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Ravens Not Flying So High These Days

November 7, 2013

It was just nine months ago that the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl. After losing to a mediocre Cleveland Browns team on Sunday, the Ravens are now 3-5 and the repeat chances are looking dimmer and dimmer.

The offseason was not kind to the Ravens. They gave quarterback Joe Flacco a huge contract that he has not played up to. They traded away their most productive receiver, Anquan Boldin. They released Ed Reed, a former Pro-Bowl safety and linebacker Ray Lewis retired. Even with the before-mentioned changes, local media is reporting that it is the Ravens’ offensive line play that is hampering the team most. Baltimore came into Sunday’s game ranked 28th in rushing and dropped a spot in the rankings by running for 55 yards. Ray Rice had 11 carries for 17 yards and Bernard Pierce had six for 11. While that was going on, Flacco was sacked five times by the Browns, which brings the season total to 25. The offensive line can’t run block and can’t pass protect. 

Sure hope Ravens’ fans enjoyed the Super Bowl title. It looks like the next one will be a ways off.  

NFL Notes 

Joe Flacco is not the only highly paid quarterback not producing. He and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons will always be mentioned together and they are again this season. They were the first two quarterbacks taken in the 2008 draft, they both enjoyed immediate success and reached the postseason with regularity, and, this past offseason, they signed $20-million-a-year deals within a few months of each other. Currently, the Falcons are struggling even more then the Ravens. Ryan has thrown seven interceptions and just two touchdowns the past two weeks, and with the Falcons now at 2-6, their season is essentially over.

....As expected, Tom Brady is back. The future Hall of Famer has struggled somewhat while directing a very young offense. Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns while the Pats were hanging 50+ points on the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had three players with 100-plus yards in Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson.

...Who would have thought that a guy named Nick Foles would tie a NFL record by throwing seven touchdown passes in one game? The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was sensational against the Oakland Raiders with his seven touchdown passes and 406 yards. What happens now when Mike Vick does get healthy? Barring another Foles injury, I think Vick’s days in Philly are over.

...After finishing 2-14 last season, the Kansas City Chiefs are now a perfect 9-0. An amazing turnaround for the franchise and new coach Andy Reid. Next game up for Chiefs, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. We will find out a lot then. The 9-0 is earned but the schedule has been relatively tame. We will find out just how good Kansas City really is this week.  

Panthers And Cam On A Roll 

Cam for MVP? I am reading more and more comments mentioning the Carolina Panthers quarterback and his MVP chances this season. Could Cam Newton really enter the MVP equation at some point here? Perhaps so if Carolina keeps winning games. Suddenly the Panthers are dropping big points on opponents, and Newton is the catalyst for all of it. 

Cam Newton

After blowing Atlanta out at home last week, the Carolina win streak is now at four games. The streak is in serious jeopardy this week as the Panthers travel west to visit the San Francisco 49ers. Next up after that is an encounter against Mr. Brady and the New England Patriots. If Cam and Company can win those two games, I will start talking Cam up for MVP honors myself.  

ACC Basketball 

The new look ACC basketball season is about to start. The conference’s latest expansion brings even more basketball powerhouses. Newcomers  Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with Louisville joining in 2014, will elevate the ACC back to where the conference clearly was a decade ago, the nation’s best.  The depth of the conference will definitely be unmatched. 

A lack of depth is why the ACC has dropped of late. Wake Forest, Virginia, NC State and Georgia Tech used to be reasons why the league was strong. But none of those programs has been consistent over the past decade.  

The Irish, Orange and Panthers, however, are expected to live in the upper echelon of the conference, as they did in the Big East. Pitt finished fourth or better in the 16-team Big East in three of the past four seasons, including winning the 2011 regular-season title. The team that finished second to Pitt that season was Notre Dame, which placed third or better in two of the past three seasons.  

Syracuse and eventually Louisville, both of which have both won national titles and made multiple Final Four appearances, add historically elite-level programs to the league. Syracuse has the potential to immediately unhinge Duke and North Carolina’s vise grip on the championship.  

I see the additions as a positive. I just do not see Duke and North Carolina dominating the conference as being a positive.The pair from Tobacco Road has accounted for at least a share of every conference regular-season title but three since 1997, and 10 of the league’s 13 Final Four appearances in that same span. Since Georgia Tech played in the  2004 national title game, no team from the league outside of the Blue Devils and Tar Heels has reached the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight, and only five have been to the Sweet 16.  

And the downward trend continued last season as only four teams from the ACC received NCAA tournament bids. That number has been closer to the norm than the exception since the ACC expanded to 12 teams in the 2005-06 season. Compare that to the span of 1992 to 2004, when as a nine-member league, the ACC received six tournament bids on five occasions.  

Those were the days in the ACC. I can see similar days ahead for the conference. Thanks to the expansion, the ACC will be alive and well again.


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