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NFL Championship Weekend Picks and Analysis

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NFL Championship Weekend Picks and Analysis

Posted on 17 January 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

The divisional round of the NFL playoffs did not quite live up to the hype that Wild Card weekend provided for the fans. The match ups were great, but there weren’t any 28 point second half comebacks or any type of upsets. It is all good because the next round provides fans with the best possible championship games that anyone could have asked for. The NFL has had parity across the league this season, but the match ups for the upcoming championship weekend were predicted amongst many of the critics in the preseason. Before getting into the games predictions and analysis, I want to look back at what stood out in last weekend’s games.

There were common themes amongst the two number one seeds I noticed in both their games. The Seahawks and Broncos both got out to hot starts in their match ups and looked as if they were going to blow the other team out by half time. Great teams know how to put other teams away when they have an opportunity to do so, better known as a kill. We see the great Quarterbacks “kill”, if the opposing team is ineffective or making mistakes consistently, those great quarterbacks make them pay for those miscues and “kill” the other teams chances at a possible comeback. If you look at both these number one seeds, neither team could “kill” off the opposing team and put them out of the game. Drew Brees and his offense were not effective at moving the ball at all until the late fourth quarter. Once the rain slowed down and came to a halt, Brees was able to throw it around and began to put points up. Seattle had a 16-point lead, but was unable to continue to add to that lead for quite some time. They did not put away New Orleans, so when Brees led a scoring drive, all of the sudden a game that felt like it was one sided, was now a close game once again. Marshawn Lynch did later score a touchdown to increase the lead, but New Orleans did have a chance at the end of the game to make something happen to potentially tie the game.

Denver’s game was almost identical to Seattle’s. Denver had a 17-0 lead heading into the third quarter. San Diego was trying to run the ball throughout the contest, but they were ineffective for three quarters. The defense made key stops to keep the Chargers still in the game. Once they opened up the playbook and let Phillip Rivers throw the ball, their offense began to move the chains and score points. Denver scored another touchdown to extend their lead, but ultimately the Chargers almost had a shot at tying it. The defense forced a 3rd and 17 for Manning, but he made the conversion that ended the game. As stated above, a game that virtually felt like a blowout was still close when the Chargers scored a touchdown. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos did not get the “kill” in the first half or third quarter, it took a 3rd and 17 conversion to get it.

Indianapolis almost seemed like the favorite heading into Foxboro after their 28-point comeback victory against the Chiefs. I mentioned in my last predictions post that this matchup was the easiest for me to pick and had New England by 13. Instead it was a 21-point rout by the Patriots, but one that no one could have ever predicted. They put up 43 points without Tom Brady throwing a touchdown pass. If you would have told me the score of the game before it started and said Brady would not have thrown a touchdown pass, Indianapolis would appear as the team that would have scored 43 points. That was not the case as the Patriots running game was tremendous, especially Blount. Along with the defense that was causing turnovers, Jamie Collins stood out the most. This is a different side of New England we have not seen in a long time, scary if your trying to game plan against them now.

The best match up of the weekend was a solid game across the board. Two great defenses against two of the better up and coming young quarterbacks. Everyone was more interested to see how Cam Newton would play in his playoff debut and I thought he did well. His last interception was a bad throw, but other than that he was good against a great 49ers defense. He had about 270 yards through the air and above 50 on the ground. I liked the way he was using his legs to get some yards at a time versus that defense, making third downs more manageable. What I did not like was the conservative feel to the play calling. Similar with the Chargers, I felt like the Panthers tried to run the ball too much at one point when it was not effective. Carolina has been great on offense this season because of their great balance, but after a while in the playoffs, you have to turn your best playmaker loose. I just felt that they never let Cam turn loose and let him make the big plays that we are accustomed to seeing. Its not like he did not have success early, his throw to Steve Smith for the first touchdown is as good a throw as your going to see. Also, the quarterback sneak on the goal line is a head scratcher. I like that call usually, but not against the 49ers linebackers. Move Cam around to the outside or run the Gator package and let Cam jump over the pile if anything. It is very clear the Carolina needs more weapons on the outside because Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and Ted Ginn Jr. just does not quite cut it as a second option on the outside. Other than that, Carolina is a great young team and this wont be their last trip to the post season. Now with all that review done, onto the championship round predictions.

 

New England 33 Denver 31

Brady vs. Manning, what else could you ask for in the AFC championship? The two greatest quarterbacks of this era and one of the best quarterback rivalries ever, this championship will live up to the hype. Unfortunately for Denver, they will not live up to the hype. We saw what impact the loss of Chris Harris was last round; you know Tom Brady is well aware of that. The main reason why the Patriots will move on and Denver won’t, Bill Belichick will outcoach John Fox. Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time and he is a genius. He is going to come out with a game plan that will be the difference. Imagine how difficult it is for Fox to game plan against the Patriots, a week after they ran the ball that effectively. Tom Brady does not have the weapons offensively that Manning has, but he will make it work against the Broncos defense. I see New England running the ball effectively early, but turning Brady loose early on as well. If Brady can have the run game working his way, their play action passing game will deteriorate the Denver D. As for Manning and his offense, I see them scoring early and often too. It will have to come down to what defense is opportunistic and forces the key turnovers. I see the Patriots defense doing so, similar to what they did last week against the Colts. If Denver does get a lead early, it wont matter because if they don’t “kill” off Brady, he will come back to hurt you. Bottom line for this game, never count against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

 

San Francisco 23 Seattle 17

The most fresh and best rivalry in the NFL owns the NFC championship game. San Fran comes in after two straight road wins and Seattle comes in after a home win vs. the Saints. Seattle has gotten the hype all of the preseason and during the regular season, as they should. They have a great defense led by the cocky secondary group known as the Legion of Boom. The Seahawks also have the toughest home crowd in the NFL, where they hardly lose. They have blown out the 49ers two straight seasons at home, but the third time is a charm. San Francisco is the most experience team out of the two and they were in the Super Bowl last season. They will get back by taking down the Super Bowl favorite Seahawks. Seattle comes into this game with all the pressure on them, which benefits San Fran. I have made it known throughout the regular season that when it all came down to this game, the 49ers would be victorious. They have the best personnel to match up against Seattle’s defense. Their secondary is tough, but Boldin, Crabtree and Davis are the perfect set of weapons to have facing them. The offensive line and Kaepernick’s legs will buy him time to throw to these weapons with the Seattle pass rush coming at him. As for Seattle’s offense, they are reliant on Marshawn Lynch to carry the load. The 49ers defense is yet to allow an individual one hundred yard rusher all season, that spells trouble for the Seahawks. If they are unable to run the ball, this forces them to be one-dimensional with Russell Wilson. That is not his game because he likes to utilize the play action to get him moving outside the pocket. Carlos Rogers looks to be back in the49ers secondary, which is great for that unit.

Percy Harvin as of Thursday has not been cleared to play. Throughout the regular season, the biggest point I tried to stress was who the bigger difference maker would be for their team when this match up came about. Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree were injured throughout the majority of the regular season, but both were set to return at the tail end. There was a whole lot of buzz in the offseason when the Seahawks traded for Harvin, but I was not sold on it as much as every other expert in the country was. He has never shown he can stay consistently healthy and on the field. Crabtree’s impact on the other hand, is huge. That is Kaepernick’s number one target and we have seen that since he has made his return from a pre season Achilles injury. Crabtree will be the biggest difference maker in this game and one of the main reasons why San Francisco upsets Seattle at home to move on to the Super Bowl for a second straight season.

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NFL Playoff Predictions, Who Wins the Super Bowl

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NFL Playoff Predictions, Who Wins the Super Bowl

Posted on 03 January 2014 by Nick Dorsey

 

Wild card weekend is just about upon us and the hunt for the Lombardi trophy is here. It has been a great NFL season with so much at stake the last week of the regular season. There were teams that have clinched long ago and also teams that got great fortune getting in to the big dance. It is time to make my playoff predictions for the whole entire playoffs, round by round.

Wild Card Weekend:

#3 Bengals defeat #6 Chargers

San Diego is a team that got the great fortune to be in this position. After losses by Miami, Baltimore and a crucial penalty that was not called in regulation, San Diego gets their shot at the Bengals. Phillip Rivers has been tremendous this season, deservedly so he is back at the Pro Bowl. He has done wonders with an offense that consists of Danny Woodhead, Eddie Royal and rookie Keenan Allen. I want to pick San Diego this game, but it’s about time the Bengals start living up to their consistent pre season hype. They have all the talent to go the distance; Andy Dalton is the ultimate wild card for that team. The defense is still very good despite the losses of Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. That defense and AJ Green will make the difference in this game, as well as Giovanni Bernard out of the backfield.

#4 Colts defeat #5 Chiefs

Andy Reid has turned around this team from number one overall pick to a wild card contender. Jamaal Charles has been as good as it gets in the NFL at running back. The defense has been a story as well for the Chiefs, led by Tamba Hali. Bottom line for this game, I’m taking Andrew Luck over Alex Smith to win this game. Smith is considered a “game manager” which he is for Kansas City, I just don’t see him being able to go out and win a game in the end when it counts. Andrew Luck is difficult to beat at home, despite his lack of talent surrounding him, lackluster offensive line and non-existent running game. I’m picking Luck to get his first career playoff win and it wont be his last.

#3 Eagles defeat #6 Saints

When Carolina sealed the deal for the NFC South division title, you knew it was trouble for the Saints. They consistently struggle on the road; they are a completely different team when they play indoors. Philadelphia is a team that is being overlooked. Chip Kelly’s offense has caught fire as of late, due to the great play of Nick Foles and a rejuvenated Lesean McCoy. Foles has only thrown two interceptions all season, I like that heading into the playoffs. A quarterback making good decisions with the leagues leading running back that is a dangerous combination.

#5 49ers defeat Packers

Aaron Rodgers made his return in Week 17 defeating Chicago to win the NFC North title. He played a great game and made the play at the end when it was needed the most. Temperatures in Green Bay for the game are going to be below freezing, which should favor the Packers. I like the 49ers in this game. Its asking a lot out of Rodgers to come back this late after an injury and expect him to take this team the distance, especially starting against this defense round one. San Fran does not typically play in this type of weather, but a team that has a rushing attack led by Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick get my pick.

Divisional Round:

#1 Broncos defeat Colts

Andrew Luck got the best of Peyton Manning when they first met early in the season at Lucas Oil stadium. That will not happen again. Denver is at home and loaded with offensive firepower. I cannot say the same for Andrew Luck. Ever since Reggie Wayne went down, the offense has struggled a lot more. I cannot imagine a scenario in which Luck can outscore Manning in a Denver shootout.

#2 Patriots defeat Bengals

Tom Brady should be in the MVP conversation, but he wont be because he doesn’t have the Peyton Manning stats. Brady has done way more with a whole let less and still has his team as the second seed. This is the time of year where Tom Brady shines and he will do it once again. Cincinnati has been banged up in the secondary, which does not bode well for them. I’m taking Brady at home because I don’t believe Andy Dalton has what it takes to be the difference at Foxboro.

#5 49ers defeat #1 Seattle

My biggest upset pick of the post-season. I have made it known throughout the whole season that if there is one team that can knock off the Hawks at home, it is San Fran. Seattle showed some weakness at home, losing to the Cardinals. The 49ers have the defense to contain Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. Aldon Smith is back to being in his all-star form and he helps take that defense to a new level. Percy Harvin is finally back for Seattle, but how much of an impact can you really expect him to have at this point without hardly playing? I like the offensive combination of Crabtree, Boldin and Davis against the Seattle defense. Boldin has been big-time in the playoffs before, would not be shocked to see him do it again.

#5 Eagles defeat #2 Carolina

It has been a great year for Riverboat Ron and the Panthers organization. They are proof of how great drafting quickly translates to franchise success. Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly both won their rookie of the year honors in their rookie years. Cam Newton has been great all season, making smart decisions when throwing and showing better patience in the pocket. I don’t think they lose this game because of the offense. The defense in Carolina has gotten a lot of the attention throughout the season by the media. They have been great this season, but I still see a weakness that will get exposed. Their front seven is as good as it gets, but their secondary is shaky. Desean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek will do their best to show that. If the front seven does not get consistent pressure on Nick Foles, it will be trouble for the Panthers. Nick Foles has been one of the NFL’s best QB’s when facing the blitz. So if Carolina cannot bring him down, watch out for the Eagles in the NFC championship game.

Conference Championships:

#2 Patriots defeat #1 Broncos

Even when odds seem all against him, never bet against Tom Brady. He does not have the best of weapons to work with, but don’t ever count him out. The pressure will be all on the Broncos to win this game, which favors the Patriots. We saw what happened earlier this season between the two teams, New England stormed back to win after a 24-point deficit. This will be another chapter to the epic Manning/Brady rivalry that we have been so fortunate to see. Bottom line, it will be cold in Denver, maybe even wintery weather. I’m taking Brady in this one over Manning. After this one, people might begin to wonder why they didn’t vote Brady for MVP.

#5 49ers defeat #3 Eagles

The Eagles have had a great season under first year head coach Chip Kelly, but the road ends here. San Fran was in the Super Bowl last season and I expect them to be back. Philly has been known for their constant trips to the NFC championship, but not for their trips to the Super Bowl. I like San Fran to shut down the run and force Foles to beat them. If you allow the 49ers to pin their ears back and get to the QB, that’s trouble. The 49ers make their return trip to the Super Bowl, fortunately for Jim Harbaugh, John wont be on the other sideline.

Super Bowl:

#5 49ers defeat #2 Patriots

It will take everything for New England to defeat the Broncos in Denver without Rob Gronkowski. I cannot imagine Tom Brady being able to squeeze out another big time win with the talent that surrounds him, especially against the 49ers defense. The Patriots defense will have trouble accounting for the balance of this 49ers offense. The running game is loaded and the weapons on the outside will be too much for New England. Kaepernick gets his first Super Bowl title, as does Jim Harbaugh. If Tom Brady can somehow win this game, he will be the greatest QB to ever play in the NFL. Unfortunately for him, San Fran will have too much firepower to win this game.

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Playoffs?!?!?!?!?

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Playoffs?!?!?!?!?

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

There are 3 weeks remaining in the season for the Ravens, and all other teams for that matter. The good news is that the Ravens are very much in control of their own playoff destiny; if they win their remaining 3 games nothing can keep them from the playoffs. There is however, still little reason to believe that the Ravens will win all 3 games. The other good news is that they probably won’t have to. The bad news then, is that there are a myriad of possibilities on how the season plays out and what it might mean from a Ravens perspective.

 

Here is a comprehensive breakdown of all scenarios and possible tie-break situations the Ravens might face as the season winds down:

 

Ravens

Record 7-6     Conference Record 6-4     Division Record 3-2

Remaining Games: @DET, vs NE, @CIN

 

Bengals

Record 9-4     Conference Record 7-3     Division Record 2-2

Remaining Games: @PIT, vs MIN, vs BAL

This one is pretty straightforward, if the Ravens are going to catch the Bengals they have to beat the Bengals…they’ll also need Cincinnati to lose at least one other game. Any tie between the Ravens and Bengals would go to the Ravens because it will require the Ravens to beat the Bengals for the second time this season, thereby giving Baltimore the head-to-head tiebreaker.

 

Steelers

Record 5-8     Conference Record 4-6     Division Record 2-2

Remaining Games: vs. CIN, @GB, vs CLE

At 8-8 Ravens would lose the tiebreaker, either by division record if they failed to beat CIN (they’d be 3-3 to PIT’s 4-2) or by common opponents The Ravens beat HOU lost to DEN, the Steelers lost to OAK & TEN, meaning the Ravens would be 7-7 vs common opponents and the Steelers would be 8-6.

At 7-9 the Ravens would win the tiebreaker if they beat the Bengals and the Steelers lost to either the Bengals or Browns with a 4-2 division record to Pittsburgh’s 3-3. The Steelers would win the tie breaker by common opponents if the teams wound up with the same divisional record.

 

Dolphins

Record 7-6     Conference Record 6-3

Remaining Games: vs NE, @BUF, vs NYJ

The Ravens have the tiebreaker vs the Dolphins by virtue of their head-to-head victory over Miami. That could change though if the tie is between more than just 2 teams.

 

Jets

Record 6-7     Conference Record 3-7

Remaining Games: @CAR, vs CLE, @MIA

The Ravens have the tiebreaker vs the Jets by virtue of their head-to-head victory over New York. That could change though if the tie is between more than just 2 teams.

 

Titans

Record 5-8     Conference Record 4-6

Remaining Games: vs AZ, @JAX, vs HOU

At 8-8 Ravens would win tie-breaker by conference record if they win 1 more AFC game. If Ravens lose to CIN & NE but beat DET the tie-breaker becomes strength of victory (common opponents are PIT, HOU, NYJ & DEN both teams would be 3-2).

Right now the Titans 5 victories are over teams with 26 combined wins and they’d have to win their final 3 games accounting for 14 more wins so far for a total of 40 opponents’ wins. The teams that the Titans have beaten and would have to beat have 21 combined games remaining.

The Ravens 7 wins are over teams with a combined 36 wins and 1 tie and would have to win one of their last 3 games over a team with 7, 9 or 10 wins. That plus the 26 games that those opponents have remaining would seem to position the Ravens in control of the tiebreaker over Tennessee at 8-8.

At 7-9 the Ravens would win the tiebreaker by conference record with a Titans loss to Jacksonville or by common opponents with a loss to Houston. If the Titans lost to Arizona instead the tiebreaker would instead go to strength of victory where the Ravens wield a heavy advantage.

*At 7-9 there would also seem to be a likelihood that more than 2 teams would be vying for the spot.

 

Chargers

Record 6-7     Conference Record 3-6

Remaining Games: @DEN, vs OAK, vs KC

At 9-7 the Ravens would win the tiebreaker over San Diego by conference record 7-5 or 8-4 to the Chargers 6-6.

At 8-8 the Ravens would win the tiebreaker over San Diego by conference record 7-5 or 6-6 to the Chargers 5-7.

At 7-9 The Ravens win the tiebreaker over San Diego 6-6 to the Chargers 4-8.

 

3-Way Ties

*Multi-team ties require divisional ties to be broken first. Refer to above for Ravens Steelers tie break scenarios.

 

Ravens, Dolphins & Titans

At 8-8 if Ravens beat DET, lose to CIN & NE tiebreaker goes to MIA by conference record.

If Ravens lose to Detroit beat CIN or NE, TEN eliminated by conference record, then Ravens win head-to-head vs Dolphins.

At 7-9 Tennessee is eliminated on conference record unless their loss is to AZ. If TEN loses to AZ and all teams are 7-9 with 6-6 conference records and strength of victory would decide the tie. Here’s a strength of victory refresher:

-The Titans 5 victories are over teams with 26 combined wins. They’d have to beat Jacksonville and Houston with a combined 6 wins so far.

-The Ravens 7 wins are over teams with a combined 36 wins and 1 tie.

-The Dolphins 7 wins are over opponents with 41 wins so far.

The 3 weeks remaining in the season and the successes and failures of the teams beaten by the Ravens, Dolphins & Titans in those 3 weeks could change a lot, but for now advantage Dolphins.

 

Ravens, Dolphins & Chargers

Chargers eliminated by conference record. If Ravens and Dolphins are tied in conference records then Ravens win head-to-head vs Dolphins, if conference records are not equal winner is determined by conference record.

Ravens, Titans & Chargers

Chargers eliminated by conference record, revert to Ravens Titans tiebreakers above.

Ravens, Jets & Titans

Jets eliminated by conference record, revert to Ravens & Titans tiebreakers above.

Ravens, Jets & Chargers

Ravens win by virtue of conference record.

4-Way Ties

Ravens, Jets, Titans & Chargers

Jets and Chargers eliminated on conference record. Refer to Ravens & Titans tiebreakers for the rest.

Ravens, Dolphins, Titans & Chargers

Chargers eliminated by conference record. Refer to Ravens, Titans & Dolphins 3-way tiebreaker for the rest.

 

 

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Steelers Poised to Take Advantage if the Ravens Trip Up

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Steelers Poised to Take Advantage if the Ravens Trip Up

Posted on 04 December 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Throughout the disappointing parts (which have constituted most) of the Ravens season, there has been one consistent reason to remain hopeful. That reason has virtually nothing to do with the Ravens themselves, or anything that they’ve shown us on the field so far; the best reason for Ravens fans to have remained hopeful throughout an otherwise trying season has been the mediocrity of their competition. Actually, calling the “competition” for the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC mediocre might be giving the field too much credit; the longer the competition wears on, the more evident it becomes that no one seems capable of simply stepping up to claim the post-season berth.

While the Ravens have played better of late, they haven’t exactly played well. Nine field goals and two touchdowns in their two most recent wins has been enough to get the job done, but still far from confidence inspiring. And while the “must win” scenarios that the Ravens have faced and succeeded against, is mildly encouraging, those scenarios, fortunately for the team, have occurred during the “lay-up” portion of the schedule.

Sunday against the Vikings isn’t so much a “must win” as it is a “better win”. The Ravens could probably survive a loss to the Vikings from a mathematical standpoint, but let’s face it…if the Ravens can’t muster a win this week, at home, against a bad team, with their backs all but against the wall, there’d be little reason to believe that they could rise to the challenge that is the 3-game gauntlet of @DET, vs. NE & @CIN to finish out the season.

Moreover, the Vikings should present the Ravens with not only a chance to continue winning, but also with a chance to get their offensive act together, as the Minnesota defense has been one of the league’s worst against both the pass and the run.

Every year, football tends to change with the onset of cold weather, which usually benefits the Ravens and teams like them (i.e. the rest of the AFC North). This year the Ravens haven’t played a brand of ball that’s likely to get better with the dropping temperatures. Unless the Ravens find ways to run the ball effectively, and even more importantly to perform well on the road, the 3-game home stand they’re set to finish on Sunday will have been little more than a late season tease, a hook to keep us interested and hopeful before the Ravens shortcomings ultimately catch up to them.

The Ravens may not have to win out, and if we’re being honest about what we’ve seen so far, they probably won’t (or can’t). Still, the Dolphins resurgence has been improbable at best and nothing about the Titans, Chargers or Jets looks scary at all. That would leave the Steelers.

We wrote them off for dead after an 0-4 start, but the Steelers are still very much alive for the 6th seed, and maybe in better shape than even the Ravens right now. Pittsburgh has home games against Miami, Cincinnati and Cleveland remaining, along with a week 16 trip to Green Bay. They’re only ½ game down to the Ravens in division record (2-2 to the Ravens 3-2), which would be the first tiebreaker in any scenario involving both teams. The worse the record needed to claim that AFC 6th seed winds up being, the greater the chances that a tie would have to be broken. Divisional ties (like one between the Ravens and Steelers) have to be settled before the winners would be compared to teams from other divisions. And if Baltimore and Pittsburgh wind up with equal records both overall and in the division, the Steelers would win the tiebreaker by virtue of common opponents.

*Despite the Ravens superior record in conference, divisional ties go from head-to head match-ups (1-1) to divisional records and then to record vs. common opponents. The Ravens and Steelers each have 2 uncommon opponents; the Ravens lost to Denver and beat Houston, the Steelers lost to Oakland and Tennessee. That’d give the Steelers a better record vs. the 10 common opponents each has faced in the 12 other games.

There’s still hope, I suppose that a “Trip-gate” suspension could await Mike Tomlin, which could have a real impact on the race between the two. More likely though, barring the Ravens simply winning out, it’ll remain a battle between the NFL’s most bitter rivals until the end of the season for the playoff spot that no one seemingly wants to claim.

The Ravens’ work is far from done, and unfortunately the Steelers are far from done too.

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IMG_3086

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Orioles Are Hanging

Posted on 18 July 2013 by Tom Federline

Their record is 53-43, 10 games above .500. Currently, occupying third place in the toughest division in baseball. Three starters and two reserves representing the Baltimore Orioles at the All-Star game. Almost two-thirds the way through the regular season and playoffs are seemingly within reach. Not a fantasy. Not a fluke. Not on our wish list. Baltimore baseball is back. Baltimore baseball is a hot topic. Both locally and nationally. How ’bout ‘dem O’s, hun? I have one word to describe the play so far this season and the performances of O’s stars at the All-Star game – “Respectable” – Rolling Stones!

Come on now, how did it feel having FIVE Orioles at the All-Star game? How did it feel having Chris Davis in the HR Derby Contest? How did it feel when Davis singled Cabrerra around to third? Adam Jones’ double? JJ Hardy knocking Jones in on a fielder choice? The orange shoes? And finally, Man-ny’s web gem at third?Baltimore Oriole uniforms were positioned on the field. Yeah, national baseball fans and media – we have a team. We have a manager. We have a hard core fan base, that’s “runnin’ with the pack”. Uh-oh, there’s another song reference – name the artist?

AL 3 – NL 0. Nice knowing the Orioles will have home field advantage in October. Ok, that’s wishful thinking. But, not to be dismissed as in years passed. Last year was a surprising run. This year, they are expected to be in the race. They have the offense. They have the defense. They have the heart. They have been fairly injury free (minus Chen). Bottom line – pitching is suspect and if they lose Weiters, no October. They have the best offensive threat combo in baseball, whether it’s 1-2 or 2-3. These two set the stage:

The line-up is “respectable”. The fill-ins/replacements may need some tweeking. Our back-up cathcer has the respect of the pitchers and a cool name, Taylor Teagarden. Unfortunately, his bat is even cooler. Reimold, batting .205, is a designated “out”. As opposed to a designated “hitter”. I like the Flaherty/Casilla platoon. Have not bought into the return of Roberts. Please Buck-Buck, lose the Brian Roberts Bromance, put him 8th or 9th where he belongs, until he gets hurt.

Pitching? Can you make it to the Promised Land when your “Closer” already has 7 losses? Did you see the performances Tuesday night from other teams “Closers”? Jimmy JJ Johnson, needs some Orange Kool-aid. Currently, the O’s currently, do not have that “Lights Out Threat.” World Series teams need one. Starters: Chen, Gonzales and Tillman are formidable. Will Hammel hold up? Is Feldman the “surprise”? Good riddance, Strope Me, Strope Me – learn to wear your hat right. Middle relief: the O’s savior at this stage of the season. They could carry the staff. Pitching wins World Series.

Whether the Orioles have the pitching or not. It’s fun! They have a shot! They don’t give up. I enjoy listening on the radio. I have become accustomed to the radio being a little ahead of the TV broadcast. I get fired up when Gary Thorne “In Our Side” is not announcing. It’s summertime in Baltimore – the weather is hot, let’s hope the O’s get hotter!

Sidebar: ESPY Awards last night – Were you lucky enough to catch Robin Roberts’ acceptance speech on receiving the Arthur Ashe Award? A truly inspiring, heart- felt delivery. She referenced Jimmy V’s speech from 20 years ago and masterfully interjected a quote of her own “…..you can face any challenge, when fear knocks, let FAITH answer the door.”

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Orioles Feeling the Burden of Expectations

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Orioles Feeling the Burden of Expectations

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

It was a disappointing weekend in the Bronx for the Orioles to say the least. They dropped 2 of 3 games to a Yankees team that’s about as bad and undermanned as we can ever expect a Yankees team to be. Without Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, or even Jeter’s backup Eduardo Nunez the Orioles came up on the short end of the stick in 2 of 3 games. They lost on Friday night when Adam Jones lost track of a ball that once again ignited the “hot dog” conversation, and proved themselves not quite ready for primetime on Sunday when they failed again to get Wei-Yin Chen any kind of run support.

 

The good news is that it’s still early, and way too soon to overreact. It’s also a reminder that last year, devoid of any real expectations but encouraged nonetheless by a hot start, the O’s came crashing back to Earth at the hands of the Yankees in their first trip of the season to the Bronx.

The bad news is, that last year is over, and likely (in fact hopefully for Orioles fans) will never be duplicated. Because of the absence of any real expectations amongst Orioles fans last year, the whole season was seen through the scope of “I’m just happy to be here”, and “I just can’t believe what this team continues to do”. It would take a heck of a lot more losing, over a heck of a lot more years before Orioles fans will again happily embrace the lovable underdogs mentality that served as a constant calming influence throughout last season’s highs and lows.

While we are just 12 games into the season and while it is still anyone’s guess what these Orioles will do in 2013, our overreactions are natural, and to be expected for lots of reasons. Foremost amongst them is the lack of activity by the team this off-season. From the failure to re-sign Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders, to the farcical “pursuits” of Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher among others, there seemed to be an underlying belief by the Orioles’ faithful that they wouldn’t simply sit on their hands. This team had come too far too fast, and coincidentally the division as a whole seemed to be coming down to meet them. Surely the AL East wouldn’t remain as winnable as it seems right now for very long; and surely the O’s wouldn’t deprive their long-suffering fan base an opportunity to strike while the iron was hot.

That however is exactly what it seems that they’ve done. The depth that the Orioles were counting on to make up for their lack of activity has already taken a major (but not at all surprising) hit due to injuries. The designated hitter position has accounted for less production than most National League teams have gotten from their pitchers’ bats, and all the while the names that most fans spent the off-season discussing, Mark Reynolds, Michael Morse, Justin Upton, Bill Butler etc. are putting up numbers that would surely look useful to a team that seems to be just a hit or two away from winning night after night.

So far the Orioles have played a brand of baseball that we’d have been thrilled with last season. In fact they’ve played almost exactly the same brand of baseball that we were thrilled with last season. But this year, we wanted more. This year we expected more. This year we deserved more. But what we’ve gotten instead is the same old philosophical approach.

The O’s are willing to offer players just enough money to get a headline or two, but not enough to actually sign one. The Orioles are willing to offer just enough via trade to feign interest in a player, but not enough to land one, especially not one who’s making real money already. And the fans are left to fight amongst themselves; to debate whether every single trade proposal would have required Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman as the chips, or whether Mark Reynolds was worth $6 million or Nick Swisher a first-round pick. It’s divide and conquer marketing at its best, and the Orioles have it down to a science. And once again the forces running the Orioles seem determined to win every battle except the ones on the field.

Ahhh…the burden of high expectations.

 

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Minnesota Twins v Baltimore Orioles

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Orioles Are Out of the Gate

Posted on 09 April 2013 by Tom Federline

Or are they out, AT the gate? Nah, just a little bumpy beginning. Adam Jones had a t-shirt made for all his teammates…..”to be continued”. Cool shirt, they need to market that. Can last season be continued? How about if we settle for somewhere around……….just try and keep up the winning atmosphere and add a few new surprises. Last year, was simply that…..last year. A story of the unexpected, renewed baseball in Baltimore and the underdog making good. Well, the Orioles aren’t going to be underdogs this year and they certainly will not be sneaking up on anybody. It’s time to show up, the ground work has been laid, it’s time to build up.

Rough first week, cool, but rough. The “Boys are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy. Joe Angel and Fred Manfra are on the radio, people are wearing orange, it is 80 degrees, there is a spring in our step annnnnd the Orioles are 3 – 4. Augh, welcome to 162 game season. Losing the last 2 at home, then losing at Boston has not helped. I guess it was asking a little to much, for the Orioles to spoil ”the arrogant ones”, home opener on Monday, but it sure was wishful thinking. It was nice to hear Oriole cheers in Fenway. Come on Birds, come on Buck-Buck, settle down and just play baseball.

First week positives: 1. It’s baseball season. 2. It’s finally Spring. 3. Opening Day at Camden Yards.  4. Earl Weaver dedication of “First Pitch.” 5. Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Weiters, JJ Hardy, Manny Macahado (Man-ny, Man-ny, Man-ny! Get used to that one, gang). 6. Pitching potential. 7. Had opportunities with runners-in-scoring position.  8. First Orioles moment for 2013 DVD – Chris Davis’ Grand Slam and the 130 decibel eruption at Camden Yards!

First week negatives: 1. Gary Thorne ”In our side” voice. 2. “The Shift” – it cost the Birds versus the Twins in the second game. 3. Is it baseball or is it slow pitch softball? 4. Buck-Buck over-managing. 5. Not taking advantage with runners-in-scoring position. 6. Brian Roberts, Nolan Reimold out ……again.7. Pitching melt downs (it’s early) 8. 3 wins – 4 loses, reality check.

Injuries – thought Roberts was going to make it through April and was hoping until All-Star break – didn’t happen. Just make him like their 20th coach in the dugout. The number of coaches allowed in baseball is almost getting as ridiculous as it is in football. Nolan Reimold, see you later or start taking steroids again. Your body is and will remain broken down. I am a fan of both, but it looks like the PED’s have taken their toll. There is one injury that cannot happen………..and you all know who it is. Steve Pearce, whoops - no, it would be that guy behind the plate, Weiters. No Weiters = No playoffs.

155 games remaining. The Birds have a chance. I say that every year. But really, for the first time in many a year, the light at the end of the tunnel is a little brighter. Heck , for the first time in many a year, there actually appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Ok Adam Jones, I have the orange Kool-aid out, I have the radio playing with the TV muted, I am ready for the ”To be continued….” saga. The nucleus is tight. They had a taste of winning. There is motivation. There is talent down on the farm. Buckle yourself in – it’s gonna be a wild ride. Let’s GO O’s, Let’s GO O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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XXXV vs XVLII

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XXXV vs XVLII

Posted on 14 March 2013 by Dwayne Showalter

I still haven’t been able to stop replaying the events of February 3rd on my DVR.  I’m still flipping through the newspapers and magazines that flew off shelves in the subsequent days.  When my team, the Baltimore Ravens, wins the Super Bowl I’m going to live with it for a while and savor it…certainly for more than a month.

Hell, I milked Super Bowl XXXV for twelve years.  I still have tremendous memories of the 2000 championship.  That’s the beauty of winning a championship in sports.  It’s something no one can take away.  You hear the players say that a lot.  It’s the same for us fans.  So with the two titles in mind (one fresh and one fairly distant) let’s compare some facets of the two.

Game Site:  XXXV Tampa, XLVII New Orleans.  I can’t really compare the two cities per se because I have been to neither.  I hear good things about both.  As for the venues, I’ve never been one much for domes or artificial turf.  Give me grass stains and a slight breeze any day.  Working lights are preferable too.  Advantage:  XXXV (1-0)

Regular Season:  XXXV 12-4 Wild Card winner in the AFC Central, XLVII 10-6 AFC North Division Champs.  In 2000, the Ravens darted to a 5-1 record before losing three straight and never lost again.  They went 5 games without a TD in October as well.  But they had one of the most dominating defenses of all time.  This season, Baltimore shot out to a 9-2 record against a tough schedule before again losing three straight games.  After beating the Giants in week 16 and clinching the division, they lost a meaningless game in Cincinnati.  It was somewhat of an anti-climactic end to a season that started on all cylinders.  Advantage: XXXV (2-0)

Uniforms:  XXXV all white, XVLII white jersey blank pants.  I have always liked the classic all-white look for an NFL team.  And some grass stains never hurt.  The last few years though, the white top, black pants combo has grown on me.  If there is one team in the NFL that should wear a lot of black it’s the Ravens.  Plus the old white socks with purple and black stripes killed the look in 2000.  Advantage: XLVII (1-2)

Playoff run:  XXXV Denver, at Tennessee, at Oakland.  XVLII Indianapolis, at Denver, at New England.  In 2000, the playoffs came to Baltimore for the first time since 1977.  It was a huge deal and solid performance in beating Denver.  Winning in Tennessee was a blood bath between the NFLs two best teams.  Oakland was almost an afterthought.   This year’s games included Ray’s Last Dance, the Mile High Miracle and the exorcism of the demons (i.e. a certain WR and kicker) in New England.  Advantage:  XLVII (2-2)

Radio announcers:  XXXV  Scott Garceau and Tom Matte.  XLVII  Gerry Sandusky, Stan White and Qadry Ismael.  Garceau was smooth and clean in my book.  He rarely made mistakes and had a great grasp of the game’s intricacies.  Matte was the stereotypical homer but he added the right amount of insight if a bit bumbling at times.  Sandusky has certainly made his mark with “Touchdowwwwwwn Ravens” and “The hay is in the barn!”  but I think the trio can miss things that, to me, seem obvious.  Plus, I don’t see where the two man analyst combo works that well on the radio.  Advantage:  XXXV (3-2)

TV Crew.  XXXV CBS Gumble and Simms, XLVII CBS Nantz and Simms.  I think both play-by-play guys did admirable jobs.  Simms is solid but pulls out the “Golly Card” or the “Shucks Card” a bit too much.  I have major beef with the Gumble/Simms pairing though.  When Jamal Lewis scored a TD late in XXXV, the play was reviewed at the request of the Giants.  If you remember, he fumbled the ball forward as he crossed the plain.  It was debatable whether he got in or not.  Not debatable was the fact that Qadry Ismael scooped up the ball in the end zone.  It was going to be a TD either way.  No one ever mentioned that.  To this day, I haven’t heard anyone address that.  But that oversight could be offset by Simms’ constant gushing over Colin Kaepernick this year.  Advantage:  Push

Halftime Show:  XXXV Britney Spears and guests, XLVII Beyonce and guests.  I must admit, I don’t really watch the halftime show but Britney in her heyday was no slouch.  But they had to junk her up with Aerosmith and NSync for some reason.  At least they let Beyonce have the stage mostly to herself.  Advantage: XVLII (3-3-1)

Pregame intros:  XXXV The Squirrel, XVLVII team unity.  Ray Lewis busted out “the squirrel dance” for the whole world in 2000.  This year, the Ravens came out together as one (as did the Niners) in what I would call a little cliché and a downright buzz kill.  The intros to me were always kind of cool.  Advantage: XXXV (4-3-1)

The game itself:  XXXV Baltimore 34, NYGiants 7.  XVLII Baltimore 34, San Fran 31.  From a nerves standpoint, XXXV was a relative breeze.  Up 10-0 at half, a 17-0 lead was cut into late in the 3rd only when the Giants scored on the kickoff after which, Jermaine Lewis returned the favor and restored order.  The rest of the game was a celebration.  This season’s game was certainly enjoyed more by the rest of the country.  Watching teams hang onto big early leads isn’t my strong suit though.  We could debate the better long TD pass (Stokely or Jones) or kickoff return (Lewis or Jones).  The better offensive performance came this year.  The better defensive show was in 2000.  The end results were equally fantastic however.  Advantage: Push

Emotional Attachment:  I don’t think there is much doubt that the city is more emotionally attached to the Ravens now than in 2000.  The first championship team still had guys that were signed by the Cleveland Browns and were only five years removed from that ugly divorce.  It’s faded from memories now.  The 2012 bunch had two certain hall of fame players that had been in Baltimore their whole careers.  The Super Bowl XLVII Champs had been so close before, twice losing the AFC Title game.  Though there is always something special about your first time, there is a lot to be said for that long, invested relationship.  Advantage: XLVII. (4-4-2)

So in my scientific break down, it’s a push!  As it should be.  Or maybe the better Super Bowl Champ hat here and here should break the tie?  That’s a tough one for me to call too.   I guess we can wait a few months and use Better Looking Ring !  That’s a lot more fun than already worrying about who will or won’t be here in September.

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Flacco hoisting trophy

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RAVENS ROLLER COASTER RIDE

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Tom Federline

It has been a week. What just happened Baltimore? I’ll tell you what happened, the Baltimore Ravens losers of their last 4 out of 5 regular season games put on an inspirational run to win the NFL Lombardi Trophy. Is it time to get off the ride? Heck no, the city and surrounding area actually has claim to another National championship in a major sport. It has been 12 years and you don’t know when it will happen again – no you don’t get off the ride. Now, does the roller coaster level out? I sure hope so. That was one heckuva January run. I am not a fan of the roller coaster, not at this stage of the game. I’m to old, my heart can’t take it. Now, back in the day…………….different story, maybe that’s why my heart and blood pressure tells me,” cool out middle aged guy – just sit back and let the chips fall where they may.” Yeah right – not happenin’.

The Baltimore football Ravens took their fans on a ride of a lifetime. All the while catching the eye of sports fans around the country. Underdogs over-achieving, was story line enough. Then add on the Ray Lewis’ retirement. Then add on Ray-Rays religious dramatizations (and the Saturday Night Live skit http://www.myspace.com/video/saturday-night-live/weekend-update-ray-lewis/109174459 ). You go Keenan Thompson. Then to top it off, add on the sibling rivalry of the Harbaugh Brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. “O” and don’t forget the Denver Classic and the dis-mantling of pretty boy Brady and his troll coach Bill Belichek.

The run, I mean the ride. I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket to the Colt game. The Ravens were not going to lose that game. Ray-Ray had announced his retirement during the week and it was going to be his last home game – the Ravens were not losing that game. Las Vegas money, Steve Bisciotti’s money and the NFL’s money was not going to end Ray-Rays run on that game. It was not going to be his last dance. It was an ugly game but they won. Denver game – wow, then wow, then wow again. Definitely one of the top 3 Ravens games of all time. New England game – sweet payback and no retirement party for Ray. San Francisco in New Orleans – hold the phone.

The ride had a couple more heart stoppers left in it. Heck at one point, it even felt like somebody had turned off the lights and play had to be stopped. Ravens up 28 – 6, the tide was a crestin’, 3rd and 14 for the bad guys and ”Boom, Boom, Out Go the Lights – Pat Travers Band. Ok gang, I actually have a little experience with this one – Rule #1, Electrical Engineering for Stadiums 101 – “You don’t lose power to the venue – unless there is a major city grid outage.” Two separate hot feeds to the venue with transfer and generator back-up for life safety. I do not know the history or infrastructure of the Super(?)dome, but somebody screwed up big time. Or a 49er’s fan, got access to the Substation or the Service Level and knew what switch to hit.

It almost changed the outcome of the game. I think the astronauts in the space station orbiting the earth could feel the tension emanating into the atmosphere directly above the east coast mid-atlantic region. It was not a pleasant evening there for about 1-1/2 hours there during the 3rd and 4th quarters, now was it. Still on the roller coaster, still hanging on, still hoping for a safe, happy ending. The power outage changed the momentum of the game. I don’t care what Roger Goodell said, I don’t care what Steve Bisciotti said, I don’t care what the Superdome Facility guys said, the power outage changed the game, but not the outcome. The Superdome and city of New Orleans should not host another Super Bowl until a new properly designed facility is in it’s place. The power outage was a nice final hairpin turn on the ride – it did not help the blood pressure.

Ravens Won.

Ravens Won.

A new generation now knows what it feels like for a local sports franchise to win a National Championship. The city needed it. The State of Maryland and surrounding area needed it. The Baltimore Ravens needed it and Ray Lewis deserved it. You Go Ravens!

Pitchers and cathers reported to Spring Training. Are we ready for another ride? Your darn right we are. GO O’s and Thank You - Ravens. Baltimore Sports Pride is front and center.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Winning Isn’t Everything or the Only Thing

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Winning Isn’t Everything or the Only Thing

Posted on 24 January 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

When you hear the now famous quote “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”, you probably think of Vince Lombardi and you probably think of football.

While it seems the quote is most widely attributed to Lombardi, various sources suggest that it was UCLA football coach Red Sanders who first uttered the phrase in 1950, 9 years before Lombardi made it famous. So if you thought of it as a football saying you were right. If you thought of it though as a “Lombardi-ism” you were wrong.

 

Interestingly enough 50+ years of football history seem to suggest that when Sanders said it to his UCLA football team, given the razor thin margin for error afforded in college football, he was right; but when Lombardi spoke those same words to his 1959 Packers he was basically wrong.

 

As the Ravens prepare for the Super Bowl in New Orleans, an opportunity so rare and special that it currently makes the Ravens and 49ers and their respective fan bases the envy of the pro football world, there are many Ravens fans likely wondering how this magical (so far) season managed to unfold around them and how they took so little time to appreciate and enjoy it as it did.

 

There are literally decades worth of evidence to suggest that being the best regular season team has little or nothing to do with Super Bowl success, yet somehow football fans allow themselves, each and every year, to forget all of that history and instead hold their teams to some unrealistic ideal suggesting that championship teams are supposed to look like champions at every turn of the schedule.

 

When it comes to NFL football, winning isn’t everything, the only thing or at times even the most important thing to establishing a championship foundation.

 

Obviously teams have to win enough regular season games to earn a spot in the post season, and the more wins they can manage the more favorable they can make their post season circumstances by earning byes and/or home field advantages. Still, when the playoffs come around, and push comes to shove, home games and even bye weeks take a back seat to the experiences that teams have collected along their 16 game journey.

 

The 16 game season is about a lot of things, and there’s no true “magical” formula for playoff success, but history has proven that collecting experiences is at least as important as collecting wins; building confidence in the face of adversity is perhaps more important than building a resume that might help you avoid it. The Ravens stand as living proof of that, as do the Giants before them and Packers before them.

 

Throughout the season few teams consistently handled their business as well as the Falcons and Texans. Along the way to piling up those wins, they seemingly failed to realize that teams could handle them at their best. Now they prepare to watch as neither is in play for the championship game. The Denver Broncos piled up 11 consecutive wins to finish out the season but along the way seemingly forgot how to respond when faced with the potential of losing.

 

When you get to the playoffs, adversity is the expectation, the ability to steal wins away when the chips are down is the requirement; and it seems that the teams best prepared to deal with those circumstances are the ones who lived with them and thrived under them regularly during the regular season. The Ravens have been one of those teams.

 

We could see it as a lesson learned, but it’s one that most will forget again when next October rolls around and the national media is touting the dominance of the current powerhouse of the season’s first 6 or 8 games. And it’s likely a lesson we’ll have to learn and forget all over again the following season, and the one after that and the one after that.

 

When it comes to NFL football, winning is neither everything nor the only thing, it’s just a thing. It’s just one of many experiences that teams will have to amass and learn from if they hope to be successful in the post season. And losing by default isn’t always so bad either as long as it doesn’t happen too often. It’s easier to learn from failures than from successes and as we’re seeing again this year, those lessons can have real benefits when the playoffs come around, and when winning really does become the only thing.

 

 

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