Archive for the AFC North Category


What We Learned From Ravens’ Loss to the Vikings

 

Maybe it is not so much what we learned, but more what we’ve confirmed about the Baltimore Ravens and their chance to be an elite team this season.

Here are a few of my personal confirmations:

Joe Flacco is a Pro Bowl quarterback —In three straight weeks, the Ravens have lost three straight games that have come down to the wire. And the only reason the Ravens were even close enough to the wire to come up short in a photo finish is because of Joe Flacco.

Greg Mattison is certainly not Rex Ryan I alluded to this in a post last week about how the Ravens’ “exotic” blitzes of the past were more out of necessity than flair. Chris Carr is terrible. Frank Walker is terrible. Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington are serviceable. It seems that when the Ravens are able to blitz, things go better for them than when they don’t. But trust me, nothing will get better for this team throughout the season if opponents can continue to air it out down field confidently.

Ray Rice is what Reggie Bush Should Be —I’m sure a lot of people were wondering why Ray Rice has maintained his starting position, while Willis McGahee has received more of the meaningful carries with scoring opportunities. Yesterday showed us why. Rice is the new Marshall Faulk, able to make plays out of the back field and on passing patterns. Show me a linebacker that can matchup with him, and I’ll show you somebody Rice practices against everyday in training camp.

As I said last week, it’s certainly not panic mode in Charm City. The Ravens have lost three straight games to three playoff caliber teams—and two of the three have the potential to reach the Super Bowl. Still, there’s a lot that the Ravens have to get right over the course of the season, or the projected 11-12 wins we thought they could take this year could easily turn into eight or nine.

Technorati Tags: Baltimore Ravens , Joe Flacco , Ray Rice

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Tale of Two Halves; Minnesota 34, Browns 20


Photo: Peggy Turbett/Cleveland.com

On Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns played host to the Minnesota Vikings to open up the 2009 regular season. Eric Mangini’s first half as the Cleveland Browns’ head coach was promising, but in the end, the result was all too familiar for Browns fans.

Cleveland carried a 13-10 lead over the Vikings into the locker room at halftime, but the running game of the Vikings was much too fierce for the Browns in the second half. The Vikings scored 24 straight points and defeated the Browns 34-20. Cleveland now falls to 1-10 in season openers since returning in 1999.

Starting Points – After not playing in the preseason, Shaun Rogers started at NT. Also, rookie Alex Mack got the start at center over veteran Hank Fraley. With backup running back Jerome Harrison out due to injury, rookie RB James Davis also got a good amount of playing time.

The Good -When you give up 24 straight points in the second half, it’s hard to give praise to your defense, but that is just what I am going to do.

I thought the first half we saw glimpses of just how good this defense can be. The Browns defense forced the Vikings into four three-and-outs in their first six possessions.

Cleveland only gave up 45 yards rushing in the first half to one of the top rushing teams in the league, and Adrian Peterson was held to one yard rushing in the second quarter (granted that was a 1-yard TD.)

I also feel that it is tough to blame the defense for the 24 straight points scored by the Vikings in the second half.

When your offense can only stay on the field for six and a half minutes in a 27 minute span, your defense is going to get tired, and that’s just what happened to the Browns’ D.

I also liked the pressure the Browns’ pass rush got on Brett Favre. Cleveland had four sacks and six QB hits. Those stats are what we would see in a three game span under Romeo Cernnel.

The other thing I would like to focus on in the positive column is something very easy to see: Josh Cribbs. Cribbs broke off a 67-yard punt return TD in the second quarter that allowed the Browns to take a 13 to 10 lead.

With his seventh career return TD, Cribbs is now tied with Eric Metcalf for most in Browns history. The offense also showed Cribbs early in the wildcat formation. Cribbs converted a third down with a five-yard run via direct snap.

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The U.S. Open Tennis Finals over NFL’s Opening Weekend? Child, Please

A few days ago, someone had brought to my attention; something of a rivalry that I didn’t even know existed. A rivalry between the National Football League’s opening weekend, and the U.S. Open Tennis finals which are to be held this coming Monday.

While some of us are of the belief that the NFL’s kickoff weekend is without question, the most highly anticipated sporting-event in recent months, others are of the belief that the U.S. Open Tennis finals might possess more intrigue and deliver more excitement.

I have to respectfully disagree.

I know what you might be thinking, how can a man who knows exceptionally little about the U.S. Open Tennis finals (or the sport of tennis in general for that matter) provide any rational, substantive argument in favor of an event for which he clearly appears overwhelmingly biased in favor of?

Well as I learned long ago, often times the best defense can be made in favor of the side in which you favor as opposed to simply attacking the other.

I do not claim to know much about professional Tennis, so don’t expect me to deal any low blows within this debate because I passionately feel that the NFL’s kickoff weekend has so much excitement that is to be on display, the U.S. Open Tennis Finals (as well as any other scheduled sporting event) have no means to adequately compete with the NFL in this respect.

I have often heard of the NFL’s kickoff weekend referred to as a “playoff-like” atmosphere.

It marks the beginning of a new season that comes well equipped with enough storylines that professional wrestling’s most creative writers would be overcome with envy.

The only difference of course is that the atmosphere that will be on display this Sunday will be more real as the outcomes have yet to be determined.

How will Tom Brady perform after an almost two-year prolonged absence from the game, while competing with a surgically repaired knee?

We will find out whether or not the Minnesota Vikings have signed “the Brett Favre of old”, or simply a very old Brett Favre.

We will find out what in god’s name Chad Ochocinco has in store for the fans in Cincinnati as he has apologized in advance for the entertainment he has yet to provide.

For hardcore football fans such as myself, the NFL product can become a very addictive substance. A substance that after having been in withdrawal from for seven months too long, we will now finally get out much needed fix.

The catch being that the indulgence of this substance can do us no harm, so long as our team wins.

So with that being said, I’m going to sit back and look forward to Sunday’s games.

Out of respect for Leroy Watson in particular for exposing me to this concept, I just might catch a few minutes of the U.S. Open Tennis finals on Youtube. That is, after I’m done watching football…Monday night.

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LaDainian Tomlinson Should be this Year’s No. 1 Fantasy Football Producer!

william-del-pilar-diatribe

I’m creating my personal projections for the first time in about five years and my projections have never meshed with the rest of the industry. It’s one reason I have been successful: Combining proper projections, solid draft strategy, and waiver wire savvy have always been the keys to my and most other winners’ success.

That stated, whenever Ryan R. Bonini and I would draft a team, ridicule would follow when others analyzed our teams, especially at the wide receiver position. I expect that to continue with my belief that if LaDainian Tomlinson plays 100 percent injury free he will easily be this year’s top producing fantasy player.

Positives

  • When healthy, LT runs with great vision and power. He’s able to use his instincts and make tacklers miss. He’s finally 100 percent healthy!
  • Head coach Norv Turner has repeatedly stated he has no plans to lessen LT’s load. Turner plans on using him enough that Tomlinson will contend for the rushing title. Turner believes 320 carries is achievable.
  • Despite the expected load, the team will be careful with how many touches he receives.
  • The team has a solid enough offensive line to help him contend for the rushing title.
  • He saw 71 red zone utilizations (4.4 per game).
  • He is still a big factor near the goal line with 17 inside-the-five utilizations.
  • He has accumulated at least 10 touchdowns and 1,500 total yards every year since entering the NFL.
  • Despite sustaining various injuries, he has only missed one regular season game.
  • The team still needs backup Darren Sproles on special teams. He will not cut into LT’s carries as much as many believe. He’s undersized, and the playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year showed he cannot carry the load and is merely a complementary back.
  • It was embarrassing to LT that everyone knew he had to restructure his contract and the team considered releasing him. LT is a man who plays with heart and determination. He has a chip on his shoulder; he wants to prove everyone wrong. He also wants to break the all-time rushing record.

Negatives

  • He had his lowest output since 2001 (rookie year) with 292 carries, 1,110 rushing yards, 3.8 yards per carry, and 1,536 yards from scrimmage.
  • He had his lowest total touchdown output (12) since his rookie season (10).
  • He did not rush for more than 106 yards in any game and eclipsed the 100-yard rushing barrier only twice.
  • Quarterback Philip Rivers emerged as more than a game manager.
  • He faces the NFC East and Pittsburgh and Baltimore this year.
ladainian-tomlinson-391x213-20090323c

The top fantasy football points earner in 2009? LT, if he stays healthy

My projections (There is a high/low range, but I just want to present the raw numbers.)

  • Rush attempts: 316
  • Yards per attempt: 4.36
  • Rushing yards: 1,378
  • Receptions: 53
  • Yards per catch: 8.16
  • Receiving yards: 432
  • Rushing touchdowns: 15
  • Receiving touchdowns: 2
  • Fumbles: 1

I’m basing these numbers on Tomlinson playing injury free this season. They are in line with his normal production. Let’s not forget, he played hurt last year, with toe and groin injuries that affected him all year. This sapped his breakaway ability.

Would I draft him first overall? NO I WOULD NOT! Would I draft him after the first few picks? In a heartbeat! This season there are questions regarding every player in the first round. While Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson should be the consensus overall No. 1 pick, after that, you can make an argument for many players. That in a nutshell is why we play the game.

In my humble opinion, if LT remains healthy this year, it will not be shocking to see many fantasy champions with him on their roster.

What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Don’t forget, I’m a Tweeter and post what’s happening in a breaking or timely manner. I also point you to solid links outside the KFFL world that can help you win your leagues. Follow me at http://twitter.com/wdelpilar.

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Monday Morning Rehab

MMR, fantasy football, NFL, injuries, player updatesIs anyone out there really convinced that Brett Favre is done?

Really? Seriously?

Consider me a doubter. I think he still is in the Vikings’ plans for this season one way or another. But I actually think that most football fans, for once, actually believe Favre this time.

And I can understand that.

I just do not agree with it.

So when Tavaris Jackson went down in Vikings’ camp with a leg injury—more on that below—this weekend, what was the first thing that crossed every football fan’s mind? That the Vikings Super Bowl hopes just went out the window? That your fantasy team with T-Jack at the helm is doomed, as if it was not already?

None of the above. He-who-shall-not-be-named immediately came to mind, as this injury provided a(nother) window of opportunity for the elder Favre.

If the injury become a more serious one and/or the quarterbacks in Minnesota struggle in the camp, expect to see a new No. 4 in purple and gold in a few short weeks.

Plenty of injury news from around the league, including more discussion on Jackson, after the jump.

Willis McGahee [RB, Ravens]

From NFL GridIron Gab:

Even though running back Willis McGahee heads a lengthy list of Ravens who will open training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, it is not expected that he will linger there for long.

Nothing really too concerning about this news. It seems McGahee is being given the veteran treatment and I am sure he is not complaining too much about it.

This is decent news, though, for Ray Rice in his quest to emerge from the fantasy football nightmare that is the Baltimore Ravens running game. Rice likely will get the bulk of the first team snaps here in the early goings of training camp, which could go a long way toward earning the starting gig this season.

Braylon Edwards [WR, Browns]

From ProFootballTalk:

The nature of Edwards’ injury and how it occurred remains a mystery.  Edwards was asked about rumors that he suffered the injury playing basketball, but he wouldn’t talk about it.

Eric Mangini controlling injury information is nothing new.

The rumors have it that Edwards hurt his ankle playing basketball this summer. Of course those same rumors will not be substantiated by Edwards or the Browns anytime soon, if at all.

Regardless, there is minimal concern here. Remember back to last season when Edwards had his foot stomped on by teammate Donte Stallworth, causing him to miss significant time during the preseason? His draft stock was hardly affected at all. This could be a similar situation for the contract-year wide receiver.

Brandon Marshall [WR, Broncos]

From ProFootballTalk:

Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, who had hip surgery in March, limped off the field on Sunday.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Marshall apparently was favoring the hip.

He may have appeared to favor the hip, but Broncos’ sources are calling it a hamstring injury.

The negative vortex encircling Marshall this offseason keeps on keeping on. He wants out of Denver, has ongoing off-the-field issues and now gets hurt in the first week of training camp. For a guy with so much talent and fantasy football upside, the risk is just too great for some fantasy owners to swallow. I expect his average draft position to fall steadily throughout the remainder of camp.

Tarvaris Jackson [QB, Vikings]

From NFL GridIron Gab:

The first big weekend of training camps has opened, and with it we already have our first somewhat major injury to report: Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

The Vikings QB sprained the MCL in his left knee after getting tangled with a defensive lineman in practice on Saturday, according to the AP.

Can anyone say Brett Favre?

What a way for the Vikings to start training camp. Spurned by Favre, Minnesota was going to play out one of the league’s more interesting quarterback battles in training camp this preseason. Maybe not anymore.

And what a way to get the Favre-to-Minnesota rumor mill churning once again. You think Favre did not hear this news in his time away from the game? Think again.

Beanie Wells [RB, Cardinals]

From ProFootballTalk:

Coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed the situation on Sunday, and statement implies that Wells won’t be back until the middle of the week at the earlier — and that by the middle of the week the team might conclude that he’ll be out even longer.

The biggest knock on Wells in college was his inability to stay healthy. Well, it did not take long for the injury prone label to take root now as an NFL player.

It sounds minor, but these things add up — especially for running backs. Wells will have to prove to fantasy owners that he can stay healthy for a long stretch of time if he ever is going to shed any injury-related risk.

Kenny Britt [WR, Titans]

From ProFootballTalk:

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Britt is on the Physically Unable to Perform list.  The status presumably relates to a hamstring problem that limited Britt during offseason workouts.

Go figure, a wide receiver with hamstring issues.

Nothing to see here for now. The Titans’ passing attack is hardly a team strength. It would take quite a preseason performance from Britt to register in the minds of fantasy owners in redraft leagues.

The MMR will continue to run every Monday morning as scheduled during the offseason. If you have an injury update or want an update on a certain player, please leave a note in the comments.

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