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Nothing lucky about it — the kid QB in Indy is a stud

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Nothing lucky about it — the kid QB in Indy is a stud

Posted on 06 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

Musings from a sports-filled weekend –

A friend of mine sent me a text on Friday morning and asked me to give him the winner of the PGA Tour event in Hawaii.  After quizzing him on why he didn’t text me the day before (Thursday is the traditional start day for a pro tournament, but they’re playing this one Friday through Monday), I quickly shot him back the name of the winner:  ”Take Jordan Spieth” I texted.

Lots of people over the last decade and a half have wondered when the next young gun would come along to challenge the likes of Tiger Woods.  A lot of names have surfaced, some have completely fizzled, some have made some money, but none – make that NONE – have come close to being as good as Woods.  College golf hotshots come and go like the breeze.  These guys – among others – were going to be the guy to challenge Woods: Luke Donald (has as many major titles as you, me and your neighbor’s cat), Troy Matteson (who?), Ryan Moore (nice hat), Jamie Lovemark (still looking for a win) and Rickie Fowler (sharp dresser, can’t win a big one).

But wait…because someone HAS showed up — and he WILL challenge Woods and all of those big wigs on the PGA Tour.

His name is Jordan Spieth.

Win or lose today in Hawaii (he’s tied for the lead through 54 holes), he’s the one “kid” that’s come along who has staying power.  He’s an all-world putter, which means he can win on any given week.  He drives it like a maniac and stripes his irons. Once he spends an off-season or two learning some short game wizardy like Woods and Phil Mickelson, he’ll be the guy everyone tries to beat well into the next decade.

He’ll finish with more career major titles than Mickelson.

Oh, and I’m opening up my own Fantasy Golf tips business.  It’s $2.75 for a “regular event” and $6.50 for a major.

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There’s nothing else new to say about Towson football that hasn’t been said already, either on Twitter, Facebook or here, at WNST.net.

Rob Ambrose has turned Towson football into a championship program, despite getting beat in the FCS title game on Saturday, 35-7.  That’s it.  His first two years, they won three games total.  Saturday in Frisco, Texas, they played for the national championship.

Amazing.

They’ll be back…and they’ll win one of those championships.

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Two takes from Saturday night’s Caps loss in Minnesota.

Those sweaters the Wild wore were freaking sharp.  I need one of those.  Holy cow.

Next — the Caps aren’t very good.  They need some offense. Big time.  They CREATE chances.  Chances galore.  But they can’t finish them off.

They’ll make the playoffs, but don’t be saving up your money for a cross country trip to Anaheim for the Stanley Cup Finals.  Ain’t happenin’, Caps fans.

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By the way, Martin Erat of the Caps has one goal in 48 games over two seasons for the Caps.

One goal.

If I had played in 48 games, even now at the tender age of 50, I’d have two goals.

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Florida State gets a visit from the Cleat of Reality tonight in the national championship game.

Auburn 34 – Florida State 28

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Gotta tip your hat to Andrew Luck for what he pulled off on Saturday in Indianapolis.

The kid’s a freakin’ big-time player.

Let’s see what he does on Saturday in New England against the genius coach up there.

 

 

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Justin Tucker as Ravens MVP?  Sure…after all, who else could it be?

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Justin Tucker as Ravens MVP? Sure…after all, who else could it be?

Posted on 24 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Not that it matters, because it’s nothing more than a side-note in a player’s media guide biography, but Justin Tucker won the Ravens MVP award on Monday afternoon.

That shouldn’t be too startling if you’ve followed the Ravens through the first fifteen weeks of the 2013 season.  After all, Tucker has actually been the only “regular” on the team who has played above the bar of excellence typically reserved for players who earn MVP status.

Oddly enough, voting for Tucker for team MVP (as I did, admittedly, when the media ballots were distributed last week) was just as much a vote of deduction than anything else.

The other candidates were the three Smith’s — Jimmy, Daryl and Torrey, plus quarterback Joe Flacco.

None of those five came close to duplicating the overall excellence of Justin Tucker this season.

Now, if you’re one of those people who thinks it’s absurd for the team’s kicker to be the Most Valuable Player of the team, I’ll agree with you on that point.

Yes, I voted for Tucker.  I told you that already.

But, voting for the guy and also acknowledging it’s weird to have the kicker be the team’s MVP are entirely possible when you look at what transpired this season.

In short:  The Ravens offense stunk in 2013.

That eliminates Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith from the discussion.

And, while the defensive Smith’s were solid, neither of them came close to establishing the overall consistency of Tucker.

I don’t know that Jimmy Smith or Daryl Smith won any games for John Harbaugh’s team.

Justin Tucker did.

And, when you’re 8-7 and still have a puncher’s chance of making the post-season, the kicker who made the difference in four of those victories deserves the nod as the team MVP.

Sad?

Sure.

The kicker sure as hell isn’t the MVP in Denver, Kansas City, Seattle, Carolina or Cincinnati.

Flacco is the lightning bolt topic when it comes to the Tucker verdict in Baltimore, because he’s the $60 million man and much was expected from him after holding up both the Lombardi and MVP trophy at last February’s Super Bowl in New Orleans.

The real truth about his 2013 campaign?  It’s been average, at best.  Some would say he’s been less than average; some would counter and say with what he’s had to work with, Flacco has been better than average.

Mix all the opinions together, look at the team’s record and Flacco’s numbers and you get:  Average.

Now, were there issues outside of Flacco’s area of responsibility?

Lack of pass blockers to protect him?  You bet.

No running game to help support his arm?  Absolutely.

Wide receiving group still short a quality contributor – or two?  Yes, indeed.

Injury to Pitta a tough pill to swallow?  Of course.

But, 19 interceptions don’t lie.

It’s one thing if Flacco doesn’t produce a 30 TD, 4,000 yard season given the limits I listed above, combined with the anticipated “Super Bowl hangover” that nearly every veteran has likely experienced to some degree in 2013.

But, he hasn’t even reached 20 TD’s yet.  And he’ll need 280 yards passing at Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon to eclipse the 4,000 yard mark for the first time ever.

Not only has he thrown the ball to the other team nineteen times, and, yes, not all 19 of those are completely “on” Flacco, — a handful of the pics were deflections or balls that should have been caught by his receivers — but he’s also fumbled it eight times, with two of those recovered by the opposition.

(Please see next page)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Chargers

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game-Ravens/Chargers

Posted on 27 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

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

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

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

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 16-13 OT win over the San Diego Chargers Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium…

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

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Dennis Pitta 11 yard completion from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 4 (Overtime)

4. Cary Williams breaks up Philip Rivers pass intended for Danario Alexander on 3rd & 4 (Overtime)

3. Brendon Ayanbadejo breaks up Philip Rivers pass intended for Danario Alexander on 3rd & 3 (Overtime)

2. Torrey Smith 31 yard completion from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 10 (Overtime)

1. Ray Rice 29 yard completion from Joe Flacco on 4th & 29 (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Ravens hope lightning doesn’t strike twice in San Diego

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Ravens hope lightning doesn’t strike twice in San Diego

Posted on 23 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It didn’t happen in the blink of an eye, but there was no sugarcoating the Ravens’ humbling 34-14 defeat to quarterback Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers last December.

The prime-time thrashing not only handed Baltimore its fourth and final loss of the regular season, but it stripped the Ravens of their grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They won their final two games of the regular season but finished a game behind New England, which resulted in the Ravens traveling to Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship instead of the Patriots potentially coming to Baltimore for a championship showdown.

We know what happened after that, and you can’t help but wonder how events might have played out differently had the Ravens not been on the losing end of that contest against Rivers and the erratic Chargers, who enter Sunday’s meeting with a 4-6 record and their playoff hopes on life support.

“Last year, it wasn’t that pleasant,” linebacker Terrel Suggs said. “Before I could look up, it was 31-7. It was like raining touchdowns out there. He’s a good quarterback. We definitely can’t make it a seven-on-seven contest.”

The Chargers have looked just plain bad more than erratic this season as Rivers has thrown a league-high 14 interceptions to go along with 2,461 yards and 17 touchdowns. San Diego has two wins since Week 2 — both coming against the doormat Kansas City Chiefs — but a victory over the Ravens could be viewed as a long-shot to change the season for Norv Turner, who appears on his way out as Chargers coach.

The Ravens have been down this road before in preparing for San Diego. Their margin for error is slim as they continue to chase the 10-1 Houston Texans for the AFC’s top spot while trying to hold off New England and Denver, who both trail Baltimore by one game in the loss column of the conference standings.

Unlike last season’s San Diego game when the Ravens’ path to the No. 1 seed was completely in their hands, Baltimore still needs help, but a loss on Sunday would be a major blow to their hopes for home-field advantage throughout January. A measure of revenge might be healthy for the Ravens’ psyche as well as they travel to San Diego for the third time in the last four seasons.

“[I am] thankful for another opportunity to go against Philip after he sliced us and diced us last year,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It will be a big challenge. He’s a great player. Between the quarterback and their receivers, they’re maybe the most talented passing group in the league.”

That talent hasn’t translated to success on the field as the Chargers lost former No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency this past March and currently rank 23rd in total offense, 17th in passing offense, and 16th in points per game.

Despite his struggles with taking care of the football this season, Rivers’ talents aren’t lost on the Ravens as he still has two dangerous targets in tight end Antonio Gates and tall wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who burned the Baltimore defense to the tune of five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown last season. This, coupled with a secondary depleted by injuries, has Harbaugh and the Ravens looking beyond the underwhelming statistics.

“You look at what they are capable of accomplishing,” Harbaugh said. “For the most part, it has been turnovers on offense for them. I’m sure they feel if they can clean that up, they can play really well. We’ve got to take that into account.”

Even if the Baltimore defense can build upon its impressive performance in Pittsburgh and hold Rivers and the San Diego offense in check, the great equalizer on Sunday might be the Chargers defense, which entered Week 12 ranked eighth in yards allowed and tied for 13th in points surrendered. Managing to win consecutive road games for the first time since 2010, the Ravens offense certainly didn’t do much at Heinz Field last week as they continued their chronic struggles away from M&T Bank Stadium.

In five road contests this season, the Ravens are only averaging 16.6 points per game as quarterback Joe Flacco has completed only 54.2 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions away from M&T Bank Stadium. In the San Diego secondary, Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle provides a serious challenge as the versatile defensive back will sometimes play close to the line of scrimmage in run support while other times dropping deep into coverage, making him difficult to find at times.

Perhaps a bigger hurdle than the Chargers for the Ravens on Sunday could be themselves after an emotionally-draining and physical win over their bitter rivals last Sunday night. Baltimore could be vulnerable to a lackluster showing after following both wins against Pittsburgh last season with ugly road defeats to inferior opponents (Tennessee and Seattle).

The Ravens have practiced later in the afternoon all week — after doing research on sleep cycles and energy cycles, according to Harbaugh — and traveled to San Diego on Friday to adjust to the change in time zone and climate. With so much to lose in the event of another defeat to the Chargers, the Ravens hope the changes will be enough to return home with a victory late Sunday night.

“I always appreciate the Friday trips, but you’ve got to get out there and understand it’s a business trip,” running back Ray Rice said. “It’s not out there for leisure. You’ve got to try to do that out there with a different time change. But we do a pretty good job of adjusting. Now we’ve got to go ahead and take it to the field and just adjust a little faster.”

The Ravens will need to if they want to avoid another misstep in San Diego with so much to play for down the final stretch of the season.

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A Dirty Dozen for the Defense

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A Dirty Dozen for the Defense

Posted on 02 August 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Earlier in the week I posed the question, “Are the Ravens set up for success on offense?” While the answer is absolutely subjective, I’d venture to say that the real answer is that they better be. In hindsight we can see that whatever shortcomings we perceived in the Ravens offense in 2011 have to be viewed through the filter of the gamut of high caliber pass defenses that they had to deal with along the way. This year it appears that the shoe may be on the other foot, or more aptly, on the other side of the ball as the Ravens look to have to deal with a lot of scary offensive propositions in 2012. If there ever were a good time to have to deal with the defection and absence of defensive talent that the Ravens have recently undergone, 2012 certainly doesn’t appear to be it.

Here’s a look at the 12 scariest players that the Ravens defense will have to contend with in 2012:

 

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

 

Quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton

 

Running Backs: Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Lesean McCoy, Ryan Matthews, DeMarco Murray, Willis McGahee

 

Pass Catchers: Jermaine Gresham, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Aaron Hernandez, Dwayne Bowe, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd

 

 

#12 – Peyton Manning (DEN) – There are no offensive stats to base this on from last season and Manning’s health is still a huge question, but the reputed Ravens killer is a scary proposition until he proves that he isn’t. There are some serious questions about how easily he’ll find his way in a new offense and on a new team, but make no mistake, if Manning is healthy and surrounded by 10 warm bodies he’ll likely be tough to deal with for the Ravens as usual.

 

 

#11 – Darren McFadden (OAK) – It’ll be week 10 before the Ravens cross paths with McFadden, and history suggests that there’s a decent chance McFadden could be hurt and/or on the shelf by that time. That might be the Ravens best hope at containing him. When healthy McFadden is a scary combination of speed and muscle. He’s explosive inside the tackles and outside and at his best McFadden has a skill set that’s eerily similar to Maurice Jones-Drew who had a field day against the Ravens last season.

 

 

#10 – Philip Rivers (SD) – Whether you agree that Rivers is worthy of being regarded as a top 5 to 7 quarterback in the league or not, it’s hard to argue that last year was a disappointing one for both he and the Chargers. Still, in the midst of all that struggle, Rivers and crew had their way against the Ravens in San Diego last season. Traveling coast to coast is never easy in the NFL, and neither is facing Rivers and co. in the final weeks of the season. All of that could make for a scary storm of circumstances for the Ravens as they travel west to San Diego in week 12.

 

 

#9 – Trent Richardson (CLE) – The profile and value of the NFL running back in general has taken a substantial hit in recent seasons, evidenced perhaps no better than in the love (or lack thereof) that ball carriers have gotten on draft day. When it comes to Richardson however there was no hesitation from NFL execs in casting him near the tops of their draft boards. Of course as a rookie there’ll be no shortage of question marks and growing pains for the young, prospective bell cow, but in having to see him twice the Trent Richardson fear factor goes up exponentially.

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