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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.

Quarterbacks

 

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?

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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Here's a sample of what we're talking about on the MobTown Sports Beat on Monday from 10-2. Drop me a line at 410-481-1570 to get in on the discussion or by email thryl@wnst.net or on Twitter @Thyrl or @WNST.

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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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A Little Purple Kool-Aid to Wash Down Your Disappointment

Posted on 14 November 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Clearly the Ravens have a myriad of issues still to work on as the season progresses if they hope to get to and ultimately win a Super Bowl. Clearly what we saw on the field against Seattle on Sunday was a far cry from elite football, and the Ravens will have to do much better. What’s not so clear at present, in the aftermath of another disappointing loss, but worth mentioning as well is that things aren’t nearly as bad as they looked on Sunday for these Ravens and that there’s plenty of time to iron out the negatives. Since the criticism of the Ravens will be plentiful and easy to come by this week, I offer instead 7 sips of the proverbial Purple Kool-Aid. It’s by no means an attempt to minimize the negative, just a reminder that there’s plenty still to be positive about.

Sip #1 – It’s Good (and hard) to Stay Humble – The NFL is a week-by-week proposition and while it’s generally necessary to play well throughout the season simply to get into the playoffs, it’s never great to be playing at your best in November. Those efforts, while encouraging at any time, are best saved for the playoffs. While adages like “taking them one at a time” and “any given Sunday” are espoused regularly in the NFL, the Ravens have lived it this season and sooner or later are bound to learn their lesson over it. It’s unlikely that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are sitting up nights in bed worrying about needing to get better, but they’ll have to (as impossible as that seems) if they hope to keep winning. This season has given these Ravens plenty of fodder for sleepless nights and hunger to improve.

Sip #2 – They’re Still a Work in Progress – Chemistry in football, and in particular between a quarterback and his receivers can take years to build. In order to win this season, the Ravens will have to do it on the fly. While words like crutch tend to paint a negative picture of what guys like Derrick Mason and Todd Heap meant to Flacco in the offense, gone now are the guys whom Flacco had a seemingly inherent understanding of where they’d be when things broke down. What’s left is a younger and more athletic group, but one full of either first or second year players in the offense with whom Flacco is still trying to assimilate. The addition of Lee Evans (if indeed it’s coming), with whom Flacco seemed to have a good sense of timing in the pre-season could mean exponential improvement in the receiving corps. His absence has provided opportunities for guys like Torrey Smith and LaQuann Williams to develop more quickly. While it’s tough to fathom from the stats sometimes, they’re getting better and more in sync every week.

Sip #3 – They Still Have 4 Home Games Left – If you’re buying the trend, the Ravens struggle on the road, and against bad teams. Four games left at home should provide them enough wins to earn passage to the playoffs. Their three remaining road games are against Cincinnati, Cleveland and San Diego. At least two of the three are tough to call bad, so the Ravens have that working for them too. They’ll have to avoid those road woes if they hope to get playoff games at home though. Hopefully they come out of Sunday’s loss with a better understanding of how important a divisional title and home games in the playoffs are.

Sip #4 – There Are No Bad Teams in the Playoffs – Maybe whoever gets in from the AFC West would qualify as bad, and as a wildcard, traveling there could be the Ravens worst nightmare. Generally though, it’s tough to take playoff games lightly or to underestimate post-season opponents. Once they get there the Ravens should have that working in their favor.

Sip #5 – Maybe they’re Keeping Ray Rice Fresh – Begrudge the number of touches he gets (or fails to get) if you like, but Ray Rice has taken a ton of wear and tear in his three plus, playoff extended NFL campaigns, and he’s not exactly your prototypical “between the tackles” type of runner. The Ravens of the last 2 seasons have been far too Rice-dependant. Not only does it put all of their eggs in one proverbial basket, but it also prevents the Ravens other offensive options from developing. If the Ravens need Rice to get 20+ touches to insure a win, they’d better be careful to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Doing so while also exploring other ways to generate offense could prove prudent in the long run while frustrating in a game like Sunday’s.

Sip #6 – Iron Sharpens Iron – And the NFL is full of iron. Say what you want about the also-rans that have upended the Ravens this season, but there’s no doubt they have talent. Pool all of the best talent from LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State (the nation’s 3 best college teams) this year and practice them together for a year, they’d still be no match for the winless Indianapolis Colts much less the Titans, Jags and/or Seahawks. Still those teams shouldn’t have been in their games with the Ravens. From here on out, the Ravens have been identified. They can play with anyone, and usually will. Teams with little else to play for will now be sure to give the Ravens their best shot. They’ll prepare and play like they expect to win and it’ll be up to the Ravens to remind them that they can’t. If the Ravens allow teams to continually hang around in games, they’ll continue to pay the price for it. Sooner or later they’ll learn from it.

Sip #7 – They Still Control Their Own Destiny – If the season ended today, the Ravens would be the 5th seed and a wildcard in the playoffs. Fortunately the season doesn’t end today and a simple win next week against Cincinnati would put the Ravens back in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the AFC. Climbing back into a tie with the Steelers and Texans over whom the Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreakers, and with New England if they win too by way of common opponents (one the Ravens would maintain as long as they beat the Colts). The Bengals are banged up, losing Leon Hall for the season and possibly AJ Green for a period of time too, and are ripe to be sent back to Earth; and there’s little chance the Ravens will be able to overlook them. Stop me though if you’ve heard that one before.

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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NFL Week 8 Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

This is not an inducement to gamble, in fact it should serve as quite the opposite. It is my attempt at picking all of the games (before injury reports are official) each week. The picks are broken into 3 categories, 5 picks that I love, 5 that I like and the rest.

I would encourage anyone looking for a little extra interest in Sunday’s game to try the MobTown $15.70 prop card. It’s free it’s easy and cash and bragging rights are on the line.

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

Loves (100 pts for a win and -110 for a loss)

week 7: 2-3 (-130 pts)    season: 13-12 (-20 pts) 

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

Likes (50 pts for a win and -55 for a loss)

week 7: 2-2-1 (-10 pts)    season: 10-12-1 (-160 pts)

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

Feeling Lucky? (20 pts for a win and -22 for a loss)

Week 7: 1-2(-24 pts)    season 9-10-2 (-40 pts)

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

Last week Total: 5-7-1  (-164 pts)     Season Total: 32-34-3 (-220 pts)

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David Tyree

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My Top 10 Sports Illustrated Covers

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

It was a spirited discussion on “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider today about our “Top 10 Sports Illustrated Covers”, and while I could have easily thrown in 10 Swimsuit Issue covers or iconic moments from sports throughout the years, I decided to stick close to home with my SI Covers.

Like my choices? Think I missed something? Tweet me @RyanChell87 on Twitter, comment below, or give us a call Friday 410-481-1570! Would love to hear from you…

David Tyree

10. David Tyree catch (Feb 11, 2008)-Not only one of the best-if not the best catch in NFL history, but a heck of a shot by SI’s photographer. And a future Raven-albeit for a short while-on a national cover ain’t bad.

Ben McDonald

9. “Rare Birds”-Mike Mussina/Ben McDonald (July 18, 1994)-Mike Mussina was my favorite Oriole growing up. I copied his wind-up out in the backyard playing baseball when he would check the runner at first-base by leaning over and looking through his legs. And to have the two polar opposites-the stern Mussina and the happy-go-lucky Ben McDonald on the same cover, it was a great pairing of the two on SI.

Cal Ripken

8. Cal Ripken Jr-“Chillin’ with Cal” (Aug 7th 1995)-Another great shot, and Cal showed up on Sports Illustrated several times in his career. On top of getting a good look at a down-to-earth player like Cal, but to see him with hair ( a lot on his chest too), it was great to see Cal in a light-hearted environment of a swimming pool.

Ray Lewis Nov 13 2006

7. Ray Lewis-“God’s Linebacker” (November 13, 2006)-Ravens fans know about Ray’s transgressions and his involvement in the murder trial in Atlanta at the early part of the decade. It was one of the stains on a great career of a Hall of Fame linebacker, and that blemish steered a lot of people and endorsements away from Ray. One example was Disney -who chose quarterback Trent Dilfer to do their iconic “I’m Going to Disneyworld” commercial post-game after Super Bowl XXV as opposed to the Super Bowl MVP in Ray Lewis. But this issue of Sports Illustrated was a big kick  towards putting the past where it belongs…in the past. A very forgiving gesture on the part of SI…

John Unitas

6. Johnny Unitas-“Play Now, Pay Later (May 7, 2001)-This article, and its cover photo-touched me deeply. On top of the fact that we lost Johnny U a year later-on on the one-year anniversary of September 11th, we learned from this article about the pains that Johnny Unitas was going through because of the hits he took during his career fighting to get Baltimore a win. He could barely hold a pen to give an autograph, but that wouldn’t stop Unitas from giving you one if you asked.

The Greatest Game Ever Played

5. -Johnny Unitas-“The Best Game Ever” (April 28, 2008)-Johnny Unitas’ crowning achievement in his career-the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Enough said-and no better shot of Johnny Unitas. I saved this particular issue of Sports Illustrated and have it in a safe spot in my desk drawer.

Matt Wieters

4. Matt Wieters-“The Catch”-(March 15, 2010)-Another Sports Illustrated cover that I have saved. Not a lot of players from perennial losing teams make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Matt Wieters did. I don’t care what people say-Matt Wieters will be a star. He made the All-Star team this year because he deserved it, not because he was the only Oriole worthy of doing so. Great picture of Wieters, and I can’t wait till his game matures enough that this issue of Sports Illustrated is thought of more seriously not just in Baltimore, but across the nation. Maybe he’ll make another cover issue.

Len Bias

3. Len Bias-“Death of a Dream” (June 30, 1986)-Numerous people said it. If Len Bias would have made it to the Boston Celtics and played in the NBA, he would have been just as good-if not better-than Michael Jordan. That of course would have meant that Bias would have beaten out Jordan for most SI cover appearances, which Jordan has the achievement of doing a record 49 times.

Sadly, that never came to fruition due to Bias’ tragic passing after experimental cocaine use. He certainly left his mark on the University of Maryland and on the sports world, and it was a shame we didn’t get to see Len Bias on more SI covers.

Juan Dixon

2. Juan Dixon-“Mighty Maryland”-(April 8, 2002)-WNST’s own Glenn Clark might say this is worthy of #1, but it doesn’t trump my winner. But, Maryland’s run to its only national title in men’s basketball and to be thrust on the front stage and the front pages of Sports Illustrated is quite the honor. Hopefully Mark Turgeon gets Maryland back to this level yet again.

Ray Lewis

1. Ray Lewis, “Special Commemorative Issue-SB XXXV”-There were a lot of issues that had the Ravens on the front pages of SI during their Super Bowl run in 2000-2001, but I chose this one because it wrapped up and completed the run. And to have the Super Bowl MVP, Ray Lewis, on its cover-the leader of that defense-you can’t go wrong here. And to keep the trend of my future hopes for SI Covers, hopefully the Ravens do it all again and send Ray Lewis out on top with another championship issue.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at RyanChell87 and listen to me on “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider! Check out Rex’s list here and keep tabs on us as we prepare for Ravens season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Will Ray Rice Running Lead to Ray Rice Walking?

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Will Ray Rice Running Lead to Ray Rice Walking?

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Vonta Leach will undoubtedly help Ray Rice to run in 2011, might he also help him to walk after 2011?

 

 

Ravens fans may not be happy with the team’s moves thus far (or lack thereof) in free agency, but Ray Rice probably is. As teams across the league boast big splash signing after big splash signing, Ravens fans seem to anxiously await their team’s own foray into the headlines. Truth be told, they may have already it (or them).

It’s probably a safe bet that Ray Rice is madly excited about the Ravens free agency moves thus far. Not only did the Ravens retain Marshall Yanda (and will hopefully be able to deploy him at right guard), but they also added an Earthmover of a fullback behind whom Rice could run for days, toward glory, fame and ultimately riches too. The question then becomes, will those riches come as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, or does the Leach signing indicate (or even necessitate) that the Ravens are more prepared to “Show him the door” than to “Show him the money”?

 

The NFL has changed, it’s always changing, but the most recent and significant changes to the landscape may be attributable to the 2007 Giants. As the NFL ushered in its era of wide open passing offenses and as the Patriots rode that change to the precipice of an undefeated season, that Giants team not only derailed their effort, but quite possibly changed the face of football going forward.

 

Ever since that season, or specifically that game, NFL teams have overreached and overpaid in efforts to find defensive line talent, while at the same time minimizing their efforts to find and pay feature backs. In a salary cap era, it only makes sense that any opportunity one can find to minimize cost, and for that matter risks has to be investigated. 

 

The Giants took the “thunder and lightning” approach to another level, getting outstanding production from 3 workmanlike backs. While not superstars, each did a variety of different things well. Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward not only complimented each other skills-wise; they also kept each other fresh and surely challenged and brought the best out in each other too. They also insured that an injury to any one of them wouldn’t derail the Giants’ hopes.  Before long, tandems, trios and running backs by committee were everywhere in the copycat NFL.

 

Fast forward to 2010.

 

The Packers won the Super Bowl despite losing Ryan Grant for the entire season early on, and without ever really establishing anyone as a consistent threat in the backfield. Quintessential bell cows Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson had good seasons but their teams failed to make the playoffs. First round running backs Jahvid Best, CJ Spiller and Ryan Matthews all put in disappointing efforts for non-playoff teams, while the league’s 2 most productive rookie running backs were both undrafted in LaGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory. And to top it all off Arian Foster, an undrafted free agent from 2009, stepped out of the carnage of the Ben Tate injury to emerge not only as a viable alternative but also as the league’s best back in 2010.

 

And he did it behind Vonta Leach.

 

Foster isn’t Leach’s only success story either, in 2008 lightly regarded 3rd round pick Steve Slaton put together a 9 TD 1200+ yard campaign behind Leach too. At times he’s made legitimate runners of the likes of aging Ron Dayne and Ahman Green, Samkon Gado, Chris Brown and Ryan Moats. Say what you want about Foster’s talent after last season, but it seems all but clear that Leach has never likely fronted in the backfield for a talent as prolific as Ray Rice. And Rice should be happy to be running behind a blocker more interested in doing his own job than in taking Rice’s.

 

The only conceivable problem with the formula is that if we’ve identified running back as a position where talents can (or must) be found on the cheap, then why pay $11 million over 3 years to a fullback?

 

Regardless of how well Rice ultimately performs behind Leach, the Ravens will certainly have some opportunities at least to see how others look behind him too. How well those guys do in those opportunities may go a long way toward the decision facing the Ravens after this season with Rice and whether to pay him as the elite runner many are hoping he’ll be in and after the 2011 campaign, or to let him go, spend that money elsewhere and rest assured that whomever gets deployed behind Leach and the budding offensive line will be alright.

 

If so, enjoy Rice’s running this season, because his walking afterward could prove difficult to take, but inevitable nonetheless.

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Bumpy road ahead to new NFL CBA agreement

Posted on 22 July 2011 by Chris Pika

ATLANTA—As word leaked out that the NFL owners had voted 31-0 on their proposal for a settlement of legal issues and the terms of a new CBA last night, rumors that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith had been on the phone during a prolonged (and unplanned) dinner break by the owners seemed to suggest that there was an agreement in principle in place.

As we found out not more than 15 minutes after the NFL’s press conference at the Atlanta Gateway Marriott announcing their vote and going over the particulars of the league’s proposal, the howls of protest via social media by players and leaking of two NFLPA emails from Smith and NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen seemed to suggest that the players were blindsided by the owners.

It should have been clear (but wasn’t at the time) that the men lined up behind Goodell during the press conference — NFL Executive VP of Labor/League Counsel Jeff Pash, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, New York Giants owner John Mara, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt — never once smiled, even wearily, as the months of negotiations were at an end.

They knew what we were finding out. The road to ratification is filled with bumps that could still derail the process. It’s easy (in some respects) to get 32 people to agree to a proposal (the supplemental revenue sharing deal brokered during the day between the owners was a bigger story that got lost in the later events). It’s harder to get 1,900 people to share one vision, especially when there are competing personal interests inside the group.

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Rex Ryan joins me on today's show

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Rex Ryan joins me on today’s show

Posted on 16 June 2011 by Rex Snider

As the title of the blog confirms, we will have a ROCKSTAR quality guest during today’s edition of the Afternoon Drive. We will be chatting with former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and current New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan.

We will emphasize the conversation on his new book, Play Like You Mean It, which provides the reader with an insightful look into Rex’s childhood and his earlier days of coaching, as well as a thorough account of his time in Baltimore and New York.
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Of course, we’ll take a few moments to chat about how much his career and life have changed in the few short years following his move up I-95.

How does Rex Ryan the HEAD COACH differ from the same man who once commanded a Ravens defense that was feared throughout an era in the National Football League?

Have public demands and obligations accompanied his rise to coaching stardom?

Do the Jets and Patriots share that same intense disdain we see between the Ravens and Steelers? And, does he mention Bill Belichick in the new book?

You’ll find out the answers to these questions and much, today at 4:05pm …..

You can order Play Like You Mean It online, RIGHT HERE

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< 50 words .... Wednesday, April 13th

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< 50 words …. Wednesday, April 13th

Posted on 13 April 2011 by Rex Snider

It’s Wednesday, and it’s still RAINING. No possibilities of a drought in the near future …. unless, you’re the Boston Red Sox. Rack up those losses boys, there is nothing like seeing a $145 million TRAINWRECK in the making …..

Rainout? Advantage O’s
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I hate rainouts. But, there can be hidden advantages in postponements …..

Facing an abbreviated two game series, the Yankees will stick with Burnett and Hughes. However, the Orioles will skip Brad Bergesen and go with Tillman and Arrieta. Yes, I hate rainouts, but this one (minus Bergesen) probably benefits the birds.
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Money For Nothing
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I called this one a couple months ago …..

What were the Angels thinking when they traded for Vernon Wells and his $81 million in remaining salary? He’s hitting .091 and was finally benched last night. Somebody could lose a job over this move, but it won’t be Wells.
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I Thought Boxers had Rhythm
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I don’t watch reality shows – I’m too busy living my reality. But, on Monday evening I walked past the television as my wife ogled over “Dancing With The Stars”.

I noticed Sugar Ray Leonard bumbling through some routine with the grace of a bricklayer. He was eliminated last night …..
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Left Out, Again
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What do Grady Sizemore, Ryan Reynolds, Shia Labeouf, Bruno Mars, Aaron Rodgers and Terrence Howard have in common?

They are among People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful of 2011″ …..

Even with a full head of hair, I couldn’t make the cut. Life is unfair, and then we die …..
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Heir Apparent?
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Washington Huskies quarterback, Jake Locker, just spent two days visiting the Patriots. Could he be groomed to replace Tom Brady? It’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick using one of his coveted three picks (in the first 33 overall) on a guy who holds the clipboard for 5+ years.

Something’s up …..
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Stay Strong, Mr. MVP
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Yesterday, Josh Hamilton broke his right humerus bone diving into the plate. I have broken my humerus and the pain was just a notch below broken ribs. It was hell …..

Everyone knows Hamilton’s addiction battles, which grew from painkiller dependence. No doubt, he’s battling his discomfort “cold turkey”. God love him …..

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