Tag Archive | "Carson Palmer"

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Ravens-Cardinals: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 25 October 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens normally relish a prime-time game to show the country just how good they are.

But there’s nowhere to hide on Monday night as they limp into Arizona with a 1-5 record to take on a Cardinals team atop the NFC West.

To say John Harbaugh and Baltimore don’t have a shot would be silly — it’s the NFL, after all — but there’s not much reason for optimism looking at this matchup on paper or if you’ve simply watched the Ravens play this season. Making matters worse is the health of the secondary as cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and safety Kendrick Lewis (knee) are both questionable for the league’s 27th-ranked pass defense that will try to slow Carson Palmer and the NFL’s ninth-best passing attack.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Cardinals for the first time since 2011, a game that produced the largest comeback victory in franchise history. Holding a 4-1 all-time record against Arizona, Baltimore will be playing its first game at University of Phoenix Stadium while the Cardinals seek their first win over the Ravens since a 1997 contest played at Memorial Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens attempt to win their fifth consecutive game against the Cardinals …

1. Justin Forsett will touch the ball 25 times and score a touchdown with more than 100 yards from scrimmage. If you’re looking for a weakness on their defense, the Cardinals have been underwhelming stopping the run as they’ve allowed 4.1 yards per carry, ranking 21st in the NFL. The Ravens will surely want to keep one of the most prolific offenses in the league on the sideline as much as possible, so controlling the clock and trying to play field position would figure to be the best way to do it. With Patrick Peterson likely clamping down on Steve Smith for much of the night, the Ravens will need Forsett to keep them in third-and-manageable situations to make this one close.

2. Joe Flacco will throw an interception to Tyrann Mathieu that will set up an Arizona score. The Cardinals rank fourth in the NFL with 13 takeaways and have intercepted opponents a league-leading 11 times in six games. This is bad news for Flacco, who has thrown seven interceptions so far this season. With little fear of the Ravens beating the Arizona secondary deep, the free safety Mathieu will have a chance to display his ball-hawking skills and that will pay off with a pick and a long return to put the Cardinals on a short field. General manager Ozzie Newsome needs to find more explosive weapons for his quarterback, but that doesn’t excuse Flacco from committing costly turnovers this year.

3. Jimmy Smith will do a solid job shadowing Larry Fitzgerald, but John Brown and Michael Floyd will catch touchdowns against the Ravens secondary. Webb figures to return to action, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees will still be faced with the dilemma of how to handle the nickel package with neither Kyle Arrington nor Shareece Wright inspiring trust. It makes sense to allow Smith to take on the 6-foot-3 Fitzgerald, but Brown provides a speed threat that the Ravens will need to account for and Floyd also brings good size inside the red zone. Baltimore can hope Brown’s hamstring issue limits his speed, but there are just too many weapons for a poor pass defense to neutralize.

4. Jeremy Ross will catch his first touchdown pass as a member of the Ravens. He’s not a long-term fix, but the former Detroit Lion has five catches for 58 yards in limited snaps over two games compared to Marlon Brown’s 10 receptions and 84 receiving yards while playing extensively in six contests. In other words, it’s time to see what Ross and others such as Chris Givens and Darren Waller can do with Brown being so unproductive. Ross brings some experience at receiver from his days in Detroit and adds much-needed speed to the equation. That will pay off with Flacco throwing his first touchdown to a wide receiver not named Smith or Kamar Aiken this season.

5. Palmer will become the latest quarterback to burn Baltimore in a 31-17 final. There’s a mixed history between Palmer and the Ravens, but none of that means anything with this defense being a shell of what it used to be and the veteran revitalized with a flash group of weapons to throw to. Baltimore will compete for a large portion of this game, but the Cardinals are just a much better football team right now. All five of the Ravens’ defeats this year have been by six or fewer points, but that streak will come to an end with a double-digit loss. It’s difficult to recall the last time there was so much pessimism while previewing an upcoming Ravens game, but that’s what happens when you’re 1-5.

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Arizona possesses what Ravens lack in 2015

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will look across the field on Monday night and see exactly what they’re lacking in 2015.

Playmakers on both sides of the ball have led the Arizona Cardinals to a 4-2 record atop the NFC West as well as the best point differential (plus-88) in the NFL. Baltimore’s shortage of playmakers has contributed to the worst start in franchise history and five defeats all decided by six points or fewer.

Offensively, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has a trio of talented receivers — future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, second-year speedster John Brown, and former first-round pick Michael Floyd — on which to rely. That combination of experience, speed, and height has helped Arizona produce the league’s seventh-ranked passing game and 33.8 points per game.

In contrast, Joe Flacco has a 36-year-old Steve Smith playing at a high level and a group of unheralded receivers behind him who have struggled to make a meaningful impact. Making matters worse, the Ravens offense will be facing the league’s ninth-ranked pass defense than includes Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and hybrid safety Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary.

The Cardinals often-explosive offense has lacked consistency — evident by a Week 4 home loss to St. Louis and last week’s 25-13 defeat in Pittsburgh — but it’s not easy envisioning Baltimore’s 27th-ranked pass defense being able to keep up with Arizona’s speed. Even pedestrian offenses have picked apart the Ravens secondary this season, so what will a top 10 unit be able to do?

And given how slowly the Ravens offense has started most games this season, Monday night could get ugly if we see a similar opening act.

Return game progress

One of the few bright spots from the Week 6 loss to San Francisco was another good performance by returner Jeremy Ross, who broke a 41-yard kick return late in the first quarter.

A second look at the return, however, indicated that Ross could have made it even better had he cut behind a block from rookie Nick Boyle toward the right sideline instead of shifting inside where three tacklers were waiting. His special teams coordinator agreed with that sentiment on Thursday.

“We honestly should’ve gotten more out of it than we did,” Jerry Rosburg said. “We didn’t finish it very well, but at least we got it set up. So, we’re making progress. I like what he has done. He has been working really hard on the reads and ball security. He has gotten a lot better.”

In addition to averaging 29.5 yards per kick return and 10.0 yards per punt return, Ross has caught five passes for 58 yards in limited action as a receiver in two games. Given the lack of big-play ability the Ravens have shown on either side of the ball, would Rosburg encourage the speedy Ross to be more aggressive taking kicks out of the end zone like Jacoby Jones was in his three years in Baltimore?

“It depends on what kind of deep kick it is,” Rosburg said. “There are different kinds of deep kicks — high-hanging deep kicks. Even Jacoby didn’t have a green light. Sometimes, he ran the red light.”

Wright bouncing back?

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t mince words in criticizing the newly-acquired Shareece Wright after he was burned for two touchdowns in the 25-20 loss to the 49ers, but the Ravens will likely be counting on him again this week.

Starter Lardarius Webb is expected to return from a hamstring injury, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees prefers using Webb inside in the nickel package. This leaves the Ravens with Wright or Kyle Arrington to play on the outside opposite Jimmy Smith, and Arrington has also struggled when asked to play on the outside this season

“I really liked the way he responded this week,” said Pees of Wright. “It was going to be interesting to come out here and go through the film with him and come back out here and watch and see how he responded this week. So far, he has responded great. Now, I’ll tell you again Monday night after we get done [playing].

“Sometimes it takes [failure]. We all learn by mistakes, and hopefully that will be his case.”

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Suggs hoping to continue progress against old foe Palmer

Posted on 07 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Terrell Suggs hasn’t taken the field at M&T Bank Stadium since last January, but when he makes his 2012 home debut on Sunday, he’ll be looking across the line of scrimmage at a familiar opponent.

It will mark quarterback Carson Palmer’s first game against the Ravens since he was traded to the Oakland Raiders last season, but Suggs remembers the longtime Bengals quarterback as a thorn in his team’s side for years. Palmer owns a 9-4 record in his career against the Ravens, including some last-minute heroics on a couple occasions in Baltimore.

“He is one of those underrated quarterbacks that can make every throw, especially if he gets in a groove,” Suggs said. “You all saw it when he was in Cincinnati. I remember vividly games I thought we had won, and Carson Palmer got in his groove and he torched us. He is a really good quarterback, and he knows us pretty well, too.”

Palmer erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Ravens in 2004 and also marched the Bengals 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds remaining in their 2009 meeting in Baltimore.

At 32 years old, Palmer doesn’t display the same rifle that prompted the Bengals to draft the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner with the first overall pick of the 2003 draft, but the Raiders quarterback has thrown for 2,355 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eight interceptions this season. Never considered a mobile quarterback, Palmer has never had too many issues with Suggs over the years as the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker has collected just four sacks in the 13 games they’ve played against each other.

Of course, many of those games came with Cincinnati’s capable left tackle Andrew Whitworth keeping Suggs in check. The Raiders will entrust Jared Veldheer to protect Palmer’s blindside from the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year.

“You still have to play the game, but this is one of the more dangerous quarterbacks because he doesn’t scramble,” Suggs said. “He’ll stand in the pocket and make the play and make the right throw.”

With Oakland running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both suffering high ankle sprains in the Raiders’ Week 9 loss to Tampa Bay, Palmer will likely be expected to throw at will after attempting 61 passes and tossing four touchdowns in the loss to the Buccaneers.

Meanwhile, Suggs hopes to continue to build on his comeback from a partially-torn Achilles tendon after a quiet performance against Cleveland in his second game back. Sunday will mark the first time that Suggs will have played games in two straight weeks, and the pass-rusher admits he is still working his way back to pre-injury form.

How close he is to being 100 percent is anyone’s guess, but Suggs did not appear to take a step forward in Cleveland after a strong debut that included a sack in the Ravens’ Week 7 loss in Houston.

“The only thing that can really determine that is my play,” Suggs said. “As I get better, I can get some of my explosion back and, not only that, my game-time wind. We pretty much evaluate after every game.”

Disappearing tight ends

Entering the season with high expectations, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson haven’t taken the steps forward the Ravens had hoped to see through the first half of the season.

Pitta started fast this season, catching 18 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games of the season, but the third-year tight end has caught just 14 passes and no touchdowns in the last five games.

Even more concerning has been the disappearance of Dickson, who has only 10 receptions for 85 yards in eight games. The former third-round pick caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns last season as it appeared he and Pitta were emerging as one of the most dangerous tandems of tight ends in the league.

“The tight ends can be more productive,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s something that they are working really hard. [Tight ends coach] Wade Harman is doing a great job coaching them, but I’d like to see a few more plays out of them, and I know they feel the same way.”

Dickson has struggled to catch the football, a problem he dealt with last season, while Pitta has had trouble getting open against man-to-man coverage.

Pitta believes the reduced number of opportunities has been a factor for the lack of production at the tight end position. After he was targeted 30 times in the first three games of the year, Pitta has been targeted by quarterback Joe Flacco 20 times in the last five games.

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>

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50 words or less .... Thursday, April 28th

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50 words or less …. Thursday, April 28th

Posted on 28 April 2011 by WNST Interns

Welcome to what promises to be a pretty busy Thursday in the Baltimore sports community. The Ravens are primed to welcome their newest member of the fold and the Orioles are hoping to break out a broom on the Red Sox.

But, challenges exist.

There will be 25 obstacles standing in front of Ozzie Newsome and company and the birds lineup must deal with Boston ace, Jon Lester …. while Adrian Gonzalez and his lineup mates will face a likley easier task in figuring out Brad Bergesen.

Here’s today’s edition of “50 Words Or Less ….”
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The Forgotten Piece ???
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A daily conversation revolving around the Orioles always seems to regard the hitting attack or young starting pitching. I get it …. it’s “sexier” than discussing defense, baserunning and the bullpen.

But, last night served as another reminder that this team does not have a SHUT THE DOOR closer, nor do they have that coveted formidable 8th and 9th inning tandem. It’s a weakness that’s plagued the Orioles for a number of years.

Ask yourself this question …. were you comfortable heading into the top of the 9th inning with a 5-4 lead, last night?
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That’s “Mr. Cover Model”
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Well, Twitter certainly served as the ideal “LET’S PILEUP ON PEYTON HILLIS” social format, yesterday afternoon. As soon as news broke of the breakout back’s throttling of Michael Vick in the Madden-2012 cover matchup, the detractors and haters surfaced …..

“One Shot Wonder” …. “Overrated” …. “Another Mistake By The Lake” …. indeed, we saw and read it all. I think it’s kinda funny. A process that allowed people to manipulate results is what availed Hillis and Vick to reach final consideration in the first place.

Hey, it’s just a video game and a very popular one. Nobody buys it for the cover anyway. But, rest assured, there are some relieved souls in EA Sports hierarchy today.
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Reaching Rock Bottom
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Yep, today’s the day. It’s the 23rd anniversary of the one distinction the Baltimore Orioles would rather forget. On April 28, 1988, in the artificial confines of the Metrodome, the birds set a new mark for frustration and failure.

0-21

We always hear Dimaggio’s 56 game hit streak and Ripken’s 2,131 consecutive game streak will never be broken. Well, you can probably toss this distinction behind both of those marks. I can’t foresee another team doing it …..
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With The 26th Pick …..
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I’ll say it again, NOBODY really knows what the Ravens will do during tonight’s 1st round of the NFL Draft. But, plenty of opinions exist …..

Peter King – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Drew Forrester – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Matt Bowen – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple

Glenn Clark – Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Brian Billick – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Who do I side with? King has NFL connections … Drew has LOCAL connections … Bowen played the game … Glenn is a “Ravens Insider” … and the coach possesses all four qualities.

I’m gonna trust Glenn. He was right on the money with Sergio Kindle, in 2010. And, he thought the Ravens would drop down to snag him. That’s money …..
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Greatest Debut Album
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I’ll start this rant by admitting my feelings are still smarting. One of these days, I might be considered for the MORNING REACTION’S Hall Of Fame. I’ve only been listening and contributing, in one way or another, for 7 freakin’ years …..

Regardless, I’ve gotta offer an opinion on yesterday’s conversation about the “Greatest Debut Album”. The Cars’ self-titled debut album bests the original Van Halen offering?

Come on …..

The truth in simple sports-related terms; The Cars couldn’t carry Van Halen’s jock. The Cars debut album sold 6 million copies and Van Halen’s debut has sold nearly 11 million issues. But, let’s forget sales and talk about the music …..

Would you rather listen to “My Best Friends Girl” or “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” ???

Case closed …..
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Keep An Eye On …..
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Yeah, I’m finishing up with more NFL conjecture. If Blaine Gabbert slips past the Buffalo Bills at #3 overall, will Marvin Lewis grab him? It’s an interesting debate, especially given the Bengals’ fractured relationship with Carson Palmer.

Many expert minds believe Gabbert is the best “NFL quality” quarterback in this class. I think they’re onto something. The talent is untapped and unrealized, but I don’t like the potential prospect of facing the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, twice a year, for the next decade.

So, I’m hoping Buffalo doesn’t screw this up. But, they probably will …..

Happy Thursday …. I’ll chat with you at 2pm

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Live from Owings Mills: Heap set to return Sunday, E. Reed back at practice

Posted on 31 December 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Completing their final practice of the calendar year, the Ravens are aiming for a positive start to 2011 against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore (11-4) saw two player return to the practice field Friday and appears to be in good shape physically for the regular-season finale. To no one’s surprise, safety Ed Reed (neck) was present at the open portion of practice, confirming speculation that Thursday was an impromptu day off for the veteran dealing with a number of ailments over the last few seasons.

“It was just precautionary,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He was a little bit tight, and we just felt like giving him a chance to recover a little bit and rest up. We do that with some guys this time of year.”

Also returning to the practice field was linebacker Prescott Burgess (illness) after missing two days with the flu bug that has worked its way through the training complex in Owings Mills in recent weeks.

Safety Tom Zbikowski (back) and linebacker Tavares Gooden (shoulder) did not practice and were the only players not participating fully in the Friday session. Zbikowski was not expected to play against the Bengals, but the team had some hope that Gooden might play before both players were ruled out in Friday afternoon’s injury report.

Receiver David Reed (head/wrist) practiced again and was returning kicks on Friday, a good indication that the rookie will return to action after sustaining a concussion against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. However, he is listed as questionable on the official injury report.

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Heap set to return

After practicing fully all week, tight end Todd Heap declared himself ready to return Sunday after missing three straight games with a hamstring injury sustained against Pittsburgh on December 5. The veteran said he experienced no setbacks throughout the week while handling a full practice load.

Heap is listed as questionable, but all indications point to his return against the Bengals.

“I feel good,” Heap said. “Obviously, today we went pretty hard. I came out feeling really good. I ran well, and I’m looking forward to this weekend. We’ll see how it goes Sunday.”

Heap practiced on a limited basis last week, but the team held him out in the chilly conditions at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The training staff has used a day-by-day approach to monitor his recovery since injuring the hamstring on the first play of the game against the Steelers in Week 13.

“Feel good about [his return],” Harbaugh said. “We’ll wait and see how it feels [after Friday’s practice]. What we’ve done is checked it out after every practice the next day to see how it responds. So far so good.”

With the playoffs looming next week, Heap eyed a return in the regular-season finale to regain his footing within the offense and boost his confidence physically before the stakes become much higher in January.

Rookie Ed Dickson started the last three games in Heap’s absence, catching a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15, but Baltimore tight ends went without a catch last week in Cleveland.

“That’s the biggest thing,” Heap said. “Getting your feet back under you, I definitely wanted to do that. The biggest thing for me is just make sure I’m full-go and I’m ready. Make sure the hamstring is feeling like it’s supposed to feel. I don’t want to do anything to set myself back. Still have to be smart.”

T.Ocho no-show

With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco both out for Sunday’s game in Baltimore, the Bengals receiving corps will be much quieter, but the Ravens secondary will keep a close eye on the young group that’s produced in their place.

Third-year receiver Jerome Simpson caught six passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns in their win over the San Diego Chargers last week. Andre Caldwell was a thorn in the Ravens’ side in 2009, catching two touchdowns including the game-winning score in Baltimore.

“They have good receivers,” Harbaugh said. “They have good young guys who showed up pretty well last week. We’ll have to cover whoever they put out there, but I really like their talented young guys, and Carson [Palmer] seems comfortable with them.”

Scoreboard watching allowed

Ravens fans will certainly be keeping an eye on the happenings in Cleveland on Sunday, and Harbaugh and his team will have the opportunity to take a peak as well. When asked about Brian Billick’s past  requests that the out-of-town scores with playoff implications not be shown at M&T Bank Stadium, the current coach responded coyly.

“I didn’t know I had that kind of power,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from the media in attendance. “That’s good to know.”

Harbaugh said all week the Ravens will play the entire game like any other regular-season contest, regardless of what’s happening between the Browns and Steelers. However, he won’t prohibit anyone from following a major factor in the team’s playoff destination.

“I can see why you might do that, but we’ll let [the scores] be up there,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not worried about our players one bit. I know our guys will be focused, and they’re going to play the game.”

Injury report

RAVENS: OUT – S Tom Zbikowski (back), LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE – TE Todd Heap (thigh), WR David Reed (wrist/head) PROBABLE – C Matt Birk (knee), WR Derrick Mason (ankle/abs), CB Fabian Washington (back), LB Prescott Burgess (illness), TE Dennis Pitta (head), S Ed Reed (neck)

BENGALS: OUT – WR Chad Ochocinco (ankle) DOUBTFUL – TE Jermaine Gresham (knee) QUESTIONABLE – CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle), LB Dan Skuta (back) PROBABLE – DE Carlos Dunlap (shoulder), RB Bernard Scott (toe)

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PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Troy Polamalu  of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass from Carson Palmer  of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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Sunday’s NFL action provides a clear message; Ravens are still a top team

Posted on 13 December 2010 by WNST Interns

Well, I’m imagining most of us spent yesterday afternoon partaking in some similar Sunday rituals; gauging the competition around the National Football League, and collectively hoping the Cincinnati Bengals might find a way to upset our nemesis up in Pittsburgh.

In totality, the day offered some pretty daunting realities, both on and off the playing field …..

– Having a “trash bag” roof eventually proves to be a bad idea …..

– Tom Brady’s game is just as good on snow tires …..

– Rex Ryan’s Jets really are the NFL’s equivalent of the pro rasslin’ product …..

– While his comeback is pretty impressive, Mike Vick is NOT Tom Brady …..

– Brett Favre evidently owns a pretty sharp razor knife, and access to the dome’s roof …..

Indeed, yesterday was no ordinary Sunday around the NFL. The slate of games was less than impressive, as a large bulk of the contests were nothing more than mismatches. But, weather and interference by off-field personnel really provided some drama to what many of us perceived to be a day full of bad football.

Maybe, I’m being too harsh …..

Instances of occasional “bad football” at the pro level are generally a seldom-seen phenomenon, right? Of course, yesterday provided a few glaring examples of horrendous execution by teams vying for playoff position, as well as those playing out the string …..

– Graham Gano may very well find himself joining Jeff Reed in the unemployment line after missing an extra point and chip shot field goal, in the Redskins embarrassing loss against the Buccaneers …..

– Brodie Croyle and the Kansas City Chiefs mustered just 67 yards in total offense, while being shutout, 31-0, by the San Diego Chargers in a prime AFC-West showdown …..

– Mark Sanchez looked very much like the rookie from last season and the “clown” from HBO’s Hard Knocks, in the Jets second straight loss, which now tasks Gang-Green with trying to stem a late season collapse – on the road, in Pittsburgh, next week …..

– And, of course, speaking of the Steelers …. we must cite the “steaming stinker” Carson Palmer left on the newly sodded turf, at Heinz Field. Yesterday’s line for Palmer: 20 for 32, 178 yards & 2 touchdowns.

Not horrible, huh? Oh yeah, that’s right, those touchdown passes were both tossed into the waiting arms of Steelers defenders …..

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Troy Polamalu  of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass from Carson Palmer  of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Any chance of witnessing a ‘Bungals upset of the Steelers was lost amid predictable breakdowns and missed assignments. Welcome to the 2010 edition of the “Great Cincinnati Disaster”. While they punished Ben Roethlisberger early in the game and even broke out to a quick lead, the ‘Bungals looked very much like a certain black and orange baseball product.

Cincinnati’s string of consecutive losses now stands at TEN AND COUNTING. Given the knuckleheads on that roster, it might be a good idea for the networks to consider slotting this 2-11 team into a nationally televised contest or two.

Say what you will, I’ve got a feeling the ‘Bungals have a “meltdown moment”; a behemoth mutinous catastrophe on the field and I don’t wanna miss it !!!!

In summing up everything observed in yesterday’s NFL action, I’m developing some pretty distinct conclusions:

We are going to see one of the season-long contenders go down in bursting flames over the final few weeks of the regular season …..

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MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 24: Denny Hamlin (R), driver of the  FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with car owner Joe Gibbs (L), in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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Sunday Money – 6-Pack

Posted on 19 November 2010 by WNST Interns

For weeks, I’ve been boasting about my preseason predictions for the Baltimore Ravens. On September 8th, I previewed each game on the schedule, on-air, and gave my opinion on how things would turn out.

I kept that schedule and it’s hanging on the wall of my home office. To date, I’ve been correct on 8 of the 9 games. The lone blemish is the contest against the Miami Dolphins. Yep, I had that game in the loss column.

Hey, the good news is I forecasted the loss against the Atlanta Falcons as the final defeat of the 2010 season. That’s correct, I picked the Ravens to run the table throughout the remainder of the regular slate of games.

And, I’ll stick by it …..

Since I’ve been so accurate with my predictions over the past couple months, I’ve decided to share my weekly prognostications with YOU, the listener and reader. It’s my early Christmas gift to anyone who reads my blogs.

I have no doubt that when my peers read this, they’ll have some provoking thoughts …..

Drew Forrester : “I like Rex, but I’m not following his advice – he freakin’ texted me from Vegas and asked which baseball games to bet. By the way, he won a few hundred bucks ….. and I’m still waiting for my Chinese lunch.”

Glenn Clark : “I don’t really like Rex, and I absolutely NEVER, EVER agree with him. I’m certain his predictions will be LAUGHABLE ….. if not, INSANE. So, before I even look at his picks, I’ll get this outta the way ….. DUDE, YOU’RE JUST WRONG.”

Thyrl Nelson : “His fantasy football team, Rexual HerAssMent, is 3-7 …. that’s all I need to know.”

Regardless of what others might say, you can rest assured that my LOCKS for the weekend will come to fruition. You’ll make money, guaranteed. Count on this 6-pack of predictions …..

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What does Tom Brady think of the Baltimore Ravens and Terrell Suggs?

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What does Tom Brady think of the Baltimore Ravens and Terrell Suggs?

Posted on 19 October 2010 by WNST Interns

By now, we pretty much know how Baltimore’s purple kool-aid drinking, smash-mouth football fans feel about Tom Brady ….

I’m assuming you respect his on-field achievements, especially as it regards his overall prowess as a championship winning quarterback, and a stat-logging machine.

Tom Brady has been recognized as the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player. He is the only quarterback in the game’s modern history to lead a team to an undefeated regular season record. And, he is the only quarterback to throw for 50 touchdowns in a single season.

Yet, more importantly, Tom Brady has been on the winning end of 102 of his 135 regular season contests. Yes, that’s a .755 winning percentage. Or, for those scoring on the 16-game measuring stick, he wins an average of 12 games per season. Not too shabby, huh?

Of course, the most impressive part of Brady’s resume’ is his postseason mark of 14 wins and 4 losses, accompanied by 28 touchdowns, 4100 passing yards and THREE OF THESE …..
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Hard to beat such accomplishments, huh?

Count ’em, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Mike Vick and the CHOSEN ONE – Mark Sanchez, combined, have not won as many Super Bowls as Tom Brady.

Combine the achievements and distinctions with Brady’s character as a good citizen and unblemished ambassador of the game, which separates him from the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre, and the story of a guy who’s universally adored is a given reality, right?

Not so fast …..

While Tom Brady is everything specified, thus far, he’s also known for one disintegrating trait, which grows louder and LOUDER …..

That’s right, on top of being everything an American kid could hope for in life, Brady has also been hampered and psychologically scarred by an incident that paved and demolished his 2008 season.

If you’re just a casual football fan, chances are you still recall this image from the NFL’s “Opening Day,” just a couple years ago …..
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It’s only been a couple years, but I will always remember that season-ending injury for Tom Brady. I felt bad for the guy and I still do. As I mentioned earlier, he’s the perfect role model citizen and he’s a freakin’ winner. I also dig the fact that all 32 teams passed on him NUMEROUS TIMES in the NFL Draft.

But, in the couple years since returning from his debilitating injury, Brady has been earning a reputation that will likely stick a negitive stigma to his otherwise stellar reputation. In fact, this perception and belief people are developing can be a KILLER for a “man’s man.”

Tom Brady is being viewed as SOFT.

Tom Brady is being viewed as GUN SHY.

Tom Brady is being viewed as a SISSY.

There, I finally said it. After all the lathering of accolades I’ve smered on the guy, I’ve gotta be honest about the way many people are viewing Tom Brady, these days. It’s an impression I’ve resisted for more than year; that’s how much I really LIKE and RESPECT the guy.

But, with each passing game, I’m being swayed further and further to the side of the guys who question Brady’s mental and physical toughness …. or even his courage.

That’s a very damning thing to say or write …..

In last year’s October matchup, all of us distinctly recall Tom Brady lobbying officials for penalties against Ravens defenders for incidental contact and rather meaningless/harmless touches. At first, I perceived it to be gamemanship from Brady. I imagined that he would complain with a demonstrative vigor, but ultimately walk back to the huddle with a snicker, while knowing he was gonna get some yellow hankies thrown in his favor.

As last season dragged on, so did Tom Brady’s antics. And, he was getting louder about it.

Everyone was taking notice.

For me, the culmination of Brady’s complaining about contact really culminated in Sunday’s game. He was hit CLEAN upon releasing the ball on a completed pass, late in the 4th quarter. Yet, he still slammed his hand to the ground, while chewing the referee’s ass. He was looking for a penalty. And, yes, I saw Terrell Suggs’ hand graze the quarterback’s helmet.

Fortunately, the officials didn’t bite and a penalty was not assessed. Doing so could’ve killed the impending reality of overtime.

Is that how Tom Brady really wants to win?

Is that what he’s reduced to?

I’m not buying it. I don’t think it’s a competitive tool or gamesmanship. To be blunt, I think Tom Brady is legitimately concerned about getting hurt, again. And, while I can understand his plight, it’s also the professional path he’s chosen.

Getting slammed by Ray Lewis HURTS. Getting drilled by a Cliff Lee fastball HURTS. Hitting the wall in Jeff Gordon’s Chevrolet, at 180 mph, HURTS. I get it, I really do.

Evidently, Tom Brady really gets it …. and he doesn’t like it. Thus, we’re treated to his weekly antics …..
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Believe me, I see the business aspect tied to guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. They’re the marketing darlings or “cash cows” for NFL Properties. Thus, the league does everything possible (including rules changes) to ensure these guys stay on the field.

But, at some point, you’ve gotta play football, right? Heck, some folks think the game has already been watered down by the rules changes.

Still, Tom Brady complains – every single week.

I suppose he accomplishes what he wants. And, on Mondays, he denies everything.

Each Monday, Brady joins the Dennis & Callahan Show, on Boston’s WEEI Radio, for a phone conversation. During yesterday’s call, he downplayed his on-field complaining. In fact, he called all the Ravens hits “CLEAN.”

He also dished on his thoughts of Terrell Suggs and the predictability of the Ravens defense, inside the red zone. He said, “they’re either blitzing or putting 8 men in the end zone.”

He also said, “they do a lot of talking for a team that has beaten us once in 9 times, since I’ve been here.”

You can find the conversation HERE

While I still like Tom Brady and remain in awe of his career-defining accomplishments, I really would like to remember him as a guy who did things the right way and played with a physical/mental toughness demanded of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks.

Today, I’m not so certain I still believe in his heart and courage.

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Will The Ravens Beat The Steelers?  Yes .....

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Will The Ravens Beat The Steelers? Yes …..

Posted on 02 October 2010 by WNST Interns

Beyond my inate ability to end up sleeping on the sofa a couple times, per month, and falling victim to a weekend splurge into Three Olives’ Cherry Flavored Vodka, I rarely make many guarantees.

Truth be told, life’s events hold many variables and things change daily. Fortunes evaporate and miracles blossom more often than many of us really fathom.

A kid strikes it rich by inventing Facebook.

A real estate tycoon loses his ass by sticking to conventional wisdom.

A cute girl from Oklahoma becomes country music’s biggest star, because of American Idol.

The Baltimore Orioles win more games in the final two months, than they did in the first four – with virtually the same team !!!!

Indeed, it’s hard to predict the impending reality of life’s plight. Unless, of course, you simply KNOW something is going to happen. And, that’s where today’s thoughts lead me.

The Baltimore Ravens will defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, tomorrow. Slice it …. dice it …. look at it in any possible way desired. This game is an elementary consensus of football’s realities, combined with a twist of karma.

I’m not diminishing the talent of the Steelers; they’re a solid organization. Then again, the same can be said for the Ravens. The Steelers feature an overwhelming defensive attack. Yet, again, so do the Ravens.

So, where is this distinguishable difference that leads me to forceast a certain win by Baltimore?

Well, it can be simply summed up with a look at one side of the ball and one distinct position. Joe Flacco is better than Charlie Batch. In fact, he’s leaps and bounds better than Charlie Batch.

Heck, Marc Bulger is better than Pittsburgh’s quarterback.

Regardless of Batch’s overblown performance against the powder-puff strength of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I will implore you to remember there is a reason why Charlie Batch started the season as #4 on the Steelers depth chart, at quarterback.
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There is a reason why he gets released and the other 31 teams don’t call. There is a reason why he has found a career calling in holding a clipboard and wearing a headset.

Charlie Batch is starting at quarterback, because the Steelers don’t have a better option. Nothing more, nothing less …..

And, this is why the Ravens win tomorrow’s showdown at Heinz Field.

Last week, Charlie Batch looked like Charlie Manning – the long lost cousin of Peyton and Eli. That performance was an aberration. It was an absolute rarity and it refutes the career of Charlie Batch. Numbers, over a consistent period of time don’t lie.

In tomorrow’s game, Joe Flacco will make mistakes. I’ll guarantee it. But, he’ll also realize some success. How much? I don’t know. But, it will be enough to surpass anything Charlie Batch does during the same sixty minutes.

Two weeks ago, Joe Flacco tossed a resounding 4 interceptions. Yet, Carson Palmer only hung 15 points on the board. The Bengals have a better quarterback than the Steelers. They have better receivers. And, their featured running back has been a bigger pain for the Ravens.

Even if Joe Flacco has a “Cincinnati Kinda Day”, I will still challenge Charlie Batch to outscore Carson Palmer. I don’t think he can do it. I know he can’t do it.

Thus, tomorrow’s game really doesn’t boil down to Joe Flacco. I don’t care if he’s 0-3 at Heinz Field. If Charlie Batch was the quarterback in those 3 games, Flacco would be 3-0 – with a Super Bowl appearance under his belt.
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Here’s the blunt truth …..

At some point tomorrow, Charlie Batch will be CHARLIE BATCH. Think about it. At various points, we were teased and even snookered by Jeff Blake, Anthony Wright and Kyle Boller. While each of them played above their true capability in brief glimpses, all of them eventually returned to one consistent image; themselves.

Charlie Batch is no different.

The Pittsburgh Steelers barely survived the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener. They beat an inconsistent Tennessee Titans team – that benched its starting quarterback during the game. And, they bullied one of the league’s punching bags in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tomorrow’s opponent for the Steelers is much different. And, I’m not saying this as a Ravens loyalist. In fact, I’m saying it, because I believe that RIGHT eventually trumps WRONG

At some point, the Steelers are bound to feel the STING of losing Ben Roethlisberger to suspension. It’s a policy of the “Football Gods.” For their team to escape any effect from Roethlisberger’s banishment would seem ….. well, not right.

This is a huge, fitting, justifiable reality.

They’re not going 4-0 without him.

Tomorrow, Charlie Batch will get the reactionary blame for a loss to the Ravens. Yet, over a prudent amount of time, the reality of why the Steelers lost and how it could’ve been prevented, will sink in.
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Ben Roethlisberger.

He will be the reason, even if he’s in another city and state. And, justifiably so.

This embarrassing saga in the storied history of the NFL’s greatest franchise (yeah, I just called them the GREATEST) cannot and will not end with an umblemished record during Roethlisberger’s absence.

Life is fairer than that.

At least, that’s the way I see it …..

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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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