Tag Archive | "green bay packers"

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Nothing’s changed; the Steelers still OWN the Ravens ….

Posted on 07 February 2011 by Rex Snider

Welcome to Baltimore, Maryland …. home of Edgar Allan Poe, The Star Spangled Banner (thanks Christina !!!!), Berger Cookies, National Bohemian and some of the most fickle sports fans in America.

As this 48th day of winter greets the citizens of our city, you can bet the most predictable conversations will evolve among sports fans in every workplace and social gathering area. 

After all, today is cause for a celebration here in Charm City, because the second most-celebrated scenario unfolded before our very eyes, last night …. 

I don’t think any purple kool-aid drinking Baltimorean can imagine a happier moment than seeing the Ravens conquer their second Super Bowl Championship.

But, rest assured, the second most desirous outcome is seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers lose a Super Bowl.

That’s how the typical Baltimore football fan “rolls”, for better or worse.  And, to a point, I understand the passion.  The Steelers are ENEMY #1 in this town – they’re the Ravens archrival and cast with characters that are easy to dislike.

So, as the final seconds of Super Bowl XLV expired and the confetti rained upon the Green Bay Packers, my hometown undoubtedly became the third most celebrated CHEESEHEAD community, in America – tagging closely behind Milwaukee and Green Bay, itself.

Today’s conversations among Ravens fans will more than likely be spirited along some very predictable lines …..

“So much for that whole 7th HEAVEN thing, huh?”

“That awesome Pittsburgh defense choked.”

“I guess Roethlisberger really isn’t a winner, after all, huh?”

These are the things we’re saying today, as the perceived passion bleeds from our souls.  And, a couple distinct reasons serve as the purpose for Baltimore’s collective group of fans heralding a Super Bowl loss, as opposed to a win:

A)     We are jealous of the Steelers success ….

 

B)     Misery loves company – and we want Steelers fans to join in ours ….

But, make no mistake about the reality that existed before last night’s game.  It’s a reality that has existed for the overwhelming portion of the last fifteen years.  And, it’s a reality that proved quite true as recently as three short weeks ago.

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Monday 3-Pointer

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Monday 3-Pointer

Posted on 07 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

In honor of officially turning the page from football season into basketball, here is a veritable 3-pointer of topical suggestions for Monday’s water cooler.

Point #1 – Just as quickly as I talk about turning the page on football season, my first point is of course related to the Ravens. Am I the only one totally confused by the Ravens apparent interest in retaining Jared Gaither?

 

When it comes to Gaither and this season in particular there seem to be two different schools of thought or observation. The first is puzzling to me, but seems to have a healthy consensus supporting it. That’s the notion that Gaither, spurned by his relegation to right tackle this season, opted to teach the Ravens a lesson in the form of a mysterious back injury that cost him and the team his entire season. For the record, I am not in this camp, as I simply can’t believe that on the precipice of free agency and an apparent big payday Gaither would feign an injury, much less an undetectable back ailment thereby likely costing himself millions of dollars in the process.

 

The second school of thought, and the one to which I subscribe is that Gaither simply has an undetectable back injury that came at the worst possible time for both him and the team. In either case, signing him sounds like a hopeful decision at best. You’re either getting a guy of questionable character, now apparently ready to play ball although nothing about his future at right tackle will have seemingly changed. Or you get a guy with a mysterious back injury that has already cost him one full season and could certainly threaten to jeopardize his availability going forward.

 

Hopefully the Ravens will be talking with Gaither about a one-year, incentive laden, right guy right price, go out and prove yourself type of contract. Something tells me that if Gaither were looking to play under those terms it might as well be at left tackle where he stands to get paid, and therefore not in Baltimore.

 

Point #2 – A lot has been made throughout the season and in the immediate aftermath of the inability of Joe Flacco to call audibles and diagnose defenses or the unwillingness of the coaching staff to allow him to do so, and the subsequent speculation as to why. From my naïve point of view, I’ll go with the latter and here’s why:

 

In the true self hating fashion of a die hard Ravens fan, I have used the NFL Rewind service to re-watch a lot of Ravens games from what was in totality a pretty exciting season. While I won’t patronize you by saying that I was cutting up tapes, as I only watched the television broadcasts over again, and without claiming to have a coach’s eye, a couple of things seem to stand out. The biggest for me is that the Ravens do little to disguise what they’re’ doing before they do it.

 

A few years ago, I and other members of the WNST staff had the privilege of sitting with then Ravens Linebackers Coach Mike Pettine, in Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan’s office and watch some game film and talk some football with him. At one point in the conversation he mentioned the Chargers (who coincidentally had Cam Cameron as an offensive coordinator at the time) as a team that would just line up and beat other teams. He said that there was little deception in their game; that they simply had great players who lined up and imposed their will on other teams without much deception. He pointed to them as the exception to the norm.

 

While many want Joe Flacco to go to the line and carry out the elaborate chicken dances of guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and others, that doesn’t seem at all to be the biggest missing element. Let’s concede that often what we see from those QBs in their pre-snap dances is not an audible at all. More often than not, a quarterback walks to the line, points out the middle linebacker (or the guy he thinks will be acting as the MLB on that play) and thereby tries to help identify for the offense where the pressure is coming from, who to pick up with blocks and where to break off certain pass routes. Only if he thinks the defense is ready for the play that they went to the line with will the QB actually change the play. Let’s also concede that without doing the chicken dance, the Ravens do check out of plays, it may only be 2 or 3 times per game, and their keys seem to be much more subtle than most teams’, but the Ravens do call audibles. They just don’t call many.

 

The place where I have a hard time indicting the quarterback, but may point to the coaching staff with a philosophical deficiency is in trying to steal pre-snap clues from the defense with hard counts, and by calling out what they see coming before it comes. Lord knows the Ravens offense typically gets to the line of scrimmage with plenty of time to burn on the play clock, if they did a better job of making the defense impatient and keeping them off balance, it would force them to tip their hands before they’d like, and give the offense a better idea of what they were seeing before it came at them.

 

The reason that I’d call this a philosophical problem and not a shortcoming of any single player is simple, the defense played the same way. Go back and watch the Bills game, or the Texans. How many throws did quarterbacks make against the Ravens this year on a one step drop from the shotgun? That’s not a read that the QB is making after the snap, the Ravens gave up their defense too early…consistently. Go back and watch the last 3 games of the season, or the 2 post-season games, you don’t need much of an educated eye to see who’s rushing and who’s dropping back into coverage. The reason Matt Ryan looked like an audible machine in that Thursday night match-up was because the Ravens were telling him what to call, and where the holes would be. We as fans make a lot of whether the team sends 3, 4, 5 or 6 rushers, but keeping an offense off balance is often about disguising who’s coming and who’s not more than how many you send on a given play.

 

Sometimes an audible (or what appears to be an audible) isn’t a change of the play at all. Sometimes it’s just a hard count that makes a blitzer show his hand, followed by a knowing look between a QB and receiver, back, lineman or whomever that simply says “you saw that too right?” and “you know what that means”. That’s a battle that the Ravens seemed to lose this year consistently on both sides of the ball.

 

Point #3 - Maybe the way that the Super Bowl turned out is fitting in a lot of ways. The Packers, true to form, overcame a plethora of injuries to and found a way to win. Having seen 17 players succumb to the IR over the course of the season, and having lost stars in Donald Driver and Charles Woodson in the finale, the Packers should serve as an inspiration to all NFL teams that it takes a lot more than star power to win it all in the NFL. A strong nucleus of stars and the right system and attitude will take you as far as you deserve to go, and the Packers served reminder of that to everyone.

 

What’s more, as we head into an off-season of collective bargaining turmoil and tumult, the ultra-small market Packers should serve as a reminder to everyone that the NFL is still the only league where teams based in cities like Green Bay can play on par with teams from New York and Chicago (and Los Angeles if they had a team). That’s one of the big reasons why the NFL remains king of American sports, and hopefully won’t do anything to screw that up.

 

And 1 - Why the apathy toward Terps’ basketball? I hope that folks were just waiting until the completion of football season to get emotionally invested. If that’s the case, welcome aboard, it’s about to get interesting. For those who dipped their proverbial toes in the water for the Duke game and cashed out just as quickly, give them a chance, there’s big upside with this bunch and they’re a lot of fun to watch, and there are still 53 days until the Orioles opener…and counting.

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Super Bowl Viewing Venues

Posted on 01 February 2011 by Tom Federline

Where are you going to be this coming Sunday afternoon/evening? Will you be watching the Super Bowl at all? Or let’s say, are you going to be at a venue where a football game will probably be on in the background? Is it at a bar, a friends house, the confines of your own home or is anyone headed to Dallas? All plausible choices. I will recommend though - if not a Steelers fan, DO NOT attend any function hosted by Steeler fans or one where Steeler fans are present. Depending on your demeanor, it could be a positive or negative outcome.

Going to the ball game? Probably a nice trip. If you have disposable income. A classic for the Visa Priceless commercial though. $2,500.00 plus, for a ticket stub, a halftime show and travel. Yeah I know, it’s the experience. To each their own. Not me, not on my bucket list. I have never been, so I cannot relay personal account. When the Ravens fire Cam Cameron and make it, maybe I’ll go. Depends on destination also. It’s 24 – 40 degrees in Dallas and there’s a massive winter storm hitting the midwest and northeast. Can you say delay/cancelled?

A bar or party at friends house? Great idea, if you do not want to watch the game. Usually, there is so much else going on, the game is secondary.  Yes, the game is on, but are you really able to watch it? All depends on the crowd. Knowledgable fans, minimal disruptions, select group, boom you’re there. Normal party atmosphere, unattentive viewers, novice football fans, forget it – pour me another or where’s the food? This year may be good for those type of distractions, depending on outcome. All you really need is: a) the scores at the end of the quarters, b) be able to watch the halftime show, and c) who won. Remember,  you are out. You have to drive home, late on a Sunday night, on probably the second most dangerous night to drive other than New Years. Be smart. Be safe.

The confines of your own home? Ah yes, in the safe realm of your own “Man Cave”. Man what? What the heck is with this “Man Cave” phenomena? Since when did the “Family/TV Room” become the “Maaaan Cave”? I know when. It was when the Den, Game Room, Basement became the – Entertainment Center, Home Theatre Room, Fitness Area of your……… house. It is when a Library became ………a Media Center. Man Cave? I don’t even like caves! They are cold, wet and dark. Bats, snakes, bears, insects live in them. They are usually located on the side of a cliff or side of a mountain of which you could be seriously injured from a fall or being trapped from a “cave-in”. No caves for me.

I understand the premise of developing that special place in your home where you can go escape, meditate, relax, watch – eat – drink – listen to what you want. That place where you can just breathe deep, if only for 1/2 hour, have some alone time or have the crew over for a small gathering. So why aren’t there “Woman Caves?”  A woman requires the same designated area. Both caves are along the same premise – “No opposite sex allowed unless invited. This is MY domain. Enter at own risk. What happens in the cave, stays in the cave.” No double entendres intended, hmmmm. The “Man Cave”? Palease. 

So if you just want to kick back, drink Pina Coladas and feel the need to “Escape” – (Rupert Holmes), I highly recommend the confines of your own home. I more than likely will be watching portions of the game, while wearing a Cheesehead, from the room that does have a framed aerial shot of the Pittsburgh Stadium. Give me a break, the picture does have significance. It reflects one of my professional accomplishments that I was part of. Super Bowl Sunday - my house, my friends. my family, my fireplace, my music, my TV clicker, my sports infested…………….”Man Cave”. Uh-oh, what have I created? GO PACK GO!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Ex-Packer Tony Moll, former Raven CB Derrick Martin have another reason to root against Steelers in Super Bowl

Posted on 27 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ravens offensive lineman Tony Moll saw his season end only a few short weeks ago to the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Round, but he still has a rooting interest in next Sunday’s Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and the Green Bay Packers.

Moll joined Rex Snider Thursday on “The Afternoon Drive” to talk about who he is pulling for in Super Bowl XLV, and what do you expect he would say?

Green Bay obviously!  But not just because he hates the Steelers for being a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Moll-a former Packer from 2006-2008-still has many friends on the NFC Wild Card Packers and is wishing them all the best down in Dallas next week.

Moll was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft out of Nevada, and during his three years in Green Bay he saw playing time at guard and tackle. He started 10 of 16 games his rookie year and despite battling injuries and inconsistency over the next two seasons, he still managed to start five games for the Packers.

His versatility caught the Ravens eye towards the end of training camp in September of 2009, and with numerous injuries to their offensive line, the Ravens shipped troubled cornerback Derrick Martin to Green Bay in exchange for Moll.

And yet again, Moll found playing time this season with injuries to key pieces of the offensive line, most notably Chris Chester’s skin infection this season.

Moll is scheduled to be a free agent, but even if he is not brought back in Baltimore next season, he still sees good things for the Ravens this season.

“We have the talent and the right people there to be a championship contender year in and year out,” Moll replied.

He sees these two championship contenders in Pittsburgh and Green Bay as being very evenly matched.

“It’s going to be a good one,” Moll said. “I think this is going to be one that a lot of people are going to be watching. They’re two really good teams, and it’s not really lopsided in any way.”

One of his former teammates on the team and a game-changing player in his opinion, cornerback Charles Woodson, already seems poised to make a play against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense.

“I think Charles Woodson is definitely going to show up. This is his moment to shine as well. He’s going to be making a lot of big plays on defense,” Moll told Snider.

Former Ravens corner back Derrick Martin-who was traded to the Packers for Moll-joined Thyrl Nelson as well on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”and also had some thoughts about Woodson, his current teammate and mentor.

Martin is currently on IR for Green Bay.

“He is a lot like Ed Reed,” Martin said, who played for the Ravens from 2006-2008 as well after getting drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round out of Wyoming. “He is a big studier, he knows what’s going to happen so he is able to get a good jump on the offense, and it’s always good to pick guys’ brains like that.”

Martin’s biggest contributions as a Raven came in 2007 when he registered 32 tackles and grabbed two interceptions.

He was also asked to size up Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward in preparation for the game given his past playing days against the Steelers wideout.

“He is a crafty receiver,” Martin said, “always playing a little past the whistle and that’s what you expect. I expect him to go hard this game, and that’s all I can tell my teammates.”

Martin would still get a Super Bowl ring given he was active for part of the season this year should the Packers come out on top. His 2010 campaign came to an end on October 10th against the Washington Redskins with a knee injury.

And even though he won’t be on the field for the Packers against his old AFC North foes, he is pumped to still have the championship atmosphere around his team.

“The guys are fired up,” Martin told Nelson. “They are ready to play. They get a little break and then gear back up, and I think they are going to be ready. It’s going to be a game. They are hyped, they are ready, and everybody is excited to be in this position. So, it’s a great honor for them.”

Tune into WNST as we stream live from Dallas for Super Bowl XLV! WNST-We Never Stop Talking!

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Fighting my instincts and pulling for the Steelers

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Fighting my instincts and pulling for the Steelers

Posted on 27 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

For those who are still finding themselves occasionally shaking their heads at the disappointing and unceremonious end to the Ravens season, welcome to the club. In the lead up to the season, we talked a lot about the burden of expectations and the possibility that decent sized stretches of the season (and as we learned the end too) would be difficult to tolerate much less enjoy.

In that way, you might argue that we should be pros at this type of disappointment. If there’s a downside to being a perennial contender, it’s that more often than not, you’re in for a disappointing ending to an otherwise encouraging season. I suppose we could ask Peyton Manning or even lately Tom Brady about that, as both have typically authored the types of seasons that lead fans to believe that the promised land is eminent, and both have fallen disappointingly short more often than they’ve seen it through.

 

Still, this season feels different. It feels different for a lot of reasons. For perhaps the first time in the John Harbaugh / Joe Flacco era, this season feels like it ended short of what were considered to be reasonable expectations. In 2008, although their ouster was to the same Steelers team, there was still an “aw shucks” mentality about the whole thing. We began that season with modest expectations and cautious optimism given the rookie coach and quarterback. And when the final draw in the playoffs was a Steelers team that had beaten them twice already, it wasn’t as difficult to digest as it has been this time around. Having won two playoff games that season, it was hard not to quickly turn from disappointment to pride and encouragement over what the team had accomplished and what they appeared poised for. You could say the same about last year. At 9-7 the Ravens hardly gave the impression of world-beaters. That they were able to pick up an impressive win in Foxborough over the Patriots before falling to the Colts and their typical Ravens kryptonite was again enough to be encouraged about.

 

This year however, things were supposed to be different. This was the year that the Ravens were supposed to turn the page, to get over the hump, to finish the deal. This year felt like they should have beaten the Steelers twice in the regular season, as opposed to the “could have” feeling of the previous two campaigns. And this year couldn’t have ended in a more disappointing fashion if it had been scripted.

 

As a fan it’s been tough to take. In fact it’s been downright torturous to not only see the season end at the hands of the team’s most bitter rival, but again to see that rival find their way to the Super Bowl as a result. And as a fan I surely can’t begin to imagine the impact that the loss has had on those players and coaches who had a hand in it. At least I hope not anyway.

 

Losses like that one can make or break a team. Whichever winds up being the case for this Ravens team going forward, it’s probably safe to assume that there’ll never be a better litmus test provided to John Harbaugh and his coaching staff than the season ahead and the opportunity to gauge the character and the wherewithal of every member of that locker room.

 

I hope that they’re losing sleep over this one. I hope that they’re replaying it in their minds and figuring what they could have done differently, done better, how they could have finished the job (I know some fans who are). And as a result, more so than at any time that I can ever remember, I can’t wait to see what that answer is. This football season isn’t even officially over yet, and I for one, can’t wait for the start of the next one. I hope that the coaches and players will soon be feeling the same.

 

As I started by saying that this has been a most peculiar feeling for me as a fan, I’ll admit that last weekend’s conference title games were tough to take, and the prospect of the Steelers in the Super Bowl, even tougher. As a Ravens fan, it’s maddening. But maybe that’s the point, or at least the opportunity.

 

As fans around town unite behind the Packers and their cause in the upcoming Super Bowl, that feels like the right thing to do, if not the easiest. Since at least the day that the Ravens came to town, rooting against the Steelers has been second nature, and as a fan of the Ravens, seeing the Steelers end the season by hoisting a 7th Lombardi trophy seems like a worst case scenario. But I’ll take the opposite stance anyway, for the betterment of the team I’d hope.

 

Count me amongst the minority of local fans, real Ravens fans that is, that will be fighting every ounce of Steelers hatred that I have inside of me, and rooting for them to win it all. (Damn it hurts to even type that)

 

If the sting of the end of their season is something that should serve to motivate the Ravens going forward, if that becomes one more thing that they can rally around in trying to get over the top, then let’s hope to see a little more salt rubbed in that wound. Let’s hope that the Ravens will have to watch the Steelers hoist the Lombardi trophy, their Lombardi trophy, and feel the resultant sting. Let’s hope that when next season begins, it will do so at Heinz Field with the Ravens on the opposing sideline, watching them raise the banner, watching them parade the trophy and kiss the rings. If there’s any chance that by the start of next season the pain of unfulfilled expectations will have dulled or worn off, then let’s hope for insurance policy against it.

 

A Steelers win in the Super Bowl would likely provide that insurance. There’s little chance of forgetting the fortune that they took from you if they’re constantly being introduced as the 7-time and defending world champs. It’ll be tough for Ray Lewis or anyone else to call scoreboard on the Jets or any other team touting themselves as pre-season champs if they have to evoke the name of the Steelers in doing it. If the fire’s burning inside them now, let’s see it stoked a little more…in the Super Bowl and throughout next season. That’s the type of impact I’m hoping for.

 

For what it’s worth, that’s my hope for the outcome…all of it. Is there really any greater magnitude to the bragging rights that come with 7 trophies as opposed to 6 anyway? And given the outcome for the team that I was pulling for to begin with, would the Steelers really even want me pulling for them to win now?

 

For the betterment of the Ravens, a Steelers win sounds counter intuitively like an ideal outcome, and if I hope for that it would still be tough to be disappointed in watching them lose on the big stage. On Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll be taking one for the team and will hopefully will be sitting quietly, angrily, arms crossed brewing over a Steelers win and hoping that the players and coaches are doing the same.

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I’m done with “HATING” on cities and teams, including Pittsburgh and the Steelers …..

Posted on 24 January 2011 by Rex Snider

Before I begin today’s blog, I would strongly encourage all readers to consider Drew Forrester’s submission, if you haven’t already done so.  In a unique way, I think my blog kinda dovetails on Drew’s message.  You can find his blog HERE

When yesterday’s AFC Championship game kicked off, I tried to develop an angst and spirited contempt for anything related to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  But, I couldn’t do it; not if I was being honest with myself …..

For the last week, I’ve been saying that I was “indifferent” toward this past weekend’s matchups, pitting the AFC and NFC’s standing competitors against each other, and the right to head to Dallas for Super Bowl 45. 

In truth, I was speaking from the heart and mind when I took my original stance.  And, trying to develop or manufacture a sense of “hatred” for any one team would be nothing more than choreographing a false set of feelings.

And, this is why I think today’s message is similarly tied to Drew’s …..

As Drew suggests that Baltimore’s football fans know more about the game than the Ravens management structure probably concedes, the blunt reality is that fans really don’t own a proportionate fraction of the insight and acumen possessed by John Harbaugh and his staff.

This is absolutely, positively GOSPEL.

So, as I read and listen to varying accounts of Baltimore’s football fans selling their HATRED for Pittsburgh and the Steelers, I’m inclined to ask, why?

Why do you HATE Pittsburgh?

Why do you HATE the Steelers?

Just as I think Drew paints a vivid picture of fans overreacting to an abrupt end of a football season, and their desire to see a man lose his job, I think the same representative group of fans overindulge in their passion to see the Ravens beat their divisional rival.

I get it – we want to beat Pittsburgh.  We want to see the Steelers walking off the field as losers in the playoffs.  We want to see the Ravens heading back to the Super Bowl.

But, do we really HATE that community and a team of players?

If you actually subscribe to such a mindset, and feeling of heart and soul, I must question your true comprehension of “HATE” …. or your humanity.

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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Ravens play a prime part in very “hairy” NFL weekend …..

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Rex Snider

If you look back on the totality of this past weekend’s games, I think it’s pretty easy to detect the obvious: every round of the NFL playoffs will present some unpredictable circumstances, as well as some very quirky results …..

Many of us thought 3 of 4 visiting teams would win their respective matchups. But, did we think the New Orleans Saints, as the most resounding favorite (-10.5 points) in NFL history, would be the sole “road loser?”

If I presented the following circumstances: the Indianapolis Colts are losing by one point, they’re driving inside the Jets 30 yard line with less than one minute remaining …. would you predict a Manning win or loss?

If you knew 2 running backs would rush for 100+ yards, and the weekend’s matchups featured names like Ray Rice, Joseph Addai, LaSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and LaDanian Tomlinson, would you ever imagine that Marshawn Lynch and James Starks would be those guys?

A pretty telling factor …. Michael Vick’s last win was the week before Christmas, when he was being mentioned in the same breath with Tom Brady, for NFL MVP honors.

Does the respective, opposing defense matter? Well …. the Philadelphia Eagles averaged 28 points, per game, during the regular season and the Seattle Seahawks averaged just 19 points, per contest. Which team is still alive?

After a steady December of witnessing snowy, icy games across the midwest and northeast, the first two weeks of January have not been impacted by inclement weather, at all.

Did you ever imagine Joe Flacco and Dan Marino would be mentioned in the same sentence? That’s right, they’re the only quarterbacks to win 36 games in their first 3 seasons. With a win in Pittsburgh, Flacco will stand alone on this record.

Ten years ago, Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass in the Ravens Super Bowl victory. Did any of us think he would catch another touchdown, a decade later? He did it Saturday – in Seattle’s win.
Speaking of touchdown receptions …. Anquan Boldin went more than a month (5 weeks) without one. The troubling streak ended yesterday – let’s hope he can have two consecutive games with TD catches for the first time since October 17th and 24th.

With this weekend’s wins by the Ravens and Jets, both AFC wildcard teams advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, in consecutive seasons, for the first time (2010 & 2011).

Yesterday’s win also yielded John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco as the only HEAD COACH and QUARTERBACK to win playoff games in their first 3 NFL seasons.

On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks won their 8th game of the season. Their opponent, the New Orleans Saints, won their 8th game of the season, a mere 44 days earlier …. on Thanksgiving Day !!!!

Speaking of those Seahawks, it will be impossible for them to finish with a winning record, UNLESS they win the Super Bowl. That’s correct, if they lose the Super Bowl, they’ll finish the season 10-10 overall.

And finally …..

On a weekend when Matt Ryan debuts as one of Gillette’s new “clean shaven” models, Joe Flacco grew a beard. Who says Joe doesn’t want to be different?

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Former Maryland OC and current Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to WNST and Terps Nation: I didn’t want to walk away”

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Former Maryland OC and current Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to WNST and Terps Nation: I didn’t want to walk away”

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

James Franklin
Former Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin meant a lot to the University of Maryland, especially this year in the Terps’  8-4 campaign helping springboard his coach in Ralph Friedgen to ACC Coach of the Year and his quarterback Danny O’Brien to ACC Rookie of the Year for 2010.

His work this season was also enough to garner attention on the national stage, as Franklin-at one point named the coach-in-waiting at College Park-was hired as the Vanderbilt Head Coach last week, the 27th man to do so in the Commodores history.

Franklin joined Thyrl Nelson and Glenn Clark on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” as an opportunity to not only wish the best for the fans cheering him on in Maryland, but to explain how hard his decision to leave an organization he has been a part of for so long in Maryland to take the head coaching position at Vanderbilt.

“I wanted an opportunity to be a head coach and I wanted to have an opportunity to do it at a great school with a great history, great tradition, and one that was in the best conferences in America,” Franklin told Nelson and Clark. “I really had narrowed it down to specific schools, but when I got the call and got a chance to talk to the people here-and in my mind that’s what it’s all about anywhere-it’s about the people.”

The school was won over by Franklin’s interview-he used the same skills in recruiting players to execute Ralph Friedgen’s offense to impress Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos and Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics David Williams II.

“The hiring of Coach Franklin represents a new day for Vanderbilt football,” Zeppos said in a press release. “He has my full support and commitment that we will help him create an environment where the successes on the field equal the university’s extraordinary successes off the field. Coach Franklin will have an immediate and positive impact on our students, alumni, faculty, staff and broader Vanderbilt community, and I welcome him to Vanderbilt.”

Ultimately though, Franklin admitted that the school won him over from the spot more than some other high-profile jobs out there that Franklin could have had.

“When I got a chance to sit down and talk to the Chancellor…and he was totally committed to winning at the highest level here.”

I just saw a tremendous commitment to excellence in everything we do, and it was an unbelievable opportunity,” he said. ” To me, it’s not about looking around country and say what jobs would I like, it came down to the people that are on those campuses and the opportunities presented to you.”

Vanderbilt will look to the offensive-minded Franklin to turn around a Commodores team that finished 2-10, and 1-7 in the tough SEC conference.

The school was looking to find a candidate who could supplant themselves as an institution at Vanderbilt-one that could bring stability to a struggling program.

“They’ve been so supportive, and they understand where we’re at, and I think after us sitting down and talking, they know where were going. They’re in this for the long haul, and they want to do this the right way. They want to build something that’s going to be built to last. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

“And they’ve been committed to that from the first time I’ve talked to them. But we have to keep improving, just like we did at Maryland this year. We got better every single game throughout the season, and if we do that, we’ll take that same approach here at Vanderbilt.”

In July, Bobby Johnson stepped down as coach of the program after 8 seasons on the Commodore sidelines, but he finished with a 29-66 record during his time in Nashville. Robbie Caldwell took over for Johnson and led the team this year with the interim title attached to his name, and he resigned after the season was completed.

Franklin-who is the school’s first ever minority candidate-brings with him an impressive resume to the SEC school. Franklin, 38, has been in the coaching ranks since 1995 both at the college and professional levels.

His first big stop at the college level came in 1998 when the was a graduate assistant to Mike Price at Washington State, followed by a stop at Idaho State as their receivers coach the following season.

He came to College Park in 2000 and a little less than a season in, the Terps head coach at the time-Ron Vanderlinden -was relieved of his duties and replaced by(continued…)

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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