Roger Goodell will host the 2013 NFL draft, which kicks off with Round 1 on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. (Courtesy of SI.com)
The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off in prime time on Thursday night and the production as become as big of an event as the draft itself. It’s the NFL’s marquee off-season event that has become a mega production ever since Roger Goodell took over as NFL commissioner. Last year, ESPN and the NFL Network combined for an average of 8.1 million viewers for its opening-round coverage, an increase of 16 percent from the previous year and the second-most-watched first round ever.
Roger Goodell will host the opening 2013 NFL draft, which kicks off with Round 1 on Thursday at 8 p.m. simulcast on ESPN and NFL Network. The two heavyweight networks will While ESPN and NFL Network will compete fiercely for audience this week, they have once again come together for a gentleman’s agreement on the subject of tipping draft picks. Both networks have pledged not to show images of players on the phone in the green room at Radio City Music Hall. In addition to that, both networks tell SI.com that they will tell staffers not to report pick-by-pick selections on their Twitter feeds prior to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks on the podium. The Twitter edict will extend into the second round of the draft. Teams have 10 minutes to pick in the first round, seven minutes in the second round and five minutes for the rest of the draft.
ESPN NFL senior coordinating producer Seth Markman, who oversees draft coverage for the network offered his thoughts on the agreement:
“Our fans have told us they would rather hear from the Commissioner and I think it is a better TV show when we speculate and let the Commissioner do it, I have said in the past that [ESPN reporters] Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen can basically announce all the picks before they are made if they really wanted to. It goes against a lot of our instincts as journalists and it’s totally different than anything I deal with, but we feel like it is a win for the fans and our viewers.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter added his own perspective on the influence of Twitter.
“[Twitter is] such a part of the life we live now so it just figures it would extend to the NFL draft. Some people like having that news instantaneously, many don’t like the surprise to be spoiled. I am not looking to spoil the drama or ruin the experience.”
In my personal opinion, I think its important to keep the integrity and importance of the experience of watching the draft unfold on TV rather than the computer or someplace else. Along with that, I prefer the pre-prime-time days of the NFL Draft when it took place on Saturday afternoon and an entire day was made of it. Of course, I understand why the NFL decided to move it in to prime time because in this world, it’s all about money.
How about you guys? Do you prefer the draft in its current prime time format or the former? Additionally, do you support the “gentleman’s agreement” between ESPN and NFL Network not to ‘tip’ picks or show images of players on the phone in the green room at Radio City Music Hall or report pick-by-pick selections on their Twitter feeds prior to the announcement at the podium?
What a weekend in college hoops. Of the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament, 52 have been eliminated after an
elongated weekend that started with two 16-game marathons (Thursday-Friday) and culminated with two 8-game slates (Saturday-Sunday) made up of stunning upsets, highlight-reel plays, and as always…busted brackets. Have no fear, the madness is far from over and now the anticipation begins for the always intense Sweet 16 battles.
There’s always a Cinderella in the NCAA tournament, and this year Florida Gulf Coast epitomizes the term. Yet there’s a difference between the “Dunk City” Eagles and the Virginia Commonwealths and George Masons of the past. It’s been how FGCU has been winning. Aside from a somewhat sluggish first half against Georgetown during that second-round stunner, this team has dictated the tempo and looked like the higher seed against the Big East champion and a perennial top-25 team, a bizarre realization considering this team just made history as the only No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. Cinderella teams are always defined by moments. The highlight-reel dunks (18.5 % of their scoring comes from slams) and their confidence on the court. Every player on that team knows they’re writing history and they’ve been surfing that shock-the-world momentum since the start of the tournament.
Looking ahead to Thursday/Friday, match ups in the Sweet 16, the most intriguing matchup appears to be one with a Final Four feel to it in Duke vs. Michigan State in the Midwest Regional. Izzo vs. Krzyzewski never fails.
The NFL’s 2013 league year is just three days old, but the start of free agency and ability to officially trade players have already shifted the landscape of power significantly with dozens more moves to come. Here’s a quick glance at some of the early winners and losers of the past 48 or so hours:
Kansas City Chiefs: He may not have come in free agency, but getting Alex Smith was a great start. They followed that up by signing Bowe long term and placing the franchise tag on Branden Albert. After keeping some of their best players in town, they went out and made some great depth moves. They signed Dunta Robinson last friday, and when free agency started they snagged Chase Daniels, Anthony Fasano and Mike DeVito. Nothing too flashy, but great depth moves.
Chicago Bears: The Bears made arguably their best move before free agency started by placing the franchise tag on Henry Melton. After doing what they could to keep their amazing defense in tact, they quickly moved on to their more pressing needs on offense. Getting a good tight end in Martellus Bennett and a Pro Bowl tackle in Jermon Bushrod. The signing of Bennett must have Cutler grinning from ear to ear right now. Not only does he now have a tight end capable of catching, but Bennett is also a great blocker. Next up, signing Brian Urlacher.
Indianapolis Colts: Their top priority to this point has been protecting their budding star quarterback Andrew Luck. They signed one of the better tackles on the market in Gosder Cherilus and added former Patriots guard Donald Thomas. On the defensive side of the ball they signed one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the game in Greg Toler. Something tells me they’re just getting started too.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins kicked off free agency by throwing money at players like a drunken sailor. They signed arguably the best player on the market – no matter what position – with the addition of Mike Wallace, and replaced Karlos Dansby with former Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. They continued their defensive makeover by adding Philip Wheeler. The Fins also re-signed Chris Clemons. Just imagine if they were able to sign Jared Cook too, as they had hoped to. All of a sudden Ryan Tannehill’s not so short on passing options.
Mike Wallace is all smiles while facing the South Florida media on March 13, 2012 in Davie. Wallace signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Miami Dolphins. JOE RIMKUS JR. / STAFF PHOTO
Philadelphia Eagles: They aren’t the sexiest picks in free agency, but they’re the kind of underappreciated guys that go a long way in winning. The Eagles signed NT Isaac Sopoaga, FB/TE James Casey, CB Bradley Fletcher, LB Jason Phillips and S Patrick Chung. Chung is the best pick up of the group, as this team needs a serious makeover at safety. Their best move though came not with an addition, but a subtraction. The Eagles finally released Nnamdi Asomugha after he refused to take a pay cut. This move will save the Eagles roughly $11M against the cap, and could prompt further spending.
It’s a little early to go judging the effects of players lost to free agency, but it’s never too early to speculate.
Baltimore Ravens: I don’t think the loss of Dannell Ellerbe or Paul Kruger is going to take a huge toll on this defense, but it’s certainly worth noting they lost two key contributors from their Super Bowl run. They also run the risk of losing Ed Reed if they don’t sign him soon. The addition of Chris Canty certainly softens the blow of losing Ellerbe and Kruger, but then again, they lost Kruger to a team in their division. The reviled… Cleveland Browns.
Dannell Ellerbe #59 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with teammate Paul Kruger #99 (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals went into free agency with over $45M in cap space, and to this point have done nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true. They did resign their kicker, punter, long snapper and Robert Geathers. This is a team on the cusp of contending, if there were ever a time to start spending it’s now. Not sure why they didn’t make a push for Mike Wallace.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Not sure why I’m surprised but the Jaguars haven’t spent a single penny to this point. With all their holes on defense, and the prospect of losing both of their starting corners in free agency could they not at the very least make a depth signing?
Just how much is Matt Ryan worth?
It’s a question that’s worth literally millions of dollars and could ultimately determine the future of the Atlanta Falcons for the next decade. And unfortunately questions of that magnitude never seem to come with easy or “right” answers.
Earlier this week, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Atlanta could potentially pay Ryan upwards of $140 million dollars.
While the article doesn’t give exact specifications to what the contract would entail, it does remind us that in 2004 Falcons owner Arthur Blank once made Michael Vick the highest-paid player with a ten-year, $130 million dollar deal.
Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com writes that Ryan “should get Joe Flacco money.”
The same Joe Flacco who is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and that just signed a six-year, $120 million dollar contract. A contract which makes him the highest paid player in the history of football.
It’s not real surprise though, Ryan and Flacco have been tied to each other and compared relentlessly since entering the league together in 2008. Ryan was selected third overall by the Falcons and Flacco 18th overall by the Ravens.
With that, let’s compare their production from the 2012 season and over the course of their entire careers and you can decide for yourself just how much you think Ryan deserves.
I have given the Keys to Victory for the Baltimore Ravens.
I have given the Keys to Victory for the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, it’s prediction time.
It’s no secret to anyone that I don’t like Ray Lewis and I would like nothing more than for his Hall of Fame career to end with a bitter Super Bowl loss. In fact, I would be ecstatic if, between now and game-time Sunday he was suspended. Earlier this week, according to Sports Illustrated Lewis used a banned substance to repair his torn triceps.
Despite all the attention Lewis is receiving, the game depends on the two quarterbacks. After setting a postseason record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a playoff game with 181 against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick had just two rushes for 21 yards against the Falcons in the NFC championship.
More of the same will come Sunday. If one actually expects Kaepernick to be successful running the ball against Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Lewis, you’re either crazy or an extremely devoted 49ers fan.
As for Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco, this will be his best chance to silence his critics. Flacco got the rematch with New England in the AFC championship that he wanted and he didn’t waste that opportunity, winning in Foxboro. He won’t waste this one either.
It is going to be a low scoring game; that’s a fact. Yes, statistically the Ravens had the 13th worst passing defense and the 10th worst rushing defense in the regular season, but they are finally healthy.
With that said though, the 49ers’ defense still has the edge. San Francisco had six defensive players named to the Pro Bowl, including three of their four starting linebackers (the lone exception being Ahmad Brooks).
San Francisco has more talent on their roster. They have a better quarterback, better wide receivers, a better tight end, and a better defense. But Denver and New England also had more talent than the Ravens and Baltimore won.
But football isn’t played on paper. The Ravens are on a mission to have Lewis go out on top. If they can beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, they can beat Kaepernick.
The x-factor will be 49ers kicker, David Akers. Akers was superb in the 2011-12 season making 84.6 percent of his kicks. This year though, Akers made just 69 percent.
In a low scoring game, field goals will make the difference. San Francisco has zero confidence in Akers and will have to be aggressive on third downs unless they wamt Akers to trout out onto the field and miss.
The aggressiveness on third down by the 49ers will play right into Baltimore’s hands. Despite Kaepernick continually saying that he doesn’t feel pressure and “pressure comes from lack of preparation” will ultimately catch up with him. That being said, Kaepernick will have plenty of more chances, but it appears to be the Ravens time.
I have a feeling Kaepernick will turn the ball over late in the game and the Ravens will drive down the field, and will pull a Santonio Holmes by catching the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes. (Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but you get the idea)
When the two teams leave New Orleans, Ravens head coach John Harbuagh will have ultimate bragging rights over brother, Jim, head coach of the 49ers.
As much as I would like Ray Lewis to not another ring, he’ll get one as the Ravens will win 20-14 with Boldin as Super Bowl MVP.
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens have had two weeks to get ready for one another. Two whole weeks. That is plenty of time for these coaches to come up with their keys to victory. The problem with having two weeks, however, is some coaches can over think the game itself. While the media stays wrapped up in the narratives, the staffs on each of these teams are continuing to break down tape to find an edge. Here are what I believe the 49ers have to do in order to have the best chance of hoisting the Lombardi trophy on Sunday night in New Orleans.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
O-line Must Get Offensive – The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the league, but it will be going up against a trio of powerful defensive linemen and some quality edge-rushers. Those linemen will be attempting to eat up as many blockers as possible and controlling the gaps at the line of scrimmage. If San Francisco is to have any success in the running game, its offensive linemen must focus on getting to the second level and neutralizing Baltimore’s linebacking corps.
Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports
Run Baby Run – The running game will be San Francisco’s best asset in this contest. The 49ers were able to churn out 149 yards on the ground against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game, due in large part to their ability to dominate at the line. Colin Kaepernick didn’t have to do too much, and he put together an efficient performance.
Baltimore finished the regular season ranked No. 20 against the run, but the Ravens have been much more stable this postseason. For San Francisco to open up some big plays later in the game, it needs to first dominate up front and keep Baltimore off balance with a strong effort from Frank Gore.
Ultimately, Kaepernick is San Francisco’s best big-play weapon, whether he gets it done with his arm or his legs. Kaepernick is still fairly inexperienced, though, and the 49ers have to limit the production of Baltimore’s safeties.
Getting the running game going and forcing Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard active in the box will open up wider windows for Kaepernick in the passing game, especially in the middle of the field where Vernon Davis can do a lot of damage.
AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Jose Luis Villegas
Rolling in the Deep – The deep routes up the sidelines will be there at times, but the window will be microscopic with Baltimore’s safeties playing back in coverage. If the 49ers hope to make big plays in the passing game, first establishing the run and setting up play-action will be critical.
Baltimore and San Francisco have been terrific on offense this postseason, but with two weeks to game-plan and prepare, both defenses will be ready for a much more low-scoring affair. Limiting mistakes and protecting the football will be a big key for both teams, and could ultimately decide the winner of Super Bowl XLVII.
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens have had two weeks to get ready for one another. Two whole weeks. That is plenty of time for these coaches to come up with their keys to victory. The problem with having two weeks, however, is some coaches can over think the game itself. While the media stays wrapped up in the narratives, the staffs on each of these teams are continuing to break down tape to find an edge. Here are what I believe the Ravens have to do in order to have the best chance of hoisting the Lombardi trophy on Sunday night in New Orleans.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Joe Flacco must extend the field - With Flacco taking so many shots deep downfield, the Ravens can win many games whether he connects or not. Just the pressure of pushing the defense vertically creates running lanes for Ray Rice and other opportunities in the passing attack. Joe does have one of the best deep balls in the game. Without at least one long touchdown, there isn’t much hope against a staunch 49ers defense that was top five against both the run and the pass this season. An overthrow here, a dropped pass there, and all of a sudden, the Ravens will find themselves behind the eight ball.
Photo by MATT SLOCUM/AP
Establish the run with Ray Rice - The Ravens will undoubtedly need to establish the run. Ray Rice won’t have to run wild against a tough SF front seven, but he will have to make that front respect Baltimore’s ability to move the chains on the ground. If the Ravens can find even a little success running the football, they’ll be able to do what they seem to love; throw the ball deep and put points on the board. The run will effectively set up play-action and enable Joe Flacco to find one-on-one matchups, which will allow him to hit some of his favorite targets. So far this postseason, the Ravens have done a fantastic job opening up holes despite being run-blitzed and should be able to allow Rice to find creases. I don’t expect Rice to have a huge game, but if he can chalk up 3-4 yards per carry, that will open up the rest of Baltimore’s game and give the Ravens a good chance to win.
Al Bello/Getty Images North America)
Contain Kaepernick - With mobile quarterbacks like Kaepernick, it is more often about execution rather than planning. You know the overarching battle plan, but you have to deal with new wrinkles as they come. Seattle showednear the end of the regular season, that the Kaepernick can be tamed in their blowiout win. Kaepernick is the type of player who will get his yards, but the key word here is contain. If the Ravens can simply negate the big plays and keep him in check, then they’ve got a great chance at winning and with the talent they have on the defensive side of the ball and with Ray Lewis playing inspired in his last NFL game, you better believe the Ravens will bring it on Sunday. Eventually, it all boils down to the defensive line winning battles at the line of scrimmage and the linebackers flowing from sideline to sideline, shutting down the quarterback runs. A bi key for them is CONTAINING Kaepernick.
Photo by: Nick Wass / Associated Press
John must out-coach little brother Jim - In a game where both teams have so long to prepare and think about, coaching will be paramount and of course, for John Harbaugh, you don’t want to lose to your little brother on sports’ biggest stage. The two brothers know each other better than anyone and their relationship should create one of the most interesting match-ups on the entire field. John will have to be mistake-free in his decision making and not let emotions get in the way of what needs to be done. Both coaches are fiery and have plenty of will, but John needs to be smarter and more disciplined than Jim to win the day.
Ravens wide receivers Jacoby Jones, right, and Torrey Smith celebrate after Jones scored on a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. Kicker Justin Tucker won the game in the second quarter of overtime with a 47-yard field goal, giving the Ravens a 38-35 victory. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)
One year later, here we are getting ready for the AFC Championship in New England. One year later, the Patriots and Ravens are each 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl. One year later, I’m still asking the same exact questions about the Baltimore Ravens.
Will the Ravens magic carpet ride continue? The answer to that question lies in the answer to the same exact question I asked almost exactly one year ago - Can Joe Flacco do enough to propel the Ravens past the Patriots?
Truth is, I don’t know. I’ve never been completely sold on Flacco but he’s played like the elite quarterback he says he is in the playoffs. After throwing four touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first three postseasons, Flacco has nine touchdowns and one interception in the playoffs over the past two seasons.
That’s pretty damn good.
However, Flacco is 0-2 in AFC championships, losing in 2008 and 2011. According to ESPN Stats & Informationose their first three conference championship starts, the only quarterbacks to l are Donovan McNabb (2001-03), Ken Stabler (1973-75), Bernie Kosar (1986-87, 1989) and Danny White (1980-82).
Flacco’s seven playoff wins are the most by a quarterback who has never made a Super Bowl appearance. It’s also two more playoff victories than any other quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have never reached the Super Bowl.
Flacco’s head coach John Harbaugh is 0-2 in his career in AFC title games. He could become the fifth coach to lose his first three conference championship game appearances.
The others: John Madden, Chuck Knox, Marty Schottenheimer and Andy Reid.
So again, one year later we’re asking the same questions
Peyton Manning’s bid to reach the Super Bowl in his comeback season ended miserably with a game-costing interception as the Denver Broncos quarterback handed victory to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.
The 36-year-old four-time NFL Most Valuable Player was left to wonder what could have been after Baltimore secured a 38-35 double overtime win that ended Manning’s season on his home field.
Manning was cut by the Indianapolis Colts after missing the 2011 season due to various neck surgeries and began the season with many wondering whether he was still capable of being a top caliber quarterback. By the end of a regular season where he threw for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and led the Broncos to the top playoff seed in the AFC, pundits were wondering if he could add to his 2007 Super Bowl win with the Colts.
But that ambition ended in dramatic fashion.
“We had plans for playing next week, guys were excited and to get beat in overtime by a field goal is really disappointing… We made a lot of strides and accomplished a lot this season but it definitely stings ending in a loss like this.”
Arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, a man in the running for MVP, played his worst game at the worst possible time.
Peyton Manning isn’t the only reason why the Broncos lost 38-35 to the Baltimore Ravens Saturday, a host of blunders sealed their fate, but Manning’s mistakes were possibly the most costly.
When Manning and the Denver offense first got the ball, with the game tied 7-7, he threw the pigskin to Eric Decker, which was tipped and picked off by Corey Graham, returned 39 yards to the house for a touchdown and the 14-7 lead. The veteran quarterback asked for a pass interference penalty, and after reviewing the replay it look as if the defender pulled down Decker’s arm just before the ball arrived. Still, no penalty was called and the play stood.
In the third quarter, with the pocket collapsing around him, Manning was hit from both sides and had the ball stripped from his hands. He fumbled on Denver’s 37, which set the Ravens up with fantastic field position that they capitalized on with a Ray Rice one-yard TD run to tie the game at 28-all.
But the real head-scratcher came in the epic contest’s second overtime, when Manning threw an interception that sealed the fate of his team and their season. Manning, feeling pressure from his left, rolled to the right and when no one was open, tried to force a pass into Brandon Stokley by throwing across his body and tossing another pick to Graham.
The first rule of quarterbacking is not to ever throw back across your body and across the field, because the momentum will sap all the strength, though he broke that rule and paid mightily. Interestingly, Manning did the same thing earlier in the season, that time, connecting with Stokley for a touchdown.
When the Ravens took over at Denver’s 45, it was all but certain they would win the game. Ray Rice’s first down run set up the 47-yard kick that Justin Tucker nailed to end the game and end the Broncos season in sadness.
Maybe most heartbreaking part for Denver fans is the fact that Manning – the man that made all the difference all season long – was the one that cost the team the game and ended the season with his poor play.
He finished 28-43 for 290 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and one fumble – one of his lowest-rated games of the season.
And with the loss, he’s now 0-4 all-time in playoff games with kickoff temperatures under 40 degrees, leaving everyone wondering if Manning will ever win a cold game in the postseason.
I’m not a huge believer in that stat but the facts are the facts and It’s something he’ll have to do if he wants to win another Super Bowl while playing in the Mile High City.
Peyton Manning quote provided by Chicago Tribune