Tag:Baltimore Ravens
Posted on: December 21, 2008 1:13 am

AFC North -- Nice win, Ravens!

While I don't have the NFL Network and did not get to see the game live, I did "watch" the game here on CBS' GameCenter, and I was impressed by what the Ravens (10-5) were able to do against the Cowboys (9-6) last night.

The game was close most of the way, the score just 16-7 in favor of the Ravens entering the fourth quarter. Then, the floodgates opened. Ravens' kicker Matt Stover got his fourth field goal of the game while Cowboys' kicker Nick Folk got his first, both within about two minutes after more than half of the fourth quarter was gone. Then, in a stunning development in a close game, each team scored two touchdowns, the Ravens' coming on a 77-yard run by Willis McGahee and an 82-yard run by Le'Ron McClain. and the Cowboys' coming on a 7-yard pass to Terrell Owens and a 21-yard pass to Jason Witten. All four of these scores came with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter. Back and forth, topsy-turvy, it looked like the Ravens might give up their lead, but the second run, by McClain, was enough to break the Cowboys' backs.

Final score: Ravens 33   Cowboys 24

This win significantly bolsters the Ravens' shot at an AFC Wild Card playoff spot, with the Colts already claiming one of those bids after beating the Jaguars 31-24 Thursday night. The Cowboys are in a bit more precarious spot. Even if they win their last regular season game on the road against the Eagles next Sunday, they likely will need some help to stay in the playoff hunt. According to the CBS playoff standings, the Ravens moved up to the sixth seed after last night's win, and the Cowboys dropped behind the Falcons, who have the sixth seed. This, of course, does not account for action later today.

The Ravens finish out the regular season next Sunday at home against the Jaguars. A win in this game will help give them a good chance of locking up that second AFC Wild Card spot.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 10, 2008 10:43 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2008 10:45 pm

AFC North: the early lines - Fun with numbers!

This week offers a range of opening lines confronting the teams in our favorite conference, the AFC North.

-- The Bengals (1-11-1) are touchdown underdogs at home to the Redskins (7-6). The Bengals are now in "13 down, three to go" mode, while the Redskins struggle to maintain relevance in the NFC East. The Redskins desperately need a win. The Bengals are still wondering if Carson Palmer will play in the last two weeks of the season (puh-leeeeeeeezzzzz!!!).  Considering how the Ravens picked the Redskins apart last week, the Bengals may have a shot here. Wait, who am I kidding! But, you know I'll be watching and rooting for my favorite bunch of perennial NFL losers!

-- In what may be the Game of the Week, the Ravens (9-4) are two-point favorites at home against the Steelers (10-3). The Ravens have hit their stride, and the Steelers continue to find ways to win in close games. This is a showdown of epic proportions. The Steelers need the win to stay atop the AFC North. A Ravens win would bring a tie for the conference lead and make the last two games on their schedules that much more meaningful for both teams. Pittsburgh enters the game on a four-game win streak, including last week's late-game emotional win over the Cowboys. The Ravens enter the game on a three-game streak of their own, including 29+-point wins over the Eagles and the Bengals and a two-touchdown win over the Redskins last week. Whichever way it goes, both these teams are likely destined for the playoffs. The line is less than the usual field-goal tip of the hat for home-field advantage, so this is essentially a "pick 'em" game.

-- The Browns (4-9) travel to meet the Eagles (7-5-1), who are two-touchdown favorites. The Eagles are 2-1 since the tie against the Bengals and feeling the momentum after a 48-20 win over the Cardinals and an important 20-14 conference win over the rival Giants. The Eagles need a win to keep pace with the Cowboys and the Redskins in the AFC East, since the Giants already have clinched the division and a playoff spot. The Browns enter this game on a three-game losing streak, including a 28-9 loss last week to the Titans. Even though their record is better than the Bengals', I believe the Browns are already in "Let's get this thing over with" mode, much as the Bengals are. The spread seems a bit generous, but with the Eagles at home on a roll and the Browns ready to call it done for this year, the Eagles could put it on them.

Look for an in-depth Redskins versus Bengals preview before this week's game.



Posted on: November 30, 2008 9:59 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2008 9:08 pm

Ravens piledrive Bengals 34-3

Fellow blogger BigBluMasochist was right. In my preview blog, I pointed out I thought the line on today's Bengals vs. Ravens game -- Ravens by 7 -- was fair. BigBlu suggested 7 was too generous, that Ravens by 8 1/2 or 9 would be more realistic. Turns out we both seriously underestimated the beating the Ravens had in store for the home team. The Ravens (8-4) bested the Bengals (1-10-1) by almost four times what BigBlu suggested.

The final score of today's debacle was 34-3. Only a Shayne Graham field goal at the end of the first half kept the Bengals from laying a goose egg. This was the lowest number of points scored by the Bengals all year. A stat pointed out late in the second half by fellow poster huberh3 over on the Official Support Group for Bengals thread pretty much sums up how the game went: "with 1:35 left in the second quarter, the defense has more tackles and assists (47) than the offense has yards (40)."

A Bengals' washout -- Ryan Fitzpatrick was 12 of 31 for 124 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Fitz was also sacked three times. T.J. Houshmandzadeh provided the best offensive effort with four catches for 64 yards, but still a poor game for him, particularly since one catch accounted for 46 of those 64 yards. Chad Ocho Cinco had four catches for 45 yards. Fitz provided most of the rushing in this game, too, with three carries for 29 yards, followed by Cedric Benson's effort of 10 carries for 17 yards, one carry of which accounted for seven yards. The Bengals had a total 155 yards of offense for the game.

In an apt footnote, third-string quarterback Jordan Palmer came in on the team's last two posessions of the game. Palmer was 0 for 2, got sacked once and gave up an interception to Jim Leonhard, which Leonhard ran back 36 yards for a touchdown.

On the bright side for the Bengals, Brandon Johnson got a sack and a half, and Chris Crocker got the other half sack. Dhani Jones was credited with a forced fumble. The defense played well again until being beaten down by too much time on the field and a potent balanced offensive attack by the Ravens. The Bengals were only able to muster six first downs the entire game.

Ravens dominate -- That's the only way to put it. The Ravens put up just over 450 yards in total offense, nearly three times as much as the Bengals. Joe Flacco was 19 for 29 for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Clayton had one of his best games of the year, with five catches for 164 yards and one touchdown. To top off his day, Clayton threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason, who had six catches total for 91 yards and the TD. Five different Ravens rushers contributed to a total of 147 yards for the day, with Le'Ron McClain leading the way, getting 25 carries for 86 yards. Ray Rice had 11 carries for 41 yards. Todd Heap had a four-yard catch for a TD. Kicker Matt Stover rounded out the scoring with two field goals.

While the Ravens' offense was busy wearing out the Bengals' defense, their defense was making life difficult for their opposition, as well. Today was the 31st game the Ravens did not give up a 100-yard individual rushing performance. The Ravens' defensive line was in Fitz' face all day, clogging up the running lanes and keeping their hands up to cut down his lines of sight.

With the win, the Ravens took another step toward the playoffs. They are keeping pace in the AFC Wild Card race and are breathing down the Steelers' necks.

Next for the Bengals is a trip up Interstate 74 to visit the Colts in Indianapolis. As I stated over on the Official Support Group thread, I can't wait to see the line on this one!

Around the AFC North . . .

Browns -- Speaking of the Colts (8-4), the Browns (4-8) made it interesting, but could not stave off a late Colts' comeback when defensive end Robert Mathis returned a Derek Anderson fumble 37 yards for a touchdown about five minutes into the fourth quarter. Before the score, Cleveland had been up 6-3 since the second quarter. The final score was 10-6.

QB Anderson sustained a sprained MCL in his left knee late in today's game, which may put him out for the rest of the year. With Brady Quinn already done for the year with a broken right index finger, Cleveland will turn to third-string QB Ken Dorsey next Sunday, when the team travels to meet the Titans. Dorsey went 0-for-3 with an interception after coming in today for Anderson. The Titans (11-1) will seek to solidify a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Steelers -- The Steelers (9-3) made the statement they sought to make today against the Patriots (7-5), laying a 33-10 pounding on the Pats. The vaunted Steelers defense had four takeaways -- two interceptions and two fumbles -- and five sacks.

Pittsburgh hosts the 8-4 Cowboys for a 4:15 p.m. game next Sunday, with the Cowboys coming off of a 34-9 drubbing of the Seahawks and looking to continue their playoff drive.

Posted on: November 27, 2008 11:00 am
Edited on: November 30, 2008 10:58 am

Can the Bengals clip the Ravens' wings?

Early indications are no, the Bengals cannot. But, stranger things have happened. The Ravens are favored by a touchdown in the Sunday matchup at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals just can't get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The Bengals, like any other team, must understand this, though: respect has to be earned. It's not just given out because you want it or think you deserve it.

The Keys . . .

The Bengals are hurtin' -- Right now, parts of this team are held together with bubble gum, baling wire, and warm thoughts. The Bengals have had to put around 20 players, including a good number of starters, on the Injured Reserve list. The offensive line is now sporting some very young talent due to injuries that have decimated the left side of the line. Left guard Andrew Whitworth is listed as out for this Sunday, and left tackle Levi Jones and left guard Scott Kooistra did not practice yesterday. Chances are good we'll see Anthony Collins and Nate Livings at left tackle and left guard, respectively, this Sunday. The defense is in just about the same shape -- linemen Robert Geathers and Frostee Rucker joined other defensive playes on the IR earlier this week. Safety Chinedum Ndukwe did not practice Wednesday. Neither did cornerback David Jones nor linebackers Rashad Jeanty and Eric Henderson. The Bengals are shuttling guys back and forth from the practice squad and scouring the waiver wires just to be able to put guys on the field.

The Ravens are rollin' -- Bad news for the Bengals. The Ravens are on a roll, winning six of their last seven games, including a 36-7 mashing of the Eagles at home last Sunday. All the usual suspects showed up in the victory over the Eagles, including safety Ed Reed, who had two interceptions in the game, one that he returned an NFL-record 108 yards for a touchdown. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco is quietly putting together a pretty good season, completing 60.6 percent of his passes so far for almost 2,000 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Flacco has proven more than competent to take this team where they want to go. Running backs Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain bring the hurt out of the backfield, and wide receiver Derrick Mason is approaching 1,000 yards for the year, though he is questionable for this Sunday with a bad shoulder.

By The Numbers . . .

Points per game: Bengals - 14   Ravens - 24
Passing Yards per game: Bengals - 160   Ravens - 169
Rushing Yards per game: Bengals - 80   Ravens - 144

Points Allowed per game: Bengals - 25   Ravens - 17
Passing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals - 210   Ravens - 182
Rushing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals - 130   Ravens - 80

Total Offense: Bengals - 240   Ravens - 312
Total Defense: Bengals - 340   Ravens - 262

Although it hurts to see it again, the Bengals are touchdown underdogs at home. All things considered, the line is fair. The Ravens are rounding into playoff form, and last week against the Eagles was a tune-up for them. Perhaps the Bengals can hope for a bit of a letdown on the Ravens' part after the bashing they dished out to Philly, but it's not likely. In the loss against the Steelers a week ago today, the Bengals offensive line was tested, but stood up, allowing only one sack with two players anchoring the left side of their line playing in their first NFL game. The team will need the same kind of performance from Collins and Livings this week to help Ryan Fitzpatrick be able to accomplish much against the stingy Ravens defense. Fitz will have to (again) protect the ball and make smart decisions. The running game essentially was absent against the Steelers, and the passing game more or less disappeared after Fitz hit Glenn Holt for a TD in the first half. If we see the same thing happening again, the Ravens should have no problem dispatching the Bengals. Again, likely entering this contest with a patchwork defensive line and secondary, the Bengals will have to be on top of their game to keep this one close. It would help the offense if Fitz could get the ball to T.J. Houshmandzadeh more than a few times and if some of the other receivers could hold on to balls that Fitz has been putting right on their hands.

Four of the five CBS experts and SPIN  have picked the Ravens. Once again, what I hope for is a team effort by the Bengals, a game in which they play respectably and try not to embarass themselves. They're playing for team pride, respect, and maybe, just maybe, a chance to make Baltimore's road to the post-season just a little more difficult.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com