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A Sunday I’d like to forget …..

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A Sunday I’d like to forget …..

Posted on 08 November 2010 by Rex Snider

A certainty for each and every NFL city is the guarantee of eight opportunities to host profitable, meaningful games. In Baltimore, yesterday served as one of those opportunities, as the Miami Dolphins paid a visit to M&T Bank Stadium for an early afternoon showdown with the Ravens.

For me, the day started out as normally, as possible. I knew we would be spending several hours at the game and enjoying the tailgating festivities, beforehand. Thus, a regimented schedule for doing things exists …..

I rolled out of bed around 8am and went to lay on the sofa for an hour or so. But, in typical Snider family style, I ensured that my wife was up by 10am …. and we were walking out of the house a half hour later.

Right on time !!!!

As we rolled down Hanover Street, I received a text message and glanced at my phone. And, that’s when I noticed the time of day – 945am !!!!

Yeah, that’s right, I totally forgot about setting the clock back an hour on Saturday night. I broke the news to Mrs. Snider and she flipped out into her best impression of our world’s next generation …..

1954:  A little boy feels abandoned at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London.  (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)

God love her. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was riding to the game with a hybrid version of “Terrell Owens meets Nancy Kerrigan.”

The good news is she didn’t dig my eyes out and slit my throat with her nail file. So, we parked and headed to the tailgate lot …. at 955am !!!!

To be honest, this is where things got bad for me. And, it’s totally of my making …..

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Ravens catching a break in New England ???

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Ravens catching a break in New England ???

Posted on 06 October 2010 by Rex Snider

Yes, I’m quite aware of the Baltimore Ravens schedule of regular season matchups, and this week features a visit from the Denver Broncos. It’s the second home game of the year and John Harbaugh’s squad is reasonably favored by 7 solid points.

I don’t look ahead ….. and I’m certainly not looking beyond Josh McDaniels’ very capable passing attack.

Heck, I would take Denver and the touchdown, if I gambled on football. That said, I still think the Ravens will win the game.

But, beyond this week, a very interesting matchup looms. Just one week from today, the Ravens and every individual who covers, follows and supports the team will be focusing on the New England Patriots.

While I know many observers are relying on last season’s playoff beatdown of Tom Brady as a means for justification in counting on a WIN in the upcoming trip to Foxboro, a proportionate number of us are little more cautious.

Regardless of what happened just 9 short months ago, things can and will change …..

Tom Brady is one of those ELITE quarterbacks we like discussing, when proposing the future aspirations of Joe Flacco. Brady possesses a methodical technique to spreading the ball around, while picking upon vulnerabilities of a defense.

Back in January, Brady’s options were far less numbered than usual. His new tight end options, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, were still in college. Newly acquired running back, Danny Woodhead, was part of Rex Ryan’s depth chart, in New York. And, Randy Moss was hobbled by injury – as the game against the Ravens clearly demonstrated.

Oh yeah, and this guy was done for the season.
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I’m not suggesting Wes Welker would’ve turned the table in that loss to the Ravens. John Harbaugh had his team prepared to play and they simply beat New England in every facet of the game.

However, in just 11 short days, the scene could appear differently ….. MUCH DIFFERENTLY.

And, it could end up benefiting the Ravens.

Last night, rumors regarding Randy Moss started circulating. Specifically, the information indicated Moss might be returning to the Minnesota Vikings, via trade.

This morning, the rumors are becoming more concrete and several sources (including the WORLD WIDE LEADER) are confirming a trade will be completed today. Of course, it hinges on Moss getting a contract extension – and more money.

Such a deal makes sense on many levels.

The Vikings desperately need to find a capable set of hands for the landing end of Brett Favre’s passes. And, a deep threat would be icing on the cake. Oh yeah, and Moss obviously knows the Vikings organization.

Perhaps, some mitigating reasons are at play, as well …..

I think many of us can envision a scenario where Favre packs up his Minny-circus for good, especially if the team is languishing below the .500 mark when November rolls around. And, given the underachieving play of the highly touted Green Bay Packers, the Vikings brass might sense an opportunity opening up.

Indeed, I can reasonably foresee a trade of Moss being beneficial for both organizations, especially if the Patriots yield some young defensive depth in return. Although, it would be a textbook Patriots move in simply collecting high draft picks in return.

Of all the reasons contemplated for predicting a trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings, the most daunting is undoubtedly tied to this mad scientist …..
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The entire football world knows Randy Moss is unhappy with his contract situation. It’s the same unprofessional load of crap that resulted in his ugly divorce from the Vikings, following the 2004 season.

Moss became a distraction for the Vikings. He undermined the mission of the team and his coach, Mike Tice.

The same situation appears to be blossoming, in New England. He’s getting louder and louder about his contractual bitterness. He didn’t catch a single pass in Monday’s victory against Miami, and he reportedly had “words” with Bill Belichick, yesterday.

That’s a bad move ….. unless, of course, the intent was to expedite a deal.

Regardless of how anyone feels about the New England Patriots, I think everyone with a CLUE realizes who really runs, controls and commands that organization. Bill Belichick is without a shadow of doubt, the H.M.F.I.C. of that team.

Nobody challenges his authority. And, if someone commits such an act, they’ll receive a departure ticket out of Logan Airport pretty quickly. Just ask Deion Branch or Adalius Thomas.

As I write this blog, many syndicated voices are flushing the collective 2010 competitive chances of the Patriots directly down the toilet …..

I’m not buying that bill of goods.

I’ve watched, too many times, as ELITE quarterbacks have introduced talented wideouts as overnight rockstars. Do you really think Austin Collie would be a top performer in Tennessee, Cleveland or Seattle? Would Marques Colston be a premier threat in Arizona, Carolina or Buffalo?

The key to the New England Patriots remains the same as it has for the last decade …..
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Tom Brady has ushered a far lesser talented receiving corps into a Super Bowl and won it. Just look at the 2004 edition of that team. (RIGHT HERE)

Without Randy Moss, it’s fair to say the New England Patriots cache’ of receivers is every bit as talented as the Indianapolis Colts’ crew. Is anyone counting them out?

This situation is simply reflective of what happens when a guy disrupts the environment of Bill Belichick’s team. Nothing more, nothing less …..

While I still respect the Patriots as a contender for the AFC crown, I’m pretty upbeat about the Ravens chances in next week’s trip to New England. And, if Randy Moss is no longer there, I’m even more optimistic about the Ravens chances.

While the Ravens are only 4 games into the regular season schedule, they’ve luckily avoided any ELITE quarterback/deep threat combinations. Indeed, the trip to New England serves as a formidable test for Greg Mattison’s secondary unit. With the reported, impending departure of Randy Moss, the gameplan will undoubtedly be a little simpler, right?

I’m certain the Moss situation is a distant consideration for John Harbaugh’s staff. That’s right, they’re squarely focused on Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos. The Ravens will not be looking beyond this Sunday’s game.

But, when next Monday arrives, they might be really happy to see Randy Moss playing on Monday Night Football ….. for the Vikings.

And, wouldn’t you know it, that game is against the Patriots’ divisional rival; Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. Indeed, that’s CLASSIC Belichick.

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

Week 4 is the first week that byes take place in the NFL, so this is a great time to take short stock of each of the clubs through three weeks. And by short, I mean one line on each team — some stats, some observations and some conjecture.

First up, the AFC teams by division. Records are through Week 3:

Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

AFC East

New York Jets (2-1): Despite crippled Revis Island on defense, brash Jets are only team in AFC East with perfect division record (2-0).

New England Patriots (2-1): QB Tom Brady (8 TD, 109.1 passer rating) is back to form as Patriots have AFC’s highest point total (90) and highest TD total (12) so far.

Miami Dolphins (2-1): Even with deep threat WR Brandon Marshall and RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins have same amount of TDs (5) as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

Buffalo Bills (0-3): Another lost year for Bills, which have scored fourth-least points (47) in AFC and have given up most points (87) on defense in the conference.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0): The question for head coach Mike Tomlin is if the Steelers are 4-0 after a win over Baltimore in Week 4, why change QBs to Ben Roethlisberger?

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1): Bengals, despite record, have struggled on offense as QB Carson Palmer (12th rated AFC passer at 71.3) hasn’t found rhythm with T.O.cho Show.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Defense, led by MLB Ray Lewis, continues to carry a team expected to score much more in 2010 (44 points; 2nd-lowest in AFC), despite breakout game by WR Anquan Boldin (3 TDs) last week.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): Browns are led by Peyton … not Manning, but RB Hillis (220 yards, 3 TDs) as Browns gave popular AFC Super Bowl pick Ravens much trouble in Week 3.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-1): Texans got over the hump of beating the Colts, but Houston is not the best team in state of Texas after bad loss to Cowboys.

Tennessee Titans (2-1): Titans defense has allowed fourth-fewest points in the AFC (42), and the Tennessee offense has RB Chris Johnson (4 TDs), but continuing issues at quarterback.

Indianapolis Colts (2-1): Despite loss to Houston, Colts still have potent passing attack with QB Peyton Manning and are arguably still best club in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jagaurs (1-2): Jaguars have worst scoring differential in AFC (-43), and Jack Del Rio could be the AFC’s first fired coach.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): Most surprising number for unbeaten Chiefs is that defense has allowed least points in the AFC (38), and in weak AFC West, KC might have enough to win the division.

San Diego Chargers (1-2): Special teams burned for two scores at Seattle, and Chargers QB Philip Rivers (AFC-high 4 INTs) is missing a suddenly resurgent RB LaDainian Tomlinson, now with the Jets.

Denver Broncos (1-2): Broncos getting decent offensive production from QB Kyle Orton, but overall have a minus point differential (-4; 61 PF, 65 PA).

Oakland Raiders (1-2): High-priced K Sebastian Janikowski could have made Raiders a 2-1 team with made kicks at Arizona, but Raiders need more than 3s (4 TDs, tied for lowest in AFC with JAX) to be competitive in up-for-grabs division.

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1): The Eagles have gone from a transitional season with QB Kevin Kolb to division title hopes with QB Michael Vick, who might be a legit NFL MVP candidate down the road.

Washington Redskins (1-2): Opening victory over Dallas doesn’t look as good after defense was shredded in last two weeks and Cowboys’ struggles.

New York Giants (1-2): A minus-30 scoring differential (55 PF, 85 PA) is third-worst in NFC, and head coach Tom Coughlin is starting to feel the heat.

Dallas Cowboys (1-2): Cowboys avoided 0-3 start in Week 3 with big win over Houston, and Dallas has the personnel to rebound in a wide-open NFC East race.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (3-0): Most unlikely last remaining 3-0 team in NFC gives head coach Lovie Smith some breathing room as O-line tries to keep QB Jay Cutler upright in Mike Martz offensive system.

Green Bay Packers (2-1): Despite mental miscues in Week 3 loss at Chicago, popular Super Bowl XLV NFC pick has plenty of offensive weapons for QB Aaron Rodgers, but need run game to be re-established after Ryan Grant injury.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2): QB Brett Favre looks very old right now, and Vikings best chance to win is to get away from pass-first mindset to get the ball into Adrian Peterson’s hopefully sure hands more often.

Detroit Lions (0-3): Injury to QB Matthew Stafford put dent into head coach Jim Schwartz’s immediate rebuilding plans, and Lions don’t get a break in Week 4 against Packers.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (2-1): Falcons posted most-impressive win of Week 3 as they marched out of New Orleans with a OT win, and Atlanta has NFC best-tying +31 point differential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): AFter 2-0 start, Bucs ran into Steelers’ buzzsaw in Week 3, and Tampa Bay is staring at possible 2-3 record with games vs. Cincinnati and New Orleans after bye week.

New Orleans Saints (2-1): Saints run defense was exposed in loss to Falcons, and defending Super Bowl champs need fast starts in order to avoid same fate against strong run teams going forward.

Carolina Panthers (0-3): Winless Panthers have least TDs in NFC (3), and head coach John Fox may be running out of rope with owner Jerry Richardson.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Head coach Pete Carroll sidestepped Southern California mess and he has put Seattle in early position to make headway in weak NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals (2-1): Despite record, Cards have minus-29 point differential (48 PF, 77 PA) and would be 1-2 if Oakland made a field goal or two in Week 3.

St. Louis Rams (1-2): Rookie QB Sam Bradford will have to grow up in a hurry, but the shame is that the Rams can’t play Washington every week.

San Francisco 49ers (0-3): Head coach Mike Singletary used the next-to-last bullet in his gun after firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, and the last one might be used by 49ers ownership at end of the season if disappointments continue.

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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Week 4 Coach Speak

Posted on 28 September 2010 by Brian Billick

After my broadcast partner, Thom Brennaman, and I called an exciting overtime game in New Orleans when the Falcons beat the Saints, I taped this week’s edition of CoachSpeak for FOXSports.com.

I talked to the winning coach of the Atlanta-New Orleans game (and my brother-in-law), the Falcons’ Mike Smith on why he went for it on fourth down so much against the Saints and how he plans to keep his team focused this week after such a big win. I also spoke to the losing coach, Sean Payton, about how last Monday night’s game at San Francisco did to his team’s schedule, and the adjustments coaches have to make in that situation.

In my Billick 101 segment, we get a look at the Vikings check system with quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson through the eyes of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. We also go on the field with Ravens running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, who shows us the keys to a proper QB-RB exchange on handoffs.

I take a look at the 49ers’ firing of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye this week, what that might mean to head coach Mike Singletary down the line, and what new OC Mike Johnson needs to do to help turn around the 0-3 49ers fortunes.

Lastly, we check out the Never Say Never Moment of the Week, including Leon Washington’s two kickoff returns for TDs for the Seahawks.

Here is this week’s version of CoachSpeak:

Video: Coach Speak: Week 4

This Sunday, Thom, field reporter Charissa Thompson and I head to Green Bay this Sunday as the Packers try to bounce back after a tough loss at Chicago as they host Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions on FOX.

But before that, I will be on WNST several times to talk about what’s going on in the NFL. If you miss any of those appearances, please check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to listen to all of the great interviews on WNST.

Talk to you next week …

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Flacco Continues Struggles Against Bengals

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Flacco Continues Struggles Against Bengals

Posted on 19 September 2010 by Ryan Chell

Joe Flacco

The Ravens defense did their part Sunday against the Bengals in their 15-10 loss to Cincinnati, but quarterback Joe Flacco continued his struggles against the Bengals, as he threw a career-high four interceptions.

“It’s a tough one for me. You don’t like going out there and turning the ball over and feeling responsible for why you guys didn’t win the game,” Flacco said. “We’ve got to come back like we do every week. We’re 1-1 and we have 14 games left.”

Flacco is 0-3 against Marvin Lewis and the Bengals in his last three starts.

Flacco completed 17-of-39 passes for 154 yards. He threw a third quarter touchdown pass to Derrick Mason-his only catch of the game-that put the Ravens up 7-6 after trailing at the half, but with three of his picks coming in the second half, it allowed the Bengals every opportunity to hold onto the momentum in the second half and win the game.

The win gives the Bengals their eighth-straight AFC North win.

Flacco was held to zero yards passing in the first quarter, missing on his first four passes, with the inability to step into his throws, forcing the ball to sail over receivers Anquan Boldin and Mason.

Flacco constantly was forced back or outside the pocket, as the Bengals pass-rush  flustered Flacco all game long.

His struggles continued into the second quarter, as Flacco’s third pass of the quarter after two short completions was intercepted by Adam “Pacman” Jones as he was covering Anquan Boldin on third down.

Cincinnati-with a short field-then took the ball 23 yards to make it 6-0, which stood up until the half.

The Ravens coaching staff sensed Flacco’s struggles at halftime and subsequently went to running back Ray Rice twice to start out the second half.

Mixed in with a healthy combination of Rice and play-action passes, Flacco found Mason for the Ravens’ lone touchdown score of the game to put the Ravens back up top 7-6 coming out of the second half.

In two games, the Ravens have a total of two touchdowns to their credit and 10 points in each game.

On the next drive, Leon Hall stepped in front of another pass intended for Boldin, which the Bengals took to the Baltimore 43 yard line. An offensive pass interference call on Chad Ocho Cinco lining up against Lardarius Webb ended the Bengals drive.

Flacco played his part on the Ravens’ drive starting with 9:35 in the fourth quarter, but the drive was really set up by Ray Rice’s 30 yard run that was stopped by Bengals defensive back Chris Crocker.

Billy Cundiff kicked a 38-yard field goal with 5:51 remaining in the game to make it 10-9 in favor of Baltimore.

After a 60-yard kickoff return by Bernard Scott, Mike Nugent connected on his fourth field goal of the game to make it 12-10 Cincinnati with just 4:34 remaining in the game.

With plenty of time left on the clock, Flacco appeared to be in good position to lead the Ravens offense down the field and score. But two plays in, Flacco’s pass intended for Ray Rice was tipped at the line and fell into the hands of linebacker Brandon Johnson. The Ravens defense held the Bengals yet again with the drive starting at the Baltimore 11 yard line, but Nugent hit his fifth and final field goal of the game.

With the Ravens needing a touchdown to win, the Bengals focused on the pass, and subsequently applied more pressure on Flacco. Flacco, twice hit on the Ravens final drive of the game, was trying to find Mason, but Chinedum Ndukwe picked off Flacco for the fourth time of the day and gave the game to the Bengals.

The four interceptions for Flacco were a career-high and his worst interception total since December 7th against Green Bay, where he turned the ball over three times in the air.

“You cannot win in this league with turnovers,” Coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s been proven time and time again. Minus-4 is not going to get it done.”

Flacco in his career is 2-3 in his career against the Bengals, losing his last three starts against Cincinnati. His first two victories came over the Bengals in his rookie year in 2008-one being his first NFL start on September 7th, 2008, but since then he has come up short against one of Baltimore’s AFC North opponents.

Here are Flacco’s numbers against Cincinnati in his last three starts:

10/11/09: (BAL L, 17-10): 22-31, 186yd, 1 TD, 2 INTs

11/08/09: (BAL L, 17-7): 18-32, 195yd, 0 TD, 2 INTs

09/19/10: (BAL L, 15-10): 17-39, 154, 1 TD, 4 INTs

If the Ravens are going to win this division and reach the playoffs for a third straight year( something the team has not done in franchise history), they are going to have to beat the Bengals and Flacco is going to have to play a bigger part in not only beating the Bengals, but not hurting the Ravens’ chances of winning.

Flacco in his short NFL career has also been a quarterback who has been not fundamental sound with his mechanics, as QB coach Jim Zorn and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron continued to point out to Flacco on the sidelines on Sunday.

Flacco also has shown that he will try and throw the ball up to a receiver in an attempt to force the receiver to make a play, and that was evident on Sunday.

Too bad he threw it to the Bengals four times.

“The one I would really want back is the second one I threw. I just threw it right in a crowd. The other ones I was trying to make  plays and they picked them off. It’s bad. They’re interceptions…you don’t feel good about them.”

Marshal Yanda is used to playing guard and now with no one on his right side, he has struggled in pass blocking and his replacement at right guard, Chris Chester, is more of a run-blocker than excelling in his pass-blocking.

What is surprising is how effective the Bengals were at getting pressure on Flacco with just four rushing the passer. The Ravens offensive line seemed confused at times with the Bengals’ stunts, and it still appears like the Ravens are missing tackle Jared Gaither, who is nursing a back injury.

“They’re a good team…,” Flacco said, “and they’ve shown that over the last couple years that they can play good defense.”

The good news is that the Cleveland Browns are coming into Baltimore next week at home. The Browns (0-2) fell to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday 16-14, and the Ravens will be looking to catch up in the division race looking up at the Bengals (1-1, 1-0 AFC North) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0).

“You go and get ready for the Cleveland Browns, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” Flacco continued. “We just have to make sure we all bounce back, and I think everyone will.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we are your place for all Ravens news! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore sports!

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My Super Bowl Pick …..

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My Super Bowl Pick …..

Posted on 10 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Over the past couple days, I’ve predicted the respective finishes in the AFC/NFC divisions. Today, it’s time to paint my picture of Super Bowl 45. Admittedly, it will be tough to pick against the Ravens making a trip to Dallas, in early February. After all, they’re a consensus favorite among MANY notable sports personalities.

What do predictions yield the Ravens? NOTHING …..

Predictions are quite simply as worthless as the time it takes to express them. But, it’s still fun to forecast the prospective future of the upcoming National Football League season.

As I review my AFC picks, I’m considering the division winners, which include the Dolphins, Ravens, Colts and Chargers. My wildcards are the Patriots and Texans. I foresee the Ravens and Dolphins meeting for the AFC crown and I’ll predict a big hometown win at M&T Bank Stadium on a chilly, overcast January day.

When I look back at my NFC selections, I can choose from the Cowboys, Packers, Saints and 49ers, as division champs. The wildcards are the Falcons and Vikings. While it will be an exciting season in the NFC, I’m picking the Saints to represent their conference, once again. I believe they’ll hand the 49ers a pretty sound beating on the same field where the 2010 season began, last night.

So, my prediction for Super Bowl 45 is …..
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And, my pick?

Ravens 27

Saints 20

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NFC Predictions ….

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NFC Predictions ….

Posted on 09 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Yesterday, I dished out my AFC picks along with bragging about the talent compromising the 2010 Baltimore Ravens. Today, I’m issuing my NFC predictions.

Here ya go ….

NFC EAST
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1) Dallas Cowboys (11-5) – Trust me, I hate to pick the Cowboys to win ANYTHING. Year after year, they’re showered with preseason accolades. Yet, they’ve won a total of ONE postseason game in the last 14 years. I think the Cowboys and Eagles are fairly comparable in the NFC-East. However, based on strength of schedule, the Cowboys are being dealt a “gimme” win against the Cardinals toward season’s end.

I still think they’ll be the same old Cowboys we’ve expected in recent history; they’ll bow out early in the playoffs. And, I’ll guarantee Tony Romo has something to do with it.

2) Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

3) Washington Redskins (7-9)

4) New York Giants (7-9)
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NFC NORTH
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1) Green Bay Packers (12-4) – Honestly, is anyone picking against this Packers offense? While Aaron Rodgers is being touted as the prospective MVP, another breakout star is in the making in Wisconsin. Remember the name JERMICHAEL FINLEY. While he lines up at the tight end position, he possesses phenominal wideout speed and agility.

How good is Finley? Well, he led a formidable Packers corps in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in the second half of the 2009 season. I’ll bet Brett Favre wishes he had such talent in Minnesota.

2) Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

3) Detroit Lions (7-9)

4) Chicago Bears (5-11)
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NFC SOUTH
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1) New Orleans Saints (12-4) – I think they might be better than last year’s SUPER version. Why? Well, I can envision Drew Brees’ crew of receivers developing with experience. Specifically, I look for Robert Meachem to take a step forward and potentially become the Saints top wideout. Combined with a steady Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and the Heisman-less Reggie Bush, I’m predicting very busy Sundays for opposing secondaries.

2) Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

3) Carolina Panthers (9-7)

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)
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NFC WEST
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1) San Francisco 49ers (10-6) – Who could’ve imagined the 49ers would return to being such a prominent favorite, especially since they haven’t enjoyed a winning season since the Jeff Garcia era, 8 years ago? Of course, Mike Singletary’s team is aided by the departures of Anquan Boldin and Kurt Warner, in Arizona.

The 49ers are not an offensive juggernaut. But, they’re rightfully expected to pummel opposing offensive units. And, the ringleader of the 49er’s attack is the Ray Lewis of the west coast, Patrick Willis. Expect a lot of low scoring victories. Sound familiar Ravens fans?

2) St. Louis Rams (7-9)

3) Arizona Cardinals (6-10)

4) Seattle Seahawks (4-12)

Well, that’s my look at the NFC. Tomorrrow, I’ll break down the playoffs and predict the Super Bowl winner. A reminder …. Brian Billick will be joining me at 2:30pm today. And, you can also find me in Thyrl Nelson’s FANTASY FLAVOR chat tonight @ 8pm !!!!

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Best Of The Best: My Top 20 QB’s cont.

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Joe Giglio

10. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Beltway Joe is my guy. We often talk about young QB’s gaining experience by repetitions in pressure packed games. I don’t believe any 25 or under QB in the league right now has had the kind of on the job training as Flacco. He has already won 3 road playoff games in two seasons under center, and has been at least among the final four in the AFC both times. His completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns all rose from his rookie to sophomore campaigns, while his INT’s remained the same despite significantly more attempts. He might have the biggest arm in the league- I dare you do find me someone who throws the out pattern better than him. With Boldin, Stallworth, and a pair of young pass catching TE’s in Pitta and Dickson, Flacco has the weapons to lead Baltimore even deeper in the postseason.

9. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings

Why only 9th after the season he had last year and the weapons on the Minnesota offense? Health and desperation. Brett Favre is tough as nails, but at some point all of these surgeries and injuries are going to cost him valuable regular season starts, which could cost Minnesota a trip to January. Also, I think Favre’s urgency to win another title erodes his decision making abilities in big spots. Letting the game come to him was never a strong suit of his, but I’m less and less convinced he can win a title every day.

8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Say what you want about his style, backwards hat, and too cool for school smile…Tony Romo can play. The back to back wins over Philadelphia in Week 17 and Wild Card weekend took away the biggest bullet that anti-Romo guys had in their arsenal. “He chokes in the big spot” was erased by his play down the stretch in wins over New Orleans and Washington, along with his picking apart of the Philly defense. He has show over the years an uncanny ability to slide within the pocket, doesn’t need a “true” #1 WR to put up big numbers, and has matured in his decision making when the game is on the line. If Dallas is to play a home Super Bowl, it is because, not in spite, of Tony Romo.

7. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

It took a full season for Aaron and I to see eye to eye. I didn’t like the hype machine centered around him and the Packers big pre-season numbers, was embarrassed for him when he let Jared Allen abuse him on Monday Night Football, and was loving it when his INT to lose the game in Tampa put the Packers at 4-4. Things started to change after that. The yards, touchdowns, and wins started piling up week after week. His performance on Wild Card weekend in Arizona sealed it for me that this guy could play. Can Green Bay win a Super Bowl with that style playing in the cold, snow, and wind of Lambeau? I’ve always thought it was more conducive to dome and warm weather teams (St. Louis, New Orleans, Arizona), but Green Bay has a chance because Rodgers can go point for point with anyone if he gets time in the pocket.

6. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

I realize that the “numbers” are better on Phil’s resume than #5 or #4 on my list, but I’m beginning to wonder if all that regular season dominance will ever translate into a Super Bowl trip. There seems to be a new excuse every year in San Diego. Whether it be the incompetence of Norv Turner, injuries to Tomlinson and Gates, simply running into a better team like Pittsburgh or New England, or the hottest defense in NY…this team and QB can’t finish the job. I was convinced that Rivers would win the MVP last year and get San Diego to a Super Bowl, but the guy came up small in January. I know he is tough and plays through injures, but if he wants to be a Top 5 guy in the league and crack the Top 2 of the Class of ’04, he needs to play in the Big Game.

5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Can’t stand the guy, but respect the player. If it wasn’t for one great drive vs. Arizona a few years ago he would be so many spots down this list. But that drive did happen and Ben does have two rings on his fingers. If the Steelers can get through his four game suspension at 2-2, plenty of fans will peg them as a sleeper in the AFC. More interesting to me than the team is how the city responds to him when he returns. Not many two time Super Bowl winning stars get booed in their home stadium, but Pittsburgh and Ben might be the exception to the rule. The relationship in Pittsburgh might be irreparable, but if I need to win a title, there aren’t many guys I’d rather have.

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants

Look at the talent levels, production, off the field issues, and past performances in the biggest games and tell me why you would put anyone else in this spot. Eli is no longer Peyton’s younger brother or the QB that got hot for a Super Bowl run. Lost in the Giants wretched finish to 2009 was Manning’s ascension to the top of the rung of NFL stars. Over 4,000 yards behind an aging offensive line, non-existent running game, and a slew of neophyte receivers was quite impressive. He had to come out of his play action comfort zone and operate out of the shotgun more than ever because of the opponent lighting the scoreboard up on his porous defense. Eli is now not just the leader of the Giants, he’s the best player on the field for them.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

His Super Bowl victory launched him into the #1 or #2 spots for some fans in our poll, but it simply inducted him into the club on my list. He’s no longer a distant third after the untouchable 1-2 of Manning-Brady (or Brady-Manning for some). I now look at the Big Three on this list as 1-2-3. They are all elite, can all lead a team to a championship, and all give defensive coordinators nightmares. Brees ability to release the ball quickly and keep seemingly every single WR on his roster involved in the offense is superb. He revived a fan base, helped revive a city, and is carving out a plaque in Canton as each game passes.

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Don’t sleep on Brady. 28 TDs and nearly 4,400 yards the first year back from major knee reconstruction surgery is incredible. The Patriots have become flawed in almost every area outside of Brady. The shine has come off the pretty car the Pats had become prior to their Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Last year’s playoff beat down in their building at the hands of Baltimore was a shock to the football community, but Brady and New England shouldn’t be counted out. If knee injuries truly take two years to come back to full strength, watch out for Brady in 2010. If I need to win a Super Bowl I still want a guy that has more than anyone else on this list.

1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

The best I have ever seen. Over 4,000 yards in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Mark him down for 11-13 wins a season. I have never seen an athlete take over a game mentally they way Peyton does. He dissects defenses as if he is watching film of their previous games in his head as the play happens. I know his loss to Brees in the Super Bowl makes these Top 3 very close, but when I add in durability, making those around him better, smarts, will to win, work ethic, and consistency, there isn’t anyone better for my money. If I absolutely need to win, Peyton is my guy.

Agree with Flacco at 10? Who would you have put at #1? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Head Coach Wanted – No Experience Necessary

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Head Coach Wanted – No Experience Necessary

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL is a copycat league, there’s no denying that. Every off season, like clockwork, teams of little fortune try like mad to emulate the successful practices that they’ve seen implemented by other clubs. It’s a league of trends, and those left behind said trends are likely to find themselves out of contention and likewise out of favor with their fans.

One of the interesting new trends in the NFL of late has been the propensity of teams to look beyond the usual suspects in attempting to fill their head coaching positions. Perhaps in no small part due to the recent success of such upstart coaches as Mike Tomlin of the Steelers or the trio of rookie coaches in John Harbaugh, Mike Smith and Tony Sparano who all led their teams to playoff appearances in their rookie campaigns last season, teams have all seemingly begun to reach for the next young star in coaching.

 

After the early successes of Harbaugh, Smith and Sparano, the NFL reacted in kind. Eight head coaches were hired last off-season, and among them, only Mike Singletary who had coached a handful of games as the interim coach had previous NFL head coaching experience. What’s more, at the start of the 2009 season, only 3 of 32 NFL coaches even had rings as head coaches, Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and Mike Tomlin.

 

It’s probably a good thing that Superbowl credentialed coaches like Brian Billick, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher have settled nicely into the TV ranks, because based on current trends, it could be quite some time before the league could consider them attractive coaching candidates again. Guys like those are left hoping these days that the likes of Coughlin or Mike Shanahan can do big things in regard to reversing the current trend.

 

Look no further than Shanahan’s own situation to illustrate how far the plight of the recycled head coach has come. Do you really think that Washington was on Shanahan’s short list of attractive destinations before gauging the lack of perceived interest that the market seemingly had in him?

 

If this season had proven anything however, it may have proven that finding the next young rock star coach may be easier said than done. Of the 8 aforementioned head coaching positions filled last off-season, only Rex Ryan and Jim Caldwell saw their fortunes advance beyond the regular season. The rest of those teams are left to ponder whether their leap of faith was actually the right move.

 

In the playoffs however, a surprising, if not disturbing trend has arisen this season. In the 8 playoff games staged so far this season, all but one have been won by the teams with the least experienced coaches. Among the 3 coaches who went into 2009 with   Superbowl hardware, only one even qualified for the playoffs, and for his efforts, Belichick’s Patriots were rewarded with perhaps the playoffs’ most unceremonious ouster.

 

In the opening weekend, second year coach John Harbaugh watched his Ravens bounce the Patriots along with Bill Belichick, his 15 seasons of experience (10 in New England) and his three Superbowl rings right out of the playoffs. Additionally, Ken Whisenhunt, in his 3rd season saw his Cardinals eliminate the Packers led by Mike McCarthy in his 4th season at the helm. Rookie Jets’ coach Rex Ryan saw his team take out Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, in Lewis’ 7th season as head coach. And in the read between the lines match up, Andy Reid in his 11th season in charge of the Eagles lost to Wade Phillips, whose coaching career began 6 seasons before Reid’s, but Phillips only has 8 total seasons spread out over 3 cities of head coaching experience, and has only been in charge of the Cowboys since 2007.

 

The second round saw the only upset to the trend when 4th year coach Sean Payton saw his Saints eliminate Whisenhunt’s Cardinals. Otherwise, Brad Childress in his 4th season and the Vikings took out Phillips’ Cowboys, and a pair of rookies in Rex Ryan and Jim Caldwell beat out the oft-recycled Norv Turner and the grizzled second year vet in Harbaugh.

 

None of that likely gives us any indication of which way to go this weekend, as both championship games will feature head coaches of equal tenure. Childress and Payton, both in the head coaching ranks since 2006 will meet on the NFC side, while a couple of rookies in Caldwell and Ryan will duel it out for the AFC. And once the dust settles in 3 weeks, one thing will be for sure, there will be one more coach going into next season with that elusive Superbowl hardware, as a first timer is now guaranteed to win; it’s just matter of which first timer.

 

Experience is a funny thing. In a 16 game NFL season, every game is bound to pose a new quandary, we’ve seen evidence of that here in Baltimore over the last 2 seasons, as Harbaugh has found his way admirably, but has also endured a lot of lessons learned on the job. For years, we’ll be left to debate whether the Ravens’ success over the last two seasons happened as a result of the Harbaugh regime, or despite it. Hindsight will surely show that at least a few of the young coaches who saw success this season would fall into the latter category.

 

One thing that’s probably not debatable though, is that Harbaugh is surely a better coach today than he was two years ago. Heck, he’s probably a better coach today than he was on Saturday in Indy. Experience is what’s made him better, and what will continue to do so.

 

Why experience is no longer seemingly valued in the NFL is beyond me, but that seems to be the trend. It could make things very interesting going forward, as most of the veteran candidates for head coaching jobs will likely have to gravitate to college or coordinators’ jobs until their stocks rise again. If the NFL is a coordinators league anyway, the impact on the field could be interesting.

 

Once upon a time, experience made you rich; now, in the NFL at least, it just makes you undesirable. In this league though, everything is subject to change on a moment’s notice. Something tells me that there are a lot of former coaches secretly cheering for Coughlin and Shanahan.

 

 

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/12/10)

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (1/12/10)

Posted on 12 January 2010 by Jack McManus

9:51-

Dan from Fallston next calls in. He talks about how the Ravens only passed the ball 10 times this past weekend. If the team is able to run the ball that often, the team is probably in good shape no matter what.

9:34-

Stan Cotten, the play-by-play voice of Wake Forest, is next up with Drew. He discusses the up and down season Wake has experienced thus far. He calls the team’s inconsistent nature “odd.” Cotten next turns to how the Demon Deacons will try to shut down Greivis Vasquez. He states that Vasquez will definitely get his points, Wake must just limit his overall impact on the game. Cotten agrees with Drew that the ACC is having a down year this season.

aminu

9:22-

Drew and Glenn talk about the decision Bill Belichick to defer to start the game. Both agree that in the playoffs, it is very important to start off with the ball in order to have a chance to seize momentum. No team can assume there will be a close game and they can “steal” a possession by taking the ball in the second half. Glenn also brings up the fact that the Colts have never won after a first round bye in the playoffs.

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9:02-

Steve in Edgewood is next up. He brings up the idea that the Ravens should knock Manning out of the game early on and deal with a fine or suspension later on. Its probably not a good plan.

8:56-

Jerry from Timonium calls in. He brings up a previous game against the Colts in which Peyton Manning abused the secondary early on. He states that the Ravens need to get off to a much better start and rush the passes more effectively to have any chance of winning.

manning

8:35-

Tom in Rising Sun is the next caller. He compares that Patriots receiving corps to the Colts. Drew states that he believes Colts receivers and tight ends are much stronger that those of the Patriots. Tom also asks whether or not Flacco will be able to get back into a rhythm passing the ball. Drew explains that the team’s plan was not to run the ball as much as they did.

8:12-

Patrick Stevens joins Drew to talk about the Terps. Stevens talks about the scheduling issues for the mens’ basketball team. After the teams victory over Florida State on Sunday night, the team had a short turn around before having to face Wake Forest tonight. On the topic of Wake, Stevens talks about how the Demon Deacons also lost to William & Mary during their out of conference schedule. Stevens next discusses with Drew how the ACC is most likely not as strong as it has been in recent years. Stevens states that if one player a night other than Greivis Vasquez can step up, the Terps will be a dangerous team. To finish up Stevens talks about how the CAA is a very strong basketball conference this season. It is a distinct possibility that a team could get an at-large bid out of the conference.

vasquez

8:06-

Kevin in Baltimore is the next caller. He asks Drew what advice he would give to Tiger Woods. Drew talks about how Tiger may now be able to play better golf if all his other issues are off his mind. He goes on to say that it was a very good idea for Tiger to “disappear” for a while.

7:50-

Ross Tucker from Sports Illustrated is on with Drew to talk about the NFL playoffs. He first talks about how he really believes that Ravens have a solid chance of beating the Colts this weekend. Tucker thinks that the key to the game will be the pressure the Raven defense can put on Peyton Manning. Drew mentions that if the Ravens can get off to another strong start, they have a chance to win. Tucker also speaks about the thrilling game between the Packers and Cardinals this past weekend. He explains that the way the Saints finished the season leaves them in a vulnerable position to lose to the Cardinals.

7:43-

John from Canton calls in to talk some Ravens. He starts off by talking about Ed Reed’s tendency to lateral the ball. He states that all the other defensive players should not get in a position to receive a backwards pass.

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