Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Ravens’

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

***(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 3:00 PM ET (FOX)***

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The San Francisco 49ers put on perhaps the most impressive offensive showing against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round, winning 45-31. Perhaps most impressive about the win, was the fact that the Packers kept it close late, tying the game 24-24 midway through the third quarter, before Colin Kaepernick led three straight touchdown drives, putting the game out of Green Bay’s reach.

The Atlanta Falcons were considered by many analysts to be the most likely home team to lose their Divisional Round matchup – and they nearly did. The Seattle Seahawks, once again, had to come back from a multiple-touchdown deficit. With 30 seconds left in the game, the Seahawks scored to go ahead 28-27. However, Matt Ryan was not about to be denied a playoff win, yet again, and led the Falcons down the field to set up Matt Bryant for the game winning, 49-yard field goal.

Prediction: The Atlanta Falcons are in for a very rude awakening. If they can keep Matt Ryan on his feet, they might only lose by 10. San Francisco wins 42-21.

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (2) New England Patriots: 6:30 PM ET (CBS)***

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In the more thrilling of the two AFC Divisional Round games, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos in overtime 38-35. The Broncos were a heavy favorite due to in no small part to their 11-game win streak. The last game the Broncos had lost was to the New England Patriots, Baltimore’s upcoming opponent.

The Patriots put a 41-28 beating to the Houston Texans, reminiscent of the 42-14 destruction of Week 14. The Pats are hoping not to have another repeat this week of their matchup during the regular season with the Ravens, when they lost 31-30. Both teams have been through a lot since then and this game looks to be a real block buster.

Prediction: The Ravens lost a heart-breaker in last year’s AFC Conference Championship game to the Patriots after a dropped TD pass and a missed field goal. This year, they get their revenge. Baltimore wins 35-31.

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AFC-North

For the last decade the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been top dogs, winning the division championship eight of the last ten years between the two.

The Steelers have definitely seen the most success, winning the Super Bowl in the 2005-06 and 2008-09 seasons. Most recently, the Steelers reached the Super Bowl in 2010-11 season, losing to the Green Bay Packers.

Before Week 14 of this season, the Ravens sat in first place in the division with a 9-4 record. Trailing them were the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers, both with 7-6 records and both in the wild card race.

The Bengals played the Philadelphia Eagles in the Thursday Night Football game. Cincinnati won handily 34-13, narrowing the gap with the Ravens and putting pressure on both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Ravens hosted the Denver Broncos with a chance to clinch the division title. Denver had other plans, beating the Ravens soundly in front of the home crowd 34-17.

With “Big Ben” Roethlisberger back in the lineup after being out three weeks due to injury, the Steelers went on the road to play the surging Dallas Cowboys at “Jerry World.” No doubt Pittsburgh looked at this as a must-win game. Dallas, being in their own tight division race, had other ideas.

After a back and forth battle, the game went to overtime. The Steelers won the coin toss and looked to be in control, but on only the second play of the OT period, Big Ben threw an interception to Brandon Carr, which he returned to the Steelers one-yard line. A chip shot field goal by Cowboys Kicker Dan Bailey sealed the victory for Dallas and sent the Steelers home one game behind the Bengals in the Wild Card race and two games behind the Ravens in the division race.

The good news for the Steelers is that they have the easier schedule between the three to finish the year, hosting Cincinnati and then Cleveland. Cincinnati, after travelling to Pittsburgh, must then play the Ravens. Assuming the Steelers beat the Bengals next week, they will own the tie breaker over the Bengals should they finish with identical records. With the Indianapolis Colts sitting in the fifth spot with a 9-5 record, the sixth will have to be either the Steelers or Bengals, as all other AFC teams below them have losing records and cannot make the playoffs.

In any case, it looks as though the AFC North race will end dramatically.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08...

Image via Wikipedia

The New England Patriots will face the New York Giants February 5, 2012 in Super Bowl XLVI.

Tom Brady leads the Patriots into their 7th Super Bowl in franchise history (5th in the last decade). Brady was the Patriots starting quarterback in the previous four “big dances” with a dramatic loss to Eli Manning and the New York Giants in 2008 being his most recent.

Eli Manning leads the Giants to their 5th Super Bowl all time and 3rd since 2001. The Giants pulled off what many believe to be possibly the biggest upset in NFL history when they beat the 18-0 New England Patriots just four years earlier in Super Bowl XLII.

It seemed this season the final four teams remaining in the playoffs weren’t there to mess around. Both conference championships were hotly contested to the last blow of the whistle. The “Pats” and “G-men” won their respective Conference Championship games by three points (Patriots 23-20 over the Baltimore Ravens and Giants 20-17 over the San Francisco 49ers).

Interestingly enough, the number three seems to be a very significant number for the Tom Brady.

All four Super Bowl’s Brady has played in have been decided by three points (20-17, 32-29, 24-21, 14-17).

Three is also the number of Super Bowl rings Brady dons. Surely Brady has plans of changing that number to four.

The key to this game is going to be the New England defense. The New York Giants’ defense has been playing lock down defense the last 6 games and the New England offense is as dangerous as any New York has faced, including the Green Bay Packers.

Eli Manning during a 2007 training camp

Image via Wikipedia

However, with the emergence of Victor Cruz the second half of this season, I would argue the Giants’ offense stands just as much chance of breaking a game open as the Patriots. Thus, the New England defense must have all hands on deck February 5th because they are far from the caliber defense the 49ers field.

The Giants are the best team in the NFL at getting pressure on a quarterback with just the front four. Alex Smith found that out in the NFC Championship game, being flushed from the pocket play after play.

Because of how well the Giants have played as a complete team the last 7 games, I like their chances of winning this 2008 rematch.

Prediction: Giants 27 Patriots 24

And then there were four.

The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have proven themselves the best four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs and each from very different paths.

AFC Championship – New England vs Baltimore:

New England has been exactly what was expected. High powered offense led by the great Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm of it all. The Patriots finished the season #1 in the AFC with a 13-3 record.

After two straight years of playoff let-downs, losing at home in the first round, the Patriots made quick work of the miraculous Broncos and Tim Tebow. They now face the challenge of fending off the Baltimore Ravens.

Baltimore proved at times to be the opposite of the Patriots, winning with stout defense led by veterans Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata and an average offense led by Joe Flaco and Ray Rice.

The Ravens finished the season with a 12-4 record and #2 overall in the AFC. Many analysts favored the Ravens to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl before the season started, mainly due to the punishing defense and offensive capabilities.

Throughout the season, the Ravens seemed to be plagued by shortcomings against teams far less talented. Their 4 losses during the season were to the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, and the San Diego Chargers. The only team of these four with a winning record was the Titans and it was an unimpressive 9-7 in a weak AFC South division.

However, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in both home and away meetings, and beat the San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore.

When the Pats and Ravens meet this Sunday, January 22 at 3 PM ET the key matchup will undisputedly be the New England offense against the Baltimore defense.

If the Ravens are able to get to Brady early and often, they may well be able to disrupt the Patriots rhythm and give Flaco a chance to take advantage of a horrid New England defense, which is ranked second to last in opponent yards allowed this season. However, with how uncharacteristically well the Patriots defense played against the Broncos, the Ravens may need more than their defense to win this game.

Prediction: New England 35 – Baltimore 24

NFC Championship – San Francisco 49ers vs New York Giants:

The San Francisco 49ers are coming off of an instant classic that could end up rivaling some of the all-time classic games of Montana and Young. Just how much bigger does this game become should the 49ers go on to win the Super Bowl? And don’t think for a second that isn’t exactly what the goal of every single player in that locker room is.

On top of that, this team has an aura of winning and success around them. They are as confident as any team in the NFL. Some may try to find excuses for his great play when the answer is obvious. Alex Smith plays with poise again for the first time seemingly since Utah.  Smith can play without error and in clutch situations because he knows the coach and the team have his back.

They believe in the guy. And for good reason. Smith did what only 3 other teams have done this season. Beat the Saints.

The New York Giants are coming off of a huge upset over the Green Bay Packers, #1 seed overall and highly favored to repeat as Super Bowl champs this season.

Eli Manning proved why he considers himself an elite quarterback in the NFL with a 21-33, 330 yards and 3 touchdown effort Sunday, January 15, 2012.

One could argue that the Packers gave away opportunity after opportunity that day with wide receivers dropping pass after pass.

There is no doubt that the Giants have one of the NFL’s best pass rushes. The front four for the “G-men” can put pressure on a quarterback that most other teams require 5+ rushers to accomplish.

Led by Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, the New York Giants defense may be the only hope of victory.

The Giants did play the 49ers earlier this season, remember. San Francisco 27 – New York 20

Prediction: San Francisco 49ers 30 – New York Giants 17

Super Bowl: San Francisco vs New England

 

I’m a little more than excited about the release of the Utes‘ Spring schedule for football practices and scrimmages. Now I just have to plan my work schedule accordingly…

Utes Spring Football Schedule <— Click Here

Players to watch:

WR Reggie Dunn #14 – Dunn was used primarily as a decoy on play-action plays and kick returns for his blazing speed. The kid can stop on a dime and then burn defenders with crazy acceleration. A great replacement for last year’s departed senior “Shaky” Smithson.

Play video at 1:15.

WR Kenneth Scott #2 – Scott was a big 4-star recruit for the Utes last season but suffered an ankle injury during fall camp. If this kid stays healthy, his height (6’3″) and hands make him a great weapon for Wynn. Play-action, corner end zone go up and get it receiver? Make it happen Norm.

DL Joe Kruger #99 – Name sound familiar? Joe is the third of his brothers to play on the DL for Utah. Paul now plays in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens. Dave, will be a junior this season and a likely starter. Joe is said to be the most athletic of the 3. At 6’7″, this kid’s a monster at 270 and still filling in.

DB Conroy Black #9 – This kid can flat-out fly. Last year’s team fastest 4.30 40-yard dash time and 2nd highest vertical on the team (39 Inches). With those stats, you’d think he would be the #1 overall receiver, so there must be a hands issue. He got a lot of experience last year for the Utes as backup to both Lamar Chapman and Brandon Burton and at nickel back, so he should be top dog at CB going into Spring ball a senior.