Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 17 2011

 Last Saturday, the Ravens escaped a scare from the Browns to pull out a 20-14 home win. With this win, the Ravens finished undefeated at home for the first time in franchise history. They were rolling on all cylinders in the first half, giving themselves a 17-point cushion that ended up being the difference between a win or a loss. The Ravens first score came early in the first, when Flacco hit Ed Dickson in the back of the end zone on third and goal. Then, free agent signee Shayne Graham was put to the test, setting up and hitting a 48-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10. Midway through the second quarter, Flacco floated the football up to Ray Rice, who then ran 20 yards into the end zone to make it 17-0. After another Graham field goal, things began to slow down for the Ravens. A punt-return touchdown paired with a Flacco interception thrust the Browns back into the game. The Browns then made it a one-possession game when Seneca Wallace found Evan Moore for a touchdown. After a Ravens three-and-out, the Browns got the ball back with a chance to take the lead. On fourth down with four minutes left, Wallace threw to Peyton Hillis for no gain, and the Ravens were given an opportunity to seal the win. On a fourth and two at the two minute warning, Flacco drew lineman Phil Taylor offsides, and a series of kneel downs finished the game.

Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice-83 rushing yards, 3 catches, 48 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

What Worried Me: After what was at one point a 20-0 lead, this win was way too close for comfort. It leaves a lot to question about this team's stamina. Also, Joe Flacco looked dazed in the second half, making ill-advised passes and paying the price for them. He didn't get much help though. Ed Dickson had three drops, all which would have helped the team move the ball down the field and put up more points in the second half.

Next Sunday, the Ravens face a crucial game in Cincinnati against the 9-6 Bengals. When the teams met in November, the Ravens won 31-24. With a win, the Ravens lock up a first-round bye, and depending on the outcome of the Patriots/Bills game, homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. With a loss, the Ravens risk falling to a wild-card spot and having to play games on the road. This game is about as important as they get, and with the Ravens' struggles on the road this year, it won't be an easy one. The Bengals may have even more to play for than the Ravens. With a loss, they might not be able to even make the playoffs. However, they are in a win-and-you're-in situation, which could give them quite the emotional advantage. Because of all these implications, expect a playoff-like atmosphere when the Ravens hit the field on Sunday. Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton showed the poise of a veteran in November, and certainly poses a serious threat to the Ravens' hopes of a first-round bye. Rookie WR A.J. Green, who missed the previous matchup between the teams, will be active this week, and is a vertical threat whom the Ravens' secondary will find tough to defend. On defense, Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko lead the Bengals pass rush. They will need to put pressure on Joe Flacco if they want a chance to stop the Ravens offensive attack. With a combination of Flacco's passing and Rice's ground game, the Ravens can pound their way onto the scoreboard. With some defensive help, the Ravens will be able to pull out what is going to be a close game. Keep in mind that new Ravens K Shayne Graham, who is expected to start in place of the still injured Billy Cundiff, spent 7 seasons with the Bengals. No one knows that stadium and that weather like Graham, which could become important if a late-game field goal is needed. With the Ravens' implications as grand as they are,  I have them winning 24-20.

Key to the Game: Andy Dalton has incredible poise for his age, and does a great job of getting the ball out quickly and accurately. The only way to stop that is pressure. If the Ravens pass rush can get to Dalton quickly, the Bengals offense will be halted, and their point-scoring abilities stopped. Also, because of the Ravens road struggled thus far, they will need to start strong and fire on all cylinders if they want to get the sold-out Cincinnati crowd out of the game fast and put a lead on the board.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Bengals
Ravens CB Lardarius Webb vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green Edge: Push
Analysis: Webb has not allowed a touchdown yet this year, while Green poses a dangerous threat down the field. 

Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Bengals QB Andy Dalton Edge: Suggs
Analysis: Suggs' ability to get to Dalton will dictate the Bengals' offensive success.

Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Bengals LB Rey Maualuga Edge: Rice
Analysis: Rice will need to move the ball in order for the Ravens to maintain offensive balance throughout the game, and Maualuga doesn't have the speed to catch up to him.

Ravens C Matt Birk vs. Bengals NT Domata Peko Edge: Peko
Analysis: Peko's athleticism will help him get past the older Birk, and to Joe Flacco.

Injury Report
WR Anquan Boldin-Knee-DBT
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Head-DBT
G Marshal Yanda-Chest-DBT
K Billy Cundiff-Calf-QST
DE Cory Redding-Ankle-QST
CB Cary Williams-Head-QST

S Taylor Mays-Hamstring-DBT
LB Dontay Moch-Illness-DBT
DE Carlos Dunlap-Hamstring-DBT

AFC North Standings
Team                    W        L
Ravens                 11        4
Steelers                11        4
Bengals                 9         6
Browns                 4         11

AFC North Outlook: Here are the Week 17 AFC playoff scenarios:
Ravens win/Patriots win: Ravens clinch first-round bye, Patriots clinch homefield advantage
Ravens win/Patriots lose: Ravens clinch first-round bye and homefield advantage, Patriots have #2 seed
Ravens lose/Steelers win: Steelers clinch first-round bye, Ravens fall to wild card spot

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report. Happy New Year, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 16 2011

Last Sunday night, the Chargers routed the Ravens on national television, 34-14. This was a domination from start to finish, as the relentless Chargers really put it on the Ravens. Phillip Rivers picked apart the previously unbeatable Ravens defense, torching corners and getting the ball out of his hand quickly. With this, the Ravens pass rush was simply not quick enough to get to the quarterback. We have to give San Diego some credit, they did their homework and played the Ravens the way you beat the Ravens. They played just as good as the Ravens did bad. The score was 17-7 at halftime after touchdowns from Mike Tolbert for the Chargers and Ed Dickson for the Ravens. Another missed Cundiff field goal dug the Ravens into a much deeper hole. Two third quarter Charger touchdowns combined with two Ravens turnovers put the game away with plenty of time on the clock. Torrey Smith caught a last-minute touchdown, but to no avail, as the Ravens dropped their fourth game of the season.

Player of the Game: Chargers QB Phillip Rivers-17/23 for 270 yards, 1 passing touchdown

What Worried Me: Well this list goes on and on. Mostly, Billy Cundiff's missed field goal made for a two-possession game at halftime instead of just a touchdown lead for the Chargers. Missed field goals is not something Ravens fans are accustomed to after 13 years with Matt Stover, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. While Cundiff is injured and a new kicker (Shayne Graham) has been signed, field goals decide games down the stretch, and the Ravens need to win those stretch games.

Next Saturday afternoon, the Ravens face off against the 4-10 Cleveland Browns, whom the Ravens downed 24-10 in Week 13. The key to this game for the Ravens will once again be the running game. The Browns' rush defense ranks 31st in the NFL, so when Ray Rice has the ball in his hands on Saturday, you can guarantee good things will happen. With Anquan Boldin out for the next two weeks, other receivers such as Tandon Doss and Dennis Pitta will have to step up and fill the void. The Browns do have a good pass defense, so don't expect Joe Flacco to pass much if he doesn't have to. Colt McCoy, who started for the Browns back in Week 13, will be out Saturday with a concussion, so backup Seneca Wallace will get the nod. While he is not a great pocket passer, he is most dangerous outside of the pocket. He runs the ball well, so he will be a threat if he leaves the pocket. To defend that, expect the Ravens to put a linebacker like Jarret Johnson in the box to prevent Wallace from trying to run. This is simply a must-win game for the Ravens if they want to stay in the hunt for a bye, and I don't expect them to let up. I have the Ravens winning, 27-10. With this win, the Ravens would finish a perfect 8-0 at home, something they have never done in franchise history.

Key to the Game: The Ravens will need to keep the ball moving and eat up the clock to rest the defense. A rested defense is a good defense, and a defense which could stop the Browns in their tracks.

Key Matchups for Browns at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Browns QB Seneca Wallace Edge: Reed
Ravens DT Haloti Ngata vs. Browns T Joe Thomas Edge: Ngata
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Browns CB Joe Haden Edge: Haden
Ravens G Marshal Yanda vs. Browns DT Jabaal Sheard Edge: Yanda

Injury Report
WR Anquan Boldin-Knee-OUT
K Billy Cundiff-Calf-DBT
DE Cory Redding-Ankle-QST

QB Colt McCoy-Concussion-OUT
WR Josh Cribbs-Groin-QST
CB Joe Haden-Thigh-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 10 4
Steelers 10 4
Bengals 8 6
Browns 4 10
AFC North Outlook: The Ravens remain ahead of the Steelers for the division lead after the Steelers Monday night loss to the 49ers. This weekend, the Ravens can clinch the division with a win and a Steelers loss to the Rams. If the Ravens and Patriots win out, the Ravens have the #2 seed and a bye. If the Ravens win out and the Patriots lose a game, the Ravens have the #1 seed.

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week, happy holidays and Go Ravens!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 15 2011

Last Sunday, the Ravens got a much-needed 24-10 win over the still winless Colts. By putting continuous pressure on Dan Orlovsky and marching down the field methodically, the Ravens did exactly what they needed to do in order to pull out the win. After failing to score early in the game, Joe Flacco finished off the Ravens' first scoring drive with an 8-yard bullet to Torrey Smith, making it 7-0. Following a Billy Cundiff field goal, Ray Rice topped off another long Ravens drive with a 6-yard run into the end zone. The Colts would kick a field goal late in the second quarter, and the Ravens took a 17-3 lead into halftime. As the Ravens defense continued to halt the Colts in their tracks, Flacco was on his way to extending the lead. His next score was a scary 7-yard pass to Dennis Pitta, in which Flacco threw all the way across his body. Usually when we see quarterbacks throw that pass, it is caught by the other team. In fact, as he was making the catch, Pitta braced himself for a hit from who he thought was a Colts defender, but luckily it was fellow receiver Torrey Smith. Flacco really needs to be careful throwing those types of passes. Despite holding down Orlovsky for most of the game, the Ravens defense did let up late, allowing a touchdown in the final seconds of the game. John Harbaugh was visibly upset about the late letdown, but all that's important is the W in the schedule.

Player of the Game: Ravens LB Terrell Suggs-5 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles

What Worried Me: While Suggs got to the quarterback with ease, none of his three forced fumbles were recovered by the Ravens. That means three missed opportunities to get the Ravens offense a chance to score. In closer games, those loose balls will need to be recovered, or the Ravens will pay for it.

Next Sunday night, the Ravens travel to the West Coast for a primetime matchup with the resurgent San Diego Chargers. After their trademark slow start, the Chargers have made yet another comeback, and are now just two games back of the lead in the AFC West. The Chargers are known for their December success, and quarterback Phillip Rivers is 22-2 during his career this month. Rivers has started to pick his game up lately, and after throwing 17 interceptions in his first 11 games, he hasn't thrown one in two weeks. That being said, the young Ravens secondary will have to be at the top of their game in order to slow down Rivers. His receivers include future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, and up-and-comers such as Vincent Brown and Vincent Jackson. The Ravens could be getting an extra boost on defense this weekend, as Ray Lewis is expected to make his return after missing the past four games.
Defensively for the Chargers, S Eric Weddle leads the NFL with 7 interceptions, so Flacco's recognition of where Weddle is at all times will be vital to ball security. Still, the ground game could be where the Ravens win this game. The Chargers defense ranks 24th in the league in rush defense, so Rice, who has over 300 yards over the past two games, could lead the Ravens offensive attack. There is certainly a lot on the line for both teams in this game. A loss for the Chargers could mean elimination from playoff contention, while a Ravens win clinches a playoff berth and continues their track towards a first-round bye. This all makes a great recipe for a hard-hitting, nail-biting clash Sunday night. I have the Ravens pulling out a close one, 23-20.

Key to the Game: For the Ravens, halting Phillip Rivers and what has been an explosive offense lately will be key for the win. If Rivers is able to air it out like we all know he can, the Ravens will be in trouble.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Chargers
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Chargers WR Vincent Jackson Edge: Jackson
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers Edge: Reed
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Chargers CB Quentin Jammer Edge: Boldin
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Chargers S Eric Weddle Edge: Flacco

Injury Report
CB Chris Carr-Back-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST
DT Haloti Ngata-Back-QST
DT Cory Redding-Ankle-QST
CB Lardarius Webb-Toe-QST

LB Takeo Spikes-Back-QST
DE Jacques Cesaire-Ankle-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 10 3
Steelers 10 3
Bengals 7 6
Browns 4 9

AFC North Outlook: The Ravens hold of the tiebreaker is still the difference between the Ravens and Steelers. Winning out means the Ravens take the division. The Steelers face the 49ers on Monday night. The Bengals visit the Rams. The Browns visit the Cardinals.

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 14 2011

Last week, the Ravens took care of business with a 24-10 win over the Browns. The empty stadium created an uninspiring game from the Browns, and helped the Ravens sustain momentum throughout the game. The rainy conditions were ideal for the Ravens gameplan, which consisted of a healthy amount of Ray Rice pounding the ball at the Browns defense, as Rice and fellow back Ricky Williams combined for close to 300 rushing yards. Rice set a career high in yards on the ground, finishing with 204. He also started the Ravens scoring in the second quarter with a 6-yard touchdown score. After a Billy Cundiff field goal, the Ravens took a 10-0 lead into halftime. Then, following a Phil Dawson field goal for the Browns, Rice set up a Ricky Williams touchdown run with a 67-yard run of his own, and the Ravens extended their lead. To put the finishing touches on for the Ravens, CB Lardarius Webb returned a punt 68 yards to the house, and it was smooth sailing from there.

Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice- 29 attempts, 204 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown

Key to the Win: For weeks, we have complained that Ray Rice was not getting enough touches, and Joe Flacco was throwing too much. Finally, Rice got the carries he deserved, using his 29 for a career high in yardage. On the other side of the ball, Joe Flacco only had to throw 23 times. That's how this offense wins a game.

What Worried Me: This was a victory on most sides of the ball, but Billy Cundiff's performance caused some concern. Cundiff missed two first half field goals (34,41) that could have given the Ravens a more comfortable lead. While he does have an injury to his plant leg, those six points could be the difference in games down the strech.

Next week, the Ravens return home to host the winless Indianapolis Colts. This is not the Colts team we are used to, and it's simply incredible how much one person can affect a team's success. Peyton Manning's neck surgery has caused him to miss every game this season, and the Colts' alternatives are not getting the job done. Dan Orlovsky, who was part of the winless Lions team in 2008, will be getting his second start this week. Orlovsky has not won a game he's played in since 2004, when he was a senior at Connecticut. The Ravens defense will look to confuse Orlovsky with different blitz packages, and get him out of his zone early. Despite their record, the Colts have some offensive playmakers. Receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon both have big play potential. Garcon seems to be Orlovsky's favorite target, catching two touchdowns in Orlovsky's debut last week. In the running game, youngsters Donald Brown and Delone Carter lead the way, but neither have yet to make a big statement yet as a professional. The Colts have some weapons on defense as well. DE Dwight Freeney has destroyed the Ravens in the past, and is one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. He is joined on the defensive line by Robert Mathis, who is tied with Freeney for the team lead in sacks with 5.5. With the Colts lack of defensive talent, containing Freeney and Mathis will be vital to a successful offensive day. This should be as much of a mismatch on the field as it is on paper, and I have the Ravens winning, 30-10.

Key to the Game: The biggest threat to a Ravens win is the Colts pass rush, with the aforementioned Freeney and Mathis. If the Ravens offensive line can prevent them from getting to Joe Flacco, he will have time to find his receivers, and keep the Ravens moving down the field.

Key Matchups for Colts at Ravens
Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Colts WR Reggie Wayne Edge: Wayne
Ravens LB Jameel McClain vs. Colts RB Donald Brown Edge: McClain
Ravens T Bryant McKinnie vs. Colts DE Dwight Freeney Edge: Freeney
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Colts S Antoine Bathea Edge: Flacco

Injury Report
CB Chris Carr-Back-OUT
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST
K Billy Cundiff-Left Calf-QST

QB Peyton Manning-Neck-OUT
LB Pat Angerer-Knee-QST
TE Dallas Clark-Fibula-QST
WR Anthony Gonzalez-Groin-QST
LB Ernie Sims-Toe-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Steelers 10 3
Ravens 9 3
Bengals 7 5
Browns 4 9

AFC North Outlook: Since the Steelers beat the Browns on Thursday night, they technically have the division lead right now. The Ravens can overtake them with a win on Sunday. The Bengals host the Texans.

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 13 2011

On Thanksgiving night, the Ravens shut down the 49ers attack, and pulled out a 16-6 win. Other than bragging rights for our Harbaugh, this win keeps the Ravens in line and in control of their own future for a division title and a playoff bye. The first half was a battle of field position and field goals. With the Ravens up 6-3 and the Niners driving in the final moments of the half, Alex Smith's shot to the end zone was picked off by Lardarius Webb, and the Ravens held the lead at halftime. The one scare of the first half came on a long touchdown pass to Ted Ginn, Jr. that was called back because of an offensive penalty. One can only imagine how this game could have turned out if that touchdown had stood. The only score of the third quarter was a field goal for the Niners, but as the quarter ended, the Ravens had a third and goal deep in 49ers territory. They had failed to convert in previous red zone chances, but a Flacco bullet to TE Dennis Pitta(the first of his career) gave the Ravens a 7-point advantage. The rest was up to the Ravens defense, who came through when it mattered, and a late field goal sealed a 16-6 Ravens victory. One of the keys to the Ravens defensive success was the relentless pressure they put on Alex Smith, something that had been lacking in previous weeks. They got to Smith a franchise-record 9 times, with Terrell Suggs contributing 3 of those sacks. If the Ravens can do even half of this consistently, it will be hard for the opposing offense to get moving.

Player of the Game: Ravens LB Terrell Suggs-3 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Unsung Hero: Ravens DE Corey Redding-4 tackles, 2.5 sacks

What Worried Me: While the overall gameplan and its execution were a success, there were still a few questionable calls. The two that jump out came when the Ravens faced a second and goal at the 1-yard line in the second quarter. The Ravens ran Ray Rice outside, where he was stuffed for a loss of 4. Why not put in your biggest blockers, run straight up the middle, and give yourself three chances to advance just one yard? The next play was a QB Draw, where Joe Flacco was not even able to get back to the line of scrimmage. Flacco is simply not the quarterback to run that play with, he's too big. That ball should be a shot to the end zone. We simply have to execute better at the goal line. Later in the game, deep in Niners territory, the Ravens called a fade for Torrey Smith. Fades are supposed to go to hands receivers, such as Anquan Boldin and Ed Dickson. Why they didn't get that call is confusing.

Next week, the Ravens travel to Cleveland to face the 4-7 Browns. While the stadium will be empty and the team uninspired, the Browns record may be misleading. They have lost two games they could have won if not for a botched field goal attempt, and they gave the Bengals a run for their money last week. Plus we all know the Ravens pattern of losing on the road to inferior teams, but the Ravens know how to play the Browns in Cleveland, they've done it before, but they have a lot to prove this time. It's weird to say, but this is a must-win game. With a loss, the Ravens could fall behind and get off the track for a division title and a playoff bye. The Browns offense ranks near the bottom in the league in almost every category, so the Ravens defense could be looking at a good day. Once again, putting pressure on and bringing down Browns QB Colt McCoy will slow the Browns down and provide better field position for the Ravens offense. Browns RB Peyton Hillis has been slowed down this year by a hamstring injury, but his presence as a strong runner who opens up the passing game could potentially hurt the Ravens defensively. On defense, the Browns rank #1 in pass defense, which could affect the number of passes that Flacco throws, as well as the playcalls themselves. On the other side, they rank 29th in run defense, so the Ravens struggling running game could finally catch a break this week. Even with the Ravens tendency to play to the level of inferior teams, there is much more on the line this week, and I think the Ravens will realize that, and prove themselves as a team that can beat anybody anywhere. I have the Ravens winning 27-16.

Key to the Game: For the Ravens, smart play-calling and not giving in with either a lead or a deficit will be crucial for a win.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Browns
Ravens DE Haloti Ngata vs. Browns T Joe Thomas Edge: Ngata
Ravens linebacking corps vs. Browns RB Peyton Hillis Edge: Ravens
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Browns pass defense Edge: Push
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Browns LB D'Qwell Jackson Edge: Rice

Injury Report
CB Chris Carr-Back-OUT
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST

LB Quentin Spears-Hamstring-OUT
DB T.J. Ward-Foot/Finger-OUT
RB Montario Hardesty-Calf-QST
OL Tony Pashos-Ankle-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 8 3
Steelers 8 3
Bengals 7 4
Browns 4 7

AFC North Outlook: The Ravens still hold the tiebreaker with the Steelers, who host the Bengals in a pivotal matchup this weekend. Here are the potential situations for this game:
Ravens win/Steelers win-Bengals fall behind a game, Ravens keep lead
Ravens win/Bengals win-Ravens take two-game lead over Steelers, Bengals still behind in division race
Ravens lose/Steelers win-Steelers take one-game division lead
Ravens lose/Bengals win-Ravens still lead over Steelers, yet tied with Bengals

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 12 2011

Last Sunday, the Ravens held off a late Bengals comeback to pull out a crucial 31-24 win. Some of the biggest plays of the game came from the Ravens' rookies. Torrey Smith caught a touchdown, Jimmy Smith got his first career interception, and Pernell McPhee's sack ended the game. The Bengals would open up the scoring with a 7-yard Cedric Benson touchdown run in the first quarter. But Flacco, who struggled early, responded well, and found an open Anquan Boldin, who fought his way to the end zone to tie up the game. Then, a Ray Rice touchdown would give the Ravens a 14-7 lead at halftime. After a Billy Cundiff field goal deep in Bengals territory, Benson got in the end zone once again to bring the Bengals within three. Not long after, Ray Rice would score again, and it was a two-possession game late in the third. In the first minute of the fourth, however, Flacco connected deep in the end zone with Torrey Smith, and the Bengals now trailed by three scores. But young Andy Dalton would not give in quite yet, finding Andre Caldwell open along the sidelines for a touchdown. On the Bengals next drive, a field goal would bring them just a touchdown away from tying the game. When they got the ball back, Dalton anchored a drive that moved the Bengals deep into Ravens territory with plenty of time to work with. But an intentional grounding call on second down not only backed up the Bengals, but also resulted in a loss of down. On fourth down, Dalton was brought down by the rookie McPhee, and the Ravens escaped with the win. While Dalton did impress with his poise against the toughest defense he's yet to face, his mistakes late in the game ended up costing the Bengals a chance to win. For the Ravens, this win puts the pressure on the Bengals to win the teams' second matchup in January, or else the Ravens gain control of that tiebreaker as well.

Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco-17/27 for 270 yards, 2 passing touchdowns

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I stressed the importance of ball handling, which the Ravens did well for the most part. While Flacco was picked once, his winning performance made up for the one mistake.

The Brother Bowl. The Battle of the Brothers. The Harbaugh Bowl. Whatever you may like to call it, the Ravens matchup with the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers is going to be a game to remember. It will be the first time that brothers will face each other as NFL head coaches, as the Ravens' John Harbaugh goes head-to-head with his brother Jim (a former Ravens QB), the first-year coach of the 49ers. When the game was first put on the schedule, it figured to be a money-maker simply because of the brothers, but the surprising success of the Niners will take this game to a whole different level. Perhaps the most surprising team in the NFL this year, the Niners top-ranked defense has confused every offense to come their way. Led by LB Patrick Willis, a carbon copy of his counterpart Ray Lewis, the Niners defense is yet to give up a rushing touchdown, but will face Ray Rice this week, who has 8 on the year. The Niners secondary has been the weak link, but the team still leads the NFL in takeaways. Many have gone as far as to compare this Niners defense to the Ravens championship defense of 2000, and the teams certainly do have similar characteristics. Neither had a big-name quarterback, while the running backs have played an important role in the offense. 49ers RB Frank Gore has rushed for 100 or more yards in five games this season. He is a bit banged up, but is expected to play Thursday night. If the Ravens defense can contain Gore, the 49ers will have to rely on inconsistent QB Alex Smith. The former first overall pick had struggled mightily in the past, but has begun to flourish under his new head coach. We should be able to get a better idea of Smith's real skills against a ball-thirsty Ravens defense, so look out for how Smith reacts to that. With these two defenses ranking among the tops in the league, we shouldn't expect to see many points on the scoreboard. Another thing to keep in mind is the short week the teams had to prepare for this game. Both teams played Sunday afternoon, but the Niners' week included a cross-country flight. While that shouldn't become a factor, remember that these are human beings playing the game, and that it is very possible fatigue will come into play. With all of these factors, I think the Ravens do hold a slight advantage. I'm proud to say I'm confident in what Joe Flacco will be able to do, and I think he will use all he has to help pull out this win. I have the Ravens winning a thriller, 20-16.

Key to the Game: Once again, Cam Cameron's play-calling will become a major factor. We've seen him give up on Ray Rice after just a few failed carries, and against a defense as strong as the 49ers, this could easily happen again. Sticking to the game-plan and giving Rice the carries he deserves will open up more for Flacco in the passing game, which in turn will help the Ravens offense overcome the Niners.

Key Matchups for 49ers at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. 49ers QB Alex Smith Edge: Reed
Ravens LB Jarret Johnson vs. 49ers TE Vernon Davis Edge: Davis
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. 49ers LB Patrick Willis Edge: Push
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. 49ers CB Carlos Rogers Edge: Boldin

Injury Report
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-QST
CB Chris Carr-Back-QST

WR Braylon Edwards-Knee-QST
RB Frank Gore-Knee-PRB

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 7 3
Steelers 7 3
Bengals 6 4
Browns 4 6

AFC North Outlook: With the Ravens and Steelers technically tied (the tiebreaker does not come into play until the end of the year), a win for the Ravens would be huge in keeping pace in the division. A Steelers loss makes them two games behind the Ravens. The Steelers visit Kansas City on Sunday night. The Bengals host the Browns.

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, have a happy Thanksgiving, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 11 2011

Last week, the Ravens suffered another loss to a below .500 team, falling 22-17 to the Seattle Seahawks. What seems to be a curse hanging over a winning Ravens team has turned into an unacceptable string of losses. The Seahawks began the scoring with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown. The following kickoff was one of David Reed's two fumbles, and the Seahawks would jump out to a quick 10-0 lead. The Ravens made it 10-7 in the second quarter when a reverse went to Ray Rice, who threw, yes threw, a 1-yard pass to Ed Dickson. At halftime, the Seahawks had a 19-7 lead after former Ravens K Steven Hauschka hit three field goals. The teams then exchanged third quarter field goals, and the Ravens had a two-possession deficit with 15 minutes remaining. After being repeatedly stopped by the Seahawks' defense, Joe Flacco finally penetrated the end zone himself with a touchdown pass to Dickson, and made the score 22-17 with six minutes left in regulation. But the usually clutch Ravens defense was beaten when it mattered, and the Seahawks were able to kill the clock and escape with the win. Ray Rice, easily the biggest playmaker on the Ravens offense, had just 13 touches, putting the pressure on the inconsistent Ravens passing game. While the Ravens were trailing for most of the game, not giving Rice at least 20 touches a game puts the Ravens in an unfavorable position offensively. In fact, in all three of the Ravens losses this year, Rice has had less than 20 touches. See a trend? This loss puts the Ravens in a must-win spot for the next few weeks if they want to take advantage of the tiebreaker hold they have with the Steelers.

Player of the Game: Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch-102 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

Last Week's Key to the Game: The Ravens did exactly what they could not afford to do, getting sloppy with the ball and not taking advantage of a winnable game, which both contributed to the loss.

Next Sunday, the Ravens return home to face the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. The winner of this game joins the Steelers in first place in the AFC North, while the loser falls behind. While this isn't Ravens-Steelers, these two teams have a hard-hitting history with each other, so expect a physical battle on Sunday. The young cardiac cats have gotten off to a surprising 6-3 start with rookie QB Andy Dalton at the helm. Dalton's most explosive target, fellow rookie WR A.J. Green, hyper-extended his leg last week and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. Green's absence would change the dynamic of the Bengals offense, as Green leads all rookie receivers in catches and yards. Also on offense is RB Cedric Benson, who has a history of torching the Ravens defense with his power running. Benson has not had a strong year so far, but all it takes is one breakout run to change the course of this game. With Ray Lewis expected to miss the game, this task becomes even harder for the Ravens defense. While the Bengals rush defense has been outstanding this year, Cam Cameron needs to set aside his imaginary offense and run the ball down the Bengals' throats with Ray Rice. Luckily, the Bengals injury bug stretches to the defense as well with DE Carlos Dunlap expected to miss the game, and Leon Hall, who will miss the rest of the season. These injuries will help Joe Flacco, who has struggled historically against the Bengals, throwing five interceptions against them in two games last year. The Ravens need to come out rolling early on Sunday, and prove once again that their miscues are simply a fluke. I have the Ravens doing just that, and escaping with a close 23-17 win.

Key to the Game: The key to the game for the Ravens will once again be holding on to the ball, and not getting sloppy. Even with a lead, using the clock wisely and being merciless on all sides of the ball will be a key to victory in the second half.

Key Matchups for Bengals at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Bengals QB Andy Dalton Edge: Reed
Ravens LB Jameel McClain vs. Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham Edge: Gresham
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Bengals DT Domata Peko Edge: Rice
Ravens T Michael Oher vs. Bengals DE Robert Geathers Edge: Geathers

Injury Report
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-QST
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-QST
LB Ray Lewis-Foot-QST

WR A.J. Green-Knee-DBT
TE Donald Lee-Foot-DBT
DE Carlos Dunlap-Hamstring-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Steelers 7 3
Ravens 6 3
Bengals 6 3
Browns 3 6

AFC North Outlook: The winner of the Ravens-Bengals game joins the Steelers at the top of the division with the Steelers on their bye week. The Browns host the Jaguars.

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 10 2011

Last Sunday night, the Ravens completed their first sweep of the Steelers since 2006 in a last-minute 23-20 win. This win gives the Ravens the tiebreaker in the AFC North, which could come in handy as we head down the final stretch of this season. The first half of the game was a battle of field goals, one that the Ravens won when Billy Cundiff hit from 51 yards in the final seconds of the half, giving the Ravens a 9-6 edge. In the third quarter, the Ravens defense continued to hold back the Steelers, and a Ray Rice touchdown run gave the Ravens a two-possession lead after three. But early in the fourth, the Steelers capped off an eighty yard drive with a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown, and with an entire quarter left, the Ravens lead was cut to 16-13. The Ravens offense then began to slow down, and a late Flacco fumble gave Pittsburgh good position to tie or take the lead. Ben Roethlisberger then orchestrated a perfect drive, and finished it with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace to give Pittsburgh a four-point lead with 5 minutes remaining. The Ravens were forced into a quick three-and-out, and the Steelers had a chance to run out the rest of the clock. But the Ravens defense buckled down and forced a punt, and Joe Flacco had two and a half minutes to drive the Ravens 90 yards for a touchdown. This quickly became a defining drive for Flacco as he marched his unit down the field. After converting a crucial fourth down, Flacco's end zone shot to Torrey Smith was dropped, but Smith still had something to prove. After a Boldin drop, Flacco looked again to Smith, who's diving effort for the score gave the Ravens a victory in the waning seconds of regulation. Perhaps the most important statistic of the game is the Ravens ability to convert on third down, going 14 for 21 including two conversions on the final drive. Without these conversions, the Ravens simply would not have had the success they did.

Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco- 28/47 for 300 yards, 1 touchdown

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week I said that the Ravens needed to better be able to sustain drives, which they did very well at points in the game. The final drive was simply perfect, and is an early defining moment in Flacco's career.

This Sunday, the Ravens take a visit to Seattle to face the struggling 2-6 Seahawks. Unfortunately for the Ravens, consistent road success has been an issue, so putting together a quality performance that ends with a win will be important for the continuity of this Ravens team. We all saw the embarrassing losses to the Titans and Jaguars, so we don't want to add the Seahawks to that list. The quarterback position has been the main area of concern for Seattle, as jumping between Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst hasn't seemed to work out too well. Jackson is expected to start Sunday despite a pectoral injury. While the Seahawks have struggled mightily on offense, RB Marshawn Lynch is a powerful and very dangerous runner that can break out into the open field at any time. Containing Lynch will be vital for the Ravens. The Seahawks defense is lead by DE Chris Clemons and S Earl Thomas. Making sure Flacco knows where those two are before the play will help to avoid them getting involved in the play. This could once again be a trap game for the Ravens, and staying focused on the task at hand instead of worrying about the opposing team's record will prove key for not letting this one get away. I have the Ravens giving up some points, but still pulling out a 27-16 win.

Key to the Game: The key to a Ravens win will be staying focused at what is at hand, not getting sloppy with the ball, and playing tough, hard-nosed defensive football. With some consistent offense and shutdown defense, it shouldn't be a difficult win for the Ravens.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Seahawks
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch Edge: Lewis
Ravens CB Lardarius Webb vs. Seahawks WR Mike Williams Edge: Webb
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Seahawks S Earl Thomas Edge: Flacco
Ravens T Michael Oher vs. Seahawks DE Chris Clemons Edge: Clemons

Injury Report
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-DBT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-DBT
LB Brendon Ayanbadejo-Head-QST

LB David Vobora-Concussion-OUT
TE Cameron Morrah-Toe, Knee-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L
Ravens 6 2
Bengals 6 2
Steelers 6 3
Browns 3 5

AFC North Outlook: The Steelers-Bengals game this weekend will decide if the Ravens have a counterpart atop the division, and the Ravens hold of the tiebreaker could be important if the Steelers were to win and the Ravens to lose at any point in the season.

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and go Ravens!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 9 2011

Last Sunday, the Ravens completed the biggest comeback in team history, rallying from a 21-point deficit to win 30-27. While the comeback showed great leadership from Joe Flacco, the deficit itself elicits some concern. The offense lacked in effort, and Flacco made crucial mistakes, but luckily they got it together when they needed to. After early field goals on both sides, a Flacco fumble put the Cardinals in great position, and they would score soon after to make it 10-3. After a Ravens three-and-out, Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson returned Sam Koch's punt 82 yards for a touchdown, breaking 5 tackles on his way to the end zone. Next, a Flacco interception set up another Cardinals touchdown, and the score was 24-6 at halftime. Luckily, Flacco realized that we weren't going to be able to get the lead all back at once, and the only way to come back was to slowly chip away at the lead. After a long well-executed drive, Ray Rice pounded it in from a yard out, and the comeback was underway. On the Ravens next drive, Anquan Boldin made some spectacular catches and another Rice touchdown made it a one possession lead. The Ravens finally took the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter with another Rice score. But the Ravens defense finally relented, and a late Cardinals field goal set up a tough task if the Ravens wanted to win in regulation. Then, with under 50 seconds remaining, Flacco connected deep with Torrey Smith, who made up for an earlier drop by putting the Ravens inside the ten, and in prime position to take the game. A last-second Billy Cundiff field goal lifted the Ravens to an important victory, and a 5-2 record.

Player of the Game: Ravens LB Terrell Suggs- 9 tackles, 1 sack

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I said the Ravens needed to do a better job of sustaining drives, which they didn't do until the second half. That being said, they did a very good job of doing it in the second half.

Next week, the Ravens travel to Heinz Field to take on the hated Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. This game means more than just the division lead now, but a Ravens win gives them the division tiebreaker and possible home-field advantage over the Steelers during the playoffs. When these two teams met in September, the Ravens put a 35-7 shellacking on the Steelers, and that game will not soon be forgotten on either side. The Steelers will be looking for a little revenge come Sunday night, and they'll have a great chance to do it. Since that early season matchup, it seems as if the Ravens have been playing worse, while the Steelers have been playing better. That being said, the Steelers will be missing some key defenders. LBs Lamarr Woodley and James Farrior are both expected to be out, while James Harrison could be a game-time decision. The one defender that Joe Flacco will have to look out for is Troy Polamalu, who is a threat to turn the game around on every snap. The Steelers first-ranked pass defense poses a big threat to a struggling Ravens offense, and the real test for Flacco will come here. On offense, Steelers WR Mike Wallace has made himself one of the most explosive receivers in the game, and can turn even a screen pass into a huge gain. The Steelers running game has not been strong, and could have serious problems against the Ravens-top ranked defense. This game should live up to its physical expectations, because there is continuous bad blood on both sides. The two teams are practically designed in order to beat each other, that's what makes the games so good, and also so unpredictable from time to time. Being the Ravens fan I am, I've gotta go with my team in this one, taking Pittsburgh down with a close 17-16 win.

Key to the Game: The Ravens will be getting a key offensive boost with the return of lineman Ben Grubbs, who should open up more holes for Ray Rice, who had a big game against Pittsburgh in September. For the Ravens to win, they'll need to rely on Rice once again to lead the charge down the field.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Steelers
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Edge: Suggs
Ravens CB Lardarius Webb vs. Steelers WR Mike Wallace Edge: Wallace
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons Edge: Rice
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Steelers S Troy Polamalu Edge: Polamalu

Injury Report
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-OUT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST
WR David Reed-Knee-QST

G Doug Legursky-Toe-OUT
WR Emmanuel Sanders-Knee-OUT
LB LaMarr Woodley-Hamstring-OUT
LB James Farrior-Calf-QST
WR Hines Ward-Ankle-QST
P Daniel Sepulveda-Knee-QST
LB James Harrison-Eye-PRB

As a parting note, I'd like to leave you with this quote from Ravens LB Terrell Suggs pertaining to Sunday night's game.

"Big Ben, you know he’s a great quarterback. God can have his soul, but his ass belongs to me." If that isn't inspiration, I don't know what is. Let's go get em.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 8 2011

Last Monday, the Ravens lost an embarrassing and downright unacceptable game to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 12-7. This was one of the most pathetic displays of football I've ever seen, and we frankly did not deserve to win. The defense played the way they needed to for most of the game, but the offense could simply not get things together. Jaguars K Josh Scobee hit two field goals from 54 yards in the first half, and it was 6-0 at the half. After another long Scobee field goal in the third, the Ravens needed to get it together, and quickly. That didn't happen until late in the fourth, when Joe Flacco finally decided to wake up. He found Anquan Boldin in the end zone, and with two minutes left, the Ravens were in striking distance. After Scobee nailed it through the uprights yet again, Flacco was faced with one final chance to put the Ravens on top and get out of Jacksonville with a win. But on just the second play of the drive, Flacco's pass was picked off by Drew Coleman, and the Jaguars pulled off the upset. With a loss like this, one must wonder, who is to blame? The immediate responsibility is put on the shoulders of the offensive leaders who were unable to get it going, Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Ravens fans can look at Flacco and say that this is a learning experience for a quarterback that is still young, but that excuse won't last long. Flacco has had these kinds of games before, and we keep waiting for him to learn from it, and it is a big problem that that hasn't happened yet. As for Cameron, my tolerance is quickly diminishing. One stat from this game that really jumped out at me was Ray Rice, or maybe the lack of Ray Rice. He got just 8 carries Monday night, the lowest since he became the Ravens' starter. When the biggest playmaker on this team gets only eight touches, it will be hard to win. Rice needs to be incorporated much more.

Player of the Game: Jaguars K Josh Scobee-4/4, all from 50+ yards

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I said the Ravens needed to stop Maurice Jones-Drew. He put up over 100 rushing yards, torching the Ravens defense at the biggest moments of the game, and leading the Jaguars offense to a win.

Next week, the Ravens will host the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals, a struggling team who will have a tough task ahead of them. The Ravens will be extremely hostile and in need of a breakout performance after their game last week. That hostility and anger needs to come out on the gridiron Sunday afternoon. Simply said, I would not want to be an Arizona Cardinal on the field this weekend. Former Raven fan favorite Todd Heap makes his first return to the Charm City, so if he plays, expect quite an ovation for "Heaaap." Heap bought a half-page color ad in the Baltimore Sun thanking the Ravens organization and the Ravens fans on Friday. A classy act from a classy guy. As for the rest of the Cardinals offense, they could be in some trouble. RB Beanie Wells is not expected to play, which puts a lot of pressure on QB Kevin Kolb, who will be facing an angry Ravens defense. Kolb's main target is WR Larry Fitzgerald, who has established himself as one of the top receivers in the league, and could become an important factor for Sunday's outcome. On defense, the Cardinals have a potentially dangerous defensive line, that could cause problems for a struggling Joe Flacco. Their linebacking corps is weak, but they have one of the most underrated safeties in Adrian Wilson, and young cornerback Patrick Peterson, yet another dangerous combination. In one of the more intriguing matchups, Peterson will be facing Anquan Boldin, who is facing his former team for the first time. I have a feeling the Ravens will bounce back well, and put quite a vengeful beatdown on a weak Cardinals team, winning 27-10.

Key to the Game: The Ravens offense needs to put more points on the board, and Joe Flacco needs to help lead that attack. By sustaining drives, putting 7 points on the board, and giving our hard-working defense a break, this becomes a much easier game to win.

Key Matchups for Cardinals at Ravens
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald Edge: Fitzgerald
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb Edge: Reed
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson Edge: Boldin
Ravens T Marshal Yanda vs. Cardinals DE Darnell Dockett Edge: Yanda

Injury Report
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-OUT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
G Ben Grubbs-Ankle-OUT
CB Danny Gorrer-Thigh-QST

S Kerry Rhodes-Foot-OUT
RB Beanie Wells-Knee-QST
WR Early Doucet-Quad-QST
TE Todd Heap-Hamstring-QST
LB Joey Porter-Knee-QST

Well, that's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 7 2011

Last week, the Ravens improved to 4-1 with a 29-14 defeat over the Houston Texans. At the end of the first quarter, the Ravens used a number of Texans penalties to score, and Joe Flacco finished the drive off when he pounded the ball into the end zone from less than a yard out. Houston tied it back up when a Texans fumble bounced into the end zone, and was recovered for the score. Billy Cundiff added a field goal and the Ravens took a lead into the half. After another Cundiff field goal, the Texans took advantage of one-on-one coverage, and took the lead on a perfectly-throw pass from Matt Schaub to Jacoby Jones. After that lapse in coverage, the Ravens defense quickly stepped it up, and wouldn't allow another Texans score. After two Cundiff field goals, Ricky Williams sealed the win late with a four-yard run, and the Ravens got a much-needed home win over the Texans. We saw the best and the worst from the Ravens in this game. The offense produced, but were successful in just 50% of their red zone opportunities. That percentage will simply not cut it if the Ravens defense cannot hold the opponent's offense. That trend is a tad bit scary, and needs to stop in order for the Ravens to contend against better offensive teams. One good thing we can take away from the offense's performance last week was Anquan Boldin, who had one of his best games as a Raven, and is finally getting thrown the passes he deserves.
Player of the Game: Ravens RB Ray Rice- 23 carries for 101 rushing yards, 5 catches for 60 receiving yards

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week I said the Ravens couldn't use the Texans injuries as an excuse for lightening up on them. At times it seemed like they did, but in the end, the Ravens defense buckled down, and were able to pull out the win.

Next Monday night, the Ravens travel to Jacksonville for a prime-time matchup with the struggling 1-5 Jaguars. A former rival of the Ravens, the Jaguars have got off to a bad start this year, and could have a tough time contending with a strong Ravens team. After cutting veteran QB David Garrard, the Jags have turned to rookie Blaine Gabbert to lead their offense, and he has yet to win a game. He has made his share of rookie mistakes, yet there is some promise in Gabbert's future. Last week, the Jaguars made it a game against the Steelers, losing by just four. The Ravens will need to do everything the Steelers did not in order to avoid a game that is even close to that. The Ravens defense enters this game with a tremendous advantage. They have allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL, while the Jaguars have the second lowest points per game total. Chuck Pagano's defense relies on confusing the opposing quarterback with many blitz packages, and this week, facing a rookie quarterback, expect Pagano's crew to thrive on the young meat they'll be presented with. All in all, Gabbert could be in for a long night. The one bright spot on the Jaguars offense is RB Maurice Jones-Drew, one of the premier backs in the game, who is averaging close to five yards per carry this year. If the Ravens can shut down Jones-Drew, they should have no problem stopping the rest of the weak Jaguars offense. On the defensive side, the Jaguars are allowing over 100 rushing yards per game this year, so look for Ray Rice to have a substantial role in Monday night's gameplan. To give you another example of the Ravens advantage in this game, Rice's single game average is just slightly worse than that of the entire Jaguars offense. On the bright side, the Jags defense are ranked 8th in yards allowed, so not everything is bad in Jacksonville. Also, former Ravens and current Jaguars S Dawan Landry will have the first chance to face his old team. On paper, this shouldn't even be close, and that is exactly what I think will happen come Monday night. I have the Ravens winning once again, 27-9.

Key to the Game: As I said earlier, the Jaguars main offensive threat is Maurice Jones-Drew, who has the chance to burn any defense he faces. If the Ravens defense can stop Jones-Drew, it should be smooth sailing.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Jaguars
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert Edge: Reed
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew Edge: Lewis
Ravens WR Torrey Smith vs. Jaguars CB Reshean Mathis Edge: Mathis
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny Edge: Rice

Injury Report
Player-Injury Status
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-OUT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-OUT
S Tom Zbikowski-Head-DBT
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-QST

S Courtney Greene-Hamstring-OUT
T Eben Britton-Back-DBT
G Jason Spitz-Quad-QST

Well, that's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 6 2011

Two weeks ago, the Ravens put a Sunday night beatdown on Rex Ryan's Jets, with a final score of 34-17. The defense put together a performance as good as you'll see, forcing four turnovers, all at the hands of Jets QB Mark Sanchez. The domination started early, when Ed Reed came off the blind side to sack Sanchez and force a fumble that was returned to the end zone by Jameel McClain. The Jets tied it up quickly, when Joe McKnight returned the following kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown. After a Billy Cundiff field goal, Ray Rice pounded it into the end zone, and the Ravens had a 17-7 lead at the end of one quarter. After another Cundiff field goal, Sanchez fumbled, and Jarret Johnson picked it up and returned it for a touchdown. As good as the Ravens defense was, the offense was just that sloppy. Soon after, Joe Flacco under-threw a screen pass, and Jets LB David Harris picked it off returned it back for a score. Nick Folk added a field goal, and the Jets were within 10 points after a first half that lasted two hours. The second half moved much quicker, and midway through the third quarter, the Jets were driving and gaining a ton of momentum. Sanchez stepped back and threw across his body, and Lardarius Webb stepped in front of the pass and returned it for the last score of the game. The rest of the game was defined by more Ravens defensive domination, and the Ravens got a much needed victory. The Jets offense gained just 150 yards of total offense, and Mark Sanchez was under constant pressure. With this game, the Ravens defense has proved that they have the ability to win games on their own, which could be important if Flacco has another game like last week.
Player of the Game: DT Haloti Ngata-2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I said that the Ravens needed a balanced offensive attack, but Flacco's bunch came out looking restless and uneasy, and if it weren't for our outstanding defense, we would have lost this game.

The Ravens had their bye week last Sunday.

This Sunday, the Ravens welcome the 3-2 Houston Texans to Baltimore. Ravens FB Vonta Leach and S Bernard Pollard are both former Texans, and should be looking for a little bit of revenge against the team that didn't re-sign them. Houston is coming off a devastating home loss to the Raiders, so they'll surely have some redemption on their mind as well. Texans WR Andre Johnson, their main offensive playmaker, will miss the game with a hamstring injury. With Johnson's injury, the Texans felt the need to acquire another receiver, so they traded for former Raven Derrick Mason. Mason has been with the Jets all season, and played against the Ravens just two weeks ago. I guess he just can't resist Baltimore. The Ravens defense still has to deal with RB Arian Foster, who was the last running back to gain 100 yards against them. QB Matt Schaub is injured but expected to play, as he's been bothered by a sore right shoulder. As for the Texans defense, they have completely turned around since last year, when they finished dead last in pass defense. The addition of CB Jonathan Joseph, who was previously with the Bengals, has meant the world to this defense. But their main impact on defense comes from former first overall pick Mario Williams, who went down in last week's loss, and will miss the rest of the season. Facing such a banged up team, and riding high off a great performance, I have the Ravens winning, 27-13.
Key to the Game: The Ravens should be able to take advantage of this banged-up team, and on paper, this shouldn't even be close. But this game isn't played on paper, and if the Ravens over-think the Texans' many injuries, they could be in trouble.

Key Matchups for Texans at Ravens
Ravens S Ed Reed vs. Texans QB Matt Schaub Edge: Reed
Ravens defensive line vs. Texans RB Arian Foster Edge: Push
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Texans CB Jonathan Joseph Edge: Joseph
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Texans LB DeMeco Ryans Edge: Rice

Injury Report
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-OUT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
CB Jimmy Smith-Ankle-OUT
S Tom Zbikowski-Head-OUT
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST

WR Andre Johnson-Hamstring-OUT
FB James Casey-Chest-DBT

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 4 2011

Last week, the Ravens recovered from a tough loss by putting a 37-7 beating on the St. Louis Rams. The Ravens came out of the gates hot, as Joe Flacco connected with rookie Torrey Smith for a 74-yard touchdown, Smith first reception, and first touchdown of his young career. On the very next drive, Flacco found Smith again, this time from 41 yards. And then, on just Smith's third catch of the game, Flacco found Smith once more in the end zone, and the Ravens had a 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. In just 15 minutes' time, Torrey Smith established himself as a dangerous deep threat for the Ravens offense, and put himself in the NFL history books, as his first three career receptions all went for touchdowns. Billy Cundiff would add three field goals, and the Ravens held a comfortable 30-0 lead early in the third. The Rams finally got on the board when Brandon Gibson made a fantastic catch in the back of the end zone. Then, late in the fourth, a sack-fumble allowed Haloti Ngata to recover and then run for a touchdown to seal a Ravens win, the first touchdown of Ngata's career. The Ravens defense dominated in this game, sacking Sam Bradford 5 times, and forcing two turnovers. The Ravens offense also had a historic game, with a franchise high 553 total yards. In last week's report, I said the Ravens needed to come out strong, and establish an early lead that would last, virtually sucking the life out of the stadium, and that is exactly what they did. By scoring 21 quick points, the stadium was nearly empty in the second half, other than Ravens fans. Keeping this trend going is vital to a successful year.
Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco- 27/48, 389 yards, 3 touchdowns
Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I said it would depend on which Ravens team took the field, and fortunately, the right one did.

Next Sunday night, the Ravens welcome many former coaches and players back to Baltimore for a prime-time matchup with the 2-1 New York Jets. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan spent an entire decade coaching the Ravens defense, and will now have the chance to face his product. Other former Ravens players including Bart Scott and Derrick Mason make their return to the Charm City. The Jets offense is led by QB Mark Sanchez, who is just about as unpredictable as can be. Sanchez's main targets are Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, who each have the talent to spread the field against an inconsistent Ravens secondary. But there is no doubt that for both of these teams, the defense is truly the backbone. The Jets secondary is among the best in the league, with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, two of the league's top cornerbacks. It should be interesting to see how Joe Flacco responds to facing such an opponent. Since Flacco now has a new deep threat in Torrey Smith, this Jets secondary will have the tough task of defending against that deep game, and a short game that includes Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin. Also, the Jets run defense has not been as strong as expected, so Ray Rice could break out this week. Last week, the Jets lost a disappointing game to the Raiders, and with last year's Ravens win over the Jets, revenge should certainly be on their minds. With another close game between very similar teams, I have the Ravens pulling out a 17-13 win.

Key to the Game: For Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense, being able to have a balance in the pass game will be vital. Flacco needs to keep the Jets defense guessing by throwing short to targets such as Ray Rice and Ed Dickson, and long to targets such as Torrey Smith.

Key Matchups for Jets at Ravens
Ravens DE Haloti Ngata vs. Jets T D'Brickashaw Ferguson Edge: Ngata
Ravens CB Cary Williams vs. Jets WR Santonio Holmes Edge: Holmes
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Jets LB Bart Scott Edge: Rice
Ravens receiving corps vs. Jets secondary Edge: Jets secondary

Injury Report
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
S Haruki Nakamura-Knee-OUT
WR David Reed-Shoulder-OUT
CB Jimmy Smith-Ankle-OUT
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Thigh-DBT
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST

WR Logan Payne-Wrist-OUT
OL Nick Mangold-Ankle-QST

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 3 2011

Last Sunday, the Ravens suffered a tough loss at the hands of the Titans, falling 26-13. The Titans opened up with a 3-0 lead in the second quarter on a Rob Bironas field goal. The Ravens would respond soon, as Ray Rice took a screen pass to the end zone for a 31-yard score. The Ravens defense would continue to get beaten though, allowing another Titans score, and a last-second Cundiff field goal would send the teams to halftime tied at 10. But the Titans would waste no time, scoring on a fourth down from inside the ten, and a Bironas field goal extended the lead with one quarter left. With only seven minutes left on the clock, and trailing 23-10, the Ravens faced a fourth down and goal from the Titans 11-yard line. It seemed like a touchdown was necessary, in order to make it a one-possession game, and the way the Ravens defense was getting thrown around, two stops within seven minutes seemed highly unlikely. But John Harbaugh went against the grain and kicked the field goal. The Ravens defense could again do nothing, and a late field goal sealed the win for the Titans. The Ravens defense seemed lethargic all game, and seemed to be one second behind the Titans on every play. Plain and simple, they got beat bad. The Ravens offense played exactly how they didn't last week, turning the ball over three times. Between the two, the Ravens simply didn't deserve to get this win. This loss shows how much of an any-given-sunday league this is, any team can really beat any team.
Player of the Game: Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck-30/42, 358 yards, 1 touchdown

Last Week's Key to the Game: Last week, I said that the Ravens needed to avoid a hangover from the Steelers win. That is exactly what they did not do. They came out way too confident, and the Titans made them pay for it.

Next Sunday, the Ravens travel to face the 0-2 St. Louis Rams, who had high expectations coming into the year, but have yet to fulfill them. QB Sam Bradford had a breakout rookie season last year, and many thought he would pick up where he left off, but he's yet to play at that same level. One aspect of the Rams offense is their no-huddle attack, which they have used to confuse defenses this year. Since the Ravens defense is slow at times, reacting to the hurry-up offense will be a key to a win against the Rams. RB Steven Jackson is the biggest playmaker on their offense, but has been limited this year with a quad injury, and will be questionable for Sunday's game. Cadillac Williams, his replacement, has rushed for 127 in the first two games. The Rams defense has been a low point so far this season, giving up an average of 177 rushing yards and 29 points per game. QB Joe Flacco needs to lead the Ravens offense to an early start, and try and get the Rams out of the game early by tiring out their defense, and sucking the life out of the stadium. Flacco needs to take advantage of the weak Rams defense by having a statement game to prove that last week was just a fluke. Ravens WR Lee Evans has already been ruled out, so Flacco will have to rely on a thin receiving corps that could see guys like Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta getting more looks. You can also expect Ray Rice's load to increase after a bad game last week. Ravens WR Anquan Boldin has over 1,000 career receiving yards against the Rams, so he could be vital in the Ravens gameplan. In a win that the Ravens really need, I have them taking it with a score of 24-13.

Key to the Game: This game will really come down to which Ravens team takes the field Sunday. The team that beat the Steelers can beat any team in the NFL. On the other hand, the team that lost to the Titans can lose to any team in the NFL. We'll see.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Rams:
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Rams offensive line Edge: Suggs
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Rams RBs Cadillac Williams/Steven Jackson Edge: Lewis
Ravens T Bryant McKinnie vs. Rams DE Chris Long Edge: Long
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Rams LB James Laurinaitis Edge: Rice

Injury Report
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-OUT
WR David Reed-Shoulder-OUT
CB Jimmy Smtih-Ankle-OUT
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Toe-QST

WR Danny Amendola-Elbow-OUT
RB Steven Jackson-Quad-QST
LB Ben Leber-Groin-QST
RB Cadillac Williams-Hamstring-QST

That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 2 2011

Last week, the Ravens made a statement by dominating the Steelers with a convincing 35-7 win. The Ravens jumped out of the gates early, as Flacco found Anquan Boldin for a 27-yard score on a 3-play drive that saw the offense drive 66 yards in under two minutes. The Ravens would score again when Ray Rice pounded it in from a yard out on a drive that stemmed from a Steelers fumble that put the Ravens in position to strike. Pittsburgh would rebound in the second quarter when Big Ben found Emmanuel Sanders in the back of the end zone. But Flacco wouldn't let the Steelers gain momentum, and the Ravens would make it a two possession game once again, when Flacco dumped it off to Rice, who ran it in for the score. At that point, we could all remember the last time the Ravens took a 21-7 lead into halftime against Pittsburgh, but the Ravens were bound to make sure that didn't happen. On the Steelers first play from scrimmage, Haloti Ngata got into the backfield, put a huge hit on Rashard Mendenhall, and forced a fumble that gave the Ravens the ball in Steelers territory. On the very next play, Flacco found Ed Dickson for a touchdown. The Ravens then faked the extra point, and punter Sam Koch rushed in for the two-point conversion, and the Ravens took a 29-7 lead. The Ravens would go on to force seven turnovers, including two picks from Ed Reed, and one from Ray Lewis. Billy Cundiff would add two field goals, and the Ravens sealed a win that was nothing less than total domination. Every side of the field did their part in this win. A shaky offensive line played a fantastic game, allowing only one sack of Joe Flacco. A questionable receiving corps helped Joe Flacco to one of the best games of his career. The two teams had their fair share of scuffling, including one fight that ended up with Steelers CB Ike Taylor thrown out of the game. The one thing the Ravens and their fan base need to take out of this win is that it's only week one, we have fifteen games left to play, and the Steelers will not go away.
Players of the Game: QB Joe Flacco-17/29 224 yards, 3 touchdowns
RB Ray Rice-19 carries, 107 yards, 1 touchdown
LB Terrell Suggs-5 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
DT Haloti Ngata-2 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Last Week's Key to the Game: The Ravens responded to the key of the game, easily winning the battle of the pass-rushers. The Ravens sacked Big Ben 4 times, and forced him to commit 5 turnovers, while Flacco was sacked just once.

Next Sunday, the Ravens will travel to Nashville to face off with the 0-1 Tennessee Titans. The Titans looked uninspired last week, losing to the Jaguars. Their star RB, Chris Johnson, was not a factor at all, rushing for just 24 yards. Johnson missed all of training camp and the pre-season because of a contract holdout, and his performance last week reflected that missed time. The Ravens need to hold Johnson again, as the Titans lack offensive playmakers without him. Other than WR Kenny Britt, who performed well last week by catching two touchdowns for over 100 yards, nobody on the Titans offense has the potential to really burn the Ravens defense. If the Ravens can find some way to render both Johnson and Britt irrelevant, the Titans offense won't be able to get it going. The Ravens need to come out strong on offense again. They will be forced to face Titans CB Cortland Finnegan, who can change the tide of the game with an interception. Finnegan has had a decent amount of run-ins with receivers who don't like his over-aggressive style of play, so watch out for that. In another good offensive performance, I have the Ravens taking down the Titans, 23-10.
Key to the Game: Following a dominating win over Pittsburgh, it would be understandable for the Ravens to be over-confident. But if the Ravens come out a bit too happy-go-lucky, the Titans will make them pay for it.

Key Matchups for Ravens at Titans
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Titans RB Chris Johnson Edge: Lewis
Ravens CB Dominique Foxworth vs. Titans WR Kenny Britt Edge: Britt
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Titans CB Cortland Finnegan Edge: Finnegan
Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Titans LB Barrett Ruud Edge: Rice

Injury Report
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-OUT
CB Jimmy Smith-Ankle-OUT
G Ben Grubbs*-Toe-DBT
WR Lee Evans-Ankle-PRB
FB Vonta Leach-Foot-PRB
*Grubbs will be a game-time decision.
S Chris Hope-Shoulder-DBT
DE William Hayes-Shoulder-QST
WR Damian Williams-Hamstring-QST

Well, that's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 1 2011

Well, here we are. Just a day away from Ravens football. The NFL lockout officially ended on July 25, so NFL players had a shortened training camp to get ready for the season. The Ravens went out and traded for veteran receiver Lee Evans from Buffalo, and signed 5-time Pro Bowl C Andre Gurode. With Matt Birk already entrenched at center, both Gurode's and Birk's roles are yet to be seen. As for Evans, he is a great threat down the field, and will likely be running one main route this year for Flacco. Run straight, look up, catch ball. The Ravens also signed FB Vonta Leach, a physical blocker who will help find holes for Ray Rice to run. As far as cuts went, the one surprise was the release of LB Tavares Gooden, whose injuries helped run him out of Baltimore. The Ravens had a strong pre-season, finishing 3-1 after losing the first game to the Eagles. There were no major injuries, but RB Matt Lawrence and OL Ramon Harewood have already been placed on injured reserve, and will be out for the year.

On Sunday, the Ravens will welcome the hated Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium to renew the fiercest rivalry in the NFL. After an upsetting loss to the Steelers in the postseason, the Ravens will be looking for a little revenge to open the year. No matter what, until the Ravens win a real important game against Pittsburgh, the Steelers will always have the edge, and the Ravens know that. What has been hurting the Ravens the most against Pittsburgh is the lack of a big playmaker on offense, while the Steelers lead with Big Ben, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace. With the acquisitions of Lee Evans and Torrey Smith, the Ravens will finally have the opportunity to counterattack. Some might say that because this is the first week of the season, the game isn't as important, but I beg to differ. While it is disappointing that the teams won't have a late-season matchup, I think it is even more important that they're playing here in Week 1. A Ravens win sets the tone for the entire season, and is a huge confidence boost for the players going on. A loss could hurt the Ravens' confidence as the year goes on. In yet another close game, I have Joe Flacco finally getting the monkey off his back, as the Ravens will win 16-10.

Key to the Game: The key to this game will be pass-rushing, as both defenses have premier defenders putting pressure on the quarterback. We've seen these games come down to a sack-fumble or interception, so the team that forces that turnover has a good chance of winning the game.

Key Matchups for Ravens vs. Steelers
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Steelers offensive line Edge: Suggs
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Steelers WR Mike Wallace Edge: Wallace
Ravens offensive line vs. Steelers LB James Harrison Edge: Harrison
Ravens WR Lee Evans vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor Edge: Evans

Injury Report
WR David Reed-Suspended*-OUT
LB Jason Phillips-Concussion-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Thigh-PRB
*Reed was suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

LB Chris Carter-Hamstring-OUT
WR Jerricho Cotchery-Hamstring-DBT
T Marcus Gilbert-Concussion-PRB
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ravens Off-Season Report

Well it's been a busy few months since the Ravens devastating playoff loss to the Steelers, so I'll give you a quick recap of the events and a preview of what's next to come. After beating the Ravens in the Divisional Playoff, the Steelers went on to beat the Jets, and then eventually lose to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by a score of 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.
As you may or may not have heard, the upcoming NFL season is in serious jeopardy after the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players. Some of the main issues debated upon in the agreement are the proposed 18-game schedule (as opposed to the current 16-game format), a rookie wage scale, and the division of the league's $9B revenue. After two delays of the expiration of the agreement, the NFL lockout finally began on March 11, 2011 after the players union officially decertified. After federally mediated meetings continued unsuccessfully for an entire month, Judge Susan Nelson declared the lockout invalid, and ordered the league to resume normal operations. The owners immediately filed for a stay of the ruling as well as an appeal of the ruling. The stay of the ruling was granted to them until June 3, when the full appeal will be heard in court. Right now, we are over two months into the lockout, and June 3 remains the date circled on the calendars of NFL players, coaches, and fans alike. If the owners appeal is rejected, chances are that the two sides will agree on a deal quickly and we will be right back on the track to an NFL season. If their appeal is granted, then meetings will resume and the chances of a deal will be slim until August or September, when the players will most likely give in so they'll be able to get back on the field and play. In my opinion, there will be a 2011 NFL season. It may be short, it may be modified, but there will be some sort of season.
Now that we have the depressing part of this post over with, on to the Ravens and what they have done to prepare for next season. Keep in mind that free agency has been halted due to the lockout, and players are not even allowed into team complexes to work out.
First to the release of next year's schedule. The NFL released the dates for next season despite the looming lockout, and here is the schedule for your 2011 Baltimore Ravens.
Pre-season (Dates To be Determined)
at Philadelphia Eagles
vs. Kansas City Chiefs
vs. Washington Redskins
at Atlanta Falcons
Regular Season
Week 1: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 2: at Tennessee Titans
Week 3: at St. Louis Rams
Week 4: vs. New York Jets
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: vs. Houston Texans
Week 7: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 8: vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 9: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
Week 11: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 12: vs. San Francisco 49ers (Thanksgiving game)
Week 13: at Cleveland Browns
Week 14: vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 15: at San Diego Chargers
Week 16: vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 17: at Cincinnati Bengals
Notes on the Notable Games:
The Ravens-Steelers rivalry will be over just halfway through the season, meaning there the winner of the game will most likely not decide the winner of the division, as it has the past few years. But as a side note, there is always the post-season. Despite this, the Ravens will end the season with two division matchups, but if those teams are anything like they were last year, the winner won't necessarily take the division as well. For many, the most intriguing game on the schedule is the Week 13 home matchup against the Niners. This game will mark the first time in NFL history that two brothers will face each other as head coaches as Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh will go head-to-head with his brother, new 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh. The thing that makes this game even more interesting is that it takes place on Thanksgiving, a family holiday. Other good games include a home meeting with the professional football team from Indianapolis, a road game against the Chargers, a home game against outspoken former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and his Jets, and a meeting against the Seahawks in Seattle.
Now to the 2011 NFL Draft, in which the Ravens layered the team with extra starters as well as depth. Here are, in order, the Ravens eight picks in this year's draft.

1st Round: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado- Smith is easily the best cover corner in this year's draft, and will provide the Ravens with a man to cover the top receivers on the teams they will play. He would have been a higher pick if it weren't for his off the field issues, which include past failed drug tests. But all we can say about this issue is that the Ravens have veterans in the locker room that will put him in his place if he even thinks about acting out.
2nd Round: WR Torrey Smith, Maryland-Joe Flacco finally has his big play wide receiver he has been looking for. The speedy Smith comes from Maryland to fill this important void in the Ravens offense. Be sure to see Flacco look long for Smith all year, as this will be Torrey's specialty in the coming years.
3rd Round: OT Jah Reid, UCF- Reid, more than anything else, provides more depth at offensive line for the Ravens, who have been plagued with injuries to key members of the line like Jared Gaither. Reid can play most positions on the line, so consider him the fill-in for the first injury we'll see.
4th Round: WR Tandon Doss, Indiana- Doss has great size, standing at six foot three, and is bigger than most corners. He has tremendous hands, and will be a go-to-guy on third down for Joe Flacco.
5th Round: CB Chykie Brown, Texas- Injuries have hurt Brown in recent years, but if he can get past them, he is a great press corner who also gives the Ravens more depth at cornerback.
5th Round: DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State- McPhee is a big physical presence on the defensive line who will help out Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs on the line with extra pressure on the quarterback.
6th Round: QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech- With the probable leave of last year's backup Marc Bulger, Taylor will be Flacco's backup and won't likely see the field too much in 2011. He is a running quarterback who can help the Ravens run specialty plays like the Wildcat offense.
7th Round: RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech- With Willis McGahee likely leaving, Allen will help add depth to the Ravens running game along with Ray Rice.
Overall Ravens Draft Grade: A- The Ravens filled much needed gaps at positions like cornerback and defensive line, as well as adding depth to other positions.

That's it for this offseason version of my Ravens Report, hope to see you back soon for 2011 Baltimore Ravens football.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ravens Report-Divisional Playoffs 2011

Last week, the Ravens took it to the Kansas City Chiefs with a 30-7 pounding. With this win, Joe Flacco became the first QB to win a playoff game in his first three seasons. After the Ravens drove down the field early in the game, they were forced to settle with a Cundiff field goal after not converting deep in Chiefs territory. But then the Chiefs set out to prove that they wouldn't go away without a fight, as Jamaal Charles busted up the middle and sprinted 41 yards to the end zone to take the lead. The Ravens responded, when Flacco dumped it off to Ray Rice, who could walk into the end zone, and the Ravens took a 10-7 lead at the half. In the third, Cundiff hit two 29-yard field goals to make it a two possession game. Late in the third quarter, the Ravens began to pull away from the Chiefs. The score went to 23-7 late in the third when Flacco found Boldin in the back of the end zone for another score. This is when the Chiefs really began to collapse as a whole. After more turnovers, the Ravens sealed the deal late with a Willis McGahee touchdown run. The Chiefs turned the ball over five times, after only turning it over 15 times over the course of the season. A second quarter fumble by Charles ultimately changed the tide of the game. Before the fumble, Charles was a running back trying to get yards, but after the fumble, he became a ball-carrier trying not to lose the ball, and his team paid a price for that. After 87 rushing yards in the first half, he was then held to -5 in the second half, and the Ravens continued their streak of not letting a 100-yard rusher in the playoffs. Also, Ravens TE Todd Heap had broke the franchise record for receptions in a playoff game, as well as having the first postseason 100-yard receiving game in Ravens playoff history. The Ravens have to be extremely happy about this win, after dominating the time of possession, and keeping a healthy team overall.
Player of the Game: Ravens QB Joe Flacco-25/34, 265 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 7 rushes, 26 rushing yards

Next week, the Ravens play a team they know all too well, as they'll travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams split the regular season head-to-head, so the winner of this game has bragging rights for the next year. This is about as even a matchup as you can get, and I believe that no team has any kind of edge or advantage heading into Saturday's game. The Steelers have really had the Ravens number in the playoffs, winning the two matchups they've had in the postseason. But now the Ravens head in with momentum trying to move on, and the inspiration from Ed Reed and his situation seems to have lifted the entire team. No matter the skill on either side of the ball, inspiration has proven a reason for victory throughout sports history. Reed will play once again despite his family situation. The Steelers offense is usually conservative, but two or three times a game, they take a risk, and sometimes, it changes the momentum and is a key to the game. Their big play weapon is Mike Wallace, one of the fastest and most explosive receivers in the game. If the Ravens defense can prevent those big plays the Steelers will throw at them, they'll be able to hold Pittsburgh to field goals, and get the ball back quicker. The Ravens are virtually completely healthy on defense, so it will be big that they won't have to hold back. On offense, the Ravens will need to stay steady and limit mistakes. The play-calling will have to be top notch, and even more important, the execution of the plays will have to be perfect. Just as they did last week, the Ravens will need to control the time of possession, keep their offense on the field, and have their defense stay resting on the sidelines while wearing out the Steelers defense. The one defender the Ravens offense needs to be aware of the most is Troy Polamalu, who basically won the game for the Steelers back in Week 13. Polamalu is one of the most dangerous blitzers in the entire league, so being aware of him at all times is key for the Ravens. As I said earlier, this matchup is just about as even as can be, but I have the Ravens pulling out yet another last-minute win, 20-17.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Steelers
Ravens CB Josh Wilson vs. Steelers WR Mike Wallace Edge: Wilson
Ravens NT Kelly Gregg vs. Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey Edge: Pouncey
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Steelers LB James Harrison Edge: Harrison
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Steelers CB Bryant McFadden Edge: Boldin

Injury Report
C Matt Birk-Knee-QST
CB Chris Carr-Thigh-QST
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-QST
DE Aaron Smith-Triceps-DBT

AFC Playoff Bracket
Ravens at Steelers
Jets at Patriots
AFC Playoff Outlook: It's as easy as the winner of the two games will play each other next week in the AFC Championship. The Patriots automatically have a home game if they beat the Jets. If the Jets win, they will travel to the winner of the Ravens/Steelers game.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ravens Report-Wild Card Round 2011

Last week, the Ravens survived a scare from the Bengals, winning 13-7 to finish the year 12-4. With the Steelers win over the Browns, the Ravens hold the #5 seed despite this win. Ed Reed recorded yet another multi-interception game, making his total 8 interceptions on the season, which leads the NFL at the end of the regular season. Reed's picks were two of five turnovers on the day for the Bengals. The Ravens lead the game 6-0 at the half, with Cundiff hitting field goals from 25 and 47 yards. The lead was extended in the third quarter when Ray Rice ran in for a 7-yard touchdown. The Bengals quickly made it a game again, as Carson Palmer connected with Jerome Simpson for an 11-yard touchdown. Over the next 10 minutes or so, the teams all but exchanged punts. But in the final minutes of the game, the Bengals drove down the field at will. Then, on 4th down from the Ravens 2 yard line, Palmer threw incomplete to end the game. The Ravens suffered costly injuries throughout this game, including Josh Wilson and Michael Oher. Their status' for Sunday's game are yet to be determined.
Player of the Game: Ravens S Ed Reed-2 interceptions, 2 tackles

Next Sunday, the Ravens will head to Kansas City to face the AFC West Champion Chiefs. This is the first playoff matchup between the two teams. Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, so the Ravens will have to be careful of early jumps due to the noise. The Ravens could be highly affected by key injuries to be determined sometime Sunday morning. Ravens WR Anquan Boldin is going against his former offensive coordinator, current Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley. The two have a less than polite history after disagreements throughout their player-coach relationship during their time with the Cardinals. This probably won't have too much an effect on the game, but look for Boldin to want some revenge, and it could be interesting to see if Flacco lets him get it by involving him more in the gameplan on Sunday. The Chiefs have relied on an explosive young offense to lead the way, so look for them to try and get the Ravens defense on some big plays using guys like RB Jamaal Charles and WRs Dexter McCluster and Dwayne Bowe. Bowe has established himself as a top receiver in the league, so the Chiefs could look to him for that big play. If the Ravens can stop that big play offense and contain them to short gains, they can spend less time on the field, and more time resting on the sideline, which means more points for the Ravens on offense. The few strong points on the Chiefs defense could be the key to this game for them. Their stars on defense include DE Glenn Dorsey, CB Brandon Flowers, and LB Tamba Hali. If Flacco and the Ravens offense are aware of their presence on defense, they can limit their effectiveness by planning their way around these defenders. I think the Chiefs' overall inconsistency will hurt them as they try to succeed in this game, and I have the Ravens moving on with a 23-13 win.
Ravens Key to Success: Start off strong. A strong start could prove key for both teams, as in an atmosphere like Kansas City, a dead crowd often means a victory for the road team. If the Ravens get the fans out of it early, they can control the game's momentum all the way through.
Chiefs Key to Success: Chip away on offense. We've learned that the Ravens defense is prone to breaking down when tired late in the game. If the Chiefs can pound at them early, and then go for the big shot later on, they could take everything away from this Ravens defense, thus controlling the final minutes of this crucial Wild Card battle.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Chiefs
Ravens CB Chris Carr vs. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe Edge: Bowe
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Chiefs LT Brendan Albert Edge: Suggs
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Chiefs LB Tamba Hali Edge: Hali
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers Edge: Boldin

Injury Report
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Head-QST
LB Tavares Gooden-Shoulder-QST
DT Haloti Ngata-Thigh-QST
S Ed Reed-Chest-QST
LB Terrell Suggs-Knee-QST
CB Josh Wilson-Head-QST
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-QST
Note: Ed Reed will play Sunday despite the disappearance of his brother on Friday.
WR Quentin Lawrence-Illness-PRB
G Brian Waters-Illness-PRB

AFC Wild Card Round
#5 Ravens at #4 Chiefs
# 6 Jets at #3 Colts
Byes:Patriots, Steelers
Divisional Round Situations: There is no automatic team the Ravens will play if they beat the Chiefs Sunday. If the Ravens and Colts win, the Ravens will travel to New England to play the Patriots. If the Ravens and Jets win, the Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh and play the Steelers.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ravens Report-Week 17 2010

Last week, the Ravens beat the Browns, 20-10, to improve to 11-4 on the season. With this win, the Ravens clinch a playoff berth, making Joe Flacco the fourth QB in NFL history to make the playoffs in his first three seasons. This is also the third consecutive season that the Ravens have swept the season series against the lowly Browns. The Browns did open up this game on top though, and after they got the Ravens scrambling on a trick play, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie. After a Cundiff field goal, Joe Flacco threw a 15 yard strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh to put the Ravens on top. This score made it 10 straight games with a touchdown pass for Flacco, the longest streak of his career. Flacco also surpassed the 10,000 career passing yard mark early on in the game. At the end of the second quarter, Cundiff and Browns K Phil Dawson each hit field goals, from 40 and 30 yards respectively. This gave the Ravens a 13-10 lead heading into the half. The final score of the game was a 22-yard floater from Flacco to Derrick Mason, the first second-half offensive touchdown for the Ravens in six games. Ed Reed came up with two key interceptions for the Ravens, his 10th career multi-INT game. Reed and the Ravens are 10-0 when Reed picks off the QB twice. The Ravens also forced two other turnovers, a Lardarius Webb INT and a fumble that lead to the Houshmandzadeh touchdown.
Player of the Game: Ravens S Ed Reed-2 tackles, 2 interceptions

This Sunday, the Ravens will close out the regular season at home against the 4-11 Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens already control the 5th seed in the AFC, but a win coupled with a Steelers loss to the Browns gives the Ravens the 2nd seed along with a first-round bye and a division title. The Ravens met the Bengals back in Week 2, a game Joe Flacco would like to forget, as he threw four interceptions en route to a 15-10 loss. But Flacco has thrown just four interceptions since throwing four back in Week 2, and only one all season at home. The Bengals have actually begun to heat up over the past few weeks without the distractions of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco both on and off the field. Even with a lack of receivers to throw to, Carson Palmer has found a way to win receivers like Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson creating big plays. The Ravens defense also needs to look out for RB Cedric Benson, who has a history of tearing them up. The Bengals have a lot of veteran talent on the defensive side of the ball, but rookie DE Carlos Dunlap leads the team with 8 sacks, and could be a force off the end Sunday. In a bit of a revenge game, I have the Ravens winning, 24-13.
Key Matchups for Bengals at Ravens
Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham Edge: Lewis
Ravens LB Jarret Johnson vs. Bengals RB Cedric Benson Edge: Benson
Ravens RT Marshal Yanda vs. Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap Edge: Dunlap
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Bengals secondary Edge: Even

Injury Report
LB Tavares Gooden-Shoulder-OUT
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-OUT
TE Todd Heap-Thigh-QST
WR David Reed-Wrist/Head-QST
WR Chad Ochocinco-Ankle-OUT
TE Jermaine Gresham-Knee-DBT
CB Johnathan Joseph-Ankle-QST
LB Dan Skuta-Back-QST

AFC North Standings
Team W L GB
Steelers 11 4 --
Ravens 11 4 --
Browns 5 10 6
Bengals 4 11 7
AFC North Outlook: The Steelers can win the division with a win in Cleveland against the Browns. But if the Steelers lose, and the Ravens take care of business, the Ravens take the division, plus the #2 seed, and the Steelers will fall to the #6 seed below the Jets. If both the Ravens and Steelers win, the Ravens would hold the #5 seed, and most likely travel to Indianapolis to play to Colts.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!