Posted on 03 November 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos
The NFL’s version of the final four is upon us, and the Seattle Seahawks are poised to defend their crown and repeat as champions. In the NFC, Russell Wilson is going after his second Super Bowl ring, as well as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. In the AFC matchup, Tom Brady has a chance to climb the Mt. Rushmore of 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Andrew Luck leads the upstart Indianapolis Colts, as the only quarterback in the tournament who is attempting to win his first Lombardi Trophy.
Ever since the Patriots caught fire after their dismal performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a national football audience, I’ve been predicting a Patriots – Seahawks finale. I still believe that after this Sunday’s games are over, those are still the two teams that will be left standing.
I expect the Patriots to activate Jonas Gray, and come out running against the Indianapolis Colts. Gray rushed for over 200 yards in Lucas Oil stadium, and with the addition of LeGarrette Blount, I expect more of the same this Sunday. Bill Belichick is a master of situational football, and just like he abandoned the run in the Patriots’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in the prior week, he will once again adapt his personnel to match his opponent.
On the other side of the ball, I do not believe that the Colts can go up to New England without a running game, and get away with it. They will go only as far as Andrew Luck will take them, and Belichick will take away what Luck does best, he will commit more players to defend the pass, and dare the Colts to run on his defense.
The Seattle Seahawks look to be a team on a mission. They are peaking at the right time, and their defense is the difference maker. They have solid corners, unbelieveable safeties, active linebackers, and a defensive line that at times is dominant. They have a mercurial quarterback in Wilson, arguably the best running back in the NFL in Lynch, and they don’t beat themselves. They are also the most complete team in the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers have come this far with sheer grit and determination, and on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. His calf injury has hindered his play, but on one leg he is still better than most NFL QBs on two legs. The key to the Packers having a chance is to unleash stout running back Eddie Lacy, but I do not see his offensive line opening up holes for him. He’ll have to make his own, and although he is capable of just that, I don’t believe it is going to be enough.
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Posted on 12 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos
Had a great show Sunday morning, with relative predictable reaction by the Baltimore Ravens’ fan base. The scale was truly A – Z, from fans who were extremely upset, to moderately happy. The biggest issue that came up time and again was the decision that Joe Flacco made to throw the ball deep to Torrey Smith with just under 2 minutes left in the game.
Lots of Ravens fans second guessed that decision, and they wanted Flacco to continue to patiently work the ball downfield. In fact, on that play he had a wide open Marlon Brown streaking across the middle of the field.
It is my opinion that Flacco did in fact make the right call. The Patriots were in a single high safety formation, and Flacco knew that Torrey Smith was singled up by the DB on the left sideline. Smith got a couple of steps on his man, but the ball was under thrown and the safety came over and made a great play. It’s a simple as that. You take points when you can get them, and then you rely on your defense to make a stop, and win the game for you. Had the Ravens scored on that play, there’s no question it would have left the Patriots plenty of time to go down field and either tie the game with a field goal, or win it with a touchdown.
But first things first. I’ve seen too many games where offenses try to methodically go downfield in an attempt to score with seconds left, in order to leave the opposing offense with no time to move the ball. I’ve also seen turnovers happen in the form of fumbles and interceptions, mishandled handoffs and snaps. The ball is oblong, pointy, and bounces funny. Oftentimes anything and everything that can go wrong…does. That is precisely why you take the points when you can get them.
The Ravens play aggressive football, and they have an aggressive nature about them. They are by and large well coached and relatively disciplined. No one complained when they went for it on 4th and 6th. When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. That’s how this team rolls, and that philosophy has played a big part as to why under John Harbaugh’s tenure, they’ve been in the playoffs 6 times in the past 7 years.
Speaking of Flacco, for 58 minutes he played a great game. He had two critical interceptions, but he also threw for 4 touchdowns. He should have had 5, but one of his throws bounced off of the hands of Owen Daniels. That was a huge play in and of itself, as it did factor in to the outcome. Flacco set a new NFL record with two touchdowns in eight straight postseason games, passing Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Drew Brees. That’s pretty good company if you ask me. The other question is this: if not Flacco – Ravens fans – then who? He didn’t let up a two touchdown lead, twice in the game. That was on the defense. Scoring 31 points in the NFL should be good enough for a win on any given Sunday. That was on the Ravens’ defense and their patched up secondary. Rob Gronkowski, some trickery, and Patriots’ half time adjustments were enough to pull out a win on their home turf.
There was criticism of Torrey Smith on the play that Flacco threw the pick on. Some fans felt that he didn’t do enough to break up the play. I’ve looked at the replays and he never had a chance to make a play on the ball. The safety was in good position, and got there at the ball’s high point. Smith is good, solid football player, but he doesn’t have the instincts to go up there and fight for the ball. It was not a lack of effort, and I’m not even sure that he saw the safety until the last second, so he didn’t have much time to react. I hope that he and the Ravens can come to a contractual agreement, as I believe he is a solid #2 receiver in this league, and adds value to the team.
Jacoby Jones looked tentative in the last two games, particularly on kickoff returns. He was not hitting the lanes hard, and maybe was putting too much emphasis on protecting the ball. He slipped on the opening kickoff versus the Steelers, and did not look good after that. I was hoping he would unleash himself in the manner that he did two years ago in the playoffs, but he was nowhere the difference maker this post season that he was then. I was disappointed with his performance, as I expected more.
The personal foul calls were troublesome, particularly on Torrey Smith. Coach Harbaugh should have also used a time out versus running on the field to get the refs’ attention. Not to mention he was wrong about the “deceptive practices” he alleged Bill Belichick was using. I under stand coach was frustrated after the bitter loss, but watching his presser brought to mind the phrase “never blame, complain or explain. I think Harbaugh is a solid coach, but hey coach, you got beat. Simple as that. Your defense blew a two TD lead – twice! Daniels didn’t come up with a catch – that Pitta would have probably held on to – in the end zone. Sending out 4 offensive linemen is nothing new. Alabama coach Nick Saban used it this season in overtime, in a 20-13 victory over LSU. I don’t recall LSU coach Les Miles complaining about the tactic at his press conference.
Bottom line is that the Ravens should head in to the off season with their heads held high. They battled through major off field distractions, 19 players on injured reserve, a late season suspension to a key player and still scratched and clawed their way to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. They went toe to toe with a team that features a certain Hall of Fame first ballot quarterback and head coach, and gave them all that they could handle on their home turf.
Looks like offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is coming back, and with a strong draft and some health, the Ravens are poised to make a deep run in to the playoffs next season for sure. Hopefully they’ll win enough regular season games to get some home games in the playoffs, which will make the road to where they’re ultimately trying to get to a bit easier.
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Posted on 07 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos
Although the New England Patriots have been installed as a little better than a touchdown favorite against the Baltimore Ravens, by all accounts they do have some concerns against their 11-6 familiar foe.
For starters, if the Ravens stop the run game a few times, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may have Tom Brady put the ball up 50 plus times, and that will spell trouble for the Patriots. McDaniels has been critisized for giving up on the run too early in games, exposing Brady to big hits.
Patriots tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will have their hands full blocking Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. New England’s “pain point” has been their offensive line. But their biggest pain may come straight up the middle through the “A” gaps, from Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata. Plus Tim Jernigan and Chris Canty have both practiced this week, giving the Ravens a potent rotation up and down it’s defensive line. They can pressure up the middle so Brady can’t step up, which he has to do if he wants to be effective. He runs a “dink and dunk” type of an offensive, and the Ravens have to make him uncomfortable, move him off of his spot, and disrupt his timing.
As far as the Ravens defensive backfield is concerned, you don’t have to have great corners and safeties to beat the Patriots because New England does not have any wide receivers that can go more than 7-10 yards, so the Ravens can keep everything in front of them. They will play man on the outside because the Pats don’t have any wide receivers that need more than man coverage, as non of them can take the proverbial top off of the defense. They will give up the 5 yard out and they will stop the run. The Pats will have to throw the ball down field if they want to win, and Brady has not been able to do that all season. Naturally Bill Belichik will try to establish the run with Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray. With the way the front 7 of the Ravens have been playing, they will be able to commit more to the run and stop it. The Patriots will counter by lining up with a double TE with an extra OL opposite All-Pro Tight End Rob Gronkowski. They will run out of the shotgun, and Vereen might see a lot of action because he’s elusive, a good receiver and a good blocker. Blount had a big game against the Ravens last season, but this defense is much improved, and middle linebacker CJ Mosley has been kept “clean” by the d-line, allowing him to make bone jarring tackles.
On the offensive side of the ball, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak knows that covering Tight Ends and backs out of the backfield is where the Pats struggle, and he will exploit that. Look for Owen Daniels to have a big day, and also rookie TE Crockett Gillmore who not only is a tenacious blocker, but also deceptively fast. Their pass rush has also been dismal, and we’ve seen what Joe Flacco can do when given time. That is why it is crucial the the Ravens establish the run early. That can force the Patriots to move their safeties closer to the box, and of course the line of scrimmage.
Torrey Smith is very fast, and can beat Darrelle Revis. Revis is adept at at taking away sideline and comeback routes, but can be beaten of post and fly patterns. Steve Smith Sr. is a very physical wide receiver, and he will more than likely be covered by the 6’4″ 220 pound Brandon Browner. That should make for a very interesting matchup.
The Patriots should win this game, but the Ravens can win this game. The Patriots also believe that the Ravens present their toughest opponent and biggest obstacle on their road to the Super Bowl. Should they get past Baltimore, the think they will beat either Denver or Indianapolis.
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Posted on 18 November 2014 by WNST Staff
Nestor caught up with old friend Mike Flynn to discuss the recent dominance of the New England Patriots. With another impressive win Sunday night, New England looks to be a favorite yet again to make a postseason run. LISTEN HERE.
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Posted on 28 January 2014 by WNST Audio
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Posted on 20 December 2013 by Drew Forrester
You know how it goes in gambling.
There are games you “like”, games you “feel good about” and games where you say, “it’s a lock!”
I have a slam-dunk thing called the “7-Star Lock” that I only bring out for very special occasions.
I’ve only used the “7-Star Lock” twice this season.
It hit both times.
The first go-round was in Baltimore last month when the Ravens edged the Bengals 20-17 in overtime. The Friday before, I ended our award-winning segment – “Picks and Comment” – with the stunning revelation that the game in Baltimore two days later was “the lock of all locks”. Hence, the reason it was a 7-Star Lock.
You just don’t label a game a 7-Star Lock unless you know it’s a done deal.
In fact, the 7-Star Lock is just like a honeybee. When a honeybee stings you, that’s essentially its final act, as it will perish hours later.
If the 7-Star Lock ever fails, it, too, is dead. A 7-Star Lock can only be used while owning a perfect record.
Anyway, following the successful application of the 7-SL on the Bengals in Baltimore (“I don’t care what you say, Cincinnati isn’t coming to Baltimore and beating the Ravens this Sunday…”), I took a few weeks off before finding another 7-SL game.
Last Sunday in Miami, I called the Dolphins over New England a 7-Star Lock for the hometown ‘Fins.
You can up that record to 2-0 on 7-SL’s this season.
Oddly enough, New England will once again be involved in a 7-Star Lock game. It’s this Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.
Baltimore 26 – New England 13
And, yes, you can make that a 7-Star Lock.
New England’s not coming to Baltimore and winning on Sunday. They don’t have enough offense, even though they have the best QB in the league. They don’t have a defense that can stop the Ravens long enough to let the referees work their expected late-game magic for Bill Belichick’s team.
They have a very good kicker.
The Ravens have a great one.
New England doesn’t have to win the game.
The Ravens don’t lose big home games. Not under John Harbaugh, anyway. Not in December.
The last time the Ravens spit the bit in a home game of this kind of magnitude was January 13, 2007 when the ’06 campaign ended abruptly with a 15-6 loss to the Colts in the AFC playoffs.
Ain’t happenin’ this Sunday in Baltimore, trust me.
Ravens in a romp.
Posted on 15 January 2013 by Thyrl Nelson
When I wrote a few months ago that the Ravens had the look of a championship team, I certainly had my doubts about them actually being able to live up to the legacies of the Packers and Giants as the league’s previous 2 champions by catching lightning in a bottle at just the right time. That however is exactly what has happened so far, and now for the 3rd time in 5 years the Ravens find themselves within one game of the Super Bowl.
The funny thing about the week leading up to the game in Denver was that on paper at least, it seemed to be the most daunting task the Ravens had faced in the playoffs since the Flacco, Harbaugh et al era began. It sounded strange to say that, while still holding out hope that they could win, because obviously they’ve been ousted from the playoffs in each of the last 4 years by teams that didn’t look nearly as frightening as the Broncos seemed to be.
The one saving grace in that expectation was that the previous most daunting playoff match-up in Ravens playoff history was probably their game against the Tennessee Titans in their run to Super Bowl 35, and of course we all remember how that one ended.
If we were looking for the defining moments and match-ups in Saturday’s game that helped to propel the Ravens to victory we could likely spend at least as long as they spent playing the game…perhaps even longer doing it. Here however are my 7 key elements to Saturday’s win against the Broncos and the questions that arise as a result, relative to the AFC title game and the New England Patriots.
#1 – The Offensive Line
The newly retooled offensive line has come to play so far in the playoffs and on Saturday they were more than impressive in stymieing the likes of Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and company. Bryant McKinnie was great at left tackle, Michael Oher was comfortable and dominant restored to his natural right tackle spot, Kelechi Osemele seems much better suited (at least for now) at the left guard where he was able to work in concert with Matt Birk, and almost everything the Ravens do on the ground begins with Marshal Yanda who seems healthy once again.
The Ravens Offensive line was so effective at stopping a previously dominant Denver pass rush that the Broncos secondary as a result was exposed. The additional time that the Ravens offense had to let routes develop downfield showed weaknesses in the Denver secondary that arguably no one, even the Broncos, knew that they had. Say what you want about Rahim Moore as the goat in Saturday’s game, but at least part of the issue with is big missed play has to be attributed to the fact that he was forced into a role that he hadn’t had to play all year because the Denver corners weren’t able to maintain man coverage vs. the Ravens.
The Question: Having dealt effectively with 2 pretty good edge rushing defenses, how do the Ravens, and particularly Matt Birk deal with New England’s interior rush and the disruptive capabilities of Vince Wilfork who was dominant in last year’s AFC title game?
#2 – Variety of Weapons
I’ve made arguments throughout the Flacco era in Baltimore that he hasn’t been sufficiently armed with the types of weapons that seemingly every other high level quarterback has at his disposal. That still may be the case, but since Jim Caldwell has taken over the offensive reigns the Ravens have used the middle of the field much more effectively. Torrey Smith has shown tremendous upside in his downfield blocking of late and Anquan Boldin has been a deep threat at times. Ed Dickson has returned to the lineup providing some much needed blocking assurance, and Jacoby Jones has been reincorporated into the offense. Add Bernard Pierce and his complimentary running style to Ray Rice’s and suddenly, despite the lack of any superstars in the receiving corps, Baltimore has a variety of weapons that all have to be accounted for equally. As a result, their ability of spread defenses out, and accept what the defense is allowing has enabled Joe Flacco, behind that newly retooled offensive line, to sit back and pick the opposition apart.
The Question(s): Which Flacco target will be the key against New England’s suspect pass defense?
If Bernard Pierce is unable to go, how much faith can the Ravens have in Anthony Allen to spell Ray Rice?
Posted on 14 January 2013 by Drew Forrester
Well, the Ravens did their part on Saturday in Denver.
Now, let’s see if the fans in Baltimore can follow suit and do their part this week.
I was watching Joel Osteen on Sunday morning and he delivered such a timely, connecting message for Baltimore football fans that I just had to write about it today.
It doesn’t hurt that I tried to get the same message through everyone’s thick heads last week, but now that the Ravens have disposed of the Broncos and are headed to the AFC title game, I figured I’d bring up Osteen’s message and weave it into something worth reading here at WNST.net.
Osteen’s theme on Sunday morning was “Don’t let someone else take your joy from you.” He went on to ask that you stay focused on what’s important to you and what matters most and to not let others take away your joy and happiness. His message related to God. Mine relates to football.
Last week, a lot of you — so many, in fact, I became agitated at first and then, later, just embarrassed – spent a great deal of time complaining and bellyaching about the “Ravens don’t have a chance” angle most of the national media were focused on as the lead-up to the game in Denver.
I must have had 25 calls about it and four times that many e-mails. Whining, moaning, complaining, fretting. “I don’t understand why they’re not giving the Ravens more love…”
“I’m so fed up with the national media…why don’t they give us a chance? – waaaahh, waaaaaah, waaaaaah…”
“All I keep hearing about is Denver and Peyton and how Brady and Manning would be a great AFC title game, blah, blah, blah.”
SHUT UP ALREADY!!! I said to myself under my breath about a hundred times last week.
You could have done so much more with your time last week. Rather than go on and on and on – and on and on and on – about how “no one likes the Ravens”, you could have walked your neighbor’s dog or washed your car or called an old friend just to shoot the breeze.
Instead, you called ME and just made a whining fool of yourself, complaining about something some guy wrote in Denver…or crying because Skip Bayless thinks “the Ravens don’t have a chance.” Those people are paid to get you to watch, read, listen and react accordingly.
And, as I tried to tell you for five straight days last week – with the scoreboard supporting me on this Saturday night – the game will be played by the players and NOTHING anyone says or writes about it during the week before will have any bearing on the outcome.
Yet, you guys cried every single time you heard or read something disrespectful to the Ravens.
It was so unbecoming to hear it and read it over and over last week. Like the teacher said in “Breakfast Club” — “I expected more from a varsity letterman.”
I expected more from you people last week. Really, I did.
(Please see next page)
Posted on 25 December 2012 by Drew Forrester
The Ravens are heading to Cincinnati for a football game on Sunday.
And they’re going to try and win.
As they should.
There will be plenty of people this week who suggest that John Harbaugh should rest the bulk of his starting 22 for the upcoming season finale against the Bengals. Those folks will say “No way New England is losing to Miami” or “There’s no reason to risk a starter in a game that doesn’t matter” or “The number one goal is to be healthy for playoffs.”
Those are also the same folks who strolled into M&T Bank with a smirk on their face back on December 2 when Charlie Batch led the Steelers to town and said to anyone who would listen, “We’re not going to lose to Charlie Batch, obviously.”
Full disclosure: I was one of those people…but I didn’t have a smirk on my face as I walked into the stadium.
But I won’t be one of those goofs this week who recommends that the Ravens lay down in Cincinnati. John Harbaugh hasn’t had the greatest December of his coaching career, but he’s getting this one right. He must direct the Ravens to head to the Queen City fully intent on winning the game and, perhaps, securing the number three seed in the AFC.
To do anything else other than put your best AVAILABLE team on the field would make zero sense.
The word “available” above is in ALL CAPS for a reason. Harbaugh shouldn’t play anyone who wouldn’t normally play in the game. In other words, you simply put the 53 men out there who are healthy enough to play in an NFL game. If Anquan Boldin’s shoulder is sore and he can’t practice Thursday and Friday, you sit him out of the Cincy game. But if he practices and can play, he suits up and plays.
Saying “they should rest the guys who are banged up” is silly, because you’d be telling about 15 players not to play on Sunday. At this time of the season, nearly every starter or 35-snap a game back-up has an ailment that could use a couple of weeks of rest. But, as the saying goes, there’s no rest for the weary.
So, Harbaugh should treat this game just like he plans for an early October contest. The 53 players who can go, go.
Because as far as the Ravens go, the most important thing for them in the upcoming post-season can be summed up in two words. “Home Field”. I’ve paid attention to the Ravens this season and they’re nothing if not completely mysterious on the road. At home, they’re a threat to beat anyone. Away, they’re liable to stink it up worse than the Rolling Stones did at the 12/12/12 concert for Sandy relief.
They will either go into the post-season as the 3rd or 4th seed. That means the maximum amount of home games they can play in the playoffs would be two. They get a home game on either Jan. 5 or 6, then play on the road the following weekend if they win the opener in Baltimore. Somehow, if the wild card teams win their games (which, if you check over the last five years, happens enough to never say never), the Ravens could wind up hosting the AFC title game. Remember back in 2006 when the Colts beat the Ravens in Baltimore? Guess who hosted the AFC championship game the following week when New England – the four seed – eliminated San Diego? Right…the Colts. Guess who went to the Super Bowl and won a couple of weeks after that? Correct again, if you said “Colts”.
So — while the possibility still exists that your team could host the AFC title game, you go 100% in an effort to better your position on the chance you wind up getting the championship game in your building.
It’s that simple, really.
(Please see next page)