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 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.
We are finally only hours away from finding out who will represent the AFC and who will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI. The “experts” have had their say as to who will win, but now yours truly is putting on the prognostication hat to pick the winners of the AFC and NFC Championship games. Both games promise to be great TV viewing, as the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers host the New York Giants in the NFC.
Let’s get to the picks!
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots will meet in the postseason for the second time in three years, though this time a Super Bowl berth is at stake. (Winslow Townson, AP)
At first glance last week I thought the Baltimore Ravens didn’t stand a chance in this game after being thoroughly outplayed by a depleted Houston Texans squad. I really believe had the Texans had adequate quarterback play, they would be playing the Patriots this week for the AFC Championship. In fact, I believe the Texans are a healthy quarterback away from winning their own Super Bowl. In my mind, Houston was on a direct path to being the number one seed in the AFC if it weren’t for the injuries to the quarterback position. However, the Baltimore Ravens have lived to fight another day and will be ready to play the Patriots. As I wrote earlier this week, the Ravens have got to play better in all phases of the game in order to win. Especially offensively where we all know it begins and ends at the quarterback position. The quarterback position has always been a topic of conversation for the Ravens and to some extent, it still is. The biggest question, for me, is whether or not Joe Flacco can do enough to propel the Ravens to victory. Listen, do I think the Ravens can win? Yes, absolutely. However, it’s not about Ray Rice or Ray Lewis or Ed Reed. It’s about Joe Flacco. I believe it’s going to be up to him to make a play that lifts the Ravens over the hump.
Brady and Lewis will match wits in the AFC Championship Game. (Getty Images)
On the other side, the Patriots defense has been atrocious all year and a lot of the defensive short-comings have been covered up by the Patriots explosive offense. That said, the Ravens defense presents the toughest challenge the Patriots offense has faced this year. The Ravens defense will have to capitalize on the opportunities given to them. Last week, despite intercepting T.J. Yates 3 times, the Ravens dropped quite a few balls that could – and should have been – intercepted. If those types of opportunities present themselves today, the Ravens have got to take advantage in a big way. They will have to get a score from their defensive unit in this game to assist in offsetting their offensive short-comings. While we know how explosive the Ravens can be, not sacking Yates one time last week is a frightening thought; due to the fact that the only way to slow the Pats down is by pressuring Brady. Baltimore hasn’t given up 100 or more receiving yards to opposing TEs in a while, but when was the last time there was a combo like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? Also, there’s been a lot of focus on Ed Reed leading up to this one. Reed is one of the best safeties in the game, but the Patriots offense will minimize his impact on the game. New England throws more short passes and screens than they do long passes. Therefore, Reed will most likely be helping with coverage on one of the TEs, leaving the middle of the field open.
I know Terrell Suggs told us not to doubt “his boy” because there aren’t many quarterbacks you could compare to “his boy.” Well, Suggs, you are right. We can’t compare Joe Flacco to Tom Brady because that would be flat out idiotic. Your boy may have a 5-3 career playoff record , but New England’s golden boy trounces those numbers, and he has the rings to prove it.
If there’s one advantage the Ravens do have it is on offense. If the Pats allow Rice to be a factor in both the passing and running game, this will end up like their 2009-10 playoff matchup. And as has been the case all season, the Patriots secondary is their weak-spot. New England has to hit and pressure Flacco, or else he will have a field day throwing down field to Boldin and Torrey Smith.
The key for New England in this one will be to stretch out drives and wear down Baltimore’s defense. Let Tom Brady not only control the game, but let him take over. We know he doesn’t like to lose, and this is the perfect game for some revenge. In some cases defense does win championships, but as aforementioned, New England has never lost an AFC Championship game at home. Numbers never lie.
Prediction: Patriots in a dog fight that will end closer than you may think.
I’ve been basically picking against both of these teams for the majority of the season and look where they are now. What makes it even worse is that this might be the best matchup in the NFC this year besides the Packers and Saints in Week 1. So now what?
Eli Manning of the New York Giants drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. (Nov. 13, 2011) || Photo Credit: Getty Images||
Both teams are coming off huge victories and are simply playing smash-mouth football. Their defenses are amongst the best in the league, which could make for a low scoring game. Yet, this game will feature two first-round draft picks, which could make for a high scoring game.
Unlike in the AFC matchup, defense will be the factor to winning this game. Alex Smith showed a lot of adversity and dedication last week, leading a game-winning drive with just nine seconds on the clock. Smith made accurate passes and great plays all game which contributed to their victory. On the other side, Eli Manning did the same exact thing, using his tandem of receivers en route to triumph against the defending champs.
Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora have emerged this post-season and possess the ability to control the tempo. San Fran has some play-makers too, but New York is playing like a team that just can’t be stopped. They won their week 13 rematch against Green Bay last week, and I think they’ve got a great chance to win their week ten rematch against the 49ers this week.
And just remember, you can’t spell “elite” without Eli!
Prediction: Once again, my rooting interest prevents me from giving an honest and un-bias opinion so I’ll just sit back, relax, enjoy the show while rooting hard for Big Blue.
The NFL divisional playoff game garnering the least attention this year is between the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans will be visiting the Ravens in Baltimore, and they’ll be the underdogs to try to emerge with a victory. For Baltimore, it’s their first shot in a very long time to have a playoff game at home, so they’ll be cherishing that opportunity and looking to capitalize on their home field advantage.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, left, and Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak shake hands after their game in Baltimore on Oct. 16, 2011. A 29-14 Baltimore victory (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
The Ravens are used to being the road warriors in the postseason. Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh have not gotten to play at home in the playoffs yet, ever, before this game. They’ve had good success on the road too in past playoff appearances, but it’s simply much harder to get the job done. But they scratched and clawed all season long for the privilege, and beat the Steelers twice in order to lock up the AFC North division, as well as a first round bye.
So they’ll be at home in this game, and they were an excellent team at home all season long. Their work on the road was suspect, and they suffered several large letdown games as the road team this year. But at home, they were undefeated and went 8-0 during the regular season, something the Texans probably don’t want to be reminded about.
For guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, this season might be their best shot to win another Super Bowl. With Ray Rice being one of the most dynamic backs in the league, Terrell Suggs being a beast, and both of those guys still playing at a very high level, this is a Ravens team that is hard to match up with, and a dangerous team to face when they get things clicking.
The Texans meanwhile enjoyed their first playoff game ever, and of course their first postseason win in team history, last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. But beating the suspect Bengals at home is one thing, and heading into Baltimore with a third string quarterback is an entirely different thing.
These two teams met in the regular season, in Baltimore, and the Ravens were able to win handily. That was when Houston had Matt Schaub in the lineup, and not number 3 QB TJ Yates. That doesn’t bode well for the Texans here. The Baltimore players, and the crowd, are going to be extremely fired up for this one and the rare home playoff game opportunity. They’ll come out firing on all cylinders, and they’ll lock up the win with strong play on both sides of the ball. Take Baltimore to win, although maybe Houston makes it interesting
Photo courtesy of New York Times
The Packers didn’t go undefeated, but one of the 15 games they did win a Week 13 game at the New Meadowlands, a 38-35 win thanks in part to a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as time expired.
Since that point, each team has lost just one game, but the prevailing public opinion is that the Giants are playing their best football of the season and have as good a chance as anyone to knock off the top-seeded Packers this season.
While that is certainly a possibility, New York will have to play extremely well in a number of facets of the game.
If the Giants are going to have success this weekend, they are going to need to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. They can’t just blitz the house, because Rodgers will prey on the single coverage in the secondary and light up the scoreboard. New York needs to rely on Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty up front to not only apply pressure, but also keep Rodgers in the pocket so he can’t makes plays on the run.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants have to prevent turnovers at all costs. The Packers have a penchant for capitalizing on turnovers, but taking care of the ball on offense keeps the ball out of Rodgers’ hands. New York cannot waste possessions, as Green Bay can put up 40 on even the best defenses, and the Giants will need every possible chance to score.
The Giants could have a great day on offense, but there’s a strong consensus that the Packers will have an even better one. My rooting interest prevents me from giving an honest and un-bias opinion so I’ll just sit back, relax, enjoy the show while rooting hard for Big Blue.
Hey folks, I’m very sorry for all of the issues with the blog as of late. Apparently, these hackers don’t have anything better to do so they decide to screw with the blog. Granted, they have made my life difficult over the last week or so but I will not let them win. This is a battle they will not win, I can promise that!
Ok, now on to the business at hand. Here in Baltimore, this time of year means its all Ravens all the time. As the Ravens prepare to make a playoff run starting next week, changes could be changes looming in their front office.
photo courtesy of Baltimore Sun
The St. Louis Rams have requested permission to interview DeCosta for their vacant director of player personnel position, which is the same position DeCosta holds with the Ravens. The Rams aren’t alone in pursuit of DeCosta. Reports link the Indianapolis Colts to DeCosta also. The Colts would like to interview DeCosta for their general manager opening, according to league sources. He has long been considered the eventual successor to G.M. Ozzie Newsome and t’s unknown whether he would leave Baltimore. Jeff Zrbiec of the Baltimore Sun reports the Chicago Bears have requested permission to speak with DeCosta also. It’s also believed that the Oakland Raiders have interest as well.
The Ravens have become an organization with sustained success on the field and behind the scenes, particularly in the draft. With DeCosta appointed as the director of player personnel, the Ravens drafted Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Jarret Johnson, Ray Rice, Ben Grubbs and Joe Flacco among others. With that track record and run of success, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that DeCosta has become such a hot commodity.
Zrebiec continues by saying that it would take an ideal situation for DeCosta to leave the Ravens and pass up the chance to eventually succeed current GM Ozzie Newsome.
As the Ravens prepare for next week and await the Texans, Broncos, or Steelers its worth noting that a front office hit losing a franchise mainstay like DeCosta – who has been with the Ravens since the beginning in 1996 – would certainly impact the Ravens short term and long term. The Baltimore Ravens front office has always been a well oiled machine and the blueprint for other teams in the league, however, when/if they lose DeCosta a huge void will have to be filled.
Happy New Year to all of my readers! 2012 is finally here and so is the NFL Playoffs! With each playoff team having no perfect formula to winning the Super Bowl just yet, we shall see how much the bye week helps out the number one and two seeded teams in both the AFC and NFC. Let’s kick off the blog!
Here are my Top Three Performances from NFL Week 17:
1. Quarterback Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers): Before we talk about his performance in the Green Bay Packers 45-41 home win against the Detroit Lions, one thing must be said about Packers backup quarterback, Matt Flynn. Flynn is ready to be a starter, obviously not for the Packers, but if his team doesn’t get offers the way Matt Schaub did when he played as a solid backup for the Atlanta Falcons, then the teams in the NFL in need of a quarterback are missing out. Flynn has been solid everytime he has been out in the field but who knew in the last game of the season he would set Green Bay passing records? Flynn went on to complete 31 of 44 (70%) of his passes for 480 yards and six passing touchdowns, both which are now newly set Packers single game passing records.
2. Running Back Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens): If there is one thing that still rings true, it is the fact of the matter that the Baltimore Ravens need production from their running back Ray Rice in order to get far into the NFL postseason. For the second time in his young NFL career, Rice has accumulated for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, making him a valuable asset to the Ravens organization. The Ravens in need of a win in order to clinch the AFC North title and a bye week, traveled to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the young but hungry Cincinnati Bengals. Rice didn’t disappoint in this game, as he ran over the Bengals on 24 carries for 191 yards and two long rushing touchdowns (70, 51), in a 24-16 Ravens road victory.
3. Wide Receiver Victor Cruz (New York Giants): The Dallas Cowboys flew to New Jersey knowing how much a win for the NFC East title was needed against the host New York Giants. With Cowboys owner Jerry Jones observing the game from his skybox, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz wanted to make sure Mr. Jones’ visit to Metlife Stadium was bittersweet and disappointing. Cruz would catch six receptions for 178 yards and one touchdown, a 74 yard score, to help the Giants beat the Cowboys in a 31-14 home victory. The Giants won their first NFC East title since 2008 while the Cowboys traveled back to Dallas with an irate Jerry Jones.
Today was the NFL’s version of “Black Monday”. Unfortunately, there were no deals on NFL apparel and merchandise, only firings of head coaches and front office staff. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired their head coach Raheem Morris while the St. Louis Rams parted ways with their head coach, Steve Spagnuolo. And after a disappointing year for the 2-14 Indianapolis Colts, the Colts front office parted ways with their vice chairman Bill Polian and his son Chris Polian, who was the general manager.
Here are my Top Dog Awards for the best players and coaches in the National Football League:
NFL Most Valuable Player: New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, for his stellar record breaking year in which he threw for 5,476 passing yards and 46 touchdowns, while leading the NFC South champion Saints to a 13-3 record.
NFL Offensive Player Of The Year: Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson, for having a career year with 96 receptions, 1,681 yards, and sixteen touchdowns, which helped the Lions make their first postseason appearance since 1999.
NFL Defensive Player Of The Year: Baltimore Ravens LB Terrell Suggs, for providing the Ravens defense with the best statistical year of his career, piling up a career high fourteen sacks and forcing seven fumbles for the third best defense in the National Football League.
NFL Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, for being the only reason to watch a Panthers game plus breaking the rookie passing yards record with 4,051 yards, twenty passing touchdowns, and fourteen QB rushing touchdowns.
NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year: San Francisco 49ers LB Aldon Smith, for being an integral part of the 49ers success on defense, notching fourteen sacks in his first full season in the NFL.
NFL Head Coach Of The Year: Cincinnati Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis, for having faith in both rookie QB Andy Dalton and rookie WR A.J. Green to lead the Bengals on offense, which paid off as the Bengals finish the season 9-7, and are the sixth seed in the AFC Playoff picture.
Baylor quarterback and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III was certainly impressive in his team’s Alamo Bowl win against Washington, which saw both teams set new bowl records in yards and scoring. Griffin III has recently announced that he has not made up his mind yet in regards to entering the 2012 NFL Draft, as many scouts who watched the Alamo Bowl truly believe that the Baylor QB is ready to play in the NFL. Over the next couple of days, there will be other highly touted quarterback prospects that will be observed in the upcoming bowl games. Stanford QB (and the projected number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft) Andrew Luck will be playing against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl tonight while Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson plays against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl tomorrow night.
Despite off the court problems with former assistant coach Bernie Fine, the Syracuse Mens Basketball team is still the best in the nation, leading the coaches USA Today poll at number one, and a 15-0 record. Unfortunately, as it always is in college basketball, the number one spot always changes. John Boheim’s Syracuse team could be tested this Saturday as they play against #20 Marquette. Or they just may suffer their first loss near the middle of February when they host #9 Georgetown, #8 UConn, and play #10 Louisville on the road.
Thank you for reading my blog this week! Next week, we will be gearing up for the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs, and we will also discuss the possible resurgence of golfer Tiger Woods in 2012. Be sure to check me out on Facebook (Joshua Collins Hall), follow me on Twitter (@MadDogSportz), or e-mail me at email@example.com for any questions regarding my blog and future projects. Enjoy your Monday night, I am out.
Before we kick off the blog, I would like to clear up an editorial gaffe that I made last week. For those of you keeping up with current events, former Syracuse Mens Basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine is being investigated for sexual abuse of several former Syracuse ball boys. I accidently referred to Bernie Fine as “Larry Fine” in one of my paragraphs, Larry Fine of course is one third of the famed “Three Stooges”, and I would like to apologize for the editorial mistake. Screwups out of the way, it is now time for the blog!
Here are my Top Three Performances from NFL Week 13:
1. Running back Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens): With the wind and the rain as the main elements affecting the Baltimore Ravens road game against the Cleveland Browns, it was more than likely that the game would be determined by the running game. The Ravens kept to that gameplan and used their running back Ray Rice as much as needed. Averaging nearly 120 rushing yards per game in his career against the Browns, Rice eclipsed that number greatly. Rice ran for 204 yards on 29 carries and scored one touchdown to give the Ravens a 24-10 road victory against the Browns, and kept the Ravens in first place in the AFC North for yet another week.
2. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos): I understand that Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is the big sensation in the NFL at the moment, but what about his supporting staff? You have a stout defense, solid running game, and clutch receptions to account for the Broncos winning streak as well. No catches were more clutch than those made by Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the Broncos 35-32 road victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Thomas caught four receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns, making Tim Tebow look good in the process.
3. San Francisco 49ers Defense: Not much needed to be done here. One win at home against the horrible St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers win the NFC West division crown. In this case, the 49ers did what needed to be done to pull off the 26-0 shutout win at home against the Rams. The 49ers defense held the Rams offense to 157 yards, two turnovers, six quarterback hits, four sacks, and nine total tackles for loss of yards.
For you college football fans out there, it looks like we will get a much anticipated SEC rematch in this years Allstate BCS National Championship Game. The undefeated SEC Champions and number one ranked LSU Tigers (13-0) will be taking on the number two ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) in a heated National title match that could end in a last second play, much like the last contest. In other BCS Bowl games: The Clemson Tigers face the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Oklahoma State Cowboys face the Stanford Cardinal in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. And the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Oregon Ducks in the Vizio Rose Bowl.
The 77th Annual Heisman Trophy Presentation will take place this Saturday night in New York, and the odds on favorite could be the Stanford quarterback, and the possible number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck. Don’t count out Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III…or Alabama running back Trent Richardson…or Wisconsin running back Montee Ball…or LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Griffin III has been a threat in both the passing game and the running game for Baylor, Ball is on pace to break Barry Sanders NCAA touchdowns record, and Mathieu’s defensive and kick return abilities have led the LSU Tigers to the National title game. However, look for Luck to win the award with Richardson coming in at a close second but then again, anything is possible with the Heisman voting.
On July 22, 2012 in Cooperstown, New York, Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo will be inducted posthumously into the Baseball Hall of Fame after being on the ballot for 32 years. Santo will be the 47th Chicago Cub to be inducted into Cooperstown and honestly, it couldn’t have happened to both a better player and a better human being. Santo was one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball right next to Baltimore Orioles great Brooks Robinson, winning five gold gloves along with nine All Star appearances, 342 career homeruns, and 1,331 RBI’s in 2,243 games. Before his death to pneumonia and complications to bladder cancer at the age of 70, Santo spent 21 years as a Cubs broadcaster, played most of his major league career with diabetes, and basically never gave up no matter how bad things got for himself or his beloved Chicago Cubs.
New Orleans Hornets player Chris Paul may have a new home before the NBA regular season tips off on Christmas Day. New York Knicks players Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have been courting Paul to come to the “Big Apple” but there is so much more interest in Paul than just New York. The Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Atlanta Hawks are among the teams interested in Paul, even the Boston Celtics will trade their star player Rajon Rondo to acquire Paul. Look for Paul to hit the big city lights of New York and become one third of the Knicks triple threat.
Thank you for reading my blog this week! Hopefully there will be no more editing gaffes and we can continue to give you sports the right way! Feel free to check me out on Facebook or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any information regarding my blog and future projects. Enjoy your Monday night, I am out.
Can you believe it’s Thanksgiving?
Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather, or the absence of NBA games that were supposed to have already started, or that I haven’t heard a whole lot about this year’s Black Friday mega-deals, but it sure seems like Turkey Day snuck up on me this year.
Of course, you are probably almost as excited about watching an entire day of football as you are enjoying the best (and likely biggest) meal of the whole year and the company of loved ones.
Like cooking out and baseball on July 4th, and college football (and hopefully not too much of a hangover) on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and NFL football combine to make one of the greatest days of the year for sports fans.
This might be the best Thanksgiving football schedule that I can remember.
Packers @ Lions 12:30p.m. TV: Fox
NFL football on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit is a tradition that goes all the way back to the 1930s, but over the last decade the Lions have been out of the postseason race by Turkey Day.
This year is a little different.
The much-improved Detroit Lions will take on the red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the first of three exciting games scheduled on Thanksgiving Day.
Adding to the excitement of this game, the Packers come to Detroit as NFL’s only undefeated team left in the 2011 season, and they are the first unbeaten team to play on Thanksgiving in 50 years.
But this game will be no cake walk for the Pack.
This game is one of the most anticipated games in Detroit Lions football history in almost a decade, and the Lions come into this big Week 12 game with confidence.
Last year the Lions beat the Packers at Ford Field, after knocking QB Aaron Rodgers out of the game early. You can bet Lions DT Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit defense will be up for the challenge.
The pick: Lions in a shootout 37-34
Dolphins @ Cowboys 4:15p.m. TV: CBS
Just a few weeks ago, this game might have seemed like a dud, but the Dolphins have surged to 3 straight victories, including this past week’s 35-8 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills.
Once considered the frontrunners in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes, the Dolphins are showing signs of life and competing every week behind quarterback Matt Moore and Reggie Bush, who is starting to resemble the Reggie Bush of years past.
Dallas comes in at 6-4 and tied for the NFC East lead. Say what you will about the Cowboys’ postseason failures and Tony Romo’s lack of clutch play, the fact is that Romo and his team are dominant in November. In November, as a starter, Romo is 18-2 with 49 touchdown passes against only 12 interceptions in his career.
The Dolphins are going to come back to earth sometime, and I expect that to be now. On a short week, traveling to Dallas, Miami will struggle in all phases, and I see Dallas rolling over them and staying atop the NFC East.
The pick: Cowboys 27-16
49ers @ Ravens 8:20p.m. TV:NFL Network
Yours truly will have a first-hand front row seat for this one. The Brothers Harbaugh square off against one another for the first time as NFL head coaches, with Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers, a surprising 9-1 and the runaway leader of the NFC West traveling to face John Harbaugh’s Ravens, who are tied for the AFC North lead after beating the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
These teams are built similarly, with punishing defenses (the 49ers are 1st against the run, the Ravens are 3rd) and elite, multi-purpose running backs (Frank Gore and Ray Rice). The winner of this game will likely be the team who is able to have more success running against the other’s front 7.
Of concern for the Ravens is getting Rice consistent touches. This season, Rice has averaged just over 14 carries per game, which for a star back is not nearly enough. He is a valuable part of the receiving game too, with 51 receptions, but the Ravens need to find a way to establish Rice early and often.
The Ravens’ game plan lately has been a pass-heavy attack, but Joe Flacco is not Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees; he is not the type of quarterback who can give his team the best chance to win by consistently throwing over 35 times per game.
I think the 49ers will be able to run on Baltimore, especially if Ray Lewis were to miss the game (he is questionable currently with a toe injury that forced him to miss the Cincinnati game). As long as Alex Smith is able to play conservative, mistake-free football like he has done in the first 10 games this year, I think the 49ers win.
However, I’m having a hard time convincing myself that Alex Smith will be able to play conservative, mistake-free football for four quarters against the Ravens defense. Ray Lewis’ playing status changes things, but it doesn’t change the fact that Alex Smith must avoid the big mistake. I think the 49ers will give the Ravens all they can handle but in the end, it’s the Raven defense that makes the big play to gain victory.
The pick: 17-13 Ravens
On Sunday, a heated rivalry was confirmed when the Baltimore Ravens smothered the Kansas City Chiefs 30-7 at Arrowhead Stadium, paving the way for a meeting with their despised division foe from Pittsburgh, the Steelers.
Whenever these two teams get together, you can be sure there will be plenty of blood oozing on the field. Saturday at Heinz Field will be no exception.
For slightly more than a half, the Chiefs went toe to toe with the favoured Ravens, actually building a 7-3 lead on a brilliant 41-yard scamper by by the speedy Jamaal Charles that sent the raucous throng of 72,190 shoehorned into Arrowhead Stadium into a frenzy.
But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco answered back with an outstanding 11-play, 80-yard drive at the end of the half that culminated with a nine-yard scoring strike to Ray Rice, putting the Ravens up 10-7 heading into the intermission.
The Ravens would never trail the rest of the way.
The turning point, however, came early in the third quarter with a call that will be second guessed in these parts for the entire offseason.
Facing a fourth-and-a-half-yard situation at the Ravens 34, the Chiefs opted to go for the first down instead of trying for the tying field goal. That’s not an issue. Instead of just plunging up the gut, however, the Chiefs curiously pitched the ball wide to Charles, who was stuffed for a four-yard loss.
Why try such a risky play call against such a lightning-quick defence like the Ravens have instead of trying to grind out six inches? Only the Chiefs coaching staff knows for sure.
In any event, the Ravens reeled off the next 20 points, earning themselves a trip to Heinz Field on Saturday. Steelers versus Ravens next weekend. Yes please!
Aaron Rodgers did his thing through the air but in a surprising twist, the Green Bay Packers also discovered a running game to complement Rodgers’ right arm as they bounced Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday afternoon in the final game of wild-card weekend.
James Starks, a rookie running back who played three season at Buffalo University, was the surprise of the afternoon as he rumbled for 123 yards on 23 carries to set a rookie rushing post-season record for Green Bay. On the season, Starks had just 29 rushes for 101 yards but given the opportunity Sunday, he literally ran with it.
With the win, Green Bay advances to play the Falcons next Saturday night in Atlanta.Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in notching the first playoff victory of his career.
Vick, meanwhile, has his storybook season of redemption come to a close as the Eagles offence sputtered most of the afternoon and played the majority of the first half without breakaway receiver DeSean Jackson who suffered an injury to his left knee. The Eagles cause wasn’t helped any by two field goal misses, from 41 and 34 yards, by the usually reliable veteran David Akers. The Eagles made a game of it in the final quarter when they drove 75 yards on 13 plays with Vick plunging over from inside the one on fourth down with 4:08 to play to make it it 21-16 Green Bay. They went for the two-point convert but it was ruled no good as tight end Brent Celek stepped out of the end zone just prior to making the catch. After being assessed a five-yard penalty the Eagles got a second shot from the seven and it was also no good as Vick threw the ball away to avoid being sacked. The result meant the Eagles needed a touchdown to win it instead of a field goal to tie and they got their chance as the Packers were forced to punt following the two-minute warning.
The Eagles took over at their own 34 with 1:45 to play and moved down to the Packers 27.
But on third and 10, Vick tried for the home run but his throw into the end zone to Riley Cooper was short and it was picked off by Tramon Williams with 33 second left to seal Green Bay’s win.
Next Saturday night it’ll be Green Bay traveling to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, the NFC number one seed.
Citing a source close to the running back, the Baltimore Sun reports that Ray Rice “should be good” for this week’s game against the Steelers.
The source indicated that Rice’s injury is “not that bad” and he’s “walking around like his regular self.” Added the source, “He definitely could play this week — depending on how he feels and how the doctor and coaches feel.” Barring a late-week setback, Rice should be safe to pencil into starting lineups for a tough matchup at Pittsburgh