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Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Ravens’

This almost had to happen didn’t it?  The Ravens and Steelers battered and bruised their way to identical 12-4 records.  They split their two meetings, with each team winning on the road.  And before, during and after the season many folks had Baltimore and Pittsburgh identified as NFL championship contenders.  On Saturday, they’ll meet one more time to settle the AFC North score for the 2010 season.

Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco's poise under pressure will be a key to the Ravens beating the Steelers on Saturday.

Baltimore comes into the game after an impressive Wild Card win in Kansas City.  The Ravens dominated the time of possession, held the Chiefs to just 161 total yards and forced five turnovers.

Pittsburgh had a bye last week by virtue of winning the AFC North and clinching the two seed in the AFC.  The key to the Steelers success throughout the season was their stellar defense, which was second in the NFL in allowing only 276.8 yards per game. 

The Ravens win if: Joe Flacco makes quick reads and finds the open man.  Flacco showed great poise in the pocket against the Chiefs and had the patience to let the underneath routes develop.  Obviously pass protection will be key as well.

The Steelers win if: The offensive line wins their individual battles.  To stop the Ravens from teeing off on Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh will have to mix the run and pass with success.  The Steelers line will have to drive the Ravens front seven off the line of scrimmage while giving Roethlisberger the time to look for Mike Wallace.

Who do I like: Ravens 14-13

Why: I think you can throw the fact that the Steelers have won the last six matchups against the Ravens with Roethlisberger in the lineup out the window.  What I think this game will come down to is emotion and motivation.  I think the Ravens will rally around the grief that Ed Reed is experiencing right now and be absolutely determined to win this game for him.  I think the game will come down to a last minute defensive stop by the Ravens after they get Ray Rice involved early.

How do you see this brutal battle playing out?  Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: swiecicki

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Sunday’s NFL Wildcard Playoff games start heating up at 1:00 pm when the Baltimore Ravens invade Arrowhead Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs.  While both of these teams play in the AFC they are not frequent foes.  They’ve only met twice in the last five years, both wins for Baltimore.

Arrowhead Stadium, Home of the Chiefs

Arrowhead Stadium will host Sunday's NFL wildcard matchup between the Ravens and Chiefs.

The Ravens were one of the favorites to wear the AFC crown coming into the 2010 season.  But they never became the offensive machine that they seem to have the potential to be.  Still, they are in the tournament, so that may happen at just the right time.  Baltimore is used to playing on the road in the postseason.  Their last five playoff games have been away from home.  They won in New England on Wildcard weekend last season.

The Chiefs are returning to the playoffs after a five year absence.  They are one of the NFL’s 2010 surprise teams.  They exceeded almost all expectations while winning 10 games and the AFC West division title.  For Kansas City it’s been improvement all around, but especially in the running game where Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones led them as the top offensive rushing team in the NFL.

The Ravens win if: They can slow Charles down and stop him from reaching the corner.  With 6.4 yards per carry over 230 carries Charles has proven he’s deadly.  Baltimore will have to create penetration near the tackle area to stop Charles from turning the outside corner and gouging them for big runs.

The Chiefs win if: They can stop the run.  It may be that simple.  In their last four games the Chiefs are 2-2.  In their two wins they held each of their opponents to less than 70 yards rushing.  In their two losses, each opponent carved them up for more than 200 yards on the ground.

Who do I like: Chiefs 17-16

Why: This is a tough one to pick.  The Ravens have won six road playoff games since 2000 and obviously will not be intimidated going into Kansas City.  I think the Chiefs will be able to slow down Ray Rice while getting Charles going.  I think they’ll be able to pressure Joe Flacco and prevent the Ravens from making a big play through the air.  I have faith in Romeo Crennel to build a defensive game plan that will keep Baltimore on their heels.  The second-most important thing for Kansas City in my eyes is for Matt Cassel to take care of the ball.  He has to be aware of Ed Reed and must stay away from interceptions.

Who do you like in this matchup, the upstart Chiefs or the veteran Ravens?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: Brood_wich

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Week 15 was critical for a number of teams in the NFL as many were jockeying to stay in the playoff hunt or secure their position.  There were some excellent individual offensive performances and spectacular special teams plays.

Here are the Average Guy NFL Week 15 Awards (with the Packers-Patriots game still being played):

Fireman Ed

Fireman Ed was in Pittsburgh and he was fired up!

Most Impressive Win

New York Jets – 22-17 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Most Important Win

Indianapolis Colts – 34-24 over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst Loss

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 20-23 to the Detroit Lions

Biggest Surprise

Baltimore Ravens

Biggest Disappointment

Miami Dolphins

Offensive MVP

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens – 31 carries 153 yards 1 TD 5 receptions 80 yards 1 TD

Defensive MVP

Wallace Gilberry, Kansas City Chiefs – 3 sacks

Special Teams MVP

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles – 65-yard punt return for TD

Most Surprising Performance

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts – 14 carries 129 yards 1 TD 1 reception 4 yards

Most Disappointing Performance

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 10 completions 17 attempts 71 yards 2 interceptions 28.9 QB rating Lost fumble

Offensive Rookie

Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns – 19 completions 25 attempts 243 yards 2 TDs 132.6 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Kendrick Lewis, Kansas City Chiefs – 2 interceptions

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Eli Manning, New York Giants – 23 completions 39 attempts 289 yards 4 TDs 1 interception 105.6 QB rating

Quick Takes

  • I was extremely happy to see that we would have a good 1:00 game to watch – the Jaguars at the Colts.  It was one of those games where the scoreboard does not seem to tell the real story.  The Colts dominated the first half but went into the locker room up only 14-10.
  • The Jaguars had plenty of opportunities to make a run and claim the game but they could not.  They looked awful in the first half of the third quarter.
  • Indianapolis was really impressive in two areas where they’ve struggled mightily this season – running the ball and stopping the run.  Donald Brown was their first 100-yard rusher in 36 games.  That’s an astounding stat.
  • The Jags self-destructed every time they got close in the second half – David Garrard threw an interception, Greg Jones got called for a chop block and then they gave up the fluke onside kick return for a touchdown.
  • I also watched much of the Jets-Steelers game.  I gave DeSean Jackson the Special Teams MVP award above but I definitely want to acknowledge the boost that Brad Smith gave the Jets with his kickoff return touchdown to open the game in Pittsburgh.
  • The end of the game was absolutely thrilling.  When Jason Taylor busted through the Pittsburgh line for the safety I thought it was over.  But the Steelers found a way to stay alive until the very last second.  In the end it was a HUGE win for the Jets.
  • The Ravens made a statement in their win over the Saints.  The defense tightened up and the running game was ferocious.  I said that I keep waiting for the Ravens to reach their potential.  Maybe they are getting there.

One BIG Question

Will a team with a record below .500 make the playoffs?  Or will the Rams or Seahawks win their last two games?

Whose performance stuck out to you in week 15?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: GMO66

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There’s a lot on the line in the NFL in week 15 including the AFC South and NFC East, as well as the playoff hopes of the Jets and Packers.  Injuries may further complicate things, especially in the cases of Aaron Rodgers and David Garrard.  Here’s a look at the big games, with my picks:

Peyton Manning in the pocket

Peyton Manning will be looking to gain back control of the AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 1:00 pm

The Jaguars can clinch the AFC South division title with a win in Indianapolis.  You may think Jacksonville is not capable of pulling off this upset on enemy turf.  But you’d be wrong.  The Jaguars last victory in Indianapolis – just two short years ago.

Key to the game: The Colts’ #1 ranked NFL passing offense against the Jaguars’ 28th ranked passing defense.  Jacksonville is going to have to get some stops.

Who do I like: With a healthy Garrard, I would highly consider taking the Jaguars.  This will be a game of strengths against weaknesses.  I think the Colts strong passing game will exploit the Jaguars bad pass defense more than the Jaguars powerful rushing offense will be able to take advantage of the weak Colts run defense.

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1:00 pm

The defending champions are on a roll having won six in a row.  The Ravens are not nearly as hot but need a win to maintain playoff positioning.

Key to the game: The Ravens pass rush against the Saints pass blocking.  If the Ravens allow Drew Brees to sit back and pick his spots he will light them up, just like Matt Schaub did last week.

Who do I like: I keep waiting for the Ravens to really turn it on.  I think I may be waiting until next season.  I’m going with the Saints and their explosive offensive and solidifying defense.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Tied atop the NFC East at 9-4 the Eagles and Giants will battle in the New Meadowlands early Sunday afternoon.  They met just four weeks ago with Philly winning at home 27-17.

Key to the game: The Giants fifth ranked rushing defense against the fifth ranked rushing offense of the Eagles.  In the first meeting Philadelphia gained 148 yards on the ground including the game winning 50-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy.

Who do I like: Since losing to the Eagles the Giants have found their running game and have averaged more than 200 yards on the ground in three games.  I think that the Giants will get good yardage in the running game and slow Michael Vick and company down just enough to get the win.

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 4:15 pm

After dropping two in a row, and looking really bad doing it, the Jets appear to be in disarray.  The Steelers haven’t played great but have won four in a row.

Key to the game: Mark Sanchez against the Steelers defense.  Sanchez has to find some magic in Pittsburgh if the Jets are going to have any chance in this one.

Who do I like: The Steelers.  Period.  I don’t expect the Jets to be able to move the ball at all.

Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots
Sunday, 8:20 pm

This game shouldn’t be close because Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t play.  The Patriots have staked their claim as the best team in the NFL.

Key to the game: Whether Rodgers plays or not.  If he doesn’t, I don’t give the Packers any chance to win.  Even if he does, I’d only give them about a 15% chance to win.

Who do I like:  I wish Rodgers was healthy and ready to play because this would be a really interesting matchup.  I’m going with the Patriots for the victory – by a big margin.

Who do you like in these games?  What game are you most looking forward to in week 15?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: muohace_dc

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Week 12 in the NFL was highlighted by two huge matchups of NFC contenders.  In week 13 it’s the AFC’s turn.  In divisional rematches from earlier in the season the Steelers invade Baltimore to take on the Ravens and the Jets will battle the Patriots in New England.

Pittsburgh Steelers Gnome

Expect the Steeler Gnome to be partying again on Sunday night

It was back in week four when the Steelers and Ravens first met and Baltimore handed Pittsburgh their first loss of the season.  That was of course while Ben Roethlisberger was suspended.  But since Roethlisberger joined the team the Steelers have not exactly been the juggernaut many expected them to be.  They lost to their two toughest opponents (New Orleans and New England) and they barely beat Miami and Buffalo.

The Ravens had their own close affair with the Bills.  Like Pittsburgh, Baltimore needed overtime to beat Buffalo.  The Ravens have not been the dynamic offensive team I expected them to be in 2010.  They currently rank just 16th in the NFL in passing and 14th in rushing.

The Steelers win if: They can use the short pass to set up the long pass.  Even though the stats say the Ravens have the eighth best pass defense in the NFL there are still many doubts about the quality of their secondary.  Roethlisberger needs to hit the short routes first to get the safeties to creep up and then go deep with Mike Wallace.

The Ravens win if: They give Joe Flacco time in the pocket.  That will not be an easy task.  While Baltimore has done a fair job of protecting the passer, Pittsburgh is tied for the second most sacks in the NFL.  I’ve seen Michael Oher play quite a bit this season and I am not at all confident in his ability to lock down the left side.

Who do I like: Steelers 23-20

Why: In the Steelers’ two losses since the first meeting with the Ravens, both teams have thrown the ball for more than 300 yards, protected their quarterback and gotten to Roethlisberger.  I don’t see Flacco throwing the ball for 300 yards in this game.  He has not taken quite the leap I expected him to so far this season.  I think the Steelers linebackers will be able to hit Flacco early and often.  And rushing the passer is not a strength for the Ravens.  They are currently ranked 26th in the NFL with just 19 sacks.  Knowing they need the win, I expect the Steelers to be supremely motivated and run onto enemy turf to score a victory.

Who do you like in this AFC heavyweight battle?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: daveynin

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With the three Thanksgiving games behind us, it’s time to start getting fired up for week 12’s 12 Sunday matchups.  I’ve already individually previewed the two games I think are the most important, the Packers visiting Atlanta to play the Falcons and the Eagles taking on the Bears in Chicago.  As the playoff picture is becoming clearer there are a number of games that have important implications.  Instead of just tackling one more in-depth, I’m going to take the approach of asking one big question and providing an answer that I think will determine the result.

Air Force Honor Guard

It's almost time for NFL Week 12 to begin

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Giants

Q: Will the Giants and Jags set an NFL record for most combined turnovers in a game?

A: No.  While Jacksonville is currently ranked 28th in the NFL in turnovers and New York is dead last, I think the Giants will finally right the ship, cut down the turnovers and get a much needed win.

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins

Q: Will the brand new head coach phenomenon propel the Vikings to victory in Washington?

A: Yes.  The Redskins really should have lost last week to the Titans but Rusty Smith was completely imcompetent.  With Leslie Frazier now at the helm, a steady dose of Adrian Peterson should be enough for the Vikings to get the W.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Seattle Seahawks

Q: Can the Chiefs steal a win in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL?

A: No.  Kansas City is 1-4 on the road while the Seahawks are 3-1 at home.  Seattle needs this game to stay on top of the NFC West and I believe the 12th man will help them get it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Baltimore Ravens

Q: Are the Bucs legitimate contenders?

A: No, and the Ravens will handle them easily.  Tampa Bay has built up its 7-3 record against the eighth easiest schedule in the NFL.

San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts

Q: Will Philip Rivers further solidify his MVP candidacy with a win in Indianapolis on Sunday night?

A: Yes.  It surprises even me to say this but I’m taking the Chargers to beat the Colts.  San Diego is making its late season run and Rivers has been incredible with a receiving unit made up of castoffs.  With Vincent Jackson back and Ryan Mathews healthy the Chargers are very well positioned.

What are your thoughts on these five games?  Do you agree with my answers?  Am I asking the right question?  Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

Photo source: NYCMarines

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NFL Week 10 opened with a bang on Thursday night with the Ravens and Falcons putting on quite a show that came right down to the last minute.  And it was entertaining in between, with two overtime games, two statement wins (Dolphins and Bears) and a couple of big surprises (Broncos and Cowboys).  Now it will be capped off with two critical battles, the Patriots versus the Steelers and the Eagles at the Redskins.

Falcon

The falcon was the mightier bird on Thursday night

As the Patriots-Steelers game is being played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 10 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Atlanta Falcons – 26-21 over the Baltimore Ravens

Most Important Win

Miami Dolphins – 29-17 over the Tennessee Titans

Worst Loss

Houston Texans – 24-31 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Surprise

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Disappointment

Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive MVP

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – 32 completions 50 attempts 316 yards 3 TDs 101.8 QB rating

Defensive MVP

Mario Haggan, Denver Broncos – 3 sacks 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Devin Hester, Chicago Bears – 2 kickoff returns for 100 yards 2 punt returns for 47 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills – 25 carries 133 yards 1 TD 6 receptions 37 yards 1 TD

Most Disappointing Performance

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings – 18 completions 31 attempts 170 yards 1 TD 3 interceptions 44.5 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns – 18 completions 31 attempts 205 yards 1 TD 0 interceptions 88.8 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys – 101-yard interception return TD, 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs – 35 completions 53 attempts 469 yards 4 TDs 116.0 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 11 receptions 145 yards

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entire Ravens-Falcons game on Thursday night and I was really glad that I did.  It was a very entertaining game with two teams that are among the best in the NFL.
  • Matt Ryan was spectacular.  I’ve really been doubting him all season.  After seeing him play on Thursday night I’ve done a complete 180.  His accuracy was really impressive.  His control of the game was superb and he was masterful in bringing his team back for a win for the fifth time this season.
  • I now believe that the Falcons could absolutely represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  Beyond Ryan, I was especially impressed with both of their lines.  The O-line protected Ryan very well and the D-line was disruptive on almost every play Baltimore ran.
  • The Ravens cannot be happy with Michael Oher’s progress at left tackle.  He was victimized repeatedly by John Abraham.  My notes from the Ravens-Patriots game earlier this season also show him performing poorly.
  • I was surprised the Ravens didn’t go to Ray Rice more often.
  • Looking at today’s games – I’m really impressed with the way the Denver run defense completely turned around against the Chiefs.  They are ranked 31st in the NFL against the run but managed to hold the number one ranked rushing offense to 51 yards on 22 carries.
  • I often like to point to the third down conversion numbers as one of the most important statistics to watch.  This week’s example is the Vikings-Bears game.  Minnesota struggled to convert third downs, finishing one of nine.  Meanwhile Chicago converted 11 of 19.
  • I love the Rams but there are some ugly stats from their game with the Niners today.  The two teams combined to convert a miserable two of 25 third downs.  They were also flagged a total of 26 times for penalties.

One BIG Question

After showing so much promise early, are the Texans now done?

What surprises and disappointment stick out the most to you in week 10?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: mikebaird

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