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!