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

Fighting for the Right to Bust Heads.

I’ve had enough with all the bologna about CTE, concussions, etc. and so forth. Quit trying to make me feel bad for wanting to watch football players crack into each other like 200 lb monster trucks. I don’t care about your studies, your clinical trials, the fact that your husband can’t sleep at night after playing pro ball for 15 years, or anything else you might throw in my face.

I just want to watch my professional football. Period.

Forgive me for being blunt, and probably not PC, but this really just feels and sounds like a lame excuse for people to point fingers at the most popular sport in America, or even the world. I wanna know who’s coming up with these bullshit figures. Someone please tell me how the game of football is solely responsible for head injures in the US. It’s not, and before anyone else jumps on that bandwagon, how about I list just a few of the other sports in which players are likely to get a head injury.

Ever watched NASCAR, Formula-One or any other form of professional race car driving? Why do we watch it? It’s inane and boring, stupidly repetitive and perhaps my least favorite professional ‘sport.’ For me, the single thrill of watching a bunch of overpaid rednecks zoom around a track for hours is the crashes. Not the fender benders, and not the jockeying for position, but the spectacular flaming wreckage that occurs when a car flips over repeatedly, car parts and oil scattering like coins across the rubber and asphalt. Do you know what else happens when those cars lose control at over 100 miles an hour? They cause head injuries, even with a helmet and safety gear.

What about MMA, Pankration, Boxing, and all other forms of hand to foot combat? Right after the announcer with the deep, harmonic voice announces the competitors, the various career statistics of each fighter come up on the television screen underneath their picture. These statistics include wins, losses, ties, wins by decision… and wins by KNOCKOUT. Need an example? Go re-watch last month’s fight between Juan Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. To put it plainly, the Pac-man got knocked the FUCK out. This occurs when an extreme amount of force applied by fist or foot to an opponent’s head/neck area causes the brain to go into shutdown mode, ie: Blacking Out. This is usually accompanied by a concussion, which occurs when the brain bounces violently against the sides of the skull causing a bruise. How come nobody is picketing Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? Why don’t we change the rules of Boxing so that fighters can only hit each other with pillows taped around their fists.

While we’re at it, let’s take the Enforcer-role out of NHL Hockey, and permanently ban all fighting on the ice. Let’s remove the baseball from MLB baseball games, and exchange it for a wiffleball instead. This would prevent head injuries from occurring to either the hitter or pitcher, at the expense of changing the entire game of baseball. Bull-Riding, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, BMX, Drag-Racing, Rugby, the list of sports that do/can cause head injuries could go on forever. Even fake sports such as Professional Wrestling can cause real concussions and damaged grey matter. So again, what is it about Football in general that has parents, loved ones and even the President calling for reform?

When asked about the Ravens ability to outhit their opponent, and their reliance on playing physical football in the trenches, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh had this to say: “That’s what we’re all about. That’s what football is. Ultimately, if you don’t have that foundation, you’re not gonna last. It might look pretty, you might light up the scoreboard, but without that, there’s nothing. That’s what football is in the end. It’s not the off-tackle belly that Woody ran or the power that Bo (Schembechler) ran or Jim runs. Those are plays. It’s the format. It’s hard work and dedication and commitment.” Well said.

These are the defining ideals behind the game of Football, regardless of whether we’re talking about Pop-Warner, Prep, Collegiate, Arena or Professional Football. This is what Football is all about. Not to be callous, or uncaring, but most of the players suing the NFL currently on grounds of irreversible physical/mental damage are almost certainly looking out for number one. You knew the risks involved when you started playing, and if you didn’t want to continue playing after getting your bell rung, you should have quit right then and there.

I’ll give you an example. If you applied to work as a crash-test dummy, would you sue the company after being in an accident? What if they offered to pay you $100,000 dollars per accident? If you wasted that money on hookers and a fleet of expensive handmade convertibles, would it be fair to say that the only reason your attempting to sue the company is because you are broke as shit and are looking for a handout? This is how I feel about many if not all of the dozens of bullshit lawsuits out there. I guarantee if you gave me 30 million dollars over 5 years, I wouldn’t need to beg for charity after my career was over.

I don’t care if you have 6 children by 3 different women, a charity, 3 mortgage payments, there is absolutely NO good reason these players shouldn’t have some money left over from their playing days. Even back in the 50s and 60s, when Football was a side job rather than a career, there were perks and benefits for being a Professional Football player. Women, bonuses, game checks, coaching opportunities, free food, vacations, advertising jobs, and I’m not even talking about anything from the free-agency era. So the next time you hear about a lawsuit against the NFL, or how another ex-player’s suicide is a result of CTE, remember this:

Make them sign a waiver. Make sure they understand the permanent damage that can result from repeated collisions with other gigantic men. If your thinking of entering the NFL Draft, go buy a Fathead (A life-size wall sticker) of J.J. Watt first. Put it up in your room and close your eyes. Imagine yourself getting hit by a ton of bricks, many, many times over the course of a 3 hour game. If your completely OK with that, then DON’T FUCKING COMPLAIN ABOUT IT AT THE END OF YOUR CAREER.

 

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.

 

 

Not Such a Happy New Year for Baltimore.

Baltimore Ravens

 

If you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan like I am, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Our team is a reasonably acceptable 10-6, especially when compared to any number of other quarterback-hungry teams in the NFL. Unless you consider that we are 1-4 in the last 5 games, including two divisional losses to the Steelers and Bengals respectively. Not a great way to end the regular season by any measure.

Usually around this time of the year, I’d be giving thanks to the football gods, whether or not they exist, for helping my team continue as one of the NFL’s elite when it comes to making the playoffs year in and year out. Only teams like the Philadelphia Eagles under Andy Reid(before this season), the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick, New Orleans and Indianapolis Colts(with Peyton Manning) could claim as many consecutive playoff appearances. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still giving thanks for not being a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Carolina Panthers. Thanks for not having Kyle Boller as my starting QB, and thanks for having Justin Tucker instead of Billy Cundiff as our kicker. I don’t want to seem ungrateful but something just feels different this season. Kind of like having a dozen snakes crawling around in my stomach, telling me something is wrong with the greatest team to ever play professional football.

I know that sounds biased but since I don’t really care about any other team than my Ravens, I don’t really care. Taking a look at some of the other teams that are joining us in the playoffs, especially troubling are the Denver Broncos and the Patriots. We got beaten down like a red-headed stepchild a few weeks ago by Peyton Manning and Co., and it doesn’t look like our defense has figured anything out since then. Princess Brady is throwing like an MVP candidate again this season, and if we couldn’t seal the deal last year when our defense wasn’t ranked in the bottom half of the league, I don’t see how we will this year.

Sure could use a miracle right about now, God.

Until the past couple weeks, Houston and its brutish manchild at defensive end, J.J. Watt, looked like they could beat the snot out of  the rest of the NFL. They sure did when they played us earlier this season. They plain embarrassed us, winning by only around 30 points. Big deal, right? WRONG. For all the faith and bravado I usually have in my team, all the blustering in the world isn’t going to change the fact that we are having trouble on both sides of the ball. Even if we take a Mulligan on this week’s game at Cincinnati, I mean we did sit our starters, we still went 1-3, losing all 3 by a combined 12 points. I don’t feel like there’s a single easy win available on our playoff schedule. Especially not on the AFC side. At times like this, you really gotta dig down deep and ask yourself the following question: “If the Ravens play their absolute best on Sunday, will it be enough to win if __(Insert Team Here)__ plays their absolute best as well?” By now your probably getting that wiggly feeling in your stomach as well… if you didn’t already have it before and were just ignoring it.

I guess the only thing we can do this year is remember the good times we had over the past couple years. Especially last year. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Ravens were amazing success stories in 2012. The Orioles performed way beyond my wildest dreams, even going so far as to crush those irritating Texas Rangers in the wildcard round. The Ravens came a Billy Cundiff untied shoelace away from possibly going to the Super Bowl. I know, I know, anything can happen on any given Sunday.

So do you really believe this team has a real chance to win a championship this season?

Here are a few final questions and thoughts:

Can Flacco not give up too many Saccos? (Note: That’s such a terrible line, yet it’s so catchy and everyone says it around here.)

Can Torrey Smith be consistently good for 4 straight games?

Can Michael Oher do anything other than beat up drug dealers in a movie based loosely on his life? (Zing!) Can Terrell Suggs regain his form that got him a defensive MVP award ?

Are Ray Lewis & Ed Reed too old to play solid Ravens football?

Can Justin Tucker, as amazing as he’s been in the regular season, keep his cool in the playoffs?

Can new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell run an effective offense with two weeks under his belt?

Read, React, Response and Comment. Oh, and ENJOY!

~Michael, WONG_83@HOTMAIL.com

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

You think I’m gonna stop watching football? You must have lost your MIND.

Yes that’s correct, there’s gotta be something wrong mentally if you think I’m ever going to stop spending my Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays watching anything else besides professional football. Beyond the fact that I work as a bartender, meaning I get to watch a lot of football games on NFL Ticket, some of the reasons that people think we shouldn’t allow our children and other family members to watch or play football are completely ridiculous. “To whom it may concern, I can make up my mind on the dangers of playing a contact sport. I don’t need anyone else’s opinion. Thanks, Michael.” I don’t know about anyone else but it seems like some of the arguments against football are either rhetorical or blatantly obvious:

“They might get a concussion! They might get hit repeatedly!!” Please tell us something I’m not aware of. This is not something new or even unpleasant. Football is a test of physical dominance over the opposing team, a man’s game of forcing one’s opponents to slowly give ground and finally submit to your will. It’s fundamentally ingrained in the most primal part of our psyche, we want to watch and become victorious with the team or teams of our own choosing. I learned this as a child playing pee-wee football, watching the Giants.. and the Redskins.. and finally the Cowboys dismantle the poor Buffalo Bills. It’s not like they don’t know deep down that getting hit in the head repeatedly ‘might’ lead to severe health concerns, concussions, brain aneurysms, etc. and so forth. They knew there was a pretty good chance of lasting injury but still signed a contract to play professional football against other gridiron warriors.

“The game has become faster, the players have become bigger and stronger!” Are you serious? That’s part of the reason why we here in America consider our football as superior to football in other countries! When watching a sporting event, regardless of what sport it is, do we want to watch average people, somewhere in the middle of the pack? More likely you, and I, want to watch the most athletic and dominant human beings on the planet face off in mortal combat. Besides, it really only becomes an issue when the other team isn’t growing at the same or similar rate as your team. As long as every team in the league is comparatively strong and fast, I don’t see any reason to worry. Well, maybe at the college level when you sometimes have Division-1 FBS schools padding their stats by humiliating tiny FCS schools; Look at what happened this week between 18th ranked Oklahoma State vs. Savannah State. Then it might become dangerous, but I’m getting away from the point.

Recently I read an ESPN Insider article about how current safety measures didn’t stop player deaths, only delayed them. In return let me state the completely obvious: NOTHING in the world can stop death from occurring. It’s inevitable, at least it has been for the past 5000 years of civilization. All we can do is, *cough*, delay that from occurring by making sure that we keep our football players from dying instantly from a collision. If we were to follow the logic of how helmets and pads don’t stop concussions, why don’t we quit driving cars and trucks while we’re at it? Seat-belts, air-bags and aluminum crumple zones don’t stop drivers and passengers from dying either. They only prolong the inevitable. While we’re at it, how about we never fly planes because we might fall out of the sky?

Basically it’s all a bunch of propaganda. Activists and people who have lost loved ones want to equate playing football to cigarette smoking or some form of preventable disease. It’s not. Certainly I feel a bit of remorse and sympathy for Junior Seau‘s family but this doesn’t mean that he is different in any way from a king crab fisherman on the Bering Sea or a coal miner in Western Pennsylvania. Every single one of these men work in a dangerous profession and are exponentially more likely to suffer grievous injury or death than say a dentist working in an office building. The difference is that in return for signing a contract to play in the NFL, Junior Seau received a huge sum of money per year.

“How about all of those ex-players that never had a concussion but still are dealing with brain-related issues, such as nightmares, trouble getting out of bed, incontinence, memory loss, etc?” I currently have and probably always will have a problem deciding which of these problems, if any, have football as it’s only deciding factor. Look at Brett Favre, one of the most often hit players in NFL history. Favre played in more games than any other player, period. The iron man of football played for an astonishing 20 seasons at arguably the most dangerous position in the game. The only issues he has shown beyond the normal aches, pains and soreness associated with playing football until your 40 had to do with sexual misconduct, ie. sexting and revealing yourself to young women. I honestly don’t see anything wrong with a dirty old man being a dirty old man. In all fairness, they dropped the charges, most likely due to the fact that the woman was probably a gold-digging whore looking for a fat settlement after sleeping her way up the Jets corporate ladder. Other than that incident and an annoying penchant for retiring and un-retiring, I don’t see anything wrong with Brett Favre’s brain.

Another veteran player who’s doing just fine is Baltimore’s future hall-of-fame linebacker, Ray Lewis. This dominant run-stopper has averaged over 120 tackles a year, or more than just about anyone else over his 16 year career. If there is anyone who should show signs of football-related symptoms, memory loss or other effects of repeated blows to the head, it should definitely be him. I’m pretty sure it’s not because he needs anymore money, unlike other professional players like Terrell Owens.  Even though he has lost a step over the years, his mind remains sharp, his memory and instincts still make him one of the best linebackers in the game.

These are just a few examples of ex-NFL players who have had little to no lasting mental effects from their playing days. Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Desmond Howard, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, these men are still in the public spotlight and we as the public would notice if there were anything significantly wrong with their minds. In summary, I don’t see how anyone can consider this “scientific” investigation into proving how football has caused this recent rash of suicides anything beyond your average 17th century witch hunt. How can the media and the scientific community not consider these cases when deciding whether football is inherently dangerous?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes people will suffer long-term effects while other times they seem to do just fine. I’m not saying that there is absolutely no correlation between hits and brain injury. I’m certain there is. But as long as we’re blaming football, why don’t we stop everyone from racing cars or fighting in the octagon? Martial arts and race-car driving both expose participants to possible concussions and death but haven’t seen nearly as much negative media coverage as the NFL. How come? Why are members of the scientific community and media outlets crying wolf?

Beyond the reasons listed above, mass hysteria might be playing a part in this unfolding drama. One scientist comes to a finding that some or even of the brains examined from football players have areas of trauma. He tries to find a correlating event and is quick to blame this on football. Other people, including and especially the families and widows of ex-football players are quick to jump on these findings, regardless of their whether or not they’re conclusive, and proceed to file countless lawsuits against the NFL. What they conveniently forget is that the players took on this occupation willingly, just like every other dangerous occupation in the world. They signed the contract and willingly walked on the field.

Let me ask you this: If someone offered you the chance to play professional football along with the requisite fame, fortune and a truck load of money, would you take a chance and possibly become physically injured? It’s not like when its time to sign the contract, the coaches and general manager are saying, ‘Nobody is going to run into you like a 250 pound cannon ball. They would never use their arms and legs to pummel you until you cough up the football. Above all else, there is a 0% chance that you will ever get injured or die.”

On top of everything else, I’m just going to tell you how I feel personally on the subject. If there wasn’t the threat of death or injury, I probably wouldn’t watch football. I relish the spectacle of large-scale conflict. I want to watch the biggest, strongest, fastest men on the planet overcoming their fears to become more than just human. I want them to go on the biggest stage we can construct, overcome every single obstacle and finally earn their rightful place in history. For this I’m willing to pay thousands of dollars a year in television fees, stadium tickets and merchandise, just so that years down the road I can tell my wife and children about that time my team won everything. When the dust settled, they were the only ones left standing.

That’s why every year millions of fans replay every moment of the regular season again and again(I mean why else would there be an NFL network?) and why every playoff game becomes a national holiday in America. The Super Bowl? If sports were considered a religion, professional football would be the 4th largest, behind only the Christians, Muslims and soccer. Actually, I take that back, here in America we know that soccer isn’t even a real sport.

So take as much time as you need to make perfectly safe football helmets, impose heavy fines and mandatory time-off for blows to the head(oh wait, we’ve already done that), just don’t even think about taking away my football. To all the families that are still mourning the loss of their loved ones to brain disease or suicide, I feel your pain, I really do but all the lawsuits and finger-pointing in the world isn’t going to change the fact that your family member willingly chose to risk death and injury, in return for fame, fortune and a solid gold bathtub.

A free ride to a college education, food, clothes and a beautiful home for the wife & kids, money to invest in stocks or businesses, insurance for their aging parents, cars, jewelry and most importantly a bright future. The absolute minimum salary for a rookie in 2012 is $390,000-$465,000/year, not including signing bonuses, roster bonuses or likely to be earned incentives. Add in local, national and even international endorsements such as Direct TV, Nike or Under Armour and I can’t see any reason their families would ever want for anything material. It’s completely on them if they spent everything  they had on Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton bags, Gucci sunglasses Lamborghini sports cars.  I don’t care how they used their money in the past, I only care that these frivolous lawsuits are threatening my favorite weekend pastime.

So yes, you have to be out of your mind if you think anything is going to stop me from watching professional football. It’s gonna take a lot more than a couple player suicides or vegetative-state linemen to stop me from laying on the couch on Sunday, watching my beloved Baltimore Ravens catch assault & battery charges against Ben Roethlisberger.

Kyarnboy, Wong_83@hotmail.com