June 22, 2017

Ravens 30, Steelers 17

The second game of wildcard weekend had the Baltimore Ravens heading up to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.  These teams are division rivals and are very familiar with one another.  Kicker Josh Tucker sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Steelers started at their 20-yard line.  They took 6:27 off the clock and moved into Baltimore territory, but they came away with no points.  Instead of trying a 55-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin decided it would be a wise decision to punt.  Brad Wing’s punt was downed at the Baltimore seven-yard line.  The Ravens ran three plays and punted the ball right back to the Steelers.

Starting with good position at the Pittsburgh 40, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.  That was followed by a five-yard carry by rookie running back Josh Harris.  Harris got the call again and he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Roethlisberger went to the air again and two completions to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant netted 29 yards.  That set them up with a first down at the Baltimore 20.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the next three plays would lose seven yards.  Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and his 45-yard field goal attempt was good.  That put the Steelers up 3-0 with 1:29 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and quarterback Joe Flacco went deep on first down for wide receiver Jacoby Jones.  The pass was incomplete, but safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit.  That moved the ball to the 35.  Flacco threw to his right and the pass was caught by tight end Owen Daniels for a gain of 18 yards.  Two carries by running back Justin Forsett netted another first down and the Ravens were in Steeler territory.  From the 36, Flacco hooked up with Daniels again for a gain of ten yards.  That was followed by two more carries by Forsett and that gave them a first down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, running back Bernard Pierce took it in from five yards out for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 7-3 with 12:28 to go in the second quarter.

Return man Markus Wheaton fielded the ensuing kickoff five yards deep and decided to run it out.  Not a good idea.  He was brought down at the 14-yard line.  From the 14, Roethlisberger completed an 18-yard pass to Brown.  On third and ten from the 32, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller for a gain of 30 and a first down at the Baltimore 38-yard line.  The next three plays netted nine yards and Suisham was brought into the game for a field goal attempt.  But the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field.  That gave the Steelers a first down at the 24.  Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Tate on first down.  But another flag was thrown and the Ravens were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the ten.  The Ravens brought some pressure and Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of nine by defensive tackle Brandon Williams.  That was followed by a short pass to Brown and a 12-yard pass to Bryant.  That set up a fourth and goal from the four.  Suisham had no problem making his 22-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens now led 7-6 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Steve Smith for a gain of 23 yards.  A four-yard pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken and an eight-yard run by Forsett moved them into Pittsburgh territory.  Add another personal foul penalty on the Steelers and the Ravens had a first down at the 30.  From the 30, Flacco found Daniels for a gain of 19 yards and a first down at the 11.  But they would only gain one yard on their next three plays.  Tucker was brought in for a 28-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That put the Ravens up 10-6 with 2:41 to go in the second quarter.

Another short kick return by Wheaton had the Steelers starting their next possession at their 18-yard line.  Roethlisberger got his team to mid-field with an 11-yard pass to Miller, a 14-yard pass to Bryant and a seven-yard pass to running back Dri Archer.  A six-yard pass to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and an 11-yard pass to Wheaton netted a first down at the 33.  The drive stalled at the 29 and Suisham came on for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Ravens led 10-9 at halftime.

The Ravens started their first drive of the second half at their 16-yard line.  On third and 14, Flacco looked his right and found wide receiver Torrey Smith for a gain of 17 yards.  A seven-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and a short run by Forsett had the Ravens in a third and short situation.  Instead of trying to run it up the gut, Flacco went deep for S. Smith.  The pass was incomplete, but some more yellow laundry was thrown onto the field.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, they weren’t terrible towels.  They were penalty flags.  Defensive pass interference was the call and the Ravens now had the ball at the Pittsburgh 31.  On first down, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 13 by linebacker Sean Spence.  The ball came loose, but the Ravens recovered it at the 44-yard line.  A short pass to Jones and a 14-yard pass to Smith put the Ravens back in field goal range.  Tucker’s 45-yard field goal attempt was good and the Ravens went up 13-9 with ten minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers punted on their next possession and the Ravens took over at their 31-yard line.  Two completions to S. Smith quickly moved them down to the Pittsburgh 23.  A nine-yard pass to Juszczyk and a five-yard scramble by Flacco moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Two plays later, Flacco lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and it was hauled in by T. Smith for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 20-9 with 4:13 to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers couldn’t get moving and after eight plays netted just 14 yards, they punted again.  The Ravens took over at their 17 and a completion to S. Smith and some good running by Forsett moved them to the 42-yard line.  On third and eight from the 44, Forsett caught a pass and was brought down just short of a first down.  Flacco took it up the middle on fourth down and gained two yards for a first down at the Pittsburgh 47-yard line.  From the 47, Forsett ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt recovered the fumble and that gave the Steelers the ball at the 45-yard line.  Roethlisberger went deep for Brown on first down and it appeared he made a 45-yard touchdown catch.  But replay showed he was down at the one.  That was followed by a false start that moved them back to the six.  From the six, Roethlisberger threw to the right and Bryant caught it for a touchdown.  They decided to go for two, but the pass intended for Brown was picked off by safety Matt Elam.  With 11 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens led 20-15.

Jones returned the kickoff to the 22, but the Steelers were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the 37-yard line.  The next two plays lost three yards and that put the Ravens in a third and 13 situation.  If the Steelers could get a stop here, they’d be in position to take the lead.  That didn’t happen.  Flacco found Daniels across the middle and he gained 23 yards on the play.  That gave the Ravens a first down at the Pittsburgh 43-yard line.  From the 43, Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Marlon Brown for a gain of nine.  On third and one from the 34, Flacco went deep for S. Smith, but it was incomplete.  Tucker came on again for another field goal attempt.  His 52-yard attempt split the uprights and the Ravens went up 23-15 with 8:47 to go in the game.

The Steelers still had a shot to tie the game up.  But on third and four from the 26, Roethlisberger felt the pressure and dumped off a short pass to Tate.  The ball hit his hands, but he couldn’t handle it and it was picked off by defensive end Terrell Suggs.  The Ravens wasted no time in getting another score as Flacco dumped a short pass off to tight end Crockett Gillmore and he took it the rest of the way for a 21-yard touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 30-15 with 7:56 to go in the game.

The Steelers knew they had to score quickly.  But they were anything but quick on their next drive.  Granted, they moved the ball well, but they weren’t using the no huddle offense consistently.  To top that off, Roethlisberger left the game after getting his bell rung.  He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.  Gradkowski completed two of three passes for 22 yards.  On second and ten from the Baltimore 14, Roethlisberger came back into the game and promptly threw a pass that was picked off by safety Darian Stewart.  That pretty much sealed the deal.  The Steelers did manage to block a punt late in the game for a safety, but that was way too little way too late.  The Ravens came away with a 30-17 win.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.  Steve Smith led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 101.  There wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of for the Ravens.  They totaled 49 yards rushing on 25 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Daryl Smith led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 45 for 334 yards, one touchdown and two very costly interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 117.  Like the Ravens, there wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of.  As a team, the Steelers rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, safety Troy Polamalu led the team in solo tackles with five.

Up next for the Ravens is a trip to New England to face the Patriots.  That game will be on Saturday at 4:35 eastern time.

Stellar Performances and Records in the 2013 Postseason

The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl XLVII Champions after enduring a 35-minute power outage in their 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. There were many stellar performances and records broken during the NFL playoffs, including several of them during Super Bowl XLVII. The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers received outstanding performances from several players. Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones, Ed Reed and Joe Flacco broke or tied several records while the 49ers received great play from Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore Ravens receiver/returner Jacoby Jones broke two Super Bowl records. He amassed a record-setting 290 all-purpose yards in the Super Bowl, including a 108-yard kickoff return and a 56-yard reception for touchdowns. His 108-yard kickoff return is the longest return in Super Bowl history. The return was originally ruled a 109-yard return but the NFL later changed it to 108 yards. The NFL record for both the regular season and postseason is 108 yards.

Earlier this season, Jones had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. Jones is the only player in NFL history with three kickoff returns of 105 or more yards for touchdowns.

On the Ravens defense, free safety Ed Reed tied an NFL playoff record during the second quarter of the Super Bowl with his ninth career playoff interception. Reed is tied with Ronnie Lott, Charlie Waters and Bill Simpson for most career playoff interceptions. During the regular season, the future Hall of Famer has 61 interceptions.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP quarterback Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the playoffs. When his Ravens defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 in the AFC Championship Game, he became the first quarterback ever with six career playoff victories on the road, breaking a tie of five road wins that he shared with Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Throughout the playoffs, Gore averaged a shade over five yards per carry and had two 100-yard rushing games. Gore quietly puts up good numbers each year. During the regular season, he rushed for 1,214 yards for his sixth season of 1,000 or more yards. He currently ranks 34th all-time in rushing yards with 8,839 yards, just ten yards behind regular season MVP Adrian Peterson. Both look to join the 10,000-yard club in 2013.

When the 49ers defeated the Packers during NFC Divisional Playoffs, Gore and quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the first QB/RB duo with each having 100 yards rushing in a playoff game. They are only the third duo since 1960 to each have 100 yards rushing in a playoff game.

If the 49ers weren’t running the ball, tight end Vernon Davis was catching passes for them. Vernon had two 100-yard receiving games during the playoffs including six receptions for 104 yards in the Super Bowl. Davis has played in five career playoff games and already has achieved four games with over 100 yards receiving. The player either handing or throwing the ball to Gore or Davis was Kaepernick.

Kaepernick splashed onto the playoff scene in a big way. Against the Green Bay Packers, he became the first player ever to rush for 100+ yards and pass for 250+ yards while passing and rushing for two touchdowns each. Kaepernick joins only Jay Cutler and Otto Graham with two rushing and two passing touchdowns in a playoff game. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards with two touchdowns (20 and 56-yards). His 181 rushing yards are the most rushing yards by a quarterback in any game (regular season or playoffs).

On the road against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, Kaepernick lifted the 49ers to a victory after trailing 17-0 in the first quarter. The 17-point deficit is the second greatest comeback in a conference championship game. The Indianapolis Colts came back from an 18-point deficit against the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game.

During Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick nearly lead his team to the greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history. The 49ers trailed 28-6 in the early part of the third quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback as his 4th and goal pass fell incomplete late in the fourth quarter. Kaepernick completed 16 out of 28 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 62 yards on 7 carries, including a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

 

Super Bowl XLVII

This year, the Super Bowl matched up the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens against the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.  It was the first time in Super Bowl history that brothers (John and Jim Harbaugh) were coaching the teams and it was being billed as the “Har-Bowl” or the “Super-Bro.”  So, after two weeks of hype, we were finally ready for the game to start.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Justin Tucker kicked it deep for a touch-back and the 49ers started at their 20.  They got the game off to a good start when quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis.  Unfortunately, that play was called back due to an illegal formation penalty.  Three plays later, punter Andy Lee came on and hit a 50-yard punt that was fielded at the Raven 32 by return man Jacoby Jones.  He returned it to the 49 and the Ravens had good field position for their first drive.

From the 49, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a short pass to fullback Vonta Leach that went for eight yards.  Running back Ray Rice ran for four yards on the next play and that got the Ravens a first down at the San Francisco 39.  From the 39, Flacco went to wide receiver Torrey Smith for 20 more yards and the Ravens were marching.  A short run by Rice and an incomplete pass made it third and nine.  On third down, Flacco looked for tight end Dennis Pitta and the pass was incomplete.  However, the 49ers were flagged for an offside penalty.  On third and four from the 13, Flacco threw for the end zone and the pass was caught by wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens had an early 7-0 lead.

Starting from their 20, the 49ers went to work.  Running back Frank Gore was thrown for a loss of one on first down, but Kaepernick came back with a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree.  Runs of nine and five yards by Gore and 16 more rushing yards from Kaepernick moved the ball to the Raven 32.  Kaepernick then found Davis open for a gain of 24 and the 49ers were at the Raven eight-yard line.  They would go no further.  In fact, they went backwards as Kaepernick was sacked on third down for a loss of ten by linebacker Paul Kruger.  Kicker David Akers came into the game and made his 36-yard field goal attempt.  That made it 7-3 with 3:58 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens managed to get a couple of first downs on their next drive but ended up punting.  Sam Koch’s punt went into the end zone and the 49ers were starting from their 20 again.  Passes of 29 and 11 yards to Davis had the 49ers off to a good start.  Rookie running back LaMichael James ran up the left side for eight yards and Gore got seven more on the next play.  On first down from the Raven 24, James ran off right end and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by defensive end Arthur Jones at the 25.

Running back Bernard Pierce got some action to start this drive and he netted 12 yards on three carries.  From the 37, Flacco found Pitta for nine and Pierce got two yards on his next carry for a first down at the 48.  Flacco then found tight end Ed Dickson for 23 yards and Rice ran up the right side for seven more.  Flacco looked for Dickson again and he was dragged down at the San Francisco eight-yard line.  A facemask penalty on safety Donte Whitner made it first and goal from the four.  On second and goal from the one, Flacco fired a pass into the end zone that was caught by Pitta for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-3 with 7:06 to go in the first half.

The 49ers got the ball back at their 21 and Kaepernick put up a deep ball for wide receiver Randy Moss.  The ball was picked off by safety Ed Reed at the San Francisco 44 and returned to the 38.  After that, a huge brawl ensued.  Offsetting penalties were called and the Ravens were in business again.  Three runs by Rice, a short pass to Leach and a seven-yard pass to Rice got them a first down at the San Francisco 15.  The next three plays netted one yard and Tucker came on for a field goal attempt.  Instead of kicking the ball through the uprights, Tucker took the snap and ran up the left side in hopes of getting a first down.  He was pushed out of bounds one yard short of the first down marker by safety Darcel McBath.

A quick three and out by the 49ers gave the Ravens the ball at their 44.  On third and ten, Flacco looked deep for Jones and the ball was caught at the San Francisco nine.  After Jones caught the pass, he fell to the turf, quickly got up and made his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now had a 21-3 lead with 1:45 to go in the half.

Starting at the 20, Kaepernick completed a six-yard pass to Crabtree and a 14-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker.  A roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata got them 15 more yards and a first down at the Raven 45.  Kaepernick looked for Walker again and found him for a gain of 28.  That got them down to the 17, but they couldn’t get the ball into the zone.  Akers made his 27-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens took a 21-6 lead into the locker room.

The second half got started with a bang as Jones fielded the kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone and ran straight up the middle.  Not a 49er could catch him and he ran it in for a 108-yard touchdown.  By the way, that was the longest scoring play in Super Bowl history.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 28-6 with 14:49 to go in the third quarter.  The 49ers started at their 14 and on first down, Kaepernick hooked up with Crabtree for a gain of 29 yards.  On first down from the 43, Gore ran up the left side for three and Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of six yards.  And then the lights went out.  The lights stayed out for a grand total of 34 minutes.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.  After they finally came back on, the 49ers faced a third and 13 and didn’t get the first down.  The Ravens didn’t fare much better on their next drive and punted after four plays.

From their 20, the 49ers went to work knowing they had to get something going if they wanted to avoid being blown out.  Kaepernick had two scrambles that netted 20 yards and a first down at the 40.  On third and eight from the 42, Moss caught a nine-yard pass for a first down at the Raven 49.  From the 49, Kaepernick hit Davis for 18 yards and a first down at the 31.  Next, Crabtree caught a pass on the left side, bounced off a couple of defenders and made his way into the end zone for a 49er touchdown.  Akers made the point after and the score was now 28-13 with 7:20 to go in the third quarter.

On their next drive, the Ravens went nowhere as Flacco was sacked on third and ten by linebacker Ahmad Brooks.  49er return man Tedd Ginn fielded the punt at the San Francisco 48 and returned it to the Raven 20.  It took two plays to go 20 yards and Gore ran the ball in from the six-yard line for a touchdown.  Akers made the point after and it was now 28-20 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.  You could feel the momentum swing in favor of the 49ers.  What made it worse for the Ravens was an injury to Ngata.  He would not return to the game.  It couldn’t get worse than that, could it?  Yes it could.  On second and seven from the 23, the 49ers brought the blitz.  Flacco managed to dump off a pass to Rice on the left side where he was hit by cornerback Tarell Brown.  The ball came loose and Brown recovered it at the 24.

This time, the Raven defense was ready.  The 49ers managed to gain only three yards on three plays and it was up to Akers to put some more points on the board.  His kick sailed wide left, but the Ravens were flagged for running into the kicker.  That moved them up five yards and Akers was granted another try from 34 yards.  The kick was good and the score was now 28-23 with 3:10 to go in the third quarter.

The Ravens took over at their 28.  Two runs by Pierce and a 30-yard catch and run by Boldin moved the Ravens to the San Francisco 35.  Pitta caught another one for seven yards, Rice ran for two and Pierce had a nice run up the left side for a gain of eight.  He was hurt after that play, but would return later in the game.  A four-yard run by Rice and a nine-yard catch by Boldin made it first and goal at the four.  Two runs by Rice got them down to the one.  Instead of running it again, Flacco rolled out to the right side and couldn’t find anyone open.  The pass was incomplete and the Ravens had to settle for a 19-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and that made it 31-23 with 12:54 to go in the game.

The 49ers had little trouble moving the ball from their 24-yard line.  A five-yard run by Gore, a 32-yard catch by Moss and a 21-yard run by Gore made it first down at the Raven 18.  On second and seven from the 15, Kaepernick took it the rest of the way for another touchdown.  That made it 31-29 and they went for two to tie the game up.  The Ravens blitzed and Kaepernick’s pass to Moss was overthrown.  The score remained 31-29 with 9:57 to go in the game.

The Ravens started at their 21 and on third and nine, a pass interference penalty was called on cornerback Chris Culliver.  That gave them a first down at their 36.  A short run by Pierce and another catch by Boldin appeared to give the Ravens another first down.  But 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh challenged the spot and it was ruled Boldin was short of the first down.  That made it third and one from the 45.  I think everyone in the building was expecting a run up the middle on the next play.  Instead, Flacco called an audible and threw to the right side to Boldin.  Despite being blanketed by cornerback Carlos Rogers, Boldin managed to haul in the pass for a gain of 15 and a crucial first down.  Rice finally got loose for a gain of 12 and another first down at the San Francisco 28.  Two short runs by Rice and an offside penalty made it third and two at the 20.  Flacco fired a pass to Pitta, but he couldn’t hold on and that brought up fourth down.  Tucker came into the game again and his 38-yard attempt was good.  The Ravens now led 34-29 with 4:19 to go in the game.

Eight-yard runs by Kaepernick and Gore got the 49ers a first down at their 36.  On second and ten from the 36, Kaepernick hit Crabtree for a gain of 24 and a first down at the Raven 40.  From the 40, Gore ran up the left side and was finally pushed out of bounds at the seven-yard line.  The 49ers had to go seven yards to take the lead after they had trailed 28-6 earlier in the game.  From the seven, James ran for two yards.  On second down from the five, Kaepernick looked for Crabtree and the pass was incomplete.  He would look for Crabtree again on third down and get the same result.  That made it fourth and goal from the five.  Kaepernick took the snap and once again looked for Crabtree in the end zone.  The pass fell incomplete and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs.  There was definitely some contact between Crabtree and cornerback Jimmy Smith on that final play, but no flag was thrown.  This caused Jim Harbaugh to lose his mind and he was very critical of the zebras after the game.

The Ravens took over at their five-yard line and three plays got them exactly three yards.  The 49ers used up their remaining timeouts and on fourth down with 12 seconds remaining, the Ravens went into punt formation.  Koch took the snap and held the ball as long as he could before running out of the end zone for a safety.  That made it 34-31 with four seconds remaining.  From the 20, Koch blasted a 61-yard punt that was fielded by Ginn.  He fielded it at the 19 and was brought down at midfield.  That brought the game to an end with the final score: Baltimore Ravens 34 San Francisco 49ers 31.

For the Ravens, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco completed 23 of 33 for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 104 and a touchdown.  The Ravens had a tough time moving the ball on the ground and Ray Rice led the way with 59 yards on 20 carries.  Rice also had 19 yards receiving and one lost fumble.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for just 93 yards on 35 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Dannell Ellerbee led the Ravens with six solo tackles and one tackle for a loss.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 16 of 28 for 302 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  He also had 62 yards rushing on seven carries and one rushing touchdown.  Vernon Davis led the team in receptions with six and Crabtree had the most yards receiving with 109 and a touchdown.  On the ground, Frank Gore led the way with 110 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.  As a team, the 49ers averaged 6.3 yards a carry and racked up 182 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Patrick Willis led the 49ers with eight solo tackles.

That was one hell of a game.  The Ravens could do no wrong until the lights went out.  After they came back on, all the momentum switched to the 49ers.  But, when it came to crunch time, the Raven defense got the job done.  Linebacker Ray Lewis played his last game and is retiring a champion.  The next time we see him will be at his Hall of Fame induction speech.  It was indeed a tough loss for the 49ers, but they have a bright future with Colin Kaepernick at the helm.  I would imagine quarterback Alex Smith won’t be back next year.  Maybe he’ll end up in Arizona or Kansas City.  As of right now, your guess is as good as mine.

I enjoyed writing all these post season articles and I’ll return next month as The Raider Guy.  They have the third pick in the draft this year and need help at lots of positions.  As far as I am concerned, Damontre Moore from Texas A&M is the guy they need to get.  That will be discussed at a later time.  Until then, take it easy.

 

Ravens 28, Patriots 13

The Baltimore Ravens headed north to New England to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.  The Ravens were coming off a huge 38-35 double overtime win over the Denver Broncos and the Patriots were coming off a 41-28 win over the Houston Texans.  The Ravens won the toss and deferred to the second half.

Neither team could do much on their first possessions until the Patriots started their second drive of the game from their 21.  An eight-yard completion from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and a three-yard run by running back Stevan Ridley got them a first down at the 32.  An eight-yard pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez and another one to Lloyd for 13 yards moved them to the Raven 47.  Brady found Hernandez again for ten more yards and a first down at the 37.  A short run by Ridley and another pass to Lloyd for 16 more yards made it first down at the 20.  They would get as far as the 12 and the drive stopped there.  Kicker Stephen Gostkowski came on and made his 30-yard attempt and the Patriots led 3-0 with 6:21 to go in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Ravens were flagged for an illegal block and started at their ten.  Aside from a 17-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to fullback Vonta Leach, the Ravens didn’t do much.  On third and 12 from the 25, Flacco looked for wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the pass was incomplete.  Cornerback Aqib Talib was injured on this play and would not return.  That was a big blow to the Patriot secondary.

As the game progressed, neither offense could get into a rhythm and the first quarter ended with the score still at 3-0.  The Ravens found themselves back at their ten-yard line again and a three-yard run by running back Ray Rice, a five-yard pass to Leach and a 17-yard pass to tight end Daniel Pitta got them out to their 33-yard line.  A couple of short runs and an 11-yard reception by Rice netted another first down at the 46.  From the 46, running back Bernard Pierce made an appearance.  On second and eight from the 48, Flacco found Pierce for eight yards and a first down at the Patriot 44.  A four-yard run by Pierce and a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Torrey Smith moved the Ravens into the red zone.  Rice finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.  Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 7-3 with 9:28 to go in the second quarter.  The Patriots suffered another injury on this drive as cornerback Patrick Chung left the game.

The Patriots started at their 21 and Ridley ran for a gain of three yards.  An unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens got them 15 free yards and a first down at the 39.  Brady found wide receiver Wes Welker for seven yards and Lloyd again for three more.  Two more runs by Ridley and a 24-yard pass to Welker had them marching into Raven territory.  On second and two from the eight, Brady connected with Hernandez at the one to make it first and goal.  On third down, Brady looked to his right and found Welker for a touchdown.  Gostkowski made the point after and the Patriots were back on top, 10-7 with 4:18 to go in the first half.

Three plays got the Ravens zero yards and they brought Sam Koch into the game to punt again.  A 15-yard return by Welker put the Patriots at the Raven 43 with 2:32 to go.  Runs by Brady, Ridley and Woodhead made it fourth and one from the 34.  Woodhead took the direct snap and ran up the left side for a gain of seven and a first down.  On third and ten from the 27, Brady found Hernandez again for a gain of 17 and a first and goal from the ten.  With 26 seconds left, the Patriots called their second timeout.  On first down, Brady ran for a gain of three and instead of calling timeout, he tried to get the offense back to the line of scrimmage to run another play.  Precious seconds ran off the clock as they tried to get organized.  That forced Brady to take the third timeout with four seconds remaining.  That wasn’t enough time to run a play and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Patriots took a 13-7 lead into the locker room.

The Ravens would get as far as the 50 on their first drive of the second half and would be forced to punt.  The Patriots took over at their nine and a six-yard pass to Lloyd, a five yard run by Ridley, a five-yard pass to Hernandez and a 24-yard pass to Welker moved the ball to midfield.  Add another unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens and the Patriots were looking good with a first down at the Raven 36-yard line.  But, they would only get as far as the 34.  With the swirling winds making field goal attempts difficult, the Patriots opted to punt.  Zoltan Mesko punted the ball to the 13 where it was fair caught by safety Ed Reed.

With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took to the air and Flacco brought out the no huddle offense.  A 15-yard pass interference penalty on the Patriots and a 22-yard pass to Pitta moved the Ravens to the 50.  From the 50, Flacco hooked up with Rice for 15 yards.  A five-yard pass to Smith and an eight yard run by Pierce netted a first down at the 22.  From the 22, Flacco found Boldin for 12 and Pitta for five more.  On second and goal from the five, Flacco tossed a short pass to his right and Pitta caught it for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-13 with 6:14 to go in the third quarter.

The Patriots went nowhere on their next drive and punted.  Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the Raven 26 and returned it to the 37.  On second and 14 from the 33, Flacco went deep for Smith and he hauled it in for a gain of 23 yards.  An offside penalty and runs by Rice and Pierce got them a first down at the Patriot 25.  A six-yard run by Pierce and a six-yard completion to Pitta made it first down at the  13.  From the 13, Flacco completed an eight-yard pass to Boldin and Rice ran up the right side for a gain of two yards and that made it first and goal from the three.  On first down, Flacco tossed a high pass into the middle of the end zone for Boldin.  Despite the fact that there were two defenders in the area, Boldin came down with the ball for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 21-13 with an entire quarter remaining.

The Patriots started their next drive at their 16 and moved quickly to the 39 on the strength of three runs by Ridley and a 12-yard pass to Lloyd.  From the 39, Ridley ran up the right side and after a gain of eight yards, he was hammered by safety Bernard Pollard.  The ball came loose and there was a huge pileup.  Defensive end Arthur Jones emerged from the pile with the ball and the Ravens took over at the Patriot 47.  Ridley would leave the game and not return.  The Ravens needed four plays to go 47 yards and on second and four from the 11, Flacco once again found Boldin in the end zone for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens went up 28-13 with 11:13 to go in the game.

Now it was time for Brady to break out the no huddle offense.  From his own 29, he completed passes to Lloyd, running back Shane Vereen and Welker  to move the ball to the Raven 25.  On fourth and four from the 19, Brady ran to the left and looked like he may be able to get the first down.  Instead of running for it, he tossed the ball to the end zone where it fell incomplete.  That gave the Ravens the ball at the 19 with 8:27 to go.  Instead of running the ball, Flacco tried three pass plays.  That resulted in a grand total of minus one yard.  They had the ball for a whole minute and two seconds and punted.

The Patriots took over at their 40 and Brady wasted no time finding Welker for a big gain of 36 yards.  On first down from the 24, Brady looked for Hernandez and the ball was knocked up in the air by defensive end Pernell McPhee.  Linebacker Dannell Ellerbee got under it and picked it off.  That was a killer for the Patriots.  This time, the Ravens ran the ball and took a little over four minutes off the clock and the Patriots used all their timeouts.  With 2:05 to go, the Patriots moved from their 33 to the Raven 22.  On second down from the 22, Brady threw for the end zone and his pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams.  That sealed the deal and got the Ravens a ticket to the Super Bowl.  Final score: Ravens 28 Patriots 13.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 21 of 36 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta tied for the lead in receptions with five and Torrey Smith had the most yards receiving with 69.  Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 52 yards on nine carries and as a team, the Ravens rushed for 121 yards on 33 carries.  Linebacker Ray Lewis led the team with six solo tackles.

For the Patriots, Tom Brady completed 29 of 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Aaron Hernandez had the most receptions with nine and Welker had the most yards receiving with 117 and a touchdown.  Stevan Ridley had the bulk of the carries and led the team with 70 yards on 18 carries.  All totaled, the Patriots rushed for 108 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Brandon Spikes led the team with six solo tackles.

In two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will meet the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.  It’ll be the first brother versus brother coaching match-up in Super Bowl history as John Harbaugh will be matching wits with his younger brother Jim.  The last time they met was in 2011 and  the Ravens won that game by a score of 16-6.  It will also be the last game for the great Ray Lewis.  I would also imagine 49er wide receiver Randy Moss may call it quits after this game too.  Honestly, all I’m hoping for is a good and entertaining game.  I’ll be traveling on Super Bowl weekend and will not be back in town until Monday afternoon.  I’ll have a recap of the game up no later than Monday night.  Until then, take it easy and enjoy the game.

 

 

 

Ravens 38, Broncos 35 in Two Overtimes

The first game on the playoff schedule had the Baltimore Ravens flying out to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos were coming off a first round bye week and the Ravens defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the wildcard round by a score of 24-9.  The Broncos won the toss and deferred to the second half.

After moving the ball from their own 20-yard line to the to the 38, running back Ray Rice was stopped short of the first down on third and two.  Punter Sam Koch got off a nice 52-yard punt that was fielded by return man Trindon Holliday at the the Bronco ten.  He ran straight up the middle and cut up the right sideline.  Koch gave his best effort to stop him short of the end zone, but Holliday was too quick.  Just like that, it was 6-0.  Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 7-0 with 12:14 to go in the first quarter.

After a muffed kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, the Ravens were starting at their own six-yard line.  A pass interference penalty on the Broncos gave them a first down at the 33.  On second and two from the 41, quarterback Joe Flacco went deep for wide receiver Torrey Smith who got behind the secondary.  Smith caught the ball in stride and made it to the end zone for a Raven touchdown.  Kicker Justin Tucker made the point after and the score was quickly knotted at seven with 10:31 to go in the first quarter.

The Broncos got the ball back at their 25 and on third and six from the 29, quarterback Peyton Manning looked for wide receiver Eric Decker.  The ball was knocked up into the air and promptly picked off by cornerback Corey Graham at the 39.  He returned it all the way for another Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 14-7 with 9:49 to go in the first quarter.

The Broncos started out at their 26 and completions to tight end Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen got them to midfield.  A short run by running back Knowshon Moreno and a 13-yard pass to Decker got them down to the Raven 36.  A short pass to running back Ronnie Hillman, an illegal hands to the face penalty on the Ravens and an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas made it first down at the 17.  On third and eight from the 15, Manning looked for his old friend wide receiver Brandon Stokley in the end zone.  Stokley did a good job of keeping his knee in bounds for a Bronco touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the score was now tied at 14 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts on the next few possessions and the Broncos took over at their 14.  Completions to Thomas and Moreno had the Broncos rolling again.  A pass up the right side to Decker netted 32 yards and they found themselves in the red zone.  From the 14, Manning tossed a pass to the right side for Moreno who caught it for yet another Bronco touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos led 21-14 with 7:26 to go in the first half.

A missed field goal by Prater after a 14 play, 47-yard drive gave the Ravens the ball at their 42 with 1:16 remaining in the first half.  Flacco found wide receiver Anquan Boldin for 11 yards and and tight end Dennis Pitta for 15 more.  On first down from the Bronco 32, Flacco looked to his right and put one up for Smith who got behind cornerback Champ Bailey again.  Smith made a nice leaping catch for a Raven touchdown.  Tucker made the extra point and the first half ended with the score tied at 21.

At halftime, it was obvious nobody told Tucker not to kick the ball to Holliday.  He fielded the ball four yards deep in the end zone and ran it out.  The Ravens managed to get a couple of hands on him, but he slithered away and ran the kick back for a touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos now led 28-21 with 14:47 to go in the third quarter.

With the help of three penalties by the Broncos and a 20-yard run by running back Ray Rice, the Ravens moved into Bronco territory.  However, on first down from the 43, Flacco fumbled the snap and the ball was recovered by linebacker Keith Brooking at the 43.  Despite the good field position, the Broncos could do nothing with the ball and punted.  The Ravens followed suit and punted it right back to the Broncos.  They took over at their 25 and on the strength of two completions to Tamme, moved the ball to the 46.  On second and 13 from the 43, Manning found Tamme again for a gain of 12 down to the Raven 45.  On third and one, the Broncos were flagged for holding.  That put them in a third and long situation back at their 46.  On third down, defensive end Pernell McPhee sacked Manning and the ball came loose.  It was recovered by linebacker Paul Kruger at the Bronco 37.

It was time for the Ray Rice show to begin.  Five straight carries by Rice got the Ravens into the end zone and they were now down 28-27.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens tied the score at 28 with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter.  Both teams punted on their next possessions.  With 12 minutes to go in the game, the Broncos started their next drive at their 12.  Filling in for the injured Moreno, Hillman became the main running back.  An 11-yard pass to Hillman, a four-yard run and a seven-yard pass to Dreessen got them a first down at the 34.  Another 11-yard completion and a personal foul on the Ravens got them a first down at the Raven 40.  A defensive holding on third and three netted another first down at the 28.  From the 28, Hillman ran up the left side for three yards and Decker caught another pass for eight more.  On first down from the 17, Manning threw a short pass to Thomas who caught it and weaved his way through several Raven defenders for a Bronco touchdown.  Prater made the point after and the Broncos now led  35-28 with 7:11 to go in the game.

The Ravens got the ball back and knew they had to score on this drive to hopefully force overtime.  They started at their 25 and on third and seven from the 28, Boldin made a nice grab for a gain of 19.  Another pass to Boldin went for 17 yards and a first down at the Bronco 36.  A false start penalty moved them back five yards and made it first and 15 from the 41.  Three straight carries by Rice netted ten yards and the Ravens now had a fourth and five from the 31.  Flacco looked for Pitta on fourth down and the pass was incomplete.  The Broncos took over with 3:12 to go in the game.  The Ravens had two timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the clock.  Hillman ran four times and moved the ball from the 31 to the 47.  On third and seven, he was stuffed for a loss and the Broncos were forced to punt with 1:15 to go.  The ball was fair caught at the 23 and the Ravens needed a miracle.  Flacco looked for Pitta again on first down and it was incomplete.  He scrambled up the middle for seven yards on second down and with 31 seconds to go, Flacco put one up the right side for Jones who had gotten behind the secondary.  Jones caught it for a stunning 70-yard touchdown.  The rowdy Denver crowd stood in stunned silence at what they had just witnessed.  Tucker made the point after and the game was now tied at 35.  Manning took a knee to end regulation and the game went to overtime.

The Ravens won the toss and got the ball at their 20.  They got down to the Bronco 44 and on third and two, Flacco was sacked for a loss of nine by linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil.  A whole lot of punting went on until the 3:47 mark.  On the last punt by the Ravens, Koch hit a nice 52-yarder that was fielded by Holliday at the 14.  Cornerback Jimmy Smith brought him down for a loss of seven.  Starting at their seven, the Broncos went to work.  A short pass to Hillman, an 11-yard pass to Decker and a couple of runs by Hillman and fullback Jacob Hester netted a first down at the 34.  On second and six from the 38, Manning threw a pass intended for Stokley and it was picked off by Graham.  He was brought down at the Bronco 45.

On second and ten from the 45, Rice ran up the middle for a gain of 11.  That brought the first overtime to a close.  Three more carries by Rice got five yards and on fourth down from the 29, Tucker trotted onto the field for the game-winning kick.  There was no timeout called by the Broncos and his kick was good.  That gave the Ravens a 38-35 win and they will face the winner of the Texans-Patriots game in the AFC Championship.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 34 for 331 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a lost fumble.  Torrey Smith led all receivers in receptions with three and receiving yards with 98 and two touchdowns.  On the ground, Ray Rice grinded out 131 yards on 30 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for 155 yards on 39 carries.  Defensively, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs tied for the team lead in solo tackles with ten apiece.  Suggs also had two sacks, one tackle for a loss and one pass defensed.

For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 28 of 43 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two very costly interceptions.  One was returned for a score and the other set up the game winning field goal.  Eric Decker and Joel Dreessen tied for the lead in receptions with six and Decker had the most receiving yards with 84.  Ronnie Hillman led the Broncos in rushing yards with 83 yards on 22 carries.  As a team, the Broncos rushed for 125 yards on 41 carries.  Defensively, linebackers Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven.  Miller also had a half sack.  I will be back tomorrow morning with a recap of the Packers-49ers game.

 

 

 

Ravens 24, Colts 9

The next playoff game on the schedule had the Indianapolis Colts visiting the Baltimore Ravens.  The big story in this game was that it would be the last one linebacker Ray Lewis would ever play in Baltimore.  After 17 seasons, he decided this season would be his last.  Judging by the entrance he made coming into this game, he was ready to go.  The other big story in this game was that Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness and was absent from the game.  Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen ended up calling the plays.  The Colts won the toss and elected to receive.

The kickoff went nine yards deep into the end zone for a touch-back and the Colts started at their 20.  Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led his team onto the field and on the first play of the game, the Colts started out with some trickery as wide receiver Donnie Avery took an end around up the right side for a gain of 15.  That was the only play that gained any yards for the Colts and they promptly punted the ball away.  Return man Jacoby Jones fielded the punt at the 14 and returned it to the Raven 48.

With good starting field position, the Ravens went to work.  On second and seven from the Colt 49, quarterback Joe Flacco found tight end Ed Dickson across the middle for a gain of 24 yards and a first down at the 25.  A pass interference penalty on the Colts moved the ball to the 15.  On second and six, running back Ray Rice fumbled and despite the fact that guard Marshal Yanda came out of the pile with the ball, the zebras still ruled the Colts had recovered the fumble.  Replay showed that defensive end Lawrence Guy fell on the ball, but it squirted free and was recovered by Yanda.  Still, the Colts were given possession of the ball at their 11.

A four-yard run by running back Vick Ballard and an eight-yard scramble by Luck got the Colts a first down at the 22.  An illegal contact penalty on the Ravens, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne and some more shifty running by Ballard got the Colts down to the Raven 35.  On third and five from the 30, the Ravens brought the pressure and Luck was sacked by linebacker Paul Kruger.  The ball came loose and was recovered by defensive end Pernell McPhee at the 37.  The Colts took over seven minutes off the clock and came away with nothing.

Speaking of ending up with nothing, the remainder of the first quarter featured two more punts and zero points scored.  The second quarter began with the Ravens starting their next drive at their 29.  Ray Rice was given a breather and running back Bernard Pierce entered the game.  On second and four from the 35, Pierce ran up the left side for a gain of five and a first down.  Flacco then found wide receiver Torrey Smith across the middle for a gain of 22 yards.  Another five-yard run for Pierce and a seven-yard catch by tight end Dennis Pitta moved the ball to the Colt 26.  From the 26, Pierce got loose for an 18-yard gain and that made it first and goal from the nine.  The Ravens abandoned the running game and got as far as the five-yard line.  On fourth down from the five, kicker Justin Tucker kicked a 23-yard field goal and the Ravens took a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter.

On first down from his own 20, Luck looked for Avery, but the ball was tipped by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and by all rights, Ray Lewis should have had an interception.  The ball hit his hands, bounced off his chest and fell incomplete to the ground.  Two more plays netted eight yards and the Colts were forced to punt again.  Jones fielded the ball at the 19 and returned it to the 36.  But a holding call moved them back to their 20.  They went nowhere and punted the ball back to the Colts.

With eight minutes to go in the first half, the Colts took over at their 20.  Runs by Ballard and an eight-yard pass to Wayne gave them a first down at the 33.  Luck then found tight end Dwayne Allen across the middle for a gain of 22.  Two plays later, Luck found Allen again for a gain of 13.  The Ravens brought the blitz and Luck was sacked by Kruger and cornerback Corey Graham for a loss of six yards.  On third and 14 from the Raven 36, Luck completed a short pass to tight end Coby Fleener for a gain of seven.  That brought out kicker Adam Vinatieri for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the score was knotted at three with a little over two minutes to go in the first half.

A 37-yard kickoff return by Jones set the Ravens up with good field position.  On third and four from the 43, Flacco found Jones across the middle for a gain of eight.  On second and ten from the 49, Flacco hit Rice with a short pass and thanks to some good down-field blocking, Rice weaved his way down to the two-yard line.  Fullback Vonta Leach finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 10-3 with 50 seconds to go in the first half.

With time running short, Luck took to the air and completed passes to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Wayne to move the ball to the Raven 43.  An intentional grounding penalty moved them back to their 41, but Luck found Hilton again for a gain of 25 yards.  With no more time to run a play, Vinatieri was brought in to try a 52-yard field goal.  He snuck it inside the right upright and the kick was good.  At halftime, the score was 10-6 in favor of the Ravens.

With ten minutes to go in the third quarter, the Ravens took over at their 25.  Throughout the entire first half, wide receiver Anquan Boldin had been invisible.  It was time for him to make some noise.  From the 25, Flacco found Boldin for ten yards.  On second and six from the 39, Boldin caught a deep ball on the right sideline for a gain of 46 and a first down at the Colt 15.  A false start moved them back five yards, but Flacco was unfazed and found Pitta on the right side for a nice 20-yard catch and run for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 17-6 with eight and a half minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Colts started at their 20 and they knew they had better get the ball rolling.  A couple of runs by Ballard, a 17-yard completion to wide receiver LaVon Brazill and a nice six-yard scramble on third and two by Luck moved the Colts to the Raven 43.  Luck continued to spread short passes to his receivers and a 20-yard pass to Wayne set them up with a first down at the 14.  The Ravens really brought the pressure and the drive stalled at the eight-yard line.  Vinatieri made his 26-yard field goal attempt and the score was now 17-9 with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter.

From the 21, Flacco hooked up with Boldin again for 21 yards and a first down at the 42.  Rice got the call on the next play and took off up the left side for a big gain.  As he was running, the ball was knocked loose by safety Joe Lefeged and bounced forward.  It was recovered by linebacker Pat Angerer at the Colt 29.  The Colts put together a decent drive on the strength of a 19-yard catch by Wayne and a 24-yard run by Ballard.  Still, they couldn’t put the ball into the end zone and the drive came to an end at the Raven 22.  It’s a rare occasion that Vinatieri misses a field goal, but his 40-yard attempt sailed wide right and the Colts came away with nothing again.

The Ravens got the ball back at their 30 and knew one more touchdown would most likely put the Colts away.  A nine-yard pass to Smith and a 43-yard run by Pierce got the Ravens in business at the Colt 18.  On second and ten, Flacco put up a high pass into the end zone for Boldin.  Despite having a man in his face, he was able to bring the ball in for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens now led 24-9 with nine minutes to go in the game.

The Colts wouldn’t go down without a fight and went from their 20 down to the Raven 18.  On fourth and one from the 18, Luck looked for Wayne but the pass was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams at the 15.  That sealed the deal and the Ravens ran out the clock.  Final score: Ravens 24 Colts 9.  It was a great and emotional day for the Ravens as their defense brought relentless pressure and Ray Lewis got a win in his last home game as a Raven.  What I was thinking as the game came to a close was that it may also be the final home game for safety Ed Reed.  Both he and Lewis are destined for the Hall of Fame.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck completed 28 of 54 for 288 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and one lost fumble.  Reggie Wayne led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 114.  Vick Ballard led the ground game with 91 yards on 22 carries.  As a team, the Colts rushed for 152 yards on 30 carries.  Defensively, safety Antoine Bethea and defensive end Cory Redding tied for the lead in solo tackles with six.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 12 of 23 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  Anquan Boldin was the star of the show and had 145 yards on five receptions and a touchdown.  Bernard Pierce led the ground game with 103 yards on 15 carries.  Ray Rice also had a good day with 70 yards on 15 carries.  He also had 47 yards receiving and lost two fumbles.  As a team, the Ravens rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries.  Defensively, the Ravens brought the pressure and sacked Luck three times.  He was also knocked down ten times.  Fittingly, Ray Lewis led the team in solo tackles with nine and he also had one tackle for a loss and one pass defensed.  Up next for the Ravens is a trip to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos.  In week 15, they met in Baltimore and the Broncos came away with a dominant 34-17 win.  I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a recap of the Seahawks-Redskins game.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Believe it or not, the Cardinals are still in the playoff hunt – now granted they still need the Falcons and Lions to lose both games but they are alive. Though there was some talk that coach Ken Whisenhunt’s job could be in jeopardy early in the season, this finish would seem to indicate that his job is safe…..Speaking of job’s that are safe, QB Kevin Kolb is still considered the Cards starter even though he has been outplayed by John Skelton while he has been dealing with a toe injury and a concussion. The Cards believe Kolb will be fine as soon as he gets an entire off-season with the team.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons will clinch a playoff berth with one more win and can still win the division if they win their last two games and the Saints lose both. Now you may think that is farfetched and while I admit it is unlikely, the Falcons do play the Saints on Monday night, and next week the Falcons have a gimme game versus Tampa while New Orleans will play Carolina. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, the problem though is that both of the Saints remaining games are at home. It is hard to see them losing twice in the Superdome.

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens certainly laid an egg versus the Chargers last week, but still control the AFC North thanks to the Steelers loss to the 49ers…..How far the Ravens will go in the playoff might be directly proportionate to how well QB Joe Flacco plays. He has been the definition of inconsistency and certainly needs the help that RB Ray Rice can provide. The running game will open up things in the passing game, especially for WR Torrey Smith who can get behind any safety.

Buffalo Bills: With the emergence of RB C.J. Spiller, what will the Bills do next season with Fred Jackson? Jackson was leading the league in rushing when he went down for the season but Spiller is showing that he might be able to handle the full-time role as well. It’s a good problem to have, especially in today’s NFL where having two solid RBs seems to be a must…..The way QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has played since signing his big contract, one has to wonder if the Bills will cut bait and go in a different direction next season, especially before his bonus kicks in.

Carolina Panthers: If the Panthers can build a defense next season, at least an average one, and add another receiver or two to their current crop, they could be a team to watch…..QB Cam Newton should only get better and the NFC South should be a fun division to play in for years to come.

Chicago Bears: What a disaster this season has been for the Bears. They were well on their way to a playoff spot before losing QB Jay Cutler to a broken thumb and RB Matt Forte to a knee injury. QB Caleb Hanie has just been terrible and cost the Bears any chance they had at a playoff spot…..Josh McCown will start for the Bears versus the Packers on Christmas night and he will do so without WR Johnny Knox who is out for the season after suffering a back injury last week.

Cincinnati Bengals: You have to hand it to WR A.J. Green. He suffered a third-degree separation of his shoulder during the game last week but continued to try to play. The man has heart. His status for this week is unknown as the Bengals need to win out to have a shot at making the playoffs, something that looked like a definite about a month ago. It won’t be easy as they play the Cardinals this week, a team with an outside shot at the playoffs, and then the Ravens who will probably need the game to clinch the AFC North.

Cleveland Browns: We’ve all heard the hoopla surrounding the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy and how the Browns handled it. Well, McCoy still has concussion symptoms and Seneca Wallace is likely to start once again…..The NFL did change their concussion protocol once again as there will be a concussion specialist assigned to each team who will be in the booth to make sure that any player who is being treated by the medical staff will be looked at for a possible concussion.

Dallas Cowboys: Here is the situation for the Cowboys and their hopes of winning the NFC East, if they win their last two games versus the Eagles and Giants, they win the division, if the Giants lose to the Jets on Saturday and the Cowboys beat the Eagles later that day, it’s over, if the Giants and Cowboys both lose Saturday, than the Cowboys can clinch with a win over the Giants in Week 17, the Cowboys can also clinch the wild card with a win Saturday, loss in Week 17 if the Falcons lose twice, and the Cardinals lose once, fun fun fun…..RB Felix Jones is dealing with a hamstring injury, should come as no shock as Jones has never been able to stay healthy for any long period of time, Sammy Morris could get more carries than usual, and if the Giants win at 1pm Saturday, Dallas would have very little to play for at 4pm, and may rest Jones for what would be a winner take all game in Week 17.

Denver Broncos: Well QB Tim Tebow finally lost another game, sooner or later the magic run was going to end, but the Broncos are still in good shape and with the Raiders collapsing Denver is still the odds on favorite to win the division, Tebow has gotten better, should be interesting to see what a full off-season can do for him as Broncos GM John Elway announced this week the Tebow will be with the team next season.

Detroit Lions: The Lions are also on the verge of clinching a playoff spot and one win will do, they don’t have much of a running game, and their defense has major holes, but that passing game seems to get more dangerous each and every week as QB Matthew Stafford gains more and more trust in WR Titus Young…..The running game is still a problem as Kevin Smith is still hobbled by an ankle sprain, he will more than likely start this week, question is, can he finish?

Green Bay Packers: Although the Packers won’t have an undefeated season, the loss might be the best thing for them, they are a banged up team suffering two more losses to their offensive line during the game, we all know their defense isn’t very good, if they can’t protect QB Aaron Rodgers and allow them to score at will, than this season may not have a magical ending…..Rodgers has taken some heat for an off week in their loss to the Chiefs in Week 15, but truth is his receivers dropped at least a half-dozen passes, the biggest culprit being TE Jermichael Finley who has had a problem with the drops all year.

Houston Texans: The Texans look like a team that just may be running out of gas, losing a starting QB in Matt Schaub will do that as you can’t keep settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, be surprised if they weren’t one and done in the playoffs…..WR Andre Johnson could certainly help the offense but he won’t play in Week 16, there is a chance however that he could play in Week 17, but once again there could be very little incentive to play him in the final game of the season, his health for the playoffs is much more important.

Indianapolis Colts: Not only will there not be an undefeated team this season, but their won’t be a winless team either as the Colts finally managed to outscore an opponent…..RB Donald Brown had a big game including an 80 yard romp to ice the game late in the 4th quarter, he may be the front-runner to be Colts number one back next season…..Speaking of next season, the Colts are no longer a shoo-in to get the number one pick, which would alleviate all the problems of what to do with QB Peyton Manning…..Speaking of Manning, the Colts announced that he won’t practice with the team for the remainder of the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars: You have to love the season RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having with virtually no passing attack, not sure why defenses don’t put 8-9 guys in the box, not like they have to worry about QB Blaine Gabbert beating them over the top…..

Kansas City Chiefs: What a game by the Chiefs last week in handing the Packers their first loss, coach Romeo Crennel deserves credit for turning this team around, perhaps he will have a chance to get the top job on more than an interim basis next season…..The Chiefs are actually still alive for the division title, now they have to win both and have Denver and Oakland lose both along with San Diego losing at least one of two, but they do play the Raiders this week and Denver next week, so there is a chance.

Miami Dolphins: Whoever is the new head coach of the Dolphins next season will have an interesting dilemma, what to do with RBs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas?, Bush has proven this season that he can indeed handle the every down role and rush the ball between the tackles while Thomas has yet to prove much of anything, that being said Thomas is the bigger back and he was drafted to be the lead back, probably a good problem to have, but a problem none the less…..WR Brandon Marshall has had a solid season, but it would’ve been so much better if he would stop dropping TD passes, that was two more last Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson teased fantasy owners last week by only rushing the ball 10 times, he did get 60 yards on those carries but in the end he may have cost quite a few owners in the playoffs, that being said fantasy owners only have themselves to blame as Minnesota was going to be very cautious with their franchise player, and with New Orleans and QB Drew Brees in town, there was very little chance that Minnesota was going to be able to keep the game close in the second half and not have to abandon the running game.

New England Patriots: With Texans losing last week the Patriots now have the first seed in the AFC, and if they win their last two games will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, course playing in New England hasn’t helped the Pats in the playoffs the past couple of years…..The Pats defense has been abysmal all season and losing their best pass rusher, DE Andre Carter, for the year due to a quad injury certainly won’t help matters any.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints could finish anywhere from the number two seed to the number five seed depending on how they finish up, they need the 49ers to lose one of their last two games and win out in order to get the two seed and a first round bye, but if they lose out and Atlanta wins out, the Falcons would win the division and the Saints would play the NFC East winner in the first round…..I know QB Aaron Rodgers is almost a shoe in for the MVP but Drew Brees is going to deserve some serious consideration for the year he is having, and the he and the Saints may be the biggest obstacle towards Green Bay going back to the Super Bowl.

New York Giants: Wow, how can the Giants lay an egg in an important division game versus the Redskins?, they just came out flat, QB Eli Manning has taken quite a bit of heat for having a terrible game that included multiple interceptions, but he didn’t get any help from his receivers, specifically Hakeem Nicks who dropped two sure touchdown passes…..Has Osi Umenyiora played his last game for the Giants?, he is still dealing with a sprained ankle and unlikely to play this Saturday versus the Jets, and if the Giants lose, than it would seem unlikely that he would play it what would be a meaningless game for the Giants in Week 17.

New York Jets: The Giants weren’t the only team who didn’t show up last week as the Jets were also lambasted by the Eagles in what was an important game, like Eli Manning, QB Mark Sanchez also wasn’t given much help, as WR Santonio Holmes fumbled one reception that directly led to an Eagles TD, and then had a pass go right through his hands that led to another Eagles TD…..Holmes eventually scored a TD that made the score 28-10 Philly, he then went on to celebrate by standing on the football while doing an Eagle flap, a celebration that instantly drew a flag, a flag that Holmes admitted to later he knew was coming, good to see he cares about the team and not himself, seems to me it would’ve been the perfect time to bench him and send a message, but instead Rex Ryan said he supported his player publicly, not surprised, players take after their coaches and Ryan is out there to say the least.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders looked like they had turned things around last week versus Detroit after a couple of disastrous road games only to fall apart in the second half when they forgot that WR Calvin Johnson is a really good receiver and you may want to cover him, they aren’t out of the AFC West hunt yet, but another poor outing and their season is done…..RB Darren McFadden is done for the season although the Raiders have yet to admit it, his loss seems to have triggered their downfall, just a big part of their offense.

Philadelphia Eagles: Who would’ve thought the Eagles would still have a chance to win the NFC East and make the playoffs at this point in the season?, now they still need a small miracle but stranger things have happened, it’s a shame it took them so long into the season to figure things out, but if they were able to sneak in, they would be a team that no one wants to play.

Pittsburgh Steelers: I don’t blame the Steelers for letting QB Ben Roethlisberger play Monday night, although he was hobbled, with the Ravens losing earlier in the day the Steelers had a chance to take over the top spot in the AFC, this week however is a different story, they can beat the Rams with or without Ben, but won’t go far in the playoffs without him, time to let him rest for a couple of weeks and get that ankle healthy.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are once again going on their late season run, more than likely though it’s a little to little, little to late for both the Chargers season and coach Norv Turner…..The Chargers offense is hitting on all cylinders as the Bolts have fixed their offensive line problems, which has opened bigger holes for RB Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert and also given QB Phillip Rivers time to find his receivers down the field.

San Francisco 49ers: How far can the 49ers go in the playoffs?, as things stand now they will likely play the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs, not the best matchup for SF as their weakness is against the pass, something New Orleans does quite well, although not as well on the road as they do at home, 49ers could be one and done as well…..LB Patrick Willis still isn’t practicing after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, 49ers may be playing it safe with Willis, wanting to make sure he’s as close to 100% as possible going into the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks: The Hawks are another team with an extremely outside shot at the playoffs, although they play the 49ers on Saturday which could put those hopes to an end…..The most interesting thing about this game is that RB Marshawn Lynch, who has been one of the hotter backs in the league, will be going up against the SF defense, a defense that has yet to allow a rushing TD all season, drama…..Problem for the Hawks is the way to beat the 49ers is through the air, and QB Tavares Jackson seems to be losing target to throw to each and every week, not they he would inspire confidence anyway.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams season can’t come to an end soon enough and this season may be the last for coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Rams will be someone else’s mess next season, a mess that may include the first overall pick in the draft if the Colts could win another game, a pick they could get a bounty for as they already have a franchise QB in Sam Bradford, quite a few needs could be filled.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Talk about a team that has packed it in, the Bucs are the definition…..They have been terribly disappointing this season as QB Josh Freeman, WR Mike Williams, and RB LeGarrette Blount have all taken some serious steps back, the blame could fall on head coach Raheem Morris who at the very least will be forced to make some changes on his staff and may actually be out of a job…..CB Aqib Talib was placed on IR, ending his season. so things are only going to get worse in the TB secondary.

Tennessee Titans: Hard to believe the Titans gave the Colts their first win last week, a loss that may keep the Titans out of the playoffs…..Things may not get much easier for the Titans this week as RB Chris Johnson is hobbled and is once again not at his best, and QB Matt Hasselback seems to be feeling the effects of a long season as he has not been able to finish the last two games.

Washington Redskins: You have to hand it to the Redskins, they haven’t given up on the season, they gave the Cowboys and Patriots a run for their money in the past couple of weeks and then upset the Giants, possibly ending their season last week, perhaps there is a future for this team after all.

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: I would not want to be the Cardinals offense this week and have to play against the Ravens defense, they are surely going to be an angry bunch after an embarrassing loss to the Jaguars last Monday, it may not have been the defense’s fault that they lost, but they are going to take it out on the Cards offense none the less, an offense that may be without RB Beanie Wells who is dealing with a knee problem and is questionable.

Atlanta Falcons: The bye week comes at a good time for the Falcons as they can use the extra week to get WR Julio Jones back on the field, and even though QB Matt Ryan only missed a couple of plays after injuring his ankle/knee during the victory over Detroit, he could also use the time off to get back to 100%…..Some thought Harry Douglas might have a big game with Jones out with injury, but it really didn’t materialize, he did have 62 yards receiving, but 49 of it came on one play.

Baltimore Ravens: QB Joe Flacco’s performance Monday night versus Jacksonville was abysmal, he was constantly overthrowing his targets, especially WR Anquan Boldin, Boldin couldn’t catch those passes if he was 10 feet tall, this is Flacco’s 2nd bad performance in his last three starts as he was terrible versus the Jets also, that start was sort of excused as the Jets have a good defense, umm, the Jags, not so much…..Coach Harbaugh also has some explaining to do, why didn’t RB Ray Rice get more touches, sure he put the ball on the ground once or twice, but he doesn’t have a history of butter fingers, and it didn’t take a genius to see that Flacco couldn’t get it done, Harbaugh also elected to try an onside kick with 2:02 remaining when he had two timeouts and the two minute warning, seems letting K Billy Cundiff kick the ball out of the end zone and having Jacksonville start from their 20 was the higher percentage play.

Buffalo Bills: LB Shawn Merriman was placed on IR and out for the season due to an Achilles injury, what a shame that a once promising career fizzled out so quickly…..NT Kyle Williams could be done for the season with his foot injury, this would be a considerable blow to the Bills run defense…..The Bills will be catching the Skins at the right time this week as Washington has lost five starters the past
two weeks.

Carolina Panthers: I’d like to see a show of hands for anyone who would’ve thought QB Cam Newton would look this good this fast even with the running game being virtually non-existent, DeAngelo Williams only has 337 yards rushing, Jonathan Stewart 278, no way anyone saw this coming, are teams loading up at the line of scrimmage to force Newton to beat them, possibly, and if that’s the case it may be time to try another strategy as Newton is doing just that.

Chicago Bears: RB Matt Forte’s price just keeps getting higher and higher with every game he plays, the Bears made a big mistake not re-signing him before the season began…..We’re hearing a lot of talk now that Devin Hester should be considered for the Hall of Fame for his kick/punt return abilities, as good as he is at that, I’m just not seeing HOF in his future…..SS Chris Harris was waived by the Bears on Thursday, seems they didn’t think the former starter would react well to a bench role.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are 4-2, a solid start, but I can’t help but think that this is a mirage, they still have to play the Steelers and Ravens twice each, we’ll find out if they are for real after those games, but they do get another gimme this week in Seattle…..RB Cedric Benson will finally serve his suspension this week, Bernard Scott figures to get the bulk of the carries in his absence, but don’t forget about Brian Leonard who could also see a handful of carries.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns-Seahawks game last week may have set the NFL back 50 years, what a terrible game…..RB Peyton Hillis is expected to sit this week, Montario Hardesty would get the bulk of the carries in that case, but remember, they are playing the 49ers, a team that doesn’t give up much on the ground and it’s not like there is much of a passing attack to force the 49ers off the line of scrimmage.

Dallas Cowboys: With a win Sunday night versus the Eagles, Dallas could put the final nail in the Eagles coffin, problem is Eagles coach Andy Reid has won 12 straight games after the bye…..RB DeMarco Murray announced his presence in a big way for the Cowboys with 253 yards rushing against the Rams last week, he wasn’t even the
starter, the Eagles also have a poor run defense so Murray could be in line for a solid day once again, but things will get more interesting in Week 9 once Felix Jones is expected back.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow validated everyone’s perception of him last week, he was terrible the first 55 minutes of the game missing receivers who were open by 10 yards, but during the last five minutes he looked like Joe Montana and showed why some believe he will make it in the NFL, he wins football games…..RB Willis Magahee is out for at least two weeks with a broken hand meaning Knowshon Moreno gets another chance to carry the rock.

Detroit Lions: QB Matthew Stafford is dealing with an ankle injury and is limited in practice, but it still looks like he will start Sunday versus Denver, Stafford would like to shake the label as a fragile QB and this could be one way to go about that, the Lions could elect to play it safe if they have any doubts about Stafford’s
ability to protect himself as they do have a bye in Week 9…..One player who definitely won’t make the trip to Denver is RB Javhid Best who is still dealing with post-concussion symptoms.

Green Bay Packers: Can the Packers go undefeated? Week 9 they are at SD, the Chargers have not been playing all that well and GB will be coming off their bye, Iike their chances, Week 10 against Minnesota should be a problem, if the Vikings can’t beat them in Minnesota, they aren’t going to beat them in GB, Week 11 is a battle of the bays, could be an interesting game if Bucs QB Josh Freeman is not throwing the ball to the wrong team, then comes Thanksgiving at Detroit, finally a good game to watch on turkey day, this could be the one chance for a loss, the Giants, Oakland, KC, Chicago, and Detroit close out the schedule, the Packers are better than all of them, but it’s not an easy slate, one off day will put a crooked number up in the loss column.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson could return this week to help out the Texans aerial attack, he has practiced on a limited basis this week and will be a game-time decision Sunday…..S Daniel Manning is out at least a month after undergoing surgery on his fibula this week, could Chris Harris be an option here…..The win by Houston over Tennessee last week puts them in the driver’s seat in the AFC
South.

Indianapolis Colts: Could Peyton Manning have played his last game with Indianapolis?, there are those who believe Manning would ask for a trade or his release if the Colts draft Andrew Luck, it wouldn’t be because Manning is upset and would view the drafting of Luck as a slap in the face, but he feels that any QB drafted 1st overall should play right away, this could be very interesting if the Colts win the suck for Luck sweepstakes, you think the Bengals received a bounty for
Carson Palmer, what could the Colts get for Manning?

Jacksonville Jaguars: All I can say about the Jaguars win over the Ravens on Monday night is that an ugly win is better than a pretty loss…..WR Mike Sims-Walker saw more snaps than Mike Thomas versus Baltimore, a little strange seeing as though Sims-Walker just signed with the team last week…..K Josh Scobee hit three 50+ yard FGs Monday night, clutch performance…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew worked OT
against the Ravens, 30 carries for 105 yards, but he also put the ball on the ground three times, luckily he only lost one.

Kansas City Chiefs: We all laughed at the Chiefs earlier this season when they had their doors blown off the first two weeks of the season, but if they beat the Chargers this week, they will be tied for 1st, pretty good turnaround especially when you lost your best offensive player (RB Jamaal Charles) and best defensive player (S Eric Berry) for the season during those first two games.

Miami Dolphins: Have to believe if the Colts don’t win the suck for Luck, than the Dolphins will, this is a team without direction right now, owner Stephen Ross made a huge mistake last season when he sent GM Jeff Ireland to interview Jim Harbaugh for the head coaching position while still employing Tony Sparano, whatever authority Sparano had with his players is gone, and they know it, the team has
never been able to figure out what to do with RB Reggie Bush, and now Bush may have divided the locker room when he stated this week that  “we stink”, while that may be the truth, you may not want to say that to the media.

Minnesota Vikings: QB Christian Ponder may not have won his first NFL start and did throw a couple of picks, but he kept the Vikings in the game versus the Packers and showed the fans and the organization why most believe he has a bright future in the NFL…..The Vikings cut WR Bernard Berrian this week for both a lack of production, and disciplinary reasons, Berrian may have a tough time hooking up with another team.

New England Patriots: RB Kevin Faulk practiced this week but has yet to be taken off the PUP list…..DT Albert Haynesworth has recorded exactly one tackle since Week 1, talk about a player that signed his big contract and then shut it down…..The Patriots have owned the Steelers of late, but this still figures to be a high scoring affair.

New Orleans Saints: RB Mark Ingram will probably miss this week’s
game with a heel injury and that will be quite a shame for fantasy owners as they had to be licking their chops at playing the Rams defense, a defense that gave up almost 300 yards rushing to the Cowboys last week, now Pierre Thomas is a must play, Chris Ivory doesn’t seem to be in football shape as of yet…..TE Jimmy Graham who is dealing with an ankle injury was able to practice in full
Thursday, he has quickly become a major threat in the Saints offense and defenses are starting to take notice, especially in the red zone.

New York Giants: The Giants were a beat up team in August, but are getting healthy including all four of their pass rushers, Giants may be the team to beat in the NFC East…..RB Brandon Jacobs is making noise again about how he is not used properly in the Giant’s offense and doesn’t believe he will be with the team next season, at this point with all of his bellyaching and constant injuries, the Giants may want to part ways as well.

New York Jets: No one should go crazy over WR Plaxico Burress’s three TD catches last week, he only had one other reception, all for a total of 25 yards, he is certainly a red zone threat but not much other than that…..RB Shonne Green had his best game of the year last week, perhaps this getting back to the ground game for Jets will work for them.

Oakland Raiders: QB Carson Palmer came out today and stated that he was told he wouldn’t play last week and was caught totally off guard when he was inserted into the game in the second half, good to see this marriage is getting off to a fantastic start, hopefully the bye week will give Palmer enough time to learn the entire playbook and not just the 15 plays he had memorized last week.

Philadelphia Eagles: For the Eagles sake, hopefully they solved their problems during the bye week, but even if they did, CB Asante Samuel dropped another bomb this week when he stated how unhappy he is that he is still a part of the Eagles team, it never gets easy…..Offensively it should be interesting to see if the Eagles stick with having QB Michael Vick take three step drops in order to avoid taking those hits, it’s not exactly what the Eagles like to do, but it could keep Vick healthy over the long haul.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Hines Ward is dealing with an ankle injury and is no safe bet to play this week in the big game versus New England, ironic thing is this may not be a bad thing as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders need to be on the field as much as possible, they are the future along with Mike Wallace, Ward is the past…..LB
James Harrison is still not ready to return from his fractured orbital bone.

San Diego Chargers: There is rampant speculation going around that QB Philip Rivers is dealing with some kind of injury, his accuracy and velocity is way off, for his part Rivers stated that he is as healthy as he has been all season, well you can read between the lines there, and that could easily mean that Rivers suffered an injury during training camp that isn’t getting any worse, but isn’t getting any better either.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers may get a boost to their receiving corps this week as Braylon Edwards could return from knee surgery, it’s not written in stone however…..I’m not saying the 49ers aren’t a decent team, but I’ve seen some pundits have them as the 2nd best team in the NFC after Green Bay, are you kidding me, I’d take Detroit, New Orleans, Atlanta, Giants, Dallas, and Philadelphia before I even thought of San Francisco, this is the NFC West we are talking about.

Seattle Seahawks: Who will start at QB for the Hawks Sunday, Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst, and does it matter…..Jackson is certainly not fully recovered from his chest injury but Whitehurst doesn’t look like an NFL backup more or less starting material, best guess is Jackson plays…..RB Marshawn Lynch is also a game-time
decision after suffering from back spasms during pre-game warm-ups last week.

St. Louis Rams: How bad is the Rams run defense to let up a couple of football fields worth of yardage to the Cowboys last week, a team that was having all sorts of problems running the ball before last week…..QB Sam Bradford missed the game last week due to his foot injury, and won’t play this week as well, so it’s the AJ Feeley show once again, how many points will the Saints score this week?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Josh Freeman has certainly regressed this season as he is throwing way to many interceptions, it doesn’t help any that he and WR Mike Williams just haven’t been on the same page so far this season…..RB LeGarrette Blount should be healthy enough to return after the bye, and they now need him more than ever with his backup Earnest Graham done for the season with an Achilles injury.

Tennessee Titans: What is wrong with RB Chris Johnson? He has been nothing short of terrible so far this season, if he can’t do anything against the Colts on Sunday, it may be time for fantasy owners to give up on him for this season, the Titans are still resisting the urge to insert Javon Ringer as the starter over Johnson, but that
may change if he can’t get the job done this week.

Washington Redskins: Talk about a rough week, the Skins lost their starting RB Tim Hightower to an ACL tear, their starting WR Santana Moss to a broken hand, and their starting TE Chris Cooley to IR with multiple injuries, not to mention they benched their starting QB Rex Grossman, this is starting to look like a long last 10 games for Washington.