Tag Archive | "patriots"

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Frigid temperatures await Ravens in New England

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens completed their final full practice of the week Thursday with unusual conditions ahead of Saturday’s playoff game in New England.

Offsetting their inability to practice outside due to Tuesday’s snowfall on top of already-frozen fields, head coach John Harbaugh opened the doors of their Owings Mills field house to create colder temperatures for Thursday’s workout on the indoor turf field. It’ll be the Ravens’ closest simulation this week to Saturday’s forecast in Foxborough, Mass. predicting a high of 20 degrees and winds up to 20 miles per hour for the 4:35 p.m. kickoff.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had his team practice outdoors all week, but the Ravens are no strangers to frigid temperatures in January. Practicing outside at least a day or two would have been preferable, but Harbaugh wasn’t dwelling on any potential drawbacks as the Ravens try to become the NFL’s all-time leader in road playoff wins Saturday.

“It’ll be good. The situation is what it is,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not worth even contemplating. We don’t really have a turf field out here.”

Baltimore’s last trip to New England two years ago may have been 20 degrees warmer than Saturday’s prediction, but the Ravens experienced a game-time temperature of 13 degrees — with a wind chill of minus-1 — in Denver two years ago. Of course, the Ravens prevailed 38-35 in that double-overtime thriller against the Broncos in which quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns.

But with only 17 players who were active that day remaining on the current 53-man roster — cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine were both on injured reserve at the end of that season — it’s fair to wonder how much the frigid temperatures might affect the Ravens as they try to advance to their fourth AFC Championship game under Harbaugh.

“It’s going to be cold,” veteran linebacker Daryl Smith said. “You just have to focus on playing ball no matter the elements — if it’s rain, snow, whatever it is. We have a job to do, and that should be our only focus.”

As you’d expected, a number of players insisted they won’t wear sleeves as they desire the proper mindset to play in their coldest game of the 2014 season. Tight end Owen Daniels downplayed how much of an advantage Patriots players gained by working outside this week, wondering if they bundled up more for practices than they will for the game.

A former member of the Houston Texans, the 32-year-old played at New England in the playoffs two years ago, but the temperature was in the low 50s.

“It has to be really, really cold — negative temperatures — for it to get to players,” said tight end Owen Daniels, who studied meteorology at the University of Wisconsin. “The ball will be a little bit harder, a little more slick, so there are little issues you have to adjust to each week depending on the weather of the game.”

 

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Ravens facing big challenge in Patriots secondary this time around

Posted on 07 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens and New England Patriots have uttered similar thoughts throughout the week about Saturday’s divisional playoff meeting in Foxborough.

As the rest of the world focuses on their three previous postseason encounters at Gillette Stadium, coaches and players from each side put little stock in what happened in the past. It’s difficult to argue the point from the Ravens’ side as just 19 players on the current 53-man roster were with the organization when they topped New England in the AFC Championship to go to the Super Bowl two years ago.

The biggest on-field difference between these teams may lie in the Patriots’ secondary, a unit that was their Achilles heel in recent years. When the Ravens met them in consecutive conference championship games, the Patriots ranked 31st in pass defense in 2011 and 29th in 2012, but the unit improved to 17th in the NFL this season because of two key offseason additions at cornerback.

The arrivals of six-time Pro Bowl selection Darrelle Revis and the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner have transformed one of the Patriots’ biggest positional weaknesses into a strength, especially as the season has progressed. In addition to the veteran free-agent signings, 2013 third-round pick Logan Ryan has emerged as a solid option at the nickel in his second year.

“All three of those guys give them the ability to play man coverage more than they ever have before,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They play a lot of single-high [safety]. They have a lot of people down in the box to stop the run. They’ll press you. They’ll play combinations where they double a certain player, take him out of the game. They can do that because they have corners that can single people up.”

The combination presents a problem for the Ravens, who have traditionally struggled against press coverage. Veteran Steve Smith certainly won’t shy away from physical play, but it’s fair to wonder if the 35-year-old has enough speed at this stage of the season to take advantage of any upper hand he can gain when the 5-foot-11 Revis tries to press him at the line of scrimmage.

After only one year in Tampa Bay that saw the Buccaneers wasting his talents in zone coverage, the 29-year-old Revis — two years removed from a serious knee injury suffered in his final season with the New York Jets — has retaken his place as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. And he’ll likely be asked to take the veteran Smith out of the game on Saturday.

“Is Revis still Revis? I think his ID and his social security number and those things [still say] ‘Revis,'” said Steve Smith as he smiled. “Revis can play. He’s a great corner. He’s a corner that you have to prepare for; you have to watch film. You can’t just walk in there thinking [it will be easy]. He’s a professional, and you have to approach it with a professional mindset.

“I have to be patient and understand he’s going to make his plays. That’s it. Be patient. It’s a long game. A lot of things happen.”

On the opposite side of the field, Browner will likely match up against Torrey Smith, who has improved against press coverage since his rookie season but generally doesn’t play with much physicality. What Browner may lack in speed he makes up for with a massive frame used to try to knock receivers off their spot.

It will present an interesting matchup as Torrey Smith has repeatedly drawn penalties from the opposition this season while Browner was flagged 15 times to lead the Patriots despite playing in only nine games during the regular season. The University of Maryland product could be in line for a big day if he can win the first couple steps of his routes, but New England will likely be inclined to shade safety help his way while entrusting Revis to handle Steve Smith.

Now in his fourth year, Torrey Smith hopes his experiences playing against both Revis and Browner as a rookie will pay dividends despite being held without a catch on three total targets matched up against them in games against the Jets and Seattle Seahawks in 2011.

“I just think they’re going to try to have a bigger body on me [and] try to be a little physical at the line,” Torrey Smith said. “I’ll check [Browner] out a little more, but I’ve played against both of them. I was a young pup, but I’ve played against them both and I’ve gotten a lot better since then. I’ll be ready for it. It was definitely different seeing Revis walk out on me as a rookie, but that’s just pretty cool.”

How can the Ravens combat the Patriots cornerbacks’ physical play?

Bunch formations, motion, and pick plays can be used to offset press coverage, but the Ravens won’t shy away from using double-moves as well as an improved play-action passing game to gain separation.

However, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak warned that the Ravens can’t reinvent the wheel in an effort to account for tough press coverage. And Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are also masters of changing up strategies and giving opponents different looks than they anticipated after a full week of preparation.

“We have to go do what we do. We can’t sit here and assume, ‘Well, this guy is going to play that guy,'” Kubiak said. “We can’t do that. We have to go out and run the things we run and do them well. But that’s a strength of their defense, and if we’re going to find a way to get it done, we’re going to have to beat as good of a man coverage as there is in football, and we understand that.”

As the Ravens have come to expect with so much postseason success over the last seven years, quarterback Joe Flacco will be the biggest factor in beating the Patriots secondary and he won’t be afraid to test Revis if the opportunities are there.

It was an aggressive approach that led to an impressive 30-17 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday, and Flacco says the Ravens could run into trouble if they try to deviate too much from what they do best.

“As a quarterback, you have to go out there and just go through your reads. If he’s open, throw it to him; if he’s not, don’t,” Flacco said. “We’re going to have to make contested catches, contested throws — all those things. But I know in the past when we’ve played against some guys and you’ve tried to avoid him or done things game plan-wise to get matchups in other places, it usually just takes your attention away from what you should be doing.

“I think that has a bigger effect than sometimes the actual guy can.”

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Monroe limited, Jernigan full participant in Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 07 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Optimism continues to grow for the availability of Eugene Monroe and Timmy Jernigan as the Ravens continue preparations for Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots.

The pair practiced for a second straight day Wednesday with Monroe being listed as a limited participant and Jernigan full participating in the workout. The starting left tackle spent time working individually with offensive line coach Juan Castillo during the portion of practice open to reporters.

Monroe told reporters after Wednesday’s practice that he was “very optimistic” about his chances of returning to action for the first time since injuring his ankle in the Week 16 loss at Houston. Rookie free agent James Hurst has been filling in at left tackle while Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda has moved to right tackle and rookie John Urschel has handled the right guard position.

Jernigan injured his left foot in the regular-season finale against Cleveland and missed last Saturday’s playoff game in Pittsburgh. With veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata back in the starting lineup, the rookie Jernigan would return to a reserve role in trying to put interior heat on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

“I feel like I can get back into the rotation, but at the end of the day, that’s the coach’s decision,” said Jernigan, who added he was feeling really good after returning to practice Tuesday. “All I can control is me and the way that I prepare.”

Tight end Owen Daniels and linebacker Daryl Smith both received the day off on Wednesday as they often do for the second practice day of a week

Wide receiver Marlon Brown was back at practice on Wednesday and not listed on the first injury report of the week after he wasn’t present during the open portion of Tuesday’s workout.

Meanwhile, the Patriots saw their entire 53-man roster practicing in Foxborough on Wednesday with starting receivers Julian Edelman (concussion) and Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe) both limited participants.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Eugene Monroe (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle)

NEW ENGLAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB LeGarrett Blount (illness), WR Julian Edelman (concussion), RB Jonas Gray (ankle), WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Tom Brady (ankle)

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Monroe, Jernigan return to practice on Tuesday

Posted on 06 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As expected, the Ravens saw the return of two key cogs to their offensive and defensive lines as Eugene Monroe and Timmy Jernigan took part in the first practice of the week ahead of Saturday’s divisional round meeting with New England.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday he expected both players to return from injuries that kept them out of last Saturday’s wild-card win in Pittsburgh. Monroe (ankle) did not appear to be doing much during the portion of practice open to reporters while Jernigan (foot) and the defensive line only observed and stretched during the special-teams part of practice.

Monroe hasn’t played in a game since Week 16 as rookie free agent James Hurst has filled in at left tackle. The Ravens will evaluate how he progresses over the course of the week before making a decision on his availability against the Patriots.

With veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata back from suspension, Jernigan’s presence isn’t as critical, but his return would give the Baltimore defense another dangerous interior rusher to harass Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the pocket.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown was the only player on the 53-man roster not present for Tuesday’s practice. The second-year wideout did not appear to suffer a significant injury in Pittsburgh in the process of catching one pass for nine yards in 13 offensive snaps.

With a couple inches of snow falling in Owings Mills Tuesday, the Ravens practiced on the turf field inside their field house.

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Is the 2014 season Harbaugh’s best coaching job?

Posted on 06 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Despite admittedly being a history buff, John Harbaugh was in no mood to reflect on the past less than 48 hours after the Ravens’ 30-17 first-round playoff win over Pittsburgh.

The seventh-year head coach tied Tom Landry and Tom Coughlin for the most road playoff wins (seven) in NFL history on Saturday as the Ravens matched the Green Bay Packers for the most postseason road victories (10) in league history. Harbaugh has guided Baltimore to at least one playoff win in six of his first seven seasons as well as a Super Bowl title and three conference championship appearances.

“It’s great after you do it, but it doesn’t mean much for the next game,” said Harbaugh when asked to reflect on his postseason achievements. “We’re excited about the challenge — looking forward to New England.”

With the Ravens defeating the Steelers in the playoffs for the first time in four tries, it would be difficult to deem this season as anything but a success regardless of what happens against the Patriots on Saturday. And with the well-documented adversity the Ravens have experienced from the Ray Rice saga to 19 players landing on season-ending injured reserve this season, a simple question must be asked.

Has this year been Harbaugh’s finest coaching job?

It’s tough to argue against his 2012 campaign in which the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII after changing offensive coordinators in the middle of December. And his 2008 debut season garners strong consideration after the Ravens had finished 5-11 the previous year and went all the way to the AFC Championship with a rookie quarterback named Joe Flacco starting all 16 games and also having 19 players on IR.

But the adversity has never been greater than it was this season as the Ravens dealt with off-field turmoil that brought the entire organization under fire as well as a plethora of injuries while maintaining an impressive level of focus en route to a 10-6 regular season. Countless players have credited Harbaugh’s encouragement and ability to keep the focus on the task at hand as major reasons why they’ve overcome so many trials.

“Just like any teacher, if you’re proud of anything, you’re proud of the accomplishments of your students,” Harbaugh said. “You’re proud of the fact that you’re associated with them and you get to be a part of their journey. That’s the most important thing for a coach or a teacher.”

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Like any head coach, Harbaugh isn’t perfect as his in-game decision-making and clock management often come under scrutiny, but any suggestion that he has simply been along for the ride — a phrase his biggest critics have had the nerve to utter — is absurd after such an extended period of success. Many questioned the team’s leadership after the retirement of Ray Lewis and the departure of Ed Reed, but Saturday’s playoff win in Pittsburgh — something neither future Hall of Famer accomplished, mind you — suggests the Ravens continue to be in good hands moving forward.

Even if the former Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator lacks a perceived expertise on either side of the ball, he’s proven himself to be an excellent motivator and delegator, traits that a successful NFL head coach must have. Harbaugh has also done an exceptional job of assembling and restocking his coaching staff over the years with a few assistants moving on to become head coaches elsewhere.

Asked to react to longtime Cleveland sportswriter Tony Grossi’s proclamation over the weekend that the Ravens have the best overall coaching staff in the NFL, Harbaugh showed self-deprecating humor in his response that should also serve as a dig to his harshest detractors.

“Well, then I’ll try not to drag us down too much, you know?” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “Hopefully, they’ll carry me. We have a great staff. They do a great job.”

Brotherly support

Harbaugh was unsure if his younger brother Jim would be accompanying the Ravens to Foxborough, but it was clear he was appreciative of the new University of Michigan head coach’s support in attending Saturday’s playoff game in Pittsburgh.

It had to be a surreal feeling for the former San Francisco 49ers head coach wearing Ravens gear less than two years after falling to them in the Super Bowl, but the older Harbaugh saw an extra perk with his brother being on the sideline.

“I told him, ‘That’s probably pretty good recruiting, you know?'” John Harbaugh said. “You tell those guys, ‘You want to play in the National Football League, come to Michigan.’ That’s a recruiting pitch, right?

“It was great to have him there, and it seemed like he enjoyed it. He was able to enjoy the environment. When you are coaching, you don’t really enjoy the environment that much. I saw him looking around up at the crowd and the players and interacting with guys, and that stuff was neat to see.”

Fresher Ngata

Several Ravens players commented on how fresh defensive tackle Haloti Ngata appeared to be in his return on Saturday, but it was apparent that his head coach had no interest trying to glean any positive from his four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

“We don’t have the ‘fresh leg’ meter to give you an empirical answer to the question,” Harbaugh said. “I’ll just go with what the players saw. They probably have a pretty good eye for that.”

The five-time Pro Bowl selection Ngata played in 50 of 75 defensive snaps against the Steelers, finishing with two tackles, a sack, and a pass breakup in his first action since Nov. 30.

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Ravens expecting Monroe, Jernigan to return to practice Tuesday

Posted on 05 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have revealed good news on the health front ahead of Saturday’s divisional round playoff game with New England.

Not only did Baltimore appear to come out of the 30-17 wild-card win over Pittsburgh without any substantial injuries, but left tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan are expected to return to practices this week. Monroe has missed the last two games since injuring his ankle in Houston while Jernigan hurt his left foot in the regular-season finale and did not play against the Steelers.

“It looks like they will take the practice field tomorrow,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ll see how those guys do, and we’ll have injury reports as we go through the week.”

Monroe’s return could create an interesting decision for the Ravens after they’ve used rookie free agent James Hurst at left tackle while sliding Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda out to right tackle with rookie John Urschel filling in at right guard. Hurst was considered the primary backup to Rick Wagner before the starting right tackle went on injured reserve late last month, but Yanda has filled in admirably at right tackle and Hurst is a more natural fit on the left side, making you wonder if the Ravens might continue using Yanda and Urschel on the right side with Monroe returning to his left tackle spot.

Of course, the presence of five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork on the New England defensive line could make Yanda’s return to the right guard position a preferable scenario.

Jernigan filled in admirably in place of the suspended Haloti Ngata for four games, but the latter’s return to action for the playoffs means the rookie will return to a part-time role, which would certainly boost an already-deep group of defensive linemen.

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Ravens pass rush in race against quick-release Brady on Saturday

Posted on 05 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have come to expect strong play from quarterback Joe Flacco in the postseason like they witnessed in the wild-card win in Pittsburgh, but the biggest key in beating the New England Patriots on Saturday may lie on the opposite side of the ball.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady presents a great challenge to the NFL’s 24th-ranked pass defense, but Baltimore possesses the single-best weapon you can have to potentially slow the league’s No. 9 passing attack.

A dominating pass rush.

How significant has it been to Baltimore’s success during the 2014 season? The Ravens have collected four or more sacks in each of their last eight wins, including the 30-17 victory over the Steelers in which they sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times. Over that same time, they are 0-4 when failing to reach the four-sack plateau.

A quick look at the numbers suggests pass protection isn’t a concern for the Patriots as Brady was sacked only 21 times in the regular season — backup Jimmy Garoppolo was also dropped five times — but that is more a reflection of the 37-year-old getting the ball out more quickly that just about any quarterback in the league. Per Pro Football Focus, Brady’s average time of 2.39 seconds before throwing, being sacked, or scrambling is the third quickest in the league behind only Denver’s Peyton Manning and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton.

The Patriots received the fourth-worst pass-blocking grade in the league from PFF, suggesting Baltimore shouldn’t be overly concerned with New England’s offensive line. Only right tackle Sebastian Vollmer received a positive cumulative grade in pass blocking among the Patriots’ starters during the regular season.

New England is particularly vulnerable inside with starting guards — Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell — who are much stronger as run blockers than in pass protection. This could spell trouble with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and situational rusher Pernell McPhee primed to bring inside heat while Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil come off the edges.

But how do you reach Brady when he’s so adept at getting rid of the ball quickly?

The Ravens have made no secret about their attempts to jump the opposition’s snap count to get to the quarterback this season. This leads to some pre-snap penalties, which head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees don’t condone but acknowledge as an occasional “cost of doing business.” They view them in a similar manner to how many great power hitters in baseball are also prone to striking out.

Of course, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady will be aware of Baltimore’s aggression up front, making you believe they’ll throw some hard counts and cadence variations into the mix Saturday to keep the pass rush at bay.

Baltimore could also mix in some press coverage from defensive backs to temporarily hold up receivers in hopes that the rush gets to Brady after an extra split-second or two of holding the ball. In doing so, the Ravens do run the risk of giving up a big play if the pressure doesn’t get there, but they made it clear against the Steelers that they weren’t afraid to be aggressive on either side of the ball.

The Ravens’ biggest problem will be All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame doesn’t make it feasible to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Will Hill did a commendable job against New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham during the regular season, and you’d expect the safety to receive a bulk of the coverage duties against Gronkowski on Saturday.

The defense showed once again that it can make up for an injury-plagued secondary by consistently pressuring the Steelers in the wild-card round, and the Ravens will need to do it again Saturday to be in position to continue their playoff run.

 

 

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Join us: WNST offering two ways to travel to New England for Ravens playoff

Posted on 03 January 2015 by WNST Trips

In what has become an almost-annual pilgrimage to visit our dreaded neighbors to the north, WNST once again presents an  opportunity to head to New England to watch the Ravens do playoff battle with the dreaded Patriots for a 4:30 p.m. game this Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.

REGRETTABLY, OUR BOSTON OVER NIGHT TRIP IS SOLD OUT!!!!!

Our WNST Jerry’s Collision Center Purple Playoff Roadtrips to Foxborough up-and-back trip directly to the game (no hotel stay) that will depart from White Marsh at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning and leave approximately 90 minutes after the final whistle in New England.

The trip is expected to return to White Marsh at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN “BUS ONLY” TRANSPORTATION OPTION BECAUSE YOU ALREADY HAVE A TICKET TO THE GAME, please see bottom of thread to purchase that option. We’re happy to help all Baltimore Ravens fans get to the big game in Foxborough.

ONE DAY UP-AND-BACK TO FOXBOROUGH TRIP INCLUDES:

Roundtrip Gunther Motorcoach transportation

One upper deck game ticket at Gillette Stadium (all groups will be kept together!)

Snack and sandwiches from Royal Farms for the ride to be washed down with a limited supply of beer, soda and water en route to Foxborough

Plenty of DVDs, purple films and trivia for the ride to and from Foxborough

Free copies of Purple Reign 1 and 2

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TRIP COST: $175 per person

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dorsey's Dugout - Andre Johnson's Best Destination and Domino Effect of NBA Free Agency

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Dorsey’s Dugout – Andre Johnson’s Best Destination and Domino Effect of NBA Free Agency

Posted on 11 July 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

Andre Johnson

The longtime Texan star is entering the 12th season of his career and Andre Johnson wants out of Houston. Johnson is 33 years old and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting just a bit brighter. After going through a 2-14 season while hauling in passes from Case Keenum on a consistent basis, Johnson deserves an opportunity to be dealt to a contender.

Houston is not far out from contending for the AFC South division title and a shot back into the AFC playoff race, but they are missing the most crucial piece of a franchise. Johnson was patient enough to see if general manager Rick Smith would add a potential franchise quarterback through the draft, but Smith waited around to the fourth round to draft former Pitt QB Tom Savage.

With a quarterback battle ahead in training camp featuring Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Tom Savage, Johnson has a right to be displeased with his situation. A player that has accounted for 221 receptions and 3,005 receiving yards the past two seasons deserves better than the weak QB depth he is presented with at this point in his career.

There are four teams rumored to be interested in the former Hurricane standouts services according to sources around the league. Two of the rumored teams standout as the perfect fit for the six-time pro-bowler.

After an off-season that featured an arms race between two AFC powerhouses, New England might not be done yet making big moves. Everyone saw the struggles Tom Brady had to endure last year with inconsistency at the wide receiver position. New England would be the number one ideal fit for Johnson at this time.

Tom Brady is desperate for a number one receiver and getting a dependable target like Johnson would certainly tickle his fancy. With the uncertainty of Amendola and Gronk’s health, bringing in Johnson would ease Brady’s comfort since Johnson hasn’t missed a game during the last two seasons.

This transaction is a possibility with the familiarity between new Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and Bill Belichick. The Patriots front office has pulled off trades for aging wide outs before such as Randy Moss and Chad Johnson, so this situation is not unrealistic.

There were all kinds of rumors during the off-season about O’Briens interest in acquiring Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. With New England selecting Jimmy Garoppolo early in the 2014 NFL draft, Mallett is an asset that could be dealt. The Texans need another potential starting quarterback to at least compete in training camp and O’Brien has coached the former Razorback.

With the potential interest in Mallett, the Patriots front office could make this trade a possibility. New England would most likely have to give up a draft pick or two to go along with Mallett to get Johnson in a Pats uniform. This trade would certainly be worth the price because it would make New England the front-runner to represent the AFC in next year’s Super Bowl.

The other destination that could be a reality is the Carolina Panthers. After losing Steve Smith and other parts of the wide receiver corps, Carolina is lacking a true number one target.

The Panthers selected former Seminole Kelvin Benjamin in the first round, but that is not enough for Cam Newton. In a division that features the Saints with the Falcons and Bucs back on the rise, Carolina needs to make this move.

Getting a reliable target like Johnson as Newton’s go-to wide out would keep Carolina in contention for the NFC South title. Adding Johnson to the mix to go along with Benjamin and Olsen would make for a good three-headed receiving corps for Newton to work with.

Benjamin is entering his rookie season and will have to adjust to the speed of the next level. With Johnson entering the mix, it would allow for Benjamin to excel in the red zone while learning to stretch the rest of the field. It would than be up to Johnson and Olsen to work the rest of the field.

NBA Free Agency Dominoes

The NBA free agency period is unlike any other professional sports free agency. The NHL and NFL free agent markets open and teams rush right away to sign the top tier prospects. The NBA period is just a waiting game to see where the first star chooses to go and then the dominoes fall at a fast rate.

The first domino is LeBron James and his decision has the biggest impact on the league. Everyone is awaiting the “Decision 2.0” on whether he goes back home to Cleveland or South Beach because it determines where the rest of the stars of the free agent market go.

Every fan of the sport is frustrated in playing this waiting game, but is there anyone who can be more disturbed than Chris Bosh? The former member of the Heat’s big three has a max deal offer from the Houston Rockets on the table. Bosh is waiting on LeBron because if the King heads back down south, he will follow.

Bosh is playing this waiting game with LeBron, but he should take the max deal offer and become a Houston Rocket. Although the Rockets are in the more difficult Western Conference, the Rockets would have a much better shot at winning than the Heat.

With Bosh entering the mix with James Harden and Dwight Howard, there would be a new big three in the NBA. Harden is a versatile player who can get the rest of his teammates involved regularly or take over a game himself. Howard would make for a dominant presence inside and Bosh would compliment that style the best.

Chris Bosh during his days with the Heat tended to favor shooting around the perimeter. With Howard running the show inside, it would allow for Bosh to do what he feels most comfortable doing at this point in his career.

The Rockets need to react fast with Chandler Parsons signing an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks. If LeBron does not make a decision within the next few days, Houston will have to essentially make a salary cap decision to either match the Mavericks offer or hope that Bosh comes to Texas.

The Kings decision does more than just change up destinations for the free agent pool, it changes the landscape of the league. When the Akron native elected to go to south beach, the league went into a power team format. Franchises were signing several stars to one team in attempt to grab the Larry O’Brien trophy.

If the King elects to go back to Cleveland, the short era of superstar teams comes to an end. The Super team era showed its success during the four-season run as the Heat won two out of four championships. The other two losses were to teams that weren’t considered lineups with one or two superstars, but teams that played well together with several different complimentary pieces.
With the success that the Spurs have had in the past few years showing how they all work and play together as one unit, the landscape of the league could be swinging back to that style. When LeBron makes his decision final, that will be something to watch out for as the rest of the players find their homes.

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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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