Posts Tagged 'Todd Heap'

Week 1 Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets

January 16, 2010…that was the last time the Ravens played a game that mattered. Seems like a long time ago huh? Well the wait is over, September 13th has finally arrived, and what a game we have tonight!

The Jets and Ravens are very similar teams. They both have the young quarterbacks with plenty of experienced weapons on offense. Defensively, both squads play good ol’ “smash mouth football”.

There has been quite a bit of talking leading up to this game, and it’s fun, but I’m not gonna address the jabber. I want to look at the types of games both teams need to play to come away with a win tonight.

First off, believe the hype, Darrelle Revis is the real deal. He is as good as advertised and has to ability to take a whole side of a field away from the opposition. That opens up options for the New York defense to blitz, especially with their safeties. And everyone knows Rex Ryan loves to blitz. He will be sending extra guys at Joe Flacco early and often to try to fluster the third year signal caller. On the other side of the field will be Antonio Cromartie, who is also a very skilled corner, not as talented as Revis. However he does have lightning fast speed. If he comes up with an interception, he is likely to take it to the house.

That being said, Revis can only cover one guy at a time, tonight that guy will be Anquan Boldin. Baltimore has plenty of other options to go to other than Boldin when airing it out. Flacco will have to spread the ball around to targets Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Ray Rice in the flat.

Speaking of Rice, I believe he is more dangerous on those flare passes and toss plays tonight. Do not expect much from him rushing up the middle. The Jets have a beast in Kris Jenkins at nose tackle. He can take up so much space and will be a challenge for center Matt Birk on first and second downs. Against a defense as physical and brutal as New York’s, getting backs Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain at least half a dozen carries each is crucial. Rice isn’t built to take such a pounding for four quarters.

On to the Jets and their offense. Mark Sanchez enjoyed a solid rookie campaign and is looking to continue his growth as an NFL quarterback. He has plenty of viable options at his disposal to help him win not only tonight but throughout 2010. The addition of future Hall of Famer Ladainian Tomlinson as well as 15-year veteran Tony Richardson adds depth, experience, and stability to a young corps of backs in Shonn Greene and John Conner. Receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are solid options who have great hands as well as breakaway speed. However, Holmes is out for tonight’s game. He is missing the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy this past offseason. Jerricho Cotchery will have to step up and fill in his place tonight. Tight end Dustin Keller averaged just over 11½ yards per catch last year but only hauled in two TD’s. I like him to have a big 2010, watch out for him across the middle.

This leads to the one glaring weakness of the Ravens, their secondary. With Ed Reed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the season, and Dominique Foxworth gone for the year, the Ravens are vulnerable and everyone knows it. Baltimore will have to work with Fabian Washington, Josh Wilson, and Chris Carr at corner. Lardarius Webb is listed as a game time decision, however I expect him to suit up and get plenty up snaps. Tom Zbikowski fills in for Reed at free safety, while Dawan Landry provides the most experience and talent of the group at strong safety.

There are lots of big names at the skill positions for both teams, and they very well could be the difference in the outcome of the game. But I believe it will all come down to who can dominate in the trenches, specifically when New York is on offense. I already mentioned earlier that Kris Jenkins will cause disruption in the middle of the Ravens line, but more importantly is if the Jets big men can hold up against a tough Baltimore front seven. If they can, it gives Sanchez the necessary time to pick apart the corners and safeties. A poor effort up front will lead to sacks, hurries, and in turn, poor decisions by the second year QB.

I believe nose tackle Haloti Ngata is a bit better than Jenkins due to his speed and athleticism. Remember last year in the preseason (against the Jets) when Ngata droped back into coverage like a linebacker and picked off Sanchez and took it to the house? Center Nick Mangold, fresh off signing an 8-year, $57.4 million contract, will have the tall task of blocking Ngata all game. And a great matchup I’m excited to watch will be left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson against a leaner and quicker Terrell Suggs.

So many storylines and matchups to digest in this one. Both teams have “super” aspirations if you know what I mean. Lots of questions will have been answered by the conclusion of this evening’s battle. Time for the prediction: I say the Ravens get off to a slower than expected start, and possibly fall behind. But the offense has too many weapons and will unleash its firepower in the 2nd half. The defense will bend but not break, and limit the Jets to field goals when backed aginst the wall. BALTIMORE 27 – NEW YORK 16

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.

Ravens, R. Lewis Come Up Big in San Diego

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The Ravens victory over the Chargers yesterday wasn’t pretty, but when have the Ravens ever been a team of style over substance? Never.

The defense gave up 476 yards, but Ray Lewis, who on fourth and 2 made the game’s biggest play, summed it up best. “You see a couple of big plays here or there, but I told the defense earlier, those third- and fourth-down goal-line stances will win us the ballgame. I’ve been in games where we’ve held under 150 yards. That’s cute. Stats are pretty. But if you don’t win, you’re sick.”

The franchise’s M.O. for winning over the past decade has been to play great defense, and hope the offense can do SOMETHING. However yesterday, in front of a crowd of 66,882 at sun-splashed Qualcomm Stadium, it was a bit of a role-reversal as the offense picked up the slack for the defense.

Willis McGahee rushed for 79 yards and was able to find the endzone twice. Dan Fouts made mention during the CBS telecast of how motivating it can be to a player when he has to earn his carries. This is a remarkably different McGahee than the one we saw in 2008. He has a great attitude this year and is looking even better than he did in 2007 when he averaged 81 yards per game and had almost 300 carries.

Joe Flacco, aside from throwing an interception early in the fourth quarter, was brilliant. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 27 yard lob to Kelley Washington looked great. He pumped to Mark Clayton who was setting up for a screen, and the Charger defense bit hard. What a great piece of play calling from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The receivers were decent; I was expecting a bit more from Clayton and Derrick Mason. Together they only totaled 4 receptions. Kelley Washington is quickly becoming one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. Todd Heap only caught one pass, but it was good for six and gave Baltimore their biggest lead of the game. Mason needs only 3 catches to become the 23rd player in league history to amass 800 or more receptions.

For the Ravens’ defensive front seven, it was business as usual. They held the explosive Darren Sproles to only 26 rushing yards and the Chargers as a whole to 53. The play of the secondary was cause for concern though. Sproles and Phillip Rivers connected on a 81 yard catch and run that went the distance. And receiver Vincent Jackson snagged in 6 balls for 141 yards. Down the road, teams are going to exploit corners Fabian Washington and Dominique Foxworth like the Chargers. Each is only 5-foot-11, and when the Ravens face big, tall receivers, (i.e. Braylon Edwards next week and Randy Moss in 2 weeks) they are going to have get help from the safeties and use double coverage. If they don’t figure out a way to contain these playmakers, yesterday’s game will not be the only time Baltimore gives up 400+ passing yards.

Overall, a win is a win and the play of this team right now should excite any fan. Both games this year have revealed weaknesses that could have potentially led to losses. Yet both times, the Ravens have found ways to come out victorious.

With Pittsburgh losing in Chicago yesterday, Baltimore now sits atop the AFC North. I know, I know, it’s early, but starting out 2-0 historically bodes well for the Ravens. The last three times they’ve done it, they’ve made the playoffs (2000, 2006, and 2008). An excellent opportunity to improve to 3-0 awaits this Sunday when Baltimore hosts the 0-2 Cleveland Browns.

Wild Card Preview: Ravens at Dolphins

Jan. 5, 2009, 2:11 PM

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Game Info:
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Site: Dolphin Stadium (75,192)•Miami Gardens, FL
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Phil Simms (color commentary)

Overview: The Ravens and Dolphins both come into Sunday’s game with a lot of confidence. Miami finished their season by winning five in a row, while Baltimore won five of their last six to close out the 2008 season. The last time these teams met was on October 19, when the Ravens won 27-13. Willis McGahee rushed for 105 yards and Terrell Suggs scored his first career NFL touchdown, picking off Chad Pennington and taking it back 44 yards for the score. Although both teams finished the regular season with 11-5 records and Baltimore won the head to head meeting, Miami gets the home game because they won the AFC East and the Ravens took the Wild Card.

Matchups:

RAVENS OFFENSE vs. DOLPHINS DEFENSE: Joe Flacco has been very composed in the last few weeks. Even when he feels pressure, he has shown the ability to roll out and make a play or just get rid of it. In weeks 15 and 16, Flacco saw two of the game’s best pass rushers in James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware. On Sunday he will have to deal with another great one in Joey Porter, who compiled 17½ sacks this year. Porter, like Harrison and Ware, uses his strength and speed to generate a ferocious pass rush. Veterans Vonnie Holliday and Jason Ferguson have a combined 23 years of NFL experience and are the big men up front for Miami. They helped the Fins limit opponents to 101 rushing yards per game this year. Ray Rice will be back on the field for Baltimore for the first time since Dec. 7 when he injured his calf. The secondary is where the Ravens need to take advantage of Miami. The Dolphins gave up 28 plays of 25 yards or more during the regular season, so look for Mark Clayton, Todd Heap, and Derrick Mason to all possibly make a few big plays.

DOLPHINS OFFENSE vs. RAVENS DEFENSE: The Ravens did an excellent job of shutting down Miami’s wildcat offense back on Oct. 19. They used their speed and aggressiveness to stop some of Miami’s trickery before it could get started. Baltimore’s defense is one that commits and commits hard. If Chad Pennington is able to get a good play action fake and still have enough time to throw the ball, the Ravens could be vulnerable. The Ravens do so many things defensively to confuse the offense. Putting 340 pound Haloti Ngata into pass coverage will throw off any quarterback. And having four linebackers who can blitz at anytime is a lot for the offensive line to handle. The Ravens showed some holes in their run defense last week against Jacksonville, giving up 119 yards. This is something the Dolphins will try to build upon. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for 1575 rushing yards this season. They are a talented pair of playmakers.

PREDICTION: The Ravens led the league in takeaways during the regular season with 34. The Dolphins tied for the league lead with only 13 turnovers. Something has to give. If Chad Pennington is efficient and smart like he has been all season, I believe the Dolphins have a really good shot at winning this one. But if the Ravens can get to him early and be disruptive, it will take an enormous ammount of pressure off of Joe Flacco and the offense. I say the Ravens will continue their brand of smash mouth football and walk out of Miami with their first playoff victory since 2002. RAVENS, 21-13


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