Tag Archive | "flacco"

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Chapter 19: The purple revolution in New England

Posted on 30 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

“You guys will write great stories and can put it in way better words than I can. We’ve always believed in Joe. For Joe to come out and have this kind of game, on this kind of a stage, three weeks in a row…[Andrew] Luck’s a pretty good quarterback, [Peyton] Manning’s a pretty good quarterback, [Tom] Brady’s a great quarterback; all those guys are great players. But Joe’s a great quarterback. He’s proven that, and he’s not just proven that this year, he’s proven it for five years.”

– John Harbaugh (January 20, 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

IF REVENGE IS A DISH best served cold, then at least the elements and the weather in New England would cooperate accordingly. What could provide a better stage for a tale of vindication in Charm City than the Baltimore Ravens returning to Foxborough for a rematch of the AFC Championship Game?

It was like a Steel Cage Match.

Tom Brady vs. Joe Flacco. Ray Lewis and The Last Ride. Bill Belichick and the Patriots with yet another chance to make America groan by going to a sixth Super Bowl in 13 seasons in New England. There were no shortage of stories to be told.

When the Ravens boarded their happy flight for Baltimore from Denver two hours after the miraculous win over the Broncos, they were unsure of their destination for the final step toward Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The Texans, who had whipped them in Houston back in October, were visiting New England the following afternoon. The Patriots, led by Tom Brady’s three TD passes, dispatched of the Texans in a 41-28 win, but lost tight end Rob Gronkowski with a left wrist injury.

A huge weapon for the Patriots was gone before the Ravens even had to assemble the game plan.

By late Sunday afternoon the travel plans were made for a trip that the Ravens knew all too well. They were heading to Foxborough. For more than 40 players and the entire coaching staff, it was back to Gillette Stadium 52 weeks later – 364 days after the most disappointing day of their lives. The Lee Evans drop. The Billy Cundiff kick. The cold, empty feeling in that locker room and Ray Lewis telling them to go make someone smile. The quiet flight home. And those long days afterward, when you just wanted to pull the blankets over your head in the morning because you still couldn’t accept that you lost that game.

It’s not one of those days you quickly forget.

Motivating players was not going to be an issue for head coach John Harbaugh this week. Calming them down, however, might be.

On Sunday night, in the middle of the Texans-Patriots game, Brendon Ayanbadejo fired the opening salvo via his Twitter page:

Are you watching the game pats vs. texans? If so you see the hurry snap offense catch em b4 they set up. It’s a gimmick.

Then, he followed with: New England does some suspect stuff on offense. Can’t really respect it. Comparable to a cheap shot b4 a fight

Then: You know the same organization that did spygate and cut a guy the day b4 the Super Bowl

Then: In a sport that is predicated on mano y mano, “lets hurry n snap it” = bitchassness

And finally: 18-1 …a reference to the Patriots losing in the Super Bowl to Giants in 2008

Ayanbadejo is no stranger to the back and forth of social media, yet his controversial stand on social issues were always consistent and relatively polite given the forum. But, something about watching the Patriots play the Texans in Foxborough clearly rubbed him the wrong way. And with his fingers on the trigger of his mobile device, and filled with emotion given the outcome and his role, he simply fired off his thoughts.

By lunchtime on Monday, Ayanbadejo had issued an apology on Twitter:

I made selfish comments on twitter last night that reflected poorly upon myself, my teammates, and the organization. For that I apologize.

One thing he was correct about was that the Patriots were going to try to snap the ball before the Ravens were ready. Harbaugh was more diplomatic. “They look to create advantages for themselves, and they do it with tempo a lot of times,” he said. “ It’s not just the fact that they go fast sometimes. They force you to line up. Sometimes they’ll force the defense to show their hand because you have to defend the play. If you don’t, they’ll run the play. You saw last week they got Houston in some tough situations, and it was big plays for them. It usually results in a big

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Chapter 14: Family beefs and “Care”frontation

Posted on 25 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

“I’ve got a rule. I never, ever hold a grudge. And I kind of a have a rule that nobody else is allowed to hold a grudge, either. There are no grudges. We’re a bunch of guys. We don’t hold grudges. Right? We move on.”

– John Harbaugh (November 2012)

 

 

 

On Wednesday, November 28, 2012 the Baltimore Ravens reported to work in Owings Mills with a 9-2 record. No matter how unimpressive the results or statistics were on either side of the ball or how fortunate their fate seemed, it would be hard not to make the playoffs. One more win and the Ravens would have a seat in the tournament and a shot at the confetti for the fifth year in a row.

And in a strange quirk of NFL scheduling, once again the Pittsburgh Steelers were next up, the second meeting in 14 days between the bitter rivals. Once again it appeared that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be unavailable with his shoulder injury but instead of Byron Leftwich, this time it would be 15-year veteran Charlie Batch lining up under center at M&T Bank Stadium for the black and gold. All of the obvious discomfort that Leftwich had 10 days earlier was the result of two broken ribs he sustained at the hands of the Ravens defense in Pittsburgh. Batch started for the Steelers in Cleveland and lost 20-14 while throwing three interceptions just a few hours prior to the Ravens’ 4th & 29 miracle in San Diego. The Steelers were fading at 6-5. The Ravens were 9-2 and on a four-game winning streak, including back-to-back road wins.Silver had been at the Ravens game on Sunday in San Diego and was a seasoned reporter who knew a good story when he heard one. Iconoclastic, inquisitive, and fully cognizant of all aspects of the coach-player-media privilege, as well as sourced throughout the NFL, Silver knows the difference between on the record and off the record.

Good journalism is all in the eyes of the beholder. One veteran sports reporter’s account of a behind-the-scenes confrontation a month earlier holds a lot of weight when no one is issuing denials, and everyone agrees it was unique and productive. Even when some personnel don’t want to put their names to quotes or information, it was clear there was substance and clarity in the story.

All was happy in Owings Mills during Steelers Week until Wednesday morning when a fascinating story appeared at Yahoo Sports. NFL columnist Mike Silver authored a piece that was widely shared via the web and social media.

Headline: “John Harbaugh kept Ravens on track despite near mutiny at meeting in October”

Harbaugh wasn’t necessarily pissed off that the story was written – Silver approached him after the joyous win and

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Jason Cole on the injury-prone Baltimore Ravens

Posted on 24 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Clifton Brown dissects the 2-7 Baltimore Ravens

Posted on 17 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Brad Jackson questions the Ravens recent draft picks

Posted on 20 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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Garrett Downing talks Ravens early season struggles

Posted on 13 October 2015 by WNST Staff

 

Garrett Downing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ravens opener – the one that got away

Posted on 14 September 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

After the Ravens’ bitter 19-13 loss to the Broncos, it was clear that this was a game that they could have won, but it just got away from them.  It got away because of Joe Flacco’s back breaking interception.  It got away because the defense couldn’t get the Denver offense off of the field for nearly 11 minutes – in the 4th quarter to boot.  It got away when WR Steve Smith Sr.  let one slip through his fingers – in the endzone. It got away when second year tight end Crockett Gillmore had his hands on the ball – in the endzone again – and couldn’t haul it in while tightly covered by two Broncos defenders, including former Raven safety Darren Stewart, who ultimately came down with the ball.

There were other factors that led to the outcome, but those were the ones that stood out.  We saw Joe Flacco under duress by a fierce Denver pass rush the entire game.  Flacco never looked comfortable in the pocket, hardly ever set his feet, and frequently threw off of his back foot.  This is what happens when teams can’t run the ball in the NFL. When defenses like the Broncos’ and the Ravens’ completely take away the run, they limit the offenses, make them one dimensional and by and large predictable.  Credit Dean Pees and Wade Phillips here, as clearly they got the best of their counterparts, Rick Dennison and Marc Trestman.

Then there was the season ending injury to Terrell Suggs, the Ravens’ 6 time Pro-Bowler and arguably the team’s defensive leader.  For a defensive minded team that the Ravens are, this is a huge loss.  The Ravens have obvious limitations on the offensive side of the ball, and if they are going to sniff the playoffs this year, it’s going to have to be on the strength of their defense. Suggs was not only a fierce pass rusher off of the edge, but also stout against the run. Plus he’s a much more cerebral player than given credit for.  His teammates said that numerous times during yesterday’s game, he would tell them where the ball was going and/or what play was coming. Replacing his production is something that the Ravens are going to really have to take a long hard look at.

Courtney Upshaw  and Za’Darius Smith (who was inactive for yesterday’s game) are the obvious choices to fill Suggs’ spot.  The team may also pull up Brennen Beyer from the practice squad.  The 6’4″ 260 pound former Michigan Wolverine was transitioning from DE to OLB, and he will get a long look this week.  Plus Brent Urban will be coming off of the injured reserve list mid-season, and will give the Ravens a boost.  They may be able to overcome the injury to Suggs, but they simply cannot afford any more season ending injuries to the rest of the starters.

Back to Joe Flacco.  The awful, telegraphed pick-6 that he threw to Aquib Talib was about as demoralizing a play as one can be.  I know that Peyton Manning threw a pick-6 as well, but it wan’t as horrible of a throw as Jimmy Smith had to really work for it.  Smith made one heck of a play as he broke on the ball, tipped it into the air and took it to the house.  What made Flacco’s interception so bad, is that we have seen him – pre snap – lock onto his primary receiver, while seemingly giving no thought to what the defense is doing in regard to alignment. Talib said from his film study, he knew exactly where Flacco was going with the ball, as he undercut Steve Smith’s route and brought the ball back 51 yards for a TD.  Elite QBs don’t determine where the ball is going pre-snap. They line up, scan the defense, drop back and go through their progressions.  I know that Flacco didn’t have a lot of time to get his passes off yesterday, but on that particular play the line held; he had ample time to make the correct read prior to releasing the ball.  That’s the book on Joe – if you pressure him he will make mistakes, and he made a critical one yesterday.

The offensive line got overwhelmed by Denver’s defensive line, plain and simple. James Hurst was serviceable, as he replaced Eugene Monroe, who left the game in the first quarter due to a concussion.  They just couldn’t get any push, and the combo of Justin Forsett and Buck Allen had difficulty picking up yards.  The receivers and tight ends were unremarkable, as they got little to no separation from the Broncos’ secondary.

The Ravens defense played well as a whole.  They made Manning look ordinary and pedestrian.  He missed a couple of deep balls as he overthrew open receivers, and just didn’t look like the Manning of old.  “Old Manning” may be a better characterization of him at this point of his career.  The defense did have a let down at the worst possible time, as they let up that 11 minute 4th quarter drive.  Manning found success with some intermediate passes, as did RB Ronnie Hillman with some trap draws between the tackles.  The Ravens defense was obviously gassed on that drive, and were aided by a Broncos’ time out at about the 3 minute mark.  Had time out not been called, the Broncos would have probably scoreed a touchdown instead of a field goal.

It is the first week of the season and we are all very aware of that. It is not a time for a team – or a fanbase – to get too high or too low based on the results/performance of game one.  Defense wins championships and if these two teams can improve on offense, they will both be in the running for a spot in the playoffs 15 weeks from now. The only certain thing is that the Ravens will finish somewhere between 0-16 and 15-1.  The road trip continues with a stop next week at Oakland.  QB Derek Carr injured his hand in the Raiders’ loss to the Bengals, but should be cleared to play.  It will interesting to see if the Ravens can bounce back and avoid starting their season 0-2.  It is very much a must win game.

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HOLIDAY VIP DEAL: Buy “Purple Reign 2” for Ravens readers here

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

Thanks for checking our section of purple cyberspace and for having interest in purchasing Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story via WNST.net. It’s been a labor of love for me — researching, writing and presenting the building of a NFL championship.

In 2001, I wrote Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac and I’ve had many inquiries regarding reprinting it and packaging it with the new book on the 2012 Ravens. So, below are the options to purchase both books as well as a 6-CD collection of our best WNST radio interviews with the many stars and interesting people from Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XLVII. It will have original audio from 1990’s with Ray Lewis, Brian Billick, Jon Ogden as well as a two-hour life retrospective when I sat down with Arthur B. Modell in 2004. We’ll also include highlights from the past two years with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, John Harbaugh and others. It will be nearly seven hours of conversation with Baltimore Ravens who have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

The book is 480 pages, chock full of stories, background, behind-the-scenes information told in 22 chapters from the firing of Brian Billick to the hiring of John Harbaugh to the drafting of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice to the 2012 season and the Super Bowl XLVII win and parade down Pratt Street and celebration inside the stadium back in February.

And the best part of the book or books? They both have happy endings. If you love the Baltimore Ravens, you’ll love the book(s).

It’s the best work of my career and I know once you read it you’ll agree. Virtually every review has been a 5-star compliment since the book was released in June 2013.

Here are two links to excerpts from Purple Reign 2:

This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story.

And here’s another from Chapter 10 involving Joe Flacco and Steve Bisciotti’s cash showdown in August 2012.

 

BUY PURPLE REIGN HERE:

Here’s our shopping cart for all things Purple Reign, new and old:

Purple Reign V.I.P. Box Set (HOLIDAY DISCOUNT)

Includes:

Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story (2013)

Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac (2001) hardback 2nd edition

WNST Purple Reign Radio Memories (6 CD’s)

RAY 2:52/BELIEVE IN JOE New Orleans poster

Full color 12X18 poster of Purple Reign 2 cover (featuring fabulous artwork of local sports cartoonist Mike Ricigliano) that is suitable for autographs/framing or your mancave wall

And if you buy this deluxe package, make sure you let me know how to personalize the new book for you below:

$59.95 plus S&H

$49.95 WITH FREE SHIPPING!!!!!

How do we sign Purple Reign 2?

 

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Purple Reign Both Books Hardbound

Includes:

Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story (2013)

Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac (2001)

$49.99 plus S&H

 

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Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story BOOK ONLY (hardback)

$26.95 plus S&H

 

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Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac BOOK ONLY (hardback)

$24.95 plus S&H

 

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Purple Reign Radio Memories — a 6 CD set of WNST purple interviews with stars & heroes of Super Bowl XXXV & Super Bowl XLVII

Nearly seven (7) hours of classic audio conversations including the life story of Arthur B. Modell in his words

$19.95 plus S&H

 

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FOR E-BOOKS AND E-READERS

Both Purple Reign: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story & Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac are NOW AVAILABLE:

Click here to purchase via Smashwords for most e-formats

Click here to purchase via Amazon for Kindle

 

 

 

 REVIEWS FOR PURPLE REIGN 2:

By JL
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
If you want to read game reviews about the 2012 Ravens, just looks online. If you want to read the story of the 2012 Ravens, if you want to relive the journey of the 2012 Ravens then read Purple Reign 2. This book cover so much history about the Ravens and is told through the eyes of Baltimore’s own award winning Journalist, Nestor Aparicio.The history of the Ravens is recapped from a fans perspective with inside information. Aparicio makes you feel as if you are in the Ravens Locker Room, draft war room and the sidelines. Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Ed Reed, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Art Model, Steve Biscotti, Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh all provide Aparicio with amazing insight and recap events of the 2012 journey in a way never imagined. A must read for all football fans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must have if you’re a ravens fan. August 29, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
The interviews make it all worth it. He goes into detail how some of the players were chosen in the draft. Honestly I couldn’t put the book down. You get to have a better insight and understand the different players in the team. If you’re a ravens fan, this is one book you definitely should have.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ravens History August 19, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Nestor gives you behind-the-curtains access of the Ravens run to the Super Bowl!!! Amazing insight to the players, coaches and owners. A must have for every Ravens fan!!!
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Format:Kindle Edition
Nestor Aparicio is a true fan of the Ravens and his passion is what makes this book so great.. All of the “behind the scenes” moments that he describes in detail, show all of the hard work that went into this book.. A Ravens fan can open this book at any point and be captivated.. The 2012 season was a great ride and this book puts all of the pieces together.. From process of the hiring of Coach John Harbaugh to the magical win of Super Bowl XLVII, a true page turner.

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Bovada gives Flacco, Rice long odds to lead league in yards

Posted on 12 August 2014 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

 

Stats Leaders

Who will lead the League in Passing Yards in the 2014 Regular Season?  

Drew Brees                               11/4

Peyton Manning                        11/4

Aaron Rodgers                          7/1

Matthew Stafford                      15/2

Tom Brady                                12/1

Matt Ryan                                 16/1

Andrew Luck                             18/1

Jay Cutler                                 20/1

Tony Romo                               20/1

Philip Rivers                              22/1

Nick Foles                                25/1

Eli Manning                               33/1

Carson Palmer                          66/1

Ben Roethlisberger                    66/1

Robert Griffin III                         75/1

Sam Bradford                           100/1

Andy Dalton                              100/1

Joe Flacco                                100/1

Josh McCown                           100/1

Matt Schaub                             100/1

Ryan Tannehill                           100/1

Russell Wilson                          100/1

Colin Kaepernick                       150/1

Johnny Manziel                         150/1

Cam Newton                             150/1

Alex Smith                                250/1

 

Who will lead the League in Rushing Yards in the 2014 Regular Season? 

Adrian Peterson                        4/1

LeSean McCoy                          9/2

Jamaal Charles                          7/1

Marshawn Lynch                        12/1

Arian Foster                              16/1

Alfred Morris                             16/1

Matt Forte                                 18/1

Eddie Lacy                               18/1

Doug Martin                              20/1

Zac Stacy                                 20/1

Montee Ball                               25/1

DeMarco Murray                        25/1

Giovani Bernard                        33/1

Chris Johnson                           33/1

C.J. Spiller                                33/1

Ryan Mathews                           40/1

Le’Veon Bell                              50/1

Andre Ellington                         50/1

Toby Gerhart                             50/1

Stevan Ridley                            50/1

Trent Richardson                       66/1

Bishop Sankey                          66/1

Ben Tate                                   66/1

Frank Gore                                75/1

Rashad Jennings                       75/1

Joique Bell                                100/1

Reggie Bush                             100/1

Steven Jackson                        100/1

Maurice Jones-Drew                  100/1

Ray Rice                                   100/1

 

Who will lead the League in Receiving Yards in the 2014 Regular Season?              

Calvin Johnson                         13/5

Dez Bryant                                15/2

Julio Jones                               8/1

Demaryius Thomas                    8/1

Antonio Brown                          16/1

A.J. Green                                16/1

Brandon Marshall                      16/1

Alshon Jeffery                          20/1

Andre Johnson                          25/1

Jordy Nelson                            28/1

Victor Cruz                                40/1

Larry Fitzgerald                         40/1

Pierre Garcon                            40/1

Jimmy Graham                          40/1

T.Y. Hilton                                 40/1

Vincent Jackson                        40/1

Keenan Allen                             50/1

Randall Cobb                            50/1

Julian Edelman                          50/1

DeSean Jackson                       50/1

Jeremy Maclin                           50/1

Cordarrelle Patterson                 50/1

Emmanuel Sanders                   50/1

Torrey Smith                             50/1

Roddy White                             50/1

Michael Floyd                           66/1

Mike Wallace                             66/1

Wes Welker                               66/1

Marques Colston                       75/1

Michael Crabtree                       75/1

Percy Harvin                             75/1

Dwayne Bowe                           100/1

Eric Decker                               100/1

Mike Evans                               100/1

Rob Gronkowski                       100/1

Hakeem Nicks                           100/1

Golden Tate                              100/1

Sammy Watkins                        100/1

Reggie Wayne                           100/1

Kendall Wright                           100/1

 

Miscellaneous Props

Odds to Win 2014 NFL Comeback Player of the Year        

Robert Griffin III                         5/1

Aaron Rodgers                          6/1

Julio Jones                               6/1

Rob Gronkowski                       7/1

Eli Manning                               10/1

Percy Harvin                             15/1

Arian Foster                              25/1

Chris Johnson                           25/1

Clay Matthews                           25/1

Demarcus Ware                         25/1

Doug Martin                              25/1

Von Miller                                 25/1

Matt Schaub                             25/1

Michael Crabtree                       25/1

Trent Richardson                       25/1

C.J. Spiller                                33/1

Hakeem Nicks                           33/1

Jeremy Maclin                           33/1

Maurice Jones-Drew                  33/1

Michael Vick                             33/1

Ray Rice                                   33/1

Reggie Wayne                           33/1

Darren McFadden                      75/1

 

Who will be the 1st coach fired?               

Jason Garrett                            2/1

Dennis Allen                              4/1

Joe Philbin                                7/1

Doug Marrone                           8/1

Rex Ryan                                  10/1

Gus Bradley                              12/1

Mike Smith                                12/1

Marvin Lewis                             20/1

Ron Rivera                                20/1

Tom Coughlin                            25/1

Jeff Fisher                                25/1

Marc Trestman                          33/1

Mike Tomlin                              33/1

 

Will any Quarterback break the single season Passing yards record in the 2014 Regular Season?  (Note: The record is 5,477 by Peyton Manning in 2013)

Yes                  3/1

No                    1/4

 

Will any Player record 2000 or more Receiving yards in the 2014 Regular Season?              

Yes                  5/1

No                    1/8

 

Will any Player record 2000 or more Rushing yards in the 2014 Regular Season? 

Yes                  6/1

No                    1/10

 

Will any Team go 16-0 in the 2014 Regular Season?          

Yes                  33/1

 

Will any Team go 0-16 in the 2014 Regular Season?          

Yes                  33/1

 

Will a team win the Super Bowl going 19-0?        

Yes                  125/1

 

Will any player break the single season sack record in the 2014 Regular Season?

Yes                   15/1

No                    1/30

 

SPECIALS – Will Peyton Manning lead the league in Passing Yards, win MVP and Broncos win the Super Bowl?    

Yes                  40/1

 

SPECIALS – Will Johnny Manziel win rookie of the Year and the Browns make the playoffs?          

Yes                  25/1

 

SPECIALS – Will Calvin Johnson lead the league in Receiving Yards and the Lions win the NFC North?        

Yes                  15/1

 

SPECIALS – Will both the Jaguars and Raiders make the playoffs?              

Yes                  66/1

 

SPECIALS – Will both the Broncos and Seahawks miss the playoffs?          

Yes                  14/1

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Dorsey's Dugout - AFC North Preview

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Dorsey’s Dugout – AFC North Preview

Posted on 08 August 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

 

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens:

Last season ended up being a disappointment for John Harbaugh and his squad as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time under his lead. There were changes made in the off-season that will assure Baltimore will not be missing the post-season for a second straight season.

The offense got a new look adding new pieces from all angles, starting with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. The long time Houston Texan head coach comes to Baltimore bringing a new style of offense maintaining a zone-blocking scheme.

Baltimore has new faces to dawn the purple and black for the upcoming season, but one particular athlete is difficult to overlook. Owen Daniels is a nice addition to the offense, but Steve Smith is the talk of the town ever since Carolina decided to part ways with the career long Panther.

Smith brings an attitude to the offense and gives the team a physical presence on the outside that they have not had since trading away Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Once the upcoming season comes to a close, everyone will look back and wonder why more teams were not more aggressive in trying to sign Steve Smith as he will have one of the biggest impacts on his new team around the league.

The Ravens offense struggled running the ball last season due to the offensive line not being up to par and the ball carriers themselves not playing up to their capabilities. That will be sure to change for the better due to some of the moves made to upgrade the line and because the backs are healthy once again.

If there is a concern to have for the Ravens, it is their secondary. Jimmy Smith had a breakout year last season and Webb across the field make for a good pairing. Cornerback depth is where there is plenty of uncertainty; it is up to either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson to step up and fill the void in the slot.

Matt Elam, last years first round draft pick, moves to the safety position he is best suited to play. Alongside Elam is Darian Stewart, who was an undrafted free agent during the 2010 NFL draft. Not only is cornerback depth an issue, but inexperience on the backend is as well. If the Ravens want to return to the promise land, can this secondary be good enough to defend against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady when it counts?

Breakout Candidate: Kyle Juszczyk

With the new offense Kubiak brings, there will be all kinds of options for Joe Flacco. The fans of Baltimore got a very small sample of that in the first pre-season game against the 49ers. The Smiths, Pitta, Jones, Brown and Daniels will all be targets for Flacco.

The under the radar target that is being overlooked is Kyle Juszczyk. The second year pro is an interesting player in this offense that fits the mold of what James Casey was for Houston years ago. He is capable of coming out of the backfield and picking his spots in the seams of the defense. Look out for the former Harvard standout to be a solid H-back option for Joe Flacco.

Impact Rookie: Timmy Jernigan

The easy answer is the former Alabama linebacker and first round pick CJ Mosley, but the Ravens struck gold in the second round of the draft. Timmy Jernigan is a top 15 talent who fell due to issues before the combine.

Jernigan was a force for the national champion Seminole defense in college football and stood out to the national audience on the big stage. Even though he was winded toward the tail end of the big game, his impact throughout that game was felt. All year long Jernigan created havoc on offensive lines all across college football.

Losing Art Jones to Indianapolis stung for a little bit until the draft concluded. Getting a talent like Jernigan and not having to pay him a $30 million contract is a win-win for the Ravens. Once Jernigan is healthy and can consistently find himself in the rotation up front, he will have a significant impact on the run and pass defense.

Cincinnati Bengals:

All the talk that surrounds the Bengals is the new contract extension that Andy Dalton received. A six-year extension worth over $100+ million seems to be an awful lot for the former TCU quarterback.

It is a lot for Andy Dalton, but that is the market for quarterbacks these days if franchises want to keep them around once their rookie contracts come to a close. The Bengals caught a lot of flack around the national media for this extension, but add some perspective to this deal.

Good quarterbacks are extremely difficult to find these days and are the ultimate factor that separates the contenders from the pretenders. Andy Dalton is a good quarterback that is a fact. Where there is difficulty grasping this extension is Daltons lack of production come playoff time.

If the three-year starter cannot start winning when it counts, the Bengals could find themselves scratching their heads and Marvin Lewis’ job could be in jeopardy.

Its humorous that once upon a time the Ravens front office got criticized for giving Joe Flacco the big $100+ million deal. When he got that deal, he came off of a historic post-season performance as well as winning the Super Bowl. Dalton is yet to win a playoff game and got the big contract; people have some apologies to make to Ozzie Newsome and company.

The Bengals have seen a lot of change in the off-season as both coordinators bolted for head coaching opportunities. Hue Jackson replaces Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator and Mike Zimmer left to take command of the Minnesota Vikings.

Zimmer will be the piece most missed by Cincinnati as he has led that good Bengals defense for years. He was regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league for quite sometime.

The defense gets back two primary starters back from injury in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. The only concern for this team is surprisingly on the defensive side of the ball. This unit must stay healthy and avoid the big time injuries they saw last season.

Offensively, there should be no concern as this side of the ball is loaded with talent. There is great depth at tight end and running back with AJ Green still the stud on the outside.

Breakout Candidate: Giovani Bernard

The former Tar-heel running back was a playmaker his rookie season and was used sparingly. Bernard was not the workhorse of the offense as the “Law Firm” took the bulk of the carries.

Bernards playmaking ability will be more visible this season as he will definitely see an increased workload. Bernard is both quick and fast out of the backfield and is an excellent all-purpose back. He is just as good receiving out of the backfield as he is running with the ball.

Hue Jackson will have to get this player involved more to take the pressure off of Dalton and the defense. If there is a play to sum up Bernards ability, look back to his highlight reel run against the Miami Dolphins.

Impact Rookie: Darqueze Dennard

It is simple to look to the first round selection as the impact rookie for any team, but Dennard finds himself in a good situation. With Leon Hall coming off of an Achilles injury and Dre Kirkpatrick only playing 19 of a possible 32 games in his short career, there will be opportunity.

Dennard was regarded as one of the best corners in this past draft and was a leader on the stellar Spartan defense. He is not flashy, but he has shutdown qualities in him that can translate to the big league. Will Clarke, the third round pick out of West Virginia, is another guy to watch out for in the defensive rotation up front.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

It was a big surprise that neither Baltimore or Pittsburgh did not make an appearance in the post-season and both are eager at a chance for redemption. The Steelers were on the cusp of a wild card birth, but fell just short.

Things are looking up for the Steelers as they see their star offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey return to hold down the line. The running game was not consistent last season and the loss of Pouncey was a huge reason why.

The run game will be improved with the addition of LaGarrette Blount and a healthy Le’Veon Bell. The second year pro out of Michigan State looks to be the workhorse for the Steelers and has a lot of potential to be a top tier running back in the league.

The primary question that comes to mind offensively is the passing game. There is no question what Ben Roethlisberger can bring, but he has to have the help around him. Heath Miller has been a good tight end for the duration of his career in Pittsburgh, but his days are numbered. Miller is not the caliber of player he once was when he came out of the university of Virginia.

Antonio Brown filled the void that Mike Wallace left and it is time for another wide receiver to assume the number two role. That void will be up to either second year wide out Markus Wheaton or rookie Martavis Bryant to help out Big Ben.

The Steelers defense will be back to their usual ways as they did a solid job in the off-season adding pieces. With drafting Ryan Shazier, the linebacking corps is filled with superb talent. Timmons, Worilds and second year pro Jarvis Jones make up the rest of the lineup. This will be the best unit on the defensive side of the ball.

Breakout Candidate: Markus Wheaton

Big Ben needs help from another wide out and it will be up to Wheaton to give him the support. Wheaton was a poor mans Mike Wallace coming out of college. The former Oregon State receiver has the speed to open things up all around the field. He has no problem getting down the field, but he must be able to make things happen in the middle. If not Wheaton, the Steelers will need to depend on the rookie Bryant from Clemson.

Impact Rookie: Dri Archer

One of my favorite players in the entire draft was Dri Archer. The speedster star from Kent State is in the exact playmaking mold that Tavon Austin was from West Virginia. The only reason why Archer was not as highly regarded as Austin was due to the college he went to along with the competition faced.

There have been plenty of Kent State playmakers that have made a name for themselves in the pros, most notably Josh Cribbs. Archer comes in to Pittsburgh with a great role on the offense with Blount as the bruiser, Bell the well rounded back and Archer with the speed.

Archer will be a matchup problem for defensive coordinators because of his speed and ability to make plays out of nearly nothing. He can come out of the backfield or play from the slot. If you put a linebacker on Archer, he will burn right by that. If you put a corner or safety on him, Archer will be opening up the field for the rest of the receiving options. Great draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, this kid is electrifying.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns bring in former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be head coach and he has the potential to fill that role well. The Browns saw some change in the off-season on the defensive side of the ball, his specialty.

They lost safety TJ Ward and replaced him with Donte Whitner. D’Qwell Jackson departed in free agency so Karlos Dansby was brough in to fill that hole. Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall selection, is now paired with the newly wealthy Joe Haden. The secondary is put together nicely and the front seven is not too shabby. The Browns have all kinds of talent on defense; there is no uncertainty about that

The offense looked poise to breakout for the upcoming season until star wide out Josh Gordon ran into more off the field trouble. His suspension appeal is ongoing and it is unknown how long he will be out for. Jordan Cameron is one of the better young tight ends in the league and Andre Hawkins was stolen away from the fellow north rival Bengals.

Cleveland is all excited for their Browns from the draft because of the big first round selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer is the starter for now, but that will not last long. As soon as Hoyer makes a mistake, the noise will be too loud for Pettine to keep sitting Manziel.

Breakout Candidate: Barkevious Mingo

Last drafts sixth overall selection had a solid rookie campaign in the 15 games played. He registered 5.0 sacks and is the kind of playmaker Pettine will be able to work with. Pettine helped Mario Williams take his game to the next level in Buffalo after a lackluster first season after signing a big deal during free agency, so Mingo will be a personal project for the new head coach.

Impact Rookie: Joel Bitonio

Gilbert will have his impact on defense and West will do his part sharing the load with Ben Tate. Bitonio might be an odd choice here, but adding a quality lineman such as Joel to the mix with an Alex Mack and Joe Thomas will pay dividends for the offense. Adding Bitonio will help this offense in pass protection and will open up the holes for the two headed running back monster the Browns have.

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