Tag Archive | "Bill Belichick"

Sunday Money – 6-Pack

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Sunday Money – 6-Pack

Posted on 19 November 2010 by Rex Snider

For weeks, I’ve been boasting about my preseason predictions for the Baltimore Ravens. On September 8th, I previewed each game on the schedule, on-air, and gave my opinion on how things would turn out.

I kept that schedule and it’s hanging on the wall of my home office. To date, I’ve been correct on 8 of the 9 games. The lone blemish is the contest against the Miami Dolphins. Yep, I had that game in the loss column.

Hey, the good news is I forecasted the loss against the Atlanta Falcons as the final defeat of the 2010 season. That’s correct, I picked the Ravens to run the table throughout the remainder of the regular slate of games.

And, I’ll stick by it …..

Since I’ve been so accurate with my predictions over the past couple months, I’ve decided to share my weekly prognostications with YOU, the listener and reader. It’s my early Christmas gift to anyone who reads my blogs.

I have no doubt that when my peers read this, they’ll have some provoking thoughts …..

Drew Forrester : “I like Rex, but I’m not following his advice – he freakin’ texted me from Vegas and asked which baseball games to bet. By the way, he won a few hundred bucks ….. and I’m still waiting for my Chinese lunch.”

Glenn Clark : “I don’t really like Rex, and I absolutely NEVER, EVER agree with him. I’m certain his predictions will be LAUGHABLE ….. if not, INSANE. So, before I even look at his picks, I’ll get this outta the way ….. DUDE, YOU’RE JUST WRONG.”

Thyrl Nelson : “His fantasy football team, Rexual HerAssMent, is 3-7 …. that’s all I need to know.”

Regardless of what others might say, you can rest assured that my LOCKS for the weekend will come to fruition. You’ll make money, guaranteed. Count on this 6-pack of predictions …..

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Randy Moss: has baggage …. will travel

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Randy Moss: has baggage …. will travel

Posted on 02 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Just go ahead and admit it …..

As soon as you’re convinced Bill Belichick has finally outsmarted himself and pulled the trigger on a dumb deal, he figuratively fools all of us and snookers another sucker.

Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of the very public divorce between Randy Moss and the New England Patriots. It’s offically been 27 days, so my conflicted memory still recalls the morning the news broke, quite vividly.

While the deal was not an earth-shattering shocker, it did fuel reaction from a lot of sideline critics. As the football world learned Bill Belichick dealt his sole deep threat receiver to the Minnesota Vikings, a collective bewildering day of sports talk commenced.

Randy Moss was returning HOME, to the team and city where his Hall Of Fame career began. And, all seemed right in Minneapolis ….

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Randy Moss slap hands after a completion against the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts October 31, 2010.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brett Favre was being teamed with a guy who could catch those Sportscenter-highlighted touchdowns.

Brad Childress was acquiring the player who could validate all the effort devoted to kissing Favre’s ass for an entire offseason.

And, poor Bill Belichick was selling on the “short” …. while walking away with just a measly 3rd round pick in next April’s NFL draft.

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Bill Belichick: “We played a lot more COVER TWO in the 2nd half” ….

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Bill Belichick: “We played a lot more COVER TWO in the 2nd half” ….

Posted on 20 October 2010 by Rex Snider

Are you still smarting after Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots? Umm …. let me change that …. are you still pissed-off about the Ravens blowing a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter?

Let me assert that I’m not the kinda guy who dwells on things or refuses to build a bridge, while facing the inevitability of getting over unchangeable circumstances.

At some point, you gotta let it go.

Put it in the rear view …..

Toss it in the trash …..

Flush it down the toilet …..

Choose your rightful path of persuasion. Sum it up in a sensible way and face the sobering reality of losing a game. But, for God’s sake, don’t lie to yourself. Don’t dismiss an obvious wound or vulnerability – just to see it reemerge a few weeks later.
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Alas, putting hardship behind us is always productive ….. if we learn from the misgivings and find a way to improve on the things that inhibit success.

That’s all I really ask.

Maybe it’s me, but I’ve grown to expect a lot from the Ravens. They’re an organization that expects an awful lot from themselves. In a roundabout way, I guess they’ve rubbed off on me.

And, I think that’s a good thing.

It’s also the exact factor that prohibits me from simply saying “they lost to a very good team on the road …. no big deal.” To hell with that. It’s an excuse, and excuses are for LOSERS.

Something went wrong on Sunday. Steve Bisciotti knows it – did you see his face after the game? And, I have no doubt he’s refusing to buy the old worn out “we lost to a good team” reason.

After all, if that’s really the cuplrit, we can justify upcoming losses in Atlanta and Houston, right? The Falcons are a damn good team; arguably better than the Patriots. Wait, I know ….. that loss will get pinned on the short week and travel to Atlanta, right?

As for the Texans, if the Ravens surrender a two score lead to Tom Brady, Deion Branch and that little running back from THE WIZARD OF OZ, I’m assuming they won’t fare much better against Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster.

As I said yesterday, I’m a huge fan of Brady’s success. But, we’re talking about the reincarnation of Deion Branch. Wasn’t he scoreless in Seattle? And, Danny Woodhead needs platform cleats to get on most roller coasters.
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Did they really beat the Ravens on Sunday? Maybe not …..

According to the COACH, Bill Belichick, the Patriots switched things up against Joe Flacco in the 2nd half of the game. During his Monday conversation with the folks at WEEI radio, Belichick uttered those words we’ve heard when teams talk about their gameplans against Joe Flacco.

That’s right, when asked what the Patriots did adjustment-wise, Belichick stated “we played alot more COVER TWO in the 2nd half.” “We knew he (Flacco) was looking inside for the tight end and slot receiver.”

Don’t take my word for it, go HERE and listen to the conversation for yourself. Those very telling words begin at 10:30 of the conversation.

What do we know about Bill Belichick? Aside from being that charismatic, personably-engaging guy, he’s also known for his knack to find the opponent’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. On Sunday, he decided to employ his 2nd half defensive attack in the same way the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts feast upon a Flacco-led offense.

Heck, he admitted it during a Monday phone conversation !!!!

My translation is he saw what the Bengals did to the Ravens, just a short month ago. And, he used the most crucial part of the game to switch up and see if the Ravens young quarterback has improved on past transgressions. That’s TEXTBOOK BELICHICK …..

He attacks and exploits a weakness AFTER halftime, when there are no opportunities to re-collect composure.

This is a PROBLEM.

It’s not tied to playing a very good team on the road. That’s bunk. Every game is its own animal. Every game stands on its own merit. Every game is defined by 60 minutes, in two separate halves, between the sidelines.

Accountability is key, and to simply suggest that it’s no big deal to lose a road game against a very good team, is nothing more than a mechanism for accepting a loss. The Patriots found a way to shutdown the Ravens offense, late in Sunday’s game. They simply did.

And, yes, it’s the very same Patriots team that won a close 38-30 game against the Buffalo Bills in the most recent home contest before the Ravens came calling. You got that? The BUFFALO BILLS SCORED 30 POINTS ON THE SAME FIELD, just a few weeks earlier.
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Perhaps, the underlying message to this blog is DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE BILLS, THIS SUNDAY. They’re scrappy, and they’re looking for their first win.

Do I think Buffalo comes to Baltimore and wins, on Sunday? No, but they’re not going to simply walk in and walk out, either.

The greater emphasis of this message is that the smoke continues to get thicker and thicker when it comes to the signals regarding Joe Flacco’s production as a starting quarterback. As much as many of us believe the team needs to let the guy lead the offense, we must also face the prospect that the coaching staff still sees the very vulnerabilities Bill Belichick admittedly exploited in Sunday’s late stages.

I’m always willing to admit the depth (or shallow void) of my football knowledge. That’s why I do what I do …. and Cam Cameron does what he does. I’m an ignorant man, when it comes to such intricate measures.

But, I’m not naive. I don’t simply follow the group or herd, and blowoff a loss to good team, because “it happened on the road.”

Screw that.

Something went wrong, Sunday.

And, if you don’t fix it, it will happen again, and again, and again, and again. It will continue to happen, until it is fixed.

Perhaps, the real difference is the VERY GOOD TEAMS find a way to exploit Joe Flacco’s vulnerabilities. At the same time, the lesser teams don’t find a way.

Look back at the Pittsburgh game …..

Joe Flacco hit T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the back of the end zone to wrap up the win. But, ask yourself where Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark found themselves on that play. They were blitzing – which left the cornerbacks alone and responsible for the downfield, inside threats. Boom …. touchdown.

That didn’t happen Sunday.

And, Bill Belichick has told us so …..

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What does Tom Brady think of the Baltimore Ravens and Terrell Suggs?

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What does Tom Brady think of the Baltimore Ravens and Terrell Suggs?

Posted on 19 October 2010 by Rex Snider

By now, we pretty much know how Baltimore’s purple kool-aid drinking, smash-mouth football fans feel about Tom Brady ….

I’m assuming you respect his on-field achievements, especially as it regards his overall prowess as a championship winning quarterback, and a stat-logging machine.

Tom Brady has been recognized as the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player. He is the only quarterback in the game’s modern history to lead a team to an undefeated regular season record. And, he is the only quarterback to throw for 50 touchdowns in a single season.

Yet, more importantly, Tom Brady has been on the winning end of 102 of his 135 regular season contests. Yes, that’s a .755 winning percentage. Or, for those scoring on the 16-game measuring stick, he wins an average of 12 games per season. Not too shabby, huh?

Of course, the most impressive part of Brady’s resume’ is his postseason mark of 14 wins and 4 losses, accompanied by 28 touchdowns, 4100 passing yards and THREE OF THESE …..
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Hard to beat such accomplishments, huh?

Count ‘em, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Mike Vick and the CHOSEN ONE – Mark Sanchez, combined, have not won as many Super Bowls as Tom Brady.

Combine the achievements and distinctions with Brady’s character as a good citizen and unblemished ambassador of the game, which separates him from the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre, and the story of a guy who’s universally adored is a given reality, right?

Not so fast …..

While Tom Brady is everything specified, thus far, he’s also known for one disintegrating trait, which grows louder and LOUDER …..

That’s right, on top of being everything an American kid could hope for in life, Brady has also been hampered and psychologically scarred by an incident that paved and demolished his 2008 season.

If you’re just a casual football fan, chances are you still recall this image from the NFL’s “Opening Day,” just a couple years ago …..
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It’s only been a couple years, but I will always remember that season-ending injury for Tom Brady. I felt bad for the guy and I still do. As I mentioned earlier, he’s the perfect role model citizen and he’s a freakin’ winner. I also dig the fact that all 32 teams passed on him NUMEROUS TIMES in the NFL Draft.

But, in the couple years since returning from his debilitating injury, Brady has been earning a reputation that will likely stick a negitive stigma to his otherwise stellar reputation. In fact, this perception and belief people are developing can be a KILLER for a “man’s man.”

Tom Brady is being viewed as SOFT.

Tom Brady is being viewed as GUN SHY.

Tom Brady is being viewed as a SISSY.

There, I finally said it. After all the lathering of accolades I’ve smered on the guy, I’ve gotta be honest about the way many people are viewing Tom Brady, these days. It’s an impression I’ve resisted for more than year; that’s how much I really LIKE and RESPECT the guy.

But, with each passing game, I’m being swayed further and further to the side of the guys who question Brady’s mental and physical toughness …. or even his courage.

That’s a very damning thing to say or write …..

In last year’s October matchup, all of us distinctly recall Tom Brady lobbying officials for penalties against Ravens defenders for incidental contact and rather meaningless/harmless touches. At first, I perceived it to be gamemanship from Brady. I imagined that he would complain with a demonstrative vigor, but ultimately walk back to the huddle with a snicker, while knowing he was gonna get some yellow hankies thrown in his favor.

As last season dragged on, so did Tom Brady’s antics. And, he was getting louder about it.

Everyone was taking notice.

For me, the culmination of Brady’s complaining about contact really culminated in Sunday’s game. He was hit CLEAN upon releasing the ball on a completed pass, late in the 4th quarter. Yet, he still slammed his hand to the ground, while chewing the referee’s ass. He was looking for a penalty. And, yes, I saw Terrell Suggs’ hand graze the quarterback’s helmet.

Fortunately, the officials didn’t bite and a penalty was not assessed. Doing so could’ve killed the impending reality of overtime.

Is that how Tom Brady really wants to win?

Is that what he’s reduced to?

I’m not buying it. I don’t think it’s a competitive tool or gamesmanship. To be blunt, I think Tom Brady is legitimately concerned about getting hurt, again. And, while I can understand his plight, it’s also the professional path he’s chosen.

Getting slammed by Ray Lewis HURTS. Getting drilled by a Cliff Lee fastball HURTS. Hitting the wall in Jeff Gordon’s Chevrolet, at 180 mph, HURTS. I get it, I really do.

Evidently, Tom Brady really gets it …. and he doesn’t like it. Thus, we’re treated to his weekly antics …..
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Believe me, I see the business aspect tied to guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. They’re the marketing darlings or “cash cows” for NFL Properties. Thus, the league does everything possible (including rules changes) to ensure these guys stay on the field.

But, at some point, you’ve gotta play football, right? Heck, some folks think the game has already been watered down by the rules changes.

Still, Tom Brady complains – every single week.

I suppose he accomplishes what he wants. And, on Mondays, he denies everything.

Each Monday, Brady joins the Dennis & Callahan Show, on Boston’s WEEI Radio, for a phone conversation. During yesterday’s call, he downplayed his on-field complaining. In fact, he called all the Ravens hits “CLEAN.”

He also dished on his thoughts of Terrell Suggs and the predictability of the Ravens defense, inside the red zone. He said, “they’re either blitzing or putting 8 men in the end zone.”

He also said, “they do a lot of talking for a team that has beaten us once in 9 times, since I’ve been here.”

You can find the conversation HERE

While I still like Tom Brady and remain in awe of his career-defining accomplishments, I really would like to remember him as a guy who did things the right way and played with a physical/mental toughness demanded of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks.

Today, I’m not so certain I still believe in his heart and courage.

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It was bound to happen; Ravens give game away

Posted on 18 October 2010 by Rex Snider

When it comes to yesterday’s loss to the New England Patriots, I suppose John Harbaugh’s team could point fingers in a few differing directions.

But, as we know, that’s not how the Baltimore Ravens absorb losses. Well, that’s not the way they publicly accept a loss, anyway.

In quite the contradictory manner, it’s EXACTLY how we cope with seeing the Ravens lose to a team it led by double digits, with a little less than 12 minutes remaining in the game.  Venting and casting culpability eases our frustration, right?

And, all of us think a certain component(s) of the team must shoulder these embarrassing meltdowns. That’s what yesterday’s ultimate loss to the Patriots became …..

AN EMBARRASSMENT.

I can sit here and reasonably suspect many folks are going to blame some prime individuals, both IN and OUT of uniform. That’s a fair assessment – and respective units had their own shortcomings, as well. But, in the end, the Baltimore Ravens lost their second game of the season, period.

Is it frustrating? Sure it is …. I absolutely believe the Ravens are assembled as a more talented team. But, yesterday’s disintegration of their energy and overall effectiveness really causes the more casual mind to take notice. Imagine what Bill Belichick must have been thinking?

Wanna blame the defense? They could’ve played better in the 4th quarter – they surrendered a DOUBLE DIGIT lead, when it mattered most.

Wanna blame the offense? Beginning with the Billy Cundiff field goal to start the 4th quarter, the Ravens offense had nearly 30 minutes of clock, (OT included), 5 possessions and 25 touches to squeeze out an additional 3 points and they couldn’t do it. Say what you will, they squandered unfulfilled opportunities.

After all, it’s not as if Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison were nailing down the Patriots defensive attack. But, I suppose Belichick’s young, inexperienced unit found its game in the final stages.

Wanna blame the special teams? Why not, they’re not above a critical assessment. The Ravens continue to improvise with punt returns, employing the likes of Tom Zbikowski, Chris Carr and a few others. Meanwhile, the Patriots rely upon a dynamic set of legs, in Wes Welker.

The Ravens have talent capable of excelling in an explosive return game. Yet, we’re led to believe the team is not willing to compromise health of crucial playmakers at the impending expense of injury. This reservation must not weigh too heavily on Bill Belichick’s mind – after all, he’s using his best receiver, who is bouncing back from a 2009 injury, to return punts.

Injury risk? Welcome to the NFL …..

As for specific impact of special teams production on yesterday’s game, just consider each team’s respective field position when taking over possession in the 4th quarter and overtime. The Ravens had an average starting position on their own 21 yard line, whereas, the Patriots started on their own 30 yard line, overall.

Aside from simple numbers, the Patriots feature more explosive threats in the kick/punt return game. In fact, on the game winning drive, Tom Brady assumed possession on the team’s own 38 yard line. I sensed the game was over before he took a snap during that series.

Wanna blame the coaching staff? Go ahead …. they deserve it. From Greg Mattison’s devotion to pursuing pressure with 3 upfront defenders, to Jerry Rosburg’s commitment to assembling a “who’s dat?” return corps and Cam Cameron’s evident fallback commitment to the “simpler things in life”, the coaching staff is not above reproach.

In fact, perceived coaching decisions can be one of the most frustrating elements fueling yesterday’s disappointing loss.

Why not use a more explosive player for punt returns? So, he’s vital to the offense or defense …. but, so is the return game.

Why not apply a different look to the pressure aimed at Tom Brady? When the dude sitting at home knows who’s chasing down the opponent’s quarterback, BEFORE IT HAPPENS, it might be time to get a little more creative.

Why throw more passes to Ray Rice (i.e. – dumpoffs) in overtime, than any other player? Was that really working in the quest of moving the ball? Was Anquan Boldin thoroughly covered? Was T.J. Hoshmandzadeh thoroughly covered? Was Derrick Mason thoroughly covered?

Yesterday’s game was absolutely a team effort. And, as a team, it was given away. Call it bad play calling. Call it poor execution. Call it anything you want …..

The defense gave up a double digit lead. The offense couldn’t score 3 more points. The return game was stuck in idle …. and reverse. The coaching was VANILLA-LITE.

In truth, the best team actually stood across the field, yesterday. The best team won the game. When they’re leading in the 4th quarter, they don’t grind it out and try killing the clock. They look to score more points and kill the opponent.

Conversely, if they’re behind, they’ll take any opportunity you give them.

That’s Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

If you’re willing to give them the game, they’ll take it. And, that’s exactly what they did yesterday.

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The Friday Football Frenzy …..

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The Friday Football Frenzy …..

Posted on 15 October 2010 by Rex Snider

You’ve circled this Ravens game on the schedule, right? For months, we’ve known the Ravens would be returning to Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium for the 3rd time in less than 13 months.

John Harbaugh’s team should feel pretty comfortable with the surroundings outside Boston, huh? A “home away from home” feel? I doubt that …. but, the Ravens have averaged nearly a touchdown, per quarter, in the last 2 contests, in New England.

Friendly confines?

Not exactly, but Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and this offensive attack have found some cracks, crevices and virtual open thoroughfares in the Patriots defense. With additions like Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ed Dickson, it seems logical to assume the pickins’ might be even more plentiful.

Not so fast …..

The mad scientist has been given two weeks to prepare for the improved and enhanced Baltimore Ravens offense …..
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Surely, Bill Belichick will have something in store to stop the PURPLE PASSING game !!!! Then again, I’m not so sure of it. The Patriots have struggled in their secondary and points have not been a difficult thing for opponents to find.

We shall see on Sunday, but we’re talking about it today.

It’s the FRIDAY FOOTBALL FRENZY …..

So, sit back and enjoy four hours of non-stop pigskin predicting and prognosticating. I’ll be joined by Nestor, as always. And, today, we’re welcoming some pretty cool guests, including Howard Balzer, Michael Rosenberg, Andy Hart and Peter King …..
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You’re invited to contribute, by calling (410) 481-1570. Or, you can email me: rex@wnst.net

It all starts at 2pm. And, once again, we can be thankful for those who really make the Friday Football Frenzy possible …..
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Ravens 10-Pack: Baltimore feeling Super at 4-1

Posted on 12 October 2010 by Luke Jones

Even with the daunting task of traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots this Sunday, you have to feel good about the Ravens’ 4-1 start and the early lead atop the AFC North with the first month of the season already in the books.

With three of the first four on the road (two of them division games), you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the Ravens would fare better than they have after road victories against the Jets and Steelers. And when you take a look around the rest of the league, the Ravens’ accomplishments look even more impressive.

Parity is a word all-too-familiar to NFL fans, but the notion seemed to be waning over the last few seasons with the regular-season success of the 2007 Patriots and extended runs at perfection by the Colts and Saints last year. However, with the 1972 Dolphins uncorking the champagne before Columbus Day — with no 4-0 teams in the NFL since 1970 — and only eight teams sporting one loss through the first five weeks of the season, 2010 appears up for grabs in mid-October.

Are the Ravens the best team in the NFL?

Being this early, who cares? But it’s difficult to argue any team has looked better than Baltimore.

If the Ravens can beat New England (3-1), it will mark just the second 5-1 start in franchise history, the other coming in the 2000 season.

However, for some perspective, at the time of the 5-1 start, Tony Banks was the starting quarterback and the Ravens had just won their second straight game without scoring a touchdown.

Things changed very quickly — in a bad way — before a historic run began and Trent Dilfer and the Ravens found themselves holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of January.

1. Since taking over as head coach in 2008, John Harbaugh has shown the uncanny ability to take care of business against inferior teams, home or away.

In 37 regular season games under Harbaugh, the Ravens have never lost to a team that finished the season with a losing record. As unimpressive as that might sound to the casual observer, you’ll find a “bad” loss by a playoff-caliber team nearly every week in the NFL.

Of course, the opposite argument can be made that the Ravens have fallen short too many times against quality opponents — especially last season when they struggled to get to the playoffs at 9-7 — but winning the games you’re supposed to win and holding your own against winning teams will put you in an enviable position.

The postseason.

Time will determine whether their Week 2 loss in Cincinnati breaks the string, but the Harbaugh-led Ravens have managed to avoid the unwarranted defeats the team suffered in previous seasons.

2. All eyes will be on Bill Belichick and the Patriots in their first game since trading disgruntled receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and re-acquiring former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The removal of Moss will undoubtedly impact the New England offense, but how much?

Expect a little gadgetry on Sunday as Tom Brady deciphers where everyone fits in the post-Moss era.

Of course, Belichick had an extra week to figure it out with the Patriots’ Week 5 bye, and his record in New England coming off the bye week is an impressive 8-2, including seven straight wins. But before we write off the Ravens at Gillette Stadium and bow to the genius of Belichick, we should remember that four of the last six have come against the Buffalo Bills.

Not to belittle an impressive feat, but game-planning against a team led in recent years by the likes of Dick Jauron and Mike Mularkey is a bit easier than facing the team that blasted you in the playoffs just nine months ago.

In the Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 2-1 when playing teams coming off their bye week. All three games were last season, which included wins against Cleveland and Denver as well as a road loss to Cincinnati.

3. Putting aside the obvious threat of Brady to Wes Welker, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s biggest concern might be a pair of rookie tight ends.

Through the Patriots’ first four games, Welker leads the team in receptions (26), but not receiving yards. That distinction belongs to Aaron Hernandez (18 catches for 240 yards) despite being the second tight end drafted (fourth round) by New England in April. Rob Gronkowski, a second-round selection, has posted modest numbers (six catches for 62 yards) but was an impressive talent eyed by the Ravens leading up to the draft.

The Ravens have struggled covering the intermediate middle of the field in recent years, so the inside linebacker corps of Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe will need to keep a close eye on these rookie targets.

4. As much as we lamented the absence of Matt Stover a season ago, let’s tip our caps to Billy Cundiff. His ability to boot the football deep into the end zone on kickoffs is an underappreciated factor in the Ravens being 4-1.

His four touchbacks against the Broncos on Sunday matched the total number by Baltimore kickers all of last year.

Whispers of Stover will not dissipate — if they ever do — until we see Cundiff make a 47-yarder to win a late-season game, but the distinct upgrade on kickoffs cannot be overlooked.

As great as Stover was with the game on the line, fans easily forget his kickoffs barely traveling inside the 10-yard line, often setting up the opponent with good field position.

5. Plenty has been said about Cam Cameron’s choice to use Haloti Ngata at tight end on Sunday’s opening drive and the near-disaster that followed with the defensive tackle down on the field.

I offer you three names: James Jones (1996), Herman Arvie (1996), and Jonathan Ogden (1996 and 2003), three linemen who all registered touchdown catches with the Ravens.

The difference in this case? Cameron and Harbaugh have too many offensive weapons at their disposal to risk losing one of the greatest defensive players in the game today. Why spend draft picks on two tight ends to complement Todd Heap and then risk your best defensive player trying to be too cute?

Ngata playing offense was a fun spectacle until we saw what nearly happened with the Ravens’ season flashing before the eyes of 71,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lesson learned — hopefully.

6. It was natural for questions to arise whether the Ravens had any interest in bringing back Antwan Barnes after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but  Harbaugh promptly shot down the idea on Monday. (Update: Barnes signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday afternoon)

In three years with the Ravens, the linebacker-defensive end managed only five sacks and sealed his fate last October when he whiffed on a tackle of Cedric Benson that led to a 28-yard touchdown run and an eventual loss to the Bengals.

Barnes is too small to provide help at defensive end, where the Ravens need a consistent pass-rush threat, and not athletic enough to play linebacker on every down. If they didn’t want him before the season, what would have changed a month later?

“I haven’t had a conversation with him,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We don’t really have a roster opportunity right now for that. We wouldn’t be opposed to it. Antwan’s a good person, a good player. Obviously, he’s done some good things here. But, right now, there’s no way roster-wise we could pull that off.”

In other words, “Thanks, but no thanks — we’ve moved on.”

7. If all goes to plan and you believe the recent comments made by Harbaugh, Sunday will mark the final game before All-Pro safety Ed Reed returns to the 53-man roster after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list.

During training camp, I said Tom Zbikowski would do an adequate job at free safety in Reed’s absence, and the third-year safety has done just that. So with the Ravens currently having the second-best pass defense in the NFL (behind only the New York Giants), the question must be asked:

How well will Reed fit into the secondary when he returns to the starting lineup?

The Baltimore defense no longer plays the exotic, aggressive schemes of Rex Ryan, but employs a conservative, “bend, but don’t break” style under Mattison. Reed has always gambled in the defensive backfield, at times leaving teammates out to dry in coverage while also making some of the greatest plays in NFL history.

With the 32-year-old returning from hip surgery, it will be interesting to see whether Reed takes a more conservative approach in coverage or returns with a bigger chip on his shoulder to prove he’s still one of the best defensive players in the league and deserving of the new contract he so desperately wants. If Reed proves to be a lesser player than he was prior to the hip procedure but plays with the same aggressive style, the secondary could be more vulnerable to the big play.

That said, it is hard to doubt a player who will one day be enshrined in Canton.

8. Speaking of injured players, you have to wonder how long the Ravens will continue to wait for Jared Gaither to return. Other than being a limited participant in one practice a couple weeks ago, the offensive tackle has been out with a thoracic disc injury since training camp.

With roster decisions looming with Reed and fellow PUP list members Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Lawrence, Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh may need to pull the plug on the projected starter at right tackle.

The improved play of Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard has eased concerns on the right side of the line. Cohesion upfront is difficult to develop, so Gaither’s potential return would require another period of adjustment, something the coaching staff might be uncomfortable with later in the season.

Keep in mind, Gaither has not played right tackle regularly since the early part of his collegiate career at Maryland, so this isn’t a savvy veteran who can step right in to his regular position when healthy.

If Gaither does not make significant progress by the bye week, his season will likely come to a disappointing end.

9. Much has been said about the return of the three-headed running attack and the 2008-like feel to Sunday’s win over the Broncos, but don’t expect it to last.

Like it or not, the Ravens’ current profile is a pass-first team that runs the ball efficiently. The dominating 233-yard rushing performance against Denver was more the effect of a comfortable lead than some epiphany for Cameron.

Of Joe Flacco’s 97 completions through five games, 50 have been for under 10 yards, looking a little like the “running” game of the Patriots with Brady under helm. However, his 6.6 yards per attempt (the lowest of his career) needs to increase for the offense to continue growing.

Despite the profile change — which really began last season — the ability to pound the football looms large when the elements grow harsh, and the Ravens will use it when appropriate.

10. Ranking 19th in the league in total offense (328.2 yards per game) and tied for 17th in points scored (18.4 per game), the Baltimore offense has room for improvement with Cameron and Flacco trying to distribute the ball to keep a plethora of talented players — and egos — happy.

As well as the defense has played, it hasn’t done its counterpart any favors in the turnover department with only three takeaways and a -6 turnover differential, both last in the AFC.

Nothing gives an offense more confidence than starting drives on a short field, and a few more turnovers might be the serum the offense needs to excel. Fortunately, the defense and kick coverage has played well enough to win the field-position battle in most instances, but the turnover differential must improve if the Ravens are to take a step toward elitism, offensively and as a team.

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Ravens catching a break in New England ???

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Ravens catching a break in New England ???

Posted on 06 October 2010 by Rex Snider

Yes, I’m quite aware of the Baltimore Ravens schedule of regular season matchups, and this week features a visit from the Denver Broncos. It’s the second home game of the year and John Harbaugh’s squad is reasonably favored by 7 solid points.

I don’t look ahead ….. and I’m certainly not looking beyond Josh McDaniels’ very capable passing attack.

Heck, I would take Denver and the touchdown, if I gambled on football. That said, I still think the Ravens will win the game.

But, beyond this week, a very interesting matchup looms. Just one week from today, the Ravens and every individual who covers, follows and supports the team will be focusing on the New England Patriots.

While I know many observers are relying on last season’s playoff beatdown of Tom Brady as a means for justification in counting on a WIN in the upcoming trip to Foxboro, a proportionate number of us are little more cautious.

Regardless of what happened just 9 short months ago, things can and will change …..

Tom Brady is one of those ELITE quarterbacks we like discussing, when proposing the future aspirations of Joe Flacco. Brady possesses a methodical technique to spreading the ball around, while picking upon vulnerabilities of a defense.

Back in January, Brady’s options were far less numbered than usual. His new tight end options, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, were still in college. Newly acquired running back, Danny Woodhead, was part of Rex Ryan’s depth chart, in New York. And, Randy Moss was hobbled by injury – as the game against the Ravens clearly demonstrated.

Oh yeah, and this guy was done for the season.
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I’m not suggesting Wes Welker would’ve turned the table in that loss to the Ravens. John Harbaugh had his team prepared to play and they simply beat New England in every facet of the game.

However, in just 11 short days, the scene could appear differently ….. MUCH DIFFERENTLY.

And, it could end up benefiting the Ravens.

Last night, rumors regarding Randy Moss started circulating. Specifically, the information indicated Moss might be returning to the Minnesota Vikings, via trade.

This morning, the rumors are becoming more concrete and several sources (including the WORLD WIDE LEADER) are confirming a trade will be completed today. Of course, it hinges on Moss getting a contract extension – and more money.

Such a deal makes sense on many levels.

The Vikings desperately need to find a capable set of hands for the landing end of Brett Favre’s passes. And, a deep threat would be icing on the cake. Oh yeah, and Moss obviously knows the Vikings organization.

Perhaps, some mitigating reasons are at play, as well …..

I think many of us can envision a scenario where Favre packs up his Minny-circus for good, especially if the team is languishing below the .500 mark when November rolls around. And, given the underachieving play of the highly touted Green Bay Packers, the Vikings brass might sense an opportunity opening up.

Indeed, I can reasonably foresee a trade of Moss being beneficial for both organizations, especially if the Patriots yield some young defensive depth in return. Although, it would be a textbook Patriots move in simply collecting high draft picks in return.

Of all the reasons contemplated for predicting a trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings, the most daunting is undoubtedly tied to this mad scientist …..
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The entire football world knows Randy Moss is unhappy with his contract situation. It’s the same unprofessional load of crap that resulted in his ugly divorce from the Vikings, following the 2004 season.

Moss became a distraction for the Vikings. He undermined the mission of the team and his coach, Mike Tice.

The same situation appears to be blossoming, in New England. He’s getting louder and louder about his contractual bitterness. He didn’t catch a single pass in Monday’s victory against Miami, and he reportedly had “words” with Bill Belichick, yesterday.

That’s a bad move ….. unless, of course, the intent was to expedite a deal.

Regardless of how anyone feels about the New England Patriots, I think everyone with a CLUE realizes who really runs, controls and commands that organization. Bill Belichick is without a shadow of doubt, the H.M.F.I.C. of that team.

Nobody challenges his authority. And, if someone commits such an act, they’ll receive a departure ticket out of Logan Airport pretty quickly. Just ask Deion Branch or Adalius Thomas.

As I write this blog, many syndicated voices are flushing the collective 2010 competitive chances of the Patriots directly down the toilet …..

I’m not buying that bill of goods.

I’ve watched, too many times, as ELITE quarterbacks have introduced talented wideouts as overnight rockstars. Do you really think Austin Collie would be a top performer in Tennessee, Cleveland or Seattle? Would Marques Colston be a premier threat in Arizona, Carolina or Buffalo?

The key to the New England Patriots remains the same as it has for the last decade …..
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Tom Brady has ushered a far lesser talented receiving corps into a Super Bowl and won it. Just look at the 2004 edition of that team. (RIGHT HERE)

Without Randy Moss, it’s fair to say the New England Patriots cache’ of receivers is every bit as talented as the Indianapolis Colts’ crew. Is anyone counting them out?

This situation is simply reflective of what happens when a guy disrupts the environment of Bill Belichick’s team. Nothing more, nothing less …..

While I still respect the Patriots as a contender for the AFC crown, I’m pretty upbeat about the Ravens chances in next week’s trip to New England. And, if Randy Moss is no longer there, I’m even more optimistic about the Ravens chances.

While the Ravens are only 4 games into the regular season schedule, they’ve luckily avoided any ELITE quarterback/deep threat combinations. Indeed, the trip to New England serves as a formidable test for Greg Mattison’s secondary unit. With the reported, impending departure of Randy Moss, the gameplan will undoubtedly be a little simpler, right?

I’m certain the Moss situation is a distant consideration for John Harbaugh’s staff. That’s right, they’re squarely focused on Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos. The Ravens will not be looking beyond this Sunday’s game.

But, when next Monday arrives, they might be really happy to see Randy Moss playing on Monday Night Football ….. for the Vikings.

And, wouldn’t you know it, that game is against the Patriots’ divisional rival; Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. Indeed, that’s CLASSIC Belichick.

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Ravens vs. Bengals  –  5 Keys To The Game

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Ravens vs. Bengals – 5 Keys To The Game

Posted on 19 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, after months of dissecting the New Yorks Jets, followed by an emotionally draining Monday night contest in the Meadowlands, it’s time to get back to SUNDAY football.

The Ravens travel to the Queen City, this afternoon, for a 1pm matchup against the Bengals. It should be another tough, close game …. albeit from a diiferent perspective than the struggle against the Jets. The Bengals will most certainly feature a better passing game, while offering weaker resistance than Gang Green’s defensive attack.

Here are my FIVE KEYS to today’s game …..

1) STOP CEDRIC BENSON
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This was the one thing the intimidating Ravens defense could not achieve, in 2009. Benson rushed for 120 and 117 yards, respectively, in both meetings. And, he broke runs of 20+ yards both times, as well. This cannot happen today.

Cedric Benson’s success is undoubtedly tied to his large, athletic offensive line. Each lineman weighs in excess of 320 pounds and they provided a formidable shield for 100 yard gains, 8 times, in 2009. The Ravens must find a way to stop the running attack – if Benson is successful, again, it will leave the Ravens defense languishing on the field for long drives.

It would be nice to see “Mount” Cody helping to plug up the middle. Perhaps, we’ll see Paul Kruger – who runs around like his hair is on fire, as well. Regardless, they MUST stop Benson.
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2) WATCH RAY RUN
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It’s simple, see Key #1. Just as Cedric Benson succeeded against the Ravens, in 2009, Ray Rice realized lesser success. He managed 69 and 48 yards, respectively, in both games. The second matchup, in Cincinnati, exploits some misleading numbers. Rice had only 12 touches, with an average gain of 4 yards, per carry.

While the improved Ravens passing game will be a factor in today’s game, Ray Rice figures to offer that same ability to grinding positive yardage and keeping the Bengals defense on the field. It’s going to be 86 degrees and humid, in Cincinnati, today. It will undoubtedly be tiring conditions for each team’s defense.
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3) SHUT DOWN CARSON PALMER’S ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
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Chad OchoCinco and Terrell Owens will make catches in today’s game. That’s fine. I worry more about the likes of Jordan Shipley, Andre’ Caldwell (remember him?) and Jermaine Gresham. Each of these guys offer varying targets for Palmer. And, I’m suspicious of rookie Gresham’s possible success across the middle. He’s a lot BIGGER than Dustin Keller and he’s quite athletic.

With Ray Lewis nursing a sore foot, I’ll be watching the middle pretty closely.
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4) FLACCO OUTGUNS PALMER
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Perhaps, today can be the DAY that Joe Flacco serves notice as the most prolific passer in the AFC-North. He now has a surrounding cast comparable to the likes of Carson Palmer. Translation – NO EXCUSES.

The additions of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were evident, last week. However, they can STAND OUT today. And, with Todd Heap hurting, we can rely on better backups than names like L.J. Smith and Quinn Sypniewski. Welcome to the show, Ed Dickson. We just might see some fireworks from one of the NFL’s next rockstar tight ends.

But, it rests upon the shoulders (and arm) of Joe Flacco. With Keith Rivers also nursing a sore foot and Jonathan Fanene OUT, the Ravens will likely benefit from a weakened pass rush. Flacco delivers today …..
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5) OUTCOACH ‘EM
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He absolutely did it to Rex Ryan, just 6 nights ago. Today, John Harbaugh is tasked with outsmarting Marvin Lewis in the strategical side of the game. Can it happen? Heck yeah …..

Say what you want, a big part of the Bengals embarrassing performance against New England can be attributed to being OUTCOACHED. Bill Belichick was hellbent on putting the Bengals in an early hole, while removing Cedric Benson from a revamped comeback agenda. It worked perfectly.

Today, Harbaugh & Company will need to have a shrewd strategy as the team enters enemy territory for the 2nd time in as many weeks. It starts with DISCIPLINE, and there is little doubt the Ravens will have that angle covered. Now, lets be smart …..
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Ravens 27 Bengals 24

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3 Keys To Beating The Jets …..

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3 Keys To Beating The Jets …..

Posted on 13 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, we’ve been awaiting the arrival of this day for nearly five months. Through the celebration of Memorial Day, July 4th, family vacations and a return to another school year, this ONE DAY has occupied a place in the forefront of our minds. As I look back to mid-April, we’ve eagerly yearned for two things to happen ….

The Orioles SECOND win of the season

The release of the 2010 NFL schedules

And, when the Ravens slate of games was announced, we wasted no time in circling the first game of the season. Admittedly, it hasn’t always been so significant to get antsy about the season’s first opponent, right? More often than not, it’s just one of 16 contests.

Do you remember these season openers?

2001 – a lackluster win against the Bears to commemorate the Super Bowl championship

2005 – an absolute beatdown by the Colts; a game featuring embarrassing hometown cheers when Kyle Boller was injured

2007 – losing a Monday night opener to the Bengals, while being hyped as a pre-season Super Bowl favorite

2008 – needing late defensive help and luck to beat a less than powerful Chiefs team

Opening games are much easier to recall than most mid-season matchups, right? All teams are undefeated as they head into week #1 on the NFL slate. All teams have hope and optimism. But, 16 of those same teams will find themselves winless as week #2 approaches.

Is tonight’s matchup against the Jets especially significant as it regards the opening of another season? My mind says NO …. each game is important, with only divisional and December/January contests taking on additional significance. Yet, my heart says “HELL YES” it’s more important.

Why? Well, that’s easy …..
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Actually, there are a couple distinct reasons …..

The Baltimore Ravens, as an organization, are not known for rising to the occasion and beating highly touted opponents. And, Monday night matchups on the football world’s big stage haven’t yielded many wins, either.

As we know, the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game, last year. The Ravens are 6-16 in matchups against teams that appeared in the AFC Championship game, the prior season. They’re not known for beating highly touted opponents.

As for Monday contests, the Ravens are 6-8, as the team enters its 15th year in existence. Not a stellar record, huh?

So, I think tonight’s game against the Jets is quite important. While the game does not represent more than a common victory over the Browns or Bucs in the win column, it can serve as an excellent springboard to start the season. The Ravens have an opportunity to beat a quality touted opponent …. and on the big stage.

If they’re gonna win, I see 3 distinct keys to making it happen …..

1) Force Mark Sanchez To Beat This Defense

I don’t think he can do it. In a pressured situation, I don’t think Sanchez can deliver a victory with his arm. His rookie season proved to be full of both mental and executional errors. And, if his portion on HBO’s Hard Knocks was an indicator for his ability to concentrate and comprehend, I’d suggest the Jets are in trouble.

Sanchez looks beyond confused or lost. In fact, he looks disinterested and easily distracted. While he boasts and walks around Manhattan with a 5th Avenue sense of style, he doesn’t carry the same confidence onto the football field. The guy cannot win a BIG GAME …..
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Force him to try. I will bet the house he’ll fail.

If a game is on the line, I don’t want to face Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Heck, I don’t want to face Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers, either. But, I’ll take my chances facing Mark Sanchez. I would bet against him every time.
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2) Come Out FIRING !!!!

The entire football world knows and expects the product known as RAVENS FOOTBALL. It’s quite predictable; relentlessly pursue on defense and establish a methodical, conservative running game. The Ravens’ storied offensive approach is contrary to the Mannings, Brees’ and Bradys of the world. Heck, it’s contrary to Roethlisberger – if he really needs to make a play.

I want to see the Ravens testing the Jets on the first possession. I’m not saying abandon the run, I’m just hoping the emphasis of the gameplan doesn’t rest on Ray Rice’s shoulders. Test the UNTESTED Jets secondary …..

Antonio Cromartie was kicked out of San Diego – good cornerbacks aren’t shown the door so easily.

Kyle Wilson has NEVER seen a play in the NFL’s regular season.

Darrelle Revis hasn’t played a minute of “fullspeed” football in nearly 8 months.

Jim Leonhard is a prototypical part-time player.

TEST THEM.

Will Joe Flacco throw a couple picks if he’s so aggressive? Probably. That just puts the ball back in the hands of this guy …..
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I will take my chances against Mark Sanchez every single time. He’s NEVER really won an NFL game. I’ve said this a hundred times over the last few months …. “the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game in spite of Sanchez, rather than because of him.”

He is not beating the Ravens defense.
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3) Ask Yourself, “What Would Bill Belichick Do?”

After the dust and hype from tonight’s contest settles, one team will be undefeated and the other will be winless. That’s the promise of the NFL’s first week. When tomorrow morning arrives, we’ll have a distinct winner and loser.

In fact, when tomorrow morning arrives, John Harbaugh and his staff will have their minds squarely on the Cincinnati Bengals. And, Rex Ryan’s team will be focusing on the New England Patriots. Then again, Rex might be finishing up a fresh helping of humble pie, too.

Make no mistake about it, as I sit here writing this blog, Bill Belichick is probably holed up in some dark room, obsessing over Hard Knocks footage, as well as last year’s AFC Championship game tape. He’ll be watching and rewinding tonight’s game, too.

Is that Belichick’s strategy? No, it’s his preparation. His strategy to pick apart an opponent’s defensive vulnerabilities and eventually clamp down on them by throwing for touchdown after touchdown after touchdown.

While they don’t always achieve such a dominance, the Belichick & Brady combination seek to beat an opponent to a point of certain victory. They’ll stick their foot on the throat of competition and never lift off, until the final whistle blows.

That’s what they did to the Bengals, yesterday. And, it’s exactly what they’ll plan to do against the Jets, next week.

I’m hoping John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Cam Cameron, Ray Lewis, Greg Mattison and every other member of the Ravens has the same relentless desire to crush the opponent in tonight’s game. Come out fast and don’t let off …..

What would Bill Belichick do?

That’s right, he’ll command each and every assault in his arsenal. He’ll pour it on. He’ll test and likely victimize the overhyped Jets defensive secondary.

And, aside from anything else, he knows this kid will never bring his team from behind to beat the Patriots …..
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Hate him or not, do what Bill Belichick would do …..

Beat the Jets beyond submission. While Rex Ryan had a great hand in building the Ravens defense, he’s asserted himself as ENEMY #1 on the football field. Let him feel the pain of humiliation.

Rex’s ego is probably bigger than ever. He has guaranteed the Jets go to the Super Bowl.

Tonight, the Ravens can take a first step in ensuring Rex’s promise – albeit from the seats and watching the game as fans.

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