Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wanna get away?

Jameel McClain has been very productive in a limited role during the season’s second half. The undrafted free agent has shown an ability to make impact plays and the coaches have been very impressed with the former Syracuse Orangeman’s ability to absorb the playbook. McClain’s development and the promise of injured rookie Tavares Gooden will more than likely pave the way to Bart Scott’s departure.

One Ravens’ LB who could be labeled as a bit of a disappointment thus far is Antwan Barnes. Making matters worse for Barnes is the possibility that he may have suffered a season ending chest injury against the Cowboys. Stay tuned for more on Barnes’ injury as the week progresses.

An emerging weapon for the Ravens is punter Sam Koch. Koch is fourth in the league in net punting average and second in punts inside the 20. His contributions will become even more relevant if the Ravens play beyond this Sunday as they face potentially more threatening elements and tougher opponents on the road.

Some recent sports talk radio suggested that the Ravens will have cap space in 2009 approaching $27M to address the team’s needs at WR, DB and offensive line. The accuracy of such suggestions is a bit questionable.

At the moment, the team appears to have around $10 million of space after they tender all of their restricted and exclusive rights free agents. They could free up more room by jettisoning Chris McAlister ($8M), Samari Rolle ($4M) and Frank Walker ($1.6M). Unless McAlister is a willing participant in the salary haircut line, don’t expect him back. A case could be made for Rolle and/or Walker albeit at reduced rates. This will make for some interesting offseason debate.

The Ravens host the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend and have been installed as early 11 ½ point favorites and the number is climbing to as high as 13. If the Ravens win they are in and from this writer’s vantage point, the hometown team will easily cover what might appear to be a rather generous spread. But keep this in mind if you choose to roll the dice on John Harbaugh’s troops. If the Patriots lose to the Bills in Buffalo (and I wouldn’t consider that a far-fetched notion), the Ravens will automatically become the conference’s sixth seed and they’ll visit the winner of the Dolphins @ Jets. The Patriots’ game is a 1 PM start so we’ll know by kickoff on Sunday (rescheduled for 4:15) if the Ravens need to beat Jacksonville. Either way, I say the Ravens cover.

All of you who might worry about the way that the Jags played the Colts and nearly pulled off the upset – RELAX! The Jags simply match up well against Indy and they have for years. Maurice Jones Drew is the team’s featured back and he didn’t practice earlier this week, nursing a bruised knee. Who is going to run the ball if Jones Drew can’t go, Chauncey Washington? Think David Garrard can get it done for the Jags? Please. Garrard is a guy who prior to ’08 had been praised for his ability to protect the football. This year he’s coughed it up 14 times. With a banged up offensive line and next to nothing in terms of quality receivers (Dennis Northcutt…are you kidding me?) look for him to cough it up a few more times in what will absolutely be a hostile environment for the spotted kitty cats. They have about as much chance of winning as Britney Spears has of ringing the Salvation Army bells outside of your friendly neighborhood Walmart. Ravens 27, Jaguars 6.

If you are looking for a little warm weather getaway to take off the chill, you may want to consider some reasonable airfares still available with Southwest and possibly take in a NFL wild card game while you’re at it. If the Ravens win or Patriots lose and the Dolphins win, the local birds will be heading south for the winter and play the Fins in Miami during the first weekend of the New Year. Get in now and the tariff is a tolerable $208 roundtrip. Chances are also pretty good that you will score a ticket at a reasonable price. Those aren't people you see dressed as orange seats at Dolphins' Stadium. Hey and just a reminder, the last time the Ravens won a playoff game was in January of 2002 when Elvis Grbac and the Ravens beat the Dolphins in Miami in impressive fashion by the score of 20-3.


Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned, if the Pats lose, I'd rest Flacco, LeRon McClain, Mason, Ray Ray, Reed, Fabian Washington, etc., and let the backups have a field day.