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Ravens will sport a new look in ’09

Posted on 20 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

Where will we be this time NEXT year?  

The Ravens’ playoff run for the 2008 season hasn’t been over for 48 hours and they are already forging ahead at Owings Mills in preparation for 2009.

A suggested theme:  ”Let’s play one more game”.

After all, in 2008, the MAXIMUM amount of games a team could have played — 20.  The Ravens played 19.

If only they could have played one more game.

Maybe next year.

But, there will be a lot of action, a lot of news and a lot of changes next year in Baltimore.  Those changes are both obvious and subtle, but equally important.  Some might be changes for the better.  Some might not.  

We won’t know until this time next year.

The most glaring of the changes will be the departure of Baltimore’s long-time defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.  Rex was not only a fixture here, but he takes with him to New York the one intangible that every coach in any sport craves to own — his players enjoyed playing for him.

Forget about the money.  Forget the “contract year” stuff.  Dismiss styles, schemes, etc.  

Almost to a man in Owings Mills, the players played for Rex Ryan first and foremost.

He will be missed.  The players knew his departure was inevitable.  But that won’t make it any easier when training camp rolls around next July.  Will the new defensive coordinator command the same respect as Rex?  Only time will tell.

When a coach leaves, other’s follow.  Players look around the room and say, “that was MY guy…maybe the next coach won’t appreciate me the way Rex did.”  Some might head out of Baltimore with that thought in mind.  A few players have openly talked about Rex in New York and wondered aloud if perhaps their career trail might lead them to the Jets and a stint in the Big Apple.  

While the Rex decision didn’t fall at the feet of the Ravens, the Ray Lewis decision most certainly will be one they make on their clock.

It will go down as the hot-button topic of the off-season, without a doubt.

It appears as if Ozzie’s summer of ’08 gamble to let Ray play out his contract is going to come back to haunt Steve Bisciotti where it hurts the most – at the bank.  Ray kept his mouth shut all year and played football.  At a high-level.  And when Baltimore trotted out of the locker room on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, they took to the field in large part because of #52′s fearless competitive streak and his Hall-of-Fame performance in 2008.  

Ray deserves to get paid.  

Someone in the league WILL pay him.

It would be grossly unfair if it weren’t the Ravens.

But that’s THEIR decision now.  They have a variety of options.  They can re-sign Ray and give him some sort of staggering signing bonus in the vicinity of $20 million for a 4 or 5 year deal.  They can slap the franchise tag on him and extend him one more season – but Lewis will most likely bristle at that option since he’ll say he played 2008 “in good faith” and the franchise tag is looked upon by most players as a method the club uses to duck out of their obligation to reward a player.  They can also apply the little-used transition tag on Ray and allow him the chance to go out on the open market and secure his best deal – and then the Ravens can match it, and keep him, or let him wander off to (insert team here).

As Ray goes, so will the rest of the off-season.

Baltimore has a number of key players getting to roam around sniffing for a new deal.  If Ray signs, where does that leave Terrell Suggs?  What about Bart Scott?  Jim Leonhard?  Jason Brown?

Who is going to catch the football for Baltimore in 2008?  Isn’t it time for the franchise to make a dedicated commitment – like they did with the QB position last April – to the passing game by adding a couple of quality, reliable, wide receievers who can endure the tough AFC North?  It would appear that the triple threat of Mason-Clayton-DWilliams isn’t going to get the job done.  That’s not to say that one or two of those players can’t fill a role on next year’s team, but Baltimore needs an upgrade at the receiver position. No hard feelings.  

The secondary is in need of an overhaul and a move toward youth.  Perhaps no department on the team battled injuries like this year’s secondary and on the “heart meter”, it zooms past 10 and goes straight to the top.  But, as we saw Sunday night in Pittsburgh, you can have all the heart in the world but that doesn’t matter to Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes.  The Ravens need to add experience, speed and strength in the secondary.  Better ball hawks.  Better tacklers.  Better players.  That’s what they need back there if they want to beat the Steelers next year.  

George Kokinis will be heading off to Cleveland to take over as the Browns’ GM and the Ravens will lose a high-quality front office mind.  He’s a behind-the-scenes guy at Owings Mills that very few people know. I’ll sum up Kokinis for you in about 50 words.  Do you like Jim Leonhard as a player? Justin Bannan? Fabian Washington?  Those are three important parts of the ’08 team that were all signed off on by Kokinis and handed over to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh.  Kokinis will be missed.

There’s little doubt that chemistry and personal affection for one another – to a man – had as much to do with Baltimore’s success in ’08 as any element of on-field play with perhaps the exception of the new quarterback from Delaware.  

There’s an old saying:  ”you can’t catch lightning in a bottle…twice.”

How will this team come together next year?  New people.  New personal agendas.  New philosophies.

It might be better, of course.  

But, it might not be.

Joe Flacco will be better.  So will Jared Gaither.  Most of the young players who played a role this year have plenty of upside.  It’s the team experienced corps of veterans who are starting to show the inevitable wear and tear.  But those veterans also comprise the heart and soul of the locker room.  Dan Wilcox is a lion and a player that every man in that locker room looks up to — and he might be moving on if the Ravens elect to not sign him to a new contract.  What happens if Ray Lewis doesn’t get rewarded like he believes he should? Who steps in for him and becomes the team’s beating heart?  

That’s why losing on Sunday was so damaging.

This team – this exact gathering of men – will not be back for a second go-round next season.

These chances don’t come along very often.  

And that’s why Sunday’s loss hurts.

But, teams lose coaches and players every year and they all stay in business and they all do their best to rebound and move on to the next challenge.

For the Ravens, though, the next challenge will come with different people in place.

We trusted the folks in charge of the challenge this year.

It will be hard to replace those that have departed or will move on in the next month or so.

Let’s hope we don’t learn a hard lesson in 2009.

2008 was just too much fun.

And, after all, we’re only asking for the team to play one more game next year.

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Bisciotti and Harbaugh walk ‘arm in arm’ into 2009 Festivus

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Bisciotti and Harbaugh walk ‘arm in arm’ into 2009 Festivus

Posted on 29 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

What a difference 52 weeks makes. It will be a year ago this Wednesday — on New Year’s Eve — when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti walked into Brian Billick’s office and abruptly fired the head coach who led his franchise to its only Super Bowl win. It was the biggest story in the city for weeks, and many folks were surprised and many questions were asked. For me, it wasn’t so much the actual firing of Billick as much as the “I changed my mind” reasoning so closely removed from a 13-3 season and the fact that Ozzie Newsome was clearly kept out of the decision. At the time I was a loud critic of the move, especially considering that Bisciotti didn’t have a clear vision of where the franchise was headed or who he wanted to hire as a head coach.

The thinking was this: Who is Bisciotti going to hire who is better than Billick?

Three weeks later, after getting turned down by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason
Garrett and eliminating defensive coordinator Rex Ryan from contention, Bisciotti turned to a “low mileage” young special teams coordinator whose QB brother was far better known not only in Baltimore but throughout the league and in college circles as the head coach at Stanford.

Bisciotti, who is a self-made billionaire and who did it by hiring great people, was pretty offended last winter at the mere notion that his decisions and pick to lead the organization on the field would be questioned. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him publicly “chippy.”

Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

Harbaugh came to this job as a universally revered “coach’s coach,” the son of a football coach and the brother of a very successful NFL quarterback. I had at least 20 NFL “insiders” who immediately called me and told me that Harbaugh would be a “great” NFL coach. Harbaugh had ZERO detractors. Even Brian Billick privately applauded Bisciotti’s choice to replace him as being “a great move.” Yesterday, as the clock struck zero and Harbaugh had led Bisciotti’s franchise full-circle and back into the NFL postseason, the two men embraced in as genuine a lock as you’d ever want to see on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. You can see the moment on video here… and it was celebrated with the fans.

We can revisit all of the details of last January’s semi-bizarre job search and all of the possibilities and permutations and fallout of a bloody, unexpected firing of a Super Bowl champion coach amidst a locker room full of revolt, dissent and mouthy and aging players. All of my January Bisciotti/Garrett/Harbaugh blogs are still here in the archives if you care to read them.

Here’s the point: Bisciotti has made three MAJOR calls in 2009. First he fired Billick, while owing him $18 million, a ballsy and risky move if there ever was one. Then, he hand-picked unproven John Harbaugh to lead his football team in January. And finally — you might never get anyone to admit this on the record within the franchise — Bisciotti absolutely JUMPED on the table in the draft room in April and insisted that Ozzie Newsome trade up into the 18th pick to take a New Jersey kid from “small school” University of Delaware named Joe Flacco to be his franchise quarterback.

Considering our history with sports franchise poobahs in Baltimore (think Irsay, Jacobs, EBW & Abe Pollin), we’re far from believing that owners should get overly involved in the day-to-day operations of a sports franchise in most circumstances – and this is your chance to fill in the holiday Peter Angelos joke of your choice right here – but obviously an NFL owner’s choice of a head coach and a franchise quarterback has never looked better than it does this morning, exactly 52 weeks to the day that Bisciotti was clearly shaken by the removal of Billick, whom he had deep affection and respect for as a person and a leader of men.

If you’re excited about the Ravens this week and you’ve got purple fever, sure it’s fashionable to give all of the credit to Flacco and Harbaugh (as well as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Le’Ron McClain, Cam Cameron, etc.) but today is a day we should consider giving the credit to the “mastermind” of several of the most significant 2009 calls that have landed the Ravens in the postseason and headed to Miami this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Steve Bisciotti has played a MAJOR role in the Ravens’ turnaround by making moves that have been greeted with at least extreme “curiosity” inside his own building and amongst his experts. Who would’ve thought that Rex Ryan could get passed over for the head coaching job here for a special teams coordinator and respond in a fashion that has made him the front-runner for the St. Louis Rams job 52 weeks later? Human nature might’ve said, “You can’t bring Ryan back as defensive coordinator” given the strange circumstances.

But over the course of his life, Bisciotti has shown an uncanny ability to find and retain quality people as employees. It’s his “gift” as a business owner, bringing in people who he’ll brag are “better” than him. He’s always told me that it’s the secret of his success.

Sure, he subtracted Brian Billick who I clearly think is one of the better people I’ve met on the planet and a person that I’m supremely thrilled to have on my WNST.net team, but he also added another quality guy in John Harbaugh — as well as a new staff — and the change has obviously worked out fabulously in Year 1. (For the record, Billick had Cam Cameron flying into Baltimore to be his offensive coordinator a year ago today as well, had he not been fired…just a fact!)

The firing of Billick was a change, as I stated last Janaury, that I wouldn’t have made. Many concurred with my assessment. But that’s why he’s Steve Bisciotti and that’s why he’s worth a billion dollars. As the old Indiana Jones movie said, “He chose wisely.”

Many NFL jobs will begin popping open today. Brian Billick might even get another shot to lead an NFL franchise at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, he might be enjoying his quality of life watching football on Fox and doing radio shows and writing a blog here at WNST.net while building his life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

But 363 days later, you would be hard-pressed to make the argument that Billick might’ve gotten this team to 11-5, with or without a quarterback like Flacco. Or maybe not. But at this point, that’s not an argument anyone in Baltimore wants or needs to make. In reality, we’re all in a better place 52 weeks later.

The NFL job carousel will get crazy this week. I’m glad we’re on the other side of this one this season covering a playoff team instead of a job search and all of the messiness involved. Phil Savage is the first of many fired friends of mine this week.

For now here in Baltimore, it’s Festivus for the rest of us.

Bring on the Fish…

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Yankees: Salary Tidbits

Posted on 24 December 2008 by Jason Jubb

They currently have the four highest contracts by total value in the game:

Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000

Derek Jeter, $189,000,000

Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000

CC Sabathia, $161,000,000

 

They Yankees awarded the single biggest annual salary in history for one year when they gave Roger Clemens a $28,000,022 deal in 2007. (He only collected around $18 million of that since he did not play until partially into the season.) A-Rod has the second biggest annual salary at $27,500,000.

 

At $23,000,000 annually CC Sabathia is the highest paid pitcher in the game.

 

At $15,000,000 annually Mariano Rivera is the highest paid relief pitcher in the game.

 

At $17,142,857 annually Jason Giambi was the highest paid DH in history.

 

At $13,100,000 annually Jorge Posada is the highest paid catcher in the game.

 

At $22,500,000 annually Mark Teixeira is the highest paid first baseman in the game.

 

At $7,500,000 annually Robinson Cano is the third highest paid second baseman, but he has not hit free agency yet.

 

At $18,900,000 annually Derek Jeter is the highest paid shortstop in the game.

 

At $27,500,000 annually A Rod is the highest paid third baseman in the game.

 

At $13,000,000 annually Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui are tied for 12th amongst outfielders.

 

Starting in 2003 the Yankees have spent $1.138 billion in team payroll.

 

In 2008 Forbes Magazine estimated the value of the Orioles to be $398 million; the Yankees were at $1.3 billion.

 

In 2008 the Yankees offered only a 1 year deal to Joe Torre for $5 million with a vesting option. They went cheap on their manager and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

 

I used multiple sources for the salary figures. Feel free to add more…

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Nothing unlucky about these 13 points to ponder…

Posted on 22 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

1. Hard to pick the NFL’s Cinderella Team for ’08, particularly when our home team is one of the candidates – but you have to give it to the Dolphins at this point.  1-15 a year ago and now 10-5 and a win away from hosting a playoff game.  Just goes to show you — if you’re not good in the NFL, wait around a year or two and you will be.  Unless, of course, you’re the Lions.  Too bad the Orioles aren’t in the AFC East.

2. Right now, I’m calling an Indianapolis-Carolina Super Bowl.  That could change, of course, depending on any key injuries in the final regular season game(s).  But I’ll stick with it as my official “pre-playoff prediction”.  Oh, by the way, Carolina wins. 

3. Speaking of the O’s, are they creative enough to work hard over the next 48 hours and get the Teixeira deal done and present him to the media/fans at mid-day on Christmas Eve?  What a gift that would be…

4. Gonna be really hard to pick the Ravens MVP.  Based on my “Tuesday Top 7″ points system, Joe Flacco has a narrow lead over Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason.  I’ll have my Top 7 for the win at Dallas on Tuesday and we’ll see if that shakes up the standings a little bit.  You could EASILY make an argument for #5, #52, #85 and Ed Reed for team MVP and get no debate from me.  

5. So, San Diego loses at Denver, 39-38 in Week #2 after Ed Hochuli screws up a call at the end of the game that gave the Broncos the win.  Denver goes on to lead the West by 3 games with 3 to play.  But they lose two straight and the Chargers win two and now one-game separates them.  They play the Chargers the last regular season game of the year in San Diego…winner goes to the playoffs, loser goes home.  Now, go ahead and tell me there’s no such thing as Football Gods.

6. There’s plenty of debate about the Ravens’ MVP for ’08, but there can’t possibly be any discussion about the team’s Unsung Hero.  It’s Jim Leonhard, slam dunk.  But Sam Koch should get some “honorable mention” type stuff.  What a year he’s had, huh?

7. Ex-Oriole and current Yankee broadcaster Ken Singleton says Jason Giambi is a great guy who can still help a team and would be a welcome addition both on the field and in the locker room.  New York Newsday baseball writer Ken Davidoff says Carl Pavano is one of the worst human beings he’s ever met and that he will cause nothing but strife for his new team, if he finds one.  Their opinions tell me all I need to know. “Yes” to Giambi and “No” to Pavano.  You listening, Andy?

8. I bet Ray Lewis keeps a calculator in his duffel bag and breaks it out after every game for a private moment of mathematics.  Can’t you hear him after that Cowboys win?  ”OK, that’s another million from the Ravens for next season…”

9. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be hanging around Nick Markakis one afternoon when this scrolls across the screen on ESPN:  ”Baltimore Orioles reportedly offer Mark Teixeira a 7-year, $150 million contract.”  How do you say, “Yeah, you’ll pay him but you won’t pay me what I’m worth” in Greek?  

10. That Redskins collapse and failure to reach the playoffs is a real shame, isn’t it?  (hee hee)

11. Oklahoma 45 – Florida 33

12. Not quite sure how anyone is going to beat North Carolina in college hoops, but Pitt looks like they might have a chance.  

13. The Lions will trade out of the first pick in the ’09 NFL Draft.  That pick and the money involved is almost too much of a risk these days.

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Induct Art postmortem…

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Induct Art postmortem…

Posted on 10 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a busy couple of days in my real life and I haven’t had a chance to write a full follow up to my tireless efforts last week to bring awareness to the fact that Art Modell is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and should be.

(Special thanks to the many of you who have inquired about my Mom. Thankfully, She’s doing much better!)
induct art
The facts about our “Induct Art” campaign are pretty clear: We tried hard. We educated. We made our case. We supported it with the expertise of many people who agree that Modell should be in the Hall of Fame.

We printed 20,000 signs. We distributed them. We encouraged people to cheer at the beginning of the second quarter. We froze promoting the cause.

And…

Well, it all happened kinda fast. I heard the roar building behind me. I saw people standing and clamoring. The Ravens did their usual cheerleading, marketing between the quarters. I heard an “INDUCT ART” chanting brewing for sure. But then a few things happened rapidly.

First, Jason Campbell snapped the ball pretty quickly. Second, it was 3rd and long and our defense was on the field so the noise was not distinct from the actual usual defensive 3rd down noise you’d wanna make. And, mainly, it was kinda cold and quick.

I watched the TV replay. You could kinda hear it. But nothing like what would’ve been needed to “stop the game.” So, on that note, we failed. But really, LOTS of people NOW know Modell ISN’T in the Hall of Fame and should be. And, honestly, there are only 44 people on the planet who can directly affect this induction. We even dragged several of them into the conversation on WNST.

Trust me, we’ve pulled out all of the stops, which I’m not going to apologize for because of a few buffoons on a message board who want to personally attack me for doing the right thing. It’s always easy for the anonymous idiots to trash people with a cause on the internet. (As the great Deion Sanders once told me: “Haters will always hate. It’s what they do…”)

I know I’m right, so it’s an easy cause to be involved with because I know what this city would be like without the Ravens.

The deadline for the return of the 44 Hall of Fame ballots is next Wednesday. I’m assuming most ballots have already been mailed or are en route so doing another “INDUCT ART” event this weekend is kinda pointless. We’ll soon know if Art Modell has made the cut to the Final 15.

The real judge of whether we’re “successful” is whether he gets into the Hall of Fame, not making the cut. But the first thing is “making the cut.”

Baby steps…

All I can do on behalf of Art Modell is try and use whatever little “pull” I have personally, and we have as a media entity to rally and inspire the people of Baltimore who love the Ravens to do the right thing. And it IS the right thing in my mind so I’ll continue to do whatever I can because it sure doesn’t look like anyone else in Baltimore is going to step up. I didn’t see any of the folks from CBS Radio or MASN or WBAL or The Sun speaking up for the “right thing” while they all trotted off to the stadium last Sunday and continue to feed their families because of what Modell did 13 years ago.

I don’t who care who knows or disrespects or judges my eternal gratitude to Art Modell for bringing the Ravens to Baltimore. I am grateful and I’m happy to stand up for him!

Being in the parking lots and freezing before the game was actually kind of fun with the signs. I learned a LOT about how ignorant some of our fans are about the history of the Ravens.

There were actually some young people (many of them inebriated) in the parking lot before the game who said: “Who is Art?”

And some older folks actually said, “Art Donovan isn’t in the Hall of Fame?”

So much for the “educated” Baltimore sports fan base…yikes!

We were all gathered at that football game last Sunday night freezing and beating the Washington Redskins because of Art Modell. This week, we’ll have the biggest regular season home game in the history of the franchise against our arch rival because of Art Modell.

I stood up for Art. So did many of you. Time will tell if we had any impact.

I appreciate all of the support from those of you who agreed with our stance and who pitched in on Sunday night. The fight is far from over…keep the faith!

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Ravens marketing expertise on full display

Posted on 10 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

With a nod to the scheduling Gods, how amazing is it to be a football fan in Baltimore and have Washington and Pittsburgh come to town in back to back weeks, playing games that REALLY matter for both teams?

Amazing might not be the right word.  It’s bigger than that, actually.

Having flicked the Redskins away with relative ease on Sunday night, the Ravens now turn their attention to their fiercest rival – the Pittsburgh Steelers, who make their way to M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday for a game #14 battle that could “make or break” Baltimore’s season (and, perhaps, Pittsburgh’s as well…).

What more can you ask if you’re a Ravens’ fan?

It’s easy to get fired up for this game, right?

Sure. 

But the Ravens MAKE it easy to get ramped up for big games like this because they actually understand the value of having their players dive into the community to share in the fandom that percolates around the city all week.

It’s something the baseball team DOESN’T do – and that’s why no one goes to the games anymore.

Note: As I was in the process of writing this earlier this week, WNST listener John Marquette sent me an e-mail on this very subject – but I hadn’t talked about this blog on the air previously — he just happened to submit this e-mail at the exact same moment I was in the process of writing…and I wanted to give him props for sensing the same thing I’ve been sensing about the Ravens – and the Orioles.  Here’s his e-mail:

Drew,

I often listen to you in the mornings and hear how you are critical of the Orioles and how they conduct business.  Here is one difference that people might not notice but is huge for the PR of the respective teams.  Yesterday as I was driving home from another long day of educating Americas best and brightest I was listening to the radio.  After hearing an Ed Reed interview from the previous days game on WNST during Rob’s show I flipped through the channels.  There was Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, the other McClain, L. McClain, Jason Brown, Mark Clayton and I did not catch the name of the last one I heard, all on the radio, on many stations, talking about the Ravens and the big game v. the Redskins.  I thought to myself that I have NEVER heard an Oriole on any other station, other than their flagship talking about the game, or season, or anything. 

It hurts to see the Orioles beat themselves into the ground.  And I also agree that MacPhail has done a less than stellar job.  He has balked at every opportunity to sign a big name free agent.  It seems as much lip service as they put out Angelos is still running the show and calling the shots.

The Ravens have developed a keen awareness that having their players out in the community during the week goes a long way in making the fans feel like the team is “in this thing with us.”  And the players, no doubt, feel the same way when they’re out at night doing appearances, radio shows, TV appearances, etc.

When you, someone that works 9-5, goes out on a Monday night to meet a Ravens player, you’re seeing a professional athlete who also “worked” earlier that day.  And the day before.  They’re just like us in that regard.  Yeah, the salaries and benefits might be a tad different, but they get up at 7:00 am…they feed their children…dress them for school…call home during the day to say “hello” to their significant other.  And then, they go out and participate in whatever functions they’ve obligated themselves to do.

Ray Lewis came out to Hightopps on Monday night to do the Bud Light Purple and Black Attack with Brad Jackson and Brent Harris.

Ray freakin’ Lewis! 

Just to show that he knows how important Pittsburgh-week is to everyone in Baltimore, he went out to prove how important it is to HIM!  And there were (and will be throughout the week) others out on Monday night “sharing the passion” about Sunday’s big game with the Steelers.  Before you ask, I guess I can share the answer with you.  Ray did NOT get paid for his appearance at Hightopps on Monday. 

Joe Flacco gets up every Tuesday morning on his off-day and calls The Comcast Morning Show at 8:30 am to talk with me.  Guess how many times Joe has either missed a call or been late this year?  How about…zero.

Guess how much money Joe gets for calling in?  Also…zero.

The Ravens are everywhere.  Sure, they’re winning and it’s easier to go out and be part of the fun when you’re 9-4 and not 4-9 like they were this time last year.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

But the real point here is that the Ravens – as an organization – encourage their players to go out and “feel it” this week.  They don’t care that players appear on the radio at WNST or any other station in town that isn’t necessarily their “rights holder”.  And they’re also going to great lengths to make sure WBAL/98-Rock are taken care of in terms of exclusivity.  I asked to have John Harbaugh on the air with me a month ago.  I was told, politely (sort of), “no, that can’t happen.”  But, I get it.  The rights holders DO deserve special treatment and having Harbaugh only appear on the flagship station is one way the Ravens are taking care of their own. 

If only the baseball team could learn from this.

For the better part of four years now, the Orioles have operated with an archaic policy in which they only permit their players on live radio with ONE station in town – ONE…their rights holder.  Nowhere else in town can you hear an Orioles player talk about the game, the season, his career, etc. 

And they wonder why 12,000 people are going to 70% of the home games these days?

Meanwhile, the Ravens (who are already SOLD OUT for Sunday – they don’t really NEED the publicity or promotion) continue to allow their players free access within the community and within the local media world. 

They know that doing so not only gives back to the people who pay their salaries, but it also helps the players understand what the football franchise and their efforts on Sunday mean to the lives of the people who sit in the stands.

It’s complicated, but it’s not, at the same time.

We just want to know our players know how important the Steelers game is…to Baltimore.

Fortunately, because the Ravens understand marketing, the players are VERY aware how important the game is to Baltimore.

If the Orioles followed suit and came to grips with the fact that all of us in town actually want them to succeed (and want to do OUR part, also), maybe they’d change their policy of restricting access to their athletes and would make them available to the fans and the media in an effort to once again connect with the players who make a living off of the folks who buy tickets to the games.

The Ravens get it.

The Orioles don’t.

Which one is prospering and which one is struggling?

Not a low blow…just a fact.

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The Fantasy Flavor Positional Power Rankings – Week 14 WRs

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

Despite a rough patch for the Cardinals, their vaunted receivers remain ranked #1 and #2 in the power rankings, as well as this week’s start rankings. The veterans have started to reclaim the receiver rankings over the last few weeks, as many of the rookies appear to be hitting that proverbial wall. We’ll be back tomorrow with your tight end, kicker and defense rankings, so check back then too.

 

Keep in mind that the power rankings, listed here, are based on year to date performance and not a reflection of your best options for week 14. Just below the power rankings are match up previews advising who should be better or worse than usual this week, based on their opponents. At the bottom, are the week 14 start rankings, that’s where you should look for help with your week 14 lineup decisions.

 

Week 14 Fantasy Wide Receiver Power Rankings

 

WR Power Rankings Archive34567 - 8 - 9 - 10- 11 - 12 - 13

 

(last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. Anquan Boldin (1) – AZ – 942 yds 11 TD

 

2. Larry Fitzgerald (3) – AZ – 1075 yds 8 TD

 

3. Greg Jennings (5) – GB – 1057 yds 7 TD

 

4. Calvin Johnson (2) – DET – 971 yds 8 TD

 

5. Steve Smith (4) – CAR – 958 yds 4 TD

 

6. Roddy White (6) – ATL – 1085 yds 6 TD

 

7. Bernard Berrian (13) – MIN – 795 yds 5 TD

 

8. Santana Moss (7) – WAS – 828 yds 5 TD

 

9. Andre Johnson (8) – HOU – 1146 yds 4 TD

 

10. Terrell Owens (12) – DAL – 816 yds 8 TD

 

11. Brandon Marshall (9) – DEN – 942 yds 4 TD

 

12. Randy Moss (11) – NE – 785 yds 8 TD

 

13. Lance Moore (14) – NO – 739 yds 8 TD

 

14. Eddie Royal (20) – DEN – 757 yds 5 TD

 

15. Reggie Wayne (10) – IND – 870 yds 5 TD

 

16. Vincent Jackson (16) – SD – 703 yds 5 TD

 

17. Kevin Walter (15) – HOU – 705 yds 7 TD

 

18. Lee Evans (NR) – BUF – 890 yds 3 TD

 

19. Hines Ward (18) – PIT – 755 yds 6 TD

 

20. DeSean Jackson (NR) – PHI – 775 yds 2 TD & 1 TYD rush

 

Dropped From Rankings: DeWayne Bowe – KC; Justin Gage – TEN

 

WRs Who Should Be Better Than Usual In Week 14: Lee Evans vs. MIA; Randy Moss & Wes Welker @ SEA; Laverneus Coles & Jehrrico Cotchery @ SF; Tory Holt & Donnie Avery @ AZ; Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison & Anthony Gonzalez vs. CIN; Roddy White @ NO; DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis & Hank Baskett @ NYG

 

WRs Who Could Be Sleepers Based On Week 14 Match Ups: Roscoe Parrish & Josh Reed vs. MIA; Jabar Gaffney @ SEA; Chansi Stuckey @ SF; Derrick Stanley & Dane Looker @ AZ; Koren Robinson, Deion Branch & Bobby Engram vs. NE; Harry Douglass & Michael Jenkins @ NO; Matt Jones, Reggie Williams & Jerry Porter @ CHI; Justin Gage, Justin McCairens & Brandon Jones vs. CLE

 

WRs With Tough Week 14 Match Ups: Chad Johnson & TJ Houshmandzadeh @ IND; Braylon Edwards @ TEN; Terrell Owens & Roy Williams @ PIT; Santana Moss & Antoine Randle-El @ BAL; Andre Johnson & Kevin Walter @ GB; Chris Chambers & Vincent Jackson vs. OAK; Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton vs. WAS; Antonio Bryant & Ike Hilliard @ CAR; Steve Smith & Mushin Muhammad vs. TB; DeWayne Bowe & Mark Bradley @ DEN

 

 

And here are the week 14 Fantasy WR start rankings; it’s my top 75 WRs in the order that you should consider them this week. They were gotten using the Fantasy Flavor secret formula, and have their formulary numbers in parentheses, the lower the better. We’ll get all of the positional rankings out to you in time for Thursday’s game, so keep checking back for the rest.

 

1. Anquan Boldin (15)

2. Larry Fitzgerald (17)

3. Roddy White (19)

4. Greg Jennings (25)

5. Bernard Berrian (25)

6. Randy Moss (26)

7. Calvin Johnson (28)

8. Steve Smith (34)

9. Reggie Wayne (35)

10. Lee Evans (37)

11. Brandon Marshall (44)

12. Lance Moore (44)

13. Santana Moss (45)

14. Andre Johnson (46)

15. Terrell Owens (50)

16. Eddie Royal (50)

17. DeSean Jackson (50)

18. Hines Ward (52)

19. Justin Gage (55)

20. Vincent Jackson (59)

21. Laverneus Coles (59)

22. Kevin Walter (62)

23. Wes Welker (62)

24. DeWayne Bowe (65)

25. Issac Bruce (67)

26. Antonio Bryant (69)

27. Marques Colston (72)

28. Matt Jones (74)

29. Steve Breaston (75)

30. Jehrrico Cotchery (75)

31. Derrick Mason (78)

32. TJ Houshmandzadeh (80)

33. Mark Clayton (81)

34. Donald Driver (83)

35. Braylon Edwards (89)

36. Santonio Holmes (90)

37. Donnie Avery (90)

38. Chris Chambers (95)

39. Anthony Gonzalez (95)

40. Mark Bradley (97)

41. DeVery Henderson (98)

42. Michael Jenkins (99)

43. Ted Ginn Jr. (100)

44. Malcolm Floyd (105)

45. Mushin Muhammad (106)

46. Nate Washington (108)

47. Kevin Curtis (108)

48. Amani Toomer (109)

49. Marvin Harrison (109)

50. Tory Holt (110)

51. Devin Hester (115)

52. Koren Robinson (118)

53. Hank Baskett (120)

54. Chad Johnson (128)

55. Jabar Gaffney (128)

56. Brandon Stokley (130)

57. Reggie Brown (130)

58. Antoine Randle-El (131)

59. Josh Reed (131)

60. Rasheid Davis (133)

61. Ashley Lelie (136)

62. Bryant Johnson (139)

63. Dane Looker (144)

64. Roy Williams (146)

65. Reggie Williams (146)

66. Brandon Lloyd (147)

67. Chansi Stuckey (147)

68. Mary Booker (149)

69. Ike Hilliard (153)

70. Bobby Wade (157)

71. Brandon Jones (159)

72. Harry Douglass (159)

73. Josh Morgan (159)

74. James Hardy (159)

75. Miles Austin (166)

 

All of the rankings will be up in time for you to get your Thursday lineups in, so check back tomorrow for the rest. And use the links below to check all of the other positions; they’ll be activated as they become available.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

Week 14 QB Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 RB Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 TE Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 K Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 D/ST Rankings & Previews

 

 

 

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The Fantasy Flavor Positional Power Rankings – Week 14 RBs

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

If this week’s running back rankings prove anything, it’s that everyone had pretty much an equal shot on draft day at putting together a winner. In fact, it’s probably those who drafted in the top 5 in most leagues who are the ones disappointed. Regardless, the running back rankings are littered with guys who would have been available in the 5th round and beyond, even in the deepest of leagues. Furthermore, the top 20 has been changing up dramatically from week to week, so every week is a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.

 

Keep in mind that the power rankings, listed here, are based on year to date performance and not a reflection of your best options for week 14. Just below the power rankings are match up previews advising who should be better or worse than usual this week, based on their opponents. At the bottom, are the week 14 start rankings, that’s where you should look for help with your week 14 lineup decisions.

 

Week 14 Fantasy Running Back Power Rankings

 

RB Power Rankings Archive34567 - 891011 - 12 - 13

 

(last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. Thomas Jones (4) – NYJ – 1088 yds 11 TD & 161 yds 2 TD rec

 

2. Michael Turner (1) – ATL – 1208 yds 13 TD

 

3. Brian Westbrook (11) – PHI – 657 yds 8 TD & 233 yds 4 TD rec

 

4. Matt Forte (3) – CHI – 1012 yds 6 TD & 358 yds 4 TD rec

 

5. Adrian Peterson (6) – MIN – 1311 yds 9 TD

 

6. DeAngelo Williams (10) – CAR – 955 yds 11 TD & 112 yds 2 TD rec

 

7. Brandon Jacobs (5) – NYG – 950 yds 12 TD

 

8. Clinton Portis (2) – WAS – 1228 yds 7 TD

 

9. Marion Barber (7) – DAL – 870 yds 7 TD & 366 yds 2 TD rec

 

10. Steve Slaton (16) – HOU – 904 yds 8 TD & 250 yds 1 TD rec

 

11. Reggie Bush (NR) – NO – 294 yds 2 TD & 298 yds 3 TD rec

 

12. Steven Jackson (NR) – ST.L – 619 yds 4 TD & 275 yds 0 TD rec

 

13. Chris Johnson (15) – TEN – 958 yds 7 TD & 227 yds 1 TD rec

 

14. Frank Gore (8) – SF – 926 yds 6 TD & 354 yds 1 TD rec

 

15. Marshawn Lynch (13) – BUF – 844 yds 7 TD & 283 yds 1 TD rec

 

16. LaDanian Tomlinson (12) – SD – 794 yds 6 TD & 371 yds 1 TD rec

 

17. Maurice Jones-Drew (9) – JAX – 552 yds 11 TD & 415 yds 0 TD rec

 

18. Ronnie Brown (14) – MIA – 690 yds 10 TD & 19 yds 1 TD pass

 

19. LenDale White (20) – TEN – 575 yds 13 TD

 

20. Larry Johnson (18) – KC – 657 yds 4 TD

 

Dropped From Rankings: Joseph Addai – IND; Willie Parker – PIT

 

RBs Who Should Be Better Than Usual In Week 14: Adrian Peterson @ DET; Larry Johnson @ DEN; Steve Slaton @ GB; LaDanian Tomlinson vs. OAK; Ryan Grant vs. HOU; Thomas Jones @ SF; Matt Forte vs. JAX

 

RBs Who Could Be Sleepers Based On Week 14 Match Ups: Peyton Hillis vs. KC; Chester Taylor @ DET; Tim Hightower vs. ST.L; Ryan Moats @ GB; Cedric Benson @ IND; Leon Washington @ SF

 

RBs With Tough Week 14 Match Ups: Clinton Portis @ BAL; Brian Westbrook @ NYG; DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart vs. TB; Marion Barber @ PIT; Frank Gore vs. NYJ; Kevin Smith vs. MIN; Marshawn Lynch vs. MIA; Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward & Ahmad Bradshaw vs. PHI; Willie Parker & Mewelde Moore vs. DAL; Warrick Dunn & Cadillac Williams @ CAR

 

And here are the week 14 Fantasy RB start rankings; it’s my top 50 RBs in the order that you should consider them this week. They were gotten using the Fantasy Flavor secret formula, and have their formulary numbers in parentheses, the lower the better. We’ll get all of the positional rankings out to you in time for Thursday’s game, so keep checking back for the rest.

 

1. Thomas Jones (11)

2. Adrian Peterson (12)

3. Matt Forte (18)

4. Michael Turner (20)

5. Steve Slaton (27)

6. Reggie Bush (33)

7. Brian Westbrook (37)

8. LaDanian Tomlinson (38)

9. Brandon Jacobs (39) *keep an eye on his injury status

10. Steven Jackson (39)

11. Chris Johnson (40)

12. DeAngelo Williams (42)

13. Larry Johnson (44)

14. Peyton Hillis (45)

15. Marion Barber (47) *keep an eye on his injury status

16. Clinton Portis (48) *drop him 5 or 6 spots if he’s worse than probable

17. Maurice Jones-Drew (53)

18. Ronnie Brown (54)

19. Frank Gore (56)

20. Marshawn Lynch (56)

21. LenDale White (56)

22. Joseph Addai (57)

23. Tim Hightower (61)

24. Willie Parker (62) *keep an eye on his injury status

25. Jamal Lewis (67)

26. Kevin Faulk (70)

27. Ryan Grant (72)

28. Sammy Morris (74)

29. Darren McFadden (76) *switch him with Fargas if he’s worse then probable

30. Derrick Ward (77)

31. Leon Washington (77)

32. Mewelde Moore (80) *bump him to Parker’s spot if Parker can’t go

33. Kevin Smith (81)

34. Jerome Harrison (82)

35. Warrick Dunn (83)

36. Pierre Thomas (83)

37. Dominic Rhodes (83)

38. Willis McGahee (86) *if he’s playing

39. Chester Taylor (86)

40. LeRon McClain (88) *bump him 5 spots if McGahee doesn’t go

41. Ricky Williams (98)

42. Jerious Norwood (102)

43. Mike Tolbert (102)

44. Deuce McAllister (103)

45. BenJarvis Green-Ellis (104)

46. Jonathan Stewart (108)

47. Justin Fargas (108)

48. Tatum Bell (109)

49. Mike Karney (111)

50. Julius Jones (113)

 

All of the rankings will be up in time for you to get your Thursday lineups in, so check back tomorrow for the rest. And use the links below to check all of the other positions; they’ll be activated as they become available.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

Week 14 QB Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 WR Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 TE Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 K Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 D/ST Rankings & Previews

 

 

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The Fantasy Flavor Positional Power Rankings – Week 14 QBs

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

Again, there wasn’t much shake up in the quarterback rankings this week. On the bright side, close to half of the top 20 weren’t very highly regarded at draft time, so there could still be a few good options on the waiver wire. The playoffs are here for a lot of us, so make sure to take a look at all of the rankings, as every decision is magnified at this time of the season.

 

Keep in mind that the power rankings, listed here, are based on year to date performance and not a reflection of your best options for week 14. Just below the power rankings are match up previews advising who should be better or worse than usual this week, based on their opponents. At the bottom, are the week 14 start rankings, that’s where you should look for help with your week 14 lineup decisions.

 

Week 14 Fantasy Quarterback Power Rankings

 

 

 

QB Power Rankings Archive34567 - 8 - 9 - 1011 - 12 - 13

 

(last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. Drew Brees (1) – NO – 3870 yds 24 TD 14 int & 1 TD rush

 

2. Tony Romo (3) – DAL – 2559 yds 21 TD 8 int

 

3. Aaron Rodgers (4) – GB – 2897 yds 20 TD 10 int & 4 TD rush

 

4. Kurt Warner (2) – AZ – 3741 yds 24 TD 11 int

 

5. Jay Cutler (5) – DEN – 3393 yds 21 TD 13 int

 

6. Phillip Rivers (6) – SD – 2955 yds 23 TD 10 int

 

7. Donavan McNabb (13) – PHI – 3030 yds 18 TD 10 int & 1 TD rush

 

8. Peyton Manning (7) – IND – 2948 yds 19 TD 12 int & 1 TD rush

 

9. Matt Cassel (10) – NE – 2784 yds 13 TD 10 int & 2 TD rush

 

10. Tyler Thigpen (12) – KC – 1739 yds 13 TD 8 int & 1 TD rush & 1 TD rec

 

11. Shaun Hill (11) – SF – 1067 yds 8 TD 3 int & 1 TD rush

 

12. Eli Manning (9) – NYG – 2624 yds 19 TD 8 int & 1 TD rush

 

13. Brett Favre (8) – GB – 2708 yds 20 TD 14 int

 

14. Chad Pennington (14) – MIA – 2881 yds 11 TD 6 int & 1 TD rush

 

15. Joe Flacco (16) – BAL – 2276 yds 12 TD 9 int & 2 TD rush

 

16. David Garrard (15) – JAX – 2748 yds 10 TD 9 int & 1 TD rush

 

17. Matt Ryan (18) – ATL – 2625 yds 13 TD 6 int

 

18. Kyle Orton (20) – CHI – 2195 yds 13 TD 7 int & 1 TD rush

 

19. Jason Campbell (19) – WAS – 2560 yds 10 TD 4 int

 

20. Jeff Garcia (NR) – TB – 1902 yds 8 TD 3 int

 

Dropped From Rankings: Trent Edwards – BUF

 

QBs Who Should Be Better Than Usual In Week 14: Matt Cassel @ SEA; Shaun Hill vs. NYJ; Matt Ryan @ NO; Kurt Warner vs. ST.L; Peyton Manning vs. CIN; Aaron Rodgers vs. HOU

 

QBs Who Could Be Sleepers Based On Week 14 Match Ups: JaMarcus Russell @ SD; Marc Bulger @ AZ; Gus Frerotte @ DET; Matt Hasselbeck vs. NE

 

QBs With Tough Week 14 Match Ups: Tony Romo @ PIT; Jake Delhomme vs. TB; Donavan McNabb @ NYG; Eli Manning vs. PHI; Jeff Garcia @ CAR; Phillip Rivers vs. OAK; Sage Rosenfels @ GB

 

QBs You Might Want To Avoid In Week 14: Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jordan Palmer @ IND; Jason Campbell @ BAL; Ken Dorsey @ TEN

 

And here are the week 14 Fantasy QB start rankings; it’s all 32 projected starting QBs in the order that you should consider them this week. They were gotten using the Fantasy Flavor secret formula, and have their formulary numbers in parentheses, the lower the better. We’ll get all of the positional rankings out to you in time for Thursday’s game, so keep checking back for the rest.

 

1. Drew Brees (15)

2. Kurt Warner (15)

3. Aaron Rodgers (16)

4. Shaun Hill (23)

5. Jay Cutler (24)

6. Peyton Manning (24)

7. Matt Cassel (24)

8. Tyler Thigpen (31)

9. Tony Romo (35)

10. Phillip Rivers (36)

11. Brett Favre (38)

12. Matt Ryan (40)

13. Donavan McNabb (41)

14. Chad Pennington (46)

15. Eli Manning (49)

16. Gus Frerotte (50)

17. Joe Flacco (51)

18. David Garrard (52)

19. Kyle Orton (52)

20. Trent Edwards (57)

21. JaMarcus Russell (59)

22. Ben Roethlisberger (61)

23. Matt Hasselbeck (65)

24. Marc Bulger (65)

25. Jeff Garcia (66)

26. Jason Campbell (68)

27. Sage Rosenfels (73) *I’d move him between McNabb & Pennington if it’s Schaub

28. Kerry Collins (73)

29. Jake Delhomme (76)

30. Daunte Culpepper (82)

31. Ryan Fitzpatrick (84) *no difference for Jordan Palmer

32. Ken Dorsey (93)

 

All of the rankings will be up in time for you to get your Thursday lineups in, so check back tomorrow for the rest. And use the links below to check all of the other positions; they’ll be activated as they become available.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

Week 14 RB Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 WR Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 TE Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 K Rankings & Previews

 

Week 14 D/ST Rankings & Previews

 

 

 

 

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NFL Power Rankings – Week 14

Posted on 02 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

The top eleven teams in last week’s power rankings all remained in the top 11 this week, as all still seem to be pretty clearly in control of their own playoff destinies. The 12th spot, for now, goes to the Vikings who are on an impressive run, and now find themselves in the driver’s seat for the NFC North.

 

There may be a few noteworthy suspensions handed down in the next week or so, which could have a dramatic impact on the playoff races as the final quarter of the season unfolds. Also, because of the relative assuredness of the playoff picture at this early stage in the season, how teams are able to manage staying focused and staying healthy in the teams’ final meaningless games should have a lot of impact of the playoff picture, even after the pairings are locked in early.

 

Admittedly, Atlanta should probably be at 12 in this week’s rankings instead of 10, with both Denver and Minnesota holding on to stronger playoff hopes at this time. For Atlanta, it seems that the division is out of the question, and it’s wildcard or bust, with the Cowboys still very much on their heels. I just didn’t have the heart to drop Atlanta 2 spots after an impressive road win on the left coast. They’ve definitely been the toughest team to grade out over the course of the season so far. They deserve their respect, there’s no questioning that, but their playoff hopes are still very fragile at this point.

 

NFL Power Rankings Archive3- 4567 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13

 

Week 14 NFL Power Rankings (last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. New York Giants (1) – 11-1 – The Giants have easily been the most impressive team in the league so far, and appear to be without weakness. Even with the uncertain future of Plaxico Burress in New York, experts seem reluctant to concede that this will even be an issue for the Giants. Their schedule is full of tough teams from here out, but the Giants already enjoy a 2 game lead for the #1 seed in the NFC, a 3 game lead in their division, and a four game lead over Minnesota and Arizona for a first round bye. Next Week: vs. PHI

 

2. Tennessee Titans (2) – 11-1 – A Thanksgiving Day chance to feast on the Lions was probably the perfect remedy for Tennessee team that had lost it’s first game of the season the week before, and who had struggled to run for the last 3 weeks. The Browns and Texans in the next 2 games will probably either wrap up home field for the Titans, or make their week 16 match up with Pittsburgh for potential home field advantage. Also depending on what the rest of the AFC does in the meantime, Tennessee could have a chance to ruin Indy’s playoff hopes before they get started in week 17. Next Week: vs. CLE

 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3) – 9-3 – At 9-3, the Steelers have been a tough draw for everyone that they’ve played. You may not be able to say that about any other team in the league this season. The Steelers have positioned themselves for a chance at a bye in the playoffs, and with a game remaining against the Titans, they’re still in striking distance for the #1 seed, if the Titans should stumble, or let up down the stretch. Next Week: vs. DAL

 

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) – 9-3 – They’ve had a revolving door at quarterback and running back, and they’re playing a first place schedule, in the toughest division in the NFC, possibly the toughest in the NFL. The Bucs though, still find themselves in the driver’s seat for not only the NFC South title, but also a first round bye. They may not enjoy the cushion in the standings that they probably should at 9-3, and still have 2 tough divisional games on the road. But for now at least, the road to the NFC South title goes through Tampa. Next Week: @ CAR

 

5. Carolina Panthers (7) – 9-3 – If the Buccaneers are feeling salty about their relatively unsecured playoff hopes, despite their 9-3 record, than the Panthers have to feel outright frustrated with their standing in the playoff hunt, despite their strong performance thus far. A chance to beat Tampa head to head this week still leaves the Panthers somewhat in control of their own playoff destiny, but they’ll likely have to win out to have a chance at staying home for a playoff game. Next Week: vs. TB

 

6. Arizona Cardinals (6) – 8-4 – I’ve been feeling the need to justify ranking these Cards so highly all season, but even as the losers of 2 straight, the Cardinals are not a team that you want to sleep on. They’re still just an eyelash away from clinching the NFC West and at least one home playoff game. They’re also just one game behind Tampa and Carolina for a first round bye. In the playoffs, the Cards at home could be dangerous, especially if an east coast team has to travel to Arizona. Keep in mind that 3 of the Cards’ 4 losses came on trips to the east coast, the other was at home to the Giants. They’re front 7 is grossly underrated by most, and their running game still has a chance to get in gear. They’re unlikely to go across the country and beat anyone, but traveling to Arizona for a playoff game could be a lot tougher than it sounds. Next Week: vs. ST.L

 

7. New York Jets (4) – 8-4 – Success appeared to get to the Jets’ heads a bit last week, and they looked about as bad as they possibly could, just a week after dismantling the undefeated Titans. Brett Favre has been a rousing success for the Jets this season; clearly their playoff hopes would have been slim without him. But once the playoffs get here, I think that the Jets will have trouble finding their identity, a game manager would probably fit their formula a little better than a game breaker. Still, when the playoffs come around, there are few who can bring more experience to the table than Favre. The AFC East is still a dogfight, and with 2 west coast trips remaining, the Jets still have their work cut out for them in just getting to the playoffs. Next Week: @ SF

 

8. Indianapolis Colts (8) – 8-4 – If you took a poll among the AFC contenders and asked which team they’d most like to eliminate before the playoffs begin, my guess is that the Colts would be the team that’d be out. With that said, it appears that the rest of the AFC has missed their chance to bury these Colts when they were on the ropes early on. It’s still tough to imagine the Colts making a long run in this year’s playoffs, primarily because of their inability to stop the run. They can however, stop the run with their offense, in a manner of speaking, by jumping on opponents early in games and forcing them to play catch-up. The schedule looks like it could be pretty easy for the Colts from here, but don’t overlook their week 17 match up against Tennessee just yet. If Tennessee slips up and Pittsburgh keeps rolling, the Titans may need that one for the top seed. And if the Colts slip, just a bit in the meantime, the Titans may have a chance to send them home before the playoffs begin. I’m not so sure the Titans take that one off like everyone seems to think. Next Week: vs. CIN

 

9. Baltimore Ravens (9) – 8-4 – They’ve certainly been a great story so far, and the Ravens are starting to look more and more dangerous with each passing week. Their defense has adjusted to a lack of star power in the secondary, and despite the dominance of the run defense, the Ravens aren’t letting much go through the air either. Losses to Indianapolis and the Giants have shown that this team isn’t built for playing catch up, but with new wrinkles and guys stepping up every week, this team still appears to be growing into their prowess. The playoffs are by no means assured just yet, but they’re in sight. And the AFC North title could still be in the fold too. Next Week: vs. WAS

 

10. Atlanta Falcons (10) – 8-4 – The Falcons have taken the NFL by storm, but when it comes to their own division, not so much. There’s no shortage of storylines surrounding the Falcons this season. From moving forward without their jailed franchise quarterback, to finding a diamond in the rough in Matt Ryan; from being stepped out on by Bobby Petrino, to the meteoric rise of rookie head coach Mike Smith; this team is full of great stories. If they aren’t able to hold serve in their final four games however, the story will be about this miraculous rebound falling short of the post season. Someone with 10 or even 11 wins is likely to be left home in the NFC this season; Falcons fans are hoping that it’s not them. Next Week: @ NO

 

11. Denver Broncos (11) – 7-5 – The Broncos went a long way to locking up a playoff berth in week 13, and are quietly building a little head of steam too. If things keep going the way that they are, the Broncos could be looking at a first round match up with Indianapolis. They’ve had a couple of embarrassing post season blowouts at the hands of the Colts in recent years, but may be better equipped to go up and down the field with them this time around. Unless they can figure out how to play consistent defense, the Broncos will likely be short for the playoffs, but as long as their offense remains explosive, they should make it exciting while they’re in there. Next Week: vs. KC

 

12. Minnesota Vikings (16) – 7-5 – In yet another division where no one seems to be able to step up and grab hold of a playoff spot, the Vikings may be peaking at just the right time. Their two-headed backfield and stout defense could prove to be a formula for success once the post season rolls around too. The Vikings still have a very deep interest in pending suspensions of a number of key players, but are in good position for the playoffs despite a number of early season mishaps. Next Week: @ DET

 

13. New England Patriots (14) – 7-5 – The Patriots playoff hopes took a major shot on Sunday with their loss to the Steelers. They’re still very much in the hunt, and because of their experience and coaching have to be considered dangerous, but the Patriots have their work cut out for them too. Next up for the Pats are 2 straight games on the west coast, which has confounded a number of teams. The Jets did them a favor though by not taking advantage of a chance to bury them a little further in the AFC East last week too. Next Week: @ SEA

 

14. Dallas Cowboys (15) – 8-4 – The Cowboys look like they’re back in stride, the question now is, whether they’ll have enough time to make themselves a factor in the race for the playoffs. Their midseason stumble allowed a number of teams to pick up positions on them, but they’re not out of it quite yet. Games against playoff contenders in 3 of their remaining 4 will make the road bumpy, and the fact that two of them are from the AFC means that winning them doesn’t necessarily guarantee the reward of moving up in the standings. Next Week: @ PIT

 

15. Miami Dolphins (17) – 7-5 – I’m still not sure that people have started taking the Dolphins seriously just yet, and with the difficulty that they had in dealing with St. Louis on Sunday, I can understand why. One thing’s for sure though, opponents who’ve gone against Miami and given less than their best have paid the price this season. The Dolphins are more than flash and gimmick, they’re a pretty good football team, and they’re getting better too. They’ll need some help to get into the playoff hunt, but they still look like a factor at this point. Next Week: @ BUF *in Toronto

 

16. Washington Redskins (12) – 7-5 – It looks like the Redskins may have taken a couple of teams by surprise, especially with their improved offense early in the season. In recent weeks however, teams look less apt to let down for Washington, and they also appear to have adjusted to the Redskins new look on offense. Losing 3 of their last 4 has given a serious blow to the Redskins playoff hopes, and the schedule won’t make it any easier finishing up. They’re still in the hunt it seems, but fading fast. Next Week: @ BAL

 

17. Chicago Bears (13) – 6-6 – On one hand, you could say that the Bears let a golden opportunity pass them by against the Vikings in week 13. On the other hand however, you could say that the Bears never really looked like they belonged in the game in the first place. After playing everyone tough through the first 9 weeks of the season, the Bears have been blown out twice by divisional foes in recent weeks. Matt Forte has probably been too much of the offense this season, and looks to be hitting the rookie wall. Next Week: vs. JAX

 

18. New Orleans Saints (20) – 6-6 – Given the number of injuries that the Saints have been forced to deal with, and the tough games that they allowed to get away in weeks 2 and 3, they could consider themselves lucky to be at .500 with 4 games to go. When you look at the rest of the division staring squarely down at them in the rankings however, these Saints look like they’ll be playing for Dan Marino’s passing record, and something positive to carry into next season. The playoffs are pretty much out of the question for this bunch, but they could still affect the race. Next Week: vs. ATL

 

19. San Diego Chargers (19) – 4-8 – The Chargers playoff hopes are alive by the slimmest of margins, and fading quickly. It seems that week after week we look at the Chargers as a team with the potential of getting on a roll. The luxury of playing in the AFC West has kept them in the hunt for much longer than they probably deserve, and technically they could still get in. But the Broncos appear to be on somewhat of a roll lately, and the Chargers still haven’t been able to get things going. Next Week: vs. OAK

 

20. Buffalo Bills (18) – 6-6 – This season for the Bills will be one for the history books for sure. In addition to breaking new ground with a regular season game in Toronto, the Bills have gone from cruising to control of the AFC East early on, to a tail spinning mess of a team that has fallen into last place in the division that they controlled just a few weeks ago. It’ll take a miracle to rescue the Bills season, and  their playoff hopes with just 4 games remaining. Based on the way that they’ve played lately, simply holding up their own end of the bargain and winning out would be a minor miracle. Next Week: vs. MIA *in Toronto

 

21. Philadelphia Eagles (22) – 6-5-1 – Donavan McNabb responded to his benching in a big way with a Thanksgiving Day rally last week. Or maybe he just responded to a chance to play against a pretty bad Cardinals pass defense, traveling across the country in a short week. The Eagles are doing what they can to salvage a respectable record this season, but aside from a one-week infusion of confidence from beating the Steelers, the Eagles have never really presented themselves as a team that could be a factor in the playoff race. Next Week: @ NYG

 

22. Green Bay Packers (21) – 5-7 – Much like the Dow-Jones, the Packers have been either alarmingly good, or alarmingly bad from game to game, without any real warning. You truly never know which Packers team is going to show up from game to game, or as they proved last week, from quarter to quarter or even drive to drive. If the Jets make a sustained run into the playoffs, while the Packers are sitting home this post season, Ted Thompson may need to hire private security. (That is if he hasn’t already.) Next Week: vs. HOU

 

23. Houston Texans (23) – 5-7 – Media and PR types will try to come up with lots of reasons to make you believe that a lot of teams have the potential to be good really soon. When it comes to the Texans, they might be right. They’ve dealt with a considerable amount of adversity this season off of the field, and have had to struggle with injuries and a difficult schedule on the field too. Still, this week showcased a number of teams who look like they’ve already mailed in their seasons, and the Texans aren’t one of them. In fact they exposed one on Monday night against the Jags. Next Week: @ GB

 

24. San Francisco 49ers (27) – 4-8 – Mike Singletary has certainly made his impression on the Niners’ locker room, they’ve won 2 of their last 4, and showed well in a Monday night loss to Arizona. Clearly this team needs a pretty drastic overhaul in order to be competitive, but they’ve got some of the pieces in place already, Singletary looks like he may be one of them. Let’s not forget that they’re in the NFC West too, they could be closer than it seems to making a run at that division. Next Week: vs. NYJ

 

25. Cleveland Browns (26) – 4-8 – The Browns’ season may have been over before it began. Braylon Edwards was never able to establish a rhythm in the offense, Kellen Winslow Jr. has struggled to stay in the lineup, and Donte Stallworth was probably never really a good fit for this team, especially without Joe Jureviscius. The monumental letdown that the Browns have been overall, will probably steal some attention from the fact that their defense is vastly improved over last season. Their season is over now, but don’t sleep on these Browns for next year, they look like they have something that they can build on. Next Week: @ TEN

 

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (24) – 4-8 – The Jags are easily the most disappointing story of the season so far. There have been other teams that have failed to live up to high expectations, but few seem to have been as relatively healthy as Jacksonville. It looks like a slow start to the season derailed the Jags playoff hopes, and their hearts as well. They’re much too talented to be playing the way that they are, this team and its coaches should be outright embarrassed, on Monday night, they were. Next Week: @ CHI

 

27. Kansas City Chiefs (30) – 2-10 – Despite their 2-10 record, it’s not like these Chiefs are wasting a ton of young talent. To their credit, they have proven to be a handful for most opponents, but are simply overmatched on most Sundays. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they don’t appear to have a lot of pieces in place to build around at this point either. At least they continue to play determined football. That at least, is a testament to Herm Edwards and the veterans on this team. Next Week: @ DEN

 

28. Oakland Raiders (25) – 3-9 – Fresh off of a stunning victory against Denver in week 12, the Raiders appeared to be set up for a mini win streak with the Chiefs on tap last week. Things didn’t work out that way however, and despite the flashes of talent that the Raiders youngsters have shown, they can’t seem to keep it together consistently at this point. Given the coaching carousel in Oakland in recent years, it’s no wonder consistency is an issue. Next Week: @ SD

 

29. Seattle Seahawks (28) – 2-10 – It seems that Mike Holmgren’s decision to take a year away from football may have inspired the Seahawks in an unexpected way. The team it seems has decided to take this season off, and Jim Mora may be wondering just what it is that he signed on for. Next week: vs. NE

 

30. St. Louis Rams (31) – 2-10 – Without their once vaunted offensive attack, the Rams leave a lot to be desired all the way around. They have some offensive talent, but can’t seem to keep them healthy, or to find a rhythm when they are healthy. It appears that the head coach wasn’t all that was wrong with the Rams this season, but it is the NFC West; so next year is still bright. Next Week: @ AZ

 

31. Cincinnati Bengals (29) – 1-9-1 – They found a pulse momentarily this season, but the Bengals look like another team that simply cashed it in when the odds stacked up against them early on. The Bengals, at this point appear to be in need of a major overhaul, both on and off of the field. Whether they’ll finally figure that out or not is another question altogether though. Unfortunately for the fans in Cincinnati, much like those in Oakland, you can’t fire the owner. Next Week: @ IND

 

32. Detroit Lions (32) – 0-12 – Even if they wind up winless, the Lions may be better off for the future than a lot of teams in the bottom third of this list. They have Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith to build around on offense. Their defense is actually much better than it’s been in recent years, which still leaves lots of room to grow, but is progress none the less. They’re poised to walk away with the number one pick in the draft, and could trade that back for more picks if they’d like. The boatload of picks that they got from the Cowboys, plus whatever they do with their own picks could make the rebuilding effort a lot quicker than you’d expect. And these are no longer Matt Millen’s Lions. Next Week: vs. MIN

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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