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Ralph Friedgen

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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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PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by Rex Snider

This weekend, the National Football League wraps up the regular season and enters the “elimination round” for determining the next Super Bowl Champion. Indeed, this is the most exciting time on many sports lover’s calendars.

Heck, we’ve already enjoyed a pretty entertaining and, at times, surprising slate of action across the NFL’s universe. All of us have been right, all of us have been wrong, and most of us have been simply shocked on more than a couple occasions …..

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have served as the most recent examples of fortunes changing for the better in just one season …..

At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings have proven that NOTHING is ever guaranteed …..

And, to the chagrin of many observers, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven, once again, that dismissing their reputation and stability as major factors in overcoming injuries and depth issues is a foolish proposition …..

Indeed, the upcoming postseason will be representative of surprising entries, as well as the most dependable late season finishers. But, this is a reality of every playoff picture, right?

In addition to team results, individual performances have also been a major part of the game’s lure, in this 2010 season …..

Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have lived up to reputations of being the best players in the game. Donovan McNabb was predictably snake-bitten by the Redskins dysfunction. And, as expected, Ray Lewis rattled off another Pro-Bowl caliber effort.

As for surprises, who really expected a long haired Clay Matthews to join the ranks of the most feared players in the game? Did any of us really know much about Arian Foster, just six months ago? Alas, did we expect Michael Vick to ever contend for another MVP award?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pleasant surprise performances are always a nice way of wrapping up a season and looking ahead to the future. But, unfortunately, these same surprising players can and will be exploited for the gains of others.

We shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing entourages of hawkers latching onto the NFL’s hottest, new or “reborn” commodities. Yet, to see the President Of The United States doing it is pretty disappointing …..

A few days ago, the world learned that President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and commended him for giving Michael Vick a fresh opportunity, because “so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.”

Fair enough, I suppose …..

But, if expressing such a humanistic approach to helping others and recognizing compassion is a mission during this holiday season, I do wonder if President Obama also used his trusty Blackberry to give Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, a phone call with the same spirited message?

After all, Mr. Bisciotti has provided the very same effort for Donte’ Stallworth, right? A year ago, Stallworth had no clear indications of how or where he might be able to make a living. The Ravens have afforded him a “second chance”

Better yet, did President Obama spread a little more goodwill by gracing Cincinnati Bengals owner, Mike Brown, with such a spirited “attaboy !!!!” phone conversation? God knows Mr. Brown and the Bengals have doled out more second and third chances than Carmella Soprano and any girlfriend of Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Let’s not stop with football and current players, either …..

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ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As we make our way into mid-December and the final weeks of the year, excitement starts to build with many people, young and old. From the anticipation (or stresses) of the holidays, to the culmination of another NFL season, many of us look forward to this part of our annual calendar.

In my own way, I look forward to this time of year, because I’m a “list” kinda guy …..

Be it BEST OF, WORST OF, MOST INTRIGUING, MOST OVERRATED, MOST POPULAR, MOST HATED and just about any related combination, I like compiling lists of my personal rankings regarding people and events of any given year.

Of course, my lists revolve around sports, in one context or another. From the famous to the infamous, and the champions to the chokers, I’ll give you the spin on how 2010 shakes out in my conflicted mind.

Today, we’ll begin with the “TEN MOST CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS PERSONALITIES OF THE YEAR” …..
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10) Lane Kiffin – The ultimate coaching mercenary, huh? Many of us were snookered into believing Kiffin was the sympathetic figure depicted in his dysfunctional ride with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Little did we know his loyalties would tend to run as deep, or shallow, as his former boss …..

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this year, Lane Kiffin deserted the University of Tennessee – the institution that gave him a second chance – on a whim to return to his coaching roots, at the University of Southern California. Kiffin garnered a lot of rightful criticism for switching jobs, midstream, while so many people, in Tennessee, depended on him.
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9) Cam Newton – Well, we all know this name, huh? Yet, a year ago at this time, only the hardcore college football fans really knew anything about Newton. Only in America …. can a sports personality rise from anonymity to celebrity, in the span of a few months.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I suppose we should really be recognizing Cam’s father, Cecil, for being the “straw that stirred this combustible cocktail.” He obviously lobbied for money in exchange for his son’s services, and regardless of what the NCAA might be saying, most of us don’t really believe young Cam is blameless.

Hmmm …. how long will it take for him to surrender that trophy?

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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)

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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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GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Aaron Rodgers  of the Green Bay Packers looks for a receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 45-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Sunday Money – 6-Pack

Posted on 26 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, if you followed my advice, last week, your pockets are undoubtedly overflowing with plenty of cash for today’s Black Friday shopping spree. That’s correct …. I gave three LOCKS for the Week #11 NFL schedule, and I delivered in each one …..

My picks …..

New England (-3.5) vs. Indianapolis = MONEY

Dallas (-0.5, 40/over) vs. Detroit = MONEY

Baltimore (-13) vs. Carolina = MONEY

To add a little bit of credibility, I even predicted the Ravens vs. Panthers final score. Yep, it’s in the blog : Ravens 37 – Panthers 9

Thank me, NOW …..

For the believers among our WNST faithful, you’ve been rewarded with a financial pitfall …. and you’re welcome !!!! As for the more cynical crowd, you’ll get a shot at redemption, this week.

Don’t screw it up this time !!!!

Without further delay, here’s your trusted 6-pack for Week #12’s NFL games, along with a few personal guarantees …..

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GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 9:  Wide reciever Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings jokes with teammates on the sideline while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field on January 9, 2005 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Vikings defeated the Packers 31-17.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

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Ravens smoke signals; are they interested in Shawne Merriman?

Posted on 03 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Over the past couple days, most nationally promoted NFL storylines are tied to the Minnesota Vikings’ abrupt release of perennial clunes, Randy Moss, and the immense bag of personal garbage he seems to drag behind him, wherever he goes.

I wrote about my opinions on Moss, yesterday. Thus, there is no need to dwell on him or his sordid reputation.

“He is what he is” …. which is a commonly used reference in avoiding any further critical assessments of a guy.

However, I will sum up my Moss musings with the details of an incident involving the conflicted receiver and a caterer, who fed the Vikings after a recent practice. A brief synopsis really regards Moss losing his temper and shouting obscenities among mixed company, when he didn’t like the selection of food provided by the caterer ….

“What the (expletive) is this? I wouldn’t feed this (expletive expletive) to my (expletive) dog”, Moss loudly complained, as he looked at the spread.

The incident left the food staff feeling embarrassed, and it caused several Vikings teammates to become upset with him. One player told him to SHUT UP. But, Moss continued, by saying “you know, I used to have to eat that crap — but now I’ve got money.”

A big deal in the grand scheme of an NFL team’s universe? Of course, not.

It was likely just a frustrating incident piled upon another incident, piled upon another incident in the brief month of this hasty marriage.

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 9:  Wide reciever Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings jokes with teammates on the sideline while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field on January 9, 2005 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Vikings defeated the Packers 31-17.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Such situations only serve to validate the suspicions that Randy Moss is not a GENTLEMAN or a person who can be counted on to exhibit a decorum demanded of professional representatives of any organization.

By the way, the caterer, Tinucci’s Restaurant, is a favorite of current Baltimore Ravens center, Matt Birk. When asked for his opinion on Moss, yesterday, Birk said “Some people don’t have any taste. Some people don’t have any manners. And some people don’t have either.”

You can find the story of the incident (HERE)

So, now onto a more potentially productive topic for Ravens fans …..

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Randy Moss slap hands after a completion against the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts October 31, 2010.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

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Randy Moss: has baggage …. will travel

Posted on 02 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Just go ahead and admit it …..

As soon as you’re convinced Bill Belichick has finally outsmarted himself and pulled the trigger on a dumb deal, he figuratively fools all of us and snookers another sucker.

Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of the very public divorce between Randy Moss and the New England Patriots. It’s offically been 27 days, so my conflicted memory still recalls the morning the news broke, quite vividly.

While the deal was not an earth-shattering shocker, it did fuel reaction from a lot of sideline critics. As the football world learned Bill Belichick dealt his sole deep threat receiver to the Minnesota Vikings, a collective bewildering day of sports talk commenced.

Randy Moss was returning HOME, to the team and city where his Hall Of Fame career began. And, all seemed right in Minneapolis ….

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Randy Moss slap hands after a completion against the New England Patriots in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts October 31, 2010.    REUTERS/Adam Hunger   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brett Favre was being teamed with a guy who could catch those Sportscenter-highlighted touchdowns.

Brad Childress was acquiring the player who could validate all the effort devoted to kissing Favre’s ass for an entire offseason.

And, poor Bill Belichick was selling on the “short” …. while walking away with just a measly 3rd round pick in next April’s NFL draft.

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Frank Walker

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Frank Walker wearing a different shade of purple

Posted on 29 October 2010 by Ryan Chell

Frank Walker

Former Ravens corner Frank Walker may have had his struggles and was highly criticized during his tenure in Baltimore, but with a depleted secondary due to injury, the Minnesota Vikings recently called upon his services in the hopes of bringing a veteran presence in their defensive backfield.

The eighth year veteran out of Tuskegee was signed by the Vikings on October 13th, after multiple injuries hit the Vikings secondary, most notably the injury to Cedric Griffin that left him in IR.

Walker, who had tryouts with the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans after not being re-signed by the Ravens in the off-season, had been in the UFL at the time of his signing, and the Vikings saw the former Green Bay Packer and New York Giant as someone who could provide in the Vikings pass defense in an NFC North division that has some strong passing attacks.

“We are going to pluck one game at a time,” Walker told Drew Forrester on  “The Morning Reaction” earlier this week. “This conference is definitely up for grabs.”

Walker has been active for the Vikings (2-4) last two games-including the Vikings second win of the season over the Dallas Cowboys-and a 28-24 loss on Sunday Night Football against his old team in the Green Bay Packers earlier this week.

Walker most of the night drew assignments on either Greg Jennings or James Jones, and despite the two catching 181 yards between themselves, not all of those yards came off Frank Walker.

And more importantly, as Ravens fans cringed every time a pass came his way-Walker drew no pass interference or holding penalties on the night.

And with his team up 17-14 with the first half ending, Walker actually drew pretty good coverage on Jennings-enough that he was able to tip Aaron Rodgers’ pass as it landed in the hands of former Maryland safety Madieu Williams.

While the score remained the same going into the half, the Vikings eventually fell to the Packers, and their struggles continue as the team still only has two wins on the season-far below expectations-and the drama surrounding quarterback Brett Favre continues.

“I still believe that we have a good ball club over here,” Walker told Forrester. “We just have to hold onto things till they start to fall in order for the most part.”

Walker already feels like a member of the Vikings and said his teammates have embraced him. And he has returned that same attitude to his new teammates, especially to one Randy Moss, who will face his old team in the New England Patriots Sunday after the Patriots traded him to Minnesota a few weeks back.

Walker gave Forrester his own insight as to how to stop a player like Randy Moss.

“Do what everybody else is doing…triple team him,” Walker said. “It’s hard because Randy Moss is one person…but everyone has just been double-teaming him…so we’ll see how that plays out.”

Walker may be getting used to Minnesota, but if it were his choice or decision as to where he would call home, it would have been his preference to stay in a Raven uniform, which he did for two seasons. Despite his new gig, he still keeps in contact with several of his defensive co-workers.

“I stay in contact with Fabian Washington, Coach Chuck Pagano, and me and Ray Ray talk every now and then.”

“I tell them it was fun. I had so much fun with ‘Big Ray’. We still talk and play all the time. I have nothing but good things to say about him, and I had a terrific time with him.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Ravens of past, present, and future-even though the bye week! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and sign up for the *FREE* WNST Morning Newspaper to get the best of Baltimore Sports News delivered right to your email inbox-for free!

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ATLANTA - OCTOBER 24: Terrell Owens  of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons with Chad Ochocinco  at Georgia Dome on October 24, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Where will the Ravens be in January?

Posted on 28 October 2010 by Rex Snider

Fast forward yourself a couple months to the week following Christmas. You will most likely be experiencing the typical holiday happenings – your kids are complaining about the things Santa did NOT leave under the tree …. your wife is counting down the days until school returns from the seasonal break …. and you’re simply trying to survive such an ordeal.

Oh yeah, and you’re also digesting the Ravens latest win, against the Cleveland Browns, in the final road game of the regular season. It will probably be a little tougher than most of us originally imagined, but beating the Browns will be a mandatory formality.

And, as certain as many parents are looking ahead to the second half of the school year, many of us are looking ahead to some pretty exciting circumstances …..

College football’s biggest bowl games are approaching …..

New Years festivities are being planned …..

Rex Snider is watching his new HAIR as it’s starting to grow …..
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And, the Ravens will be readying for the ultimate arrival of the Cincinnati Bengals in the season finale’ …..

Now, bring yourself back to this 28th day of October …..

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