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!