Archive for October, 2009

NFL Week 6 Game Preview: Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (5-0)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

Site: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (64,121) · Minneapolis, MN

TV: CBS

Announcers: Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Dan Dierdorf (color)

Fast Facts:

– The Ravens travel to Minnesota for the first time in their regular season history. The Vikings are the last NFL team Baltimore has yet to play on the road.

– QB Joe Flacco has thrown at least a TD pass in 8 consecutive road games.

-Since 2006, the Vikings have allowed a league best 73.2 rushing yards per game. The Ravens rank 2nd during that same span, giving up just 78.6 yards per game.

– The Vikings have given up just 4 turnovers on the season, the 2nd-lowest in the NFL.

Ravens Offense vs. Vikings Defense: The Ravens offense has sputtered in the past two games. After getting off to an explosive start, there has been a lack of balance between running and passing plays. Against the Bengals last week, they had a great deal of trouble developing any kind of rhythm, going 3-11 on 3rd downs. Joe Flacco and company need to get on the board early in this contest to have a chance to win. Establishing the run, or at least attempting to, will be crucial. Minnesota’s run defense consistently ranks among the league’s best. And at 311 and 317 pounds respectively, Kevin and Pat Williams are big reasons why (pardon the pun). Pat is a savvy 13 year veteran who can singlehandedly shut down an opponent’s running game. Former University of Maryland standout E.J. Henderson patrols the middle of the field at middle linebacker and has a tremendous nose for the ball. If the Ravens are going to gain significant chunks of yardage this Sunday, they are going to have to do it by going to the outside with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. Le’Ron McClain had zero rushing attempts in week 4 and only two last week. I’m looking for him to get more involved in the ground game this week. Receiver Derrick Mason was shut out a week ago for just the second time in 69 games as a Raven. Look for him to bounce back in a big way. Flacco is going to have to be quick in getting rid of the football because defensive end Jared Allen is simply a beast. Left tackle Jared Gaither is scheduled to return from his neck injury and play this week. Keep an eye on how he handles Allen. Two weeks ago against the Packers, Allen registered 4.5 sacks, a career high.  He also forced a fumble, and recovered it.  And he sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the end zone in the second half for a safety.

Vikings Offense vs. Ravens Defense: Adrian Peterson is widely regarded as the best back in the league today; some even say he has the potential to be one of the best of all time. He is fast, agile, powerful, and smart. He is the heartbeat of the Minnesota offense and limiting his production is priority number one for the Ravens defense. Don’t forget about former Raven Chester Taylor. He is averaging a little over four receptions a game, so expect him to get a few balls thrown his way in the flats. Baltimore is fresh off of giving up a 100-yard rusher in Cedric Benson. It will be interesting to see if they have a repeat performance of last week or if the front seven can hold their ground against this talented backfield. And at quarterback its good ole Brett Favre. Love him or hate him, he is back and he is good. He can still throw lasers all over the field with great precision. His completion percentage of 69.1 is a career high. And he has only thrown two interceptions while tossing nine touchdowns. His footwork is a little slower than it was in his prime, so if the pocket breaks down he’s very likely to be sacked. The Baltimore pass rush has to get to #4 early and often to give the secondary a chance to make some plays.

Prediction: I’d say it’s a stretch to call this a must win game for Baltimore. But they really do need a win here. Going into the bye week with a record of 4-2 is a heck of a lot better than going in losing three straight and being 3-3. The key to the game has to be the Ravens’ offense. You have to assume that the D is going to give up some big plays. With Peterson in the backfield, there’s a great chance of that happening. The offense has to be more balanced than they have been lately and Joe Flacco has to be the confident guy that efficiently won 2 road playoff games last year. All teams face adversity. Right now the ravens are facing a ton of it. They a sour taste in their mouth after losing last week at home with first place in the division on the line. They have the talent and the experience necessary to win this game and I say they do. RAVENS 31 – VIKINGS 26

Week 5 Game Preview: Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (71.008) · Baltimore, MD

TV: CBS

Announcers: Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Steve Tasker (color)

Fast Facts:

-33.3 percent (14/42) of Baltimore’s offensive drives have ended in touchdowns this season — the highest percentage of any team in the league.

-Cincinnati and Baltimore are tied with three other teams for the league lead in red zone TD percentage at 66.7%. The Ravens have 12 TD’s in 18 red zone trips, while the Bengals have scored 8 TD’s in 12 red zone visits.

-Since 2003, when Marvin Lewis took over as Bengals head coach, the Ravens and Bengals defenses rank 1-2 in the NFL in takeaways. The Ravens lead with 205, and the Bengals are second at 198.

-Cincinnati has allowed a running back to gain at least 93 yards in back to back games.

-The Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 39 consecutive regular season games.

Ravens Offense vs. Bengals Defense: After suffering a neck injury last week against the Patriots, it is unlikely that left tackle Jared Gaither will play this Sunday. If that is the case, Michael Oher will switch over from the right side over to the left as he did last week. He will have his hands full though, going up against defensive end Antwan Odom. Odom is tied for first in the league with eight sacks this season. Of Baltimore’s 66 offensive plays last week, only 17 of them were running plays. They will need more balance if they want to keep the Bengals D in check. Joe Flacco and his receivers can only do so much when the opposing defense knows what you are going to do. Le’Ron McClain had zero carries in Week 4. Look for him to get a little more involved this week. Willis McGahee has been a touchdown machine. He scored in his sixth straight game last Sunday and now has nine TDs (7 rush, 2 rec) since Week 16 of 2008, the most of any NFL player during that span.

Bengals Offense vs. Ravens Defense: Quarterback Carson Palmer is off to a mediocre start, with a 75.2 QB rating, which ranks 24th in the league. He has six TD passes but has also thrown five interceptions. Running Back Cedric Benson ranks third in the AFC and is tied for fourth in the league with 367 rushing yards. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has two touchdowns. Chad Ochocinco is the team’s leading receiver with 17 catches, a 15.2-yard average and three touchdowns. The story with Baltimore’s defense this year has been their vulnerability through the air. The run defense is as good as it’s ever been, holding opponents to an average of 59.5 yards a game, tops in the NFL.

Prediction: The Bengals are a good football team. If it weren’t for a miracle ending to their week 1 game against Denver, they would be 4-0. They squeaked out an overtime win over the lowly Browns last week, but have also come back after trailing double digits to the world champion Steelers. I wouldn’t be shocked if this turns out to be a close game late. But I just don’t see them finishing the job. The Ravens are a great football team at home. I don’t see them losing, especially with first place in the division on the line. RAVENS 30 – BENGALS 21.

Wednesday Morning News & Notes

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Two rather big NFL news items to note this morning:

-ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Browns have traded wide receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets. In return, Cleveland gets wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, special teamer Jason Trusnik, and two draft picks. The trade comes just two days after Edwards was accused of assaulting a friend of Cleveland Cavaliers superstar Lebron James outside a nightclub. Edwards was the third overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.

-Schefter is also reporting that wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the only first round draft pick of 2009 that hasn’t signed with his team, now apparently has. Crabtree was drafted 10th in this year’s draft by the San Francisco, but missed all of training camp and the 49ers’ first 4 games due to a holdout. He is expected to report to the team’s facility later today.

-On a sad note: Tony Fein, who was a linebacker for the Ravens during the preseason, was found dead in Port Orchard, Washington yesterday. His agent said there were no immediate details available.

-And what a baseball game last night! The Twins and Tigers were tied atop the AL Central after 162 games. And in baseball’s third tiebreaker game in as many years, it was Minnesota who prevailed 6-5 after 12 endless innings. In the top of the 8th, Detroit’s Maglio Ordonez hit a solo shot to tie the game at 4 apiece. Each team scored in the 10th, and then Alexi Casilla drove home Carlos Gomez in the bottom of the 12th. The game lasted 4 hours and 37 minutes. The Twins have little time to celebrate though; they begin Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees tonight at 6:07.

Brett Favre Draws Record Cable Audience

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Oh Brett Favre. Say what you want about good old #4. Love him or hate him, the man can draw an audience! Last night’s Monday Night Football game between the Packers and the Vikings was the highest rated cable television program of ALL TIME! Favre beat his old squad to become the first QB in NFL history to have a win against all 32 teams. An estimated 21,839,000 people tuned in to the broadcast.

NFL Week 4: Ravens – Patriots Wrap Up

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Some thoughts on yesterday’s Ravens – Patriots game.

-I never thought I’d ever say this, but I would have liked to see Baltimore run the ball more than they did yesterday. There were only 17 rushing attempts the entire game. Credit New England, who shut down the run for most of the afternoon. With the exception of Ray Rice’s 50 yard scamper in the third quarter, they did a very good job of keeping the Ravens running game in check. But I believe with a little more balance; maybe the Ravens finish a few more drives.

-Joe Flacco was good, but not great yesterday. I was extremely pleased with how he did in third down situations. On third downs, he was 8 for 11 and had a QB rating of 125. But on 1st and 10 with 1:11 remaining in the first half, and driving inside the New England 20, he threw a costly interception to Leigh Bodden. The Ravens were in field goal range and that pick cost them at least 3 points.

-I think it is very weak for anyone to blame Mark Clayton’s drop on fourth down for yesterday’s loss. There were plenty of opportunities for the Ravens to score points throughout the game. Chris Carr’s fumble on the opening kickoff allowed New England to get 3 easy points. Combine that fumble with Flacco’s interception in scoring territory, and that is potentially six, even 10 points in the Ravens’ favor. Mark dropped a big pass that happened to be late in the game. Was it a mistake? You bet. But there many other mistakes yesterday that added up to the loss.

-I’m never one to blame the referees. Overall the officiating was questionable, and the roughing the passer call on Terrell Suggs was just unacceptable. I realize what the league and the officials are trying to do. You have to protect the quarterback, and I get it. But there has to be a point where you let the players play. Ray Lewis was very upset with the call and I agree with what he said: “Without totally going off the wall here, it is embarrassing to the game. Brady is good enough to make his own plays; let him make the play.”)

-At the end of the day I am fine with this loss. The Ravens proved to me that they are very good team and that they can play with the big boys. They had numerous opportunities to take control of the game and they didn’t. They had a chance to win the game at the end and that’s all you can ask for. And I honestly believe they LOST the game more than New England won it. That doesn’t mean anything in the standings though, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. But this team has to feel awfully good about where they can go in 2009. If they stay healthy, I don’t see them losing more than 4 games the whole season.

Week 4 Game Preview: Baltimore Ravens (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-1)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. (EDT)

Site: Gillette Stadium (68,756) • Foxborough, MA

TV: CBS

Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Phil Simms (color)

Fast Facts:

– The Patriots own the NFL’s best home record (55-19) since 2000, 1 game better than the Ravens (54-20).

– Baltimore has never beaten New England in four tries, including two losses at Foxborough by a combined score of 44-6.

– In the Ravens’ last 7 regular season road games, QB Joe Flacco has produced a 101.1 QB rating, the best figure in the NFL. In those contests, he has thrown for 11 TDs and just 3 INTs.

– The Ravens’ defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 38 straight regular season games. That is the NFL’s longest current streak.

Ravens Offense vs. Patriots Defense: The Patriots will once again be without Jerod Mayo, their extremely talented young linebacker. Mayo, who was named the 2008 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, sprained his MCL in the Patriots’ season opener. He is slated to return sometime before the end of this season. But not having him in the middle on Sunday is something the Ravens have to take advantage of by getting the ball to Todd Heap early and often. Baltimore’s Matt Birk did a stellar job last week of blocking big Shaun Rogers of the Browns. He faces another tough task this week in going against nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Wilfork reminds me a lot of the Ravens’ Kelly Gregg in that he has a motor that never stops and can give the offensive line fits. He will find his way into the backfield several times per game. Don’t expect Joe Flacco and Co. to put up the kind of numbers we’ve seen in the first 3 weeks. Taking care of the ball will be a priority as always. RB Willis McGahee leads the NFL with six touchdowns. He and Ray Rice have to establish the running game as a threat early in the game.

Patriots Offense vs. Ravens Defense: Where do I begin? QB Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback of his era. Winning 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, he is the epitome of what you look for in a winning quarterback. He has a great arm and he can dissect opposing defenses. He has a terrific sense of the pass rush and always seems to get rid of the ball right before the pressure gets to him. However Brady’s accuracy has taken a dip so far in 2009. Since returning from knee surgery, Brady hasn’t looked as accurate as he has been is years past. His 79.9 QB Rating is well below his career average of 92.4. Baltimore will use their variety of disguised blitzes to try and disrupt his rhythm. Keep in mind it was only 2 weeks ago that Rex Ryan’s Jets gave Brady and the Pats’ offense fits with their defensive scheme. The Ravens are running the essentially the same defense as the Jets are. Look for that to be a factor. Wide receiver Randy Moss is tall, strong, and physical. He knows how to get into the best position possible to make all the big catches. But like Brady, Moss’s numbers could be better. He has 226 yards receiving, which is fifth best in the league. But he also has zero TD catches. What concerns me is how much trouble the Ravens’ secondary had defending Vincent Jackson and the rest of the Chargers receiving corps in Week 2. At 6-foot-4, Moss has a clear height advantage over the Ravens’ Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth (each 5-foot-11). I believe Moss is due for breakout game and will frustrate the Ravens’ corners all afternoon. The always dangerous Wes Welker is questionable for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. He is likely to be a game-time decision.

Prediction: The Ravens are very capable of winning this game. They proved last year against Tennessee in the playoffs that they could go on the road into a hostile environment and beat a tough team. It’s all about execution though. They need to play their game and limit the number of big plays they give up on defense. Flacco has been great on the road throughout his young career, but once again he faces a tough test on the road. Can he handle it? I see New England jumping out to an early lead and Baltimore playing catch-up the whole time. The Ravens defense will be on their game. But being aggressive will lead to a big play or two by Moss. It will be close, but this one goes to the Pats. PATRIOTS 26 – RAVENS 17.


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