Tag Archive | "Arizona Cardinals"

MSB Monday Market Watch

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MSB Monday Market Watch

Posted on 19 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

5 On The Rise

#1 – Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox this weekend to close the gap in the AL Wild Card to 2 games with 10 games to go for each side. Whether the Sox can manage to hold off the Rays or not, they’re in trouble as injuries have taken another mighty toll on Boston this season. Still, after leading Tampa by 9 games as late as September 3rd, there will be no legitimate excuses for the Sox if they should somehow complete one of the worst late season collapses in modern baseball history.

 

If the Rays somehow find their way in, it’ll be to the chagrin of not just the Sox but of all of the AL teams who do make the playoffs too as the Rays formidable starting pitching has managed to keep them afloat as the bullpen and lineup have spent most of the year learning on the fly. Although it’s a small sample size, the Rays 11-4 record in their last 15 games suggests that they’re peaking at the right time.

 

Forecast: The schedule suggests that Boston is still in a pretty good place. Six of their 10 remaining games are on the road, but 3 of those and 7 overall of the last 10 are against Baltimore, against whom the Sox are 8-3 on the year. Their other 4 games are against the Yankees, who the Sox have owned to the tune of 11-4 so far this season. Tampa on the other hand has 6 of 10 games remaining at home and 7 of their remaining 10 against the Yankees, against whom they’re 5-6 on the season. Their other 3 games are against the Blue Jays, against whom they’re 10-5 so far.

 

With a magic number of 7 and 10 of their remaining 11 games against the Rays and Red Sox, the Yankees aren’t yet out of the woods either, igniting essentially 2 pennant races in the AL East when Yanks and Sox both appeared to be foregone conclusions just a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

#2 – The Atlantic Coast Conference – ACC fans have been waiting anxiously in the dark as the most recent round of Super-Conference manifest destinies began taking shape again. As all of the moves have seemingly been football driven, fans of the basketball first ACC sat hopefully expecting the conference to do it’s best to keep their 12-member alliance intact and maintain the status quo. Now it seems that the ACC may be on the fast track to becoming the nation’s first super conference as over the weekend news of the intents of both Syracuse and Pitt to join the ACC ranks began to spread.

 

At the very least, the 2 new members provide the conference with an insurance policy should the SEC come calling officially for Clemson and Florida State, but with UConn already rumored to be poised to follow, it seems but a mere formality that the ACC will add one more player to the mix and become an official Super-Conference with a giant TV network to follow. West Virginia, or on an outside shot South Carolina might be the best bets at #16.

 

Lost in the euphoria, but no less important this weekend, Miami upset #17 Ohio State, Clemson upset #21 Auburn and Maryland showed well (in the box score at least) against #18 West Virginia.

 

Forecast: So far so good it seems. Again, at the very least the ACC will be able to maintain 12 members should a couple succumb to the temptations of the SEC or some other budding Super-Conference and will be able to continue staging their own conference title games in football. At best, the ACC could win the race to 16 and become the first of likely many Super-Conferences. Keep in mind though that the most recent versions of ACC expansion didn’t exactly bring about the anticipated results or football credibility that seemed all but foregone at the time.

 

 

#3 – Cam Newton – The controversial Heisman trophy / National Championship winning quarterback turned controversial first round (first overall) draft pick of the Panthers unleashed his second straight 400+ yard passing performance en route to his second straight loss to begin his NFL career. Clearly he’d rather be winning and shining, but for now, he’s shining enough to have us all impressed, shocked and mesmerized. Shredding the suspect Cardinals defense in week 1 was impressive enough, that he was able to do it to the defending World Champs while keeping them against the ropes for most of the game after they had spent a week dissecting his tape is flat out amazing. If the youngster keeps playing like that, the wins will surely follow…as will more accolades.

 

Forecast: He’ll get a chance at the Jags next week and might be able to muster that elusive first win. After that, the schedule gets kind of hairy for a while. He’ll continue to sling it you can bet, and will learn some tough lessons along the way. The funniest thing may be that sooner or later teams will have to adjust to his ability to sling it all over the field, and when they do, Cam will get his chance to showcase the wheels that gained him so much notoriety last season at Auburn. It’s an unbelievable start to an NFL career, begging the simple question what will the kid do next?

 

 

#4 – Detroit Lions – The Lions picked up their second straight win to begin the season on Sunday and in so doing justified the faith of tons of pre-season prognosticators who thought the Lions to be on the rise. The interesting part of the Lions ascendance however is that so far it least it hasn’t been based on the brick wall that will be Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh when the rookie Fairley eventually gets onto the field; instead the Lions have been getting it done on offense with Matthew Stafford playing the part of polished veteran and Jahvid Best rebounding nicely from an injury plagued 2010.

 

Forecast: The Lions will have their work cut out for them in a contentious NFC North, and health has to be their biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball. When exactly the Lions official window might open is debatable, but for now they’re at least knocking on the door.

 

 

#5 – Robert Griffin III – He entered the season as a lightly regarded Heisman candidate from a lightly regarded Baylor program flying largely under the radar. He emerged from a week 1 shootout with TCU (on the back of 359 yards passing and 5 TD) as RG3 and at the forefront of the Heisman conversation. After a 15-day hiatus Griffin and the Bears returned to action on Sunday and RG3 backed up his performance with a 20 for 22 night for a modest 265 yards and 3 TD, while adding 78 yards on the ground for good measure.

 

Forecast: The Bears will be looking at the Big-12 portion of their schedule soon enough affording Griffin plenty of chances in the national spotlight. And while the Bears may not be able to hold their own against top notch foes (TCU would beg to differ) Griffin might, and the need to keep his foot on the gas could lead to some seriously gaudy numbers along the way.

 

 

5 On The Slide

 

#1 – Professional Boxing – The fact that Floyd “Money” Mayweather was fighting “Vicious” Victor Ortiz on Saturday night (for an outrageous pay-per-view price tag of $69.99) should be in and of itself another proverbial “black eye” for boxing. This is after all the 147 pound division, touted by most as boxing’s best, yet the best match-up they could muster on that night for the best boxer of his generation was a hard punching young southpaw just 2 years removed from quitting in the ring against a middling Marcos Maidana. That Floyd Mayweather has not yet fought Manny Pacquiao is an embarrassment to the sport of boxing and to the otherwise cleaned out by Mayweather 147-pound division. The action that took place in the ring…well that was kind of embarrassing too.

 

History will remember Floyd winning by a cheap shot, but that’s more likely as a result of our feelings about Floyd as a despicable human being than as a result of what actually happened in the ring on Saturday night. For 2 of the 3 full rounds Floyd landed easily and won decisively. In the middle round, Ortiz showed enough heart and offense to compel some to see it his way, but 2 of the 3 judges at ringside scored that one for Mayweather too. In the 4th Ortiz got aggressive, bullied Mayweather into a corner and then inexplicably charged him like a crazed bull with the crown of his head landing square in Mayweather’s face. That would be the fight’s only illegal shot, but not it’s last controversial one.

 

Immediately after butting Mayweather, as referee Joe Cortez attempted to step in and separate the fighters, Ortiz began apologizing to Mayweather. Ortiz hugged Mayweather and even kissed him on the cheek before being led to the center of the ring by Cortez to make the point deduction official. When the fighters got back together Ortiz again hugged Mayweather. Mayweather didn’t appear to reciprocate the hug and stood there arms out waiting to resume the action, which he did as soon as Ortiz backed away, landing a quick left followed by a crushing right that left Ortiz on the ground and unable to beat the count.

 

We’ll remember Mayweather’s cheap shot although his was legal, and forget too that he was dominating Ortiz in a way that suggested he’d end it sooner rather than later and that Mayweather may have been rightly enraged at Ortiz’ illegal and intentional head butt. What we won’t remember is a great fight or one that was worth the buy as neither was the case on Saturday.

 

Forecast: Mayweather will spend another year or so flaunting and burning (literally) the $25 million plus he made from this farce while we all wait anxiously for him to step in front of Pacquiao and into the beating that so many have been waiting to see him get. Mayweather will get paid again, likely beat Pacquiao too and continue to be a general A-hole. And we’ll keep giving him money.

 

 

#2 – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens backed up their impressive week one domination over the Pittsburgh Steelers by being beaten in all three phases of the game by the Tennessee Titans and are now left to reevaluate their estimations of their own greatness.

 

Throughout the Harbaugh era these Ravens have been far too professional to overlook opponents, even when those opponents don’t seem to have much of a realistic chance at winning against them. Or maybe, as we look back at games like Carolina and Buffalo in 2010, perhaps Sunday was the first time that the Ravens paid the price for taking a second division caliber team lightly. Regardless, on Sunday the Ravens had their proverbial lunches eaten by the Titans and then were charged with cleaning up the scraps when their bully nemeses were through.

 

The Ravens will surely have to pick up those scraps quickly and put them to use against St. Louis as for now at least, the loss served to bring the Steelers back into a tie for the division lead (albeit only week 2). There are plenty of wins to be had on the Ravens schedule; the question may simply be whether the team is professional enough to go about collecting them.

 

Forecast: This should serve as the wake up call that a team as professional as these Ravens have been shouldn’t have needed in the first place. They’ll get St. Louis coming off of a short week before returning home for a slugfest with the Jets. The Steelers meanwhile get the Manning-less Colts next week.

 

 

#3 – Arian Foster – Last year’s improbable rushing champ started this season without the fullback who had cleared holes for him to run through last season and with company in the backfield in Ben Tate who the Texans envisioned as the starter before losing him to injury last year. He continued his trek by injuring his hamstring, calling fantasy owners concerned about his health for their own reasons sick, tweeted images of his MRI and proclaimed himself ready for week 1. He wasn’t.

 

Ben Tate though was, possibly compelling Foster to rush back to action this week against the Dolphins, where he rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries before re-aggravating the hamstring and coming out of the game for good. Ben Tate in the meantime has gone over the century mark on the ground in each of the Texans first 2 games and will likely remain a big part of the mix with or without Foster.

 

Forecast: The smart thing would seem to be to rest Foster until his hamstring issues are clearly behind him. More likely though, Foster, gamer that he is, will continue trying to rush himself back and struggle with the injury all season. Either way, Ben Tate seems to be a viable part of the running game for the foreseeable future and for now a better option than Foster.

 

 

#4 – Chiefs, Seahawks and Colts – The Manning-less Colts looked terrible again, this time at home against the Cleveland Browns. The already injury riddled Chiefs suffered another embarrassing defeat and in the process may have been hit with their worst injury so far, apparently losing Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL injury. And the Seahawks although mostly healthy look like they may be the worst team in football without Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.

 

All three playoff teams from 2010 are off to 0-2 starts and looking like long shots to get back there.

 

Forecast: Count all three squarely in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

 

 

#5 – The NBA Season – With each passing day, the likelihood of seeing an entire NBA season or any part of a season at all get bleaker and bleaker. The more concerning part, for the league and its fans, should probably be that no one really seems to care very much. Unlike the NFL lockout, which had us spinning and clamoring for updates daily, everyone seems resigned to the expectation that here simply won’t be an NBA this year. Folks were missing football despite the fact that we never actually missed any football at all. Judging by the attention or lack thereof to the NBA’s labor issues, basketball…we’ll see you when we see you.

 

Forecast: This isn’t getting better anytime soon. Check back in February.

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Former VT QB and Ravens sixth-round draft pick Tyrod Taylor on backing up Flacco: “I can’t wait to learn from Joe”

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Former VT QB and Ravens sixth-round draft pick Tyrod Taylor on backing up Flacco: “I can’t wait to learn from Joe”

Posted on 02 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ravens fans heard some of the rumors over this draft weekend that we may have seen the last of Marc Bulger in a Baltimore uniform should the NFL’s lockout be lifted.

The Arizona Cardinals appear to be ready to sign Bulger-the longtime NFL veteran of the St. Louis Rams who backed up Joe Flacco this year-to a contract when the teams are allowed to sign free agents pending a new CBA.

If the Ravens were to lose Bulger, it would absolutely create a gaping hole in the depth chart behind Flacco, and on Saturday, Baltimore’s personnel department made a move in the draft to ensure that they have at least one quarterback behind Flacco should Bulger decide to move on to Arizona or another NFL team.

Tyrod Taylor

With the 180th pick in the sixth round of this weekend’s draft, the Ravens selected Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor-a 6-foot, 217 pound quarterback who started all four years for the Hokies  in Blacksburg.

Taylor joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” to talk about becoming a Raven and taking the short drive up I-95 to begin his NFL career.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Taylor told Nelson. “But there’s still a lot to learn, and I can’t wait to learn from Joe Flacco.”

“It’s always good to get drafted by a team close by so I can keep track of the Hokies and stay close to home for the family.”

In his four years playing for Frank Beamer starting 41 of 49 games for Virginia Tech, Taylor finished with 6,795 passing yards, 43 TDs to just 19 INTs.

He really put it together in 2010, earning ACC Player of the Year honors while passing for 2,521 yards, 23 TD and 4 INTs.

His passing yardage, 2,174 rushing yards and 23 rushing scores over his Hokie career also set school records, and it shows that his versatility being able to throw the ball as well as make a play with a legs can help the Ravens offense move the chains.

If Ravens fans want to make a correlation, you can compare Taylor to that of a Troy Smith.

Taylor hopes that the Ravens use all his physical skills as an asset.

“Will the Ravens plan plays just for me? I want to help out any way I can,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s biggest concern coming into the draft was the lack of a proven track record playing at VT.

Despite his stellar numbers as a Hokie his senior year, most of those numbers came too late in his college career for NFL scouts to give him due notice.

That was one of the reasons why he lasted till the sixth round when the Ravens took a chance on him and his athletic ability.

“Going into it, my agent and I talked about what might happen,” Taylor said. “It was disappointing to slip to the sixth round. I was hoping for the third, fourth, or fifth.”

In a way, it was his post-season work after the page was turned on his college career  that caught NFL GM’s eyes the most, especially January’s East-West Shrine Game where Taylor completed four of five passes for 59 yards.

“Early in the process looking at the numbers, some teams had mixed feelings,” Taylor said of his visits. “But I think after evaluating film, teams changed their minds about me, especially after the East-West Shrine Game.”

Still, the biggest question mark for Taylor will be if he can be a pocket-passer in the NFL who relies on his arm first-and his legs second.

Taylor answered that doubt with all the confidence in the world.

“It shouldn’t be hard for me,” Taylor said. “It’s just learning the reads and trust in the system. Be yourself and move the chains.”

The Ravens see him as a quarterback as well.

“We feel like he has the skill sets to play quarterback and he also brings the added dimension of being a terrific athlete that can-as we see so much now-get out of the pocket and hurt people,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said Saturday after the draft was completed.

Taylor said he already has that chip on his shoulder for being drafted so low over the weekend by the Ravens.

Could there be a comparison to another big-time college quarterback who had to wait till the sixth round in Tom Brady?

“With him being drafted in the sixth round also, I also feel motivated to prove them wrong. Ten quarterbacks were drafted ahead of me, so again, it’s all motivation,” Taylor said.

But, at least he’s not motivated to take #5 away from his incumbent teammate after having it at Virginia Tech the last several years.

“It’s Flacco’s number,” Taylor laughed, “so I’ll change it.”

WNST welcomes a former ACC-rival in Tyrod Taylor to Baltimore! Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the chat with Tyrod as well as many of your other Ravens draft picks! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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In year after character concerns with 2010 draft picks, Ravens take another leap of faith in Colorado CB Jimmy Smith

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

The big saying around the Baltimore area when it comes to Ravens fans and the personnel decisions regarding the team is “In Ozzie We Trust”.

Well, with the Ravens selecting Colorado CB Jimmy Smith Thursday night with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft-after letting the Kansas City Chiefs move ahead of them-it goes to show you that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will take all the advice he will hear regarding a player, but when it comes time to make the final decision and turn the card in, Ozzie’s the one to make the call.

Smith was the third corner back taken off the board behind LSU’s Patrick Peterson who went fifth overall to the Arizona Cardinals and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara who went to the Giants at pick #19.

And it could be said that Smith may be the best corner out of the three, but other factors dropped his stock when it came down to draft day.

Numerous draft experts had the Ravens picking  Smith, the 6′ 2”, 210-pound CB out of Colorado, but leading up to the draft, early impressions out of the Ravens front office and scouting department was that given Smith’s issues off the field-including the likes of citations for underage-drinking, marijuana usage and more, that would cause the Ravens to go elsewhere.

He was arrested twice in Boulder, Colorado for possession charges and failed a drug test in 2007.

He was said to have had a drinking problem and has been caught with marijuana in his early college days.

I imagine this being the scene in the Ravens war room as time slowly clicked away as  Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, coach John Harbaugh, and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz were all fighting over who to take or what to do with the 26th pick.

However, a four year player for the Buffaloes, he is said though to have taken on a more mature role as an upperclassmen the last two seasons.

“I went to college and I made some mistakes,” Smith told NFLDraftScout.com. “”I was a young player who mistakes. But I grew as a person.”

He has stayed off the police blotters since that 2007 season, and during his junior and senior years at Boulder, he only allowed 11 completions in man-to-man coverage and began to get the “Nnamdi Asomugha treatment” as teams began to avoid throwing his way.

Still, Smith will be yet another question mark taken by the Ravens in consecutive drafts-with last year’s first pick in linebacker Sergio Kindle proving that he too was a concern given his demeanor off the football field when it came to alcohol abuse.

This also combined with several high draft picks in recent years not producing on the field including DT Terrence Cody and DE/LB Paul Kruger could be heating up the seat that Ozzie Newsome is sitting in right now.

Could it be time to wonder if the magic dust is wearing off “The Wizard of Oz?”

Plus, given the Ravens’ position with both Wisconsin tackles Gabe Carimi and hybrid Temple DL Muhammed Wilkerson on the board-both positions of need for Baltimore, one must wonder why a team that has several good-not great-corners on the roster decided to go that route.

Don’t forget. Domonique Foxworth is coming back healthy from a torn ACL, and  Josh Wilson, Lardarius Webb and Chris Carr played well when pressed into duty last season. Even Fabian Washington could be in the mix as well should he be brought back on the team, although that appears unlikely.

And while Smith will automatically help a CB group that only nabbed seven interceptions last season, the Ravens did only record 27 sacks a team, with close to a third of those coming from one man, Terrell Suggs (11).

Again, going back to Ozzie Newsome’s mantra over his tenure in Baltimore-it has always been to “take the best player available.”

And while Smith may have been a Top-10 talent on the football field, are his character issues something that is going to pop up yet again-much like a former Raven first-round pick malcontent in Chris Mcalister?

Only time will tell. And Ozzie-you do have the 2nd round to make it up to doubters like myself.And I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume Sergio Kindle was a bump in the road.

And hey, look at the bright side. If Smith does get in trouble again and has to hold a press conference, at least we’ll be granted an audience to one like this…

WNST has you covered as we welcome your newest Ravens to Baltimore! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Anquan Boldin on hope for next year: “If I can get the ball more than 10-15 times a game, I’ll be more than happy”

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Anquan Boldin on hope for next year: “If I can get the ball more than 10-15 times a game, I’ll be more than happy”

Posted on 08 March 2011 by Ryan Chell

If there is to be football next year, Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin not only wants to be a bigger part of the offense, he wants to be able to have the opportunity to speak his mind and offer his suggestions to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on how best to get the Baltimore offense going.

Anquan Boldin

Boldin joined “The Afternoon Drive” last week to not only plug his upcoming “Chalk Talk” session with the fans at Morgan State on March 10th, but to also shed some light on the improvements he hopes comes from the coaching staff and the acquisitions made by the team in the draft and free agency(once it occurs) to bolster his new team’s offense.

“If I knew there was a player available that can really help us out, I might talk to Ozzie or something like that,” Boldin said.

A lot of the criticism in the off-season came at the expense of several of the offensive coaches, mostly notably guys like John Matsko and Jim Zorn, who both were given their walking papers by the team.

But most under fire was offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who as a friend of coach John Harbaugh may have had his job saved for another year.

Boldin however-who had career lows in catches(64) and yards (837) while playing a full 16-game season-unexpectedly gave Cameron all the confidence in the world going forward into next season.

But, that didn’t mean he wasn’t frustrated about being under-utilized compared to his previous seven seasons in Arizona where he averaged 83 receptions a year.

In short, he wants the ball more. He wants to be a useful tool for the Ravens to rely on down the stretch.

“I think every player wants to be productive,” Boldin said. “Every player wants to contribute as much as possible. If I can get the ball more than 10 to 15 times a game, I’ll be more than happy.”

Boldin said it was very frustrating coming from a pass-friendly offense where even as a secondary option to Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona he still was getting #1 receiver numbers.

“At times it would get frustrating because I came from a place where I was used to getting the ball and at least getting thrown to 8-10 times a game, and then you go and get one to two passes a game, it can get frustrating,” Boldin admitted.

But the 30-year old out of Florida State did want to emphasize the fact that as long as he is used on a consistent basis somewhat close to his standards…he has no problem being a secondary option still as long as the team is winning.

He hopes that belief is unanimous amongst his teammates.

“For me, if we’re winning I’m okay,” Boldin said. “I would never let that get in the way of the team.”

When it came to his frustration this year with his lack of productivity or when asked about his trust in the coaching staff, Boldin used the example of playing for an NCAA school the same as applying it to the pro game.

You don’t have the ability to choose and impact who your coaches are, but you do hope they put you in the best position to succeed on the field.

“With us, you don’t make decisions in college of who’s going to be your coach and who’s not,” Boldin said. “I think the thing is we need to get in and whoever our coach is, we try to develop a working relationship with where the team comes first and all egos are put aside.”

Boldin said he and Cam Cameron may have had some issues with the likes of each other during the season, but from what off-season the team has had has been focusing on-putting together a combination of good plays from Boldin and a well-drawn up game-plan from Cam Cameron-has him already feeling better about next year.

“With Cam Cameron, me and him have a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to get done. As soon as the season was over, I was in there with the coaches and we went over different things with the offense…ways we could get better…different features with the offense that could have been used better…all that stuff.”

Ultimately, Boldin left Owings Mills with an even higher respect for what Cameron had in the works for next season and his approach toward trying to fix the mistakes of 2010.

“I respect the fact that they allowed the players to have an input, because you know, my desire is to win. I respect him for having that same desire.”

WNST thanks Anquan Boldin for joining the Afternoon Drive! Be sure to check out his Chalk Talk at Morgan State this Thursday!

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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The best seat…In the house

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The best seat…In the house

Posted on 30 November 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

Sports culture is changing, there’s evidence of it everywhere, and nowhere does it seem more prevalent than from a fan’s ever improving point of view. Between HDTV, discussion, debate, and even live game broadcasts streaming regularly on the internet, smart phones and the advent of social explosions like Facebook and Twitter, and don’t even get me started on NFL RedZone, we seem to be moving closer and closer to a point in time where the best place to enjoy the action isn’t the 50-yard line or behind home plate, the best seat in the house, is indeed in the house.

Here’s how Monday looked and Tuesday is shaping up from my perspective, from the best seat…In the house.

 

Random Ravens Related Rants: As much as we seem to be painting a match up with the Steelers this week as must win, it seems pretty clear that two teams from the AFC East and two from the AFC North will likely be in the playoffs. Someone will win the West and South respectively, but in some order, the Ravens, Steelers, Jets and Patriots seem all but assured to make the playoffs. All that seems to be up for debate at this point is who’ll win their divisions and enjoy home field and a likely first round bye, and who’ll take to the road to start the playoffs as wildcards.

 

Remember before the 2009 season, when the Ravens requested the league stop sending them to Pittsburgh in primetime, claiming it was a consistent disadvantage? Since that infamous request, not only have the Ravens been spared the trip to Pittsburgh in primetime, but the Steelers have been charged with heading to Baltimore instead for primetime football now twice. The first time, the Ravens beat a Dennis Dixon led Steelers team in OT. Is the league really doing Baltimore a solid here, or trying to put them in a position to eat their words?

 

I’m sure that I’m not the only one feeling salty about purple towels being distributed at M&T Bank Stadium for Sunday’s game. Do we really want to be showcased on national television looking like a cheap imitation of our most hated rivals? The folks in charge of marketing this thing should know better. Instead of giving Ravens fans something to rally around and be excited about, they have given fans a reason to be divisive, as some will surely be emphatically waving their towels in the sightline or faces of folks who are feeling completely disgusted with the whole notion of towel waving. Count me amongst the latter for the record.

 

Here’s what I saw last night from the best seat…in the house.

 

Heat 105 – Wizards 94

 

I wouldn’t take this as a sign of resurgence or anything on the part of the Miami Heat. Riley’s Angels still have lots of work to do, but for one night at least, winning, and the Wizards (2 words that don’t often go together) proved to be great deodorant for a locker room that’s clearly beginning to stink.

 

To their credit the Wiz were short handed, going into last night’s contest without the services of John Wall, now for the 6th time in the last 8 games. Hilton Armstrong was in the starting lineup for the Wiz last night, as JaVale McGee started the game in reserve due to back spasms. McGee still played 26 minutes collecting 6 points 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks off the bench. Armstrong was limited to 17 minutes in his rare start after being ejected from the game on a flagrant 2 technical against the Heat’s Joel Anthony. Armstrong finished the night with 2 points and 4 boards.

 

In addition to Armstrong’s ejection, former Wizard Juwan Howard saw the door as well for his retaliatory shove to the back of Armstrong after the tech. Kirk Hinrich and James Jones were also assessed technicals for getting a little pushy with each other, but otherwise the Wiz couldn’t find much of a spark, and may have helped to galvanize and ignite the Heat in the process.

 

Miami’s big 3 all chipped in 20 points or more, as Bosh finished the night with 20 points and 7 boards, Dwayne Wade poured in 26 points of his own along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists and LeBron James led all scorers in the game with 30 points 6 boards and 5 assists. Gilbert Arenas, pressed back into the starting lineup as a result of Wall injury led the Wizards with 26 points and added 5 rebounds and 7 assists on the night.

 

Despite their win last night, Miami’s slow start has led to rumors about Erik Spolestra’s future, or lack thereof. Despite the addition of Eric Dampier, who debuted for the Heat last night, they still look remarkably incomplete, even in dispatching of an undermanned Wizards team. It’s my best guess that Pat Riley would only take advantage of the opportunity to insert himself onto the Heat bench if he felt that they had a reasonable chance to compete for a title. I’m betting that for as long as the Heat continue to look, on the court, like they have, that Riley will be perfectly content to sit back and let Spolestra absorb the criticism. We’ll see, this one is probably going to have to get worse before it really gets better.

 

 

49ers 28 Cardinals 6

 

Outside of the Troy Smith vs. Derek Anderson angle that may have gotten a little bit of local interest as both are former Ravens’ QBs, there didn’t seem to be many compelling reasons to expect this one to be very interesting. If you tuned in with that in mind, then you couldn’t have been disappointed, otherwise, you likely were.

 

In what looked to be a pedestrian effort on both sides, the Niners proved themselves much more adept pedestrians than the Cardinals on Monday night. I wonder how bad Matt Leinhart is looking to the Cardinals and their fans right now. I wonder if calls have been made to Kurt Warner, as the NFC West title never seems quite out of reach for any team.

 

If the Niners are the best that the NFC West has to offer, or even close, then to quote Dennis Green, “they are who we thought they were”, the whole division.

 

Frank Gore left the game early for San Francisco, with 5 carries for 52 yards, and although Brian Westbrook (in LT like fashion) conjured up a version of his former self for last night at least with 23 carries for 136 yards and a TD and Anthony Dixon chipped in too with 14 carries for 54 yards and a TD, Gore’s availability, or lack thereof has to be a major concern for them team going forward. Reports are saying that his hip is broken,

 

For those who did manage to hang in for the whole boring contest, your patience was rewarded with Derek Anderson’s post game meltdown. Apparently, Anderson was taken to task by a member of the press for being too cheery on the sidelines at the end of the blowout, so he gave the reporter a taste of what he was looking for with a pretty funny tirade. Here it is:

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khi7YoqZIWM[/youtube]

 

 

From the Box Scores: NCAA Basketball – Virginia 87 #17 Minnesota 79

 

The Cavaliers stared off the ACC / Big 10 Challenge on a good foot with an upset at Minnesota, in a game that according to the highlights played a lot closer that it looked in the box.

 

Here’s what on tonight:

 

College Basketball

 

The ACC / Big 10 Challenge resumes on Tuesday night, providing fans with wall-to-wall basketball action. Keep in mind that the ESPN3 listings are available on your computer, so you can keep an eye on those while watching your game of choice on TV.

 

7 pm – Georgia Tech @ Northwestern ESPN2

7 pm – Iowa @ Wake Forest ESPNU

7 pm – Boston U @ #11 Kentucky ESPN3

7 pm – Cornell @ #7 Syracuse ESPN3

 

7: 30 pm – #2 Ohio State @ Florida State

 

The Buckeyes are ranked second in the nation and it’s hard to tell much more about them. They’re led by a veteran backcourt of David Lightly, William Buford and Jon Diebler along with Dallas Lauderdale back up front, but with 3 freshmen logging serious minutes, Ohio State will be worth a watch tonight. Freshmen forwards Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas are logging serious minutes and putting up serious points so far, as is freshman guard Aaron Craft.

 

The Seminoles return a big and savvy team all the way around, built primarily around junior Chris Singleton. The only guy seeing any amount of serious playing time that hasn’t been in the system logging big minutes for at least a year is JUCO transfer, Bernard James a 6’9″, 240 pound power forward. The Noles lost to the Buckeyes in last year’s challenge 77-64.

 

7:30 pm – New Hampshire @ UConn MASN

 

9 pm – Michigan @ Clemson ESPN2

9 pm – UTEP @ New Mexico State ESPN3

9 pm – #14 Georgetown @ #8 Missouri ESPNU

 

Obviously anytime two teams with little numbers next to their names match up this early; it’s an easy indicator that it’s a game worth watching.

 

9:30 pm – North Carolina @ #24 Illinois ESPN

 

After watching the Illini in consecutive nights in the 2K Sports, Coaches vs. Cancer Tourney, one of which was against the Terps, this should be an interesting measuring stick before ACC play begins. Plus it will be my first chance to lay eyes on Harrison Barnes, the early favorite to be the 1st overall pick in next years NBA draft.

 

NBA

 

There are 3 NBA games on local TV, to my knowledge on Tuesday night. All are somewhat secretive. Two of the games are playing on a channel that’s listed on my channel guide as TEAM (channel 787 on Comcast in Baltimore County). The third is on NBA network, but teams are not listed. It does however show an 8 pm start time, if that’s correct, than it must be Lakers at Grizzlies, as that’s the only game listed with an 8 pm tip time.

 

7 pm – Portland @ Philadelphia TEAM

 

The Blazers and Brandon Roy in particular have been killing my fantasy team so far this season. I doubt I’ll be turning off college hoops to subject myself to this.

 

8 pm – LA Lakers @ Memphis (probably) NBA Network

 

The Lakers have struggled lately, and Phil Jackson is getting cranky in his old age.

 

10 pm – Indiana @ Sacramento TEAM

 

The Pacers are quickly becoming one of this year’s must sees.

 

NHL

 

I’m not much of a hockey fan, but these listing kind of make me wish I were. Like the TEAM channel that gives a look in on a local NBA broadcast almost every night, the NHL has a similar offering (as does MLB in season) on channel 786 on my Baltimore County digital cable. This shows up on my channel guide as GAMED, and like the TEAM channel doesn’t require the league’s all access subscription.

 

7 pm – Tampa Bay @ Toronto GAMED

8 pm – St. Louis @ Chicago Versus

10 pm – Atlanta @ Colorado GAMED

10:30 pm – Detroit @ San Jose NHL Network

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For Certain, Ravens Must Become Team That Holds Ball Last

Posted on 12 November 2010 by Glenn Clark

ATLANTA, Ga. — If you think I wasn’t tempted to write a column that came off as “I told you so”, you’re wrong.

In fairness, I DID pick the Falcons to win 24-20 and said it would be the type of game that would come right down to the final seconds before it was decided.

I’d have every right to say “you should have seen this coming.”

But if I’m being fair, I didn’t REALLY see this coming at all.

I mean, who could have ever seen the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) barely touching the ball for the majority of the first half of their 26-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (7-2) Thursday night at the Georgia Dome?

Who could have ever seen the Ravens being forced to respond from two different 13 point deficits in the second half only to forge ahead on a TD strike from QB Joe Flacco to TE Todd Heap with 1:05 to play?

And certainly, who could have ever seen the comeback foiled by a methodical drive from Falcons QB Matt Ryan that culminated in a 33 yard TD toss to WR Roddy White?

I mean, I guess the script could have been written in a SIMILAR way, but not that exact way.

It’s funny, because the first “parting thought” that came to my mind as the game was ending was one that I shared via Twitter (you can follow @WNST to see my thoughts on Twitter). I said “Everyone wants someone to blame for a loss. I think I’ll blame Matt Ryan and Roddy White.”

And while it wasn’t the FINAL thought that came to me, I still stand by that. Sometimes good teams just lose to other good teams on the road. The Ravens are a good team (they don’t need me to apologize for them, they’ve proven how good they are throughout the season); but the Falcons are a good team too. And they played at home.

As Ravens RB Ray Rice said postgame “that’s the NFL.”

But even that wasn’t really the most important takeaway I had after the game.

The most important takeaway hit me as I was getting ready to scribe this column.

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

Week 4 is the first week that byes take place in the NFL, so this is a great time to take short stock of each of the clubs through three weeks. And by short, I mean one line on each team — some stats, some observations and some conjecture.

First up, the AFC teams by division. Records are through Week 3:

Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

AFC East

New York Jets (2-1): Despite crippled Revis Island on defense, brash Jets are only team in AFC East with perfect division record (2-0).

New England Patriots (2-1): QB Tom Brady (8 TD, 109.1 passer rating) is back to form as Patriots have AFC’s highest point total (90) and highest TD total (12) so far.

Miami Dolphins (2-1): Even with deep threat WR Brandon Marshall and RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins have same amount of TDs (5) as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

Buffalo Bills (0-3): Another lost year for Bills, which have scored fourth-least points (47) in AFC and have given up most points (87) on defense in the conference.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0): The question for head coach Mike Tomlin is if the Steelers are 4-0 after a win over Baltimore in Week 4, why change QBs to Ben Roethlisberger?

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1): Bengals, despite record, have struggled on offense as QB Carson Palmer (12th rated AFC passer at 71.3) hasn’t found rhythm with T.O.cho Show.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Defense, led by MLB Ray Lewis, continues to carry a team expected to score much more in 2010 (44 points; 2nd-lowest in AFC), despite breakout game by WR Anquan Boldin (3 TDs) last week.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): Browns are led by Peyton … not Manning, but RB Hillis (220 yards, 3 TDs) as Browns gave popular AFC Super Bowl pick Ravens much trouble in Week 3.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-1): Texans got over the hump of beating the Colts, but Houston is not the best team in state of Texas after bad loss to Cowboys.

Tennessee Titans (2-1): Titans defense has allowed fourth-fewest points in the AFC (42), and the Tennessee offense has RB Chris Johnson (4 TDs), but continuing issues at quarterback.

Indianapolis Colts (2-1): Despite loss to Houston, Colts still have potent passing attack with QB Peyton Manning and are arguably still best club in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jagaurs (1-2): Jaguars have worst scoring differential in AFC (-43), and Jack Del Rio could be the AFC’s first fired coach.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): Most surprising number for unbeaten Chiefs is that defense has allowed least points in the AFC (38), and in weak AFC West, KC might have enough to win the division.

San Diego Chargers (1-2): Special teams burned for two scores at Seattle, and Chargers QB Philip Rivers (AFC-high 4 INTs) is missing a suddenly resurgent RB LaDainian Tomlinson, now with the Jets.

Denver Broncos (1-2): Broncos getting decent offensive production from QB Kyle Orton, but overall have a minus point differential (-4; 61 PF, 65 PA).

Oakland Raiders (1-2): High-priced K Sebastian Janikowski could have made Raiders a 2-1 team with made kicks at Arizona, but Raiders need more than 3s (4 TDs, tied for lowest in AFC with JAX) to be competitive in up-for-grabs division.

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1): The Eagles have gone from a transitional season with QB Kevin Kolb to division title hopes with QB Michael Vick, who might be a legit NFL MVP candidate down the road.

Washington Redskins (1-2): Opening victory over Dallas doesn’t look as good after defense was shredded in last two weeks and Cowboys’ struggles.

New York Giants (1-2): A minus-30 scoring differential (55 PF, 85 PA) is third-worst in NFC, and head coach Tom Coughlin is starting to feel the heat.

Dallas Cowboys (1-2): Cowboys avoided 0-3 start in Week 3 with big win over Houston, and Dallas has the personnel to rebound in a wide-open NFC East race.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (3-0): Most unlikely last remaining 3-0 team in NFC gives head coach Lovie Smith some breathing room as O-line tries to keep QB Jay Cutler upright in Mike Martz offensive system.

Green Bay Packers (2-1): Despite mental miscues in Week 3 loss at Chicago, popular Super Bowl XLV NFC pick has plenty of offensive weapons for QB Aaron Rodgers, but need run game to be re-established after Ryan Grant injury.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2): QB Brett Favre looks very old right now, and Vikings best chance to win is to get away from pass-first mindset to get the ball into Adrian Peterson’s hopefully sure hands more often.

Detroit Lions (0-3): Injury to QB Matthew Stafford put dent into head coach Jim Schwartz’s immediate rebuilding plans, and Lions don’t get a break in Week 4 against Packers.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (2-1): Falcons posted most-impressive win of Week 3 as they marched out of New Orleans with a OT win, and Atlanta has NFC best-tying +31 point differential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): AFter 2-0 start, Bucs ran into Steelers’ buzzsaw in Week 3, and Tampa Bay is staring at possible 2-3 record with games vs. Cincinnati and New Orleans after bye week.

New Orleans Saints (2-1): Saints run defense was exposed in loss to Falcons, and defending Super Bowl champs need fast starts in order to avoid same fate against strong run teams going forward.

Carolina Panthers (0-3): Winless Panthers have least TDs in NFC (3), and head coach John Fox may be running out of rope with owner Jerry Richardson.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Head coach Pete Carroll sidestepped Southern California mess and he has put Seattle in early position to make headway in weak NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals (2-1): Despite record, Cards have minus-29 point differential (48 PF, 77 PA) and would be 1-2 if Oakland made a field goal or two in Week 3.

St. Louis Rams (1-2): Rookie QB Sam Bradford will have to grow up in a hurry, but the shame is that the Rams can’t play Washington every week.

San Francisco 49ers (0-3): Head coach Mike Singletary used the next-to-last bullet in his gun after firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, and the last one might be used by 49ers ownership at end of the season if disappointments continue.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

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Blog & Tackle: Week 1 NFL scoring struggles

Posted on 14 September 2010 by Chris Pika

If you thought the amount of scoring in the NFL’s Week 1 games was less than usual, you were right in a big way. A total of 21 teams scored less than 20 points in the 16 games — that number was the highest total of Week 1 sub-20-point team scoring since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to research through Pro-Football-Reference.com.

The 2010 teams under 20 points? Minnesota 9, New Orleans 14, Cleveland 14, Tampa Bay 17, Miami 15, Buffalo 16, Denver 17, Atlanta 9, Pittsburgh 15, Oakland 13, Carolina 18, Detroit 14, Chicago 19, Arizona 17, St. Louis 13, San Francisco 6, Dallas 7, Washington 13, Baltimore 10, New York Jets 9 and San Diego 14. The league, as a whole, averaged just 18.3 points per team in Week 1.

Here are the year-by-year teams scoring 19 points or less in Week 1 from 1970-2009 (via Pro-Football-Reference.com.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is sacked by Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata during the second half in their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, September 13, 2010. The Ravens won the game 10-9. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The 21 teams was a far cry from last season’s Week 1 total of only 14 teams. In the decade of the 2000s, 153 teams scored under the 20-point mark in Week 1, an average of 15.3 per season. Since the NFL expanded to 32 teams and eight divisions in 2002 for 16 opening weekend games, the average was 15.25 per season from 2002-09.

There are a lot of factors at play in why this was the case in this particular opening weekend. Better defenses, weather issues and injuries to key players certainly played a part. But one other factor might also be in play.

The last time most clubs play their starters for an appreciable time in the preseason is Week 3. Most clubs hold out starters or play them very little (one or two series) in the final week in order to look at players fighting for the final spots during the remainder of the game.

It’s almost a bye week for the starters on both sides of the ball, since they will not face live competition for two weeks until the regular season starts. So, when the starters get back on the field in Week 1 of the regular season, the timing is off when it needs to be at its sharpest.

Here are the year-by-year totals of Week 1 teams at or under 19 points in the decade of the 2000s.

Total Teams Scoring 19 Points or Less in Week 1 (2000-09)
2009: 14
2008: 17
2007: 18
2006: 19
2005: 15
2004: 15
2003: 14
2002: 10
2001: 15
2000: 16

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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