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Flacco’s big day leads Ravens to playoffs at Miami

Posted on 28 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

Take a look at this video highlight.  It’s the day the Ravens’ 2008 season changed for the better.

This time last year, Joe Flacco was just completing his senior season at the University of Delaware, where he led the Blue Hens to the Football Championship Subdivison title game before bowing to Appalachian State.

Today, he capped off an amazing rookie season in the NFL by leading the Ravens into the playoffs of the National Football League.  Baltimore’s 27-7 win over Jacksonville puts Baltimore at 11-5 and into the post-season one year after going 5-11.  They’ll face the equally surprising Miami Dolphins, who captured the AFC East today with a win at New York and finished 11-5 after a 1-15 campaign in 2007.

I need to write it again just for kicks:  The Ravens are going to the playoffs.

What a difference a year – and a Quarterback – makes.

It’s one thing for Ray Lewis to have a remarkable season.  He’s a Hall of Famer.

It’s not a shock to see Ed Reed do what he’s done this year.  He might be the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and could have cemented his Canton bust with this season’s performance.

Derrick Mason went over the 10,000 yard mark in receiving this season and he’s only the 31st player in league history to have done it.  It’s not surprising to see him have the kind of year he’s having.

But for Flacco to have put together a 2008 campaign like he has is just unthinkable in the NFL.  If not for Matt Ryan’s heroics in Atlanta, Flacco would the NFL’s Rookie of the Year.  And, of course, he still might be when it’s all said and done.

Rookie quarterbacks just don’t come along and play all 16 games and produce to the extent that Flacco has this season.  

But, he did.

And, most importantly, when the Ravens could ill afford for Flacco to have one of those “rookie days”, he instead delivered perhaps the biggest game from a quarterback in the team’s history.  When it mattered most, the rookie came through with a clutch performance, going 17-for-23 for 297 yards and driving Baltimore downfield with big throws to Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason throughout the game.

The Ravens won some big, big games in the 2000 season (and playoffs) but Trent Dilfer NEVER played like Flacco did today.  

What a difference a Quarterback – and a year – makes.

And the Ravens are going back to the playoffs for the 2nd time in three seasons, only this time there’s a completely different vibe than in ’06 when Steve McNair hobbled his way through the regular season and then laid a big egg in the playoff loss to the Colts on January 13, 2007.

Here’s more good news if you’re a fan of the purple.  They have a decent chance to do some damage in the post-season.  The tonic for post-season success in the NFL is simple:  Momentum, injuries and being able to win a big game on the road.  Check out the Ravens profile as the season comes to an end: They enter the playoffs on a major roll, they’re as healthy as anyone in the AFC, and, they were 5-3 on the road in ’08. They can win away from M&T Bank Stadium in January.  They’ll have to, of course, if they want to advance past next weekend.

For now, let’s take a day or two to revel in what was a terrific regular season.  A new coach, a new philosophy and a new quarterback.

They all came together at the right time.

And the Ravens are going back to the playoffs.

But, today, the quarterback took center stage in the win over Jacksonville.

Joe Flacco has changed the Ravens’ franchise.

Anyone want to bet against them in January?

I wouldn’t.

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Getting a grip on the Festivus activities

Posted on 23 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

So, it looks like we’re getting into the playoffs. Well at least we can talk that way for a few more days and as a 10-point favorite against Jacksonville this weekend (and please note the gametime change to 4:15 p.m., which means the coldest possibilities for us) the Ravens should win. Heck, if they don’t win they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs, really.

So, assuming that the Ravens are going to win this week and advance to the playoffs I started putting together playoff possibilities onto a cocktail napkin on Sunday and this is what I came up with…and I can’t imagine the NFL scheduling gods could have cooked this weekend up with a whole lot more drama than what they have – several cool matchups and playoff spots on the line in both conferences.

Indianapolis can now pack their bags for Denver or San Diego. But that Sunday night game is gonna be a good one. You gotta think that the Chargers have all of the momentum and the home field. What a story that would be, digging out from 4-8 to make the playoffs. Kinda unheard of…

Clearly, Nasvhille and Pittsburgh are just sitting tight, taking a “bye” week before their official byes. And as we saw two years ago, that extra slacker time isn’t always the best route. Two of the last three Super Bowl champs (Pittsburgh 2005 and N.Y. Giants 2007) have come from the No. 6 hole and not only won three in a row on the road but also overcame the extra game and the lack of a bye. You’d figure that being a higher seed would be a good thing but the recent history doesn’t support it.

And the Ravens (or the eventual No. 6 seed) will be headed to the AFC East winner. If Miami beats the Jets, we’re headed to South Florida. If the Jets beat the Dolphins, we go to New England provided they win in  Buffalo (hardly a given).

And such begins any legitimate Ravens fan’s aspirations of catching fire and making January 2009 one helluva memorable month. Here are my thoughts:

1.    Miami is the Ravens’ best first-round path. While the flights are jam-packed (good luck trying to get to South Florida next weekend if the Ravens make it there!), the weather and a matchup where the homefield won’t be so unkind is favorable for the Ravens. It certainly beats going to frosty New England, which is the worst scenario for the Ravens. If the Jets win and the Patriots flop this weekend and we wind up at the Meadowlands against Brett Favre, I still like our chances. Just FYI: if the Ravens go to New England or New York, we’ve already got “Miller Lite Roadtrips” ready to go! If the Ravens play in Miami, we will not be offering a trip.
2.    A Ravens win at the AFC East champion would take them to a path that’s well-traveled and familiar to Ray Lewis, Matt Stover and any real Ravens fan: Nashville. Clearly, the Titans would rather not see No. 52 coming back into the former Adelphia Coliseum in January. And assuming another Tennessee road miracle win…
3.    The AFC Championship Game could be in Pittsburgh (assuming they don’t choke the weekend of Jan. 10-11) or San Diego, Denver or even Indianapolis, if they could win two in a row on the road and take down the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Of course every fan of every team is plotting their own pathway through their respective conference playoff possibilities. This is the joy of having a Festivus celebration – the possibilities and hope that even being a “potential” No. 6 seed affords. And, we still have to win a game at home this weekend against a feisty Jacksonville team to do that.

As we’ve seen over and over again in the NFL: NO ONE LAYS DOWN late in the season. Well, no one but the Arizona Cardinals, any way…

The lowly Seahawks, Redskins and the Bills all pulled off upsets over playoff-inspired favorites last Sunday. The Jaguars played the Colts extremely tough last Thursday night and they’ll have two extra days of rest before coming here this Sunday. Maurice Jones Drew got dinged up very late in the game against Indy, so it’ll be interesting to see how effective he’ll be this week but he’s an explosive threat, like a human pinball or a poor man’s Barry Sanders. He’ll present speed issues for the Ravens defense in the middle of the field.

There’s no “counting chickens” as a Ravens fan. This Jaguars game is hardly a walkover in my mind. But a win this week opens all sorts of doors of possibilities for 2009 and dreams of an improbably Super Bowl run with a rookie coach, a rookie quarterback and a veteran Hall of Famer inspiring the troops in the September of his career.

The storylines for the Ravens are obvious:

Ray Lewis in a walk year trying to win another Super Bowl…

Trevor Pryce going for No. 3…

Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle, who both came up one-yard short almost a decade ago, getting another chance…

A first chance for Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap and other Pro Bowlers to win a championship…

Will it start in Miami?

Or New England?

Or a trip to the Meadowlands for Favre and the Jets?

Can the Ravens avoid an upset at the hands of the Jaguars – who were truly Kyptonite to this franchise in the early years when they won the first eight matchups of the rivalry – to earn the No. 6 seed. For better or worse, the playoffs come to Baltimore at 4:15 this Sunday in what amounts to a “play in” game for the franchise and the city.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, indeed…

Happy Festivus to all…

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Nothing unlucky about these 13 points to ponder…

Posted on 22 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

1. Hard to pick the NFL’s Cinderella Team for ’08, particularly when our home team is one of the candidates – but you have to give it to the Dolphins at this point.  1-15 a year ago and now 10-5 and a win away from hosting a playoff game.  Just goes to show you — if you’re not good in the NFL, wait around a year or two and you will be.  Unless, of course, you’re the Lions.  Too bad the Orioles aren’t in the AFC East.

2. Right now, I’m calling an Indianapolis-Carolina Super Bowl.  That could change, of course, depending on any key injuries in the final regular season game(s).  But I’ll stick with it as my official “pre-playoff prediction”.  Oh, by the way, Carolina wins. 

3. Speaking of the O’s, are they creative enough to work hard over the next 48 hours and get the Teixeira deal done and present him to the media/fans at mid-day on Christmas Eve?  What a gift that would be…

4. Gonna be really hard to pick the Ravens MVP.  Based on my “Tuesday Top 7″ points system, Joe Flacco has a narrow lead over Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason.  I’ll have my Top 7 for the win at Dallas on Tuesday and we’ll see if that shakes up the standings a little bit.  You could EASILY make an argument for #5, #52, #85 and Ed Reed for team MVP and get no debate from me.  

5. So, San Diego loses at Denver, 39-38 in Week #2 after Ed Hochuli screws up a call at the end of the game that gave the Broncos the win.  Denver goes on to lead the West by 3 games with 3 to play.  But they lose two straight and the Chargers win two and now one-game separates them.  They play the Chargers the last regular season game of the year in San Diego…winner goes to the playoffs, loser goes home.  Now, go ahead and tell me there’s no such thing as Football Gods.

6. There’s plenty of debate about the Ravens’ MVP for ’08, but there can’t possibly be any discussion about the team’s Unsung Hero.  It’s Jim Leonhard, slam dunk.  But Sam Koch should get some “honorable mention” type stuff.  What a year he’s had, huh?

7. Ex-Oriole and current Yankee broadcaster Ken Singleton says Jason Giambi is a great guy who can still help a team and would be a welcome addition both on the field and in the locker room.  New York Newsday baseball writer Ken Davidoff says Carl Pavano is one of the worst human beings he’s ever met and that he will cause nothing but strife for his new team, if he finds one.  Their opinions tell me all I need to know. “Yes” to Giambi and “No” to Pavano.  You listening, Andy?

8. I bet Ray Lewis keeps a calculator in his duffel bag and breaks it out after every game for a private moment of mathematics.  Can’t you hear him after that Cowboys win?  ”OK, that’s another million from the Ravens for next season…”

9. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be hanging around Nick Markakis one afternoon when this scrolls across the screen on ESPN:  ”Baltimore Orioles reportedly offer Mark Teixeira a 7-year, $150 million contract.”  How do you say, “Yeah, you’ll pay him but you won’t pay me what I’m worth” in Greek?  

10. That Redskins collapse and failure to reach the playoffs is a real shame, isn’t it?  (hee hee)

11. Oklahoma 45 – Florida 33

12. Not quite sure how anyone is going to beat North Carolina in college hoops, but Pitt looks like they might have a chance.  

13. The Lions will trade out of the first pick in the ’09 NFL Draft.  That pick and the money involved is almost too much of a risk these days.

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Ravens beat Dallas 33-24, throw a purple party in Dallas

Posted on 21 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s become a joke amongst the local media, calling the Ravens “mighty men.” It’s John Harbaugh’s favorite “term of endearment” and corny catch phrase for his team. Tonight in Dallas, they were indeed mighty men, dropping the vaunted Cowboys like a bad habit at home on their special night and the hyper-emotional closing of Texas Stadium. The Ravens were impressive in dispatching the local stars, 33-24 to urinate on the biggest party in the biggest state in the swan song of the state’s greatest icon on a brutally cold evening.

Tonight, the real “stars” were wearing the purple helmets with the B’s. Strangely enough, it was punter Sam Koch who not only did his thing booting the ball effectively all night (including a 61-yarder) but it was the trick draw play on a field goal fake that stole the show and changed the momentum of the game. Really, who in the world was expecting that? A brass balls move if there ever was one by Harbaugh and the crew.

If this team makes noise in January, they’ll look back on this bounce back from that Pittsburgh fiasco and see the huge emotional breakthroughs. They finally beat a quality opponent on the road. The sheer willpower to persevere amidst an avalanche of injuries speak volumes about their “mighty men” status. The training room looked like an infirmary after the game, with Derrick Mason not being able to lift his arms, with Samari Rolle banged up, with Willie Andeson and Todd Heap hobbling. And while Fabian Washington gritted out a start, the team played the whole game without Ray Rice, who was an injury scratch. So, in came Willis McGahee, whose 77-yard scamper for an apparent “icing” touchdown was only topped minutes later — after Tony Romo led the Cowboys back down the field for an answer on a Ravens’ defense that has been leaky lately – by Le’Ron McClain’s 82-yard bolt to truly put the game out of reach. The final numbers were downright gaudy: McClain was 22 for 139 yards and McGahee finished with just eight carries but 108 yards and team rushing total was a whopping 266 yards and the Cowboys defense will look at the two fourth-quarter runs as busted plays that cost them their season.

For the local fans, it was morgue like, an evening of horrors from the home team on a night when it was all set up for the Ravens to be a “homecoming” pansy for the legends of Cowboys’ past and a night of civic remembrance and celebration. No doubt the Ravens players were inspired when informed that Jerry Jones PERSONALLY, HAND-PICKED the Ravens as his final opponent in Texas Stadium. (That’s a FACT by the way. Jones insisted on having the Ravens because when he looked at the schedule the Ravens were the weakest team on the slate. Perhaps he should’ve chosen Cincinnati?)

After the game Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs screamed all sorts of stuff about it into the NFL Films cameras and the postgame was filled with notions that the Ravens are the new Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL. But at 10-5 with a chance to ice a playoff berth against Jacksonville at home next weekend, it has been the most unlikely of seasons for the purple. Next Sunday will be OUR civic celebration for the 2008 Ravens, our final home game and a chance to send the Ravens on the road in style for an unexpected Festivus.

What a ride…Enoy the videos. I enjoyed making them.

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Ray & Co. nearly playoff bound…

Posted on 21 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

Ray Lewis made another million bucks on Saturday night.

Joe Flacco made up for a first quarter blunder with a near perfect second half.

The Ravens made good on a shocking fake field goal attempt that changed the game.

And, Willis McGahee made his doubters become temporary believers with a 77-yard dash to the end zone.

It was all part of a wacky final game at Texas Stadium, as Baltimore produced the marquee win they’ve been looking for all year, knocking off the Cowboys, 33-24, and moving within one win of the AFC playoffs.

How’s Ray Lewis going to get home tonight?  Will he fly the team plane or just ride the Brinks truck back from “Big D”?  Lewis turned in another virtuoso performance on Saturday and just keeps making 2009 bank deposits with every hit, every tackle and every big game in which he steps up and proves why he’s the best defensive player of his generation.  

Joe Flacco rebounded from a disappointing effort in Baltimore last Sunday with a solid performance, easily outplaying embattled Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo, who was so ineffective throwing the ball in the first half the Orioles offered him the #4 spot in their starting rotation at halftime.  

Flacco also bounced back from a first quarter fumble when Adam Terry and Ben Grubbs got beat near the goal-line and DeMarcus Ware swatted the ball out of #5′s hands to set up the first Dallas TD not even four minutes into the game.  From that point forward, Flacco was unrattled and ended the night 17-of-25 with 1 TD and a 96% QB rating.  Dallas wishes Flacco played for them – and Romo didn’t.

Matt Stover returned home and booted four field goals, but it was the one he DIDN’T attempt that shook Texas Stadium.  Ahead 9-7 late in the third quarter, Stover trotted on for a 38-yard attempt but Baltimore pulled a fake and holder Sam Koch bolted ahead for 9 yards and a first down.  And when Flacco found Derrick Mason for a 12-yard TD in the corner of the end zone just moments later, you could sense Texas Stadium was going dark with a loss as its last memory.

In the 4th quarter, ahead 19-17, Willis McGahee broke off a 77-yard run through the heart of the Cowboys’ defensive line and Baltimore moved ahead by nine with 3:32 to play.  After a Dallas TD pass cut the lead to two points once again, it was Le’Ron McClain’s turn to do the long-distance damage, with a deja-vu scamper of 82 yards to close out the scoring at 33-24.  

What a night it was at Texas Stadium.

Baltimore now needs only to beat Jacksonville next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium to secure the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs, where they will likely battle the AFC East champion on the road in the first round of the playoffs (Jan. 3-4)

It was a great night for a lot of people in Dallas.

Most of them were wearing purple.

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Ravens marketing expertise on full display

Posted on 10 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

With a nod to the scheduling Gods, how amazing is it to be a football fan in Baltimore and have Washington and Pittsburgh come to town in back to back weeks, playing games that REALLY matter for both teams?

Amazing might not be the right word.  It’s bigger than that, actually.

Having flicked the Redskins away with relative ease on Sunday night, the Ravens now turn their attention to their fiercest rival – the Pittsburgh Steelers, who make their way to M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday for a game #14 battle that could “make or break” Baltimore’s season (and, perhaps, Pittsburgh’s as well…).

What more can you ask if you’re a Ravens’ fan?

It’s easy to get fired up for this game, right?

Sure. 

But the Ravens MAKE it easy to get ramped up for big games like this because they actually understand the value of having their players dive into the community to share in the fandom that percolates around the city all week.

It’s something the baseball team DOESN’T do – and that’s why no one goes to the games anymore.

Note: As I was in the process of writing this earlier this week, WNST listener John Marquette sent me an e-mail on this very subject – but I hadn’t talked about this blog on the air previously — he just happened to submit this e-mail at the exact same moment I was in the process of writing…and I wanted to give him props for sensing the same thing I’ve been sensing about the Ravens – and the Orioles.  Here’s his e-mail:

Drew,

I often listen to you in the mornings and hear how you are critical of the Orioles and how they conduct business.  Here is one difference that people might not notice but is huge for the PR of the respective teams.  Yesterday as I was driving home from another long day of educating Americas best and brightest I was listening to the radio.  After hearing an Ed Reed interview from the previous days game on WNST during Rob’s show I flipped through the channels.  There was Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, the other McClain, L. McClain, Jason Brown, Mark Clayton and I did not catch the name of the last one I heard, all on the radio, on many stations, talking about the Ravens and the big game v. the Redskins.  I thought to myself that I have NEVER heard an Oriole on any other station, other than their flagship talking about the game, or season, or anything. 

It hurts to see the Orioles beat themselves into the ground.  And I also agree that MacPhail has done a less than stellar job.  He has balked at every opportunity to sign a big name free agent.  It seems as much lip service as they put out Angelos is still running the show and calling the shots.

The Ravens have developed a keen awareness that having their players out in the community during the week goes a long way in making the fans feel like the team is “in this thing with us.”  And the players, no doubt, feel the same way when they’re out at night doing appearances, radio shows, TV appearances, etc.

When you, someone that works 9-5, goes out on a Monday night to meet a Ravens player, you’re seeing a professional athlete who also “worked” earlier that day.  And the day before.  They’re just like us in that regard.  Yeah, the salaries and benefits might be a tad different, but they get up at 7:00 am…they feed their children…dress them for school…call home during the day to say “hello” to their significant other.  And then, they go out and participate in whatever functions they’ve obligated themselves to do.

Ray Lewis came out to Hightopps on Monday night to do the Bud Light Purple and Black Attack with Brad Jackson and Brent Harris.

Ray freakin’ Lewis! 

Just to show that he knows how important Pittsburgh-week is to everyone in Baltimore, he went out to prove how important it is to HIM!  And there were (and will be throughout the week) others out on Monday night “sharing the passion” about Sunday’s big game with the Steelers.  Before you ask, I guess I can share the answer with you.  Ray did NOT get paid for his appearance at Hightopps on Monday. 

Joe Flacco gets up every Tuesday morning on his off-day and calls The Comcast Morning Show at 8:30 am to talk with me.  Guess how many times Joe has either missed a call or been late this year?  How about…zero.

Guess how much money Joe gets for calling in?  Also…zero.

The Ravens are everywhere.  Sure, they’re winning and it’s easier to go out and be part of the fun when you’re 9-4 and not 4-9 like they were this time last year.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

But the real point here is that the Ravens – as an organization – encourage their players to go out and “feel it” this week.  They don’t care that players appear on the radio at WNST or any other station in town that isn’t necessarily their “rights holder”.  And they’re also going to great lengths to make sure WBAL/98-Rock are taken care of in terms of exclusivity.  I asked to have John Harbaugh on the air with me a month ago.  I was told, politely (sort of), “no, that can’t happen.”  But, I get it.  The rights holders DO deserve special treatment and having Harbaugh only appear on the flagship station is one way the Ravens are taking care of their own. 

If only the baseball team could learn from this.

For the better part of four years now, the Orioles have operated with an archaic policy in which they only permit their players on live radio with ONE station in town – ONE…their rights holder.  Nowhere else in town can you hear an Orioles player talk about the game, the season, his career, etc. 

And they wonder why 12,000 people are going to 70% of the home games these days?

Meanwhile, the Ravens (who are already SOLD OUT for Sunday – they don’t really NEED the publicity or promotion) continue to allow their players free access within the community and within the local media world. 

They know that doing so not only gives back to the people who pay their salaries, but it also helps the players understand what the football franchise and their efforts on Sunday mean to the lives of the people who sit in the stands.

It’s complicated, but it’s not, at the same time.

We just want to know our players know how important the Steelers game is…to Baltimore.

Fortunately, because the Ravens understand marketing, the players are VERY aware how important the game is to Baltimore.

If the Orioles followed suit and came to grips with the fact that all of us in town actually want them to succeed (and want to do OUR part, also), maybe they’d change their policy of restricting access to their athletes and would make them available to the fans and the media in an effort to once again connect with the players who make a living off of the folks who buy tickets to the games.

The Ravens get it.

The Orioles don’t.

Which one is prospering and which one is struggling?

Not a low blow…just a fact.

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14 Points To Ponder…

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

Now why would I pick “14 points” as the title of today’s return of the wildly popular “Points to Ponder” blog?

14 points?  Hmmm…why 14 points?

Could it be the FOURTEEN POINT MARGIN OF VICTORY the Ravens put on the Redskins last night?  lol

Yes, I think it is.

Read away, comment if you like…

1. I really think this new Orioles off-season philosophy might be a stroke-of-genius.  Let’s not call ANY free agents and act as if we don’t want anyone at all.  Maybe that will make the players (and their agents) say, “Hey, I thought Baltimore had a lot of money this off-season…why haven’t they made contact with us? Let’s call THEM and see what they’re up to.”  Could just be the kind of outside-the-box thinking that takes the O’s right to the top.

2. Oklahoma 38 – Florida 30.  And yes, the best two teams are playing in the BCS title game.

3. Is this guy any relation?  I just saw on the wire that the Knicks signed shooting guard Plaxico Burress to a a minimum three-year and a half year sentence contract.

4. Harrison Frazar shot 59 in the 4th round of Q-School on the PGA Tour on Saturday.  On a real course…and playing for his 2009 livelihood.  The last guy to post 59 at that place (La Quinta) was David Duval.  Remember him?  He was a player way back when.

5. The AFC playoff race is pretty wild.  In for sure:  Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Denver and the Ravens.  Wild card: New England and Indianapolis.  Miami has a very favorable schedule.  They could win out too.  I think there’s a decent chance that an 11-5 team is going to MISS the post-season.  Holy cow.

6. I wrote this a month ago in a “bets I’d make” blog and I’ll say it again:  Tennessee and the NY Giants will NOT meet in the Super Bowl.  I’d bet on it right now.  I’d bet you $500, in fact…if I had a betting addiction, which I’ll bet you a grand that I don’t.

7. I also said this recently and will continue to make this my “early-bird 2009 prediction”.  Rex Ryan will be the head coach in San Diego next season.

8. Pretty smart move from Andy Reid a few weeks back when he benched Donovan McNabb for the second half in Baltimore, huh?  What a dummy.  If they miss the playoffs by a game, Reid will be raked over the coals for sitting his Hall-Of-Very-Good quarterback in a 10-7 game for a scrub who is still looking for his first big win in the NFL.  I’d take McNabb on my team any day.

9. Here’s an O’s update for you:  ________________________________.  

10. Right now, here are my top 3 Ravens’ MVP candidates at the 13-game mark.  3. Derrick Mason    2. Ray Lewis    1. Joe Flacco  -  But Le’Ron McClain and Ed Reed are both working their way up the charts.

11. Local college hoops power rankings:  5. Coppin St.    4. Loyola     3. Morgan St.     2. UMBC      1. Towson

12. Speaking of college basketball, contrary to what you might have read in yesterday’s edition of The Sun, the final score of the Towson-Hofstra game on Saturday night was 90-79 in favor of the Pride…not 90-70. That’s what you get, I guess, when you don’t send a reporter to the facility to actually COVER the game the way it deserves to be covered.

13. Chris Cosh leaving MD football saved Ralph a “tough talk”.  Let’s hope Debbie Yow isn’t preparing for one of those with “The Fridge” sometime in the next couple of years.

14. I’m guessing that Rob Ambrose (currently at UConn) gets the Towson University football coach job.

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Ravens one step closer to post-season play

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

There were A LOT of demons exorcised on Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

“Can’t win in the black jersey” – Check.

“Can’t win on national TV” – Check.

“Can’t beat a good team” – Check. Well, sort of. Based on that performance and their barely mediocre record, it’s hard to count the Redskins as a “good team”. But it’s worth rubbing it in a bit just to say, “Ravens beat a GOOD team…so take that, national media.”

A 24-10 Ravens’ win on Sunday gives the boys in purple a 9-4 record and in complete control of their playoff destiny. With Pittsburgh coming in to Baltimore next Sunday, the Ravens are on the verge of taking control of the AFC North if they can dispose of the pesky Steelers. Still, no matter what happens on Sunday vs. Pittsburgh, Baltimore can advance into post-season play with two wins in their final three games.

Sunday’s triumph over Washington wasn’t nearly as close as the box score would indicate. The Ravens jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead thanks to a pair of defensive help-outs, both engineered by Ed Reed, who picked off a pass to set up the game’s first TD and moments later returned a fumble for the other score as the Redskins handed Baltimore a 14-point head start with the first quarter not even halfway over. You’re going to lose EVERY time when you do that – especially at M&T Bank Stadium.

Washington managed to close the gap to 17-10 in the 4th quarter after Willis McGahee coughed up a fumble and Corey Ivy lost his man in the end zone and the resulting TD throw to Antwan Randle El cut the gap to one-score with eleven minutes remaining.

Then, as has been the case for most of the season, Joe Flacco came through when it mattered most, lofting a TD pass to Derrick Mason with four minutes to go to finish out the scoring at 24-10.

The ONLY negative of the night – which sort of turned out to be a half-positive because they have to make the drive back “down south” with their tail between their legs – had to be the overwhelming number of Redskins fans who slithered their way into the stadium. The club level seats were PACKED with burgundy and gold — a sure sign that the “suits” in town only come out for the Fall and short-sleeve-shirt-games and then pawn off their seats when the weather turns nasty. What a disgrace it was to see upwards of 10,000 Washington fans in OUR stadium for a game that mattered that much. Say what you will about that DC fan base, but I don’t think 10,000 people in purple winter coats would have had access to FedEx Field had the game been in Landover tonight with both teams playing for their respective playoff lives.

One rival sent packing, another on the way next Sunday.

It’s going to be another fun week in Baltimore.

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THE COMPLETE ART MODELL PRIMER & FAQ REGARDING HIS HOF CANDIDACY

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Here is a primer on all things Canton, Pro Football Hall of Fame voting, the politics, the rules, the history and most importantly “Where Art Modell stands” in his lifelong quest to be bronzed and rightfully enshrined amongst the greats of the NFL game. You can also listen to Tuesday’s interviews with Peter King and Len Shapiro in our audio vault for more discussion about the reality of Art’s bid. Shapiro wrote a huge piece yesterday in The Washington Post pimping Modell’s candidacy and calling it a “travesty” that he’s not in Canton. It’s a must read!

(Incidentally, I’d love to link to a story in The Baltimore Sun regarding Modell’s candidacy, but once again our friends on Calvert Street are asleep at the wheel. Nice job of sticking up for your own, boys!)

This getting into the Hall of Fame business is more about politics and less about achievements these days if my research and the people I’ve chatted with who are in the room are really being honest.

The “clear cut” guys – this year it figures to a slam dunk for Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and Bruce Smith as inductees – are mere formalities in many ways. Wide receiver Cris Carter is a bit of a holdover from last year, and figures to be a major factor with his gaudy stats. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just make them automatic and play for the bottom of the card, which appears to be the remaining one or two inductees. No one needs to make any strong argument for the non-bubble guys. It’s always the fringe people or the overlooked people who create the emotional stirs and long, heated debates in the minds of the voting committee.

There are 43 men and 1 woman who vote for the inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. There are 12 at-large members plus one representative from each of the 32 NFL cities/teams on the committee. Scott Garceau is Baltimore’s local rep. Mike Preston was formerly on the committee until 2004, when the Tribune Company decided to make it “against company policy” to vote on such committees because of “conflict of interest” concerns.

The 2009 list of 25 candidates will be pared down to 15 before Dec. 17th, when all 44 members must have their ballots and recommendations received. On Jan. 31, 2009 – the day before the Super Bowl – this group of 44 will enter the same room in Tampa and arguments will be given for all 15 candidates, plus the two senior committee nominees (this year it’s Claude Humphreys and Bob Hayes up for induction).

Let’s be straight: Virtually none of the candidates have anything left to “give the game” outside of Art Modell and Ralph Wilson, whose legacies and franchises live on in Baltimore, Cleveland and Buffalo. Paul Tagliabue is the only other “non player” on the current ballot of 25 names. All 22 of the others will be judged by their play on the field over the years, and virtually everyone on the HOF committee of 44 feels that “players” trump “contributors” when it comes time for voting. So, at best, Modell’s candidacy could be derailed by most anyone who actually stepped between the lines and played the game.

For the record, Tagliabue has many supporters among the 44, who all came in direct contact with His Commissionership many times over the last 20 years as he was the ultimate power broker in the sport for nearly a generation.

SO, HOW DOES ART MODELL GET INTO THE HALL OF FAME?

Good question. At this point, I believe it’s simply a matter of someone in our community (us?) making a stir and making it a viable, public outcry of support for Modell. Trust me, no one in Cleveland and not many amongst the 44 people in the room feel inclined to “jump on the table” for Art Modell. Other than Garceau, who is a staunch supporter of Modell (but who admits that having worked for the club as a play-by-play voice for a decade appears as a conflict of interest in that room), only Len Shapiro of The Washington Post has shown any partiality or inclination to grandstand on behalf of Modell. Another retired former voter and proponent of Modell is former USA Today columnist Gordon Forbes, who sends information to the current panel each year on behalf of Modell.

Here is the official “selection process” from the Pro Football Hall of Fame site.

I don’t think it’s as much about the facts of Modell’s contributions since 1961 to the NFL at this point. I think there’s some clear politicking – or lack thereof – going on. I’ve been told there are two major factors at play:

1. The move from Cleveland has created a “he’ll never get in because of that” mentality amongst some in the room and all of his other accomplishments have been diminished like Pete Rose’s sin of gambling on the game in baseball or Mark McGwire’s “not here to talk about the past” confession. For some, Modell is a lifelong pariah never to be recognized after “kicking the dog” on the cover of Sports Illustrated in Nov. 1995.

2. Over the years, some of Modell’s detractors have minimized his role and the legend of his involvement in the basic tenet of the merit of his candidacy: his role in the television negotiations and growth of the game with the networks and revenue. Time and the death of his contemporaries has definitely hindered Modell’s bid for Canton as much as anything because the very people who knew, felt, respected and lived through his many contributions are not the ones making a case for him at this point. Pete Rozelle, Wellington Mara, George Preston Marshall and Lamar Hunt are not here to be involved in the discussion although all of them no doubt believed in Modell’s Hall “worthiness.”

It’s now in the hands of the storytellers and some on the committee have heard conflicting reports as to whether Rozelle was the “smart one” and Modell was simply a guy who was the “No. 2” and simply got the credit of associating with the league. Of course, the mere fact that Modell came from a background of New York television in the late 1950’s would tell you that his network expertise was a key factor in the exponential growth of the league and its revenue during his tenure on the “television committee” for nearly 30 years.

From the Thanksgiving doubleheader to Monday Night Football, from winning an NFL Championship in Cleveland to winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore, from being involved at the game’s highest level since 1961 and being a massive part of shaping the sport for longer than most of us have been on the planet, Modell certainly deserves a better fate in Canton during the September of his life.

Certainly, most on the committee must believe that if Art is going to live long enough to see his own induction, the time is NOW for some action here in Baltimore.

We plan on creating some noise this week and hope that you’ll join our Facebook effort to help Art and raise awareness in Baltimore this week in anticipation of having a national audience here on Sunday night for the Redskins game.

WHO ARE THESE 44 GUYS ANYWAY AND HOW DID THEY GET ON SOMETHING AS IMPORTANT AS THE HALL OF FAME VOTING COMMITTEE?

Below is the list of the Hall of Fame voting committee, as selected by a board at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio:

Bernie Miklasz, Bob Gretz, Bob Oates, Charean Williams, Charles Chandler, Chick Ludwig, Clare Farnsworth, Cliff Christl, Dan Pompei, Dave Goldberg, David Climer, David Elfin, Don Pierson, Ed Bouchette, Edwin Pope, Frank Cooney, Howard Balzer, Ira Kaufman, Ira Miller, Jarrett Bell, Jeff Legwold, Jerry Green, Jerry Magee, Jim Trotter, John Clayton, John Czarnecki, John McClain, Kent Somers, Len Pasquarelli, Leonard Shapiro, Mark Gaughan, Mike Chappell, Mike O’Hara, Nancy Gay, Paul Domowitch, Paul Zimmerman, Peter Finney, Peter King, Rick Gosselin, Ron Borges, Sam Kouvaris,  Scott Garceau, Sid Hartman, Tony Grossi, Vinny DiTrani and Vito Stellino are the list of people.

Obviously, some of these names are more familiar than others. Some are frequent contributors to WNST. Some of them you know from television. And two of them – Miklasz and Stellino – were journalists here in Baltimore and covered the Colts leaving for Indianapolis. So, there’s plenty of perspective here on the NFL and plenty of expertise.

WHO ARE THE 25 NOMINEES ON THE CURRENT BALLOT?

Cris Carter Wide Receiver 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins

Roger Craig Running Back 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings

Terrell Davis Running Back 1995-2001 Denver Broncos

Dermontti Dawson Center 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers

Richard Dent Defensive End 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles

Chris Doleman, Defensive End-Linebacker 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers

Kevin Greene, Linebacker-Defensive End 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers

Russ Grimm Guard 1981-1991 Washington Redskins

Ray Guy Punter 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Charles Haley, Defensive End-Linebacker 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys

Lester Hayes, Cornerback 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Cortez Kennedy, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks

Bob Kuechenberg Guard 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins

Randall McDaniel Guard 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Art Modell, Owner 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens

John Randle, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks

Andre Reed Wide Receiver 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins

Shannon Sharpe, Tight End 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens

Bruce Smith, Defensive End 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins

Ken Stabler, Quarterback 1970-79 Oakland Raiders, 1980-81 Houston Oilers, 1982-84 New Orleans Saints

Paul Tagliabue Commissioner 1989-2006 National Football League

Steve Tasker, Special Teams-Wide Receiver 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills

Derrick Thomas Linebacker 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs

Ralph Wilson, Owner 1960-current Buffalo Bills

Rod Woodson, Cornerback-Saftey 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS TONY GROSSI OF THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER?

Six years ago, when Modell’s candidacy had its best chance – while Art still owned the team and was fresh off of the Super Bowl XXXV victory – it was shot down in a legendary way when Tony Grossi, Cleveland’s representative and outspoken hater of all things Modell on behalf of the greater Cuyahoga and Northern Ohio area, gave an impassioned speech about how what Modell did to his hometown should forever forbid his enshrinement to Canton. This much is public record.

Now, what influence that actually had on the other committee members is debatable. My sources tell me that there are “anti” candidate guys all over the room. As an example, I have a feeling Scott Garceau, who was the reporter told by Tagliabue to “build a museum,” won’t be voting the former Sun King commish into bronzeness anytime soon on behalf of Baltimore’s  shoddy treatment in 1993.

Over the years, my mentor John Steadman lobbied against John Mackey’s induction. It’s just the way these things go. Some people have an axe to grind. Some just legitimately look at a candidate like punter Ray Guy and say: “I’m not putting a punter in the Hall of Fame.”

In the case of inducting Modell, there is obviously plenty of precedent given Al Davis and Lamar Hunt and other contemporaries have long been inside the walls of Canton. There are also several owners in the Hall of Fame who have moved franchises from one city to the next.

If these 44 people entrusted to “get this right” are going to hold a business decision (and one that many of them couldn’t possibly understand) against inducting Modell into the Hall of Fame when that business move made a community like ours whole is preposterous.

I will be writing more later in the week about Art’s specific contributions here in Baltimore since 1996.

Feel free to comment and please spread the word about our plans for Sunday night and the Baltimore fans’ ability to affect this vote and get Art rightfully inducted into Canton.

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The Fantasy Flavor Positional Power Rankings – Week 14 WRs

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

Despite a rough patch for the Cardinals, their vaunted receivers remain ranked #1 and #2 in the power rankings, as well as this week’s start rankings. The veterans have started to reclaim the receiver rankings over the last few weeks, as many of the rookies appear to be hitting that proverbial wall. We’ll be back tomorrow with your tight end, kicker and defense rankings, so check back then too.

 

Keep in mind that the power rankings, listed here, are based on year to date performance and not a reflection of your best options for week 14. Just below the power rankings are match up previews advising who should be better or worse than usual this week, based on their opponents. At the bottom, are the week 14 start rankings, that’s where you should look for help with your week 14 lineup decisions.

 

Week 14 Fantasy Wide Receiver Power Rankings

 

WR Power Rankings Archive34567 - 8 - 9 - 10- 11 - 12 - 13

 

(last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. Anquan Boldin (1) – AZ – 942 yds 11 TD

 

2. Larry Fitzgerald (3) – AZ – 1075 yds 8 TD

 

3. Greg Jennings (5) – GB – 1057 yds 7 TD

 

4. Calvin Johnson (2) – DET – 971 yds 8 TD

 

5. Steve Smith (4) – CAR – 958 yds 4 TD

 

6. Roddy White (6) – ATL – 1085 yds 6 TD

 

7. Bernard Berrian (13) – MIN – 795 yds 5 TD

 

8. Santana Moss (7) – WAS – 828 yds 5 TD

 

9. Andre Johnson (8) – HOU – 1146 yds 4 TD

 

10. Terrell Owens (12) – DAL – 816 yds 8 TD

 

11. Brandon Marshall (9) – DEN – 942 yds 4 TD

 

12. Randy Moss (11) – NE – 785 yds 8 TD

 

13. Lance Moore (14) – NO – 739 yds 8 TD

 

14. Eddie Royal (20) – DEN – 757 yds 5 TD

 

15. Reggie Wayne (10) – IND – 870 yds 5 TD

 

16. Vincent Jackson (16) – SD – 703 yds 5 TD

 

17. Kevin Walter (15) – HOU – 705 yds 7 TD

 

18. Lee Evans (NR) – BUF – 890 yds 3 TD

 

19. Hines Ward (18) – PIT – 755 yds 6 TD

 

20. DeSean Jackson (NR) – PHI – 775 yds 2 TD & 1 TYD rush

 

Dropped From Rankings: DeWayne Bowe – KC; Justin Gage – TEN

 

WRs Who Should Be Better Than Usual In Week 14: Lee Evans vs. MIA; Randy Moss & Wes Welker @ SEA; Laverneus Coles & Jehrrico Cotchery @ SF; Tory Holt & Donnie Avery @ AZ; Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison & Anthony Gonzalez vs. CIN; Roddy White @ NO; DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis & Hank Baskett @ NYG

 

WRs Who Could Be Sleepers Based On Week 14 Match Ups: Roscoe Parrish & Josh Reed vs. MIA; Jabar Gaffney @ SEA; Chansi Stuckey @ SF; Derrick Stanley & Dane Looker @ AZ; Koren Robinson, Deion Branch & Bobby Engram vs. NE; Harry Douglass & Michael Jenkins @ NO; Matt Jones, Reggie Williams & Jerry Porter @ CHI; Justin Gage, Justin McCairens & Brandon Jones vs. CLE

 

WRs With Tough Week 14 Match Ups: Chad Johnson & TJ Houshmandzadeh @ IND; Braylon Edwards @ TEN; Terrell Owens & Roy Williams @ PIT; Santana Moss & Antoine Randle-El @ BAL; Andre Johnson & Kevin Walter @ GB; Chris Chambers & Vincent Jackson vs. OAK; Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton vs. WAS; Antonio Bryant & Ike Hilliard @ CAR; Steve Smith & Mushin Muhammad vs. TB; DeWayne Bowe & Mark Bradley @ DEN

 

 

And here are the week 14 Fantasy WR start rankings; it’s my top 75 WRs in the order that you should consider them this week. They were gotten using the Fantasy Flavor secret formula, and have their formulary numbers in parentheses, the lower the better. We’ll get all of the positional rankings out to you in time for Thursday’s game, so keep checking back for the rest.

 

1. Anquan Boldin (15)

2. Larry Fitzgerald (17)

3. Roddy White (19)

4. Greg Jennings (25)

5. Bernard Berrian (25)

6. Randy Moss (26)

7. Calvin Johnson (28)

8. Steve Smith (34)

9. Reggie Wayne (35)

10. Lee Evans (37)

11. Brandon Marshall (44)

12. Lance Moore (44)

13. Santana Moss (45)

14. Andre Johnson (46)

15. Terrell Owens (50)

16. Eddie Royal (50)

17. DeSean Jackson (50)

18. Hines Ward (52)

19. Justin Gage (55)

20. Vincent Jackson (59)

21. Laverneus Coles (59)

22. Kevin Walter (62)

23. Wes Welker (62)

24. DeWayne Bowe (65)

25. Issac Bruce (67)

26. Antonio Bryant (69)

27. Marques Colston (72)

28. Matt Jones (74)

29. Steve Breaston (75)

30. Jehrrico Cotchery (75)

31. Derrick Mason (78)

32. TJ Houshmandzadeh (80)

33. Mark Clayton (81)

34. Donald Driver (83)

35. Braylon Edwards (89)

36. Santonio Holmes (90)

37. Donnie Avery (90)

38. Chris Chambers (95)

39. Anthony Gonzalez (95)

40. Mark Bradley (97)

41. DeVery Henderson (98)

42. Michael Jenkins (99)

43. Ted Ginn Jr. (100)

44. Malcolm Floyd (105)

45. Mushin Muhammad (106)

46. Nate Washington (108)

47. Kevin Curtis (108)

48. Amani Toomer (109)

49. Marvin Harrison (109)

50. Tory Holt (110)

51. Devin Hester (115)

52. Koren Robinson (118)

53. Hank Baskett (120)

54. Chad Johnson (128)

55. Jabar Gaffney (128)

56. Brandon Stokley (130)

57. Reggie Brown (130)

58. Antoine Randle-El (131)

59. Josh Reed (131)

60. Rasheid Davis (133)

61. Ashley Lelie (136)

62. Bryant Johnson (139)

63. Dane Looker (144)

64. Roy Williams (146)

65. Reggie Williams (146)

66. Brandon Lloyd (147)

67. Chansi Stuckey (147)

68. Mary Booker (149)

69. Ike Hilliard (153)

70. Bobby Wade (157)

71. Brandon Jones (159)

72. Harry Douglass (159)

73. Josh Morgan (159)

74. James Hardy (159)

75. Miles Austin (166)

 

All of the rankings will be up in time for you to get your Thursday lineups in, so check back tomorrow for the rest. And use the links below to check all of the other positions; they’ll be activated as they become available.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

Week 14 QB Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 RB Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 TE Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 K Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 D/ST Rankings & Previews

 

 

 

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