A few quick thoughts while awaiting some football this weekend:
1. I know it’s only Week 5, but the Ravens absolutely must win this Sunday to have any hopes of a playoff season in ’07. I’m not going to agree with the notion that"it’s still early". Not after such an embarrassing showing last weekend in Cleveland. Not after another week of failing to pressure the passer. Not after forgetting about the running game (again) while Willis McGahee continues to be the best option on the offense. The time has come for the Ravens to get back to basics and manhandle opponents on both sides of the ball. Stop the ridiculous passing plays on third and short. Pound the ball! If it means getting more touches for Musa Smith in relief, so be it. But I’m telling you right now, if the offense is 65% passes to 35% rushes, it’s gonna be a long Sunday in San Francisco. It seems as if Coach Billick is only outsmarting himself lately.
2. After watching yesterday’s opening games of the baseball playoffs, a quick memo for Andy MacPhail: It’s the piching, stupid! Josh Beckett, Jeff Francis, Brandon Webb. Three terrific starts, three wins for these guys. As MacPhail begins designing his blueprint for this abomination of a franchise here, let’s hope he’s paying special attention to the playoffs. Because the one underlying theme for all the teams at the postseason party is strong starting pitching. Watch Yanks-Indians today for another reminder of what solid starters mean to a ballclub’s chances when Sabathia takes on Wang. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of MacPhail’s new job will be to persuade his owner to pay top dollar for "guys who only play every five days". Because it’s really the only way to victory in baseball, just like it was in the Orioles’ heyday, just like it’s been in baseball for about 130 years. Maybe MacPhail could even talk Big Peter into watching a game or two of these playoffs, just to, you know, educate and enlighten him a bit.
3. While I’m talking baseball, here’s my World Series pick: Boston vs. Colorado. Imagine seeing Rodrigo Lopez and Jorge Julio play for a ring! That seems only fair after having to spend parts of their careers here, doesn’t it?
4. This is a huge game for Maryland football this Saturday. I honestly wrote off the Terps after their meltdown against Wake Forest, only to watch them score one of their biggest wins under Coach Fridge last Saturday against Rutgers. If the Terps can run with the same success against Georgia Tech this Saturday, they should be victorious. But let’s see if there’s any kind of emotional letdown one week later; remember, they’re still a fairly young team, so you never know how they’ll respond. If they can keep the ball away from Tech’s strong running game, I say put it in the W column for Maryland.
5. Teams I like in the NFL this week against the spread. I’m certainly no handicapper, but for what it’s worth, I’d lay my ducats on these guys: Seattle (+5) @ Pittsburgh. The Seahawks are the NFC’s redheaded stepchildren, getting no respect, but they’re probably the conference’s second best team behind Dallas. Houston (-5.5) vs. Miami. Joey Porter plays for the Dolphins. Need I add anything more? Tampa Bay (+10) @ Indy. Injuries are beginning to mount for the Colts, and the Bucs are better than you think, even without Cadillac. Dallas (-10) @ Buffalo. Cowboys are deep, talented and too good to not blow out a rookie QB making his second start. Remember, I’m not a professional handicapper, so use these tips only if you’re truly desperate!