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MSB Monday Market Watch

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MSB Monday Market Watch

Posted on 19 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

5 On The Rise

#1 – Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox this weekend to close the gap in the AL Wild Card to 2 games with 10 games to go for each side. Whether the Sox can manage to hold off the Rays or not, they’re in trouble as injuries have taken another mighty toll on Boston this season. Still, after leading Tampa by 9 games as late as September 3rd, there will be no legitimate excuses for the Sox if they should somehow complete one of the worst late season collapses in modern baseball history.

 

If the Rays somehow find their way in, it’ll be to the chagrin of not just the Sox but of all of the AL teams who do make the playoffs too as the Rays formidable starting pitching has managed to keep them afloat as the bullpen and lineup have spent most of the year learning on the fly. Although it’s a small sample size, the Rays 11-4 record in their last 15 games suggests that they’re peaking at the right time.

 

Forecast: The schedule suggests that Boston is still in a pretty good place. Six of their 10 remaining games are on the road, but 3 of those and 7 overall of the last 10 are against Baltimore, against whom the Sox are 8-3 on the year. Their other 4 games are against the Yankees, who the Sox have owned to the tune of 11-4 so far this season. Tampa on the other hand has 6 of 10 games remaining at home and 7 of their remaining 10 against the Yankees, against whom they’re 5-6 on the season. Their other 3 games are against the Blue Jays, against whom they’re 10-5 so far.

 

With a magic number of 7 and 10 of their remaining 11 games against the Rays and Red Sox, the Yankees aren’t yet out of the woods either, igniting essentially 2 pennant races in the AL East when Yanks and Sox both appeared to be foregone conclusions just a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

#2 – The Atlantic Coast Conference – ACC fans have been waiting anxiously in the dark as the most recent round of Super-Conference manifest destinies began taking shape again. As all of the moves have seemingly been football driven, fans of the basketball first ACC sat hopefully expecting the conference to do it’s best to keep their 12-member alliance intact and maintain the status quo. Now it seems that the ACC may be on the fast track to becoming the nation’s first super conference as over the weekend news of the intents of both Syracuse and Pitt to join the ACC ranks began to spread.

 

At the very least, the 2 new members provide the conference with an insurance policy should the SEC come calling officially for Clemson and Florida State, but with UConn already rumored to be poised to follow, it seems but a mere formality that the ACC will add one more player to the mix and become an official Super-Conference with a giant TV network to follow. West Virginia, or on an outside shot South Carolina might be the best bets at #16.

 

Lost in the euphoria, but no less important this weekend, Miami upset #17 Ohio State, Clemson upset #21 Auburn and Maryland showed well (in the box score at least) against #18 West Virginia.

 

Forecast: So far so good it seems. Again, at the very least the ACC will be able to maintain 12 members should a couple succumb to the temptations of the SEC or some other budding Super-Conference and will be able to continue staging their own conference title games in football. At best, the ACC could win the race to 16 and become the first of likely many Super-Conferences. Keep in mind though that the most recent versions of ACC expansion didn’t exactly bring about the anticipated results or football credibility that seemed all but foregone at the time.

 

 

#3 – Cam Newton – The controversial Heisman trophy / National Championship winning quarterback turned controversial first round (first overall) draft pick of the Panthers unleashed his second straight 400+ yard passing performance en route to his second straight loss to begin his NFL career. Clearly he’d rather be winning and shining, but for now, he’s shining enough to have us all impressed, shocked and mesmerized. Shredding the suspect Cardinals defense in week 1 was impressive enough, that he was able to do it to the defending World Champs while keeping them against the ropes for most of the game after they had spent a week dissecting his tape is flat out amazing. If the youngster keeps playing like that, the wins will surely follow…as will more accolades.

 

Forecast: He’ll get a chance at the Jags next week and might be able to muster that elusive first win. After that, the schedule gets kind of hairy for a while. He’ll continue to sling it you can bet, and will learn some tough lessons along the way. The funniest thing may be that sooner or later teams will have to adjust to his ability to sling it all over the field, and when they do, Cam will get his chance to showcase the wheels that gained him so much notoriety last season at Auburn. It’s an unbelievable start to an NFL career, begging the simple question what will the kid do next?

 

 

#4 – Detroit Lions – The Lions picked up their second straight win to begin the season on Sunday and in so doing justified the faith of tons of pre-season prognosticators who thought the Lions to be on the rise. The interesting part of the Lions ascendance however is that so far it least it hasn’t been based on the brick wall that will be Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh when the rookie Fairley eventually gets onto the field; instead the Lions have been getting it done on offense with Matthew Stafford playing the part of polished veteran and Jahvid Best rebounding nicely from an injury plagued 2010.

 

Forecast: The Lions will have their work cut out for them in a contentious NFC North, and health has to be their biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball. When exactly the Lions official window might open is debatable, but for now they’re at least knocking on the door.

 

 

#5 – Robert Griffin III – He entered the season as a lightly regarded Heisman candidate from a lightly regarded Baylor program flying largely under the radar. He emerged from a week 1 shootout with TCU (on the back of 359 yards passing and 5 TD) as RG3 and at the forefront of the Heisman conversation. After a 15-day hiatus Griffin and the Bears returned to action on Sunday and RG3 backed up his performance with a 20 for 22 night for a modest 265 yards and 3 TD, while adding 78 yards on the ground for good measure.

 

Forecast: The Bears will be looking at the Big-12 portion of their schedule soon enough affording Griffin plenty of chances in the national spotlight. And while the Bears may not be able to hold their own against top notch foes (TCU would beg to differ) Griffin might, and the need to keep his foot on the gas could lead to some seriously gaudy numbers along the way.

 

 

5 On The Slide

 

#1 – Professional Boxing – The fact that Floyd “Money” Mayweather was fighting “Vicious” Victor Ortiz on Saturday night (for an outrageous pay-per-view price tag of $69.99) should be in and of itself another proverbial “black eye” for boxing. This is after all the 147 pound division, touted by most as boxing’s best, yet the best match-up they could muster on that night for the best boxer of his generation was a hard punching young southpaw just 2 years removed from quitting in the ring against a middling Marcos Maidana. That Floyd Mayweather has not yet fought Manny Pacquiao is an embarrassment to the sport of boxing and to the otherwise cleaned out by Mayweather 147-pound division. The action that took place in the ring…well that was kind of embarrassing too.

 

History will remember Floyd winning by a cheap shot, but that’s more likely as a result of our feelings about Floyd as a despicable human being than as a result of what actually happened in the ring on Saturday night. For 2 of the 3 full rounds Floyd landed easily and won decisively. In the middle round, Ortiz showed enough heart and offense to compel some to see it his way, but 2 of the 3 judges at ringside scored that one for Mayweather too. In the 4th Ortiz got aggressive, bullied Mayweather into a corner and then inexplicably charged him like a crazed bull with the crown of his head landing square in Mayweather’s face. That would be the fight’s only illegal shot, but not it’s last controversial one.

 

Immediately after butting Mayweather, as referee Joe Cortez attempted to step in and separate the fighters, Ortiz began apologizing to Mayweather. Ortiz hugged Mayweather and even kissed him on the cheek before being led to the center of the ring by Cortez to make the point deduction official. When the fighters got back together Ortiz again hugged Mayweather. Mayweather didn’t appear to reciprocate the hug and stood there arms out waiting to resume the action, which he did as soon as Ortiz backed away, landing a quick left followed by a crushing right that left Ortiz on the ground and unable to beat the count.

 

We’ll remember Mayweather’s cheap shot although his was legal, and forget too that he was dominating Ortiz in a way that suggested he’d end it sooner rather than later and that Mayweather may have been rightly enraged at Ortiz’ illegal and intentional head butt. What we won’t remember is a great fight or one that was worth the buy as neither was the case on Saturday.

 

Forecast: Mayweather will spend another year or so flaunting and burning (literally) the $25 million plus he made from this farce while we all wait anxiously for him to step in front of Pacquiao and into the beating that so many have been waiting to see him get. Mayweather will get paid again, likely beat Pacquiao too and continue to be a general A-hole. And we’ll keep giving him money.

 

 

#2 – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens backed up their impressive week one domination over the Pittsburgh Steelers by being beaten in all three phases of the game by the Tennessee Titans and are now left to reevaluate their estimations of their own greatness.

 

Throughout the Harbaugh era these Ravens have been far too professional to overlook opponents, even when those opponents don’t seem to have much of a realistic chance at winning against them. Or maybe, as we look back at games like Carolina and Buffalo in 2010, perhaps Sunday was the first time that the Ravens paid the price for taking a second division caliber team lightly. Regardless, on Sunday the Ravens had their proverbial lunches eaten by the Titans and then were charged with cleaning up the scraps when their bully nemeses were through.

 

The Ravens will surely have to pick up those scraps quickly and put them to use against St. Louis as for now at least, the loss served to bring the Steelers back into a tie for the division lead (albeit only week 2). There are plenty of wins to be had on the Ravens schedule; the question may simply be whether the team is professional enough to go about collecting them.

 

Forecast: This should serve as the wake up call that a team as professional as these Ravens have been shouldn’t have needed in the first place. They’ll get St. Louis coming off of a short week before returning home for a slugfest with the Jets. The Steelers meanwhile get the Manning-less Colts next week.

 

 

#3 – Arian Foster – Last year’s improbable rushing champ started this season without the fullback who had cleared holes for him to run through last season and with company in the backfield in Ben Tate who the Texans envisioned as the starter before losing him to injury last year. He continued his trek by injuring his hamstring, calling fantasy owners concerned about his health for their own reasons sick, tweeted images of his MRI and proclaimed himself ready for week 1. He wasn’t.

 

Ben Tate though was, possibly compelling Foster to rush back to action this week against the Dolphins, where he rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries before re-aggravating the hamstring and coming out of the game for good. Ben Tate in the meantime has gone over the century mark on the ground in each of the Texans first 2 games and will likely remain a big part of the mix with or without Foster.

 

Forecast: The smart thing would seem to be to rest Foster until his hamstring issues are clearly behind him. More likely though, Foster, gamer that he is, will continue trying to rush himself back and struggle with the injury all season. Either way, Ben Tate seems to be a viable part of the running game for the foreseeable future and for now a better option than Foster.

 

 

#4 – Chiefs, Seahawks and Colts – The Manning-less Colts looked terrible again, this time at home against the Cleveland Browns. The already injury riddled Chiefs suffered another embarrassing defeat and in the process may have been hit with their worst injury so far, apparently losing Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL injury. And the Seahawks although mostly healthy look like they may be the worst team in football without Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.

 

All three playoff teams from 2010 are off to 0-2 starts and looking like long shots to get back there.

 

Forecast: Count all three squarely in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

 

 

#5 – The NBA Season – With each passing day, the likelihood of seeing an entire NBA season or any part of a season at all get bleaker and bleaker. The more concerning part, for the league and its fans, should probably be that no one really seems to care very much. Unlike the NFL lockout, which had us spinning and clamoring for updates daily, everyone seems resigned to the expectation that here simply won’t be an NBA this year. Folks were missing football despite the fact that we never actually missed any football at all. Judging by the attention or lack thereof to the NBA’s labor issues, basketball…we’ll see you when we see you.

 

Forecast: This isn’t getting better anytime soon. Check back in February.

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NFL Week 1 game notes: Ravens vs. Steelers

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Chris Pika

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

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50 words or less …. Tuesday, April 26th

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50 words or less …. Tuesday, April 26th

Posted on 26 April 2011 by Rex Snider

After resting and licking the wounds of a couple losses at the hands of the Yankees, the Orioles will recollect themselves and begin a 3 game series against the Red Sox tonight.

The Yankees’ series certainly revealed some glaring weaknesses for Buck’s offensive attack; CC Sabathia’s 28-pitch count thru 3 innings and Freddy Garcia’s 2-hitter thru 6 innings serve as fresh reminders of the problems with the lineup.

Here’s to hoping things improve over the next few nights. And, here’s your Tuesday edition of “50 Words Or Less” …..
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Andino …. Out Or Safe ???
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It doesn’t really matter, so long as this current edition of the Orioles lineup continues to languish and squander opportunities to score runs. They made Freddy Garcia look like Roy Halladay, yesterday.

It won’t get any easier with seeing Josh Beckett and Jon Lester over the next few games.
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Shocking …..
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Of course, I’m being sarcastic. Say last Friday, Ryan Chell would’ve uttered “an NFL player will be stabbed this coming weekend, who will it be?” I can honestly admit Brandon Marshall would’ve been on my short list of probable victims.

Funny …. I have never really associated “victim” with Marshall’s name. Thus, there is probably much more to the story. Stay tuned …..
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A Proposal Of Sorts
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Last week, a Milwaukee Brewers fan and devoted follower of Ryan Braun decided to do something unique. “Robin” made a sign proposing marriage to the Brewers star outfielder, and she attached her personal PHONE NUMBER TO IT …..

You know the rest of the story, right? Every desperate loser watching that game – and probably drinking a 12 pack of Old Milwaukee decided to call her. Robin has temporarily turned her phone off …..
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Do You Feel Lucky?
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Perhaps, the more burning question is can the Ravens afford to risk being UNLUCKY? Several reports have Ozzie Newsome and his staff salivating over the temptation of grabbing highly touted Colorado cornerback, Jimmy Smith.

The problem? Well, Smith has allegedly failed a series of drug tests during his college career and he has some underage drinking issues. After last year’s Sergio Kindle situation, I’m betting on a more conservative approach, but we shall see in just a few days …..
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And You Thought I was Crazy
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When I officially swore to give up LION TAMING for Lent, many listeners shuddered with dismay and frivolous disbelief. Well, it can get crazier …..

J. Wilson, an Iowa newspaper editor decided to give up every nutritional fuel source, except BEER for the entire period of Lent. And, he did it. That’s my hero, baby !!!! Here is the STORY
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Good News On Brooks
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Many of us have watched Brooks Robinson’s health situation from a distance, while holding out hope for the very best. Well, the Orioles legend appeared at a weekend autographed show and he was looking rejuvenated.

Here’s to hoping he gets stronger in the coming days and weeks.

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Terps who used Ralph Friedgen’s guidance toward NFL career weigh in on former coach

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Terps who used Ralph Friedgen’s guidance toward NFL career weigh in on former coach

Posted on 31 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

Ralph Friedgen

Ralph Friedgen spent 10 years as coach of the Maryland Terrapins and saw numerous student-athletes, football players, and young men pass through his program and move on to become better, more driven individuals-and some who went on to make a career of playing football in the NFL.

He touched countless lives in College Park, returning to his alma mater in 2001 and starting his coaching career rebuilding a struggling program with an outright ACC Title, a 10-2 record, and an Orange Bowl appearance.

He earned ACC Coach of the Year his first year at Maryland.

His last season came this year in 2010 and despite an 8-4 record and his second ACC Coach of the Year award, Friedgen was shown the door by the new athletic department staff headed by AD Kevin Anderson, with his last game Wednesday in the Terps 51-20 victory over ECU in the Military Bowl.

Friedgen left Maryland on top in the fashion many of Terps nation wanted to see him leave, and several of his former players who used his teachings to move on to the NFL joined WNST Thursday and Friday as a send-off to Coach Friedgen and to wish him the best.

Nolan Carroll

“I am glad for the win,” Dolphins CB and KR Nolan Carroll said, who spent 2005-2009 in College Park. “What I heard was that ECU had a very good offense. You know, they had a very good team. For them to come out the way they did, and put up so many points, was phenomenal. It’s the best way for him to leave on such a good note.”

Moise Fokou

Another former Terp, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Moise Fokou-who joined Rex Thursday on “The Afternoon Drive”-said that the win against the Pirates definitely caps off a great resume by Coach Friedgen at Maryland.

“I feel like before he got there, they definitely had talent but I felt with Friedgen coming in there and turning that program around…he showcased the talent that he had at that school and he did a great job recruiting and showing us off.”

“We’re just glad to be Terps and represent him in that fashion.”

Fokou was definitely confused as to why the new administration would relieve not only a former alumni who went 75-50 during his time in College Park, but a guy that brought stability to a program that had only one winning season and no bowl appearances in the ten years before he took the sidelines.

“Honestly, I don’t know really know what’s going on with their program. Why they are forcing him out…I just hope that they know what they’re doing because I’m telling you right now that they’re losing a great head coach,” Fokou said.

Several other players echoed Fokou’s thoughts, including former Terp running back Lance Ball, who currently is a Denver Bronco after spending 2003-2007 in a Terps uniform.

Lance Ball

Ball was coached by the “Fridge”  before  finding his way into the NFL bouncing around with the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts squads.

Ball believes it was Friedgen’s vast knowledge of the offensive side of the ball that garnered him attention at the NFL level-as well as guys like former first-round picks in Darius Heyward-Bey and tight end Vernon Davis.

“I think Coach Friedgen coming from a pro-style offense…he was able to give us insight on what teams look for and if we’re ready or not to leave.”

Fokou was also certain that while Friedgen may have been rudely shown the door, his former coach will not be a guy to hold a grudge and will not hold it against his former players and friends at the university.

“I’m so happy he went out with a bang,” Fokou said. “but I guarantee he will be back especially with the alumni coming out of the school.”

“I was one of the guys who he scouted and he gave me a full scholarship the following year. He’s done a tremendous job up there as soon as he stepped foot on campus. He turned that program around and it’s hard to see a guy like that go, but he will be missed.”

Friedgen said after the Military Bowl victory at RFK Stadium Wednesday that he will always have “three daughters and 120 sons.”

And his family is definitely bigger than those 123 people he touched this year having been coaching the Terps  for a decade.

“Ralph is a good guy,” Ball told Thyrl Nelson. “I know when we were I was there, we won a lot of games. We were quite successful; it’s just unfortunate that they went in another direction and he’s not the coach no more.”

“I haven’t contacted him yet cause there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on now, but within the next couple days I’ll give him a shout and see how’s he doing.”

All the former Terps WNST talked to said that their biggest and most fond memories of Friedgen is when he spent one-on-one time with them recruiting them, and those moments and time spent together made all the difference in the world.

“For me, it’s when he came to my house when he recruited me,” Carroll told Snider. “He looked my parents dead in the eye and he told them, ‘Hey look, your son’s education is going to come first’. That’s the first thing he preached about. He really didn’t go into athletics that much. He was strictly academics, and that’s what my folks liked a lot about him.”

“And he held true to his word. I got my education last fall and I ended up graduating in the Spring. And everything he said that he was gonna do for me, he ended up doing.”

Friedgen’s final press conference-which lasted twenty minutes Wednesday night-had the overall mood of a funeral at times as opposed to a glorious send-off.

But make no mistake. Just like former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer told Friedgen recently, there is life after football and Ball in particular sees leaving the sport and the opportunity to mentor kids as too big an opportunity to pass up on.

“He may take a little break,” Ball said. “But I don’t see it. Ralph has grown up around football and been around football. So I’m sure at one point he will get back to it.”

Fokou agreed.

“I definitely think he has a couple more years of coaching left,” Fokou said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back in the NFL. He kind of has that coaching mentality…kind of get it done at any cost.”

‘But I do see him coaching again in the future whether it’s in the NFL or in the colleges leagues.”

Ball is sad to see his coach go the wayside, but he does hope the program finds a guy that can pick up right where Friedgen left off.

“I just hope the guy that comes in is very serious about Maryland and the tradition that it brings. I think being a head coach at Maryland, you have to take on a lot of responsibility cause it’s such a great school and it holds so much tradition.”

Ralph Friedgen

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Terps and Ralph Friedgen even though he leaves College Park behind!

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

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

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

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

AFC East

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

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

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

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

AFC North

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

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

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

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

AFC South

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

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

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

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

AFC West

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

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

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

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

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

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

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

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

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

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

NFC North

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

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

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

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

NFC South

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

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

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

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

NFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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Inexplicable decision bites Ravens in endgame

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Inexplicable decision bites Ravens in endgame

Posted on 07 December 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

In Honor of the Ravens’ 10-point effort vs. Pittsburgh on Sunday, here are my 10 post game points

 

1. The Ravens decision at the end of Sunday’s game, to forego a field goal opportunity with the wind in their faces will be something that folks will probably be debating for the rest of this season, but why the Ravens were faced with that decision is still baffling to me at this point. The fact of the matter is that at the end of the game, the wind was in Billy Cundiff’s face because John Harbaugh and the Ravens put it there.

 

By deferring after winning the coin toss, the Steelers got the opportunity to take the ball in the second half. That left the Ravens to decide which end zone they’d be defending in the 3rd, and by default 4th quarters. If Harbaugh and Cundiff decided during the second half warm ups that 44-yards was the edge of his range going that way, then why wouldn’t the Ravens elect not to go that way in the 4th quarter? If nothing else, you’d think they’d like to put Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham facing into that wind incase he was called on for 4th quarter heroics.

 

Given the Ravens post game stance that the wind was that much of a factor, and especially given their inability this season to finish games for a variety of reasons, it seems like too simple a detail not to sew up. Which brings me to my second point…

 

2. Through 12 games this season, the Ravens have had a 4th quarter lead in each. That’s good. In all four of their losses (obviously) however, and 2 of their wins as well, they’ve given back those 4th quarter leads. That’s not so good. On one hand they seem like a team that can play with anyone, which should serve them well at playoff time. On the other, they’ve given away, or nearly given away 4th quarter leads in half of their games, which likely won’t serve them so well, especially against playoff caliber teams.

 

3. Did anyone else feel just a little bit of déjà vu on Sunday night? From the Ravens ball spot review, to the squandered opportunities on offense, to the late game heroics, it sure felt like a 13-9 game that was played here in 2008. This one felt more and more like the San-Tony-Yay-Yo game as it wore on, and the ending was eerily reminiscent albeit not in the hands of the officials. Here’s hoping a rubber match is on the horizon.

 

4. Speaking of a rubber match, if Sunday’s game decided anything, it was that a rematch would likely take place at Heinz Field. Despite the Ravens and Jets very different brands of heartbreak this week, the rest of the AFC wildcard likelys helped their efforts. Both teams still seem to be all but a lock for the post-season, but both look very likely now to begin their respective campaigns on the road.

 

5. In the other inexplicable decision of the night, the Ravens kept both Le’Ron McClain and newly acquired fullback Jason McKie inactive for Sunday’s game. The decision to sign McKie seemed to be in reaction to the likelihood that McClain wouldn’t be ready for this week and possibly beyond, but with McClain’s return seemingly eminent at this point, and McKie’s deactivation being at least partly due to his inability to find a place on special teams; it sure looks like a wasted move. Surely this team doesn’t have room for 2 fullbacks on the roster; especially if they’re not playing on special teams.

 

Losing Todd Heap early as they did on Sunday certainly changed the Ravens game plan substantially, especially given the absence of a fullback. Ed Dickson did a nice job, but clearly missed a big opportunity early, and had some blocking issues as well.

 

6. I’ve watched Chris Chester’s false start at least 20 times now, and still can’t decide if it was accidental or thought out. On the play, Chester explodes across the line, tries hard to blast James Harrison and winds up laying out flat. Since it occurred on the PAT, the penalty was assessed on the kick, hardly a big deal. Is it possible Chester knew the penalty was minimal and decided to take a free shot at Harrison, to give him something to think about maybe. Harrison might have even lost his cool completely there, and changed the whole game. If it was intentional, it was a savvy, savvy move.

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Blog & Tackle: NFL labor wars

Posted on 20 November 2010 by Chris Pika

In this version of “Stories you may have missed…”, I take a look at six pieces written in the last week that you should file away until the labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA begin in earnest sometime after the start of 2011.

There will be a lot of posturing between now and then, but some of the key issues are starting to get attention in interesting ways.

First up, the 18-game schedule proposed by the league, and counterproposed by the NFLPA late October. There has been a lot of discussion on this point because of the amount of injuries that occur over the course of the current 16-game schedule, and how much or little offseason workouts or bye weeks the new agreement will have.

FOXSports.com’s Alex Marvez broke down the breakdowns on each NFL roster at midseason, and with the recent emphasis on player safety rules, adding to the amount of regular-season games is getting a lot of backlash from players and the media.

In “Injuries are becoming more common“, Marvez writes:

“But as it stands now, a 16-game docket seems rough enough. Dating back to the offseason, NFL teams have already placed 34 more players on injured reserve through 10 weeks (311) than at this point last year (277). The final numbers will assuredly be the highest since the NFL began playing with 32 teams in 2002.”

Of the five teams Marvez lists as “On Life Support”, three are playoff contenders: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and San Diego. All five clubs in his “Intensive Care” section – Baltimore, Green Bay, Miami, New York Giants and St. Louis – are in the playoff mix.

One of the senior writers who covers the NFL, Clark Judge of CBSSports.com, says that current and former players should be involved in how discipline for hits on the field should be judged.

In his “Simple fix for NFL’s tough hits problem: Listen to players“, Judge writes:

“Look, I don’t care whether you agree with players’ complaints or not, but you can’t deny there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand what passes for good, clean, aggressive tackling anymore. So make them understand.

How? I thought you’d never ask. Assemble a panel that includes more than just members of the NFL officiating and operations offices. In essence, do what Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu suggests and include current and former players in the review process. Then maybe, just maybe, we start getting somewhere.

First of all, you’d have players join league officials in formulating a clear and consistent message. Second, you’d make a conciliatory gesture that could have repercussions in current and upcoming labor talks. I mean, if more players believed they were being heard by the NFL then maybe more players would be receptive to what the league had to say.”

Earlier this week, the NFL Players Association held a conference call with labor/union/issue bloggers to discuss the state of the negotiations between the league and the players’ association.

George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director and NFLPA President Kevin Mawae made the presentation.

The full transcript, available, on NFLLockout.com (a site put together by the NFLPA), goes over the recent talking points. Atallah, in his opening remarks said this:

“We consider things like health and safety, employee work place issues, financial transparency, all of the things that come up in everyday conversations in businesses across America are the same conversations that we’re having on a daily basis. It’s gotten to the point now where we’re 107 days away from the expiration of the CBA and while we continue to talk with the league about the possible fair deals, and things of that nature, we still believe a lockout is coming, unfortunately. It’s gotten to the point now where we as a union, as players, and as fans, frankly, need to do everything we can to prevent it.”

Mawae, on the impact of a lockout on the community at large in NFL cites, said:

“What I’ve found out is our players are heavily involved and they’re very educated on our issues. I think that’s been one of our key initiatives over the last four years is to get our players up-to-date and educated on everything that’s happening in collective bargaining. They’ve done that. Some of the biggest concerns are the fact that we won’t play, that we won’t have a job, that our players won’t have a job next year when it’s time to kick-off to 2011 season. Another concern is what does it do to all the personnel that make an NFL game happen? That includes the stadium workers, the police officers that provide support and security, concession workers and the community as a whole, not just a national but in every NFL city. Those are real concerns for the players.”

As a point of emphasis, the league has their own web site where the NFL’s views on the state of the negotiations are posted: www.NFLLabor.com.

One of the NFL owners, the Dolphins’ Stephen Ross, was a featured speaker at this week’s Sports Business Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference in New York. His remarks at the event made news in the labor wars, and might give some insight into how some of his fellow owners feel about where the game is going.

A blog on the South Florida Sun Sentinel by Sarah Talalay, “Dolphins owner talks NFL expansion, labor and the Super Bowl” gave some insight into Ross’ remarks, especially on expansion into Los Angeles or the move of a current NFL team into that market or internationally:

“On expansion: Ross said he believe there needs to be a team in Los Angeles, and perhaps two to make the economics a stadium there work.

“I think it’s important to the NFL to have a team in Los Angeles, you have the second largest media market in the country,” Ross said. “The question is how you pay for a stadium. There’s no money available for the stadium and the cost will be over $1 billion.”

Beyond LA, Ross suggests Toronto as a market to potentially land the Buffalo Bills.”

Ross also made several remarks about the proposed 18-game schedule that caught the attention of the NFLPA. From Talalay’s story, “Dolphins’ Ross still believes team can make playoffs“, this nugget:

“The additional games, the studies show will not really increase injuries,” Ross said. “We’re still playing 20 games, we’re eliminating two preseason games and adding two regular-season games, which is really what helps with the revenues, and make the fans a lot happier and those games will be a lot more meaningful. But in terms of the players, they’re still playing 20 games.”

And almost immediately, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed out that Ross had lost two quarterbacks in the same game last week due to injury. The league defended Ross in statements from NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, repeated in this post from NFLLabor.com.

“‘Mr. Ross made basic factual points that have been made repeatedly — that we are not proposing to add to the current 20-game season and that the overall injury rate per game remains consistent,’ said Aiello. ‘DeMaurice Smith knows very well that the health and safety issues of converting to the proposed 18-2 season are being addressed with the union in a comprehensive way encompassing the year-found football calendar …”

As the regular season stretches into the final six weeks, there will be more reporting on these subjects. What you have read above will all play into a final agreement, whenever that is reached. And depending on who you believe, that agreement could come quickly, or NFL fans could miss on several weeks of the 2011 season.

Stay tuned …

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

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Losing to good teams on the road ensures your postseason plight …..

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Losing to good teams on the road ensures your postseason plight …..

Posted on 15 November 2010 by Rex Snider

If you’re a casual listener of my show, you probably know about my opinion regarding the intersection of LOSSES and EXCUSES.

I’m blunt about it whenever the discussion comes up.

It’s a belief that was drilled into my head when I was very young.  It’s a belief that I’ve taught my one and only child.  And, it’s a belief I’ll take to my grave …..

EXCUSES ARE FOR LOSERS

Offering a dismissive, half-hearted reason for losing is nothing less than acknowledging that failure is acceptable.  It also guarantees you’ll get more of it – unless you change something.

To be very honest, it insults an intelligent mind when winnable contests in New England and Atlanta are summed up with the customary “the Ravens lost to a very good team on the road” defense.

Call that line exactly what it is ….. an EXCUSE.

I didn’t buy it after the loss against New England and I’m certainly not buying it after last Thursday’s loss, in Atlanta.

Do you wanna guess how many 4th quarter comebacks Tom Brady has engineered this season?  The answer is ONE.  And, we know all about that game, huh?

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens stripes the ball from Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter of the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

I get the aura of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  I know their careers very well, and I pay attention to that team.  But, I also know many football fans assume Brady pulls out last minute heroics every week, and that’s just not true.

In fact, Tom Brady has thrown only ONE game-impacting, 4th quarter touchdown, this season.  Once again, we know all about that game, right?

As for last Thursday’s loss in Atlanta, the Ravens defense orchestrated Matt Ryan’s elevation from budding star to full blown ROCK STAR, in just 80 seconds.

I’m pretty sure Ryan is being bestowed with the Congressional Medal of Honor on the front steps of the United States Capital, later this week.

But, here’s another meaningless stat for the excuse makers and believers …..

Do you know how many two-minute drives have been capped off with a winning touchdown in Matt Ryan’s season?  You are correct …. ONE FREAKIN’ GAME.

Of course, I think Tom Brady is approaching a legendary career.  And, I think Matt Ryan is one of the bright, young stars in the NFL.  But, I also think many fans and observers believe these quarterbacks are leading their teams to dramatic, come from behind wins, on a consistent basis – and, that’s simply not true.

But, they’ve made hay against the Ravens defense, recently.

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Ravens DE Paul Kruger as ready for Falcons as he ever would be

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Ravens DE Paul Kruger as ready for Falcons as he ever would be

Posted on 11 November 2010 by Ryan Chell

Paul Kruger
The Baltimore Ravens kick off the NFL Network Thursday night schedule of the 2010 season tonight against the Atlanta Falcons, and no one is more excited than Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger, who joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Wednesday to discuss a battle between two similar teams atop their respective divisions.

“I think they are a great team,” Kruger told Forrester. “We have been watching tape as much as we can and you know I have nothing but good things to say. They do a lot of things well.”

The Ravens-along with the Falcons-are coming off a short week as Baltimore defeated the Dolphins 26-10 on Sunday, and had to prepare for a first-place team in Atlanta (6-2) in only several days of work.

“It’s tough,” Kruger said. “It’s definitely mentally and physically taxing but at the same time we are used to playing and the coaches have done a great job of getting us ready. You know, it has basically been full-go since we got done with the game on Sunday.”

But Kruger said they are ready to go.

“I think we are pretty prepared mentally,” Kruger said. “I think we are there and the trainers and staff have done an excellent job getting everyone ready for the game this week. A little more stretching and massaging, and more recovery this week with the real quick turnaround.”

The expectations for Kruger have been high since he was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Utah. Not seeing much action in his rookie year due to his inexperience playing on special teams and not being up to standards when it came to conditioning, Kruger has seen action in three games this year and has been more of a need for the Ravens after Baltimore released Trevor Pryce early in the year.

Kruger said that he has put  a lot of effort toward improving that aspect of his game, wanting to be that pass rusher that the Ravens expected him to be when they drafted him high in last year’s draft.

“That is definitely something I have improved on a lot this off-season, and a real strength for me this year as a lighter guy is playing inside, kind of playing outside, and moving to different positions.”

And now healthy from a knee injury that he suffered early in October, he expects to be on the field each game out and he wants to perform in each of those games.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be playing from here on out unless I do something wrong or stop playing the way I can. The coaches have done a great job keeping me positive and informed me of everything going on.”

“And if anything is going to change, I am pretty much aware of it before anyone else is.”

And hopefully Kruger can make a play in Thursday’s game like he did in his only significant action in 2009.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVLPgq74yg8&feature=related[/youtube]

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens throughout the 2010 season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Spitgate: It’s time for Goodell to get the clowns in order

Posted on 09 November 2010 by Drew Forrester

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Or pregnant.

Or, now, spit on.

I was a little stunned at the reaction both in Miami and Baltimore yesterday as details emerged about “SpitGate” involving Le’Ron McClain and Channing Crowder.

People in both cities were “appalled” and “shocked” and “stunned” by the fact that McClain might have spit on Crowder during Sunday’s Ravens-Dolphins game in Baltimore.

Really?

Shocked?

You’re nuts.

I’m half expecting to see one of these guys pull a piece out and fire a shot into the other team’s huddle one of these days.

I don’t know if you’re watching the same NFL as I am, but the level of professionalism amongst the players has dropped dramatically over the last few years.

And that’s not a low blow…it’s a fact.

To my eyes, having watched the “ground level” footage somehow captured by a Miami TV station, it’s very apparent to me that McClain spit on Crowder. He lauches forward at him, his head rises up and it’s clear he makes some sort of projecting move towards Crowder’s face. Crowder reacts as if he’s a man who has just been spit upon. If I sat in the juror’s box and that was the ONLY piece of evidence I had, I’d convict McClain.

Or I’d just send those two clowns back to the circus and tell them to both do 5 shows without pay.

But that’s just me.

The Ravens, predictably, deny any such event took place and as one staffer pointed out to me last night during a give-and-take on “did he or didn’t he?”, the referee standing right in the mix of the altercation didn’t act as if McClain spit on Crowder while he tried to separate them. My answer to that is simple enough: Have you seen the refs this year? Hell, McClain could have spit on one of them and he might not know it. In other words, don’t EVER use the referees as a barometer for whether or not an infraction occurred. The only thing they’re good at seeing these days are reruns of Bonanza and The Andy Griffith Show.

Honestly, though, I don’t really care if McClain spit on Crowder or not. If he did, the league will punish him and whatever they decide to do with him is fine by me. I don’t condone it. And I’m not trying to be dismissive when I say “whatever they decide to do is fine…” — because I do think if you spit on a guy, the league should act swifty and harshly.

But it’s getting much easier for me to be dismissive of the behavior I’m seeing from the players because no one seems to want to do anything about it.

Roger Goodell has his hands tied with this “physicality issue”, as he sifts through every tackle in the league to figure out which ones are hard and fair and which ones are REALLY hard and maybe unfair.

It’s becoming somewhat of an embarrassment for Goodell, personally, in my opinion. Not only is he bringing the quality of play into question

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