Tag Archive | "New England Patriots"

The Friday Football Frenzy .....

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The Friday Football Frenzy …..

Posted on 15 October 2010 by Rex Snider

You’ve circled this Ravens game on the schedule, right? For months, we’ve known the Ravens would be returning to Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium for the 3rd time in less than 13 months.

John Harbaugh’s team should feel pretty comfortable with the surroundings outside Boston, huh? A “home away from home” feel? I doubt that …. but, the Ravens have averaged nearly a touchdown, per quarter, in the last 2 contests, in New England.

Friendly confines?

Not exactly, but Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and this offensive attack have found some cracks, crevices and virtual open thoroughfares in the Patriots defense. With additions like Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ed Dickson, it seems logical to assume the pickins’ might be even more plentiful.

Not so fast …..

The mad scientist has been given two weeks to prepare for the improved and enhanced Baltimore Ravens offense …..
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Surely, Bill Belichick will have something in store to stop the PURPLE PASSING game !!!! Then again, I’m not so sure of it. The Patriots have struggled in their secondary and points have not been a difficult thing for opponents to find.

We shall see on Sunday, but we’re talking about it today.

It’s the FRIDAY FOOTBALL FRENZY …..

So, sit back and enjoy four hours of non-stop pigskin predicting and prognosticating. I’ll be joined by Nestor, as always. And, today, we’re welcoming some pretty cool guests, including Howard Balzer, Michael Rosenberg, Andy Hart and Peter King …..
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You’re invited to contribute, by calling (410) 481-1570. Or, you can email me: rex@wnst.net

It all starts at 2pm. And, once again, we can be thankful for those who really make the Friday Football Frenzy possible …..
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Week 6 Coach Speak

Posted on 14 October 2010 by Brian Billick

My broadcast partner, Thom Brennaman, and I had another tight game on FOX as Tampa Bay beat Cincinnati in the final seconds at home. The first five weeks of the NFL season have been hard to figure out, and I tackled some of what is going on in the league during this week’s Coach Speak for FOXSports.com.

I talked to the winning coach of the Tampa Bay-Cincinnati game, the Bucs’ Raheem Morris, about Tampa Bay’s fast start, the evolution of the Tampa 2 defense and what’s ahead for the Buccaneers. I also talked to John Harbaugh about the Ravens’ victory over Denver, and how Baltimore is preparing for a big AFC matchup at New England this Sunday.

In my Billick 101 segment, there is a lesson in how to execute a play-action pass from Falcons quarterback coach Bill Musgrave, and Giants special teams coach Tom Quinn shows how to block a punt.

I take a look at how the Giants managed, even with harsh fans and lots of media in New York, to rebound after a tough start to the season. There was never a reason to panic, and I hope the fans and media have learned a lesson in how NFL fortunes can change week-to-week.

Lastly, we check out the Never Say Never Moment of the Week, including Jason Campbell coming off the bench to give the Raiders a huge win at home over the Chargers.

Here is this week’s version of Coach Speak:

Coach Speak: Week 6

This week, because of the NLCS on FOX, Thom moves over to work with Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver, so I will team with Chris Myers to call Seattle at Chicago.

If you miss any of my appearances on the station this week, please check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to listen to all of the great interviews on WNST & WNST.net.

Talk to you next week …

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Ravens appear to be ready for the NFL's elite teams .....

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Ravens appear to be ready for the NFL’s elite teams …..

Posted on 11 October 2010 by Rex Snider

For the past few years, we’ve been accustomed to witnessing some dismal, yet predictable outcomes whenever the Ravens play the National Football League’s best competition. Such shortcomings are undoubtedly tied to a few mitigating reasons, but most importantly, the opponents have simply been better teams.

Of course, for the purpose of this conversation, “best competition” = INDIANAPOLIS COLTS and NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.

Dating back to 2002, the Ravens have amassed a collective record of 1-11 against the Colts and Patriots. You got that? ONE WIN and ELEVEN LOSSES.

If we’re searching for answers, a few likely conclusions come to mind …..

The Colts and Patriots have outcoached the Ravens.

The Colts and Patriots have outperformed the Ravens.

The Colts and Patriots have outgutted the Ravnes.

And, as we all know, the Colts and Patriots have these guys …..
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While Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have merited the significant hand in matchups against a young Joe Flacco, Kyle Boller, Steve McNair, Anthony Wright, Jeff Blake and Chris Redman, an even greater reality exists in justifying such one-sided dominance.

The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots have simply been been better teams. Heck, they’ve been the BEST teams of the last decade.

The Ravens have mounted some very spirited efforts against Indy and New England …..

Rewind the clock to December of 2007. On a blustery, snow flurried night, the Ravens nearly upset the undefeated Patriots, at M&T Bank Stadium. But, in the final seconds, the better team prevailed.

How about the trip to Indianapolis, in October of 2002? The Ravens lost a heartbreaker, thanks in part to an Oscar winning performance by former Raven, Qadry Ismail, on a disputable last minute pass interference call. But, once again, the better team prevailed.

The real reason the Ravens own ONE WIN against ELEVEN LOSSES in most recent matchups with the Colts and Patriots really boils down to the more talented team making things happen when it matters most. Indeed, this is a quality winners possess.

It also appears to be a quality the 2010 edition of the Baltimore Ravens are developing.

Yesterday’s win against the Denver Broncos didn’t really showcase any last minute heroics from Flacco & Company, but it did feature a well balanced offensive attack and this season’s first glimpse of a proposed powerful Ravens running game.

While Joe Flacco did not bring loud applause from his respective fantasy football owners, he did manage the game appropriately. He picked on a vulnerable secondary fill-in, when needed. And, he led an offensive effort that clearly wanted to win more than the Broncos defenders on the other side of the ball.

With exception to the hiccup in Cincinnati, the Ravens have improved their overall effort each and every week. And, the wins are coming with contributions from many facets of the team’s makeup. Yesterday, Ray Rice dominated. Last week, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Flacco stepped up at the biggest moment. Two weeks ago, Anquan Boldin burned the Browns.
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This is exactly how the Colts and Patriots have exploited the last decade. While Manning and Brady figure into every game’s outcome, they’ve reliably spread the ball, opportunities and credit among teammates.

Past games against the Colts or Patriots did not feature such an exercised strategy and performance from the Ravens. Years ago, Jamal Lewis was the lone offensive weapon, and more recently, Ray Rice and Derrick Mason have been the only real threats. Of course, the team’s defense has been heavily depended upon in each and every game.

But, it appears things are changing …..

Next Sunday, the Ravens will march into Foxboro with a more lethal offense than Bill Belichick has ever witnessed. Such a reality provides an optimistic feeling on this side of the fence. The Ravens pounded a “Welker-less” Patriots team, back in January. And, last October’s game …. well, lets just say that’s the game that slipped or “bounced” (off the chest of Mark Clayton) away.

There is legitimate reason to believe the Ravens are every bit as good as the Patriots. For the record, I think the Ravens are a better, balanced team.

That said, the Patriots are coming off their bye-week. And, history suggests Tom Brady is a very hard guy to beat when his team has two weeks to concentrate on an opponent. Regardless of the loss of Randy Moss, the Patriots will not lay down like the Broncos, nor will they be as unimaginative as the Steelers and Browns.

Next Sunday serves as a true test of the Baltimore Ravens legitimacy as an ELITE team in the National Football League.

It’s been nearly 9 years since the Ravens defeated the Colts or Patriots in a regular season contest. In the near-decade of matchups, Ravens losses have occurred in nearly every imaginable way. From last minute disappointments, to lackluster performances, to total blowouts, the Ravens have walked away from losses against the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in nearly every possible scenario.

But, as I’ve suggested, that can really change next week. We could indeed witness the emergence of a couple of the NFL’s next BIG STARS …..
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And, to be quite honest, that’s the way it has to happen. Ray Rice is already on the brink and with yesterday’s showing, he’s primed to renew his 2009 outburst. With Joe Flacco, he needs the stage of serving notice on one of the guys who has done it many times. Beating Tom Brady, on successive efforts would be huge.

Most of all, the Ravens need to beat the Patriots, because that’s what winners do; they beat the good and bad teams.

Beating one of the two teams that has dominated the NFL for so long would establish a new dominance for the Ravens, and I think it would serve as a psychological step in the belief they can beat any team.

The Ravens are better than the Patriots, and in 6 days they’ll have an opportunity to prove it …..

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Ravens catching a break in New England ???

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Ravens catching a break in New England ???

Posted on 06 October 2010 by Rex Snider

Yes, I’m quite aware of the Baltimore Ravens schedule of regular season matchups, and this week features a visit from the Denver Broncos. It’s the second home game of the year and John Harbaugh’s squad is reasonably favored by 7 solid points.

I don’t look ahead ….. and I’m certainly not looking beyond Josh McDaniels’ very capable passing attack.

Heck, I would take Denver and the touchdown, if I gambled on football. That said, I still think the Ravens will win the game.

But, beyond this week, a very interesting matchup looms. Just one week from today, the Ravens and every individual who covers, follows and supports the team will be focusing on the New England Patriots.

While I know many observers are relying on last season’s playoff beatdown of Tom Brady as a means for justification in counting on a WIN in the upcoming trip to Foxboro, a proportionate number of us are little more cautious.

Regardless of what happened just 9 short months ago, things can and will change …..

Tom Brady is one of those ELITE quarterbacks we like discussing, when proposing the future aspirations of Joe Flacco. Brady possesses a methodical technique to spreading the ball around, while picking upon vulnerabilities of a defense.

Back in January, Brady’s options were far less numbered than usual. His new tight end options, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, were still in college. Newly acquired running back, Danny Woodhead, was part of Rex Ryan’s depth chart, in New York. And, Randy Moss was hobbled by injury – as the game against the Ravens clearly demonstrated.

Oh yeah, and this guy was done for the season.
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I’m not suggesting Wes Welker would’ve turned the table in that loss to the Ravens. John Harbaugh had his team prepared to play and they simply beat New England in every facet of the game.

However, in just 11 short days, the scene could appear differently ….. MUCH DIFFERENTLY.

And, it could end up benefiting the Ravens.

Last night, rumors regarding Randy Moss started circulating. Specifically, the information indicated Moss might be returning to the Minnesota Vikings, via trade.

This morning, the rumors are becoming more concrete and several sources (including the WORLD WIDE LEADER) are confirming a trade will be completed today. Of course, it hinges on Moss getting a contract extension – and more money.

Such a deal makes sense on many levels.

The Vikings desperately need to find a capable set of hands for the landing end of Brett Favre’s passes. And, a deep threat would be icing on the cake. Oh yeah, and Moss obviously knows the Vikings organization.

Perhaps, some mitigating reasons are at play, as well …..

I think many of us can envision a scenario where Favre packs up his Minny-circus for good, especially if the team is languishing below the .500 mark when November rolls around. And, given the underachieving play of the highly touted Green Bay Packers, the Vikings brass might sense an opportunity opening up.

Indeed, I can reasonably foresee a trade of Moss being beneficial for both organizations, especially if the Patriots yield some young defensive depth in return. Although, it would be a textbook Patriots move in simply collecting high draft picks in return.

Of all the reasons contemplated for predicting a trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings, the most daunting is undoubtedly tied to this mad scientist …..
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The entire football world knows Randy Moss is unhappy with his contract situation. It’s the same unprofessional load of crap that resulted in his ugly divorce from the Vikings, following the 2004 season.

Moss became a distraction for the Vikings. He undermined the mission of the team and his coach, Mike Tice.

The same situation appears to be blossoming, in New England. He’s getting louder and louder about his contractual bitterness. He didn’t catch a single pass in Monday’s victory against Miami, and he reportedly had “words” with Bill Belichick, yesterday.

That’s a bad move ….. unless, of course, the intent was to expedite a deal.

Regardless of how anyone feels about the New England Patriots, I think everyone with a CLUE realizes who really runs, controls and commands that organization. Bill Belichick is without a shadow of doubt, the H.M.F.I.C. of that team.

Nobody challenges his authority. And, if someone commits such an act, they’ll receive a departure ticket out of Logan Airport pretty quickly. Just ask Deion Branch or Adalius Thomas.

As I write this blog, many syndicated voices are flushing the collective 2010 competitive chances of the Patriots directly down the toilet …..

I’m not buying that bill of goods.

I’ve watched, too many times, as ELITE quarterbacks have introduced talented wideouts as overnight rockstars. Do you really think Austin Collie would be a top performer in Tennessee, Cleveland or Seattle? Would Marques Colston be a premier threat in Arizona, Carolina or Buffalo?

The key to the New England Patriots remains the same as it has for the last decade …..
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Tom Brady has ushered a far lesser talented receiving corps into a Super Bowl and won it. Just look at the 2004 edition of that team. (RIGHT HERE)

Without Randy Moss, it’s fair to say the New England Patriots cache’ of receivers is every bit as talented as the Indianapolis Colts’ crew. Is anyone counting them out?

This situation is simply reflective of what happens when a guy disrupts the environment of Bill Belichick’s team. Nothing more, nothing less …..

While I still respect the Patriots as a contender for the AFC crown, I’m pretty upbeat about the Ravens chances in next week’s trip to New England. And, if Randy Moss is no longer there, I’m even more optimistic about the Ravens chances.

While the Ravens are only 4 games into the regular season schedule, they’ve luckily avoided any ELITE quarterback/deep threat combinations. Indeed, the trip to New England serves as a formidable test for Greg Mattison’s secondary unit. With the reported, impending departure of Randy Moss, the gameplan will undoubtedly be a little simpler, right?

I’m certain the Moss situation is a distant consideration for John Harbaugh’s staff. That’s right, they’re squarely focused on Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos. The Ravens will not be looking beyond this Sunday’s game.

But, when next Monday arrives, they might be really happy to see Randy Moss playing on Monday Night Football ….. for the Vikings.

And, wouldn’t you know it, that game is against the Patriots’ divisional rival; Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. Indeed, that’s CLASSIC Belichick.

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Do teams take on the personality of their fan bases?

Posted on 04 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Let me preface this by saying that not every team or fan base falls into this argument. However each city and each team in every sport is known for something in a sense. My question is whether or not these two things go hand-in-hand to a certain degree. First off, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. As an example, Pittsburgh is a tough old blue collar town. As much as we may dislike them, does that not describe the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pittsburgh Penguins? (I suppose that the Pirates wouldn’t fall into that category though). The Steelers have always had tought teams composed of guys that “brought their lunch pails to work” everyday. So in that sense perhaps the team(s) take on the persona or moxie of the people. (Notice that I’m using the term fan base as opposed to community; with sports being much more national than in the past, your main fan base might not necessarily be isolated to the local area.)

On the other hand, take a look at the San Francisco 49ers. California is an extremely laid back kind of place. Over the past few seasons, the 49ers have almost played so relaxed that they didn’t seem to realize they were competing. Even when they were winning the Super Bowls they never seemed to play with the fear of God in their eyes. We all remember the story of Montana eyeing John Candy in the stands at the Super Bowl. The New York Yankees are another one; New Yorkers as we know can be fairly arrogant if they want to be, but they generally pack a pretty mean punch. The Yankees seemingly carry a quiet arrogance about them (which generally ticks the rest of us off), and they back it up on the field. Go up the road to Boston…they were lovable losers for so long, and suddenly they win a few world series’. If you say something bad about the Red Sox their fans almost seem to get militant in defending them. The team seems to play with a chip on their shoulder to the point that if you look at them wrong they’re ready to come out with their dukes up. New Orleans is a party town…the Saints didn’t really seem to stop celebrating their Super Bowl victory until the 2010 season kicked off.

Again, these attributes can be both good and bad. How can you go wrong by celebrating like the Saints? By doing so I think you run the risk of becoming the Boston Red Sox who seem to treat every home run like one might a world series win. (Yes Kevin Youkilis I’m talking to you who likes to tackle guys in the dugout to celebrate homers.) I suppose that what I’m saying is that even if you’ve never been there before, act like you have. To keep with the Boton motif, we all know that the fans there can be brutal in that they expect nothing less than success. How many times has Bill Belichek been (justifiably) criticized for running up the score on someone? The Red Sox seem to enjoy doing the same thing when they get a lead. I agree with Belichek in that it’s not his job to stop his offense, but there’s a right way to win and a wrong way. The same could be said to the Steelers, who didn’t seem to want to take out their starters with a 30+ point lead in the fourth quarter.

Here’s a sensitive one for me personally: the Washington Redskins. I’ve been a Skins fan my entire life, an I’m a season ticket holder. But I do see some less-than-desirable qualities in my fellow fans. While the Redskins are noted for having loyal fans, I routinely see people bringing their friends to games who happen to root for the team the Redskins are playing that day. I also routinely hear “down in front!” when you so much as get up to get a soda during the game. Unfortunately many people see Redskin games as entertainment rather than as NFL games I suppose. Furthermore, I’ve had people at games tell me that the fans shouldn’t make noise when the other team’s on offense because not only is it unsportsmanlike, but it makes it all the more sweeter for that other team if they win. Um…excuse me?! (I’ve also seen fans buy beer for opposing fans because for some reason if you come all the way from wherever to see your team play on the road you deserve a free beer.) Two weeks ago the Skins had a 17 point lead on the Houston Texans in the 4th quarter…and lost. Granted this sort of contradicts what I said about Boston fans (with regard to running up the score), but while you don’t need to rub salt in the wound you don’t want to totally take your foot off the gas either. However if there are fans that act as I just described, couldn’t you argue that the Redskins take on that persona?

So do Baltimore’s teams take on the persona of the fan base? I would say that similar to the Steelers, the Ravens tap into that blue collar nature of the city (although Baltimore is a much more afluent place than Pittsburgh). Baltimore also likes to party…Orioles Magic anyone? All of these arguments are matters of opinion, however I think it’s an interesting concept. As I said, this isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Take it or leave it.

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Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

Week 4 is the first week that byes take place in the NFL, so this is a great time to take short stock of each of the clubs through three weeks. And by short, I mean one line on each team — some stats, some observations and some conjecture.

First up, the AFC teams by division. Records are through Week 3:

Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

AFC East

New York Jets (2-1): Despite crippled Revis Island on defense, brash Jets are only team in AFC East with perfect division record (2-0).

New England Patriots (2-1): QB Tom Brady (8 TD, 109.1 passer rating) is back to form as Patriots have AFC’s highest point total (90) and highest TD total (12) so far.

Miami Dolphins (2-1): Even with deep threat WR Brandon Marshall and RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins have same amount of TDs (5) as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

Buffalo Bills (0-3): Another lost year for Bills, which have scored fourth-least points (47) in AFC and have given up most points (87) on defense in the conference.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0): The question for head coach Mike Tomlin is if the Steelers are 4-0 after a win over Baltimore in Week 4, why change QBs to Ben Roethlisberger?

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1): Bengals, despite record, have struggled on offense as QB Carson Palmer (12th rated AFC passer at 71.3) hasn’t found rhythm with T.O.cho Show.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Defense, led by MLB Ray Lewis, continues to carry a team expected to score much more in 2010 (44 points; 2nd-lowest in AFC), despite breakout game by WR Anquan Boldin (3 TDs) last week.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): Browns are led by Peyton … not Manning, but RB Hillis (220 yards, 3 TDs) as Browns gave popular AFC Super Bowl pick Ravens much trouble in Week 3.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-1): Texans got over the hump of beating the Colts, but Houston is not the best team in state of Texas after bad loss to Cowboys.

Tennessee Titans (2-1): Titans defense has allowed fourth-fewest points in the AFC (42), and the Tennessee offense has RB Chris Johnson (4 TDs), but continuing issues at quarterback.

Indianapolis Colts (2-1): Despite loss to Houston, Colts still have potent passing attack with QB Peyton Manning and are arguably still best club in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jagaurs (1-2): Jaguars have worst scoring differential in AFC (-43), and Jack Del Rio could be the AFC’s first fired coach.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): Most surprising number for unbeaten Chiefs is that defense has allowed least points in the AFC (38), and in weak AFC West, KC might have enough to win the division.

San Diego Chargers (1-2): Special teams burned for two scores at Seattle, and Chargers QB Philip Rivers (AFC-high 4 INTs) is missing a suddenly resurgent RB LaDainian Tomlinson, now with the Jets.

Denver Broncos (1-2): Broncos getting decent offensive production from QB Kyle Orton, but overall have a minus point differential (-4; 61 PF, 65 PA).

Oakland Raiders (1-2): High-priced K Sebastian Janikowski could have made Raiders a 2-1 team with made kicks at Arizona, but Raiders need more than 3s (4 TDs, tied for lowest in AFC with JAX) to be competitive in up-for-grabs division.

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1): The Eagles have gone from a transitional season with QB Kevin Kolb to division title hopes with QB Michael Vick, who might be a legit NFL MVP candidate down the road.

Washington Redskins (1-2): Opening victory over Dallas doesn’t look as good after defense was shredded in last two weeks and Cowboys’ struggles.

New York Giants (1-2): A minus-30 scoring differential (55 PF, 85 PA) is third-worst in NFC, and head coach Tom Coughlin is starting to feel the heat.

Dallas Cowboys (1-2): Cowboys avoided 0-3 start in Week 3 with big win over Houston, and Dallas has the personnel to rebound in a wide-open NFC East race.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (3-0): Most unlikely last remaining 3-0 team in NFC gives head coach Lovie Smith some breathing room as O-line tries to keep QB Jay Cutler upright in Mike Martz offensive system.

Green Bay Packers (2-1): Despite mental miscues in Week 3 loss at Chicago, popular Super Bowl XLV NFC pick has plenty of offensive weapons for QB Aaron Rodgers, but need run game to be re-established after Ryan Grant injury.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2): QB Brett Favre looks very old right now, and Vikings best chance to win is to get away from pass-first mindset to get the ball into Adrian Peterson’s hopefully sure hands more often.

Detroit Lions (0-3): Injury to QB Matthew Stafford put dent into head coach Jim Schwartz’s immediate rebuilding plans, and Lions don’t get a break in Week 4 against Packers.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (2-1): Falcons posted most-impressive win of Week 3 as they marched out of New Orleans with a OT win, and Atlanta has NFC best-tying +31 point differential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): AFter 2-0 start, Bucs ran into Steelers’ buzzsaw in Week 3, and Tampa Bay is staring at possible 2-3 record with games vs. Cincinnati and New Orleans after bye week.

New Orleans Saints (2-1): Saints run defense was exposed in loss to Falcons, and defending Super Bowl champs need fast starts in order to avoid same fate against strong run teams going forward.

Carolina Panthers (0-3): Winless Panthers have least TDs in NFC (3), and head coach John Fox may be running out of rope with owner Jerry Richardson.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Head coach Pete Carroll sidestepped Southern California mess and he has put Seattle in early position to make headway in weak NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals (2-1): Despite record, Cards have minus-29 point differential (48 PF, 77 PA) and would be 1-2 if Oakland made a field goal or two in Week 3.

St. Louis Rams (1-2): Rookie QB Sam Bradford will have to grow up in a hurry, but the shame is that the Rams can’t play Washington every week.

San Francisco 49ers (0-3): Head coach Mike Singletary used the next-to-last bullet in his gun after firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, and the last one might be used by 49ers ownership at end of the season if disappointments continue.

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

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3 Keys To Beating The Jets .....

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3 Keys To Beating The Jets …..

Posted on 13 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, we’ve been awaiting the arrival of this day for nearly five months. Through the celebration of Memorial Day, July 4th, family vacations and a return to another school year, this ONE DAY has occupied a place in the forefront of our minds. As I look back to mid-April, we’ve eagerly yearned for two things to happen ….

The Orioles SECOND win of the season

The release of the 2010 NFL schedules

And, when the Ravens slate of games was announced, we wasted no time in circling the first game of the season. Admittedly, it hasn’t always been so significant to get antsy about the season’s first opponent, right? More often than not, it’s just one of 16 contests.

Do you remember these season openers?

2001 – a lackluster win against the Bears to commemorate the Super Bowl championship

2005 – an absolute beatdown by the Colts; a game featuring embarrassing hometown cheers when Kyle Boller was injured

2007 – losing a Monday night opener to the Bengals, while being hyped as a pre-season Super Bowl favorite

2008 – needing late defensive help and luck to beat a less than powerful Chiefs team

Opening games are much easier to recall than most mid-season matchups, right? All teams are undefeated as they head into week #1 on the NFL slate. All teams have hope and optimism. But, 16 of those same teams will find themselves winless as week #2 approaches.

Is tonight’s matchup against the Jets especially significant as it regards the opening of another season? My mind says NO …. each game is important, with only divisional and December/January contests taking on additional significance. Yet, my heart says “HELL YES” it’s more important.

Why? Well, that’s easy …..
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Actually, there are a couple distinct reasons …..

The Baltimore Ravens, as an organization, are not known for rising to the occasion and beating highly touted opponents. And, Monday night matchups on the football world’s big stage haven’t yielded many wins, either.

As we know, the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game, last year. The Ravens are 6-16 in matchups against teams that appeared in the AFC Championship game, the prior season. They’re not known for beating highly touted opponents.

As for Monday contests, the Ravens are 6-8, as the team enters its 15th year in existence. Not a stellar record, huh?

So, I think tonight’s game against the Jets is quite important. While the game does not represent more than a common victory over the Browns or Bucs in the win column, it can serve as an excellent springboard to start the season. The Ravens have an opportunity to beat a quality touted opponent …. and on the big stage.

If they’re gonna win, I see 3 distinct keys to making it happen …..

1) Force Mark Sanchez To Beat This Defense

I don’t think he can do it. In a pressured situation, I don’t think Sanchez can deliver a victory with his arm. His rookie season proved to be full of both mental and executional errors. And, if his portion on HBO’s Hard Knocks was an indicator for his ability to concentrate and comprehend, I’d suggest the Jets are in trouble.

Sanchez looks beyond confused or lost. In fact, he looks disinterested and easily distracted. While he boasts and walks around Manhattan with a 5th Avenue sense of style, he doesn’t carry the same confidence onto the football field. The guy cannot win a BIG GAME …..
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Force him to try. I will bet the house he’ll fail.

If a game is on the line, I don’t want to face Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Heck, I don’t want to face Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers, either. But, I’ll take my chances facing Mark Sanchez. I would bet against him every time.
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2) Come Out FIRING !!!!

The entire football world knows and expects the product known as RAVENS FOOTBALL. It’s quite predictable; relentlessly pursue on defense and establish a methodical, conservative running game. The Ravens’ storied offensive approach is contrary to the Mannings, Brees’ and Bradys of the world. Heck, it’s contrary to Roethlisberger – if he really needs to make a play.

I want to see the Ravens testing the Jets on the first possession. I’m not saying abandon the run, I’m just hoping the emphasis of the gameplan doesn’t rest on Ray Rice’s shoulders. Test the UNTESTED Jets secondary …..

Antonio Cromartie was kicked out of San Diego – good cornerbacks aren’t shown the door so easily.

Kyle Wilson has NEVER seen a play in the NFL’s regular season.

Darrelle Revis hasn’t played a minute of “fullspeed” football in nearly 8 months.

Jim Leonhard is a prototypical part-time player.

TEST THEM.

Will Joe Flacco throw a couple picks if he’s so aggressive? Probably. That just puts the ball back in the hands of this guy …..
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I will take my chances against Mark Sanchez every single time. He’s NEVER really won an NFL game. I’ve said this a hundred times over the last few months …. “the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game in spite of Sanchez, rather than because of him.”

He is not beating the Ravens defense.
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3) Ask Yourself, “What Would Bill Belichick Do?”

After the dust and hype from tonight’s contest settles, one team will be undefeated and the other will be winless. That’s the promise of the NFL’s first week. When tomorrow morning arrives, we’ll have a distinct winner and loser.

In fact, when tomorrow morning arrives, John Harbaugh and his staff will have their minds squarely on the Cincinnati Bengals. And, Rex Ryan’s team will be focusing on the New England Patriots. Then again, Rex might be finishing up a fresh helping of humble pie, too.

Make no mistake about it, as I sit here writing this blog, Bill Belichick is probably holed up in some dark room, obsessing over Hard Knocks footage, as well as last year’s AFC Championship game tape. He’ll be watching and rewinding tonight’s game, too.

Is that Belichick’s strategy? No, it’s his preparation. His strategy to pick apart an opponent’s defensive vulnerabilities and eventually clamp down on them by throwing for touchdown after touchdown after touchdown.

While they don’t always achieve such a dominance, the Belichick & Brady combination seek to beat an opponent to a point of certain victory. They’ll stick their foot on the throat of competition and never lift off, until the final whistle blows.

That’s what they did to the Bengals, yesterday. And, it’s exactly what they’ll plan to do against the Jets, next week.

I’m hoping John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Cam Cameron, Ray Lewis, Greg Mattison and every other member of the Ravens has the same relentless desire to crush the opponent in tonight’s game. Come out fast and don’t let off …..

What would Bill Belichick do?

That’s right, he’ll command each and every assault in his arsenal. He’ll pour it on. He’ll test and likely victimize the overhyped Jets defensive secondary.

And, aside from anything else, he knows this kid will never bring his team from behind to beat the Patriots …..
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Hate him or not, do what Bill Belichick would do …..

Beat the Jets beyond submission. While Rex Ryan had a great hand in building the Ravens defense, he’s asserted himself as ENEMY #1 on the football field. Let him feel the pain of humiliation.

Rex’s ego is probably bigger than ever. He has guaranteed the Jets go to the Super Bowl.

Tonight, the Ravens can take a first step in ensuring Rex’s promise – albeit from the seats and watching the game as fans.

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Have we overvalued the Cincinnati Bengals?

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Have we overvalued the Cincinnati Bengals?

Posted on 12 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Earlier this afternoon, I plopped down into my Lazy Boy recliner while the REAL WORLD came crashing to a sudden halt, as it will each and every Sunday, through February 6th, 2011.

With the Ravens scheduled for tomorrow night’s primetime matchup against the Jets, I was looking forward to a contentious battle between the Bengals and Patriots, on this first Sunday of the NFL season. Damn, was I wrong …..

Before I could begin picking apart my Royal Farms fried chicken lunch, Tom Brady was doing the very same thing to the Bengals defensive secondary. In a little less than 3 minutes, Brady and company marched 72 yards through a virtual non-resistance by Cincinnati’s defenders.

When Wes Welker snatched the first touchdown, I came to an immediate conclusion …..

Bill Belichick digested that assbeating delivered by the Ravens in last season’s playoffs and employed its sobering effects to serve as an inspiration in rebuilding his fractured organization.

You remember the Ravens’ dismantling of the 3-time Super Bowl Champions, just 8 short months ago, right? Before the collective football world fully tuned into that game, the Ravens enjoyed a 14-0 lead, enroute to a resounding 33-14 victory …..
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The Patriots obviously didn’t spend the winter, spring and summer feeling sorry themselves or licking any resulting wounds. They committed to replenishing a talented, but aging roster.

Additions, such as rookies, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes made an impact today.

For the most part, the Patriots spent the offseason and recent pre-season flying well under the radar; in virtual anonymity. That’s right, as Rex Ryan and his HARD KNOCKED Jets stole most headlines, Belichick’s team hid in the grass …. as they usually do.

As for the Bengals, we expected a big splash to begin 2010, right?

They won the AFC-North, in 2009. They, too added young talent since that divisional championship. And, they brought in the guy who would team with Chad Ochocinco to form a dynamic duo …..
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Hey, T.O. was money from the start of the game.

But, something happened after the initial hookups with Carson Palmer, to start today’s game. T.O. disappeared …..

Of course, this was most relevant when the Bengals reassumed possession of the ball just prior to halftime. They had time to run a deep play. Yet, there was no Owens or Ochocinco to be found on the sideline – they both headed to the locker room, separately, while the Patriots still had possession and the clock trickled down.

Palmer hit rookie wideout, Jordan Shipley, for a 52 yard gain. But, the catch was downed just outside the endzone.

Where were Owens on Ochocinco?

Tweeting?

Filming footage for their respective reality shows?

Posing in front of the visitors mirror?

I know …. they were donning their halftime garb in an effort to inspire teammates and bring more attention to their narcissistic egos …..
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The antics of Cincy’s version of BATMAN & ROBIN have been amusing in a grab-ass kinda way. They’re silly, juvenile and virtually harmless – thus far.

We’ll see if that same harmless humor continues if the Bengals continue to play like they did today. I’m betting the OLD (in more ways than one) editions of T.O. and Chad will eventually surface if they don’t start making highlight reports – and WINNING.

Yeah, I know #85 had a touchdown and 159 yards receiving. But, lets be honest, these stats were achieved in “trash time”. He didn’t have any catches when the Bengals were in the game.

Then again, they were NEVER in the game.

And, that’s their problem.

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My Super Bowl Pick .....

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My Super Bowl Pick …..

Posted on 10 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Over the past couple days, I’ve predicted the respective finishes in the AFC/NFC divisions. Today, it’s time to paint my picture of Super Bowl 45. Admittedly, it will be tough to pick against the Ravens making a trip to Dallas, in early February. After all, they’re a consensus favorite among MANY notable sports personalities.

What do predictions yield the Ravens? NOTHING …..

Predictions are quite simply as worthless as the time it takes to express them. But, it’s still fun to forecast the prospective future of the upcoming National Football League season.

As I review my AFC picks, I’m considering the division winners, which include the Dolphins, Ravens, Colts and Chargers. My wildcards are the Patriots and Texans. I foresee the Ravens and Dolphins meeting for the AFC crown and I’ll predict a big hometown win at M&T Bank Stadium on a chilly, overcast January day.

When I look back at my NFC selections, I can choose from the Cowboys, Packers, Saints and 49ers, as division champs. The wildcards are the Falcons and Vikings. While it will be an exciting season in the NFC, I’m picking the Saints to represent their conference, once again. I believe they’ll hand the 49ers a pretty sound beating on the same field where the 2010 season began, last night.

So, my prediction for Super Bowl 45 is …..
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And, my pick?

Ravens 27

Saints 20

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SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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Blog & Tackle: How TJH was used in 2009

Posted on 07 September 2010 by Chris Pika

The Ravens acquisition of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh yesterday gave the club a tough receiver who will help Baltimore in the short term by giving QB Joe Flacco another target in the expanding passing game.

What kind of numbers will the about-to-be 33-year-old TJH put up in 2010? It’s obviously hard to say as the Ravens will have to get him up to speed on offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s playbook and Flacco’s passing style. But, we can look back on how he was used in Seattle last season, thanks to STATS, Inc.

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 20: T.J. Houshmandzadeh #84 of the Seattle Seahawks straight arms Sabby Piscitelli #21 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game on December 20, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Buccaneers defeated the Seahawks 24-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seahawks targeted him 61 times (31 receptions) on first down, 39 times (28 catches) on second, 31 times (18 receptions) on third and four times (two catches) on fourth down. Of all game situations of down and distance, he was thrown to the most on first down and between 8-10 yards to go — 58 targeted passes.

He averaged over 10 yards per catch, regardless of the down, and had six plays of 25 yards or more. Of his 79 catches, 52 resulted in first downs, a 65.8 percent rate.

After a two-touchdown day at Arizona in mid-November, he did not catch a touchdown the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. He was targeted almost the same in each half of the season — 68 targets/41 receptions/417 yards in the first eight games; 67 targets/38 receptions/494 yards in the final eight games.

Seattle threw to him the most between the 40s (43 targets/29 receptions/311 yards) and also from their own 20 to their 39-yard line (40 targets/23 receptions/249 yards).

In the red zone, the Seahawks targeted him 19 times, and he caught just four passes for 19 yards and two scores. The four red zone catches were his lowest total since 2002.

Inside the opponent 10, he was targeted 10 times, and he made three receptions for six yards and one TD.

Where did Seattle throw him the ball, direction-wise? Mainly to the right side of the field with 36 targets to the right (23 catches), and 40 (21 catches) to the right sideline. He also caught as many balls behind the line of scrimmage (eight) as he did over the middle in 2009. But, interestingly, 13 of his 16 receptions caught on the left side of the field went for first downs, an 81.3 percent rate, while eight of his 11 catches to the left sideline moved the chains (72.7 percent).

The Seahawks looked for him the most in three-receiver sets (67 targets/34 catches/3 plays of 25+ yards/23 first downs) and in four-receiver sets (45 targets/31 receptions/2 25+ yard plays/17 first downs).

One oddity was that despite playing just four games on grass in 2009, TJH averaged more yards per catch (15.7 to 10.0), had more catches go for first downs by percentage (76.2 to 62.1) and had more 25+ yard pass plays (4 of 6) on the real stuff.

Finally in yards after catch, he averaged 3.6 per reception, which was 102nd in the NFL. Bookending him at 101 was Ravens TE Todd Heap (3.7) and former Baltimore WR Kelley Washington (3.6). TJH’s average was better than Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco (3.3), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (3.2) and now-former Ravens (and current Rams) WR Mark Clayton (2.6).

TJH was tied for 56th in the league in total yards after catch (284) with New England’s Kevin Faulk and Denver’s Jabar Gaffney. His YAC total was better than four players with at least 1,000 yards receiving — Derrick Mason (273), Carolina’s Steve Smith (246), Ochocinco (239) and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (228).

While not one of his best overall statistical seasons, Houshmandzadeh led the struggling 5-11 Seahawks in both receptions and receiving yards in 2009. While he won’t be counted on to lead the 2010 Ravens in those two categories, he can still be an important part of Baltimore’s passing game as someone opposing pass defenses shouldn’t forget about when checking on Anquan Boldin deep and Ray Rice coming out of the backfield.

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