Posted on 17 December 2015 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos
The NFL’s version of the final four is upon us, and the Seattle Seahawks are poised to defend their crown and repeat as champions. In the NFC, Russell Wilson is going after his second Super Bowl ring, as well as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. In the AFC matchup, Tom Brady has a chance to climb the Mt. Rushmore of 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Andrew Luck leads the upstart Indianapolis Colts, as the only quarterback in the tournament who is attempting to win his first Lombardi Trophy.
Ever since the Patriots caught fire after their dismal performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a national football audience, I’ve been predicting a Patriots – Seahawks finale. I still believe that after this Sunday’s games are over, those are still the two teams that will be left standing.
I expect the Patriots to activate Jonas Gray, and come out running against the Indianapolis Colts. Gray rushed for over 200 yards in Lucas Oil stadium, and with the addition of LeGarrette Blount, I expect more of the same this Sunday. Bill Belichick is a master of situational football, and just like he abandoned the run in the Patriots’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in the prior week, he will once again adapt his personnel to match his opponent.
On the other side of the ball, I do not believe that the Colts can go up to New England without a running game, and get away with it. They will go only as far as Andrew Luck will take them, and Belichick will take away what Luck does best, he will commit more players to defend the pass, and dare the Colts to run on his defense.
The Seattle Seahawks look to be a team on a mission. They are peaking at the right time, and their defense is the difference maker. They have solid corners, unbelieveable safeties, active linebackers, and a defensive line that at times is dominant. They have a mercurial quarterback in Wilson, arguably the best running back in the NFL in Lynch, and they don’t beat themselves. They are also the most complete team in the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers have come this far with sheer grit and determination, and on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. His calf injury has hindered his play, but on one leg he is still better than most NFL QBs on two legs. The key to the Packers having a chance is to unleash stout running back Eddie Lacy, but I do not see his offensive line opening up holes for him. He’ll have to make his own, and although he is capable of just that, I don’t believe it is going to be enough.
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Posted on 04 October 2014 by Luke Jones
A 3-1 record through the first quarter of the season has made a statement that the Ravens are a playoff-caliber team, but a road win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday would scream they belong among the NFL’s elite.
Despite an offense that was ranked 29th in the NFL last season, the Ravens bring a revamped unit to Lucas Oil Stadium that’s ranked sixth in total yards and tied for seventh in points per game, which could lead to a shootout against an Indianapolis offense ranking first in total yards and averaging a league-leading 34.0 points per game. Of course, the Colts’ numbers benefited from playing two woeful teams, Tennessee and Jacksonville, in their last two games while the Ravens have only played one game away from M&T Bank Stadium so far this season.
The Baltimore secondary has faced much scrutiny this season and will face its biggest test in quarterback Andrew Luck and the NFL’s top-ranked passing game. The Ravens rank 24th in pass defense, but a stout run defense has often made opponents one-dimensional and the pass rush finally showed up in a convincing 38-10 win over Carolina last Sunday.
Sunday marks the 11th all-time meeting between the Ravens and Indianapolis in the regular season with the Colts holding a 7-3 advantage. Baltimore is winless in four regular-season trips to Indianapolis. The good news for the Ravens is they got the best of the Colts in their only meeting against Luck that came in the 2012 postseason, which also served as their only playoff win against Indianapolis in three tries.
Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to begin a difficult stretch of four of five games on the road with a win on Sunday …
1. The Baltimore running game wins the time of possession battle as Justin Forsett is the leading rusher in an attack that goes over 125 yards on the ground again. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak always prefers establishing the run, but it will be even more critical in a game with such a prolific offense on the opposing side. Indianapolis is allowing 4.4 yards per carry, which indicates the Ravens should be able to move the ball effectively on the ground to set up play-action passes. The recently-injured Bernard Pierce will see some action unlike last week, but Forsett will still lead the Ravens in rushing yards in what will be a three-back timeshare.
2. Indianapolis uses a no-huddle attack to keep the Ravens’ pass rush on its heels and to help a very shaky offensive line. Even with a big lead, the Colts pushed the tempo against Tennessee last week, and they’ll use a similar style to keep the Baltimore front on its heels and to protect an offensive line that’s already surrendered 13 quarterback hits and 22 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s no secret that three-step drops limit any defense’s ability to get to the quarterback, but the Ravens have been especially vulnerable to this over the last couple years and a quicker tempo will make the defense too flatfooted in the second half, especially with Chris Canty unlikely to play and Terrell Suggs less than 100 percent.
3. Colts cornerback Vontae Davis and bracketed coverage finally make Steve Smith look human, but Torrey Smith catches a touchdown and posts a season-high 105 receiving yards. After collecting 429 receiving yards in four weeks, the elder Smith will finally receive consistent attention befitting a No. 1 receiver as Davis will shadow him and receive extra help whenever possible. Steve Smith will still have a presence, but it will be Torrey Smith with a dynamic performance against an Indianapolis defense ranking 21st in pass defense. The fourth-year wideout will catch a long score on an effective play-action fake that makes new starting free safety Sergio Brown — filling in for the suspended LaRon Landry — bite.
4. A secondary that’s been shaky all year finally crumbles as Luck throws for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees stood up for the play of his pass defense this week, but the Colts have too many weapons for top cornerback Jimmy Smith to account for and no one else inspires enough confidence to slow such a passing game. Cornerback Lardarius Webb wasn’t listed on the injury report for the second straight week, but it’s impossible to have any expectations for him until he finally takes extensive snaps in live-game action. An improved pass rush against Carolina helped mask issues in coverage, but the Ravens won’t be able to do the same with Indianapolis using an up-tempo attack, which will lead to a long day for the back end of the defense.
5. Quarterback Joe Flacco has another strong afternoon, but the Baltimore offense can’t quite hang with Indianapolis in a 30-24 loss to snap a three-game winning streak. At the start of the season, I wouldn’t have given the Ravens much of a chance to win this one, but a stronger-than-expected Baltimore offense and the Colts’ less-than-impressive offensive line will make this a close one. In the same way that the Colts’ two wins have come against less-than-stellar competition, I can’t be convinced that a shaky road win over Cleveland is enough evidence that the Ravens can carry over performances on the road like what we saw against Carolina last week. Flacco will play at a high level against a very ordinary defense, but the Baltimore defense won’t force enough stops against Luck and the Colts to pull out the road upset.
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Posted on 06 January 2014 by Drew Forrester
Musings from a sports-filled weekend —
A friend of mine sent me a text on Friday morning and asked me to give him the winner of the PGA Tour event in Hawaii. After quizzing him on why he didn’t text me the day before (Thursday is the traditional start day for a pro tournament, but they’re playing this one Friday through Monday), I quickly shot him back the name of the winner: “Take Jordan Spieth” I texted.
Lots of people over the last decade and a half have wondered when the next young gun would come along to challenge the likes of Tiger Woods. A lot of names have surfaced, some have completely fizzled, some have made some money, but none – make that NONE – have come close to being as good as Woods. College golf hotshots come and go like the breeze. These guys – among others – were going to be the guy to challenge Woods: Luke Donald (has as many major titles as you, me and your neighbor’s cat), Troy Matteson (who?), Ryan Moore (nice hat), Jamie Lovemark (still looking for a win) and Rickie Fowler (sharp dresser, can’t win a big one).
But wait…because someone HAS showed up — and he WILL challenge Woods and all of those big wigs on the PGA Tour.
His name is Jordan Spieth.
Win or lose today in Hawaii (he’s tied for the lead through 54 holes), he’s the one “kid” that’s come along who has staying power. He’s an all-world putter, which means he can win on any given week. He drives it like a maniac and stripes his irons. Once he spends an off-season or two learning some short game wizardy like Woods and Phil Mickelson, he’ll be the guy everyone tries to beat well into the next decade.
He’ll finish with more career major titles than Mickelson.
Oh, and I’m opening up my own Fantasy Golf tips business. It’s $2.75 for a “regular event” and $6.50 for a major.
There’s nothing else new to say about Towson football that hasn’t been said already, either on Twitter, Facebook or here, at WNST.net.
Rob Ambrose has turned Towson football into a championship program, despite getting beat in the FCS title game on Saturday, 35-7. That’s it. His first two years, they won three games total. Saturday in Frisco, Texas, they played for the national championship.
They’ll be back…and they’ll win one of those championships.
Two takes from Saturday night’s Caps loss in Minnesota.
Those sweaters the Wild wore were freaking sharp. I need one of those. Holy cow.
Next — the Caps aren’t very good. They need some offense. Big time. They CREATE chances. Chances galore. But they can’t finish them off.
They’ll make the playoffs, but don’t be saving up your money for a cross country trip to Anaheim for the Stanley Cup Finals. Ain’t happenin’, Caps fans.
By the way, Martin Erat of the Caps has one goal in 48 games over two seasons for the Caps.
If I had played in 48 games, even now at the tender age of 50, I’d have two goals.
Florida State gets a visit from the Cleat of Reality tonight in the national championship game.
Auburn 34 – Florida State 28
Gotta tip your hat to Andrew Luck for what he pulled off on Saturday in Indianapolis.
The kid’s a freakin’ big-time player.
Let’s see what he does on Saturday in New England against the genius coach up there.
Posted on 08 January 2013 by Glenn Clark
Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”
It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.
This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.
Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in an AFC Wild Card playoff game…
(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)
Glenn Clark’s Plays…
5. Pernell McPhee recovers Andrew Luck fumble after Paul Kruger sack, strip (1st quarter)
4. Anquan Boldin 46 yard catch from Joe Flacco (3rd quarter)
3. Cary Williams intercepts Andrew Luck pass intended for Reggie Wayne, returns 41 yards (4th quarter)
2. Ray Rice 47 yard catch from Joe Flacco (2nd quarter)
1. Bernard Pierce 43 yard run on 3rd & 1 (4th quarter)
(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)
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Posted on 06 January 2013 by Drew Forrester
If you’re looking for some points-of-light besides the Ray Lewis story, I’ll go ahead and give you some. I’m sure everyone else in the media will handle the Ray-retirement angle, so I’ll look back at Sunday’s 24-9 whipping of Indianapolis and give you four different things on which to chew.
Not in any order of importance, mind you, but here’s what happened on Sunday.
The stage was too big for Luck
Sure, he threw for a handful more yards (six) than Joe Flacco. He also had thirty-one more attempts. Yes, you read that right. The kid had 288 yards on 54 attempts while his opponent in purple was an effective 12-for-23 for 282 yards. Luck’s QB rating was woeful (59.8) while Flacco’s was superb (125.6).
Simply put, Andrew Luck wasn’t very good on Sunday afternoon.
Now, let’s note right from the start that his offensive line was horrendous. And that’s being kind.
But the golden boy from Stanford – the likely Rookie of the Year in the NFL – was hardly a threat all afternoon, particularly in the first half when he looked completely rattled. His deep balls had too much air under them and his inability to sniff out pressure led to far too many scrambles and errant throws. Luck did settle down in the second half and was a tad better, but years from now he’ll look back on this performance and wince at how rookie-ish he looked for most of the day.
He’ll have plenty of big games in his career, but Sunday’s outing in Baltimore surely wasn’t one of them.
McKinnie steps in and steps up
With left guard Jah Reid out, John Harbaugh was forced to shuffle his offensive line on Sunday, and the emergency nod went to veteran Bryant McKinnie, who played left tackle in place of Michael Oher, who was switched to right tackle so that Kelechi Osemele could sub for Reid at right guard. Get it? McKinnie was the big benefactor of the Reid injury, and the Ravens prospered as well, as the big man put together a nice afternoon protecting Joe Flacco.
A week ago in Cincinnati, McKinnie saw extensive playing time in the final three quarters and to say he looked disinterested would be like saying Ray Lewis looked “sort of” fired up for Sunday’s home finale.
McKinnie has spent most of the 2012 season on the bench. He’s also spent most of the season out-of-shape, overweight and, when pressed into duty, he’s been largely ineffective, no pun intended.
But Harbaugh got him to break a sweat last week in practice when Reid wasn’t able to suit up and the 5th year coach rolled the dice that his veteran left tackle might actually try in the Colts game.
It was a gamble, of course, for Harbaugh saw just one week before in Cincinnati that McKinnie’s series-by-series effort was basically a coin flip.
But the decision worked out for the coach and the offense, as McKinnie stood up to Dwight Freeney for four quarters and kept Flacco upright virtually all day long.
(Please see next page)
Posted on 05 January 2013 by Luke Jones
The Ravens meet the Indianapolis Colts in the postseason for the third time ever on Sunday and will be looking for their first playoff triumph over the franchise that used to play in Baltimore.
Of course, the Colts no longer enjoy the services of Peyton Manning for this playoff matchup as the future Hall of Fame quarterback broke Baltimore’s heart to end its 2006 and 2009 seasons. Indianapolis has begun a new era this year with rookie head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano providing the inspiration in beating leukemia as the Colts made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback and an 11-5 record after last season’s 2-14 disaster.
The Ravens already had plenty of incentive in advancing to their fifth postseason in five years under coach John Harbaugh, but Wednesday’s announcement that future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis intends to retire after the season almost made the game an afterthought in the buildup this week. It figures to be a scene unlike any other in the history of Baltimore sports as Lewis walks out of the tunnel to not only play in his first game since Week 6 but also perform his decorated pre-game dance for the final time.
Indianapolis leads the all-time regular-season series with a 7-3 record and owns a 2-0 mark over the Ravens in the postseason while Baltimore looks to improve on its NFL-best mark of winning at least one playoff game in each of the last four seasons. The Ravens are the only team in the league to advance to the postseason in each of the last five years.
Here’s what to expect as the AFC North champion Ravens attempt to exorcise some demons against Indianapolis at M&T Bank Stadium …
1. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce will combine for 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Indianapolis has played abysmal run defense this season and allows an average of 5.1 yards per carry, good for 31st in the league. This was on full display in Week 16 when the Colts allowed 345 rushing yards in a win over Kansas City. The Colts do not have a good front seven as its defensive line and veterans Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have struggled mightily in adjusting to Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will offer a heavy dose of Rice and the rookie Pierce to open up the middle of the field as Indianapolis tries to put eight men in the box early in the game. The Ravens will use a similar formula to the one used against the New York Giants in Week 16 when they rushed for 224 yards on 45 carries to wear down the New York front. A similar plan would keep the Indianapolis offense off the field and tire out a vulnerable, underwhelming defense.
2. Showing impressive poise in his first playoff game, Andrew Luck will have a respectable day and connect with T.Y. Hilton for a long touchdown pass. The No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft has lived up to expectations in his rookie season, throwing for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions while orchestrating seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, the most by an NFL rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger. Luck has even cut down on the interceptions by not throwing one in the final three games of the regular season, with two of those games coming against a formidable Houston defense. The speedy Hilton led all rookie receivers in 100-yard receiving games and touchdown receptions while finishing second among rookies with 861 receiving yards. With plenty of attention being paid to the timeless veteran Reggie Wayne, Hilton will get behind an improving but inconsistent secondary to catch a deep ball from Luck for a touchdown.
3. Ed Reed will put his stamp on the game with an interception in what could be his final appearance as a Raven in Baltimore. The 37-year-old Lewis will receive most of the attention Sunday — and rightfully so — but the writing appears to be on the wall for the 34-year-old Reed, who hasn’t engaged in any contract talks with the organization since before the 2011 season. Reed declined commenting on his intentions after the season, saying he wasn’t “in that mindset” now, so you know the Pro Bowl safety will be looking to bait a rookie quarterback into making a mistake. Reed has appeared to guess recklessly instead of taking calculated gambles more often than not this season, but the future Hall of Fame defensive back always seems to rise to the occasion in the biggest games. Last year, Reed had an interception and broke up six passes in two postseason games. It may not be a highlight interception return for a touchdown, but Reed will pick off Luck to give Ravens fans a potential final thrill.
4. An effective running game will allow Joe Flacco to thrive using play-action as Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin have strong days against the Indianapolis pass defense. It goes without saying how big this postseason will be for the fifth-year quarterback as his rookie contract is set to expire and he plays his first playoff game without former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The Colts defense hasn’t been as bad against the pass (21st in the NFL) as it’s been against the run, but Indianapolis will be susceptible to play action as the Ravens run the ball extensively. Inside linebackers Kavell Conner and Jerrell Freeman are not particularly good in pass coverage, meaning Pitta and Boldin could have a field day over the middle, intermediate portion. It doesn’t need to be a 300-yard passing day by Flacco for the Ravens to win, but the Baltimore quarterback will be efficient and take some shots vertically against cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn and Vontae Davis to keep Indianapolis honest in trying to defend the run. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 225 passing yards and a touchdown should be plenty against the Colts.
5. With a returning Lewis playing in his final game in Baltimore, the Ravens will have the higher energy level to beat Indianapolis in a 27-17 final. When the 37-year-old linebacker made his announcement on Wednesday, the Ravens regained the emotional edge previously enjoyed by the underdog Colts, who played so admirably with their head coach battling cancer. I’m not envisioning Lewis making much of an impact physically, but the Ravens are the better team in this one despite failing to show it in the month of December, losing three of four before the Week 17 loss that amounted to little more than a preseason game. The Baltimore offense struggled at home against Pittsburgh and Denver in December, but those units finished first and second in yards allowed this season. This Colts defense is a far cry from those defense and the Ravens will have a very productive day playing in their home stadium. The energy level at M&T Bank Stadium may be unlike any we’ve ever seen in what’s already regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. That wave will give the Ravens an extra boost to dispose of the Colts in a fairly comfortable fashion. All other factors aside, the Ravens just aren’t losing in Lewis’ final game in Baltimore. The football gods simply won’t allow it.
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Posted on 27 December 2012 by jeffreygilley
The Ravens schedule in 2012 has been among the toughest. The Rams tied the Ravens with the fourth strongest schedule and the Browns, Broncos, and Giants were the only teams with stronger schedules.
The Bengals will line up against the Ravens with a lot to prove. They have vastly improved after a three and five start and the defense has led the charge.
The Ravens’ offensive line played very well last week against the Giants but the Bengals have pass rushing threats at the defensive tackle position where as the Giants do not. Therefore, look out for the matchup between Marshal Yanda and Atkins, it will be a great one to watch!
If the Ravens beat the Bengals, they would need help from the Dolphins who would have to beat the Patriots in Fox Borough for the Ravens to claim the third seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, this wont happen so the Ravens will most likely host Andrew Luck and Chick Pagano in the wild card round. Many are predicting a Ravens victory but the Colts are a very good team. The Ravens would have to lean on the run game seeing as the Colts rank 30th against the run.
If the Ravens beat the Colts and the Patriots beat the Bengals (which is likely), the Ravens would have to travel to Houston to play the Texans who have only beaten the Ravens once in their history which was earlier this season. The Ravens season might just end there and if they get past the Texans, the Ravens would host a rematch of the AFC Championship game from last season.
The Patriots and Texans are arguably the best two teams in the NFL. The Ravens would have to beat both of them to reach the Super Bowl. But with Ray Lewis coming back for the playoffs and the defense getting healthier, anything is possible.
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