Congratulations Baltimore, the newly minted 2012 World Champions!

This is my shout-out to the 2012 World Champion Baltimore Ravens, the best team in the NFL. Finally you did it! Against all odds, you got to the mountain top, taking the hardest possible route through the playoffs to boot. All I can say is WOW. You did it for us, you did it for Ray Lewis, and you did it for Ed Reed. This is just a list of thoughts I’ve been gathering for such an occasion, I figured there’s no better time to share them with y’all than right now, while the memories are still fresh and the celebration is still rampaging through Maryland. In CatonsvilleArbutusBaltimore CityReisterstown, Columbia, Ellicott City, Turf Valley, Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Clarksville, Silver SpringWhite Marsh, Bel Air, and everywhere in between, the streets filled with Purple & Black flags, streamers, hoodies, jerseys, hats and anything else that the team can put their stamp on. So what should we remember from this historic trip through the playoffs? Here’s 10 things I took away from our romp through the playoffs.

1. Can anyone else in the modern era say they went through Tom Brady & Peyton Manning to get to the Super Bowl? That’s a combined 7 Super Bowl appearances, 4 Super Bowls, 3 Super Bowl MVP awards, and 6 Regular Season MVP awards between them.

2. Nobody can deny Joe Flacco his Elite-status any longer. 11 Touchdowns, 0 Interceptions in 4 Postseason games. I think that speaks for itself.

3. Baltimore’s defense, the same defense that struggled the entire regular season, was also the main reason we just won the championship. It still wasn’t as dominant as it’s been in past seasons but came up big on numerous occasions against Indianapolis, against Denver in overtime, definitely against New England, and even at the end of the Super Bowl against San Francisco. The Last Stand of Ray Lewis indeed.

4. I’m still not convinced the power outage right after halftime in the Super Bowl wasn’t some insidious plot hatched by a vindictive 49ers fan. According to Entergy Corp., the company in charge of providing and maintaining power for Mercedes-Benz Superdome Stadium, an electrical device installed expressly to prevent such power outages was the source of the Super Bowl Blackout. HELL NO, that’s the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard plenty of lame excuses. Mainly coming from me in a vain attempt to not go to school.

I imagine a rabid 49ers fan, dripping with red & gold apparel, creeping through the labyrinth of stadium corridors while gripping a chainsaw. Maniacally. He had plenty of time to plan his terrorist plot considering his team hadn’t scored but a pair of field goals the entire 1st half. Watching the game on his smartphone, the score becoming more and more lopsided by the minute, his frustration and necessity to help his team growing by the minute, the Jacoby Jones kickoff-return for a touchdown was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Two things, my family always tells me I’ve got the most vivid imagination, and hell, I would’ve done the same thing if my team was down 28-6 in the Super Bowl. The NFL was just happy to have a more competitive game, so they kept the whole thing hushed-up and made up some random “device failure”-excuse instead.

5. Speaking of Jacoby Jones, I sure hope we have enough Cap-space next season. Can you imagine the Baltimore Ravens without Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, or Matt Birk? I mean Birk’s getting kinda old but still. The same thing happened the last time we won the Super Bowl, in 2000. That time we figured out ways to keep most of our team intact, at the expense of forfeiting the 2002 team. A balance must be struck between paying players what they’re due for years of faithful service, and cutthroat business tactics to ensure continuity, like the New England Patriots. They don’t really pay anybody, especially not homegrown talent. Look at WR Randy Moss or WR Wes Welker, WR David Patten, and TE Benjamin Watson. Rather I should say they don’t pay anyone what they’re worth.

6. I’ve said this before but Joe Flacco deserves every penny of a 100+ million dollar contract. He’s not worth more than say Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but pretty close to it. Look at it this way, if we don’t pay him 17+ million dollars a year, with most of the money back-loaded and an enormous signing bonus, we’re still going to have to use the franchise tag on him or chance him skipping town to a team starving for decent quarterback play. The franchise tag would still cost almost 16 million in pure, guaranteed money, and that way we wouldn’t be able to use the tag on someone else extremely important to the continued success of the Ravens.

Someone like one of the players I listed in the previous paragraph.

7.  I know Terrell Suggs has been playing with his arm nearly falling off for over half a season, and Haloti Ngata has been more banged up than a hooker by the Slap-Chop guy, but can we please get some pressure on the opposing QB? Paul Kruger led the team with 9 sacks in the regular season, and 2.5 in the postseason. To put this in perspective, Broncos LB Von Miller  had 18.5 sacks in the regular season, 49ers LB Aldon Smith had 19.5, Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware had 11.5, which is an off-year for him, and Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil had 11. If we’re not going to pay Paul Kruger, I’m pretty sure we won’t, somebody is going to have to take his place.

8. Oh and another thing about Joe Flacco. Did anyone else see him sleeping on the sideline during the power outage? What’s that about? I was probably the only person on Earth screaming at the TV-screen when I saw him lounging around, cool as a cucumber. No wonder our offense was so slow out the gate during the 2nd half. If not for the defense stepping up, especially Jimmy Smith, everything could have gone so terribly wrong. I know I’m nitpicking but still.

9.  Statistics my ass. Everyone and everybody is using their considerable brainpower to come up with new analytical statistics in a vain attempt to predict the future of football. “This quarterback or that one is elite because of his true QBR or true yards per attempt.” If we used even a portion of that computing power on say, Cancer research, we’d all be immortal by now. “Turnovers are divided into different categories of harm. Some can even be beneficial.” I read that in ESPN Insider a couple of weeks ago. All I can say is REALLY? Maybe NFL teams should turn the ball over on purpose sometimes. Yeah right.

10. I leave you with this final thought… for now. Does any team have better fans than Baltimore? The people who run M&T Bank Stadium projected 25-30,000 people max to show up for the free-admission fan celebration on Tuesday. Do you have any idea how many people showed up at the stadium alone, not to mention the parade route?

200,000 people packed the stadium and its immediate surroundings. Police acted as crowd control since the stadium authority couldn’t handle all the crazed fanatics climbing over the entrance gates. Hundreds of thousands more called out of work sick *cough cough*, just to see Ed Reed walking down the street with a camera strapped to his Django-style hairdo. Every window of every building along the parade route was open and filled with screaming fans, including the church. Everyone sure loves the Baltimore Ravens, even if many of them are just bandwagon fans.

Either way, we gladly embrace all football fans who want to convert. Just make sure you keep your purple & black jerseys on, regardless of whether we do well next season.

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

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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.

Las Vegas Betting Line Favors 49ers in Super Bowl

The opening line, posted a few hours after the Ravens punched their tickets to Super Bowl XLVII, has the 49ers as 5 point favorites. Somehow that doesn’t sound quite right to me.

Oddsmaker Benjamin Eckstein of America’s Line says he set the line at 4 1/2 to encourage betting action on both sides. Even if that response makes sense, it still feels like more of a popularity contest than anything based on logic.

It seems like that contest is quickly shifting in Baltimore’s favor. Within a matter of hours, the line has already changed to 4 even. I could honestly care less whether my boys are considered the underdog in New Orleans. Just ask Tom Brady what he thinks about those odds. Zing!

First it was Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, favored to beat the Ravens by 9 1/2 points.  Then it was Princess Brady and the New England Patriots,  favored to win by 8 1/2. Baltimore won 38-35 and 28-13, respectively.

Now it’s San Francisco’s turn. According to Bill Cowher, the ex-Pittsburgh Steelers coach, the Ravens will have trouble with the 49er-offense because ‘we have never faced a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick.’ *dramatic pause*

ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!

We haven’t faced a quarterback like a 2nd year player with 9 total starts?! Oh I’m sorry, our team was too busy beating 3-time Super Bowl champion,  2-time Super Bowl MVP, 8-time Pro Bowl Quarterback Tom Brady last night.  Did I mention his two regular season MVP awards or that he currently holds the record for most playoff wins in NFL history? What a load of crap.
What about the quarterback we beat in the AFC divisional round, 4-time regular season MVP, Super Bowl MVP,  Super Bowl-winning, 12-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning?! I know Bill Cowher used to be the Steelers head coach but come the fuck on,  you can’t be serious. Colin WHO???

I get the feeling that it doesn’t matter who the Ravens beat to get to the Super Bowl. Insert quarterback’s name here, Bill Cowher will find a way to tell the public the Ravens can’t handle ‘him.’ All I have to say is, “we’ll see about that.”

Consider this. No rookie quarterback has EVER won a playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.  Not Andrew Luck, not Ben Roethlisberger, not T.J. Yates, NOBODY. Technically, Colin Kaepernick isn’t a rookie quarterback but since he hasn’t even played a full season,  for all intents and purposes he’s still a rookie to me.

Who really cares about the wildcat/pistol offense?  Does anyone really think a few gimmick plays or a quarterback who can run the ball effectively is going to fool a defense led by Ray Lewis at linebacker and Ed Reed in the secondary?  We’re not talking about scrubs or even Pro Bowl players here.  We’re talking Hall of Fame-caliber defensive stalwarts,  each with over a decade of experience.

That’s plenty of time to get acquainted with every little offensive nuance and gesture. The only way to win against experience like that is to beat them physically;  to out muscle the other team. Not that there’s a chance of that happening. Nobody can match Lewis/Reed or even Bernard Pollard’s intensity. Just ask Stevan Ridley.

Dubbed the “Patriot Killer,” by his loving teammates, Safety Bernard Pollard has slayed 4 New England players since 2008. His hit last night on Ridley caused a crucial 4th quarter fumble, helping the Ravens limit the Patriots to a season-low 13 points. Luckily,  the referees forgot to flag Pollard.

How I feel about the many legal-yet-flagged hits by Baltimore players is a topic for another day. Suffice it to say that nobody will ever mistake Baltimore for a finesse team. Anyone who knows anything about the AFC North teams can attest to that. We love to play defense and run the ball through our opponent’s guts here in the Charm City.  So is anyone around here worried about a “dual-threat QB?”

Not Really. 

We feast on them. The Ravens will come hungry on February 3rd. Paul Kruger, Terrell Suggs, Haloti
Ngata, Ray Lewis, Courtney Upshaw, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Corey Graham and all the other members of the vaunted Ravens defense will be chomping at the bit come Super Bowl Sunday. 

As Terrell Owens once said, “Getcha’ Popcorn Ready.” After 12 years of waiting, Ravens fans are ready. Trust me.

SUPER BOWL PREDICTIONS:

Ravens(-6) defeat 49ers: 30-24 (54 total points)

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.  ;))

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

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

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

Some of my All-Time Best NFL players…

Potential players that most certainly should make the ALL-CENTURY List…  I would suggest the following:

1. Lynn Swann WR, Steelers
2. Terry Bradshaw QB, Steelers
3. Ray Lewis LB, Ravens
4. Orlando Pace OL, inventor of the “pancake-block,” Rams
5. Lawrence Taylor(!) DE, Giants
6. Deion Sanders CB, 49ers+Cowboys+Falcons+Ravens
7. Randy Moss WR, Vikings+Patriots
8. Darrell Green CB, Redskins
9. Gale Sayers RB, Bears
10. Barry Sanders RB, Lions
11. Reggie White DE, Eagles+Packers
12. Peyton Manning QB, Colts

There are numerous other people that probably could or should have been listed who I have either forgotten or just didn’t have the time or space to put on this list. The people that HAVE been listed so far are, for the most part, NFL players who have changed the game of football at their position by being so infinitely superior to their comrades of the day that the rules had to be changed to make the game fair once more.

Swann makes the list for changing being a receiver into an art form.. Bradshaw for calling his own plays and creating his own audibles in an era when the head coach or offensive coordinator called the plays. Ray Lewis is in for being underestimated from the very beginning of his career and becoming an annual fixture on the All-Pro and Pro-Bowl lists.. as well as destroying and tackling anyone who opposed him. Orlando Pace makes this one for leaving college early, not for the money or the prestige but for pure competitive spirit.. he had noone left to compete with at the collegiate level, even leaving Florida State-star Simeon Rice in the dust.

Lawrence Taylor will always be on my list of all time greats for this simple truth: He single-handedly jumped the price-tag of defensive ends and therefore left tackles tenfold. It doesn’t hurt that he will forever be known as the monster who destroyed Hall of Fame QB Joe Theismann’s career. Deion Sanders was known on and off the field for his larger then life antics, highlights and mouth. He talked a good game but also played one as well, and was one of the first complete shut-down corners who was versatile enough to even contribute in the passing and special teams game.

Randy Moss makes this list for being not only an incredibly tall receiver who can jump as well, but also for routinely beating double and even triple-teams. Any team that has him on the field, regardless of the QB, is instantly better offensively. He also has some of the softest hands in NFL history. Darrell Green is very similar to Deion Sanders in that he was also a shut-down corner.. only Darrell is even faster and played in an era where defensive backs like him did not exist. He was SO good that teams often would blank out the side of the field that he was on, telling their team not to pass even in the general direction of wherever Green was.

This comment is running a little long so I’ll keep the rest of it short and sweet, with no disrespect intended to the following players.

Gale Sayers, if not for a few career-changing injuries, was among the fastest and shiftiest RBs to ever live. The fact that he’s in the Hall of Fame and only played 4 years speaks volumes about his game-changing ability. Barry Sanders was such an incredible RB that he helped the Lions get to the playoffs and made the Hall of Fame despite playing on some of the most awful teams in NFL history. His ability to turn a 3-yard loss into a 30-yard game was without equal. The Rev, Reggie White dominated QBs and struck fear in offensive coordinator’s minds and game plans by sacking and tackling people for a loss with impunity. He WAS the Packer defense.

Finally, a player who is still currently playing and is about to play in his second Super Bowl in 4 years.. Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts deserves a stake in the All-Time Greatest Players for being a complete QB. When I say that, I mean that he is every head coaches wet dream/fantasy; He does everything he’s supposed too and more, he says only the most appropriate things to the press and on TV, his idea of a night out is watching game film into the wee hours of the night. Oh, by the way, this is in addition to him having the height and the physical attributes of the prototypical QB.. a specimen with perfect mechanics and the intelligence to call his own plays/audibles, kind of like Terry Bradshaw a generation ago. For all these reasons, my hatred for the Colts withstanding, Peyton will in my opinion go down in NFL history as one of the best QBs of all time.

-Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com (Sorry I rambled so long… I just get really passionate about some of these players who are sometimes snubbed by other fans, analysts and media insiders.)

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.”

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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