#DMD GAME DAY
week 2


Sunday — September 15, 2019
Issue # 1847

Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, MD

Spread: Ravens -13.5




anyone up for a walk in the park?


It's an old saying. "Well, that game was a 'walk in the park', wasn't it?"

It's used to describe a game that was so easy, you breezed through it like you would a 30-minute stroll through a neighborhood park.

Like, for instance, last week's 59-10 leisurely win over the Dolphins. That was a "walk in the park" if ever there was one.

The Ravens are set up for another Sunday afternoon stroll today when the Arizona Cardinals come to town. It's hard to imagine the Ravens breaking a sweat in this one, although it's hard to see the Cardinals quitting at the end of the first quarter like the Dolphins did last Sunday.

59-10 this time? Probably not. Worried about the outcome still in the 3rd quarter? Little chance of that.

The Ravens will most certainly take advantage of this wonderful gift the schedule makers have given them. Two patsies to start the season is a great way to get things kicked off. The varsity games start next Sunday in Kansas City, in case you don't remember.

Today's game not only presents the Ravens with a chance to start 2-0, but it's also a golden opportunity to continue the confidence-growing-tour for Lamar Jackson, who shredded an uncaring Miami defense last week and, at least temporarily, put the league on notice that he's more than "just a running back". In front of a charged up near-sellout today in Baltimore, Jackson figures to do much of the same to an Arizona defense that includes former Raven Terrell Suggs.

There aren't many laughers in the NFL, but this one today should be on cruise control by the 35-minute mark. Arizona's not coming to Baltimore and beating the Ravens. It's just not happening. And it's more likely the Ravens win by 30 than it is they win by 10.

Enjoy your walk in the park, friends.

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keys to the game


We don't know much about these two teams yet, but we saw enough last week and we know from the rosters alone how much of this will play out this afternoon in Baltimore.

Several things are very important for the Ravens today.

Let Lamar loose, please -- I know he's not a running back. He made that very clear last week in Miami. But Lamar also has to run for more than six yards today. Just like the Ravens can't win when Jackson rushes the ball 18 times and throws it 16, they need to put together a game plan has him running the ball 6-10 times a game, at least. He is a quarterback, of course, but there's no need to have him stand back in the pocket like Joe Montana, either. Jackson's skillset is such that running the ball is an important part of what he brings to the table. It doesn't have to be massive, mind you. Eight carries a game is plenty. Just enough to keep the opposing defense wondering.

Quickly becoming a favorite target of Lamar Jackson's, Mark Andrews will be a key figure in today's home game vs. Arizona.

Terrorize the rookie QB -- This one's simple. The Ravens have to scare the snot out of rookie QB Kyler Murray today. Sure, he might have played in front of more people during his days at Oklahoma, but he hasn't been in an NFL environment like he's going to encounter this afternoon. "Wink" Martindale has to come at him early and often. If this is one of those six sack days for the Ravens, Murray will be lucky to get the Cardinals into the end zone.

Don't let the Cardinals hang around -- This is near repeat from last week's piece against the Dolphins. When you play these scrub teams, you have to bury them before halftime. That's what the Ravens did last week against Miami and that's what they need to do today against Arizona. Do NOT give them a breath of hope. 21-3 at the half and it's over. 13-10 at the half and you're in a football game, now. Don't let that happen. Get in the park and get out of the park. Enjoy your walk, but get it over with quickly.

Go deep, Greg Roman -- Turn Lamar and Hollywood loose once per-quarter, at least. Throw a few home run balls to Marquise Brown and let's see what happens. It worked last week in Miami. And if Greg Roman will dial up a few long balls, Jackson's confidence will continue to soar with each completion he records.

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how drew sees today's game


There's nothing about this game that worries me. Nothing.

Of the 36 times I've played the game in my head, the Ravens win 35. The one occasion that Arizona won was when they knocked out Lamar Jackson early in the game and RGIII came in and couldn't get the job done. If that doesn't happen today, this one's in the books as a "W" for John Harbaugh's team.

#DMD sees the Ravens winning in a romp again today.

The Ravens jump out to a 7-0 lead on their first series as Jackson hits Mark Andrews on a 9-yard TD throw.

It's 14-0 late in the first quarter on a Mark Ingram 11-yard scamper. Ingram finishes the first quarter with 66 yards on the ground.

After a fumbled punt gives Arizona the ball in Ravens' territory, the Cardinals figure out a way to move close enough to kick a 48 yard field goal to make it 14-3.

But Jackson and the offense execute the 2-minute drill to near perfection, going 3-for-3 on third down and scoring a TD with ten seconds left in the half on a Jackson QB sneak.

Baltimore makes it 28-3 midway through the 3rd quarter on a Jackson to Willie Snead throw.

Arizona comes back with another field goal in the 4th quarter, but a late scoop and score fumble recovery by Matthew Judon finalizes the scoring at 35-6, Ravens.

Key stats --

Jackson -- 21/31, 305 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD

Ingram -- 20 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD

Andrews -- 8 catchces, 88 yards

Brown -- 5 catches, 77 yards

Boykin -- 2 catches, 30 yards

Murray (Arizona) -- 23/40, 214 yards

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show me the money


In golf, player A who typically shoots around par plays player B, who usually shoots around 82. That would make player A roughly a "0" handicap and player B would be around a "10" handicap. That would mean, in a match between the two players, player A would give player B ten shots before the contest begins. It's a way of leveling the playing field.

That's what happened last week in "Show Me The Money". I had to give the field two shots in order to balance things out.

I went 2-4 to start the season last Sunday, winning the Redskins (+10.0) and Ravens (-6.5) and losing the other four games, including the "Best Bet" of the Jets over Buffalo.

Not to worry. I can make all of that up today. And then some.

Let's get to week two.

COLTS AT TITANS (-3.5) -- We're going with the traditional "trap game" here. Tennessee shocks the world in week #1 at Cleveland, comes home and lays an egg in week #2 against a team they should beat. Colts hang tough in L.A. against the Chargers, figure to start the season 0-2 with two road games, but Indy winds up covering and winning outright in Nashville, 23-20.

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs prepare for next week's home tussle with the Ravens by visiting the Raiders today.

BILLS AT GIANTS (+1.5) -- Two straight weeks of Meadowlands magic for Buffalo? Favored on the road, too, are the Bills, which is a rarity indeed. The Giants weren't all that bad against the Cowboys last Sunday in Dallas, but they look to be a mess right now. Two consecutive road wins isn't in the cards for Buffalo, as the Giants cobble together just enough offense to win a snoozer, 16-14.

COWBOYS AT REDSKINS (+5.5) -- This has the makings of a 36-20 Dallas romp, but something tells me the Redskins are going to be competitive in 2019. Like they were last week in Philly, for instance. I don't think Washington can win this one, but a back door cover doesn't seem all that improbable, either. We're going with Washington plus 5.5 points in the Cowboys' 27-22 win in DC.

JAGUARS AT TEXANS (-8.5) -- Zero chance Houston blows this opportunity at home, right? This one seems way too easy, particularly at 8.5 points. How on earth will the Jags stay within 9 points in this one? Can't happen, right? Don't buy it. Texans come in on a short week and the Jags have a new QB looking to make a name for himself. It makes no sense at all to take Jacksonville here, which is exactly the opposite of what Vegas thinks you'll do. We're going with Jacksonville plus 8.5 points in a 30-23 win for Houston.

CHIEFS AT RAIDERS (+7.0) -- Oakland getting 7 at home vs. a division rival? And that's after the Raiders slapped Denver around on Monday night? And the Chiefs are without Tyreek Hill? 7 points at home? We should be all over this one. And we are. But we're going with K.C., minus 7, in a 30-21 win in Oakland.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- We're taking the Redskins minus 5.5 at home against the Cowboys as our lock.

SEASON RECORD TO DATE: 2-4

LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 2-4

RAVENS A.T.S.: 1-0

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 0-1




Saturday
September 14
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#1846



torrey smith?


No, I'm not asking if the Ravens should try and coax Torrey Smith out of retirement. Not yet, anyway.

Our receiving corps appears to be just fine these days, thank you very much.

But with Smith's sudden retirement yesterday -- after being released by the Panthers prior to the season opener -- the question now looms: What, if anything, do the Ravens do with Smith as it relates to his modest legacy in Baltimore?

You know what I'm about to ask.

Does Torrey Smith belong in the team's Ring of Honor?

And here's rule #1 before we enter into a legitimate conversation about this subject. You can not bring up Earnest Byner's name as means of arguing for Torrey Smith. Byner doesn't count. His Ring of Honor entry was a way for Art Modell to connect the old Browns with the new Ravens. Let's move on.

Does Torrey Smith deserve the honor?

Well, as my friend and former radio co-host Glenn Clark pointed out during yesterday's edition of Glenn Clark Radio, Smith is, without question, the best Ravens drafted wide receiver ever. I realize that's not saying much considering the team's long, long, long line of (three longs...that's a lot) failed draft picks at the position. Travis Taylor comes to mind. Breshad Perriman, anyone? And there are plenty more, of course.

Smith, the former University of Maryland star, was the team's 2nd round draft pick in 2011. He played only four years in Baltimore, but they were very productive. He hauled in 213 receptions and 30 touchdowns and was, of course, an integral part of the 2012 Super Bowl team.

Four years isn't a huge sample size as it relates to Ring of Honor stuff, but someone might remember that Michael McCrary really only played five seasons in Baltimore. In his sixth campaign, he played in just five games.

If your argument is "four years isn't long enough to be considered for the team's Ring of Honor", I'll buy that. If five years is the minimum and there's no wavering on that, I get it.

But if we're not bound to any sort of tenure length, then Torrey Smith should receive due consideration.

In my mind, contribution wise, he did more than McCrary. And I'm not saying McCrary doesn't belong (although I think he's one of the coin-flip guys who is in there now). I'm simply saying if McCrary's play got him in, Smith's play might very well be enough, too.

Years ago, the Ravens had a published set of standards for their Ring of Honor. They weren't hard and fast "rules", mind you. They were "standards". One of those standards was that a player must have made a Pro Bowl as a member of the Ravens in order to be considered for the honor. That was always the argument the team had in its hip pocket when Derrick Mason's name came up. He never made a Pro Bowl while in Baltimore.

Neither did Torrey Smith.

But guess what? Joe Flacco never made a Pro Bowl, either, and he's going to be in the team's Ring of Honor someday. That's a slam dunk.

So while Clark prattled on yesterday about how good Torrey Smith was in Baltimore, it got me to wondering: Is Smith a Ring of Honor guy? I was shocked Clark himself didn't bring it up given his fondness for former Terps and Smith in particular. And on this occasion, I might have agreed with my former radio co-host if he would have said, "Smith definitely deserves to be considered."

He's the best Ravens drafted wide receiver. Ever. And in a two decade quest to figure out how to draft pass catchers, the one the team got right should be highlighted.

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say it ain't so, tiger


I feel like Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in the final courtroom scene of A Few Good Men when I say this. But here goes:

Please tell me Tiger Woods isn't going to play in the President's Cup. Please tell me that whole "playing captain" thing that surfaced yesterday was some sort of oversight on his part. Please tell me Woods isn't going to steal an opportunity from someone else who could benefit from playing.

Yesterday was some sort of administrative mistake, right? Woods has been signing his blog entries like that (with the word "Captain" crossed out and the words "Playing Captain" added instead) all year. But that was before he didn't contend in a tournament after winning the Masters in April.

That has to be the explanation. An administrative error. Someone at the PGA of America was supposed to remove those two words -- Playing Captain --- and just forgot to do it.

There's no way Tiger is picking himself to play. He just had minor knee surgery three weeks ago. He probably can't even think about playing golf until mid-October. And he's going to be ready to help the Americans win in Australia in early December?

No, he's not.

I wish someone with the PGA or even Tiger himself would address this issue from yesterday and map out the truth. Tiger isn't picking Tiger. He hasn't yet and he won't be doing it when the picks are announced on November 4.

It would be one thing if he played well in the playoffs and scratched his way to 14th or 13th on the points list. He might be able to justify his own selection if, let's say, he went 3rd, 7th and 4th in the three FedEx Cup playoff events.

But he didn't do that. In fact, he didn't even make the field for the third and final playoff event. Other than winning the Masters in April, Tiger didn't much of anything in 2019. And for that reason, mainly, I don't see him playing in Australia in December.

There's just no way Tiger Woods is picking Tiger Woods. He's just not.

(But he apparently is...right?)

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Friday
September 13
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1845



believe it...or not


Yes, yes, yes. I know what you're going to say. "But crowds all over the NFL are down..."

Here's something I can't believe. The Ravens home opener this Sunday is not sold out. In fact, it's not really all that close to a sell out.

You can go to the team's website right now and buy face value tickets for Sunday's 27-point win over Arizona. Granted, the remaining seats (upwards of 2,000 maybe?) are all upstairs, but if you weren't looking to pay an arm and a leg to see a game this season, it looks like you can definitely get in for just an arm on Sunday.

Not even the return of Terrell Suggs in a visiting uniform can fill Ravens Stadium on Sunday, huh?

I could understand a late November game not being sold out two days before. But the home opener? We've been starved to see something exciting in these parts since well before baseball season started and the best we can do is "nearly" sell out the first home football game of the season?

Yikes...

Heck, even the Browns sold out their home opening loss last weekend. Thought I'd underline "loss" just as a reminder.

Seriously...what gives? I assume by Sunday at 1:00 pm the Ravens will announce a sellout, but how is it possible that we're currently at Friday, 48 hours before the game, and there are still face value tickets available on the team's website? That is not a good look, friends. Not a good look at all.

Is this still a fallout from the London knee? We're almost two years past that now. People are still not going to the games because of that? And even if that's the case and folks are still "boycotting" the home games, are you telling me the Ravens haven't been able to uncover 5,000 new fans over the last two years?

I'm not naive. I know London was damaging. But something else is going on in Baltimore when the football team can't sell out the home opener. It's THE. HOME. OPENER.


I watched bits and pieces of that Thursday Night football fiasco and I believe it's time the league takes a long, hard look at scheduling midweek football. It's just awful.

It's been awful for a long time, obviously, so I'm not stating anything new when I suggest it's time to shutter the idea of having two teams play a game just four days after their most recent one.

But that's now two straight dreadful Thursday night games to kick off the season and the other, remember, was the season opener that both teams had nine months or so to get ready to play. Maybe playing on Thursday is just so foreign to the players that they can't shake the cobwebs loose. I don't know what it is, frankly. But I do know this: The football is almost always lousy. Tampa Bay won last night, 20-14, at Carolina, but if you tuned in hoping to see solid, good-fundamentals-football, you were flipping over M*A*S*H re-runs by the end of the first quarter.

I know money's involved and the league loves raking in those gazillions of dollars they receive for Thursday Night Football. I get it. Money is the deciding factor. But at some point, maybe soon, I suspect the NFL is going to have to take a long, hard look at their product and decide if playing on Thursday is really worth it.

For starters, we know the players and coaches hate it. The coaches can't stand it because it disrupts their normal schedule. The players hate it for the same reason, plus their increased risk of injury. I can't imagine the fans care all that much for it, either, although there's very little evidence in place to suggest that the NFL or the 32 owners really care all that much about what the fans want or prefer.

The NFL has to get rid of Thursday Night Football. They just do.


If you didn't see the Orioles 4-2 loss to the Dodgers last night, something happened in that one that you will not believe. But it happened. Oh, yes, it happened.

In the top of the 6th in a 2-2 game, Dylan Bundy struck out Russell Martin (with two outs) with the bases loaded. Inning over. Wrong...

Dylan Bundy's 6th inning miscue was a crucial mistake in the O's 4-2 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday night.

The ball got past catcher Pedro Severino. One run scored with ease. And a second run scored (Corey Seager) when Bundy forgot to cover home plate.

You read that right. Two runs scored on a passed ball.

Bundy said after the game he thought it was a strikeout and there was no need to cover home plate. I guess he didn't see Cody Bellinger score to make it 3-2, seconds before Seager blazed in from second base to make it 4-2.

I've watched a lot of baseball this season and I've seen our battlin' Birds do some amazingly Little League'ish stuff, but I'd say last night was the cake topper.

The real question, of course, wasn't "What was Bundy doing on the play?"

The bigger question was: Why on earth was I watching an Orioles game in mid-September when the team is 47-99?

Right?

Bundy, by the way, has actually cobbled together a pretty decent second half, truth be told. He's allowed three earned runs or less in 7 of his last 10 starts and his ERA is now 4.99 on the year, which is a far cry from the low 6's...where he was throughout most of April and May.

I know his 6-14 record isn't great, but other than last night's embarrassing miscue, Bundy has buckled up and shown something in July, August and September.

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recap of tuesday night's u.s. soccer performance


The U.S. men's soccer team played Uruguay on Tuesday night in their second and final friendly of this international window. This match lacked the intensity of the rivalry match with Mexico. The U.S. sent six of their more veteran players back to their clubs after the Mexico game, including Christian Pulisic, and Uruguay was missing its most notable star players.

Uruguay presented the Americans with a different challenge to overcome from the Mexico game. In contrast to Mexico’s high press, Uruguay set up with a compact defense and looked to force the U.S. into mistakes in possession that could be exploited on the counter attack. This is a tactic the U.S. faces more often against weaker opponents, so a team of Uruguay’s talent deploying this provides a unique test.

U.S. men's soccer team coach Greg Berhalter has four important games coming up in October as the Americans face Canada and Cuba in a home and home series.

The U.S. did much better against this setup. They enjoyed more possession without having to face intense pressure in their own third. This allowed them to build out of the back the way Berhalter prefers without risking costly turnovers. Uruguay displayed their quality with some quick, incisive counters, but this was a much more even game than the Mexico loss. The U.S. was able to create several quality chances in each half, eventually scoring a fluky, but not undeserved goal late in the match to pull out the draw.

From an individual standpoint there were more positive performances than we saw last Friday night in the loss to Mexico. Teenagers Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest showed why they belong in this team. Dest had several highlight reel jukes that flashed skills that no one in the player pool besides Pulisic possess. Sargent was able to display his deft passing touch, dropping back into midfield many times to connect play from the back line. This kind of sparkling individual play was missing with Gyasi Zardes in the lineup in previous games.

The young striker (Sargent) nearly drew a penalty with a header that was directed on goal but stopped by the hand of a Uruguayan defender.

Two other standout performers were veterans Tim Ream and Christian Roldan. Ream was composed defensively and provided line breaking passes from CB to the midfield and forwards all night. Roldan was effective finding space and connecting passes in the final third to set up several U.S. chances.

Tyler Boyd was disappointing again, failing to have much impact on the game. His poor form for his club seems to have carried over to the USMNT in these two friendlies. It was also disappointing that Paxton Pomykal only received a 10 minute cameo on Tuesday. He has been one of the most exciting U.S. players in MLS this season. Hopefully he can earn more time in the next set of matches.

The U.S. will need to apply what they learned from these matches when they regroup in October for CONCACAF Nations League games against Cuba and Canada.

About the author: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area, graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. He is an avid sports watcher and recreational participant as well as a devoted Ravens, Orioles and US soccer supporter. Randy also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. He played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary is typically mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.

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Thursday
September 12
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1844



the expense, perhaps, of old age


It's so hard to get a read on Bill Belichick that I couldn't tell yesterday what he was really thinking when he briefly mentioned Antonio Brown during the opening statement of his weekly press conference in Foxborough.

Predictably, Belichick mumbled something about "being aware of Antonio's situation" and "he and his representative made a statement" and "I won't have any further comment on it at this time."

In other words: "We know what's going on, we'll let the league handle it, and I have a practice to run right now and Antonio Brown is part of that practice."

Oh, and Belichick gave us the brief and beautiful, "We're getting ready for Miami." That always makes me smile.

But as I watched the press conference, I wondered how aggravated Belichick is, really, at having to deal with this nitwit a week into his (brief, perhaps) tenure in New England? For all I know, Belichick couldn't care less about the lawsuit, those horrible text messages, or anything else about Brown's past. Perhaps his teflon appearance is legit. Maybe all Bill cares about is winning football games, period. Perhaps he'd sign John Wayne Gacey or David Berkowitz if he thought either of those serial killers could help him beat the Chiefs or the Ravens or anyone else in his way.

Or maybe he loathes the idea of having to see Antonio Brown trot around the field in a Patriots helmet given what he saw in those text messages. Belichick, like many of us, has a daughter. Someone here in the comments section yesterday brought up that question. "What if a man sent those text messages to your daughter? How would you react?" That one stopped me, too. I shuddered at the thought of it, frankly. I don't know what I'd do if someone ever mistreats my daughter. Most fathers, I assume, feel the same way.

I wondered, as he stood up there getting more and more ticked off by the second at the endless questions about a guy who hadn't yet helped him win a game, if Belichick was more embarrassed than anything else? "I knew this son-of-b**ch was going to do something stupid. Why on earth did I bite the hook last Saturday when Kraft called me and asked my opinion of him?" I'm not sure if Belichick was thinking that or not, but one of the bags under his eyes told me perhaps he was.

Bill looked tired on Wednesday. Frustrated. Running on fumes, already. And it was only Wednesday of week #2.

Some would say the Patriots deserve this chain of events to happen on their watch, by the way. This is what happens when you play with snakes. You get bit.

Sports has a way of exposing our character. Both for the good. And for the bad.

There's an old saying that's probably been buffed and refinished a few times over the years that goes something like this: "If you want to learn about someone's character, just play golf with them."

Club thrower? Screams and stomps around after a bad shot? Kicks his ball out of a bad lie back into the fairway? Rakes away a 6-foot par putt because he thought he heard you say "that's good"? Tells you he made "5" on the hole when your quick math tells you it was "6"?

Those things are bad for golf and, more importantly, bad for everything else, too, including sales, operations, management and just being a decent person to have in your company.

Sometimes it's the way you handle those moments, too. You can ignore them or confront them. In my first season at Calvert Hall, in the second match of the year (out of 8), a starting junior for me hit a bad bunker shot on the 11th hole at Woodholme and angrily tossed his club out of the bunker while he raked the sand in the trap. The club bounded 5 or 10 yards away. It wasn't the harshest club throw I'd ever seen in my life, but it was a club throw nonetheless.

When the match ended and our guys were celebrating a nice road win against McDonogh, I went up to him. "If you ever throw a club again while you're playing for me, you're done," I whispered to him as I gave him a friendly pat on the back. "We don't throw clubs. Ever. If you do, you don't play for me." I didn't yell at him. Didn't berate him in front of the team. I just said it to him in the most friendly manner I could while still making sure he realized I was very serious.

And that was that. I'm pleased to report he never threw a club again (that I saw) and he was a huge part of two successful teams in his junior and senior years. The interesting part of that story, of course, would have come later on if, in fact, he would have thrown a club again. Then the burden of action would have been on me, at that point. Fortunately, we didn't face that scenario.

I assume the Patriots issued Brown the same sort of caveat last weekend when they signed him after his release from Oakland. "Listen, we'll take a chance on you, but if you do anything stupid from this point forward, you can't play for us." Or something like that.

My guess is this mess with his former athletic trainer constitutes "something stupid", even though it obviously took place far before he ever became a member of the Patriots.

But do Kraft and Belichick keep the kid around now or do they cut him loose? It's fairly safe to assume -- I think -- that New England is his last stop this season, at least. No one else in the league would touch this knucklehead, no matter how footballs he catches. Right? So if the Patriots do let him go, the risk of Brown somehow coming back to beat them is fairly low.

I watched Belichick intently yesterday. It's so hard to read him. But I have to think he can't stand dealing with this stuff. He's a football coach, not a character moderator.

It's one thing if you're a 39 year old first or second year head coach who needs to start winning in order to make a name for yourself in the league. You might have to take a guttersnipe occasionally and hope he doesn't wreck your team from the inside. It's another thing entirely to be the best coach in the league over the last 25 years and have to sell your soul to this talented but out-of-control goof ball.

It seems to me it centers on the expense, perhaps, of old age.

The older we get, the less interest we have in dealing with things or people who don't get with the program for the sake of just getting with the program.

Someone will undoubtedly bring up Colin Kaepernick's name when "getting with the program" is mentioned. He, of course, has effectively been blackballed out of the league because of the national anthem issue he created. I wouldn't have voted to blackball him out of of the league. That's illegal, as we all know.

But I certainly wouldn't employ Kaepernick in my organization. I've always maintained that position when it comes to Kaepernick or anyone else. If you can't stand up when the national anthem is played, you can't work for me. That doesn't make you a bad guy. It just makes you an unemployable guy. In my company, anyway.

I'd handle Brown the same way. Someone might employ you. You are employable. You're just not employable in my company.

But I realize part of that philosophy comes with old age. At 35 years old, in 1998, I might have felt differently. Now? No one is worth the trouble they cause. Once the aggravation outweighs the production...your time is up.

I wonder if old man Belichick has the same philosophy or if only cares about winning football games?

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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


"you’re a bad man, antonio brown" (not a musical)


“You are gonna piss a lot of people off when you start doing what's best for you.” -- Antonio Brown’s Instagram, Sept. 7, 2019

Someone else can speak to Antonio Brown’s mental state over the past year or so, and just how shady this whole thing with the New England Patriots might be. They can make fun of an Oakland Raiders’ organization that’s been a laughingstock for years now or go on a long diatribe about the typical NFL wide receiver being a bigger diva than Beyoncé and Mariah Carey combined. Go ahead.

For me, though, that Instagram post says it all. It’s innocuous enough on the surface, and hardly noteworthy in Brown’s long social media history. And it’s not “wrong,” really. I can think of certain situations in my life that qualify, though I might replace “piss off” with “annoy.”

It’s the “you,” which really means “me” in this context, that gets me. Intentionally bold and italicized for emphasis, it lays bare the issue at hand.

There is no greater good. Everything I do, I do it for me, with apologies to Bryan Adams.

It used to be fine for an athlete to be self-centered—obsessed, “pissed off for greatness,” as Ray Lewis once said — as long as you weren’t selfish—lacking any consideration for others, concerned mostly with your own personal pleasures.

Things aren't so funny anymore...

Now, those days are over, I guess. Let everyone else get annoyed, and let them figure out what’s best for themselves. I’ll be over here with my agent doing the same, and we’ll see what happens.

It’s a terrible way to be a teammate, and an unfortunate way to go through life in general, I’d say. But it’s clearly the path that Antonio Brown has chosen. He’s in it for himself, entirely. He’s mistaken being selfish as being self-centered, which puts the blame on everyone else, not him.

There wasn’t one second this offseason where he believed that attending preseason practices, and fulfilling his Raiders’ contract, and being a professional at 31 years old would not only have been good for the team, but also good for him.

What was good for him was to complain about a helmet, even though most NFL players, receivers included, have been made to adjust to new helmet standards.

What was good for him was to act out publicly toward management, which had gone out of its way not to act out publicly toward him, no matter what you think of the questionable Mike Mayock-Jon Gruden combination.

What was good for him was to develop a social media strategy that made him look worse than before, which has to be a first in the history of celebrity.

And I guess all of that let him accomplish what he wanted, so it worked. The joke’s on all of us, he’s probably thinking. But exactly how long is it going to be in Foxborough until what’s good for him trumps the greater good?

I’m sure you can draw a line to where we are now from certain points in sports history if you’d like. Depending on your age, you’ll probably have different answers. Considering the uniqueness of Brown’s particular situation, it almost seems like a one-off. No matter how many players have held out or demanded a trade or gotten into difficulties on or off the field, this one’s new.

There is something particular, I think, about this moment in time. We’re addicted to social media — posting, reading, commenting — and it’s changed the entire dynamic of a situation like this one. The player — millennial, savvy and confident — controls the narrative. The team — which is more than just one player, no matter how talented he is — tries its hardest simply to make it business as usual. But the team is almost always going to lose the battle. What they’re doing isn’t nearly as interesting or exciting as what the player is saying or doing. His reality show is much more thrilling than the actual reality.

Besides the hatred/respect we have for Antonio Brown as fans of the Ravens (just when you thought he was off the 2019 schedule, he reappears), I think we understand him. He’s an underdog who’s still smarting from a perceived slight nine years ago. He’s hardly the first NFL player to feel that way.

The Steelers drafted him in the sixth round in 2010; Brown was the 195th player drafted. Of the 27 wide receivers taken that year, Brown was chosen 22nd. He was the second receiver chosen by the Steelers, actually, behind Emmanuel Sanders. His prolific three-year college career came at Central Michigan, where he played a bunch of games on Tuesday nights or whenever the Mid-American Conference agreed to play in order to get on ESPN.

It’s impossible, then, to question his effort in becoming the player he became, and quickly. As a rookie, he was fifth on the depth chart, mostly a kick returner. By the next year, he was the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 return yards in the same season. By his third year, with a contract extension and the retirement of Hines Ward, he was “the franchise,” or a huge part of it.

His last six seasons in Pittsburgh should be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame just by themselves. Brown scored 67 touchdowns from 2013-2018 and reached the 100-catch mark in all six years. His 1,834 receiving yards in 2015 rank fourth all-time for a single season. Great stuff for the No. 1 pick in the draft, let alone No. 195.

Brown’s a “bad man,” in the way that Ali said it after he beat Sonny Liston. He deserves to be paid well and to receive the proper recognition as one of the game’s top players. Like every other NFL skill position player, he’s also an entertainer, and sometimes likes to act that way. There are others, including Cleveland’s Odell Beckham, that have spent more time in the news for that than Brown.

Brown’s also a “bad guy,” as a football player anyway, whether his teammates like him or not. He deserved to have his pay taken away by Oakland, though he’ll fight that. I have no doubt he wants to win, but I do question why he wants to win. It seems like it would just be another way to show the world how great he is, as opposed to feeling proud of being part of a great team.

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Wednesday
September 11
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#1843



i'll never understand the flacco hate


Right on cue, the Flacco haters rose to the occasion on Denver's first series of the season on Monday night.

"Check down Joe rides again!" someone chirped on Twitter.

"Same old Joe. Needs 10 yards, throws it for 6," was another one that made me chuckle.

And on it went. With each incompletion, missed target or dropped pass, even, folks on my social media timeline were having a field day.

I get it. The Ravens won 59-10 on Sunday. Flacco was then even more of a prime target on Monday night. If he couldn't match Lamar Jackson's five TD total or Denver couldn't ring up 59 on the Raiders, Baltimore "won" the Flacco vs. Jackson debate. At least for one night, anyway.

What I don't get, though, is the disdain for Joe Flacco.

Why all the hate, Baltimore?

All he ever did was show up for work for 11 seasons, help the team win far more games than they lost, claimed a Super Bowl MVP award, and did all of that while representing the franchise in a pristine manner.

Maybe representing the franchise doesn't matter to most people, but would you rather have Joe Flacco wearing your team's uniform or Antonio Brown wearing it?

The rabid dislike for Flacco is puzzling. But I see it for what it is. It's what I call "The Expert Syndrome". Everyone wants to be one these days. It's the perfect storm of sorts, the connection between the internet, fantasy football, availability of data and competition with others who think they know as much as you.

If you think Flacco stinks as a quarterback and you say so, you're now bound to that opinion. Once you put it on Facebook or Twitter or any other web forum, you're locked in. It's there for everyone to see or pull up on a moment's notice. So when you say "Flacco stinks", you've tied yourself to that declaration. If it turns out he doesn't stink, well, then, you're not an expert.

And everyone wants to be an expert.

I like Joe Flacco. I always did. I also thought his performance waned over the last three or four years of his run in Baltimore. That doesn't make him a bad quarterback. And it certainly doesn't make him a bad guy, either. Antonio Brown? Bad guy. Lousy teammate. In a word, he's a loser. Joe Flacco is a good guy and a good teammate and most certainly not a loser.

That said, my real interest in Joe Flacco ceased when the Ravens traded him away last spring. He became, like Todd Heap did a while back, just another guy who played for the Ravens. I watched bits and pieces of the Monday night game because it's football on Monday night, but I wasn't glued to it the way I would have been if the Ravens were the ones playing the Raiders. I was "casually" interested in it, but didn't post one comment on the internet about Joe Flacco. I just wasn't that concerned about him.

But lots of folks in Baltimore were concerned. And they took every chance they could to rip into him.

Oh, he has some defenders. And that's all well and good, too. My buddy Glenn Clark has always been a staunch Flacco defender, which is perfectly fine by me. Glenn and I can have a spirited debate about whether or not Flacco is still a prime quarterback in the NFL (I say he isn't, Glenn says he is), but what we won't debate is whether or not Flacco deserves scorn and ridicule from people in Baltimore (he doesn't).

I don't think we're alone in the way we think here. But I do have to wonder if the people in Green Bay would rake Aaron Rodgers over the coals if he leaves the Packers for the Buccanneers next season. Rodgers, you might recall, also has a Super Bowl ring, just like Flacco. Would Green Bay turn on him the way Baltimore turned on Flacco? Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe the treatment of Flacco is what makes Baltimore the place it is. Maybe this is the way we're built here. Once you're gone, we turn on you like Vince McMahon turned on Bret Hart in Montreal.

More than that, though, it's "The Expert Syndrome". If Flacco would have lit up the Oakland defense for four TD's and 393 yards passing, the critics would have been wrong. They would have only been wrong for one night, of course, but wrong they would have been.

And these days, we can't have that. No one can be wrong. If you are, it's you that gets raked over the coals, just like Flacco on Monday night.

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bits and pieces


Speaking of Antonio Brown, it didn't take long for the mercurial wide receiver to once again hit the front page, although this time, it's a serious matter. Brown has been accused of rape and sexual assault by a former athletic trainer he employed. The news broke on Tuesday evening. Within one hour, Brown was -- through his agent -- announcing that he would countersue the young lady.

The text message exchange between the two was so graphic and vile and disturbing that I'd never post it here. If you want to read it, you can easily find it on the internet. But it's an awful, awful look from Brown, if (and this is important) the text messages are legitimate and non-doctored. The texts are Brown's version of the Ray Rice and Kareem Hunt video tape. Whether the wide receiver raped or sexually assaulted that young woman can't be seen at this point, but his words in those text messages are visible. And they paint a horrific picture of that young man. He immediately becomes unemployable in my mind. Immediately.

This one will test the Patriots organization. Do they keep him? Or cut him loose? That's the big question this week. It might get answered today. Brown, of course, will deny it all and spin the story to favor himself, somehow, but there's no spinning this one. It's all there for everyone to see.

The U.S. men's soccer team looked better last night in a 1-1 draw with Uruguay. Both teams were missing key performers, but the night turned out much better for the Americans than it did last Friday when they got blasted by Mexico, 3-0.

Sure, the U.S. goal on Tuesday evening was a fluke of sorts, but they did manage to create several other good scoring chances with a front line comprised mostly of young, inexperienced players.

There is still a long, long way to go for the American side. World Cup 2022 qualifying begins this time next year. That sounds like plenty of time to get better, but it's really not. This American team needs to improve by leaps and bounds over the next 12 months.

And the jury is definitely still out on the team's new head coach, Greg Berhalter. We'll know a lot more next month when they face Canada and Cuba in a home-and-home series in the CONCACAF Nation's Cup. No disrespect to Canada and Cuba but if the U.S. doesn't go 4-0-0 in those four games, something's wrong.

Clayton Kershaw, who won't pitch this week in Baltimore, has helped the Dodgers win 7 straight N.L. West titles.

The roar from the crowd said it all last night at Camden Yards. Right around 10:00 pm, the Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up their 7th consecutive N.L. West title with a 7-3 win over the hapless Birds. "The roar" was from the large contingent of Dodger fans who were in the ballpark. Where they came from, no one knows, but there were lots and lots of white Dodger jerseys in the stands at Camden Yards on Tuesday evening.

I had no idea the Dodgers have now won the West seven straight years. That's quite an accomplishment in its own right. It doesn't make up for losing two consecutive World Series', obviously, but winning your division three straight years is great. Winning it seven times consecutively is borderline miraculous.

The Orioles, meanwhile, have now lost 9 of 10 and are still stuck on 46 wins for the season. They'll get to 47 sometime soon. Probably tonight in fact. The Dodgers likely have a nice headache and hangover today. And they'll even surpass last year's 47 win total too, which isn't a great feat or anything, but certainly worth noting. In the end, though, this edition of the Orioles will finish with 53 wins or so.

53 wins is the same thing as 63 wins, I suppose. So the final number doesn't really matter. In some ways, this team is far more enjoyable to watch than last year's collection of millionaires who threw in the towel by early June. In other ways, though, the baseball has been so awful from April through August that it's almost not worth watching on a nightly basis. Better days are ahead, though.

Matt Kuchar is in the news again, although this time I have to say I don't get all the angst. If you missed it last weekend, Kuchar drew the ire of golf fans and media members by removing loose impediments from a waste bunker during the European Open (won by Paul Casey).

The issue? I'm not sure. Kuchar was allowed to remove loose impediments from the bunker, so it's not like he was cheating or anything. He did take his merry old time in removing a bunch of loose "things" from the area around his ball. And it sure looked like he was going to great lengths to make sure his swing wasn't interrupted or affected by anything in the sand around his ball. He picked up a lot of loose impediments...a lot of them.

But he was well within the rules to do so. Did he take a minute to do something that should have taken him 10 seconds? Yes, he did. Did he break any rules? He did not.

I don't understand the witch hunt for Kuchar on this one.

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Tuesday
September 10
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1842



best and worst from nfl week #1


Best win -- Green Bay's 10-3 victory at Chicago last Thursday night. It sure wasn't pretty and the football was mostly blah, but we're talking win quality here, not performance. That victory gives Aaron Rodgers and Company an early leg-up on the Bears in the NFC North. A win in Green Bay later this season and the Packers will control the tiebreaker in the event those two end up tied. Honorable mention -- New Orleans' 30-28 Monday night thriller over Houston. With a trip to L.A. next week to see the Rams, the Saints were staring an 0-2 start in the face before Drew Brees and Wil Lutz combined for some last minute heroics to give the Saints the win.

Worst loss -- By far, it was the Browns getting curb-stomped at home by the Titans. All that July and August bluster about Baker and OBJ and.....ppfffftt...the air was gone out of that balloon by the start of the 4th quarter. Honorable mention -- The Jets' blowing a 16-point home lead to the Bills.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers snagged #DMD's "Best Win" of NFL Week #1 with an opening night road victory over the Bears.

Best team performance -- New England completely dismantled the Steelers on Sunday night. Sure, Pittsburgh's offense is going to be pretty meek without Bell and Brown, but holding them to a field goal is still impressive nonetheless. Honorable mention -- The Ravens win at Miami was impressive in its own right, with the obvious caveat that it was only a 15-minute game before the Dolphins packed it in and quit.

Most impressive in defeat -- Indianapolis shoulda, coulda, woulda knocked off the Chargers in L.A., losing in OT after batting back from a 17-6 deficit on the road. Honorable mention -- Houston had New Orleans cooked, on the road no less, before playing a stupid prevent defense alignment on the final play of the game that allowed Drew Brees to connect with Ted Ginn Jr. for a critical 9-yard pick up that set up the game winning 58 yard field goal. The only way the Texans lose is to -- wait for it -- give up a 9-yard completion on the final play of the game to move Wil Lutz within 60 yards on his field goal attempt. Aaannnnnddd...that's what they did.

Team on the hottest seat in week 2: Cleveland. If they lose in NY to the Jets and start 0-2...watch out. Honorable mention -- Pittsburgh hosts Seattle on Sunday. The same goes for them as the Browns. If the Steelers start 0-2, yinz up there in Pittsburgh might be in for a lonnnnnggg season.

Best Game of Week 2 -- New Orleans at Los Angeles. Didn't these teams meet last January in New Orleans? A big game, right? Controversial ending? Let's run it back next week in L.A. Honorable mention -- Minnesota at Green Bay. Another big division game for the Packers, who could take early control of the NFC North with a win over the Vikings, who opened last week with a home win over Atlanta.

Five best teams through week #1:

1. New England Patriots

2. Los Angeles Rams

3. Kansas City Chiefs

4. Baltimore Ravens

5. New Orleans Saints

Notes and Comments: I told everyone that would listen back in June and July that the Steelers are going to stink this year. And, here we are in September and --- guess what? The Steelers are going to stink this year. You can make book on it. That could have been a really nice opening day win for the Redskins, but squandering that 20-7 lead in Philadelphia is going to leave a mark. With Nick Foles, the Jaguars might have had a puncher's chance in the AFC South. Without him, they're cooked. Despite losing in OT at L.A., the Colts looked like a reasonable team on Sunday. They ran the ball up, through and over the Chargers and were a few missed kicks away from upsetting L.A. on their home turf. Speaking of leaving a mark, the Lions have to be bruised after squandering a 24-6 lead in Arizona. Oh, and while we're discussing tie games, can't the league figure out by now that ties are stupid? Why not just play until there's a winner? There are only 16 regular season games. They're all vitally important. Ties are dumb. There were three pick sixes in the San Francisco-Tampa Bay game. Crazy, right? Joe Flacco and the Broncos looked like dog-poo on Monday night in losing to the Raiders, 24-16. People on social media were quick to defend Flacco, but he was pretty stinky in the first half. By the way, the Broncos look pretty bad all the way around. Their defense is garbage.

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BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.



There's not a lot left to say about the Ravens' outstanding performance in Miami that Drew and David didn't say on Monday. Honestly there's only so much you can say period about a 59-10 drubbing in the first place.

Yes it was the Dolphins, a team that wasn't very good before they traded away two of their five best players a week before the season opened. No, the guys who were there didn't seem to have their hearts in it, at least not by the 2nd quarter, and apparently several players requested a trade after the game.

But let's not get carried away in our rush to put a mountain of qualifiers on the Ravens' dominant performance in week one: Those are still professional players. There's still only so many roster spots available to be filled at the professional level, which is why it's rare to see even the worst teams in the league manhandled as completely as Miami was on Sunday.

They're not going to be at their best every single week, but what we saw in Week One was a preview of what this new offense is capable of, with a wide range of contributors getting their licks in for good measure.

Oh, and let's not lose sight of the biggest story of Week One: Lamar Jackson made good on all of the praise he was receiving as a passer over the summer and no doubt induced some nightmares in defensive coaches around the league.

John Harbaugh was all smiles on Sunday afternoon as Lamar Jackson cranked out a franchise record-tying five TD passes in the 59-10 laugher over Miami.

Yes the stat line was gaudy. 324 yards on 17-20 passing with 5 touchdowns, no turnovers, and a perfect QB rating. Furthermore Jackson was credited for just 3 rushing attempts in the game, instead doing all of his damage with his arm, mostly from the pocket.

It was exactly the kind of performance Jackson's critics have claimed he wasn't capable of, and at this point anyone who tries to trot out the idea that he can't throw just isn't worth taking seriously. Just hand them a Broncos jersey and move on.

But the best thing wasn't the numbers themselves, but the manner in which Jackson played from beginning to end. He was comfortable in the pocket, proficient in his knowledge of the offense and his receivers' routes, he made good reads throughout, especially when working with Mark Andrews, and most importantly he was extremely accurate with his passes. The CBS broadcast team repeatedly pointed out how good the ball placement was on several of Jackson's passes, both in the intermediate range and throwing downfield such as on his perfect lob to Hollywood Brown that became an 83 yard touchdown.

Again, I'm not saying this is what every game is going to look like, but there's good reason to be excited about what this season will bring for the Ravens' sophomore quarterback all the same.

The improvement in Lamar's mechanics was obvious throughout the game. He kept his feet under him and threw from a good base all game long, something he struggled with at times last year. His throwing motion was tighter and more consistent. He seemed much more comfortable with the speed of the game around him, which led to fewer instances of just flat out missing the target than we often saw in his rookie campaign.

That means that the improvement we saw probably wasn't an aberration born out of playing a terrible team, but a reflection of the progress Jackson made in his first full offseason as a pro. It also has implications for how opposing defenses will be able to attack them the rest of the season.

One reason the Ravens were able to find success with their run heavy approach after Jackson took over last season is that contemporary defenses just aren't built to stop the run first and foremost. Everyone wants linemen and linebackers who can get after the quarterback and/or play in space with slot receivers and tight ends. That created a market inefficiency that a team running a read-option heavy attack with a runner as skilled as Jackson could easily exploit, at least until they ran into a team with two really good outside linebackers who both had outstanding games and bottled up the edges on nearly every play.

The rest of the league hasn't changed the way they play defense, but the Ravens' opponents for this season have had more time to think about how to approach that kind of offense and potentially to do a bit more drilling of their defensive front players in camp. Your assumption would be that the Ravens will see a lot more loaded fronts with safeties playing down in run support on the edges this year.

But Sunday's performance throws a wrinkle in that idea. Now that strategy comes with the real risk that Jackson will utilize the downfield threats of Hollywood Brown, Mark Andrews, Miles Boykin, etc. and exploit any attempts to overcommit to stopping the runs they were using last year. And if the defense plays back a bit to guard against those deep threats, particularly Brown, they can always pull out one of those read-option plays and exploit gaps in the front.

Oh, and the Ravens' rushing game was still pretty effective even without Jackson doing much running.

The big takeaway from Sunday is that the Ravens have an offense that's capable of being very explosive and very dangerous in a variety of ways. That gives Greg Roman a number of ways to adjust in game, makes it difficult for an opposing defense to key on one thing to stop, and if Jackson stays consistent with his mechanics and continues throwing the ball as accurately as he did on Sunday, this will be an extremely difficult unit to stop.

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u.s. soccer hosts uruguay tonight


The United States men's national soccer team takes on Uruguay tonight in St. Louis, hoping to atone for last Friday's dismal 3-0 loss to Mexico.

#DMD's soccer analyst, Randy Morgan, has a review of last Friday's defeat and some notes about individual player performances below.

Even with a lineup missing a few of their best players, Mexico showed they were a level above the US with their passing accuracy and speed of thought. The US had opportunities, especially in the second half, that were too often squandered when players didn’t see the correct pass or took touches that were too poor or slow to exploit the windows.

Mexico was crisp all night long. Tecatito’s deft touch and Chicarito’s intelligent movement set up the first goal. Mexico’s relentless pressing caused many poor giveaways by the US and eventually led to the second goal. On the third goal they showed their ability to hit on the counter when a beautiful first time ball from the top of their own box sprung Chucky Lozano on a run through the US defense.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen had a rough go of it last Friday night in New Jersey, as the U.S. got clobbered by Mexico, 3-0.

From an individual standpoint there were not many positives to take from this game for the US. Sergino Dest got his first start at just 18 years old at LB. Despite being burnt to a crisp on the setup to Mexico’s first goal, he showed many positive flashes. He had one of the best chances for the US all game when he hit a cracking shot from outside the box in the 13th minute that was parried away by the keeper and he demonstrated his composure on the ball combining in several other attacking sequences.

Sebastian Lletget flashed with a few nice skills after he subbed on in the 76th minute and made a nice pass to setup the penalty kick for the US. The roughest performance came from Walker Zimmerman.

Both Zimmerman and Steffen had nightmare nights passing out of the back. Zimmerman found Mexico players more often than his own teammates and demonstrated that he does not have the skill to play in this US system against quality pressing opponents.

The rest of the US performances ranged from anonymous to mediocre. Pulisic was able to break the press occasionally by dropping very deep but could not find the connection with his other attackers to generate dangerous chances and grew frustrated as the game wore on.

The key question from this game is one that has lingered since the Gold Cup final. Can Berhalter’s possession and passing system work against high quality opponents with this group of US players? These last two games against Mexico appear to provide a definitive answer.

While this system can be effective against lesser teams where the US maintain a large skill gap, it breaks down when higher quality opponents press hard and the US cannot retain possession. The US definitely missed John Brooks and his ability to pass out from the CB position, but even with him this team lacks players with the vision and precision passing skills necessary to make this system work.

It seems clear the US would benefit by playing more direct balls over the top of the defense or even playing a more conservative counter-attacking style when facing more skilled opponents.

Uruguay will provide another strong test tonight. We will see if Berhalter makes any tactical adjustments.

About the author: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area, graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. He is an avid sports watcher and recreational participant as well as a devoted Ravens, Orioles and US soccer supporter. Randy also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. He played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary is typically mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.


Monday
September 9
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#1841



gutless, cowardly and unprofessional


The Dolphins quit on Sunday.

They tried for approximately 15 minutes. Down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, their season officially ended when the second quarter commenced and nearly every guy on the team no longer had an interest in competing.

To their credit, the Ravens didn't bite the hook. They didn't fall for the trick and turn a 21-0 laugher into a 27-20 nailbiter. They kept playing. They tried to score on every possession. They even tried a fake punt when they were ahead 35-3 because, well, the Dolphins didn't really care one way or the other.

Of course, what happened on Sunday wasn't really a surprise. And it didn't actually begin on Sunday, for that matter. No one who has been paying attention over the last couple of weeks was shocked to see Miami get their doors blown off yesterday. It was as inevitable as Chris Davis striking out 12 times in a 9-game home stand.

The Dolphins are terrible. Maybe worse than terrible, actually. They were losing yesterday, they're losing next week against New England, and they're losing the following week against (not sure who).

This is "tanking" in Nebraska, actually. It looks a lot different than what we saw from the Dolphins on Sunday in Miami, which is also "tanking".

But I'm not sure any of us thought it would be 59-10 yesterday. Anyone with a brain figured the Ravens would win by two or three touchdowns at the very least, but a 49-point margin of victory? You don't see that very often in the NFL because both teams typically try for 60 minutes.

What we saw from the Dolphins on Sunday is what happens when you don't try to win, which is precisely what Miami is doing. It's a gutless, cowardly way to go.

And if you believe the national report that came out a few hours after Sunday's game, a number of Miami players are now looking to be traded rather than sit on the stove and simmer for the next 16 weeks while the Dolphins go 2-14.

Tanking works in baseball -- sort of -- because there are far fewer jobs, the pace is slow, and it doesn't really matter if you go 55-107 or 70-92. They're basically the same thing.

Tanking doesn't work in football because it's a contact sport that requires your utmost physicality. Your season or career can end on every single play. Why on earth would anyone want to play for the Dolphins and risk a significant injury while the front office intentionally tries to finish the season 0-16?

Baseball players spend most of the season in a hammock. The pedestrian nature of the game, the guaranteed contracts, the luxurious travel...it makes tanking almost worth it to the players. Imagine if your boss came in today and said, "We're not going to try and sell anything for the rest of the year but you're still going to get paid."

But football players have to play at full speed on every play, every week or their livelihoods could be erased on Monday morning.

Tanking doesn't work in football. It's a man's game. You either show up every Sunday and dig in or you get punched in the mouth.

The "q" word in sports is awful. No one with any competitive soul at all wants to be labeled a quitter. Novak Djokovic quit recently in the U.S. Open. They call it "retiring" in tennis, because "quitting" sounds so awful. But quitting is what he did.

And the Dolphins quit on Sunday once they fell behind 21-0. They had nothing left to give. So they gave up.

It's one thing to man up, give your all, and get blasted by a better side that day. The other team tries, too.

It's something totally different to have management disassemble the team and stick a bunch of has been's and never will be's out there with hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.

Can anyone really blame the Dolphins for throwing in the towel yesterday?

You can say, "They're professionals. They get paid. They should try on every play." Go ahead and say it. But you know that's not really the way it works. When your team only has six really good players in the first place and management trades three of them away the week before the season starts, why bother?

The Ravens haven't had many bad seasons since 1996. Sure, they were wildly inconsistent for a few years at the outset and had an occasional down season under Brian Billick. They had a tough run of it from 2013 through 2017, but they never lost a home game 59-10 when the team was intentionally put together with the sole goal being not to win.

What we saw yesterday in Miami was shameful. It was, in a word, unprofessional. There was nothing at all redeeming about it, unless you're a Ravens fan, of course.

And that the Dolphins waited until a couple of weeks before the season to pull the plug on their 2019 campaign is perhaps the worst of it all. It's one thing if you do what the Orioles did last winter, which was essentially announce to the entire city that they were going to stink for the next three years or so. Caveat emptor at that point, right? But people like me still had the choice of renewing our ticket plans or not armed with that kind of information. If we bought seats for 2019 expecting anything other than laughably inept play, that was on us, not the club.

The Dolphins killed their season in late August. Bilking fans out of their ticket money -- and that's what it was..."bilking" -- is a defenseless, shady trick.

That the NFL allows teams to slit their wrists a week before the season starts like the Dolphins did speaks volumes about the league and the 31 other owners.

It also tells us what we already know. That the league as a whole, meaning the Commissioner, his underlings and the owners, all only care about the profits and the TV money and the jersey sales. They don't care at all, really, if they're honest in the way they go about doing it.

With each missed coverage in the secondary, each whiffed tackle after a catch, and each 3 and out engineered by that offensive Miami offense, I lost more and more respect for the NFL. That it took yesterday to be my own personal "final straw" is on me, I suppose, but late in the 2nd quarter I headed out to the yard to finish up some fall cleaning and by the start of the fourth quarter, I was on the first tee at Eagle's Nest.

Much like the Dolphins, ironically, a piece of me quit yesterday as well.

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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


yesterday, today and tomorrow


This Week’s Subject: “Overreaction Monday”

Yesterday…

The Ravens have taken well to these season openers against lousy teams the last three years. If you’re scoring at home, it’s Baltimore 126, Cincinnati/Buffalo/Miami 13. Luck of the draw, I suppose. Or maybe all that preseason “winning” has something to do with it.

One game in the NFL is just that…one game. Still, was there something different about yesterday’s game than the previous two openers, or any of the many beatdowns of bad teams under John Harbaugh?

Surely, the 2019 Dolphins are doing an NFL version of “tanking,” as discussed in these pages last week. In particular, the way Miami has changed its roster so close to the season is unfortunate. Brian Flores’ team didn’t just look bad; it looked like a group that had never played together before.

5 TD passes later, Lamar Jackson's 2019 season got off to a rousing start on Sunday in Miami.

The point is…Miami might not win a game this year. So that’s different…

Of course, yesterday marked the “official” beginning of the Lamar Jackson era in Baltimore, his presence on the field no longer a novelty. The game was guaranteed to be different than any Ravens’ season opener in 11 years no matter what happened.

Jackson, of course, did something special with his maiden season-opening opportunity. He had a “perfect” passer rating, 158.3, for the first time in team history. He tossed five touchdown passes. He threw the loveliest deep balls, aided by outstanding pass blocking from the offensive line. He was credited with only three rushing attempts, quite typical for an NFL quarterback.

Surely, a more competent opponent would have created more pressure on Jackson. Still, he proved something new—that’s he’s like any good NFL quarterback. If you don’t make him uncomfortable, he’s gonna pick you apart. And that’s different than might have been expected.

Harbaugh’s team was going to win that game yesterday whether Jackson ran the ball 15 times or three times, or even if he was injured and Robert Griffin had to come in earlier than he did. The Ravens were not a legitimate choice to be upset…not with that group on the other side.

Still, 643 yards, 31 first downs and 40 minutes of possession is not normal for any NFL game. There’s never been a Ravens’ performance quite like it.


Today…

Here on The Day After, there are some truths, I’d say, though I wouldn’t say that any of them are about the Ravens being a “dominant” team like yesterday’s score might suggest.

Truth #1: Lamar Jackson looks like a different passer, as he kept telling everybody. As James Lofton noted, his ball doesn’t seem to be ducking toward the ground as much. He’s worked hard on his throwing, it seems, and for that he deserves credit.

Truth #2: Marquise Brown is fast. It also appears that he can catch a football, which is different than many of the fast guys in Ravens’ wide receiver history.

Truths #3A and #3B: Mark Andrews is a Pro Bowl player at tight end; there’s no doubt. And Jackson wants to depend on him in the way that Joe Flacco liked to depend on Dennis Pitta.

Truth #4: The Ravens still have a lot of good players on defense, despite losing five starters in the offseason.

Truth #5: At the very least, all three phases for John Harbaugh’s team are above average. But I’d say we knew that going into the game, blowout win or not.

Here on Overreaction Monday, it would be wrong to simply concentrate entirely on the positives, of course. So, let’s see…well…

Maybe it would be better to talk about some teams besides the Ravens instead, perhaps a couple who were supposed to do great things this season.

The Browns lost by 30 points and Baker Mayfield threw three second-half interceptions; those two things were very much related. The Jets couldn’t hold onto a 16-0 lead and lost to the Bills at home.

Disappointing, for sure, but it is just one game. Cleveland has more talent on its roster than it’s had in many years, and the Jets got an immediate defensive touchdown from big free agent acquisition C.J. Mosley. Tennessee is still wondering whether Marcus Mariota can stay healthy all year, and Buffalo still has a long way to go. None of that is any different now than it was at 12:59 on Sunday.

The Browns and Jets play next week, actually, in New Jersey on Monday night. Someone’s likely to be 0-2. Maybe then we can start talking…


Tomorrow…

In case you haven’t seen any of the ads selling available tickets, the Ravens play the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The not-quite sellout crowd will no doubt be looking forward to seeing Terrell Suggs, the next player to have his name up there on the stadium concourse.

I’m sure you’re aware of the following as well: While 59-10 is unlikely, it’s quite possible that Lamar Jackson won’t be seeing the field in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals either. After two games, he might be the Tua Tagovailoa of the NFL.

Speaking of great college quarterbacks, it’ll be No. 1 draft pick Kyler Murray leading the Cardinals into Baltimore on Sunday. That’s the same Kyler Murray who, through almost three quarters on Sunday against Detroit, had completed seven of 20 passing attempts for 49 yards.

Obviously, Murray deserves credit for leading his team back from a 24-6 fourth-quarter deficit. The Cardinals and Lions finished up in a 27-27 draw, and Murray finished the game with more than 300 passing yards.

Perhaps Murray will be a great NFL quarterback. The Cardinals thought enough of him to draft Murray and give up on last year’s first-round pick, Josh Rosen, who for some reason can’t beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick in Miami.

On September 15, 2019, however, Murray is not going to have success in his first NFL road game, and it won’t have anything to do with the trip all the way to the East Coast.

The Ravens, as noted here many times, were given a gift in their first two games. The gift became even bigger when the Dolphins made their roster decisions and the Cardinals decided on a rookie quarterback two years in a row.

There is something to be said, however, for competition. And the Ravens will go into a Week 3 game in Kansas City, against the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, having gotten less of it than they might have liked.

I know…this is the NFL, and this is professional sports. That fake punt John Harbaugh went to with a 35-3 lead on Sunday? Hey…point differential is one of the tiebreaks at season’s end, no matter how far down the list it is. It was a good time to use it, in the coach’s opinion, and the Ravens used it.

Let’s enjoy the first two weeks while we can. The Ravens are good enough to beat good teams too, but there will be a lot more heartburn involved.

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#DMD GAME DAY
week 1


Sunday — September 8, 2019
Issue # 1840

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

1:00 PM EDT

Hard Rock Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida

Spread: Ravens -7.0




let's hope penn and teller aren't impressed


There's a great show on TV these days called "Penn and Teller: Fool Us", where magicians from all over the world show up in Las Vegas to perform in front of Penn and Teller.

At the end of their 10-minute magic act, they then have a brief moment with the two legendary magicians and wait to see, if, in fact, those two know how their trick was performed.

If Penn and Teller can't figure it out, they've fooled them and the lights flash, balloons and confetti fall, and the magician becomes one of the few who have been able to perform a trick that can't be figured out on the spot.

Let's hope Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't fool us today.

Will Mark Andrews continue to be a preferred target for Lamar Jackson in 2019?

I think we all know what's under the black hat on the table in front of him. Nothing. He has one or two guys on the Miami offense that can help, but other than that, there's not much there that can produce enough points for the Dolphins to upset the Ravens today in the season opener.

Right?

Fitz"Magic" is a decent quarterback, but "decent" is about the limit. He's capable of being good, even very good, for small fragments of a 60-minute game, but when the dust settles after four quarters of action, if he's anything other than "decent" in total, something's misfiring.

If the Ravens' defense doesn't misfire today, the Dolphins shouldn't able to fool anyone. They're not very good at all. But given that it's the home and season opener and it's going to be 100 degrees down there in South Florida and weird things happen on opening day, the Ravens have to give this one their full respect. If this particular game were, say, in week 13, it would be a 33-10 romp for the visitors. Miami might not have 3 wins by week 13.

But on opening day...

So it's up to the Ravens to make sure Fitzpatrick doesn't pull a rabbit out of his hat this afternoon. When you can only afford to lose five or six games, dropping one to a team that has already quit on their season before the Labor Day team picnic would potentially be quite damaging come late December.

It's great to have football back. And it's awesome that the schedule makers provided the Ravens with this gift-of-a-win on opening day.

Now, let's just make sure Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't fool us.

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keys to the game


With no statistical stuff to go off of yet, "Keys to the Game" isn't as elaborate as it might be, say, on November 3rd.

But several things are very important for the Ravens today down in Miami.

Lamar has to hold on to the ball -- Captain Obvious shows up right away, huh? For the Ravens to go down there and win this afternoon, Lamar Jackson has to limit his turnovers. He doesn't have to be perfect, mind you. He can throw one interception or fumble once, maybe. One turnover isn't going to wreck the Ravens, unless it comes on the goal line late in the game. But what the 2nd year QB has to avoid is one of those disastrous four turnover affairs where he throws two picks and puts it on the ground two other times. If Jackson turns it over ONE time, the Ravens have an 80% chance of winning. If he turns it over TWO times, they have a 60% chance of winning. Anything more than two, and they have a 30% chance of winning.

The Ravens need a strong game from veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith today in Miami.

Defense has to avoid the home run ball -- You've heard of "home run balls", right? No, that's not a dig at the Orioles pitching staff. The home run ball in the NFL is the deep throw that changes field position ("flips the field") or results in a long gain that puts the offense in the red zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick loves the home run ball. He doesn't really have many weapons at his disposal for that sort of throw today, but that likely won't stop him from trying to throw it anyway. If the Ravens can allow fewer than three completions of 25 yards or more, they're golden. That's the goal today. One or two completions of 25 yards...acceptable. More than two could spell trouble. Keep the ball in the park, in other words. Too bad the O's couldn't follow that script in 2019.

Don't let the Dolphins hang around -- This is the NFL. Weird stuff happens. Teams that have no business winning -- like Miami today -- usually don't. But if they are allowed to hang around long enough to keep their interest intact into the fourth quarter, that's when trouble lurks. The Ravens need to come out fast today, throw a couple of quick scores on the board, and then sit back and watch Fitzpatrick try and throw those home run balls we mentioned above. If the Ravens can sport a quick 10-0 or 14-0 lead, the game's over. But letting Miami hang around well into the second half might not be a great recipe today.

Don't get beat by the heat -- This one "seems" kind of dumb, right? I mean, these are grown men and there are a dozen people on the Ravens' training staff who should be pumping water into the players all afternoon. But still...the Ravens have to make sure they stay fresh throughout the game and don't fall victim to the field temps that might bump up near the 110 degree mark. Stay hydrated, stay cool, and stay in the game.

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner

how drew sees today's game


I've replayed this one in my mind dozens of times this week.

Of the 36 times I've played the game in my head, the Ravens win 32 of them. Miami doesn't have much of a chance today, if we're being honest.

#DMD sees a solid opening day performance for the Ravens this afternoon.

The Ravens jump out to a 7-0 lead on their first series, with a Mark Ingram 6-yard touchdown run punctuating a 10-play, seven minute drive.

A Marlon Humphrey interception late in the first quarter puts the Ravens back in Miami territory and Lamar Jackson hits Nick Boyle with a short TD to make it 14-0.

The teams trade second quarter field goals and John Harbaugh's team has a comfortable 17-3 halftime lead.

It's more of the same in the second half, as the Ravens score again -- this time on a Jackson quarterback keeper -- to make it 24-3.

And that's how it ends down in Miami, with Baltimore posting an easy, comfortable 24-3 victory on opening day.

Key stats --

Jackson -- 16/30, 244 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD

Ingram -- 22 carries, 99 yards, 1 TD

Andrews -- 7 catchces, 75 yards

Brown -- 4 catches, 40 yards

Boykin -- 3 catches, 29 yards

Fitzpatrick (Miami) -- 26/46, 289 yards

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show me the money


After punching Vegas in the mouth last season and finishing 11 games over .500 for the regular season, I realize it's tough to go back-to-back. But here I am anyway, ready to guide you through another 17 weeks of football where you hopefully make enough money to take both you AND I to St. Andrews next summer. I've never been, you know. And I have a valid, updated passport. And I'll even pay for the caddies.

Let's get to week one, shall we?

TITANS AT BROWNS (-5.5) -- OK, let's bite the Cleveland apple right away and see if those creeps really ARE any good. I know this is probably a mistake. But I'll buy some very early stock on the Browns today. I think Tennessee is in for a long season. And who knows if the Browns are really going to be any good? But I think they will be today. We're going with Cleveland minus 5.5 as they win easy, 30-13.

Imposter? Or the real deal?

BILLS AT JETS (-2.5) -- This one "feels" weird at minus 2.5, right? I mean, Buffalo appears to be lousy. And the Jets actually spent some money and added some quality players in the off-season. I really like the Jets today. New York wins this one and covers the minus 2.5 with a 23-10 victory in the Meadowlands.

REDSKINS AT EAGLES (-10.0) -- This one also feels weird, but for the opposite reason. Is Washington really that awful that they're not expected to stay within ten points of a division rival on opening day? Granted, I don't follow the Burgandy and Gold all that closely, but they're not that bad, are they? And while the Eagles might very well be the cream of the NFC East crop, I don't know that I see a double-digit win in their future today. We're going with Washington plus 10 points in the Eagles 24-16 opening day win up there in the worst city in America.

49'ERS AT BUCCANEERS (-1.0) -- This one's essentially a pick 'em. I think everyone's anxious to see Jimmy G's return in San Fran, but this particular writer is far more interested to see what comes of Bruce Arians and that Tampa Bay team this season. I have a feeling they might sneak up on people. Today will tell us a lot. If the Bucs are going to be formidable in any way, they'll beat the 49'ers down in Tampa Bay. We're going with Tampa Bay minus the one point in a 20-17 win for Arians and the Bucs.

STEELERS AT PATRIOTS (-5.5) -- They're jacked up in New England and rightfully so. With yesterday's news about that wide receiver they acquired, things are looking pretty rosy for the two B's. But they don't have that guy tonight and Pittsburgh comes in healthy, with something to prove. If this is week 10, I'd feel totally different. But I like the Steelers to hang around tonight. In fact, we're going with Pittsburgh to not only cover the 5.5 but win outright in an upset, 27-24.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Let's take the Jets (-2.5) over Buffalo as our Best Bet. There's just no way Buffalo stays in that one, right?


Friday
September 6
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1838



brees and brady for all the marbles


I wish I had an exciting, off the wall Super Bowl pick for you.

Texans vs. Cowboys maybe? That would have some obvious storylines. Or perhaps Denver and their new quarterback vs. Tampa Bay and their signal caller. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

Alas, I don't have anything of the sort, because we're in for another season of the same old, same old.

You can go ahead and pick against the Patriots this season if you want. I know I'd like to have the warm and fuzzies about someone else in the AFC, but I don't.

It's this simple: Unless something happens to Tom Brady, where he misses a substantial portion of the 2019 season, the Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl.

There's no sense in dragging it out.

Tom Brady and the Patriots...again...in the Super Bowl? Say it ain't so.

My AFC playoff picture looks like this:

The Ravens will host the Chiefs in the Wild Card game and win, 27-23. The other Wild Card tilt will have the Jaguars -- who make it via a tiebreaker with Cleveland -- winning in Houston.

The following week, the Ravens lose in Los Angeles to the Chargers and the Jaguars fall in New England.

And for roughly the 30th time in his career, Tom Brady plays the AFC Championship game in his building and the Patriots turn back the Chargers, 30-20.

Boring? You bet. Anyone but the Patriots again, right?

Don't worry, Brady can't play forever. My guess is he'll only play four more seasons after this one.

In the NFC, the Eagles beat the Bears in one Wild Card Game, while the Packers edge Atlanta in the other Wild Card contest. The Eagles then shock the Rams the following weekend, while the Saints turn back Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a thriller.

New Orleans knocks off Philadelphia in the NFC title game, denying the Eagles a 2nd Super Bowl trip in the last three seasons.

So it's Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady for all the marbles in Ft. Lauderdale in February.

All dislike for Brady and Belichick aside, that's a dream Super Bowl match-up. Brees vs. Brady. It doesn't get much better than that.

And I'm pleased to report -- unless you're a New England fan -- that Drew beats Tom in the title game.

New Orleans 27 - New England 23

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drew's 17-week "weekly winner" entry


You still have a couple of days to get your entry in for our contest (see below). I took a shot at it, too, although I'm ineligible to win. But just for kicks, here are my weekly winners.

Week 1 -- Los Angeles Chargers beat Indianapolis

Week 2 -- Baltimore Ravens beat Arizona

Week 3 -- Philadelphia Eagles beat Detroit

Week 4 -- New England Patriots (road) beat Buffalo

Week 5 -- Kansas City Chiefs beat Indianapolis

Week 6 -- Atlanta Falcons (road) beat Arizona

Week 7 -- Green Bay Packers beat Oakland

Week 8 -- Pittsburgh Steelers beat Miami

Week 9 -- Kansas City Chiefs beat Minnesota

Week 10 -- Cleveland Browns beat Buffalo

Week 11 -- New Orleans Saints (road) beat Tampa Bay

Week 12 -- New York Jets beat Oakland

Week 13 -- Dallas Cowboys beat Buffalo

Week 14 -- Cleveland Browns beat Cincinnati

Week 15 -- Baltimore Ravens beat New York Jets

Week 16 -- Los Angeles Chargers beat Oakland

Week 17 -- New England Patriots beat Miami

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner

can you predict a NFL winner each week?


Editor's note: We've had 344 entries since Tuesday! Thanks for participating. The contest is still open. Details are below.

OK, so it's time for a #DMD contest that will give everyone a chance to show their predicting prowess. And it doesn't involve the point spread, thankfully.

All you have to do is pick a winner each week.

But here's the deal. And the fun of it.

When will you go with Drew Brees and the Saints in 2019? At home? Or on the road?

You have to do it before the season starts.

That's right. You have to go through the season and pick ONE winner in each week of the season. Rules? We have three of them.

Rule #1 -- You can't pick the same team more than twice.

Rule #2 -- You have to pick three road teams.

Rule #3 -- You have to pick the Ravens twice.

That's it.

We have a significant prize for the winner (announced later this week) and runner-ups. You have until this Sunday, September 8 at 12 noon to get your picks in (but you can't use this Thursday night's game unless you submit your picks before Thursday at 8:00 pm.

Here's how you get in the game.

Go to NFL.com and surf through the week-by-week schedule, picking ONE winner from all 17 weeks. Keep in mind you have to pick a road team three times and you must pick the Ravens twice, but only twice. You can't choose any team more than two times.

Send your entry to: dmdscore@gmail.com

And please make it look like this so it's easy for us track.

Week 1 -- Steelers (road)

Week 2 -- Ravens

Week 3 -- Chargers

Week 4 -- Vikings (road)

I have no idea if the Vikings are on the road in week four...that's just an example of how we'd like you to note the (road) team.

List all games just like that. Weeks 1 through 17.

Be sure and include your name (in case the email address doesn't match up) so we can put your name up in bright lights every Wednesday during the season when we update the Top 5 leaderboard.

Scoring goes like this: You get one point for every correct prediction and two bonus points for every correct road prediction. And, yes, you can predict as many road winners as you want throughout the season, but you MUST choose at least three road teams during the 17 weeks.

Get your entries in today. One entry per person. If you enter more than once and our entry-police catch you, you're out of the contest and will be shamed publicly here at #DMD.

Have fun. Think hard. Play smart.




Thursday
September 5
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1837



raiders getting what they deserve


Imagine this scenario for just a second.

You start at a new company a couple of weeks back. Things are rolling along smoothly but you develop a dislike for a co-worker who sits in the same general area as you.

On a Wednesday morning, you fail to appear for work. The boss calls and you explain the situation about the co-worker. "That's all well and good," she explains to you. "But you have to come back to work now. We have assignments and projects on your desk that require your attention."

You go back the following day, but the problem still persists. You'd like to move to another area of the building, but you're told you can't. So, the next day, you decide not to come in again. Since that's a Thursday, you figure you'll just "make a statement" and take Friday off as well.

The next Friday is pay day. By habit, you check your automatic deposit and notice a different total than you expected. It's short by roughly $500.

Upon arriving at the office that Friday, there's an envelope on your desk. You open it, and much to your shock, the company is notifying you that they have reduced your pay by $500 for missing three days of work during the pay period. Per the agreement you signed when you started with the company, you have no "time off" until you've completed your 90 day probationary period with the company. In other words, they have the legal right to withhold 3 days of pay from you, which they did by decreasing your pay by $500 for this pay period.

You're incensed. "What kind of place treats their employees like this?" you ask yourself.

And then you head to your Facebook and Twitter pages and post the letter for all of your friends and family members to see. In addition to posting it, you take a couple of shots at the company as well, blasting your boss and their policies. "These people here are already hatin' on me and I've only been with them for a month," you write. "What a bunch of jerks."

That scenario, sorta kinda, is what happened to the Raiders yesterday when Antonio Brown published their letter to him that detailed a fine for missing training camp back in August while he was involved in "Helmetgate".

Brown published their letter on his social media pages, threw in a few digs and chirps and criticisms, and the fur started flying.

Anyone out there feel sorry for the Raiders?

I sure don't.

If they didn't know this ne'er do well was going to be a disruptive malcontent the minute they acquired him from the Steelers, they haven't been paying attention to their own league for the last two years.

Brown is a head case, of course. Everyone knows that. And yesterday's public disclosure stunt about the fine is just another example of a guy who doesn't get it. He thinks the rules apply to the rest of the team, you know, the grunt guys who come in every day, work hard, follow the rules, and adhere to company protocol.

In the real world, Brown would be out on his pouting rear end today after scorning his employer and boss on social media for something that was his fault in the first place. If you pulled that stunt at your job today, what would happen to you?

But the NFL isn't the real world, as we all know.

The Raiders are getting what they deserve. They knew going in this nut job was a loose cannon, but they assumed, like a lot of teams do, that they can "fix" him. There's no fixing this goof. He'll catch some balls thrown his way, score a touchdown or three, but somewhere in the next two months, there's a blow up waiting to happen. There's zero chance Antonio Brown can go through a season without doing something disruptive and stupid. Less than zero, actually, if that's mathematically possible.

But Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden knew all of this before they traded for him.

A leopard's spots never go away. They just fade a bit over time. But they're always a leopard.


here's how the afc looks


On Wednesday, we broke down the NFC and gave you the four division winners (Eagles, Rams, Packers and Saints). Today we're running through the AFC and doing the same thing. In tomorrow's edition of #DMD, we'll give you the playoff rundown and tell you who wins the Super Bowl next February.

AFC East -- Hmmm. Let me think about this one. So, I have a funny feeling the Patriots are the cream of the crop here. Just a hunch. The question is...will they lose a game within the division? Since one of the other teams figures to be better than the other two, I'll say it's the Jets who cobble together a representative campaign and still have a puncher's chance at the playoffs by the end of November. We already know the Dolphins are going to be lousy and the Bills won't be a whole lot better. This division stinks. A lot.

New England -- 13-3

NY Jets -- 8-8

Buffalo -- 5-11

Miami -- 3-13

AFC South -- This division is officially up for grabs after last week's Andrew Luck news out of Indy. It seems like the Texans have the most going for them at this point, with a decent QB, perhaps the best WR in all of football (Hopkins) and a reasonably sound defense. If they can go at least 4-2 in the division, it's probably theirs to win. There's no telling what kind of impact Nick Foles will have on the Jaguars, but if he's any good at all, that bumps them up to a playoff contender because their defense will keep them in 75% of the games. The Titans are definitely an unknown because their QB situation isn't very promising. Hard to win in the NFL if your quarterback stinks. And speaking of QB's who stink...the Colts will be everyone's homecoming game in 2019.

Houston -- 10-6

Jacksonville -- 9-7

Tennessee -- 6-10

Indianapolis -- 4-12

AFC West -- Everyone is sky high on the Chargers and with good reason, although it's certainly fair to wonder how the loss of Derwin James for two months and the holdout of Melvin Gordon will impact them. With those two, they'd be a Super Bowl contender. Without them? It might be tough. The Chiefs are still everyone's sexy pick and why not? Sure, they lost Kareem Hunt, but Shady McCoy figures to pick up some of that slack. K.C.'s defense has to be better than it was a year ago, though. Not just because they now have a "real" quarterback and all, but I see the Broncos starting to rebound. It might take a year or two, but they're on the upswing. And...the Raiders will implode before Halloween rolls around. You know that's coming.

Los Angeles -- 11-5

Kansas City -- 11-5

Denver -- 9-7

Oakland -- 5-11

AFC North -- It's the Ravens division to lose, folks. I won't go as far as to say it's a "choke job" if they don't capture the AFC North, but it's all there for them on a silver platter. They're not very deep on the offensive line, quality wise, so any injuries there could upset the apple cart. All in all, though, John Harbaugh's club is the team to beat. Sure, the Browns have some weapons and they definitely think they're poo doesn't stink, but until they're in the playoffs and fighting to go to the Super Bowl, they're still the Browns. The Steelers will do what they always do. They'll score a bunch of points, their defense will stink, they'll lose a home game or two they otherwise shouldn't, and they'll be watching the playoffs from their couch in January. And the Bengals will be historically awful. Wait, they've been awful a lot over the last 20 years. They can't be that bad again, can they?

Baltimore -- 10-6

Cleveland -- 9-7

Pittsburgh -- 7-9

Cincinnati -- 4-12

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can you predict a NFL winner each week?


Editor's note: We've had 312 entries since Tuesday! Thanks for participating. The contest is still open. Details are below.

OK, so it's time for a #DMD contest that will give everyone a chance to show their predicting prowess. And it doesn't involve the point spread, thankfully.

All you have to do is pick a winner each week.

But here's the deal. And the fun of it.

When will you go with Drew Brees and the Saints in 2019? At home? Or on the road?

You have to do it before the season starts.

That's right. You have to go through the season and pick ONE winner in each week of the season. Rules? We have three of them.

Rule #1 -- You can't pick the same team more than twice.

Rule #2 -- You have to pick three road teams.

Rule #3 -- You have to pick the Ravens twice.

That's it.

We have a significant prize for the winner (announced later this week) and runner-ups. You have until this Sunday, September 8 at 12 noon to get your picks in (but you can't use this Thursday night's game unless you submit your picks before Thursday at 8:00 pm.

Here's how you get in the game.

Go to NFL.com and surf through the week-by-week schedule, picking ONE winner from all 17 weeks. Keep in mind you have to pick a road team three times and you must pick the Ravens twice, but only twice. You can't choose any team more than two times.

Send your entry to: dmdscore@gmail.com

And please make it look like this so it's easy for us track.

Week 1 -- Steelers (road)

Week 2 -- Ravens

Week 3 -- Chargers

Week 4 -- Vikings (road)

I have no idea if the Vikings are on the road in week four...that's just an example of how we'd like you to note the (road) team.

List all games just like that. Weeks 1 through 17.

Be sure and include your name (in case the email address doesn't match up) so we can put your name up in bright lights every Wednesday during the season when we update the Top 5 leaderboard.

Scoring goes like this: You get one point for every correct prediction and two bonus points for every correct road prediction. And, yes, you can predict as many road winners as you want throughout the season, but you MUST choose at least three road teams during the 17 weeks.

Get your entries in today. One entry per person. If you enter more than once and our entry-police catch you, you're out of the contest and will be shamed publicly here at #DMD.

Not that my picks matter, since I'm ineligible for the grand prize (which, by the way, any Ravens fan would love to win -- hint, hint), but I'll post my 17 weeks of picks tomorrow.

Have fun. Think hard. Play smart.

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner

"The Keen Eye" of
David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


notes on FitzMagic, at stop no. 8


Ryan Fitzpatrick will turn 37 on the twelfth Sunday of this NFL season, November 24, when the Dolphins play in Cleveland. By that time, you’d think that Miami will have gone to Josh Rosen at quarterback, considering he was the 10th pick overall in 2018 by Arizona (1). But I wouldn’t bet on it, not with Fitzpatrick still around.

The Dolphins are the eighth NFL team for Fitzpatrick (2), and when he steps on the field this Sunday against the Ravens he will have been a starting quarterback at least once for all eight of them. Fitzpatrick was the 250th pick in a 255-pick NFL Draft in 2005, by St. Louis. He’s been traded twice, by the Rams and Texans, and cut twice, including by a Buffalo franchise that had signed him to a six-year contract extension less than two years earlier.

He started against John Harbaugh’s Ravens in 2008, for the Bengals, and in 2010, for the Bills (3). As a Jet, he relieved a mangled Geno Smith in the second quarter of a 2016 win against the Ravens in the Meadowlands.

As for this Sunday, we can only hope that Fitzpatrick doesn’t begin 2019 like he began 2018, with the Buccaneers (4).

He threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns in a Week 1 win at New Orleans. Then he beat the defending champion Eagles by completing 27 of 33 passes for 402 yards. The following Monday night, he was alternately spectacular and frightening in a home loss to Pittsburgh, once again throwing for 400 yards but also tossing three picks.

When Jameis Winston came back after his suspension in 2018, he eventually replaced Fitzpatrick, including in a game in Baltimore in December (5). Winston played ok, but I was more worried about the Bucs if Fitzpatrick had come in.

Stop number 8 for Ryan Fitzpatrick is Miami, where he might be the only player on the team with any quality.

Unlike many of the journeymen who’ve started against the Ravens, Fitzpatrick can win a football game with his arm, even if the team around him isn’t much to talk about. And that certainly appears to be the case in Miami this season.

Whatever happens on Sunday, I love talking about Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The quotable Fitzpatrick is a favorite of my friend Manish Mehta, who covers the Jets for the New York Daily News. That win against the Ravens in 2016 came after an offseason where he’d been jerked around by team management, and after he’d been benched behind Smith. After the win, he wasn’t scared to talk about that.

“When the owner stops believing in you, and the GM stops believing in you, and coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself,” he told Mehta (6).

“He’s thoughtful and honest. He’s great at providing perspective to a given situation,” Mehta says now. “He’s also really good at being engaged with all his teammates.”

Fitzpatrick, you’ll remember, went to Harvard. He graduated on time with a degree in economics and got an invite to the NFL Combine after earning the Ivy League’s Player of the Year award as senior. While there, he took the famed Wonderlic Test and reportedly scored a 48 out of 50 (7), completing the test in only nine minutes.

I saw him play once for the Crimson, in a 2004 win over Princeton, and there wasn’t much hype around him. Harvard had a great tailback named Clifton Dawson, who briefly played in the NFL, and Fitzpatrick handed off to Dawson 31 times that day. He hadn’t started at all his first two years, and split time as the starter as a junior with a quarterback who was a better runner. I assume St. Louis took a flyer on him in the seventh round solely because of the Wonderlic.

But there he was, not only making the team but forced into action in November after starter Marc Bulger and second-stringer Jamie Martin both went down. 13 months after completing a pedestrian 14 of 31 passes in that Princeton game, Fitzpatrick threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Rams back from a 24-3 halftime deficit to win in overtime at Houston (8).

Pro Football Reference computes something they call Career Approximate Value, a similar idea to WAR in baseball. Fitzpatrick ranks second among Harvard players, behind only former Ravens’ center Matt Birk. The Ravens have actually had two of the top 10 Harvard players on their roster, thanks to 2013 fourth-round draft pick and Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk, now playing for the 49ers.

Modern NFL teams will take a look at Ivy League quarterbacks now; in fact, the last two Princeton quarterbacks were signed as free agents (9). Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success surely has something to do with that. Fitzpatrick has always been more streaky than consistent as an NFL quarterback, of course. Say what you want about the 21st century decision-making of the Bills, but even they realized that they could no longer pay starter money to a player better positioned as a backup. And his 148 career passes intercepted rank behind only five active players — future Hall of Famers Manning (10), Brees, Roethlisberger, Rivers and Brady — and he hasn’t played nearly as many snaps as those guys.

If there are any Dolphin fans (11) remaining, they’re probably thinking that their team is due for a decent performance against the Ravens. Since the 2007 debacle that surely cost Brian Billick his job, the Ravens are 7-1 against Miami (12). The last two meetings, both in Baltimore, have been embarrassing for the Dolphins, culminating in a 40-0 defeat on a Thursday night in 2017 best known for headhunter Kiko Alonso’s near decapitation of Joe Flacco.

Maybe Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s played well against the Ravens before, will be the answer to those fans’ prayers this week. From experience, it’s likely that answer will only last a few weeks. Whatever happens, I’ll likely be rooting for the old guy from Harvard in every other game this season.

Notes --

1 In case you forgot, the Cardinals drafted Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, thus making their one-year-old first-round QB draftee Rosen expendable.

2 In chronological order: Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, Bucs, Dolphins.

3 Fitzpatrick was downright awesome for a winless Bills team in that 2010 game at M&T Bank Stadium, throwing for 382 yards and four TDs. The Ravens won 37-34 in overtime.

4 Fitzpatrick was leading the NFL in passing yards by a wide margin after three games. However, he saw no action after a Week 11 loss to the Giants in which he threw three interceptions.

5 This is the fifth year for both Winston and the Titans’ Marcus Mariota, the two top picks of the 2015 draft. It’s possible neither will be playing for their current team next season.

6 In the same story, Fitzpatrick told Mehta: “I don’t care what other people think about me. When I’m done with football, I go home to my family. We’re going to carve pumpkins tonight. I’m going to be like a normal person.”

7 Reportedly, the only NFL player to score a perfect 50 was another Harvard graduate, Pat McInally, who was the punter for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1976-1985.

8 It’s difficult to describe the difference between a genteel crowd of 8,000 or so at Princeton and the noise of Reliant Stadium with 70,000 inside, not to mention the differences on the field.

9 Chad Kanoff spent most of last year on the Cardinals’ practice squad; he was released after training camp this year. John Lovett is likely to be a fullback or tight end in the NFL; he was probable to make the Chiefs’ 53-man roster before being placed on injured reserve.

10 That’s Eli Manning, who despite what you might want to think is an absolute lock to make the Hall of Fame.

11 Dolfans, they call themselves. For real. There’s actually an officials “Dolfans NYC” group and website for those in the Tri-State Area.

12 The only loss in that stretch came in 2015, when Matt Schaub was filling in for the injured Flacco.

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Wednesday
September 4
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1836



full moon?


Too much happened on Tuesday night to devote all of today's space to the NFL.

I'll get to my NFC predictions shortly, have no fear. You can place your bets and buy that summer beach home in no time at all. But first...

If you were still clinging to a morsel of hope that the Mets might right themselves in September and chase down one of those wild card spots, you can now stop clinging.

It's over.

No one can recover from what happened to them last night.

Heading to the top of the 9th in D.C., the Mets were up 5-4. They then put up a 5-spot in the 9th to extend that lead to 10-4. Ballgame. Right? Right? Uhhh, not right.

The Nationals torched three Mets relievers in the 9th, scoring 7 times and winning the game on Kurt Suzuki's 3-run homer. Yes, it really happened. The Nationals came back from 10-5 down to win 11-10 and put a nail in the Mets' coffin for 2019.

And we think the O's bullpen is lousy, huh?

No arms raised at Flushing Meadows this year. Roger Federer was shocked on Tuesday night by the 78th player in the world.

Speaking of New York, the unthinkable happened last night at Flushing Meadows in the men's quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Roger Federer lost to a bum. Perhaps "bum" is too harsh, but Grigor Dimitrov is the 78th ranked player in the world. He used to be good, a while back. Now, he's pretty much just a check collector and a jobber for the Top 10 guys.

But he was no jobber last night, as Dimitrov won in 5 sets, thereby denying Federer what appeared to be an easy run to the Final and, perhaps, his 21st career singles title. Had Roger won last night, he would have met upstart Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Friday night. Medvedev beat Stan Wawrinka in the quarters after Novak Djokovic quit in his match against Wawrinka two days prior.

Federer was once a near lock against tennis also-rans, but has now lost in consecutive years at Flushing Meadows to players ranked outside the ATP's Top 50. Last year, Federer fell to John Millman in the round of 16. He's now 43-2 vs. Top 51 and beyond in his U.S. Open career after last night's stunning defeat to Dimitrov.

The road is now paved for Rafael Nadal, although Medvedev might be playing the best tennis of the final four at this point.

And the holdout is over in Dallas, as Ezekiel Elliott has agreed to a $90 million deal with the Cowboys.

The 6-year contract includes $50 million of guaranteed money for "Zeke", making him the highest paid running back in the league. Todd Gurley's contract with $45 million guaranteed was previously the bar setter for running backs.

Elliott will practice today and, presumably, be ready to go on Sunday when the Cowboys take on the New York football Giants.

Dallas apparently needs their star running back more than the Chargers need theirs, as Melvin Gordon's holdout in Los Angeles continues. At one point last week, the Chargers told Gordon to go find his own trade and come back to them with it. Three days later, they spiked the ball and said, "Actually, we're no longer going to negotiate with you at all. Show up and play football or sit out."

The Cowboys have their guy. And they're better for it.

The Chargers don't have their guy. And they might be squandering a Super Bowl run because of it.


here's how the nfc stacks up

As I see it, there are countless questions to be answered in the NFC over the next four months.

Among them: Can the Rams recover from their atrocious offensive performance in the Super Bowl and the puzzling non-use of Todd Gurley and return to the big game next February?

Are Aaron Rodgers and the Packers still a formidable title contender or has their window closed?

Will the football gods smile on Drew Brees and the Saints after last year's fiasco at the end of the NFC title game with the Rams?

What to make of the Cowboys, Falcons and Eagles, each of whom probably only need a break or two to fall their way and they might wind up playing deep into January.

Let's see how it shakes out...

NFC East -- This is still the Eagles division until the standings say otherwise at season's end. The key, obviously, will be the play of Carson Wentz. DeSean Jackson's return to Philly might help a little, but it's mostly going to be about the play of Wentz and the Philly defense. The Cowboys should be an above .500 half-a-contender in the East and if things do go right for the Eagles, it could be Dallas' division to lose. Getting Elliott back in the fold helps them for sure. The Redskins might actually be decent in 2019. Could they win the division? Unlikely. But don't be shocked if Washington is 7-6 and in the playoff hunt with a few weeks left. The Giants will be eased at the top of the stretch. They have nothing.

Philadelphia -- 11-5

Dallas -- 9-7

Washington -- 8-8

New York -- 4-12

Is it time for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to return to the Super Bowl?

NFC North -- Green Bay has been just OK over the last couple of seasons, which means one of two things. They're due for a rebound or they're in the beginning stages of a significant drop off. We'd bet on the "drop off" if #12 wasn't their quarterback. But we're back to "all in" on the Packers because at some point soon, Rodgers and Company are going to once again be one of the league's better offenses. The Bears are a sexy pick with a lot of the football experts, but we see them taking a small step back in 2019. The Vikings will do what they usually do. They'll be decent for 10 weeks, sputter thereafter, and get nosed out of a playoff spot in the final couple of games. It's not looking good for the Lions, who will be the NFC North bottom feeder once again.

Green Bay -- 11-5

Chicago -- 10-6

Minnesota -- 8-8

Detroit -- 5-11

NFC South -- Now this could wind up being a real dogfight. The Saints will be a tough out every Sunday, but one has to wonder if the tank isn't starting to empty a bit on Drew Brees. And in a tough division like this one, New Orleans will need him operating at full speed all season. Something tells me the Falcons are due for a rebound. They still have the makings of a good offense down there. Now, if they can just put together a Top 12 (or so) defense, they can perhaps make a run at the division crown. After starting last season at 6-2, the Panthers threw a shoe in the final two months. We don't see things getting much better for them in 2019. And the Buccaneers might not look like a playoff contender yet, but they'll beat a couple of teams they shouldn't beat this season and are a team on the uptick.

New Orleans -- 13-3

Atlanta -- 10-6

Tampa Bay -- 7-9

Carolina -- 6-10

NFC West -- There aren't any locks in the NFC except for this one: The Rams are the cream of the crop and that's that. If they stay healthy, there's almost no way to stop them on offense. And their defense is pretty sweet, too. San Francisco might be much better if they get a full season out of Jimmy G. at quarterback. There's not much else there, but he could win them a handful of games on his own. The Seahawks are always dangerous, particularly at home, but it remains to be seen if they have enough in the tank to challenge for the top spot in the division. And the Cardinals, per their custom, will be a punchline by early October. I hope Terrell Suggs is happy with his choice. He better get used to losing.

Los Angeles -- 12-4

Seattle -- 9-7

San Francisco -- 6-10

Arizona -- 4-12

We'll have the AFC for you here tomorrow. And on Friday, it's the playoff breakdown and your Super Bowl teams.

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can you predict a NFL winner each week?


Editor's note: We had 157 entries on Tuesday! Thanks for participating. The contest is still open. Details are below.

OK, so it's time for a #DMD contest that will give everyone a chance to show their predicting prowess. And it doesn't involve the point spread, thankfully.

All you have to do is pick a winner each week.

But here's the deal. And the fun of it.

When will you go with Drew Brees and the Saints in 2019? At home? Or on the road?

You have to do it before the season starts.

That's right. You have to go through the season and pick ONE winner in each week of the season. Rules? We have three of them.

Rule #1 -- You can't pick the same team more than twice.

Rule #2 -- You have to pick three road teams.

Rule #3 -- You have to pick the Ravens twice.

That's it.

We have a significant prize for the winner (announced later this week) and runner-ups. You have until this Sunday, September 8 at 12 noon to get your picks in (but you can't use this Thursday night's game unless you submit your picks before Thursday at 8:00 pm.

Here's how you get in the game.

Go to NFL.com and surf through the week-by-week schedule, picking ONE winner from all 17 weeks. Keep in mind you have to pick a road team three times and you must pick the Ravens twice, but only twice. You can't choose any team more than two times.

Send your entry to: dmdscore@gmail.com

And please make it look like this so it's easy for us track.

Week 1 -- Steelers (road)

Week 2 -- Ravens

Week 3 -- Chargers

Week 4 -- Vikings (road)

I have no idea if the Vikings are on the road in week four...that's just an example of how we'd like you to note the (road) team.

List all games just like that. Weeks 1 through 17.

Be sure and include your name (in case the email address doesn't match up) so we can put your name up in bright lights every Wednesday during the season when we update the Top 5 leaderboard.

Scoring goes like this: You get one point for every correct prediction and two bonus points for every correct road prediction. And, yes, you can predict as many road winners as you want throughout the season, but you MUST choose at least three road teams during the 17 weeks.

Get your entries in today. One entry per person. If you enter more than once and our entry-police catch you, you're out of the contest and will be shamed publicly here at #DMD.

Not that my picks matter, since I'm ineligible for the grand prize (which, by the way, any Ravens fan would love to win -- hint, hint), but I'll post my 17 weeks of picks tomorrow.

Have fun. Think hard. Play smart.

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner

from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.



I guess we have to talk about tanking again.

The latest iteration of this ongoing controversy takes us to the NFL and, in fact, to the Ravens Week One opponent, the Miami Dolphins. Over the weekend the Dolphins were part of a stunning series of events in which they traded starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil and top wide receiver Kenny Stills to Houston for a package of draft picks that includes two first round and one second round selections.

The main focus of most observers was how odd it was for Houston to trade away so much draft capital for that return just after trading away Jadeveon Clowney for a relative pittance, but amidst all of that was a quieter but consistent accusation that the Dolphins are the latest team to employ the strategy of tanking for higher picks to sell a rebuilding narrative.

But is that really fair to say?

Obviously this trade makes the 2019 Dolphins worse, and there's no denying that. But they're also getting back a really, really big return. We're not talking about selling off anything that's not nailed down for parts here: Miami dumped an above average left tackle who might be really good going forward and a receiver who is best suited to be a complementary number two receiver for a higher return that Odell Beckham Jr. or Khalil Mack returned. That's awfully darn close to being an offer that you just can't refuse.

And it's not as though the Dolphins blew up a borderline contender who might have done something interesting if things gelled for them this season, at best they looked like a 7-8 win team that wouldn't seriously contend for a wild card spot, let alone a deep postseason run. And while Tunsil and Stills are good players, they're not the kind of guys who make the difference in 3-5 total wins: If the Dolphins wind up going 2-14 or 3-13 having Tunsil and Stills (and Kiko Alonso, who was traded to the Saints) wouldn't push them to 8-8, let alone 10-6.

In short, this was a good value move by a Dolphins team that didn't look a gift horse in the form of a flailing Houston management team in the mouth when they were offered an unbelievably good swap. That it makes a mediocre at best 2019 team worse in exchange for drastically improving the teams outlook in 2020 and beyond is an unfortunate byproduct, but it's not something that can be ignored.

Every team can't have a winning record at the end of the season, and teams that aren't good have to do things to get better down the road, and that often means pushing current value to the future. It's just the way it is.

But the "tanking" question is one that just won't go away now.

I suppose that's not surprising given that the Houston Astros have won a championship and the Browns and 76'ers both look like good teams set up to be good for a while after all of them openly acknowledged completely punting multiple seasons in the name of a long term rebuild, but it needs some perspective already. A team that might be one or two moves from being a postseason contender instead deciding to ship out players for whatever they can get to save money, I mean, rebuild is tanking.

A team that's just bad recognizing that it will take more than a season to turn things around is not tanking in any meaningful sense of the term.

But where do the Dolphins fit into that spectrum? Again, I don't think they were going to seriously make a run for a playoff spot, but I don't think they necessarily looked terrible either. Maybe with a couple of bounces or if second year quarterback Josh Rosen had a serious breakout campaign, they would have gone on a contending run so perhaps they do belong in the group of teams I would consider "tankers."

But to my mind what tips the scale is the sheer amount of value they got in return. Whether it looks like tanking or not, it's just hard for me to say that any team should turn down a trade when another team wants to offer them more in draft capital than the players in question are really worth. That's the kind of opportunity that, if you do well making those selections on draft day, can become the foundation for a decade worth of success.

But it's clear that this is a difficult distinction to draw, and the fact that appears to be quite lopsided in Miami's favor almost immediately brought up the "tanking" conversation is proof that today's professional sports have a problem of perception on the issue. And the paradox is that if the Dolphins reap a windfall with those picks or if the Browns become playoff contenders it will only make the tanking accusations louder with the appearance that the strategy can actually work.

The NFL and NBA don't necessarily have the problem that LB has with teams that could be good pre-emptively deciding not to even try in order to save money, but the settling narrative that teams all over the place are deliberately trying to maximize losses is not a dynamic that can go on forever without hurting the professional sports industry as a whole forever.

At some point someone will need to actually take action to make this a non-viable strategy even in theory, and the best idea put forward so far is to reform draft rules such that the top pick doesn't go to the team with the most losses.

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Tuesday
September 3
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#1835



ten very bold nfl predictions


We might as well start off Opening Week 2019 with some bold -- make that, very bold-- predictions for the upcoming NFL season.

In tomorrow's edition, we'll get to the NFC and how we see that shaping up. Thursday we'll have the AFC. And on Friday, we'll tell you who is going to play in the Super Bowl.

Those are just plain old "regular" predictions. Today, we go into the "very bold" category and give you ten things that will happen that you might not otherwise believe as we head into another NFL season. But these aren't quacky, crazy prognostications. These are things that really might happen. In fact, our guess is several of them will, in fact, occur in 2019.

And away we go...

1. The Browns will still wind up being the Browns -- Cleveland might very well go 5-11, lay an egg, and not be the Dream Team everyone believes they might be this season. Reason? I'm not a big believer in first year head coaches. Mix that in with a first year head coach who is inheriting a wild card combo of Baker and OBJ and you have the recipe for a blow-up-in-your-face kind of campaign, where nothing goes Cleveland's way ---- again. The hype train has been heavy on the Browns all summer. I have a weird feeling it's going to derail. Watch and see.

2. Kyler Murray is going to stink it up in Arizona -- This one might not even classify as "very bold". But since he's the #1 pick and all, much is expected of him. The Cardinals are going to be terrible. And Murray might be, too. In fact, I think there's a better chance that he stinks than he turns in a solid rookie season. Wait until he gets to Baltimore on September 15 and that Ravens Stadium crowd swallows him whole on Arizona's first offensive series. He won't know what to do.

3. Dallas will be a circus by mid-season -- Dak's dreams of a big contract are going to stiffen him up. 'Zeke will get his deal, then fail to live up to it through mid-season, and the national media will be on him 24-7. Jason Garrett is still the coach. Jerry Jones is still the whatever-he-is. And the Cowboys will bottom out in 2019 and do a face plant for the ages. If nothing else, the weekly media criticism will be fun to follow.

4. Oakland will make Dallas look like amateur night -- If you think the Cowboys' meltdown will be graphic, wait until you see what happens to Jon Gruden, Antonio Brown and the rest of those imposters out in Oakland. At least Dallas might wait until mid-season before they collapse. Oakland will be falling apart by mid-October. At the helm of it all, of course, will be the league's #1 headache, Antonio Brown. His shoes won't fit, his helmet will be too tight, the league-provided sports drink will have too much sugar in it. Excuses, excuses, excuses. And then when there's a game where he only gets the ball thrown his way five times......you know what's coming next. Blow-up-city.

Mark it down: Justin Tucker goes through a three-game slump in 2019.

5. Tampa Bay will be really good for half the season -- One team always fires on all cylinders in the first half and then shatters in the final eight games. Last year it was Carolina. This season, that team might be Tampa Bay, where Bruce Arians will have them playing hard and fast in September and October and they'll be 6-2 at the halfway point and be one of the league's more talked about teams. But reality will set in and things will fall back to normal for the final half of the campaign. In general, though, watch out for Tampa Bay. They're going to be better than you think.

6. The Ravens are going to the Super Bowl -- This one would require the Patriots to halfway fall apart, of course, which is likely not going to happen, but the Ravens have a very interesting combination of offense and defense that could make them a tough out in January. The three big ifs: "If" Lamar Jackson has a good year and doesn't turn the ball over a lot. "If" the wide receiving group becomes dependable and capable of the big play. "If" the defense can hold up its end of the bargain in the big games against Cleveland (2), Pittsburgh (2), New England, KC and the Rams. If those three elements turn in favor of John Harbaugh's team, you might want to start saving your money for a February road trip.

7. An in-season betting scandal rocks the NFL -- If you watched the Stanford-Northwestern game over the weekend, you're already nodding your head "yes" on this one. Northwestern was +6.5, trailing Stanford, 10-7, with a half-minute left in the game. Northwestern had the ball on their own ten yard line, needing a 90-yard miracle to produce a stunning road win. On the game's final (or next to last) play, the Northwestern QB got the ball knocked out of his hand and Stanford recovered it in the end zone for a "meaningless" touchdown. Unless, of course, you had Northwestern +6.5 or Stanford -6.5. That's college, I know, but it leads me to point #7. At some point this coming season, the NFL will be rocked with some sort of betting scandal. (Very bold predictions here, remember). I have no idea who, what, or where, but it will be something unlike the NFL has seen before in season. Remember where you heard it first. (And, no, I didn't have Northwestern +6.5).

8. Justin Tucker goes through the worst "slump" of his career -- This one classifies as very, very bold. Could the NFL's all-time best kicker suddenly lose it? Yep. Tucker will have a three game stretch where he, A) Misses an extra point, B) Misses a game-tying 43-yard field goal attempt the following week in Los Angeles and C) Goes 0-for-2 the next week and misses another extra point. Fortunately, the Ravens win two of those three games anyway, so all is not lost.

9. The Colts enter the month of December with zero wins -- It's going to be a disaster in Indy this year. But perhaps no one is thinking it might be "0-16 disaster". It could be, though. The Colts enter December without a win as Jacoby Brissett and that Indy offense become a league laughingstock. I guess you can say, "They simply don't have any Luck." (I'm here all week, folks...).

10. It's the Redskins and Steelers in the Super Bowl -- Talk about Baltimore's worst nightmare. Holy canoli. The Redskins and Steelers meet in the Super Bowl and only 0.7% of the TV's in Baltimore wind up watching the game. Yikes. Please, please, please don't let this be the one "very" bold prediction to come true. Please no...

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can you predict a NFL winner each week?


OK, so it's time for a #DMD contest that will give everyone a chance to show their predicting prowess. And it doesn't involve the point spread, thankfully.

All you have to do is pick a winner each week.

But here's the deal. And the fun of it.

When will you go with Drew Brees and the Saints in 2019? At home? Or on the road?

You have to do it before the season starts.

That's right. You have to go through the season and pick ONE winner in each week of the season. Rules? We have three of them.

Rule #1 -- You can't pick the same team more than twice.

Rule #2 -- You have to pick three road teams.

Rule #3 -- You have to pick the Ravens twice.

That's it.

We have a significant prize for the winner (announced later this week) and runner-ups. You have until this Sunday, September 8 at 12 noon to get your picks in (but you can't use this Thursday night's game unless you submit your picks before Thursday at 8:00 pm.

Here's how you get in the game.

Go to NFL.com and surf through the week-by-week schedule, picking ONE winner from all 17 weeks. Keep in mind you have to pick a road team three times and you must pick the Ravens twice, but only twice. You can't choose any team more than two times.

Send your entry to: dmdscore@gmail.com

And please make it look like this so it's easy for us track.

Week 1 -- Steelers (road)

Week 2 -- Ravens

Week 3 -- Chargers

Week 4 -- Vikings (road)

I have no idea if the Vikings are on the road in week four...that's just an example of how we'd like you to note the (road) team.

List all games just like that. Weeks 1 through 17.

Be sure and include your name (in case the email address doesn't match up) so we can put your name up in bright lights every Wednesday during the season when we update the Top 5 leaderboard.

Scoring goes like this: You get one point for every correct prediction and two bonus points for every correct road prediction. And, yes, you can predict as many road winners as you want throughout the season, but you MUST choose at least three road teams during the 17 weeks.

Get your entries in today. One entry per person. If you enter more than once and our entry-police catch you, you're out of the contest and will be shamed publicly here at #DMD.

Not that my picks matter, since I'm ineligible for the grand prize (which, by the way, any Ravens fan would love to win -- hint, hint), but I'll post my 18 weeks of picks tomorrow.

Have fun. Think hard. Play smart.

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner

u.s. men's soccer roster update


The USMNT will return to action with two friendly matches in September. They have a rematch with Mexico this Friday, September 6 and follow that up with Uruguay on September 10. These two strong opponents should be a good warm up for the next meaningful games in the CONCACAF Nations League this fall.

The team will use these matches to build on their Gold Cup performance while integrating a few new faces who could be key pieces for the future. Below is a review the 26 man roster that Gregg Berhalter has called in. All players are shown with their club team, Messi Index Rating and age in parentheses.

A couple of notes before going through the roster. Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, 39.74, 20), Deandre Yedlin (Newcastle, 40.67, 26), Matt Miazga (Reading, 31.23, 24), and Tim Weah (Lille, 33.41, 19) are not available due to injuries. A few USMNT regulars such as Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Paul Arriola were likely left off the roster because their MLS teams have important games during the international window.

Goalkeepers --

Former University of Maryland netminder Zack Steffen is now the goalkeeper of record for the U.S. men's national team as they begin preparing to qualify for World Cup 2022.

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf, 34.87, 24), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United, 33.93, 34), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas, 30.93, 24), Sean Johnson (NYCFC, 30.89, 30)

Zack Steffen has locked down the starting USMNT GK job and has begun his Bundesliga season with two strong outings for his new club. Brad Guzan is having a good season for the defending MLS champion, Atlanta United, and provides a veteran presence. The notable omission from this group is Ethan Horvath (Brugge, 37.16, 24), who showed well in the Belgian league and Champions league last season but has been second choice at Brugge this season after they bought Simon Mignolet from Liverpool.

Defenders

Centerbacks: John Brooks (Wolfsburg, 43.53, 26), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United, 33.50, 22), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC, 31.67, 26), Tim Ream (Fulham, 31.55, 31), Aaron Long (NY Red Bulls, 28.94, 26)

Fullbacks: Sergino Dest (Ajax, 32.83, 18), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal, 30.19, 28), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas, 28.92, 21), Nick Lima (SJ Earthquakes, 27.64, 24)

John Brooks missed out on the Gold Cup with an injury but remains the first choice CB. Miles Robinson has earned his first call up by turning in one of the best CB performances in MLS this season for Atlanta United.

Another youngster who has forced his way onto the team is RB Sergino Dest. He has impressed early this season, making his debut for Ajax in both the Champions League and Dutch league at just 18 years old. I would have preferred to see Ryan Hollingshead (FC Dallas, 32.78, 28) get a chance with this team. He is a veteran MLS fullback who has been a standout performer at LB this summer. He could have replaced Nick Lima who has been pushed to LB for his club and not performed as well.

Midfielders

Weston McKennie (Schalke, 47.32, 20), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf, 35.06, 29), Christian Roldan (Seattle, 32.25, 24), Wil Trapp (Columbus, 31.09, 26), Jackson Yueill (SJ Earthquakes, 30.94, 22), Sebastian Lletget(LA Galaxy, 29.65, 26), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas, 28.80, 19)

Weston McKennie is off to a good start for Schalke and is a lock starter in central midfield. Berhalter could experiment playing him at the defensive mid position with both Bradley and Adams missing. Two new faces earning their first call ups are Paxton Pomykal and Jackson Yueill. Pomykal has been one of the best Americans in MLS this season and can provide both creativity and defensive bite in midfield. Yueill is a tireless worker who has been the midfield engine for a resurgent SJ Earthquake team. Sebastian Lletget missed out on the Gold Cup due to a late injury and will now get a chance to prove he belongs. Alfredo Morales is an interesting name here. He has been a forgotten man in the USMNT for the past several years, but has been a consistent performer for his club in Germany. Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United, 32.99, 29) is a notable omission. He is having one of the best seasons of his career, however, the rumors are that Berhalter wanted to call him in but Nagbe turned down the offer to focus on his club career.

Attackers

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, 60.33, 20), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus, 32.47, 27), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas, 30.68, 24), Jordan Morris (Seattle, 30.54, 24), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen, 19, 30.31), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake, 23, 28.47)

Christian Pulisic is off to a solid start in his EPL career for Chelsea, picking up an assist this past weekend. It is interesting to note that he has been listed as a “Forward” in this roster. With all the midfield options he might be best utilized on the LW, interchanging in attack with an attacking mid like Pomykal or Lletget instead of the CM position at which he played during the Gold Cup. It is nice to see Josh Sargent (30.24, 19) get the call after missing out on the Gold Cup roster. This will provide a good opportunity to prove himself further as he fights for time at his club team this season. I don’t believe Gyasi Zardes and Corey Baird are talented enough to succeed at international level, but with several players unavailable the options were limited. It might have been a nice time to bring Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach, 33.92, 31) back into the team.

About the author: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area, graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. He is an avid sports watcher and recreational participant as well as a devoted Ravens, Orioles and US soccer supporter. Randy also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. He played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary is typically mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.

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Monday
September 2
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#1834



the end of summer...sort of


As is my custom here at #DMD, I turn things over (mostly) to David Rosenfeld today and take Labor Day "off". That, of course, means I don't really take the day off, since someone still has to organize the content and publish it, but it's one of the rarest of rare days where I don't make a written contribution to the site...other than this piddly entry to say "I'm not really writing today."

David, as always, will handle his duties just fine.

In the meantime, I realize today is the unofficial last day of summer in these parts. We'll still have 90 degree days at some point in September and perhaps even into October, so we're far from bundling up and cutting firewood, but the kids head back to school tomorrow and it will "feel" like summer is over.

It's football season! John Harbaugh's excited and so are we here at #DMD!

That, of course, means it's football season.

And we're looking forward to that here at #DMD.

We're going to be hosting a new contest this season, with details coming out tomorrow. For those who like picking the winners of games, you'll enjoy this one, I think. Be sure and check in on Tuesday for all the rules and how you enter every week.

We'll have Ravens-Dolphins coverage later this week. Our full AFC and NFC previews and predictions will also come later this week, where I tell you what's going to happen in the NFL over the next four months and you read it and say, "No chance that happens."

It gets football-heavy in these parts over the winter, as you can assume.

That's what happens when it's Labor Day and your baseball team is still stuck on 45 wins. The O's fell again to the hapless Royals yesterday, 6-4, in case you checked out back in late May. Losing to Kansas City this season leaves such an empty feeling. Now I suppose we all know what it's like to lose to the Orioles in 2019.

One quick sports note that I can't possibly ignore. Jalen Hurts, the former Alabama QB, recorded 6 TD's for Oklahoma yesterday in their 49-21 win over Houston. Something tells me the Sooners and Crimson Tide are going to wind up meeting in the college football playoff next January because...well...that's the kind of sense of humor the football gods have. There's a long way to go, of course, and one loss to the wrong team could derail either club, but I smell an epic "Transfer QB goes up against Nick Saban" deal in January.

Have a great Labor Day celebration and check back in tomorrow when we go head first into the 2019 NFL season!

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"The Keen Eye" of
David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


yesterday, today and tomorrow


This Week’s Subject: Tennis

Yesterday…

I can’t recall everything I might have done during my first two weeks of college. Mostly, I think I was trying to figure out how to live in a strange place, with a roommate, as an 18-year-old who was definitely a little late on the maturation scale.

There is one specific thing I do remember, however. When I wasn’t dealing with all that, I was out in the common area watching Jimmy Connors make a remarkable run in the 1991 U.S, Open.

Despite losing in the semifinals, Jimmy Connors' remarkable run at the 1991 U.S. Open was a huge boost for the sport of tennis.

Connors was 39, many years removed from his prime. He was ranked somewhere near #500 in the world, and was offered entry into the tournament only as a wildcard. In the first round, he was down two sets and losing 3-0 in the third against Patrick McEnroe. Surely, this would be the end of his long career.

Somehow, the determined Connors came from behind to defeat McEnroe in five sets. By the fourth round, he was hitting absurd shots on the way to fifth-set tiebreaker win against Aaron Krickstein. In the quarterfinals, he beat a guy named Paul Haarhuis. The match included one of the most ridiculous points in tennis history, as Connors chased down four overheads before hitting a backhand passing shot that sent the crowd and Connors into a frenzy.

Connors’ incredible run came at a time when tennis as a spectator and participant sport in the United States seemed more important than it does today. The golf “boom” led by you-know-who hadn’t hit yet; he was still playing in the U.S. Junior Amateur. American players were still near the top of the sport. Though Connors was almost 40 and John McEnroe was at the end of his useful career, they’d been replaced by Agassi, Sampras and Courier, who would demolish Connors in the semifinals of that ’91 Open.

Tennis by that time had almost become what golf would become a decade or so later, as new equipment technology and conditioning had changed the game into a display of power groundstrokes. The Swedish serve-and-volleyer Stefan Edberg won that ’91 Open, and again the next year, but that was it for him. The game had moved on, but it was still a great time for the sport.

Today…

The American journalist and author David Owen is a contributing editor for Golf Digest. I once read a brief essay of his where he made an interesting observation about modern-day tennis and golf. It was the hottest day of the year in his home state of Connecticut, and as he drove by the local tennis club the courts were barren and the heat radiated off the cement. Meanwhile, he pulled up to his little nine-hole country club and there was a line of people waiting to tee off. Heatstroke be damned.

There are a few reasons for that, I suppose. Tennis played with any skill at all is aerobic exercise in ways that golf is not, and exerting yourself in that way on a 100-degree day isn’t easy for anyone. Owen even mentioned in his essay that none other than Jack Nicklaus once said that tennis is a “better” sport than golf, by which he could only have meant that tennis is better exercise.

Still, Owen makes an important point. These days, golf nuts are willing to go out there no matter the situation. While in the office, they dream all week about their Saturday morning golf game. They obsessively check the weather all week. Do tennis players do any of that? Not really, at least not these days.

Much has been made about the decline in golf participation since the “boom” ended, but it hasn’t translated into an uptick in tennis interest and participation. With the proliferation of public facilities, tennis is certainly a cheaper alternative, and you can buy two decent rackets for a quarter of the price of a nice set of irons.

There may be several reasons for that, but I wonder if the lack of great American tennis players in this generation has something to do with it. The great Williams sisters, especially Serena, were dominant, but they were so powerful that no other Americans could make much headway. Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open and reached the No. 1 ranking in the world, but retired nine years later with no other majors.

The top-ranked American player in the current ATP rankings on the men’s side is John Isner, who’s reached a grand total of one Grand Slam semifinal in 12 years as a pro.

Tomorrow…

American tennis, then, has been in a constant search for the next big thing. It’s quite stunning, really, considering the landscape 25 years ago, back when tennis was still on the minds of the more casual fan and player.

On the women’s side, besides Serena, there are two younger players in the current Top 10…Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens. The two met in the final of the 2017 U.S. Open, won by Stephens, but that’s still the only Grand Slam title either has won. They are highly successful players, but their success probably hasn’t translated into them being recognized walking down the street.

On the men’s side, a trio of players from Serbia, Spain and Switzerland have spent the past 15 years cementing themselves as the greatest winners of all-time. Even if there had been an American player better than Roddick over that time, he still likely would have found himself well behind Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

As far as interest in playing the game on a recreational and competitive basis, perhaps an American player like a Sampras or Agassi could create more buzz. Tennis is among the most global of games, behind only soccer perhaps, but unlike soccer it’s lost its mojo considerably here. I don’t think John Isner has done any “image is everything” commercials for Canon.

It’s a shame, because tennis has a lot of similarities to golf; it’s no surprise that, a few years after his competitive tennis career was over, Ivan Lendl had himself down to a scratch handicap. There are fundamentals of grip and posture, and aspects of weight shift, that are of equal importance in both games. Mental acuity is tantamount to success in either sport, as is being able to fight off internal demons when nobody else is on your team.

Besides that, like golf, tennis is a great sport to play as a hobby. In an era of specialization, where fewer kids play multiple sports, tennis has taken as big a hit as any sport, unless that happens to be the sport in which a kid specializes. As David Owen said, fewer people seem to be hitting the courts anymore for fun, as we did back in the days when Jimmy Connors and others became as famous as any athletes.

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Sunday
September 1
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#1833



the best of the best


Last week when I was in North Carolina, Eric Sommers sent me an email and asked me to settle a friendly wager with a neighbor of his.

"Who was better?" Eric asked. "Preki or Tatu?"

For those who don't know, those two were prominent indoor soccer players in the hey day of the MISL. Tatu was a league MVP with the Dallas Sidekicks, while Preki won the same award with the Tacoma Stars. Preki would go on to have a very good U.S. National Team career and played for an extended period of time with Everton in the English Premier League.

"Preki was the more skilled of the two," I replied to Eric. "But Tatu was a better indoor player, in my opinion. So, if you're asking me who was better in the MISL, I'd say it was Tatu."

I didn't hear back from Eric until a few days later. "Thanks," he wrote. "You cost me a bottle of Grey Goose."

He then went on to ask me to one day publish my all-time All-MISL team without any Blast players attached. I guess he realizes it would harder for me to do if I had to consider the likes of Stamkenovic, Stankovic, Manning and Savage.

With a lethal left foot and ball handling skills from another world, Preki was an All-Decade Team selection in the MISL and later played for the U.S. National Team.

So Eric, this is for you. (I feel a little like Casey Kasem doing one of those long distance dedications...)

For the All-MISL team that I'm composing, I'll list two goalkeepers, four defenders and six offensive players. That's a nice neat 12-man team.

There's only one issue, though. One of the players I'm going to list did, in fact, play for the Blast. But he only played one season with us in Baltimore and I figured Eric would be OK with an asterisk next to his name. He was only sorta-kinda a Blast player.

Goalkeepers --

Victor Nogueira -- He was the best of the best, playing originally in Chicago and then moving on to the San Diego Sockers. At his zenith, circa 1988, he was sooooo good it was crazy. Nogueira had this weird style. It was almost careless. He'd rarely ever catch the ball or use tried and true goalkeeping techniques to stop a shot. He'd bat it down with his arm, stick his elbow out, use his feet, etc. He reminded me of a golfer with a funky swing who not only got the job done, but was actually really tough to beat swinging the club "his way". Nogueira was the best indoor soccer goalkeeper I ever saw. Period.

Zoltan Toth -- Toth originally played for the New York Arrows, then signed in San Diego, where he was part of their 1980's championship run. Toth was a great shot stopper. His positioning was nearly impeccable. Of all the other goalkeepers besides Nogueira, he's the biggest "winner" of them all.

Defenders --

Kim Roentved -- One of the best all around players in MISL history. Tough as nails. Very solid defensively and able to contribute offensively every night.

Kevin Crow -- There was a time when I thought he was overrated, then I got to see him more up close and personal in the Blast vs. Sockers playoff encounters and I saw firsthand how good he was. Didn't contribute much offensively, but was a standout defensive player.

Tony Bellinger -- Was a great player for the St. Louis Steamers in the early 1980's. Was always one of the best man-to-man markers in the league.

Fernando Clavijo -- Talk about winners. He was part of the early dynasty in New York (Arrows) and then went to San Diego and helped the Sockers win a handful of titles. He could do it all. Equally dangerous at both ends of the field. One of my favorite non-Blast players of all time.

Forwards --

Kai Haaskivi -- This is the one with the asterisk, because he played one season with the Blast in 1988-89. Haaskivi was a remarkable indoor player, with incredible field vision, a deft touch and the ability to hit the ball with either foot. He was a classic midfielder, in that he would come back to get the ball and start the play from his own end of the field.

Tatu -- His run from 1986 through 1990 was as good as any player had in the league, ever. If the ball was loose in the box, he was going to score 9 out of 10 times. His finishing was amazing, his nose for the goal was uncanny, and his will to win was unmatched. What a player he was.

Steve Zungul -- The best. Ever. When it came to scoring goals, no one could do it like this guy. He was also adept at passing and collecting assists, as well, but he made his name by putting the ball in the back of the net. He was Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan rolled into one.

Preki -- Other than Stamenkovic, there was no one better on the ball in the history of the league than Preki. The only small knock on him was his lack of interest in playing defense. But with his offensive skillset, that minor flaw was always overlooked. Just an incredibly talented player.

Branko Segota -- If he wouldn't have been so injury prone, Segota might have been the league's all-time best player. Even still, he's one anyone's Top 10 list of field players. Just a great finisher and a bull in the box, where he would do most of his damage.

Hector Marinaro -- Marinaro was probably more of a star in the early days of the NPSL (1990's), but his indoor career picked up steam in the mid 1980's in Minnesota and later, Cleveland. He was one of the top five "finishers" in indoor soccer history. Give him an inch and a ball at his feet and he could put it anywhere on goal...and most times, in the goal.

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week one becomes "automatic win" for ravens


Give the Dolphins credit. They already know they're going to be terrible, so they're not wasting any time preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Yesterday they dealt their best offensive lineman (Laremy Tunsil) and wide receiver (Kenny Stills) to the Texans in exchange for a wheelbarrow full of draft picks. The Ravens will see those two later in the season when Houston comes to town, but they won't be seeing them in Miami next Sunday when the 2019 season kicks off.

John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson will look to extend Baltimore's record in Miami since 2008 to 5-1 next Sunday in the season opener.

Not that the Ravens were expected to go down there and lose even with Tunsil and Stills on the Miami roster, but now it's one of those scary "automatic wins" that you see in the NFL from time to time. The Dolphins will be fortunate to win 4 games in 2019. You'd hate to be one of the teams that helps them get to that "4" number.

The Ravens have been very successful in Miami during the John Harbaugh era, going 4-1, including a playoff win in January of 2009.

It better be 5-1 after next Sunday.

Miami is going to stink in 2019. No two ways about it. And this is one of the four or five road wins the Ravens are going to need to help them secure the AFC North crown. 6-2 at home, 5-3 on the road...and there you have it: 11-5.

But these kind of games are dangerous, too, because you know going in you just have to play your game and don't do anything dumb like turn the ball over three or four times. And, because it's a road game, the score becomes irrelevant. 14-13? That's fine. I mean, if it's 31-13, which I think it will be, that's all well and good, too. But if you kick a last second field goal and win by a point or two, that's OK.

"Win the games you're supposed to win" is a familiar NFL refrain. But it's true. There are certain games you "hope" to win and certain games you "expect" to win. This game in Miami is most certainly one the Ravens "expect" to win. Miami is a lousy team. If the Ravens are any good, they'll go down there and get the job done.

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