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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (11/3/09)

Posted on 03 November 2009 by Jack McManus

9:34-

Baltimore-native Antonio Freeman is next up. Freeman is a former Green Bay Packer and NFL Pro Bowler. He is promoting the 1st Annual Charm City Literacy Challenge Weekend. This event is a part of the BMore Free Program. The program focuses on giving back to children in the Baltimore area. For more information on this and other events please visit bmorefree86trivia.eventbrite.com

9:06-

Victor Rojas is next up with Drew to talk about the World Series. He starts off by talking about how Mark Teixeira has gotten a free pass so far. Teixeira has struggled mightily in the playoffs this season. He next talks about some of the questionable decisions Joe Girardi has made in the Series. He explains that Girardi has only been challenged now that the Yankees are in trouble. Girardi’s use of the bullpen last night in particular drew a lot of criticism. Rojas explains that the Yankees need to limit Chase Utley’s impact if they want to clinch the Series. Rojas finishes up by predicting the Series will go down to an exciting Game 7.

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8:47-

Vinnie Iyer from The Sporting News was in Baltimore for the Ravens-Broncos game on Sunday. He is now on with Drew to talk some football. He explains that the game said something about both teams. He states that the Ravens defense made a statement, while the Broncos offense showed its lack of big-play ability. He next talks about the cluster of teams in the AFC fighting for playoff spots. One of these teams is the Miami Dolphins. Iyer states that the Dolphins have a chance every week but do not have an explosive enough offense. The team has relied on special teams and the wildcat for big plays. Iyer next talks about the Houston Texans. Ryan Moats came through in a big way on Sunday. Iyer looks forward to the game against the Colts to see if the Texans are ready for a playoff push. The struggles of the New York Giants is the next topic. Iyer talks about how the weaknesses of the team have been exposed in recent weeks.

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8:30-

Drew talks about how he feels bad to see other organizations, such as Cleveland, have problems within the organization. This is because of the suffering Orioles fans have gone through due to the ownership. He states that the Browns’ hiring of Eric Mangini has set the team back for a few years. The team needs a general manager, a quarterback, and a coach.

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Blog & Tackle: Penalties by the numbers

Posted on 02 November 2009 by Chris Pika

Many Ravens fans are of the opinion that the officials are targeting the Ravens, either for reputation, or for earlier comments after the New England game that went unpunished by the NFL league office.

Now, based on my time in the league, I believe that NFL offiicials are the best in the four major sports. How you watch a game in the stands at an angle overlooking the field is much different that seeing it at field level. The speed of how the game occurs would be jarring for even the most well-informed fan to make the correct call at game speed. It’s a tough job that requires split-second decision making and rock-solid rules knowledge. That doesn’t mean they get it right all of the time, but the percentage is higher than what you think, based on evaluations.

With that opinion, here are the NFL leaders in penalties called, accepted and yards penalized (via STATS, Inc.) without further comment, just grist for the mill on a Monday. All of the below info is through Sunday’s games.

Total Penalties Called On (accepted and declined)
1. Buffalo 69; 2. St. Louis 64; 3t. Baltimore 62; 3t. Green Bay 62; 5. New York Jets 60; 6. Philadelphia 59; 7. Oakland 57; 8t Detroit 56; 8t. New York Giants 56; 10. Houston 55. (Least: Jacksonville & Seattle, 36 each)

Total Penalties Accepted
1. Buffalo 59; 2. Green Bay 57; 3. St. Louis 55; 4. Baltimore 53; 5. New York Jets 52; 6t. Arizona 50; 6t. Dallas 50; 6t. Philadelphia 50; 9. Detroit 49; 10t. Kansas City 47; 10t. Oakland 47. (Least: Seattle 33, Jacksonville 34).

Total Penalty Yards
1. Baltimore 510; 2. St. Louis 477; 3. Green Bay 474; 4. Buffalo 458; 5. Dallas 424; 6. Detroit 407; 7. Philadelphia 401; 8t. Arizona 386; 8t. New York Giants 386; 10. San Francisco 385. (Least: Jacksonville 259, Seattle 279)

For comparison sake, here is the penalty totals for opponents when playing the Ravens this season:

Penalties Called Against Opponent (Opponent Total/NFL Rank; Leader/Total; Least/Total)
Called Against Ravens Opponent: (56/12th; Buffalo/72; Least: Miami/35); Accepted Penalties: (41/T-18th; Buffalo/64; Least: Miami/32); Penalty Yards by Opponent: (276/29th; Buffalo/546; Least: Miami/215).

Ever wanted to know what kind of penalties are called on the Ravens? Here is your list for both the offense and defense:

Ravens Specific Defensive Penalties (Ravens Total/NFL Rank; Leader/Total)
Pass Interference: (6/2nd; St. Louis/8); Illegal Contact: (3/T-2nd; Green Bay/5); Roughing the Passer: (4/T-1st with Tennessee); Offside: (3/T-22nd; Tennessee/10); Personal Foul: (3/T-14th; Green Bay/7).

Ravens Specific Offensive Penalties (Ravens Total/NFL Rank; Leader/Total):
Holding: (7/T-7th; Arizona/11); Offsides/False Start: (9/T-15th; Buffalo/18); Grounding: (1/T-2nd with 7 teams; San Francisco/2); Delay of Game: (2/T-12th; Cincinnati/6).

On special teams, the Ravens have been called for the following penalties:
Kickoff/Kick Return: Holding 2, Roughing 1. Punt/Punt Return: Holding 1, Illegal Block 2. Placekicking: Holding 1.

To follow Chris Pika (BlogAndTackle) on Twitter, click here or go to: http://www.twitter.com/BlogAndTackle.

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Blog & Tackle: Vacation’s over, it’s back to work

Posted on 26 October 2009 by Chris Pika

Now that everyone has had a chance to remember what it was like to be outside, do the laundry or actually acknowledge their children/spouse/significant other on Sundays for the first time since August, the Ravens are back on the clock this and every week until January (and beyond?).

Bye week in the NFL is almost like getting a forced vacation. You go full-bore from the start of camp, and then you get four days off to recharge, play golf, see the family, etc. The long weekend comes to an abrupt end as game plans and position meetings replace sleeping in and cooking breakfast. You come back to a desk full of memos, projects and missed calls, and you can’t stare at the stack and wish it away. You have to dive in and deal with it in small doses.

So after Week 7 action in which we saw Minnesota finally get stopped in the fourth quarter (by the Steelers), the Bengals dismantle the Bears, the Giants lose for the second straight week, the Cardinals win on the road for the third straight time, the improbable comeback by the Saints in Miami and a Texas-sized beatdown by the Cowboys over the Falcons, where does that leave the hometown purple heroes?

Well, right where we left them at 3-3. Unfortunately, neither the Vikings or Bears were much help to the Ravens in the standings. Denver had the week off, too, and the Broncos will be raring to go this week in Baltimore.

The Ravens players and coaches know they could have been 4-2 or even 5-1 (or just as easily 2-4), but as the most astute coach will say, “It is what it is.” The Ravens have put the first six weeks behind them. A must in the NFL, since the schedule will not allow for time to for the “what might have been” game. That game’s for the fans to play on sports talk stations, in bars and on the internet.

That doesn’t mean the coaches and scouts haven’t been hard at work looking at tape of games and practices, trying to figure out what hasn’t worked and replacing those items with ones that do succeed. The problem is, the Broncos have had the opportunity to do the same. Nothing is static in the NFL, except for the fact that if you can’t stop something in particular, teams will keep pressure on that issue until you do — and then they will go on to something else. It is a chess match each week.

Everyone has something to play for, whether it’s the playoffs, or fighting for jobs. Everyone comes to play each week, and you have to be ready whether you play a team that’s 5-1 or 1-5. Just ask Philadelphia about Oakland. You think Eagles coach Andy Reid hasn’t gotten that point across about a reeling Redskins squad under a seemingly lame-duck head coach they play Monday night?

Right now, the final 10 Ravens opponents in the regular season have six winning records, three losing marks and one .500 club. Fortunately, three of those 10 games will come against the two teams currently in front in the AFC North race, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Gone are the 14-10 games Ravens fans were accustomed to earlier in the decade. There will be more of the 33-31 variety going forward this season. You can’t make wholesale in-season personnel changes, but gameplans can be tweaked to maximize the positives and some younger players will be asked to step up. The Ravens offense isn’t afraid on the road, Joe Flacco can make the tough throws, Ray Rice has become the primary rushing threat who can also catch the ball out of the backfield for big yards and Ladarius Webb can return kicks effectively to shorten the offense’s yardage workload — all positives.

It will be up to the offense to carry the day. Control the line of scrimmage and the clock and minimize the exposure of the defense against the high-powered offenses like Denver, Cincy, Indy and others possess. Grab the lead early, and impose the playbook on the opponent. Carry the lead to the fourth quarter, and pound the ball to move the chains and the clock. Defensively, stop the run and find ways to pressure the quarterback into bad decisions. In short, the formula that helped the Ravens so much in 2008 and in the first three games of 2009.

It’s time for the Ravens and their fans to get back to work, and not panic at the pile of work sitting on the desk when you get in the office. It’s a manageable stack — you just have to approach it one week at a time.

Follow Blog And Tackle on Twitter by going to http://www.twitter.com/BlogAndTackle.

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Comcast Morning Show Live Blog (10/23/09)

Posted on 23 October 2009 by Jack McManus

9:49-

Andy Behrens is on to offer his weekly fantasy advice. He tells me that Lance Moore is an obvious start this week and to stay away from Terrell Owens. He also tells me to start Brent Celek over Vernon Davis and that only one tight end is needed. He advises Glenn to start Steve Breaston and Leon Washington.

9:07-

Y.A. Tittle, author of the new book Nothing Comes Easy is the next guest. He talks about how he broke into football by starting off in Baltimore. He explains that constant questions from fans prompted Tittle to decided to write the book. He says that today he follows both the Giants and the 49ers. He next talks about the difference between the game today versus when he played. He believes the main difference is the physical attributes of the players. Players today begin training much earlier in life. This is an all-time-great interview segment by the way, so please check it out in the audio vault.

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9:00-

Here is Drew’s idea for the new Chicago Bears logo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Its the wind.)

8:32-

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com is next up to talk some football. He starts off by talking about rumor that Joe Gibbs may be returning to Washington. He moves on to how certain teams always seem to make good coaching hires and others cannot seem to do so. Florio believes that Steve Spagnuolo will eventually be a good coach, if he is given the opportunity. He also speaks on the Tom Cable situation. The fact that Randy Hanson will most likely sue will make sure the news does not go away.

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8:17-

Randy Cross is on with Drew. He will be in the booth for the Navy-Wake Forest match-up tomorrow. Cross was at the Texans game last weekend. He explains how right now the team is very inconsistent. If the defense can continue to play at a high level they could be a problem for a lot of good teams this season. On the other side of the game, Cross states that he does not yet believe in the Cincinnati Bengals. He is also unsure of the NFC West teams (Cardinals and 49ers). In regards to the Ravens, Cross thinks the Ravens still have a chance to win the division. 

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8:14-

This morning we are discussing “lightning in a bottle.” Some of the best suggestions so far have been George Mason and Derek Anderson.

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Ravens Lose The Game …. But, Tom Brady Loses My Respect

Posted on 06 October 2009 by Rex Snider

As I grow older, I’m getting wiser ….. I’m absolutely convinced of it. And, as I begin to scratch the surface of the Ravens contentious loss to the Patriots, I’m glad that I’ve relied on that acquired technique of thoroughly absorbing a situation before putting my feelings in writing.

This doesn’t mean I remained stoic and silent as a potential victory bounced off the chest of Mark Clayton and through the fingers of the Baltimore Ravens, on Sunday. In fact, I suffered a behemoth meltdown of personal conduct, to the witness of several dozen Fells Point Festival Fans.

Trust me, if Andrew Dice Clay, Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci saw my very animated, yet very real explosion of emotion, they’d look at each other and say “Damn, that F@#&*ng guy can curse.”

I can’t help my weakness – watching football and rooting for the hometown team brings out an emotionally charged reaction in me and YOU.

And, this same rabid, infuriating streak – which cannot be found in the typical baseball, basketball or hockey fan – is exactly what fuels my dissection of the NFL’s hellbent mission of protecting CERTAIN QUARTERBACKS.

I’m not disparaging fans of other sports …..

We’re those same people. But, we behave differently when the passion is football. We anticipate pain. We relish defense. And, we expect brutal, hard efforts.

It’s football.

So, as I went through my normal Monday routine, I reminded myself of a custom I haven’t experienced, since January 19th ….. I stay away from everything related to the Ravens on mornings following a loss.

It’s hard to digest the bitching and griping. The negativity runs deep on a morning after the Ravens lose. It’s rarely productive and such drama usually just leads to a bad freakin’ start of the week.

As if I need a reason – the Ravens just lost !!!!

Yesterday, I was out of practice. The Ravens haven’t lost in nearly 9 months …..

And, by the time I heard the first caller pleading for a BIG TIME RECEIVER to replace Mark Clayton, followed by a Congressional Inquiry into the NFL’s preferential treatment of Tom Brady, I was ready to take hostages.

Along with this propaganda, I heard a peppering of valued insight. I have no doubt a degree of fact and sobering truth was imbedded in a couple blogs, as well as on-air disclosures by hosts and callers.

I heard and read a few visions regarding the NFL’s stance on ensuring the quarterback is protected, to the greatest extent, while in the pocket. I understand the reasoning – quarterbacks typically control the immediate destiny of a team.

I’m not certain I agree with that concept, but it’s a fair and intelligent argument. Yeah, this is my way of saying it’s not ranked with UFO spottings, pro rasslin’ results and other phony baloney conspiracy theories.

I further understand the NFL’s stake in ensuring the most marketable names are standing on two feet next week – AND enjoying their place on highlight films around the sports world.

In fact, I think the suspicion that the 32 guys comprising the POSSE (Paranoid Owners Seeking Some Earnings) care about the bottom line far more than the competitive integrity of the product is a virtual realism.

“Just Win Baby” has become “Just Sell Baby” …..

I’m sure the ownership groups representing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers have little interest in seeing Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger or the Manning brothers win another Super Bowl.

However, I’d bet they’re hoping to be in the position of one of those teams within the next decade, and they would like to ensure their most marketable name is on the field – selling jerseys and tickets.

The NFL is a different world than other sports …..

In October, 2019, the Yankees and Red Sox will be playing playoff baseball. The same can probably be said for the Lakers and Celtics and their postseason. But, ten years ago, the Colts were just enjoying their first dominating season, in Indianapolis. And, the Patriots had ZERO Super Bowl rings.

A lot of things change in a decade. So, I can see the financial hope and speculation in supporting rules that ensure the game’s biggest stars remain stars, from a marketing perspective. If the Jacksonville Jaguars land the next Peyton Manning, he could make them a viable moneymaking entity, IN JACKSONVILLE.

Okay, the Jags might head for L.A. within the next couple years. But, I’ll guarantee a quarterback of Peyton Manning’s magnitude would appeal to football fans, in Southern California, too.

I have absolutely no doubt the NFL’s owners are driven by greed and money-making potential when instituting these rules that make the quarterback nearly as insulated as the President of the United States.

Surely, I exaggerate. But, you get it, right?

I will respectfully disagree with some of my colleagues – I don’t think the owners are so inspired to protect the quarterbacks, at all costs, in the name of winning. And, I have a few examples to support my argument.

It’s difficult to imagine any team is so dependent on ONE PLAYER …..

The New England Patriots won 11 games, last year, with the hands of a kid at quarterback who never started a game, since high school. The 2007 version of the Cleveland Browns amassed 10 wins with a guy who was cut by a division rival.

A very competent veteran in Jeff Garcia has started and won games for 6 NFL franchises, over the past 7 seasons.

NFL teams don’t need BIG NAME quarterbacks to be successful.

But, the BIG NAME quarterbacks do promote the NFL product. They’re the faces of the league and the blunt reality is this ability to spawn profit is obviously more important than the integrity of what happens on the field.

If you doubt me, consider this …..

A quick glance at Sunday’s recaps evidenced ZERO “Roughing The Passer” penalties in the Redskins/Bucs & Titans/Jaguars games. Now, I’m not going to comb through every single play of every single game. But, I’m pretty sure you know where I’m headed …..

Should I simply assume no defensive players brushed-up against Jason Campbell, Josh Johnson, Kerry Collins or David Garrard? Or, maybe, these guys didn’t jump up and down like Arnold Horshack, from Welcome Back Kotter fame – while crying “he touched me !!!!!”

How masculine of Tom Brady, huh?

Instead of inspiring and rallying his teammates with a cool demeanor, he was flailing around like some baby’s mama hailing a hack, on a North Avenue corner. Real cool, Tom.

And, I’m not buying the “hey, it worked – he got the yellow flag thrown.”

After four games, I’m pretty convinced Tom Brady is very worried about that fragile knee and less worried about 45 feet of free real estate and a new set of downs. He’s doing everything possible to avoid getting hit.

There was a time when I really appreciated the surgeon-like capabilities of Tom Brady. These days, I see a guy who specializes in scolding his teammates for the world to see, while doing anything to avoid a short trip to the ground.

In wrapping this up, I’m inclined to finally clarify my feelings on the outcome of Sunday’s loss. I cannot fathom hanging the balance of any game on one single play. But, I also don’t subscribe to the suggestions the referees’ poor calling didn’t impact the outcome, either.

That’s just not accurate.

They made plenty of calls that extended scoring drives for the Patriots. This absolutely matters. The result cannot be changed, but the referees had a hand in the circumstances of this loss.

That’s it, I’m done with it. I’m ready for the Bengals.

But, I won’t forget Sunday’s debacle. I behaved like an ass. Tom Brady behaved like a baby. And, the referees ….. well, they behaved like a group of guys who’d never done their jobs, at such a high level, before.

Enough said, and lets just hope Carson Palmer hasn’t joined the NFL’s “Endangered Species” list, too ……

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Ravens, Rants and Rankings – week 3

Posted on 02 October 2009 by kevinpb

Ravens 34 – Browns 3. Three games, three wins. This just in, the Ravens are a very good football team. All things being equal with injuries, the Baltimore Ravens will be a factor in the AFC with regard to which team goes to the Super Bowl. These aren’t your Daddy’s Ravens. They are still solid on defense, and are diverse and exciting on offense.
The Browns had no chance on Sunday at the Purple Palace. The Browns are a bad football team.

In week 3, the Ravens offense was as imaginative as effective. Again the Ravens relied on the “no-huddle” offense early in the game to create tempo and keep Cleveland off balance. They also unveiled a new package, based on the principals of the “read option” that was used so effectively by Vince Young at Texas. Five to ten times Flacco set up in the shotgun and read the defense before handing off to the back. McGahee scored both his touchdowns off this set, and early in the second corner they ran the option to Mark Clayton out of this set. Joe Flacco was 25-35 for 342 yards and 1 touchdown. Three games into the season and Flacco has 2 – 300 yard games. The offensive line was dominant, opening gaping holes and keeping Flacco upright.

Defensively, the line dominated the run, and provided steady yet unspectacular pressure all day. The secondary had a much better day, admittedly, against a far inferior quarterback. The defensive backfield was much more aggressive and attacked the ball when it was put in the air. One thing that I have noticed is that Brendan Ayanbadejo is playing a lot of inside linebacker, especially in obvious passing situations. I guess the coaches are not sold on Tavares Gooden’s coverage skills.

Special teams wise, they were better. Koch was solid with the limited punting he did and Hauschka was perfect in PAT’s and field goals. Our return game is still not good, it seems we are out of sync and always just a second late getting the hole. We covered better, but Harbaugh and Rossberg still like to tempt fate by kicking the ball directly to the dangerous return men. I will give them credit though, just before halftime after we scored, instead of kicking to Cribbs, like they did to Sproles last week, they kicked it high and short and made someone else field the ball. At least they learned their lesson.

I have to give credit to Cam Cameron, he was so far ahead of the defensive coaches for the Cleveland Browns with play calling. When the Browns loaded the box, he threw the ball down the field, when they backed off he pounded the ball with the run. It was a complete mismatch on the field and in the coaching booth.

Next week we go to Foxboro. I am really looking forward to this game. I don’t think it will be easy, but there is no team in football the Ravens can’t beat. They are going to have to stop the run, force Brady to throw a lot and then pressure and make him uncomfortable. Next week would be a good week to go back to the all out pressure defense that was our staple for many years. If Wes Welker does not play, the Ravens will play over the top of Randy Moss so he doesn’t beat us deep, they will stop the run and Flacco and company will put up enough points to get out of Boston with a win.
RANTS

How bad are the Cleveland Browns – Pretty bad, but I have to question what they were trying to accomplish last Sunday in Baltimore. Loosing 27-0 late in the 3rd quarter or early in the 4th, with 4th and short on or about the Ravens 15 yard line, they decide to kick a field goal. I don’t understand the decision. For a team that has had trouble putting it in the endzone, and with the game already decided, why not pull out all stops to get a touchdown? Strange decision. Also, earlier in the 3rd quarter, James Harrison of the Browns rips off a 17 yard run for a first down. The Browns line up and run a quarterback sneak on first down. Who the hell called that masterpiece?

Man-Genius? I think not. Eric Mangini played coy all summer without naming a quarterback. Then he named Brady Quinn opening day starter. After only 2 ½ games, Mangini pulled Quinn, who was not performing, for Derek Anderson. Anderson comes in cold without proper practice with the Browns first team, against the aggressive Ravens defense. He throws three interceptions. Now Mangini has benched his chosen starter for the 2nd stringer who tanked against the Ravens. Beautiful coaching decision. The game was over at half time and no way Derek Anderson was going to change the outcome. If Mangini became convinced a change was needed, then he should have let Quinn finish the Ravens game, and prepared Anderson to start the next week. Now he has no quarterback. In a matter of three years, the Cleveland Browns have gone from having a Pro Bowl quarterback and a promising No. 1 draft choice at that position to no quarterback at all.

Shaun Hill, Vernon Davis, Jared Gaither, Domique Foxworth, D’Quell Jackson, Eric Barton, LaMont Jordan, EJ Henderson, Darius Heyward-Bey, Stephen Heyer, Shawn Merriman, Jeremy Navarre, Kris Jenkins, Joey Haynos, Dan Gronkowski, Erin Henderson, Eric Hicks, Moise Foiku, Kevin Barnes, Andrew Crummey, Madieu Williams, Josh Wilson, Randy Starks, Dave Philistin, Adam Podlesh, Isaiah Gardner, William Kershaw, Dre Moore, Edwin Williams and Jaimie Thomas. What do they all have in common? They are former University of Maryland football players that are currently with an NFL team. That is a lot of talent being sent to the NFL from a Division 1A program that routinely continues to underachieve. I wonder what the problem could be? Oh yes, your Maryland Terrapins were embarrassed again this week by that national power Rutgers.

Political Correctness makes me sick – The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim clinched a spot in the baseball playoffs by winning the American League West Division. Their clinching celebration included honoring a fallen teammate, Nick Adenhart. The celebration included an homage to his likeness on the centerfield wall and dousing his jersey with beer and champagne. The symbolization was clear, they were celebrating like he was still with them. There have been rumblings that this type of celebration was not appropriate because Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver. Please. Way to go Angels, I think your celebration was pretty cool.

This Weiters kid can play – For all of you Baltimore Oriole fans out there who were uneasy about the play of Matt Weiters; or more appropriately, were concerned that he wasn’t going to be as good as advertised, fear not the kid can play. Long past the time most Orioles are on the shelf for the year due to injury, and the others have packed it in, Weiters continues impress. His defense has continuously improved and he is really stinging the ball even when he makes an out. The homerun he hit in Toronto was a monstrous shot. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

“I can coach!” – Charles G Driesell. In the case of Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, I don’t think that is the case any longer. I watched Joe Paterno on the sidelines the other night when Iowa beat Penn State. He looked completely mystified on the sideline. Bobby Bowden’s post game press conference after Florida State’s loss to South Florida is priceless. You really ought to try and find it and watch it. I am paraphrasing his statements, but they were something like, daggommit, they were good. They were a lot better then we thought they were. Don’t get me wrong, both Bowden and Paterno are Hall of Fame coaches, and while their respective programs are in decent shape nationally, they are no where near the viable force they once were on the national scene. It is clear that both coaches are pretty much figureheads for the corporations that are Penn State and Florida State football. Both programs are run behind the scenes by assistant coaches and are pretty much on cruise control. For either program to return to national prominence, a change needs to be made.

Do yourself a favor and check out the Showtime series, “Full Color Football: History of the AFL”. This series airs on every Wednesday at 8pm prior to Inside the NFL. It is a great documentary regarding the start up AFL and the years prior to the creation of the Super Bowl and all the way up through the AFL-NFL merger. If you are a football fan, you will love a look back at this league. It is really well done. Next week the episode will center on something that is near and dear to all Baltimoreans hearts, Super Bowl III. You can probably catch all the previous episodes on Comcast “On Demand” if you are so inclined.

Baby Steps – It’s good to see Steelers wide receiver, Limas Sweed progressing as a receiver in the NFL. Last week when he dropped a sure touchdown pass, he didn’t fall down and fake and injury. Baby steps, “Lame Ass”, baby steps.

RANKINGS

1. New York Giants – Defense wins championships, and this defense is pretty good. They are running the ball well and Eli is meshing with his new receivers.
2. New Orleans Saints – beat a decent Buffalo team at Buffalo and did it by playing great defense and running the ball.
3. Baltimore Ravens – rolled against a really bad team. They did what they were supposed to do. Let’s see what happens next week.
4. New York Jets – Titans had them beat except for the muffed punt at the end.
5. Indianapolis Colts – demolished the Cardinals. Very efficient game, hitting on all cylinders right now.
6. Minnesota Vikings – great throw by Favre, even better catch by Greg Lewis. A miracle away from being 2-1.
7. Philadelphia Eagles – Wow, what a difference in Kevin Kolb from the Ravens game last year and the way he is playing now. Team hasn’t missed a beat.
8. Chicago Bears – went into Seattle, a very tough place to play, and got the job done. When “Good Jay” shows up they are a tough out.
9. Denver Broncos – I still don’t think they are as good as this ranking but they deserve to be here.
10. New England Patriots – I still think they are a little off kilter, but getting back to basics last week with the running game was a good first step. Let’s hope they don’t find their stride for at least one more week
11. Atlanta Falcons –no shame in losing at Foxboro, but their second half against the Patriots was nothing to write home about.
12. Green Bay Packers – gearing up for the Monday night showdown with ole what’s his name.
13. San Diego Chargers – still 2-1, but getting healthier. Would love to see them go into Pittsburgh and get the W.
14. San Franscisco 49ers – a good solid football team who got beat last Sunday on a hail mary. Frank Gore being hurt does not help them going forward.
15. Cincinnati Bengals – got to give this team some love, after that deflection loss the first weekend I thought they were dead.
16. Dallas Cowboys – I have no read on this team. They are 2-1, but I still think they are the odd team out in the NFC East.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – 1-2 what a great break for the Ravens, but they will stabilize and make a charge before the year is done.
18. Tennessee Titans – notoriously slow starting team the last few years, puts an awful lot of pressure on the team to play perfect and stay perfect at the end.
19. Seattle Seahawks – this team is very talented, they just caught a bad break when Hasselback broke his rib.
20. Arizona Cardinals – should be lower, but I know they can play better. All of a sudden Warner looks old.
21. Houston Texans – there is potential here. The defense must get better.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars – does the nick name Jaguars work in Southern California?
23. Buffalo Bills – didn’t show up at home against the Saints. The TO explosion meter is ticking.
24. Miami Dolphins – brutal early schedule has not done them any favors. Pennington is hurt, time to audition for next year.
25. Detroit Lions – making strides as a team. I think they are getting better as a team
26. Oakland Raiders – the worst quarterback in the NFL.
27. Carolina Panthers – John Fox has had a nice run. I am afraid it is coming to an end.
28. Washington Redskins – should be embarrassed at how they are playing. To much talent to stink this bad. No accountability at all. Danny boy is getting nevous.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – quarterback change already. Young coach is not ready for the adversity they are facing. This is going to get bad real fast.
30. Saint Louis Rams – Kyle Boller with 2 touchdown passes. Let’s go Kyle.
31. Kansas City Chiefs- all that money they gave to Cassell isn’t looking like such a good idea right now.
32. Cleveland Browns – I think they ought to hire Tony Grossi to coach the team.

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Ravens vs. Patriots – It’s Not Just Another Game …..

Posted on 01 October 2009 by Rex Snider

I think the next four days will serve as that proverbial “snowball rolling downhill” as the excitement builds for Sunday’s showdown, in Foxboro.

It’s being billed with various descriptions in newspapers, website/message boards and blogs …..

“Flacco vs. Brady”

“Harbaugh vs. Belichick”

“The NEW Guard vs. The OLD Guard”

“Big Randy vs. A Bunch Of Smaller Guys …..” (Yep, I actually saw this !!!!)

If you think of a witty moniker for this game, there’s a real good chance someone else has already thought of it, and posted it – ON THESE MESSAGE BOARDS. Indeed, the week leading up to a big game is every bit as contentious as the 60 minutes spent on the field.

But, all the hoopla just fuels the collective fires burning within rabid fans of both teams.

In reality, we know what this is really about …..

It’s just another football game. It’s the Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots – a couple non-divisional opponents meeting for a regular season contest. Both teams have games the following week – and they’re equally as important. Or, are they?

In looking at both teams, if I’m going to consider any comparisons, I’m likely to point out that both organizations obsess on the TEAM concept. This town and anyone who follows the Ravens are familiar with John Harbaugh’s devotion to team unity.

And, Bill Belichick has amassed a collection of Lombardi trophies and gaudy rings by beating opponents with larger collections of “stars” on the game’s biggest stage. We can name dozens of reclamation projects utilized and optimized by Belichick, right?

Well, it’s also legitimate to admit Tom Brady has been the consistent factor on the team, as well.

The Patriots have dominated the last decade on a “next man up” philosophy. Obviously, the Ravens have that same mindset – and we’ve observed textbook examples, with Justin Bannan, Chris Chester and others. In fact, both Tom Brady and Joe Flacco were cast into their current roles through unexpected circumstances and at unplanned times.

And, the world knows neither guy let the opportunity or job title slip away …..

But, Sunday’s game is not about the legend of Tom Brady, or the emergence of Joe Flacco. Although, that’s what the cookie-cutter networks will say in their coverage. Pimping the quarterbacks has always been that “sexy selling point” with national, mainstream analysis.

I’m not suggesting Brady or Flacco will be mere bystanders to Sunday’s eventual outcome. Both guys are leaders and they’ll intimately impact what happens – as every quarterback does. But, will they have any greater effect than other Week #4 matchups, like Roethlisberger vs. Rivers, Sanchez vs. Brees or the most overblown duel, Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers & ENTIRE STATE OF WISCONSIN.

Good grief, I’ll be glad when that game is over. But, you know what I mean – the nationally syndicated media will market the quarterbacks. However, we know it’s much more complex than that.

This Ravens/Patriots game is bound to be determined by more relevant matchups and scenarios …..

• Can the Ravens Defense pressure the Patriots into hurried execution and a repeat of the unpleasant circumstances similar to that day at the Meadowlands, a couple weeks ago?

• Will the Patriots Defense finally do something the Chiefs, Chargers and Browns failed to accomplish – STOP the Ravens passing attack, which really enables the running game? They’ll have the home crowd to their advantage.

• Aside from the presence of Randy Moss, can the Patriots present difficult matchups for the Ravens secondary? Be cautious of the Patriots’ Tight Ends; they’re big and offer another option for Brady.

• Do “Blueprints For Success” exist for both teams? Specifically, did Philip Rivers reveal the Ravens vulnerabilities? And, did Rex Ryan’s Jets-D lay a similar plan for his former pupils?

• Has Prescott Burgess been spending hours under a bright light, in Coach Belichick’s office? Get the Velveeta ready …..

• Perhaps, it will come down to Steve Hauschka vs. Stephen Gostkowski. Just remember, the Ravens’ new kicker hasn’t really stepped into a “do or die” situation, yet. It’s coming …..

Let’s face it, an array of possibilities exist, as Sunday fast approaches. In reality, it’s just 1 of 16 games. But, it holds some significant potential …..

In a similar standard to the San Diego game, this contest could serve as a tie-breaker for postseason homefield, and it could also lead to an extended lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will really face a tough challenge, against the Chargers, in another game without Troy Polamalu.

To be fair, this game has important intangible factors, as well. The Patriots have a collection of Super Bowl Championships, over the past ten years. Beating them has gotta be significant for a team’s confidence. They’re also one of those upper echelon teams and the Ravens need to beat such opponents, if they wanna go to Miami, in February.

In fact, it’s absolutely fitting to suggest the New England Patriots demand that same reverence as the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. And, do these 4 teams share a common relation with the Ravens?

You bet.

The Steelers, Colts, Patriots and Giants are jointly responsible for winning the past 6 Super Bowls. In the span of the last 24 months, the Ravens have played this collection of teams 10 times.

The Ravens are 1-9 against them. Did you get that? I said ONE WIN & NINE LOSSES.

This has to change. Forget about beating the bad teams. And, forget about beating the good teams. The Ravens absolutely MUST beat the GREAT TEAMS.

The ESPN Power Rankings, Sporting News Ratings and other in-season accolades are nice. But, there are no real awards for such distinctions. The prize is coveted by every NFL team, and it’s a Super Bowl Championship.

The teams responsible for the last half-dozen trips to Disney World have dominated the Ravens. The tables must turn. Maybe, Ric Flair was right – “to be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

Indeed, this is not just another game …..

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Blog & Tackle: NFL Week 1 review

Posted on 14 September 2009 by Chris Pika

An interesting Week 1 in the NFL had its share of big moments, surprises and injury news. Let’s take a spin around the league’s opening Sunday.

Atlanta 19, Miami 7: Not the start Miami was hoping for, by far. Several experts picked the Fins in an upset, but the Falcons took advantage of four Miami turnovers for nine points. Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez can still catch the ball and find the end zone, and Miami should have kept running the ball at the Falcons, but decided to use the Wildcat too many times. Atlanta might have a kicking problem on its hands as Jason Elam struggled, despite a 50-yard field goal. This one should have been a blowout.

Ravens 38, Kansas City 24: A tougher game than many expected was put away by a late touchdown by Baltimore’s Willis McGahee at home. The Ravens posted a club-record 501 total yards, and they needed almost all of it with two touchdowns in the final three minutes of play. Joe Flacco’s 43 pass attempts weren’t expected as Kansas City prepared for a running attack. Ravens TE Todd Heap came back to form in a big way with 74 receiving yards and a touchdown.

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Philadelphia 38, Carolina 10: Story of two quarterbacks dominates Eagles’ victory. Philly QB Donovan McNabb breaks a rib and his status is undetermined for Week 2 against New Orleans. By the way, Michael Vick is not eligible until Week 3. Jake Delhomme struggled mightily as he was responsible for five of Carolina’s seven turnovers (Eagles scored 24 points off those seven miscues), but coach John Fox is sticking with him – for now. Carolina will have to do better than 2.4 yards per play to win games.

Denver 12, Cincinnati 7: CBS announcer Gus Johnson was in NCAA Tournament form as the easily excited play-by-play man cranked into full gear on Brandon Stokley’s 87-yard touchdown off a tipped pass late in the game. Stokley then stalled at the goal line to kill the clock and the Bengals. Chad Ochocinco had just one catch for eight yards – not much to Tweet about for the Cincy WR. Denver QB Kyle Orton was a winner in his debut and the folks in the Broncos front office have to be glad he’s the QB, instead of Jay Cutler today.

Minnesota 34, Cleveland 20: Vikings QB Brett Favre’s debut with Minnesota was the focus of the national media, but RB Adrian Peterson was the real show for the Vikes with 180 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Favre was 14-21 for just 110 yards passing. Again, his greatest contribution will be to safely hand the ball off to Peterson. A lot good Browns coach Eric Mangini did with his starting QB antics – Brady Quinn threw for 205 yards, including a late TD, and was sacked five times by the Minny D.

New York Jets 24, Houston 7: Rex Ryan had a very successful debut as the Jets’ head coach, thanks to – no surprise – the defense. The Jets pounded the Texans running game, and Texans QB Matt Schaub was harassed all day. The Jets got 272 pass yards from Mark Sanchez and 107 rush yards and two scores from Thomas Jones. Not sure what this victory means to New York, but Rex has the Jets buying into his way of football.

Indianapolis 14, Jacksonville 12: The Jags missed a chance to get a division upset in Week 1 as the Colts’ defense clamped down late in the fourth quarter. Jax QB David Garrard completed half his 28 passes for 122 yards, and RB Maurice Jones-Drew had only 97 rush yards and one TD. Colts QB Peyton Manning showed that even with the offseason coaching changes, he still runs the Indy defense with 301 pass yards, 162 to WR Reggie Wayne on 10 catches.

New Orleans 45, Detroit 27: The good news for Mt. St. Joe’s Jim Schwartz in his NFL head coaching debut? The Lions scored more points than they did in ANY 2008 game. The bad news? The Saints got a club record-tying six TD passes from QB Drew Brees in a blowout that extended Detroit’s futility streak to 18 straight games. Brees distributed the ball around as TE Jeremy Shockey scored twice – his first scores since being traded to New Orleans last season. Lions rookie QB Matthew Stafford will want to forget his first NFL game – three interceptions. He and Lions will have better days – but not soon.

Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21: Cowboys QB Tony Romo successfully shook off the supposed hex by former girlfriend Jessica Simpson to throw three touchdown passes as part of a 353-yard passing day. Bucs QB Byron Leftwich probably thinks the blonde bombshell put the hex on the wrong guy, as he was battered by the Dallas defense once Tampa Bay had stop running the ball. Tampa Bay could be in for a long year as division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans have as much, if not more firepower, than the Cowboys.

San Francisco 20, Arizona 16: One of the few mild surprises of Week 1, as the defending NFC champs were beaten at home by a rapidly improving 49ers squad. 49ers QB Shaun Hill threw for 209 yards and a score, while fantasy darling Kurt Warner was picked off twice and subject to a heavy pass rush from San Francisco. Arizona was led in receiving by a running back, Tim Hightower, who caught 12 balls for 121 yards – that’s not the formula that helped the Cards go so far in 2008.

New York Giants 23, Washington 17: The Giants defensive line, sparked by the return of DE Osi Umenyiora, made life very difficult for the Skins as Washington was held to only 51 rush yards. Even without former WR Plaxico Burress, the G-Men are going to be a serious contender in the NFC because of their defense. QB Eli Manning completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards. Skins QB Jason Campbell was stripped of the ball by Umenyiora for a score, and DE Albert Haynesworth collected a check, but not many Giants runners in his debut after the monster contract handed out to him by Dan Snyder in the offseason.

Seattle 28, St. Louis 0: Good to see old friend Jim Mora get a victory in his opening game as Seahawk coach, thanks in part to instant replay that showed 12 men on the field for the Rams when St. Louis returned a blocked field goal to apparently tie the game 7-7 late in the first half. The penalty on the Rams gave the Seahawks new life, and Seattle converted for a late TD for a 14-0 halftime advantage. St. Louis folded their tents in the second half as Seattle got three TD passes from QB Matt Hasselbeck.

Green Bay 21, Chicago 15: This wasn’t the script Bears fans had in mind for the season opener against hated rival Green Bay. Jay Cutler threw four interceptions, and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw one TD pass, but it was a game-winning 50-yard toss with just over a minute to play. Chicago killed a lot of clock in the fourth quarter to kick a field goal that seemed to put them in charge, but Cutler’s fourth pick in the dying seconds sealed the Green Bay victory. The Bears’ loss could be costly in other ways as LB Brian Urlacher might be finished for the season with a wrist injury.

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Blog & Tackle: No NFL betting in Delaware (for now)

Posted on 24 August 2009 by Chris Pika

If you were hoping to take a short trip up to Delaware to put a few dollars down on single-game NFL betting, hold your cash because a federal court Monday ruled the state’s plan violated a federal ban.

According to ESPN, a three-judge panel in Philadelphia heard almost two hours of arguments from attorneys for the state and for the pro leagues and the NCAA.

Delaware had claimed it was exempt from a federan ban on sports betting because it ran a sports lottery in 1976. It is unclear if Delaware can mirror the specific program used in ’76 (multiple-game parlay wagers) going forward.

The NFL and the other leagues had vigorosly fought Delaware’s plan over the last few months, while at the same time, NFL owners eased restrictions on working with states with lottery games.

In May, NFL owners had voted 32-0 to allow clubs to form partnerships with state lottery agencies for use of club marks and logos on scratch-off games. The Ravens joined New England, Atlanta, Green Bay, Washington, Cincinnati, Seattle, Cleveland, Houston, N.Y. Jets, N.Y. Giants and Dallas with lottery deals.

The Ravens’ tie-in with the Maryland State Lottery is expected to generate net revenue of $3 million for Maryland, but the lotteries also put money into each team’s bottom line during a time when sponsorship dollars are tighter and a renegotiation of the league’s Collective Barganing Agreement is in the wings. Players receive nearly 60 percent of all team revenues in the current salary structure, and in a tight economic market with the traditional major sponsors of beer, banks and cars hurting across the board, teams are looking for different ways to bring in revenue.

For instance, according to a report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette earlier this month, the Packers will clear about $267,000 from its $467,000 partnership with the Wisconsin State Lottery after values of prizes contributed by the club are deducted. Other deals, like New England’s, are dependent on total ticket sales. According to the Massachusetts state treasurer, the Patriots could earn millions of dollars if all 30 million tickets are sold.

From the clubs’ perspective, in an August 11 story on ProFootballTalk.com, Patriots owner Robert Kraft laid out the reasons why clubs wanted to partner with state lotteries.

“If it wasn’t for the economic times, (the league allowing lottery deals might not have happened),” said Kraft. “The fact that we know to get an extension to the labor agreement, we have to work every way we can to grow revenues. Look at spending by automobile companies and (beer companies), they’re just not spending. We have two bankrupt automotive companies. (Other) car companies are just not spending money. And beer companies aren’t spending the way they did. We have to go out and be resourceful and create new revenue or we’ll have a real problem in the labor area.”

One of the three judges in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Theordore McKee, talked during the hearing about a show he heard on NFL Network on Sirius/XM Radio, according to USA Today. “There’s constant chatter and betting advice given by people — since the league owns the network — paid by the league. Isn’t this like Chicken Little yelling the sky is falling at the same time selling tickets to watch meteor showers?”

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Roger Goodell acts strongly to protect NFL’s image

Posted on 18 June 2009 by Luke Jones

When the news broke that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth would receive only a 30-day prison sentence after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter on Tuesday, the overwhelming negative response was predictable, if not completely justified.

After all, Stallworth was facing up to 15 years in prison before receiving the lighter sentence—along with two years of house arrest, eight years on probation, and a lifetime driver’s license suspension.

Immediately following the sentencing, the attention shifted to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell who has earned a reputation for cracking down on players running afoul of the law.  His most notable action was a suspension of former Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones for the entire 2007 season after a plethora of incidents, most notably a Las Vegas strip club altercation that left a bouncer paralyzed.

Not surprisingly, Goodell acted quickly Thursday, suspending Stallworth indefinitely without pay.  Speculation persists over how long the suspension will last, but the commissioner has precedent from which to work.

His predecessor Paul Tagliabue suspended St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little for eight games of the 1999 season after Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after hitting and killing a woman while driving drunk in 1998.  Tagliabue was widely criticized for being too lenient—as he was for other disciplinary actions taken during his tenure.

Goodell has worked to improve the perception of how the league disciplines players with legal issues, but the reasons have little to do with the shortcomings of our legal system as many want it to be.

Any disciplinary action imposed by Goodell has nothing to do with a moral obligation to levy a suitable punishment the legal system failed to provide;  it’s motivated by money and protecting the image and reputation of a multibillion-dollar business.

In Stallworth’s defense, he acted with accountability after making the horrible choice to get behind the wheel while under the influence.  A first-time offender, Stallworth remained on the scene, dialed 911, and cooperated with authorities during the investigation.

Still, the disturbing idea of Stallworth having the wherewithal to flash his lights but failing to slow down or stop for a pedestrian crossing the street illegally is too much to overlook or easily forgive.  The thought of a 59-year-old father and husband losing his life—even if he was jaywalking—cannot be shaken.  And it’s an act too damning for Goodell and the NFL to take lightly, regardless of Stallworth’s previously clean record and the precedent of the Little case.

Stallworth’s conviction should warrant a suspension for the entire 2009 season—if not for the duration of his two-year house arrest.  The despicable act is just another black mark for a league that has dealt with several high-profile incidents over the last few years.

In addition to Stallworth, Goodell faces difficult decisions regarding the soon-to-be-released Michael Vick and the delayed litigation of former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.

While players the caliber of Vick and Burress add star power to the league, the commissioner must look at the negative effects of allowing convicted players to compete when the league’s reputation and millions of dollars in revenue are at stake.

Discussions will continue over when—and if—Vick will be allowed to play in the NFL again, but Goodell will almost surely take additional disciplinary action against the 29-year-old former Atlanta Falcons quarterback.  If he immediately welcomes Vick back into the league with open arms, he’ll come under fire from organizations such as PETA and other animal rights supporters.

And the dilemma of what to do with Burress may be even cloudier considering he has not been convicted in a court of law.  Goodell has avoided taken disciplinary action against individuals before the legal process plays out, but the straightforward nature of Burress’ case—he concealed a weapon and accidentally shot himself in the leg— makes it difficult to allow the former Giants receiver to simply play this season while waiting for his day in court, likely in 2010.

Given the backlash of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg immediately following the November incident, it would be difficult to envision Goodell standing by and allowing Burress to play without any action being taken.

Ultimately, Goodell is not really concerned with taking a moral stand or superseding the perceived missteps of the legal system; he simply wants to protect the image of his league.  It’s a wise strategy, and one can simply look at Major League Baseball as the perfect example of how weak leadership can lead to grave problems, as it has with performance enchancing drugs.

While we’ll wait to see what actions are taken against Vick and Burress, Goodell’s first step against Stallworth was swift and severe.  It sends a strong message to the rest of the league’s players, and it’s in the best interest of the National Football League.

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