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One-hit wonders in sports

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One-hit wonders in sports

Posted on 18 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

This afternoon on…well…”The Afternoon Drive”, Rex Snider and I went over a list of our Top 5 “One-Hit Wonders” in sports. I had a list of ten…and actually more…to throw in there and I figured I might as well share it with you all.

I had a tough time putting them in order, so by all means this is no where close to any particular order. I tried my best but I figured if they’re a one-hit wonder, who cares where they’re ranked? Aren’t they all incredibly lucky?

1. Joe Namath, quarterback, New York Jets

Joe Namath

Broadway Joe. A guy we love to hate here in Baltimore. Why? Because of that lucky Super Bowl III victory, and his guarantee about it. He was the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in the then modern era in 1967, and just because of one guarantee over the Colts in Super Bowl III , he became the first ever media-loved quarterback and rides his way into the Hall of Fame.

But he Why is this guy in Canton? He owns a career 65.5 career passer rating, and he only threw 173 TDs to 220 INTs. After Super Bowl III, he spent nine more years in the league but only won 35 games. He took the Jets to one more repeat playoff appearance in 1969-and lost it.

Rex Snider put the 1968 New York Jets on the team on his list because as a team, the Jets only made the playoffs 6 times between 1969-1997-the year Bill Parcells took over at the helm-and began putting the pieces together.

2. 1969 New York Mets

In the movie, “Oh, God” starring George Burns and John Denver, Burns-playing the role of God, said that the last miracle he ever performed was the 1969 New York Mets.

And it continued the trend of the Baltimore losing to New York for another season.

The Mets-in only their eighth season in the league-finished with their first winning season and ultimately defeated the Orioles in five games, winning 4-1.

In fact, the biggest part of that team, Tom Seaver (25-7, 2.21 ERA, 208 K), only got there because the Mets had been that bad for that long.

That ’69 Orioles team was considered by many to be one of the best teams in baseball history, but the Mets completed the upset.

After that season though, the Mets necessarily didn’t return to the mediocrity they experienced before 1969, but they lost in 1973 in the World Series to the Oakland Athletics 4-3( on top of that they only finished 82-79 that season).

It would then take another 13 years for former Oriole Davey Johnson then brought the Miracle Mets back to the Promised Land in 1986, and the on the verge of being eliminated, something happened that gave them another World Series…

Bill Buckner

3. Buster Douglas

Buster Douglas

Buster Douglas went up against the then-undefeated Mike Tyson on February 11th, 1990 in Tokyo, Japan as the two fought for the outright Heavyweight Boxing Title of the World. Everyone expected Tyson-then at the time 37-0 with 33 knockouts-to wipe the floor with Douglas (29-4-1, 19 KO)-so much so that only one Vegas casino took odds for the fight.

And they had Douglas winning at 35-to-1 odds.

The match was designed to be a preliminary bout for Tyson before then facing off against fellow undefeated contender Evander Holyfield, who was in attendance for Tyson-Douglas to fight.

Douglas-who in the weeks leading up to the fight had lost his mother and sickness around his family, but that did not deter him in the fight. In fact, it probably motivated him. He came out aggressive in the match, and for the first time in his career, pushed Tyson to the ropes. Tyson’s own team didn’t even see it coming, as they didn’t bring along necessarily equipment to tend Tyson’s wounds between matches.

Tyson fought back and actually made Douglas hit the floor in the eighth round-ultimately reaching a count of nine before getting back up-and over the next two rounds, Douglas continued to beat down on a battered Tyson.

In the tenth round, in a famous scene, Douglas hit Tyson and sent him to the floor for the first time in Tyson’s boxing career. Tyson fumbled for his mouthpiece, and put it in with part of it hanging out of his mouth. He was in no condition to continue, and Buster Douglas was named heavyweight champion of the world.

He held the title for eight months before Holyfield finished him off in three rounds. Douglas retired after the fight.

4. David Tyree

David Tyree was sixth-round draft choice by the New York Giants in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Syracuse.

He did make the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a special teams player, but up until the 2007 season his career numbers were a whopping 54 catches, for 650 yards and 4 TDs.

But his touchdown-and maybe the greatest catch in the history of the Super Bowl-maybe even the NFL as a whole…made Tyree a legend.

David Tyree

His catch on a 3rd-and-5 on the Giants 44-yard line, with New York needing a first-down to extend the drive, was caught on his helmet with headhunter Rodney Harrison in tow.

His play kept the drive alive for the Giants, as Eli Manning eventually found Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown, as New York upset the previously undefeated Patriots, 17-14.

Minus the fact that the Giants kept him around the following year just to repay him for his play in Super Bowl 42,  they immediately let him go after one season and that was it for Tyree.

He was with the Ravens during the 2009 season, appearing in 10 games for Baltimore but starting none.

And to think…if Mike Carey had blown the play dead, Tyree wouldn’t have made this list…and history…

5. 1980 United States hockey team

Do you believe in miracles?

Do you believe in miracles?

When most people remember this game between the Soviet Union and United States hockey teams, they think that this was the championship game. But it wasn’t. The eventual winner would be playing Finland for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

The US squad consisted of mostly collegiate and amateur hockey players, but coach Herb Brooks and his squad fought through a match that almost didn’t happen due to the international Cold War happening between the two nations.

The Russians at the time were considered to be the best hockey team in the world.

Even the New York Times wrote:

“Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.”

But the United States did win. And then they beat Finland for the gold.

It made a career out of Al Michaels that’s for sure.

But they’re a one-hit wonder because the team didn’t even medal again in the Olympics until 2002.

Other considerations:

  • Brady Anderson (50 HRs in 1996 after never having more than 21 in a season, never had more than 24 after that season)
  • Brady Anderson

  • 1998 Atlanta Falcons (14-2 under Dan Reeves reaching Super Bowl XXXIII, losing to the Denver Broncos-team had only two seasons previous since 1996 with 10+ wins, never reached Super Bowl since)
  • Dirty Bird

  • 2000 Baltimore Ravens (Sorry Baltimore-had to put this one on there. Is this what the Ravens are on track for? I think the team will win another Super Bowl, but is it going to take a decade-plus in between them?)
  • Trent Dilfer

  • 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning (Won the Stanley Cup that year-a hockey team in sunny Florida? Haven’t won a playoff series since)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Don Larsen (pitched the only perfect game to occur in the World Series in Game 5 in 1956. Was the only such one in the playoffs until Roy Halladay’s no-hitter this past season versus Cincinnati. Why is that a one-hit wonder? Larsen’s career mark was 81-91 with a 3.78 ERA.
  • Don Larsen

  • Scott Mitchell (Had 32 TDs and 4,338 and a 92.3 passer rating for the Detroit Lions in 1995.  Never could repeat that success, including in Baltimore in 1999.
  • Scott Mitchell

  • Akili Smith (32 TDs, 11 INTs in only one season at Oregon, earning him the #3 pick in the draft by the Bengals. The rest is draft bust history.
    Akili Smith

  • John Paciorek (A ballplayer for the Houston Colt .45s in 1963-a late call up, he appeared in one game for Houston. On September 29th, 1963, Pacirorek went 3-for-3 at the plate hitting three singles, walking twice, and driving in three runs. He scored four times as well in the game. He never played again due to a back injury. Of the 20 major league baseball hitters with a 1.000 career batting average, he is the only one to have more than three at-bats.
  • John Paciorek

  • 1983 N.C. State basketball team (Not a bad team defeating both North Carolina-led by Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson’s Virginia squad. But to then beat Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler’s Houston squad to win the National Championship-and on a last second broke play? And despite some success later on for the program under Jim Valvano and Herb Sendek, the Wolfpack have never been back on the national stage like they were in the late 70′s, early 80′s. Sidney Lowe-who now coaches the Wolfpack-was on this team and he could be fighting for his job down in Raleigh.

Got some more that I missed? Let I or Rex know below or on “The Afternoon Drive! 2-6PM, 410-481-1570!

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A mistake on a pop quiz nearly ended former MD QB Josh Portis’ football career-now with a fresh start wants to finish this NFL test the right way

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A mistake on a pop quiz nearly ended former MD QB Josh Portis’ football career-now with a fresh start wants to finish this NFL test the right way

Posted on 17 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

Josh Portis

Josh Portis has traveled far and wide in his football playing days.

The Woodland Hills, California native was once one of the most highly touted, dual-threat prep quarterbacks in the nation, and appeared to be well on his way toward building up a decent pro resume in the NFL playing for the University of Florida and the Maryland Terrapins.

That was until his Division-I college career was derailed by coaching changes, transfers, and some bad decisions on his part.

Ultimately starting over though for Portis, while it may have appeared  to end his chances at making the NFL, it turned out to be a good decision on his part.

Portis joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” this week to share his enthusiasm for being invited to next week’s NFL Rookie Combine in Indianapolis on July 24th.

“It’s great to work out with the best competition, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Portis told Forrester. “I’m excited, anxious, and I’m looking forward to playing in the NFL on Sunday.”

Portis-whose cousin, Clinton, is an All-Pro running back in the NFL having played for the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins- saw his career as a Gator fall apart due to the presence of one Tim Tebow in Gainesville, forcing a transfer to College Park as he became a Maryland Terp for three seasons.

But Portis saw the same problem occur at Maryland as he did at Florida, where he could not break the depth chart in 2008 due to Chris Turner stepping up as the starter for the Terps.

This was after missing all of 2006 sitting out because of the transfer to Maryland. And in 2007, things seemed to get even worse for Portis, as a small but dumb decision on his part at the time may have cost him at chances at playing football for good.

Portis was caught cheating on a pop quiz while enrolled at College Park, and ultimately suspended for the year for violating the school’s Honor Code policy.

“Everyone knows about it. At Maryland, when I was there, it was a ten-point pop quiz. I made a mistake, and happened to copy someone else’s answer. Everybody moves on, but the school decided to suspend me for the whole year, but not the NCAA.”

With a ten point quiz, everyone makes a mistake. Something major happened to me on my part, and I moved on from it.”

And he expects the NFL scouts at the Combine will also ask him about his mistakes at Maryland the same way Forrester asked him about it on “The Morning Reaction.”

And Portis knows that he has to face it head-on the same way he would face an opposing defensive lineman barreling down on him.

“I feel like if you’re just open and honest about off the field things, it will take care of itself,” Portis said.

And so far, since his departure from Maryland, he has been forthright about what happened. But in order to make the NFL, you have to prove that you can play football too.

But most schools wouldn’t take a flier on a guy jettisoned from two Division-I programs, let alone one that barely played. So instead, Portis had to eat “humble pie” and and try and make an impression on NFL scouts at the Division-II level.

Which is what he did.

Portis was ultimately  invited to the NFL Combine mostly because of his play for the two seasons at the University of California in Pennsylvania, a Division-II program.

In those two years as a Vulcan, he had 69 passing touchdowns, a Cal U record. His 6,072 career passing yards were good for fourth best in school history.

He becomes the first ever player from the school to be invited to the biggest step in the process of becoming an NFL player.

Portis was actually eligible to come out for the NFL Draft after his first season as a Vulcan, but stayed on for a second year to boost his draft status.

Doing so helped become  ranked as the second-best Division-II quarterback prospect trying to make an NFL squad.

“It’s been a journey,” Portis said. I went to Florida, Maryland, now I’m at Cal U. It’s been a difficult road, but I’m finally here. God has given me perseverance, and I continue to work hard and continue to live my dream.”

In reality, Portis said the competition was challenging at that “subdivision” of college football, and while it definitely wasn’t like playing in the ACC or the SEC, it still tested his skills.

“The competition obviously at the D-II level is a little bit lower,” Portis said.  ” The atmosphere may not be as big, but D-II is still some pretty good competition.”

And even before his invitation to next week’s NFL combine, he has already had his NFL-cousin, Clinton Portis, giving him advice on how best to direct his preparation toward making an NFL squad.

“I mean you guys have been around him when he was with Washington, you know he’s a straight forward guy,” Josh said of Clinton Portis. “You know, he definitely doesn’t play around with giving me advice. He’s just been telling me to stick it out and keep working, that my time will come. He’s been a great addition and help to me as I develop my career.”

Josh Portis said he hopes to have as long an NFL career as his cousin.

“Obviously he’s given me some confidence because he’s been at that level of play in the NFL for a long time..that level for a long time with the Redskins and the Broncos. He’s been there for nine years as a running back which is pretty good. He knows how to take care of his body how to be mentally prepared, and how to go out and get the job done on Sunday.”

Portis recently participated in the former NFL PA game, now known as the “Texas versus the Nation” game on February 5th showing off some of the NFL’s eventual rookie class prospects.

Portis was 7-of-17 for 80 yards, helping the Texas team beat the Nation, 13-7.

In the game, he got a lot of comparisons based on his play and physical attributes.

“Players were telling me, “Oh, you’re like another Mike Vick. Big, fast, strong arm, move out of the pocket, pocket awareness…but I want to be a quarterback who sits in the pocket for a little awhile and run when I need to. So I kind of see myself as a Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick late in his career.

“I’m like a Tom Brady and a Vince Young. The kind of QB who moves around and throws the ball first…Aaron Rodgers is another late in his career and he has won a Super Bowl. He’s not really an actual athletic quarterback, but he has some mobility around the pocket so he can make some throws.”

But maybe Portis’ biggest asset so far other than his physical skills?

His perseverance to keep going and rebounding after making some dumb decisions in his life.

“I mean, just not giving up on your dreams, keep working hard…God has a role for you at the end of the day. You just have to believe in him and you have to work and strive for your success.”

Glenn Clark will check Josh Portis out next week at the NFL Combine! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

And continue to follow all of Josh’s exploits at his website!


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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by Rex Snider

This weekend, the National Football League wraps up the regular season and enters the “elimination round” for determining the next Super Bowl Champion. Indeed, this is the most exciting time on many sports lover’s calendars.

Heck, we’ve already enjoyed a pretty entertaining and, at times, surprising slate of action across the NFL’s universe. All of us have been right, all of us have been wrong, and most of us have been simply shocked on more than a couple occasions …..

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have served as the most recent examples of fortunes changing for the better in just one season …..

At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings have proven that NOTHING is ever guaranteed …..

And, to the chagrin of many observers, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven, once again, that dismissing their reputation and stability as major factors in overcoming injuries and depth issues is a foolish proposition …..

Indeed, the upcoming postseason will be representative of surprising entries, as well as the most dependable late season finishers. But, this is a reality of every playoff picture, right?

In addition to team results, individual performances have also been a major part of the game’s lure, in this 2010 season …..

Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have lived up to reputations of being the best players in the game. Donovan McNabb was predictably snake-bitten by the Redskins dysfunction. And, as expected, Ray Lewis rattled off another Pro-Bowl caliber effort.

As for surprises, who really expected a long haired Clay Matthews to join the ranks of the most feared players in the game? Did any of us really know much about Arian Foster, just six months ago? Alas, did we expect Michael Vick to ever contend for another MVP award?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pleasant surprise performances are always a nice way of wrapping up a season and looking ahead to the future. But, unfortunately, these same surprising players can and will be exploited for the gains of others.

We shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing entourages of hawkers latching onto the NFL’s hottest, new or “reborn” commodities. Yet, to see the President Of The United States doing it is pretty disappointing …..

A few days ago, the world learned that President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and commended him for giving Michael Vick a fresh opportunity, because “so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.”

Fair enough, I suppose …..

But, if expressing such a humanistic approach to helping others and recognizing compassion is a mission during this holiday season, I do wonder if President Obama also used his trusty Blackberry to give Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, a phone call with the same spirited message?

After all, Mr. Bisciotti has provided the very same effort for Donte’ Stallworth, right? A year ago, Stallworth had no clear indications of how or where he might be able to make a living. The Ravens have afforded him a “second chance”

Better yet, did President Obama spread a little more goodwill by gracing Cincinnati Bengals owner, Mike Brown, with such a spirited “attaboy !!!!” phone conversation? God knows Mr. Brown and the Bengals have doled out more second and third chances than Carmella Soprano and any girlfriend of Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Let’s not stop with football and current players, either …..

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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Will he ever outrun the dogs?

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Will he ever outrun the dogs?

Posted on 18 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Like many football fans, my Monday evening was devoted to watching the Philadelphia Eagles dismantle the Washington Redskins before the eyes of a national audience. I could call it a “beatdown” or “trouncing”, but such terms fall short of describing the true disparity in performances by both teams.

For the record, you can count me among the MILLIONS who believed Michael Vick would never really be a star performer, again.

Not in the National Football League, anyway …..

Monday’s performance, by Vick, was a pretty awesome display. He carved through the porous Redskins secondary with a surgeon-like expertise. He escaped the pocket and pursuant defenders like bigger kids bully smaller ones.

The statistics are pretty daunting : 413 yards (333 passing & 80 rushing), 6 touchdowns (4 passing & 2 rushing). Not too shabby, huh?

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a break past Brian Orakpo  of the Washington Redskins on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

During the course of Monday’s game, I can recall ESPN’s crew, including Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico, tying Michael Vick’s dog fighting crimes and subsequent incarceration into the conversation regarding the night’s contest.

One of my immediate resulting thoughts was “are these guys ever gonna let it go?

And, to a more substantial degree, I asked myself “will our society ever put it in the past?”

I sensed that I really was tiring of the story. I was tiring of the talk of redemption. I was tiring of the talk about a career renewed. I was pretty much tiring of everything – except, football.

When I’ve had my fill of something, I have a consistent habit of tuning it out. Call it self-serving or close-minded, but I simply turn my casual attention to something else.

That’s what I started to do with this entire Michael Vick saga. And, then something surfaced to bring it back into the spotlight …..

The Eagles opened their 2010 season with a new leader. He paid his dues and served as Donovan McNabb’s understudy, for 3 seasons. The job belonged to Kevin Kolb and he was touted as the new face of the franchise.

With thanks to the Green Bay Packers, and special thanks to Clay Matthews, Kolb’s stay as Philly’s starting quarterback was short lived. Michael Vick entered the season opener for an injured Kolb and performed very well.

With exception to an injury of his own, Vick has really claimed the job for his own and appears to be Andy Reid’s long term selection.

Why not?

He brings a dynamic to the game that’s minimally described as “unique”. How many quarterbacks sporting blazing speed and a decent arm come along in a lifetime?

Yeah, I hear the MVP talk and that’s just ridiculous. Vick has missed 5 of 11 games and he trails the likes of Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in overall production.

But, he’s having a great season and his redeeming himself …. ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD.

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Is quiet leadership a bad thing in today’s world?

Posted on 05 November 2010 by Domenic Vadala

As we know, sports can be a great motif for life in general. As a part of the oh-so-competitive corporate world, I’ve been told time and time again that it’s important to toot-your-own-horn when you do something good at work. If you don’t, they say, you’ll never be able to move up. I come from humble stock, and bragging about how great I am is just not something with which I’m comfortable. Having said that, I’ve seen less-than-qualified people be promoted over me, and I’ve even been threatened with my job for giving credit to others.

The purpose of this column is not to vent about my job. However if life mirrors sports, does the same theory or idea hold true? As a Washington Redskin fan, I hated Donovan McNabb for years. Not only did he play for the Eagles, but he had the uncanny ability to beat the Redskins whenver he needed to do so. However looking back on those games today (with McNabb now playing for the burgundy and gold), I can see that he played all of those games with the grace, class, and leadership that he exhibits now with the Redskins. He’s not an overly emotional player in that he never lets you see him sweat when he’s under duress. My point isn’t to bring up or discuss his benching last Sunday afternoon in Detroit, although I’ll say that I think it was a bad move. However that was only the latest instance in a long line of times where McNabb’s been embarrassed during his football career. He even refused to publically denounce T.O. when they were teammates and Owens saw fit to call him out. He was benched by Andy Reid in Baltimore a few years back at halftime, and he took his medicine without complaining. However each time his team wins or he makes a great play, he’s always up there saying how great of a route Chris Cooley or DeShawn Jackson ran on that play.

On the other hand, showboaters such as Michael Irving and Deion Sanders never seemed to struggle for respect. Both of them were great players without a doubt, however they never carried themselves with the humility or grace with which someone like McNabb does. Derek Jeter (as much as we hate him) is a quiet guy, but he plays for the Yankees so he’s essentially loud by association. Alex Rodriguez can be loud at times, and as we saw earlier this season he seemingly has no regard for the game’s unwritten rules (ask Dallas Braden). The league, media, and fans even swept Rodriguez’s steroid use under the rug. Yet a quiet type of guy like Rafael Palmeiro was villianized. (Granted Palmeiro lied to Congress, but on the field he was fairly mild-mannered.) So what am I trying to say here? To be honest, I’m really not sure myself. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for whatever reason, it’s easier for society to accept someone like a Michael Irving or Alex Rodriguez. The majority of society are emotional people; therefore they react and empathize with someone like that. When people see someone like Donovan McNabb or even Raffy, they immediately think that the guy has no moxie whatsoever. In fact, when they screw up people are potentially more likely to hold them accountable. McNabb was benched because he threw a horrible interception late in the game, or Palmeiro single-handedly ruined baseball with his steroid use. This, as opposed to Michael Irving may act like a thug and have a drug addiction but he’s a great receiver, or Alex Rodriguez took steroids, but so did everyone else.

What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. Steroids are wrong no matter how you look at it, and regardless of who’s taking them. However I suppose what I’m saying is that people can accept the shortcomings of humanized athletes or public figures moreso than they can those of the quiet leaders. And I think that’s a horrible trend. We should all aim to be like Donovan McNabb, telling reporters how great his teammates are. Instead, as a society we’re more like Michael Irving, who never wasted an opprotunity to promote himself to the cameras or microphones. Nowadays NFL players are almost expected to do some kind of endzone dance when they score, whereas the true legends of the game such as Johnny Unitas simply walked off the field. Again, we all wish that we had that kind of class.

I don’t think for one moment that Donovan McNabb isn’t respected in the NFL, however I’ve heard that he wasn’t always liked by the fanbase in Philadelphia because of his professionalism. All jokes about that making sense for Philadelphia people aside, that’s a sad state of affairs. Is that why he was traded? I don’t know, however I would assume that had he perhaps spoken his worth from time to time, they might have thought twice about it. Instead, he motored along like a good soldier and propped people up around him. To me, that’s leadership much moreso than someone that steals the limelight on a continual basis. But yet, those are the people that seemingly make it in today’s society. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 NFL MVP Candidates

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 NFL MVP Candidates

Posted on 02 November 2010 by Glenn Clark

With the Baltimore Ravens spending Week 8 on a bye, we mixed things up Tuesday morning on “The Morning Reaction” by dedicating our “Tuesday Top 7″ segment to naming the Top 7 NFL MVP candidates this season. Here are our lists…

Glenn Clark’s list…

7. Sam Bradford

bradford

6. Arian Foster

arianfoster

5. Roddy White

roddywhite

4. Haloti Ngata

ngata

3. Peyton Manning

peyton

2. Clay Matthews

claymatthews

1. Tom Brady

tombrady

Drew Forrester’s list…

7. Hakeem Nicks

nicks

6. Donovan McNabb

mcnabb

5. Calvin Johnson

calvinjohnson

4. Peyton Manning

manning

3. Tom Brady

brady

2. Clay Matthews

cmatthews

1. Phillip Rivers

philliprivers

If you missed our segment on “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday on AM1570 WNST including full, detailed explanations of why we picked these players; hit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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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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Not Earth Shattering: Ravens Not Super Bowl Contenders If They Play Like This

Posted on 19 September 2010 by Glenn Clark

CINCINNATI, Oh. — The Baltimore Ravens (1-1) had plenty of chances to beat the Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) in Sunday’s 15-10 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.

Twice in the final five minutes of the game, QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense got the ball back needing just one score to win the game.

Clearly neither of those possessions resulted in points. Or even one single first down for that matter.

The Ravens struggled offensively throughout Sunday’s loss, producing just 259 yards of total offense and 14 first downs en route to defeat. More troubling? They also turned the ball over four times, all Flacco interceptions.

Amazingly, the Ravens actually outgained their AFC North counterparts (Cincy managed just 253  yards of total offense) and the Bengals only racked up 14 first downs as well.

Not as if any of that mattered.

Not scoring points wasn’t the only problem for Baltimore’s offense. Two of Flacco’s interceptions gave the Bengals the ball immediately in Baltimore territory, and the Bengals were able to cash in both times with Mike Nugent field goals; accounting for six of the team’s 15 points.

20 points in two games probably wasn’t what GM Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh had in mind when they acquired WR’s Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh in the offseason and added former Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn as QB coach Jim Zorn to help the development of Flacco.

(I thought about putting quotation marks around the word “development” in that last sentence. I immediately thought better of it.)

It is true that the Ravens have opened the season on the road against two of the Top 5 defenses in the NFL from 2009. It is also true that they had to play the second of those games off a short turnaround, having opened the season in New York on Monday Night Football.

But to win a Super Bowl, teams often have to play in less than desirable situations.

It doesn’t excuse poor decision making from Flacco. Flacco said of his second interception (a play where he had targeted Boldin), “I threw it right into a crowd.” He also said the Bengals were running their base defense for most of the game, adding “I don’t think they were doing anything that we didn’t expect them to do.”

That’s not good news.

Flacco wasn’t the only problem for the Ravens offensively Sunday. The team struggled upfront; with OL Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, Ben Grubbs and Chris Chester taking turns missing assignments along the offensive line. Houshmandzadeh looked lost at times in his return to the Queen City, admitting after the game that part of the offensive struggles were “his fault.” He added “I can’t believe I didn’t make those plays…(I) just gotta do better.”

He’s right. He’d be right to say the same thing about the rest of the offense too.

The Baltimore Ravens were a popular preseason pick to not only win the AFC North (the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers have sole possession of first place at 2-0), but to reach the Super Bowl. If they can’t overcome adversity and perform better offensively, they won’t have to bother making travel arrangements for Arlington.

Since Brad Johnson won Super Bowl XXXVII for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the last 7 titles were won by QB’s named Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton and Eli Manning. In the same time frame, QB’s who have LOST the Super Bowl included Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck. Only Jake Delhomme and Rex Grossman (who each lost) stick out as QB’s who are not in the range of “great” to “elite.”

The Ravens simply cannot dream of winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy with poor offensive performance. The era in which a team could simply survive offensively and let their defense carry them to a title has ended in the NFL, likely thanks to how dreadfully boring it was to watch Johnson and Trent Dilfer lead the Bucs and Ravens respectively to Super Bowl titles.

If the Ravens are going to live up to their lofty preseason expectations, they’re going to have to improve offensively. That was why the team invested time, money and NFL Draft picks into offensive upgrades.

The good news is that two weeks does not make a season. Flacco and company will have a full seven days to prepare for a matchup against the division cellar-dwelling Cleveland Browns in front of a home crowd at M&T Bank Stadium in Charm City. Flacco put things into perspective by saying “You just move on. You have to take it game by game. I don’t think anyone feels good about it.” He added, “we just have to make sure we bounce back and get ready to go. I think everyone will.”

If they do, the Ravens still have a chance to reach considerable heights in 2010.

-G

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NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Houshmandzadeh, LB Jarret Johnson, LB Ray Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs and CB Lardarius Webb following the game in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net. Lewis had some particularly choice words for the officiating, which you can hear RIGHT NOW courtesy of WNSTv!……

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkQaI0cW2dw[/youtube]

……TE’s Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta each recorded their first career NFL catch in Sunday’s game……LB Tavares Gooden injured his shoulder late in the first half and was unable to return. The team had no update following the game, but Gooden is scheduled for a MRI Monday……the Ravens return to Baltimore tonight, they will meet at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills Monday, Harbaugh will address the media at 4pm.

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2010 NFL Forecast: Will the Ravens raise the Lombardi Trophy?

Posted on 08 September 2010 by Luke Jones

With the beginning of the 2010 NFL season only hours away, expectations have never been higher in Baltimore as the Ravens have their eyes fixed on their first Super Bowl title since the 2000 season.

Questions remain in the secondary and whether Joe Flacco can reach elite status with an abundance of new weapons in the Baltimore offense, but contenders and pretenders alike face some level of uncertainty on the eve of Week 1.

Easy schedules — and the unsophisticated attempts to predict a team’s fate week by week — in early September frequently transform into daunting slates in the unpredictable nature of the NFL. An injury to a key performer at the wrong position can derail even the strongest teams’ championship aspirations.

Inevitably, a sexy preseason contender or two will collapse under fatal flaws, and an anonymous outfit that no one is even pondering as a victor will find itself playing long into January.

We just never can tell.

And with that digression, I toss my hat into the futile, but enjoyable, pool of forecasting the 2010 season. If nothing else, predictions offer damning proof that most of us (all of us?) really don’t know what we’re talking about when the dust settles in early February.

AFC East
New England – The Jets will continue to steal the headlines, but the Patriots will happily take the division title.
New York – Rex Ryan speaks loudly and carries a big stick, but Mark Sanchez is not ready for the big stage yet.
Miami – No one is happier about Brandon Marshall’s arrival in South Beach than Chad Henne.
Buffalo - Did Chan Gailey really get another head coaching gig in the NFL?

AFC North
Baltimore – Can Joe Flacco keep three former Pro Bowl receivers happy in a potentially explosive passing game?
Cincinnati* – Coordinator Mike Zimmer and the defense will prove their No. 4 ranking in 2009 was no fluke.
Pittsburgh – An aging defense and a shaky offensive line will not be able to overcome Ben Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension and ensuing rust.
Cleveland - It’s rarely a good thing when all people want to talk about is the new front office.

AFC South
Indianapolis – Would the NFL have tweaked the umpire’s positioning if Peyton Manning had not been the one to complain the loudest?
Houston* – After being the chic pick for a couple seasons, Gary Kubiak and the Texans finally crack the postseason.
Tennessee – Does Chris Johnson hold up long enough to touch the ball over 400 times again?
Jacksonville - Three straight losing seasons could spell the end of Jack Del Rio’s eight-year stay with the Jaguars.

AFC West
San Diego – Ryan Mathews won’t make Chargers fans forget LaDainian Tomlinson, but the rookie back is poised for a dynamic rookie campaign.
Oakland – Picking the Raiders any place other than last seems foreign, but Tom Cable has some semblance of a football team if Al Davis doesn’t meddle too much. Good luck with that.
Denver – Kyle Orton is serviceable but not enough to make a difference in the Broncos’ fate.
Kansas City - Safety Eric Berry is a future star and one of several young players giving the Chiefs hope for the future.

NFC East
Dallas – No Cowboys coach has lasted longer than four seasons since Jimmy Johnson (1989-93), so Wade Phillips (entering his fourth year) needs a big season in Big D.
New York – The Giants’ Steve Smith (107 receptions in 2009) has officially turned the Carolina wideout into the “other” one.
Philadelphia – Kevin Kolb will seal Andy Reid’s fate as a genius or mark the beginning of the end for the coach in Philadelphia.
Washington - Donovan McNabb will limp through a hapless season without enough talent surrounding him.

NFC North
Green Bay – This might be the year that Aaron Rodgers exorcises the ghost of Favre by bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown.
Minnesota* – The absence of Sidney Rice will hurt more than Brett Favre’s ankle, taking the Vikings down a small notch.
Chicago – A fortune was spent for Jay Cutler a year ago and Julius Peppers this offseason, but a small return this season will mark the end for Lovie Smith.
Detroit - Rookies Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best give Lions fans two reasons to be excited for the future.

NFC South
New Orleans – Drew Brees might be the one quarterback in the league you wouldn’t grow tired of seeing in the Super Bowl.
Atlanta* – Though he took a step back in his sophomore year, far too many people are overlooking Matt Ryan and the Falcons this season.
Carolina – Whether the Panthers surprise or wilt with Matt Moore at the helm, it looks like this is the final act in Charlotte for John Fox, whose contract expires after the season.
Tampa Bay - At least they have those “creamsicle” throwbacks to look forward to at some point this season, right?

NFC West
San Francisco – Alex Smith is no Joe Montana or Steve Young — or even Jeff Garcia — but the 49ers are the strongest team in a pedestrian division.
Arizona – Cardinals fans wish Kurt Warner would be more like Brett Favre in his retirement practices.
Seattle – As if his first two go-rounds in the NFL weren’t bad enough, the shadow of the sanctions at USC makes Pete Carroll an easy guy to root against.
St. Louis - Sam Bradford has 50 million reasons to smile while he takes a beating in his rookie season.

* = Wild-card berth

Wild-Card Round
New England over Cincinnati
Houston over San Diego
Minnesota over San Francisco
Atlanta over Dallas

Divisional Round
Indianapolis over Houston
Baltimore over New England
New Orleans over Atlanta
Green Bay over Minnesota

AFC Championship
Baltimore over Indianapolis

NFC Championship
Green Bay over New Orleans

Super Bowl XLV
Baltimore over Green Bay

MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive Player of the Year: Adrian Peterson
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Willis
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ryan Mathews
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukong Suh
Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh

The exhilarating journey begins Thursday night.

Enjoy the ride.

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