Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ravens Report-Week 16 2010

Last Sunday, the Ravens beat the Saints in Baltimore, 30-24. The Saints opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham. This Saints drive made it seem like it was going to be another long day for the Ravens defense, but they responded well to the immediate adversity. The Ravens offense also responded well, as Joe Flacco dumped it to Ed Dickson, who avoided some tackles to get into the end zone for the tying score. The second quarter belonged to Ray Rice's many talents. First, he ran for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Ravens the lead. Then, Joe Flacco threw a perfect pass to Rice in the end zone for another score. At the end of the second half, the Ravens defense allowed a Saints score on another pass to Graham to make it a one possession game. The score was 24-17 after the third quarter when Cundiff and Garrett Hartley exchanged field goals. In the fourth, the Saints drove down the field, and on third and goal, Drew Brees threw to Marques Colston, who tipped it up into the air, where it was caught by Lance Moore to tie up the game at 24. On their next drive, Billy Cundiff hit another field goal, giving the Saints the ball back down by three. On fourth down deep in their own territory, Brees' pass was tipped and picked by Cory Redding. The Ravens added another field goal for extra effect and took home a good team victory.
Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice-153 rushing yards, 80 receiving yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 1 receiving touchdown

Next week, the Ravens will travel to Cleveland to face the 5-9 Browns. If the Ravens win this game, they clinch a playoff berth. These two teams met in Week 3, with the Ravens getting a 24-17 win. Browns RB Peyton Hillis broke out in that game, running all over the Ravens for 144 yards. Expect Ray Lewis and his men to want serious revenge for letting that outbreak happen. Hillis is the main weapon for that Cleveland offense, so containing him is a major step in getting an important win. In that Week 3 matchup, the Browns gave up three touchdowns to Anquan Boldin, who has been a non-factor in the past few weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if Flacco remembers that game, and brings Boldin back into the action on Sunday. But the Browns secondary has improved over the year, with rookies T.J. Ward and Joe Haden leading the way. Joe Flacco will look to tear apart that secondary in order to improve to 6-0 career against the Browns. Flacco could be getting back Todd Heap, his favorite target, for Sunday's game. Heap practiced all week, but is still listed as questionable. In a better game than people think, I have the Ravens winning, 23-13.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Browns
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Browns RB Peyton Hillis Edge: Lewis
Ravens DE Cory Redding vs. Browns LT Joe Thomas Edge: Thomas
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Browns CB Joe Haden Edge: Boldin
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Browns S T.J. Ward Edge: Flacco

Injury Report
WR/KR David Reed-Head-OUT
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-OUT
CB Chris Carr-Illness-QST
TE Todd Heap-Thigh-QST

TE Robert Royal-Shoulder-DBT
LB Eric Alexander-Groin-QST
DE Kenyon Coleman-Knee-QST
DT Shaun Rogers-Ankle-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L GB
Steelers 10 4 --
Ravens 10 4 1
Browns 5 9 5
Bengals 3 11 7
AFC North Outlook: The Steelers still control the tiebreaker, and with their win Thursday night over the Panthers, all they need to do is beat the Browns in Week 17 to win the division title. If the Ravens win out, and the Browns beat the Steelers, the Ravens win the division. If the Ravens lose this week to the Browns, the Steelers clinch the division.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ravens Report-Week 15 2010

Last Monday night, the Ravens pulled out a 34-28 overtime win over the Texans. This improves the Ravens record to 9-4 on the season. The Ravens opened up on fire, with a 1-yard McGahee touchdown run. They then put two more scores on the board, two passes from Flacco to Mason to stretch their lead to three possessions. But the defense made a bad mistake at the end of the half, letting up a 45-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson. But the momentum shifted back to the Ravens to begin the second half when KR David Reed returned the kick 103 yards to the end zone for another Ravens score. Neil Rackers hit two field goals to finish the third quarter, the Ravens still holding on to a 28-13 lead. This is when the Texans began their outrageous comeback. After driving 99 yards down the field, Schaub found Jacoby Jones for a 7-yard score. After another three-and-out by the Texans defense, Ravens Punter Sam Koch pinned the Texans inside their five yard-line once again. But once again, the Texans marched down the field at will, scoring on a 5-yard pass to Johnson with less than a minute left. But now, they still had to convert the two-point conversion in order to tie the game. Schaub's pass went to the back of the end zone, looking for Johnson, but Jacoby Jones leaped in front and caught the pass to tie the game, putting all momentum in the Texans' hands. The Ravens won the toss, but were forced to punt again, and again Koch pinned the Texans. On just their second play, Schaub threw an off-balance pass intended for Kevin Walter, but CB Josh Wilson stepped in front of the pass and returned it 12 yards to the house to give the Ravens a victory.
Co-Players of the Game: Ravens Punter Sam Koch-5 punts inside 20 yard-line, punt leading to game winning touchdown
Ravens CB Josh Wilson-7 tackles, game-winning interception returned touchdown

An awful second-half performance gives me the opportunity for yet another Really?!?!?! with Max Buchdahl.
Really Greg Mattison? You can't prepare your defense for one big stop in the second half? Get them ready to go and shut down the Texans. Really?

Really Cam Cameron? You called a pass play on 3rd and 2 that ended in an incompletion? A run play would have taken 40 huge seconds off of the clock. Really?

Really John Harbaugh? The Texans are marching down the field, you have two timeouts, and you don't take one to give the defense a rest. Really?

Next week, the Ravens will host the defending world champions, the 10-3 New Orleans Saints. The Saints high-powered offense will provide a big challenge to the Ravens defense. If the defense can buckle down and shut down the Saints, they will be able to maintain their reputation as a hard-nosed defense, a reputation that they slightly lost in their collapse last week in Houston. There is a small chance of precipitation Sunday, which would help the Ravens because it would be tougher to pass for Drew Brees and the Saints, a pass-heavy offense. The main cause of Brees' success in New Orleans is the number of receivers he has, and his ability to spread the ball around. It seems as if he finds a new receiver he loves each week, and the defense has to figure out who it is. The lack of a running game for the Saints hurts their attempt at a balanced attack, with RBs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas sharing carries. The Saints also have a top-ten defense, led by LB Jonathan Vilma and veteran S Darren Sharper. Their defensive system is designed to be able to contain all types of offense, and when successful, it isn't easy to move the ball against them. These teams expect to see each other in Dallas come February, and if both teams can improve, it's a likely Super Bowl matchup. I have the Ravens winning this battle on Sunday, 23-17.
Key Matchups for Saints at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Saints QB Drew Brees Edge: Reed
Ravens CB Josh Wilson vs. Saints WR Marques Colston Edge: Colston
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Saints DE Will Smith Edge: Smith
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Saints CB Tracy Porter Edge: Boldin
Injury Report
TE Todd Heap-Hamstring-OUT
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-OUT
FB Le'Ron McClain-Illness-QST
RB Willis McGahee-Illness-QST
WR Courtney Roby-Head-OUT
TE David Thomas-Knee-OUT
DT Anthony Hargrove-Knee-QST
RB Chris Ivory-Hamstring-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L GB
Steelers 10 3 --
Ravens 9 4 1
Browns 5 8 5
Bengals 2 11 8
AFC North Outlook: Again, all the Steelers need to do is win out in order to win the division. But two Steelers losses together with the Ravens winning out gives the Ravens the division title. The Steelers do have an easy ride, as after facing the Jets this week, they play two sub-.500 teams.
Well, that's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ravens Report-Week 14 2010

Last week, the Ravens lost a heart-breaker to the Steelers, 13-10. This was yet another classic defensive battle between the best rivals in the National Football League. Ravens TE Todd Heap injured his hamstring on the first play of the game, did not return, and will miss at least next week's game. The Ravens began with a first quarter touchdown, a 14-yard pass from Flacco to Boldin. The teams exchanged third quarter field goals, and the Ravens took a 10-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Shaun Suisham hit a 19-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth to make it 10-6. With just three minutes left in the game on 2nd and 5, Troy Polamalu came unblocked to Flacco, forcing a fumble and giving the Steelers the ball back deep in Ravens territory. On third and goal, Roethlisberger threw to Isaac Redman, who broke through two tackles and rolled into the end zone. On the Ravens next drive, they drew a pass interference, and were later forced into a fourth and two at the Steelers 31 yard line. John Harbaugh decided not to kick the 49-yard field goal, but instead to go for it. Flacco stepped back, but then under-threw his receiver, ending the game. This game left me and other Ravens fans with many questions about decision making and executing plays. These questions have triggered a new feature I'd like to present called Really?!?!?! with Max Buchdahl.
Really Cam Cameron? You called a pass play on 2nd and 5 with less than three minutes left and a 4 point lead. Really?

Really Michael Oher? You let Troy Polamalu come untouched off the blind side for a sack-fumble that caused a game-winning touchdown? Didn't they make a movie about how you protect the blind side? Really?

Really Dawan Landry? You had Isaac Redman in your arms at the five yard line, which would have forced a fourth down, and you let him get away? Really?

Really John Harbaugh? You decided not to kick the field goal? Billy Cundiff said yes, I want to kick it. Trust your kicker John, come on, that's Football 101. He was bombing those kickoffs, you've got to let him kick that. Really?

Really Joe Flacco? You threw a one-hopper to a wide open receiver on just a three yard pass? Aren't you our franchise quarterback? You have to make that throw. No question about it. Really?

Next Monday night, the Ravens visit the 5-7 Houston Texans for a prime-time Monday Night matchup. The Texans began the year with a big win against the Colts triggering playoff expectations, but have since fallen apart and are on the verge of elimination from playoff contention. The Texans have become known for their explosive offense, led by QB Matt Schaub. RB Arian Foster has emerged as a premier back this season, and could be a threat Monday night against a non-consistent Ravens run defense. The pass defense will have a challenge Monday as well, as they'll be forced to contain Andre Johnson, a top-tier wide receiver. Johnson will be playing with an injured ankle which he re-aggravating last week. If he's limited, Schaub will have to look for other options in receiver Kevin Walter and tight end Joel Dreesen. In a complete contrast to their offense, the Texans have one of the worst defenses in the league. Other than average linebacker play from Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans, their pass defense could take a beating from Flacco on Monday. The Texans pass defense allows an NFL-worst 287.4 passing yards per game. Their run defense is just above average, due to the play of former first-round pick Mario Williams. I have the pass-happy Ravens winning in Houston, 27-14.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Texans
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Texans RB Arian Foster Edge: Lewis
Ravens CB Josh Wilson vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson Edge: Johnson
Ravens RT Marshal Yanda vs. Texans DE Mario Williams Edge: Williams
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Texans CB Kareem Jackson Edge: Boldin

Injury Report
TE Todd Heap-Hamstring-OUT
CB Fabian Washington-Thigh-QST
TE Garrett Graham-Hamstring-OUT

AFC North Standings
Team W L GB
Steelers 9 3 --
Ravens 8 4 1
Browns 5 7 4
Bengals 2 10 7
AFC North Outlook: All the Steelers need to do in order to win the division is win the rest of their games. Currently, if the Ravens and Steelers end up tied at the end of the year, the Steelers would control the tie-breaker.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ravens Report-Week 13 2010

Last week, the Ravens improved to 8-3 with a 17-10 win over the Buccaneers. The score doesn't nearly show how dominating a Ravens performance this was. The Ravens pretty much controlled the game all the way through, with just a slight breakdown towards the end that didn't affect much. Joe Flacco rebounded from a tough start to finish the game well. After a scoreless first quarter, Billy Cundiff and Connor Barth exchanged 45 and 22 yard field goals respectively to make it 3-3. Then, the Ravens took the lead when Flacco went over the middle for Todd Heap, who rumbled and bumbled his way into the end zone for a touchdown. The score was 17-3 at the half after another Flacco TD pass, this one to 10 yards to Mason. The second half consisted of mostly good defense and punting on both sides, and the final scoring of the game came when Josh Freeman threw to Kellen Winslow for a touchdown with just a few minutes remaining. Despite this try at a comeback, the Ravens were able to get the ball back and run down the clock for the win. While this could be called a comfortable win, it came with a price. Three key players (Michael Oher, Dawan Landry, Le'Ron McClain) all left the game with injuries and are questionable for next week's game.
Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco-25/35, 289 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns

Next Sunday night the Ravens will host the 8-3 Steelers to decide the sole leader in the AFC North. As one of the most physical rivalries around, you can always expect a lot of hard hits, which in the NFL now means a lot of fines going around too. The Ravens beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh earlier this year, but that was without QB Ben Roethlisberger, who is now back from his suspension. The Ravens haven't beat Roethlisberger since 2006, and now would be the ideal time to break the streak. Rumors have been going around about Roethlisberger's right foot all week. At first he just had a sprained ankle, but the reports have changed to a broken right foot and then back to a sprained ankle on the final injury report. Whatever the injury actually is, Roethlisberger will play with a boot on, in weather that could include rain and snow. The effectiveness of the Ravens defense will definitely affect the outcome of this matchup. The defense has looked older and slower each week, and if the Steelers come out in no-huddle offense, it could be a long and tiring day for Ray Lewis' squad. I think the Ravens can step it up, and I have them taking the lead in the division with a 20-17 win.
Key Matchups for Steelers at Ravens
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall Edge: Lewis
Ravens CB Josh Wilson vs. Steelers WR Hines Ward Edge: Ward
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Steelers S Troy Polamalu Edge: Polamalu
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor Edge: Boldin

Injury Report
S Dawan Landry-Head-QST
FB Le'Ron McClain-Ankle-QST
T Michael Oher-Knee-QST
DE Aaron Smith-Triceps-DBT
TE Matt Spaeth-Concussion-DBT
QB Ben Roethlisberger-Foot-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L GB
Ravens 8 3 --
Steelers 8 3 --
Browns 4 7 4
Bengals 2 9 6
AFC North Outlook: With the Browns and Bengals mostly out of contention, the Ravens and Steelers are now fighting for the division title. If the Ravens win this week, they will take the sole lead of the top spot, which basically makes it a 2 game lead because the Ravens would control the possible tie-breaker if the teams were to end with the same record. If the Steelers win, than the Ravens will need that tie or better in order to win the division.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!!!