Sunday, January 31, 2010

Count me in as a Pro Bowl fan


I am one of the few fans who actually enjoy the Pro Bowl. Really!

I get that the game is played at half speed and the rules have been changed to protect against injury. I also get that it’s laughable that the AFC has stooped to the levels of David Garrard to find a replacement quarterback for all others who have bailed out of the game due to injuries – real ones and those conjured up. I also get that the game isn’t much removed from the un-reality series known as the WWE.

But I don’t watch the game expecting the best against the best to give it their best. I look for the subtle messages that arise from what is really a venue for players to get together and have a party or in the case of Honolulu, a vacation.

I enjoy watching regular season combatants getting along. I look to see if a Raven playing alongside a Steeler actually get on or do they simply co-exist. I like the little recruiting wars that unfold for prospective free agents.

But this particular Pro Bowl has a slightly different twist because it is played before the Super Bowl.

I’m not sure if I’m diggin’ that.

You see in the past one of the game’s attractions for me was to see the Pro Bowlers who were also Super Bowl winners gloat. I really liked that back in 2001.

The Pro Bowl was also the last time in any given season we would see athletes in the NFL convene on the gridiron. It was that kiss goodbye on the morning after – the last chance to say, “until next season…”

Fortunately for NFL junkies like myself, the league does a great job of making itself relevant for no less than 11 months out of the season thanks to free agency, pre-draft, draft, post-draft, OTA’s, training camp and preseason. And this year it seems a near certainty that they will add a special curve ball – an uncapped season.
Until then, my eyes will be set on South Florida with hopes that Ray Rice lights it up today.

Anyone with me?

Anyone else hear those crickets?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Retiring sports talker about to take shots at local media


A few years back Nestor Aparicio bored us with The Moon, his on air autobiography intended to be an expression of his love for baseball but morphed into a name dropping marathon that took us on a journey through Aparicio’s rock band groupie days to his prowess with the fairer sex.

Even his own employees rolled their eyes over The Moon, something that affected listeners in much the same way that the night time tale Goodnight Moon affects toddlers before they drift off to Never, Never Land.

ZZZZZ...

Then we were treated to another self-indulgent effort, Free the Birds.

Nice publicity stunt but c’mon man, does anyone think that 1,000 people buying a nose bleed ticket to an Orioles’ game and then walking out in the middle of it could really persuade Peter Angelos to sell the team?

Well don't look now but Aparicio is on the rampage again and this time he’s taking aim at the local media. How convenient on the eve of another retirement for Aparicio.

Pretty soon Brett Favre will have nothing on him!

Anyway, if you are interested here’s the line-up next week for his blog which he describes as a mini-series:

Part 1 – “Baltimore’s sports media lineup” — We’ll identify the frauds in the media & some feelings will be hurt here…

Part 2 – Alexa – “Who is She?” The little retold lie about WNST having 10 listeners…

Part 3 – Content & Distribution – “Where do you get your Baltimore sports news & info and why?”

Part 4 – “Who are the biggest corporate whores in Baltimore sports media?” In other words: “Who is for sale, and who can you trust?”

Part 5 – “What is the future of Baltimore sports media?” What is catching your eyes & ears these days?

This should be an interesting “mini-series.” Everyone but WNST will be wrong of course and consequently the mini-series will hardly be a “reality show.” It will be more like Desperate Housewives.




I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion about Alexa and about how WNST is the best, etc, etc…And perhaps in the Alexa world WNST.net is doing just fine. I really don’t know and don’t care. Nor should potential sponsors.

Alexa doesn’t mean squat! It is an easily manipulated number and any search on the topic will yield analyst reviews of Alexa exposing Alexa as a fraud. She’s a dirty little girl.

Google Analytics is where it’s at in measuring a site's effectiveness and any potential sponsor should want an advertising venue like WNST to provide their reports on unique visitors. Then the price charged for those visitors should be benchmarked against industry averages and offerings by competitors.

I posted very similar comments on Nestor’s blog and signed my name to it but I doubt that they will ever be posted.

If the comments are posted, maybe just maybe WNST is going back to being the station with balls.

If not, well unfortunately they will remain the station we’ve grown accustomed to as of late.

And that is the station with PMS!

Ravens' future appears secure


No news is good news when it comes to Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta. Sure he’s been busy scouting, attending Senior Bowl workouts, answering Aaron Wilson’s questions, yada, yada.

But as for news, there’s none and that is a good thing!

You may recall that just a couple of weeks ago there was some doubt about his future in Baltimore. Transitional organizations like Seattle, Buffalo and Washington could all improve markedly by adding DeCosta.

However, since the buzz about his possible departure to Seattle, the rumors regarding DeCosta have subsided. Maybe Steve Bisciotti had an epiphany of sorts and read this blog.

;-)

All kidding aside, the guess here is that Bisciotti got out the checkbook and then called upon Dick Cass & Co. to give DeCosta the assurances he needs and deserves to sit back and wait for the inevitable passing of the Ozzie Newsome torch.

Consequently Ravens fans can sleep better at night.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Restoring Baltimore's football heritage


Back in March of 2007 with the help of my web developer friends at D3 Corp, we launched a website intended to raise awareness of how the BALTIMORE Colts are erroneously presented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (“HOF”) and to gather support to convince the executives who run the HOF to present Baltimore’s football history properly.

TV and radio stations jumped all over the effort and after one day we had 10,000 signatures on the electronic petition that is featured on the aforementioned website called ColtsHeritage.com.

When the numbers climbed over 20,000 signatures I called the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And I called, and called and called.

I once received a voice mail from VP of Communications/Exhibits Joe Horrigan and immediately returned his call but that simply took me to the next level of unreturned voice mail messages.

Eventually I let it go, succumbing to the daily pressures of life.

Recently my friend Dave Tieff contacted me about reaching out to the HOF. Dave was unaware of my unsuccessful attempts to do what he now wants to do – restore Baltimore’s football heritage. His passion I assume was stoked a bit by the recent Divisional Playoff game between the Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts.

Funny how that happens…

Dave, an accomplished musician by profession (see Laughing Colors) and a passionate fan by blood “friended” the HOF on Facebook just the other day and suggested in a pleasant way that the Indianapolis Colts’ history should be separated from that of Baltimore.

The response?

“History is history.”

I couldn’t agree more. So why not present it accurately there Mr. HOF?

Dave went on to remind Mr. HOF that there is no link from the Ravens to the Cleveland Browns.

Are you ready for this reply?

"The Ravens, although they received players from the Browns, were an expansion team. The Cleveland franchise suspended operations for three years. So, the Browns did not become the Ravens. This is very similar to how many transactions happened in the earlier days of the NFL as noted in the list we linked to above."

Is that right?

Just because Art Modell chooses out of the goodness of his heart to do the right thing and leave behind the Browns’ colors and history the Ravens are considered to be an expansion franchise?

Interesting…

Did the league expand in 1996?

No!

Expansion suggests that there was a league endorsed plan to move to Baltimore. They chose instead Charlotte and Jacksonville.

How’s that working out for you?

Do you think for one second the league approved of the exodus from Cleveland? Do you think they wanted to pony up all those millions to finance a new stadium in Cleveland? Just a few years prior we were told to take our “expansion” money and build a museum instead of a new stadium.

Did the Ravens receive extra draft picks and did they benefit from an expansion draft?

No!

The HOF's unwillingness to address this issue is absolutely lame and lazy.

Don’t you think the Indianapolis Colts fans are sick of hearing about the Baltimore Colts? They are on the verge of their second Super Bowl victory. Don’t they deserve their own presentation and records without the asterisks and questions surrounding Baltimore?

How much of an effort would it really take to present Baltimore in the Hall of Fame with both the Baltimore Colts and Baltimore Ravens?

The folks at the HOF might say that if they make an exception for Baltimore they will have to make exceptions for others.

Really?

How many other cities presented in the HOF have a story as compelling or even remotely comparable to Baltimore’s?

Do you think if Baltimore had retained the Browns’ name and history that Canton would then present the Browns’ history as the Baltimore Browns?

Fat chance!

Canton is 60 miles south of Cleveland. We’ve seen Cleveland chuck beer bottles at game officials for a bad call. Just imagine what they might do to Canton, Ohio if you took away Otto Graham and Jim Brown; stripped them of their city’s football heritage.

The song lyrics, “Burn baby burn” come to mind.

Joe Horrigan is widely regarded as one of the sport's foremost historians. The Pro Football HOF website even boasts as much.

By nature historians are sticklers for detail and accuracy.

Funny how they can kick accuracy to the curb when there’s money to be made. After all the HOF is marketing Colts Heritage magnets and plaques marrying together Baltimore Colts heritage with that of the Indianapolis Colts.

I digress…

It’s time the Pro Football HOF collectively gets off their hind parts and they do the right thing. If they need funding to get it done, let us know. Maybe we can find a way to help.

It’s time to set the record straight Mr. Horrigan!

PLEASE help me make Horrigan an offer he can’t refuse and sign the petition today.

Together I think we can bring the BALTIMORE Colts back to their proper resting place.

Let’s go you Baltimore Colts fans!

UNITAS WE STAND!



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marks in Baltimore: Off the mark from the start


Back in May of 2006 I was told that Anita Marks would be making her way north and that she would be handling the afternoon drive time show on ESPN 1300. She was described to me as an attractive sports talker who had played quarterback in a women’s football league and had posed in the buff for Hugh Hefner’s mag.

Given that resume and arriving on the heels of a train wreck of a show manned by Bill Rohland and Chad Dukes, how could she go wrong?

Or so I thought…

I interviewed Marks for Ravens24x7.com prior to her first appearance on air. She was energetic and hopeful.

But it didn’t take long for the locals to realize she and Baltimore went together about as naturally as a glass of Cabernet and steamed crabs. It was really doomed from the start. You can read that interview here.

An interesting side bar, when I conducted the interview and eventually posted it to 24x7 our radio program GAMETIME was then being aired on WNST, Sundays from 10 - Noon. After seeing the posted interview Nestor Aparicio called me and popped off like a raving lunatic. He could not understand how I could post an interview about a host on a competing radio station.

After the rant, I reminded Aparicio of a conversation we had just a few weeks prior.

I had called Aparicio to see if I could get contact info on George Kokinis because I wanted to see if he could join us on our show. You see when I joined WNST I was told that I would be embraced as a member of the team, yada, yada…

Yet after a text and a phone call to my “teammate” to inquire about Kokinis, Aparicio said to me (and I’ll never forget this):

“Would having George Kokinis on your show make it a better show? ‘Yes.’ Would a better show reflect favorably upon WNST? ‘Yes.’ Do I want to hand over my contacts that I’ve spent years developing? ‘I don’t think so.’”

So much for the concept of team…

I was then reminded that I was not an employee, I was a paid-for-programmer and therefore a customer.

So, when Aparicio finished his rant about my Marks interview I reminded him that I was a customer and then I asked if there were any “customers” that advertised on both WNST and ESPN Radio 1300. It was a rhetorical question in a way since we both knew that there were several.

I then asked if he thought those “customers” would allow him to control what they do with their respective businesses.

Let’s call this rhetorical question No. 2.

That conversation was really the beginning of the end for me at WNST. Without the ability to censor 24x7, we were a threat and now with WNST’s emphasis on the web, it’s easy to see why.

But back to Marks…

Her energy and her hope could not survive the negative backlash from Baltimore. In a way her body language and spirit were crushed by it in much the same way as Miguel Tejada’s youthful buoyancy was beaten down by the Orioles struggles and consistently losing ways.

Does Marks’ departure come as any surprise?

In Baltimore we possess and in a way even foster small town mindedness. We clearly have an inferiority complex because when many things go wrong it’s because someone who is not one of us is out to screw us.

We are the potty break on trips between DC and Philly.

We are a town marked by STD’s and violent crime.

We are Homicide.

We are The Wire.

We are the town that the Colts abandoned and the NFL expansion committee shunned.

Paul Tagliabue told us to build a museum instead of a new stadium.

We love Cal Ripken because he is one of us.

The same can be said for Stacy Keibler, Michael Phelps and Kimmie Meissner.

John Unitas didn’t start out as one of us but he embraced us and we adopted him so much so that he is the arguably Baltimore’s most iconic figure.

Anita Marks never got that.

She didn’t want to be a homer because it violated her professional integrity – clouded her journalistic objectivity. Maybe that could have worked if she had a homer alongside her. Instead she was paired with out-of-towners from New York and Wisconsin or worse – a local who is a proud card carrying fan club member of the Indianapolis Colts.

That all may have worked elsewhere but not in Smaltimore.

We want our Tom Matte's!

It will be interesting to see what CBS Radio does to replace Marks on 105.7 The Fan.

"We definitely want someone who wants to be a part of Baltimore and in Baltimore and committed to Baltimore -- be about Baltimore," said station exec Bob Phillips. "We think that's important, and we really try to cover Baltimore sports and get very involved in the community."

So let it be said, so let it be written, so let it be done!

Anita, you will not soon be forgotten if ever. Whether you liked or disliked her everyone would have to agree she was the quintessential lightning rod and plus or minus, the mention of her name clearly sparked emotion.

Those that will miss her should take comfort in the fact that she will end up comfortably somewhere else and she really never looked at Baltimore as a long-term stop anyway. Charm City was really a stepping stone in Marks’ career.

Those that are celebrating her departure should be careful what they wish for. While there is a ton of room for improvement in the now Scott Garceau Show, CBS’ track record isn’t exactly stellar when it comes to finding the right on air fit for Baltimore. They all too often opt for style over substance, marketability over capability.

We’ll see if Phillips is true to his word.

Until then, happy trails Anita.

I hope you find what you are looking for.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super thoughts & pondering the Ravens passing game


The Colts opened up as 5 to 5 ½ point favorites over the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, the over/under is set at 55 ½. Count me among those who think Peyton Manning will be hoisting another Lombardi and it won’t even be close. Before I let the talking heads sway my thinking, I’m calling it Colts 34, Saints 20 with the Saints adding a late score to bring the final into the realm of respectability.

You have to feel happy for Colts’ receiver Pierre Garcon. He caught 11 passes for 153 yards and put the Colts ahead to stay with a four yard score in the back right corner of the end zone. The native Haitian is undoubtedly playing with a very heavy heart.

Like many in the country who will side with the Saints as sentimental favorites as the world around the Bayou continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina, many may have their heartstrings tugged by Garcon’s story. Either way, Super Bowl XLIV will clearly feature interesting human interest side stories one of which will be Peyton Manning’s attempt to prevent New Orleans’ first Super Bowl victory.

Manning grew up in Louisiana and his dad Archie, is a former Saints’ great who is still held in high regard by the Who Dat’ faithful.

While watching the NFL’s Final Four this weekend I found it difficult not to compare the teams still alive to the Ravens. Priority number one for the hometown team is to improve the passing game. But for me the improvement IS NOT simply one of personnel. Cam Cameron must find ways to flood zones and to target soft spots inside the hash marks when encountering Cover 2 schemes.

By contrast the Ravens do not attack opponents in the passing game the way that even the Jets do with a rookie quarterback. Growing a pair comes to mind.

Speaking of growing a pair, Braylon Edwards sure does look good on those sideline routes but send him over the middle and that wingspan shrinks like wool in the cotton dry cycle. Rex might be the head coach, but T-Rex wears number 17 in gang green.

Does the offseason officially begin today as the media ponders the completely tired topic of Brett Favre’s future? I got a kick out of all the shots of Deanna Favre covering her mouth, face, eyes, etc while stressing out over yesterday’s game in New Orleans. That 8 carat diamond sure did help and boy do I feel sorry for her and all of the reported stress in her life. How she can get by on Brett’s 8 figure annual income while living in high-priced Mississippi is absolutely amazing!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Billick feels slighted by Bills


Brian Billick isn’t very happy these days according to WGRZ in Buffalo. WGRZ’s Aaron Saykin spoke with the former Ravens Head Coach who initially took the high road without showing any detectable bitterness over the Bills decision to not seriously consider Billick for their coaching vacancy.

When asked if Bills GM Buddy Nix had spoken to him about the job, Billick initially was a bit restrained.

"They've made a good choice in Chan Gailey," Billick said. "I really don't want to comment on what was, or what was not discussed, or who I talked to, or if I talked to it. They went about their process. They came up with Chan Gailey. It'll be interesting to see how it goes."

Billick went on to say: "Chan Gailey is a good coach. I think he's done a nice job. I don't think I need to get drawn into that."

After stewing on the conversation with Saykin for a bit, Billick called back about 15minutes later to clarify a few points.

"I just wanted to make sure I was clear that [Nix] had not called," Billick said. "Why he had not called a coach with a Super Bowl ring, 10 wins a year for nine years, having orchestrated the highest-scoring offense and defense in the history of the league, is a question worth asking. But I never spoke with Mr. Nix."

Obviously Billick, a man who normally chooses his words very carefully, was just busting at the seams and couldn’t help but jump up on the desk and pound his chest like an 800 pound gorilla – you know, in the proverbial sense.

Billick certainly brings credibility and a pretty decent resume to the table. But his ego, clearly on display here, could keep him off the radar screen for clubs seeking coaches in the future.

Just to clarify, Billick’s math is conveniently skewed. He averaged 9.4 wins per season including playoff victories and during four of his nine seasons his teams were at or below .500.

Oh and if you are going to take credit for the highest scoring offense as a coordinator Brian, you have to give it up for the best scoring defense to Marvin Lewis.

Ravens secondary is not a primary concern



It’s interesting to hear just how many fans and folks in the media feel that improving the Ravens' secondary should be a primary concern. Don’t count me among them.

While I would admit that the team should bolster the corner position, they don’t need to spend a high end draft pick on one nor do they have to spend unnecessarily in free agency, assuming they can properly navigate The Final 8 rules.

Chris Carr, Frank Walker and Tom Zbikowski all stepped up when called upon and their experiences in meaningful game situations will bode well for the team and provide quality depth, particularly if Haruki Nakamura and Lardarius Webb return to form and the Ravens bring back Fabian Washington.

Despite the lack of a consistent pass rush, the team finished third overall in defense, fifth against the run and eighth against the pass. From Week 8 forward (the week following the Ravens’ bye), Baltimore was the second best team in the league defending the pass.

What might they do if Ozzie Newsome adds another speed rusher?

The fact is, this team has gone just about as deep into the playoffs over the past two seasons as they can. They don’t have the weapons in the passing game to go any farther and until they find them, one, possibly two playoff wins in a given season is about the most we can expect from the Ravens.

The secondary should be at best a secondary concern of the Ravens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ravens need to upgrade at WR, Boldin not the answer


No one would argue with the notion that the Ravens must seriously upgrade their passing game. To do that it will require better personnel at wide receiver. But for those clamoring for Anquan Boldin, you better think again.

During the course of his 7 year career, Boldin has played in all 16 games of the regular season just twice and hasn’t punched the clock every game since 2006. He will turn 30 on October3, 2010.

I think it’s safe to say that Boldin benefits from a more prolific passing game in Arizona spearheaded by Kurt Warner. I think he benefits from playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald and I think Steve Breaston helps take away coverage that might otherwise be allocated to Fitzgerald and/or Boldin.

If he comes to Baltimore in a trade he would be looked upon to be the No. 1 receiver. Can he handle drawing an opponent’s top cover corner? Would he be worth the investment of a draft pick or two in a trade and the money he would take to make Boldin happy while wearing purple?

Consider his stats compared against those of Derrick Mason over the course of the past 2 seasons:

Player--Receptions--Yards--Avg.--TD’s

Bolden--173--2,062--11.9--15
Mason--153--2,065--13.5--12

Bolden is not known as a speed guy so he is not a deep threat and not a player that commands regular double coverage. Following his career at Florida State, the Ravens scouting department liked him but they weren’t exactly enthralled by his 4.7 time in the 40.

Yes the Ravens need more talent at wide receiver.

But Anquan Boldin isn’t the guy to provide it.

Ray Lewis SHOULD just shut up!


Fans and many media members have complained about Ray Lewis ducking the press after a loss yet he makes himself very available after a win. They will often wonder aloud, “What kind of leader is that?”

Relax!

Count me among those who would like to hear Ray’s thoughts after a loss but if he ducks out, really what’s the big deal? Do you really think for a minute that Ray not addressing reporters after a tough loss affects his ability to lead? That assumes that the players actually care if Ray talks to the media after the Ravens take one on the chin.

They don’t!

What would he say anyway?

I think Ray talking after a loss could go one of two ways…

First he could adopt John Harbaugh’s coach speak and use a lot of words that amount to absolutely nothing meaningful.

Or, he could spout off, throw teammates under the bus and really stir up the locker room. And what might that accomplish? Fox Sports 1370’s Jerry Coleman might like it but wouldn’t lashing out be counterproductive? Wouldn’t Ray’s leadership then be questioned?

Coleman will tell you that Ray owes it to the fans and to the season ticket holders to speak after a loss. No he doesn’t.

Ray owes the fans and more importantly his teammates 100% effort on Sunday when he’s between the lines and during the week while he’s in the classroom and on the practice field.

You’ve probably been offered these words of wisdom before: “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”

Most would agree that these are noble words to live by.

Yet when Ray Lewis practices it, he is criticized.

Anyone ever think that by saying nothing after a loss Ray is leading?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ravens @ Colts: THE GOOD, BAD, UGLY & THE MEGAN FOX


THE GOOD: I find it shocking how analysts around town have given the Ravens’ running backs a “D” grade for their collective performance against the Colts. Ray Rice’s effort alone was inspiring. He never quit and despite a fast defense determined to stop him he averaged 5.2 yards per carry and caught 9 passes. Yes he fumbled after a vicious hit by Colts' defensive lineman Raheem Brock who hit the ball forcefully with the crown of his helmet. And yes he failed to haul in a high pass from Joe Flacco on fourth and 2 but the blame for that in my eyes falls more on the Ravens signal caller. If only the rest of the offense had performed and played with the passion of Ray Rice…Sam Koch is an outstanding holder and he has probably helped Matt Katula earn a few more paychecks. Koch also netted 41.8 yards on five punts…Ed Reed baited the game’s most cerebrally advanced quarterback for an interception. He fumbled during the return but I tend to credit Pierre Garcon more for making a play to cause the miscue than Reed for his failure to protect the ball. Reed also had another pick called back for a pretty lame pass interference call against Corey Ivy…The Ravens defensive front was excellent against the run particularly when you consider their first instinct was to defend the pass against the dangerous Peyton Manning…The kickoff unit was effective given very limited opportunities. On two kickoffs they managed a touchback and pinning the Colts at their own 14 yard line…Dannell Ellerbe drew a tough assignment in pass coverage – Dallas Clark. That is asking a lot going against Manning in a playoff game. For the most part he stayed with Clark. The promising LB also had a tackle for a loss.

THE BAD: LJ Smith’s block in the back negating an excellent kick return by Jalen Parmele was ridiculous…Joe Flacco made some very poor decisions and is lucky he didn’t have two additional interceptions, one of which should have gone for a pick 6 when Bethea dropped the ball at the Colts goal line. For a QB with such a strong arm, he really short-arms his deep passes and more times than not they fall short of the mark. Derrick Mason's stop and go route should have resulted in a fourth quarter touchdown. Instead it was intercepted…Domonique Foxworth looked lost at times and made Austin Collie the second coming of Steve Largent. He committed a very consequential penalty at the end of the first half paving the way to the Colts’ back breaking TD to go up 17-3…Greg Mattison’s decision to drop 8 in coverage too often. When the team grew more desperate they placed much more pressure on Manning sacking him twice. You have to wonder how much more effective they would have been had they dialed up the heat earlier. Regardless of how many drop into coverage, Manning's laser-like accuracy will carve up any secondary when he is given ample time…Siamese twins get more separation than Ravens' receivers not named Mason. Demetrius Williams is rather clueless when it comes to any route that isn’t a deep post.

THE UGLY: The offensive game plan was ridiculously conservative after the initial drive. They ran the ball on every first down play after that drive right on up to their first, first down in the fourth quarter at which time Flacco delivered a very dangerous 1 yard pass to Ray Rice. Go figure. You are better than that Cam…Matt Katula’s snap on the extra point and his snap on the first punt…David Tyree’s celebration after dropping TJ Rushing for no gain following a 49 yard punt by Koch with 8:11 left. Scoreboard David – 20-3!

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: Talk about digging deep for this one which goes to Haloti Ngata who made Peyton Manning curl up in the fetal position when it was obvious that he would be sacked. The only thing missing was Manning sucking his thumb and Dan Dierdorf bursting out of the booth and handing Peyton a blanky. Ngata was very stout against the run as well with four tackles in short spaces, one other besides the sack for a loss. Ngata also added a QB hurry and his dominating presence freed Dwan Edwards to be a menacing presence, contributing 3 quarterback hurries.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ravens don't have what it takes to beat Colts


Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If you buy Einstein’s definition then the Ravens are absolutely insane!

Why?

Every time they play the Indianapolis Colts it’s the same result. Well at least it’s been the same for the past 8 times these two teams have taken the field together.

And as fans, we are equally insane to think that anything will change when the Ravens battle Peyton Manning and the Colts’ vastly underrated defense unless the Ravens themselves change.

Here’s a stat that should alarm you and if it doesn’t maybe you haven’t sobered up yet…

The Ravens haven’t scored a meaningful touchdown against the Colts since 2002.

Let me repeat that…

The Ravens haven’t scored a meaningful touchdown against the Colts since 2002.

The game that season marks the beginning of the Colts’ current 8 game winning streak against the Ravens. In that game, Jamal Lewis rushed for two touchdowns the second of which occurred late in the fourth quarter to stake the Ravens to a 20-19 lead. They would eventually fall to the Colts by the score of 22-20.

Since then the Ravens have scored only five touchdowns during the succeeding seven games – none of which impacted the outcome of any contest in a meaningful way.

* In 2004, the Ravens lost to the Colts by the score of 20-10, the last seven points courtesy of a Kyle Boller to Todd Heap TD pass (and PAT) with 2:38 left in the game.

* During the following season, the Ravens opened up at home against the Colts, a Sunday night contest that the Ravens dropped 24-7. You may recall that Boller was injured in that game to the delight of some very wacked out, clinically depressed fans who cheered the injury. The Ravens did not score until the 0:47 mark of the fourth quarter when Anthony Wright hit Daniel Wilcox with a 17 yard strike.

* Fast forward to the first season with Steve McNair when the Ravens (13-3) hosted the Colts in a Divisional Playoff Game on Saturday, January 13, 2007. McNair & Co. could only register two field goals and lost 15-6.

* In 2007, a season that cost Brian Billick his job, the (4-8) Ravens while in the grips of a 6 game slide hosted the Colts again on a Sunday night, less than a week removed from an impressive but unsuccessful battle against the undefeated New England Patriots. The Colts trounced the Ravens and at one point held a 30-0 lead in the second quarter before Yamon Figurs’ 94 yard kickoff return for a score. Later in the game, the Colts led by 44-7 before the Ravens would tack on two late scores courtesy of the charitable Colts.

* In 2008 the Ravens visited Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time and left as 31-3 losers.

* And then of course there was this season, when the Ravens dropped a 17-15 game at home and then last night’s 20-3 drubbing in Indianapolis. Eight quarters against the Colts during the ’09 season produced 6 field goals.

Clearly the Colts are a match up nightmare for Harbaugh’s boys.

Thankfully the Ravens have a full season to improve because they are not scheduled to play the Colts in 2010, unless of course they meet up again in the post season.

Uh-oh!

You thinking what I’m thinking?

In the end, it’s hard not to wonder what a difference a week can make. Last week we feasted on the nectar of a fruitful victory. We bathed in the glow of a dominant victory over the mighty New England Patriots. Afterwards we were like children on Christmas morning surrounded by new toys.

Last night we were slapped in the face with the sobering reality that our new toys came without batteries.

Let’s hope Ozzie & Company can recruit the Energizer Bunny this offseason.

Until then, let’s all adopt the Jimmy Buffett mantra and go crazy before we all go insane.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Colts will lose to the Ravens, thanks to Mr. Polian


For the first time ever, the Baltimore Ravens get to tee it up for a second time against the Indianapolis Colts in the same season. Clearly the Ravens hope that familiarity is a good thing because the fact of the matter is Baltimore has dropped seven in a row to the team that once called Charm City “home.”

During those seven games dating back to 2002 the Colts have outscored the Ravens by just over 13 points per contest due in large part to Baltimore’s generosity. The philanthropic Ravens have turned it over to the Colts a total of 25 times over the course of those seven games for a staggering turnover differential of minus 19.

Most recently the two teams met less than two months ago on November 22 at M&T Bank Stadium when as irony would have it former Ravens’ great Matt Stover hit what proved to be the game winning field goal for the Colts at the 7:02 mark of the fourth quarter.

That 17-15 contest was obviously closely fought and was clinched in the game’s waning minutes when Gary Brackett intercepted a Joe Flacco pass intended for Ray Rice deep in Colts territory.

Indy’s winning streak v. Baltimore was preserved…

Many expect Saturday night’s rematch to be much like the one played on that Sunday before Thanksgiving despite what the oddsmakers believe, listing the Colts as 6 ½ point favorites. Obviously Las Vegas values Peyton Manning’s previous successes over the Ravens and the Colts’ home field advantage. Manning & Co. beat the Ravens decisively at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008 by the score of 31-3.

But much has changed since then and really much has changed since that afternoon in November.

And most of that change favors the Baltimore Ravens.

Before I get to the particulars that should sway your outlook on the contest in favor of our feathered friends (provided of course you aren’t already on board with that thinking), let’s consider the plight of the Colts since they placed their season in cruise control following their 35-31 Thursday Night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars back on December 17.

Organizationally the club chose not to pursue an undefeated season.

Club President Bill Polian didn’t think that an unblemished record was worthy enough to pursue at the expense of injuries.

"What we’ve said — it seems repeatedly, since Halloween almost — is that 16-0, we did not feel like was a historic achievement.

"What was important to us, and what we tried very hard to do on a short week against Jacksonville after we had wrapped-up the home field advantage was to set two records — one for the most consecutive regular season games won. We were tied with New England prior to that, and we now hold that record ourselves. And secondly, for the most games won in this decade."

Polian added, "We’ve been very public, and very open with that. I’m a little surprised that people didn’t register that. But obviously we didn’t do a good enough job of making ourselves clear."

Yah think?

One look at the Indianapolis sideline during the second half of their game against the Jets on December 27 was all an observer needed to see that the players didn’t buy into Polian’s beliefs one iota.

The Colts had a chance to make history and do what no team has ever been able to do – win a Super Bowl as an undefeated 19-0 team. The blank expressions of the players; the looks of disbelief after so casually dismissing a piece of infamy; turning their backs on what is arguably the Holy Grail of the NFL, discarding it like an uninteresting Christmas gift destined to be re-gifted.

The picture told a story.

And for the Colts, the dream was over.

After that lost to the Jets few spoke about the dream. One of the exceptions was star receiver Reggie Wayne.

“Doesn't everybody want to be a part of history?

“I guess there's a bigger picture. We all wanted to play, but the big dog [Coach Jim Caldwell] made a decision and we have to roll with that decision -- the manager took us off the mound.”

Yes the starters got the hook...

Interestingly the following week after all the hoopla about healthy players being more important than a historical team record, Polian gave the green light to send Wayne and teammate Dallas Clark on to the field against the Bills in very snowy Buffalo and yes risking injury in order to make history – to reach the 100 catch mark for the season.

Polian defended THAT decision saying it could make a difference to each player in Hall of Fame voting once both retire.

So individual records are now more important than team records?

I wonder what the majority of the roster that has no chance of going to Canton thought of that? They could have been part of the Hall as an undefeated team but no, that wasn’t as important as Wayne and Clark catching 100 balls each?

What a hypocrite Polian is.

Plus you have to wonder if Caldwell really is “the big dog” as Wayne described. He looks more like Polian’s puppet.

So how does this affect the Divisional Playoff Game on Saturday?

First, while Polian may have helped to preserve the team’s physical well-being, you have to wonder about its mental health.

How close are they to Caldwell and was his authority undermined? Has the team lost some respect for him and his decision making and can they buy into his message as willingly?

Has the decision to punt on the perfect season placed more pressure on the team? If they fall now, everyone will point to them rolling on their backs like Tara Reid.

What happens when they face adversity on the field? Are they ready to deal with that? Will the initial signs of failure have them individually and collectively wondering if they’ve lost their edge after going through the motions against the Jets and Bills?

Might their thoughts of “what if?” slow down their play somewhat?

And speaking of slow play, let’s not too easily discount the fact that the Colts haven’t played meaningful football in nearly a month. They will need to re-adjust to the speed and physicality of the game. Any player will tell you that practice will never simulate actual game speed and intensity.

It has happened before to this very same Colts team. During the Manning era, the Colts are 0-3 after playoff byes and despite the fact that they have earned a playoff berth for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons they have been one-and-done six times!

Let’s see, off for arguably a month.

They have had some internal disputes over the pursuit of history.

They are historically lackluster after byes.

They need to readjust to game speed and they have to do so against one of the league’s fastest teams to the ball in the Ravens who are flying high after a convincing win in New England last week.

The Colts should be worried.

But history and head games aside, there’s more for Indianapolis to be concerned with heading into the Divisional Playoff Game. Let’s look at the Colts first.

Over the course of their last 8 wins while they were still enjoying momentum and acquainted with game speed the Colts average margin of victory was just 5 ½ points.
Since Week 8 they have outscored opponents by a cumulative total of only 7 points (237-230) and they have given up 367.7 net yards per game.

The Colts give up 126.5 yard per game on the ground and they are the league’s worst rushing offense (80.9 ypg).

When the Colts look across the field at the Ravens they will find:

* A team brimming with confidence

* A defense that was often criticized prior to the team’s bye week (Week 7) but one that has since given up only 273.5 net yards of offense per game since, second best in the league to the NFL’s top ranked defense, the New York Jets.

* A pass defense that has yielded just 181.7 yards per game since the bye week, again second best in the league during that time while intercepting 18 passes.

* A defense that had surrendered 6 plays of 40+ yards prior to the bye but in the 11 games since they have allowed only 2 plays of 40+ yards and just 145 points in 11 games (13.2 ppg)

* Offensively the Ravens have averaged 23.2 points per game since Week 8 while the Colts and their reputed high powered offense have averaged 23.7.

* Since Marshal Yanda was inserted as the starting right guard replacing Chris Chester during Week 12 against the Steelers the Ravens have averaged 183 yards rushing per game (a league best since Week 12) while facing on average the league’s 14th ranked rushing defense. Just a reminder, the Colts are ranked 24th defending the run.

*The Ravens were +10 in turnover margin during the regular season and are now +13 through the Wild Card game. The Colts are a +2 and Manning has thrown 18 TD passes against 11 interceptions since Week 8.

*The Ravens are 4 yards better on average in kick returns and 5 yards better covering kicks; they are a little over 2 yards better returning punts and about a yard better covering punts.

These are the statistical standouts…

From a personnel perspective, it could be argued that the Colts are more rested yet at the same time, few would argue that Kelly Gregg, Ben Grubbs, Chris Carr, Dawan Landry, Willis McGahee and Dannell Ellerbe are all performing markedly better than they did the last time these teams faced off.

And for added measure, let’s toss in that Terrell Suggs didn’t play the last time these teams met and Marshal Yanda played only sparingly.

Yes Indianapolis you should worry.

You are catching these Ravens at the wrong time.

Queue up the criticisms and "what could have beens" had Bill Polian and his fall guy Jim Caldwell not fumbled away history.

They gave their starters the hook and now they about to get the hook stuck in them.

The Ravens are going to California for an AFC Championship Game.

Now doesn't that sound pleasantly familiar?


Monday, January 11, 2010

The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox: Ravens @ Patriots Wild Card


THE GOOD: There is a ton of credit to spread around for the Ravens this week but to keep this piece somewhat succinct, I’ll focus on the performances that stood out the most. Ray Lewis, you are a beast! Your preparedness, execution and physicality set the stage for a standout performance. You singlehandedly ruined Tom Brady on this one sunny afternoon in chilly Foxboro…Chris Carr’s light started to shine at about the midway point in the season and since then he has continued to build upon the momentum. He destroyed a staple of the Patriots’ offense (the bubble screen) twice and his tackling overall was flawless. He added to the solid performance with an excellent punt return of 34 yards. North and south running gets you places and it helps to minimize special teams penalties…Domonique Foxworth, a player whose tackling has been suspect at best looked like a tackling machine in New England. Normally you don’t want your best corner among the team leaders in tackles but many of his 9 takedowns took place at or within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage…Ray Rice, talk about setting the tempo. He is a perfect example of what you get when you combine talent with determination…Dwan Edwards continues to quietly contribute to a solid defense despite being overshadowed in the media by his more esteemed colleagues, Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata. He had a sack, QB hurry and six other tackles despite the Patriots running the ball only 18 times. That is productivity…Frank Walker you’ve been close to getting it right for some time. Against the Patriots you did by being around the ball and being physical…When Ed Reed stays true to his assignments good things happen for the Ravens secondary…Greg Mattison had his unit ready to play and he had answers for nearly everything the Patriots’ offense could serve up…Three penalties for 15 yards! Finally the Ravens decided that they would not self destruct. Having Gene Steratore’s officiating crew each week would be nice also…Team tackling was in essence a clinic.

THE BAD: Tough to find much wrong with yesterday’s performance but since I must, let’s start with the team’s failure to challenge the recovery of the Chris Carr/Tom Zbikowski muff. Fortunately the Ravens kept the game in control but with timeouts in your pocket and with a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, why not throw the flag blindly even without the benefit of a replay to prevent a shift in momentum?...Demetrius Williams, you have got to make that catch on the deep post. Two hands on the football with little contact of consequence and you drop it? These are the playoffs and that drop may make you, like most of us, a spectator for the rest of the post season…Jalen Parmele was very hesitant on kick returns, averaging just 15.5 yards on two returns only one week after averaging 34 yards/return one week ago…The kick team coverage was inconsistent and Billy Cundiff’s kickoffs were simply unacceptable…Willis McGahee what were you thinking running out of bounds to stop the clock on second down with 1:02 remaining in the first half while Belichick was trying to save the clock for Brady using his timeouts? You gave him a freebie...A three-man rush inside the red zone Greg Mattison? C'mon man!

THE UGLY: When Joe Flacco runs even I want to hit the cold tub – that’s how uncomfortable the Ravens QB looks now. What were they thinking of calling a naked bootleg for Joe late in the game. He looked like he was running in a straight jacket.

THE MEGAN FOX AWARD: The offensive line gets this week’s MFA. The Ravens threw only 10 passes, ran it 52 times and shoved it right down New England’s collective throat. Belichick has a reputation for taking away the strength of an opponent and forcing them to win in an unconventional way. Cam Cameron and the entire offense with their actions on the field simply said, “I don’t think you can!” And they were right, largely because the offensive line won their match ups individually and collectively they dominated the Patriots’ front seven. They set the tone immediately on the game’s first play from scrimmage. It doesn’t happen often when your opponent is defending the run, you call a run play off center and your back goes 83 yards UNTOUCHED! But that is exactly what happened just 17 seconds into yesterday’s game. The sequence of downs at the end of the first half when the Patriots had the Ravens pinned in at their own four with just over 2 minutes left was a microcosm of the O-line’s dominance. The Ravens weren’t going to throw, the Patriots’ knew the Ravens weren’t going to throw but could do nothing to stop them from grinding out the clock.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ravens might catch a break with Wild Crew officiating crew


The biggest concern for many Ravens’ fans as the team makes its way north to Foxborough, MA to take on the Patriots isn’t Tom Brady or Randy Moss or Vince Wilfork. Instead it’s the officiating and the home cooking that fans are anticipating for Bill Belichick’s troops.

The last time the Ravens visited the Patriots back on October 4 referee Ron Winter’s flag happy crew were the policemen between the lines. The Ravens were penalized nine times for 85 yards while the Patriots were nailed five times for 41 yards. This disparity isn’t all that alarming although clearly consequential. Yet it was the timing of the calls against the Ravens and the calls not made against the Patriots that sent fans into a frenzy and screaming, “FIX!”

Three times, borderline calls kept drives alive for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. Two of those calls were personal fouls levied against Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. The Suggs call in particular raised the ire of Ravens fans because it appeared that referee Winter would not have called anything until Tom Brady pleaded for the flag.

Naturally he got it.

The Ngata penalty was probably a legitimate call and most fans would likely accept that foul had it not been for Winter’s crew ignoring even more forceful blows to the head and body of Joe Flacco delivered by a variety of Patriots' defenders.

What’s good for Brady should be good for Flacco, right?

And there was more…

Derrick Mason was interfered with by CB Darius Butler in the end zone after a long toss from Flacco. If you want proof, just look at the picture above. Yet there was no flag.

In the third quarter Chris Carr was flagged for illegal contact on a third and 10 pass that fell incomplete yet nearly the identical contact between Mason and Leigh Bodden later in the quarter resulted in an offensive pass interference penalty against Mason negating a 20 yard completion.

Then in the fourth quarter with the Patriots clinging to a 3 point lead, Belichick called for a fake field goal deep in Ravens territory. While the Patriots were guilty of illegal motion and flagged accordingly, missed in the sequence was the spot of the ball after the illegal play took place. By most counts the officials missed the correct placement of the ball which should have been short of the first down marker. That would have resulted in a turnover on downs.

Instead the Patriots were allowed to kick the relatively easy 33 yard field goal and take a 27-21 lead with 7:14 to go.

That field goal clearly raises the relevant question, “Would the Ravens have gone for it on fourth down needing 4 yards at the Patriots 14 with 32 seconds remaining or would they have tried to tie it at 24 if that Patriots field goal doesn’t happen?”

Without a doubt the penalties that weren’t called made a difference in the game.

Oh and let's not forget the Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty called against the Ravens' bench, a call that even game analyst Phil Simms (a stone-cold New England hugger/apologist) admitted he had never before seen enforced.

So will the Patriots get some more home cooking on Sunday in the Wild Card game?

Studies have been conducted comparing the propensity of some crews to call more penalties than others. That’s where Ron Winter comes into play.

Ravens fans can relax knowing that Winter will spend the winter day of January 10, 2010 somewhere other than Foxborough, MA.

The referee at the controls on Sunday will be Gene Steratore. Of the referees leading the four officiating crews this weekend, Ravens fans will be pleased to discover that Steratore relatively speaking lets the players play. Proof can be found here at Referee Chat Blog.

One of the Wild Card Game crews is headed by Ed "Guns" Hochuli. Hochuli could have represented a nightmare for Ravens’ fans. Besides statistically being quick with the whistle relative to the other Wild Card crews (Scott Green and Bill Leavy lead the others), he’s known to call far more roughing the passer penalties – exactly what the Ravens DON’T need when facing Tom Brady in Foxborough.

So all things considered, the Ravens aren’t sitting too badly with Steratore at the controls. Unless of course if you consider Steratore’s home as a barometer of his allegiance.

Steratore resides in Washington, PA, just 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

You thinking what I’m thinking?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Losing DeCosta could cost the Ravens dearly


Clearly Ozzie Newsome has been successful as a general manager and his track record with first round draft picks is unrivaled. Yet Newsome would be the first to admit that the credit is far from solely his when it comes to the Ravens’ draft day success.

The team has been very careful to hire scouts who have worked in the trenches and committed the prerequisite hours to develop an eye for collegiate talent that will project well into the NFL. The club affectionately refers to members of the organization who began in their 20’s and worked for wages in the 20K range as the 20-20 club.

They are the grinders, those that invested the sweat equity to move up the organizational ladder.

Building a successful organization takes time and that is something Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti is intimately aware of. After all, he built his fortune on understanding the work force and how to effectively place skill sets in the right positions to succeed.

Now it appears that his expertise will be needed to guide the Ravens into the future.

Why?

Other NFL clubs are knocking on the door of the Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel, Eric DeCosta, one of the most decorated members of that 20-20 club.

Prior to being named Director of Player Personnel (which for all intents and purposes means Assistant General Manager) DeCosta served as Director of College Scouting (“DCS”) for the Ravens for six years and at one point he was the youngest in the NFL to assume such a position. From Player Personnel Assistant to Midwest Scout to DCS, add it all up and DeCosta has been with Ozzie Newsome for fourteen years.

DeCosta by his own admission is a bit of a pessimist. That doesn’t mean he’s difficult or that his company is unpleasant by any stretch. In fact there’s value to the organization in DeCosta adopting such a mindset. Instead of taking credit for a player like Ray Rice, he’d rather focus on what he can do to improve the team’s inability to draft a prototypical playmaker at the wide receiver position.

He is his own worst critic and that drives DeCosta to look for alternative ways and means to improve upon what he does for the Baltimore Ravens. He often reads books to help train his mind and his eye to seek out new paths of discovery – to not just look and think outside the box but in many ways live there.

It’s all part of his mental makeup and his insatiable desire to succeed. That ambition bodes well for the Ravens – assuming he stays.

Other teams have noticed and they are calling DeCosta. Why wouldn’t they be interested in an Ozzie Newsome protégé?

Back in September I had the opportunity to chat with Steve Bisciotti during our Ravens Rap program and discuss his organization and specifically Eric DeCosta. In so many words, he anointed DeCosta the heir apparent to Newsome if and when Ozzie moves on.

Some have speculated for years that Newsome would embrace the Athletic Director’s position at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Others believe that Ozzie will stay until he earns another ring.

The uncertainty leaves the ambitious DeCosta in limbo.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know DeCosta and besides his impressive and inspiring pursuit of excellence I have come to respect his love for family and its importance in the lives of his wife and children. It keeps him grounded and it keeps him loosely anchored to Baltimore.

Yet the anchor is hardly permanent and if a team like the Seattle Seahawks who are armed with the deep pockets of owner Paul Allen come calling, the Ravens run the risk of losing DeCosta.

Bisciotti recognizes the vulnerability and almost casually dismisses it as the collateral damage of being a successful organization. He knows that other teams are going to want his people.

But there’s danger here for Bisciotti, a man who has repeatedly said he doesn’t want windows of opportunity opening and closing as the culprits of age and the salary cap work against his roster.

Prior to Bisciotti coming on board, Ozzie lost an understudy in James “Shack” Harris who went on to become the GM in Jacksonville. Then there was Phil Savage who left to become the GM in Cleveland. Last year Director of Pro Player Personnel George Kokinis moved on to replace Savage as the Browns’ GM.

Yet the organization remained strong because there was always someone else to step in. The next man up was always a good one.

Instead of replacing Kokinis, DeCosta was given expanded responsibilities while the team promoted scout Joe Hortiz into DeCosta’s DCS role and Vince Newsome into Kokinis’ former position.

But what if DeCosta leaves for Seattle?

Who will fill the void left by his departure?

Is Hortiz experienced enough?

Is Vince Newsome?

Might the club consider bringing back Savage or Kokinis?

What if Ozzie does leave some time in the next couple of years? Can the replacements keep Bisciotti’s window perpetually open?

There’s a simple solution to this potential mess.

The last time I checked there is no salary cap for NFL front offices. Give the 38-year-old DeCosta a very healthy raise and a written commitment that he will be Ozzie’s successor once he decides to move on to the next chapter of his life.

Get it done now before DeCosta goes too far down the mental path towards the Pacific Northwest.

You’ve probably been there before yourself in your job. Once you start looking, once you start being courted by another company and once those bigger dollars start to enter the equation, you are at least one foot out the door and the other not too far behind.

More times than not the other foot follows and you’re gone.

DeCosta leaving will put a big dent in the side of the Ravens’ organization. Maybe some of the team’s current scouts will go with him deepening the dent.

And if Ozzie leaves shortly thereafter, that dent becomes a gaping hole.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Reputation influences officiating


Reputation and penalties go hand-in-hand in the NFL.

Got a good rep or if you happen to be one of the league’s poster children…you get the calls.

Got a bad rep or if you aren’t a card carrying member the league’s A-list you get an icy shoulder from the men in stripes.

Terrell Suggs does his best Neo (“Matrix”) impersonation to avoid hitting Tom Brady’s knee yet fails ever so slightly and he gets flagged for 15 yards and a new set of downs. But if you are Joe Flacco, get a helmet to helmet hit after a throw, no laundry and then stand up and be grateful that there wasn’t an intentional grounding call.

If you are Darrelle Revis, feel free to use a receiver’s chest as a speed bag all the way down field but if you are Frank Walker, you can get trucked by a receiver and then flagged for illegal contact after you get up off the ground with a cleat mark in your forehead.

Poor Frank Walker!

Is he a sitting duck this weekend or what?

Don’t count me among those who think Walker is all that bad. He’s in most plays and you have to admit that he clearly carries a reputation – a bad one and it works against him. It makes being Frank Walker very unsavory in the NFL.

Need a big play?

Throw it Walker’s way!

Why not?

If your receiver doesn’t make a nice play on the ball the side judge will give you a nice break on the call. When Tom Brady comes up to the line of scrimmage on Sunday, what is the first thing he’ll be looking for?

No. 41 of course!

And this leads me to believe that the Ravens need to make a change with Walker...

No they don’t need to cut him or replace him as the nickel or dime. They need to change his number and maybe even his name. Give him a new number and tell him to legally change his last name to Bailey or Sanders or Asomugha. That should give Brady something to think about. It might slow him down for just a bit, right? Even if he figures it out after a couple of series, it might be worth the ruse.

After he and Bilicheater figure it out their panties will be all bunched up in a wad and they’ll go after Frank the Prank immediately and then the Ravens’ big cheater, Ed Reed can slither his way on over towards Walker, aka Bailey, Sanders or Asomugha and make a game changing pick.

It’s time the Ravens use Walker’s bad rep to their advantage.

It’s time for a little counter intelligence.

It just might completely screw up Coach Hoodie’s game plan.

What do they have to lose?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ravens @ Raiders: The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox


THE GOOD: Dannell Ellerbe now seems to be combining his impressive skills and instincts with preparedness and apparent coachability. He is explosive in short spaces and quick to the ball carrier plus his coverage skills have improved markedly. Clearly he was “Johnny-on-the-spot” against the Raiders with a timely pick and fumble recovery…The transformation of Chris Carr from bust to solid contributor over the span of six or so weeks has been nothing short of outstanding. Perhaps it was simply a case of confidence as a returner and familiarity as a defensive back but the game is now clicking for the 2009 free agent signing…Jalen Parmele continues to excel while subbing for the injured Lardarius Webb as a kick returner, averaging a very solid 34 yards on four returns ...Kelly Gregg was written off by many, some even in the organization as well as yours truly. Those words taste delicious and I’m happy to say the old Kelly Gregg is on his way back…Props go out to the entire offensive line for their run blocking particularly Ben Grubbs, Michael Oher and Jared Gaither.

THE BAD: Ed Reed at times looked like he was auditioning for the “Lost in Space” remake. Hopefully it was just a case of being rusty but I don’t think it was just a coincidence that the middle of the Ravens’ defense was suddenly swish cheese when Tom Zbikowski was replaced by Reed…Not helping matters, Greg Mattison’s schemes were a bit questionable. Mattison at times went with a nickel package against 3 wide sets yet blitzed the nickel back leaving Dawan Landry exposed and forced to cover a WR man-to-man. Opponents will take that matchup all day long. The D-Coordinator needs to be more creative blitzing the QB…It isn’t a question of “if” but “when” – Matt Katula and his ailing arm are going to cost the Ravens at a crucial time this post season in a close game. Rookie Nick Sundberg (practice squad) is waiting for the call. While the former California Bear is said to be a spot on long snapper, he lacks Katula’s height (listed at 6’, 246). Don’t count on him or any other replacement for Katula. Just hold your breath or pray for a speedy recovery for the normally reliable Katula…Joe Flacco’s pacing and rhythm are way out of synch and his complete disregard for obvious blitzes are borderline mind boggling. The entire offense looks lethargic as they creep towards the line of scrimmage while valuable play clock time ticks away. Cam Cameron needs to get his sub packages in the game more quickly along with the play so that the team can get to the line and observe the defense and make pre snap adjustments. Defenses are teeing off on the rather obvious snap counts heavily tipped off by Matt Birk's head movements and the play clock countdown towards zero…

THE UGLY: The passing attack was rather anemic and the wide receivers’ collective inability to create separation is pretty staggering…The 51 yard field goal attempt was ridiculously bad. I almost thought that Billy Cundiff was aiming for Katula’s hind parts as a payback for all those off the mark snaps.

THE MEGAN FOX: Without a doubt this one belongs to Willis “Smokin’ Joe” McGahee. His 77 yard run for a score was electrifying, punctuated by that left hook of a stiff arm he delivered to Raiders’ defensive back Hiram Eugene was one for the ages. Eugene will need to make several highlight reel plays to erase that indelible mark upon the minds of NFL fans everywhere. McGahee looked fresh, determined and extremely physical on his way to a three touchdown, 167 yard afternoon on just 16 carries. From the Harbaugh doghouse to the Megan Fox penthouse goes Willis!


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Time for a knockout!


Today’s game against the Raiders is a bit like a heavyweight match between a contender and a tough but unsuccessful opponent. The opponent has a knockout punch yet he’s sloppy, drops his guard and when his will is taken away, he folds.

But if you give him some hope and let him hang around, that dangerous hook could catch the contender off guard.

That in essence describes the Ravens visit to Oakland.

The Ravens are playoff contenders yet to earn the right for the big prize fight, they have to get past a dangerous opponent with nothing to lose and nothing to gain. The Raiders are playing for pride and perhaps in some cases their professional futures.

It is key for the Ravens to take away the Raiders’ collective will early. And they need to do that with body blows – shots to the midsection. And in the NFL those shots are delivered by the running game.

The Ravens are fueled by running back Ray Rice and the Raiders seemingly look like a handpicked slacky for this heavyweight bout given that they field the league’s 29th ranked defense against the run. Pound the body and the head will follow. The Raiders will drop their guard, start to think about the offseason and then practically beg for the knockout.

Get too cute, make a mistake, and the Ravens could feel that big overhand right from the Raiders and if they gain some confidence, this one will go the distance and they will slug it out to the final gun.

Let’s hope that John Harbaugh’s dad delivers another boxing metaphor to his son and the team as he did with last year’s Mohammed Ali influenced, “What’s Our Name?”

It’s time to take care of business.

It’s time to clean up the mistakes.

It’s time to put away an opponent just waiting to turn the lights out on the 2009 season.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A suspiciously interesting weekend in the NFL


The betting lines for this weekend’s games are pretty interesting to say the least and they absolutely suggest that some of the playoff bound teams plan on a long winter’s nap.

Not that I’m an oddsmaker by any stretch of the imagination but…

Despite being on the road I just can’t see the Patriots as 8 point dogs to the Texans or the Bengals as 10 point dogs to the Jets UNLESS Vegas is absolutely convinced Tom Brady and Carson Palmer have been given the weekend off.

Of the two teams, I could see Bill Belichick tanking the game. Clearly he is an outside the box thinker and he does manage a veteran team that is extremely experienced in the post season. Their collective momentum and rhythm might not be affected at all with the week off. Yet they do run the risk of losing the No. 3 seed in the post season tourney if they lose and the Bengals win in New York.

Let’s consider a couple of the possibilities as presented by my esteemed colleague Ken McKusick…

Possibility No. 1:

1. NE loses (Houston wins)
2. Denver wins
3. Baltimore wins
4. Pitt wins

Might Marvin Lewis then put Carson Palmer behind center? A Bengals win would pave the way to an enticing playoff game at home v. the Denver Broncos and the Ravens would head to New England. It could also set up a rematch with the Chargers in San Diego in the Divisional Round – a team that the Bengals nearly upset just a couple of weeks ago.

Possibility No. 2:

1. NE loses (Houston wins)
2. Denver loses
3. Baltimore wins
4. Pitt wins

By beating the Jets, the Bengals would host the Texans. If they lose, they get the Jets. They might be OK with either of these scenarios but the No. 3 seed is more attractive particularly when you take into consideration that the Patriots are a bad road team for a club that boasts a 10-5 overall record (2-5 on the road). Their only road wins were against the Bucs (3-12) and the Bills (5-10).

I’m not famous sports handicapper Brandon Lane by any stretch of the imagination but if it looks like the Patriots are tanking that 1PM game in Houston, get on the horn to your friendly neighborhood bookie and take the Bengals with the points.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy trails for McGahee in 2010?


Don’t be surprised if the Ravens search for suitors for the services of Willis McGahee. McGahee might be willing to accept an incentive laden contract with a contending team in exchange for a chance to see the field more. The former Bill has had his fair share of experience against the New England Patriots and he has fared well against them as a member of the Ravens.

Bill Belichick has a history of taking on reclamation projects in his offensive backfield and let's not forget that the Ravens and Patriots have been amicable trading partners for years. The uncapped season could provide the perfect opportunity to make such a move. The accelerated portion of of McGahee's signing bonus and the typical salary cap hit associated with such a move would be irrelevant in an uncapped season.