Tag Archive | "New England Patriots"

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Overcoming a trainwreck weekend and starting anew …..

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Rex Snider

I cannot recall the last time I greeted a Monday with such enthusiasm. Like nearly every other sane person, I usually kick and scream my way into accepting the reality of another work week.

But, today is quite different. I just want to get started – on putting this past weekend and its disastrous chain of moments and events behind me. Indeed, this is the official beginning of my NEW YEAR …..

It doesn’t mean I won’t agonize, at times, over the Ravens loss in Saturday’s divisional playoff game with the Steelers. Heck, I will never forget it. But, as Ray Lewis said “you can only get better, that’s all you can do”; so, I’m inspired not to dwell on this defeat, either.

We’re always going to complain about officiating. And, Saturday’s holding penalty that negated Lardarius Webb’s returned punt for a touchdown represents an official’s ability to impact a game with poor decisions. That said, every team suffers a fair share of questionable penalties.

The game wasn’t lost on the Webb play, nor Anquan Boldin’s dropped touchdown pass, or T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s failure to extend the Ravens final drive. All three of these plays could’ve led to a win, but they certainly don’t define the loss, itself.

Everybody knows how the game was lost – TURNOVERS.

Surrendering the ball inside your own 25 yard line, on three consecutive possessions will likely seal one’s fate, right? Well, it will at least surrender a two touchdown lead.

Good teams can and will make such mistakes. Great teams, however, usually capitalize upon such blunders. Today, that’s really the essence of how the most disappointing loss in Ravens history can be summed up. The Ravens cracked the door, and the Steelers kicked it in …..

Today is not just a new beginning for me. It also marks the first day of the next chapter for the Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. All of these franchises can and will make changes – you can bet on that.

Here, in Baltimore, the popular consensus is Cam Cameron will be the greatest casualty of this past season’s fallout. Whether it’s the questionable play calling, sporadic offensive production or unrealized potentials, the artist of the offensive schemes is the rumored soul to be paying with his job.

However, I will offer up an additional “mitigating” reason for making a change at offensive coordinator. Perhaps, we’re confronting a potential crossroads with Joe Flacco and his command of an offense. With three seasons completely in the books, a fair argument exists with this quarterback …..

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Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe steals former alma mater rivalry to describe Steelers-Ravens: “Good, Old-Fashioned Hate”

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

The week of preparation is finally over and on Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers will hit the field and put their long-standing AFC North and divisional rivalry to the test with a chance to advance to the conference championship on the line.

The Ravens (13-4)-entered the postseason as the five-seed in the AFC playoffs-defeated the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday 30-7 on the road in their opening wild card matchup, and now along with the Jets and Patriots facing off in the other Divisional game, the Ravens are determined to get over the hump known as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Several Ravens players joined “The Morning Reaction” this week to discuss their eagerness to punish the hated Steelers, and making the AFC Championship by beating them would make it that much more worth it.

“I know the playoff atmosphere is going to be crazy,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe told Drew Forrester of “The Morning Reaction” earlier this week, “because when we played Pittsburgh earlier this year it was a lot like a playoff game, and that was a regular season game.”

Ellerbe has played well in the recent weeks with the injury to linebacker Tavares Gooden, giving Ellerbe more of an opportunity to showcase his skills again to coach John Harbaugh in the attempt to get out of the dreaded “doghouse”.

Punter Sam Koch also joined Drew and Glenn Clark on Thursday and re-iterated the same point.

“We’re such a closer team this year from last,” Koch said. “And it’s just a vibe that were going to go out and we’re going to do it this year. A lot of people are excited, and we’re all ready to see where we are and where we’ll end up.”

And it would get even better for the Ravens to host the AFC Championship game should the cards play out for them on Sunday.

“It will be a lot of fun,” the Ravens punter said. “It would be even nicer if the Jets beat the Patriots.”

Both Koch and Ellerbe talked about the difficulty though of playing up in a hostile environment of Heinz Field, and with the stakes higher, it makes the challenge of having a solid game of football that much harder.

Koch and Ellerbe both challenged the Ravens fans to be present, active, and lively on Saturday on the road to make it that much harder for the Steelers to concentrate on their game plan.

“We’re going to need every fan we can get there,” Koch added.”Whenever you were going to Pittsburgh or they were coming here, everybody wanted to go to the game, and everybody is cheering you on. It’s just a great atmosphere and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Koch compared the Pittsburgh-Ravens rivalry to the rivalries his alma mater, Nebraska, has with Oklahoma and Colorado, but times ten.

Ellerbe meanwhile compared it to his college-the University of Georgia-and its rivalry with in-state foe Georgia Tech.

The name of that rivalry game?

Good, Old-Fashioned Hate.

And while Ellerbe said he feels the same way toward the Steelers, he did admit that the rivalry takes on a bigger result in the professional leagues of football as opposed to the amateur level of college football.

“It’s different now because we’re in the NFL and more is at stake right now,” Ellerbe said.

“It would be great to get this win and get the best out of three this year and move on in the playoffs.”

WNST has you covered for Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Blog & Tackle: A look at Ravens-Steelers PR game notes

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Chris Pika

Every game of the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend is a regular-season rematch as both of the AFC games are between division opponents — the first time since 2000 that two games feature teams playing for a third time in a season.

The nastiest matchup of the weekend is the first on the docket: Baltimore at Pittsburgh. The teams have waged wars in the AFC North over the years, and 2010 was no exception. Each team scored 27 points total in the two games, and the games are as physical as any in the NFL over the previous decade.

The Ravens continued to have playoff success on the road as they beat Kansas City last Sunday 30-7 in New Arrowhead. It was the third straight season with at least one playoff victory for Baltimore, the only club in the NFL to do so over the period. QB Joe Flacco joined Bernie Kosar (1985-87) and Dan Marino (1983-85) to start a playoff game in each of their first three seasons in the league. The Ravens will try to advance to the AFC title game for the first time since the 2008 season.

Pittsburgh survived the loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger to a four-game suspension to get to a 3-1 start which included a home loss to the Ravens. The Steelers won six of their last seven games, including a road win at Baltimore for the division title. Roethlisberger Has thrown a personal-best 158 straight passes without an INT, the longest for the Steelers since QB Kordell Stewart had a streak of 159 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 2001.

The teams split the regular season meetings, with the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh 17-14 in October, and the Steelers winning in Baltimore 13-10 in December.

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Ravens Center Matt Birk on upcoming game versus Steelers: “I’m sure it’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere and a heck of a game”

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Ravens Center Matt Birk on upcoming game versus Steelers: “I’m sure it’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere and a heck of a game”

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

Matt Birk

Ravens center Matt Birk was a huge part of the Ravens’ offensive workload on Sunday in the Ravens 30-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in the Wild Card opening round,  and he joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” to diagnose what the key to victory was over the AFC West champs.

Birk did mention the fact that the Ravens took the momentum out of the game for the Chiefs in the third quarter ,when they forced three Chiefs turnovers, turning a 10-7 Ravens lead into a good, old-fashioned Baltimore beatdown, but ultimately Birk said the offense did its’ part in helping the defense by keeping them fresh.

The Ravens got 13 points in the quarter off Chiefs turnovers or changes of possession, and went into the fourth and final quarter with a little room to work with, up 23-7.

The Ravens offense held the ball for nearly 42 minutes on Sunday, beating the Chiefs at their own game and forcing Matt Cassel to try and beat them as opposed to Jamaal Charles, who was having a field day against the Ravens defense in the first half.

Birk said that was the key in stopping the Chiefs was getting them out of their rhythm, which ultimately forced them to make mistakes.

And on top of tiring out the Chiefs defense while keeping their own fresh, that was another added benefit.

“The longer you stay out there offensively,” Birk said, “the more you can wear a defense down. [We] chipped away, chipped away, and eventually took the crowd out of it and blew the game open in the fourth quarter.”

Eventually the Ravens were able to do one better and take the hostile crowd of Arrowhead Stadium out of the picture as well.

The play that did it in Birk’s mind? The play that emptied the seats at Arrowhead?

This one.

McGahee’s 25 yard touchdown run on 4th and 1 finished a drive where the Ravens ate up nearly ten and a half minutes of game clock and ultimately was the dagger that went in the Chiefs’ chest. It turned a two-possession game(with several two-point conversions) into a game well out of reach and punched the Ravens’ playoff tickets to Pittsburgh.

“When Willis broke that run, that was nice cause it was 4th and 1. We were trying to run the game down and run the clock down. Everybody knows the inconsistencies we have had in the running game this year and the lack of big runs.”

Birk-like his other fellow teammates, Ravens fans, and the media alike-all had a ton of credit to throw the way of Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who became the first-ever Ravens player to top 100-yard receiving in a playoff game.

“Todd’s a great player and Todd gets open a lot,” Birk said. “When you have multiple weapons, you have to see who the defense is going to take away from you and who they are going to gamble with. If they are gambling with Todd Heap, then I like our chances.”

The team now moves on to Heinz Field Saturday in the AFC Divisional matchup against their AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams split their series this year with the Ravens winning 17-14 in Pittsburgh in Week 4 and the Steelers stealing a win in Baltimore, 13-10, in Week 13.

As linebacker Terrell Suggs said in his postgame press conference, this is how the whole world wanted it to be. The Steelers versus the Ravens, and the Jets versus the Patriots.

“This is a great rivalry,” Birk said of their hatred/respect for the Steelers, “probably the best one in the NFL right now considering what has happened the past few years.”

“I’m sure it’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere and a heck of a game.”

It’s Steeler week here in Baltimore and WNST has you covered! Continue to follow WNST this week as we track the Ravens as they prepare for Pittsburgh! We’re even going up there to watch the battle! Just go to www.wnst.net and click on the TRIPS tab and you can go up with us! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by Rex Snider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fair enough, I suppose …..

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

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

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

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

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by Rex Snider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday’s NFL action provides a clear message; Ravens are still a top team

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Sunday’s NFL action provides a clear message; Ravens are still a top team

Posted on 13 December 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, I’m imagining most of us spent yesterday afternoon partaking in some similar Sunday rituals; gauging the competition around the National Football League, and collectively hoping the Cincinnati Bengals might find a way to upset our nemesis up in Pittsburgh.

In totality, the day offered some pretty daunting realities, both on and off the playing field …..

- Having a “trash bag” roof eventually proves to be a bad idea …..

- Tom Brady’s game is just as good on snow tires …..

- Rex Ryan’s Jets really are the NFL’s equivalent of the pro rasslin’ product …..

- While his comeback is pretty impressive, Mike Vick is NOT Tom Brady …..

- Brett Favre evidently owns a pretty sharp razor knife, and access to the dome’s roof …..

Indeed, yesterday was no ordinary Sunday around the NFL. The slate of games was less than impressive, as a large bulk of the contests were nothing more than mismatches. But, weather and interference by off-field personnel really provided some drama to what many of us perceived to be a day full of bad football.

Maybe, I’m being too harsh …..

Instances of occasional “bad football” at the pro level are generally a seldom-seen phenomenon, right? Of course, yesterday provided a few glaring examples of horrendous execution by teams vying for playoff position, as well as those playing out the string …..

- Graham Gano may very well find himself joining Jeff Reed in the unemployment line after missing an extra point and chip shot field goal, in the Redskins embarrassing loss against the Buccaneers …..

- Brodie Croyle and the Kansas City Chiefs mustered just 67 yards in total offense, while being shutout, 31-0, by the San Diego Chargers in a prime AFC-West showdown …..

- Mark Sanchez looked very much like the rookie from last season and the “clown” from HBO’s Hard Knocks, in the Jets second straight loss, which now tasks Gang-Green with trying to stem a late season collapse – on the road, in Pittsburgh, next week …..

- And, of course, speaking of the Steelers …. we must cite the “steaming stinker” Carson Palmer left on the newly sodded turf, at Heinz Field. Yesterday’s line for Palmer: 20 for 32, 178 yards & 2 touchdowns.

Not horrible, huh? Oh yeah, that’s right, those touchdown passes were both tossed into the waiting arms of Steelers defenders …..

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Troy Polamalu  of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass from Carson Palmer  of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Any chance of witnessing a ‘Bungals upset of the Steelers was lost amid predictable breakdowns and missed assignments. Welcome to the 2010 edition of the “Great Cincinnati Disaster”. While they punished Ben Roethlisberger early in the game and even broke out to a quick lead, the ‘Bungals looked very much like a certain black and orange baseball product.

Cincinnati’s string of consecutive losses now stands at TEN AND COUNTING. Given the knuckleheads on that roster, it might be a good idea for the networks to consider slotting this 2-11 team into a nationally televised contest or two.

Say what you will, I’ve got a feeling the ‘Bungals have a “meltdown moment”; a behemoth mutinous catastrophe on the field and I don’t wanna miss it !!!!

In summing up everything observed in yesterday’s NFL action, I’m developing some pretty distinct conclusions:

We are going to see one of the season-long contenders go down in bursting flames over the final few weeks of the regular season …..

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

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

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I hope the Ravens watched Monday Night Football …..

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I hope the Ravens watched Monday Night Football …..

Posted on 07 December 2010 by Rex Snider

When I plopped down into my Lazy Boy recliner for last night’s showdown between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, I prepared myself for a second straight night of hard fought football between two hated rivals.

Yet, what I observed was an absolute dismantling of a team that has flirted with LOSING for the last six weeks …..

Last night, Rex Ryan and his Jets were “schooled” by the quarterback and coach who’ve served as their obsession in the AFC-East. To say it was a beatdown kinda falls short of the absolute mastery displayed by the Patriots.

I was not surprised to see the Jets lose the game, but I was absolutely stunned to see Mark Sanchez and company get their heads handed to them. They’ve played excruciatingly close contests with the Lions, Browns and Texans over the past month, and whispers of OVERRATED have been getting louder and louder.

I’ll humbly admit that seeing Rex Ryan and GANG GREEN suffering a one-sided loss was pretty satisfying. I really, really like Rex and I think his personality will ultimately lead him down the path of becoming our generation’s next “John Madden” personality.

But, I’ve still got the putrid, pompous taste of last summer’s HARD KNOCKS burned into my short term memory. Based solely on the swagger and ego of the Jets, I’ve wanted to see them throttled. Thus, I found last night’s result to be pretty pleasurable.

However, I think this game really served a greater purpose, especially for a team like the Baltimore Ravens …..

I hope those minds assembled within the Ravens offensive braintrust were watching the Patriots bludgeoning of their divisional rival. I don’t care where they were watching, so long as they got a good look at it.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06: Tom Brady  of the New England Patriots greets teammates during warms up against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Why? It’s simple …. that’s how you kick another team’s ass !!!!

That’s how you find weaknesses and exploit them. That’s how you seize an early lead and methodically dissect an opposing defense, while ultimately forcing their offense to change its gameplan.

Call it what you will, the Patriots served up a blueprint for talented offenses around the National Football League …..

If you’re sitting back and thinking “well, the Patriots have Tom Brady,” that’s fine and certainly noteworthy, but the rest of their cast is arguably lesser talented than the playmakers comprising the Ravens offensive attack.

I’ll take Ray Rice and Willis McGahee over Ben Jarvis Green Ellis and Danny Woodhead ….

I’ll take Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh over Wes Welker, Brandon Tate and Deion Branch ….

Admittedly, the Patriots probably have a stronger offensive line; they’re certainly healthier. But, Brady isn’t solely dependent upon pocket protection. He typically holds the ball for an incredibly brief second or two, before hitting one of his targets for a usual 5-8 yard gain on a quick route.

The Patriots are innovative, yet predictably methodical in their unveiling of a singular strategy that usually emphasizes on wounding a defense, before bleeding them to death over a stretch of 60 minutes.

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