Mikey’s Incoherent Guide to Understand the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft usually takes place every year sometime in April, and is held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Each year several hundred players identified to possibly have what it takes to benefit professional football teams. These players were identified through a combination of watching the game tape of their college career, and evaluating performances in the Senior Bowl [ located in Mobile, AL usually ], if they were one of the lucky players invited to play in the Senior Bowl.

The NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place currently in the Indianapolis Colts stadium, gives scouts, general managers, head coaches, basically entire front offices, owners and other people important in the drafting process to watch things in person that might otherwise go unnoticed.

SUPPOSEDLY, you get to see the immeasurables, things like a potential player’s charisma, football IQ, overall intelligence, the way his hips move, quickness in a small space, ability to take directions (AND ability to change directions), composure under pressure, composure when being grilled by people who know the game, blah blah you get the idea. I said supposedly because every year there’s a number of players who should never get drafted, or at least should get drafted much lower that end up going much higher based solely on how they performed at the Combine.

Let me get this straight, if a player has languished around doing absolutely nothing on the football field, eating potato chips and drinking beer, going to frat parties and being a detriment to his team, but then decides he really wants a multi-million dollar contract, he can just work out really hard for a few months with elite personal trainers, score really high at the Combine, or at his college’s Pro Day, or both, he deserves a pick in the first or second round rather than the 7th or going undrafted?

That’s a great way to find people who love football, understand it, and will provide reliable offensive or defensive output for years to come.

Despite some of the more brainless draft picks taken over the years, the NFL Draft is still the most important tool for teams to find continuity and success. There are other ways of getting decent players like buying them for exorbitant amounts of money during Free Agency, signing players from NFL Europe (I’m not sure if this is still around), signing college players who weren’t chosen through the draft, and of course there’s the NFL Supplemental Draft.

I’m not really sure how players enter the Supplemental talent pool, but I think it has something to do with players that are dismissed from their teams. Suspensions, criminal charges, taking money from crooked agents, missing a significant amount of time in college, in short, players who for whatever reason weren’t invited to take part in the traditional NFL Draft.

Even with all these other minor talent pools from which the 32 NFL teams get to choose from, the regular draft is where successful franchises are born. There are exceptions to this rule when a team gets really good in a short amount of time, but for continued success take a look around.

The Baltimore Ravens, guided by General Manager Ozzie Newsome, have arguably drafted  better than any other team in the past two decades. The New England Patriots have Bill Belichick and had GM Scott Pioli, the New York Football Giants have Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin, and the Indianapolis Colts had Bill Polian and Tony Dungy.

In the past 20 years, these 4 teams have combined for 8 Super Bowl wins and 11 appearances. Teams that don’t draft particularly well like the New York Jets under Rex Ryan, can have short-term success but eventually begin to fall apart. After two consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game, they haven’t been to the playoffs since.

Maybe it has something to do with their troubles involving Tim Tebow, Darrelle Revis’s contract dispute, continued offensive struggles, or signing Mark Sanchez to a contract extension (WTF?) but mainly it has to do with not having successful draft classes to replace losses in free agency, and retirement.

The 2013 NFL Draft is finally over, and I can finally relax now that I know that my team (the Ravens) will be able to field a defense this season. I can’t remember the last time our team (or any team) lost that many star players in a single season to free agency and retirement. I tried to tell myself that this happens all the time, but honestly I was starting to lose faith in Ozzie the Wizard.

I know, shame on me.

I felt a little better when we signed OLB Elvis Dumervil from Denver for 5 million less than former-Raven OLB Paul Kruger (HAH!). I don’t want to get into a long conversation about the free agents we signed prior to the draft (I brought this up in a previous article, see State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30), but I really have to say at least one thing about Rolando McClain.

WHAT THE HELL MAN! If for some reason Ozzie and John Harbaugh don’t toss you off the team prior to the regular season, count your lucky stars and don’t go back to Decatur, GA for any reason until you can get your sh*t straight! Stop getting arrested and use that passion for life to show our team, and the entire NFL, that you’re not completely worthless. You were a top-10 draft pick in Oakland, and it’s about damn time you act like it.

There I said it.

This year’s draft class was different from any other I have ever witnessed. Only one QB went in the 1st round, which is crazy since there are a LOT more than 1 teams who need a new starting QB. It wasn’t even one of the quarterbacks we thought were going to be drafted in the 1st round, it was EJ Manuel, QB from Florida State. Nothing wrong with that, except he’s probably going to be asked to step in immediately since he got picked in the 1st round.

I refuse to make fun of this pick, even though it seems a little out there, especially when there were so many other quarterbacks available at the time.

Another quarterback, Geno Smith from West Virginia, went as high as 6th overall in a number of mock drafts, but didn’t get drafted until the 2nd round, 39th overall by the New York Jets. Now this I do have a problem with since the Jets have MANY other needs. They also have 5 other quarterbacks on the roster currently (4 others now that they released Tim Tebow), Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy (former Alabama QB), David Garrard and Matt Simms (?).

Quarterback is the one position where you do NOT need that much depth.

Very quickly I’ll list some of the other things I took from watching this year’s draft.

Manti Te’o didn’t fall as far as some sports analysts feared he would, and didn’t get taken as high as I thought he would (38 overall by the Chargers). Even though Geno Smith threw a hissy fit for not getting drafted in the 1st round, at least he didn’t fall as far as USC QB Matt Barkley (4th round, 98 overall by the Eagles), or Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib (4th round, 110 overall by the Giants).

Tyrann Mathieu (aka: the Honey Badger), despite getting dismissed from LSU last year for smoking weed, managed to get drafted pretty high (3rd round, 68 overall by the Cardinals) thanks to a vote of confidence from Patrick Peterson.

DJ Hayden’s love for the game and burning determination got him drafted on the first day of the draft (1st round, 12 overall by the Raiders), even after sustaining a life-threatening tear of his IVC (inferior vena cava) 6 months ago. Most people (upwards of 95%) with this injury die before or during the surgical operation. Somehow the University of Houston corner back is back on the field, this time in the National Football League.

No running backs went in the 1st round, not Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (2nd round, 58 by the Broncos) or Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (2nd round, 61 by the Packers), South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (4th round, 131 by the 49ers) or anyone else. Lacy and Lattimore both dropped due to injury concerns, but Montee Ball’s only fault, being used a lot in high school and college, was a double-edged sword; Some teams take that to mean he’s reliable and non injury-prone while others look at the mileage on his body due to taking an enormous amount of carries and/or hits.

Two offensive tackles got drafted 1st and 2nd overall for the first time in the draft since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Three offensive linemen were grabbed in the top 4 picks, and five in the top 10. That leaves two conclusions on the table.

Either the linemen are that much better than usual this season or the skill position players, especially QB and RB, were just that much worse than usual.

West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (1st round, 8 overall by the Rams) needs recognition as perhaps the biggest play making wide receiver in this year’s draft. No wonder Geno Smith threw for so many touchdowns. Austin is reminiscent of ex-Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, or perhaps Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Even though he’s only 5 ft 8 in and 180 lbs soaking wet, he should immediately step in as one of Sam Bradford’s top receiving options, as well as be able to contribute during punt/kick returns, or as a slot receiver.

At least that’s what’s expected of him.

Florida State’s EJ Manuel (1st round, 16 overall by the Bills), I mean what can I say about this pick that hasn’t already been said? Even though the Bills already swapped picks with the Rams (used to acquire Tavon Austin), many people think that he still got drafted too high.

I can’t think of a single mock draft that had him picked ahead of better known quarterbacks such as Barkley, Nassib, or Smith.

EJ obviously has talent, otherwise he wouldn’t have even been a subconscious thought during the first day of the draft. He has prototypical size and height (6 ft 5 in, 237 lbs), can make all the throws required of an NFL-ready quarterback, and solid mobility (think of Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger). Not the type of mobility that makes him a threat to score with his feet every time he touches the ball like Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick, but the ability to generate 1st downs by scrambling when necessary, or to buy time in the pocket for coverage to ease up.

His flaws are just as obvious, which is the reason he wasn’t even rated as a 1st-round prospect by most football analysts. He lacks sufficient accuracy to hit smaller windows of opportunity at the next level, he has trouble reading through a complete progression, lacks experience playing under center and/or running a pro-style offense. He forces throws into impossible blanket coverage on occasion. He is not so overwhelmingly good that he can create offense without significant help around him, very possible seeing as how he’s probably going to be starting in Buffalo’s defunct offensive system.

To put it in layman’s terms, he doesn’t have enough skill position options, or even sturdy offensive linemen to keep him from getting annihilated 3-6 times a game. I’m sure he would be much more likely to become a dependable starting quarterback if given time to adjust to the speed of pro football, even thought that’s highly unlikely now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is in Tennessee (Didn’t the Bills JUST give him a contract extension last year?).

I’ve read stories about quarterbacks taking years to develop back in the good ol’ days like Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas or Oakland’s Jim Plunkett. The shelf life of a quarterback, especially one drafted in the 1st round, has lessened to the point where sometimes a single losing season can lead to him being traded/waived/cut, along with the head coach, general manager and more depending on how desperate the owner/front office is.

Nobody is more guilty of having an itchy trigger finger than the Raiders, especially when under the ownership of the late Al Davis. He hired 8 different coaches since 1998, and only 1 coach has been able to last more than one full season since 2006.

FACT: 15 different quarterbacks have started at least 1 game in a Raiders uniform in the past decade (2003+).

Players all across the league are being given less time to situate themselves, and must spend more time learning complex playbooks than ever before. EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, along with pretty much every other draft pick in the 2013 class, are no different; They will most likely be given less than 2 full seasons to make a good impression on their coaches/bosses.

I’m only mentioning quarterbacks separately since no other position deals with as much criticism and publicity. They will always get more credit and more blame than the rest of their teammates, which puts them in an even more precarious spot.

It’s time to sink or swim, put up or shut up. Although I’m not a fan of this ideology, I understand the reasoning behind this mentality to a certain extent. Too many jobs are on the line and too much money involved for a franchise to give much more time than they are currently without something substantial to show for it.

As in wins and losses, butts in the bleachers, TV contracts and PSL season ticket sales.

Good luck to all those lucky players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here’s one piece of advice you can take to the bank:

**ADVICE**

Don’t get repeatedly arrested or get caught taking drugs or steroids. Put some money away with your financial adviser and exercise restraint when thinking about adding to your exotic car collection. They just aren’t a great investment, but in the back of your mind you already knew that.

Babymommas can get expensive rather quickly. Just think of each illegitimate kid as a few million dollars being stolen out of your bank account. Use simple math when adding up your expenses:

Contract + Bonuses + Endorsements

– Babymommas – Exotic Cars – Strip Club Expenses – Patron/Cristal/Ciroc/Dom Perignon/Moscato – Agent Fees – Rent on 4 Unnecessary Mansions – Charity Costs – TAXES

= Net Income

 

Next up will be my opinion on Baltimore’s 2013 Draft Class, including Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, etc.

 

Read my numerous other articles at: http://www.Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com

OR Email me at: Wong_83@Hotmail.Com

 

 

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State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30/13

A few quick updates on our beloved Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens.

Things are not NEARLY as bad as everyone thought only a few short weeks ago. The sky is not falling, the Ravens are rebuilding but not in bad shape at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest fan of the Boldin to San Francisco trade (more on this later), nor the release of Bernard Pollard or Ed Reed. I just realize that there will always be turnover each year, just like the NFL analysts and the radio show hosts are saying. Get with the program, our team will still compete for the AFC North crown with Pittsburgh and *cough* Cincinnati. So relax.

1. Furthermore, I have to say I like many of the free-agent signings so far this offseason. Michael Huff, the versatile former 1st-round draft pick out of Texas, has a ton of potential and can be very good in Baltimore. He’s far from a lock Hall of Famer like Ed Reed is but at this point in their respective careers, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s going to play a lot better than he did in Oakland. He might even make the Pro Bowl if our defensive line can generate any pass rush this year.

2. Chris Canty is another big acquisition this offseason. I seem to remember him being a pretty big deal a few years back when he got traded from Dallas to New York. I think that was 2009 or 2010. Either way, he’s definitely a good defensive lineman, better in run-support than pass-rush, and I’m pretty sure he’s got at least a few more good years in the tank. If you don’t really understand what kind of player he was previously, only 3-4 years ago he was worth $42 million to the Giants. He JUST turned 30. Unlike wide receiver or cornerback or ESPECIALLY running back, the big uglies in the middle of the field don’t suddenly go bad, they often play into their mid or even late 30s.

3. F*#k Paul Kruger. He can go eat a bag of baby dicks in Cleveland. For all of you who thought he was such a huge loss this offseason, I promise you never even heard of him until really the beginning of this season. He was a huge bust for like 3 years of his rookie contract coming out of Utah. So either he was lazy as shit and just underwhelmed with his play for several years or was too stupid and just took that long to figure out our defense. Either way he’s the Browns problem now. Here, let me make it real simple for you:

Paul Kruger is 27 years old. In 4 seasons he has a total of 15.5 sacks regular season, 6.0 sacks postseason. Since 9.0 regular season and 4 postseason sacks all happened this season, he only had 6.5 and 2.0 through 3 whole seasons. Combine that with how bad he truly is in run-support and you can see why I’m not really all that stressed over losing him. He’s costing Cleveland $40 million dollars/5 years!

“One year of decent pass rush does not a star defensive end make.”

Elvis Dumervil is 29 years old. in 7 seasons he has 63.5 sacks regular season, 1.5 sacks postseason. 5 out of 7 seasons he’s had at LEAST 8.5 sacks, including 17 in just 2019!!! Look up the definition of reliable pass-rushing defensive end and there’s a picture of Dumervil next to it. Nobody in the league short of Jared Allen, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware or Terrell Suggs gets to the QB as often as he does. Guess how much we got him for? $26 million base or $35 million max, contributing only $2.5 million towards this years salary cap.

Who would you take, Kruger for 40 mill over 5 years or Dumervil for 35 mill over 5 years. Enough said.

4. Let’s talk about Anquan Boldin for a minute. This is the guy who dominated the Super Bowl this season, the guy who caught 6 TDs this postseason. Boldin is a large, powerful possession-type receiver who is hard to tackle and even harder to bring down. That kind of receiver can be quite effective in the NFL for a long time, especially when he’s comfortable in an offensive system with a good Quarterback. So WHY the F#$K did we give him to San Francisco for peanuts?!?! Answer me that!!

Ok, now that I’ve calmed down, slightly, let me explain. Keep in mind that I might not have access to all relevant information involving Boldin’s contract, cap numbers or terms of the trade. This is what I think:

Boldin would have costed Baltimore around $6 million dollars this season, which would mean 6 million towards our salary cap number. Because he would be an unrestricted free-agent if we refused to pay this number, Ozzie/Harbaugh/Whoever decided to offer him up to San Francisco in return for a) not having to pay him $6 million dollars and b) because we would receive a 6th round draft pick in return. Seriously think about that for a second.

There is nothing wrong with a 6th or even 7th rounder, plenty of decent NFL starters are drafted in the later rounds. At the time Baltimore had next to no salary cap room, and that’s why we gave him away for chump change. The thing is, we’re not talking about Bobbie Williams here or even David Reed, the receiver we did end up resigning, albeit for a lot less money ($2.5 million). This is arguably the best receiver on the team when you consider just how valuable he was during the playoffs if nothing else. Instead of getting all antsy and dumping him for whatever we could get for him at the time, I would have done things way differently.

Instead of accepting that trade offer, a better strategy involves paying him the 6 million we owed him this season, and then initiating trade talks with any number of teams. I’m sure there are plenty of teams who would be willing to give us more than a 6th rounder. Since any team that traded for him would essentially be picking up his tab, the $6 mill that we couldn’t afford to pay him wouldn’t have been a problem anyways. Or we could have just kept him, especially since we made so many other moves to free up cap space later anyways.

5. Quickly running through the projected starting lineup. This is how I see things in terms of positional value at this very moment. I’m sure things will fluctuate all the way up until opening day, so in no way is this issue settled:

Quarterbacks: A+ Starting QB Joe Flacco is coming off his best season ever, culminating with a world championship for the team and a Super Bowl MVP award for himself. You couldn’t ask for much more from your QB. Back-up QB Tyrod Taylor is, well, Tyrod Taylor. He’s not great at anything in particular, except for scrambling around during the preseason. It’s not like we ever use him anyways, knock on wood.

Running Backs: A+ Ray Rice is still one of the premier backs in the league, regardless of a minor case of fumblitis during the playoffs. He should still have a few good years left in the tank, especially since his back-up Bernard Pierce is looking like a capable starter himself. Hopefully both will stay healthy and be a steadying veteran influence on the many new players joining the team this offseason. There are several other young backs on the team, such as Bobby Rainey, trying to make the team but they are trying to make the final roster. There’s always hope that one of them can help the team, maybe. FB Vonta Leach is still on the team too. He is a gigantic part of our running game and continues to play at a Pro Bowl-level, despite the NFL’s numerous attempts to eradicate the position.

Wide Receivers: C+ Torrey Smith will be the primary option now that Boldin is playing for San Francisco. He has become an exceptional player over the past couple years, bringing elite speed and above average route running to the table. Jacoby Jones will help him stretch the field, using his speed and quickness for other things besides Dancing with the Stars. David Reed was re-signed during the off-season and will compete for playing time w/ Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and several other players that have thus far failed to make an impact. Luckily we’ve got over a dozen draft picks AND we’re solid at the tight end position.

Tight Ends: B+ Both of our impact tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, are restricted free agents this season. We’ll get Dickson back since he already signed his tender but Pitta is still up in the air for the moment. Tight ends that can take advantage of mismatches are in high demand, especially those with a history of making big plays in the postseason like him. If we somehow escape free agency with both, the Ravens will be in pretty decent shape in terms of receiving options. If all else fails, we still have uh… Billy Bajema, Alex Silvestro, and Steve Watson? 😛

Offensive Line: B For some reason, Michael Oher is still with the team. Ever since the Blind Side came out, he has been one of the most overrated players in the league. He will NEVER be the franchise left tackle the Ravens thought we would be when they drafted him out of Mississippi, contrary to what Hollywood says. Having said that, I am still overwhelmingly impressed with how the O-line blocked during the playoffs. They should staple Oher to the ground at right tackle. Bryant McKinnie, the incredible bulk, looked like a new man after being benched and embarrassed during the regular season. Marshal Yanda continues to play at a Pro Bowl-level, while Kelechi Osemele will be even better with a year (and a Super Bowl ring) under his belt. Gradkowski is in for some “Welcome to the NFL”-moments this year at Center, while everyone else will battle for playing time while continuing to provide depth. If you asked me this question before the playoffs, I would have given a very different answer. As it stands though, I’m actually ok with this group of relatively young men.

PS: KEEP MICHAEL OHER @ RIGHT TACKLE. Or cut him, whichever.

Defensive Line: B- Star Defensive Tackle Haloti Ngata should move back in the middle, surrounded by Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, Pernell McPhee, etc. That doesn’t sound TOO bad. I’m obviously not 100% sure about how good this group will be since games are won on the field, not on paper. Canty and Spears are new acquisitions and will need time to get comfortable. They might not be accustomed to playing Baltimore defense, which is more aggressive, and more physical than anywhere outside of the AFC North. Players need time to play instinctively, or as a team. The primary objective of this group will mostly be to take on blockers and stop the run so that our linebackers can flow to the ball.

Linebackers: A- Speaking of which, our star linebackers appear to be all set to make plays all over the field. Close your eyes and imagine a back to 100% Terrell Suggs on one side, elite pass rusher Elvis Dumervil on the other side, with Courtney Upshaw, Jameel McClain, and Albert McClellan rotating in the middle. Even before adding anyone else through free agency or the draft, our linebackers look pretty solid. There’s plenty of potential fireworks in this group, as long as they can figure out how to work together. We still have to find Ray Lewis’s heir apparent but with 12+ draft picks already, it won’t be as difficult as many people think. We don’t need a Hall of Fame-caliber middle linebacker, at least not at the moment, we just need someone who can get the job done for now.

Cornerbacks/Safeties: C+ Did anyone see Jimmy Smith during the Super Bowl? The former 1st round pick out of Colorado made two of the biggest plays of the game, solidifying the Ravens trust & faith in his abilities. If you don’t know which two plays I’m talking about, go watch the 4th quarter, you’ll figure it out. Jimmy-boy still has a long way before I will consider him a dependable starter on Baltimore’s defense but luckily he won’t have to do everything by himself. Cary Williams is long gone, having taken a job in Philly to the tune of $17 million over 3 years. Lardarius Webb (aka: Webbie) is on schedule to make it to training camp. When he’s healthy he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player, which will take some of the pressure off losing Williams, Ed Reed AND Bernard Pollard. Corey Graham is coming back too, and he played well enough to warrant a starting gig last season. Hopefully between free agency and the upcoming draft, we’ll find some upgrades for the defensive backfield.

Special Teams: A+ This is the best Special Teams group in the entire country. Period. There might have been games where the Ravens gave up some big plays or missed a field goal, but that happens to every team. Both of our kickers, punter Sam Koch and kicker Justin Tucker, are as good and confident as they get. Koch already has a few Pro Bowls under his belt, while Tucker will get his share if he continues to play like he did last season (He got ROBBED by Phil Dawson BTW). Jacoby Jones was the best kick returner in the NFL last year, even over the usual suspects like Devin Hester or Josh Cribbs. Baltimore’s coverage unit continues to be led by Pro Bowl Special Teams-Ace Brendan Ayanbadejo.

To put that in perspective, Pro Bowl-caliber Punter, Pro Bowl-caliber Kicker (check his stats! honestly!), Pro Bowl-caliber kick returner, AND Pro Bowl-caliber coverage gunner. You can’t really beat that, but I dare you to try.

That’s pretty much all I got for today. Feel free to voice your agreements and complaints alike, it’s not like I honestly care what anyone thinks about my beloved Ravens anyways but I’d love to hear what everyone has to say. Opinions are like chocolate cake, they can go fudge themselves. I’m just kidding, I must be tired or something.

~Michael

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Contact me @ Wong_83@Hotmail.com OR message me @ Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com

Joe Flacco: All-Around Humble Guy, and Super Bowl MVP

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(http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1254644.1359960203!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/flacco.jpg)

Just some quick thoughts on Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco‘s impending contract extension. From a die-hard, hardcore, purple blood dripping Ravens fan.

Let’s face it, he’s worth it. We’re definitely going to pay the man, and pay him top dollar. Even if he is a terrible human being, who doesn’t give money to charities, womanizes all the time, and was addicted to weed, heroin, crack, and alcohol, we’d still end up paying him in the weeks ahead. Big time.

Luckily he’s not any of those things. Surprisingly, in the search for the perfect poster boy for the new (and improved) NFL, one with strong family values and morals, Joe Flacco is exactly what the NFL and Baltimore needs at the moment. Here’s why.

1. He’s a family man who has never gotten in any type of womanizing scandal, loves his wife, his daughter, and the one that his wife is pregnant with. The happily married couple announced the coming of their second child only hours after a thrilling win in Super Bowl XLVII (WOOHOO!!!). The worst thing that’s said of him, for the most part, is that he can sometimes be extremely boring.

He has this certain caveman-esque aura that can have you imagining him driving his family to the grocery store in a vehicle made of rock, and powered by their quickly churning feet. Although this is bad for infamy or notoriety, this is good for garnering trust from football-watching families across America.

2. His stunningly good work on the football field. He may not throw for 50 touchdowns and 5000 yards a season, or anything even close, and there are times when Ravens faithful everywhere just scream for him to stop looking like a confused ogre behind a quickly deteriorating pocket. That’s not completely his fault. Actually it’s usually Michael Oher’s fault (Blind Side My Ass). But other statistics, not advanced statistics or true QBR or any other fancy stathead crap, say he’s better than anyone else in the game over the past 5 seasons. Such as regular season wins, regular season losses, and postseason wins. It’s really that simple.

Like many other people in America currently, I don’t really give a flying dog turd about all the hours of computing that go into making some of the more ridiculous statistics found in ESPN the Mag, or Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, etc. If I can’t add it up on my fingers and toes, or at the very worst with a bunch of pencil scribbles on my bar napkin, it doesn’t really make much sense to me. What I know is that Joe Cool 2.0 has 9 playoff wins in his first 5 seasons and averages over 10 regular season wins a year. He’s never NOT made the playoffs like some other “elite” QB’s out there.

The definition of an Elite quarterback is ambiguous at best. Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan has great statistics and plenty of wins, averaging 11 wins per season. His 11-win rookie campaign helped turn the page for a city still reeling from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting scandal. Now all he needs is some playoff wins, beyond the single miraculous comeback win against Seattle.

Flacco, on the other hand, has won at least one playoff game for every year he’s played. This year he won 4, including 3 on the road. He finished with 11 passing touchdowns to 0 interceptions during the playoffs. I’m pretty sure no other QB, including Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning. His career statistics, regular + postseason, are as follows: 20,308 passing yards, 130 total TD, 64 INT, 509 rushing yards, and 21 fumbles lost. 2-1 TD to INT ratio, check.   Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP, check. 4000+ yards avg. per season, check.

Did I mention he’s never missed a start? 93 of 93 games.

He wasn’t a 1st-overall draft pick, or even a top-10 pick. He somehow someway got himself drafted 18th-overall, even though he wasn’t even a D-I starter! That’s a story for another day, but basically he couldn’t get the starting gig at Pittsburgh, so he decided after much consideration to go to D-I FCS Delaware, just up the road from Baltimore. He had to fight and scratch his way into the NFL, where his tall, solid build and laser-rocket arm, combined with Troy Smith’s sudden illness, made him a starter in week 1. In his rookie year. The rest is history.

3. He’s the best quarterback in Ravens history, by a long shot. Not including his Super Bowl victory, or his string of consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance/playoff win, Flacco just exudes the type of confidence and quiet leadership needed to pilot a AFC North team to victory. I want you to carefully think about Baltimore’s long turbulent history with quarterbacks.

1996 – Vinny Testaverde(16)

1997 – Vinny Testaverde(13)/Eric Zeier(3)

1998 – Jim Harbaugh (Yes, that Jim Harbaugh)(12)/Eric Zeier(4)

1999 – Tony Banks(10)/Stoney Case(4)/Scott Mitchell(2)

2000 – Tony Banks(8)/Trent Dilfer(8)

2001 – Elvis Grbac(14)/Randall Cunningham(2)

2002 – Jeff Blake(10)/Chris Redman(6)

2003 – Kyle Boller(9)/Anthony Wright(7)

2004 – Kyle Boller (16)

2005 – Kyle Boller(9)/Anthony Wright(7)

2006 – Steve McNair(RIP)(16)

2007 – Kyle Boller(8)/Steve McNair(6)/Troy Smith(2)

2008 to 2012 – Joe Flacco (16)

Summary: in the 12 years before drafting Joe Flacco, the Ravens started 15 different QBs. A single QB started the entire season only 3 times. Flacco has started and FINISHED 5 entire seasons by himself, including every postseason game. I don’t think 18-20 million per year is too much to ask, do you?

4. Humble and soft-spoken, Flacco does everything asked of him without a complaint. He’s the first one in, and the last one out (as expected). He takes less credit and more blame than he’s due, while usually saying all the right things when dealing with press conferences or public appearances. Can you manage the game without F-ing things up for the defense? Sure. Can you win the game on the strength of your arm? Absolutely.

5. Joe Flacco is the FUTURE of Baltimore professional football. There’s a 99% chance  Ray Lewis is retiring. That’s been the heart and soul of this team since the day he got drafted. Except for one almost forgotten season, the defensive captain has always been there, making sure everyone’s prepared and ready to play on game day. Now we prepare for life without Ray Lewis and probably numerous others.

Ozzie Newsome, the genius General Manager of the Ravens, has already publicly stated he won’t restructure many contracts, pinning all his hopes on another Super Bowl next season while basically sacrificing 2014.

That means we’re probably gonna lose our other defensive captain Ed Reed as a salary cap casualty. Keep in mind that’s another hall of fame-type player who will no longer be with the Ravens. Pro-Bowl fullback Vonta Leach could be next. WR Anquan Boldin, TE Dennis Pitta, DE Paul Kruger, all starting players who will be free agency decisions this offseason. Oh, C Matt Birk is retiring too, supposedly, but he’s said that before.

Hopefully we don’t lose ALL these players. I just don’t have much hope in a repeat if we can’t at least salvage a few of these cap casualties. Regardless of whether we do or don’t, it’s going to take top-5 QB money to keep Flacco around Charm City, and we’d be incredibly stupid not to pay him.

Let’s just say I hope there will be some great players available at the end of each round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

The Cost of Violence.

Like a lot of people in our country, I’m a big proponent of watching football on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and even Thursdays. The first NFL game I ever watched just happened to be the first Super Bowl played between America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys… and that team from Buffalo. Not to make it sound like I favored the Cowboys, it’s just at the time I didn’t know I was supposed to hate them.

Just like I hate the Patriots. Not to mention the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s taken a lot of time, patience, studying and stat-watching to figure out the ways of professional football. It was like a shining light when I finally could watch games and understand nearly everything that’s going on. A moment of clarity in a world filled with uncertainties. I could tell the difference between a horse-collar tackle, unsportsmanlike conduct, a clean hit, and a reasonably assumed penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact.

I thought I knew what’s legal and what’s not. I was badly mistaken.

As you already well know if you read this blog on a regular basis, I am a big fan of the Baltimore Ravens. I’m guilty of being biased as much as any other REAL fan of another team, so it’s not like I am promising neutrality or anything. Anyone who watches games in our division, the AFC North, knows that we play big boy football. Physical, grinding football, as much as that is possible in today’s turbulent, changing times.

We aren’t talking about the jewels of North America here, like New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, or anywhere else you’d think of when taking your next vacation. You go to Baltimore if you want to eat crabs (or get crabs), buy drugs or squat in abandoned row-housing. You go to Cincinnati if you are lost and it’s the closest city with a hotel, or you are a locally born-raised Ohio native (who thinks Cincy is considered a big city). You go to Pittsburgh if you like Primanti Bros. sandwiches (big ass sandwiches stuffed w/ fries & coleslaw), if you just got here to America (like my parents did.) or if you still somehow earn a living making American steel. As for Cleveland, I can’t really think of too many reasons to go there unless your European ancestors settled the area. These cities are called ‘The Rust Belt’ for a reason.

All jokes aside, the main reason people come to my lovely city is either they’re stuck here because of work or family, and because of serious football. Ask any real Ravens fan who they’re favorite player is and I guarantee they’ll be able to tell you his jersey number, what position he plays, his first AND last name, and his stats this season. None of that bandwagon bullshit (“I’m from West Virginia but my friend likes the Cowboys so I like the Cowboys! Go Toby Romo!”). Here in Baltimore, there’s a common saying we use. ‘Ain’t shit to do around here so let’s get fucked up.’ Sad but true. That’s why our football is so important to us, and why we don’t care much for these fancy new rules changing our sport. At least I don’t.

Fancy new rules, what’s he talking about? If you watch football, anyone and their non-NFL watching mother can tell you that shit has changed over the past few years. Just a few days ago, the world watched as the AFC/NFC Divisional games set a record for most points scored in a single weekend. Denver and Baltimore combined to score 10 touchdowns and 73 total points. Houston and New England scored 69 total points. None of that happened because of luck or coincidence. Defense’s are being flagged for anything and everything. Quarterbacks and Kickers are nearly untouchable. Entire jobs are being erased that have been in the game since the very beginning. Something has to be done before this game is ruined forever (Then what am I going to do, watch hockey? pfft).

Ed Reed is a prime example of these changes. As a safety, Reed’s job since the day he was drafted was to provide deep coverage, almost like an outfielder in baseball. Anyone throwing the ball down the field knows that he will be waiting for them, either with a big hit or an interception. His job description is to stifle opposing offenses with fear, forcing them to rethink their game plan. If your a Ravens fan, you already know all the crap he’s had to deal with, including a number of legal hits that were penalized regardless. He’s not the only one guilty of laying the law down in Baltimore. Bernard Pollard, Ray Lewis, and a number of our defensive backs have all been flagged or fined for [hitting defenseless receivers]. Let’s explore this little rule, shall we?

There is NO SUCH THING as a defenseless receiver. That may not be 100% true, but it’s closer than you think, maybe 98 or 97% true. Before this ridiculous rule was implemented (or enforced), wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs were defending themselves just fine. Quarterbacks are taught not to put the ball where it will get their receiver killed, like up high over the middle when a linebacker is charging from 10 years away. With the change in rules/enforcement, all of a sudden QBs are putting the ball wherever they want too, possibly hoping to draw a flag. Ed Reed is good at hitting people like a ton of bricks without using his helmet. So if it’s considered a legal hit, and the receiver he just blew up purposefully left himself defenseless, why is he the one getting flagged. Enough with the flopping, ok?

This is not the only problem, and definitely not an isolated incident. Offenses are pushing off, hand-fighting, chop blocking and anything else they can get away with. If both the receiver and defensive back are pushing/holding each other, 75% of the time the defensive player gets called for pass interference. How is that interference when both players have an equal right to the football? These flags are bad enough to change the course of a game, especially when 3rd or 4th downs are turning into 5/15 yards and a 1st down, completely at the mercy of biased officials. I ask myself all the time how league officials could allow this travesty to occur.

After careful consideration, this is what I have come up with:

1. Offenses, especially passing touchdowns, bring more fans to the stadium. This means more tickets sold, more direct TV packages, more concessions, etc.

2. The commissioner, Roger Goodell, and his cronies are in cahoots with the large market teams. Pittsburgh, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, these are teams that have fans across the country. If these teams do well, more people will watch. This means higher ratings, which in turn, leads to more lucrative TV contracts, advertisement money, etc.

3. Nothing in the world will remove the looming danger of concussions from the game of football. To actually limit dangerous activities to the point where players can’t get concussions would mean changing the sport until it’s unrecognizable. Why don’t they have players sign liability/injury waivers, and let them go back to their barbaric ways of yore.

4. The players union claims that many retired players should get royalties, free insurance, a pension fund, etc. The minimum salary for a rookie is $405,000 this season (as of 2013). The average salary for any NFL player is OVER $1.9 million(as of 2011). You give me either amount of money and I guarantee I will be able to pay my own insurance/start my own retirement fund. It’s the players own own fault if they can’t invest their huge incomes wisely.

5.  Only real fans of football could watch a theoretical game with a final score of 6-3. I’m not talking about two inept teams that are just unable to score points. I’m talking about two teams filled with brutish, violent ogres on defense. Can you imagine the physical battle, blood-stained jerseys and a test of sheer willpower. Dominating your opponents with a gap-toothed smile, rain and mud flying as bodies slam into each other and the ground like bulging sacks of meat. If you can’t envision, or enjoy, this spectacle in your imagination, real football isn’t for you.

So go back to your Banana Daiquiri, sipping it delicately through a twisty straw. Perhaps you should watch figure skating, or gymnastic floor routines. It’s not like I have anything against watching men spinning around in spandex on ice skates, or Gabby Douglas  flying around like a tiny squirrel across a floor mat.. it just isn’t football. If your jersey is clean, either your opponents aren’t very good, or more likely you ain’t doin’ it right. That’s what I think about finesse football.

The best example of what could happen to professional football is probably Arena Football. It’s kind of like NFL or NCAA football except the field is only 50 yards, it’s always indoors, and there are padded walls instead of boundary lines on each side. If you haven’t seen it yet, Arena Football is very exciting to watch. There’s a ton of offense, and very little defense. Players often hit the padded boundary lines, jumping or getting tackled into the bleachers. A lot of people who didn’t make it in the NFL or can’t play professionally anymore end up in the AFL, like Terrell Owens. Nobody bets on AFL games, there’s no high drama, it’s kinda like a pick-up game except that they get paid and they have fans. There is no draft, and I doubt many people even know when their championship is played.

This is the future I foresee for the NFL if it doesn’t shape up quickly. The reason the game is so successful is because the rules are enforced, the stage doesn’t get any bigger, statistics are carefully kept and tradition/history is honored. There is no bigger sport in the world. From Vince Lombardi to Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman to Tom Brady, heroes are immortalized for all eternity. The more we change the sport, from taking away kickoffs to changing the rules, adding games or changing playoff format, the farther away we move from the original, unadulterated version of football.

 

 

Baltimore Makes Statement in Denver!

As LeBron James would say, “Witness.”

Its that simple. No other single word could define the excitement I felt after watching my hometown hero Baltimore Ravens knock off the highly favored Denver Broncos 38-35. Nothing in the world feels nearly as good as victory narrowly snatched from the jaws of defeat. 

The mood in the crowded restaurant bar I watched from went from one extreme to the other. In one second a bar filled with grown men went from jubilant cheering to openly crying and back again. This is how it went throughout the night.

I was so nervous through the entire game that I got home afterwards and immediately feel asleep from sheer exhaustion. My heart pumped inside my chest like a car engine. I screamed and screamed and screamed at the referees,  well we all did,  cursing the head referee’s family for making calls in Denver’s favor all game long. 

None of the bias and one-sided rulings mattered in the end. The Ravens won!!! Somehow someway they took on Peyton Manning’s offense,  Von Miller’s defense, the special teams unit, and even the referees. I told everyone we could outplay the Broncos in Denver and noone believed me.  WITNESS.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things?  Can we expect great things from this suddenly confident Ravens squad in the near future?  Absolutely. 

Without a doubt.  The quarterback play in the NFL doesn’t come any better than Manning and his 4 MVP awards.  Bookends Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil came into the game with double-digit sacks, with Miller seeing a regular season record for them.  Their kick returner, whose name I can’t even remember(Trindon Holliday),  returned a punt AND a kickoff for a pair of touchdowns against us. Tell me the last time you saw a team do that and LOSE.

It all goes back to Ray Lewis, his impending retirement, and his belief in God. 

The defense, much maligned and ridiculed throughout the regular season, is doing much better ever since Ray came back to active duty. Terrell Suggs is almost back to 100%, while Paul Kruger’s breakout season continues.  The pressure from them and Haloti Ngata can be seen in the resulting turnovers from Peyton Manning.

To put everything in a nutshell,  We needed everything we could get to win this game.  The atmosphere was so tense it was almost like we were playing in the Super Bowl.  As rewarding and enjoyable as this win was,  the only thing I’m really worried about is our opponent next week. 

Because we pulled out all the stops,  I’m hoping we didn’t use up all the gas in the tank battling in Mile High Stadium.  I mean it was between 9 and 13 degrees F last night on the field,  with the wind chill making it feel like -2 degrees. Playing a tough opponent in inclement weather with 10 total touchdowns,  73 total points scored, and multiple ties or lead changes can cause severe emotional distress.

If I was exhausted than imagine how they felt after the game.  Now they have a week before they play another strong playoff-caliber team. Another road game. It’s going to take a complete effort again to earn a spot in the Super Bowl. 

WITNESS. I am.

(Note: There are other contributing factors to the Ravens victory that weren’t mentioned, such as Joe Flacco being decisive and not throwing any picks, Denver kicker Matt Prater missing a long field goal, the Ravens offensive line actually blocking, and Michael Oher not sucking too badly.  ;))

Fried Chicken and Me.

Yangnyeom chicken, Korean style fried chicken

Mmm… Fried Chicken.

I LOVE Fried Chicken. I think most people know this about me. I’ve always loved fried chicken, along with fried fish, most likely from growing up around the beautiful city of Baltimore.

The thing that most people don’t realize is that fried chicken, in all its greasy glory, isn’t the same everywhere you go. It’s not even the same across your state. Southern fried chicken has a thicker crust, uses rendered pork fat/lard, and is sometimes served with gravy. Gravy goes with everything in my opinion. Southwestern chicken or South American chicken often has a hint of spices &  pepper. But my favorite chicken is probably ghetto fried chicken, accompanied by waffles, fried lake trout/whiting/catfish, and either hot sauce or mambo sauce.

So what’s the difference between good chicken and bad chicken. KFC is NOT good fried chicken. Actually it’s not even chicken. It’s some sort of genetic cross between a polar bear and a cloned embryo of a chicken. These mutant monster birds are specifically designed to appeal to the largest possible consumer base, and are therefore completely tasteless, unappetizing and disturbingly disproportionate.

Popeye‘s is better than KFC by far but is still made for the the average consumer. They use the same mutant chickens but at least the chicken is usually fresh and juicy. If you really need a fried chicken fix and there isn’t anything else around, I’m not gonna fault you for picking up a 8 or 12 piece box of Popeye’s.

Good chicken is very hard to come by. Whether it’s fried chicken or chicken wings, there are so many horrible variations out there that most people don’t even know the difference anymore. We’re all guilty of eating chicken wings out of a freezer bag or getting a box of greasy over-sauced wings with our pizza delivery. Fried chicken drummies from 7-11 shouldn’t even be considered a food. Unless you’ve spent the time to search through countless online reviews, delivery sites and restaurants, you’ll probably never stumble across the perfect piece of juicy, crispy, golden fried chicken.

Well not anymore! It’s time for you to taste the difference. For your consideration I’ve chosen a few choice locations, all located within 10 min of Columbia, Maryland. If you live somewhere else… too bad, I can’t help you. The best advice I have for you is to imagine the differences I’m about to list, taking the time to remember what things you like and dislike about each variety of delectable poultry. Then try to find something similar in your area. On to the list!

BonChon Chicken: If you haven’t caught on by now, Korean fried chicken is the new KFC. It’s awesome. I thought it was all a gimmick when I first heard about their chicken wings but was an instant devotee the second I bit into a fresh, juicy, crispy, aromatic, perfectly seasoned chicken leg.  Instead of flash frying the meat to death like most other bars/carry-out restaurants, they slowly and carefully cook their wings at a relatively low temperature in order to get the meat to separate from the skin. This process causes the skin to blend with the batter to create a puffy, crispy, slightly greasy crust that protects the meat inside from drying out. This is just in preparation for final cooking. The wings are then lightly dunked in very hot oil before serving, and quickly basted with a brush in either a sweet soy-garlic sauce or a combination chili oil. Amazing.

Either flavor is explosive, without being TOO greasy or making the skin soggy. The delicate puffy skin even manages to stay crispy after being tossed in the refrigerator a couple of times. That’s the biggest thing isn’t it? Don’t you hate when your leftovers become mushy and tasteless after going into the microwave? I do, and these don’t. BonChon is relatively new to our area, with the only location in a 50 mile radius being in a terrible location in Ellicott City. Stuffed in the corner of a lonely strip mall behind the Crab Shanty, next to Sarafino’s.

Try them and let me know what you think. I would easily rate these as the best chicken wings in the DMV.

Chick n’ Friends: If you’re looking for fine dining, this definitely ISN’T it. Located in the Long Reach Village Center area of Columbia, Maryland, this is by far the worst village center in the area. It looks like a vacant strip mall in the middle of Baltimore, with boarded up windows and closed businesses. Your probably still trying to wrap your mind around it so here’s a little help.

Wilde Lake Village Center has tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, the Melting Pot, an organic grocery store, the Bagel Bin, some ghetto Chinese restaurant (Emperor Tso’s Hunan Warrior???), and Omaha Steaks. King’s Contrivance Village Center has an absolutely delicious family-owned Italian restaurant, Rita’s Ice(!), Harris Teeter‘s and a very classy wine/liquor/cigar shop. Harper’s Choice has a family-owned Mexican restaurant (Zapata’s), Safeway, the Athletic Club gym, Papa John’s, a family-owned Afghan-restaurant (Maiwand Kabob), Bank of America and a locally-owned Korean dry cleaners.

Long Reach has nothing of the sort. The sole saving grace of the entire shopping center is Chick ‘n Friends, a place so ghetto the R in Friends stopped working months ago and they haven’t fixed it. So it’s now called Chick ‘n Fiends. Which I think is a reasonable assumption. Basically, the normal clientage of this restaurant include drug dealers, drug addicts, and South American/Asian immigrants.

But who cares what the outside looks like, that’s only thinking skin deep. The true beauty of this little fried chicken shop is the fact that the chicken is melt in your mouth tender, like Colonel Sanders used to make it. The heart and soul of the restaurant is it’s reasonable prices, hand-cut, fresh-as-hell chicken pieces, delicate, flaky fried fish and homemade sides. They make Belgian waffles too, and there are few things as good as a bite of sweet syrupy waffle, mixed with salty greasy broasted chicken.

Ah, the wonders of broasted chicken. Fresh chicken cooked at just the right constant temperature in a Henny Penny with a pressurized cap is the mountain top of fried chicke.n. The holy grail of Friolated Arts. This is known as broasted chicken. When done right, it will not even resemble those awful chain restaurant concoctions, it will crunch beneath your teeth as you bite through the paper-thin delectable skin. Juice will drip off your chin and mouth, and that’s perfectly ok. The aroma of gently seasoned chicken will flood your nostrils as your teeth melt through the steaming meat.

If it sounds like this is too good to be true, you haven’t even tried their sides. There is such a stark comparison between homemade sides and regular packaged crap that you won’t even know there was such a difference until you bite into a mouthful of porky, salty greens or crunchy coleslaw. They even make handmade sweet potato/pumpkin pies, served stark naked and quivering. They also make fresh southern-style sweet tea in a large Styrofoam cup, or by the gallon.

Trust me, there is nothing better in the area. So either park in the parking lot and order it directly from the counter, or now you can actually order this simple good thing and have it delivered by using Carryoutmenu.com. I don’t usually like using this service since they not only charge you 5 dollars a delivery, they also charge 20% to the restaurant in question. Per order. LivingSocial.com’s fees are even worse to the small business, but there are places like Grubhub.com or Delivery.com that give you more bang for your buck. AND a pick-a-card game every few orders that gives away discounts and FREE FOOD!

By now you’ve realized that I am completely insane for food. I have probably ordered every type of possible food in my life, from Ethiopian to Cambodian and everything in between. Nothing is more satisfying than stuff from my mom’s house(a professional chef), or great fried chicken. If you live in the area and you enjoy finding little gems that can rival fine dining, without the price tag, I’m your guy. You can reach me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/kyarnboy or on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/kyarnboy. Feel free to drop me a message anytime.

Onto my final recommendation of the article. Sometimes the places I mentioned will be closed. I’m pretty sure Chick n’ Fiends is closed by 10pm daily, while BonChon stays open til 12am (Until they get their bar license. It’s BYOB Btw.) So what can satisfy that craving for good fried chicken at, let’s say, 3 in the morning?

Royal Farms: Don’t look at me funny. I’m almost positive that if you live within 300 miles of Columbia, there’s gotta be a Royal Farms nearby. Yes, the same place you can buy gas at sometimes, or cigarettes or magazines. Even though there are hundreds of these convenience stores, and even though some convenience store clerk is going to serve you your fried chicken, there’s no denying it. Their chicken is DAMN GOOD.

The key is that they fry their chicken in peanut oil. They have automated Henny Penny-fryers, so even the convenience store clerk can’t fuck up your order.  Don’t even bother wondering if you can get a healthy-version, I promise you there is no such thing. It’s bad for you, but oh so good. For around 12 dollars you can grab an 8 piece chicken with 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and you guessed it, 2 breasts.

Did I mention the western fries? These bear no resemblance to those nasty little dry sticks you get from most drive-thrus. They are real potatoes cut into wedges, boiled and finally fried quickly. They use very little batter, so the outside is crispy and aromatic while the inside is hot, starchy and comforting. As long as your calling a Mulligan on your diet for the night, you might as well grab these with a side of gooey cheddar cheese sauce. Eat both the chicken and the western fries while they are still hot, they won’t taste nearly as good after hitting the fridge. Grab a milkshake/smoothie from the Royal Farms-automated milkshake machine and your set. (The ones with fruit flavors are a WHOLE lot healthier than the ones with cookies or smores or candy in them. Just FYI.)

You can’t really beat that in the middle of the night without taking a lot of time to drive to a diner. If you live in my area, you realize there’s only a few choices at that time of night anyways:

Simmies aka: Airiang Hill Cheese Steaks (In the Harper’s Choice area, next to the hospital),

Double-T Diner(15 minutes away in Baltimore County, off Route 40),

Denny’s (In Laurel, off Route 1, or In Arundel Mills, go left off route 1 instead of towards the mall),

or Honey Pig(24/7 Korean BBQ in the Centennial area, also off Route 40).

They all have their merits, especially Simmie’s Ehson’s Special, a 6-inch cheese steak or cheeseburger sub and 5 mambo wings w/ fries. I can’t even begin to tell you all the nights I got drunk as hell after going to the bar/club, and had to make an emergency stop at Simmies for an Ehson’s Special. The mambo sauce is a guarded secret, and good as hell. Simmie stacks paper to the ceiling off those wings. Honey Pig is the best Korean BBQ your going to get at 3am without cooking it yourself. Denny’s is, well, Denny’s, and Double-T has the hugest selection of random food you’ll ever find, and fresh baked goods. All of these are also open 24/7 except Simmies, which I believe closed at 2 or 3am.

For me, however, nothing beats fried chicken, and nothing tops the 3 choices I wrote about above. I’m so sure you will enjoy them that  I would be willing to bet them against fried chicken from any other region of the country. Yes, Bojangles and Church’s Chicken included. There’s only one way you’ll ever know though. Go grab a piece and send me a comment when you do.

~Wong_83@Hotmail.com

What were you thinking?!

It’s about time I explain my title.

I know it’s catchy and all but here’s the deal. I’m rationally insane. I have ADHD, meaning I live in a constant state of confusion and distractions. So I understand when people ask why my ideas, opinions and direction are all over the place.

My name is Michael, and I’m your average Chinese-American living on the Eastern Seaboard of the beautiful United States of America. I make jewelry for fun and for a living, whenever I’m not busy studying or running one of my family’s numerous restaurants/bars.

I’m an avid fan of professional sports, primarily Pro Football and Pro Basketball but also including Major League Baseball and even Soccer or Hockey on occasion. My favorite teams are as follows:

(NFL) 1. AFC Baltimore Ravens/ 2. NFC Philadelphia Eagles.

(NBA) 1. Miami Heat 2. Oklahoma City Thunder 3. Washington Wizards

(Soccer) 1. Barcelona(Vern Massey!) 2. MLS Baltimore Blast

(MLB) 1. Baltimore Orioles 2. Anything not from Pittsburgh(like the Steelers/Pirates/Penguins/Panthers, BLEHHK!)

(NHL) Washington Capitols

When I’m not writing about these topics, I often go on strange voyages/tangents into the unknown. I’m constantly reading and writing, drawing and using internet search engines to find obscure yet interesting data. I believe that curiosity and a sense of wonder lead to a life of fulfillment. Plus you never know when that tiny snippet of information will bring you fortune or save your life!

I also watch a lot of movies & television shows. I especially enjoy watching japanese animation or reading manga, such as Naruto Shippuden, Rouroni Kenshin(Samurai X) or Full-Metal Alchemist. There are tons of obscure, well-drawn, well-animated shows on the internet, just waiting to be dusted off and enjoyed.

One of the great inventions in the history of mankind is free, shared, downloadable torrents. At least in my opinion. As long as your not sharing it and/or charging people money for your movies/tv shows, you should be fine.

Other things I talk about from time to time include my family, stupid ignorant people that can’t mind their business, cocktails and jewelry fabrication & repair. Well that should do it. There’s a small look into what this blog is about, just in case your wondering. Maybe you’ll find what I write amusing and witty, and then again, maybe you won’t.

I encourage you to check it out for yourself. What I have to say may not be as linear or to the point as you might like, but it’s usually pretty thorough on whatever subject matter I’m currently thinking about.

Michael

PS: I also write a lot about food I really enjoy, cooking techniques, idiots, fast food nation, the fucked up things people are willing to put up with instead of cook it themselves, stuff like that.

Something stinks like Bronco Manure in Baltimore.

You heard me right. Joe Flacco is stinking up the joint like he was Kyle Boller, circa. 2004.

I say this with love, hoping that the best Baltimore Ravens QB in franchise history somehow sees this(except for Steve McNair in 2006, but that was a fluke). As of today, December 17th, 2012, The hometown Ravens have dropped 3 games in a row, including 2 at home!  This is almost unheard of, especially not in the past few years.

Before the 20-17 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that started this losing skid, against a 3rd string back-up that hasn’t played a meaningful down in the last decade, the Ravens had won 16 home games in a row. We took the Steelers game at 3 Rivers Stadium, we were perfect against divisional opponents, and had a chance to lock up the divisional crown before week 11. Everything was looking perfect, almost as if Joe Flacco and the Cam Cameron(I shudder as I type his name) led-offense were finally able to take over for our newly suspect defense.

…Yes, that defense. The vaunted Baltimore D that has finished no worse than 3rd in the league for the past decade. We were counting on our offense to finally take that next step, to finally join the elite offenses of the league. Like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints, or even Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers of 2009. Well that didn’t happen.

Our defense can’t get out of 1st gear, with notable injuries across the board. MLB and Defensive Captain Ray Lewis is drinking his magic ‘juice’ by the gallon, hoping to come back this season and actually have an impact. Even though he didn’t earlier this season when he was healthy, AND’ he’s almost 80. Pro Bowl CB Lardarius Webb is out for the season with a torn ACL,  DE Terrell Suggs is playing even though he’s not even fully recovered from his injury this summer, and DT Haloti Ngata is pretty banged up on the defensive line. You gotta give him credit for playing anyways.

If your not familiar with Baltimore football, just for the record, that’s 4 Pro-Bowlers, 3 of which are All-Pros, 1 of which is the reigning defensive player of the year, while the other has won multiple DPoY awards. I don’t care if you buy into the next man up routine or not, your defense has a 0% chance of playing at a higher or even equal level when you lose that many star players on one side of the field.

Pro Bowl S Ed Reed(shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith(abdomen), WR Torrey Smith(concussion), TE Ed Dickson(knee), S  Bernard Pollard(chest), FB Vonta Leach(ankle), DT Arthur Jones(shoulder), Pernell McPhee(thigh), Dannell Ellerbe(ankle) and Jameel McClain(neck), WR Jacoby Jones(ankle), and both starting running backs, Bernard Pierce(back) & Ray Rice(hip) round out the list of significant injuries.

So was I really surprised at how badly the entire team played last Sunday? Not really. It was like I was waiting all year for the other shoe to drop, and what better time to drop a stink bomb than against the reinvigorated Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning. Coming into the game, we already knew what would happen if we fell behind against a QB of his caliber, and we still let it happen. It was almost like watching a scrimmage between the Alabama Crimson Tide and a first year Pop Warner team. The Ravens were dominated, out-played, out-coached, and basically unprepared on both sides of the ball.

What I’d like to address, however, is the State of the Football Team. Consider this, we just fired our head offensive coordinator, Cam, who had been with Flacco ever since he got drafted. Our defense is completely maimed with injuries, while our offensive line wasn’t great to begin with, even worse now that Pro Bowl OG Marshal Yanda is hurt as well. Even when the team is relatively     healthy, Peyton Manning has beaten them 8 times in a row. Well 9 times in a row as of yesterday.

Personally, I’m going to reserve judgement for the end of the season.  Joe Cool has had his share of good and bad games this year, typically good at home, and bad on the road. The fact remains that he’s still the best option we’ve got, the best and most consistent QB in Raven’s history, and far too valuable to risk losing on the open market. Desperate teams like the Cardinals, Chargers, Raiders, Jets and Bills will be more than happy to toss a tall stack of hundreds at him. Hopefully the play calling gets better on both sides of the ball.

Dean Pees, this is my opinion. Get your act together. If your players can’t tackle, and they can’t defense against the run or pass straight up, your probably going to need to gamble to win the game. Take some chances, the worst thing that happens is you give up some extra points. That’s already happening so you might as well try to do something differently. If too many starting defensive players are injured, go sign some free-agents. It’s not like our team doesn’t have the money. Just stop making excuses and adapt your game plans.

Jim Caldwell, I heard your really good at working with quarterbacks. Maybe you aren’t cut out to be a head coach, but it’s time you take a relatively smart, strong, athletic, young QB like Flacco and turn him into a Manning or a Brady. We’re not asking you to work miracles, I’ll be happy to accept 2 passing touchdowns per game, along with 0 fumbless and 0 interceptions. Also, can you please tell Joe not to hold the ball so damn long? It’s hard to watch when he has that furrowed brow/slack jaw expression, right before he throws a pick-6 from inside the red zone. If he can’t find anyone open, tell him to dive ahead for 3 yards, or throw the frickin’ ball at someone’s feet.

With the Steelers losing last night to the Cowboys in overtime, the Ravens still look good to win the division. If Flacco & Company manage to win their remaining 2 games against the New York Football Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals, we’re pretty much guaranteed  a home game and even a possible bye week. We own the tie-breaker over the Patriots, so we still control our own destiny.

Let’s keep it that way, one game at a time.

 

~Wong_83@Hotmail.com

YEAAAAH! O’s Go The Distance, AGAIN!

I’ve been waiting a long, long time to feel this good.

Let’s make this short and sweet, the Baltimore Orioles won tonight in dramatic fashion on the New York Yankee‘s home turf. After 15 straight losing seasons, the Orioles stay alive with the win tonight. They now have a chance to clinch a spot in the American League Championship Series(ALCS) against the Detroit Tigers.

Of course to get there they’ll have to beat the Yankees one more time in a winner-take-all game 5 showdown in the Bronx. The odds are stacked against them, having played and won more overtime games than any other ball club this season, but it seems like the sky is the limit for the boys in orange & black.

I’ve asked God, Allah, Buddha, the Devil.., basically anyone with the power to give this team the win, for help. Just for good measure. To any other demigods, spirits, ghosts, demons, or leprechauns listening, we could use a little help turning that pop-fly into a home-run or having the Yankees starting pitcher leave one hanging over the middle of the plate. As long as we’re still communicating, thanks a lot for bringing Manny Machado to the Orioles. He’s really shored up Baltimore’s defense at third base, a position with more in common with a Merry-go-Round for most of the regular season.

Also, I’d like to thank whoever brought Manager Buck Showalter to Charm City. Without his steady hand guiding our team and making roster moves all year-long, we would have never won 90+ games and beat out the Los Angeles Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays for the final wildcard spot in the American League. Sure it would’ve been nice to win the AL East Pennant, but I’m not complaining since we beat the fearsome Texas Rangers for a chance to play against our arch-rivals in the AL Divisional Series.

In fact, I don’t think there’s anyone I would rather play in the ALDS than the Yankees. With a little help from J.J. Hardy, I think we can beat the Yankees in Game 5. This would only be fair since the Yankees still owe us for knocking Nick Markakis out with a hand injury near the end of the regular season.  I typically consider myself a fairly decent person, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be very sad if Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, or Curtis Granderson got struck by lightning, getting horribly maimed and therefore not being able to play the rest of the postseason.

Either way, whether we win or lose this series, I’d have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how well our team played this year. Even though Jim Johnson hasn’t played nearly as well as we had during the regular season, he sure made up for it with a save in Game 4. I think our team as a whole improved greatly from the sub-.500 season last year. A lot of people might be devastated if we don’t make it to the ALCS; I’m not one of those people.

Just the fact that we won 3 postseason games this year is more than I could have ever dreamed of before the season started. More than anyone could have dreamed of. At least I’m not one of those guys who never watched a Orioles game, never followed the team or even skimmed an article about them in the Baltimore Sun. It really annoys me when I see people posting on Facebook about how much their “home-team” means to them, especially when I never heard them talk about the Orioles before they got to the postseason.

Now suddenly they have become the biggest Orioles fan. Where were these ‘fanatics’ when the Orioles were dumping money on aging veterans, just to see the team falter after the All-Star Break. Where were they when Cal Ripken Jr. retired from baseball, leaving us with a small-market team with a bad farm system that couldn’t win 75 games if their professional lives depended on it. I’ll tell you exactly where they were. Rooting for those dirty Yankees, or the Washington Nationals.

Whether they win or lose, I’m proud to have been a fan of Baltimore baseball for most of my life. Watching them play and win all those close games and overtime games has only made my love for this team even stronger. They say you can’t really experience pleasure without knowing what pain feels like. They also say you can’t really appreciate something until it’s been taken away.

I was only a child when I went to my first ball-game at Camden Yards. The Orioles were still good then, with an uncertain future looming over the horizon. Baltimore went from being a playoff contender to last in our division in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Being so young, I never really realized how bad it felt being 20 games out of 1st place until it actually happened. Now imagine your team being 20 games out of 1st place by mid-season, every year for over a decade.

You can’t even imagine how much pleasure and appreciation I feel now that Baltimore baseball, thanks to Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, is back for good.

*KNOCK, KNOCK*

That’s the sound of me knocking on wood.

~MSW, WONG_83@HOTMAIL.COM (PS: Thanks for helping Joe Saunders not give up his career average during the game against Texas.)

The Author is a longtime Baltimore Orioles/Ravens fan, having been born at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Southeast Baltimore. One of his favorite childhood memories is going to Camden Yards for the first time, and actually seeing people in the stands. He hopes that one day, he’ll see the old ball-park filled to capacity regularly, rather than just during postseason games.

 

Who’s “Running” the Show in Baltimore???

Something stinks in Baltimore, Maryland.

I’m not talking about the discarded crab shells, Domino sugar factories, or boarded-up row houses. The Baltimore Raven’s defense reeks of something terrible this year. This is the Baltimore defense, for god’s sake. The heart and soul of our team, the cause and reason for our lone Super Bowl win, the one thing we could always count on. Through all the years with Vinny Testaverde, Chris Redman, and especially Kyle Boller at QB, we always knew one thing. Our defense would bail them out, or at least keep the score respectable so we didn’t have to hang our heads in shame. Even after we drafted Joe Flacco, our defense was as good as advertised, helping the rookie QB guide our team to the AFC Championship Game. So what exactly changed this year?

I mean it’s not like Ray Lewis isn’t roaming from sideline to sideline, pounding running-backs into the dirt. Ed Reed is relatively healthy, still destroying wide receivers too stupid to stay off his side of the field. Haloti Ngata‘s still smacking offensive linemen left and right, while Lardarius Webb is blanketing receivers and pressuring the quarterback. So why is our defense, perennially ranked in the NFL’s top ten, suddenly ranked 22nd out of 32 teams?

Sure we’ve had a few players leave during the free-agency period or get injured, but every team has the same problems. Losing Terrell Suggs, the reigning defensive MVP, definitely hurt our defensive front. We’re also still trying to replace a couple of our more talented defensive backs. S Haruki Nakamura and S Tom Zbikowski were unsung heroes in our aggressive 3-4 defense. So was our slot-corner Chris Carr. Cary Williams doesn’t get physical enough and our 1st-round pick CB Jimmy Smith seems a little lost sometimes.

Playing solid defense depends on knowing the plays, recognizing offensive formations and reacting instinctively, all in the span of a few seconds. Our defense has been so successful over the years for being more physical and by playing sound, fundamental football. You just can’t do that when your always thinking about what position to be in, or whether or not you have  coverage help down field.

Just as an example, MLB Ray Lewis has been with Baltimore for 17 years now. Most players have retired by this age, spending most of their time doing guest-appearances on ESPN, or making commercials for a charity fund. When a player gets to his age, the cumulative effects of a football career start to take their toll. Joints hurt, old injuries throb, ligaments, muscles and tendons become worn down. Memory fades, the result of years of concussions and helmet to helmet tackles. A nearly 40-year old football player shouldn’t be able to keep up with players barely half their age. What it comes down to is a form of premonition, otherwise known as being able to see into the future.

I’m not talking about magic or psychics here. Combining a knack for play-recognition with superior instincts and muscle memory makes it seem like Ray-Ray knows where the ball is going and how long it will take to get there. This allows him to make split-second decisions, moving and utilizing his considerable strength to blow up the opponent’s play before it even has time to develop. To a true football believer such as myself, seeing these moments are what we live for.

Getting back  to the point, I believe our major deficiencies lie solely upon the Raven’s defensive players stopping the run. Since we can’t seem to stop anyone from running on us this year, offenses aren’t making nearly as many mistakes as normal. Usually our defense forces teams into 3rd and long situations, which is a lot easier to handle than 3rd and 2. Our single loss this year, to Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, happened because our defense allowed Vick to run and pass his way straight down the field. At the end of the game and under 2 minutes no less.

Against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, we nearly lost again due to defensive issues. The problem was not the replacement officials. When the defense gives up 31 points, you’re gonna have a hard time winning games, unless your Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think the Ravens will give up that many points on a regular basis but you never know.

Luckily our offense is holding up it’s side of the bargain for once in like, ever. Maybe that’s the problem with our D, they aren’t playing as hard now that they think it’s no longer necessary. A man can only hope that’s all we have to worry about. Then our season wouldn’t depend on Paul Kruger, Sergio “My Mind is Somewhere in Texas” Kindle, Courtney “Things were Easier in Alabama” Upshaw,  Pernell Mcphee, etc.

~MSW, WONG_83@HOTMAIL.COM

The author has written articles on the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, and Philadelphia Eagles for Bleacherreport.com. He also scribbles sporadically, either on WordPress.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace(note: a long time ago).

Ravens looking to BBQ in Kansas City [Baltimore/Kansas City Preview]

Don’t underestimate the Kansas City Chiefs.

To all the fellow Ravens fans out there reading this post, PLEASE, PLEASE do not underestimate the Chiefs. Here are the facts. Yes the Baltimore offense is 2nd in the league, 4 weeks into the season. Yes the Baltimore defense looks solid on paper, still led by LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. Yes QB Joe Flacco‘s arm is helping us win games so far this year, providing aerial support for the running game. Yes if everything goes as planned, the better football team, I mean Baltimore, will come away with a win in Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday afternoon.

With that being said, anything can happen on any given Sunday in the National Football League.

The Baltimore Ravens have a very hard time staying focused, often failing to play to their full potential against opponents they consider freebies, teams with a bad regular season record or starting a rookie QB for example. Last season this team won 100%, 8 out f 8 games, against teams with a winning record as of the match-up. The 4 games we lost were against the Seattle Seahawks (7-9), the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11), the Tennessee Titans (9-7) and the San Diego Chargers (8-8). It doesn’t look that bad if you look at their combined win-loss record now but I promise, nobody in a 50-mile radius of the Inner Harbor thought these teams had a fighting chance before the losses actually happened. What makes it even worse is that directly before each loss, the Ravens had just won against a superior team.

This brings us back the Baltimore/Kansas City game coming up on Sunday.

Let’s make this abundantly clear, the Chiefs should NOT win in week 5. Chiefs starting QB Matt Cassel does not strike fear into the hearts of defenders; He lacks both decisiveness and the big, accurate arm to stretch NFL defenses down the field. Even though it’s not a necessity to have a huge arm to win in the NFL, his accuracy on short and intermediate throws isn’t good enough to make up for his obvious deficiencies. Personally speaking, I never thought Cassel was the answer in Kansas City. He wasn’t the answer when he played in New England and he’s proven over the years that he isn’t going to play like Tom Brady just because he backed him up for a season or two. At least that’s what I think. I could be potentially biased however, I am after all a high priest in the Church of Baltimore.

So what skilled players do play for the Chiefs?

Well first there’s RB Jamaal Charles. After missing most of last season, Charles is showing flashes of his former talent; he ran for 1467 yards and had 8 total touchdowns  in 2010. Even though he’s not huge, Charles has repeatedly shown he can play in the NFL. He has above average speed & quickness, is a decent receiving option, and good elusiveness in the open-field. He is a danger to go the distance of every play, as he did against the Saints earlier this season. If for some reason Baltimore’s defensive-line forgets to set the edge, take good angles or take the screen-play into account against him, he will make them pay for it dearly.

WR Dwayne Bowe is a very good receiver. He’s big, fast, strong(6-2, 220), and accounts for a large portion of his team’s total yardage each year. Over the past 5 seasons he’s averaged nearly 1000 yards and 7+ touchdowns a year, meaning he will definitely be a part of Baltimore’s defensive game-plan. Above all else he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, regardless of whether Matt Cassel is the one throwing him the ball. Baltimore’s secondary has definitely had trouble stopping talented receivers all season, CB’s Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams will need help covering him. Actually let’s not talk about Cary Williams since he has trouble covering anyone.

On the defensive side of the ball, S Eric Berry is probably one of the best defensive backs in the league, at least when healthy.I remember watching him play for the Tennessee Volunteers a few years ago, and thinking to myself that he looked a lot like a younger version of Ed Reed. There was a lot of hype during the draft, reasonable considering how much Kansas City improved during his rookie year. That’s the main problem however, he’s only played one full season in the NFL. He blew out his ACL last September, and it’s difficult to tell how players coming off major knee surgery will do the first year back. Look at RBs Frank Gore or Willis McGahee.

The other problem is that Berry’s not getting a lot of help, either from the defensive line or in the secondary. DE Glenn Dorsey, LB Tamba Hali and LB Derrick Johnson have talented, they just aren’t playing stopping anyone for some reason. CB Brandon Flowers has had trouble staying on the field due to injury; without him, the rest of the Chiefs secondary just isn’t getting the job done. Through 4 games, the Kansas City defense has given up 136 points, an average of 34 points per game. They couldn’t stop a senior citizen from getting into the end zone, let alone a professional football player. If they can’t figure out a way to stop offenses and soon, they aren’t going to win 5 games this season.

Other than these players, there aren’t a lot of recognizable names(for me) in Kansas City, with the exception of T Branden Albert, TE Kevin Boss, Back-up QB Brady Quinn, WR/QB Dexter McCluster, and WR Steve Breaston. Some I have heard of or have seen on other teams in the past, Boss with the Giants, Quinn with the Browns, and Breaston in Arizona. The others, McCluster at Ole Miss, Quinn at Notre Dame, Albert at Virginia, I watched play college football. I’m sure there are other reasonably talented players on the roster, they just haven’t done anything big in the past that warranted national recognition. Most people outside of Kansas probably haven’t heard of them either. Breaston is a solid 3rd receiver, Albert is a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackle while McCluster has shown flashes of potential as a kick returner and slot receiver. The problem is there just isn’t enough talent across the board. Someone on this team is going to have to step up and make some plays for the Chiefs to end up 8-8.

Now let’s look at Baltimore and the new look, no-huddle offense.

RB: Ray Rice is playing great football at the moment. He looks fresh thanks to Flacco’s passing game, and to a lesser extent newly minted rookie Bernard Pierce. Both running-backs have different running styles; Ray Rice is quick, hard to bring down or even see behind bulldozing FB Vonta Leach, and arguably the best receiving running-back in the league. Bernard Pierce is also hard to bring down, with a north-south running style that has him smashing between the tackles, consistently falling forward for an extra yard or two. Both RBs are extremely fast, with Rice running a 4.42 and Pierce a 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. They should have little trouble against the Kansas City defense.

WR/TE: For the first time in the Ravens history, there is enough options for the offense to carry the defense into the postseason. Torrey Smith is now considered one of the premier receivers in the game, a constant threat to go deep while continuing to improve his short and medium routes. Anquan Boldin is as good as advertised; He continues as Baltimore’s best possession receiver and is rarely brought down without gaining a few extra yards. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are better than average options at TE, while newcomer Jacoby Jones has been a solid free-agent addition as a slot receiver. As stated earlier, Rice has some of the best hands in the business, providing a safety-valve in the backfield, flat, and short-middle area. For once, I can actually rely on, and be proud of, Baltimore’s passing game as an asset on the field.

O-Line: If there is a weakness on this side of the ball, it definitely has something to do with the offensive line. C Matt Birk is often a detriment during pass-blocking, and doesn’t get a push consistently during run-blocking. Considering he’s the oldest player on the line, I expected this while hoping for more. At least he plays smart, doesn’t mess up calls very often, and rarely fumbles the snap. I’ve never been the biggest fan of T Michael Oher… you’d think having a movie called The Blind Side would mean you played well on the blind side. G Kelechi Osemele and G Gino Grawkowski are both talented but green, they will get better with time. Marshal Yanda is our only surviving Pro Bowler on the O-line. Baltimore fans are hoping and praying everyone else, including Bobbie Williams and Bryant McKinney, will hold up against premier pass-rushing defenses such as the Giants and Texans.

As for the defense, the linebackers and defensive backs are still led by All-Pro LB Ray Lewis and All-Pro S Ed Reed respectively. All-Pro DT Haloti Ngata still runs the defensive line while Pro-Bowl CB Lardarius Webb continues to improve on a weekly basis. Reigning defensive player of the year LB Terrell Suggs continues to rehab his ACL in preparation for hopefully a return in November. LB Sergio Kindle, LB Paul Kruger and DE Pernell Mcphee need to get better at pass-rushing in a hurry. Kruger’s personal foul gave Browns another chance to win, while their inability to consistently get pressure on opposing QBs has led to a steep drop in the defensive rankings. One of these games, our offense is going to struggle; Flacco & Co. won’t put up 35 points every single weekend. 2nd-year CB Jimmy Smith and Slot CB Cary Williams need to play more instinctively whether that means watching more game tape or not over-thinking plays.

At least Cary Williams had that pick-six last week against the Browns.

The special teams play has been as good as I’ve ever seen since Matt Stover retired a couple of years ago. Justin Tucker is an upgrade from Billy Cundiff; I’m greatly relieved he’s kicking field goals for the Redskins this year instead. Especially after last week, when Cundiff missed 3 against the Buccaneers and almost cost them the game. Sam Koch is having a career year at punter, averaging nearly 50 yards per punt. Our coverage team has been good, not great, having given up a few long returns but no touchdowns as of yet(cross your fingers!!). All of our kick returners have good hands(Webb, Jones, Williams, etc) but are no Devin Hester. No one is though, so I’m not particularly worried about that.

In summary, things look good for the Baltimore Ravens, at least on paper. If everyone plays the way they’re supposed to that is. If the Ravens can keep the turnovers to a minimum and don’t give the Chiefs any easy points, they will have to play from behind, something that doesn’t bode well for any offense led by Matt Cassel. This will not be a 50 point blowout by the Ravens but nor will it be a last second nail-biter with a chance for the Chiefs to win.

I predict John Harbaugh’s Ravens to continue their winning ways, dropping a quarter and a dime on Romeo Crennel and the Kansas City’s defense.

Baltimore over Kansas City: 31-17

How about a Little Noise for the Baltimore Orioles!!

I am, when compared to an average fan, a bleeds orange, die hard Orioles fan. I have loved them ever since I was a toddler, even before I knew about Cal Ripken Jr. and his record-setting career. I don’t even think it was a choice, seeing as how I was born at Johns Hopkins, like all of 5 blocks away from Camden Yards. If your not from the area, which I’ll generously set as somewhere in the state of Maryland, you probably have no idea how fiercely we protect anything about our city. This goes double for our sports teams, the Orioles, the Ravens and heck, even the Blast. There is not a person in this world that I wouldn’t humiliate, destroy, insult or shank if it meant one more win for one of my beloved teams.

Ok, Maybe that’s going a little too far. Just as a disclaimer for legal purposes, ignore the words, “destroy” and “shank.” Damn right I’m passionate, it’s been 15 years since our last winning season and every year it’s been the same old thing. Either a). They start off the season going something like 15-3 and end up being 21 games out of a playoff spot by the end of the year, or b). They stink up South Baltimore until right around the All-Star break and then all of a sudden play over .500 baseball the rest of the way. This has the dual-effect of causing us to wonder WHY we couldn’t do that through an entire season and basically tossing us a shriveled tasteless bone to chew on. We’d say, “At least the latter-half of the season looked promising, hopefully next year.,,”

Well No Longer! Somehow someway we have for the most part put together a season of dreams. As of tonight, 9/7/12, after shelling the New York Yankees(77-60), ie: our most hated rival, with 6, count ’em, 6 home-runs, not only are we 17 games over .500 but the Orioles are also tied with the Yankees for the best record  in the AL East! Now how about we actually make some noise??

To the people in the national media, our beloved Orioles are nothing but an aberrant statistic. They point to their fancy run differentials and the fact that our team as a whole is hitting only .247, tied for 21st in the league. How many times have I read articles about the Pirates, Angels or especially Tampa Bay(75-62) stating how well positioned these teams were to earn a playoff spot based on their expensive free-agents and strong starting pitching?

All I’ve heard about the hard-charging Orioles is that our team won’t last and that we’re just getting lucky in close ball games. Everyone knows about our record in games decided by 1 run but look at our record in games decided by 2 runs, which is still a respectable 46-20. Our main hitters, as in Mark Reynolds, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Weiters, have all posted superior numbers over the past 32 or so games. Even some of our supplementary players, such as Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis, JJ Hardy and star rookie 3rd baseman Manny Machado are all currently hitting near .280. You want run differential? Over the past month, the Orioles are +45 and are averaging 4.88 runs/game while giving up only 3.47runs/game. Those numbers only get better if you look at the past two months. Reynolds alone has 7 HR in the past 2 weeks while tonight Jones hit his 28th HR of year.

To get this kind of production and this many wins out of this piecemeal band of brothers, Manager Buck Showalter must have sold his soul to the Devil or turned into a Bokor, otherwise known as an evil practitioner of Voodoo. All jokes aside, even if we don’t win the AL East he still has my vote for Manager of the Year, if only for taking 50 different mismatched players and turning them into a team that’s currently 18 games over .500.

With the best record in all of baseball over the month of August, this gritty Orioles team has already exceeded all expectations and have quieted all critics and doubters. Quietly outplaying teams that spend twice as much money as the Orioles, our team has managed to continue to stack wins by getting solid run support behind dependable if not great starting pitching. The bullpen has been for the most part sensational and somehow we have managed to play well against everyone. Well, everyone except for the Texans.

Most of these statistics you can find on every Tom, Dick and Harry’s blog or sports website. What seems to be missing is the pulse of excitement running through the veins of every Orioles fan in a 100 mile radius of Baltimore. It’s been so long since the Orioles last winning season that an entire generation of kids and teenagers have never been to a playoff game. For the first time since the mid 90s, the coming of Autumn foretells possible playoff victory… and not just for the Baltimore Ravens.

The only thing even close to bringing home the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore would be to win the World Series. It’s funny how my expectations have changed over the season, from having a .500 season to having a winning season, to earning a wildcard spot to becoming first in the division and finally winning some playoff games. What’s to say this already magical season can’t end with a World Series victory? I know, I know, it seems far fetched but there are some solid statistics behind that line of reasoning.

I’m aware that, at least logically, the playoffs in professional baseball aren’t quite as random as in professional football. As in professional basketball, MLB playoff format is in a “best of” series format. Instead of having to win one game to advance, you have to win 2 of 3 or even 3 of 5 games. Even so, the playoffs aren’t about who had the best regular season record, it’s about who becomes hot at the right time, exactly like the other American professional sports. The Texas Rangers(82-55) had the best regular season record last season but we’re defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals(74-63), by the skin of their teeth. Even so, there are only 4 other teams in baseball with a better record than the Orioles, only one being in the American League. Add in the fact that the Washington Nationals, with the best record in baseball THIS season, are shutting down their ace in the hole pitcher Stephen Strasburg this Friday and the Orioles probably have as good a shot as anyone to make it to the World Series!

I mean think about it for a second. The usually dangerous Boston Red Sox(63-75) are close to firing their manager, The Yankees are 20-26 since July 18th as injuries and weak hitting have conspired to leave our hated rival to the North nearly impotent. If EVER there was a chance for the Orioles to make a play for the AL East pennant it would be right now.

Despite the 13th lowest payroll in MLB, despite the fact that our team is primarily made up of misfits, washed-up free agents and home-grown talent, despite every critic, talking head and newspaper outside of Baltimore writing us off, we have continued to out-think and out-play teams with far more resources and more recognizable players. We aren’t looking for hand-outs and slowly but surely our fans have trickled back into Camden Yards(43,000+ showed up tonight!). If we continue to take care of business by winning the games we’re supposed to win, the national media will be forced to take us seriously. Until then, how about all of us who live in Maryland or Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia, make as much noise as possible. Already they hear us in New York.

~Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Michael and most of his friends have been tailgating and going to games at both Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium since before the current Camden Yards was built. There was a time when it seemed his group of friends were the only ones sitting in the bleachers, drinking foamy beer and eating cheap hot dogs while cheering every time a Yankee or Red Sox player got injured.

Farewell to Baltimore’s favorite son, Ray Lewis.

“Goodbye, dear king of men.

Farewell, oh, favorite son of Baltimore. We will miss you in the days to come and hopefully when your journey is complete, you will find the meandering path back to the Garden of Eden from which your NFL career sprung.

I for one will not be the same as I gaze upon the familar purple and black of M&T Bank Stadium, the familiar numbers 5 and 2 reflecting brilliantly in the afternoon sunlight nevermore. The proud stance with which the Ravens’ defense carries itself, knowing that it’s stallwart captain is near, forgotten and lost to Father Time.

One day soon, too soon it seems, a man who seems to be made of the same material as legends or myths will disappear into the comfortable and well-deserved archway of retirement. Knowing that our time together runs short, the grains of sand forever climbing walls of glass, brings chills and shivers from out of the blue.

In our many vivid memories is where we Ravens’ faithful will find solace in times of need, remembrance of places and plays long past climb ever closer to the surface of the mind. Hopefully reciprocation will be felt on the end of the purple titan, aching mentally for the sound and touch of those who gazed upon him with wonder and admiration.”

——————-

If you didn’t really understand that, the point of this semi-poem was to show the world exactly how collective Ravens’ fans, including and especially me, feel about losing our Pro-Bowl/All-Pro Linebacker.

We know that time is slipping away from us and we also know the best player on our team since it’s rebirth will NEVER be cut. He will retire on his own terms, of this I am 100% sure.

When the day comes for us to be apart, I will continue to go to the Blue Moon BBQ…Ray-Ray’s famous BBQ restaurant. I will never forget him, even when I am 90 years old, hard of hearing and wheeling around with a colonoscopy bag hanging from the back.

-Mikey, Wong_83@hotmail.com