Tag Archive | "Tennessee Titans"

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NFL DBs McCourty Twins can’t wait to face the Ravens in the playoffs

Posted on 28 January 2014 by WNST Audio

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Chris Pika takes a look inside the game notes for tonight's Thanksgiving feast in Baltimore.

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A look inside Thanksgiving feast of Ravens-49ers

Posted on 24 November 2011 by Chris Pika

One of the more-hyped games of the 2011 schedule once it came out in April is tonight’s Thanksgiving game in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium when the broithers Harbaugh meet as the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens (8 pm ET; NFL Network).

The 9-1 49ers have a stranglehold on the NFC West and can clinch the division with a victory and either a loss or tie by Seattle on Sunday or a tie and a Seattle loss.

The 7-3 Ravens lead the AFC North, and are tied for the AFC’s best record.

The combined 16-4 record (.800) of the two teams is tied for fourth-best between Thanksgiving Day combatants since 1970.

It will be Baltimore’s John vs. San Francisco’s Jim, and Jim, and according to NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who will help call the game with Brad Nessler, this matchup is one to watch:

When you combine the surprising success of San Francisco, along with Baltimore being pretty much where you expect them to be, we’ve got one of the best games of the season on Thursday night.

In a national teleconference to promote the game earlier this week, Jim mentioned how brotherly love goes out the window once competition is involved:

Leading up to this, John has talked freely and openly about football with me. Now, it’s more talking in code. I’m being serious. I can see there are limitations to what he’s telling me. I thought love had no boundaries, but now I see that it does.

— Jim Harbaugh, on football communication with John since the 2011 NFL schedule was announced

For John’s part, it is a continuation of competition that has gone on since they were kids:

We were in the same room for 16 years, and we had to draw a tape line. If you stepped across, there was a fight. The last time we fought, I was 27. He was the quarterback for the Bears. He got up to 6-4, 230 pounds. I was 195, something like that. He takes us on vacation to Florida, we’re on the beach, and we get into this wrestling match. It’s getting a little aggressive and works its way over to the water. He gets a shot in; I get a shot in. I’m starting to think maybe I can hang with the big little brother. Next, he grabs me in a headlock, picks me up, and slams me into three feet of water. My head is on the sand underneath the water. Of course, he’s not going to drown me, but I’m thinking maybe he’s snapped. My dad’s trying to pull him off, but he’s too strong. I’m going to drown. Before I died, he pulled me up. He didn’t do mouth-to-mouth; that would have been against the rules. I then realized I’m never going to fight my brother again. He’s too big.

— John Harbaugh on his brother

The first-ever coaching matchup between two brothers in NFL history is a testament to their father, Jack, himself a former college head coach:

Their father gave them a gift; by making them and teaching them how to compete. If we can instill competition in our kids, that’s all we want. We want them to go out in the world and compete.

— NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk on the relationship between Jack Harbaugh and his sons, Jim and John

Baltimore is coming off a 31-24 victory over AFC North rival Cincinnati at home last Sunday:

NOTE OF THE WEEK: SMITH SOARS

  • Ravens rookie WR Torrey Smith leads the NFL with a 20.3 yardsper-catch average (29 receptions for 590 yards).
  • Impressively, 4 of Smith’s 5 TD receptions have covered at least 25 yards (74, 41, 38, 26 and 18 yards), and he’s averaging a sensational 39.4 yards per TD catch.
  • Smith now owns the Ravens’ single-season (590) and single-game (165 vs. Cin. last week) records for receiving yards by a rookie.
  • Never before has a Ravens’ wideout posted dual 150-yard receiving games in a season (165 vs. Cin. and 152 at STL).
  • Smith also owns the top two receiving yards performances by a rookie in the NFL this season.
  • Smith’s 590 receiving yards this season rank second in the NFL among all rookies (635, Cincy’sA.J. Green).
  • Last week, Smith joined Ken Burrow (2 in 1971) and Randy Moss (3 in 1998) as the only rookies in NFL history to have multiple games with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.

WEEK 12 QUICK HITS:

  • The Ravens have won 15 of their last 16 games at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is 24-5 at home under head coach John Harbaugh, tied (New England) for the NFL’s most home wins since 2008 (as of games played by 11/20).
  • The Ravens aim for their eighth consecutive win at home and sixth this season (5-0 in 2011).
  • Baltimore’s seven-game winning streak at home currently ranks as the NFL’s second longest (Green Bay is first at 10 games).
  • Baltimore aims to reach 8-3 for just the second time in team history (2010 season).

STOUT VS. NFC: Dating back to the 2008 campaign, when head coach John Harbaugh took over in Baltimore, the Ravens have posted a 10-5 record (.667) vs. the NFC, good for the fourth-best mark among AFC teams against the “other conference” during that span.

AFC’s BEST RECORDS VS. THE NFC
(since 2008)
1t. New England Patriots 12-2 .857
1t. Tennessee Titans 12-2 .857
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 10-4 .714
4. Baltimore Ravens 10-5 .667

San Francisco is working on an eight-game win streak, and beat NFC West rival Arizona 23-7 last Sunday at home:

WINNING WAYS: With the win last week vs. Arz. (11/20), head coach Jim Harbaugh became just the 3rd rookie head coach in franchise history to start his career with a 9-1 record.

  • The 49ers have won eight consecutive games, making Coach Harbaugh’s eight-game winning streak the fourth longest by a rookie head coach since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Jim Caldwell’s Colts won 14 in a row in 2009. Steve Mariucci’s 49ers won 11 in a row in 1997. Ted Marchibroda’s Colts won nine in a row in 1975. Bobby Ross’Chargers won seven straight in 1992.
  • With a 9-1 record to start 2011, the 49ers are tied for the 4th-best start since the team joined the NFL in 1950, behind 1984 (15-1); 1990 (13-1); 1997 (11-1); 1989 (9-1).
  • Harbaugh became the first rookie head coach in franchise history to inherit a team with a losing record and lead them to a 9-1 start in his first season.

GOLDEN NUGGETS:
A HOT START

  • With a 9-1 record to start 2011, the 49ers are tied for the 4th-best start since the team joined the NFL in 1950, behind 1984 (15-1); 1990 (13-1); 1997 (11-1); 1989 (9-1).

ROAD WARRIORS

  • With a 4-0 record on the road, the Niners join the Green Bay Packers as the only two teams in the NFL to remain undefeated away from home.

THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE

  • The 49ers have outscored their opponents 256-145. The +111 scoring differential ranks 2nd in the NFL.

A SHORT FIELD

  • The 49ers have started 25 drives in their opponents territory, ranking 1st in the NFL, and have scored 81 points on those drives, ranking 3rd in the NFL.

YOU WANNA START SOMETHING?

  • The 49ers average starting field position is at their own 33.1-yard line, ranking 1st in the NFL.

LONG WAY TO GO

  • The 49ers rank 1st in the NFL with an opponents average starting field position of the 24.3.

BRINGING IT BACK

  • The 49ers rank t-1st in the NFL with 7 PRs of 20+ yds, while ranking 2nd in the NFL with a KOR avg. of 28.0 yds.

POINTS HARD TO COME BY

  • The 49ers have allowed just 145 points on the season, ranking 1st in the NFL for the fewest points allowed.

SHORT AND TOUGH

  • The 49ers have allowed just 16 first downs on 3rd and less than 4 yds. (15 of 33 – 48.5 pct.), ranking 2nd in the NFL.

EFFICIENCY ON D

  • The 49ers defense has allowed opponents to score on just 24.0 pct. of their possessions, ranking 1st in the NFL.

STICKY FINGERS

  • The 49ers have only committed 9 turnovers on the year, ranking t-1st in the NFL for fewest turnovers (Houston – 9).

PRODUCTIVE ON FIRST

  • The 49ers offense has gained 4+ yds. on 52.2 pct. (142 of 272) of their first down plays, ranking 4th in the NFL.

THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Four, 4th quarter come-from-behind-win epitomizes the never quit attitude the 49ers embody this season. One player in particular can parallel his career to the theme, QBAlex Smith. Smith is now tied with NYG QB Eli Manning for the most comeback wins by an NFL QB this season.

Smith became just the second quarterback in franchise history to record 3, 4th qtr. comebacks on the road (QB Joe Montanta – 4 in 1989 and 3 in 1990).

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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Blog & Tackle: A look at Ravens-Steelers PR game notes

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Chris Pika

Every game of the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend is a regular-season rematch as both of the AFC games are between division opponents — the first time since 2000 that two games feature teams playing for a third time in a season.

The nastiest matchup of the weekend is the first on the docket: Baltimore at Pittsburgh. The teams have waged wars in the AFC North over the years, and 2010 was no exception. Each team scored 27 points total in the two games, and the games are as physical as any in the NFL over the previous decade.

The Ravens continued to have playoff success on the road as they beat Kansas City last Sunday 30-7 in New Arrowhead. It was the third straight season with at least one playoff victory for Baltimore, the only club in the NFL to do so over the period. QB Joe Flacco joined Bernie Kosar (1985-87) and Dan Marino (1983-85) to start a playoff game in each of their first three seasons in the league. The Ravens will try to advance to the AFC title game for the first time since the 2008 season.

Pittsburgh survived the loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger to a four-game suspension to get to a 3-1 start which included a home loss to the Ravens. The Steelers won six of their last seven games, including a road win at Baltimore for the division title. Roethlisberger Has thrown a personal-best 158 straight passes without an INT, the longest for the Steelers since QB Kordell Stewart had a streak of 159 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 2001.

The teams split the regular season meetings, with the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh 17-14 in October, and the Steelers winning in Baltimore 13-10 in December.

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ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As we make our way into mid-December and the final weeks of the year, excitement starts to build with many people, young and old. From the anticipation (or stresses) of the holidays, to the culmination of another NFL season, many of us look forward to this part of our annual calendar.

In my own way, I look forward to this time of year, because I’m a “list” kinda guy …..

Be it BEST OF, WORST OF, MOST INTRIGUING, MOST OVERRATED, MOST POPULAR, MOST HATED and just about any related combination, I like compiling lists of my personal rankings regarding people and events of any given year.

Of course, my lists revolve around sports, in one context or another. From the famous to the infamous, and the champions to the chokers, I’ll give you the spin on how 2010 shakes out in my conflicted mind.

Today, we’ll begin with the “TEN MOST CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS PERSONALITIES OF THE YEAR” …..
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10) Lane Kiffin – The ultimate coaching mercenary, huh? Many of us were snookered into believing Kiffin was the sympathetic figure depicted in his dysfunctional ride with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Little did we know his loyalties would tend to run as deep, or shallow, as his former boss …..

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this year, Lane Kiffin deserted the University of Tennessee – the institution that gave him a second chance – on a whim to return to his coaching roots, at the University of Southern California. Kiffin garnered a lot of rightful criticism for switching jobs, midstream, while so many people, in Tennessee, depended on him.
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9) Cam Newton – Well, we all know this name, huh? Yet, a year ago at this time, only the hardcore college football fans really knew anything about Newton. Only in America …. can a sports personality rise from anonymity to celebrity, in the span of a few months.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I suppose we should really be recognizing Cam’s father, Cecil, for being the “straw that stirred this combustible cocktail.” He obviously lobbied for money in exchange for his son’s services, and regardless of what the NCAA might be saying, most of us don’t really believe young Cam is blameless.

Hmmm …. how long will it take for him to surrender that trophy?

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

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

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

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

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

AFC East

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

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

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

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

AFC North

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

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

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

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

AFC South

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

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

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

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

AFC West

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

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

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

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

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

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

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

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

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

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

NFC North

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

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

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

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

NFC South

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

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

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

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

NFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Chris Pika

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

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

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

AFC East

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

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

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

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

AFC North

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

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

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

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

AFC South

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

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

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

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

AFC West

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

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

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

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

Now for the NFC:

NFC East

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

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

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

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

NFC North

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

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

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

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

NFC South

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

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

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

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

NFC West

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

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

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

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

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

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Live from Westminster: Carr, Gooden sit out afternoon practice

Posted on 08 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens were back on the practice field in Westminster with the “over-30” club sitting out the Sunday afternoon session. The remaining players practiced in shells and shorts with many players dealing with “soreness” after two weeks of camp workouts, according to coach John Harbaugh.

Cornerback Chris Carr did not practice after leaving the field with a hamstring injury Saturday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. He left the field before practice was over to dodge reporters’ questions, but Harbaugh does not consider the injury to be serious.

“It looks like [a short-term injury],” Harbaugh said. “[Carr] was out doing some things today, so he should be fine.”

Linebacker Tavares Gooden was a new absence from practice on Saturday afternoon despite downplaying the significance of him not practicing. The third-year linebacker would not comment on any injury, simply saying he was “good, just running around; that’s all.”

Gooden’s absence was labeled “precautionary” by Harbaugh, and he expects the linebacker to return to the practice field on Monday.

In addition to the veterans over 30—including Derrick Mason who bruised his knee during Saturday’s workout—Jared Gaither (back spasms), David Hale (undisclosed), Tony Moll (concussion), Stefan Rodgers (ankle), Marcus Paschal (leg), and K.J. Gerard (hamstring) joined Carr and Gooden as the others missing practice. Prince Miller was absent from practice to witness the birth of his daughter, according to his Twitter account (@Sheeeesh_Miller).

The afternoon practice focused on passing drills with safety Dawan Landry continuing to lead a patchwork secondary. The fifth-year player picked off Joe Flacco to continue a strong camp in which he’s delivered vicious hits and provided tight coverage in the defensive backfield. With Ed Reed continuing to work his way back from hip surgery and several cornerbacks hampered by injuries, Landry is being leaned on to provide leadership in the secondary.

He and Tom Zbikowski have excelled throughout training camp, helping to ease concerns at the safety position.

“[Landry] is the guy that’s probably been there the longest, maybe the most experienced guy back there now,” Harbaugh said. “I really feel good about our safeties. Our safeties, as a group, have done really well. The corners that have played have done well. I think the safeties have anchored us so far in camp.”

With so many corners missing time during training camp, it’s allowed Cary Williams to receive reps with the first-team defense, a golden opportunity if not for his off-field issues. The third-year player is suspended for the first two games of the season after violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy during his time with the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens signed Williams from the Titans’ practice squad last November.

The suspension was announced the week before training camp began.

“He’s got to pay a consequence for a mistake that he made,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the way it is in the world, and he understands that. It’s going to be damaging to us and to him, but he’s got to move on from it. I think he’s matured quite a bit, even the time he’s been here with us, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh following Sunday afternoon’s practice at McDaniel College.

The Ravens will be back on the field for a Monday morning workout at 8:45 a.m. and another full-squad practice at 2:45 p.m. Don’t forget to tune to AM 1570 or streaming online at WNST.net for training camp updates from Westminster every hour on the :30s!

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Roethlisberger Is At A Crossroads .....

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Roethlisberger Is At A Crossroads …..

Posted on 09 March 2010 by Rex Snider

When I hear of misfortunes for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I usually beam with a sheepish sense of elation. In fact, imagine ME with a “cat that ate the canary” look, and you’ll have a pretty accurate description of my expression whenever the Black & Gold suffers a black eye.

BAD NEWS for Pittsburgh = GOOD NEWS for Baltimore, right?

That’s quite often the way things unfold. And, as someone who enjoys seeing the Steelers draft poorly (insert Limas Sweed here) and play poorly (insert Limas Sweed here), I’m always wishing them bad luck.

But, I don’t take my football interests or sports fandom too seriously. In the grand scheme of daily life, and the lives of others, I never hope true misfortune arrives at the doorstep of ANYONE – including professional athletes.

Whether you’re a member of the Baltimore Orioles, Tennessee Titans, New York Yankees, Miami Dolphins, Milwaukee Brewers or Pittsburgh Steelers, I absolutely hope for nothing less than a healthy and blessed life. The lifelong journey of any human being does not revolve around a celebrity status or exceptional athletic ability. In the end, we’re all mere mortals.

So, when I say that I’m disappointed to hear the latest sexual abuse allegations against Ben Roethlisberger, I really mean it.
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I feel for everyone involved – and I really hope this latest reported incident is nothing more than a big misunderstanding. However, with Ed Garland’s entrance as Roethlisberger’s counsel, I’m pretty sure this will not be resolved, one way or another, as a “misunderstanding.”

I wish my law enforcement experience would shed some light on what I think happened. However, if my experience has taught me anything, it’s that I have no clue about the true circumstances or what really happened. Thus, speculating would be pretty irresponsible.

At the same time, it’s becoming very obvious ….. Big Ben has Big Issues.

If this latest incident is resolved without criminal or civil penalties levied at Roethlisberger, I think it’s fair to say he’s still not out of the woods, so to speak. While the criminal justice system certainly poses the biggest threat to derailing a likely Hall Of Fame career, the Steelers quarterback undoubtedly faces the wrath of others who can affect his future, as well.
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I won’t speculate on the incident, itself, but I’m assuming that Dan Rooney’s private reaction is not one of happiness, nor indifference. Even if he believes in his star quarterback’s professed innocence, he’s sure to be running low on patience for Roethlisberger’s poor personal decisions.

Ben Roethlisberger stands as Dan Rooney’s greatest current investment in a storied football legacy. Ironically, he also surfaces as the greatest threat to Rooney’s otherwise solid tradition of good sportsmanship and community representation.

From a Baltimore football fan’s perspective, I hate the Steelers. But, in truth, they’re the STANDARD OF CONSISTENCY in the National Football League.

Speaking of the NFL, I’m assuming Roger Goodell was not very happy as the details of Roethlisberger’s alleged criminal conduct started seeping from Milledgeville, Georgia, last Friday morning. Although, local authorities are keeping most sordid details confidential, I’m sure the Commish’ can put the figurative pieces together.

Mr. Goodell, as steward of the NFL, is more than likely primarily interested in the ramifications another embarrassing situation has on the product he’s paid to protect. Guilt or innocence really has no direct bearing on him or the league. And, from the point of Roethlisberger’s civil culpability, neither does the determination of liability.

The genie is out of the bottle – the incident is already embarrassing. While I’m certain Mr. Goodell would like to see the situation extinguished without criminal or civil sanctions, I’ll assume he’s already engaged in some form of damage control.

That’s right, while the NFL might be KING ALMIGHTY of the American sports landscape, they too, must answer to others …..
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All of us know how Corporate America works, right? Just imagine the expectations of return, when a sponsor is paying MILLIONS for positive exposure. So, I suppose when the CEO of Pepsico’s Gatorade calls and asks for assurances, Mr. Goodell starts making promises for others, right?

That’s a dangerous road to travel. But, we know what Gatorade does when they start suspecting their image is at risk. Just ask Tiger Woods.

I wonder what Mr. Goodell will tell the ultra-image conscious Susan G. Komen folks …..
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I’m sure Roger Goodell and Dan Rooney will have alot to say, privately, to an assortment of different people. However, their strongest words will most likely be reserved for a very sobering conversation with Ben Roethlisberger.

Assuming this latest incident is minimized or resolved rather quickly, I can envision Roethlisberger obliging an audience with both gentlemen, separately, very soon. Yet, I can further envision both conversations (or sermons ….) being very similar in overall impact.

Of course, Rooney merits more fiduciary leverage, because he directly controls Roethlisberger’s income and present day situation. He controls all things Black & Gold – yet, he’s probably been seeing RED for the past few days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the liberal-minded Steelers owner recognizes his quarterback’s gritty performances and contributions on the field …..
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It’s hard to find fault with the Ben Roethlisberger who’s strapped up and led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl Championships in just 6 NFL seasons. The Steelers are an amazing 65-31 since the day they selected the Miami University standout, with the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

And, he’s been the primary poison in the concoction that has caused much anguish for the Ravens during the last half-decade.

Ben Roethlisberger has proven his worth as a certified freakin’ winner, while employing the most unconventional and non-prolific style as a passer. He’s the master of broken plays, as well as broken hearts and hopes for opposing fans.

He’s been worth every penny.

However, I’m 100% convinced that Dan Rooney knows the “other” Ben Roethlisberger, as well. Heck, at this point, who doesn’t?

Unless he doesn’t have internet access, Rooney is undoubtedly familiar with one of the most publicized drunken athlete exposures, EVER …..
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Trust me, there are more photos where that came from – just google “Roethlisberger Drunk” OR “Roethlisberger Girls” OR “Roethlisberger Bar.” You get the picture, right?

To date, Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t really shied from bawdy behavior. Whether he’s mocking Evel Knievel on his motorcycle, playing golf with John Daly or making guest appearances in the rasslin’ ring, the grungy quarterback has marched to the beat of his own drum. He does what he wants …..

And, peppered within all of his off-field interests, Roethlisberger has submerged himself in the pleasures of bachelorhood and celebrity. A vast collection of online photos depicting him in watering holes and/or with girls could easily fill the pages of a Playboy special edition.

While most ego-driven football fans thought Roethlisberger’s “party animal persona” was cool, Dan Rooney probably reasoned it was a behavior his quarterback would outgrow. After all, he’s young, rich and MALE. And, he hasn’t been accused of breaking any laws.

That’s now changed.

However, in true fairness, Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been criminally charged in connection with either of the complaints regarding his alleged sexual offenses. That said, Ed Garland hasn’t been retained to play peacemaker. In fact, as I think those who share a criminal law background would agree, an indictment on criminal charges now appears more likely.

Don’t be misled ….. it’s not uncommon to see authorities assume a delayed, methodical approach when it comes to the prospect of levying criminal charges in a high profile incident. In fact, the decision to render criminal charges in this situation will most likely reside with the Baldwin County Prosecutor’s Office.

Getting back to the career of Ben Roethlisberger …..

He’s not necessarily a KID anymore – he’s approaching his 30th birthday. And, while life still beckons with much to do, the tread on a quarterback’s career starts to show some “wear” at this point. That same tread seems to evaporate even quicker for the guys who don’t take care of themselves.

While this blog has refrained from exposing any critical comments, this is a tough juncture. To be nice, I think it’s clear Ben Roethlisberger is not obsessively dedicated to physical conditioning. To be blunt, I think he’s fat and lazy. I believe Ben Roethlisberger could be better than we’ve seen. But, he’s the typical guy who’s happy to just “get by” on his blessed attributes.

Yet, the calendar continues to move. The days go by – nobody gets out alive.

The day will come, within the next decade, when Ben Roethlisberger is going to face the sobering conclusion that he doesn’t have IT anymore. Call “IT” what you will …..

The inate ability to spin around a half-dozen times, outside the pocket, while finding a guy in the same colored jersey on a broken play …..
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Absorbing those punishing hits and getting up for the next play …..

Hitting his moving target, within a windowed opportunity, 30 yards downfield …..

The lifespan of great quarterbacks is not as long as some people might think. Indeed, Brett Favre is the exception to a pretty descript and consistent rule of measure. Where will you be in 10 years? Ben Roethlisberger will be doing something other than playing football – bet on it.

Yet, if he doesn’t start protecting his public image, the opportunities will be lesser than expected for a quarterback of his big game caliber. Instead of lending his stature and knowledge to a productive NFL-based program or pitching mainstream commercial products at the Super Bowl, he’ll resort for fringe chances to make a few bucks …..

Perhaps, he’ll make more wrestling appearances …..
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Or, he can be the celebrity handicapper on a weekly wagering program.

Better yet, he’ll just be one of the bigger names on a reality show, such as “Biggest Loser.”

That’s right, the day will occur when its obvious he can’t get by on being a “winner.” He doesn’t take care of himself, and in the coming years his lack of such discipline is likely to become a telling factor.

Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of discipline extends beyond the gym and refrigerator. His personal life has been a rebellion, of sorts, since he hoisted his first Lombardi trophy. He defies good decision making, in the name of doing what he wants and when he wants to do it.

Perhaps, he hasn’t broken a single law. Good for him. But, that doesn’t necessarily equate into a respectable image.

I cannot be more forthcoming about my feelings. With true honesty, I hope Ben Roethlisberger’s ties to these sexual assault allegations are resolved without more damage than the product of misunderstandings. I hope he didn’t abuse anyone, and he deserves the right to defend such an assumed innocence.

But, my feelings are already being expressed and mirrored in newspaper columns around the country. Ben Roethlisberger is GUILTY. That’s right, he’s 100% culpable of making poor personal decisions, especially as it regards a social life that combines alcohol with women …..
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He’s a bachelor and he loves the spoiled pleasures of being famous and filthy rich. I get it and I hope he lives it up. But, many notable athletes have lived the life of playMAKER on the field, and playBOY off the field.

Derek Jeter masters it. So does Alex Rodriguez. Tom Brady undoubtedly lived it, as did Jeff Gordon.

What do these guys have in common? Their personal lives have revealed a propensity for knowing how to have fun without compromising their overall image and character. I have little doubt that each of them had THOUSANDS of opportunities to hang in college bars or places where problems are likely to surface. But, they also have a history of choosing to refrain from such risks.

To a further extent, what are the distinct visual differences between Ben Roethlisberger and the 4 guys, mentioned above? Just look at ’em. Jeter, Rodriguez, Brady and Gordon obviously care about conditioning and taking care of the one thing that gets the job done – their bodies.

Roethlisberger, on the other hand, appears to care as much about his physical disciplines, as he does the ramifications of hanging with younger, impressionable girls – while supplying a pipeline of free cocktails.

Take away the fame and fortune. I can still see Jeter, A’Rod, Brady and Gordon workin’ the women. However, Roethlisberger is just one of many overweight, intoxicated dudes who would strike out more often than Pete Incaviglia and Rob Deer, combined.

What a sham (or shame ….), the guy needs an entourage, his celebrity status and a private room with “No Guys Allowed” just to even the playing field for a late-night hookup.

Should Ben Roethlisberger avoid places and situations where he can be manipulated (or where he does the manipulating ….) – places where his image can be called into question? That’s up to him, but I’m sure Dan Rooney will have a deliberately driven question for him …..

DO YOU WANT TO BE THE FACE OF THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS?
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Assuming these legal matters in Nevada and Georgia are resolved without crippling penalties, Ben Roethlisberger will undoubtedly owe Mr. Rooney an answer that will seal his ultimate fate – one way or another.

It could really go so simply as a father/son conversation, like …. “it’s time to grow up and start making better decisions, because your actions always reflect on the Steelers family.”

Or, it could be more professionally spirited, like …. “we’re not certain you are the representative we envisioned when our financial commitment was staked a couple years ago.”

Regardless, Dan Rooney has been around the NFL a very long time. He knows good character and he definitely knows poor character – he’s handled both. And, while there is little debate over his quarterback’s on-field performance, I’m sure Mr. Rooney is not going to afford the guy an opportunity to wreck the franchise.

In a private moment or as Drew would say, “over a glass of wine,” I can envision Rooney casting an eye toward his family’s collection of Lombardi trophies, while recalling the legends who’ve preceded Roethlisberger and sternly suggesting “this ain’t Cincinnati ….. and we’re not the freakin’ Bengals.”

He would be right. As much as we despise the lure of Pittsburgh and its football roots, we respect their history.

In fact, I think Dan Rooney and the entire Steelers organization have been pretty tolerant and understanding of Roethlisberger’s trail of blunders. Perhaps, they’ve reasoned he’s a young guy who has experienced fame and success pretty quickly. But, I’m sure they’ve also anticipated a maturation process – and it seems to be on steady DELAY.

As with any other life reality, delays don’t last forever.

And, I don’t care how many Super Bowls he wins, the Steelers will not idly allow Ben Roethlisberger to continue heaping blemish after blemish on their legacy. Wins are vitally important, but IMAGE is a lasting impression.
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And, while Nike stands by Tiger Woods, they’ll probably be less vigilant for a guy with whom they haven’t invested hundreds of millions.

Enter Roger Goodell, again.

To date, it does not appear Ben Roethlisberger has done anything that would merit a suspension or punishment, by the NFL. However, I’m sure Mr. Goodell, who has demonstrated a fearless ethic in holding lawbreakers accountable, is watching the current events closely and from more than just the point of playing policeman.

The NFL has made a substantial commitment in marketing and promoting the overall image of Ben Roethlisberger. They’ve ensured he’s prominently featured in an array of officially licensed NFL ventures.

I’m not naive – they’re profiting from his blue collar, working class image. But, he’s profiting, too. He’s easily one of the most recognizable faces in the NFL – for a combination of the right reasons, as well as the wrong reasons.

To date, Ben Roethlisberger has made alot of money – on the field and off it. While he’s lived up to competitive expectations, he has absolutely benefited from an exposure the NFL has obliged him. Many players would savor his opportunities …..
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The question is “will these opportunities continue?”

For the immediate future, I think the obvious answer is NO. But, time heals wounds and clears the air, right? Indeed, it does.

However, Roger Goodell and his contingent will be forced to decide whether they think Ben Roethlisberger has learned anything from last week’s incident. They will undoubtedly be cornered into the prospect of gambling on the likelihood that Roethlisberger will have another episode of bad judgement when it comes to girls and booze.

He hasn’t provided an ounce of evidence to indicate his life will change with a higher degree of responsibility.

And, as life always teaches us, hungry bodies are waiting to take our place. For Ben Roethlisberger, the prospect of becoming yesterday’s hot athlete are as lethal as his own broodish behavior. The “Young Guns” lie in waiting …..
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I’m certainly not suggesting Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco will match Ben Roethlisberger’s on-field heroics. However, if they do succeed, they’ll likely be safer investments. After all, when is the last time you saw Flacco hanging in a Baltimore watering hole or some coed party? You won’t.

In fact, a look around the landscape of the NFL yields some encouraging thoughts. As I look at each respective team and it’s “face” player, I’m sensing these guys wouldn’t partake in socially irresponsible behavior. In fact, part of the reason they became the face of their franchise is likely attributed to their comprehension of right vs. wrong.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ face is an exception to the NFL’s norm. And, that’s a good thing.

A blunt reality is Ben Roethlisberger is knee-deep in pending legal issues and crisis. When and if his problems resolve, he’ll find himself in a very vulnerable position …..

That’s right, he’s at a crossroads.

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Blog & Tackle: Week 17 AFC clinching scenarios

Posted on 28 December 2009 by Chris Pika

We know that if the Ravens win, they are in the AFC playoff field for the second consecutive season. The New York Jets are in the same spot win and in. But in the interest of laying out all of the possibilities, here are the AFC clinching scenarios coming into the final week of play, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau and NFL.com.

CLINCHED:

Indianapolis — South division and home-field advantage.

San Diego — West division and first-round bye.

Cincinnati — North division.

New England — East division.

 

ELIMINATED:

Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, Buffalo, Tennessee.

 

Baltimore, the Jets, Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston can also make the playoffs if they tie this week with various other things happening. Jacksonville and Miami cannot make the playoffs with a tie.

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Baltimore clinches a playoff spot:

1) BAL win

 

NEW YORK JETS

NY Jets clinch a playoff spot:

1) NYJ win

 

DENVER BRONCOS

Denver clinches a playoff spot:

1) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

2) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

3) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win

4) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

5) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win

6) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss

7) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss

8.) PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss

9) PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss

10) MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot:

1) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie

2) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

3) PIT win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

 

HOUSTON TEXANS

Houston clinches a playoff spot:

1) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie

2) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

3) HOU win + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Jacksonville clinches a playoff spot:

1) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss

2) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + NYJ loss

3) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss

4) JAC win + PIT loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss

5) JAC win + NYJ loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + BAL loss

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Miami clinches a playoff spot:

1) MIA win + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie

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