Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ravens @ Bills

Team Stats:

This week the 4-2 Ravens travel north (almost to Canada, right Willis?) to take on the 1-4 Buffalo Bills. When looking at the Bills record, along with their stats this season (they fall near the bottom in most categories on both offense and defense, as seen above) Ravens fans may be lulled into a sense of ease about this game. However, the Bills probably are not as bad as they want us to believe.

The Bills are 1-2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season, both losses in which they never trailed until the last second of the game - a 15-14 loss to the Broncos in week 1, and a 25-24 Monday night loss to Dallas in week 5, a game the Bills led 24-13 after 3 quarters. They were not competitive in their other two losses, which came on the road against very strong teams in Pittsburgh and New England. Their lone win was over the New York Jets 17-14.

While the stats may paint a bleak picture of this Bills team, the Nest thinks they may be a bit misleading. Over their past 2 games (NYJ, DAL), the Bills defense has been much more stout than their 32nd overall ranking indicates. After allowing big days on the ground by Travis Henry, Willie Parker, and Laurence Maroney in succession to start the year, the Bills then held Thomas Jones to less than 3 yards per carry, and the Julius Jones-Marion Barber tandem to less than 3.5. And while their secondary allowed Tony Romo to pass for over 300 yards in leading the Cowboys back from behind, they still managed to intercept him 5 times.

On offense, the Bills stat sheet again indicates ineptitude all around. Again, though, this may be a bit misleading. Buffalo features a dynamic rookie running back in Marshawn Lynch, and a different quarterback than the Ravens saw the last time these two teams met last New Year's Eve. Rookie Trent Edwards has taken over for J.P. Losman, and shown some ability, that, when paired with the Ravens' banged up secondary, should make purple and black fans a little uneasy. In the win over New York, Edwards was 22/28 for 234 yards and a TD. Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis had this to say after the game:

"He threw the ball more than we expected. We knew he was a talented quarterback. We didn't think he'd do this to us. But he did."

Edwards didn't fare quite as well against Dallas, but that may have been more a result of Dick Jauron's going into "shut-down mode" after the Cowboys handed his team a big lead than of his QB's inability to move the ball. The Ravens defense would be wise to heed Ellis' words and be prepared for Edwards to try to air it out. If Buffalo can use the pass to loosen up the running lanes for Lynch, watch out. If, however, they try to run to set up the pass, then they will play right into Rex Ryan's hands and everyone watching should get comfortable in preparation for another punt-a-thon.
The Ravens offense, on the other hand, has been steadily slipping in terms of overall production. Willis McGahee returns to face the team that drafted him, and while he has been saying all the right things this week, the Nest doesn't buy it, and thinks he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. McGahee continues to be near the top of the league in rushing, but has yet to break the big one that we Ravens fans are waiting for (funny, he has no problem breaking off 60 yard runs regularly on Madden - but I digress). All the injuries to the offensive line certainly don't help, though, and he probably won't have the day he is hoping for in celebration of not only his coming-home party, but his birthday as well. Center Mike Flynn has indicated that he will "give it a go" this week, while Todd Heap will likely not play. Kyle Boller again gets the start behind center. Boller, who played reasonably well last week, will have to be better in Buffalo. Its nice to see him taking shots down the field and all, but eventually he will have to connect with one (and not just a jump-ball) for defenses to really start respecting his arm. Kyle will also have to pretend he is playing in B-More, as he has a career record of 5-12 as a starter outside of M&T Bank stadium.

The Ravens are just looking to survive this week and get out of The Queen City at 5-2 so they can go into the bye and hopefully get healthy for the 2nd half. The Nest sees the patchwork Ravens having a tough time in this one, though, a game that Buffalo has had two weeks to prepare and rest up for. We advise Ravens fans to break out that blood pressure medication we were able to shelf last week for this one. It will take a big play late by the defense or special teams to reach 5-2.

Ravens 16 Bills 13
(As always, please leave YOUR score predictions in the comments)

ben-AD-ict Arnold

Say it ain't so, 96.

One of the Nest's all-time favorite Ravens, Adalius Thomas, is now taking shots at the organization that gave him his break and made it possible for him to sign that big money deal with the Patriots. In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, AD had this to say:

"You've got to remember, I'm coming in from Baltimore," says Thomas. "People there wanted the limelight, people sought out the limelight, starting with the head coach. It was a star-studded system. Here it's about as different as you can get. Everybody here shies away from being the star guy. Nobody on this team beats his chest. They just all go about their business. And win."

Calling out his former friends, teammates, and head coach. Not what we would expect from the usually classy Thomas. While he probably would have received a warm M&T reception on December 3rd, AD can now expect a chorus of Boos to rain down on him from the B-More faithful. And that is just sad in our book. A player that we all grew to have the utmost respect for during his tenure here opens his big mouth (which now apparently is able to speak above a whisper again) and gives us reason to spew obscenities his way. We lost a lot of admiration for you as a person today, Adalius.

Looks like they don't just have cheaters up there in the Northeast, but traitors as well.

Update: C-Mac

Chris McAlister's torn PCL will not require surgery (at least at this time). The Ravens are understandably being very guarded about releasing too much information about his injury, not wanting to tip their hand to the Buffalo Bills, or any other teams on their schedule for the next month or so. ESPN is reporting that it is likely McAlister will miss 2-4 weeks.

"Major League Coach of the Year" joins O's as Pitching Coach

The Orioles have announced the signing of Rick Kranitz as pitching coach. Kranitz comes over from the Florida Marlins, where he spent the last 2 seasons. He was awarded the 2006 Baseball America award for Major League Coach of the Year for his work as the pitching coach of the fish, having led a rotation that included 4 rookies to a 4.22 ERA. This past season, though, the Marlins finished just one spot above the O's (who were 29th out of 30 teams) in total team ERA, at 4.94 to the O's 5.17. So it seems he is coming into a familiar situation - decent starters, crappy, crappy bullpen. The Nest wishes "Kranny" luck, although we really wish Dave Trembley would never, ever call him that again, for two reasons: First, it brings to mind the heavily ridiculed "Brownie," former head of FEMA, and second, it sounds just a bit too much like a character from the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

So no more "Kranny" talk, please. Oh yeah, and Rick, just stay out of Eric Bedard's way. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

C-Mac Injury

It seems one Raven came away with more than just one of the team's five interceptions on Sunday against the Rams. What Brian Billick originally described as a "tweaked" knee is turning out to be something far more serious for cornerback Chris McAlister. Apparently, C-Mac's knee has been swollen since the game, and Doctors have diagnosed him with an injury of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The swelling is currently preventing a full evaluation of the injury, which may or may not require surgery. If surgery is indeed necessary, McAlister would basically be on the shelf for the rest of the season (8-10 weeks), while a best case scenario for non-surgical treatment would put him back in action in anywhere from 3-6 weeks, according to Drew Forrester over at .

The Ravens secondary just played their first game since week 1 at full strength, and will now again be missing a pivotal cog. C-Mac's play has been less than stellar so far this season, as he has been beat on several long touchdowns (and almost one more on Sunday). However, he is still one of the absolute BEST cornerbacks in the NFL, and those Ravens fans who are critical of him may be about to see just how badly the purple and black D depends on him.

Lets keep our fingers crossed that surgery is not on the horizon for Chris.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ravens 22 Rams 3 (The BATTLE OF THE BACKUPS)

The Ravens pushed their record to 4-2 Sunday, beating up on the hapless (and winless) St. Louis Rams 22-3. Both teams were playing at less than full strength, trotting out players that certainly were not at the tops of the opening day depth charts at several key positions. Backup quarterback Gus Frerotte was expected to play for the Rams all week, but it took the late-week development of a stiff back to force Ravens QB Steve McNair to the bench in favor of Kyle Boller. That was not where the similarities ended between the two signal callers yesterday, though, as both spent most of the day running for their respective lives, taking big hits, and turning the ball over. Boller was sacked twice, fumbled, and was picked off in the red zone. Frerotte felt the pain worse, however, getting sacked 4 times, picked off 5 (a new Ravens record), and hurried or hit countless others. Boller must be commended for his effort yesterday, taking his licks and getting right back up for the next play. Had it been McNair underneath all those Rams jerseys yesterday, he almost certainly would have been injured, along with the Ravens post-season aspirations. Kyle's play was better than that of just a "good backup QB", as he was even able to make some plays that we've been hoping to see from McNair all season. Boller’s passes were crisp and his decisions sound. We saw 3 things from the offense for maybe the first time this season:

1. Passes thrown consistently past the sticks on 3rd and long;
2. Checks being made at the line; and
3. A hurry-up, no-huddle style offense.

All of these things were refreshing to see, and if nothing else, made for a much more entertaining game to watch than what we've grown accustomed to.

Boller is now 20-16 as a starter in his career, and a very respectable 15-4 at M&T Bank Stadium (bet you didn’t realize that). His numbers, while not gaudy by any means (18/30 183 yards 0 TD 1 INT), were enough to get the job done, and reflect the struggles of the offensive line more than his own play. The O-Line was horrendous, as is also evidenced by Willis McGahee’s season low rushing total of 61 yards against a team that had previously been completely inept at stopping the run. Third-string left tackle Jared Gaither was abused all afternoon, as was fellow rookie Marshall Yanda. The “elder statesman” of the group, 3rd year man Jason Brown, was hounded by mental as well as physical mistakes, twice being called for false starts in the 1st quarter, the 2nd of which forced the Ravens to attempt a field goal after originally lining up to go for it on 4th-and-1. Chris Chester had a holding penalty nullify what would have been Willis McGahee’s 2nd touchdown of the day. Just a poor effort all around from this group. The Ravens need to get healthy everywhere for the 2nd half, but especially up front; a defense like New England or Pittsburgh will flat out destroy the line we saw yesterday.

The Ravens defense continued to build on their superb play from a week ago. The pass rush was relentless, forcing Gus Frerotte to unload the ball under duress, make poor decisions, and be very inaccurate with his throws. The Rams' receivers were short-arming passes, not wanting any part of the purple and black D over the middle. The D was able to hold St. Louis scoreless on a drive that started at the B-More 11 yard line, as kicker Jeff Wilkins missed a 35 yarder after the Rams managed -6 yards on 3 plays. Five different Ravens notched interceptions, Ed Reed, Derrick Martin, Corey Ivy, Chris McAlister, and Dwan Edwards. McAlister's came as a gift though, when Frerotte severely underthrew his man who was wide open streaking past C-Mac.

The Ravens beat an inferior team handily, which is something good teams need to do. The defense held their opponent in single digits for a second straight week, the offense found the end zone, and Matt Stover was his usual reliable self. Thats been the formula for success here in B-More, and on this day it resulted in the 100th win for the Baltimore Ravens (79th with B.B. at the helm).