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Patriots - Ravens: Looking At The Weaker Side Of The Ball

Did Terrell Suggs actually play against the Texans? I don't remember much from him. But his team will NEED him against the Patriots.

Now that the 49ers, Giants, and Ravens have all won games with great defense we can pull out the “defense wins championships” narrative. And really, we can keep it out unless the Patriots win the Super Bowl and then we’d have to put it away. But as we talk about great defenses-my favorite thing to do-we can’t forget about matchups. And that’s why when I think of Patriots-Ravens, I’m less inclined to say the Ravens will win this one with their defense. I’m more inclined to say that this game will come down to which team’s weaker side of the ball performs better. And in the Ravens’ case it’s their offense and for the Patriots it’s the defense.

I said the same thing about the 49ers and the New Orleans Saints. The 9ers pedestrian offense stepped it up when it mattered and the Saints barely-there D couldn’t get it done. The weaker side of the 49ers righted its ship (temporarily) and they won.

You didn’t really need to catch the Ravens/Texans game today to know that the offense almost blew it for the Ravens. But what you may not know is that it wasn’t just Flacco. It was the receivers and the overall game plan. The Ravens really never got into any sort of rhythm during the game. They didn’t seem to have any “plan of attack” to speak of. The Texans, on the other hand, clearly came in ready to run the ball and get a nice mid-game going on those few times when passing was preferred. I think the rookie QB Yates had a pretty good showing, but the downfield passes weren’t clicking, and that resulted in 3 interceptions (2 by CB Webb and 1 by FS Reed).

The Ravens weren’t able to capitalize the way they should have been able to on those mistakes. They were up by 4 for what seems like forever. Punt punt punt punt punt. That simply won’t work against the Patriots unless the Patriots totally fall apart on offense the way the Packers did against the Giants. And yes, the Giants played well on defense, but 8 drops by 7 different receivers, among other foolishness committed by the Packers, is a horse of a different color. I don’t think the Ravens can depend on the Patriots to make many mistakes that aren’t directly forced by their smothering defense. And that’s why they are going to have to score at regular intervals and not spend an entire quarter not putting points on the board.

Earlier, because the Texans and Ravens were so sloppy, I said whichever team goes on to play the Patriots might be looking at a slaughter. I’ve softened my position…sort of.

The Patriots defense showed a lot of effort against the Broncos but they weren’t “great.” And if they let the Ravens hang around you just never know when Ray Rice will come up with a big play that will win the game for his team. The Broncos were no such threat because not only did they struggle in the passing game, they struggled with what was supposed to be their bread and butter-their run game and rushing by their QB Tim Tebow. In the Patriots game, Tebow struggled mightily (does that sound biblical? It’s not intentional) with reading the option and making the appropriate decision. As inconsistent as Flacco can be, the Patriots can’t rely on him to have difficulty with the basics…and given the fact that Flacco was able to have his offense hang in there against a strong Texans D, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t hang around against the Patriots and give his team a chance.

But damn that Brady sure knows how to get a ball into…well…into wherever he wants it to go.



Ravens-Texans: All Eyes on Flacco Today

If Flacco gets out-Quarterbacked by TJ Yates, me and Terrell Suggs will never forgive him. Neither will his wallet.

This week Joe Flacco got a little ornery with the media. He joked about essentially feeling picked on because in his view, the media only respects guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady who rarely ever run the ball. So I guess you could say that Flacco is playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s also playing for a new contract which was a point of contention between he and the Ravens after last season.

From my perspective, although Flacco is one of the most successful “new” QBs in terms of team wins and playoff appearances, it’s clear that Flacco is up and down not just game to game but also during games. There’s one Flacco that is patient and makes good, quick decisions, and there’s another Flacco that slowly moves through progressions and is sometimes forced to throw (with a slow release) before surveying the entire field.

I’m certainly no fan of the Raven’s offensive coordinator Cam Cameron although from what I’ve seen this year his play calling isn’t quite as disastrous as last year. They’ve made good use of Ray Rice who is about as versatile a back you could ever dream about. And Torrey Smith has great chemistry with Flacco (including anticipating ill-placed balls) pretty much erasing any doubts about the team’s decision to release TJ Hous, Derrick Mason and Donte Stallworth. And Flacco, to his credit, has been less jittery and has been recovering well from bad series.

That makes me feel pretty good about the Ravens getting a win over the Texans who, for all they try to mix it up in the passing game, are fairly one-note. They’re also heavily dependent on one really really good running back who has an upright running style and should absorb some serious blows today with the way Suggs and company have been playing up front. On defense, the Texans are solid but Flacco’s Ravens are 9-1 this season against top 10 defenses. I will be curious to see if the Texans can get to Flacco early and often. If so…well… so yeah, again, all eyes will be on Flacco. Well, all MY eyes anyway.

Speaking of Suggs and the Ravens defense, their camaraderie is always impressive but this year it’s been particularly touching. Maybe because Lewis and Reed are right at the end of their careers. Or maybe it’s because Pollard seems to have finally found a home and Webb is coming into his own. Not to mention that Suggs play has rivaled the 49ers Justin Smith. But listening to the guys talk all this week about how meaningful it would be for all of them to win together with this group, a loss today would leave a big gaping hole in this unit. It would be a HUGE missed opportunity.

It would also ruin my much-anticipated Harbaugh Super Bowl!






Why I’m Ignoring All Eagles Playoffs Scenarios

It looks like my favorite Eagle Asante Samuel won't be with Philly next year. HOW IS LIFE WORTH LIVING NOW?

Yes I am an Eagles fan. So technically I should be all over this whole “if the Eagles beat the Cowboys and Redskins and the Jets beat the Giants and the Giants beat the Cowboys and the Cowboys lose to both the Eagles and Giants the Eagles go to the playoffs conversation.

But I’m not.

First of all, I am a fan of two teams. The other team I adore is the Atlanta Falcons. For years, the Falcons only went to the playoffs when the NFL provided them tickets and transportation. Winning seasons weren’t a sure thing. Now that the Falcons have had 4 straight winning seasons and are headed toward their 3rd playoff appearance in 4 years, I can say that the Falcons getting to the playoffs win or lose is what I expect and I’m, to a certain extent, happy with.

With the Eagles that is not the case. The Eagles have had 239849023 winning seasons, division titles and even a conference title! I’m no longer satisfied with the one and done thing that has plagued the Eagles as of late. We’ve hovered around above-average-semi-mediocrity since 2005. I’m ready for more. So it’s hard for me to get super excited about less-than-long shot chances at making the playoffs this year. I wanna know that once we get there we could do something with the opportunity.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t love it if the Eagles DID make the playoffs…but I just don’t want to think about it. Let’s say they go…does that make this season any less a disaster? Not really! And with disasters come change. Could any changes that are made that don’t work out result in another disastrous season next year? SURE COULD.

To be clear, I expect great things out of the Eagles next year. I think they will bounce back. In fact, depending on what decisions are made for next season and whether Vick can control himself, I might say they’re easily a 13-3 team. But this year, I’m done with hope. I used it all up when I got excited thinking they were going to win their game against the Bears. I have no juice left for playoff scenarios.

I am hereby covering my ears and screaming LALALALALALLALALALA.


Houston Texans Will Enter the Playoffs For The First Time

I was going to put a photo of TJ Yates here but it was just too difficult to find one. Not surprising since he's lived in relative obscurity until now.

Yes, you read that correctly. This year will be the first time the Houston Texans have made the playoffs. Of course, the team was started in 2002…so it either is or isn’t a huge feat depending on how you look at it. The story for the Texans has been similar to the story of the Green Bay Packers of 2010-overcoming injuries to key players to stroll into the playoffs. The Texans lost two quarterbacks (Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart) and have had to depend on 3rd string 5th round draft pick TJ Yates to lead the team. Andre Johnson, one of the league’s best receivers, has also been in and out of the line up.

Yates has been the biggest surprise. At first it seemed as though the Texans would basically continue to rely on Arian Foster and Ben Tate using the QB as a game manager mostly. But Yates has been much more than that.  In Yates first game he had only 70 yards passing. Since then — 188 and 300. He’s led some impressive drives including a come back drive yesterday that put the Texans over the Cincinnati Bengals bringing their record to 10-3 and clinching the AFC south.

I think one thing that needs to be said is that Wade Phillips (yes, former Cowboys head coach) is doing a fabulous job with he Texans defense. They’ve held their last 3 opponents to less than 20 points. Football outsiders has their defense ranked 5 overall and 3rd against the pass which is a real advantage in the playoffs if that holds up. When it comes to scheduling, the Texans have had one of the easiest 2nd halfs I’ve seen. They get to finish the season by playing the Panthers, Titans, and Colts. So it should be smooth sailing for them from here til January.

Once the playoff picture is set I’ll take a look at the Texans matchups as well as all the other teams.





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