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Morning Reaction Picks and Comment – Week 16

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Luke Jones

Here are this weekend’s picks as The Morning Reaction will pick every NFL game this season.

Drew Forrester finished 10-6 last week while Luke Jones was 10-6 in Week 15. Forrester is 148-74 through 15 weeks and Jones is 141-81 overall. Official standings are only kept based on the NFL picks.

To hear their full explanations, click HERE.

Giants at Ravens: New York 41-23 (Drew), New York 27-21 (Luke)
Falcons at Lions:
Atlanta 35-23 (Drew), Atlanta 27-20 (Luke)
Bengals at Steelers:
Cincinnati 28-24 (Drew), Pittsburgh 24-20 (Luke)
Titans at Packers:
Green Bay 28-16 (Drew), Green Bay 28-13 (Luke)
Raiders at Panthers:
Carolina 23-6 (Drew), Carolina 21-10 (Luke)
Bills at Dolphins:
Miami 24-10 (Drew), Miami 23-14 (Luke)
Patriots at Jaguars:
New England 49-17 (Drew), New England 41-12 (Luke)
Colts at Chiefs:
Indianapolis 20-10 (Drew), Indianapolis 24-14 (Luke)
Saints at Cowboys:
New Orleans 34-24 (Drew), Dallas 31-27 (Luke)
Redskins at Eagles:
Washington 34-20 (Drew), Washington 31-17 (Luke)
Rams at Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay 20-13 (Drew), Tampa Bay 21-16 (Luke)
Chargers at Jets:
New York 24-20 (Drew), San Diego 21-20 (Luke)
Vikings at Texans:
Houston 27-17 (Drew), Houston 24-16 (Luke)
Browns at Broncos:
Denver 30-10 (Drew), Denver 31-14 (Luke)
Bears at Cardinals:
Chicago 17-13 (Drew), Chicago 20-14 (Luke)
49ers at Seahawks:
Seattle 28-27 (Drew), San Francisco 24-21 (Luke)

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Pees hoping two recovering stars give Ravens defense boost down final stretch

Posted on 20 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ranked 26th in yards allowed and ravaged by injuries, the Ravens defense is heading in the wrong direction after allowing 65 points over its last two games.

But could the late-season returns of linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis provide the emotional spark and improvement the defense needs to put the Ravens in better position for a postseason run? The pair could be on the field together for the first time all season against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, which would certainly provide a spiritual boost for a team in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

Of course, Suggs returned to action this past Sunday against Denver — two weeks removed from a torn right biceps — but it was difficult to recognize his presence aside from his familiar No. 55 jersey lining up at the rush linebacker spot. Clearly laboring as he employed a four-point stance to keep his body weight off his upper right arm, Suggs appeared tentative at several points and removed himself from the game on a few occasions while appearing to be in pain on the sideline.

He finished with only one tackle, and the performance has left more questions than answers about his impact for the rest of the season.

“He’s coming back. He’s not back full, but he’s back, and he’s playing hard,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think if you ask him, I don’t think he would tell you that he’s playing at 100 percent like he has, but he certainly is giving us a great effort and giving us what we need in there.”

Even before the biceps injury, Suggs wasn’t making his normal impact after a remarkable recovery from a partially-torn Achilles tendon in less than six months. In seven games this season, Suggs has 20 tackles and only two sacks.

Meanwhile, it was just a few weeks ago when many were wondering if Lewis truly deserved to be an every-down linebacker whenever he’d make his return from triceps surgery, but a season-ending injury to Jameel McClain and an ankle injury to Dannell Ellerbe has left the Ravens bare at the inside linebacker position as Josh Bynes, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Albert McClellan have manned the “Mike” and “Will” positions in the last two weeks.

The Ravens are not only hoping for the pick-me-up of Lewis’ impeccable on-field leadership, but they’re now desperate for him to bring an improved level of play to the middle of the field. With Baltimore electing to wait to place McClain on season-ending injured reserve, it’s apparent the organization is hoping to place Lewis on the 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Lewis is just nine weeks removed from surgery, an incredible fact considering the normal recovery time for such an injury is a minimum of four months.

“I’d love to have him. I think it would be a great emotional lift, but more than that, we could use some bodies in there at linebacker,” said Pees with a chuckle. “We’ll just have to wait and see whatever they say is a go. We’d love to have him back.”

The Ravens hope to get back Ellerbe and strong safety Bernard Pollard from injuries this week, but the latter’s status appears to be in doubt after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Pollard aggravated a rib injury in the Ravens’ Week 14 loss against Washington and hasn’t practiced ever since.

Only two defensive starters from Week 1 have played in every game this season — cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed.

“I think if anybody can be fully healthy throughout a season, it’s going to be a great team,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “And with us, we definitely had an injury bug this year, but we had guys step up and make some plays for us. And hopefully, we can get some guys back and see what we can do there.”

As is the case with Suggs, it remains to be seen how well Lewis can hold up physically after such an abbreviated recovery time following surgery. Amazingly, Lewis ranks fifth on the team with 57 tackles despite playing in only six games this season.

The coaching staff isn’t exactly sure where Lewis is at physically due to the light nature of practices, but Lewis’ mental prowess has kept him as sharp while he continues to rebuild the strength in his right upper arm. Whether that can translate to success on the field is the question as Lewis struggled to shed blockers early in the season and has shown declining ability in pass coverage over the last few seasons.

“At this time in the year, I don’t think there are very many teams out there hitting like you do in training camp,” Pees said. “So, you don’t necessarily see the physical part, but the mental part, it’s not going to leave you after 17 years [with] missing a couple of weeks.”

Third corner carousel

With 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith making his return from sports hernia surgery this past Sunday, it was assumed the Ravens had solidified their nickel package with the second-year defensive back playing on the outside opposite Cary Williams while Corey Graham slid inside to the nickel spot to cover slot receivers.

Instead, Pees used a combination of Smith, veteran Chris Johnson, and special-teams standout Chykie Brown as the extra cornerback against the Broncos. Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged on Monday that Smith didn’t show as much speed as they anticipated he would. Smith is just over a month removed from the surgical procedure.

As a result, Smith took only 12 defensive snaps. Johnson took part in 20 defensive plays and Brown was on the field for nine defensive snaps. It’s not a good problem to have with the Giants’ ninth-ranked passing game coming to Baltimore on Sunday, and Pees would like to sure up the role sooner rather than later.

“I’d just like to see someone take the bull by the horns and take the job,” Pees said. “We are just going to have to make that decision at game time on who that is going to be, and who that’s going to be during the course of the game. The good news is that you do have two or three guys there, but yes I would like to see someone step up and take it.”


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The Reality Check Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 20 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Kansas City Chiefs (30)

We all knew they’d end up back here.

31. Arizona Cardinals (32)


30. Oakland Raiders (31)

Don’t fail me now, Seabass.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (29)

They’ll finish the season lower.

28. Philadelphia Eagles (28)

LeSean McCoy is playing WHY?

27. Detroit Lions (25)

Stunning mess.

26. Cleveland Browns (24)

We knew it wouldn’t last.

25. Tennessee Titans (27)

But Jake Locker still stinks.

24. Buffalo Bills (23)

Hope they felt comfortable North of the Border.

23. San Diego Chargers (19)

Gave up?

22. St. Louis Rams (20)

They can still finish above .500.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17)

Completely fell apart.

20. New York Jets (18)


19. Carolina Panthers (26)

They might be a year away.

18. Miami Dolphins (22)

Like Republicans, Fins fans want Bush back.

17. New Orleans Saints (21)

Did that whole Sean Payton thing ever get figured out?

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens would be wise to stop focusing on big picture for now

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens know they’re struggling at the wrong time of the season.

A three-game losing streak, an ever-growing list of injuries, and problems on both sides of the ball have caused the karma of a 9-2 start to disintegrate into a growing sense that they’re backing into the playoffs with two difficult games remaining and a 9-5 record. A change at the offensive coordinator position has created an even greater perception that the Ravens are a team in disarray.

But coach John Harbaugh’s message has been consistent over the last few weeks. And the words focusing on the big picture have been echoed throughout the Baltimore locker room.

“We’re going to do everything we can do and fight like crazy to become the team that we’re capable of becoming,” coach John Harbaugh said. “And we’re not that team yet. It’s a long season, but all of our goals and all of our dreams are squarely in front of us. And that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Even with the troubles surrounding the Ravens, the head coach is right. Contrary to the beliefs of many fans and media alike, Baltimore’s season isn’t over nor beyond repair. The Packers of 2010 and last year’s Giants are prime examples of that, even if the Ravens aren’t destined for the same championship track when 2012 is all said and done.

However, the focus cannot be on the accomplishment of making the playoffs for the fifth straight year or looking ahead to building on last season’s disappointment in Foxborough. Complacency can be a dangerous trap for a team that’s been so close to their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl in two of the last four seasons. To simply dwell on what could still happen in January while struggles in December are apparent comes across as dismissive or even cavalier if you discuss those goals too much.

Cautious optimism that injured players might return is acceptable, but viewing the return of Ray Lewis as the ultimate fix or holding optimism that Terrell Suggs can put forth a superman-like performance with a torn biceps doesn’t help the rest of the players on the roster. It only deflects the current problems and how to remedy them.

The Ravens also shouldn’t dwell on their poor play over the last three weeks. It’s true they fumbled the possibility of securing a first-round bye, but a division title and the ever-important home playoff game are only one victory away.

“There’s not really much you can do about the past,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You have to just live in the present and move forward, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The present is Sunday’s meeting with the New York Giants, a team in worse position than the Ravens after losing four of their last six games to put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. For Baltimore, any discussions of the postseason or potentially resting starters in Week 17 or hoping to get injured starters back cloud what’s important for a team that should only be worrying about the now.

It’s about tabling the big picture and their biggest goals and dwelling on the simple task of winning one football game. Perhaps it’s channeling former head coach Brian Billick’s ban on using the word “playoffs” in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV season or even borrowing a page from the 2012 Orioles after manager Buck Showalter trained his players to compartmentalize each game and series while the outside world wondered if they’d make their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years.

Injured safety Bernard Pollard didn’t seem interested in discussing the big picture or the Ravens’ ultimate goals before Wednesday’s practice. In his second year in Baltimore, Pollard has never been afraid to tell it like it is and his comments suggested the Ravens might be a little too comfortable with their current position.

“Everybody’s talking about [how] we’re in the playoffs,” Pollard said. “Who cares? The way we’ve played, who cares about the playoffs. With the way we’ve played, that’s going to carry over into the playoffs. And we don’t want that to happen. We have to come together.”

Even if the Giants are faced with a slimmer margin for error, the Ravens have to recapture that mentality where they feel as though there isn’t a next week or a second chance.

With so many factors working against them in recent weeks, they’d be well served in simplifying their approach by blocking out the past and the future. If not, the supremely-talented but inconsistent Giants will be ready to serve up the type of experience the Denver Broncos provided last week in embarrassing the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

“If you think that team is going to come in and lay an egg, we have our hands full,” running back Ray Rice said. “This team won the Super Bowl last year. They have a lot at stake.”


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McKinnie prepared for “possibility” of increased role

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The running question that’s been asked throughout the season is still being posed as the Ravens prepare for their Week 16 matchup with the New York Giants.

When will Bryant McKinnie finally crack the lineup for a struggling offensive line? The veteran left tackle says he is preparing as though he might receive the call this week as the Ravens need a win to clinch their second straight AFC North title.

If the Ravens were to make a change — and there’s no indication they’re leaning in that direction — McKinnie would start at left tackle with Michael Oher presumably switching to the right side. This would leave rookie Kelechi Osemele to move inside to the left guard position.

For now, McKinnie says he will continue to prepare mentally while hoping to show enough during practice time to convince the coaching staff he is deserving of playing in games. McKinnie told WNST.net during the Ravens’ Week 8 bye that he expected to be named a starter at some point during the second half of the season but understandably took a softer stance when asked about the possibility of playing more against the Giants this Sunday.

“It’s a possibility,” said McKinnie, who hadn’t heard any indication from the coaching staff of a new rotation prior to Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve just got to wait and see.”

The Ravens have struggled to protect Joe Flacco all season as opponents have racked up 34 sacks against the Baltimore quarterback. In Sunday’s 34-17 loss to Denver, Flacco was sacked three times and the Broncos registered nine quarterback hits.

McKinnie has expressed confidence in his ability throughout the season, so it was no surprise to hear his response when asked what’s gone through his mind when seeing Flacco take beatings against opposing defenses with talented pass rushers.

“If I was out there, maybe some things would be a little bit different,” McKinnie said. “But there’s not too much I can do.”

The 33-year-old tackle didn’t miss an offensive snap while starting all 16 games of the 2011 regular season and both playoff contests, but his conditioning and weight came into question during the offseason and his late arrival in training camp appeared to be the last straw for coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the staff.

After the Ravens nearly released McKinnie and cut his salary by $1 million less than a week before the start of the season, Oher has started all 14 games this season at left tackle while the rookie Osemele has manned the right tackle spot all year.

“When we think [McKinnie] is the best option, we will put him in there,” said coach John Harbaugh last week when asked about the veteran’s status. “He is working hard at practice. He, obviously, has some ability [as a] pass-protector; that’s a big deal, no doubt about it. I would have no qualms about him going into the game. If we feel like he’s the best option at one position or another, we’ll do it. Right now, we think we have the best group of guys out there, but that could change.”

Though probably the best pass-blocking left tackle on the roster, McKinnie is a poor run blocker and the Ravens are not convinced he gives them the best chance to win after a tumultuous offseason that included continuing financial concerns. McKinnie was also graded as the Ravens’ lowest-rated starting offensive lineman during the 2011 season, according to Pro Football Focus.

However, the Ravens are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and have already purged their offensive coordinator from the organization, so nothing can be dismissed at this point.

Why would the Ravens finally make the change now?

“Because we’re at the end and you never know what can happen,” said McKinnie as he laughed softly.

The Ravens’ decision to part ways with Cam Cameron last week smelled of desperation, but it’s still difficult to envision McKinnie earning his starting job back now if he didn’t over the first 15 weeks of the regular season.

Listen to McKinnie’s conversation with AM 1570 WNST.net on Tuesday right here.

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Ravens to wear black jerseys in regular-season home finale

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Luke Jones

Sunday marks the Ravens’ final regular-season contest of the year at M&T Bank Stadium, and they’ll be going out in style as they wear their black jerseys against the New York Giants.

The Ravens announced Wednesday they will wear their alternate tops for the second time this season as they try to snap a three-game losing streak and lock up their second consecutive AFC North title. Baltimore wore the black jerseys in Week 13 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which the Ravens lost 23-20 on a Shaun Suisham field goal as time expired.

Sporting a 9-3 all-time record wearing their alternate jerseys, the Ravens have yet to decide their pants color for Sunday’s game.

Teams are only permitted to wear their alternate or throwback jerseys twice per season and are prohibited from wearing them in the postseason.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 18 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Boxing-Tomasz Adamek vs. Steve Cunningham (Saturday 4pm from Bethlehem, PA live on NBC); MISL Soccer: Baltimore Blast @ Chicago Soul (Friday 8:30pm from Hoffman Estates, IL live on MISLtv.com), Baltimore Blast @ Milwaukee Wave (Saturday 7pm from Milwaukee live on MISLtv.com)

10. Dave Matthews Band/Lumineers (Tuesday 7:30pm 1st Mariner Arena); The Killers (Tuesday 7:30pm Patriot Center); Mike Ruocco (Sunday 7pm Recher Theatre); Grace Potter (Tuesday 7pm Baltimore Soundstage); Carbon Leaf (Tuesday & Wednesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage), Los Lobos (Thursday 6:30pm & 9:30pm Rams Head on Stage); Grouplove (Tuesday & Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Virginia Coalition (Saturday 8pm 9:30 Club); Chatham County Line (Wednesday 7:30pm Birchmere)

Still can’t believe Dave Matthews is playing Charm City. First time since 1994. Going to be an exceptional evening.

And they brought Lumineers? Outstanding.

I remember the summer after “Hot Fuss” was released I saw The Killers at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The place was a mobscene. It was a fine damn night. This is one of the greatest rock and roll songs of the 21st century…

I beat Andrew Poliakoff from VACO in “Everybody Beats Glenn”, but I lost a bet to him on the Ravens game and had to Tweet out “HTTR” which was the most painful thing EVER.

9. Paul Mooney (Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); This is 40” & “Jack Reacher” out in theaters (Friday); Glenn Clark’s annual holiday party (Friday “In The Corn”)

Once again I’ve partnered with ABC Rental Rosedale for my own Christmas Party. I DEFINITELY picked up one of these…

But I could definitely still use a few of these before the party…

And I REALLY want to serve THESE…

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Blame the Mayans? The purple sky is falling in Baltimore…

Posted on 17 December 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Many in the Baltimore Ravens fan base had a community online celebration last Monday morning when offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired by head coach John Harbaugh via owner Steve Bisciotti.

“That’ll fix it,” some of the unsophisticated eyes said. “Clearly, Cam was holding Joe Flacco and the offense back.”

It felt like scapegoating then and it feels even less satisfying after yesterday’s 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in a game where the final score wasn’t indicative of the lopsided nature of the day.

Fifteen days ago the Ravens were 9-2 after the “Hey diddle, diddle” miracle in San Diego. This morning, they’re 9-5 and the beneficiary of a playoff berth by virtue of backing in via the overtime loss of the Pittsburgh Steelers last night in Dallas.

It was hardly a time for celebration.

Hard times have come to the land of pleasant living and I don’t mean the tax rate hike.

Where to begin to assess the train wreck loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos?

Harbaugh called it a “team loss” and he’s right about that. No sense in moving any particular names above the fold.

Quarterback Joe Flacco will shoulder the lion’s share of the blame, as it should be for the quarterback who is playing for a contract amidst what can only be deemed as chaos right now. The offensive line is in tatters, consistently getting beaten on failed run plays and often enough in the passing game to make it difficult for No. 5 to make plays. He hasn’t helped himself with poor judgment and errant throws.

The receiving corps continues to be depleted with the disappearance of Ed Dickson and a concussion suffered by Torrey Smith yesterday.

But the Flacco Pick Six interception to Broncos’ DB Chris Harris at the goal line in the waning seconds of the first half on Sunday will  forever be Ravens’ fans remembrance of an afternoon they’d sooner love to forget.

It was the worst pass of Flacco’s career and soon left him 100 yards away, winded, flailing, gassed and beaten by his own poor judgment. “I made a mistake,” he said. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Not only is Flacco’s stock teetering based on his dismal overall performance over the past month but the whole organization is dancing on the brink of the playoffs and extinction seemingly all at once.

And we’re only halfway through the “Manning Holiday Tour” as Eli Manning comes to Baltimore this week as the only guy getting more abuse than Flacco. The defending world champs were thoroughly trounced

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The Reality Check Week 15 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 13 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Arizona Cardinals (31)

Worst game ever?

31. Oakland Raiders (32)

Congratulations on not being the Cardinals?

30. Kansas City Chiefs (29)

Normalcy likely still not fully returned.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (28)

So do I play Montell Owens next week?

28. Philadelphia Eagles (30)

I’d like to watch Jason Avant’s catch every day of the week.

27. Tennessee Titans (26)

Think they wouldn’t like to have Joe Flacco?

26. Carolina Panthers (27)

The Gus Johnson-Cam Newton connection is something I can support.

25. Detroit Lions (21)

Still think they’re better than their record.

24. Cleveland Browns (25)

Would you have ever believed there’d be a point they were above the Lions on this list?

23. Buffalo Bills (20)

That’s the sound of Fred Jackson owners scrambling.

22. Miami Dolphins (19)

Starting to wonder if they’re even a year away.

21. New Orleans Saints (17)

They probably needed some good news.

20. St. Louis Rams (22)


19. San Diego Chargers (24)

I miss Jarret Johnson.

18. New York Jets (23)

Worst 6-7 team ever.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15)

Are they any good?

(16-1 on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Giants Week 16 game flexed to later start

Posted on 10 December 2012 by WNST Staff

As part of the NFL’s flexible scheduling policy for the latter portion of the season, the Ravens’ Week 16 contest against the New York Giants on Dec. 23 has been moved to 4:25 p.m.

Originally scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start, the Ravens’ home finale will now be played later in the afternoon and will be televised on FOX with an NFC team visiting M&T Bank Stadium.

It will mark the defending Super Bowl champion’s first regular-season visit to Baltimore since the 2004 season.

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