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Washington Redskins v Baltimore Ravens

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Don’t Believe the AFC North Hype…Yet

Posted on 03 January 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Of all of the changes that the NFL has brought forth in the last couple of seasons, one that went without a great deal of notice has certainly had a profound impact so far. The line that teams have walked all too often in recent seasons after wrapping up playoff fortunes with games still remaining on their schedule has been too much of a story lately, but this year not so much. Whether a direct result of the decision to put divisional match-ups in the season’s final weeks or not it made for one of the most exciting final weeks of any NFL season in recent memory. Add “Goodell’s Grand Finale” to the once celebrated “Pete’s Parity” and you have the excitement that was week 17 of this NFL season.

The Ravens run through their own division unblemished is cause for celebration, and with 3 teams qualified for this year’s playoffs the AFC North is being hailed as the league’s best division. The Bengals are young and dangerous, and now stocked with picks courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade, the Browns are tough and physical and also stocked with picks courtesy of the Julio Jones trade and perhaps in better position than any team to trade into the first overall pick if the Colts should choose to shop it. And the Ravens and Steelers are simply the Ravens and Steelers. But before we proclaim the AFC North the class of the NFL, we should at least acknowledge that parity is more relative from division to division than league wide, and that the AFC North may simply be the most accomplished division in football because they had the easiest trek though the 2011 season.

 

You never can quite tell how teams will be from season to season in the NFL, but sometimes you can. While every year brings a fresh example of a team with no expectations suddenly becoming a force on the back of a few “minor” tweaks to the coaching staff, roster or approach, we should also acknowledge that those examples aren’t as plentiful as the attention that they get would suggest, and that more often than not we have a pretty good idea going into the season who’ll be good and who’ll struggle.

 

If you were picking a schedule for the Ravens or any AFC North team to have success in 2011, and charged with using the NFL formula of matching up against 1 whole division in the AFC and 1 in the NFC you probably would have picked the AFC South and the NFC West. Surely you would have picked the NFC West as maybe one or two teams in that less than mediocre division could have been expected to be competitive (as the 49ers became this year’s surprise team) but expecting the entire division to have a resurgence would have been unfathomable, as the division has been floundering for years now without improvement.

 

The AFC South would have looked almost equally ripe for the picking even before Peyton Manning was announced to be out for the season, and despite the Texans best attempts at representing the division respectably, injuries ultimately took their toll on them too.

 

Add the bottom dwelling Cleveland Brown to the mix and the formula was just right for the successes of the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. The Browns are scrappy and can’t be totally dismissed, but they did play their divisional schedule to the tune of 0-6 this season, serving up 2 wins each of cushion for the division’s other 3 teams.

 

In 2010 the NFC South had 3 double digit win teams. The Falcons won 13 games, the Saints won 11 and both made the playoffs and the Buccaneers picked up 10 wins and narrowly missed the playoffs while looking promising. They did so while matching up against the terrible NFC West, and an AFC North with 2 bottom dwellers in Cincinnati and Cleveland that offered up “easy” chances at racking up wins. The NFC South also had the floundering Panthers in 2010 who served up 6 wins to the rest of the division in struggling through a miserable campaign themselves.

 

This year the NFC South still looks relatively strong although slightly less promising beyond the top two as they were charged with matching up with an NFC North that was better than last year’s NFC West draw but also took advantage of this year’s weaker AFC South.

 

In 2008 the AFC East and NFC East both looked equally promising as both took advantage of similar scheduling “opportunities”.

 

Next year the AFC North will be afforded the opportunity to feast of the AFC West if they’re able to take advantage, and if the NFC is in the disarray that it appears to be in all of a sudden there too may lie an opportunity. While I won’t yet acknowledge the AFC North as football’s best division, the likelihood of them getting 3 teams into the playoffs again next season (especially if the Browns serve up another 6 wins) might look pretty good again. What they do once they’re there will determine which division is best.

 

 

 

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

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

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

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

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

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

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

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

 

Saints -14 @ Rams 

 

Lions -3 @ Broncos

 

Steelers +3 vs. Patriots

 

Browns +9 @ 49ers

 

Chiefs +4 vs. Chargers

 

 

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

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

 

Panthers -3.5 vs. Vikings

 

Dolphins +9.5 @ Giants

 

Bills -6 vs. Redskins

 

Bengals -3 @ Seahawks

 

Cowboys +3.5  @ Eagles

 

 

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

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

 

Titans -9 vs. Colts

 

Jaguars +9.5 @ Texans

 

Ravens -12.5 vs. Cardinals

  

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

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

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Week 7: Locks, Lumps & Luck (or Lack Thereof)

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

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

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

 

All lines taken from sportsbook.com.

 

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

week 4: 4-1 (290 pts)    season: 11-9 (110 pts) 

 

Chargers -2 @ Jets 

 

Texans +3 @ Titans

 

Steelers -3.5 @ Cardinals

 

Packers -9 @. Vikings

 

Ravens -7.5 @ Jaguars

 

 

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

week 4: 3-2 (40 pts)    season: 8-10 (-150 pts)

 

Redskins +2.5 @ Panthers

 

Browns -3 vs. Seahawks

 

Broncos +1.5 @ Dolphins

 

Raiders -4.5 vs. Chiefs

 

Saints -14 vs. Colts

 

 

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

Week 4: 1-1-1 (-2 pts)    season 8-8-2 (-16 pts)

 

Buccaneers +1 vs. Bears (in London)

 

Lions -3.5 vs. Falcons

 

Cowboys -12.5 vs. Rams

  

Last week Total: 8-4-1 (328 pts)     Season Total: 27-27-2 (-56 pts)

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Ravens FA CB Fabian Washington before signing w/ Saints: “I won’t be coming back”

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Ravens FA CB Fabian Washington before signing w/ Saints: “I won’t be coming back”

Posted on 01 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ravens free agent corner back Fabian Washington signed a one-year deal Sunday with the New Orleans Saints, and while he was fielding calls for nearly a week regarding his free agent status and desire to play, he knew one thing for sure.

He wasn’t returning to the Ravens.

Fabian Washington

“Yes, definitely. I won’t be coming back,” Washington told Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” Friday.

That being said, he definitely was tired of waiting to get picked up after the long NFL-lockout which stalled free agency.

“I’m very anxious to get back to football,” Washington said. “I haven’t been off this long since high school. I’m definitely ready to get back to work.”

Washington-who spent the last three seasons with Baltimore after coming over in a draft-day trade with the Raiders in 2008-had been getting calls from several teams in the NFL looking for both corner back depth and guys with starter experience.

But sadly, he knew after losing his starting job to Josh Wilson in 2010, his time in Baltimore was done.

After starting 12 games his first year in Baltimore in 2008 and the first ten games of the 2009 season before suffering a season-ending knee injury versus Indianapolis, Washington struggled at the beginning of 2010 and lost his starting spot after getting torched in the Ravens’ 37-34 OT win.

Washington was often criticized for dropping sure interceptions, his poor tackling, and his slow recovery speed if he got beat.

But, Washington said that he’s used his struggles last year as motivation to get back to playing at a high level.

“You better grow…you can’t go backwards man,” he said. “I try to take all of the positives from everything. I sat back and looked at some things I was doing wrong. I feel like through this off-season I’ve corrected that. I’m 100 percent health-wise, and I feel great. I feel like I’m ready to play ball man, wherever it may be.”

On top of his struggles, it felt even worse to end his Ravens career losing yet again to the one team he learned to envy in the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs once more.

“You never want to lose in the playoffs, and you never want to lose to the Steelers,” Fabian said. “Every loss I’ve been in the playoffs has felt the same, but you don’t want to lose to the Steelers. You don’t want to hear their mouths all off-season.”

Washington’s potential upside, youth and skills-especially his speed-have kept the former 1st-round pick out of Nebraska not only still in the league but still a commodity to an NFL squad.

“I’ve been getting some calls,” Washington said. “Some teams are showing interest. In my position though, there are a couple big guys who need to sign first.”

He was of course referring to ex-Oakland teammate CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the top free agent on the market, who signed a deal with Philadelphia on Friday.

“The dude is a beast,” Washington said-who played with Asomugha from 2005-2007. “He is unreal out there. Teams rarely throw at him. That’s one thing-playing on the other side of him-you better be ready for a whole heap of balls to be thrown at you.”

“You just need to expect that, because no team is going to throw at him. I think the stat was he was thrown at 50 times all year- total. That’s unheard of. You’ve just got to prepare yourself and have your mind right to have a lot of opportunities to get an interception. It’s a coordinator’s dream to have a corner like that.”

He, Chris Carr, and Asomugha-all former Raiders CBs-spent much of the week watching where each of them were projected to go.

“Everybody’s waiting to see where Nnamdi is gonna play,” Washington said last week,  “then the dominoes will start falling at the cornerback position. But me man… I’m just sitting back relaxing.”

And sure enough, as soon as Asomugha signed Friday with Philadelphia and Carr re-signed on Saturday with Baltimore, Washington signed on the final day of the weekend with the Saints.

But despite the fact that he’s now in the Big Easy playing for the 2009 Super Bowl champs, he still holds a high place in his heart for the time he spent in Baltimore the last three years.

“I would definitely say it was a roller coaster,” he said,  “but I enjoyed every minute of it in Baltimore. “It was fun man…a lot of winning. Where I was coming from, I wasn’t used to that.”

“It’s a great place, and I encourage anybody that gets the chance to play there…play there  because you’re gonna win. I have nothing but good things to say about Baltimore.”

WNST thanks Fabian Washington for joining us, and we want to wish him all the best for his time in Baltimore! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Former NFL All-Pro CB Ashley Ambrose on coaching Jimmy Smith: “I wish I had the ability of this kid”

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Former NFL All-Pro CB Ashley Ambrose on coaching Jimmy Smith: “I wish I had the ability of this kid”

Posted on 01 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ashley Ambrose

Ashley Ambrose was a 13-year veteran corner back playing for four different NFL franchises including the likes of the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Atlanta Falcons.

The 1996 All-Pro recorded 42 interceptions in his dozen-year NFL career, and during his playing days was often tasked with covering the opposing team’s best receiver.

And since retiring in 2005, the 40-year old former CB has found his mark in the coaching ranks, and as of recently found his way to the University of Colorado coaching their defensive backs.

It was that move-and his eventual association with Ravens first round pick CB Jimmy Smith-that forced the former NFL veteran to do a different kind of defending.

Jimmy Smith

Doing his best to cover the character concerns of his pupil in Smith-who’s off-the-field incidents while in Boulder include marijuana use, arrests for possession and underage drinking, assault, and impregnating several women-eventually became a common practice for Ambrose the past two off-seasons as NFL teams probed him for inside information about Jimmy Smith the man as well as the corner.

Ambrose-who recently took over the defensive backs’ coach at the University of California-joined Rex Snider of “The Afternoon Drive” Friday afternoon after the Ravens selected Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft, and he had nothing but good things to say about his former player and the situation he was ending up in Baltimore.

“I know there was a need for you guys,” Ambrose told Snider, “and I knew if Jimmy was going to fall down there that the Ravens were a possibility. I’ll tell you what…I’m happy for him. It’s a great place for him to be.”

Ambrose was probably Smith’s biggest fan Thursday night, and it began to worry him when the Ravens allowed the Chiefs to move ahead of them to make a selection because he was afraid that Smith’s rap sheet of character issues would force him to drop out of the first round and hurt his confidence.

“I read about it,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t know what was going on at first. I was nervous at first cause Jimmy’s a great kid. A lot of people go off what happened his freshman year and stuff like that.”

But he was glad to ultimately see the Ravens take the leap of faith on Smith and he assured the Baltimore coaching staff through Snider that they know they won’t regret the decision because of the man Smith has become recently.

“I said to myself that if they get a chance to see who Jimmy is as a person, they really would know what kind of kid he is being so mature now.”

Ambrose joined the Colorado program in 2008, with Smith having been a Buffalo since redshirting in 2006.

From the moment the two met, the two were inseparable and Ambrose brought with him a mentor-like approach when it came to guiding Smith down the right path and helping him become not only a better corner, but a better man.

“I really am confident in that. I was more of a mentor and a big brother to Jimmy as well as his coach,” Ambrose said. “While he was there, he did everything he was supposed to do. He was always on time. Jimmy was just really young when a whole lot of stuff happened.”

Ambrose didn’t want to make excuses, but he said a lot of young kids get themselves in similar trouble that Smith did and don’t get caught or the attention thrown their way.

“You get any kid going to high school to college, get them in a different environment, and things happen,” Ambrose replied. “Jimmy just happened to be one of those kids that messed around and got caught a few times, whatever it was. Some people go through it and never get caught, but it just so happens that he was a freshman, he got caught with it, and it was always over his head. But he’s not that kind of a guy.”

How fitting that Smith’s last known deviant act caught on the record was in 2007-the year before Ambrose joined the Colorado staff.

“I’m so proud of him. He grew up, and you’re talking about a kid who graduated from college,” Ambrose said. “Most kids like that..they’re not graduating from school. This kid was so focused about his academics that he got a degree, and I’m proud of him….and I don’t see him getting in any trouble.”

The only trouble Ambrose sees? The opposing receivers in the AFC North who have to go up against Smith.

“I wish I had the ability of this kid, and the sky’s the limit for him.”

“This kid is going to be awesome. I’ve been around the NFL for quite some time, and just being around the guy, there is no one with his size. Usually guys like that don’t have any hips, but Jimmy has very good hips. He can run, and he can be physical. It is rare to see that.”

Ambrose compared him to a similar corner in today’s game in Jets CB Antonio Cromartie-but hopefully without the off-the-field concerns as the New York defender.

And Smith’s other beneficial trait? He is eager to get better and takes learning seriously.

“I was amazed to see the things he can do just trying to teach him techniques. He is very coachable, he is willing to learn, and that’s the thing that makes him such an elite athlete because he’s ready to learn and he’s willing to do what you ask of him.”

Ambrose knows he’ll fit right in with player-coaches like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed-who hails from the same hometown as Ambrose-and he knows that those two in particular will guide Smith down the right path toward being an excellent football player and human being.

He knows so because he was forced to do the same thing several years ago.

“That’s what players do,” Ambrose said. “Ed Reed is from my hometown, and I know a lot of his family. Ed Reed is a great character person. Ed Reed is going to be the person to be there to help Jimmy out with anything. He’ll put him under his wing, and guide him in the right direction.”

“Now it is up to Jimmy to do the right things, but I think it’s perfect for Jimmy because he gets to be with a Hall-of-Fame type guy that’s doing it and leading by example on and off the football field. I think it’s a great thing, and he’s going into a great situation.”

But for now, Ambrose said Smith should take advantage of a fresh start as a Raven and be solely focused on adjusting to the speed of the NFL because for the former Mississippi Valley State star in Ambrose, that was the toughest thing to get adapted to coming out of college.

“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “Having now coached at the collegiate level, I kind of talk to these kids about it…telling them about the transition and those sorts of things.”

“You’re going to be in meetings all the time, and everyone’s going to be great players. You can’t take a week off and things like that. The thing for me when I first came out I thought I was so good at my level of college football that I could just bring it right to the NFL, and that opened up for me real fast.”

But he knows Jimmy’s ready for that change, and when he does, he should ultimately be able to kill two birds with one stone as he knows succeeding on the football field will push some of his past character-concerns under the rug.

“It’s a great fan-base, and what’s going to happen is he’s going to win a lot of fans over cause he’s going to play some good football.”

WNST thanks Ashley Ambrose for joining “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider and welcomes Jimmy Smith to Baltimore! Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the chat with Ambrose as well as tune into WNST Monday as we talk with Torrey Smith for the first time since being drafted by the Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Former Towson and Saints OT Jermon Bushrod on return to area: “If the situation ever presented itself, you have to be open to it”

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Former Towson and Saints OT Jermon Bushrod on return to area: “If the situation ever presented itself, you have to be open to it”

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

When Ravens tackle Jared Gaither missed the 2010 season with a back injury, the former Maryland Terps’ absence left a glaring hole on the Baltimore offensive line and forced the coaching staff  out of position and out of their comfort zones.

And with Gaither’s upcoming free agent status-combined with the inconsistency on the part of current left tackle Michael Oher-the Ravens could be in need of another bookend tackle to fill that role in order to adequately protect quarterback Joe Flacco.

Why not replace Gaither-who combined with his injury, high bargaining price to return, and attitude issues-with another local college alumni who went on to bigger and better things in the NFL?

That of course would be former Towson Tigers tackle Jermon Bushrod, who also is scheduled to be a free agent given the owners and players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by March 4th.

Bushrod-who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Towson-has been a starter for the Saints the last two seasons.

That includes the 2009 Super Bowl run for the Saints in which Jermon replaced former first-round pick Jamaal Brown and he protected the blind side for All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees on their way to the franchise’s first ever championship.

Jermon Bushrod

He started 14 games for the Saints that year, and his stellar play not only made the Saints offensive line better-he made the expensive and off-injured Brown expendable.

In his four years as a Saint, he has grown right along with the franchise, as a guy playing at the 1-AA level improved at the same time Coach Sean Payton grew as a head coach and the franchise changed from a perennial loser to the elite of the NFC.

“He’s a tough coach to play for,” Bushrod told Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” this week. “But I love every bit of it. What he’s demanding along with his level of cooperation is something I’ve never been around ever in my football career. You’ve got to love playing for a guy like him.”

He picked up right where he left off in 2010, and proving that he can be a top-of-the-line offensive tackle in the NFL might give him a big payday when the time comes for him to hit free agency.

Maybe that price will come from his “hometown”(he’s from Virginia) team in the Baltimore Ravens.

Jermon Bushrod

Bushrod-after his freshman redshirt-was a four year starter for the Towson Tigers and made All-Conference three of the four years. His final season at Towson, he was an integral part of the Tigers’ 7-4 season and over the course of his collegiate career, he started 38 straight games.

“If the situation ever presented itself,” Bushrod said. “You definitely have to be open to it. That would be kind of a neat experience being home. If the situation comes, than that’s something we’re going to have to deal with.”

But Bushrod said he’s going to give the Saints the benefit of the doubt. Not only are they the team that drafted him out of college and they were his first taste of the NFL, but he felt like he grew on to New Orleans and the family he gained winning the Super Bowl last season.

“I get the vibe they still want me here,” Bushrod said. “That’s something they have to work out on their end, and I’m definitely looking forward to talking with them again.”

But he also does understand that the money side of the NFL sometimes doesn’t allow players to stay where they desire, and it could turn out to be a business decision as to his NFL future.

“Everything is a process especially in this business,” Bushrod said. “You just have to kind of have to let everything sort itself out. This is definitely a new experience for me. But I’m taking it in stride and just enjoying the moment while catching up with my family and friends in this crazy time.”

WNST wouldn’t mind seeing Bushrod in black and purple next season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Ravens play a prime part in very “hairy” NFL weekend …..

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Rex Snider

If you look back on the totality of this past weekend’s games, I think it’s pretty easy to detect the obvious: every round of the NFL playoffs will present some unpredictable circumstances, as well as some very quirky results …..

Many of us thought 3 of 4 visiting teams would win their respective matchups. But, did we think the New Orleans Saints, as the most resounding favorite (-10.5 points) in NFL history, would be the sole “road loser?”

If I presented the following circumstances: the Indianapolis Colts are losing by one point, they’re driving inside the Jets 30 yard line with less than one minute remaining …. would you predict a Manning win or loss?

If you knew 2 running backs would rush for 100+ yards, and the weekend’s matchups featured names like Ray Rice, Joseph Addai, LaSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and LaDanian Tomlinson, would you ever imagine that Marshawn Lynch and James Starks would be those guys?

A pretty telling factor …. Michael Vick’s last win was the week before Christmas, when he was being mentioned in the same breath with Tom Brady, for NFL MVP honors.

Does the respective, opposing defense matter? Well …. the Philadelphia Eagles averaged 28 points, per game, during the regular season and the Seattle Seahawks averaged just 19 points, per contest. Which team is still alive?

After a steady December of witnessing snowy, icy games across the midwest and northeast, the first two weeks of January have not been impacted by inclement weather, at all.

Did you ever imagine Joe Flacco and Dan Marino would be mentioned in the same sentence? That’s right, they’re the only quarterbacks to win 36 games in their first 3 seasons. With a win in Pittsburgh, Flacco will stand alone on this record.

Ten years ago, Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass in the Ravens Super Bowl victory. Did any of us think he would catch another touchdown, a decade later? He did it Saturday – in Seattle’s win.
Speaking of touchdown receptions …. Anquan Boldin went more than a month (5 weeks) without one. The troubling streak ended yesterday – let’s hope he can have two consecutive games with TD catches for the first time since October 17th and 24th.

With this weekend’s wins by the Ravens and Jets, both AFC wildcard teams advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, in consecutive seasons, for the first time (2010 & 2011).

Yesterday’s win also yielded John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco as the only HEAD COACH and QUARTERBACK to win playoff games in their first 3 NFL seasons.

On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks won their 8th game of the season. Their opponent, the New Orleans Saints, won their 8th game of the season, a mere 44 days earlier …. on Thanksgiving Day !!!!

Speaking of those Seahawks, it will be impossible for them to finish with a winning record, UNLESS they win the Super Bowl. That’s correct, if they lose the Super Bowl, they’ll finish the season 10-10 overall.

And finally …..

On a weekend when Matt Ryan debuts as one of Gillette’s new “clean shaven” models, Joe Flacco grew a beard. Who says Joe doesn’t want to be different?

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Ravens get “victimized” in NFL’s playoff mess …..

Posted on 03 January 2011 by Rex Snider

As we collect ourselves on this first day of business, in 2011, I’m certain the bigwigs within the National Football League’s power structure realize they have a great deal of BUSINESS to do beyond the final whistle in Super Bowl XLV.

Yeah, yeah, the most pressing issues revolve around the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players Association and ownership. But, other problems and dilemmas also need some clear and concise attention.

When the NFL’s Competition Committee convenes, this spring, I really hope they take a sobering look at the process of seeding playoff teams. Specifically, they need to address alternatives to the traditional mode of slotting teams with priority to divisional winners, followed by wildcard entries.

Better and more appealing prospects exist …..

Why not toss this current system aside and rank the six teams, per conference, by overall record?

It certainly makes more sense, and it truly rewards WINNING (even in the later stages of the season) to hinge overall records on respective playoff positioning. If you’re a traditionalist or simply someone who resists change, just consider the upcoming slate of matchups.

Of the four games scheduled for next weekend, three contests will be hosted by teams with inferior records to the visitors. Yep, given the Ravens are one of the so-called “victims”, I’ll assume this is the point where my detractors lob a few “kool-aid bombs”.

Think again …..

There is hardly any situation more unfair than seeing the defending Super Bowl Champions traveling 2100 miles to play a postseason matchup with a team that bears a losing record. The Seattle Seahawks won the putrid NFC-West, so they’ll host the wildcard-winning New Orleans Saints.

It doesn’t matter that Seattle finished a dismal 7-9, while New Orleans achieved an 11-5 overall record, right? Oh, and the head-to-head matchup? New Orleans smoked ‘em by 18 points, with a 37-19 thrashing.

The Saints had a better season than the Seahawks and they’re clearly a much more talented team. In fact, they’re favored by 10.5 points, in next week’s game. That’s a freaking touchdown and field goal !!!!

Yet, the Saints will board a plane and head to Seattle, because the LOSING record of the Seahawks was good enough to capture a divisional title.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, they too, had a better record than their hosts, the Kansas City Chiefs. Although, in devout honesty, both teams had stellar seasons. The Ravens had a couple more wins than the Chiefs, amidst a tougher schedule …..

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens sign veteran long snapper; Ravens tight ends return to practice

Posted on 29 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

Ravens sign long-snapper

The uncertainty regarding who would fill the void left by the injury to long snapper Morgan Cox Sunday versus the Browns was ended Wednesday at Owings Mills during John Harbaugh’s press conference, as Harbaugh was immediately asked who would take over for Cox.

The team signed Kevin Houser, a tenth-year veteran out of Ohio State, was brought to Owings Mills last night for a physical. The news broke Wednesday that he had signed with the club, and he was already hard at work working with kicker Billy Cundiff on his rapport with his new teammate in practice that afternoon.

Houser was drafted in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and spent nine seasons in New Orleans. At one point, he had been the longest-tenured Saint several season ago and he was the veteran presence the Ravens said they were looking for.

“He’s a veteran guy, and he did real well in the workout yesterday, and we’ll see how well he does today in practice,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

There were specific things Coach Harbaugh-a former special teams coach in his own right-that he expected out of the ideal candidate to replace Morgan Cox.

“You look at how he does with protection, how he handles the movement, and stuff that goes along with protection,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You look at his anchor a little bit in case they try and bull rush him in there. There’s some things you work with that’s similar to pass protection with offensive lineman…. the ability to recover off the snap, get his head up, and how he handles some of the calls and the different things we do with our protection.

The Ravens also brought in veterans Bryan Pittman, Ethan Albright, and Jake Ingram but none of them seemed to fit with what the Ravens wanted to do.

Pittman didn’t even pass the physical, Harbaugh said.

Morgan Cox left Sunday’s game versus the Browns with a torn ACL and a damaged MCL and will be lost for the year. He played the remainder of Sunday’s game with the injury but was lost on punt and kick coverage.

Cox had played at a solid level this season and the team was looking for a guy to pick up right where Cox left off.

“These guys have been around. Most protections are very similar in the NFL. That’s why we really wanted a veteran. Those guys understand the schemes and they’ve done the techniques and they should be ready to plug right in.

Wednesday’s Practice: We fully expected Wednesday that the only Ravens not to be present at practice  were safety Tom Zbikowski, who is out with a back injury, and LB Tavares Gooden who still is hurting with a  separated shoulder on his left side.

With Zbikowski’s injury continuing to linger, he could be placed on IR soon to keep a healthy roster spot in place going into the playoffs.

But joining Zbikowski and Gooden who did not participate in practice were center Matt Birk who has shown up on the injury report in the past with a knee injury, and a curious scratch was LB Prescott Burgess, who normally would have made his mark during the special teams part of practice.

He was listed on the injury report because of illness, and over the last several weeks we have seen several Ravens players miss practice due the contagious flu bug floating around the Ravens locker room.

However, both tight ends Dennis Pitta(concussion) and Todd Heap(thigh/hamstring) were present during the open session of practice that the media were able to witness. Heap did most of his work off to the side just wearing sweats.

Kick return was the main focus of special teams practice and Jalen Parmele took all the drills at returning kicks with David Reed(concussion) still on the mends.

Reed was present at practice but did not participate in the drills. He was listed as limited in drills on the Ravens’ Wednesday injury report.

Five Ravens Named to Pro Bowl:

Yesterday’s Pro Bowl announcement came down last night and the AFC Roster will be represented by five Baltimore Ravens, but no offensive players from the Ravens will be going to Hawaii the week before the Super Bowl.

Linebacker Ray Lewis, LB/DE Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, S Ed Reed, and kicker Billy Cundiff all have been named to the Pro Bowl, with the list being announced Tuesday night.

Ray Lewis will be going to his twelfth Pro Bowl trip. Suggs will be going to his fourth, and Reed will be going to his seventh in his nine-year career. Ngata is going for the second straight year.

But Cundiff will be going for the first time in his career, which should be a tremendous honor for a kicker who joined the team only a year ago as a band-aid to a struggling position.

It was the media’s first opportunity to catch up with the players since the announcement at practice, and in reality, the team still said that the honors are secondary to Cincinnati on Sunday and their path through the playoffs towards eventually getting to Dallas.

“It’s bitter sweet,” Suggs said. “It’s good to be recongized not only by other coaches and other players amongst the other teams and the fans. It’s good. It’s really good. Don’t get me wrong.”

“But we still want the Lombardi. I’ve been to Hawaii. This will be my fourth time. But I really would love to play in the Super Bowl.”

This is the first year the Pro Bowl will be played the week BEFORE the Super Bowl instead of after the big game. The Super Bowl participants will miss the annual all-star game.

“It really didn’t mean too much,” quarterback Joe Flacco said, who was named a third alternate to the AFC quarterback position. “I think that if you’re a Pro-Bowl guy, you are and an alternate is an alternate.”

“I’m not real worried about that,” Flacco continued.  “The Pro Bowl is the Pro Bowl, and I’m focused on playing good football games and coming in looking at the tape and having my coaches say, “Yeah, you played a hell of a game today’ and me feeling the same way.

Other alternates included guard Ben Grubbs, FB Le’Ron McClain, and punter Sam Koch. They were named as second alternates, and the third alternates were Flacco and Michael Oher.

Fourth alternates were Ray Rice, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and safety Dawan Landry.

Probably the biggest snub of them all-at least according to the Ravens-was Koch not getting to the Pro Bowl.

“But Sam Koch, for sure, has had a Pro Bowl year. Some of the things Sam does are unrecognized by the voters sometime. He doesn’t have a huge gross average, but he kicks directionally, he puts it out of bounds 40, 45 yards on a pretty regular basis. The pooch punting has been phenomenal. I would say he is deserving,” Harbaugh noted.

Suggs even wore Koch’s white jersey out to practice as a sign of respect toward his teammate on special teams.

Preparing for the Bengals

Make no mistake. Despite the team’s playoff’s goals, the focus of the team was on Cincinnati alone on Sunday.

The Bengals-despite their 4-11 mark-come in winners of two straight games and winners of their last three decisions against the Baltimore Ravens, including a 15-10 victory in Week 2 of this season with Mike Nugent hitting five field goals.

The Ravens understand the need to finish the regular season strong going into the playoffs no matter where they go.

“Defensively, I’ve got to tell my defense to keep doing what we’re doing,” Lewis said. “In the last game where we lost, we gave up five field goals. They didn’t get in our end zone. Any time you can play at that high of a level coming home, now it’s our time to finish it off.”

They also see the Bengals as a challenge despite the less-than-stellar record, especially given their recent slide and struggles against Cincinnati.

“It seems like they’re always dangerous when they play us,” Harbaugh said. “When you watch them on tape, it does not look like a team that’s not a winning team. On tape, they look like a winning football team.”

“We know how good these guys are. We’ve played them enough. We understand what they’re about, and it’s going to be one of those AFC North kind of games.”

One guy definitely looking for a rebound game is quarterback Joe Flacco, who in Week 2, had probably his worst game of the season, completing 17-of-39 passes for for 154 yards for one touchdown while throwing four costly interceptions.

“I think we put that behind us pretty quickly,” Flacco said. “We’ve moved on and had a pretty good season.”

Since that game, Flacco has really rebounded well, throwing 24 TDs while only throwing four interceptions. But his coach still felt like that game in particular was not the thing that changed Flacco for the better. He always had it in him to take care of the football, said Harbaugh.

“Joe’s been about good ball security here for three years,” Harbaugh said. “So, I don’t think that there was an epiphany that now it’s important. Obviously, that cost us in that game. Joe realizes that. I think it’s one of Joe’s strengths anyway.”

There are four different scenarios that could play out after Sunday’s contest versus the Bengals. The Ravens have guaranteed themselves at least the fifth-seed in the playoffs and depending upon the results on Sunday, the Ravens could either be headed to Jacksonville, Kansas City, and most likely Indianapolis.

And if the Steelers were to lose to Cleveland, the Ravens would earn the second seed in the playoffs and have a first-round bye.

The Ravens said that while taking care of their own business against the Bengals is their primary goal, they did admit that it will be tough to not be looking at the scoreboard when it comes to the Pittsburgh-Cleveland result going on at the same time.

“When the score comes up, I’m sure all of us are going to take a look,” John Harbaugh said. “And we’re going to know by the crowd’s reaction. So I don’t have a problem with that. We’re going to play the game. We have all the focus on Cincinnati.”

“It’s hard not to watch it,” Ray Lewis said. “But we do understand that we need to take care of our business. If we don’t care of our business, none of that matters.”

Tune into WNST as we continue to follow the Ravens through the 2010 season finale! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Five Ravens Named to AFC Pro Bowl Roster

Posted on 28 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

Five Baltimore Ravens were amongst the players named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster Tuesday.

LB Ray Lewis (12th selection), S Ed Reed (7th), LB Terrell Suggs (4th), DT Haloti Ngata (2nd) and K Billy Cundiff (1st) were all selected to participate in the NFL’s annual All-Star Game. Lewis, Reed and Ngata were selected as starters.

“Wow, No. 12 feels like No. 1,” Lewis said via a team press release. “Every year is a different year, and you prepare each offseason for one year at a time. I tell my teammates that I am going to train to be a Pro Bowl player that season, and my focus paid off again this season. This never gets old. This is the greatest honor ever, because this is from the fans, the coaches and your peers. You can never take anything for granted, and I never take this for granted. I am blessed with great teammates, and I wouldn’t be here without them. I feel this is a team award.”

“This is awesome,” Suggs added in the same press release. “The only thing that would be better than this is a Super Bowl. It has been a long few years, and to come back and be recognized by your peers is amazing. This is something you can’t do by yourself; it takes a unit. I have to thank my teammates, especially the defense – and particularly Haloti [Ngata] – for pushing me to do the little extra things when I didn’t want to.”

Cundiff was selected to his first Pro Bowl barely more than a year removed from being unemployed.

“I am humbled, as this is such a great honor,” Cundiff said in the press release. “This is the result of having great teammates and coaches surrounding you. The rapport that (Punter) Sam [Koch] and (LS) Morgan [Cox] and I developed during training camp was invaluable this season. I worked my butt off to prove to our coaches that they made the right choice, and hopefully, this gives them a little gratification.”

“This is a testament to Billy’s hard work and determination,” Ravens assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg added in the press release. “Billy has shown incredible perseverance throughout his career, and he has always remained dedicated to becoming a great kicker in the NFL. I believe that the other players in this league not only respect what he has done, but also how he has done it.  He never lost faith in himself, and he continued to improve.  He is richly deserving of this honor, as is his wife, Nicole, who has been tremendously supportive.”

The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played January 30 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI. Should the Ravens make it to Super Bowl XLV (which is one week later in Arlington, TX), players would not participate in the Pro Bowl game.

A number of Ravens players were also selected as Pro Bowl alternates.

Koch, FB Le’Ron McClain and G Ben Grubbs were named 1st alternates. QB Joe Flacco and OT Michael Oher were named 3rd alternates. WR Anquan Boldin, RB Ray Rice and S Dawan Landry were named 4th alternates.

“I’m happy for those who made it,” Ravens executive vice president and general manager Ozzie Newsome said in the press release. “I’m also pleased for the alternates who get to know that players and coaches around the league think highly of them. Plus, it gives them something to shoot for.”

Only the Atlanta Falcons (7) and New England Patriots (6) had more players named to the Pro Bowl than the Ravens. The Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys also had five players named Pro Bowlers.

Former Ravens who were selected to the Pro Bowl included Falcons FB Ovie Mughelli (1st selection) and Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison (4th selection).

TEAM CHOOSING BETWEEN TWO LONG SNAPPERS: During his weekly radio show Tuesday night on WBAL, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens were set to choose between two of the long snappers who tried out at the 1 Winning Drive facility in Owings Mills.

The Ravens selection will replace Cox, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered in the team’s Week 16 win over the Cleveland Browns.

National Football Post reported late Tuesday the choice will be between former Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints LS Kevin Houser and former Houston Texans LS Bryan Pittman.

Former Washington Redskins LS Ethan Albright and former Patriots LS Jake Ingram were also amongst those who reportedly tried out.

NOTES
: Cox joined Drew Forrester Tuesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, hear that chat now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……WR Donte’ Stallworth met with reporters Tuesday after being selected as the team’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient last week. “It [winning the award] means a lot, especially with this being my first year on the team, said Stallworth. “It lets me know that I have made some kind of impact on these guys in the locker room. I’ve always been a person of integrity and tried to always do the right things. It means that people see that that’s the kind of person that I am once they get to know me”……Former Ravens/current Redskins DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Former Maryland Terrapins/current Oakland Raiders LB Eric Barton were announced Tuesday as Ed Block Courage Award winners for their respective teams……The Ravens will return to practice Wednesday; Harbaugh, Lewis, Flacco and Rice are amongst the players expected to meet with the media

-G

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