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Ravens pound Miami 27-9…Fisher — you’re next!

Posted on 04 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

This is one occasion when almost all of you – even my critics – will be thrilled to read this:

I told you so.

I said it all week and made it my feature thought via blog-form here at WNST.net — Don’t ever bet against Ray, Reed & Co. when they go back down to Miami.

Baltimore drubbed the Dolphins, 27-9, and both Lewis and Reed anchored an airtight Ravens defense that must have Jeff Fisher and the Titans at least a little concerned heading into next Saturday’s big showdown in Nashville.  Reed had a pair of interceptions including one for a touchdown and Trevor Pryce was a wrecking machine off the edge all afternoon.  Miami’s Chad Pennington did his best Daniel Cabrera impersonation by throwing more balls than strikes and that Wildcat offense looked more like a Pussycat to me.

It got a little tense early in the 4th quarter when Miami scored to make it 20-9, then Ravens’ offensive Cam Cameron lost his smart-playbook on the bench and used the dumb-one for a series as Baltimore went 3-and-out and gave Miami life.  The Dolphins advanced to the Baltimore 32 before a mix-up between Pennington and Ted Ginn resulted in a 19-yard loss and that was that…Miami’s hopes fizzled at that point.

Joe Flacco, as he has done just about all season, again outplayed his veteran counterpart.  Flacco threw no picks – Pennington tossed four.  You’re gonna win most of the time with those kind of numbers from your quarterback.  And, you’ll lose just about every time when your QB plays like Pennington did today.

The Ravens are now officially “dangerous”.  Heading to Tennessee with nothing to lose and most certainly an underdog, Baltimore will travel to Nashville brimming with confidence and ready to dispose of the Titans in the same fashion they did back in the 2000 playoffs (’01) when they knocked off Fisher’s team en route to the AFC title game in Oakland.

As a side note, here’s a funny story about today:  Tell me this isn’t a sign from the Football Gods.  I joined Glenn Clark at McAvoy’s for a 1pm gathering of Ravens’ fans in Parkville.  I left my house at noon, ran an errand and stopped for 15 minutes to hit some golf balls at Parkville High School, about 300 yards from McAvoy’s.  I grabbed my bag of balls, a club and my iPod.  I hit the shuffle button…I have 1100 songs on my iPod.  The first one randomly chosen to play in “shuffle”?  The Dolphin’s Cry, by +Live+

I knew everything was going to be OK at that point.

So, on we go in this wild 2008 football season.  We have trips for sale at WNST.net if you want to head to Nashville to watch it all in person next Saturday.  

I’ll be there.  I bought my ticket on Southwest last Sunday during that win over the Jaguars.  That’s how sure I was that the Ravens were going to win in Miami today.

I told you so.

You NEVER, EVER bet against #52 when he’s going home.

And, in case you’re an optimist like me, you might want to check out Southwest.com right about now.

They have some GREAT fares on Baltimore to Tampa round trip tickets in late January…if you know what I mean.

I already bought mine.

You have to think ahead, my friends.

And, with this year’s edition of the Ravens, it’s wise if you do that.

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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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2008 Ravens tribute: “Harmony Reigns”

Posted on 23 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

With only one week remaining in the regular season, the Ravens are on target to return to post-season play for the second time in three seasons.  The only thing standing in their way: a visit from downtrodden Jacksonville this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Get ready to celebrate.  There’s no way the Jags come here and beat the Ravens with everything on the line for Baltimore and nothing at stake for J’ville.  If, somehow, Jacksonville does win on Sunday, it goes down as the most disappointing defeat in Ravens history.  Period.  That Indy home playoff loss was a downer, but it WAS a playoff game and the team that beat the Ravens on January 13, 2007 went on to win the Super Bowl.  It wasn’t like a 5-10 team came limping in here ready to mail it in and suddenly found a win to pull the upset of all upsets to keep us out of the playoffs.  That’s the scenario the Jags face on Sunday.  I don’t see it happening.

So, when the Ravens win this Sunday and scoot in as the surprising 6th seed in the AFC, the reflective question of the day will be this: “How’d we do it?”

How did the Ravens go from 5-11 a year ago, with a locker room in complete disarray and a group of mouthy, disgruntled players, to an 11-5 team just 12 months later?

There are some easy answers and some complicated ones, but they all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

First off, last year’s team might have finished 5-11, but they weren’t really a 5-11 club.  They lost three games in memorable, completely unexpected (some would say “fluky”) fashion.  One of the losses came at home when Cleveland’s kicker booted a game-tying field goal that hit the goal-post and bounded onto the back stantion, where it promptly bounced forward and was ruled no good.  A review (of sorts) of the play resulted in a change of the call (rightfully) to “good” and the Browns went on to win in overtime.  A few weeks later, Baltimore beat then-undefeated New England except Rex Ryan called a time-out in the game’s final minute…just as the Ravens were stopping the Patriots and their winning streak on 4th down.  Moments later, after New England capitalized on 4th down opportunity #2, Tom Brady threw the game-winning TD and the Pats won a game they had already lost.  And in week #14, ultra-reliable Matt Stover missed a 43-yard field goal in overtime that would have given Baltimore a win at Miami.  

So, a 5-11 team really played more like an 8-8 team.  But 5-11 it was.

Also last year, injuries played havoc with Baltimore’s starting 22 and the depth of the team was fully exposed in the latter stages of the season.  At one point in 2007, 8 of their best players missed at least 20% of the campaign, some even more.  McAlister (knee), Ogden (toe), McNair (everything), Lewis (hand), Rolle (health), Heap (ankle), Pryce (hand) and Wilcox (toe) were all sidelined and their replacements were not only inadequate, but in some cases, liabilities.  Who can ever forget that Indianapolis home game?  Peyton Manning torched the Ravens’ depth-less secondary so much the Baltimore City fire marshal showed up at halftime and issued #18 a citation for outdoor burning.

This year’s team battled injuries early on, but their BEST players, with the exception of Rolle, McAlister and Kelly Gregg, have all played the entire schedule to date: Ray, Flacco, Ngata, Suggs, Reed, Mason (banged up but playing every game somehow…what a warrior), Gaither, Brown, Grubbs, Scott, Pryce…none of those guys have missed extensive time.  It helps when your best players are playing. This year, for the most part, the Ravens best players have been available.

And it also helps when the organization learns from its mistakes.  Depth (lack thereof) was a major reason for last year’s failure, but depth is a big reason why the ’08 version is winning.  When Dawan Landry went down in week #2 with a season ending spinal injury, safety Jim Leonhard stepped in and did the job and then some, earning the respect of everyone with his week-in, week-out hard-nosed style of play.  And when Rolle and McAlister both missed time, newcomer Fabian Washington stepped in admirably at cornerback and even the oft-criticized Frank Walker has been decent enough to warrant a respectful tip of the cap.  Kelly Gregg’s absence hasn’t been felt at all, thanks to a monster year from Ngata and a breakthrough campaign for erstwhile back-up Justin Bannan.  And the triple-threat at running back has given the team different looks and different strengths all season long.  

“Players play, coaches coach” – that’s the old adage.  And it’s true.  But, when dissecting this year’s success, you’d be unfair if you didn’t mention the off-season front office work of George Kokinis, Eric DeCosta and, of course, Ozzie Newsome.  Via the draft and free agency, those three added depth in the secondary and on the offensive and defensive lines.  

John Harbaugh came in a with no-nonsense style that ruffled a feathers at the outset, but as he settled down, so did the discontent.  Coodinators Cameron and Ryan are well respected by the players and they quietly mirror Harbaugh’s confidence that this roster of players is capable of winning big games right away – even with a first-year quarterback at the helm.

But the two main components that contribute to the ’08 Ravens success are the complicated pieces that complete the puzzle.  I’ll call them “Peace and Quiet” for lack of a better term. 

First, and most obviously, it’s at quarterback, where Joe Flacco (“Peace”) has done the unthinkable. He’s gone from leading a Division 1AA school to its post-season to leading an NFL team to the brink of its post-season — all within 12 months.  And he’s done it with a quiet, reserved, hardly-a-pulse manner that has made his teammates believe in him almost from day one in Westminster last summer. Kyle Boller NEVER had the faith of his entire team in five seasons.  Joe Flacco gained it all in about five weeks. 

And without that distraction at quarterback and with the team in harmony both on and off the field, this year’s Ravens have been able to focus on playing football.  And good football, at that.

It’s been awfully “Quiet” this season.  Have you noticed how much bickering has gone on this year? Even when the team stumbled in October and dropped three straight, do you remember any public whining and moaning?  McAlister was involved in a fortnight of controversy with the coach over some misbehaving in Miami, but he suddenly suffered a season ending knee injury (*ahem*) that saved Harbaugh a tough mid-season talk.  And, other than Ed Reed dropping a “we don’t like the way Harbaugh talks down to us…” hint at mid-season, you heard no other negative whispers from the locker room.

No more complaints about the quarterback.  No crying about playing time.  No public campaigning for new contracts, extensions, etc.  No controversies, even on the occasion when results and fortune could have allowed for it.  

When the Ravens got pounded by the Giants in New York, they simply said, “we got beat by a better team today…” – Early in the year they lost a heartbreaker at home to the Titans when Tennessee orchestrated a late drive that was aided in large part by a phantom “blow to the head” call against Terrell Suggs…”we shouldn’t have been in that position…can’t let a good team like that stay in the game” was what the players said afterwards. – And last Sunday after losing to Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion with a goal-line TD call leaving everyone in America wondering about the effectiveness of instant-replay, the Ravens refused to bite: “we just have to go to Dallas and win a football game…we didn’t do the job on that last drive…can’t win many games if you don’t score touchdowns.”  No complaining this year.  No bellyaching about the referees, bad luck, bad coaching, etc.  

This team stayed positive all season long.

Looking for the BEST example of all?  Willis McGahee.  Essentially benched in the late stages of the season for lack of production, #23 took the chance to support his coach by saying, “If I were the coach, I’d bench me too…I’ve played like dog doo-doo.”  Gone are the days of hearing a guy chastising the coaching staff for not getting enough touches on the ball — McGahee took his demotion like a pro and put the team first. It’s been a while since I felt better about a player scoring a touchdown than I did on Saturday night when Willis broke off that 77-yard TD run.  He deserved that more than anyone else on the team.

The topper, though, has to be the unwavering championship play of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott. All three are seeking a new deal and all three are – for the most part – competing with one another for that big cash cow at season’s end.  If Ray gets all the money, Suggs and Scott might not. If Suggs cashes in, Ray and Scott might be looking at giving a purple discount or moving on to another team. Yet, there hasn’t been one – not one – moment where any of those three took the opportunity to bellow about a new deal either here or elsewhere.

It’s a happy house in Owings Mills these days.

The team has won.

The players have played hard.  Injured players have been replaced by guys performing at unexpected levels. And certain players have battled ailments to the extent that it almost looks unhealthy for them to be out there in the first place.

The Ravens have come together as men and played for one goal.

And their focus has been on winning football games.  Nothing else.

Playing time, personal friendships, money, feelings about the coach and his staff…it’s all been put on the side in exchange for trying to win.

It’s been their ’08 success formula.

Let’s hope it carries over for just one more Sunday.

Then everyone starts at 0-0 again and it’s suddenly a 4-game season.

And, based on what I’ve seen over the last four months, I like the Ravens chances in January.

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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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WNST Puck Bus makes a perfect holiday gift!

Posted on 18 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Just a reminder that for our Baltimore puck heads that the WNST Baltimore Puck Buses for 2009 are now ON SALE! We’re doing three trips down to D.C. to see the Capitals:

Jan. 6 vs. Philadelphia
Feb. 18 vs. Montreal
March 6 vs. Carolina
All trips are $60 each and a “three pack” is $150. It includes game ticket, bus ride, limited beer, sodas and snacks plus Caps trivia and stupid movies like “Slapshot” and “Youngblood” as well as some Canadian classics.

Our buses leave from White Marsh and pick up in Catonsville en route to the Verizon Center.

It makes a pretty cool holiday gift for someone in your life who loves hockey and won’t say “What The Puck?” if this makes its way under the holiday tree. All of the details are here and you can paypal your order now and you’re all signed up!

Hope we get to see you on our trips. Click here if you want to check out a video of the fun from last time when the Caps won a thriller:

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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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Beating the Redskins in Baltimore…is anything better?

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s start by stating the obvious: any win over the Washington Redskins is a great win, especially when you only get that opportunity every four years. With so much at stake after the Steelers wild comeback over Dallas (the tailgate was essentially a giant, frigid outdoor viewing party), it became more of a playoff game for the Ravens and they answered the bell on Sunday night with a resounding 24-10 win over their weaker rivals from the D.C. beltway.

Of course, the real playoff game comes this Sunday when the Steelers come to town for another huge game that will dictate whether the Ravens are “just” a playoff team or whether they’re built to win in January. A loss, and the playoffs are in peril and they’ll need to claw and scratch just to get in and go on the road for the month. A win over Pittsburgh here, and the Ravens can legitimately start talking about a first-round bye.

What a long, crazy, unexpected season this has been. Last night was an “instant classic,” a legendary memory, both good and bad. Beating the Redskins like dogs might be the most fun you can have as a Ravens fan but the sheer volume of burgundy and gold that made its way into our stadium was disgusting. And the weather was absolutely bone-chilling.

For those of you who didn’t attend, it was by far the coldest game in Ravens history, our own personal Ice Bowl. With the wind, it was brutal — so cold that the crowds started heading for the exits at halftime and some of us couldn’t blame them. It’s been almost three decades of waiting for the Redskins to return to Baltimore and I honestly didn’t enjoy the whipping as much as I thought I would just because I was a giant block of ice by the second quarter.

As I peered around at everyone in my section and the missing seats around the stadium, I think most people were thinking what I was: “Just get this game over with so I can go someplace warm!”

Lots of observations:

It’s pretty apparent what kind of amazing season Ed Reed is having. He’s a ballhawk, setting up quarterbacks, following their eyes and when the ball is thrown down the middle he is always in the right place. He is a tip-ball master. It’s uncanny, really. Let’s not forget that three months ago in Westminster there were organization-wide concerns that he’d never set foot on the field in 2008. The first six weeks of the season, he played with one arm and avoided contact on most plays. And after last night’s stellar game, many in the local media were talking MVP (or at least defensive MVP) accolades for No. 20.

Needless to say, virtually everyone in the locker room had something to say about Ed Reed here on wnsTV.

Ray Lewis played another “throwback” game last night. He was all over the field, sideline to sideline and was robbed of a fumble recovery on the sack of Jason Campbell that was whistled too soon. Had that call gone the Ravens’ way, the game might’ve been over much earlier given the momentum at that point.

Joe Flacco continues to impress anyone who watches this team. We keep waiting for the rookie mistakes, the confusion, the errors. Since the Indianapolis meltdown, the team is 7-1 and that must be credited to Flacco, who has truly been “Joe Cool.”

And the patchwork Ravens offensive line keeps changing parts but not outcomes. Flacco has managed to avoid major hits, even scrambling when needed and the line has been tenacious.

You gotta love the Ravens’ two midgets in the secondary, Corey Ivy and Jim Leonhard are truly unsung heroes on this 2008 team. They both made some big plays and vicious tackles against the Redskins, but if you ever meet them you’ll be shocked at how small they are. They’re truly “normal” sized guys and in my 13 years of going through the Ravens locker room there haven’t many like them. Maybe Jermaine Lewis and B.J. Sams would be in the club but not many more. Just amazing the heart these guys show being on the field with the giants. It’s inspirational, really, because you know they’ve been told all of their lives that they were too small to play in the NFL.

When the game got tight late in the 3rd quarter, the running back situation and atrophy became a factor and Le’Ron McClain once again emerged as a force late in the game. No one wants to tackle him in the 4th quarter when he’s running downhill. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice were both dinged up and their status will be a daily story in Owings Mills this week as the preparation for Pittsburgh week begins.

Overall, it’s been a dreamy kinda season. There’s no “tell all” explanation for why this team is 9-4 in a year when most “experts” in their own building would’ve been delighted with 8-8. And the notion that when the schedule came out in April we’d be sitting here with a chance for a first-round bye in January  as we put up holiday lights – well, it’s impressive and exciting for the whole city and anyone who is Ravens onlooker.

So out come the Festivus lights and the possibility of January fun!

We are still looking for entries to our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” promotion where you can win tickets to the Green Bay roadtrip next fall and a visit from the WNST crew if you have the coolest Ravens set up in your home.

A purple basement?

A dedicated room for all things Festivus, with autographs, pictures, memories?

A purple holiday set up under the tree? Or maybe the whole TREE is purple?

Maybe your friends or relatives need to know about the contest as well?

Send your pictures and/or your videos. We’re entering the final week of the contest. Click here for more details.

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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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So…just how many people come to WNST.net every day for Baltimore sports?

Posted on 24 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Every day someone comes up to me on the streets of Baltimore and tells me that I should “turn up the signal” on AM 1570. That’s been going on since May 1998 when I first got involved in purchasing WNST, which was then WKDB, a failed kid’s radio station. As you know, this is the worst time of the year for us, when daylight ends around 5 p.m. and we are mandated by the FCC to “downpower” our transmitter, which restricts our AM radio access to an 8-mile circle around Towson, where our towers reside on the hill overlooking Loch Raven High School.

Maybe you’ve heard our “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” promo on WNST? We did that for a reason. We’re NOT just an AM radio station anymore, as your eyes on this website should surely tell you. We have a lot more to offer than 12 hours of radio these days at AM 1570 on your radio.

(But you’re already here on the website reading this, so that should be pretty self-explanatory.)

Believe me, if we could petition the FCC to get more “hamsters running the power,” we would do it. But we don’t really need to at this point with the website being so robust and so active on a daily basis.

The good news? Since 1998 this thing called the internet has been invented allowing us to stream out live audio anywhere in the world where there’s access to www.wnst.net. And we’ve now taken this website to the point where it’s FAR more than just radio. It’s blogs, news, the text service, WNST on demand via our audio vault where right now you can listen to anything we’ve had on the radio station at your fingertips, WNStv allows us to show you what our eyes see. And much like “calling in” to WNST in the old days, you can post a comment 24/7 to any blog or soon you’ll be able to write your own blogs and share your thoughts, ideas and stories.

And for many people with iphones or high-quality PDAs or phones, WNST.net and all of our programming is available in the palm of your hand. Some of you just don’t know it’s there!

Beginning today, I have made a fundamental change in my philosophy regarding this blog on WNST.net. In the future, I’ll be writing not only about the Ravens, Orioles, Terps and other local sports issues, but I’ll also be blogging here about WNST and the local media market and why our website has become the best place in the community for local sports.

I honestly think we need to re-educate our own WNST people (listeners, users and sponsors alike) about this website and the transcendence of new media in the marketplace. So I appreciate you reading this and sharing this with other people who enjoy WNST’s radio side at AM 1570 on the dial. (Please forward this to anyone you know who also loves what we do at WNST!)

We are in the process of selling local advertising during what is essentially a depression in the marketplace for both advertisers and media. We are trying to grow our AM radio station into a powerful web tool for all of you who love Baltimore and love Baltimore sports.

But we can’t do it without your help and without educating our own users about the new WNST.net.

First, if you own a local business or are involved with a local business that would like to see a spike in their customer base or traffic, we’d love to hear from you. It’s pretty apparent to some but some are oblivious to the fact that we feed our families by selling advertising to local business and having our listeners and readers go to these establishments and patronize their businesses.

Without selling advertising here at WNST, we are out of business. It’s just that simple.

Unlike MASN and some other local entities, we are not given subsidization or “welfare” from the people. Our only stream of revenue comes from the local marketplace and the sponsors you hear on WNST and see on this website.

So, that being said, I’m sure you’re wondering how many people come to our website vs. the rest of the marketplace?

The answer: a LOT more than you think and many more than our competitors would like for you to believe.

Unlike Arbitron’s “fantasy numbers” and lies about how many people WNST has in its sphere, the web is a lot more clear cut, trackable and accurate.

The first thing you should do is go to www.alexa.com. Alexa is “The Web Information Company” and is owned by Amazon. There is no “industry bible” for tracking web traffic but this is about the best and most trusted resource we can find that compares actual websites fairly and accurately around the world. Here is the link to the FAQ’s about Alexa.

You can start with yahoo, google and youtube (they are the Top 3) and go from there. You can put any website in the world into the little box at the top and you’ll get a “ranking” number, kinda like Top 25 polls. Except that these aren’t POLLS or guesses…this is actual daily, calculated traffic to the website over the past 90 days.

In Baltimore, here is the order of traffic and the numbers as of 8 a.m. today (Alexa recalculates every 3 days):

Baltimore Sun is 3,680th in the world (and No. 1 in Baltimore by a lot, as you’d suspect)
BaltimoreRavens.com is 29,089
WBALTV is 34,651
WJZ is 37,337
WMAR is 97,747
WBAL Radio is 99,991
WNST.net is 126,621

It always makes us laugh (or sometimes cry) when we go into a sales meeting and hear anyone in local radio or media talk about their audience as being larger than ours.

It’s just a lie and we need to re-educate people about where the eyes are in 2008 on the internet in Baltimore.

First, here’s a link to the most recent Arbitron fiction, which actually has us beating our sports radio “competitors” at their own game: radio. These are only the “12 and older” numbers, nothing to do with men or sports, where we dominate the marketplace.

WNST is a 0.7
WJFK is a 0.5.

Just facts…

And below is a list of the current state of Baltimore sports on the web. These are all sites that get significantly less daily users according to Alexa, “The Web Information Company.”

Let’s start with other sports-only sites:

MASNsports.com is 210,486
Pressbox is 851,682
WJFK is 765,917
105.7 new sports site is 1,007,508
WVIE is 7,348,136

Again, WNST’s Alexa ranking is 126,621…

Want to compare us to local television?

Fox 45’s – FoxBaltimore.com — website is 300,445

Or how about local radio?

98 Rock is 263,064
WPOC is 327,759
92Q Jams is 389,281
WCBM is 615,560

Magic 95.9 is 1,830,527

WYPR is 1,135,011

WLIF is 1,246,343

100.7 The Bay is 2,836,104

Or local print?

Baltimore Magazine is 337,663

Towson Times is 404,947
These are all older, more “established” media entities that would love to tell advertisers that they have a “bigger audience” than little WNST.

(Ya know, “that little AM radio station no one can hear.”)

Once again, WNST.net’s Alexa ranking number is 126,621. That means we are the SEVENTH largest local entity on the web in the marketplace and No. 1 BY A LOT for local sports-only sites. We were actually AHEAD of WBAL.com overall back in April 2008 before the Orioles killed our spring traffic and the Obama-McCain election summer helped spike theirs.

Our Google analytics show that 62,773 of you came to our website during the first month of its relaunch (Oct. 19th at noon we changed platforms). Our numbers tell us that almost 10,000 of you come to the site every day for your sports news, information and blogs.

And there are now nearly 4,000 of you who receive our text messages every time there is breaking news and information to report. (Like today when the Ravens-Redskins game moved to a 8:15 start on Dec. 7.)

I just wanted you to have the facts.

This is only the beginning of many blogs and the dispersal of information that quite frankly, if we don’t tell you you’ll probably never know.

WNST.net is a lot bigger than you think!

Please share this with anyone you might think would care to know about WNST or some folks in the marketplace who might want to advertise and hear their name on WNST Radio or see their coupon and logo and offers on WNST.net.

We can’t keep producing the best content and highest-quality programming and information without the community.


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