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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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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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Will he ever outrun the dogs?

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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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Vick shines in DC: Can’t Dog Him Now

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

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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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Week 3 Coach Speak

Posted on 22 September 2010 by Brian Billick

This week on the show I host on FOXSports.com, Coach Speak, I talk with Eagles head coach Andy Reid about his two quarterbacks, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb, I give my best “never say never” moments of the NFL’s Week 2 schedule, we get a tutorial from Jets’ defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman on how cornerbacks use press coverage techniques, Chargers’ tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski tells us about San Diego’s two-TE formation, I give my thoughts about not panicking when you have an 0-2 start like the Cowboys and Vikings have right now and I talk to Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh about one of his favorite subjects this week — too much protection for the quarterback.

Make sure you catch my on-air visits each week talking about the NFL on WNST during the football season. Here is Week 3′s Coach Speak …

Video: Coach Speak: Week 3

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Where does sportsmanship end and gamesmanship begin?

Posted on 18 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

We all know what happened last night; Alex Rodriguez hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth inning off of Koji Uehara to give New York a 4-3 win over the O’s. The fact is that superstars like ARod make those plays when they need to, so that doesn’t tick me off per se. However what does frost me is the fact that Koji appeared to have ARod struck out on a called strike three, however home plate umpire Ted Barrett inexplicably called ball two. Bad calls happen, although it seems that they generally benefit players of ARod’s stature. My real problem is with what ARod did after that; he looked towards the Yankee dugout with a grin on his face. In other words, he knew darned well that he got a gift.

After hitting what’s being touted as the biggest home run since Bobby Thompson’s shot heard ’round the world, ARod proceeded to round the bases pretty slowly. In all seriousness, I think Cal’s lap around the ballpark after breaking the record in 1996 might have been quicker. Especially against a team that’s playing for nothing but pride, taking your sweet time to round the bases and show them up is a bush league thing to do. And let us not forget that ARod’s already had one run-in with this kind of thing this season, when he ran across the mound in Oakland (drawing the ire of Dallas Braden).

This is all part of a growing trend that I’m seeing in sports and it’s not a good thing. People such as myself might as well be speaking Japanese when we talk about unwritten rules in games. (In fact, it’s all Greek to me!) Nowadays we hear so many players, coaches, fans, and commentators talk about how if you win the game who cares what the unwritten rules are. I see that as misguided. In my opinion this really started in college football when the current BCS system came into play. The UPI rankings are no longer about just winning, but also by what margin you win. If the #1 team wins 14-13 and the #2 team wins 35-3, the #2 team will probably be the new #1. I see this as incredibly misguided and wrong, because it effectively encourages teams to run up the score. In baseball the rule has generally been that if you’re up after the sixth inning by five or more, you don’t steal or try to manufacture runs. Nowadays you see teams like the Boston Red Sox who would argue that you never know when a team’s going to come back, so why shouldn’t they try to score. Bill Belichek has routinely said that it’s not his job to stop his offense, it’s the other team’s defense’s job. It almost seems that winning isn’t good enough anymore, you have to punish the other team for having the nerve to step onto the field with you.

Ultimately, I do put winning above sportsmanship in a sense. However once the game’s won, I see no reason to rub salt in the wound unless it’s done as an act of retribution. As an example, if the Orioles have a sizable lead against the Yankees in tonight’s game (in the wake of ARod’s antics last night), I’d have no problem with throwing down a bunt to move a runner over. I remember in 1987 when the NFL players were on strike, and basically the entire Dallas Cowboy team crossed the picket lines. They beat a Philadelphia Eagle team full of scrubs, and did so by a wide margin. Philadelphia head coach Buddy Ryan felt that the Cowboys unnecessarily piled on the score at the end, so when the two teams met again in Philly (after the strike had ended), Ryan returned the favor. There were only about thirty seconds left and Philly had the ball first and goal at the one (up by two TD’s). Buddy Ryan called timeout to run one more play to rub it in. I was never a Buddy Ryan fan, but I have no problem with someone returning the favor if they were shown up. In other word, if ARod gets plunked tonight, I wouldn’t see an issue with that.

Ultimately, you have to have a respect for your opponents and the game when you play a sport. I don’t see running up the score or showing up your opponent as having respect for the game. Call me old school or a mastedon if you want, but that’s just how I see things.

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My Super Bowl Pick …..

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My Super Bowl Pick …..

Posted on 10 September 2010 by Rex Snider

Over the past couple days, I’ve predicted the respective finishes in the AFC/NFC divisions. Today, it’s time to paint my picture of Super Bowl 45. Admittedly, it will be tough to pick against the Ravens making a trip to Dallas, in early February. After all, they’re a consensus favorite among MANY notable sports personalities.

What do predictions yield the Ravens? NOTHING …..

Predictions are quite simply as worthless as the time it takes to express them. But, it’s still fun to forecast the prospective future of the upcoming National Football League season.

As I review my AFC picks, I’m considering the division winners, which include the Dolphins, Ravens, Colts and Chargers. My wildcards are the Patriots and Texans. I foresee the Ravens and Dolphins meeting for the AFC crown and I’ll predict a big hometown win at M&T Bank Stadium on a chilly, overcast January day.

When I look back at my NFC selections, I can choose from the Cowboys, Packers, Saints and 49ers, as division champs. The wildcards are the Falcons and Vikings. While it will be an exciting season in the NFC, I’m picking the Saints to represent their conference, once again. I believe they’ll hand the 49ers a pretty sound beating on the same field where the 2010 season began, last night.

So, my prediction for Super Bowl 45 is …..
.

.
And, my pick?

Ravens 27

Saints 20

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Quoth the Raven: SURPRISE!

Posted on 05 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

There are generally surprises on every team when the 53-man roster is announced. In my opinion, the biggest surprise from the Ravens’ roster cuts yesterday was QB Troy Smith. When he was drafted I thought that Smith had a bright future in the league, and I still think he could be a solid quarterback. It’s fairly obvious at this point that he probably won’t start for the Ravens anytime soon, however that’s not to say that he couldn’t play somewhere else. (We should also keep in mind that five players will be allowed to be place on the practice squad; odds are Smith will be one of those five.)

The bigger surprise to me isn’t that Smith was cut outright, but that the team’s only going with two quarterbacks. While it certainly helps to have that extra roster spot potentially for another wideout or running back, I think it’s a very risky move. You never know when a backup, or even a third stringer is going to be pressed into action in the NFL. I’m reminded of the 1990 game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and Redskins when nine different Washington Redskin players were carted off the field (including two quarterbacks). As I said, you just never know what’s going to happen in an NFL game. Speaking of the Redskins, they had a similar setup last year with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins being the only two QB’s on the roster. However at the time the Redskins also had Antwaan Randle-El, who was a quarterback in college. I’m sure that Harbaugh will designate someone as the “emergency quarterback,” however I think going into the season with only two QB’s is a bit of a calculated risk.

Safety Ed Reed has been placed on the PUP list, which will mean he’ll be eligible to play only after the first six games of the year. Billy Cundiff ended up winning the kicking battle, and will be the Ravens’ kicker going into week one (and presumably for the entire season). Keep in mind that the Ravens had issues in the kicking game almost all of last season, with Stephen Haushka getting cut in November after shanking a few attempts. Cundiff’s a bit of a journeyman and he’s been around the league a few times, so one has to hope that Cundiff will get the job done for the Ravens’ special teams this year.

The Ravens also traded linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick. Speaking for myself, I firmly believe in building a team through the draft, so if you have a guy like Barnes for whom you can get a draft pick, I’m all for it. Obviously you don’t want to give away the house so to speak (and I don’t think the Ravens did that), but a GM like Ozzie Newsome will be able to find a diamond-in-the-rough with a later round draft pick. Ultimately, here’s the list of final cuts made by the Ravens yesterday:

TE Davon Drew, CB Travis Fisher, DB K.J. Gerard, K Shayne Graham, WR Justin Harper, CB Chris Hawkins, DB Brad Jones, G Bryan Mattison, OLB Albert McClellan, T Joe Reitz, WR Eron Riley, QB Troy Smith, RB Curtis Steele, T Devin Tyler, WR Demetrius Williams

Ultimately like them or not, everyone else that was on the roster are your 2010 Baltimore Ravens. People can debate the roster moves all they want, but ultimately all of that will be a moot issue if the Ravens beat the Jets on September 13th.

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Blog & Tackle: Sweet tune could return

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Blog & Tackle: Sweet tune could return

Posted on 06 August 2010 by Chris Pika

A familiar tune, played with pride during some of Baltimore’s greatest football moments, and mournfully after one of the city’s darkest, could return to herald Ravens touchdowns in M&T Bank Stadium this season if fans have their way.

The Ravens through their website, are giving fans the chance to decide whether the current fight song, written in 1998, should remain, or if an alternate version rewriting the words of the old “Baltimore Colts Fight Song” to fit the current club should replace it — with the melody familiar to generations of Baltimore football fans.

According to Baltimore’s Marching Ravens band director John Ziemann, the fight song has been a part of Baltimore football history since it was written in 1947. “Six pro teams used it,” he said. “The 1947 (AAFC) Colts, the 1950 (NFL) Colts, the 1953-83 Colts, the USFL’s Baltimore Stars in 1985, the CFL’s Baltimore Stallions in 1994-95 and the Ravens in 1996.”

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 29:  The band of the Baltimore Ravens performs before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 20-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

When the melody was played by the Colts Marching Band, it was as familiar to Colts fans as “Fly, Eagles, Fly” in Philadelphia, “Skol, Vikings” in Minnesota and even “Hail To The Redskins” in D.C. The tune was recognized among football fans nationwide as almost no NFL Films piece on the Colts was produced without the melody playing in the background.

When the Colts left in 1984, the band played on — as they did when the original NFL Colts left after the 1950 season — and the fight song was performed wherever they traveled to play, especially in NFL cities for pregame and halftime shows, carrying the torch of a love lost and hope of a new start.

That bond between the city and the melody became even stronger when the band played it in front of the Maryland State House in 1987 before a key vote on stadium complex funding. The emotional response of seeing the band carry the tune helped the measure to pass.

The NFL did return in 1996 when the Browns moved to Baltimore, and the club, out of respect for the previous history, did not adopt the song as the Ravens played at old Memorial Stadium — but the band played the tune during the ’96 season to celebrate Baltimore’s return to the NFL.

“In 1998, the Ravens decided they wanted their own identity, and a great fight song was writen by John Modell (son of Ravens’ owner Art Modell),” Ziemann said. The same year, the name of the band changed to Baltimore’s Marching Ravens as the team moved to the new downtown facility the band had helped secure in a small but meaningful way almost a decade earlier.

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 22:  A band member for the Baltimore Ravens plays the tuba before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Colts defeated the Ravens 17-15. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

The organization did its best to ingrain the current fight song with the fans. But it never really seemed to fit in a city that reveres its history — especially when it comes to football. Over the years, fans contacted the Ravens about restoring the beloved melody.

The opinion of the organization changed when movie producer and Baltimore native Barry Levinson became part of ESPN’s “30 for 30″ documentary series. Levinson chose to spotlight the band and its’ contribution to the city in great football times and especially in the years without the NFL. Just as Levinson had used the “Baltimore Colts Fight Song” to effect in his movie “Diner,” the ESPN movie, “The Band That Woudn’t Die,” gave new life to the melody in an unexpected way.

“The Ravens organization has always had a close ear to the needs and views of the fans,” Ziemann said. “And last year, when the premiere of the ESPN movie was shown at M&T Bank Stadium, the Marching Ravens did a pre-concert on the field. We played the ‘Baltimore Ravens Fight Song,’ and it got applause. But when the ‘Baltimore Colts Fight Song’ was performed, the place went wild. This started the Ravens rethinking about restoring the song.”

That was just the start. New words were needed to fit the melody, making the appropriate changes while keeping some of the historical aspect of the original. “New words were written by musical director Todd Clontz and myself, and focus groups were formed for opinions on it, taking all the necessary steps,” Ziemann said.

The “Baltimore Fight Song” was born, again. But the Ravens organization did not want to make the decision to restore the song on its own. It would be up to the fans to voice their opinions.

“The Ravens, to be fair to the fans, have put it up for a vote on their website,” said Ziemann. And if the song is restored, it will be performed August 12 at the first home preseason game (vs. Carolina).”

This potential switch in fight songs will not sell one more ticket or another piece of merchandise for the Ravens, but the change would return a sweet tune back where it belongs in celebration of a city and its football heritage.

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