up 16.6 points per game on defense, we'll gamble they end up in shootout with the Saints/Packers/Lions. If the 49ers and Broncos play, this blows up in your face.

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl Odds: +1000
Value of Bet: 8
What Has to Happen: Three games on the road with a gimpy Ben Roethlisberger? Yeah, that seems impossible but consider this: Pittsburgh has to beat Denver in Denver (which should happen), then travel to New England and Baltimore in some order. They've got the personnel to beat the Patriots and are the Ravens really taking down the Steelers three times in one year?
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: A non-touchdown score to happen first in Steelers-Broncos, which pays off at +115. The under of this game (which I love as well) is already down to 33.5. You're telling me people won't be cranking field goals in Mile High Stadium? Lock it up!

Team: San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl Odds: +1200
Value of Bet: 10
What Has to Happen: OK, look, this is the "best value bet" on the board, but that doesn't mean I love it. The Niners probably have to beat the Saints, Packers and then someone from the AFC to win the Super Bowl. But a No. 2 seed with a shot at two home games (if the Packers are upset), a stifling defense, a strong run game and only needing two games to get to Indy with 12:1 odds to win the Super Bowl? That's kind of silly.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: OVER on number of Gatorade baths given to members of the Harbaugh family at 2.5*. Jim might dunk himself twice if the Lions upset the Saints and he gets to spend a week smack-talking Jim Schwartz.

Team: New York Giants
Super Bowl Odds: +2000
Value of Bet: 11
What Has to Happen: The Giants have to win three games, and the road could very well go through Green Bay and New Orleans. But they've played everyone seeded above them and kept it close against the 49ers and Packers so we know they can play with the best teams. (I think they're losing to the Falcons but that doesn't make it a bad value play.) But remember 2007? Yeah, never forget.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Longest touchdown score OVER at 45.5. Any time you have Victor Cruz and Julio Jones in the same game, the over is a reasonable bet here.

Team: Houston Texans
Super Bowl Odds: +3500
Value of Bet: 3
What Has to Happen: Matt Schaub has to hire Kobe Bryant's doctor. The Texans rushing game and defense is great, and it's possible they could get a second home game (beat the Bengals, beat the Ravens, play Denver/Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game), but the odds just aren't great for Houston to make it to Indy.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: UNDER for T.J. Yates pass attempts (29.5) and completions (16.5). Both pay good money (-115 and even, respectively) and there are two ways to win: a Texans blowout and tons of rushing attempts, or a Bengals blowout and Yates getting yanked for Jake Delhomme.

Team: Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl Odds: +4000
Value of Bet: 4
What Has to Happen: A casual stroll into New York, New Orleans AND Green Bay, provided the seeds hold up. Consider this: they only played five games this year that weren't in a dome, thanks to convenient scheduling. Those were: a loss at Chicago, a loss at Tampa Bay, a loss at Houston, a two-point win at Seattle and an eight-point win at Carolina. Yikes.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Tony Gonzalez to score the first touchdown at +1500. Um, really? Because last I checked Matt Ryan kind of likes him in the red zone.

Team: Detroit Lions
Super Bowl Odds: +5000
Value of Bet: 12
What Has to Happen: As the No. 6 seed, the Lions are guaranteed to be on the road for three games if they make it to the Super Bowl. And they have to play the Saints first. But they've kept things tight with the 49ers, the Saints, the Packers and the Falcons. Matthew Stafford's as hot as anyone and they have the defensive line to pressure opposing elite quarterbacks. They can score in a dome or on the road (see: at Denver, at Green Bay, at Dallas). And they're a fun story.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Calvin Johnson OVER receptions at 6.5 and UNDER receiving yards at 98.5. This is a hedging combo, because if he goes over 6.5 he could go over 98.5 as well. But Johnson caught six balls for 69 yards the last time against the Saints, primarily because he was dealing with double teams. Stafford will still look his way but maybe

Team: Denver Broncos
Super Bowl Odds: +6000
Value of Bet: 1
What Has to Happen: Remember that ridiculous stretch of games where the Broncos won an (un?) holy six straight games to climb into first place in the AFC West thanks to great defense, some ridiculous luck and clutch play by Tim Tebow in the fourth quarter? That needs to happen again.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Tim Tebow over on passing attempts at 24.5. Yeah, that's a bunch, but if the Broncos are down he'll have to be winging it. Plus, you get the bonus of getting comedic value on your bet even if you lose.

Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl Odds: +7000
Value of Bet: 2
What Has to Happen: Andy Dalton needs to stop pooping himself first of all; with Dalton feeling awful, it's kind of tough to back the Bengals even making it past the Texans (though I am). And then the Bengals need to win three road games despite posting victories against teams with a winning percentage of like 37.5 percent (or thereabouts). The Bengals are a great story but they're not going to the Super Bowl.
Fun Prop to Play for Wild-Card Weekend: Will A.J. Green score a touchdown at +130 and the over on Greens' receiving yards at 65.5. I don't care that Johnathan Joseph is covering him. He gets his.

*Made-up prop

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:23 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:47 pm
 

2012 NFL Postseason Awards

Brees and Rodgers could square off three times this year, if you count awards. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We won't bore you by listing our preseason predictions (you can read those here), but suffice to say, all of mine were correct. Take a peak at the midseason hardware if you want too, but right now we're interested in dishing out the awards for the full season.


Speaking of which, I've already ranted on Drew Brees vs. Aaron Rodgers for the MVP, but I find it fascinating that at midseason, no one even picked Brees for Offensive Player of the Year, much less MVP. I'm not here to knock Brees, I'm just saying the award's for an entire season's worth of work.

Anyway, below are our full season picks. (You can also read Pete's full season picks here and Clark's full season picks here.)

Most are obvious but "BFA" is "Best Free Agent Addition," "WFA" is "Worst Free Agent Addition," and "DOH!" is "Pick I'd Like to Have Back." (Haha, yes I did pick the guy who eventually iced his own kicker to win "Coach of the Year." At least I was driving the Camwagon though.)

Dive in below and leave your gripes and complaints in the comments.

Award Brinson
Wilson
Katzowitz
Prisco
Judge
MVP
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers
OPOY
Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Drew Brees Drew Brees
DPOY
Jared Allen Terrell Suggs Jared Allen Jason Pierre-Paul Jared Allen
OROY
Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton Cam Newton
DROY
Von Miller Aldon Smith Aldon Smith Von Miller Von Miller
COY
Marvin Lewis Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh
ASST
Rob Chudzinski Rob Chudzinski Wade Phillips Wade Phillips Wade Phillips
BFA
Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles Darren Sproles
WFA
Sidney Rice Braylon Edwards Santonio Holmes Ray Edwards Ray Edwards
Comeback
Steve Smith D'Qwell Jackson Aaron Maybin Matthew Stafford Matthew Stafford
Most Improved
Matthew Stafford Antonio Brown Victor Cruz Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski
Surprise
Bengals Broncos Broncos Bengals 49ers
Disappoint
Eagles Jets Eagles Eagles Eagles
Executive
Rick Smith Rick Smith Rick Smith Martin Mayhew Mike Brown
DOH!
Garrett for COY Rivers for MVP Rivers for MVP Fins in/Lions out Rams in NFCW

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 9:08 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 9:11 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 17

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 17 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Cruz Broncos  Akers McCarthy
Judge  Flynn  Allen  Akers Coughlin
Prisco  Flynn  Allen Carpenter Coughlin
Brinson  Flynn  Allen Carpenter  Coughlin
Katzowitz  Flynn  Allen  Akers Harbaugh
Wilson  Flynn  Suggs Carpenter  Turner
The NFL's regular season is over. It seems kind of crazy, right? Somehow the lockout was just a few months ago and now we're headed for the playoffs. Whatever, that doesn't stop us from handing out our final regular season Eye on Football Awards of the year.

Matt Flynn wasn't completely a consensus pick for the Eye on Offense Award, but with his performance there's no question he's making some coin in 2012.

Jared Allen can't love his ex-teammate Brett Favre, since he'd have the NFL single-season sack record if Favre hadn't flopped for Michael Strahan. Somehow I doubt the Week 17 Eye on Defense Award will make up for that.

Usually I give tiebreakers to the guy I picked ... and I'm doing it again this week. Dan Carpenter's 58-yarder nudges him past David Akers, despite a touchdown pass, for the Eye on Special Teams Award.

And Tom Coughlin closes out the season with the Eye on Coaching Awards similar to how he closed out his real season: by winning two straight headed into the playoffs.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Victor Cruz Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
Big play after big play when the defense knows Eli Manning is going to him. He still produces. He obliterated the Cowboys as he has almost every team he's gone against within the latter part of the year. It's been incredible to watch him become the next great receiving star.
Matt FlynnMatt Flynn, QB, Packers
He's the backup for Green Bay, and he doesn't play much because ... well, because that's what happens when you sit behind Aaron Rodgers. So , when he does get his chance all he does is throw for six touchdowns and set a franchise record with 480 yards passing.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Matt Flynn Matt Flynn, QB, Packers
Flynn makes his first start of 2011 and throws for 480 yards and six touchdowns in place of Aaron Rodgers, who the Packers were resting. Wow. He made himself a lot of money.
Matt FlynnMatt Flynn, QB, Packers
Credit the Packers for finding hidden talent (even if Flynn won a BCS title). Flynn's not hidden anymore -- 480 yards and six teeters Sunday against the Lions means Flynn's the head of the class in terms of free-agent QBs heading into the 2012.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Matt FlynnMatt Flynn, QB, Packers
It’s unfortunate for Matthew Stafford that he came up against Flynn, who set Packers club records in passing yards (480) and touchdown passes (six). Flynn was incredible, leading Green Bay to a victory and making himself a ton of money in the process. By playing him this week, GB assured themselves that they’ll lose him in the offseason.
Matt Flynn Matt Flynn, QB, Packers
If nothing else, Flynn's performance on Sunday (480 passing yards and six touchdowns in a win against the Lions) proves that Aaron Rodgers is a system quarterback. So does that mean Flynn deserves to be in the MVP conversation, too?
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Von MillerDenver Broncos, DST
This is a team award presented to one of the best and most underrated defenses in football, saddled with a terrible quarterback. The Broncos defense held the KC Chiefs to a touchdown and still lost, 7-3. Denver's defense has actually been one of the great surprises of the season.
Jared Allen Jared Allen, DE, Vikings
He produces 3.5 sacks to finish the season with a league-leading 22, just a half-sack short of Michael Strahan's single-season record. What I love about Allen is his motor. The Vikings won three games, but this guy never let up and never quit.
Prisco Brinson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
Allen had 3 1/2 sacks against the Bears, but feel one short of Mike Strahan's single-season record for sacks in a season with 21.5.
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
Allen got his Ginsu on against Chicago's line and nearly broke Michael Strahan's record for 22.5 sacks in a season. His 3.5 on Sunday left him just short but considering Brett Favre's flop and how horrible this Vikings team is, he really deserves it more.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
He was a man possessed as he went for the NFL season sack record, and though he fell a half-sack and a Brett Favre dive short of Michael Strahan’s record, Allen put the exclamation point on the best year of his career, recording 3 ½ sacks against Bears.
Terrell Suggs Terrell Suggs, OLB, Ravens
He had a sack and a forced fumble in a game that a lot of people thought the Ravens would lose. Now they're perfectly positioned for a Super Bowl run and Suggs could be the defensive MVP
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
David AkersDavid Akers, K, 49ers
Lined up for a field goal but it was a fake. Excellent throw by Akers who tossed a touchdown throw to Michael Crabtree. The most amazing thing about Crabtree's throw? He had better form than Tebow.
David Akers David Akers, K, Eagles
He sets the single-season record for field goals one week, then throws a touchdown pass the next -- a touchdown that, oh, by the way, is the difference in the 49ers' game-ending victory. The more I see of Akers the more I wonder Philadelphia gave up on him.
Prisco Brinson
Dan CarpenterDan Carpenter, K, Dolphins
Carpenter made four field goals, one from 58 yards, as the Dolphins beat the Jets to end their playoff chances. Carpenter's 58-yarder was into the wind.
Dan CarpenterDan Carpenter, K, Dolphins
If not for Carpenter, the Dolphins don't send Jason Taylor out the right way and end Rex Ryan's hopes. Carpenter converted field goals after three turnovers (4/4 on the day) including banging home a 58-yarder that was good from 73.
Katzowitz Wilson
David Akers David Akers, K, 49ers
He established the new league record for field goals byfinishing the season with 44, and he threw an awesome TD pass on a fake field goal that helped the 49ers beat the pesky Rams. For his career, Akers is now 2 for 2 passing for 25 yards and a score. With a passer rating of 158.3.
Dan Carpenter Dan Carpenter, K, Dolphins
Carpenter was 4 for 4 on Sunday against the Jets, including a 58-yarder. With his perfect performance, he helped the Dolphins seal the Rex Ryan's fate and finish the season with a 6-10 record (after an 0-7 start).
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickMike McCarthy, HC, Packers
McCarthy lost one game all season. He beat Detroit with Matt Flynn at quarterback. He might have the best offensive system going in football right now. He's the offensive Bill Belichick.
Mike Munchak Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
For the second straight week he pulls off a huge victory -- this time winning the NFC East with a decisive defeat of Dallas. For weeks, Coughlin was subjected to questions about his job status and the Giants' second-half collapse. Then he produced the season's two most important wins, and, just like that, the questions ended.
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, Giants
It was win or go home and he had Coughlin team ready to play against the Cowboys for the NFC East title. Coughlin is good in big games, which bodes well for the playoffs.
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
At this point, I'm rooting for the Giants to run the table, win the Super Bowl (again!) and have Coughlin set his pants on fire at trophy ceremony, just to make the fans happy that his seat is finally hot enough. Great job getting his team ready down the stretch.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz John Harbaugh, HC, Ravens
His brother received so much credit this season, but look at what John pulled off Sunday. He beat the Bengals in Cincy and earned a playoff bye and homefield advantage in the second round. Given how mediocre Baltimore is on the road, that’s one heck of an accomplishment.
Hue Jackson Norv Turner, HC, Chargers
Did he really save his job? Turner and the Chargers beat a Raiders team with everything to play for -- in Oakland, no less. If Turner does return, imagine how good San Diego will be if they ever put together an entire season mistake-free football.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:03 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 1:11 pm
 

Jim Harbaugh wants Alex Smith back in 2012

Harbaugh is excited about bringing Smith back for another season. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Jim Harbaugh said it over the summer and now, six months later, his story remains unchanged: he wants quarterback Alex Smith back in San Francisco next year. Smith's first six NFL seasons can kindly be described as tumultuous; a mix of ever-changing schemes and coordinators that resulting in inconsistent play and occasional benchings.

But under Harbaugh, Smith has flourished. The first-overall selection in the 2005 draft has benefitted from a quick-pass offense that relies heavily on the running game and a stingy defense. It worked so well that the 49ers went 13-3, won the NFC West going away, and now have a first-round bye.

On Monday, Harbaugh reiterated that Smith was his guy.

"I've told Alex that," Harbaugh said according to CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco. "I wouldn't tell you (the media) something I wouldn't tell Alex.

"I told Alex, 'Hey, we're going to want you to come back here next year.' He's focused on the season, and that's where his mindset wants to be. And I totally respect that, and we'll talk about it and address it once the season is over. That's the way I understand it right now."

It's funny. Over the summer, Smith's NFL future was up in the air. The 49ers could've decided to move on, find a veteran quarterback to bridge the gap to 2011 second-round pick Colin Kaepernick, and turned the page on the Alex Smith era. Instead, Harbaugh kept Smith around, saved his career, and probably made him a lot of money in the process.

We wrote Monday that while the NFL might be a passing league but it's woefully short on passers. Smith isn't Joe Montana (or even Jeff Garcia) but in the right offense he's efficient and doesn't make mistakes. Based on the 2011 49ers, that can carry a team a long way.

And it's why Harbaugh wants Smith back in San Francisco for 2012. Beyond that, who knows. Which is why Smith might want to get while the getting's good, cash in on a lucrative long-term deal and play elsewhere next season. Then again, he owes Harbaugh for saving his career. Maybe loyalty is more important than money.

Either way, these are good problems to have. Usually this time of year we're talking about who should replace the current coach and/or quarterback. Instead the 49ers are preparing to host a playoff game for the first time since the 2002 season.

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Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 16



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 16 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Brees  Byrd Janikowski Schwartz
Judge  Brees  Grant  Akers Coughlin
Prisco Rodgers  JPP Seymour Coughlin
Brinson  Brees  Bills  Akers Coughlin
Katzowitz  Cruz  Mayo Seymour Coughlin
Wilson  Brees  Bills Janikowski Coughlin
One. More. Week. It's terrifying, isn't it? Anyway, before we get to that, let's hit up the (slightly delayed) Week 16 Eye on Football Awards.

On offense, only one voter steered away from record-breaker Drew Brees and there's definitely an argument for Aaron Rodgers. But Brees breaking Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season gave him the nod for the Eye on Offense Award.

On defense, the Bills defense as a whole picked up the Eye on Defense Award thanks to their evisceration of Tim Tebow and the Broncos.

Another record-breaker, David Akers, gets the nod for the Eye on Special Teams Award based on a tiebreaker in a three-way race with a pair of Raiders.

And Tom Coughlin nearly got the clean sweep for the Eye on Coaching Award with the way he handled his business against the Jets.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Don't like how the Saints did it but Brees still deserves credit for reaching it. The record is more about perserverance than anything else. Brees was told he'd never make it this far. He wasn't good enough. He's too short. His arm is weak and he proved so many people wrong. That's the best part of this story.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
It's not the four touchdowns or the lopsided defeat of Atlanta that puts him here. It's breaking Dan Marino's record for single-season yardage. It took someone 27 years to make it. The least we can do is acknowledge him with this award.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Rodgers throws five touchdown passes against the Bears to lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs and get the No. 1 NFC seed for the Packers. Can we give him this award every week?
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
Didn't particularly like the way the Saints gunned for or celebrated the record, but that's on Sean Payton and Brees, and if the Falcons wanted to stop them, they should have. So give Brees his due credit for walking down one of the hardest-to-break records in sports.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Victor CruzVictor Cruz, WR, Giants
Cruz talked trash before Saturday’s Jets game and then backed it up with a 99-yard touchdown reception that was a marvel? It’s hard to believe that last season, Cruz was not even supposed to make the team. Now, he's one of the most exciting receivers in the game.
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old passing record and was even accused of running up the score in the process. The accomplishment along with the whining from the Falcons makes him worthy of the honor.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Jairus ByrdJairus Byrd, S, Bills
The Buffalo defender returned a Tim Tebow pick 37 yards for a score in a Bills blowout. I'll go ahead and resist the temptation to do a Tebow joke here. It's just really too easy at this point.
Larry Grant Larry Grant, LB, 49ers
He starts for the injured Patrick Willis and finishes with 11 tackles, second best on the team. None, however, was more important than the last -- with Grant forcing a Tarvaris Jackson fumble that sealed a San Francisco victory and, in all likelihood, a first-round playoff bye.
Prisco Brinson
Jason Pierre-PaulJason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
Pierre-Paul had two sacks, three quarterback hits and four tackles. He was all over the field in the Giants victory over the Jets, which was critical to Coughlin's team staying alive for the playoffs.
Jairus ByrdBills DST
The Bills handed Tim Tebow his first-ever four-interception game and returned two of the picks to the house in a surprise beatdown of the Broncos. That they did it a week after giving up 200 rushing yards to Reggie Bush is all the more impressive/shocking.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jerod Mayo Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots
As bad as the Pats defense has been this year, you have to give credit to Mayo for making a difference in New England’s comeback win against the Dolphins. Mayo recorded 13 tackles and his first two sacks of the season to keep the Patriots alive for a No. 1 AFC seed.
Chris Kelsay Chris Kelsey, LB, Bills
This goes to the Bills defense, which intercepted Tebow four times (including two pick-sixes), but Kelsay had two sacks and was in the Broncos backfield all day.

Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
Kicked the game-winner against the Kansas City Chiefs to keep their postseason hopes alive. I remember when Janikowski was nothing but the source of fat jokes. Now he might be the best kicker in football.
David Akers David Akers, K, 49ers
Here's another guy who sets a single-season record, kicking 42 field goals ... with one game still to play. Akers had four in the 49ers' defeat of Seattle, with his last the game winner. I can't imagine where the 49ers would be without him. I know where Philadelphia is.
Prisco Brinson
Richard SeymourRichard Seymour, DL, Raiders
He blocked two field goals, including the potential game-winner on the final play of regulation against the Chiefs. Oakland won the game in overtime to keep their playoff chances alive.
Dan BaileyDavid Akers, K, 49ers
Andy Reid was off on Akers career -- the Eagles didn't want to pay the man and all he did was kick the most field goals in a single season in NFL history (42). The 49ers don't have the season they're having without Akers being so steady on the special teams end of things.
Katzowitz Wilson
Richard Seymour Richard Seymour, DL, Raiders
He was the Chiefs worst nightmare, blocking two field goals -- including the potential game-winner -- to keep Oakland in the hunt for a playoff berth and to eliminate KC. Even if his on-field temper gets him into trouble occassionally, the 11-year vet still has the ability to make big-time plays.
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
Janikowski's game-winner in overtime against the Chiefs kept the Raiders' playoff hopes alive and the kicker finally got his first Pro Bowl trip this week.

Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Jim SchwartzJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
He exercized the ghosts of the pathetic Matt Millen by getting the Lions in the playoffs. It's quite the achievement by Schwartz in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
After listening to Rex Ryan and the Jets talk all week, he and his club respond with a 29-14 defeat that puts them one win from the playoffs. Not only did Coughlin outlast the Jets, he survived a sideline collision that had him limping. The Giants take a cue from their coach: "No toughness, no championship."
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
With his team's season on the line, Coughlin led his team to a victory over the New York Jets. Coughlin has been good at getting his team ready for big games. He has another this week against the Cowboys.

Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
The only guy involved with New York football who refused to talk any trash this week? Coughlin. He let his team do the talking for him on the field, knocking around the Jets enough to create questions for Little Brother, and giving the Giants a shot at a division title and a playoff berth.
Katzowitz Wilson
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
Whether he’s on the hot seat or not, Coughlin still managed to keep his team level-headed in the face of a torrent of trash-talk from the Jets in a city rivalry game. The Giants just have to beat the Cowboys in order to take the NFC East title. It seems like people forget how good a coach Coughlin is, but on Saturday, he taught Rex Ryan a lesson.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
He began the week by proclaiming that "talk is cheap" only to listen as various members of the Giants called out the Jets. The difference between them and Rex Ryan's squad? The Giants backed it up Saturday. And if they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 they'll win the division.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 11:57 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 12:04 pm
 

49ers release WR Braylon Edwards

Edwards appeared in just eight games this season. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Braylon Edwards, signed by the 49ers to a one-year deal before the season, has been released. He made the announcement on his website.

"I was released today by the 49ers due to my injury that required more time to rehab and hasn’t allowed me to re-sync with the offense. I wish the 49ers organization the best of luck during the Playoffs. I will be working hard this off season to strengthen my knee and prepare for the 2012 season. Thanks for your continued support and for being such loyal fans."

Edwards was originally the Browns' 2005 first-round draft pick before he was traded to the Jets during the 2009 season, where he became one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets. Despite his willingness to take less money to stay in New York, the Jets instead signed Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason, and Edwards inked a one-year, $3.5 million contract with San Francisco in early August.

He appeared in nine games this year (five starts), and had 15 receptions for 181 yards and no touchdowns. His best season came in 2007 with the Browns, when he hauled in 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns.

ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith points out that if any team wants Edwards for Week 17 or the playoffs, all it requires is a waiver claim. But based on the statement published on his website, Edwards sounds like he's shutting it down until the 2012 season.

For now, the 49ers are comfortable moving forward with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn and as their primary pass-catchers (which is what they were before Edwards was let go.)

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Roethlisberger denies rumors he's planning to sit

Big Ben limps down the steps to the locker room after Pittsburgh beat Cleveland last Thursday. (AP)
By Will Brinson

The logical conclusion for the remainder of the Steelers season is that they will rest quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the Rams and Browns. In fact, on Wednesday we noted rumors that Ben would likely be out Saturday against Cleveland, despite the quarterback saying he was optimistic he'd play.

Roethlisberger was asked about those rumors specifically on Thursday, and, per Mike Bires of the Beaver County Times, staunchly denied that he's currently planning on sitting out against St. Louis.

"They always like to say things," Roethlisberger said when asked about reports that he wouldn't play. "Unless Coach said something, I will wait to hear it from him."

Roethlisberger, simply put, didn't look healthy against the 49ers. He looked like a guy with a bum ankle who needed rest in order to gain his mobility back, not to mention his ability to step into throws.

The Steelers obviously want to win the next two weeks, but they don't need to win. They hold the tiebreaker over the only three 8-6 teams -- the Bengals (head-to-head), the Broncos (conference record) and the Jets (conference record) -- that could potentially catch them for the fifth seed.

Pittsburgh could still win the AFC North, but it would require the Ravens losing to either the Browns at home or the Bengals on the road. Though the latter is certainly possible, it's still not likely, and if Charlie Batch is able to hand the ball off well enough to score 21 points each of the next two weeks, the Steelers could get away with resting Roethlisberger for the postseason.

Which is precisely why they should, even if Ben doesn't want to rest and is maintaining that the isn't planning on it yet.


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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com