Friday, November 9, 2007

Bengals @ Ravens

The Cincinnati Bengals (2-6) visit B-More this week to take on the Ravens (4-4). At the beginning of the season, this looked to be a battle for first in the AFC North. Instead, it is a fight to stay out of the basement. The Ravens are coming off their worst loss of the Brian Billick era, and desperately need a win to have any chance of a 2nd half resurgence. The Bengals, a popular preseason pick to win the division, are playing like the Bungles of old, and desperately need a win to keep coach Marvin Lewis' head off the chopping block for at least another week.

The Ravens, for whatever reason, always seem to bring out the best in the Bengals. They have the purple-and-black's number, having won 4 of the last 5 meetings. The Ravens secondary, even when healthy, always has trouble containing the Bengals star wide receivers, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Ocho Cinco suffered what looked to be a serious neck/spine injury last Sunday against Buffalo, but practiced on Wednesday, and seems likely to play. The Bengals also get certified bungle-hole Chris Henry back from his 8 game suspension just in time to bring him along to M&T. A complete Cincinnati receiving corps is bad news for Ravens fans, as the Ravens will again be shorthanded in the secondary. Samari Rolle's mystery illness has resurfaced to sideline him for the second straight week, and Chris McAlister is said to be a game-time decision with his knee injury. If Rolle and McAlister are both out, and Johnson is in....well, we shudder to think.
On offense (if you want to call it that), the Ravens have a chance to get on the right track this week against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Ravens would be well advised to make certain that Willis McGahee touches the ball no less than 25-30 times against a unit giving up 143 yards per game on the ground. The Bengals are equally atrocious defending the pass, allowing over 250 aerial yards per contest, but the sight of Steve McNair dropping back to is not something we hope to see more than 20-25 times Sunday. Speaking of McNair, he has staunchly defended himself this week (why not, nobody seems to have trouble defending him these days) and stated that he his still capable of performing at a high level. Coach Billick stands behind him, and as early as the post-game conference in Pittsburgh had named McNair the unquestioned starter. If he plays anything like he did against the Steelers in the first half Sunday, though, don't be surprised to see Billick go to the well and put Kyle Boller in. Even though it is probably "six one way, half dozen the other" with Boller and McNair, at least with Kyle the defense has to at least THINK that the Ravens could - maybe, possibly, if the stars align correctly and a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa and the tide is coming in - throw the ball more than 10 yards.

Hopefully Palmer won't "eat up" the Ravens' tasty secondary

The Bengals should not, and likely will not, even bother trying to run the ball Sunday. They will come out throwing, attack the Ravens reeling secondary, and they WILL put points on the board. Make no mistake about it, Carson Palmer knows how to beat this defense, and without Rolle and/or McAlister, it will be easy pickin's for him. The game will come down to whether or not the Ravens are able to run their methodical, ball-control game, keep the Bengals' O off the field, and get 6 points instead of 3 when they have the opportunity. In a match-up between evenly matched (yes, the Ravens are, unfortunately, evenly matched with a 2-6 team) teams, we give the advantage to the Ravens, simply because they always play much better at home.

Ravens 24 Bengals 21

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Steelers 38 Ravens 7 (The PAYBACKS ARE A ..... Game)

There were plenty of things we could have called this one. The "Monday Night Massacre" would have fit nicely, as would the "Prime Time Pounding," the "Three River Ripping," or the "Steel City Shitty Bed." Maybe even more fitting than all of those would be the "Wow, the Ravens really stink" game. In the end, though, our hated rivals got their revenge on the purple and black, atoning for last year's 31-7 and 27-0 Ravens wins with a 38-7 smack down of their own. The payback couldn't have worked out any better for the Steelers, who were able to completely embarrass the Ravens on national television, pulling the rug out from under them and sending B-More's already shaky "playoff contender" house of cards crashing to the rain-soaked earth.

The night started innocently enough, as the Ravens forced Pittsburgh to punt on their first possession, then managed to convert a 3rd-and-6 for what would end up being their only first down of the 1st half, and one of just five on the night. However, 3 plays later, after initially eluding blitzing LB James Harrison, Steve McNair seemed to completely forget Harrison was there, dropping the ball to throw it right as Harrison caught back up and sacked him, forcing McNair into his league leading 5th lost fumble. As a result, the Steelers started their drive at the B-More 20. The Ravens bottled up Willie Parker on consecutive runs to set up a 3rd-and-7, which was where the night really turned downhill quickly. Trevor Pryce busted through the Pissburgh line, and had Baby Ben Toothlessburger all wrapped up for what should have forced a long field goal attempt in windy, rainy conditions. Instead, Pryce was unable to secure the quarterback, surely due in part to the cast he was wearing on his surgically repaired wrist, and Frankenburger's overgrown, corn-fed, motorcycle crashing a** was able to skip free, run outside the pocket, and find tight end Heath Miller in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. It was a scene that played over and over last night, with the Ravens forcing the Steelers into passing situations, pressuring the quarterback, but then being unable to seal the deal and watching as another Steelers receiver ran completely free through the inexperienced and overmatched secondary. Five times in the first 29 minutes of playing time the Steelers were able to find the end zone through the air. Only a 33 yard touchdown scamper from Willis McGahee saved what likely would have been a Steel Town shutout, making the score 35-7 at the half.

Has anyone else noticed that Hines Ward looks like a middle-aged Korean woman these days? Or is it just us? Hit someone else while they're not looking, big man.

Hines Ward: Happy to hit you when you're not looking

In this week's poll, the Nest is asking you all to help us choose a new nickname for Steve McNair. Its all in fun, but unfortunately the reality is that for the Ravens to have any chance at all this season, his name is going to have to be something along the lines of "Former Ravens Starting Quarterback" Steve McNair. "Error" McNair was absolutely atrocious again last night. If he or the team has decided to try to hide some injury that he has, it needs to stop. If this is Steve healthy, he needs to retire, like yesterday. It is obvious that his body cannot do the things that he has come to expect, and he looks tired, old, and washed up. At one point in last night's game, he managed to underthrow a zero yard pass! The Ravens longest completion of the night was NINE yards! And, to put a big fat bow on the gift of futility McNair has bestowed upon Ravens nation, Steve set an NFL record for the fewest passing yards (63) in a game by a quarterback in which he has at least 13 completions.

For the game:
13 of 22 for 63 yards, one interception, and two fumbles (one lost).
For the season:
116 of 179 for 985 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 5 lost fumbles

Brian Billick has stated that Steve McNair remains his starting quarterback, an assertion that should give Ravens fans night terrors. The Coach needs to take a long, hard look at himself and his team moving forward, as the Ravens have now laid their second straight absolute turd in a big game coming off a bye week (Last year vs. IND being the previous). We do not claim to know the answers, and we will certainly stick by our team through this rough patch. There is no denying, however, that something needs to change, and fast.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Last Minute Monday Night Updates

Some late breaking news on tonight's match-up in Pittsburgh, all of it bad for the Ravens:

1. Samari Rolle is out yet again with another recurrence of his "undisclosed illness." Rolle, who earned the nickname "Sorry Rolle" from some Ravens fans in 2006 due to his dismal play, has given us motivation to coin his 2007 moniker, "SARSi Rolle."

2. Chris McAlister will not play, as the severe knee sprain he suffered against St. Louis is not 100%.

3. Although he has practiced, Todd Heap is being called a "game-time decision," with a still sore hamstring.

4. The Ravens' most dangerous offensive weapon, K Matt Stover has evidently suffered a thigh bruise to his kicking leg, and did not practice Saturday night.

5. Finally, the latest weather report for tonight in Squealtown is mid-40's and rainy, with 15 mph winds. While conventional wisdom says the poor conditions could help neutralize the Steelers' big advantage in the passing game, we Ravens fans know that our purple and black, much like rapper Missy Elliott, "Can't Stand the Rain." Look no further than last year's losses in Denver and Cincinnati, if you need a reminder.

There you have it, a "Perfect Storm" of bad news for the Ravens. We won't back down from our previously predicted 20-17 win, but the Guru Crew certainly has their work cut out for them.