Tag Archive | "New England Patriots"

Cundiff missed FGa

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The Better Team Lost Part II

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Tom Federline

This time it was the Ravens on the short end. The Ravens earned a “loss” and were back in Owings Mills packing up for the winter. The New England Patriots earned a “win” and are headed to Indianapolis Irsay Land. Did both teams really earn their loss or the win? Did the Ravens take some lessons from the Texans and just felt it is better to give than receive? The New England Whiners were given a gift. The Ravens played better than anticipated. The Ravens played their best game since the 49′er game during Thanksgiving. The road to Indy was there for the taking. The story line written – Baltimore wins Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Ray-Ray and Ed were going out in glory. Then in the matter of 10 seconds – Yank – wide left, game over, Ravens lose.

Ray Lewis after the game – “One play doesn’t win or lose you the game.” Hey Ray-Ray, guess what? One play DID lose the game. I understand the premise he was trying to convey. We understand and saw what happened in the 59 minutes and 40 seconds prior to The Yank. We also saw the drive, the drop, the missed field goal, the season ending - one play. To much talk on the Lee Evans – one play - dropped/batted ball, missed chance. I’m not buying it. I try to minimize the words should, could and would in my vocabulary. Does he get paid to catch a ball? You’re darn right. Did he try?You’re darn right. Was the play well defended. You’re darn right. Bottom line, missed field goal, season over.

Enough, let’s look to the future. Retiring – Matt Birk (center – ouch), Ed Reed (DB on field caoch – HOF – ouch). Ray Lewis (well according to Ray-Ray 2 hours after the game – he’s not). Contracts expired – Camera Cameron (I’ll buy the one way ticket OUT), Ray Jr., Jarrett Johnson, Jameel McClain, Ben Grubbs (git ‘er done), Flacco (1 year left – git ‘er done – contract extension). And please Ozzie/Bisciotti – NO five year, 15 million dollar place kicker contract! Oh, you already made that rocknut move. What kind of cigars were you smokin’, when you made that decision? Yes, Raven fans, the guy who squashed the opportunity to go to Iindianapolis and win a Super Bowl, was signed to a 5 year deal in January of 2011. At 3 mil/year which is about $150,000/game. Does that make you feel better? Doesn’t that just make you feel sorry for poor Billy Bob? Prior to 2010 season, Billy Bob Yanker was a journeyman. One good year, cash in to “highest” bidder and boom you’re set. Five year contract to a journeyman kicker? More evidence of what is wrong with professional sports.

I think the Ravens should retire the #7 , because there hasn’t been any luck with jersey No. 7 in this Baltimore town. Remember Chris Redman and Kyle Booler? Am I missing any other Ravens #7? All that talent on the field, all that talent actually playing together as a unit, all that talent surviving teh Cameron and Horribaugh era. Then a missed field goal. Kinda like screwin’ up your country’s  National Anthem. It’s just not right. Nice move Steven Tyler - make “American ” Idol proud. Serves you right for wearing the New England Whiners cloth.

Sundays playoff game was painful. If you are surfing on the web, do not, I repeat do not, watch that last drive and end result, again. You may need some “Emotional Rescue” – (Rolling Stones). I did watch it again, I’m surprised the computer survived.  So, last year (2010) we got to savor the Pittsburgh loss, 31-24. In(2009) it was the Indy Irsays, 20-3. In (2008) Pittsburgh loss again, 23-14. In (2006) Indy Irsays loss again, 15-6. Kinda sick of the pattern, aren’t you? At least the Ravens are in the playoffs. Nah, not buying that. Players like Ray Lewis come around once in a blue moon, especially landing in Baltimore. Hey Ravens front office , ya done blown it. This 2011 team and the 2006 campaign – had the most talent since the Super Bowl team of 2000. The table was set, no meal delivered.

Is it the Trent Dilfer curse?



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Tom Brady Game Manager vs. Tom Brady Superstar

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Tom Brady Game Manager vs. Tom Brady Superstar

Posted on 23 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and usually that seems to be true; when it comes to NFL football however that may not be entirely the case. I was surprised for example at the level of clarity and evenness of callers today on the MobTown Sports Beat in the immediate aftermath of the Ravens stunning disappointment, in many cases from the very same callers at times beside themselves even after Ravens wins this season. That said I was even more surprised over the degree to which Joe Flacco was celebrated for a statistical win over Tom Brady albeit in a team loss. Those who saw yesterday’s performance as a surprise or an anomaly in the Joe Flacco experience clearly haven’t been paying close enough attention along the way. Flacco didn’t do anything on Sunday that he hadn’t shown himself capable of before, and therefore shouldn’t have done much to change anyone’s perception of him one way or the other in a single performance against a less than mediocre defense.

Hindsight though is funny that way.


In addressing the other inconvenient truth (that the Super Bowl is still being played regardless of the Ravens’ inclusion or lack thereof) and perhaps in still trying to get over whatever Patriots hate had pervaded my system in the lead up to the AFC title game, I opined with several guests that if Tom Brady should come up short in getting his 4th ring this time, his career might begin to be seen as a reverse Elway of sorts. They weren’t seeing the connection, but hear me out.


John Elway after all went to 3 Super Bowls as a bona fide superstar, yet still got reluctant recognition as one of the all-time greats because of his inability to win one of them. As his career was winding to a close Elway, a shell of his former self, managed the Broncos to two more Super Bowls and victories therein riding the crest of a prolific running game and a stout defense. Having claimed those two titles Elway rode off into the sunset, legacy cemented as one of the all-time greats…period.


Brady on the other hand, took the Patriots to the Super Bowl and won it in 3 of his first 4 campaigns while playing to the strengths of a capable running game and stingy defense. Throughout his three Super Bowl runs the Patriots balance was close to 60%/40% passing to running production. Also throughout that run the defense was top notch. Brady’s numbers were consistent along the way holding steady around 3600 yards per season with about 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Meanwhile the Patriots were in the middle of the league in passing and total offense.


In Brady’s first Super Bowl campaign, he went a collective 60 for 97 for 572 yards 1 TD and 1 int. and added a rushing TD. Drew Bledsoe threw for as many TDs as Brady in about one half of the Steelers game that post-season. All of the Patriots dramatic drives and victories were sealed by field goals not touchdowns and the only second half TD the Patriots scored in three playoff contests came courtesy of a blocked field goal attempt.


The second run was more of the same with no 2nd half Patriots TDs in the two games leading to the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl itself, a coming out party of sorts for Brady with 354 yards and 3 TD in his first multi-touchdown playoff game was again won on a late field goal.


In 2004, the Patriots passing offense went over 4000 yards under Brady for the first time, and the unlikely superstar was born. Prior to Brady’s assault on the record books, beginning in 2004 peaking in 2007 and seemingly reborn once again, he was the undeniable catalyst in the reversal of Patriots’ fortunes and therefore as deserving of accolades as much as any of the Pats’ lunch pail brigade. After 2004 and with all of the passing marks and awards that have followed Brady has morphed into the unquestionable superstar, but since doing so has failed to get back to the pinnacle that the lunch pail version of Brady and the Patriots once seemed to enjoy as their birthright. Somehow though, as with the legacy of Elway both before and after his Super Bowl wins, we’ve now meshed the two separate experiences into a single collective point of view on each player’s career arc.


Maybe the league has changed since then, but before we simply accept that, let’s also acknowledge that we’ve been anointing the NFL as “now a passing league” for the better part of a decade and thus far the results are mixed. You could offer up the 2006 Colts, the 2009 Saints and 2010 Packers as examples that it’s happening, but to do so is also to fail to acknowledge the stout defense the Colts began playing in those 2006 playoffs or their efforts on the ground as driving most of that playoff push. It would also fail to acknowledge the inexplicable nature of the 2009 Saints to stop passing games in the red zone or their propensity to create turnovers and it’s also a convenient omission of the fact that on credentials alone the Packers defense outperformed their offense last season.


Maybe this time Belichick and Brady are so far ahead of the curve that it still hasn’t fully materialized yet. Maybe they’ll trounce the much more balanced looking Giants in a couple of weeks and continue to perpetuate the notion that wide open passing is the way to go in today’s NFL. For now though we must acknowledge that Brady like Elway is undefeated in Super Bowls as a game manager and winless as a superstar on whom his team is counting to win games instead of simply losing them, with another trial balloon set to be floated in a couple of weeks.



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Laurence Maroney on how to beat old team: “The first thing to do is really blitz and keep Brady uncomfortable”

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Laurence Maroney on how to beat old team: “The first thing to do is really blitz and keep Brady uncomfortable”

Posted on 20 January 2012 by Ryan Chell

If anyone knows how to stop a high-powered offense in the New England Patriots, you’re going to have to go right to an insightful source to find that answer.

Unfortunately for a tight-knit organization led by Bill Belichick-the master of secrets, there aren’t a lot of those guys who have that kind of information to hand out.

But WNST’s own Thyrl Nelson caught up with a guy who used to line up in the backfield behind the Patriots future Hall-of-Famer in quarterback Tom Brady in running back Laurence Maroney on Thursday.

Maroney, who was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2006 out of Minnesota, is currently a free agent and is anxiously trying to work his way back onto an NFL team for next year.

Having been a part of Patriot-style offenses in New England and Denver run by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he knows the team very well.

Nelson asked Maroney how the Ravens should handle the Patriots if he was a consultant, and Maroney had a quick answer.

You have go get Tom Brady out of rhythm by bringing the pressure on the blitz.

“The first thing to do is really blitz and keep Brady uncomfortable,” Maroney told Nelson. “He’s going to sit there and read defenses and get comfortable. He can pick you apart once the momentum’s going and the lineman get going.”

Maroney said it was his role as Patriots back to be the final nail in the coffin for opposing defenses.

“That’s what starts the running game and it just starts to trickle down.”

But at the same time though, Maroney told Raven nation to understand this.  John Harbaugh and Chuck Pagano may have the greatest defensive game-plan available to them, but Tom Brady is going to make some plays just because of his game smarts and preparation.

“Brady is one of the smartest…if not the smartest quarterback that I’ve played with,” Maroney said. “He’s just going to sit there if you give him time with the type of receivers and tight ends he has. They’re going to find a way to get open. And he’s going to find a way to get them the ball.”

Obviously as a running back, Maroney pushed across the idea of pacing the game for the Ravens by handing the ball off to Ray Rice in the second half should the Ravens jump ahead.

“Ray Rice is definitely a great running back,” Maroney said, “that’s definitely a proven guy in this league. It’s going to be difficult-especially the wild card game that I was last with them-and he definitely showed when he broke the game out when he ran for 80 yards that he’s a game-changer. If you don’t control that guy, he’s definitely going to do his thing.”

If the Ravens are on their game, Maroney says-you can’t ever count them out.

“You can never overlook the Ravens cause you can tell the history,” Maroney said. “This is a team you can’t count out, especially with their defense. They have one of the best defenses that you can’t overlook them and you have to be ready and prepared for that game.”

And who knows-with Ray Rice scheduled to be a free agent and the uncertainty regarding the future career of backup running back Ricky Williams, could the Ravens maybe be interested in the seldom-used, 26-year first-round pick?

He’ll welcome any opportunity to prove himself yet again to an NFL team.

“I just want a job,” Maroney said. “I just want to get back in the league.”

“I’m only 26 years old. I’m still young-this would have only been my sixth-year in the league. I’ve got the fresh legs. I still have a lot to offer to the league.”

WNST thanks Laurence Maroney for joining Thyrl Nelson this week in preparation for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game! Check the  BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the full conversation! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!


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Adalius Thomas: “I think they should call me and let me play this game to guard Gronkowski”

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Adalius Thomas: “I think they should call me and let me play this game to guard Gronkowski”

Posted on 20 January 2012 by Ryan Chell

Former Ravens and Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas has been out of football for two seasons now and while nestling himself in his home state of Mississippi, he has taken the transition out of the game very well.

But with a huge game this weekend between the only teams he knew in his NFL career for the AFC Championship and the chance to head to Indianapolis for Super Bowl 46 for Baltimore and New England, he said he wouldn’t mind getting a call and the chance to suit up Sunday.

Thomas joined Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Thursday-as he jokingly said that if the Ravens need a versatile linebacker to cover Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski or someone to put the heat on Tom Brady, his phone is on.

“I think first thing…they should call me and let me play this game to guard Gronkowski,” Thomas laughed.

Thomas, a sixth-round pick of the Ravens in 2000, enjoyed his career in Baltimore right from the start.

Despite not playing much in his first three seasons, Thomas earned a championship ring as a member of the Super Bowl XXV team.

It was then and there that he got to learn from one of the best defensive players in the history of the NFL in Ray Lewis, and he sees a similar work ethic out of #52 in this year’s potential Super Bowl run.

“Baltimore has always had a good defense,” Thomas said. “Ray Lewis has always been the head of the defense with the intensity he brings to the game.”

And given the position Thomas is in being out of the game, he hopes that his former teammate gets one more game to show fans what he can do on the football field while hopefully adding another championship ring to his finger.

“I can’t speak personally for Ray, but the postseason is win or go home,” Thomas told Clark. “To know that you never know if you’ll get back to this place, to have this opportunity-you want to give it everything you have.”

Thomas said he was like a  sponge from 2000-2006 when it came to his interaction and time with Lewis, and he flourished because of it.

Seeing full-time playing time on defense in 2003, Thomas became quite the weapon for defensive coordinators Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan.  During that four year stretch until his final season in Baltimore, Thomas made plays all over the field recording 282 tackles and 32 sacks.

In 2005, he led the NFL in scoring non-offensive touchdowns.

That high level of play paid off for Thomas when he hit free agency after the 2006 season, as the defensive-minded coach in Bill Belichick basically handed AD a blank check to come to New England after two Pro-Bowl seasons in Baltimore.

Much like his first season as Raven, Thomas found himself on a Super Bowl team with the Patriots in 2007, reaching Super Bowl XLII after going 16-0 in the regular season with Tom Brady in the driver’s seat of a record-setting offense.

He recorded two sacks of Giants quarterback Eli Manning in that game, but unfortunately the story didn’t end on a good note for Thomas and the Patriots as the Giants spoiled the perfect season with a 17-14 victory.

He sees a lot of similarities between that team and the 2012 Patriots, and said the Ravens are going to need to bring 100% effort to topple the AFC’s top-seed.

“I think they’re still explosive,” Thomas noted. “You still have Tom Brady at quarterback and a number of receivers that can beat you.”

The biggest asset the Patriots have going for them is the amount of weapons they have at their disposal.

“The one thing that’s always unique about the Patriots is you never know how they’re going to attack you,” Thomas said. “Every week, they break down their opponent and they change their game plan to the best situation that would attack the defense.”

Ultimately though, Thomas rounded out the conversation by saying he’s rooting for his first love, the Baltimore Ravens.

Thomas had an ugly divorce with Belichick and the Patriots, and he loved the city of Baltimore. It’s an easy decision for him on his rooting interest on Sunday.

“I want Baltimore to win because I love the fans there,” Thomas said. “The fans have always been great to me even when I come back there. I still own a house in the area. I hope Baltimore pulls it out.”

WNST thanks AD for joining “The Reality Check” with Glenn Clark! To hear the entire interview, check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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AFC Title Game: A Referendum on the 2010 Draft

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AFC Title Game: A Referendum on the 2010 Draft

Posted on 20 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Over the course of the last 4 days or so, it seems that we’ve beaten up and dissected every match-up, angle and storyline that could decide Sunday’s outcome between the Ravens and Patriots. To some degree though, the game has already been won or lost, in the draft rooms of the respective wizards at the helms of these two clubs New England Head Coach Bill Belichick and Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

Their draft histories are both highly respected and incestuously intertwined. It was, after all, the Ravens (then Browns) front office that cut Belichick loose from his first head coaching post, and Belichick’s first round pick in 2003 that the Ravens acquired to get Kyle Boller. In return the Patriots got a pair of picks from Baltimore, one of which they used to select defensive stalwart Vincent Wilfork and the other which in a roundabout way led them to the pick that they used to acquire Asante Samuel. Add to that the Ravens decision to let go of Adalius Thomas before the 2007 season and Patriots subsequent acquisition of the linebacker and Ozzie and the Ravens had to be feeling as responsible as any party in football for the Patriots run at near perfection in the 2007 season.


Sunday’s match-up, no matter the outcome will absolutely serve as an early referendum on the 2010 drafts of both of these teams.


Despite their well-deserved draft prowess, both Ozzie and Belichick have plenty of picks and possibly entire drafts that they’d rather have back. In the Ravens case 2010 might be that draft.


In 2010 the Ravens traded out of their first round pick (25th overall) to the Broncos and current Patriots offensive coordinator in waiting Josh McDaniels who used the selection on Tim Tebow, the Patriots playoff opponent from last week. In return the Ravens got picks in the second round (43rd overall), third round (70th overall) and fourth round (114th overall) from Denver.


Patriots all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski was selected by New England 42nd overall, just one pick ahead of Baltimore who spent their 43rd pick on Sergio Kindle, a first round talent with the dreaded question marks that tend to scare NFL teams away and one who has failed to pay any dividends for the team in the two seasons since his acquisition.


With the 70th pick, the Ravens took their own tight end Ed Dickson, a full 25 picks before Jimmy Graham went off the board to the Saints at #95. The Ravens also traded out of their own second round pick at 88th overall, still 7 spots ahead of the Graham selection and 5 spots ahead of the Chiefs selection of Tony Moeaki.


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Unconventional Ravens Creating Their Own Bulletin Board Material

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Unconventional Ravens Creating Their Own Bulletin Board Material

Posted on 19 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

A little bulletin board material never hurts when trying to elicit every modicum of motivation out of a team in any sport. When the opponent at hand however is the New England Patriots, bulletin board material is usually tough to come by. The Patriots have done their best Lou Holtz imitation all week in preparation for the Ravens, and will likely continue to do more of the same. Why, after all, would the Patriots need to sing their own praises or to trash the Ravens’ achievements when the media and fans seem to be doing plenty enough of that for everyone?

As opponents have provided little fuel for the Ravens proverbial fire in terms of trash talking, the Ravens themselves have seemingly taken a creative means to finding their other external motivations or even creating them internally.


Last week Joe Flacco successfully predicted that the Ravens would win their game and he’d fail to get any credit for the win, to that end he’s ‘invited the conversation that has followed. More importantly however, Flacco acknowledged (albeit indirectly) that he hears the criticism, and his willingness to bring it up further suggests that it bothers/motivates him.


If the Patriots aren’t going to push that button, maybe it’s good that Ed Reed did. His comments were succinct and respectful when taken in context, borne in truth and from a desire to win, and along the way to indicting the quarterback Reed offered up several other scapegoats and/or excuses as possible factors in what he assessed.


That Terrell Suggs clearly and passionately countered Reed’s assessment with a full and unwavering vote of confidence in Flacco wasn’t nearly as bantered about by the media, but surely isn’t lost on the quarterback either.


And speaking of factors not lost, surely Reed is aware that while pointing a finger at Flacco and the offense, there are 3 more fingers pointed back at him (as the saying goes). Reed acknowledged as much by prefacing his comments with a concession that he didn’t play well either on Sunday. Reed capitalized once again on his flair for the dramatic and locked up the sealing and highlight inducing interception against Houston, but might have left 2 more interceptions on the field. And while his reemergence in the stat column is refreshing (and encouraging given his propensity to accumulate interceptions in bunches), reemergence suggests that there was a submergence that led to it, as Reed has not only been largely absent from the stat column of late, but his lack of tacking has been the topic of healthy debate for the last couple of weeks too.


All season (on the MobTown Sports Beat) we’ve touted the value of motivation, and while it seems logical that professional athletes, especially in the playoffs, should be sufficiently able to motivate themselves, a little something extra never hurt. All season we marveled at the Packers not only because of the precision with which they were performing, but also and more impressively because they were somehow finding ways to improve despite the fact that they were already the league’s most efficient unit. Not buying into your own hype is often easier said than done.


Hopefully as the Ravens prepare for the Patriots and a possible trip to Indianapolis as a result, both Ed Reed and Joe Flacco are going to bed at night burning over missed opportunities and scheming ways to make sure that they don’t get away again. Hopefully too (but far less likely) Tom Brady and the Patriots are tucking in at night wholly enamored with their 45-10 dismantling of the Broncos and simply expecting more of the same this week.


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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

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Pay Rice or Delay Rice?

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Lingering legends aside, Ray Rice might be the most popular and productive Raven today. One thing’s for sure…at $550K or so in the final season of his contract, Ray Rice is easily the Ravens best pound-for-pound bargain, and arguably the league’s best. One other thing that seems assured is that Rice is going to get paid. When, how much and where that happens however may not be as much of a foregone conclusion as it would seem.

This has been “the year of…” lots of things in the NFL, the year of the 5K quarterbacks, the year of the rookies, the year of the power forwards at tight end and the year of the disgruntled running back.


As running backs league wide from Chris Johnson to Frank Gore, from Matt Forte to Peyton Hillis have barked and in some cases dogged it (allegedly…and no pun intended) over their “contract to performance ratios”, Rice with arguably the strongest case of all has remained silent. Silent about the contract that is, on the field he has been anything but silent or dogged.


It’s been a running topic of conversation all season on the MobTown Sports Beat and everyone seems assured that Rice will be taken care of by the Ravens and some have speculated that there’s no reason Rice shouldn’t feel confident that the team will take care of him.


It’s all but 100% (in my mind at least) that Rice will be back next season, but under what circumstances and for how long are still debatable.


If you subscribe to the school of WWBBD (What would Bill Bellichick do?) the answer is to franchise Rice. Given Adrian Peterson’s new contract, the franchise tag will be a big number, but only for one season. Whether Rice would maintain his decorum for another season under similar (albeit more lucrative) circumstances to this one would remain to be seen as well.


In addition to Peterson’s contract, his injury will also likely factor heavily into the Ravens impending decision of whether to franchise Rice or to pay him long term money. Peterson’s injury is a not so subtle reminder of just how quickly a running back in particular can see his season (or even his career) ended. Having all of your eggs in that proverbial basket is a high-risk high reward proposition (as we learned in 2001 with Jamal Lewis’ injury).


The value of NFL running backs is on the decline, but the pay scale on the top end of the position is still rising. There are lots of Pro Bowl caliber and highly compensated running backs in the NFL watching the playoffs from home this season, and most of the league’s most productive offenses have plug and play backfields and use the running game as an afterthought for little more than window dressing it would seem at times.


Only one running back went in the first round of the last NFL draft and while still promising, Mark Ingram has done little to make teams sorry for passing on him. DeMarco Murray, taken on the second day of the draft was the league’s best rookie at the position.


One year prior, Ryan Matthews, CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best all went in the first round and all were summarily outperformed by undrafted rookies LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. An undrafted practice squad player from one season earlier led the league in rushing last season and the Packers marched through the Super Bowl after losing their bell-cow in Ryan Grant and replacing him with little known and lightly regarded James Starks.

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

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NFL Playoff Positional Power Rankings

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a look at my positional power rankings for the players and teams that are left in the playoffs. This year’s stats accounted for a lot but at the end of the day it’s my opinion on who I’d suit up today for the best chance at winning.



1 – Aaron Rodgers (GB)

2 – Drew Brees (NO)

3 – Tom Brady (NE)

4 – Eli Manning (NYG)

5 – Matthew Stafford (DET)

6 – Matt Ryan (ATL)


* I gave 6 here since the first 3 were fairly obvious (if not their respective places in that top 3)



Running Backs


1 – Ray Rice (BAL)

2 – Arian Foster (HOU)

3 – Michael Turner (ATL)

4 – Frank Gore (SF)

5 – Darren Sproles (NO)



Wide Receivers


1 – Calvin Johnson (DET)

2 – Andre Johnson (HOU)

3 – AJ Green (CIN)

4 – Victor Cruz (NYG)

5 – Wes Welker (NE)

6 – Roddy White (ATL)

7 – Greg Jennings (GB)

8 – Jordy Nelson (GB)

9 – Mike Wallace (PIT)

10 – Hakeem Nicks (NYG)


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Playmakers or Mis-Takers: Who’s Deciding NFL Games?

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Playmakers or Mis-Takers: Who’s Deciding NFL Games?

Posted on 15 December 2011 by Thyrl Nelson


While reading Jeff Pearlman’s book “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton” (a fantastic read not at all accurately depicted by the salacious snippet chosen to excerpt in Sports Illustrated and one I’ll write more about later) I stumbled across an old Paul Brown quote that for some reason has resonated in my head ever since. As the cyclical nature of football brings all things full circle, Brown’s wisdom has pervaded my consciousness to a degree that I can’t explain and has absolutely changed the way that I’m looking at football these days.

The fifteen words put forth by Brown that have changed my football viewing life are these: “Football is a game of errors. The team that makes the fewest errors usually wins. “


It’s such a simple concept and one that on the surface doesn’t feel like a revelation at all, yet as we look at games and match ups and try to prognosticate upcoming games or to simply explain the outcomes of games already decided, we the highlight driven society that we are, pay too much attention to the stars and their abilities to make plays and not enough attention to the supporting cast and the likelihood that they’ll be able to provide the requisite support to make those stars shine.


The modern metrics that have taken over baseball have done a fair enough job at quantifying the bare minimum of Major League credibility. The RP in VORP (and formerly in WARP, subsequently shortened to WAR) represents the “replacement player”. In simple terms the replacement player represents a baseline of expectation for the production of any player called up from AAA to fill a given position. Calculating a star’s value beyond that replacement player then quantifies his stardom and moreover his contribution to the winning formula.


Sooner or later the statisticians will take over football too. When they do, you can bet that they’ll begin by figuring out what baseline production should be. In other words, someone far smarter than I could likely come up with a yardage expectation on any given play if all 22 guys involved in the play simply do their jobs. From there it would be easier to determine whether the contributions of stars were valuable enough to offset the costly mistakes of the supporting cast or the mistakes made by those stars on other plays.


The more I watch, the more I’m convinced that far more NFL games are decided by the players who are messing up than those who are making big plays. In fact, the argument could be made that big plays wouldn’t even be possible unless someone on the other side of the ball messes up.


There are lots of different types of mistakes that NFL players and teams can make from play to play. Some are easy to spot, others much more subtle. Players can only be held responsible to do whatever task their assignment calls for, therefore the guys giving those assignments had better be on their games. Players can’t succeed unless they are put in a position to do so. Good play will overcome bad coaching in only the rarest of instances and mistakes made before the ball is ever snapped can be among the costliest and most difficult to overcome.


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MobTown Sports Blog

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MobTown Sports Blog

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a quick look ahead at the agenda for Monday on the MobTown Sports Beat:


Ravens Reaction


The Ravens are always on the table, especially on MSB Mondays. We’ll look back on the Ravens impressive and needed win over divisional rival Cleveland and have plenty of reaction.


A Nickel and a Nail


Five penny for your thought type topics of conversation and a nail for someone who deserves it.


#1 – BC-Mess or Oklahoma Statement


Despite an impressive thumping of the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State will be home watching the BCS title game like the rest of us. There’s little doubt that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country, but do we really want to relive 9-6 snoozer that was the “game of the century” from just over a month ago? And how now can LSU lose a national title to Alabama after beating them on their own field in November and playing a much tougher out of conference schedule and the SEC title game? How much of this is due to the media’s inability to let go of their stated notion that Alabama was the best team in the country in the first place? Would LSU be getting this same opportunity if they had lost at home to Bama?



#2 – Tarheels are Baby Soft


They’re talented, there’s no doubt about that. The Tarheels are inordinately talented for a team in this the “one and done” era, the problem is that they seem to know it too. The juggernaut that Carolina looked to bring to the table after returning Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zellar and John Henson to fuse with the typical insurgence of Tarheel freshman talent so far has been anything but. After stumbling out of the gates last year only to turn it up for the stretch, Barnes looks to be making that his habit. Their talent will be enough to get them by on most nights, but when the real heat turns up, look for these Tarheels to wilt under the pressure like they did against Kentucky on Saturday. They appear poorly coached and at times altogether indifferent. Don’t believe the hype surrounding this Carolina team, as it appears that they themselves have already bought in too much.


#3 – NBA Free Agency to Begin on Monday?


Sort of at least…beginning on Monday it looks like teams will be free to at least make known their intentions and overtures to prospective free agents ahead of Friday’s projected final resolution in the lockout. Big men abound in free agency and no NBA team ever has enough of those. Greg Oden could be headed to the Heat, making him and them even more hated then each is already individually. Additionally, as “Big 3’s” are seemingly becoming en vogue, teams will be looking to fish or cut bait with a few marquee names that could quickly become trade fodder. Derron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could all begin or end this season with new teams. And let’s not forget about Danny Ainge’s latest attempt to sabotage the Celtics. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of the Rajon Rondo trade rumors or their impact.


#4 – A.F.Seeding


The top end of the AFC all managed to hold serve on Sunday. Along with the Ravens win, the Steelers beat the Bengals 35-7, the Patriots beat the hapless Colts 31-24 and the Texans rallied behind TJ Yates for a 17-10 win over the fading Falcons, so the logjam continues at 9-3 atop the AFC.


Houston survived a tough opponent behind TJ Yates first start after losing Andre Johnson again mid-game in a scene eerily similar to the one that preceded his last hamstring injury and kept him out of action for several weeks, and Brian Cushing left early too. If it weren’t for bad luck, these Texans wouldn’t have any yet they still refuse to lose in this their ordained playoff season given the absence of Peyton Manning in the division.


The Raiders were blasted by the suddenly resurgent Dolphins 34-14 and coupled with another heroic Tim Tebow comeback effort, surrendered the top spot in the AFC West (by virtue of a tiebreaker) to Denver.


The Titans and Jets both picked up wins to pull even with Cincinnati in the race for the final wild card spot with the Bengalis still enjoying the benefit of the tiebreaker…for now.


#5 – Packers on a Roll


Green Bay survived its first real test of the season on Sunday when the Giants punched in a 2-point conversion to tie them with less than a minute remaining and one timeout for the Packers. We should have known on the kickoff that the Pack was about to do something special. Randall Cobb, who’s having a fine year, took a knee on the kickoff just a yard or so deep in the end zone, essentially conceding that taking time away from Aaron Rodgers and the offense, even a few seconds, would be unacceptable even for a return man adept at taking them to the house. Two plays later the Packers were in field goal range and the rest as they say was history.


If you’re giving me the Packers or the field today, I’ll still take the field but it’s getting tougher to do each week. You could argue that now isn’t the time to be playing your best football, but the Packers have been doing it since week 1 and still look to be improving. They’re much deeper than last year’s injury riddled bunch and now can count themselves battle tested too.


You’d almost like to get an L out of the way before the playoffs start, but if it’s going to happen for these Packers it looks like it’ll happen naturally, as they don’t seem to be slowing at all. Maybe the cursed Colts season has taught a lesson to anyone willing to take note, “embrace the 0, or the 0 will come get you”.


And the nail goes to the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti for their announcement to take their ball and go home, or more specifically to cancel indefinitely the Westminster training camp that had become engrained in the traditions of many a Ravens’ fan who can’t get to the stadium for actual games.


The move has money written all over it, in this immediate aftermath of the NFL lockout where we as a public were forced to endure the tug of war over an unfathomably fat cache of cash that we were all made too well aware of, that seems to be bad form.  The team will surely try to make it up to the fans somehow, but attempts will be feeble at best compared to the rite of passage that was Ravens training camp.


(While not a regular attendee at Ravens training camp myself, I certainly understand the loss that some are feeling. As a 38-year old Baltimore native, my only “real” memories of the Baltimore Colts began and ended with training camps at Goucher college)


It’s not lost on us, Mr. Bisciotti, that you’re the same guy who encouraged us to offset the season ticket price increase of a few years ago by selling our Patriots, Steelers and/or Colts tickets as they were doing very well on the secondary market. Clearly the real plight and point of view of the average fan is lost on the occupants of the owner’s box.


What’s not lost on Mr. Bisciotti is the ability to pass the buck, or more aptly to allow crap to roll downhill, as he did by calling it a football decision. By stating that the Ravens were a better football team when they practice at their Owings Mills facility the owner laid blame right at the coach’s feet even without saying quite that much.


The truth is, it’s hard to say whether the Ravens are better or worse when they don’t have a camp, as this is the first year without one and also a year anomalous in the annals of NFL history due to the lockout. Using this season, as a barometer to measure anything is pointless at best and more likely irresponsible.


I’ll agree that life is easier for the Ravens when they don’t have to pack up and move operations from Owings Mills to Westminster and back, but easy isn’t the road to NFL glory. Eight times per season the Ravens will have to pack up and prepare, at least in part, away from the castle, usually in makeshift conditions not ideally suited or built for the purpose of readying a team for a football game. That the Ravens have struggled in doing it this season may speak to the “preparation” they’d have gotten in camp, under similar conditions.


 The road to a Super Bowl is a tough one, and one that the Ravens took once already while holding camp in Westminster, and the team enjoys lots of cushy handouts and civic backrubs from fans who’ll never have the chance to set foot in the stadium for a game, to lock them out using the fortress that they in part financed is just wrong.



@ Me Back


3 random questions. Hit me with your answers on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST, by email thyrl@wnst.net, or at 410-481-1570. Whatever you do, get back @ me.


@-1: Who are the top 5 on your #NFL rookie of the year ballot?


I’ll go Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, AJ Green, Torrey Smith & DeMarco Murray


@-2: Who would you seed 1-8 in a college football playoff?


Give me- #1 LSU, #2 Bama, #3 OK St., #4 Boise, #5 Stanford, #6 Arkansas, #7 Wisconsin, #8 Clemson/WVU play-in or Oregon if I have to pick 1.


@-3: Who looks the like the best college hoops team so far?


For me – Kentucky, Ohio State, UConn, Syracuse, Missouri…but there’s a lot of teams I haven’t seen yet and a bunch more I can’t wait to see again.





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