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Where Have All of the Baltimore Sports Fans Gone?

Posted on 27 May 2009 by Thyrl Nelson

On Sunday, maybe they’ll be with me, in Dover for the NASCAR race.

 

After watching another 10,000 or so fans turn out for the major league debut of Jason Berken on Tuesday night, and one day after the team returned from a 10-game road trip for a holiday day game at half capacity, the question has struck me like a ton of bricks. Where have all of the local fans gone?

 

I know they still exist, because they turn out 70,000+ strong for 8 Ravens’ home dates per year, and could surely turn out in greater numbers than that, if the stadium were equipped to accommodate it. But where are all of the local sports fans in the summertime these days?

 

The city isn’t shrinking, yet a town that used to sell out 81 or more Orioles games per year to the tune of 48,00+, a town that used to boast over 100,000 strong on the Preakness infield, can no longer boast either. So I’m left simply wondering where the fans have gone with their money, and whether or not the O’s, the Preakness or anyone else outside the Ravens can expect them back anytime soon.

 

I’m sure that the economy has a lot to do with the state of things today, and maybe once the news turns brighter, things may begin to turn around. Long overdue and promised improvements to both the Preakness and the baseball team would certainly make the case to attend either much more compelling too. Hopefully we’ll start seeing those turnarounds soon, for both entities.

 

My guess, even with the economy in its current state, is that folks are willing to pay for entertainment, sports or otherwise, as long as they feel like they’re getting value for the money that they’re spending. The O’s, for example were smart to announce the eminent arrival of Matt Wieters this Friday, with enough advance notice to see an improvement in ticket sales for his debut on Friday, and carrying into Saturday too. We’ll see.

 

On Sunday though, with a 1:35 start, after a night game, Wieters will likely be on the bench, and Greg Zaun should be settling into his new role as backup catcher. So on Sunday, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t join me on a bus trip to see NASCAR live at Dover International Speedway.

 

In terms of value, you simply can’t beat it. For $99 you’re getting a race ticket worth $85, and safe passage to and from the race in the air conditioned comfort of a Gunther Charters Motor Coach. The ride, in and of itself is probably worth the extra $15, but in case that’s not enough, there’ll be free food, soft drinks and cold Coors Light on the bus too.

 

Those who chose to boycott he Preakness this year will be happy to know that you can bring coolers into the race as long as they meet size restrictions, and Dover will provide you with a first hand look at what Maryland horse racing hopes to be in the near future. We’ll get there in plenty of time for you to check out the horse racing facility, the casino, or the tax free shopping mall, in addition to all of the sights, sounds, and events associated with the race itself.

 

Dover race veteran, and Sunday Morning Blitz host, Rex Snider will be there to meet us, and give a quick tutorial on all of Dover’s festivities. And you can check out the Dover Speedway’s web site here, to learn about cooler size limits, and other FAQs.

 

And you can click here to sign up to join me in Dover this weekend for the Autism Speaks 400. Hope to see you there.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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Help us find the next Baltimore sports media superstar…

Posted on 10 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Let the games begin! I’ve been talking about the “Coors Light King (or Queen) of Baltimore Sportstalk” competition for two months and today we will finally begin the tournament where the challenge is to cover Baltimore sports in the new media universe at WNST.net like the professionals do every day. After watching “American Idol” in its totality for the first time this season, I got very inspired about finding creative ways to find Baltimore’s next great sports media stars.

Perhaps I’m biased, but I firmly believe WNST.net is the best sports media company in the marketplace for Baltimore sports news, conversation and information. Everyone at WNST works nonstop to be the best – to set us apart from amateur internet bloggers and from “out of town” corporate entities who do not have the best interests of our community at heart. Our hard work is justified and rewarded when our www.Alexa.com reports continues to show us as BY FAR the most-visited sports website in the region on a daily basis. And we continue to battle it out with WBAL.com as the top two sites for radio – AM or FM – in the marketplace.

I take my business seriously. I must, because everyone in my company who wants to feed their family in this incredibly difficult economy also needs my vision and energy to keep WNST strong. And quality companies are comprised of quality people. We are always searching for the best writers, sports talk show hosts and reporters and journalists in Baltimore. My only personal goal remaining after 25 years of being a sports journalist locally and nationally is to make WNST.net the premier place for Baltimore sports fans to congregate and have fun.

We want to be the place you come every morning with a cup of coffee to read up on what’s happening in Baltimore’s sports world. We want you to join our text service. We want you to call into AM 1570 and chat with our hosts during the day. We want you following our live game blogs this summer during Orioles games.

Along with my partners and staff and former Ravens head coach Brian Billick, we are excited about making our company something you’re proud of as well.

This “Coors Light King (or Queen) of Baltimore Sportstalk” competition, which will end with a pair of live shows on May 13 and May 27, is not for a “job” at WNST — but instead it’s a contest with a grand prize of a trip for two from Baltimore to Bermuda on the Royal Caribbean ship we always see parked down in Port Covington in the spring. (Special thanks to The Cruise Lady, who has been doing Orioles cruises for years and she hooked us up with a super prize for our winner).

The last time I did a similar competition — in November 2006, before the legitimate era of internet sports blogging and social media — we found a myriad of nice people who, just like us, love Baltimore sports and wanted to investigate a career in sports journalism. Our current evening host, Thyrl Nelson, didn’t win our competition but used it as a springboard to becoming a daily host on WNST after 2 1/2 years of honing his craft. (We think Thyrl is great! You should check out his blog and radio show as a guideline for what we’re looking to accomplish with this contest.) Rex Snider and Mark Suchy were also “discovered” in that pool of talent and have been great additions to WNST. I am a kid from Dundalk. Drew Forrester is from Glen Burnie. Bob Haynie claims several Baltimore locales. Ray Bachman is from South Baltimore. Glenn Clark is from Perry Hall. We think a company full of people who are from Baltimore just makes sense!

And, we were all amateurs and “first timers” at one point. Now, we’re “professionals.” It’s not easy, but it’s possible as we’ve proven over the last 11 years.

I’ll be writing a lot about the competition and weighing in with some helpful hints and some frank feedback about what I think – I’ll try to be a little more kind than Simon Cowell, but I’m sure I’ll be called a jerk as well – and I hope all of the WNST.net readers and users will be checking out nearly 30 competitors’ writing, video and audio bits over the next two weeks.

We’ll begin the online voting for your favorites next week, with the top three vote-getters receiving automatic bids to the second round of the competition.

We will begin the second round the week of May 4th. There will be many surprises, celebrity visits and twists and turns — not unlike what we deal with every day in a 24-hour live sports media environment.

Here is the tentative schedule for the next week of competition:

Friday, April 10: Barry Barnes, Justin Keys, Geoff Peckham,

Monday, April 13: J.D. Jackson, Neal Bortmes, Rick Crabbe, Andrew Frank, Luke Jones,

Tuesday, April 14: Todd Salkowski, Jeremiah Moyer, Chris Allsep

Wednesday, April 15: Ryan Sebring, Christopher Stoner, Marco Romanell, Christina Tarleton, Tom Clayton, Bryan Knouse, John McKay,

Thursday, April 16: Vic Ganderson, Lawson Lambert, Mike Williams, Brian Swoboda

Friday, April 17: Ken Phillips, Rick Moore, Francis Lucia

Several other folks not listed here have also requested entrance in our competition but do not have confirmed audition times for next week. We currently have a sea of men and one woman in the competition, hence the “King” or “Queen” status. (Good luck Christina!) Most of the competitors I’ve never even met so this will be fun!

We also have a pair of “under 21” college hopefuls — Peter Dilutis and Troy Shuman – who are not officially in the competition and are not eligible for the grand prize but who want to write and do some radio and we’re going to allow them the opportunity to “show their stuff” as well in our main blogosphere.

In the spirit of WNST, we hope this competition is compelling, exciting and helps some of these folks follow their dream of a being a Baltimore sports journalist in the new millennium and in the amazing era of new and social media. We’d love for you to read their stuff, watch their video and listen to their live “auditions” over the next few weeks.

And with the Orioles’ fast start and the Ravens’ draft prospects so wide open over the next few weeks — not to mention golf, NASCAR, tennis, MMA, NHL and NBA seasons in full swing — there will be plenty of material for these folks to opine about on a daily basis.

Good luck to all!

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Programming changes at WNST

Posted on 02 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

If you’ve been driving around Baltimore after 6 p.m. and have tuned into WNST-AM 1570 you’ve noticed some changes over the last two nights. Our partnership with Fox Sports Radio has ended and we’ve decided to feature our local talent in the evening hours for the foreseeable future and drop the top of the hour flashes, which were dreadful. We will provide local news in and out of every break.

Our staff works hard to produce Baltimore’s best sports talk radio and we’re delighted to offer more Bob Haynie and more Drew Forrester to our audience during the overnights when our signal is not at full strength. We hope you enjoy the extra time with our hosts on the radio. (Soon, you might even be able to get rid of me…LOL!)

We’ve had some technical glitches during the transition phase and we’re working to correct some of the computer issues and modulation issues and should have it all perfectly crafted soon. You will also be able to hear the programming in the evening via our “LISTEN LIVE” button here at WNST.net

More programming notes:

We are absolutely delighted to have Thyrl Nelson join our team on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for two hours per night of Baltimore’s coolest evening radio. Thryl’s “Mobtown Sports Beat” will air from 6 til 8 and be produced by Chris Bonetti, who writes a great daily blog here at WNST.net as well. Nelson was one of our finalists in our last talent search almost 30 months ago. If you’ve read either of their blogs or heard their work you’ll know that we made a great decision to have them join our team.

We will kick off our “King (or Queen) of Baltimore Sportstalk Competition” next week. We currently have 48 qualified contestants who will be going through a series of challenges that will end with two shows on May 13 and May 27. The contest is sponsored by Coors Light and will be one of the more adventurous competitions we’ve ever hosted at WNST.net. Many more details will be coming and you’ll start to hear and see our competitors during the 2 to 4 p.m. segments of my show from April 8th through April 17th.

Last but not least, a few folks have dropped me a note wondering why I never launched the remaining chapters of my baseball book about my Pop and the Orioles last week. Honestly, when I was out in California chasing coaches and owners, I didn’t get a chance every day to get it into my blogs but I’ll get them all onto the site by Monday.

I appreciate all of the nice notes I’ve received this week regarding the Orioles and their continued nonsense. It’s all good. The season starts on Monday. We’ll see how they do!

The webcam is coming very, very soon as well.

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The Fantasy Flavor Week 17 Start Rankings

Posted on 26 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

Well it’s week 17, and for most of us the fantasy season ended either quite some time ago, or for a fortunate few, just last week. In the event that your league plays through week 17 though, here are the week 17 start rankings for every position. It’s the top 50 running backs, top 75 wide receivers, top 35 tight ends, plus all of the projected starters at quarterback, kicker and defense / special teams ranked for this week.

 

The rankings were gotten using the fantasy flavor formula, which is basically 2 parts player performance, and 1 part defensive expectations against them, with adjustments made for injuries and anomalies. Each player’s formulary rankings are listed in parentheses behind the player, the lower the number, the better that player projects.

 

We’ll bring back the positional power rankings for the final ranks next week, along with some year ending fantasy awards too. Until then, good luck this week.

 

QUARTERBACKS

 

1. Jay Cutler (8)

2. Aaron Rodgers (8)

3. Kurt Warner (17) *be careful, he may not play the whole game

4. Phillip Rivers (21)

5. Drew Brees (26)

6. Tyler Thigpen (31)

7. Chad Pennington (34)

8. Matt Cassel (35)

9. Tony Romo (38)

10. Matt Schaub (40)

11. Peyton Manning (41) *be careful, he may not play the whole game

12. Shaun Hill (45)

13. Donavan McNabb (45)

14. Jeff Garcia (48)

15. Brett Favre (48)

16. Matt Ryan (48)

17. Joe Flacco (51)

18. Kyle Orton (53)

19. David Garrard (56)

20. Jason Campbell (56)

21. Trent Edwards (56)

22. Eli Manning (57) *be careful, he may not play the whole game

23. Ryan Fitzpatrick (57)

24. Seneca Wallace (59)

25. Ben Roethlisberger (60) *be careful, he may not play the whole game

26. Jake Delhomme (60)

27. Tavaris Jackson (70)

28. Marc Bulger (71)

29. Dan Orlovsky (79) *not much difference no mater who is QB

30. JaMarcus Russell (83)

31. Kerry Collins (85) *be careful, he may not play the whole game

32. Bruce Gradkowski (96)

 

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

1. Michael Turner (9)

2. DeAngelo Williams (20)

3. Matt Forte (20)

4. Chris Johnson (25) *playing time could be an issue

5. Stephen Jackson (27)

6. Brian Westbrook (28)

7. LaDanian Tomlinson (29)

8. Thomas Jones (34)

9. Clinton Portis (34)

10. Adrian Peterson (35)

11. Steve Slaton (41)

12. LenDale White (43) *playing time could be an issue

13. Ryan Grant (43)

14. Kevin Smith (46)

15. Brandon Jacobs (47) *playing time could be an issue

16. Larry Johnson (50)

17. Maurice Jones-Drew (52) *keep an eye on injury status

18. Pierre Thomas (53)

19. Marshawn Lynch (54)

20. LeRon McClain (60)

21. Ronnie Brown (61)

22. Cedric Benson (62)

23. Sammy Morris (64)

24. Marion Barber (68) *keep an eye on injury status

25. Kevin Faulk (70)

26. Willis McGahee (72)

27. Warrick Dunn (72)

28. Joseph Addai (73) *playing time could be an issue

29. Willie Parker (76) *playing time could be an issue

30. Dominic Rhodes (77) *could benefit if they rest starters

31. Jonathan Stewart (78)

32. Tim Hightower (79)

33. Mewelde Moore *could benefit if they rest starters

34. Derrick Ward (81)

35. Darren McFadden (91)

36. Tatum Bell (92)

37. Jamal Lewis (93)

38. Chester Taylor (97)

39. Leon Washington (100)

40. Deuce McAllister (101)

41. Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis (102)

42. Justin Fargas (103)

43. Ricky Williams (107)

44. LaMont Jordan (108)

45. Julius Jones (109)

46. Maurice Morris (113)

47. Darren Sproles (113)

48. Cadillac Williams (114)

49. Tashard Choice (117) *much better if Barber doesn’t play

50. Jerious Norwood (117)

 

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

1. Anquan Boldin (4) *playing time could be an issue

2. Larry Fitzgerald (8) *playing time could be an issue

3. Steve Smith (9) *CAR

4. Andre Johnson (20)

5. Greg Jennings (20)

6. Roddy White (27)

7. Randy Moss (33)

8. Calvin Johnson (34)

9. Brandon Marshall (37)

10. Antonio Bryant (38)

11. Bernard Berrian (39)

12. Santana Moss (39)

13. Hines Ward (41) *playing time could be an issue

14. Vincent Jackson (44)

15. DeWayne Bowe (44)

16. Eddie Royal (49)

17. Kevin Walter (50)

18. Terrell Owens (51)

19. Marques Colston (57)

20. Wes Welker (57)

21. Reggie Wayne (58) *playing time could be an issue

22. Santonio Holmes (61) *playing time could be an issue

23. Lee Evans (63)

24. TJ Houshmandzadeh (66)

25. Derrick Mason (66)

26. Donald Driver (66)

27. Laverneus Coles (66)

28. Lance Moore (69)

29. Mark Bradley (70)

30. Mushin Muhammad (71)

31. DeSean Jackson (73)

32. Jehrico Cotchery (74)

33. Justin Gage (75) *playing time could be an issue

34. Issac Bruce (75)

35. Steve Breaston (80) *could benefit if they rest starters

36. Deion Branch (91)

37. Malcolm Floyd (94)

38. Mark Clayton (94)

39. DeVery Henderson (95)

40. Chris Chambers (98)

41. Michael Jenkins (99)

42. Braylon Edwards (100)

43. Kevin Curtis (103) *keep an eye on injury status

44. Ted Ginn Jr. (104)

45. Nate Washington (105) *could benefit if they rest starters

46. Marvin Harrison (112) *playing time could be an issue

47. Robert Meachem (113)

48. Donnie Avery (117)

49. Josh Reed (117)

50. Devin Hester (120)

51. Jabar Gafney (121)

52. Antoine Randle-El (121)

53. Amani Toomer (124) *playing time could be an issue

54. Tory Holt (125)

55. Koren Robinson (125)

56. Tony Gonzalez (126)

57. Bryant Johnson (129)

58. Marty Booker (132)

59. Chansi Stuckey (132)

60. Reggie Brown (135)

61. Patrick Crayton (137)

62. Brandon Stokley (143)

63. Dennis Northcutt (146)

64. Jeherme Urban (148) *could benefit if they rest starters

65. Josh Morgan (151)

66. Hank Baskett (151)

67. Bobby Wade (151)

68. Domenik Hixon (154) *could benefit if they rest starters

69. Brandon Lloyd (154)

70. Roy Williams (157)

71. James Hardy (159)

72. Johnnie Lee Higgins (161)

73. Ike Hilliard (164)

74. Harry Douglass (165)

75. Steve Smith (170) *NYG could benefit if they rest starters

 

 

TIGHT ENDS

 

1. Antonio Gates (10)

2. Tony Gonzalez (17)

3. Jason Witten (18)

4. Anthony Fasano (19)

5. Dallas Clark (20) *playing time could be an issue

6. Tony Scheffler (21)

7. Joey Haynos (29)

8. John Carlson (35)

9. Kevin Boss (36)

10. Owen Daniels (38)

11. Greg Olsen (39)

12. Daniel Graham (39)

13. Donald Lee (42)

14. Visanthe Schiancoe (44)

15. Martellus Bennett (44)

16. Zach Miller (47)

17. Billy Miller (49)

18. David Martin (55)

19. Chris Cooley (57)

20. Heath Miller (57)

21. Jerramy Stevens (58)

22. Todd Heap (63)

23. Dustin Keller (64)

24. Alex Smith (64)

25. Bo Scaife (68)

26. LJ Smith (72)

27. Mercedes Lewis (73)

28. Derrick Fine (74)

29. Jeremy Shockey (77)

30. Desmond Clark (77)

31. Robert Royal (80)

32. Benjamin Watson (83)

33. Vernon Davis (85)

34. George Wrighster (85)

35. Michael Gaines (87)

 

 

KICKERS

 

1. Stephen Gostkowski (9)

2. Rob Bironas (13)

3. Jason Elam (16)

4. David Akers (20)

5. Mason Crosby (28)

6. Jon Carney (31)

7. Nate Kaeding (32)

8. Garrett Hartley (34)

9. John Kasay (34)

10. Rian Lindell (35)

11. Phil Dawson (44)

12. Neil Rackers (45)

13. Shaun Suisham (45)

14. Matt Bryant (46)

15. Jay Feeley (46)

16. Ryan Longwell (47)

17. Kris Brown (47)

18. Josh Brown (50)

19. Matt Stover (52)

20. Matt Prater (54)

21. Robbie Gould (57)

22. Jeff Reed (64)

23. Joe Nedney (65)

24. Dan Carpenter (66)

25. Olindo Mare (66)

26. Jason Hanson (69)

27. Shayne Graham (69)

28. Sebastian Janikowski (71)

29. Nick Folk (73)

30. Connor Barth (81)

31. Josh Scobee (83)

32. Adam Vinatieri (92)

 

 

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

 

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (12)

2. Baltimore Ravens (16)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)

4. New York Giants (23)

5. Green Bay Packers (24)

6. Philadelphia Eagles (25)

7. Chicago Bears (25)

8. Tennessee Titans (27)

9. New York Jets (32)

10. Arizona Cardinals (35)

11. Dallas Cowboys (36)

12. Atlanta Falcons (37)

13. Miami Dolphins (42)

14. Cleveland Browns (42)

15. Minnesota Vikings (47)

16. Oakland Raiders (51)

17. San Francisco 49ers (51)

18. San Diego Chargers (57)

19. Indianapolis Colts (58)

20. Washington Redskins (58)

21. Cincinnati Bengals (59)

22. Carolina Panthers (60)

23. Kansas City Chiefs (61)

24. New England Patriots (62)

25. Seattle Seahawks (68)

26. Buffalo Bills (68)

27. New Orleans Saints (71)

28. Houston Texans (73)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (76)

30. Denver Broncos (88)

31. St. Louis Rams (89)

32. Detroit Lions (89)

 

As always remember to check the injury report before finalizing your lineups, and have fun and go with your gut. Good Luck this week.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

 

 

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How I’d “Fix” Baseball (Without a Salary Cap)

Posted on 24 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

If you think that it hurts to be an O’s fan today in the wake of the Mark Teixeira signing, imagine how it feels to be a Rays fan. As Orioles fans, we at least “enjoyed the luxury” of having zero expectations in the first place. Furthermore, we have a decade of mismanagement that simply can’t be ignored when trying to figure out why the O’s are hopeless. But the Rays have done “everything right” when it comes to running a small market club, yet they have to be seriously concerned about their chances going forward in this division now too.

 

When it comes right down to it, spending doesn’t always, or even usually equate to winning a World Series. The Yankees have spent nearly $2 billion on payroll since they last popped the champagne bottles, and a number of smaller market teams have gone away with the hardware in the meantime. But in order to play for a championship, you have to get to the post season first. And more often than not, over the course of 162 games, the big spenders usually come out on top.

 

Based on the current landscape of the AL East, it’s safe to say that it’ll be tough going for the Orioles no matter what they do over the next 3 to 5 years. The Yankees are reloading, and are still actually under last year’s payroll number, the Red Sox are always willing to spend, and have proven to be one of the more adept teams at developing their own young talent too. And the Rays have a stockpile of young talent that should keep them in the hunt for the foreseeable future at least. It’s a safe bet that someone in the division could win 100 games and still miss the playoffs in the next year or two.

 

There will likely be lots of talk of a salary cap in the upcoming days and weeks. And depending on how much more these Yankees are willing to spend, and how much success it affords them, we’ll probably be discussing it well into the future too. I’d guess, that much like a playoff in college football, although a salary cap in baseball makes total sense to most fans, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see it happen.

 

Salary caps aren’t perfect either though. The NFL is all but ready to scrap theirs, despite the success that the league has enjoyed under the system. And the salary cap in the NBA is a confusing mess that makes for silly trades and even phantom contracts in order for teams to stay within its bounds.

 

There are a number of ways that I’d like to “fix” baseball, but here’s a simple one. It alleviates the need for a salary cap and still levels the playing field, without messing with the tradition of the game. I also think that it would benefit enough teams to make it viable. And as I said, it’s simple.

 

All you’d have to do is put both leagues back on a balanced schedule, determine a date, let’s say March 1st, and sort the leagues into divisions by payroll. There would still be an American and National League, but instead of East, West and Central divisions, they’d have a high, middle and low payroll division.

 

Going back to a balanced schedule would mean that the schedule could be released as usual, without regard for divisional alignments. And they could even name the divisions after legendary players.  

 

Since the leagues have different numbers of teams, structuring the divisions could be tricky. In the AL, I’d take the top 4 payrolls and put them in one division. This would give back a little bit of benefit to the teams who are willing and able to spend, as they’d have a better mathematical shot at making the playoffs. The median and low payroll divisions would each have 5 teams in the AL.

 

In the NL, I’d put 4 in the top payroll division again, and put 6 teams each in the other two divisions, or they could elect to put 5 teams in each of the top and median divisions and 6 in the low payroll division.

 

This system would still reward teams for spending money, as they’d compete in the smallest division, and the balanced schedule would insure that divisional alignments wouldn’t give any team an advantage for the wildcard because of the division that they’re in.

 

Strategically, teams would have to make decisions based on whether acquisitions or deals are likely to place them into a division where they have a better chance at getting to the postseason. It would put every team’s spending out on Front Street, making them answerable to their fans. And it would even allow baseball to do away with their farcical luxury tax if they chose to.

 

Most importantly, doing it that way would insure that teams in cities like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati and other modest markets wouldn’t be forced to compete with spending power that they could never hope to match. Further, it would reward teams who are able to stockpile talent despite modest payrolls like Tampa and Milwaukee recently, while rewarding those who choose to spend big money too.

 

Sooner or later, they’re going to have to do something, or baseball will surely begin to suffer. Maybe that’s the problem in a nutshell. Until baseball sees that the average fan is fed up, despite the fact that their numbers say otherwise, there’ll be no reason for them to do anything. And in once proud baseball cities all across America, fans are hoping for a reason to hope, while in a few select cities, the playoffs are all but assured already.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

 

 

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NFL Power Rankings – Week 17

Posted on 23 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

As the season winds down, it becomes easier and easier to figure who will be getting the chance to extend their fortunes beyond the regular season. Every team falls into one of four categories at this point. The bookends are absolutes for the most part; they are the teams that have already either assured themselves a place in the post season, and those who have insured that they won’t get that chance. For many of those teams, draft picks or final seedings still may lie in the balance, but if power is based on your ability to walk away with the hardware, then teams in both categories have already determined their fates more or less.

 

In the middle though, are two much more interesting categories of teams as the season comes to a close. They are the teams who control their own playoff destinies, and those who will need to benefit from someone else’s misfortune in order to get in. It seems that most of the teams who were in control of their own destinies last weekend were unable to capitalize on that control. And likewise, those teams that seemed to benefit from the misfortunes of others, failed to capitalize themselves on their own good fortune. What it all boils down to is that the last weekend of the season is soon to be upon us, with many teams’ post season fates still very much up in the air.

 

Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

 

NFL Power Rankings Archive –  3- 4567 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16

 

(last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1 Tennessee Titans (3) – 13-2 – They may have faltered a bit in recent weeks, but when the Titans had something to play for again, they showed that they can seemingly turn it on at will. They may not be quite as intimidating as they were a month and a half ago, but the road to the Superbowl in the AFC goes through Tennessee at this point. Next Week: @ IND

 

2. New York Giants (4) – 12-3 – The Giants, like the Titans seemed to come back to Earth in recent weeks, but proved their mettle in a potential NFC Championship preview. In the process they also proved to themselves and the world that they won’t be easy to put away. Next Week: @ MIN

 

3. Carolina Panthers (2) – 11-4 – The Panthers went on the road last week in near playoff conditions and gave the world champs all that they could handle. They may have come out on the losing end this time around, but they showed that they’ll be a factor before it’s all said and done. Next Week: @ NO

 

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1) – 11-4 – It’d be easy to put the Colts here, as they beat the Steelers head to head a few weeks ago.  But it’s just as easy to figure that the brutal schedule they’ve endured finally caught up to the Steelers last week. They still have a first round bye locked up and will get to stay home against anyone but the Titans. Next Week: vs. CLE

 

5. Indianapolis Colts (5) – 11-4 – Depending on what happens in a now meaningless game against the Titans this week, the Colts could ride into the playoffs on the NFL’s longest current winning streak. They looked all but dead through the first 8 weeks of the season, but have been invincible ever since. Something tells me that someone is going to wish that they’d put this team away when they had the chance. Next Week: vs. TEN

 

6. Baltimore Ravens (7) – 10-5 – The Ravens have hung tough through what looked like an impossible stretch in their schedule, and in doing so have turned themselves from a nice story to a legitimate factor in the AFC race. They’re not in the playoffs just yet, but they are one of the few teams that has been beating the teams that they’re supposed to beat consistently. Next Week: vs. JAX

 

7. Atlanta Falcons (14) – 10-5 – The Falcons have shown what they’re made of and secured a trip to the playoffs in the process. And the upside isn’t done yet, as the Falcons still have a shot a winning their division and even securing a first round bye. And to top it all off, Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks were 5-7 this season, so much for greener pastures. Next Week: vs. ST.L

 

8. Miami Dolphins (15) – 10-5 – No matter where they finish, from 1-15 to where they stand now is nothing short of amazing. Still, it will likely be of little consolation to Sparano and his bunch if they miss their opportunity to finish this season in the playoffs. They’re not there yet, but just one win is all it will take. Next Week: @ NYJ

 

9. Minnesota Vikings (6) – 9-6 – The Vikings missed out on an opportunity to secure their place in the postseason and make a couple of other week 17 games meaningless in the process. Now they’ll have to fight for their playoff lives against the Giants who may or may not approach it all out. Remember how the Giants finished last season when their playoff seeding was already assured. This is no sure thing for the Vikes. Next Week: vs. NYG

 

10. Arizona Cardinals (8) – 8-7 – Maybe the Cardinals, with their playoff fate already basically assured weeks ago, intentionally went into the tank since no one was taking them very seriously in the first place. Maybe they can turn it on when it counts and will take the playoffs by storm. More likely, this team is headed in the opposite direction of where a playoff bound squad should be at this point. Next Week: vs. SEA

 

11. San Diego Chargers (25) – 7-8 – As improbable as it would have seemed just a few weeks ago, the Broncos have failed to finish their job, and have allowed the Chargers a chance to take away a years worth of bad luck in one fell swoop. It doesn’t hurt the Chargers chances either, that the game is in their stadium, and that the NFL may feel a bit of an obligation to help San Diego out in this particular match up. Next Week: vs. DEN

 

12. Dallas Cowboys (10) – 9-6 – The Cowboys had quite the whirlwind weekend last week. Having control of their own destiny, and losing it in embarrassing fashion in their Texas Stadium finale, their fate seemed to have been all bit sealed. Instead, the door that they opened went unused by everyone in line behind them, and Dallas is once again in control of their own playoff destiny. Next Week: @ PHI

 

13. Denver Broncos (9) – 8-7 – For those who thought the idea of the Broncos in the playoffs was a joke, there’s good news. The Broncos may have played themselves out of that position, and allowed another 8-8 club to stumble into the playoffs in their place. This will undoubtedly be a season for the books in Denver. Next Week: @ SD

 

14. New England Patriots (13) – 10-5 – The Patriots may be the league’s hottest team over the last few weeks, and certainly punctuated it with a blowout against the Cardinals on Sunday. Unfortunately for them, they may have to try and sustain that momentum into next year, as without some help the Pats will be on the outside of the playoffs looking in this year. Next Week: @ BUF

 

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12) – 9-6 – Even if they do stumble into the playoffs somehow at this point, these are not the same Bucs that we were seeing just a few short weeks ago. It still wouldn’t be a shock to see them get in, but it’s tough to take their chances seriously at this point. Next Week: vs. OAK

 

16. Chicago Bears (17) – 9-6 – The team may not be very exciting but their games sure have been. For some reason, the Bears seem capable of playing with anyone, but destined to play with everyone. No team in the league has seemingly had more nail biting finishes. They have a couple of ways to possibly get in, but still need to win and get help. Next Week: @ HOU

 

17. Philadelphia Eagles (16) – 8-6-1- It seems that those who thought they might benefit from a tie were wrong. A tie with Dallas or Pittsburgh maybe, but anything less than a win against Cincinnati can’t be an advantage for a playoff team. Their playoff hopes aren’t dead yet, but it’s close. Next Week: vs. DAL

 

18. New York Jets (11) – 9-6 – If the Jets have one reason to be hopeful, it’s that no team that has been in control of the AFC Easthas stayed there for very long. They’ll need help to get into the playoffs this season, but aren’t out of it just yet. Next Week: vs. MIA

 

19. New Orleans Saints (19) – 8-7 – There probably wouldn’t have been many who would have guessed that the Saints would go into week 17 with nothing to play for, except a shot at Dan Marino’s passing record. The rest of the division may have taken New Orleans by surprise, but they’re still a dangerous looking club going forward. Next Week: vs. CAR

 

20. Buffalo Bills (21) – 7-8 – They went into the tank from controlling the division and appeared to be in freefall since mid season. But the Bills still managed to make themselves a factor in the playoff race last week against Denver and have another chance to play spoiler this week, this time in their own division. Next Week: vs. NE

 

21. San Francisco 49ers (22) – 6-9 – Mike Singletary’s unique brand of leadership has rescued this club from seeming freefall, and given them reason to be hopeful going forward. In the NFC West, it seems that anything is possible. Next Week: vs. WAS

 

22. Washington Redskins (20) – 8-7 – The Redskins may have hit their stride a little too early. After a tremendous start, they enter the off-season with seemingly the same old problems as before. They were still a factor in the playoff race last week, playing spoiler against the Eagles. This week should be a decent test for them too. Next Week: @ SF

 

23. Houston Texans (18) – 7-8 – Their momentum took a major hit last week, but the Texans still have lots of reasons to be proud of their efforts this season. They’ll get a good chance to play spoiler this week, and to test their mettle against a playoff caliber team. Next Week: vs. CHI

 

24. Jacksonville Jaguars (23) – 5-10 – They showed a pulse last week, but still look like a club that packed it in a long time ago. They’ll have a chance to be a playoff spoiler against the Ravens this week, we’ll see if they take it. Next Week: @ BAL

 

25. Green Bay Packers (24) – 5-10 – The Packers trip from the NFC title game a year ago to their current depths has to be one of the major disappointments this season. It will also probably overshadow the fact that Aaron Rodgers played pretty well in Brett Favre’s stead, and probably isn’t the reason for their difficult turnaround. Next Week: vs. DET

 

26. Seattle Seahawks (30) – 4-11 – The Seahawks proved that they can play well when they are properly motivated, as they gave Mike Holmgren a rousing sendoff in his home finale. In the process they managed to spoil the Jets playoff hopes too. Next Week: @ AZ

 

27. Cincinnati Bengals (27) – 3-11-1 – The Bengals were finally able to muster enough of a ground game to overcome their quarterbacking issues. Unfortunately for them, they only get to see the Browns twice per season and missed on their first opportunity. Next Week: vs. KC

 

28. Oakland Raiders (29) – 4-11 – There are definitely more questions than answers for the Raiders at this point, and with Al Davis at the helm that’s a trend likely to continue. Still, JaMarcus Russell is finally looking like a quarterback, and the Raiders have played proudly in the face of nationwide ridicule all season. Next Week: @ TB

 

29. Cleveland Browns (26) – 4-11 – They’re clearly going nowhere fast with virtually no one left at quarterback. The key for the Browns will be focusing on their improved defense and moving forward without letting this season beat them mentally. Next Week: @ PIT

 

30. Kansas City Chiefs (28) – 2-13 – The Chiefs play with a lot of character, and may have found something in Tyler Thigpen, but otherwise have little reason to be hopeful going forward. Little except that they’ll have someone new in charge of running the team in the future. Next Week: @ CIN

 

31. St. Louis Rams (31) – 2-13 – The Rams have played a few teams tough this season, and have a couple of young components worth building around for the future. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have a lot of toughness, and that’s never easy to teach. Next Week: @ ATL

 

32. Detroit Lions (32) – 0-15 – They’ve got the top pick in the draft locked up, and a bunch of other picks that they acquired from Dallas in the Roy Williams trade to go with it. In today’s NFL, turnarounds happen all the time, and with Matt Millen finally out of the picture, there’s reason to be hopeful in Detroit. Next Week: @ GB

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

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These Ravens are Predictably Surprising

Posted on 22 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

Turning Apparent Weaknesses Into Strengths Every Week Makes The Ravens Almost Impossible To Game Plan For.

 

You’d think that by now we’d simply know better. If there’s one thing that we can say with certainty about today’s salary capped, free agency version of the NFL, it’s that parity is king.  We should understand that in the NFL, games and even entire seasons can swing on a single play or in the blink of an eye. We should be conditioned by now to accept the fact that the difference between winning and losing teams in the league simply isn’t that great. Yet somehow as fans, we tend to throw all of that logic out the window at the beginning of each new season as we sit down with the schedule try to predict how “good” our team will be that year.

 

For Ravens fans, you could actually say that this season is exactly like each of the previous three, sort of. In 2005, expectations were high, and the team finished 6-10. They entered 2006 with a new QB, but the expectations were modest because the rest of the offense looked so bad that it was a safe bet they’d get McNair killed. Of course, they went on to go 13-3 and earn the first playoff bye in team history. They came back poised to defend their AFC North title in ’07, and did so to the tune of 5-11.

 

Enter this season, where the schedule provided 8 match ups with playoff teams from last year, a trip to the west coast, a pseudo homecoming game in Dallas to close their building, 2 games with the Browns who were coming off of a 10-6 season themselves, and two with The Bengals who have certainly been trouble for the Ravens, if for no one else, during the Marvin Lewis era. Throw in a rash of injuries before the season even began, a worst case scenario in terms of having to press your rookie QB into emergency duty without much warning, a rookie head coach, and a bunch of “lame duck” contracts, and even the most hopeful among us would have been delusional to think that they’d be where they are right now. And then to top it all off, an act of nature in week 2 forces the team into an early unscheduled bye, thereby forcing them to practice and game plan for 17 weeks during the regular season. And did I mention that they were 5-11 last year?

 

So of course, all of that equals the Ravens going into week 17, controlling their own playoff destiny, against one of the playoff teams from last season, and an old nemesis to boot, and opening as an early 12-point favorite. Its just more evidence of what we should’ve known all along about the NFL, which is to expect the unexpected.

 

Still, never has that mantra been more applicable than in the 2008 season. Consider that given all that the Ravens have accomplished this year, the odds are that when the playoffs start in two weeks, they’ll only be the 3rd least likely playoff team, given the depths from which both the Dolphins and Falcons have managed to fight back.

 

And even though we all should have known better, none of us, including Jerry Jones apparently, can really be blamed for being taken by surprise by this team considering all that they’ve gone through in the last year and a half. What is somewhat incredible about this team though, is that the surprises just keep on coming, seemingly every week. These Ravens have taken expecting the unexpected to a whole new level.

 

From week to week, these Ravens seem to all but reinvent themselves. What’s more, to say that they do it without warning is an understatement. This year, it seems that the Ravens have not only been able to get contributions from the most unlikely of sources, but they seemingly turn their supposed weaknesses into strengths each and every week.

 

Think back to the beginning of the season. Going in, the biggest deficiencies that the team seemed to have were at QB and offensive line. There were probably few among us who had hoped to see the rookie thrust into the starting job from day one, and even fewer who thought that anyone would stand much of a chance behind the young and somewhat makeshift offensive line. But Joe Flacco quickly proved that just because he’s a first year player, doesn’t mean that he’s a rookie. And the offensive line has allowed a middle of the road 30 sacks on the season despite having to face some of the most ferocious pass rushes in the NFL all season long. It’s also a safe bet that teams are trying to bring more pressure than usual because of the fact that the QB is a rookie, making the O-line’s performance that much more impressive.

 

Coming out of camp, there were a lot of concerns about McGahee. His health and his attitude were very much in question, and adding Lorenzo Neal to the mix didn’t do much to ease those concerns for most. That is, until LeRon McClain went out and proved that he could be a tailback too, and added another dimension to the running game with his versatility.

 

The running game though has been the most difficult part of the Ravens attack to predict from week to week. Early on, McClain was rolling, McGahee was healing, and Ray Rice seemed to be struggling. In week 6 against the Colts, McClain appeared to hit the wall somewhat, and the running game looked suspect again, until Rice and McGahee went off against Oakland and Miami. Then with Rice injured, and McGahee in the doghouse, the Ravens appeared to be down to just one decent running option, and even went out and got another back to add to the mix. But after Saturday’s game, McGahee appears to be healthy and on board again, McClain is still rolling along, and the team has to be excited about getting Ray Rice back possibly before the playoffs begin.

 

Ed Reed, it seemed had a big game in week three, but otherwise didn’t even seem to be a factor on defense for the first ten weeks of the season. Speculation was rampant that Reed’s neck injury was probably as serious as we had all feared, and that we may have seen the last of Ed Reed the playmaker. Perhaps opposing offenses began to feel that way too, because since week 11 against Philadelphia the ball seems to be coming his way more often, and Reed has played his way right into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. He’s clearly still a playmaker.

 

Chris McAllister looked to be the most solid part of the secondary for the first 5 games of the season, his injury / doghouse status could have been the biggest blow of all to the Ravens chances at being competitive this season. Instead Fabian Washington has played like the first rounder that Oakland probably envisioned him to be once upon a time, and he and Reed have combined to pick up the secondary, putting the Ravens pass defense almost on par with their dominant run defense, as if that seemed possible.

 

And when it comes to special teams, outside of the performance of Sam Koch all year long, special teams have seemingly been a work in progress all season. Matt Stover appeared to have reached the end of the line; the return game was struggling, particularly on punts, the coverage teams were giving up too many return yards, etc. All of this despite the special teams background of the new head coach and the number of special teamers seemingly brought in as free agents this off-season. On Saturday night however, the special teams turned that game around for the Ravens.

 

Changing your plan of attack from week to week would seem like a necessity in today’s ultra-competitive NFL, but being able to take your seemingly glaring weaknesses and turning them into your strengths not only makes you impossible to game plan for, it would seemingly cause opposing teams’ game plans to play right into your hands.

 

What it’s amounted to for the Ravens is nothing short of a remarkable coaching job, and a remarkable season overall. Even when the locker room appeared to be divided over the quarterback situation, the Ravens worked both QBs into the game plan and turned that situation into a positive. They’re an unbelievable bunch, these Ravens.

 

So if you’re concerned now, like I am with the Ravens prevent defense, be careful not to speak too soon. Based on what they’ve done so far, it’s almost a lock that the endgame defense will give the team a critical boost, at the most unlikely of times. That’s just the kind of season it’s been.

 

It would seem that if you’re going to beat the Ravens, the way to do it is to attack their strengths and prepare to be attacked by their weaknesses. Come to think of it, that’s basically what the Giants were able to do against them. It’s an unconventional approach, but that’s the kind of season it’s been so far. Even when you expect the unexpected, it can still be quite a surprise when you get it.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

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Soxeira: The Saga Continues

Posted on 19 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

If the Red Sox actually do jump out of the Teixeira sweepstakes, does it stop being news?

 

Regardless of how the Mark Teixeira derby plays out over the next few days or weeks, from my perspective at least, the entire process is a microcosm of why it simply sucks to be an Oriole fan, or a baseball fan in general for that matter.

 

This was supposed to be the off-season that we, as Orioles’ fans, were looking forward to. By 2008 we all thought, the MASN money would be rolling in, the O’s would be out from under a number of inflated contracts, and there would coincidentally be a couple of potential free agents with some natural Baltimore ties that the team might be able to entice into coming here.

 

Instead, this off-season is quickly becoming another in which O’s fans will be put to the test once again as only the most myopic among us could be even moderately hopeful about the future if the Red Sox were to sign Mark Teixeira. And let me also clarify by saying that I never really wanted Teixeira or AJ Burnett for that matter either, in the first place.

 

Given where the Orioles are in their rebuilding process right now, and also given the relative power of the rest of the division, I really don’t see the team as being one or two players away from competing for the division, even if that player is an all world, switch hitting first baseman with both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger credentials. In fact, if anything, spending money to add another bat to an already potent offensive lineup while ignoring glaring pitching needs seems awfully “Yankee-like” to me.

 

With all of that said however, the O’s have thrown their hats into the ring for the Teixeira bidding, and to see him sign elsewhere now would clearly be another in a long line of Orioles losses both on and off of the field. And because of the way that it’s playing out, I and many other Orioles fans, will likely walk away from this even more frustrated than if the O’s had simply abstained from the bidding in the first place. For my money, the way that this thing is going is simply another illustration of what’s wrong with baseball, and particularly with the Orioles.

 

Hometown or not, getting Mark Teixeira to accept a contract to come to Baltimore would involve somehow convincing him to ignore the 800 pound gorillas in the room. Signing a deal to play in Baltimore for the next 6-10 years would indicate one of two things about Mark Teixeira. Either he’s extremely optimistic about the O’s chances for turning things around in the AL East, despite the spending power of both the Yankees and Red Sox, in addition to the stockpile of talent that the Rays have at their current disposal. Or it means that Teixeira is simply doesn’t care much about winning.

 

If you listen to the media, the O’s are only in the bidding for the sake of saying that they made a run at it anyway. Outside of Baltimore it seems that the media has been all but dismissive about the O’s prospects of landing Teixeira. But that’s the way it goes in Bristol I suppose. If it’s not Yankees or Red Sox, it’s back page news, which I’d think has to play in the minds of players too on some level.

 

The last time I checked, there were at least 4 teams bidding for the services of Teixeira, yet if you watch the sports news, it’s the Red Sox have a deal that’s eminent, then the Red Sox are out of the bidding, and then maybe the Red Sox are back in the bidding. It would seem it’s only a matter of time before Teixeira’s agent is able to leverage someone against the Red Sox in order to get the deal that he wants, from the team that he probably wanted to play for all along.

 

Soxeira is a grudge match for me as an O’s fan now, and I have a feeling we’re going to come out on the losing end again. Maybe the O’s were never really in serious contention in the first place.

 

The O’s and serious contention probably don’t belong in the same sentence anyway. And based on the way that things seem to be playing out, neither do Teixeira and O’s fan. You can call him a hometown kid, you can say that he grew up following the O’s, but you can never call him an O’s fan again. Teixeira could get money and a chance to compete in any number of places; it would particularly hurt if he winds up in Boston.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

 

 

 

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Playoffs start in Dallas for Ravens on Saturday night

Posted on 19 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

The Colts victory against Jacksonville on Sunday night added another harsh dose of reality to the Ravens’ plight in attempting to make their improbable run into and eventually through the playoffs. By picking up the win, Indy locked up not just a wildcard berth, but the #5 seed to boot, thereby closing the book on any slim chances that the Ravens would have had to potentially host a playoff game.

Don’t get me wrong, the mere fact that we are still even contemplating playoffs at this point in the season is already far beyond any reasonable expectations that I had for this team before the season began. With that said however, this is not the team that we expected prior to seeing them on the field this year, and at this point, to miss the playoffs altogether would still be a huge disappointment.

For those smarting over the fact that they’ve sent off their playoff ticket money already, in this financially trying holiday season, there is some room for consolation. For all intents and purposes, at least where the Ravens are concerned, the playoffs are already underway. Whatever post-season glory or disappointment this team is destined to achieve, the road there begins, and could just as quickly end, this week in Dallas, with the Ravens a mere 6 wins away from championship glory. And one of those games will be here in Baltimore at least.

“All it takes is a 6 game winning streak.” That was my Dad’s rationale on what it takes to win a national championship in basketball. Regardless of who the competition may be, any team that considers itself championship caliber has to also consider itself capable of stringing together a six game winning streak. That logic typically doesn’t apply to football at any level, but for the 2008 Ravens, 6 wins is what it’s likely going to take.

Before the Steelers game last Sunday, I convinced myself, and even went on air and tried to convince a few of you, that losing the game would not be the end of the world. The point that I was actually trying to get across was not that losing was okay so much, but that winning wasn’t as important as most seemed to think. And I say that simply because, even had the Ravens beaten the Steelers on Sunday, it was still likely that they’d wind up with the 6th seed, and Pittsburgh with the 3rd. In my mind, there’s another match up coming between these two teams, and that’s the one I’d like to see the Ravens win if I had to choose. It’s hard to beat anyone 3 times in a season.

All of that of course, was before the game unfolded the way that it did, and no matter how prepared I may have been to accept a loss in that one, nothing could have prepared me for the feeling that I had when it ended as it did.  Still, when it’s all said and done, (God forgive me for saying it) losing on Sunday may have been the best thing for the Ravens and it was definitely the best thing for the NFL.

When the Steelers picked up the win on Sunday, it assured that their meeting with the Titans this week would be meaningful in terms of impact on playoff seeding. The fact that the Texans were able to pick up the win against Tennessee on Sunday makes it even more important, but regardless, either of those circumstances would have given meaning to the Steelers and Titans match up this week. On the other hand if the Ravens and Titans had both won last week, the Titans would have wrapped up home field and could have begun resting starters if they chose to this week.  They also would have almost certainly given a straight vanilla game plan to the Steelers too because of a likely playoff meeting down the line.

The loss on Sunday takes away any margin for error that the Ravens would have enjoyed over the eventual runners up in the AFC East for the wildcard, but also sets up a potential slugfest between the Titans and Steelers this week. That could work in the Ravens best interest ultimately, and absolutely sets up a dream weekend for the NFL execs in week 16.

Also working in the Ravens favor, and the rest of the AFC as well perhaps, is the fact that the Colts’ playoff spot is absolutely certain with a long week leading up to a meaningless week 17 match up with Tennessee. (It’ll be meaningless for the Colts at least; the Titans could still be playing for the top seed in the AFC in week 17) Remember that the Colts are well known for wrapping up their playoff spots early, dialing it down in the final weeks of the season and making disappointing playoff exits. The only time that the Colts actually won it was in 2006 when they had to play through week 17 in order to earn the best possible playoff seed.

If you already believe in the fix, then you don’t need me to convince you that something was up in that game on Sunday. Again, the NFL’s TV interests certainly seem to have been served. If you believe that the outcome on Sunday was influenced by the league’s desire to set up this week’s match up between Tennessee and Pittsburgh tough, than the reason that the Ravens were even in that position was because of their own loss to the Titans in week 5, another game that seemed to turn on an egregious call by the officials. So maybe now they’re due for a break.

They won’t get that break at Dallas on Saturday either though. Dallas on Saturday will probably be a lot like Pittsburgh was on Monday night last season, luckily these Ravens don’t look very much like those Ravens did. If they’re going to pick up a win this week, they’ll need to make their own breaks. There is such a thing as putting the game out of the refs’ hands, and that’s what they’ll have to do to keep their playoff hopes rolling. Otherwise they’ll have to hope to back in to the playoffs, which I still think is a distinct possibility, but hopefully a matter that we won’t even have to discuss.

The road to the Superbowl starts all over again this week for the Ravens, and it’ll take 6 wins to take the prize. The only problem is that the NFL doesn’t offer up any soft  #16 seeds to tune up on, they’ll have to come out of the gate charging like an unlikely #12 seed themselves.

If an “us against the world” mentality is helpful, the Ravens have to be feeling that way after Sunday’s loss. But as I’ve said, there could still be a lot of positives to come from the loss as well.

And if you believe in the fix, then you certainly remember the 2005 Steelers. As I recall, it seemed like the league was ready to get Peyton Manning his ring that time around. The refs seemed to do all that they could to give the game to the Colts in the divisional round against Pittsburgh, but the Steelers managed to make enough plays to take it out of the refs’ hands. Many seem to think that the Steelers were conversely rewarded in the Superbowl that year getting the benefit of some questionable calls against the Seahawks.

Maybe the Ravens will also get a similar boost down the line if they needed it. I wouldn’t hold my breath though. Maybe if someone had told Walt Coleman that the Titans had already lost while he was under that hood on Sunday, we wouldn’t even be discussing any of this.

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

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The Fantasy Flavor Positional Power Rankings – Week 16 D/STs

Posted on 18 December 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

And finally, here are the week 16 defense / special teams rankings. With every other position, every bit of conventional logic seemingly out the window in this fantasy football season, there haven’t been a lot of surprises when it comes to defense. This week though, the match ups have made for lots of viable sleepers on defense this week.

 

Keep in mind that the power rankings, listed here, are based on year to date performance and not a reflection of your best options for week 16. Just below the power rankings are match up previews advising who should be better or worse than usual this week, based on their opponents. At the bottom, are the week 16 start rankings, that’s where you should look for help with your week 16 lineup decisions.

 

Week 16 Fantasy Defense / Special Teams Power Rankings

 

D/ST Power Rankings Archive34567 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15

 

(last week’s rankings in parentheses)

 

1. Baltimore Ravens (1) – 6 TD, 31 sacks, 22 int, 6 fum rec, 3 safeties, 195 pts allowed

 

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3) – 7 TD, 27 sacks, 21 int, 8 fum rec, 239 pts allowed

 

3. New York Jets (9) – 6 TD, 40 sacks, 14 int, 13 fum rec, 289 pts allowed

 

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (2) – 2 TD, 47 sacks, 18 int, 9 fum rec, 1 safety, 182 pts allowed

 

5. Chicago Bears (7) – 6 TD, 28 sacks, 21 int, 8 fum rec, 1 safety, 290 pts allowed

 

6. Tennessee Titans (6) – 3 TD, 38 sacks, 18 int, 9 fum rec, 197 pts allowed

 

7. Philadelphia Eagles (4) – 5 TD, 41 sacks, 14 int, 10 fum rec, 1 safety, 247 pts allowed

 

8. New York Giants (5) – 3 TD, 40 sacks, 16 int, 5 fum rec, 3 safeties, 228 pts allowed

 

9. Minnesota Vikings (11) – 4 TD, 41 sacks, 12 int, 13 fum rec, 3 safeties, 270 pts allowed

 

10. Dallas Cowboys (12) – 2 TD, 53 sacks, 8 int, 12 fum rec, 1 safety, 274 pts allowed

 

11. Green Bay Packers (8) – 9 TD, 23 sacks, 18 int, 6 fum rec, 327 pts allowed

 

12. Arizona Cardinals (10) – 6 TD, 29 sacks, 11 int, 16 fum rec, 352 pts allowed

 

13. Carolina Panthers (14) – 1 TD, 32 sacks, 11 int, 12 fum rec, 258 pts allowed

 

14. Miami Dolphins (13) – 1 TD, 37 sacks, 12 int, 10 fum rec, 1 safety, 255 pts allowed

 

15. Indianapolis Colts (16) – 3 TD, 24 sacks, 14 int, 11 fum rec, 248 pts allowed

 

16. Cleveland Browns (15) – 3 TD, 17 sacks, 22 int, 7 fum rec, 281 pts allowed

 

17. Oakland Raiders (20) – 4 TD, 27 sacks, 14 int, 8 fum rec, 2 safeties, 340 pts allowed

 

18. San Francisco 49ers (19) – 4 TD, 26 sacks, 11 int, 5 fum rec, 319 pts allowed

 

19. Atlanta Falcons (18) – 3 TD, 28 sacks, 10 int, 4 fum rec, 1 safety, 275 pts allowed

 

20. San Diego Chargers (NR) – 3 TD, 26 sacks, 11 int, 8 fum rec, 1 safety, 284 pts allowed

 

Dropped From Rankings: Buffalo Bills

 

D/STs Who Should Be Better Than Usual In Week 16: San Francisco 49ers @ ST.L; Cleveland Browns vs. CIN; Atlanta Falcons @ MIN; New York Jets @ SEA; Philadelphia Eagles @ WAS

 

D/STs Who Could Be Sleepers Based On Week 16 Match Ups: New Orleans Saints @ DET; St. Louis Rams vs. SF; Houston Texans @ OAK; Cincinnati Bengals @ CLE; Denver Broncos vs. BUF

 

D/STs With Tough Week 16 Match Ups: Pittsburgh Steelers @ TEN; Carolina Panthers @ NYG; Minnesota Vikings vs. ATL; Chicago Bears vs. GB; New York Giants vs. CAR; Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. SD

 

D/STs You Might Want To Avoid In Week 16: New England Patriots vs. AZ; Detroit Lions vs. NO; Kansas City Chiefs vs. MIA; Jacksonville Jaguars vs. IND

 

And here are the week 16 Fantasy D/ST start rankings; it’s all 32 D/STs in the order that you should consider them this week. They were gotten using the Fantasy Flavor secret formula, and have their formulary numbers in parentheses, the lower the better.

 

1. New York Jets (13)

2. Baltimore Ravens (17)

3. Philadelphia Eagles (22)

4. Tennessee Titans (25)

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29)

6. Chicago Bears (37)

7. San Francisco 49ers (37)

8. Dallas Cowboys (39)

9. Miami Dolphins (39)

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (40)

11. Arizona Cardinals (41)

12. New York Giants (42)

13. Green Bay Packers (43)

14. Atlanta Falcons (43)

15. Indianapolis Colts (44)

16. Oakland Raiders (46)

17. New Orleans Saints (47)

18. Minnesota Vikings (48)

19. Cleveland browns (54)

20. Houston Texans (54)

21. Carolina Panthers (57)

22. San Diego Chargers (60)

23. Buffalo Bills (60)

24. Seattle Seahawks (68)

25. St. Louis Rams (68)

26. Cincinnati Bengals (69)

27. Washington Redskins (72)

28. Denver Broncos (72)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (73)

30. Kansas City Chiefs (78)

31. New England Patriots (81)

32. Detroit Lions (86)

 

You can use the links at the bottom of the page to get to the rest of this week’s rankings and catch the show on Saturday from 4-7. We’ll be leading up to the Ravens game and setting up the rest of week 16 as well.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

Week 16 Fantasy QB Rankings and Previews

 

Week 16 Fantasy RB Rankings and Previews

 

Week 16 Fantasy WR Rankings and Previews

 

Week 16 Fantasy TE Rankings and Previews

 

Week 16 Fantasy K Rankings and Previews

 

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