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Who I Like Sunday and Why

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Who I Like Sunday and Why

Posted on 13 January 2014 by Dwayne Showalter

Championship weekend is upon us and for the first time since 2011, and only third time since 2008, the Baltimore Ravens are not involved.  That sounds pretty good to say actually.  To be in it three times in five years would have been kind of bitter had Josh Bynes not tackled Tedd Ginn around midfield to end the 49ers comeback last February and give the Ravens their second Lombardi Trophy.

It certainly would have been nice to watch them participate again in the playoffs this season, but let’s face it, it frays nerves, causes gray hair and (in may case) makes it fall out.  Let some of these other cities get their hopes dashed, dreams crushed and see parade plans canceled.

Think about the playoffs already.  Cincinnati, for all the good mojo they created during the regular season, lost at home…again…in the first round.  Nice job Bengals.  Do us all a favor and go back to your holes.  Please don’t win the division again.  It embarrasses the AFC North.

How about the Chiefs?  After two straight losing seasons, they were back in the playoffs (last losing at home to Baltimore in January ’11) and feeling spry after finishing 11-5.  Then they choked a huge lead to a second year quarterback.  Stew on that KC.  And you can probably apply the same to Eagles fans.  The only differences?  Lost a small lead, at home, were 10-6 and were coming off of two non-winning seasons – they finished 8-8 two seasons ago.

The Packers weaseled in at 8-7-1.  They had Aaron Rogers back at quarterback and all was looking up in Green Bay.  That is until Phil Dawson connected on a short field goal to dash hopes, crush dreams and cancel parade plans.

This past weekend the big four muscled up.  The 49ers showed the fans in Carolina what championship football was all about.  Seattle throttled the Saints for three-and-a-half quarters before allowing them a chance to tie it late.  I have my reasons to dislike Drew Brees (lets just say its fantasy related) but for the record, I usually root against dome teams.  What a shame for the Crescent City.  In San Diego, they don’t really make Super Bowl plans, at least not since the game itself stopped making regular appearances there.  As for the Chargers, Phillip Rivers was never a favorite when at NC State.  His gyrations Sunday didn’t do anything to erase those feelings.  As for Indy, no sympathy here.  Domed team, our colors and logo.  They may have their day again, and soon, but not this year.

So here we go into the final four, NFL style.  I can’t root for Seattle.  I find the whole “12th man” thing kind of a joke.  I thought that was Texas A&M’s deal anyway.  The fans look like idiots and the weather always is rotten.  Not even cold or snow rotten.  Just 40 degrees and crappy rotten.  Their home record may be a by-product of it being such a dreary looking place.  Denver and New England is a toss up to me.  I kind of lean toward New England because Brady seems to do it without stars around him and was never the chosen one, being drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan.  Manning was the first overall pick in 1998 by the Colts.  I also like the fact the Manning has the same amount of rings as Joe Flacco!

But mostly, they are at home.  And if there is one thing I enjoy watching it’s a stadium full of disgruntled fans emptying out late in the 4th quarter like the Pats forced in Pittsburgh a few years back.  The Ravens had a habit of  doing that over the years too.  Tennessee and Oakland in 2000.  Miami in ’01.  Miami and Tennessee again in ’08.  New England in ’09 and 2012.  Kansas City in 2010.  And Oh yeah, Denver too last year (caution one F-bomb but one of my favorite clips of all-time!).  Unfortunately, we have witnessed this here in Baltimore a few times.  I saw Oakland in 1977.  And Tennessee and Indy in ’03 and ’06 respectively.  It stinks.  But if it’s not my team, it’s kind of funny.

In the end, I think I will pull for San Francisco the most.  With them and either AFC team, a Super Bowl that features two teams the Ravens beat to win Super Bowl XLVII would be pretty neat to watch.  Go Niners.

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 13 January 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Syracuse @ Maryland (Thursday 8:30pm from Comcast Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Georgia Tech @ Maryland (Sunday 2pm Comcast Center); Boxing: Jean Pascal vs. Lucian Bute (Saturday 10:15pm from Montreal live on HBO), Ivan Redkach vs. Tony Luis (Friday 10pm from Memphis live on Showtime); MISL: St. Louis Ambush @ Baltimore Blast (Friday 7:35pm from Baltimore Arena live on YouTube), Baltimore Blast @ Syracuse Silver Stars (Sunday 1pm from Syracuse, NY live on YouTube)

10. Paul Mooney (Saturday 7:30pm Howard Theatre)l Iliza Shlesinger (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Doug Stanhope (Thursday 8pm Magooby’s Joke House); Todd Glass (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); Baltimore County Restaurant Week (Tuesday-Sunday throughout Baltimore County); Enough Said“, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler“, “Riddick” and “Carrie” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit“, “The Nut Joband “Ride Along” out in theaters (Friday)

Iliza Schlesinger is both humorous and not safe for work.

I have no interest in seeing Jack Ryan, but I could use some more Keira Knightley in my life.

9. Jay-Z (Thursday 8pm Verizon Center); Stone Sour/Pop Evil (Friday 8pm Rams Head Live); Rusted Root (Monday 7:30pm Rams Head on Stage); Big Daddy Kane (Friday 9pm Howard Theatre); Charles Bradley (Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club), Big Head Todd and The Monsters (Saturday 7pm 9:30 Club); Gipsy Kings (Monday 7:30pm Birchmere); Dangermuffin (Friday 8pm Gypsy Sally’s); Bruce Springsteen “High Hopes”Switchfoot “Fading West” and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings “Give The People What They Want” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

I’ve seen Jay-Z a few times, probably won’t make down to DC Thursday night. But if he ever toured with The Roots there would not be a price I wouldn’t pay.

Charles Bradley > Charles Barkley > Matt Barkley > My elementary school friend Matt Besche. Actually, strike that. Matt Besche is WAY better than Matt Barkley.

Drew Forrester said the new Springsteen record isn’t a home run. Fair enough. I really like this tune though.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are example number 6,789,403 why Brooklyn is now the capital of the music world.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 07 January 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Wake Forest @ Maryland (Thursday 7pm Comcast Center); Boxing: Arash Usmanee vs. Juan Antonio Rodriguez (Friday 9pm from Tacoma, WA live on ESPN2)

10. Jimmie’s Chicken Shack (Friday 9pm Rams Head Live); Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Thursday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Cracker (Saturday 6pm 9:30 Club); Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder (Friday & Saturday 7:30pm Birchmere); Peter Gabriel “Scratch My Back & I’ll Scratch Yours” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

JCS is celebrating the 15th anniversary of one of the most important records OF MY LIFE.

I would like to go see Dirty Dozen Brass Band, yes, thanks for asking.

Cracker does that one song you kinda remember.

And now here’s Ricky Skaggs.

9. Blue Man Group (Friday-Sunday France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at The Hippodrome); Jim Gaffigan (Friday & Saturday 7pm & 9:30pm Warner Theatre); Rob Schneider (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); “Archer” season five premiere (Monday 10pm FX); Lone Survivor“, “Her” and “August: Osage County” out in theaters (Friday); Baltimore County Restaurant Week (Friday-Monday throughout Baltimore County)

Obviously the only thing that matters this week is the return of Archer. Enjoy the next eight minutes of your life. They won’t get better.

Also, this is great.

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

Posted on 24 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 41-7 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Joe Flacco pass intended for Dennis Pitta incomplete on 4th & 10 (4th quarter)

The “ender”.

4. Jimmy Smith called for 34 yard pass interference after Tom Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman incomplete (1st quarter)

Got everything started. 

3. Logan Ryan breaks up Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones on 4th & 3 (3rd quarter)

Questionable decision, more questionable execution.

2. Logan Ryan intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones after Dont’a Hightower tip (1st quarter)

Didn’t take long to make it 14-0. 

1. Ray Rice runs for no gain on 4th & 1 (3rd quarter)

There was no (realistic) coming back from this. 

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Flacco’s play biggest concern in blowout loss to New England

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Flacco’s play biggest concern in blowout loss to New England

Posted on 23 December 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — There’s little to say that isn’t stating the obvious after the Ravens were steamrolled by the New England Patriots in a 41-7 home defeat on Sunday.

They were outplayed, outcoached, and overwhelmed in suffering the franchise’s worst home loss ever and the worst defeat of the John Harbaugh era, losing control of their path to a postseason spot in the process. But there’s no sense in harping on any of it with Baltimore still having a chance to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year with a win and either a loss by Miami or San Diego next Sunday.

“[Stuff] happens. That’s all I can say,” Suggs said. “We have to move on to next week. We can still get in. … You will have to look at the tape. Actually, you could burn the tape. It’s not even worth looking at.”

The truth is Sunday didn’t really teach us anything about the 2013 Ravens that we didn’t already know other than Week 16 being a horrendous day at the office. Sure, a four-game winning streak sparked conversation of the Ravens being the most dangerous team that no AFC team wants to play in January, but their deficiencies were still present. And as alarming as the loss was with such high stakes involved in Sunday’s game, it still only counts as one in the overall standings.

In summing up the first 15 games of the season, the Ravens have received good fortune, suffered a little bad luck, and shown a whole lot of mediocrity. They have a below-average offense, a good but not elite defense, and a Pro Bowl-worthy kicker who missed his first field goal on Sunday since mid-September.

There’s no one-size-fits-all way of how it looks over the course of 16 weeks, but those realities will generally add up to a record right around the .500 mark for most NFL teams in any given season. And it’s right where the 8-7 Ravens stand entering the regular-season finale.

But the biggest concern from Sunday’s humbling loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots was the play of quarterback Joe Flacco. The sixth-year signal-caller was hardly the only problem, but the state of his left knee and the impact it had on his play against the Patriots raises the biggest red flag for the Ravens’ chances of going to Cincinnati and winning next Sunday.

In fact, nothing else really matters if Flacco can’t play at a higher level.

The quarterback said after the game that it wasn’t a major issue, of course.

“I probably didn’t have the same burst, but I felt good,” said Flacco when asked about playing with a bulky knee brace. “I felt like I could move on it and run on it and do all kinds of things. It held up really well.”

Of course, Flacco isn’t about to make any excuses for his two-interception performance as the Ravens could only manage one fourth-quarter touchdown, a 1-yard sneak by the quarterback in the fourth quarter. It’s impossible to put a percentage on how much Flacco’s knee may have impacted his play as he made some poor decisions, including a fourth-down incompletion intended for a double-covered Jacoby Jones while both Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta were open on the opening drive of the second half.

Still, it was obvious — especially in the first half — that Flacco was uncomfortable, unable to move effectively in and out of the pocket as he has in recent weeks when he’s used his legs to make plays as both a rusher and a passer. On no play was it more evident than a first-quarter dropback when he stepped cautiously on his left leg before falling to the turf untouched for a sack.

Only Flacco knows how much his knee — and protecting it — was on his mind, but he did appear to move with more confidence as the game progressed. The Ravens can only hope that was a sign of better things to come next week with their playoff lives on the line.

The Patriots got to Flacco in the pocket — sacking him four times — and confused him as he tried to find receivers downfield. When he did, there were errant throws, drops, and a lack of timing with his pass-catching targets too often.

“They played a lot of zone, passing things off, and didn’t let us get any of the chunk shots on them,” Flacco said. “The check-downs were there, but we just didn’t do it enough. We didn’t play well enough and convert first downs. We ran the ball well but just couldn’t convert the first downs that we needed to.”

When the Ravens began the season 4-6, it was clear their fate would depend on how well Flacco would play in the final six weeks and the quarterback responded with his best football of the year over a four-game winning streak that came to a screeching halt Sunday. However, you now wonder if the helmet shot to Flacco’s left knee delivered by Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy last Monday may have thwarted the Ravens’ best chance of squeaking into the playoffs.

Make no mistake, Sunday’s loss was a team effort as the Ravens were humbled in the season’s final game at M&T Bank Stadium, a place where they typically play their best. But a similar-looking Flacco showing up in Cincinnati will likely spell doom for the Ravens next week.

The Bengals haven’t lost a game at Paul Brown Stadium all season and are still fighting for the No. 2 seed in the conference, meaning they have plenty to play for despite clinching the AFC North title on Sunday. The Ravens have too much pride not to bounce back with a better showing, but they need Flacco at his best — or, at least, close to it — to have a good chance to win before turning their eyes to the scoreboard for help.

“We’ve got to go in there and win. That was pretty much going to be the case no matter what, so that’s what we’ve got to do,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got to play a lot better than we did today to go in there and win. They play very well at home, obviously. It’s a big challenge for us, but I feel like we’re up to it.”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the New England Patriots 41-7 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Lardarius Webb

4. Jimmy Smith

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Joe Flacco (Two Slaps)

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Flacco: “My knee felt great”

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Flacco: “My knee felt great”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by WNSTV

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Torrey Smith: “We weren’t on same page”

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Torrey Smith: “We weren’t on same page”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by WNSTV

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens are no strangers to big games with the New England Patriots as the teams meet Sunday for the first time since last January’s AFC Championship with high postseason stakes once again involved.

New England entered Sunday needing only a win or a Miami loss to clinch its fifth straight AFC East division title while the Ravens can punch their ticket to the postseason for the sixth consecutive year with a win and losses by both Miami and San Diego. Of course, the Ravens still have visions for an AFC North championship but need a win or a Cincinnati loss in Week 16 to set up next week’s showdown with the Bengals as a division title game.

Watchful eyes will be on quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice as both are active but were limited in practices this week. During pre-game warmups, Flacco was moving around fairly well while sporting a brace on his left knee and throwing to tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Jacoby Jones.

Rice is dealing with a mild quadriceps injury that forced him out of Wednesday’s practice, but the sixth-year running back downplayed the significance of the ailment earlier in the week. The Patriots are 31st in the NFL in rush defense, so this matchup sets up nicely for Rice and backup Bernard Pierce to have productive days.

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil is active and will play despite being a late addition to the injury report on Friday. Like Flacco and Rice, he was listed as questionable, but the rush specialist will play against the Patriots after being limited in Friday’s practice with a lingering ankle injury.

Tight end Dallas Clark is inactive for the second time in three weeks despite being listed as probable on the final injury report with an illness. He was active against Detroit in Week 15, but the veteran did not play a snap.

The Patriots will be without left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) today after he was downgraded to out Saturday night. As a result, New England is expected to shift veteran left guard Logan Mankins to left tackle as they did last week when Solder suffered his second concussion in as many weeks.

New England wideout Aaron Dobson is active and will provide a 6-foot-3 target in the red zone for a Patriots offense that struggled in that capacity last week in Miami.

Including the playoffs, Sunday marks the seventh time these teams have met in the John Harbaugh era with the Ravens and Patriots splitting the series. Despite Baltimore’s postseason success against quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, New England is 6-1 all-time in the regular season against the Ravens.

Unseasonably warm temperatures reaching the low 70s and a 60-percent chance of rain — with the possibility of a thunderstorm — are in the forecast with winds up to 11 miles per hour for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Ron Winter.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with black pants while New England sports white jerseys with dark blue pants.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Asa Jackson
S Omar Brown
LB Albert McClellan
C Ryan Jensen
WR Deonte Thompson
TE Dallas Clark
DT Brandon Williams

NEW ENGLAND
LT Nate Solder
TE D.J. Williams
LB Dane Fletcher
WR Josh Boyce
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
DT Isaac Sopoaga
DE Jake Bequette

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium.

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Patriots rule out starting left tackle Solder, receiver Thompkins

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Luke Jones

The Patriots will once again shuffle their offensive line following the decision to rule out starting left tackle Nate Solder on Saturday night.

After suffering concussions in two consecutive weeks, Solder practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday, but his status for Sunday’s game against the Ravens remained in serious doubt even after he was listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week.

New England also ruled out wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, meaning the rookie will miss his third straight game while dealing with a hip injury. Fellow rookie wideout Aaron Dobson (foot) is questionable while fellow rookie Josh Boyce was ruled out earlier in the week.

The absence of Solder means the Patriots are likely to again move Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins to left tackle while rookie Josh Kline will step in at left guard for the starting offensive line. Mankins replaced the injured Solder at left tackle last week in a loss to the Miami Dolphins and was regarded by the Patriots as a lineman capable of playing left tackle when they drafted him.

“Scheme-wise, it’s not all that hard. I know all the plays at every position, so that’s not tough,” Mankins said to the New England media earlier this week. “Just the overall different angles, different foot work, that kind of thing. I have to process that pretty fast.”

Mankins has started 127 of his 128 career games at left guard.

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