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Inconsistency Plagues Ravens and Other Wild Card Hopefuls

Published: December 17, 2009

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The Ravens, Jaguars, Broncos, Jets, and Dolphins all are in the thick of the race for the AFC wild card spots in the 2009 NFL Playoffs. All of them are in the race because they were too inconsistent to win the division. All of these teams have had games where they have dominated, and they have all had games where they were the ones being dominated.

The AFC Wild Card race is one of the thickest in recent years. No team is going to squeak into the playoffs at 9-7 this year. That rules the defending champion Steelers out. The Ravens, Jaguars, and Broncos are the three teams that stand the best chance. Technically, Miami and New York have a shot at the postseason, but they would need all three of the aforementioned teams to lose out.

If the season were to end now, Denver and Jacksonville would be the wild card spots. This may not be the case after Week 16. The Broncos will need to lose two games to fall out, lose one game and go to a tiebreaker with Baltimore and they win out.

It’s safe to say that, barring a disaster, Denver has the No. 5 seed sewn up. Jacksonville has a tough schedule ahead and could quite possibly lose two or more games. Baltimore has one more game with archrival Pittsburgh, but with the way they are playing, the Ravens could beat them. The Ravens play a struggling Chicago team and a savior-less Raiders squad.

But enough with the predictions—the past is what is important here. The Ravens and the others have been able to blow out teams—some of them good, some of them not so good. But they have all been blown out, score-wise or statistically.

The Ravens dominated the poster child of the perennial victim, the Detroit Lions, (48-3). The Ravens set franchise records with 548 total offensive yards and five rushing touchdowns. They also put up 501 yards in a (38-24) statistical blowout against the Chiefs on opening day. Two weeks later, they put the hurt on Cleveland, 34-3, forcing four interceptions.

They also topped archrival Pittsburgh (20-17), and San Diego (31-26).

They made a statement win over the previously undefeated Denver Broncos, 30-7. But it was the three previous losses that would be a sign of things to come. A dropped pass in New England (21-17), a last second drive against Cincy (17-14), and a missed field goal at Minnesota (31-33) set the tone for the second half of the season.

It certainly doesn’t help that the Ravens laid an egg in Cincinnati (17-7) and Green Bay (27-14). In both games, the Ravens’ defense failed to show up until the second half, and Joe Flacco played terribly, throwing one touchdown and five interceptions in those two games.

Ray Rice has topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career (1,041), and has seven rushing touchdowns, as well as one receiving touchdown—eight more than he had in all of 2008. Rice was also able to put up 100-yard games three times (108, 103, 166). He has also been held under 50 yards three times (36, 47, 48).

Derrick Mason leads the team in receiving yards, with 841. He also surpassed the 800 career receptions mark earlier this year. He has two 100-yard performances (118, 142), but has also been shut out completely in one game and managed only 13 yards against Green Bay. He has six of Joe Flacco’s 15 touchdowns.

Perhaps the most inconsistent part of the team is the defense. Although they are still a top 10 squad, they have regressed from last year. They are ranked eighth in rushing defense, 14th in pass defense, and 10th overall. They have given up 24-plus points five times (24, 26, 27, 33, 27). They gave up 24 points to the 30th ranked offense of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Phillip Rivers threw for 420 yards against the Ravens in Week Two. They allowed 516 yards of total offense and an 81-yard catch and run touchdown meant to only go for 10-11 yards in that game.

The Ravens look to be the top contender for the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs. Jacksonville and Miami have brutal schedules, the Jets aren’t good enough, and the Broncos already have the No. 5 seed.

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Bad Day For the Ravens and the AFC North

Published: November 23, 2009

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The division that looked like the best in the NFL flunked out today in their games. The Bengals, Browns, Ravens, and Steelers all fell in extraordinary fashion, all of them last minute or OT losses. While the Ravens lost to the 10-0 Colts, the rest of the division lost to sub .500 teams.

The Bengals were stunned by the new starter Bruce Gradowski and the Raiders, on a last minute turnover and the subsequent field goal. The final score was 20-17. Carson Palmer and the Bengals won the game in every way statistically but the final score.

The Browns were outscored 38-37 by the Lions, led by Matthew Stafford’s five touchdowns. He threw for an astonishing 422 yards, including a 75 yard strike to Calvin Johnson and a touchdown to Brandon Pettigrew with no time left.

The Browns scored 37 points in their best game since…2007? Brady Quinn threw for four touchdowns and 300 yards, but they fell short in crunch time. Maligned coach Eric Mangini also called a questionable timeout at the end, giving time for Stafford to come back in the game

The Steelers were shocked 27-24 in OT against the Chiefs, who came out of nowhere to tie the game up. The Steelers dominated the stat sheet, but gave up crucial plays at the wrong times.

The Steelers gave up a 60 yard catch and run that was only intended for 10 yards at most, showing how important Troy Polamalu’s presence is, and how he missed while he is out.

Worse news was a head injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He has told teammates he is fine and will play against Batlimore, but it is not his decision. He may actually not be ready, and even if he is, his fate may be sealed.

A new policy issued by the NFL states that concussed players must consult a neurologist independent from the Steelers organization.

Another part of the policy is that a player must be symptom free for seven days. It’s Monday, and his status isn’t even clear yet. Second stringer Charlie Batch was also injured and he will be sidelined for about a month.

The Ravens fell 17-15 to Indianapolis and Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning. And yes, I called him that before John Gruden got a gig on MNF. Great minds think alike.

All points aside, the defense of the Ravens managed to buckle down and prevent the most electrifying pass offense from scoring more than one touchdown through the air. The run defense was able to limit one touchdown for Joseph Addai, who has been inconsistent recently, but has had his days.

For the secondary and the defense that had gathered so much criticism before the bye week, it has been great to see them step up.

They have been stopping the run, stopping the pass, limiting the end zone to a privileged few, and have been forcing turnovers. They have only given up 41 points in four games and shutout an opponent for the first time since 2006.

The problem has been scoring, not total offense. The Ravens can move the ball down field at will, but can’t score at all, nor can they move the ball in the redzone. The Colts limited the Ravens to five field goals, and forced two crucial turnovers to win the game.

The Ravens have gone from hot offense and average defense to good defense and average offense. The tables have turned, and the Ravens aren’t looking too good that way. They may be 2-2 after the bye and 3-3 before, but the offense has scored very few points since the win against Denver.

Balance is the best way to win, and the Ravens have struggled with balance all year, and have to correct it down the stretch if they want to play in the postseason.

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Joe Flacco, Ravens Receivers Need To Step Up

Published: October 14, 2009

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Joe Flacco failed to throw the ball down field in Sunday’s 17-14 heartbreaker against Cincinnati, that is why they lost.

In order to beat the Vikings, Flacco and the receiver corps needs to bring their A-game. Statistically, the Ravens are a better offense, including rushing offense, but that is because Adrian Peterson rushes the ball alone, while McGahee and Rice split time rushing.

Rushing the ball against the Vikings is no easy task, neither is against the Ravens, unless your Cedric Benson. The Vikings defensive line is a 4-3 line, which includes Pro-Bowlers Pat and Kevin Williams, All-Pro DE Jared Allen, and Ray Edwards. The four are also accomplished pass rushers, with Allen posting 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown. Kevin Williams has 2.0 sacks, and Edwards had 1.5.

However, the Ravens offensive line held off the Bengals pass rushers, especially Antwaan Odom. The challenge for the line is providing enough push for Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to get through a 4-3 defense, something they had trouble doing against Cincinnati, the first 4-3 defense they faced.

The Ravens receivers are going to have to pick up their game. If rushing the ball fails to produce any results, then they need to be there so Flacco can throw the ball downfield. Check down passes won’t work, they didn’t work last week.

If possible, the running backs should block against the Vikings veteran pass rushers.

Speaking of which, the Ravens receivers need to get open fast enough, so Jared Allen and Ray Edwards can’t sack Flacco before he throw the ball. And most importantly, Flacco needs to target them. The Ravens receivers saw very little passes their way, and only had a combined three receptions.

The Ravens are statistically better than the Vikings at passing in every aspect except interceptions, but that is because Flacco has thrown the ball more than Brett Favre. Flacco has thrown for more yards, and matches Favre in touchdowns with nine.

The real advantage Flacco has is that he can spread the ball to all his receivers. All five of Flacco’s top-five targets have 200-plus yards.

Derrick Mason leads the team with 284 yards and two touchdowns, Kelley Washington is next in line with 219 yards and one touchdown. The best stat about Washington is that 87 percent of his passes result in first downs. Mark Clayton and Todd Heap both have 213 yards, but Heap has two touchdowns to Clayton’s one.

Ray Rice leads all running backs in the league with 208 yards and one touchdown, a 48 yard catch in run that found a place in SportCenter’s Top Ten Plays of Week Five.

The Vikings have six interceptions this season, but three of those are from linebackers, Chad Greenway with two. If Flacco avoids errant throws down the middle and in the flats, the linebackers shouldn’t get their hands on the ball.

However, the Vikings are a QB sacking, fumble forcing machine. The offensive line of the Ravens should be able to limit the number of times Flacco is sacked, especially with the return of Jared Gaither. However, they may have their hands full trying to limit the amount of pressure the defensive line and linebackers can put on Flacco.

A balanced offense might have to wait until week eight. The Ravens might need to air it out this week. The Vikings are a run stopping defense and a QB killing defense, but they are not a pass-stopping defense.

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Baltimore Ravens Lose Due to Checkdown Obsession, Not Flags

Published: October 11, 2009

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Say what you want about the refs, but the Bengals beat the Ravens without them. Sure, there were some hysterically ridiculous calls, and some good calls, but the Ravens couldn’t get anything going on offense.

How could the leagues third-ranked offense in yards and scoring not get any kind of rhythm? Because the check down pass ruled the day, and it ultimately lead to the Raven’s demise.

The Ravens leading reciever was Ray Rice, who had 74 yards off of 7 catches, but the majority of those were quick check down passes for short yardage. Until the 48 yard touchdown, Rice only had 26 yards.

Next in line was Todd Heap. He had 7 catches for 46 yards and a pedestrian 5.9 yard average. Why? Because he was Flacco’s safety blanket. Truly, there is nothing wrong with that, but you can’t check down the ball every play.

You can’t win a game if you don’t throw down field. The Ravens receivers were thrown to
 less than 10 times, and had a combined five catches. Whenever Mark Clayton or Kelley Washington would catch a football, it would result in a first down. So why not throw down field?

I’m not talking about bombing the ball 50 yards, I’m talking about throwing it 15 to 20 yards, not five or six yards. You have to take risks, you get intercepted every so often, but that’s part of the game.

No risk no reward. Simple as that.

Other notes

Chad Ochocinco may have caught for 94 yards, but he didn’t walk the walk. He failed to score a touchdown and do the “Ricky Bobby.” He got stripped by Ed Reed, and Domonique “Vivica Fox” Foxworth recovered it. In the fourth quarter he got his bell rung by Ray Lewis. Unfortunately, the hit drew a 15 yard penalty and a first down.

Cedric Benson rushed for 120 yards, breaking the century mark against the Ravens, the first person in 39 games to do so. The last person to that was Larry Johnson, who ran for all of 30 yards today, with a 1.8 average. Times have changed.

Today’s loss was the first time in franchise history that the Ravens have lost when they get two turnovers or more. They were 47-0, now 47-1.

Ed Reed made his first real appearance this season. Picking off an errant Carson Palmer pass 54 yards for his 8th interception TD. Shame he wasn’t covering Andre Caldwell, who is turning out to be as clutch as Carson Palmer.

The Bengals take the first place in the AFC North for the first time since 2005. The AFC North is becoming the most exciting division in the league. Scratch that, it already is the most exciting.

The last time the Bengals started 4-1 they finished 11-5. The last time the Ravens started 3-2 they finished 13-3. The last time the Steelers started 3-2 they won the Super Bowl.

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Oh Graham Harrell: Where Art Thou When Needed?

Published: September 26, 2009

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Does anyone remember Graham Harrell? The former quarterback for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, had an illustrious career as a three year starter for the Red Raiders. He won the Sammy Baugh Award in 2007, and an All-American in 2008 and won the Johny Unitas Golden Arm award that same year as well.

Where is he now? The Canadian Football League. Quarterbacks such as Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Pat White, Drew Willy, Curtis Painter, Stephen Hodge, Mike Teel, Tom Brandstater, Nate Davis, Stephen McGee were all taken. Graham Harrell, went undrafted.

Now there are coaches in the NFL who are kicking themselves because they passed on Harrell, and if they aren’t, they should be. Some teams have found themselves in a pickle, with no solid starting quarterback. While Graham Harrell dominates the CFL, these four NFL teams continue to lose.



Cleveland Browns


I know it’s a little early, but Brady Quinn isn’t getting the job done. Derek Anderson was proven to be a one-year-wonder, and I doubt he is going to get another shot. Quinn has only throw one touchdown and two interceptions. He has just over a 50 percent completion percentage and has a dismal 66.9 passer rating.

Imagine Harrell throwing the ball two Braylon Edwards. With the running game non-existent, they need to score through the air, and they obviously can’t with Brady Quinn under center.



St Louis Rams


Marc Bulger is done, he may have not have seriously screwed up this year so far, but he will. Behind Bulger is Kyle Boller, the former incumbent starter for the Baltimore Ravens. The Rams are ranked 31st in passing yards per game, and total yards per game. Hell, if it weren’t for Steven Jackson, this team might have gone 0-16 last year, and maybe this year.

The Rams right now have an extremely green and raw receiving corps. If they get some time they could be a good group. They need to do the same with Harrell, give him a few years while the O-line and receivers improv, and then let him off the leash.



Washington Redskins


I have faith in Jason Campbell, I believe he is a good quarterback that can become great. Unfortunately, the Redskins don’t think the same. The Jason Campbell Job Security Meter: is reading CRITICAL. The Jim Zorn meter is even higher, and when Zorn gets canned, Campbell with likely join him

Who do they turn to after Campbell? Colt Brennan, Brennan was arguably the better quarterback in college, but in the NFL, Brennan hasn’t lived up to expectations. He hasn’t performed like the stud he was in college, in all the preseason games he’s played he has been disappointing. Harrell may not have played in the NFL yet, but I’d bet that Harrell would be better suited to play than Brennan.



Oakland Raiders


Sorry Raider Nation, but your faith in JaMarcus Russell is misplaced. As of now, Russell and Jake Delhomme are in contention for worst starting quarterback in the league. I don’t know where to begin, he showed up for training camp overweight, and has yet show that he even takes his job seriously.

He has a cannon for an arm, I’ll give him that. Unfortunately, his accuracy is worse than a a blindfolded chimpanzee with a shotgun. He doesn’t miss throws by just inches, he overthrows wide open receivers by yards. On the season so far he inexcusable 35 percent completion percentage and horrifying 46.6 passer rating.

If I were Al Davis or Tom Cable, I’d be scrambling to find a quarterback that can get the ball to his young receivers, who have shown a lot of potential. Once they can get an offense to complement their defense, they might start winning some more games.


Hopefully, Graham Harrell will be getting some phone calls soon, or this offseason. I was shocked to see him go undrafted in the 2009 Draft. If these teams were smart, they’d be the ones to be calling Harrell, I hate to see such talent go unnoticed.

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Face It, Ravens are For Real

Published: September 21, 2009

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The Ravens have always been disliked, disrespected, and underdogs since their inception in 1996.

Now, they aren’t disrespected as openly as the Oakland Raiders, but the Ravens are always put down. Whether it is being predicted to lose every week, or being labeled as a bunch of “thugs” and “criminals”, the disrespect is there.

Despite being the fifth most winning team of the decade (83-61), 7-4 in five playoff berths, one Super Bowl win, and two conference championship appearances, the Ravens have never been a top-ranked team, or even considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender, or a division title contender.

The Ravens are hoping this season they can overcome that.

Last year it wasn’t until they stunned the top-seeded Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs until they were even considered in the Lombardi race.

But almost every year, with few exceptions, the Ravens prove all naysayers wrong.

Traditionally it’s always been the defense that makes the Ravens known, they haven’t been ranked less than sixth in total defense in the decade, and haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in 36 games, the most in the NFL currently.

The defense was second ranked last year, and free safety Ed Reed led the league in interceptions, and was the only unanimous selection to All-Pro team.

The Ravens didn’t get credit for their elite defense last year, and other years before.

Defensively, they are second in rushing yards allowed (82), and first in average per play (2.2). They have two interceptions, five sacks and three forced fumbles.

Pass defense has been looking very poor, but should improve as the secondary adapts to the new 4-3 scheme, with less linebackers in coverage.

But the story so far is the offense, putting up the second most points in the league with 69. Joe Flacco has thrown for 483 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

All in two games

The Ravens rank third in the league in rushing with 382 yards, and lead the league in rushing touchdowns.

Ray Rice leads the team with 144 yards and a 5.3 average, McGahee is second with 128 yards with a 4.9 average and three touchdowns.

Why am I stating all these relatively meaningless numbers?

Because the Ravens are for real, whether you want to admit it or not. They are just as good as any big name, big market team that has been hyped up to be a Super Bowl contender.

Flacco is the real deal, not a fluke. Ray Lewis isn’t aging. No receivers? No problem.

Who’s the real bum now Keyshawn?

By the way. Ray Rice is as good as any other starter, and Le’Ron McClain is the best fullback in the league.

Willis McGahee will win Comeback Player of the Year this season. I’m not kidding, you heard it here first.

The irony?

The Ravens probably won’t get ranked higher than fifth in the majority of rankings and polls.

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Willis McGahee Is Coming Back

Published: September 15, 2009

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Willis McGahee and Todd Heap had very disappointing performances last year. Both of them are former Pro-Bowlers, but couldn’t even manage to put up decent numbers, nor could they stay healthy.

But of the two, McGahee had an even more disappointing season. After a 1200 yard Pro-Bowl season, he barely mustered half of that yardage.

McGahee ran the ball 170 times for 641 yards, a career low, but managed to score seven touchdowns. He peaked late season,  and scored a touchdown of a 77 yard run, his longest of his career.

Beside that one highlight, he had a dismal year, especially considering he went to the Pro-Bowl in 2007, just a few months earlier.

Following a scary neck injury in the AFC Championship, McGahee lost the starting job for the Ravens during the offseason to Ray Rice. Fortunately for McGahee, All-Pro Le’Ron McClain was moved to his natural position at fullback.

McGahee and Rice will be splitting carries this year, with McClain serving as a blocker and a receiver. While McClain did see some carries and scored a goal-line touchdown, he will not see as much running action as last year

The dual running back attack took form at Sunday’s home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. While all the talk is about Joe Flacco, McGahee was silently making a comeback.

While starter Ray Rice rushed for 108 yards, he didn’t score any touchdowns. McGahee did though, in fact he had two, a rushing touchdown and a receiving one. He rushed for a total of 44 yards and scored on a fourth and goal to seal the game away.

McGahee also caught four passes for 31 yards and a touchdown. Showing versatility as a receiver really helps his look, stats, and performance. While he may not be posting Comeback Player of the Year numbers, he is certainty in contention for the award.

McGahee is most likely going to be the number two running back on the roster, but that won’t stop him from coming back and sticking it to all his critics last year.

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Preseason Week Three: AFC North Power Rankings

Published: August 31, 2009

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The AFC North has performed well so far during the preseason. That should make the Bengals, Browns, Ravens, and Steelers fans alike feel proud. The division right now is headed by the 3-0 Ravens, with the Browns and Steelers tied at 2-1, and the Bengals at the bottom with Thursday’s loss, with a 1-2 record.

It’s incredibly difficult to put the Browns above the Steelers, and some may argue that I am biased, but the performance of the Browns is better and more consistent.


1. Baltimore Ravens: 3-0

The first stringers of the Ravens have performed almost flawlessly. It all started against the Redskins. The Ravens dominated the Redskins in every facet of the game. While the talk was about the defense, and how they recovered from the losses of two starters and a coordinator, people didn’t notice the offense.

The passing attack is like no other Ravens squad in history so far. 15 receivers caught for 408 yards against Washington. The rushing attack gained 129 yards, in a really lopsided offensive effort. Against the Jets, Flacco threw for 108 yards with little mistakes, but no touchdowns.

Against the Panthers, Flacco was at his best since last season, throwing for well over 200 yards and a touchdown. The receiving corps looked especially good during that game, with Derrick Mason catching for 70 yards, and newcomer Kelley Washington and running back Ray Rice catching for 67 yards.

Todd Heap caught for Joe Flacco’s first preseason touchdown, a nine yard strike.

The running game has been relatively solid; only problem is the inconsistency of he runners. Some plays, the back breaks for a 16 yard gain, the next two plays they get stuffed in the backfield. Rookie Cedric Peerman, starter Ray Rice, and short-yardage back Willis McGahee have all at least once.

The defense has only allowed three touchdowns in three games, including one shut-out. The defense that led the league in takeaways hasn’t slowed down despite offseason losses. The Ravens have compiled three interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns. The new four man front has produced four sacks.


2. Cleveland Browns: 2-1

How do I dare put the Cleveland Browns ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers? Well folks, the Browns have been playing great since their week one loss. While Pittsburgh performed extremely poorly in week two, and despite week three’s shutout, they still have to play better to top the Browns’ performance.

As of recently, the quarterback competition has shown some life.  In week one, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson both threw an interception, but Anderson went 0-2 , while Quinn went for 68 yards off of seven out of 11 passes.

Quinn couldn’t get much going on in the second game, a 27-10 win over Detroit. Anderson threw for 130 yards, but also an interception.

The competition was a a draw until week three, where Quinn threw for a touchdown to Braylon Edwards. He went 11-15 and 128 yards. Derek Anderson didn’t perform bad either, going 7-11 and 77 yards, but it’s safe to say that Quinn has pulled away in the race.

At the receiving end, Braylon Edwards is actually catching balls for a change! He caught a touchdown pass, and two other passes for 51 yards, including an impressive over-the-shoulder catch in tight coverage. Edwards also caught a one handed catch, but he was ruled out of bounds.

Outside of Edwards, Josh Cribbs and Brian Robeskie have been doing an adequate job replacing Donte Stallworth, and is emerging as a good number two receiver. But what is even more impressive is Cribbs’ kick and punt return skills. He returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown.

As with the rest of Cleveland’s offense, they had to wait for week two for the running game to take shape. Jamal Lewis rushed the ball seven times for 23 yards and a touchdown against the Lions.

But rookie James Davis out-ran Lewis, rushing for 117 yards with a 9.7 average, as well as a touchdown. In week three however, the running game gave way to the passing game.

The defense is doing a solid job for the most part. They gave up 17 points to the Titans and Packers, but held the Lions to one touchdown. The Browns have produced five fumbles, but only recovering one. They have gotten four interceptions and four sacks as well.


3. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-1

The Steelers have been inconsistent, which is the only knock on them. They performed poorly and lost without Ben Roethlisberger, but they played great and won when he is on the field.

He completed four out of six of his passes in his first game, and in the second game, threw for well over 100 yards. The ankle injury that sidelined him against the Redskins showed no serious effects.

Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch did a fine job filling in, but they didn’t have the same presence on the field and that contributed to the Steelers loss.

At the receiving end, Limas Sweed is starting to take shape as a number three receiver, but is still showing inconsistency. Super-Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes is keeping up with the pace he set in the postseason last year. But the number one receiver is still Hines Ward.

He is Roethlisberger’s safety blanket, and is the most consistent producer on the offense. You can always count on him to make a play when needed.

The Steelers defense is the Steelers defense, simply put. They return all but one of their starters, and have added Evander “Ziggy” Hood, who is making an immediate impact with the second string. Lawrence Timmons is taking Larry Foote’s position, and is doing so quite well.

The Steelers have produced five interceptions with one returned for a touchdown, and eight sacks (leading the AFC North).


4. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-2

I spent the entire offseason raving about how much the Bengals have improved. Saying that they can go from four wins to seven or eight, and possibly defeating the Ravens or Steelers in one or both match-ups.

I know it’s only preseason, but it appears that I have been proven wrong for the second year straight, at least offensively. Carson Palmer’s return to football was less than stellar, but not terrible; the only knock on him was his interception.

J.T. O’Sullivan, the second stringer, performed well in the first two games, throwing a touchdown in both, but couldn’t find the end-zone in the third.

Jordan Palmer struggled in the first two games, throwing an interception in the first game and going 2-7, but was able to find the end-zone despite throwing a pick. Carson Palmer missed the previous two games due to an ankle injury and will likely sit out next week so he doesn’t agitate it before the season.

Chris Henry is emerging as a go-to receiver. The legally troubled receiver is finally starting to clean up his act, and it is starting to show. All three of the Bengal’s passing touchdowns were to Henry. Henry caught for 100, 66, and 62 yards in the three preseason games, respectively.

Starters Lavernues Coles and Chad Ochocinco have both seen limited action, probably explaining the lack of success this preseason. Wide receiver Quan Cosby returned a punt 37 yards for a touchdown.

Rookie Bernard Scott is making strides at the running back position, and outperformed starter Cedric Benson, while getting less carries than Benson. However, neither of the two could find or fight their way into pay dirt (TD). Third stringer Brian Leonard did, with a one yard run.

The Bengals defense has showed slight improvement, and were able to hold the stellar New England offense to two field goals. They have produced four sacks and four fumble recoveries.


Well folks, that’s a wrap for week three. Before you get bent out of shape over the rankings or what I said, keep in mind that it is only preseason, and that none of this matters, and that each team can make or break their rank in a single game once the season starts.

If you think I am being biased toward or against a specific team, please let me know so I don’t make the same mistake twice.

Denver’s Brandon Marshall Must Be Really Ticked Off Now

Published: August 28, 2009

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This just in. Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, openly unhappy with the Denver Broncos, was suspended by the team Friday for unspecified “detrimental” conduct. The club did not say in its short statement how long the suspension would last.

During Wednesday’s warmups, Marshall walked while the rest of the team ran. He punted a ball away instead of handing it to a ball boy and swatted a pass thrown to him. His actions were caught on video and broadcast by a local news station.

Marshall told ESPN on Thursday night he wasn’t trying to force a trade through insubordination but that frustration got the best of him.

The receiver apparently was held out of practice Thursday as punishment for the selfish display, but head coach Josh McDaniels wouldn’t discuss it after practice.

“I’m not going into it,” the coach said. “If they’re not ready or able, they’re not out here.”

Marshall’s agent, Kennard McGuire, didn’t immediately return a phone call Friday. McGuire was out of the country until Monday.

McDaniels said Marshall didn’t play against the Seahawks because he wasn’t prepared to take the field.

Marshall also missed the team’s exhibition opener against San Francisco two weeks ago because he was on trial in Atlanta, where he was acquitted of a misdemeanor battery charge.

Prosecutors had accused him of beating his then-girlfriend.

Ravens D Reloaded for ’09

Published: August 28, 2009

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Naysayers during the offseason questioned whether the Ravens defense could compete in ’09 with the losses of Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and Rex Ryan. But Jon Gruden had an answer for them on Monday Night Football.

“The Baltimore Ravens don’t lose players, they just reload.”

He was referring to the newcomers to the Ravens lineup.

Football fans know superstars like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata are some of the most dominant players at their positions. They also know that consistent players such as Jarrett Johnson, Kelly Gregg, Dawan Landry, Dominique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, and Trevor Pryce will perform well week in and week out

But they don’t all know new players such as DE/LB Paul Kruger, LB Tavares Gooden, LB Jameel McClain, FS Haruki Nakamura, CB Lardarius Webb, and SS Tom Zbikowski.

Kruger, the second round draft pick from Utah, made an immediate impact for the Ravens.

Against the Redskins, Kruger started in place of Terrell Suggs, recorded three tackles and a sack. Against the New York Jets, he started again and recorded five tackles and three pass deflections.

Gooden,a second year player out of Miami, has filled in for Bart Scott and is doing quite well. Last year he played four games and recorded four tackles. He has taken the role as Ray Lewis’ understudy and possible replacement when Lewis retires.

Against Washington, he had five tackles and against the Jets he had five more and a sack. That single sack was more than Scott’s total in 2008.

McClain is a budding superstar. Personally, I think he should have taken Scott’s place as the starter. Last year, McClain had two safeties, (one on a blocked punt, the other on a sack) tying the NFL record for a single season. He recorded two-and-a-half sacks last year as well.

Against Washington he had eight tackles. Against the Jets, he had a career day, totaling 10 tackles and an interception returned 16 yards for a touchdown.

Haruki Nakamura is another star in the making. He recorded 12 tackles and a pass deflection last season. In the postseason he had one-and-a-half sacks, two pass deflections, and broke three of Ben Roethlisberger’s ribs. In the ’09 preseason, he has recorded three tackles and two pass deflections.

Lardaruis Webb is a rookie out of Nicholls State. He is becoming more of a kick returner than a cornerback, but has recorded three tackles and a pass deflection in two preseason games.

Tom Zbikowski is another second-year safety who last year returned kicks and played on special teams. This year he has made an impact as a strong safety, recording one sack and two tackles against Washington and two tackles against the Jets.

All these players reinforce the Ravens’ defense and they already look to be the best defense in the league, ahead of the Steelers, Vikings and any other top defense from last year.

As a matter of fact, the defense could be better than the Ravens’ 2000 team, making them the best of all time.

A bold prediction, but the way their starters performed against the Redskins and Jets, it could very well be true.

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