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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Roethlisberger’

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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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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Here in NFL week 10 it is quite clear that the three biggest games all take place in the evening – the spectacular Ravens-Falcons matchup on Thursday night, New England invading Pittsburgh on Sunday night and the Eagles visiting the Redskins on Monday night.  When the Patriots battle the Steelers the winner will have immediate control of the AFC.

Expected to be among the most productive offenses in the NFL, the Patriots have often struggled with the ball.  They come into this game with the 15th ranked running game (not a surprise) and the 17th ranked passing game (definitely a surprise) in the NFL.  They also suffered a shocking loss in Cleveland last Sunday.  Peyton Hillis gouged the New England defense, running for 184 yards on 29 carries.  The Browns D also held the Patriots in check, allowing only 68 yards on 20 carries and limiting Tom Brady to 224 yards and 19 completions on 36 attempts.

Ben Roethlisberger throwing

To win the Patriots will have to beat on Ben Roethlisberger

After the way the Steelers played the first four games without Ben Roethlisberger, I though his addition would lead to them destroying every team they faced.  That has not been the case at all.  They’ve played well enough to win three out of four and they do have the number one rushing defense in the NFL by a wide margin, but two of those three wins were one score margins with one being the controversial victory over Miami.  They have let up quite a few passing yards in their last three games when you factor out the sack yardage – 248 to Cincinnati, 305 to New Orleans and 257 to the now benched Chad Henne and Miami.

The Patriots win if: They blitz early and often and get to Roethlisberger.  New England is way down the NFL sacks ranks with only 13, but they need to get to Big Ben.  If they don’t he will pick them apart.

The Steelers win if: They keep the Patriots passing game in front of them and brutalize the receivers after they catch the ball.  New England does not have an established deep threat and Brady is being forced to dink and dunk his way to the end zone.  He doesn’t mind that, but the receivers will if they get lit up every time they touch the ball.

Who do I like: Steelers 23-13

Why: I think Pittsburgh is a much better team than New England and you can bet Heinz Field is going to be rocking on Sunday night.  I think Belichick will fix some of the deficiencies in the run defense but I expect Rashard Mendenhall to still get some big yardage.  I don’t think the Patriots will get enough of a pass rush to knock Roethlisberger off his game.  The Steelers will be hitting the New England receivers hard and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a ball or two or three bounce out of a receiver’s hands and right to Troy Polamalu.

What are your thoughts on this big matchup?  Do you agree with me that the Steelers will win or do you see the Patriots pulling off the upset?

Photo source: SteelCityHobbies

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The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.  Most often, the teams with the best quarterbacks are the teams that have the best records.  This is especially true in today’s pass happy NFL.  In the past couple of decades it has been a very rare occasion that a team without a star quarterback has won the Super Bowl.

Lombardi Trophies

You need a great QB to win one of these

So at the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season what teams have gotten the most out of the quarterback position?

  1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
    Without much run support and with an average offensive line at best, Manning has led the Colts to a 5-2 record while throwing 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions.  He’s also made the most of an injury-plagued receiving corps.  Even though he may have lost a tick he’s still the elite quarterback in the NFL.
  2. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
    Although he’s not one of my favorites, Rivers deserves his props.  While his team has struggled to a 3-5 start he’s been steady, leading the NFL with an average of 331 yards passing per game.  Like Manning, he’s had to deal with a receiving corps that’s been decimated by injury.  Still, he’s put up the third best quarterback rating (98.9) in the NFL through the first eight weeks.
  3. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
    Orton’s been nothing less than spectacular for the Broncos.  He’s second to Rivers in averaging 314 yards per game.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only five interceptions against defenses that have not had to respect the Denver running game at all.
  4. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
    Efficiency is the key for Brady.  He’s completed 65% of his passes.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  But, he’s averaging only 229 yards passing per game.  Maybe most importantly though he’s led New England to the best record in the NFL.
  5. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
    He’s thrown a frightening 11 interceptions but Brees has also completed 71% of his passes and has thrown a league leading 16 touchdowns while trying to make up for the loss of the Saints top two running backs.
  6. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
    Ryan’s quiet consistency has been a key to Atlanta’s 5-2 start.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62% of his passes for an average of 245 yards per game.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb
    Combined Vick and Kolb have thrown for 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  They’ve completed nearly 63% of their passes.  Two of the Eagles three losses have come when one of the quarterbacks were knocked out of the game.  With two quarterbacks with such differing skill sets as Vick and Kolb it is hard to adjust the game plan on the fly if one has to substitute for the other.
  8. Tennessee Titans – Vince Young and Kerry Collins
    The Titans have not exactly been racking up the yards through the air.  They rank 24th in the NFL at 187.6 yards passing per game.  But Young and Collins have combined for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while helping Tennessee start the season at 5-3.
  9. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
    Schaub has been steady but not spectacular and has not matched up to his 2009 season.  He’s completing 63% of his passes but only has 10 touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
  10. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
    Playing against top competition gets Flacco the benefit of the doubt.  His numbers are just okay – 59% completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions and 236 yards passing per game.
  11. New York Giants – Eli Manning
    His 11 interceptions send off sirens, but in fairness to Manning many of them went through his receivers hands or were tipped.  Otherwise, he’s completing an excellent 66% of his passes while throwing 14 touchdowns and averaging 255 yards per game.
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson
    Freeman has a very impressive six 4th quarter comebacks in just 16 starts, including two in a row.  He’s only thrown three interceptions to eight touchdowns while leading the Bucs to a 5-2 record.
  13. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
    He hasn’t lost games for the Chiefs but he really hasn’t won games for them either.  He does have a respectable 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.  He’s only completing 59% of his passes though while throwing for 171 yards per game.
  14. Detroit Lions – Shaun Hill, Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton
    The trio has combined for 14 touchdowns and an average of more than 250 yards per game.  To the negative they’ve thrown nine interceptions.
  15. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
    It’s hard to believe that Rodgers could be this low but he’s thrown nine interceptions to only 12 touchdowns while completing 61% of his passes for an average of 251 yards per game.
  16. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
    He was pretty atrocious early on but Palmer has rallied some through the middle of the season.  He has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon
    Roethlisberger’s four game suspension necessitated the starts for Batch and Dixon.  Roethlisberger has played quite well but their production at the position in the first four games was putrid.
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard, Todd Bouman, Trent Edwards and Luke McCown
    This foursome has thrown 15 touchdowns while completing nearly 64% of their passes.  The key contributor of course has been Garrard who has completed 68% of his passes for 13 touchdowns.  But his interceptions are high (7) and his yards per game are low (157).
  19. Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne
    As he continues to find his rhythm with Brandon Marshall, Henne is developing into a solid NFL quarterback.  He’s completed 63% of his passes for an average of 238 yards per game.  Interceptions have been his achilles heel.  He has seven, compared to eight touchdowns.
  20. New York Jets – Mark Sanchez
    He’s a polarizing figure among NFL talking heads and Sanchez has probably seen more ups and downs than any other quarterback in the league.  His nine touchdowns to four interceptions ratio is good but he’s only completed 53% of his throws for an average of 194 yards per game.
  21. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford
    As I’ve written before, one thing is for sure, when he actually has some weapons Bradford is going to be nasty.  The fact that he’s led the Rams to four wins in eight games counts for a lot.  He’s already thrown 11 touchdowns.  His eight interceptions are not good nor is his 59% completion percentage.  However, much of that can be put on that receiving corps.
  22. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards
    There’s a lot to like about Fitzpatrick.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions.  He’s completed 60% of his passes for 240 yards per game.  But the outings of Edwards have to count here and so does the Bills 0-7 record.
  23. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo and Jon Kitna
    Maybe this isn’t fair to Romo.  After all he did complete nearly 70% of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns and had numerous drops by receivers.  But Romo also threw some critical interceptions, Kitna has been less than mediocre and the Cowboys are 1-6.
  24. Oakland Raiders – Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski
    Campbell and Gradkowski have combined to throw 10 touchdowns and average 197.5 passing yards per game.  Their interceptions are high (8) and their completion percentage is low (54.8) but they have led the Raiders to four wins.
  25. Washington Redskins – Donovan McNabb
    It pains me to put McNabb this low but the stats are the stats.  He’s only completing 57% of his passes and has thrown eight interception to seven touchdowns.
  26. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith, Troy Smith and David Carr
    Across the pond the 49ers got a good performance from Troy Smith.  Alex Smith has been mediocre at best, completing 59% of his throws for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Carr was predictably awful in a short relief stint.
  27. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
    The Seahawks are 4-3 but Hasselbeck has played predominantly poorly.  He’s completed only 57% of his passes.  He also has seven interceptions to just six touchdowns.
  28. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson
    It’s hard to believe Favre is the same guy who threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last season.  He’s already thrown 11 interceptions through seven games with only seven touchdowns.
  29. Cleveland Browns – Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme
    I’ve been saying this for years – Delhomme is just plain awful.  Wallace has been decent and McCoy has been okay in managing games.
  30. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler and Todd Collins
    Collins set quarterback play back centuries in just one game.  Cutler has been brutalized but is completing 61% of his passes and averaging 247 yards through the air per game.  He’s evened up at seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  31. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Anderson and Max Hall
    These two have been atrocious.  They’ve combined to complete less than 53% of their passes and have thrown 12 interceptions with five touchdowns.
  32. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen
    After the past few years Panthers fans are used to poor performances at quarterback.  This season they are at an all time low though.  Moore and Clausen have thrown a league-worst 13 interceptions and have completed 52.2% of their passes, also worst in the NFL. 

What do you think of my list?  Who would you rank higher and who would you rank lower?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: daveynin

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3.  Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Ben Roethlisberger makes his second start of the year for the Steelers as they invade Miami to take on the Dolphins.  Pittsburgh did a great job of covering for Roethlisberger while he was suspended, winning three of the four games.  Last week he wiped off the cobwebs against the Browns.  He’ll have a much tougher test against the Dolphins defense this week, but that’s not saying much.  Miami is still susceptible to the pass, just not to the extent that Cleveland is. 

Pittsburgh Steelers logo

Hard hits will be the order of the day in Miami on Sunday.

The Dolphins have been one of the harder to figure out teams in the NFL this year.  They are 3-2, having won all three of their road games and lost both of their home games.  Chad Henne has been up and down at quarterback but was able to find Brandon Marshall frequently last week.  The two connected 10 times for 127 yards in the win at Green Bay.

The Steelers win if: They stop the Miami running game.  In both of their losses the Dolphins have failed to crack 100 yards on the ground.

The Dolphins win if: They can win the turnover battle by two or more.  They need to bait Big Ben into a couple of interceptions and turn them into points.

I don’t see this game as being too close.  I think the Steelers defense will shut down the Dolphins offense and extend the trend of Miami losing home games.

How do you see this game playing out?  Like me do you see the Steelers getting the win?  Or will the Dolphins defend their home turf?

Photo source: SteelCityHobbies

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Last year the AFC North was truly a battle of elite defenses.  With three of the top five ranked defensive units in the NFL it was not easy to generate yardage against the Bengals, Steelers or Ravens.  The battle for the top of the division in 2010 will be no less bloody.

Division Winner

Baltimore Ravens

There is concern about the Ravens defensive backfield, and rightfully so.  Already a thin unit, they’ve lost Domonique Foxworth for the season and leader Ed Reed for an undetermined amount of time.  The key to success for the Baltimore defense will be their ability to generate a pass rush and protect the d-backs.  After losing 25 pounds in the offseason, I think Terrell Suggs will be back in that speed rushing role that will lead to much more pressure on the quarterback.  I really like the Ravens offense.  With wide receivers who can actually catch the ball, I think Joe Flacco takes a step toward elite status.

Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens

Is this the NFC North MVP?

Most Valuable Player

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens

After that last sentence it should be no surprise that I’m choosing Flacco for MVP.  The addition of Anquan Boldin will be a huge asset for him.  I watched the Ravens play a fair amount last year and one of my lasting memories of those games is that their receivers always seemed to drop the ball.  By bringing in Boldin, Donte’ Stallworth and two rookie tight ends that specialize in catching the ball Baltimore has really enhanced the potential of their passing game.

Most Important Player

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

This division has two of the best safeties in the NFL and quite possibly two of the best to ever play the game.  Polamalu’s leadership and ball hawking ability were sorely missed during the 11 games he was out last year.  For the Steelers to contend for the division they are going to need their defense to be in the top two or three in the NFL.  The key to that happening is Polamalu being on the field.

Offensive Player of the Year

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Another person who will benefit by the improved personnel in the Ravens passing game is Rice.  While his receiving numbers may go down slightly, his ability to find openings in opposing defenses should multiply now that they will have to give much more respect to the Ravens’ ability to move the ball through the air.

Defensive Player of the Year

LaMarr Woodley, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

This one was a tough call.  I debated between picking Woodley or Suggs.  Ultimately I chose Woodley because I think Aaron Smith returning to health and the growth of Lawrence Timmons will lead to more opportunities for Woodley and James Harrison to disrupt offenses.  Over the last two seasons Woodley has 11.5 and 13.5 sacks.  I would not be surprised to see that number continue to grow along that trajectory.

Top Newcomer

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Boldin is a huge addition to the Ravens’ offense.  In four of the last five seasons he has had at least 80 receptions and 1,000 yards.  He also has 35 touchdowns in that period of time.  Boldin adds a whole new dimension to the Baltimore passing game, a true go-to guy, and will be a big factor in the growth of Flacco.

Top Rookie

Montario Hardesty, RB, Cleveland Browns

At six feet tall and 225 pounds, Hardesty has a more traditional look of a running back than the projected starter for the Browns, Jerome Harrison.  The second round pick’s speed and size should give him a good chance to at least split duties with Harrison, if not get a majority of the carries.

Most Improved

Lawrence Timmons, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have a long history of stellar linebackers and Timmons is positioned to take his place as the next one.  Ankle injuries slowed him down greatly last year, but his athleticism combined with the mentoring of James Farrior and Larry Foote should help him take a leap up in 2010.

Most Pressure

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

After a tumultous offseason, Roethlisberger goes into the season serving a suspension that is likely to be four games but could be as long as six.  The glow had already started to wear off of Big Ben during last season as information started coming out that he was not the best of teammates.  While the Rooneys quickly jettisoned Santonio Holmes for his indiscretions, they held on to Roethlisberger.  He has a lot to prove in 2010 after letting his teammates and the franchise down by already being suspended for at least a quarter of the season.  And he’ll have to do it with a weaker receiving corps.

Biggest Loss

Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of Santonio Holmes, I believe he’s the biggest loss in the division.  Last year was Holmes’ finest season as a pro.  He caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns.  Those are tough numbers to replace.  You’ve got to figure age is going to catch up with Hines Ward and you have to wonder how much of the success Mike Wallace had last year was due to the presence of Holmes as a bigger threat.  Behind those two the Steelers have another aging veteran (Antwaan Randle El) and a bunch of unproven youngsters.

How do you think the NFC North will play out in 2010?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: jeffweese

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