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This Loss Hurts..

Posted on 14 December 2008 by Ed Frankovic

It is now two and a half hours after the most bitter Ravens defeat since that dreadful loss to Indianapolis in the playoffs two seasons ago and my emotions have run the gamut tonight from angry and mad, to disappointed and sad, to happy overall that the Ravens gave us this opportunity in a year most of us thought would be big trouble, and finally over to the calm analytical mode where I can clearly provide some thoughts on today’s game and the Ravens season:

First off, I think Pittsburgh is definitely the best team in the AFC and they will prove it by beating up Kerry Collins and the fading Tennessee Titans next week. I think they are the best team in the NFL right now but a certain defending Super Bowl Champion who went into Pittsburgh back in late October and won there gets that claim. But I think the Steelers would just love another shot at the New York Football Giants.

As for the Ravens, they are very close to the Steelers and as Drew said, the difference right now is the QB position but let’s give our #5 some more experience and perhaps we might have another story next year. But the NFL is all about right now and this was a missed opportunity. We can put some blame on Flacco for not having a very good game but I also have to put blame on offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who for some reason got pretty conservative today when the Ravens were in scoring position (inside the Steelers 30). Cameron has done a great job with this offense but today he used a little too much of a “let’s not lose” game plan instead of the “play to win” plan we’ve seen alot of this year. The play calling after the Ed Reed fumble recovery was awful and the two runs before the Flacco fumble late in the game were too predictable. Flacco finally had a little rhythm going at that point so a pass on either first or second down should have been called and could have gotten the Ravens in position for a TD that would have made the late Steeler touchdown a moot point.

I also have to put some blame on Willis McGahee again because he let his man escape on that crucial 3rd and 8 play that led to the Flacco fumble when the Ravens were leading 9-6 late in the fourth quarter. McGahee was also a disappointment running the ball, although Pittsburgh does have a good defense, but for the money the Ravens are paying #23 he just isn’t cutting it.

Defensively, the guys played their tails off but were just inches short, although that first Steeler field goal was aided by a questionable first down spot early in the drive. Clearly the Fabian Washington injury caused Rex Ryan to alter his defense. Can anyone say take a cornerback early in the draft in April?

It looks like the Ravens must win both games to make the playoffs thanks to Buffalo’s stupid coaches who decided to have J.P. Loserman try and throw the ball with a three point lead with less than two minutes left against a Jets defense that could NOT stop Marshawn Lynch. The Bills gift wrapped this one for New York and it hurts the Ravens because 10-6 likely won’t make it in now. Winning in Dallas with it being the last game in Texas Stadium will be VERY tough but if you want to make the playoffs then you have to win a tough game and this is one of them.

Can you believe the Redskins lost to the Bengals today? Their season is done and any Redskin fans should be buying Raven fans beverages all off-season, especially those Skins fans who were talking smack before the beginning of the season. Ravens 9-5, Skins 7-7 and Ravens 24 Skins 10 does make me feel better about this loss today but I still would rather beat the Steelers any day than beat the Redskins. But Steeler fans have to admit that this Ravens team is a good one given how close the two games were and I bet most of them aren’t happy at the prospect of this Baltimore franchise finally having a QB for the future and that is something this town has desperately wanted since 1996 (I was never a Vinny fan so I don’t count him as a good QB).

Finally, I agree with Casey Willett, it is nice to hear the Ravens players not blaming this loss on the referees. I thought the officiating crew did a poor job but the bottom line is the Steelers were just barely better today. And as a former Super Bowl winning Ravens head coach (who keeps appearing in Coors Light commericals) likes to say: If you put the game in the hands of the referees, you usually won’t like the outcome!

I’m proud of this football team and I don’t think we’ve heard the last of them yet this year so let’s just hope they can find a way to win in Texas Stadium next Saturday night. The Cowboys are good, but they are beatable.

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Beating the Redskins in Baltimore…is anything better?

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Let’s start by stating the obvious: any win over the Washington Redskins is a great win, especially when you only get that opportunity every four years. With so much at stake after the Steelers wild comeback over Dallas (the tailgate was essentially a giant, frigid outdoor viewing party), it became more of a playoff game for the Ravens and they answered the bell on Sunday night with a resounding 24-10 win over their weaker rivals from the D.C. beltway.

Of course, the real playoff game comes this Sunday when the Steelers come to town for another huge game that will dictate whether the Ravens are “just” a playoff team or whether they’re built to win in January. A loss, and the playoffs are in peril and they’ll need to claw and scratch just to get in and go on the road for the month. A win over Pittsburgh here, and the Ravens can legitimately start talking about a first-round bye.

What a long, crazy, unexpected season this has been. Last night was an “instant classic,” a legendary memory, both good and bad. Beating the Redskins like dogs might be the most fun you can have as a Ravens fan but the sheer volume of burgundy and gold that made its way into our stadium was disgusting. And the weather was absolutely bone-chilling.

For those of you who didn’t attend, it was by far the coldest game in Ravens history, our own personal Ice Bowl. With the wind, it was brutal — so cold that the crowds started heading for the exits at halftime and some of us couldn’t blame them. It’s been almost three decades of waiting for the Redskins to return to Baltimore and I honestly didn’t enjoy the whipping as much as I thought I would just because I was a giant block of ice by the second quarter.

As I peered around at everyone in my section and the missing seats around the stadium, I think most people were thinking what I was: “Just get this game over with so I can go someplace warm!”

Lots of observations:

It’s pretty apparent what kind of amazing season Ed Reed is having. He’s a ballhawk, setting up quarterbacks, following their eyes and when the ball is thrown down the middle he is always in the right place. He is a tip-ball master. It’s uncanny, really. Let’s not forget that three months ago in Westminster there were organization-wide concerns that he’d never set foot on the field in 2008. The first six weeks of the season, he played with one arm and avoided contact on most plays. And after last night’s stellar game, many in the local media were talking MVP (or at least defensive MVP) accolades for No. 20.

Needless to say, virtually everyone in the locker room had something to say about Ed Reed here on wnsTV.

Ray Lewis played another “throwback” game last night. He was all over the field, sideline to sideline and was robbed of a fumble recovery on the sack of Jason Campbell that was whistled too soon. Had that call gone the Ravens’ way, the game might’ve been over much earlier given the momentum at that point.

Joe Flacco continues to impress anyone who watches this team. We keep waiting for the rookie mistakes, the confusion, the errors. Since the Indianapolis meltdown, the team is 7-1 and that must be credited to Flacco, who has truly been “Joe Cool.”

And the patchwork Ravens offensive line keeps changing parts but not outcomes. Flacco has managed to avoid major hits, even scrambling when needed and the line has been tenacious.

You gotta love the Ravens’ two midgets in the secondary, Corey Ivy and Jim Leonhard are truly unsung heroes on this 2008 team. They both made some big plays and vicious tackles against the Redskins, but if you ever meet them you’ll be shocked at how small they are. They’re truly “normal” sized guys and in my 13 years of going through the Ravens locker room there haven’t many like them. Maybe Jermaine Lewis and B.J. Sams would be in the club but not many more. Just amazing the heart these guys show being on the field with the giants. It’s inspirational, really, because you know they’ve been told all of their lives that they were too small to play in the NFL.

When the game got tight late in the 3rd quarter, the running back situation and atrophy became a factor and Le’Ron McClain once again emerged as a force late in the game. No one wants to tackle him in the 4th quarter when he’s running downhill. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice were both dinged up and their status will be a daily story in Owings Mills this week as the preparation for Pittsburgh week begins.

Overall, it’s been a dreamy kinda season. There’s no “tell all” explanation for why this team is 9-4 in a year when most “experts” in their own building would’ve been delighted with 8-8. And the notion that when the schedule came out in April we’d be sitting here with a chance for a first-round bye in January  as we put up holiday lights – well, it’s impressive and exciting for the whole city and anyone who is Ravens onlooker.

So out come the Festivus lights and the possibility of January fun!

We are still looking for entries to our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” promotion where you can win tickets to the Green Bay roadtrip next fall and a visit from the WNST crew if you have the coolest Ravens set up in your home.

A purple basement?

A dedicated room for all things Festivus, with autographs, pictures, memories?

A purple holiday set up under the tree? Or maybe the whole TREE is purple?

Maybe your friends or relatives need to know about the contest as well?

Send your pictures and/or your videos. We’re entering the final week of the contest. Click here for more details.

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Caps Lose But Ravens Win

Posted on 08 December 2008 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals lost tonight on the ice and the Baltimore Ravens won but the football win was much more important as the Caps are still in good shape overall with a four point lead on the Carolina Hurricanes in the Southeast Division.

Since the Caps played first I’ll start with my thoughts on tonight’s 3-1 loss in Carolina.

The Caps controlled the puck and dominated this game outshooting the Hurricanes, 39-25, but they could not beat Carolina goalie Michael Leighton except for Nicklas Backstrom’s goal that came as a Washington five on three power play was expiring. Even Alexander Ovechkin could not work his magic tonight and he was stopped on a penalty shot by Leighton late in the second period (The Great #8 is now 0-5 on penalty shots in his career). This game was 1-1 with under five minutes to go but as has been the case alot this season, when Washington makes a mistake in its own end it is often ending up in the net, especially when Jose Theodore is in goal. Theodore’s recent problem has been with controlling rebounds. Sometimes it is because of his inability to see the shots but tonight he was struggling with some that he appeared to be seeing clearly. After his great game and shutout against Montreal last week I thought Jose was past these problems but they re-occurred this week. If Brent Johnson is healthy you will likely see alot of him in the upcoming weeks until Theodore gets his rebound problem under control.

Another problem for Washington was their horrible night on face-offs as they lost that battle handily, 34-20. Many of these losses were either at the start of power plays or after they iced the puck. In fact, one of Carolina’s goals came after a Caps face-off loss that was the result of a Washington icing.

The injury bug struck again with Eric Fehr not being able to play after suffering an upper body injury in Toronto on Saturday (Fehr is listed as day-to-day). As a result the Hershey highway was once again used as the Caps recalled forward Alexandre Giroux from the Bears. Giroux played 11:48 of ice time in Carolina. By the way, I complained about the officiating on Saturday in Toronto, and rightly so, but tonight I thought the calls went more the Caps way but again they could not take advantage of that or their mostly solid play. Give Leighton most of the credit for stopping the Caps on Sunday.

The big news of the night was the Ravens domination of the Washington Redskins on Sunday night football. Baltimore’s defense was outstanding and if not for two bad play calling and implementation issues on back to back Raven drives Washington would have been shutout. Why Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron decided to throw on 3rd and 13 into the wind late in the third quarter up 17-0 is beyond me? That should have been a run and punt. Then on the next series, instead of running Le’Ron McClain the team decided to give the ball to Willis McGahee, who proceeded to put it on the carpet. This gave the Skins a short field and they closed to 17-10 and had all of us a bit nervous.

Luckily, Cameron finally went back to what has worked all year with a lead in the late stages: a steady does of McClain and the big #33 once again delivered. Joe Flacco did not have a good game but he did make a couple of big throws to Derrick Mason, the first of which came on the Ravens opening TD drive and the last of which was to #85 for the game clinching TD.

I am running out of patience with McGahee and I have no clue why the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston wants to defend this guy who makes too much money and is injury prone.

The Ravens are 9-4 and kudos to the players and coaches for a great season so far but things get really tough next week when the Pittsburgh Steelers, who flat out stole a game from Dallas today, come to M&T Bank Stadium for a 415pm showdown. As usual we can expect a physical game and the winners of this contest will likely be the teams that face both Baltimore and Pittsburgh in week 16. The Ravens have beaten the Steelers in Baltimore five years in a row. Let’s hope that continues but the offense will need to be better next week as they are facing the #1 ranked defense in the league in Pittsburgh. Baltimore has the #2 ranked defense.

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A beautiful day: Ravens 36, Eagles 7

Posted on 23 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

The Ravens used an opportunistic offense and myriad of breakdowns by the hapless visitors to pummel the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium, 36-7 this afternoon.

Andy Reid’s benching of Donovan McNabb at halftime will surely be debated across three states and the calling for his head surely will begin for calling a pass play at the goal line early in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were about six inches from making it a one-score game.

Hard to say who was more quiet today at frigid M&T Bank Stadium today — the Eagles fans or the Ravens fans. It was a strange day of football all the way around.

The game was long and out-of-synch in its pacing and reminded me of what would be the beginning of the end of Brian Billick’s tenure here — the ugly game in Detroit two years ago.

Nothing the Eagles did went right. They got hosed on a couple of calls. Both of their quarterbacks threw hideous passes. The Ravens — and mainly Joe Flacco — stunk for most of the first half and the Eagles still couldn’t manage to score any points beyond the kickoff return, which clearly embarrassed John Harbaugh and his special teams sensibilities.

But feel free to roundly celebrate: the Ravens are 7-4 and looked quite impressive in the end in “playing four quarters” and out smash-mouthing their neighbors from Filthy.

It’s Thanksgiving and we have a lot to be thankful for football-wise in Baltimore because we can legitimately start talking playoffs with a chance to be 8-4 next Sunday with a strong effort in Cincinnati.

Where to begin?

Ed Reed ran a 108-yard interception back through traffic that seemed like the Stanford band. Ed Reed also got burned trying to lateral a ball to Samari Rolle in heavy traffic near the goal line. (Somewhere, Billick was still yelling at him!)

Dan Wilcox caught a TD pass after thinking he might not even play.

Jared Gaither played through the pain. Adam Terry left the game early with a concussion and the offensive line still kept coming back for more. At one point, Ben Grubbs left the game. And David Hale was spotted in there mixing it up quite a bit as well.

The Ravens continued to stop the Eagles rushing attack all day long, and seemed to welcome the benching of McNabb for Kevin Kolb, who was largely as ineffective as No. 5. His one drive of note to lead the team back into the game was nullfyed and reversed when Reed went the distance on one of the most amazing plays in Ravens history.

Le’Ron McClain continues to shine his own star as a fullback who has made a seamless transition into a big-time power back, rushing for 88 yards and one breakaway touchdown late in the game when most of the Eagles fans had put down their cheesesteaks and pretzels and headed back toward the Maryland House on I-95.

Mark Clayton was a factor in the game today and we’d love to see more of that. He also made fun of his own endzone celebration.

Jarret Johnson had a huge game and made a pick on McNabb that Harbaugh described as “one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen.”

Matt Stover hit a long field goal when the team needed it.

And Jameel McClain registered his second safety of the season and he’s only been on the team for a few weeks.

Overall, the defense was awesome all day. They pitched a shutout that was only tainted by the kickoff return by Quinton Demps. (Kinda reminded me of another game against an NFC East team where the only score was a return for a touchdown on an otherwise perfect day. Of course, it was a little warmer on Jan. 28, 2001.)

I’ll be writing some more later and posting post-game video. It was largely an “homage” to Ed Reed and the kind of game he had today. (And at one point, he fell to his knees and was all but tackled to leave the field when he couldn’t lift his arm.)

Feel free to throw your comments in and we’ll launch them soon enough.

A great day to be a Ravens fan. The team is 7-4 and headed to Cincinnati. This was a huge win.

And the Eagles fans were strangely silent from whistle to whistle, slithering out of the stadium while the Ed Reed celebration commenced right around 4 p.m.

More to come…

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Just how good are the Ravens?

Posted on 10 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s not time to start printing playoff tickets just yet but if there’s any message that the Ravens sent to not only the Houston Texans but the NFL in general yesterday, it’s that this team is suddenly “for real.”

Any team that can go on the road and paste a team 41-13 in November to go to 6-3 must be taken seriously as a January threat.

Sure, it’s easy to say this: “Who have the Ravens beaten this year that matters?”

The answer: Cleveland twice, Oakland, Cincinnati, Miami and now Houston – combined record of 13-29.

Fair enough.

But the next seven weeks will work all of that out.

Are the Ravens a mediocre team that has bested a homely lot or an emerging playoff team waiting to break out and start beating some quality opponents?

There is one thing we know for sure.

With a date at the Meadowlands pending – and yes, we still have a handful of seats left on our “Miller Lite Purple Bus” to the swamps of Jersey this Sunday – the Ravens now control their own destiny in this chase for playoff football and a potential AFC North division crown.

It’s down to the Ravens and the Steelers in the AFC North and as tough as the purple schedule looks during the upcoming holiday season, it’s not any easier for yins’ donton either.

The Ravens have played nine games and have laid just one egg. They could easily be 8-1 with a little luck and some fourth quarter defense in the losses against Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

But I’m delighted with 6-3 and an emerging offense, stingy defense and the veteran play of Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce and company leading the way for John Harbaugh’s troops. Yes, it’s been a VERY good year thus far, especially given the team’s modest expectations to be a .500 outfit.

There’s no crystal ball and no telling how the team will fare when the likes of the NFC East comes calling. But all of a sudden the upcoming matchups against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh at home don’t look so lopsided and quarterback Joe Flacco has looked less like a rookie than a veteran game manager and occasional long ball tosser who, combined with an effective three-headed backfield of Willis McGahee, Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain, looks to be a factor in this run for January football.

It’s officially “Festivus” season in Baltimore.

Break out the purple lights.

Break out the expectations of fun on Sundays.

And by all means, enjoy this rarest of seasons – a November and holiday full of cheer, potential and hope for a playoff berth.

The good news came in waves yesterday.

The most significant developments happened on the offensive side of the ball, where Derrick Mason went down with a separated shoulder and Todd Heap got off the milk carton of the purple offense.

No doubt that No. 86 has heard the whispers of his pending demise and answered yesterday with his best game of the season.

Meanwhile, Ray Lewis turned in an effort with the impact he formerly had as a much younger man. Two interceptions, running sideline to sideline to once again hold an opposing offense’s star running back to less than 100 yards of rushing.

That makes 29 in a row, if my count is right.

Haloti Ngata’s interception at the goal line sparked a defensive effort that was classic Ravens defense but his contributions on every play should be earning him a grass skirt en route to Honolulu in early February. You’d be hard-pressed to find me a defensive tackle who is playing the game at a higher level right now as the defense continues to break the will of opposing running backs and frustrate and chase quarterbacks each Sunday.

Next up: the World Champion New York Giants.

They had their hands full with Philadelphia last night.

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Ravens VS Texans

Posted on 09 November 2008 by KZ

Texans Inactives:

Texans declared DT Amobi Okoye, WR Andre’ Davis, LB Chaun Thompson, OG Kasey Studdard, TE Mark Bruener, QB Matt Schaub, OL Rashad Butler, and FS Will Demps inactive for Week 10 against the Ravens.

Sage Rosenfels starts at QB. David Anderson stands in at third WR.
Ravens Inactives:
Ravens declared TE Daniel Wilcox, LB Antwan Barnes, CB Chris McAlister, SS Dawan Landry, DT Lamar Divens, WR Marcus Smith, OL Oniel Cousins, and third QB Todd Bouman inactive for Week 10 against Houston.
Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and LeRon McClain are all active. Troy Smith backs up Joe Flacco. Divens hasn’t been active for a game yet this season.
Keys for the Ravens:
  • Pressure Pressure Pressure…Must get to Sage early and often. If he has time he can pick you apart.
  • Keep the RUN going….40 to 45 rushes and 4+ yards per carry and the Ravens win…simple
  • In Joe we trust….a 4th game without a turnover and the Ravens are 6 – 3 at 4:30pm…
  • Don’t sleep on the Screen…Slaton can only do damage in the passing game if the Ravens lose sight of him out of the backfield.

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Post Monday press conference

Posted on 03 November 2008 by caseywillett

– Here is your daily Chris McAlister update : Chris has gone to get a third opinion on his knee and will be out for the game on Sunday. There is debate whether he went to Miami or to California for this. I still think we will be hearing that McAlister is done for the year.

– Injury wise from yesterday, Frank Walker and Fabian Washington made it out of the game yesterday  ok after having  a hamstring issue(Walker) and shoulder issue (Washington). Coach Harbaugh believes that they will both be ready to play on Sunday. Samari Rolle could make it back on Sunday depending on how he makes it through this week of practice.

– To make up for the bye week the Ravens lost, the players had off today and will not come back till Wednesday when the schedule will change a little bit. Coach Harbaugh pointed out that they will scale back the practices from a physical standpoint a  little bit and do more mental work.

-Talking big picture with the season so far is not something Coach Harbaugh is interested in at this time. He was quick to point out that all he will guarantee at this point is that they will be no worse than 5-11. He is all about being focused on the Houston Texans and said they have put themselves in the hunt to have a shot at the playoffs, but that is all.

-Ray Rice had a nice game on Sunday, but that does not mean he will be the feature back for the Ravens for the rest of the season. All it means is that Ray has increased his chances of getting more carries throughout the season. The Ravens feel that the extra day of rest for McGahee that he got on Sunday will benefit him moving forward.

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The afterglow of Cleveland

Posted on 03 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

With just over a quarter remaining in yesterday’s key divisional AFC North matchup, the Ravens were 14 points down on the road, the Browns fans were coming to life with a chorus of “Hang on Sloopy” (don’t ask…just watch the video!) and the vultures were circling our black birds at Cleveland Stadium.

Some of the Cleveland “faithful” had already begun to pile out onto the street to watch Bruce Springsteen perform before the Barack Obama rally, which was literally adjacent to the stadium (think as close as Oriole Park is to M&T Bank Stadium).

The Browns had our rookie quarterback on the run. Our beaten defense had been pushed around for 30 minutes – or as Terrell Suggs said: “We were getting our asses handed to us.” And staring at a two-touchdown deficit on the road in a hostile environment, it didn’t feel as though a comeback was in the offering.

Todd Heap hadn’t caught a pass. Willis McGahee was on the pine. The backend of the secondary, while not looking like Ike Booth and Donny Brady circa 1996 was still not Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle in their prime for sure.

But, as we learned in the locker room after the game, it was about that time that Ray Lewis came to the forefront on the sidelines and talked about playing a full 60 minutes of football. He talked about believing and not quitting. All of the stuff many may view as “rhetoric” when it doesn’t work was viewed as gospel once the Ravens came storming back to score 24 unanswered points during the final 16 minutes of the game.

And, lo and behold, the Ravens created their first miracle of the John Harbaugh administration and gave us our best memory of Cleveland yet, a stunning 37-27 victory on The Lake. (Well, it’s at least the the best memory in Cleveland since the Roberto Alomar homer back in 1996.)

While the real world is in a seemingly constant state of financial crisis and life isn’t a whole lot of fun for most of us from the gas pump to the checkbook, it’s stupid stuff like sports that can create a little bit of fun and a diversion from daily life. At least here in Baltimore with the fantasyland that sports provides us, it’s turning into a very good year for our football team, which makes for nice Monday mornings.

Hell, it makes for great WEEKS in my world, where everywhere I go and everything I do leads me into a conversation about football and the Ravens.

So, on a personal note, there’s nothing more gratifying than when the Ravens win.

It helps WNST morale. It helps the morale of the community. And it makes food taste a little better and the beer is, to quote Chuck Thompson, a little colder.

The Ravens are 5-3, headed off to play Houston in six days and apparently will draw the Sage Rosenfels quarterback card instead of Matt Schaub, who left the Texans’ game early yesterday.

Ray Lewis is playing like a man possessed, showing himself to be the veteran leader in his “walk” year that we’ve been wanting to see as fans.

It’s officially time to start talking about “Festivus.”

(Does John Harbaugh even know about this sacred football holiday?)

And then there are the three “rookies” who stepped to the podium after yesterday’s gritty, improbable win.

Ray Rice had as big of a day on the road when it mattered against a division rival as you can imagine a rookie having. (Although he’ll be hearing about getting knocked out of bounds short of the end zone a few times this week from teammates.)

Joe Flacco was almost flawless in his effort yesterday and continues to show poise, confidence and ability that are beyond his years.

And rookie coach John Harbaugh is starting to show results in the only place it really matters: the team is 5-3 and could be in first place by the end of the night.

Only time will tell if yesterday’s offense-defense bonding on the Lake will take root and this will be a playoff team (or maybe even a true contender for a Super Bowl title in this oddest of seasons).

The conversations here and around town will talk about the obvious problems: the lack of a bye week, the powerful NFC North teams looming during the holidays and tough games and the secondary will probably be a question mark until proven otherwise. There will be plenty of time to debate all of this, week to week, as the team continues to mature.

But yesterday was one for the books — a classic, an unexpected gem to begin the Festivus season. Not even being stuck in the Cleveland airport for three extra hours last night could wipe the smile off of my face.

As I walked to the subway after hearing about 25 minutes of Springsteen (as many of you know, one of my favorites), we strolled to Tower City Mall as Bruce broke out an acoustic version of “The Rising” and dedicated it to Barack Obama, who was about to take the stage.

Bruce could have just as easily sent that one out to the purple birds, who were trying to navigate the insane scene of 100,000 people on the square downtown en route to the airport for a “rising” of their own.

The rising to the top of the AFC North, creating even more separation from the whole state of Ohio.

The rain began to fall on the Cleveland night as the sun set before 5 p.m. for the beginning of a long, cold winter on Lake Erie.

The Ravens are 5-3. The Browns are 3-5.

Going in opposite directions once again.

The bad news?

We’re all stuck rooting for the Redskins tonight.

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Ravens crush woeful Raiders, 29-10

Posted on 26 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

The Raiders have played an interesting foil in the annals of Baltimore football history.

There was the “Ghost To The Post” thriller on Christmas Eve in 1977. The Raiders were the first team to come to Baltimore to play the Ravens in 1996. And, of course, it was a trip to Oakland and a win in the AFC Championship Game in 2001 that took the Ravens to Tampa and a Super Bowl title.

Today, however, the Raiders look to be a shadow of their famed black and silver pirate crest, a hapless franchise with second-rate talent and an owner that makes Peter Angelos seem sensible.

What the hell happened to the “commitment to excellence”?

We’ve seen some bad football teams roll into Baltimore since the Ravens came to town 13 years ago challenging the great Billy Jo Hobert, but today’s effort by the Raiders might’ve been one of the worst we’ve ever seen in the Charm City. That’s about as bad of a football team you’re gonna find with the red, white and blue NFL crest on it.

Their offense was hopeless, the special teams were poor – making Jim Leonhard look like Dante Hall in his prime – and the defense was good enough to allow a slow, 6-foot-6 quarterback to spread wide and catch bombs from the backup quarterback. And who Tom Cable and where is Lane Kiffin?

If Al Davis were in his right mind, he’d be ashamed of what a cruel hoax this is on the Raider Nation and the Black Hole. Next week, they might want to try to show up against the Falcons.

Sure, the Ravens looked great today and we’ll all gladly take this 29-10 win. At 4-3 on Halloween, this 2008 season has some real life and some real promise as the purple heads to Cleveland next week where a win puts them on a fast track for a potential playoff berth. It would be time to bust out the “P” word (or is it still Festivus?). No one could argue with 5-3 at the turn, even if the second half appears to be helluva challenge with so many potential playoff teams on the slate in November and December, including the entire firing squad of the NFC East.

But I can’t fathom how the Raiders are going to win another game with that band of ragamuffins.

Let’s take it around the victorious purple locker room:

Joe Flacco wasn’t brilliant today (12 of 124 for 140 years) but he threw a TD, ran for one and damn-near CAUGHT one. The maturation of Flacco as a rookie is going swimmingly well for the team, with him getting all sorts of initiations to victories, defeats, road and home games and all sorts of looks from defenses around the NFL. I’m glad we bought the stock months ago.

Terrell Suggs, for all of his stupid bluster and idiotic pronouncements, certainly showed up to play today and made his presence felt anywhere around JaMarcus Russell, who looks like the next No. 1 QB bust of this decade.

Ray Lewis continues to dazzle in his contract walk season, making play after play and I’m still not sure that Justin Griffith made it anywhere near the goal line on that lone touchdown, but he’ll no doubt still be feeling that hit on Wednesday.

Let’s hear it for Jim Leonhard, who has become a fan favorite with these “little guy” efforts on defense and special teams. He’s MY SIZE for crying out loud, but he plays like a giant on the field.

The running game was effective all day, racking up 192 yards on 46 carries as the Ravens controlled the clock and exhausted the Raiders’ defense. The three-headed monster of Ray Rice (8-64), Willis McGahee (23-58) and Le’Ron McClain (7-32) has been more effective than any of us realized back in training camp. And let’s give the offensive line some props as well — even with Adam Terry and Marshal Yanda out, they’re still protecting Flacco pretty well and allowing the backs to move the ball.

Even Matt Stover had a perfect day, which we’ll need more of as the weather turns and the games become tight enough that his foot will surely play a major role in deciding the season.

But the biggest game ball goes to John Harbaugh and the coaching staff, who have held the team together through several crises this season, not the least of which was the notion that the team didn’t have enough talent to compete:

•    The quarterback carousel during training camp and prepping and winning with a rookie signal caller in the NFL.

•    The horrendous injury/age situation on the defensive side of the ball, with Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Kelly Gregg and Dawan Landry all out of the lineup. And that’s not to mention various dings to Willis McGahee, Terry and the loss of Yanda on offense.

•    The bad, ugly, brutal loss in Indianapolis and a three-game losing streak and the bounce back in Miami and again today. Good teams rebound. The Ravens have nicely. That’s good coaching and a lot of heart.

•    The difficulty of navigating and covering for the stupid comments and actions by some of his childish players (this was essentially what got Brian Billick fired). Not only did Chris McAlister not play today, no one even bothered asking where the hell he was. (Disciplined? Absolutely. But will they say it was his leg? Absolutely. They should just come clean and tell the truth, instead of this silly gameplaying that went on last week.)

One more game ball might go to the Ravens’ still-stellar front office acumen in picking talent. Jameel McClain, Willie Anderson, Evan Oglesby and Brandon McKinney all made plays today and none of them were on the team in August. Hats off to George Kokinis and Ozzie Newsome, who have improved this team coming out of Westminster.

The real test, of course, comes in January when the team’s 2008 record is public.

But so far, at 4-3 with winnable games on the horizon in Cleveland and Houston, the Ravens are far more interesting, entertaining and enjoyable than any of us thought possible eight weeks ago.

And if crappy teams like the Raiders are on the schedule (and there’s at least one left with Cincinnati) we’ll take them every week.

As long as the Ravens show up and beats them in the fashion they did today, it’s fun for all of us.

I’ve never been more excited about a trip to Cleveland…

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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEK 8

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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEK 8

Posted on 24 October 2008 by KZ

Fantasy Football What’s New For 10.21.08

Hey Check out the New Columns…CLICK HERE AND NEW THIS YEAR to FANS FANTASY FOOTBALL…your official FANTASY DRAFT GUIDE…not who but HOW to draft a winning Fantasy Football Team…CLICK HERE FOR THE WAY TO DRAFT THIS YEAR.

RANKINGS WILL BE OUT EVERY THURSDAY, CLICK HERE FOR THEM

and

REVIEW of the WEEK THAT WAS IN FANTASY FOOTBALL every TUESDAY RIGHT HERE ON THE WHAT’s NEW PAGE!

plus

THE NEW MONDAY MORNING QUICK HITS ON KEN ZALIS’s COLUMNS PAGE

Some Notes from week 7:

  • FLUKES: Dan Orlovsky, Green-Ellis, Mike Furrey, Bennett (TE)
  • FINDS: Josh Morgan, Donnie Avery, Greg Olsen, Malcolm Floyd
  • As much as the Cowboys are worried about their offensive issues without Romo…the Defense gave up 34 to the Rams.
  • Can we start talking about Andre Johnson like the top 5 WR he is?!
  • Tony Gonzales is only 32 and a top 3 TE in the league…I don’t know what was offered but some team needed him and should have upped the offer for him.
  • What is wrong with LT?…really…he hit the wall? he is done? No TD’s in 3 weeks!
  • If you are 1 – 6, 2 – 5 or 3 – 4 and have not made a trade in your Fantasy Football league….why even bother playing….made a move your team is not working the way it is.
  • If you have LT…and your team is struggling…wait til he has a good week and trade him for as much as you can.
  • The Denver and New Orleans will be fine on the Offensive side of the ball.
  • So will every other team that plays their Defenses.
  • SELL HIGH…BUY LOW…greatest advice for any fantasy footballer.

TRADE BAIT(s): Willis McGahee (next injury is when?), Randy Moss (you have been warned), Brett Farve (let someone else deal with the headache), Sammie Morris (he wont play Denver every week)

STAR(S) OF WEEK (officially renamed the LT of the Week): Steven Jackson, Mewelde Moore, LenDale White

DUD(S) of the Week: Peyton Manning, Brett Farve, Drew Brees, LT (AGAIN), Frank Gore, Ronnie Brown, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings, Marques Colston

Hot Pick up(s) of the week: LAST WEEK: Dominic Rhodes, Matt Ryan, Michael Pittman, Brad Johnson, Matt Schaub, Tashard Choice (he is one injury away from starting)

THIS WEEK: Josh Morgan, Donnie Avery, Jeff Garcia, Antonio Bryant, Green-Ellis, Lamont Jordan

TEAM(s) of the WEEK: Carolina Panthers…demolished the Saints….

Ut Oh of the week: Dallas Cowboys…so Romo was out, I was not away he played Defense…apparently the Cowboys missed Adam Jones as well…who knew?

Fantasy Football Start Them This Week…

Check back weekly. We will never say start LT or AP that is too obvious and We will never tell you to sit someone, but here are some people we really like ….you can make the sit calls or email us for our view…track how accurate we are…..we have been as good as everyone else so check us out.

PLEASE READ THIS WEEKS COLUMS ON STARTS: CLICK HERE

QB’s: MUST STARTS: ROMO (HURT), BREES, CUTLER, WARNER, MCNABB, ROETHLISBERGER, RODGERS, P. MANNING

Other to consider this week: Delhomme, Anderson, O’Sullivan and Campbell
RB’s: MUST STARTS: LT, Adrian Peterson, Westbrook (hurt), Parker (hurt), Lynch, Portis, Barber, Gore, Steve Jackson, Addai, Jacobs, Forte and Ronnie Brown

Others to consider this week: McGahee, T. Jones, Slaton, Chris Johnson and Lendale White…also Sammie Morris is healthy
WR’s/TE’s: MUST STARTS: TO, Greg Jennings, Randy Moss (still have to), Wes Welker (ppr), Fitzgerald, Boldin, Andre Johnson, Burress, Steve Smith, Calvin Johnson, Marshall, Holmes, Wayne, Gates, Witten, Gonzales, Winslow

Other to consider this week: Edwards, Bowe, DeShawn Jackson, Antonio Bryant, Josh Morgan, Todd Heap, Chris Cooley, Lee Evans

Top 10 to 15 or so starts for IDP’s:

DL: Jared Allen, Mario Williams, Aaron Kampman, Will Smith, Julius Peppers, Patrick Kearney, Aaron Schobel, Trent Cole, Terrell Suggs, Gaines Adams, Aaron Carter, Justin Tuck and Justin Smith.LB: D. Ryans, P. Willis, R. Lewis, N. Barnett, D. Harris, M. Peterson, K. Morrison, J. Beason, W. Witherspoon, K. Rivers, L. Fletcher, B. Urlacher, D. Edwards, AJ Hawk, James Harrison, J. Beason, J. Vilma and F. Keiaho

DB:

G. Wilson, A. Wilson. C. Tillman, A. Bigby, C. Finnegan, A. Winfield, T. Polamalu, C. Tillman, B. Sanders, L. Landry, M. Trufant, B. Pollard, Q. Jammer,A. Cromartie, E. Coleman and Mike Adams.

 

Some Other Guys We Like This Week…

SLEEPER(s) OF THE WEEK….what DUD will become a STUD…at least for one week….we will try to give a QB, RB and WR/TE each week…

QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick...he has weapons and Houston can give up some plays
RB: Lean Washington…KC gives up some rushing yards
WR/TE: Chris Henry…he is starting to get involved more
Kicker and Defense: NY JETS DEFENSE….David Akers

Locks Of The Week…

In a suicide pool? We can help. Once again track our success. We will give you three a week.

After two years we are 118 – 51 (69.8%)…not bad!! TRULY pretty damn good…we have checked others out and we are just as good as they are! 2007 record: 48 – 21.

2008 RECCORD: 19 – 5

WEEK OF 10/26/08:

  1. Baltimore over Oakland
  2. Jets over Kansas City
  3. Jacksonville over Cleveland

Bonus Pick: Philly over Atlanta

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