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

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

Guy Fieri and Tyler Florence: Long lost siblings from birth

Oh, where to begin…

I have watched food network shows for a very long time, I believe the show that really got me into the channel was the original Iron Chef series, which has now been revamped and turned into Iron Chef America(Which is not quite as good IMHO). I’m just gonna say what alot of people are thinking and blow the lid off this elephant in the room. What the hell is wrong with these two so-called chefs?

Let’s start with Guy Fieri, the gayish looking dude with the blond spiky hair. His show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is the actual dive, in which he travels around the country gorging himself on every greasy, typically fried, substance he can find, all while food network foots the bill. It must have been a bad day at the office… like really bad, when the people in charge of putting the new line-up for the season decided to actually put this show on the air. No offense to the probably very hard-working, dedicated food service people who he interviews on a weekly basis, but the show doesn’t really do any of them credit anyways.

If that was just the one thing that Guy was remembered for, I wouldn’t really be raising a fuss. Sure it’s bad, but whatever, it’s not on me. Someone else has to look like a complete idiot for that decision.

No, there’s more.

Somehow the spiky blond short, somewhat chunky dude wrangled himself a chance to do a television ad, and although his culinary prowess is always in question when his idea of good food is a mint mud pie covered in “crushed oreos” (some random episode of Dinner Impossible), it certainly has been kicked and tossed into an early grave when he got into bed with the gigantic restaurant conglomerate, TGIF.

For those of you who don’t watch the travel channel, a certain show host of the No Reservations series, not naming names, calls TGIF quote: T-G-I-McFunsters. Not only is the food there a horrid mockery of the different culinary cultures that they claim to represent, but from time to time they add something “new and exciting” to their menu. This year I believe it was some sort of Jack Daniels championship menu, on which TGIF and Guy decided to go rip off the winners in a JD BBQ contest and toss their winning entrys onto their menu. What people probably are missing or have forgotten is that TGIF has had Jack Daniels style items on their menu for quite some time now, certainly way before this “new and exciting” menu was added. Not that I have anything at all against the JD people, It’s just the restaurant and blondie’s credibility that really enrages me.

This brings us to our other unwanted not so red-headed step child of the culinary industry. Tyler Florence. He kind of reminds me of Bobby Flay, except that he is alot heavier, not quite as talented, and I typically only see him on TV during holidays, making his bid for cooking credibility. Somehow every year, he hooks up with some of the other network chefs and by leeching off of their hard-earned respect and skill, he fools the good people at home into thinking, hey, I think he’s a good cook too.

He is NOT. That is my claim and my opinion. He is about as good a cook as the spanish guy at my restaurant who cannot understand the different cooking times of frying shrimp and frying yams.

His slutty companion of a restaurant chain is the TGIF knockoff, Applebees, making him even lower on the food chain than blondie. This mind-boggling reject of Americana is IMO only good as a place to drink cheap beers and mixed drinks when the other good bars are too crowded on football Sunday. For some odd reason, they have some type of rib tips item on their happy hour appetizer menu, I would bet anyone who is reading this that they are probably just sliced bones smashed into the middle of questionable processed meat. This place is so terrible that they cannot even do spinach dip right! Their menu, which consists of anything you can think of from TGIF but simplified, could easily be served as a replacement for high school cafeteria food and very few kids would notice.

Yet, as bad as that sounds, the tip of this festering waste poking above the toilet bowl water is that Tyler Florence, you know, that guy from such regular food network shows as NOTHING, endorses them with his chubby smile 100%.

Fake-panko breaded panko shrimp(panko is supposed to be japanese bread crumbs)? Check. Cheesy mind-numbing americana and festive buttons? Double check. Recipes fit for zombies living in America who don’t want anything exciting to disturb their eternal undead slumber? If the answer to this is yes, and it is, you’ve got yourself an unholy trifecta, where budding middle-aged chefs go to throw away any shreds of credibility and dignity left.

Congratulations on street-walking and bedding yourselves to the highest bidder. Tyler and Guy, come down and receive your presents. For not really having any culinary skill, and somehow sneaking your way both onto television and into commercials, a DNA test that confirms that you both are actually children birthed from the same set of corrupted loins. Also, for dragging down the credibility of the food network by basically accepting bribes from horrible conglomerate restaurants, please accept these shiny new .357 magnum handguns, complete with bullets. These will come in handy when the suicidal thoughts begin to claim you.

When your children are old enough to understand how your whole life, you chose to stand for nothing, chose greed over principles and respect, you will finally understand what to do with these guns.

Thank you, for helping to remind us, the regular people who cook and work with cooks for a living, what we should do the exact opposite of.

Mikey, Wong_83@hotmail.com

(PS: You still have time left. You can change! Maybe!)