Tag Archive | "cleveland browns"

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We found something worse than replacement refs — Thursday night football

Posted on 28 September 2012 by Drew Forrester

There’s a reason why horses don’t race every third day.

They’re not built to do it.

And likewise, football players aren’t built to play two games in four days.

Nowhere was that more evident than on Thursday night in Baltimore, where the Ravens and Browns plodded along in the rain until a Brandon Weeden pass sailed through the end zone on the game’s final play to give Baltimore a 23-16 win.

It’s a shame that NFL players and coaches have to go through this exercise-in-futility once a season, but that’s the way it goes these days as the league tries to dig itself out of a deep financial hole otherwise known as the NFL Network.

What sounded like a great idea a half-dozen years ago — “let’s start our own TV network and dedicate it to the NFL 24/7” – has now contributed to the watering down of a terrific product.  These Thursday night affairs have become so benign and pedestrian that the outcome is all but predictable.  In fact, the home team is now 17-5 over the last 22 of these things.

“No matter how much you try (as a player), there’s no way you feel like this is actually a ‘regular’ game,” said one Ravens veteran to me in the locker room after the rainy escape from the Browns.  “I’ve played in a lot of these now and they always have the same weird feeling.  You just get the sense everyone wants to be into it, but some guys just aren’t.  It’s hard.  We just played on Sunday. Usually on Wednesday or Thursday you’re just starting to feel like yourself again.”

That’s exactly what it looked like to me on Thursday.

“Everyone wants to be into it, but some guys just aren’t.”

That Thursday night’s affair featured the visiting Browns was a major help to the Ravens.  Last week, the Panthers drew the short end of the stick when the defending Super Bowl champions came calling and the Giants manhandled Carolina, 36-7.  Cleveland is almost an automatic win these days…and that’s when you play them on Sunday.  Mix in a Thursday night encounter and it’s about the slammest of slam dunks.

The Browns did manage to throw a scare into John Harbaugh’s team, nearly driving the length of the field before the game’s final pass was incomplete in the end zone, but this one was over when the schedule came out last April.

You’re not coming to Baltimore on a Thursday night and beating the Ravens.

Especially if you’re the Browns.

But the real story of Thursday night’s game wasn’t that the Ravens (now 3-1*) won and the Browns (0-4*) lost.

The story of the night was the force-fed approach of Thursday night football by the NFL, who have figured out a way to damage their own enterprise by making players do something they’re not built to do.

Football players – ever since their days in high school – have conditioned themselves to play a game once a week, with 6 or 7 days of rest and recovery from game-to-game.

Three days of recovery isn’t enough for a professional player.

And for a league hell bent on stressing player safety, the message that’s sent with Thursday games is fuzzy at best.  No one wants to play football on Thursday night.  No one.  Ask any coach in the league if they want to play on Thursday and they’ll tell you “hell no”.  Ask any player and you’ll hear the same thing.

But the league, of course, didn’t ask the coaches or players if they wanted to play on Thursday night.

The NFL chased the money, again, and came up with a new way to maximize revenue while minimizing quality.

I assume Thursday football is here to stay.

And I can also assume – or guarantee – that Thursday football will always be scoffed at by the coaches and the players, who simply aren’t built to play two football games in four days.

(Note: Records of Ravens* and Browns* are noted with * to acknowledge that games were played in the regular season with non-professional officials calling the games.)

 

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Washington Redskins v Baltimore Ravens

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Don’t Believe the AFC North Hype…Yet

Posted on 03 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Of all of the changes that the NFL has brought forth in the last couple of seasons, one that went without a great deal of notice has certainly had a profound impact so far. The line that teams have walked all too often in recent seasons after wrapping up playoff fortunes with games still remaining on their schedule has been too much of a story lately, but this year not so much. Whether a direct result of the decision to put divisional match-ups in the season’s final weeks or not it made for one of the most exciting final weeks of any NFL season in recent memory. Add “Goodell’s Grand Finale” to the once celebrated “Pete’s Parity” and you have the excitement that was week 17 of this NFL season.

The Ravens run through their own division unblemished is cause for celebration, and with 3 teams qualified for this year’s playoffs the AFC North is being hailed as the league’s best division. The Bengals are young and dangerous, and now stocked with picks courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade, the Browns are tough and physical and also stocked with picks courtesy of the Julio Jones trade and perhaps in better position than any team to trade into the first overall pick if the Colts should choose to shop it. And the Ravens and Steelers are simply the Ravens and Steelers. But before we proclaim the AFC North the class of the NFL, we should at least acknowledge that parity is more relative from division to division than league wide, and that the AFC North may simply be the most accomplished division in football because they had the easiest trek though the 2011 season.

 

You never can quite tell how teams will be from season to season in the NFL, but sometimes you can. While every year brings a fresh example of a team with no expectations suddenly becoming a force on the back of a few “minor” tweaks to the coaching staff, roster or approach, we should also acknowledge that those examples aren’t as plentiful as the attention that they get would suggest, and that more often than not we have a pretty good idea going into the season who’ll be good and who’ll struggle.

 

If you were picking a schedule for the Ravens or any AFC North team to have success in 2011, and charged with using the NFL formula of matching up against 1 whole division in the AFC and 1 in the NFC you probably would have picked the AFC South and the NFC West. Surely you would have picked the NFC West as maybe one or two teams in that less than mediocre division could have been expected to be competitive (as the 49ers became this year’s surprise team) but expecting the entire division to have a resurgence would have been unfathomable, as the division has been floundering for years now without improvement.

 

The AFC South would have looked almost equally ripe for the picking even before Peyton Manning was announced to be out for the season, and despite the Texans best attempts at representing the division respectably, injuries ultimately took their toll on them too.

 

Add the bottom dwelling Cleveland Brown to the mix and the formula was just right for the successes of the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. The Browns are scrappy and can’t be totally dismissed, but they did play their divisional schedule to the tune of 0-6 this season, serving up 2 wins each of cushion for the division’s other 3 teams.

 

In 2010 the NFC South had 3 double digit win teams. The Falcons won 13 games, the Saints won 11 and both made the playoffs and the Buccaneers picked up 10 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs while looking promising. They did so while matching up against the terrible NFC West, and an AFC North with 2 bottom dwellers in Cincinnati and Cleveland that offered up “easy” chances at racking up wins. The NFC South also had the floundering Panthers in 2010 who served up 6 wins to the rest of the division in struggling through a miserable campaign themselves.

 

This year the NFC South still looks relatively strong although slightly less promising beyond the top two as they were charged with matching up with an NFC North that was better than last year’s NFC West draw but also took advantage of this year’s weaker AFC South.

 

In 2008 the AFC East and NFC East both looked equally promising as both took advantage of similar scheduling “opportunities”.

 

Next year the AFC North will be afforded the opportunity to feast of the AFC West if they’re able to take advantage, and if the NFC is in the disarray that it appears to be in all of a sudden there too may lie an opportunity. While I won’t yet acknowledge the AFC North as football’s best division, the likelihood of them getting 3 teams into the playoffs again next season (especially if the Browns serve up another 6 wins) might look pretty good again. What they do once they’re there will determine which division is best.

 

 

 

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Here's a sample of what we're talking about on the MobTown Sports Beat on Monday from 10-2. Drop me a line at 410-481-1570 to get in on the discussion or by email thryl@wnst.net or on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST.

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MobTown Sports Blog

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a quick look ahead at the agenda for Monday on the MobTown Sports Beat:

 

Ravens Reaction

 

The Ravens are always on the table, especially on MSB Mondays. We’ll look back on the Ravens impressive and needed win over divisional rival Cleveland and have plenty of reaction.

 

A Nickel and a Nail

 

Five penny for your thought type topics of conversation and a nail for someone who deserves it.

 

#1 – BC-Mess or Oklahoma Statement

 

Despite an impressive thumping of the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State will be home watching the BCS title game like the rest of us. There’s little doubt that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country, but do we really want to relive 9-6 snoozer that was the “game of the century” from just over a month ago? And how now can LSU lose a national title to Alabama after beating them on their own field in November and playing a much tougher out of conference schedule and the SEC title game? How much of this is due to the media’s inability to let go of their stated notion that Alabama was the best team in the country in the first place? Would LSU be getting this same opportunity if they had lost at home to Bama?

 

 

#2 – Tarheels are Baby Soft

 

They’re talented, there’s no doubt about that. The Tarheels are inordinately talented for a team in this the “one and done” era, the problem is that they seem to know it too. The juggernaut that Carolina looked to bring to the table after returning Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zellar and John Henson to fuse with the typical insurgence of Tarheel freshman talent so far has been anything but. After stumbling out of the gates last year only to turn it up for the stretch, Barnes looks to be making that his habit. Their talent will be enough to get them by on most nights, but when the real heat turns up, look for these Tarheels to wilt under the pressure like they did against Kentucky on Saturday. They appear poorly coached and at times altogether indifferent. Don’t believe the hype surrounding this Carolina team, as it appears that they themselves have already bought in too much.

 

#3 – NBA Free Agency to Begin on Monday?

 

Sort of at least…beginning on Monday it looks like teams will be free to at least make known their intentions and overtures to prospective free agents ahead of Friday’s projected final resolution in the lockout. Big men abound in free agency and no NBA team ever has enough of those. Greg Oden could be headed to the Heat, making him and them even more hated then each is already individually. Additionally, as “Big 3’s” are seemingly becoming en vogue, teams will be looking to fish or cut bait with a few marquee names that could quickly become trade fodder. Derron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could all begin or end this season with new teams. And let’s not forget about Danny Ainge’s latest attempt to sabotage the Celtics. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of the Rajon Rondo trade rumors or their impact.

 

#4 – A.F.Seeding

 

The top end of the AFC all managed to hold serve on Sunday. Along with the Ravens win, the Steelers beat the Bengals 35-7, the Patriots beat the hapless Colts 31-24 and the Texans rallied behind TJ Yates for a 17-10 win over the fading Falcons, so the logjam continues at 9-3 atop the AFC.

 

Houston survived a tough opponent behind TJ Yates first start after losing Andre Johnson again mid-game in a scene eerily similar to the one that preceded his last hamstring injury and kept him out of action for several weeks, and Brian Cushing left early too. If it weren’t for bad luck, these Texans wouldn’t have any yet they still refuse to lose in this their ordained playoff season given the absence of Peyton Manning in the division.

 

The Raiders were blasted by the suddenly resurgent Dolphins 34-14 and coupled with another heroic Tim Tebow comeback effort, surrendered the top spot in the AFC West (by virtue of a tiebreaker) to Denver.

 

The Titans and Jets both picked up wins to pull even with Cincinnati in the race for the final wild card spot with the Bengalis still enjoying the benefit of the tiebreaker…for now.

 

#5 – Packers on a Roll

 

Green Bay survived its first real test of the season on Sunday when the Giants punched in a 2-point conversion to tie them with less than a minute remaining and one timeout for the Packers. We should have known on the kickoff that the Pack was about to do something special. Randall Cobb, who’s having a fine year, took a knee on the kickoff just a yard or so deep in the end zone, essentially conceding that taking time away from Aaron Rodgers and the offense, even a few seconds, would be unacceptable even for a return man adept at taking them to the house. Two plays later the Packers were in field goal range and the rest as they say was history.

 

If you’re giving me the Packers or the field today, I’ll still take the field but it’s getting tougher to do each week. You could argue that now isn’t the time to be playing your best football, but the Packers have been doing it since week 1 and still look to be improving. They’re much deeper than last year’s injury riddled bunch and now can count themselves battle tested too.

 

You’d almost like to get an L out of the way before the playoffs start, but if it’s going to happen for these Packers it looks like it’ll happen naturally, as they don’t seem to be slowing at all. Maybe the cursed Colts season has taught a lesson to anyone willing to take note, “embrace the 0, or the 0 will come get you”.

 

And the nail goes to the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti for their announcement to take their ball and go home, or more specifically to cancel indefinitely the Westminster training camp that had become engrained in the traditions of many a Ravens’ fan who can’t get to the stadium for actual games.

 

The move has money written all over it, in this immediate aftermath of the NFL lockout where we as a public were forced to endure the tug of war over an unfathomably fat cache of cash that we were all made too well aware of, that seems to be bad form.  The team will surely try to make it up to the fans somehow, but attempts will be feeble at best compared to the rite of passage that was Ravens training camp.

 

(While not a regular attendee at Ravens training camp myself, I certainly understand the loss that some are feeling. As a 38-year old Baltimore native, my only “real” memories of the Baltimore Colts began and ended with training camps at Goucher college)

 

It’s not lost on us, Mr. Bisciotti, that you’re the same guy who encouraged us to offset the season ticket price increase of a few years ago by selling our Patriots, Steelers and/or Colts tickets as they were doing very well on the secondary market. Clearly the real plight and point of view of the average fan is lost on the occupants of the owner’s box.

 

What’s not lost on Mr. Bisciotti is the ability to pass the buck, or more aptly to allow crap to roll downhill, as he did by calling it a football decision. By stating that the Ravens were a better football team when they practice at their Owings Mills facility the owner laid blame right at the coach’s feet even without saying quite that much.

 

The truth is, it’s hard to say whether the Ravens are better or worse when they don’t have a camp, as this is the first year without one and also a year anomalous in the annals of NFL history due to the lockout. Using this season, as a barometer to measure anything is pointless at best and more likely irresponsible.

 

I’ll agree that life is easier for the Ravens when they don’t have to pack up and move operations from Owings Mills to Westminster and back, but easy isn’t the road to NFL glory. Eight times per season the Ravens will have to pack up and prepare, at least in part, away from the castle, usually in makeshift conditions not ideally suited or built for the purpose of readying a team for a football game. That the Ravens have struggled in doing it this season may speak to the “preparation” they’d have gotten in camp, under similar conditions.

 

 The road to a Super Bowl is a tough one, and one that the Ravens took once already while holding camp in Westminster, and the team enjoys lots of cushy handouts and civic backrubs from fans who’ll never have the chance to set foot in the stadium for a game, to lock them out using the fortress that they in part financed is just wrong.

 

 

@ Me Back

 

3 random questions. Hit me with your answers on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST, by email thyrl@wnst.net, or at 410-481-1570. Whatever you do, get back @ me.

 

@-1: Who are the top 5 on your #NFL rookie of the year ballot?

 

I’ll go Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, AJ Green, Torrey Smith & DeMarco Murray

 

@-2: Who would you seed 1-8 in a college football playoff?

 

Give me- #1 LSU, #2 Bama, #3 OK St., #4 Boise, #5 Stanford, #6 Arkansas, #7 Wisconsin, #8 Clemson/WVU play-in or Oregon if I have to pick 1.

 

@-3: Who looks the like the best college hoops team so far?

 

For me – Kentucky, Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse, Missouri…but there’s a lot of teams I haven’t seen yet and a bunch more I can’t wait to see again.

 

 

 

 

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Ravens pound hapless Browns, 24-10

Posted on 04 December 2011 by Drew Forrester

If ever a football game could induce writer’s block, that one on Sunday in Cleveland sure did the trick to me.

I have no idea what to say about that game except this:  How the hell did the Browns win four games so far this season?

Holy cow they stink.

I almost felt bad for the Ravens in the 3rd quarter when it was 10-0.  There was no challenge, no real resistance from the Browns, and, predictably, a half-filled stadium with virtually no energy for the game or the home team.

I thought I was watching the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton. It was that bad.

The Ravens weren’t bad, mind you.  They ran more than Forrest Gump on Sunday, traumatizing the Browns front seven with smash-mouth football and a 204 yard day from Ray Rice that commenced with a 30-yard scamper on Baltimore’s first offensive play of the game.

But the game itself was about as boring as Barry Manilow covering a bunch of Bob Dylan tunes.

Fortunately, unlike two other occasions when the Ravens went into sleep-walking mode against inferior opponents in Jacksonville and Seattle, Baltimore would not give in to the day’s boredom.  They plodded their way to a 10-0 lead and eventually stretched it to 24-3 before giving up a late touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Evan Moore.

It wasn’t even a cakewalk on Sunday.

It was easier than that.

And it should be that easy again next Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts and their 0-12 record come wobbling into Charm City for an expected thrashing at M&T Bank Stadium.

The schedule favors the Ravens now, as they finish the season with the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals.  Four wins and Baltimore secures home-field throughout the AFC playoffs.  And when you secure home-field throughout, you’re only two wins away from the Super Bowl.

Writer’s block.  That’s what games like Sunday’s affair in Cleveland produce.

I wanted to write about how great the Ravens running game was in the victory.  Or how Baltimore managed to win despite two missed field goals and a costly Joe Flacco turnover near midfield.

But all I could keep thinking was this — “How the hell did Cleveland win four times this season?”

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Ravens avoid letdown vs Browns with 24-10 victory

Posted on 04 December 2011 by WNST Staff

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The Nasty Purple Pre-Game "3-Things-We're Looking-4": Ravens-Browns

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The Nasty Purple Pre-Game “3-Things-We’re Looking-4”: Ravens-Browns

Posted on 04 December 2011 by Ryan Chell

Glenn’s List

1. Form tackle Peyton Hillis

 

 

2. Avoid compounding mistakes

 

 

3. Run the ball effectively

 

 

Drew Forrester’s List

 

1. 85 or less yards for Peyton Hillis

 

 

2. Eliminate Josh Cribbs

 

 

3. Don’t allow big plays in the passing game

 

 

Ryan’s List

1. Know which back (Ogbonnaya, Hillis, or Hardesty) is in Cleveland’s backfield at all times

 

 

2. Don’t be too aggressive on defense going for a fumble/interception

 

 

3. Get yards on 1st and 2nd down

 

Be sure to tune in to WNST following the conclusion of Ravens-Browns for the Nasty Purple Post-Game Show to see if these expectations

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Nakamura says no letdown vs. Browns

Posted on 02 December 2011 by Ryan Chell

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CBS’ Bill Macatee says Ravens have to avoid letdown like Week 2 vs. Titans

Posted on 01 December 2011 by WNST Audio

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Hear from Jarret Johnson in the locker room today at 1 Winning Drive

Posted on 28 November 2011 by WNST Audio

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts)    season: 13-12 (-20 pts) 

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts)    season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts)    season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

Last week Total: 5-7-1  (-164 pts)     Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)

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