Tag Archive | "afc north"

The Steelers are 1-4…they’re not beating the Ravens on Sunday.

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The Steelers are 1-4…they’re not beating the Ravens on Sunday.

Posted on 18 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

This Ravens-Steelers game is impossible to pick.

Anything could happen.

As inept as both offenses have been, would it be out of the question for both of them to catch lightning in a bottle on Sunday and put up 20-something points somehow?  I can see it now;  Roethlisberger wakes up on the right side of the bed, the Steelers o-line is decent enough to keep him upright most of the afternoon, and Big Ben finds Antonio Brown twice for big gains to help give Pittsburgh two scoring drives.  Later, a punt return puts them down to the Ravens 25-yard line.  A pass interference call gives Pittsburgh first and goal and they punch it on the ground two plays later.  Add a couple of field goals and suddenly they have 27 points, somehow.

The same goes with the Ravens.  Flacco and Torrey Smith connect on a couple of 50 yard throws.  Ray Rice scampers in from six yards out.  Bernard Pierce busts in from the three yard line.  Lardarius Webb snags a ball that bounces off of someone’s shoulder pads and takes it down to the Pittsburgh 13.  On the next play, Flacco finds Marlon Brown in the end zone.  A field goal or two from Justin Tucker and you have a 24 or 27 point output.

I can see both of those scenarios.  At some point, don’t these two offenses have to produce a game that makes them look like a major league team offensively?

I think so.

But it won’t happen this Sunday.  The two defenses are too good to let that stuff happen.

Ravens win 14-9.  Pittsburgh’s 1-4 for a reason.  They stink.  And they’re not winning on Sunday.

(That said, if Baltimore loses on Sunday, all hell’s gonna break loose around here.  You can make book on that.)

 

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“The Reality Check” 2013 NFL season projections

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“The Reality Check” 2013 NFL season projections

Posted on 04 September 2013 by WNST Staff

Glenn Clark’s Projections…

AFC East
New England Patriots 9-7 (wins division via tiebreaker)
Miami Dolphins 9-7
New York Jets 3-13
Buffalo Bills 2-14

AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals 12-4
Baltimore Ravens 11-5 (Wild Card 5 seed)
Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7
Cleveland Browns 5-11

AFC South
Houston Texans 13-3
Indianapolis Colts 11-5 (Wild Card 6 seed)
Tennessee Titans 6-10
Jacksonville Jaguars 4-12

AFC West
Denver Broncos 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
San Diego Chargers 3-13
Oakland Raiders 2-14

AFC Playoffs
Wild Card: Baltimore Ravens beat New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts beat Denver Broncos
Divisional: Baltimore Ravens beat Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans beat Indianapolis Colts
AFC Championship Game: Houston Texans beat Baltimore Ravens

(Continued on Page 2…)

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49ers Offense is S.O.F.T.

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49ers Offense is S.O.F.T.

Posted on 29 January 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

One of the things that has made this Ravens playoff run especially satisfying for fans of the team has been their ability time and again to prove the national media and the national consensus wrong. The Ravens have been written off at seemingly every turn of their playoff run, and just as quickly as they can prove the doubters and their perceptions wrong, along comes a new opponent with a fresh set of reasons to write off a team whose accomplishments have been diminished far too easily and often as emotion and destiny.


The sad fact, for football fans in general, is that the more you that watch games and then compare what you’ve seen to what the pundits are spewing, the quicker you come to realize that those who are paid to opine and comment on football games can’t seem to be bothered to actually watch much football. Instead it seems that many have defaulted into the habit of watching whatever games are of local interest to them or are being served up in their areas, along with the prime time games, and then forming their opinions on the rest of the field based on what they’ve seen in highlight packages or heard from someone else.

That being the case, this seems to be a Super Bowl match-up served specifically into the collective wheelhouse of the lazy media, as there’s little useful film on either of these teams outside of their playoff games. The Ravens changed offensive coordinators near the end of their season and took a couple of weeks to find a rhythm as an offense. Also, the national media seems to have been mesmerized by the Ray Lewis story to such an extent that they’ve missed the biggest single reason for the Ravens improved results, the inclusion of Bryant McKinnie on the offensive line. McKinnie’s presence has not only improved the Ravens at left tackle, but by casting Michael Oher back to right tackle has improved the team there too, and that move having pushed Kelechi Osemele to left guard has improved a 3rd offensive line position making the impact of McKinnie exponential.

The results have been undeniable, quarterback Joe Flacco, now better protected seems to have more time and confidence in the pocket allowing him to focus downfield and utilize his greatest strength, his strong and accurate arm. In the lead-up to the Broncos game, no one was suggesting that Denver had an issue in their secondary, because they hadn’t shown one all year. Hindsight now shows that perhaps the edge rush capabilities of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil was a big part of the secondary’s success. When that pass rush was neutralized by the Ravens new look offensive line, the secondary couldn’t find an answer and the rest was academic.

Hindsight as well would suggest that the “finesse” offenses of the Broncos and Patriots weren’t ready to respond to the physical style of play that the Ravens defense brings regularly. The evidence, on the Patriots side of the equation was there based on their previous meetings with the Ravens, as well as their inability to deal with the physical defensive stylings of the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals. The NFC West, it seems, is becoming very AFC North-like when it comes to defensive prowess.

As the Ravens and 49ers prepare to meet for a title, the read option offense run by the Niners and the bold decision by coach Jim Harbaugh to change quarterbacks mid-season are the talk of the football world. What’s being overlooked however, probably because of the physical nature of San Francisco’s defense, is that their offense hasn’t exactly responded well to the physical style of play the Ravens defense projects to bring to the table against them. The Niners are bullies on defense but may be prone to getting bullied on offense.

The 49ers are a Slick Offensive Football Team. Their current brand of offense is geared more toward getting defenses off balance and tricking them than it is to simply lining up and beating teams physically. There’s nothing wrong with that, as league-wide there are plenty of teams finding success with that formula; unfortunately for San Francisco, they haven’t been finding success against defenses like the Ravens.

Slick Offensive Football Team = S.O.F.T.

While Colin Kaepernick seems to be the wildcard in the assessment of the 49ers offense, the team’s handling of Kaepernick makes it even wilder. Not only did the Niners change QBs mid-season, but even after making the change they seemed to try making him fit into a pro-style offense and force him to be a pocket QB. Once the playoffs came around though, the Niners have gone much more read option heavy and as a result, much like the Ravens, it becomes difficult to draw many conclusions about the 49ers based on anything other than their playoff games based on a glaring and dramatic change in strategy.

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Ravens’ opponents set for 2013 season

Posted on 26 December 2012 by Luke Jones

After clinching their second straight AFC North division title on Sunday, the Ravens now know who they will play during the 2013 regular season.

Baltimore will play the NFC North for the first time since the 2009 season and will take on the entire AFC East for the first time since 2010. The Ravens will also play the AFC South and AFC West division winners, Houston and Denver.

Of course, dates and times will not be determined until late April, but here are their 2013 games …

HOME: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New England, New York Jets, Green Bay, Minnesota, Houston

AWAY: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Denver

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Harbaugh makes the right call by playing to win in Cincinnati

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Harbaugh makes the right call by playing to win in Cincinnati

Posted on 25 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

The Ravens are heading to Cincinnati for a football game on Sunday.

And they’re going to try and win.

As they should.

There will be plenty of people this week who suggest that John Harbaugh should rest the bulk of his starting 22 for the upcoming season finale against the Bengals.  Those folks will say “No way New England is losing to Miami” or “There’s no reason to risk a starter in a game that doesn’t matter” or “The number one goal is to be healthy for playoffs.”

Those are also the same folks who strolled into M&T Bank with a smirk on their face back on December 2 when Charlie Batch led the Steelers to town and said to anyone who would listen, “We’re not going to lose to Charlie Batch, obviously.”

Full disclosure: I was one of those people…but I didn’t have a smirk on my face as I walked into the stadium.

But I won’t be one of those goofs this week who recommends that the Ravens lay down in Cincinnati.  John Harbaugh hasn’t had the greatest December of his coaching career, but he’s getting this one right.  He must direct the Ravens to head to the Queen City fully intent on winning the game and, perhaps, securing the number three seed in the AFC.

To do anything else other than put your best AVAILABLE team on the field would make zero sense.

The word “available” above is in ALL CAPS for a reason.  Harbaugh shouldn’t play anyone who wouldn’t normally play in the game.  In other words, you simply put the 53 men out there who are healthy enough to play in an NFL game.  If Anquan Boldin’s shoulder is sore and he can’t practice Thursday and Friday, you sit him out of the Cincy game.  But if he practices and can play, he suits up and plays.

Saying “they should rest the guys who are banged up” is silly, because you’d be telling about 15 players not to play on Sunday. At this time of the season, nearly every starter or 35-snap a game back-up has an ailment that could use a couple of weeks of rest.  But, as the saying goes, there’s no rest for the weary.

So, Harbaugh should treat this game just like he plans for an early October contest.  The 53 players who can go, go.

Why?

Because as far as the Ravens go, the most important thing for them in the upcoming post-season can be summed up in two words.  ”Home Field”.  I’ve paid attention to the Ravens this season and they’re nothing if not completely mysterious on the road.  At home, they’re a threat to beat anyone.  Away, they’re liable to stink it up worse than the Rolling Stones did at the 12/12/12 concert for Sandy relief.

They will either go into the post-season as the 3rd or 4th seed.  That means the maximum amount of home games they can play in the playoffs would be two.  They get a home game on either Jan. 5 or 6, then play on the road the following weekend if they win the opener in Baltimore.  Somehow, if the wild card teams win their games (which, if you check over the last five years, happens enough to never say never), the Ravens could wind up hosting the AFC title game.  Remember back in 2006 when the Colts beat the Ravens in Baltimore?  Guess who hosted the AFC championship game the following week when New England – the four seed – eliminated San Diego?  Right…the Colts.  Guess who went to the Super Bowl and won a couple of weeks after that?  Correct again, if you said “Colts”.

So — while the possibility still exists that your team could host the AFC title game, you go 100% in an effort to better your position on the chance you wind up getting the championship game in your building.

It’s that simple, really.

(Please see next page) 

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Rice says Flacco is best at handling pressure

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Rice says Flacco is best at handling pressure

Posted on 23 December 2012 by WNSTV

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Flacco: “I believe in myself and I believe in this team”

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Flacco: “I believe in myself and I believe in this team”

Posted on 23 December 2012 by WNSTV

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Your Monday Reality Check: I Get Why You’re Saying You’d Prefer Blowouts

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Your Monday Reality Check: I Get Why You’re Saying You’d Prefer Blowouts

Posted on 10 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

It didn’t take long.

“The thing is-I’d prefer them to be getting blown out than losing the way they’re losing.”

I can’t remember who it was, and I apologize if it was you. It wasn’t long into “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” Sunday night on WNST that I got the first one. And it wasn’t the only time I heard/read it Sunday. I got it in a few emails and social media messages.

It wasn’t the most infuriating thing I heard Sunday night. In fact, it wasn’t really infuriating at all.

I get it. Honestly, I get it.

I mean, I hope all of us who were greatly bothered by seeing the Baltimore Ravens suffer a second consecutive loss Sunday (this time in overtime at the Washington Redskins) are understanding that 1-the team’s season is FAR from over and 2-no organization with a 9-4 record in a NFL season can EVER be vastly concerned about the following season or any seasons to come.

The only thing the organization can be concerned about is winning their next game, a visit from the Denver Broncos in the case of the Baltimore Ravens.

While you’re questioning the future of the Offensive Coordinator, the quarterback, who stays and goes on the defensive side of the ball and who could be cut to free room under the salary cap; the organization is ONLY concerned about how to break a lengthy losing streak against Peyton Manning and how a maligned Offensive Line can contain Von Miller.

They’ve thought about some of those same things, but they’ll worry about them after the season.

Some of you are struggling with the notion that the season hasn’t ended for the Baltimore Ravens in the course of the last eight days. It was rain falling today in Charm City, but it felt like it was the sky.

If the Ravens HAD been blown out in their last two games and hadn’t managed to pull off a few miracles (a missed Dan Bailey field goal lifting them past the Dallas Cowboys, the impossible 4th & 29 conversion in San Diego) or hold on in some of the uglier games in recent franchise history (wins at Kansas City and Pittsburgh that came without a single offensive touchdown), the Baltimore Ravens would sit at 5-8 and feel much more comfortable about declaring both the season over and welcoming panic within the building at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills.

Instead, they have all but clinched a fifth consecutive postseason appearance and are in no ways guaranteed to not be able to make a run towards a second consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance.

When you tell me you’d prefer blowouts, I understand what you’re really saying. You’re REALLY saying you don’t think the Ravens are going to make that type of run and you’d prefer to see the organization start answering more difficult questions now than have to wait another four or five weeks.

It’s understandable. The most likely scenario for the Ravens is that they’ll enter the playoffs as the AFC North champion (they need only one more win in any game the rest of the way to lock it up) but having lost anywhere from two to four (or I guess even all five) of their final five games. It’s reasonable to assume they won’t enter the postseason playing a particularly consistent level of football.

It’s easier for us to discuss long term questions like “should Cam Cameron be fired?”, “how much is Joe Flacco worth?”, “what do you do with Michael Oher?”, “has Jimmy Smith made enough progress to feel comfortable letting Cary Williams walk?”, “is there any future for Ed Reed here?” and “would cutting Anquan Boldin provide the cap room the organization needs?”

But the only real questions at the moment are more along the lines of “what will the team do if they’re missing Marshal Yanda for a significant amount of time?”, “can Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe and Terrell Suggs return in time to face Denver?” and “should Corey Graham still start after Smith returns?”

None of those questions sound like they’ll make the type of difference necessary to see the Ravens look like Super Bowl contenders again.

That’s where the organization is after 14 weeks of the 2012 NFL season.

I know you don’t REALLY mean you’d rather see the Ravens getting blown out right now, but I understand why it feels that way.

-G

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The Steelers manned-up on Sunday…too bad Mike Tomlin didn’t do the same thing

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The Steelers manned-up on Sunday…too bad Mike Tomlin didn’t do the same thing

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

Mike Tomlin owes John Harbaugh an apology.  Or, at the very least, an explanation.

More on that later.

I’ve championed John Harbaugh’s cause here in Baltimore because I think he’s a very good football coach.  His record, here, does all the speaking that needs to be done.  Coaches are paid to do one thing: win games.  John has done that since arriving in Baltimore in 2008.

That said, I have occasionally nitpicked at Harbaugh for things like an “unnecessary” fake field goal against the Raiders a month ago or the 2-pointer against the Steelers on opening day, 2011, when Baltimore was already pounding the Steelers but felt justified in having Sam Koch dash into the end zone on a fake extra-point to make a blow out even more of a blow out.  There was also the time-out at the end of a meaningless pre-season game against the Chiefs a couple of years ago…one that Todd Haley chirped about during the post-game greeting at midfield.

John Harbaugh has had a moment or two where I thought he was bordering on showing-up-the-other-team and I’ve never been afraid to make those assessments on the radio because I always take pride in calling it as I see it, even if that means being critical of my hometown football or baseball team.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been right in doing so, either.  In the days following the fake-field-goal-for-a-TD gainst the Raiders, I bought into John’s way of thinking, even though initially I said it looked bad to forego an easy field goal and tack on another four points “just because”.  In the end, Harbaugh was right when he said, “Look, if you’re going to basically set up your defense to give us a free run at a touchdown, we’re going to take it and that’s that.”  Truth?  He was right, even if it meant I had to change my stance on it from my original reaction on Sunday.

But, again, before some unsophisticated goof stumbles in here and starts blabbing about how I’m a homer and I’m just pissed the Ravens lost to the Steelers and all that other Who Struck John?, I’ll remind any and all of you that I simply call it like it is — and sometimes that means I’ve had to take issue with something our own coach has done.

Let’s get back to the Tomlin apology-thing I referenced in the opening sentence.

In his five years in Baltimore, John Harbaugh has never once pulled a bush-league stunt like Mike Tomlin produced on Sunday evening after his Steelers edged the Ravens in Baltimore, 23-20.

Coaches are, in my humble opinion, the most special people in all of sports.  I’ve said that for a long time now and the more I’m around them, the more I know I’m right.  We throw the word “elite” around all the time when we talk about quarterbacks in the NFL, but the truth of the matter is that there are six of them in the league right now who are of that caliber and the only way to earn that label is by winning a title.  It’s different for coaches.  NFL head coaches are all elite when you take into account their responsibility, work ethic and dedication to preparation.  All 32 men who run NFL teams are, literally, elite human beings.

Unlike the players, who shower, answer a text message or 23, and then head off to Washington DC to party after a home game, the men who coach in the NFL are bound to their job in a 24/7 fashion that I’m confident none of us – including me – could handle with the same grace and dignity.

And that includes Mike Tomlin, he of a Super Bowl ring and a massive amount of respect-appeal from around the NFL.

Mike Tomlin is one helluva football coach.  I’ve said and written that a lot over the last five years.

But he committed the most unprofessional of sins on Sunday when he disrespectfully brushed past Harbaugh at midfield as the losing coach stuck out his hand to offer well wishes.

Yes, Tomlin’s right hand connected with Harbaugh’s.

But his eyes didn’t.

For reasons only Mike Tomlin can explain, he eschewed the proper protocol on Sunday night and did his best to avoid any personal interaction with the Ravens coach as the two met at midfield.

Now would be the time for you to check out THE VIDEO OF THE HANDSHAKE for yourself, so you know exactly what transpired.

It was unprofessional.

Bush league.

And, honestly, surprising.

I expected more from Tomlin, truth be known.

Here’s what I know as fact:

Harbaugh has a great amount of professional respect for Mike Tomlin.  Without mailing him a Christmas card or anything sappy like that, the Ravens coach has admired the way Tomlin has kept the Steelers together this season with their depleted offensive line, a broken down running game and the loss of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

That was going to be John’s brief post-game message to Mike Tomlin on Sunday night, win or lose.

Unfortunately for Harbaugh, he had to man-up as the losing coach.

John’s offering would be simple but a high compliment for his rival: “Hey, congratulations.  You’ve done one helluva job with your team, Mike.  Nicely done.  Good luck the rest of the way.”

Soup to nuts, it would have taken four seconds, five if you count the friendly pat on the rump as Tomlin turns to head to the locker room.

That’s what Harbaugh intended to say to Tomlin on Sunday.

(Please see next page)

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Ravens Loss is No Big Deal

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Ravens Loss is No Big Deal

Posted on 03 December 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

There’s plenty of blame to go around in the aftermath of the Ravens loss on Sunday at the hands of the Steelers, and I’m quite certain we’ll be assessing that blame and going over the shortcomings of the team for the majority of this week on the airwaves and blogosphere at WNST.net. In the grander scheme of things however, this should have been an easy outcome to predict. It can be simplified as easy as the following; the Ravens had little to play for on Sunday and the Steelers had everything to play for.

Knowing what we know about both of those teams, we should have known enough. Ravens and Steelers has been universally recognized as football’s best current rivalry and for some the best rivalry in sports period. That legacy didn’t begin with Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger; they just made it more interesting. For the last 12 years at least, through Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright and Jeff Blake and Troy Smith, through Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich, the Ravens vs. the Steelers has been, more often than not, a slugfest decided by a minimal number of points in the latest stages of the game. There was no reason to guess that this one would be any different.

 

A loss would have dropped the Steelers to 6-6 and put a serious damper on their playoff hopes. It wasn’t exactly do or die for Pittsburgh, but it’s about as close as it gets in week 13 of the NFL season. For the Ravens however, a win didn’t mean much. A win over the Steelers, coupled with a Bengals loss at San Diego would have cemented the AFC North for the Ravens, but for all intents and purposes the Ravens are the AFC North champions. Whether it became official in week 13 or has to wait until week 16 or 17, it’s near impossible to imagine the Ravens not winning the division.

 

A win on Sunday would have had the Ravens playing the Broncos in Week 15 with the second seed in the AFC and a first round bye in the balance. A loss on Sunday has still left the Ravens looking ahead to a week 15 showdown with the Broncos with the second seed in the AFC and a first round bye in the balance. All Sunday’s loss vs. the Steelers did for the Ravens was to delay their inevitable clinching of their own division, and to serve internal notice that there’s still work to be done.

 

The Steelers played like a team that needed desperately to win on Sunday; that’s because they were a team desperate to win on Sunday. Pittsburgh, coming off of two consecutive losses (in their own division no less) is left with no choice but to embrace the remainder of the season with a playoff caliber of urgency. The Ravens on the other hand had nothing really to gain from a win on Sunday, and they also played just that way. Assuming that the Texans can’t be caught, as I think most do, the Ravens could afford to lose one of their final 5 games and still hold onto their second spot in the AFC as long as that loss didn’t come against Denver. Now they’ve lost it and restored a sense of urgency (hopefully) to the remainder of the season.

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