On The Clock NFL Mock Draft from Fanspeak.com

RAVENS FIVE KEYS TO A MILE HIGH VICTORY

January 12, 2013 in Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens will attempt to win their third AFC Divisional playoff game in five years today and advance to their fourth AFC Championship game in franchise history. It will not be easy, in fact, this may be the Ravens toughest Divisional round matchup in their playoff history as they take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Mile High City today.

The Ravens are almost 10-point underdogs and when you factor in Manning’s nine game winning streak vs. Baltimore and the 34-17 thumping the Broncos handed the Ravens in Week 15 at Baltimore, it is surprising the Ravens aren’t almost two touchdown dogs.

However, of the four remaining teams playing on the road this weekend for a chance to get one step closer to New Orleans, only the Ravens have recent experience in knocking off a No.1 seed at home to advance to the conference championship game.

In fact, Ray Lewis has been a member of two Ravens teams that accomplished the feat, both against the Tennessee Titans. Lewis’ scampered 50-yards for a touchdown after he took (literally) a pass intended for Titans RB Eddie George and sealed the Ravens 24-17 win setting up a trip to Oakland for the AFC Title game.

In 2008, during Joe Flacco’s rookie year, the Ravens again traveled to the Music City and beat the No.1 seeded Titans despite being outgained (391-211) in total yards and dominated in time of possession. However, the Ravens made the Titans pay for several very costly red zone turnovers, as Ravens kicker Matt Stover booted a 43-yard field goal with just 57 seconds left in the contest to give his team the win. The Ravens lost the next week in Pittsburgh for the right to play in the Super Bowl.

The Denver Broncos are 13-3 all-time at home in the playoffs but two of those losses did come in games following a bye week. While those loses have nothing to do with the Broncos team taking the field today, head coach John Fox thought it was important enough to remind his team of them this week.

Since the NFL moved to a 12-team format in 1990, No.1 seeds in the AFC are 13-9 during the Divisional round of the playoffs. Peyton Manning led teams are 1-1 in this spot. Manning and his Colts lost to the Steelers 21-18 back in 2005 and defeated the Ravens 20-3 during Flacco’s second season in the league.

The Ravens are a surprisingly much different team than they were a few short weeks ago when Denver beat them at M&T Bank Stadium.

Statistically speaking, the Broncos are a far better team in team in terms of numbers. They ranked fourth in total offense and second in total defense. The Broncos were second in the leagues in points scored (481/ 30.1 ppg) and fourth in total points allowed (289/ 18.1ppg).

The Ravens will need a complete effort today on both sides of the ball plus special teams. A blocked field goal for a touchdown, as Anthony Mitchell did for the Ravens during the 2000 Divisional contest in Tennessee or a little bit of luck can’t hurt either.

While every game has its share of important keys, here are five that I believe cannot be compromised if the Ravens are to advance and avoid being “On the Clock” for April’s draft.

No.5 Bernard Pierce must be an even bigger part of the offense this week in Denver.

When you saw Bernard Pierce to start the season, chances are Ray Rice had just carried the ball on two or three consecutive plays and broke off a big run. He needed a breather and in came Pierce.  The Ravens rookie running back whom they drafted in the third round (84th overall) of last April’s draft averaged just 4.2 yards per carry during his first 8 NFL games.

He benefited from the Ravens blow out of the Oakland Raiders as he picked up 10 carries in garbage time and following a two carry eight-yard performance in Pittsburgh, Pierce’s workload has increased. Since Week 10, Pierce has 79 carries and has not wasted his chances. He has two 100-yard games (Giants and Colts) and has become a big playmaker with his deceptive speed between the tackles.

With three rushes over 20 yards, and two over 40, Pierce has the Ravens longest rush from scrimmage in four of the last six games. At times, Pierce looks like smoke through a key hole the way he picks his running lane. Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has noticed this about Pierce and has begun to utilize it. Since Caldwell took over (Week15) Pierce has rushed for 335 of his 635 yards including the post season.

Using Pierce and Rice in the backfield at the same time for a few plays would a great new wrinkle for the Broncos stout defense to have to adjust to. I almost have to believe that is in the cards today especially when you consider that Ray Rice, as well as several other prominent Ravens players; have never played in the altitude of the Mile High City. No.27 runs hard on every play, but a lack of oxygen can tire you out very quickly. Pro-Bowl fullback Vonta Leach has been hobbled with ankle and knee injuries so how effective, or how long he can play is anyone’s guess.

How or if Caldwell uses the two running backs together is yet to be determined. I do not get the sense that Caldwell strokes egos, and it was telling the Pierce was on the field to close out the Colts and not Ray Rice. There is no running back controversy in Baltimore but one has to wonder if the franchise tag would have stuck with Rice through this season if the Ravens could have seen the future in Pierce. They did in a sense and that is why he should be a big part of the offense today. He has to be if they are going to advance.

Ray Rice had one carry for two yards in his first playoff appearance during his rookie season. However, in his first chance to make an impact for the Ravens in the playoffs, Rice scored on the first play from scrimmage in New England. The 83-yard run led to a 24-point first quarter for the Ravens setting the tone for a 33-14 Baltimore beat down against Tom Brady. With Pierce's big run play making ability, it’s not out of the question to see him make a similar contribution today and if he does, the Ravens will win the game.

No. 4 BLITZING PEYTON MANNING IS A GAMBLE THE RAVENS CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO TAKE:

History says Broncos QB Peyton Manning will go down as one of  the two or three best signal callers to ever play the game, is numbers do not lie——–good or bad.  You will hear plenty of both as game time draws nearer but if the Ravens are going to stop the one that matters the most, his nine game winning streak against them, then they must blitz the future Hall of Fame passer and frequently.

Nothing worth accomplishing comes easy and this is likely to be the make or break decision for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Peas today. Blitz Manning and hope you get to him in time or can at least disrupt his timing, or sit back and try to cover receivers like Demaryius Thomas, with whom. Manning has a 125.1 passer rating with Thomas, the best for any pair in the NFL. The Ravens secondary did an admirable job during the first contest by limiting Manning to just 204 passing yards, his lowest output of  the season. Eric Decker account for 65 percent of Manning’s yards in the first meeting with 133 receiving yards, including a 51-yard TD that caught Carey Williams and Ed Reed flatfooted.

The Ravens pressured Manning in the game sacking him twice but that number needs to double today. The Ravens have the personnel to get to Manning.

Paul Kruger has really bounced back during the second half of the season. He has 11.5 sacks (including post season) this season and is now heading towards a huge payday this off-season as an unrestricted free agent. Last week, Kruger destroyed anyone the Colts tried to use on him. Winston Justice, Bradley Sowell and Anthony Castonzo were no match.  According to Pro Football focus, Kruger has a sack, hit or hurry 15.3 percent of all pass rushing plays this season, that is the best amongst 3-4 OLB’s.

Also  according to the Focus, Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe playing for an injured Ray Lewis was the NFL’s most efficient ILB at harassing QB’s with 18 pressures on 79 blitzes. Ellerbe is still starting with Lewis back and the Broncos will need to account for him.

Despite the fact that Ray Lewis can no longer cover the broad side of a barn with red paint, the Ravens defense is different with him in there rushing the QB. According to ESPN Stats and Info, in the first six games this season with Ray Lewis, the Ravens sent five or more pass rushers on 39.6 percent of opponent drop backs. Only five teams used added pressure more often during that span.

In 10 games without Lewis, the Ravens utilized five or more pass rushers on 25.5 percent of opponent drop backs, less often than 20 other teams.  In the first six games, the Ravens defense did not allow a touchdown pass and held opposing quarterbacks to a Total QBR below 20 when sending at least five pass rushers.  In the 10 games without Lewis, the defense gave up five touchdown passes and no interceptions when blitzing. During that span, only six other teams failed to intercept at least one pass when bringing added pressure. All six of those teams missed the playoffs.

Behind of the leagues younger offensive lines, Denver allowed a league low 26 sacks (21) hits and hurries this year. Kruger and Ellerbe will need help getting to Manning and that includes great coverage down field. It is unlikely that Corey Graham will duplicate his performance on D. Thomas from the first game. Graham held Denver’s top wideout to four receptions for 13 yards, but if he can keep Thomas under 50 yards and the Ravens secondary is physical up front consistently, Manning could struggle.

Speaking of struggling, remember when the knock on Peyton was he couldn’t win the big one? No.18 is human and has struggled mightily at times in the post season. He is 9-10 in the playoffs and is 0-3 when the temperature is 40 degrees or less at kickoff. Since 2003, Manning is 9-7 in the postseason but during those seven losses has seven TD’S with eight INT’s and 61.6 rating to match.

Oh by the way, the temperature in Denver today is 15 degrees with a wind chill of five degrees.

No.3 YES, IT GETS OLD TO SAY BUT JOE FLACCO MUST STEP UP AND HE CANNOT WAIT UNTIL THE SECOND HALF TO DO IT TODAY.

Today is payday for Ravens QB Joe Flacco. He is an unrestricted free agent following the season and today, No.5 can either make elite money, or accept what his true worth in the NFL is right now, probably just on the outside of the top 10 looking in.

Flacco's contract expires at the end of the season. Before the 2012 season started, Flacco was essentially pressed into saying he thought he was an elite quarterback who demanded elite money. Joe Cool threw for a career-high 3,817 yards, 22 touchdowns (second most in his career) and tied a career low with 10 interceptions. He increased in touchdown total by two from last season and decreased his interception by the same amount. The problem is, much—much more was expected of the fifth year signal caller and the biggest reason Flacco still has his critics and deservedly so is his inconsistent play.

In the span of one week, Flacco went from the second or third best QB in the post season to seventh this weekend and I’m not sure many would choose Flacco over a young Collin Kaepernick. of the eight remaining starters in the post season, Flacco has the seventh-best QB rating, and 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick hasn't registered enough attempts to be rated.

You will rarely hear writers or broadcasters lay blame for one loss on the shoulders of one player but I have no problem doing that when it comes to Ravens last game with Denver. Flacco was the difference and not in a good way. He had a quarterback rating of 34.9 after 30 minutes, completed only 20 of 40 passes for 254 yards in the game and finished with a QB rating of 76.5.

The biggest stat from that game is two, which represent the two first half turnovers that led to a 17-0 Broncos lead. The 98-yard Pick six he threw literally just before half time was a 14-point play. Instead of 10-7 Broncos with hope on the horizon, it was 17-0 and game over.

There is no doubt Flacco must start strong today. I am tired of hearing about all of his wins and if I sound like an ungrateful Ravens fan then so be it. With his win last week, Flacco is 60-30 since his arrival into the NFL as a first round pick from Delaware.

The Ravens are not Broncos with Flacco completing five passes 20 or more yards as he did last week against the Colts. The Denver pass rush and other factors such as weather will not allow it, but as he showed during the big Divisional win over Tennessee during his rookie year, it only takes one. What Flacco must be today is clutch and in control. Clutch is finding Ray Rice underneath for five yards instead of the possibility of a big play or second and 10. In control is not panicking as Von Miller and Elvis Dumerville bear down on him. Flacco must stand in the pocket and know he is going to be hit while delivering the ball.

Elite quarterbacks do it and six of them, with five Super Bowl titles between them will at some time this weekend. Flacco must join the party if he wants the money or something comparable to that of Peyton Manning (1), Tom Brady (3), Aaron Rodgers (1) and Matt Ryan. While Ryan is not quite elite, he is pushing the envelope and has pulled ahead of Flacco in terms of who is better from the 08 Draft. Today’s game is payday for Joe Flacco, if the Ravens win and he plays well, he gets one step closer to elite money, if they lose, it will be an interesting off season around the Castle as the franchise decides if Flacco is just that, their franchise quarterback.

Asking Flacco to match his AFC Title game performance from last year is asking a lot today, but his team needs him to do exactly that. It is almost unfair to ask Flacco to do this especially when you consider that Peyton Manning has struggled in the playoffs as well. Manning was 3-6 in his first nine post season appearances, which helps put into perspective how hard it is to win this time of the year, especially on the road.

With that said, Flacco’s inconsistent play this season is a big reason why the Ravens must once again go on the road to reach the Super Bowl. There is no top 10 defense to bail out the Ravens offense this time in the playoffs. There will be no getting outgained by an almost 2-to-1 margin and beating the No.1 seed today.

Flacco can erase it all today, all of his doubters for at least another week by stepping up today, if he does not, the Ravens don’t stand much of a chance of winning, no matter how much they keep Manning in check.

No .4 THE RAVENS MUST CONTAIN THE BRONCOS PASS RUSH OF VON MILLER AND ELVIS DUMERVILLE.

When Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman used to host Sports Center together, one of their catch lines about a player or team was, “You can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them”. No truer words have been spoken when it comes to the task for the Ravens offensive line today.

The Denver Broncos Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller and Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil simply know how to get to the passer. Von Miller is proving to be everything and more in his second season in the NFL. The 2011 defensive rookie of the year is an athletic freak of nature. The last defensive player that possessed such athletically freakish traits was Jevonn Kerse but he could not stay healthy. So far, health is not a concern for but he is hurting opposing defenses and in some cases, crippling them.

What makes Miller such an anomaly is his combined strength and speed. The second overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft by the Broncos from what is now Johnny Manziel University (Texas A&M), is twice as fast as the guys that are trying to block him and just as fast as the guys he’s trying to tackle at times. At 6-foot-3, 237 pounds, with a 40-yard dash in the high 4.4 to low 4.5 ranges, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate led the Broncos with 18.5 sacks and six forced fumbles this season.

The angles Miller takes on his blockers in terms of getting low to the ground is unprecedented. He generally leaves offensive lineman with little chance to stop him requiring teams to provide help for their tackles. If you do manage to shut him down, which the Ravens did. Baltimore’s offensive line held Miller without a sack for only the second time this season and limited him to only two tackles.

His sack counterpart, Elvis Dumervil is compared to Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison. Dumervil is considered an elite bull rusher who uses a spin move as well as speed to sack the QB. He had 11 QB takedowns during the season and did register a sack of Flacco back in Week 15.

Miller generally lines up on the right side, so that means right tackle, Michael Oher is going to need a lot of help. As a team,
the Broncos rank third against the pass and led the NFL with 52 sacks during the regular season. What is even more impressive in the thin air of Denver is when the Broncos get after the passer at times. Thirty eight of the 52 league leading sacks came in the second half of games, including 22 in the fourth quarter alone.

It only took 16 weeks but head coach John Harbaugh has let LT Bryant McKinney out of the proverbial doghouse, which neither insist he was in. The Ravens need to duplicate their performance from a week ago when Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were limited in production. The two entered the contest with nine career sacks against the Ravens but only Mathis registered one last week.

The Ravens have what is arguably, their best offensive line playing at the right time. McKinney, rookie left guard Kelechi Osemele, C Matt Birk, RG Marshall Yanda and RT Michael Oher have the talent to contain the Broncos pass rush. I’d be foolish to say the Ravens must stop them cold, its just not going to happen, but they need to  limit their damage and our above key (Joe Flacco) to the game must be smart with the football, both in the pocket, as well as when he releases it.

No.5 THE RAVENS MUST PLAY SMART MISTAKE FREE FOOTBALL, AND STICK WITH THE GAME PLAN OF RUNNING TO SET UP THE PASS! AND OH BY THE WAY, IN THE PLAYOFFS, THE INTANGIBLES MATTER.

Perhaps the most disappointing issue surrounding the Ravens this season was the amount of undisciplined mistakes they made. Head Coach John Harbaugh has always struck me as a fair but firm type of leader but this suggests he may be losing some of his firmness and it cost his football team.

This season, the Ravens were second in the NFL with 121 penalties but amassed the most penalty yards by over the length of a football field. Baltimore had 1127 penalty yards this season compared to 1005 by the Rams. Harbaugh’s bunch was at it again last week, as they posted an NFL worst nine yellow flags on Wild Card weekend.

The biggest reason for the disparity was the 14 unnecessary roughness penalties, which are 15 yards a clip (no pun intended). This simply cannot happen today. Peyton Manning is likely to generate enough first downs on his own without Haloti Ngata hitting Manning late or Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed tackling with their facemask.

Joe Flacco is likely to throw one or two ill-advised deep balls leading to second or third and long. Michael Oher or Anquan Boldin do not need to make it second and 20 or third and 25. Despite converting a fourth and 29 this season, I am sure the odds of doing it again are as likely as Oher not actually committing a penalty today.

The Ravens had a great season in terms of turnover differential. They CANNOT TURN THE FOOTBALL OVER TODAY, PERIOD! The Ravens committed just 16 turnovers in 2012, producing a franchise single-season low. Ray Rice fumbled twice last week and it didn’t hurt the Ravens, there can be no more chest thumping saying my bad, just hold onto the ball Ray Rice and all will be fine.

The key ingredients to making a deep run in January are to have the capacity to run the football, create and do not commit turnovers and play great defense. The third used to be a given which is why the Ravens must execute when running the football. Keeping Manning off the field will be paramount to Baltimore’s success today and there is no reason they cannot do it with Rice and Pierce in the backfield and a healthier offensive line up front ready to go. In Week 15, the Broncos dominated up front. The Ravens averaged 2.9 yards per carry to finish with 56 rushing yards on 19 runs.

However, it must be said that the Ravens were depleted up front, as the offensive line was missing Pro Bowl right offensive guard Marshal Yanda and tight end Ed Dickson. They are without question better options than Jah Reid and Billy Bajema for the Ravens in run blocking.

Former Ravens defensive lineman Justin Bannan does a great job for Denver and ties up blocks allowing linebacker Wesley Woodyard to clog holes and make tackles.

PREDICITION:

The Ravens must be consistent and at times flawless today. They have shown in the past during the post season that they can be both. You will know early on which Ravens team shows up to play. The Ravens must start fast and score first in this one. Allowing the Broncos to tee off on Flacco if has to throw to get back into the game is not a good predicament. I do think the Ravens will be ready and focused. I do think the weather will matter and yes, even affect the way Manning plays. Remember, history says so!

The Raven and Broncos will put on a classic defensive battle in the Mile High city today. You will think you are watching the old Orange Crush vs. an early 2000’s Ravens defense. Ultimately in the end, Joe Flacco delivers, remember, he has to. Look for an interception from Ed Reed. Three of Reeds eight post-season thefts have come against Manning. The Ravens may not get a miracle play like Anthony Mitchell provided in 2000 with the Al Del Greco missed field goal touchdown but they do pull off the miracle in the Mile High City today.

RAVENS 24 BRONCOS 15

 

 

 

A FEW BALTIMORE RAVENS FACTS, OPINIONS AND BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR DENVER

January 10, 2013 in Baltimore Ravens, DENVER BRONCOS, NFL Playoffs

The Baltimore Ravens assured that their future Hall of Fame middle linebacker would have yet one more last ride. The ride will now require boarding an airplane as the Baltimore Ravens travel to the Mile High City to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Saturday afternoon.

For the fifth consecutive season, Lewis and company will at least play in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs. I would not actually be telling the truth if I said I did not expect the Ravens to be in this position despite losing four of their final five games. I whole-heartedly did. What I do not know is what will happen on Saturday or even which Ravens team is going to get off the plane in Denver.

Will it be the one that went 1-4 in December losing two of the four on the game’s final play and the fourth with the tail end of the depth chart? Or will it be the one that went 4-0 in November and blew out the defending Super Bowl champions with 533 total yards of offense while holding Eli-te and the NY Giants to just 186 total yards in the Ravens only win down the stretch?

Let’s all hope it is not the Ravens team that was blown out at home 34-17 by the same team and quarterback they are traveling to play this weekend.

The only thing that seems to missing from Head Coach John Harbaugh’s five-year Charm City resume is an appearance in the Super Bowl. After winning his second straight AFC North Division title in 2012, Harbs became just the third coach in NFL history (since 1970 merger) to guide his team to the postseason in each of his first five seasons (2008-12), joining Bill Cowher and Chuck Knox.

The Ravens’ six playoff wins over the past five seasons rank as the NFL’s most. Four of the Ravens’ victories have come on the road, which ties the NY Jets for the NFL’s most. He is the only head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first four and with Sunday’s 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts, five seasons.

However, Harbaugh’s teams have lost in mid to late January in almost every conceivable way. Wide left, dropped passes, turnovers, pick sixes, and receivers getting behind coverage late to name a few of the ways Baltimore has allowed teams to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

To make the losses sting a little more during Harbaugh’s reign, all four of Baltimore’s post-season defeats over the past four seasons have come at the hands of the team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. One of those teams, the 2010 Steelers, captured their sixth Super Bowl Championship.

If Harbaugh is going to finally reach the Promised Land, which this year is in New Orleans, then Sunday was the easy part for Baltimore. While the Colts were the feel good story of the year in the NFL, future Hall of Famer and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis stole the emotional momentum back from Indy early last week with his announcement that these playoffs would be his “last ride”.

Losing at M&T Bank Stadium to a team laden with rookies and one that once called Baltimore home only to sneak out of the Charm City in the middle of the night way back in 1984, breaking hearts and causing grown men to cry, was simply not an option——- Not even almost 28 years later.

Luckily, the Ravens only allowed the former Baltimore franchise to stay close for a half before outscoring them 14-3 in the final 30 minutes. The defense, led by No.52 and his team high 13 tackles held the Colts without a touchdown. It was only the second time this season that Indianapolis failed to score in double figures.

The task ahead of Harbaugh, Lewis and QB Joe Flacco, as well as the rest of the Baltimore Ravens is a daunting one now.

On six days rest,  the Ravens must now travel to an oxygen starved altitude to play a team with a future hall of fame quarterback, who oh by the  way has only won nine straight games against them, including a Week 15, 34-17 decision in Baltimore. All of this on top of the fact that the Denver Broncos have won 11 straight games.

The Broncos average margin of victory during the 11 wins has been 15.1 points, and none of the games has been closer than a touchdown. That would explain the fact that Baltimore is almost a 10-point underdog on Saturday.

So let the over-analyzing begin, Lewis vs. Manning—- Ravens vs. Broncos. Here are 10 facts and opinions with a few bold predictions to match.

TIME OF POSSESSION AND RUNNING THE FOOTBALL, KEYS TO A ROAD PLAYOFF WIN:

FACT: At Half time, the Ravens had 188 total yards of offense but racked up 253 in the second half to set a franchise-record of 441 yards of total offense. (172 rushing and 269 passing). That beat their previous mark of 398 in last year’s AFC Championship at New England.

Opinion:  The Ravens offense must figure out a way to start much faster than they did on Sunday this Saturday afternoon in Denver. The Colts actually out gained the Ravens in the first half with 25 more yards on Sunday. This is still an obvious sign that the Ravens offense is far from championship caliber when you consider the Colts defense came into the game ranked 26 in the NFL.  Flacco and company must be crisp from the first snap and cannot squander red zone opportunities as they did during the game’s first 30 minutes (1-3).

FACT: The Ravens had 32 touchdown drives of 60-or-more yards this season, tying several teams for the NFL’s fifth most. Ten of those touchdowns were scored on drives that began inside their own 20-yard line, tying (Was.) for the NFL’s fourth-most TDs. (NE was first with 18, NO second with 13 and Sea. third with 12.)

OPINION: Patience, patience, patience. It is great to see the long ball used with effectiveness. Nevertheless, wining playoff games on the road means you must sustain drives, which eats up the clock. It is often said that the best defense is not to have to play any defense at all. While I love seeing No.52 back on the field, I like him better when he and the rest his defense are watching from the sideline, as Joe Flacco leads a long Ravens touchdown drive. That would also mean Peyton Manning is watching instead of playing as well. And Manning cannot beat you if he is standing on the sideline Jim Caldwell!

RAY RICE AND BERNARD PIERCE WILL NEED TO PLAY HUGE ROLLS IN DENVER

BOLD PREDICTION: The Ravens find a way to incorporate Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce into the backfield for a few plays. As a result, the Ravens offense confuses the Broncos stout defense and actually sustains a few drives allowing the Ravens to win the time of possession battle in this game.  

FACT: The Colts entered Sunday’s game ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing defense in 2012, allowing an average of 138 rushing yards per game. In fact, since Ray Rice and Joe Flacco joined the team in 2008, the Ravens have a perfect 20-0 regular-season record against teams that finished that season among the NFL's bottom eight teams in rushing defense. Baltimore won 14 of those games by at least 10 points. The Ravens stayed true to form yesterday rushing for 172 yards, and winning by 15 points.

OPINION: The Broncos third ranked rushing defense held the Ravens to just 56-yards as Ray Rice had just 12 carries for 38 yards in Week 15. However, the Ravens played seven games against six of the top 10 rushing defenses in the league (Redskins, Patriots, Broncos, Steelers (2), Texans, and Chargers) and averaged 117.1 yards per game.

BOLD PREDICITION: The Ravens will run the ball for at least 150 yards on Saturday.

THE PASS RUSH AND No.18:

FACT: With three sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 12 passes defensed, an improving Ravens defense put constant pressure on Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The former Stanford QB was 28-for-54 for 288 yards with one interception. The defense set the tone early and gave Luck something to think about all day long. In the first half alone, Luck had none of his namesake at all against the fired up Ravens “D”. He was sacked twice, knocked down five times and hurried eight times.

OPINION:  If there is one big question mark surrounding the Broncos, it is their offensive line. Guard Chris Kuper and offensive tackle Ryan Clady are dealing with injuries and protecting quarterback Peyton Manning will be the No. 1 issue the Broncos face.

Baltimore cannot be afraid to blitz No.18

The Broncos were one of the leagues best at protecting their late model franchise QB this season, as they surrendered just 21 sacks. However, they allowed 19 of them in games Kuper did not play on offense. If the Ravens have any shot of slowing Manning and stopping him from winning a tenth in a row against them, then they must duplicate their pass rush from this past Sunday.  The Ravens limited Manning to just 204 passing yards in Week 15, his lowest output of the season.

BOLD PREDICITION: Manning will make the Ravens pay for blitzing him on a few occasions but it will not be enough to beat them after 60 minutes of play. If the Ravens do not have at least four sacks of Manning, the Broncos will advance.

FACT: (The Ray Lewis factor and blitzing Manning): After missing all of the 2011 season recovering from his third neck surgery, Broncos QB Peyton Manning used the 2012 season as his personal rehabilitation center. Despite the fact that defenses blitzed Manning 26 percent more in 2012 than they did in 2010, No.18 was as good as ever, if not better.

All Manning did was respond with a QB Rating 12 percent higher than it was in 2010 vs. the blitz. According to NFL.com, conventional wisdom says Manning is dinking-and-dunking opponents to death. The numbers again say something different. His average completion is actually going further in the air (6.91 yards) than it did in 2010 (6.29 yards.) His average pass attempt actually is slightly shorter this year, but he has been more successful by far when he does go deep.

What about his ugly looking deep passes this season. Manning is averaging 14.7 yards per attempt on throws that go over 20 yards in the air, which is up drastically from 9.8 YPA in 2010. He's completing a far higher percentage when he tries deep passes: 44.9 percent to 26 percent.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, in the first six games this season with Ray Lewis, the Ravens sent five or more pass rushers on 39.6 percent of opponent drop backs. Only five teams used added pressure more often during that span.

In 10 games without Lewis, the Ravens utilized five or more pass rushers on 25.5 percent of opponent drop backs, less often than 20 other teams.  In the first six games, the Ravens defense did not allow a touchdown pass and held opposing quarterbacks to a Total QBR below 20 when sending at least five pass rushers.

In the 10 games without Lewis, the defense gave up five touchdown passes and no interceptions when blitzing. During that span, only six other teams failed to intercept at least one pass when bringing added pressure. All six of those teams missed the playoffs.

OPINION: The Baltimore Ravens have nothing to lose and as they did vs. Andrew Luck on Sunday, the Ravens defense needs to go after Manning early and often, especially with Ray Lewis back in the middle. Remember those playoff games in New England when Bill Belichick was successful vs. Manning and the Colts because he went after Manning with constant pressure.

Since the 2003 post season, Manning is 9-7 but has just seven touchdowns with eight interceptions during his playoff losses. With a 61.6 rating during those seven losses, Manning does not rebound well from being pressured in the cold.

BOLD PREDICITION: Ray Lewis has not fared well head-to-head vs. Manning in terms of wins. He may win his share of the “chess matches” during games between two of the best at their respective positions, but with nine victories in a row, it is Manning that gets to call checkmate most of the time. That changes on Saturday as Lewis registers two sacks of his own vs. No.18. CHECKMATE PEYTON!

THE COLD HARD TRUTH ABOUT MANNING:

FACT: Dealing with weather has always been an issue for Peyton Manning when he was playing indoors for the Colts. He is 0-3 in playoff games played below 50 degrees, and has just one win (in six tries) when it is below 60 degrees. Manning is obviously not the same player in those conditions. In an effort to counter the cold weather in Denver recently, Manning has been wearing a glove on his right hand for the first time in his career. Home-field advantage is a great asset for a team like the Broncos playing at a high altitude with a great fan base, but Manning’s history in cold weather isn’t all that promising moving forward. In fact, Manning has a losing record in the Divisional round of the playoffs (3-4).

Manning is 0-3 in playoff games 50 degrees or below at kickoff outdoors

OPINION: Experience does matter this time of the season. If any team is capable of pulling this upset on the road it is the Ravens. Just ask the 2008 Titans (13-3), the 09 Patriots (10-6) and the 10’ KC Chiefs (10-6). All lost at home to the Ravens in the playoffs. The Titans were a No.1 seed in the AFC at the time and coming off a bye-week.

BOLD PREDICITON:  When you see the word prediction, you think weather. On Saturday, the weather at game time in Denver will be a very cold 20 degrees with a 20 percent chance of snow; this is a good sign for the Ravens.

WHAT ABOUT THE GAMES OTHER SIGNAL CALLER?

FACT: Joe Flacco is always full of good and bad facts with the opinions to match, consider some of these facts from Sundays game and my take on them below. Flacco completed seven passes for 20 or more yards on Sunday, matching the second-highest total in any game of his NFL career in either the regular season or the playoffs. He completed nine passes for at least 20 yards in the Ravens' 31-30 win over the Patriots in September. Flacco also averaged 23.5 yards per completion vs. the Colts, which was the 2nd-highest rate in a playoff game in NFL history. Finally, Flacco had only 12 completions for 282 passing yards in Sunday's win. The only other quarterback in NFL postseason history with that many yards on that few completions in a playoff game is Tim Tebow, who had 316 on 10 completions against the Steelers in Denver last January.

OPINION: On the surface, these may seem like a great accomplishment but when Flacco becomes overconfident on the long ball, the Ravens offense and defense for that matter pays dearly at times.

For one, Baltimore lost the time of possession battle at home in the playoffs despite out-rushing the Colts by 20 yards. They did not lose the T.O.P by a little bit either, try to the tune of almost 16-minutes. In fact, the Ravens only won the time of possession battle six times all season.

According to Pro Football Focus, with 17.3 percent of his throws traveling 20 or more yards during the 2012 season, Joe Flacco threw the ball down field more often than any quarterback did. In addition, the Ravens set a new franchise record with 41 completions of 25-plus yards. Pro Football Focus says that on those deep throws, he threw 11 touchdowns, tied for most in the NFL, and was the only qualifying quarterback with zero interceptions. But according to ESPN Stats and Info, Flacco had the NFL's worst completion percentage (40.1) on throws of more than 10 yards down field through Week 14, when Cam Cameron was fired. Maybe it is a coincidence, but it appears that the Ravens might have felt that Flacco was going deep a little too often. Flacco’s average yards per target is 7.6 yards down field under Jim Caldwell, down from 9.8 under Cameron.

It is obvious that Caldwell allowed Flacco to air it out a little more this past Sunday but the Broncos aren’t the Colts and if Denver has the ball for 37-minutes to the Ravens 22 minutes this Saturday, I assure you the scoreboard won’t reflect a Ravens victory.

The Ravens offense must get back to the intermediate passing game they used during the Giants win. While the big throws to Boldin were nice to watch, the 27-yard catch and run TD by RB Ray Rice just before the half versus the Giants was equally as effective and produced the same amount of points.

Not to mention if Rice only picked up five yards it is still second or third and five yards to  go for a fresh set of downs. If the ball falls incomplete to Boldin on any of the long pass plays, it is second or third and long.

BOLD PREDICITION: Joe Flacco handled himself very well as he went head-to head against another living QB legend last year in the AFC Championship game. In fact, Flacco outplayed three time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady at home in New England. Flacco will bring his “A” game to Denver. He will be just as good if not better than he was in the AFC title contest. By even better I mean he will duplicate his numbers without the costly turnover.

DEFENSE—DEFENSE—DEFENSE AND ED REED:

FACT: The Ravens have allowed 13.7 points per game in postseason play (18 games), the NFL’s best playoff mark ever. Limiting the Colts to only 9 points, it marked the ninth playoff game Baltimore has allowed 10-or-fewer points since 2000. Amazingly, no other team has more than four such games during this span. Bending but not breaking has also been a philosophy of the banged up unit this season.

Finishing the regular season with the NFL’s No. 2 red zone defense, Baltimore’s unit remained stout again inside “the red,” not allowing the Colts to score a TD on three trips inside the 20.

OPINION: Trading field goals with the Ravens in the playoffs is a dangerous proposition, even for Peyton Manning. Manning has a tendency to force the ball down deep and this is where the Ravens could take advantage.  Manning has been known to throw a pick six or two in his day when it matters during a game. Just ask his current teammate, Tracy Porter. Porter you will remember intercepted Manning in SB XLIV and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown. The score ended the Colts' hopes of a comeback and sealed New Orleans' first Super Bowl victory.

Ed Reed, who has eight interceptions in 12 career post-season games, is overdue. Reed’s post season INTs rank as the most among active NFL players and tie (Lester Hayes) for second most all time (record is 9 by three different players). Reed’s 162 return yards stand fourth all time, while he also has 40 tackles (34 solo) and 19 PD in postseason play.

Reed has 4 career INT's vs Manning with 3 in the playoffs

Of Reed’s eight playoff thefts, three have come against Manning.  Reed will look to cash in on Saturday, as No. 20 may also be playing his final game in a Ravens uniform if the Broncos win.

BOLD PREDDICITION: Ed Reed will get another post-season pick of Peyton (say that 10 times). While I do not see it going for six points, I do see it leading to a big Ravens touchdown, perhaps the game winner.

FACT: OLB Terrell Suggs has posted 10 sacks in 12 career playoff games, including a team-high five during the 2010 playoffs. Dating back to 2008, Suggs’ 10 QB drops rank first in NFL postseason play, while his 69 yards lost on those sacks also stand No. 1.

OLB Paul Kruger, a second-round draft pick in 2009 and an unrestricted free agent following the season led the Ravens with nine sacks during the year. From games 9-13, he recorded a sack in five-straight contests (totaling 6.5 sacks) to tie a Ravens’ franchise record for most consecutive games with a sack. He had 2.5 sacks five quarterback hits, one forced fumble, one pass deflection and one tackle for loss on Sunday vs. the Colts.

OPINION: Suggs was missing in action during Sunday’s Wild Card win over the Colts. He had two assists on tackles, none solo and stated following the game that his Achilles was really bothering him. If the Ravens are going to win this matchup, Suggs must jump off the side of the milk carton and onto the back of Peyton Manning with Kruger. While Kruger had a great game Sunday, Suggs taking down Manning on one or two occasions would really fire up the Ravens defense and force Manning to use his head like a swivel looking for No.55 and No.99. If the Ravens are going to win on Sunday, each must have at least one sack vs. the Broncos signal caller.

BOLD PREDICTION: The magic number is four sacks of Peyton but I foresee a scenario that allows the Ravens to get six with Lewis and Suggs having two apiece. If Reed does not produce a pick, and this is a really bold prediction, look for Kruger to snag it, as he drops back in coverage late and Peyton does not see him.

PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL IS PARAMOUNT:

FACT: The Ravens committed just 16 turnovers in 2012, producing a franchise single-season low. In their playoff history, the Ravens have dominated the turnover battle, registering a +19 mark in 18 games. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have forced an NFL-best 30 turnovers in 10 playoff games.

One of two uncharacteristic fumbles by Ray Rice on Sunday

OPINION: Suffice to say, the Ravens must not turn the football over on Sunday and in turn must protect it. Another 98-yard pick six by the Broncos in this one and that likely means the end of the season.  During the Ravens nine franchise post-season losses they are a minus nine in those games and minus five when losing in the playoffs under Harbaugh. If Ray Rice loses two fumbles Saturday, beating on his chest and mouthing “my bad” simply will not cut it.

Joe Flacco must protect the ball and the Ravens must try to force a Denver fumble every chance they get. However, this is not in lieu of actually tackling the ball carrier, as we have seen throughout the season Ed Reed and Carey Williams. Denver running backs have put the ball on the ground this season at times.

The Broncos lost 14 fumbles this season. Only six teams lost more fumbles than that, and none of the six made the playoffs. Former Ravens running back Willis McGahee, who is back at practice but not playing Saturday, has four of the running backs' seven lost fumbles this season. Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno and rookie Ronnie Hillman each have one lost fumble.

Moreno, who beat up the Ravens with 115 yards in Week 15, lost his fumble Sept. 17 in Atlanta and did not play in the next eight games before being reinserted as the team's starter following McGahee's knee injury. Moreno has not lost a fumble in his 130 carries over the last six games.

Hillman lost his fumble this past Sunday against the Chiefs and did not carry the ball for the remainder of the game.

BOLD PREDICTION: I like the Ravens chances as long as they come out of the tunnel loose and ready to play. I like the Ravens chances to catch a Broncos team that may be playing a little over their heads, even with Peyton Manning at QB. The Broncos played in a weak AFC West division and their strength of schedule was just .457 this season. Only the Bengals, Colts and Falcons played easier schedules and while all three made the playoffs two are gone after Wild Card Weekend.

The Broncos played just five teams with winning records and lost to three of them (Falcons, Patriots & Texans). They played just one team (Ravens) with a winning record over the final eight weeks of the regular season.

HOW TO LISTEN IN ON THE BEST NFL COVERAGE:

Be sure to listen to THE NFL SHOW ON THE FANSPEAK RADIO NETWORK Thursday night starting at 8:30 as yours truly and Stephen Shoup of Fanspeak.com break down every NFL Divisional playoff game match up.  Steve and I will be back on Friday night to host THE FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL FRENZY, also at 8:30. In addition, on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. we will bring you the BALTIMORE RAVENS PREGAME SHOW PRESENTED BY FANSPEAK.COM.

Be sure to check back right her tomorrow for a comprehensive scouting report of the game, complete with film study and stats to match. I will also have my “5 KEYS TO A RAVENS VICTORY” on Saturday morning.

Also, with the NHL lockout ending, do not miss my special Washington Capitals preview articles, that will start appearing on Sunday morning on Capitals Corner.com.

 

RAY LEWIS NOT ONLY RAVENS GREAT TO HAVE POSSIBLY PLAYED LAST HOME GAME

January 9, 2013 in Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco

It is likely No.20 has also played his final game as a Raven at M&T

Ray Lewis is probably not the only future Hall of Fame Ravens player to have played his last game at M&T Bank Stadium wearing the purple and black for Baltimore. Following Sundays Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts, you can almost assuredly place safety Ed Reed in that category as well.  In addition, you can add wide receiver Anquan Boldin. While Boldin may not be a Hall of Fame inductee in Canton, Ohio when he finishes playing in the NFL, he is certainly going to be in the Ravens Ring of Honor someday.

How important have Boldin,  Reed and of course linebacker Ray Lewis been to this Ravens team in their last three playoff games dating back to last season and including Sunday’s 24-9 win over the upstart Indianapolis Colts? It is entirely possible that without just one of them, much less any of them, the Ravens could have been one and done last year and in a much tougher battle against a young Colts team that was 9-1 this season in one-possession games and had seven come from behind victories this season.

A 15-point victory would have been a pipe dream without Boldin on Sunday. Another wide receiver would have stepped up you say, Torrey Smith perhaps. I wouldn't count on it and I do not mean that in a derogatory way.

Smith could be emotionally and physically drained from a long season of running go routes and when you factor the personally devastating tragic circumstance of late September, when prior to a  Week 4 contest vs. the Patriots his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, it is understandable to see how Smith has hit a wall of sorts.

The former Maryland standout has just 12 catches in his last six games and just one receiving touchdown (Week 15) since he had two vs. Oakland way back on November 11. Jacoby Jones is not as reliable holding onto the ball as Ravens fans would like to think he is and Tandon Doss, the Ravens fourth round pick in 2011 from Indiana, had three very critical passes go off his fingers on Sunday.

That leaves the grizzled veteran Boldin and all he did was set a Ravens’ playoff-record with 145 receiving yards on five catches (29.0 avg.). To further illustrate Boldin’s impact and timing of being a clutch receiver, his 145 yards are the most in a second half of an NFL playoff game since Jerry Rice posted 157 in Super Bowl XXIII back in 1989. Boldin’s third quarter catches were momentum swingers for the Ravens, one on each of Baltimore’s first two drives following the half.

Boldin has been clutch in post season for Ravens

Over the last 20 years, only two other receivers caught two passes of 45 yards or more in the same period of a playoff game: Steve Smith against the Bears in 2006 and Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos against the Steelers last January.

In fact, there have only been three 100-yard receiving days in Ravens postseason history – two of which have come via Boldin, who had 101 against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game last January.

Boldin bailed out his struggling quarterback in last year’s AFC Divisional playoff game versus another upstart team that came a bit closer to beating the Ravens at home in the playoffs. The former Arizona Cardinal, who signed with the Ravens following the 2009 season, led his team in receiving  yards with 73, as he caught four balls against the Houston Texans last January but none more important than the decisive touchdown, which proved to be the game winner putting the Ravens up 17-3 in a game they eventually won 20-13.

In that same game, future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed would actually seal the Texans fate on their final two drives of the game. Reed picked off a TJ Yates pass intended for Andrea Johnson in the end zone with two minutes to play and then knocked down a Hail Mary that almost made it into the hands of Houston’s Kevin Walter.

You know what Reed has done during the regular season. Just in case you have forgotten, here is a reminder. As an eight-time Pro Bowler, Reed has tallied 61 picks during his career – the most in Ravens history and the NFL since he entered the league in 2002. Among active players, Reed’s career INTs also rank first, while his 1,541 return yards are an NFL record, which he set in Week 1’s win over Cincy.

These are not garbage time Hail Mary picks either, 38 have come in the second half (most in the NFL since ‘02) and 24 in the fourth quarter (most in the NFL since ‘02). When Reed records an INT, the Ravens own a 37-12 record. When he makes two INTs in a game, Baltimore is 12-0 (13-0 including playoffs).

Speaking of the playoffs, Reed’s eight-career playoff INTs rank as the most among active NFL players and tie (Lester Hayes) for second most all time (record is nine by three different players). Reed’s 162 return yards stand fourth all time, while he also has 40 tackles (34 solo) and 19 PD in postseason play.

Let’s also not forget it was Ed Reed who broke up a third down pass intended for Aaron Hernandez from Tom Brady with 1:56 left to play in the AFC Championship game, which set up Joe Flacco’s drive that should have ended with a trip to the Super Bowl if not for a certain dropped pass and missed field goal.

You know about the deserved excitement surrounding Ray Lewis’s final game at M&T Bank Stadium. The 17-year 13-time Pro Bowler deserved every accolade he received. Sorry Reggie Wayne if the victory formation dance offended you. The only way to have stopped it was to win the game and Lewis was not going to let that happen.

His 13 tackles led the Ravens on Sunday and following the Cal Ripken Jr. lap around the stadium to shake the fans hands after the game, No.52 will take his place on the Baltimore Sports Mt. Rushmore with Cal, Johnny U and Brooksie.

Paul Kruger is an UFA along with Danell Ellerbe

With that said, the Ravens may have caught a break when Lewis announced his retirement in terms of a salary cap savings. They will have a 2013 Cap savings of $4.35M ($7.3M base salary- $1.9M roster bonus –2014 $650K bonus proration – 2015 $400K bonus proration) from his departure.

Truth is, if Lewis decided he wanted another year, the Ravens would have had a very serious decision to make about bringing Ray back at his projected price. The Ravens were not trending towards greatness with Lewis in the middle for the first five and half games. His announcement was perfect timing and definitely stole back the emotional edge Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano provided his team by making it back to the sideline after battling Leukemia.

The biggest off-season contract priority is going to be that of QB Joe Flacco. Of course with Lewis leaving, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe (UFA) and Paul Kruger (UFA) now take a bit more of the big stage, especially with the money both have earned for themselves for next season without Sugar Ray in the lineup this season. However, much like Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome did with Ray Rice last year; the Ravens may opt to use the franchise tag on Flacco and then try to work a deal before the tag deadline in early July.

If the Ravens intend to, or are forced to use the Franchise Tag on Flacco, they are going to need to create additional Salary Cap space and it’s likely that veterans such as Anquan Boldin, who are under contract next season, are sacrificed for the very quarterback he may have helped earn that big deal for in the first place.

The 2013 Franchise Tag for Quarterbacks has been estimated to be in the $14-16M range and that money is not just coming from the contract of a retired Ray Lewis.

At the end of the season Ed Reed’s six-year, $44 million contract expires, and the Ravens are unlikely to offer him another one. Can anyone say Saints or Jets if Reed decides to play another few seasons? Besides, the Ravens are initially thought to be very tight against the Cap heading into the 2013 off-season and would not have what Reed would require and keep Flacco, Ellerbe as well as Kruger.

That brings us to players like Boldin. According to the Baltimore Ravens and several other NFL on-line publications, Boldin’s contract is up after the 2013 season and his cap number of $7.53M is the fourth highest number on the team. That makes Boldin a very likely cut before June 1, saving the Ravens $6M, with only $1.53M in dead salary cap money.

It is almost a no brainer but understandably tough to swallow considering his record-breaking performance on Sunday. Players such as Haloti Ngata, who is scheduled to make $10.4M in 2013 and Terrell Suggs, as well as Pro Bowl Guard Marshall Yanda, could all be in line for a bit of contract restructuring to help out the team this off-season.

Enjoy the play of these great players while you still can Ravens fans. Beating the Broncos and snapping Peyton Manning’s nine game winning streak against the Ravens takes on a completely new meaning this Saturday considering all of this.

I can assure you of this Ravens fans, if Baltimore does beat Denver, it will be because you’ve heard Lewis, Reed and Boldin’s name called quite a bit on Saturday afternoon. In addition, it is entirely possible if the Ravens are in the playoffs for a sixth straight year following the 2013 season, they will actually have to beat one or two of these names to advance.

*Stay tuned for articles from me all week previewing the Ravens and Broncos Divisional contest. I will publish a fact and opinion article on Wednesday and be sure not to miss the Thursday Night NFL Show on Fanspeak Radio Network as well as the Friday Night Football Frenzy. Stephen Shoup and I will host both shows.

The Baltimore Ravens Pre-Game Show, hosted by yours truly and Stephen Shoup will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m., again on the Fanspeak Radio Network.

 

REDSKINS/RAVENS PREGAME SHOW ON THE FANSPEAK RADIO NETWORK

December 30, 2012 in Baltimore Ravens, Blog Talk Radio, NFL, NFL Football, NFL Playoffs, washington redskins

Join Host's Alan Zlotorzynski and Stephen Shoup of Fanspeak.com as they get you set for the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins season finales on the RAVENS/REDSKINS PREGAME SHOW.  (Click on the link for the show).

Today is a special day as Alan and Steve  roll out the new Fanspeak Radio Network Logo. Please comment below and tell us what you think. If you are interested in giving us your thoughts on the logo, or the Ravens and Redskins, be sure to call, 646-564-9713 from noon to one o'clock today to talk to Alan or Steve on the show.

Having clinched a second-consecutive AFC North Division title – and with a chance to improve their seeding in the playoffs – the Baltimore Ravens play at the Cincinnati Bengals today.  The Bengals, who have earned a Wild Card postseason spot for a second-straight season, are 9-6 and own the sixth seed in the AFC. The 10-5 Ravens, the only NFL team to earn the playoffs in each of the last five seasons (2008-12), can be the No. 3 seed. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, and the Patriots lose to the visiting Dolphins, Baltimore will be the third seed.

Alan and Steve will have the Fanspeak.com “5 Keys to a Ravens Victory” as well as all the stats and information from the Ravens final regular season game. Alan will recap the Ravens first game at home vs. Cincy, back to open the season on Monday Night Football. In addition, Alan will tell you why the Ravens need to stay right where they are in the No.4 seed.

No game is bigger in the NFL today than what the Washington Redskins hosting the Dallas Cowboys tonight on Sunday Night Football. Buoyed by their longest win streak in 16 years, the Redskins have gotten into a winner-take-all game for the NFC East title.

 

 

 

 

Alan and Steve will breakdown every angle of this thriller for you, as the two longtime rivals get set to meet for the 107th time including the post season. Do not miss the Fanspeak 5 Keys to a Skins Victory and you will not want miss a trip down memory lane of this great rivalry, as the guys relive some of the greatest Redskins wins over the hated Cowboys since the rivalry began in 1960.

Alan will have all the stats that matter and Steve will provide the great insight you have come to expect from the Fanspeak Radio Network. You will hear from the players on all four teams as well as the head coaches today. Showtime is 11:00 a.m.

 

RAVENS / REDSKINS PRE-GAME SHOW ON BLOG TALK RADIO WITH STEVE SHOUP AND ALAN Z

December 23, 2012 in Baltimore Ravens, NFL, NFL Football, washington redskins

Join Alan Zlotorzynski from the Birds of Baltimore and Stephen Shoup of Fanspeak.com as they get you set for The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins pre-game show.

The Ravens can help their Beltway neighbors tremendously today with a victory. Earning the playoffs for an NFL-best five years in a row, the Baltimore Ravens will try to secure a second-consecutive AFC North title when they host the New York Giants this Sunday, Dec. 23. The Ravens, now 9-5 after losing three in a row for the first time since 2009, need to win one of their final two contests to win the division. The Giants, who have lost two of their last three, are 8-6 and tied for the top spot in the NFC East with Dallas and the Washington Redskins.

Speaking of the Redskins, they travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16 in search of their sixth-straight win. Washington can clinch their first playoff berth since 2007 with a win combined with losses by the Bears, Giants and Vikings. The Redskins improved to 8-6 this season as fourth-round rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins made his first career NFL start and completed 26-of-37 passes for 329 yards with two touchdowns in a 38-21 win at Cleveland.

With an 8-6 record, the Redskins are tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East but hold the tiebreaker over New York by virtue of the team’s divisional records (3-1 for Washington, 2-3 for New York). Washington has a share of first place in the NFC East after 15 weeks for the first time since 1999.

The win is the Redskins’ fifth straight and gives the team its first five-game regular season winning streak since Weeks 13-17 of the 2005 season.

Alan and Steve will break both games down inside and out and provide you with their 5 Keys to Victory for both teams. You will also hear from the participants of all four teams as well as the head coaches as they spoke to the media throughout the week. Alan will also take you back to January 28, 2001 when the Ravens and Giants met in Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. He will have the highlights from a night that reigned purple.

Steve Katz of Ravens Bleacher Bum will weigh in on 3 Stats you cannot be without for the Ravens and tell us his favorite Super Bowl XXXV moment.

Showtime is 11:00 a.m. and will run for two hours leading you right up to Redskins-Eagles kickoff.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/zlotsports/2012/12/23/ravens-redskins-pre-game-show-presented-by-fanspeakcom

 

 

RAVENS-REDSKINS PREGAME SHOW ON BLOG TALK RADIO PRESENTED BY FANSPEAK

December 9, 2012 in Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh, NFL, NFL Football, washington redskins

The talk is over, and today the “BATTLE OF THE BELTWAYS” will be settled.  Join Alan Zlotorzynski (Birds of Baltimore) and Stephen Shoup (Fanspeak.com) as they get you ready for the battle between the Ravens and Redskins, which takes place at FedEx Field today in Landover, MD.

Will Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins (6-6) win their fourth game in a row for the first time since 2008, or will the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) get back to their winning ways following a home loss to their arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday.

The Ravens have not lost two in a row since losing three in a row during the 2009 season. The Skins are coming off a huge Monday night win at home vs. the New York Giants and cannot afford to lose another game this season if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

How will a depleted Ravens defense stop RG3 and rookie running back Alfred Morris and how will the Redskins thin secondary contain QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens big play offense? Alan and Steve will have the answers.

The guys will provide you with all of the necessary stats and information needed to get you set for what is sure to be one of the more entertaining games of Week 14 in the NFL.

Alan and Steve will look back at the four previous encounters between the two teams as the Ravens lead the all-time season series 3-1. On behalf of Fanspeak.com, Steve will have the “5 KEYS TO A REDSKINS VICTORY” and Alan will tell you what The Birds of Baltimore.com “5 KEYS TO A RAVENS WIN” are.

Alan also has the betting angle covered, as he delivers a look inside the team’s performances against the spread this season. Alan will also have every trend pertinent to making the right decisions today.

You will also hear from many of today’s participants. You will hear from the coaches and players as they spoke to the local and national media throughout the week.  The list includes Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Bernard Pollard, as well as RG3, Alfred Morris, Chris Cooley and Trent Williams. 

The guys will then preview the Fanspeak.com “Six Pack” of today’s best NFL games. The list includes Cowboys-Bengals, Steelers-Chargers, Bears- Vikings, Saints-Giants, Lions-Packers and the big Monday Night thriller between the Texans and Patriots.

You will not want to miss the most exciting pre-game show of the year and it all gets started at 10:30 this morning. IT’S RAVENS-REDSKINS V and the Fanspeak.com Ravens/Redskins Pre-game has you covered.

TO LISTEN TO THE SHOW , PLEASE CLICK HERE. OR ON ANY PICTURE IN THE ARTICLE.

 

 

THE FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL FRENZY PRESENTED BY FANSPEAK ON BLOG TALK RADIO

November 16, 2012 in BCS Rankings, Blog Talk Radio, NFL, NFL Football, NFL Game Summary, NFL Report Cards

Join Alan Zlotorzynski and Steve Shoup for the FANSPEAK FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL FRENZY.

The guys will pick up where they left off last night with the Fanspeak Fantasy Football “Start Em” or “sit em” segment. Alan and Steve will then preview the top games in the NFL this weekend and pick a winner for every game.

Then it’s on to College football, where thanks to Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies, there is plenty to discuss.  Alabama may be gone from the No.1 spot but they will be forgotten once the dust settles. Will Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame win out to make it hard for the BCS? Which one of the three teams will lose before the final polls, and which two teams go to the BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME if they none of them lose.

Alan and Steve will look back at Week 11 and preview several of Saturday’s big games including USC-UCLA.  Steve and Alan will weigh in with the facts and give their opinions on all of the BCS scenarios.

Steve will deliver his current big board (The Top 10) and give us the “FANSEPAK TOP 10 TEAMS IN THE LAND”.  The guys will also review the Heisman Trophy candidates and look at who the front-runners are for some of college football’s top awards.

Alan has all of the audio clips that you enjoy hearing. Tonight you will hear from Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin as well as Nick Saban. You will also hear from Oregon's Heisman candidate, Kenjon Barner. Lane Kiffin will weigh in on Jim Mora Jr. as the Trojans and Bruins rivalry heats up in Southern California.

From the NFL landscape, Alan has Tony Romo, JJ Watt, Head coach’s Lovie Smith and Rex Ryan and a few more form the world of the NFL as well as college football.

Showtime is 8:30 and will run two hours.

 

THE FANSPEAK NFL SHOW ON BLOG TALK RADIO TONIGHT AT 7

November 15, 2012 in Baltimore Ravens, NFL, NFL Football, NFL Game Summary, washington redskins

It’s a big Week 11 in the NFL and that means the FANSPEAK.COM THURSDAY NIGHT NFL SHOW will be jam packed with the best information, stats and audio clips you could ever want in a 2-hr sports talk show.

Join Host Alan Zlot (Birds of Baltimore) and Steve Shoup of Fanspeak.com as they look back at Week 10 and get you set for Week 11 in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins will play the state of Pennsylvania this Sunday and the guys have the Keystone State teams covered.

Alan will peak back at the Ravens 55-10 triumph over the Oakland Raiders last Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium and tell you why the Raiders deserved to get beat by 5 touchdowns.  Steve will have all of the Washington Redskins bye week news and get you set for the Redskins game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Fed Ex Field.

Alan will then have the Birds of Baltimore.com look around the league. He gives you 8 amazing stats from Week 10 and tells you what to look forward to this week. Alan will also tell you why the NY JETS have sunk to a new low this week with the handling of the Tim Tebow situation.

The guys will then have their weekly POWER POLLS. Alan will unveil his BCS style NFL POWER POLL and Steve has the FANSPEAK TOP 10.

Then it’s on to fantasy football as the guys tell you whom to start and whom to sit this week. Alan and Steve will have one sleeper play and tell you which players you should be looking to trade, or acquire, if your deadline hasn’t passed.

Alan and Steve then jump into the Week 11 schedule breaking down all of the key matchups. You will hear from Jets head coach Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Ben Roethlisberger, RG3, and a few other key Week 11 players. Showtime is a special 7:00 P.M. TONIGHT!

 

 

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS PRE-GAME PRESENTED BY FANSPEAK

November 11, 2012 in Baltimore Ravens, BCS Rankings, Blog Talk Radio, New York Islanders, New York rangers

Join Host Alan Zlotorzynski and Steve Shoup for THE FANSPEAK.COM BALTIMORE RAVENS/ WASHINGTON REDSKINS PRE- GAME SHOW starting at 10:30 this morning. Today’s show is a special as hip-hop artist ROLAND BROWN premiers his new song, “The Return of T-Sizzle” right here, exclusively on our show.

With the Redskins on a bye week, Alan and Steve have some unfinished college football to discuss. Who will be the new BCS No.1 with Texas A & M stunning the Crimson Tide in Alabama Yesterday? Will it be Oregon, who trounced Cal on the road or will Notre Dame or Kansas State take the top spot?

Alan and Steve give you their BCS projections and breakdown the Heisman race.

The guys will recap all of the important games from Saturday during the shows first half hour. Then, it’s time to talk Ravens football.

Winners of five of their last six games and owners of a 6-2 mark, the BALTIMORE RAVENS play their only home game in November when they host the Oakland Raiders today at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens won at Cleveland, 25-15, last Sunday, while the Raiders lost, 42-32, at home to Tampa Bay. Oakland is 3-5 and has a 34-31 victory over Pittsburgh (9/23) among its trio of wins. Alan will have his “Let Me Hear Ya.com” 5 Keys to a Ravens victory.  Alan will have all of the news, notes and audio clips from around the Ravens locker room as well as the Raiders.

Hip-Hop artist Roland Brown with T-Sizzle

With the college season winding down and the bottom of the NFL barrel shaping up, it’s time to look at next April’s NFL Draft, at least the first 10 picks. Our very own Steve Shoup, who appeared on various ESPN and sports talk radio stations across the country before and during the NFL Draft, and who also authored the Fanspeak NFL Draft Guide, will give you his “MOCK TOP 10 PICKS” if the draft were held tomorrow.

With the No.1 overall pick, The Kansas City Chiefs select?????????

During the Purple Ladies look back segment, Alan will take you back to a time when Oakland and Baltimore were the only two teams standing in the AFC, not once, but twice. Alan and Steve will also have a quick preview of the games they didn’t get to during the Fanspeak.com Friday Night Football Frenzy.

All of this plus the DEBUT OF ROLAND BROWN’S NEW SONG, “THE REURN OF T-SIZZLE, with Roland appearing live at 12:15. Showtime is 10:30 this morning.

Here is the link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/zlotsports/2012/11/11/the-baltimore-ravens-pre-game-show-presented-by-fanspeakcom

THE NFL SHOW PRESENTED BY FANSPEAK

November 9, 2012 in Baltimore Ravens, NFL, NFL Football, NFL Game Summary, NFL Report Cards, NFL Report Cards, washington redskins

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/zlotsports/2012/11/09/the-nfl-show-by-fanspeakcom

Join host Alan Zlot (Birds of Baltimore) and Steve Shoup (Fanspeak.com) as they bring you all of the best analysis from around the world of the NFL.

As always, the guys begin with a look back at the Ravens and Redskins. Steve gives you his insight on Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan’s controversial comments and the reason why the Skins offense is backsliding. Has the Skins head coach just become a lame duck head coach? Steve will tell us why he is, or why he is not. Alan will tell you why he should be, and it has nothing to do with his comments, but they did not help.

Alan will tell you why the Ravens need to throw caution to the wind and give Joe Flacco his big contract now and then the guys look at why the Ravens should beat the Raiders big on Sunday.

Alan and Steve will then provide all of the news, stats, and audio clips that only THE FANSPEAK NFL SHOW can deliver.  You will hear from Adam Vinatieri, Doug Martin and Joel Dressen, tight end of the Denver Broncos (courtesy of ESPN radio)

The guys then jump into their weekly power polls before providing the Fanspeak.com “start em” and “sit em” segment. Alan gave you Doug Martin last week and Steve told you Andrew Luck would blow up and both did as the guys predicted. Who will it be this week?

From there it is on to Week 10 as the NFL Show welcomes The Insider, Steve Silver.

Steve, who hosts The Fantasy Sideline right here on Blog Talk Radio, joins the show to discuss the Seahawks and the NFC West. Are the Seahawks for real, and how good is Russell Wilson? Can the Hawks stay with the 49ers? The Insider will have the answers.

Alan and Steve then begin to break down the top games for Week 10. In addition, the guys will provide an update on the Thursday Night game between the Colts and Jaguars. Showtime is 9:00 p.m. and the show will run 2 hours.