Tag Archive | "Philadelphia Eagles"

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Rating the Ravens After 13-6 preseason loss to Eagles

Posted on 12 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

I’ve always been told that the anticipation of having something is always better and makes you feel more warm than actually physically getting the thing you desire.

And with the scenario of Thursday’s preseason opener for the Ravens against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Center, that turned out to be the case.

And in fact, the game turned out to be a very ugly result for the most part, so whoever made that expression about the anticipation of something can certainly laugh long and hard about this one.

The question marks that we all knew going into Thursday still remain an enigma going into Week 2 of preseason as the team gets ready for its Week 1 opener against Pittsburgh September 11th, as both the offensive line (6 sacks), the backup quarterback position (2 INTs from Tyrod Taylor), and the the receiving corps (no catches by a WR until 1:26 in the 2nd quarter) still need tinkering with by coach John Harbaugh.

Here is my report card of what I saw Thursday night versus the Eagles, and Rex Snider and I will “Rate the Ravens” on the air Friday afternoon tentatively at 3:30. Since it was a preseason game and eventually turned into a “snoozefest”, I will give ratings based in yawns. Hear Rex Snider’s analysis on “The Afternoon Drive” tomorrow!

Quarterback: 4/5 Yawns (with 5/5 being the worst)

The person we most cared about Thursday night at this position was obviously the starter, Joe Flacco. Flacco finished 3-for-6 with 60 yards passing, highlighted of course by Flacco’s first throw of the game to tight end Dennis Pitta for 27 yards. The ball appeared to be under-thrown behind defender Kurt Coleman, but Pitta went through and behind Coleman to make the play and come down with the catch. Both of Flacco’s other completions went to running back Ray Rice.

The other factor here at this position was the play of backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who played from the second quarter on to the finale of the game minus a series where he left with an injury. Taylor finished 19-of-28 for 179 yards and two interceptions-one on his third pass of the game trying to hit fellow rookie Torrey Smith. The other came with 3:12 left in the third quarter at the Eagles’ 8-yard line as Taylor was attempting to find Tandon Doss near the goaline.

Taylor also had another interception in the fourth quarter-this one by Colt Anderson-but it was taken off the board because the referee ruled Anderson was out of bounds.

Overall, Taylor looked more and more comfortable as the game went on, and didn’t have a lot of help from his offensive line. However-much like in camp, he still can’t seem to be consistent with his throws and when he does connect with a receiver-fails to put the ball in stride.

Thursday night may have forced Ozzie Newsome to bring up Marc Bulger’s # on his cell phone and have it ready just in case. I still believe Taylor makes the roster or the practice squad, but to be the backup quarterback as a rookie might be too much pressure on a developing kid like Taylor.

Running Back: 3/5 Yawns

Running back Ray Rice didn’t see a lot of action-which was the idea. Impressive tonight was reserve Jalen Parmele, who on top of his skills in the kick return game-proved that he is worthy of a RB spot on the roster with his seven carry, 35-yard performance against Philadelphia. With the offensive line not helping his cause, Parmele  often found a hole and made solid yards after contact. It will be interesting to see how Parmele and fellow RB Anthony Allen find themselves once the recently-signed Ricky Williams finds playing time in preseason.

Wide Receivers/TE: 3/5 Yawns

The key stat here is that no wide receiver caught a pass until 1:26 left in the second quarter-when Tyrod Taylor found Tandon Doss for a 7-yard gain. The receivers throughout the game really lacked physicality, but down the stretch, it was good to see former Maryland Terp LaQuan Williams making plays when it counted. If he continues to make more, maybe he can work his way up the depth chart. I think the lack of the big receiver in James Hardy hurt the passing game, and it will be interesting to see if Ed Dickson never gains a shot at the starting tight end position with Dennis Pitta’s progress.

Offensive Line: 4/5 Yawns

The “dud” of the night was tackle Oniel Cousins, who of course has been in a battle with rookie Jah Reid for the starting right tackle spot. He didn’t help his cause at all as he allowed Eagles DE Darryl Tapp to have a field day with his former VT teammate, Tyrod Taylor. The offensive line allowed six sacks on the night, five of them on Taylor, and while some-especially the lone sack of Joe Flacco-could be attributed to receivers not getting open, the offensive line has to do a better job of allowing the quarterback time to make a play.

Marshal Yanda struggled playing with new faces, and interior lineman Justin Boren and Bryan Mattison struggled with the Eagles pass rush all night long.

Defensive Line: 1/5 Yawns

The defensive line may have been the star unit of the game. They did a very good job getting pressure on the quarterback, as well as stopping up the running lanes. The Ravens only allowed 88 yards on the ground for a 2.8 avg. Paul Kruger led the team in tackles with 5 and had one of the team’s two sacks.

Linebackers: 3/5 Yawns

This unit appeared to sway back-and-forth all game long. The real victim Thursday of this unit was Jameel McClain, who was picked on numerous times early in easy mismatches. This included Michael Vick’s first pass of the game to Jason Avant for a 40-yard gain, as well as the eventual touchdown to Brent Celek later on in the drive that put the Eagles up 7-3 with 8:04 left in the first quarter. All three linebackers fighting to play next to Ray Lewis (McClain, Ellerbe, & Gooden) all finished with three tackles apiece, and if anyone separated themselves from the pack, it was Ellerbe. Sergio Kindle found himself with playing time, registering two tackles as well.

Secondary: 3/5 Yawns

The secondary in my opinion was ordinary versus Philadelphia, but still played well at times. They were suspect to some big plays from the likes of Riley Cooper (42 yards) and Chad Hall (32 yard catch), but seeing the newly-acquired Bernard Pollard make plays including his 39-yard interception return with 1:50 left in the second quarter ending an Eagles scoring threat. Lardarius Webb did have a 93-yard fumble-return for a touchdown changed to an incomplete pass that took points off the board.

Special Teams 1/5

This is where I wish I changed my scale for yawns. The Raven special teams were excellent Thursday night, but boy…moving the kickoff to the 35 is the most boring thing in the world. Every kickoff now is touch back. I hope they change that rule in a week. K Billy Cundiff was 2-for-3 on FGs, missing from 55 yards out.

Be sure to tune in to “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider Friday afternoon as we break down Friday’s game! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

Follow me on Twitter at @RyanChell87!

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Ravens hope Thursday night vs. Eagles answers questions

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is the moment Ravens fans have all been in anticipation of as for the first time-even if it’s in exhibition mode-we will get a look at what the 2011 Ravens have in store when it comes to the product on the field.

With the labor turmoil behind us and now the focus solely on the game of football, coach John Harbaugh will now look to his expanded roster to see if there are going to be any concerns going forward in preseason as the team prepares for its Week 1 opener against the Steelers September 11th.

Here is a position-by-position look at some of the question marks going into Thursday against the Eagles, and hopefully some things we hope to see out of those players in the way of answers.

Quarterback-Obviously, Joe Flacco will start Thursday and will likely see two series of work or about a quarter of action. Flacco-who has improved his statistics in each of his first three seasons-doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone; however, he may need to get some game-action with some new faces. It will be interesting to see if Flacco continues to rely on Anquan Boldin as a security blanket early on, or if we see the eventual building of a rapport between Flacco and one of the newer faces in the receiving corps.

Once Flacco leaves, it will be on sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor-who took a significant step forward his senior year at Virginia Tech-to try and prove he deserves the backup role to Joe Flacco. In camp so far, he has been back-and-forth with his accuracy, and it will be on Taylor to show the coaching staff they can have faith in a rookie as Joe Flacco’s backup-maybe the only backup at the position. If not, it gives 2010 practice squad quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who at least has more experience with the playbook than Taylor, to show what he can do under center.

Running Back-Running back Ray Rice will get his first taste of NFL action this year, but in this case, it will be a nibble. The Ravens definitely don’t want to risk injury to a player who is going to get a considerable amount of touches offensively-not just in the running game but also screen passes from Joe Flacco.

Also not playing Thursday will be the newly added Ricky Williams, who still may not be ready to suit up for the Ravens after signing this week. He is familiar with OC Cam Cameron’s playbook from their time in Miami, but all this means is that rookie Anthony Allen, Jalen Parmele, and Damien Berry will battle for carries and a roster spot or two behind Rice and Williams. Vonta Leach and the only other remaining FB on the roster, rookie free agent Ryan Mahaffey out of Northern Iowa, will clear the running lanes.

Wide Receivers-Behind the given in  Boldin, this is a position where the Ravens are going to need immediate impact from some younger players, most notably two of their draft picks in Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. Quarterback Joe Flacco has sworn by the route-running ability of Doss, the Ravens’ fourth-round pick and Smith has made several big plays during drills in camp.

However, Smith needs to prove that he can be a reliable option across from Boldin. Smith needs to focus on making catches outside of his body, which has caused the former Terp to drop several passes in camp.

Outside of Smith and Doss, it will be interesting to see if veterans Brandon Jones (Titans) and James Hardy (Bills) can make plays against some lesser competition across from them. It they do, it could help their causes in making the roster. Hardy-at 6’5, 220, could be a valuable asset in the red zone and along the sideline if shows the ability to go up and get a jump ball over a defender. Other players like Marcus Smith, Justin Harper, LaQuan Williams, etc need to make plays otherwise they’ll be finding their way off the roster.

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Where NFL-NFLPA labor fight stands after Judge Nelson’s decision (as of Tuesday morning)

Posted on 26 April 2011 by Chris Pika

In the game of chicken the NFL and the NFLPA have played since the CBA expired in early March and the owners declared a lockout, the participants, fans and the media have all learned to assume nothing.

Most, myself included, expected Judge Susan Nelson of the U.S. District Court to rule in favor of the players in their preliminary injunction attempt to lift the lockout as part of the Brady v. NFL case. What was also expected was a stay from Judge Nelson to hold the lockout in place until an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit could be filed by the NFL.

So, Judge Nelson’s ruling to lift the lockout immediately, but to not issue a stay of her order until the NFL’s appeal could be heard has thrown the league into chaos on several points, some of which are not entirely clear to legal analysts specializing in sports law in the first hours following the issue of the order.

First, here is Judge Nelson’s full 89-page order issued Monday, April 25.

The NFLPA issued a statement Monday night:

Re: Brady, et al. v. NFL

We are class counsel along with Dewey LeBoeuf on behalf of the 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady lawsuit as well as the 1800 members of the soon to be Brady class. We are pleased with the ruling granting the plaintiffs preliminary injunction to lift the NFL owners’ illegal lockout issued this afternoon by Judge Susan Richard Nelson. We believe that this 89-page well-reasoned decision is totally consistent with prior precedent, governing caselaw as well as administrative rulings on all the issues raised by the NFL Defendants. We are confident that this ruling will withstand any appeals.

De Smith, co-class counsel and Executive Director of the NFLPA said; “I’m happy for our players and for our fans. Today, those who love football are the winners.”

In addition, plaintiff Osi Umenyiora stated: “Today’s ruling is a win for the players and for the fans that want to see a full NFL season in 2011. The lockout is bad for everyone and players will continue to fight it. We hope that this will bring us one step closer to playing the game we love.”

– James W. Quinn, Class Counsel

The NFL also issued a statement following the order:

We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.

The league, according to SI.com’s Peter King has filed two motions with Nelson’s court: a motion of clarification, seeking more info on the practical implications of the ruling, and a motion to stay the ruling while the Eighth Circuit hears the NFL’s appeal.

There are three possible outcomes, according to King. One, a stay which would keep the lockout in place until the Circuit Court hears and rules; two, no stay and an order to begin the 2011 NFL league year at her discretion; and three, passing the decision of a stay to the Eighth Circuit, which could take about a week to decide.

Judge Nelson’s order has set the following in motion:

The NFLPA via an email, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, advised players of their legal right to report to work at club facilities on Tuesday, April 26. It is unclear how many team player reps are telling players to report. Some like the Lions’ Kyle Vanden Bosch, have told players not to report for a day until the dust settles, while the Steelers’ rep Ryan Clark is telling teammates to report to work, according to ProFootballTalk.com.

Late Monday, according to Schefter, the NFL Management Council has told teams to let players into buildings on Tuesday, but also recommended keeping weight rooms closed and to have security in place to avoid any potential confrontations or photo opportunities for the media.

That advisement from the Management Council will avoid an awkward situation where team security directors, which assist players during normal labor times, would have been the ones turning the players away at the facilities or changing access codes the players use in some cities to access parking and the facilities.

ProFootballTalk.com is reporting that coaches have been told not to be in contact with players until the league has had a chance to seek a stay of Judge Nelson’s order.

Even if the league year is ordered to begin, there is plenty of uncertainty of if the previous CBA would apply going forward. Teams will also have some minefields in antitrust law to navigate, according to sports law professor Michael McCann in SI.com.

In the same article, McCann says the NFL’s appeal will hinge on two points: lack of jurisdiction by Judge Nelson because the National Labor Relations Board is yet to rule on the legality of the NFLPA’s decertification order and lack of irreparable harm to the players.

The league’s lawyers, led by David Boies, made those arguments in front of Judge Nelson in preparation for their appeal to the Eighth Circuit.

According to ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson, the owners may try to impose new work rules, or try to negotiate a new deal with the players, or try to do both.

Andrew Brandt of NationalFootballPost.com says that there is plenty that could still happen in the wake of Judge Nelson’s decision.

The league also faces a mid-May hearing in front of Judge David Doty as he will rule on potential award damages in the lawsuit filed by the players over the owners’ current television contracts. Those contracts would have provided a substantial “war chest” in a lockout. Judge Doty ruled for the players in March, and he will decide on those damages and if there should be an injunction on the TV contracts.

One major question also looms over the NFL Draft to be held over three days later this week. Teams were previously told that the only trades that could take place were ones involving draft picks in the 2011 and future drafts only. With a lifting of the lockout, no one is sure whether deals can be made involving current roster players under contract (for instance, Eagles QB Kevin Kolb).

The next week or so will be unique in NFL history on many levels. In any case, with less than three days before the 2011 NFL Draft, the chaos potential is very high for a league used to order in conducting its business off the field.

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

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

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Rex Snider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally …..

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

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Ralph Friedgen

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Terps who used Ralph Friedgen’s guidance toward NFL career weigh in on former coach

Posted on 31 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

Ralph Friedgen

Ralph Friedgen spent 10 years as coach of the Maryland Terrapins and saw numerous student-athletes, football players, and young men pass through his program and move on to become better, more driven individuals-and some who went on to make a career of playing football in the NFL.

He touched countless lives in College Park, returning to his alma mater in 2001 and starting his coaching career rebuilding a struggling program with an outright ACC Title, a 10-2 record, and an Orange Bowl appearance.

He earned ACC Coach of the Year his first year at Maryland.

His last season came this year in 2010 and despite an 8-4 record and his second ACC Coach of the Year award, Friedgen was shown the door by the new athletic department staff headed by AD Kevin Anderson, with his last game Wednesday in the Terps 51-20 victory over ECU in the Military Bowl.

Friedgen left Maryland on top in the fashion many of Terps nation wanted to see him leave, and several of his former players who used his teachings to move on to the NFL joined WNST Thursday and Friday as a send-off to Coach Friedgen and to wish him the best.

Nolan Carroll

“I am glad for the win,” Dolphins CB and KR Nolan Carroll said, who spent 2005-2009 in College Park. “What I heard was that ECU had a very good offense. You know, they had a very good team. For them to come out the way they did, and put up so many points, was phenomenal. It’s the best way for him to leave on such a good note.”

Moise Fokou

Another former Terp, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Moise Fokou-who joined Rex Thursday on “The Afternoon Drive”-said that the win against the Pirates definitely caps off a great resume by Coach Friedgen at Maryland.

“I feel like before he got there, they definitely had talent but I felt with Friedgen coming in there and turning that program around…he showcased the talent that he had at that school and he did a great job recruiting and showing us off.”

“We’re just glad to be Terps and represent him in that fashion.”

Fokou was definitely confused as to why the new administration would relieve not only a former alumni who went 75-50 during his time in College Park, but a guy that brought stability to a program that had only one winning season and no bowl appearances in the ten years before he took the sidelines.

“Honestly, I don’t know really know what’s going on with their program. Why they are forcing him out…I just hope that they know what they’re doing because I’m telling you right now that they’re losing a great head coach,” Fokou said.

Several other players echoed Fokou’s thoughts, including former Terp running back Lance Ball, who currently is a Denver Bronco after spending 2003-2007 in a Terps uniform.

Lance Ball

Ball was coached by the “Fridge”  before  finding his way into the NFL bouncing around with the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts squads.

Ball believes it was Friedgen’s vast knowledge of the offensive side of the ball that garnered him attention at the NFL level-as well as guys like former first-round picks in Darius Heyward-Bey and tight end Vernon Davis.

“I think Coach Friedgen coming from a pro-style offense…he was able to give us insight on what teams look for and if we’re ready or not to leave.”

Fokou was also certain that while Friedgen may have been rudely shown the door, his former coach will not be a guy to hold a grudge and will not hold it against his former players and friends at the university.

“I’m so happy he went out with a bang,” Fokou said. “but I guarantee he will be back especially with the alumni coming out of the school.”

“I was one of the guys who he scouted and he gave me a full scholarship the following year. He’s done a tremendous job up there as soon as he stepped foot on campus. He turned that program around and it’s hard to see a guy like that go, but he will be missed.”

Friedgen said after the Military Bowl victory at RFK Stadium Wednesday that he will always have “three daughters and 120 sons.”

And his family is definitely bigger than those 123 people he touched this year having been coaching the Terps  for a decade.

“Ralph is a good guy,” Ball told Thyrl Nelson. “I know when we were I was there, we won a lot of games. We were quite successful; it’s just unfortunate that they went in another direction and he’s not the coach no more.”

“I haven’t contacted him yet cause there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on now, but within the next couple days I’ll give him a shout and see how’s he doing.”

All the former Terps WNST talked to said that their biggest and most fond memories of Friedgen is when he spent one-on-one time with them recruiting them, and those moments and time spent together made all the difference in the world.

“For me, it’s when he came to my house when he recruited me,” Carroll told Snider. “He looked my parents dead in the eye and he told them, ‘Hey look, your son’s education is going to come first’. That’s the first thing he preached about. He really didn’t go into athletics that much. He was strictly academics, and that’s what my folks liked a lot about him.”

“And he held true to his word. I got my education last fall and I ended up graduating in the Spring. And everything he said that he was gonna do for me, he ended up doing.”

Friedgen’s final press conference-which lasted twenty minutes Wednesday night-had the overall mood of a funeral at times as opposed to a glorious send-off.

But make no mistake. Just like former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer told Friedgen recently, there is life after football and Ball in particular sees leaving the sport and the opportunity to mentor kids as too big an opportunity to pass up on.

“He may take a little break,” Ball said. “But I don’t see it. Ralph has grown up around football and been around football. So I’m sure at one point he will get back to it.”

Fokou agreed.

“I definitely think he has a couple more years of coaching left,” Fokou said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back in the NFL. He kind of has that coaching mentality…kind of get it done at any cost.”

‘But I do see him coaching again in the future whether it’s in the NFL or in the colleges leagues.”

Ball is sad to see his coach go the wayside, but he does hope the program finds a guy that can pick up right where Friedgen left off.

“I just hope the guy that comes in is very serious about Maryland and the tradition that it brings. I think being a head coach at Maryland, you have to take on a lot of responsibility cause it’s such a great school and it holds so much tradition.”

Ralph Friedgen

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Terps and Ralph Friedgen even though he leaves College Park behind!

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

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

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

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

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

AFC East

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

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

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

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

AFC North

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

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

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

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

AFC South

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

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

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

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

AFC West

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

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

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

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

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

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

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

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

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

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

NFC North

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

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

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

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

NFC South

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

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

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

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

NFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a break past Brian Orakpo  of the Washington Redskins on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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Will he ever outrun the dogs?

Posted on 18 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Like many football fans, my Monday evening was devoted to watching the Philadelphia Eagles dismantle the Washington Redskins before the eyes of a national audience. I could call it a “beatdown” or “trouncing”, but such terms fall short of describing the true disparity in performances by both teams.

For the record, you can count me among the MILLIONS who believed Michael Vick would never really be a star performer, again.

Not in the National Football League, anyway …..

Monday’s performance, by Vick, was a pretty awesome display. He carved through the porous Redskins secondary with a surgeon-like expertise. He escaped the pocket and pursuant defenders like bigger kids bully smaller ones.

The statistics are pretty daunting : 413 yards (333 passing & 80 rushing), 6 touchdowns (4 passing & 2 rushing). Not too shabby, huh?

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a break past Brian Orakpo  of the Washington Redskins on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

During the course of Monday’s game, I can recall ESPN’s crew, including Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico, tying Michael Vick’s dog fighting crimes and subsequent incarceration into the conversation regarding the night’s contest.

One of my immediate resulting thoughts was “are these guys ever gonna let it go?

And, to a more substantial degree, I asked myself “will our society ever put it in the past?”

I sensed that I really was tiring of the story. I was tiring of the talk of redemption. I was tiring of the talk about a career renewed. I was pretty much tiring of everything – except, football.

When I’ve had my fill of something, I have a consistent habit of tuning it out. Call it self-serving or close-minded, but I simply turn my casual attention to something else.

That’s what I started to do with this entire Michael Vick saga. And, then something surfaced to bring it back into the spotlight …..

The Eagles opened their 2010 season with a new leader. He paid his dues and served as Donovan McNabb’s understudy, for 3 seasons. The job belonged to Kevin Kolb and he was touted as the new face of the franchise.

With thanks to the Green Bay Packers, and special thanks to Clay Matthews, Kolb’s stay as Philly’s starting quarterback was short lived. Michael Vick entered the season opener for an injured Kolb and performed very well.

With exception to an injury of his own, Vick has really claimed the job for his own and appears to be Andy Reid’s long term selection.

Why not?

He brings a dynamic to the game that’s minimally described as “unique”. How many quarterbacks sporting blazing speed and a decent arm come along in a lifetime?

Yeah, I hear the MVP talk and that’s just ridiculous. Vick has missed 5 of 11 games and he trails the likes of Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in overall production.

But, he’s having a great season and his redeeming himself …. ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD.

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Philadelphia Eagles

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Vick shines in DC: Can’t Dog Him Now

Posted on 16 November 2010 by Drew Forrester

So that’s what it looks like to have your offense do some damage on the road in the first half?

Well, it was impressive to say the least.

Michael Vick guided the Eagles to an early 35-0 lead in Washington last night as the visitors cruised to a 59-28 beatdown of the Redskins. Along the way, Vick tortured the ‘Skins in virtually every way imaginable, using his arms, legs and athleticism to churn out 6 touchdowns on the night. He became the first QB in league history to throw for 300 yards, run for 300 yards, throw 4 TD’s and run for 2 TD’s in the same game.

It was an epic performance.

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick walks off the field after they defeated the Washington Redskins in their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland November 15, 2010.      REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Some would even say it was “electric”, but there are too many puns we could attach to that one, so I’ll leave it alone.

One thing for certain: The Eagles, with a healthy Vick at the helm, are a legitimate threat in the NFC.

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Indy kicks Baltimore in the jewels…again…with throwback uniforms today

Posted on 07 November 2010 by Drew Forrester

It’s one thing to wear the 1955 throwbacks in pre-season.

No one cares about those games.

But when the Indianapolis Colts wear those today in Philadelphia, they might as well just drive 75 miles down the road and kick the Baltimore football fans in the nuts and get it all over with in one fell swoop.

Figures it would happen in Philadelphia, the site of many a dastardly deed over the years.

For some reason today, the Indianapolis Colts will pretend like they’re the Baltimore Colts by donning THIS HELMET and portraying themselves as a team that has consistent history rather than what they are — transplants.

The league should be ashamed.

Jim Irsay…I was starting to come around on you a little bit over the years, but for this, today, you deserve to have a horseshoe thrown directly into your family jewels.

What a disgrace.

The 1955 Colts wore those uniforms in BALTIMORE.

Those uniforms ceased to exist in 1984 when that team left town.

Shameful.

The NFL has no balls, and they never have on this subject of Baltimore to Indy and the history and lore that is seamlessly attached.

Jim Irsay…you’re now on watch.

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Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

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Blog & Tackle: One-liners on the NFL through Week 3

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

Week 4 is the first week that byes take place in the NFL, so this is a great time to take short stock of each of the clubs through three weeks. And by short, I mean one line on each team — some stats, some observations and some conjecture.

First up, the AFC teams by division. Records are through Week 3:

Anquan Boldin brings in a 27-yard touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns during the 4th quarter at at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on September 26, 2010. Boldin scored three touchdowns in the Ravens 24-17 victory over the Browns. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

AFC East

New York Jets (2-1): Despite crippled Revis Island on defense, brash Jets are only team in AFC East with perfect division record (2-0).

New England Patriots (2-1): QB Tom Brady (8 TD, 109.1 passer rating) is back to form as Patriots have AFC’s highest point total (90) and highest TD total (12) so far.

Miami Dolphins (2-1): Even with deep threat WR Brandon Marshall and RB Ronnie Brown, Dolphins have same amount of TDs (5) as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

Buffalo Bills (0-3): Another lost year for Bills, which have scored fourth-least points (47) in AFC and have given up most points (87) on defense in the conference.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0): The question for head coach Mike Tomlin is if the Steelers are 4-0 after a win over Baltimore in Week 4, why change QBs to Ben Roethlisberger?

Cincinnati Bengals (2-1): Bengals, despite record, have struggled on offense as QB Carson Palmer (12th rated AFC passer at 71.3) hasn’t found rhythm with T.O.cho Show.

Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Defense, led by MLB Ray Lewis, continues to carry a team expected to score much more in 2010 (44 points; 2nd-lowest in AFC), despite breakout game by WR Anquan Boldin (3 TDs) last week.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): Browns are led by Peyton … not Manning, but RB Hillis (220 yards, 3 TDs) as Browns gave popular AFC Super Bowl pick Ravens much trouble in Week 3.

AFC South

Houston Texans (2-1): Texans got over the hump of beating the Colts, but Houston is not the best team in state of Texas after bad loss to Cowboys.

Tennessee Titans (2-1): Titans defense has allowed fourth-fewest points in the AFC (42), and the Tennessee offense has RB Chris Johnson (4 TDs), but continuing issues at quarterback.

Indianapolis Colts (2-1): Despite loss to Houston, Colts still have potent passing attack with QB Peyton Manning and are arguably still best club in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jagaurs (1-2): Jaguars have worst scoring differential in AFC (-43), and Jack Del Rio could be the AFC’s first fired coach.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (3-0): Most surprising number for unbeaten Chiefs is that defense has allowed least points in the AFC (38), and in weak AFC West, KC might have enough to win the division.

San Diego Chargers (1-2): Special teams burned for two scores at Seattle, and Chargers QB Philip Rivers (AFC-high 4 INTs) is missing a suddenly resurgent RB LaDainian Tomlinson, now with the Jets.

Denver Broncos (1-2): Broncos getting decent offensive production from QB Kyle Orton, but overall have a minus point differential (-4; 61 PF, 65 PA).

Oakland Raiders (1-2): High-priced K Sebastian Janikowski could have made Raiders a 2-1 team with made kicks at Arizona, but Raiders need more than 3s (4 TDs, tied for lowest in AFC with JAX) to be competitive in up-for-grabs division.

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1): The Eagles have gone from a transitional season with QB Kevin Kolb to division title hopes with QB Michael Vick, who might be a legit NFL MVP candidate down the road.

Washington Redskins (1-2): Opening victory over Dallas doesn’t look as good after defense was shredded in last two weeks and Cowboys’ struggles.

New York Giants (1-2): A minus-30 scoring differential (55 PF, 85 PA) is third-worst in NFC, and head coach Tom Coughlin is starting to feel the heat.

Dallas Cowboys (1-2): Cowboys avoided 0-3 start in Week 3 with big win over Houston, and Dallas has the personnel to rebound in a wide-open NFC East race.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (3-0): Most unlikely last remaining 3-0 team in NFC gives head coach Lovie Smith some breathing room as O-line tries to keep QB Jay Cutler upright in Mike Martz offensive system.

Green Bay Packers (2-1): Despite mental miscues in Week 3 loss at Chicago, popular Super Bowl XLV NFC pick has plenty of offensive weapons for QB Aaron Rodgers, but need run game to be re-established after Ryan Grant injury.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2): QB Brett Favre looks very old right now, and Vikings best chance to win is to get away from pass-first mindset to get the ball into Adrian Peterson’s hopefully sure hands more often.

Detroit Lions (0-3): Injury to QB Matthew Stafford put dent into head coach Jim Schwartz’s immediate rebuilding plans, and Lions don’t get a break in Week 4 against Packers.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (2-1): Falcons posted most-impressive win of Week 3 as they marched out of New Orleans with a OT win, and Atlanta has NFC best-tying +31 point differential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): AFter 2-0 start, Bucs ran into Steelers’ buzzsaw in Week 3, and Tampa Bay is staring at possible 2-3 record with games vs. Cincinnati and New Orleans after bye week.

New Orleans Saints (2-1): Saints run defense was exposed in loss to Falcons, and defending Super Bowl champs need fast starts in order to avoid same fate against strong run teams going forward.

Carolina Panthers (0-3): Winless Panthers have least TDs in NFC (3), and head coach John Fox may be running out of rope with owner Jerry Richardson.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Head coach Pete Carroll sidestepped Southern California mess and he has put Seattle in early position to make headway in weak NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals (2-1): Despite record, Cards have minus-29 point differential (48 PF, 77 PA) and would be 1-2 if Oakland made a field goal or two in Week 3.

St. Louis Rams (1-2): Rookie QB Sam Bradford will have to grow up in a hurry, but the shame is that the Rams can’t play Washington every week.

San Francisco 49ers (0-3): Head coach Mike Singletary used the next-to-last bullet in his gun after firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, and the last one might be used by 49ers ownership at end of the season if disappointments continue.

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

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