Week 6

Sunday — October 15, 2017
Volume XXXIX — Issue 15

Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium

Spread: Ravens -6½

There's a saying in football, or a couple of them, actually, that perfectly sum up today's game in Baltimore between the Ravens and Chicago Bears.

Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky makes his first road-start today in Baltimore.

"Win the home games, split on the road . . . ."

Or, alternatively:

"Beat the teams you're supposed to beat . . . ."

Both apply today in Charm City.

The Bears are in town. They stink.

It's one thing to go to London, go through the motions, give up at halftime, and get tomahawked 44 - 7. "S**t happens," as the bumper sticker reads.

You can even rationalize losing at home to Pittsburgh the following week, having traveled back from the U.K. six days earlier and being woefully out of sync offensively. And the Steelers aren't chopped liver, either.

Today, though?

Other than a serious injury to Joe Flacco on the first series or two of the game, there is no excuse whatsoever for losing to the Chicago Bears. Especially at home.

None of the tried-and-true sports axioms hold up today.

"On any given Sunday . . . . "

Nope, not today. Not on this Sunday. These Bears are no good. Losing to them in our own building would be a travesty.

"The other team tries, too."

Yep, they do. That's true. But Chicago can try all they want. They're not beating the Ravens today.

Or, I guess we should say, "They better not beat the Ravens today . . . ."

This game might be a toss-up kind of affair in Chicago, if only because the Ravens are always capable of laying a road egg, as are most NFL teams.

But at home? They're not losing to a team that stinks like the Bears stink.

It's time for the Ravens to "get fat" a little bit, as their schedule greatly softens over the next couple of weeks.

I said at the beginning of the season that I thought the Ravens had a less-than-scary regular season schedule.

They have a lot of lay-ups between here and the end of December.

Chicago — lay up.

Houston — lay up.

Indianapolis — lay up.

Miami — lay up.

Cleveland — free throw.

That's eight wins right there.

Scrape together a couple of more against the likes of Minnesota, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and – BOOM! – you're in the playoffs.

But you have to win the lay-up games. You know, "win the ones you're supposed to win."

Like this one against the Bears today . . . .

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keys to today's game

For The Ravens

1. No turnovers — One of the only ways the Ravens can get in trouble today is if the Bears steal a page from Jacksonville's playbook a week ago in Pittsburgh and take advantage of several turnovers to offset that dismal offense. It's important for Joe Flacco and the offense to keep their sheet clean and not turn the ball over. The Bears cannot win the game without creating turnovers. Period.

2. Get ahead early — It's always good to jump out to a lead, of course, but when you're dealing with a rookie QB who will be making his first ever road start in the NFL, you want to put him under the gun right away. As they did last week in Oakland, the Ravens need to jump out early today and put the Bears on their heels. Do not let a bad team hang around.

3. Get to Trubisky early and often — While the Ravens aren't sporting that fierce defense circa 2000 anymore, they can still get after the quarterback when the scheme is right. Today's goal: Make life miserable for rookie QB Mitch Trubisky. An early sack or two, a fumble or a pick, and he'll be on his way to having one of those miserable afternoons that all rookies seem to have at the outset of their career.

Fer Da Bears

1. Control the clock — For the Bears to have a prayer today, they need to shorten the game. Shortening the game would limit the Ravens offense to somewhere around 13 or 14 possessions, which would be ideal. But if Chicago starts going 3-and-out every other series, the Ravens are likely to have the ball more like 16 or 17 times. And that's where Chicago will get in trouble. This all means to say: Chicago needs to run the ball well today to have a chance of winning.

2. Keep Trubisky upright — The rookie showed some flashes of excellence in the Monday-night loss to Minnesota. He can make NFL throws, for sure. The Bears need to keep him upright and safe today. If they can do that, he'll have time to throw and make some plays. If the Chicago offensive line lets him down and Trubisky has to run for his life, the visitors are in trouble.

3. Go at Lardarius Webb — That's simple and direct, right? If I'm the Bears, I target the guy who is matched up with Webb on any pass play. Webb's coverage skills are gone, he's a penalty flag waiting to happen, and he can no longer tackle. In his defense, if you throw at him 10 or 12 times in a game, he's liable to pick one of them off, but the more you throw in Webb's direction, the better chance of success you have over the course of 60 minutes.

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how drew sees today's game

One of the quarterbacks in today's game will have a big afternoon.

It won't be Mitch Trubisky.

Joe Flacco and the Baltimore passing game will feast on Chicago today. Expect Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin to both haul in touchdown catches.

Flacco will have over 300 yards passing on the afternoon, with the obligatory interception he tends to throw every game now.

The Ravens running game will churn out 120 yards of offense as well.

This won't be close from outset, as the Ravens lead 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 24-7 at the half.

Chicago will cut it to 24-14 early in the second half before Baltimore sews it up with TDs in the third and fourth quarters in a 38-20 win that sends the Ravens to 4-2 on the season.

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show me the money

An 0-5 record last Sunday has me going to the coin-flip method awfully early in the 2017 campaign.

I did it for two weeks last season, but that was in November or so. It's probably a tad too early to resign myself to using "luck", but the way I see it, I can't possibly do worse than 0-5 today by flipping a coin for my five selections.

So, let me pull a random coin from my pocket and get to work.

     Packers (-3) at Vikings — Heads it's Green Bay, tails it's Minnesota. Before I flip, let me say I like this game and would choose the Packers every time if, in fact, I had that option today. That said, the number (-3) is a little odd. They're dying for you to take the Packers. And . . . it's HEADS! So, we take Green Bay and lay the trey.

Lions at Saints (-4) — Heads it's the Lions, tails it's the Saints. I'm not sure what to expect in this one. Detroit is kind of banged up. The Saints aren't any good. I like the Saints to win by a field goal, so I guess I'd be taking Detroit under real circumstances. And . . . it's TAILS! We're going with the Saints in this one and giving away four points to the Lions.

Patriots (-9) at Jets — Heads it's New England, tails the Jets. Who knows about this one? Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were both limited in practice this week. If Brady isn't 100%, New England might not be able to beat Ohio State, let alone the Jets. I'm assuming, though, that the defending champs will have all hands on deck for this one and my guess is they wind up winning by ten. But to the coin we go. And . . . it's TAILS again! So, we're taking the Jets and those nine points at home against the Patriots.

49ers at Redskins (-10½) — Heads it's San Fran, tails D.C. I love, love, love the Redskins here. Mostly because I feel like after several weeks of competing well — and hard — the 49ers are due to lay an egg, on the road, on the East Coast. And . . . it's HEADS. Shucks. Oh well, the coin has landed and I'll go with it. We'll take the 49ers and the 10½ points in Washington.

Rams at Jaguars (-2½) — Heads it's L.A., tails Jacksonville. This might actually be a game worth watching. Who would have thought that back in early September? I like the Jags here. Back home, coming off that big win over Pittsburgh, and facing a Rams team coming east. And . . . it's TAILS. We're taking the Jaguars and giving up 2½ points to the Rams.

Best Bet of the Day — This one's on me. I'll take the Packers (-3) over the Vikings as today's Best Bet.


9 - 16


0 - 5


3 - 2

October 14
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give us big ben -- we both said

Well, that was a landslide win for Ben Roethlisberger.

In our #DMD reader's poll from Friday's edition, Roethlisberger was the overwhelming choice for the arch-rival you would have most liked to see play for a Baltimore team.

Great minds think alike, I suppose.

I also selected Roethlisberger from the list of five, although I didn't reveal my selection until this morning.

Big Ben collected 41% of the votes, followed by his former teammate and chief antagonist Hines Ward (25%) and then ex-Red Sox slugger David Ortiz (22%). Both Mark Teixeira and Jose Bautista collected 6% of the votes.

It's been difficult over the years to fully appreciate Roethlisberger's work -- in Baltimore, at least -- because of the two obvious facts connected to him: He plays for the Steelers and he beat up on the Ravens a lot over the years.

But I've always been able to separate not "rooting" for a guy and "respecting" his play. I've always considered Roethlisberger to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Probably the best compliment I could given him at his prime was the term "warrior". That's what he was back then. He was tough as nails.

Yes, of course, he's a drama queen. You don't even sound like a Steelers hater and you can say that.

But don't confuse his penchant for drama with his toughness. He has taken a massive beating over the years, but he's still out there now, even, giving it his all.

In his prime, Roethlisberger was so much better than any QB we had in Baltimore that the jealousy was almost overflowing out of our ears in Charm City.

We had Kyle Boller, they had Big Ben. Advantage: Steelers.

We had Anthony Wright, they had Big Ben. Advantage: Steelers.

We had Steve McNair, they had Big Ben. Advantage: Steelers.

It wasn't until Joe Flacco arrived in 2008 that the playing field started to even out a bit, quarterback wise.

Flacco, of course, would ultimately love to duplicate the career of Ben, who has a pair of Super Bowl rings and three trips to the title game since entering the league in 2003.

Roethlisberger's headed to the Hall of Fame someday. Flacco is a candidate for the Ravens Ring of Honor.

I liked Ben's moxie so much in his prime that there were times I thought I might want him on my team before I'd take Peyton Manning. That's how much respect I had (have) for the former Miami of Ohio signal caller.

Sure, Manning had far better "technical" skills than did Roethlisberger, but Ben was a "winner". There for a while, it sure kind of looked like Manning might be a "loser".

Quarterbacking isn't just about throwing the ball downfield. Your guy needs to have heart and grit and a little bit of a gunslinger in him -- Roethlisberger had those things in abundance circa 2008 when he was on top of his game.

I was always jealous whenever the Ravens faced the Steelers in those days. I guess that's what happens when your team uses Kyle Boller at quarterback. Anyone else you see creates jealousy.

My second choice would have been Ortiz.

He obviously took advantage of a bandbox ballpark in Boston, but can you imagine how many home runs the big guy would have busted into Boog's BBQ had he played in Baltimore?

Ultimately, though, my choice for the poll was quite easy.

Give me that quarterback from Pittsburgh. At his zenith, he was a winner.

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miaa soccer: st. joe picks up big win

It was a defensive battle in Irvington on Friday afternoon, in a MIAA A Conference soccer match between No. 7 Mount St. Joseph and No. 8 Loyola, and the host Gaels prevailed, 1-0, with the game’s only score coming on a penalty kick early in the second half.

St. Joe senior Ian Reger put the ball in the back of the net after his teammate Casey McCanna was fouled in the box. McKenna had an opening and was thundering toward the goal when he was grabbed by a Don, setting up the PK.

From there, the Gaels made Reger’s goal stand-up thanks to solid play from defenders Dmitri Jordan, Jordan Eharrt, and Brett St.Martin, and goalie Ashton Carey.

“Loyola is a good team, and we had to stay together on defense to stop them from scoring,” said senior Brett St. Martin. “Ashton did a great job in the goal.”

St. Joe coach Mike St. Martin praised his defense.

“We had a lot of continuity on defense, which featured the play of Dmitri, Jordan and Brett, and a steady contribution from keeper Ashton Carey.”

Reger, the goal scorer, praised McCanna for his work in creating the game-winning opportunity.

The Gaels (11-4-1 overall) improved to 10-3-1 in the league and have clinched no worse than third-place in the conference standings. With two games left, Wednesday at Calvert Hall and next Friday at home against McDonogh, the Gaels do still have an opportunity to climb one spot higher as they trail second place McDonogh by just two points and first place Curley by five points. Most likely, the Gaels will need to win out and then get some help.

Loyola (9-6 overall) is now an even 6-6 in the conference, with four games left. Currently in fifth place, one point behind Calvert Hall, the Dons have four winnable games remaining, as they host St. Paul’s and travel to Archbishop Spalding next week, before closing with games with Gilman and John Carroll.

Elsewhere in the league on Friday, Calvert Hall (8-7, 6-7-1) and Gilman (6-8-1, 4-7-1) played to a 2-2 draw and No. 1 Curley defeated John Carroll (4-11-1, 4-10), 8-1. In addition, No. 2 McDonogh (15-2) defeated No. 13 Bel Air, 3-1, in a non-conference contest, as Casey Settleman scored all three Eagle goals.

Curley, which plays a non-conference game on Saturday against New Jersey’s St. Augustine Prep in a Philadelphia at Villanova University, will travel to McDonogh on Wednesday for a contest that should determined the top seed for the playoffs. The Friars also have league games remaining against Gilman and Calvert Hall. After the Curley game, McDonogh will close the regular season with trips to St. Joe and Spalding.

Gilman and John Carroll will battle for the final playoff spot over the least week of the season. Gilman currently holds a one point lead over the Patriots in that race and the Greyhounds of four games left, compared to just two for John Carroll. Gilman host Spalding on Wednesday, before closing its schedule with road games at Curley, Loyola and St. Paul’s.

John Carroll will visit St. Paul’s next Thursday, host No. 4 C. Milton Wright in a non-league contest, next Saturday, and close at home against Loyola on Oct. 25.

This contribution for #DMD originally appeared in the October 13 edition of Varsity Sports Network, the area's leader in high school athletics coverage. For extensive coverage of all Fall sports in the state of Maryland, visit www.varsitysportsnetwork.com.

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join me for a great day of golf on nov. 13

The great Ben Hogan once said "putting should only count for a half-stroke."

I'm excited to announce that on November 13, I'll be playing in a golf outing where NO ONE WILL PUTT!!

At least not until we get to the post-event putting contest, anyway.

On November 13, I'll be playing in the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Flag Tournament" at Eagle's Nest Country Club. The video below will briefly explain the details of the event, but it's pretty easy to sum up right here: You and your playing partner are trying to hit your ball within the length of the flag on every hole. That's it.

This gives you the chance to literally go "flag hunting" on every shot! If you don't hit it within the flag, pick up your ball and move to the next hole.

I love it!

You'll play three rounds of golf that day. Yes, THREE rounds of golf. There are great prizes -- including a trip for two to the 2018 Masters -- and loads of give-aways, freebies and food and drink.

The goal for the day is to raise money for Maryland's FCA chapter and help them continue to run their amazing sports and faith-based programs here in the state of Maryland.

My friend Brian Hubbard of Kelly Payroll is running the event, so it's guaranteed to be a first-class day all the way around!

I'd love for you to join me, either by bringing your own two-person team and competing against me and the others or by simply sponsoring me and my team as we try to play three rounds of golf in one day and shoot the best score.

You can support my personal efforts by going here. I'm trying to raise $1,500 for Maryland FCA (note: I'm not eligible for any prizes or awards).

If you'd like to register to play, simply watch the video below for details or just go here.

Oh, one more thing. The first team to register today and e-mail me (drew@drewsmorningdish.com) will play in my foursome with my partner and I.

I hope you can make it on November 13th. It's going to be a great day of golf, fun and fellowship.

Here's the video that explains what you need to know about the "Flag Tournament".


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October 13
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issue 13
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if you had to take one of our arch rivals, who would it be?

I thought of this on Wednesday night when I was watching the Yankees-Indians playoff game.

I never really considered C.C. Sabathia an "arch rival" of the Orioles or the fans, since he became a free agent at a time when the Orioles weren't spending any real money on available players, so it's not like he ever really "dissed" us in Charm City.

But I wondered to myself as I watched him mow down the Indians -- "Would we have appreciated him here in Baltimore had things turned out differently and he wound up playing for the O's?"

And that leads me to a Friday water-cooler topic and a poll.

In his prime years, would you have taken David Ortiz in Baltimore?

I've come up with five of what I'd consider our most disliked opposing players of the last decade. You might think of others and you can add them to the comments section below, but for today's polling purposes, you'll see five names below:

David Ortiz

Ben Roethlisberger

Jose Bautista

Hines Ward

Mark Teixeira

So, before you answer the poll, let's set the ground rules. There's no "none of the above" option in the poll. If you elect to participate, you'll have to choose one of them, recognizing that you would be essentially adding them to either the Ravens or Orioles in the prime of their career.

All five of those guys definitely had "prime" years. Three of the five are sure-fire Hall of Fame considerations. Two -- Ortiz and Roethlisberger -- are Hall of Fame shoo-ins.

Hines Ward is going to receive HOF consideration in the coming years, but was NOT a finalist in 2016, his first year of eligibility. I'd say it's 60-40 in favor of Ward making it someday, but there's a chance he won't, too.

Jose Bautista and Mark Teixeira will not make the baseball Hall of Fame, but both were legitimate big-time players at their zenith(s).

Which one would you have wanted in Baltimore?

I don't see the need to go through each of them, since you know all about their careers and credentials.

But I will say this about each of the five. They were "different" in the way they were disliked in Baltimore.

Ortiz became a villain mainly because both he and the Red Sox were at the top of the mountain during the darkest days of Orioles baseball, 21st century. It was easy to dislike Ortiz. Real easy.

Roethlisberger has tormented the Ravens for 14 years now. I remember -- like it was yesterday -- briefly chatting with a top Ravens official after the playoff loss in Pittsburgh in 2011 (the 2010 season) and he said, with such sadness in his voice, "We just can't beat that kid at quarterback...he's too tough."

The Ravens have figured out a way to beat Roethlisberger, of course, but it's very fair to say he's gotten the best of the purple birds over the years, particularly in the games that mattered most.

Bautista, Ward and Teixeira were never "Baltimore beaters" the way Ortiz and Roethlisberger were/are. They each had success against the Ravens and/or Orioles, yes, but they were largely disliked because of their on-field attitude and, in Teixeira's case, thumbing his nose at the O's when he was a free agent a decade ago.

But now, in the poll below, you have to choose one and one only to play for the Ravens or the Orioles at their peak performance level.

Who are you taking?

I'll post the results tomorrow here at #DMD and tell you which of the five I would have taken.

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podcast: the best 34 minutes of the week breaks down u.s. soccer

Much like the Tuesday failure of the U.S. men's soccer team, the podcast below needs better quality.

You can blame that ----- on me. I was the man in charge of the controls when Dean Johnson and I sat down earlier this week to talk about the state of U.S. soccer...and I botched it.

But it's too good (or, at the very least, Dean's too good) for me to not let you hear it. You'll just have to deal with the obvious sound problems as the dopey guy with the controls (me) wasn't paying attention.

I know what you're thinking: I was channeling my inner Tim Howard with that poor performance of mine. I guess you could say that.

Anyway, you can find the podcast below. It's 42 minutes in length, but worth your time.

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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.

With the divisional series just about wrapped up and the Arizona Fall league beginning play (one of the leading reasons October is my favorite month), here's my own special baseball themed version of "This, That, and The Other" to get you ready for Friday the 13th.

I have no idea why any contending team continues to pay Dusty Baker to manage for them.

Not only is the guy infamous for blunder after blunder in his postseason career, at this point he's so far behind the curve in how the playoffs are approached its painful. What kills Baker isn't so much any one specific flaw, but rather that he simply doesn't act like the playoffs are any different from the regular season at all.

Another great example of that came on Monday when Baker set off the day long controversy over whether or not Stephen Strasburg would start Game 4.

Dusty Baker had no idea Stephen Strasburg was available for Game 4, which he won on Wednesday in Chicago to set up last night's fifth and decisive game in D.C.

There was a lot of conflicting information put out, and ultimately maybe the explanation was as simple as Strasburg was sick on Tuesday and felt better on Wednesday, but one thing that was established was that Baker had no idea Strasburg was even available!

Baker claimed that Strasburg threw a bullpen on Tuesday that would have set him up to pitch on Thursday in Game 5 and made him unavailable for Game 4. In fact pitching coach Mike Maddux had Strasburg throw the bullpen on Monday specifically so that he'd be able to pitch on Wednesday if Tuesday's game was rained out.

How can you be the manager of a team in the postseason and not be setting yourself up to adapt on the fly like that, to say nothing of not even knowing when your ace is throwing a bullpen session?

The in game stuff still gets him too though. For all of the attention that pulling Max Scherzer after one hit in the 7th inning of Game 3 got, Baker's real folly was giving the ball to left-handed middle reliever Sammy Solis to get out of the jam.

Solis is a fine left-handed specialist, but right handers hit .218/.338/.418 off of him this season, and it was obvious Joe Maddon was going to pinch hit for Kyle Schwarber in that spot. What's worse, with only eight outs left to get, there was absolutely no reason that Baker shouldn't have been able to hand the ball to Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson and ask his two best relievers to put the game away for his team.

In an age where everyone else sees the postseason as a time to lean on your best players, and especially your best pitchers, Baker manages a pivotal third game like some random game from late July, bringing in one of his worst bullpen options because it's the 7th inning instead of the 8th or 9th when those guys are supposed to pitch.

Meanwhile David Robertson came in for the Yankees in the fifth inning of Game 5 and recorded eight outs by himself before giving way to Aroldis Chapman.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the big Boston Globe article on the drama behind Dave Dombrowski firing John Farrell. I had the chance to watch the entire press conference, and it was easily the most bizarre such event I've ever seen.

Dombrowski clearly wanted to appear like he was taking the high road, but he went so far as to literally say that "no amount of success" would have prompted him to bring Farrell back in 2018. That's an incredible statement, and stories like this just don't stay buried for long in Boston.

Contra prevailing opinion, I wouldn't see this as a sign that Boston has demads for excellence or is somehow going to drastically overhaul a roster that won 93 games either. Remember, this is the ownership group who fired a Hall of Fame manager and Hall of Fame general manager after an 89 win season only to turn the club over to Bobby Valentine and finish in last place in one of the decade's most embarrassing debacles.

Plus, Dombrowski's Tigers' teams never won a World Series despite a mega high payroll, and by the end of his tenure there it seemed as though all he knew how to do was hand out big free agent contracts with little regard for how the pieces were going to fit together.

The best example of that was signing Prince Fielder and expecting Miguel Cabrera to move to third base to make the roster work. That team hit, but they lost a lot of games because of awful baserunning and infield defense, including in the ALCS. As you may remember, it was John Farrell's Red Sox who knocked them out of the playoffs that year...en route to a World Series title.

Given his popularity with the fan base and the organization, as well as his history of postseason success there, I expect that the Yankees will give C.C. Sabathia the Andy Pettite treatment and hand him one year contracts until he decides to call it a career.

If that doesn't work out though, he'd make a great top target for the Orioles this winter. He's not the ace he was 5 years ago by any means, but he's been a perfectly solid starter in each of the past two seasons, and the fact that he'll likely only get a one or two year deal would mean that signing him wouldn't necessarily render long term contracts to Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop out of the question.

I can't be the only one rooting for the Astros to win it all just because I want that 2014 Sports Illustrated cover to prove prophetic, right?

The culmination of the Astros rebuild is here, thanks to an ALCS appearance and their status as prohibitive favorites, and it's had me thinking about the Cleveland Browns' rebuild sold under a similar theory.

It makes sense that you would shoot for a multi-year rebuild given how bad the Browns' roster was when the current management team took over, but judging from the last two years I think their front office missed a crucial distinction. In baseball, the idea behind "tanking" is to get the highest possible draft pick and have a shot at drafting the best prospect talent.

The Browns, meanwhile, seem convinced that draft picks are just lottery tickets, and look like they've lost sight of the fact that all of that moving around the board is meant to end with drafting impact players. In the past two drafts they've passed on the chance to draft Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, the latter with the 12th overall pick after they'd already picked Myles Garrett first overall and could have ended up with the sort of franchise defining draft the Raiders had when they got Khalil Mack and Derek Carr in the same year.

It increasingly looks like that's going to be the epitaph for another failed front office regime in Cleveland.

Finally, if you're jonesing for Orioles related developments, keep a close eye on Ryan Mountcastle's stint in the Arizona Fall League over the next few weeks.

The next big Orioles prospect beat the tar out of the ball at Single-A this year, and was leading the entire minor leagues in extra base hits when he was called up to Double-A. He started slow with Bowie, but ended the year with hits in 15 of his last 19 games on top of switching from shortstop to third base.

He'll be playing third base for the Salt River Rafters in the prestigious prospect showcase, and how he handles the task could have a huge impact on how the Orioles approach the offseason. If he rakes at the plate, he could be a valuable trade chip for a better starting pitching option than they're likely to find on the free agent market.

If Mountcastle produces with the bat and holds his own at the hot corner, the franchise might feel free to start laying out a long term plan that doesn't include Manny Machado staying in town.

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this weekend in
english soccer

Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter

We are back from the international break and Matchday 8 of the English Premier league will waste little time getting started when the two most successful clubs in English football renew a rivalry that dates back to 1894 to kick off the weekend action.

Be sure to set that alarm for bright and early Saturday morning and catch every game live on the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.

Saturday, October 14 (all times eastern)

7:30am – Manchester United vs. Liverpool – Anfield, NBC Sports Network

Unbeaten in their last four games against Manchester United, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool host the big showdown this Saturday at 7:30 am.

Although I am often times hesitant to invest in the first game back from an international break, let alone the early kickoff, a game that will be at the top of my potential investment card will open up the weekend when Manchester United, who took three points for the third straight week when they piled on to Crystal Palace’s misery and cruised to a 4-0 victory, visit Anfield and a Liverpool side that continued to be wasteful this season in the final third against Newcastle United, with only two of their seventeen shots finding the target and just one the back of the net in a 1-1 draw.

A misfiring offense, that will now be without influential midfielder Sadio Mane after the Senegal international picked up hamstring injury over the break, combined with a continuing leaky defense that sits near the bottom in goals allowed (12) is not a recipe for success with the free flowing United (21 GS) coming to town although, after dropping their previous four meetings in the league and eight of their last ten across all competitions (W2), Liverpool are unbeaten in their last four with Manchester United (W1 D3) and have picked up points in eight of their last eleven meetings at Anfield (W6 L3 D2).

10am – Chelsea @ Crystal Palace – Selhurst Park, NBC Sports Network

Crystal Palace will be happy to know they will not be returning to Manchester this year, after the defeat to United made it a total of nine goals conceded without reply from their trips to the blue and red side of the city over the last two weeks. They will also be happy to see their brutal three game stretch against the top of the table mercifully come to an end when they welcome Chelsea to Selhurst Park for a London Derby, with the Blues failing to pick up points for the first time since the opening weekend when they were unable to breach a stingy Manchester City defense to fall six points behind the league leaders.

With a league leading seventeen goals allowed so far this season, Chelsea are unlikely to encounter a similar problem at the weekend against a leaky Crystal Palace defense, even with striker Alvaro Morata set to miss the matchup through injury. It will be interesting to see the reception that Palace receive at their friendly confines, historically one of the most difficult places to visit in the top flight, but where Chelsea have won six of their last eight visits (L1 D1) and have lost only three of their sixteen all time Premier League meetings with the Eagles, taking maximum points in eleven of those affairs.

12:30pm – Arsenal @ Watford – Vicarage Road, NBC

The final game that could end up on the weekend investment card will wrap up the Saturday slate when Arsenal, unbeaten in their last four and level on points with fourth place Chelsea after winning for the second week running 2-0 over Brighton and Hove Albion, visit Watford at Vicarage Road with the Hornets hoping to put in a better showing than their last at home against a top side a few weeks back when they were steamrolled by Manchester City 6-0, though the Hornets have settled themselves since the defeat to grab four points from a six after their 2-2 draw with West Brom the last time out.

The points haul has given Watford their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign after seven matches (12 points) and, with a better performance than the one they put in against City, could see the Hornets jump ahead of Arsenal in the table with a victory on Saturday, although if history is any indication that could be tough to come by, with their win in the reverse fixture last season the only time the Hornets have managed to pick up points in their eight all-time top flight meetings with the Gunners, dropping the previous seven and the last five across all competitions at Vicarage Road.

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October 12
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issue 12
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respect for the yankees and red sox? really?

I know. You had to read the headline twice, at least, to make sure you read it right the first time.

Respect for the Yankees and Red Sox? Really?

There are question marks there for a reason. You might not feel the same way I do, but I find myself almost (look up the word "almost" before you start going nuts on me) rooting for the Yankees now after their improbable comeback over the Indians and imminent trip to the American League Championship Series to face the Astros.

Once they went ahead 3-0 early in last night's 5th and deciding game, I can remove "almost" from the sentence and say "I was rooting for the Yankees to win" last night.

Yes, it felt weird.

Really weird.

Cheering for this guy? In Baltimore? As an Orioles fan, no less? Say it ain't so.

But there's no one on their team worth despising anymore. Sure, you can hate them just to hate them if you want, but I've always said that once my team(s) are out of the playoff race, I don't really care who wins or who loses at that point.

And these Yankees are actually -- can't believe I'm saying this -- somewhat likeable. I mean that.

In the old days it was easy to dislike the Bronx Bombers. And by "old days", I guess I mean within the last decade or so. They were the high bidders for Mark Teixeira, so that pissed us off. They spent gobs of money on C.C. Sabathia, too, and immediately won the World Series when Tex and C.C. showed up. That was aggravating as well.

Alex Rodriguez patroled third base for them. He might have been, at his zenith, the most disliked baseball player in the game.

And some people even rooted against Derek Jeter.

Those Yankees, circa 2009, were pretty easy to root against, I'll give you that.

But this team? Last night? I was pulling for them.

Yes, it felt weird.

Maybe in my old age I just like seeing "old guys" have one more moment in the sun, but I was rooting hard for Sabathia last night, who was ultra-impressive for four innings before running out of gas in the 5th.

I like Brett Gardner. He can play on my team any day.

Didi Gregorius seems like a nice guy and he's a helluva shorstop.

Todd Frazier comes across as someone you'd like to have in your locker room.

Oh, and that Aaron Judge kid appears as if he's a feet-on-the-ground kind of guy, despite his wildly successful first big league season 2017.

After all of those years spent sitting in front of the TV and cheering against the Yankees in the playoffs, I sat there last night and quietly rooted for them as the innings passed.

And the best part of all? I don't know why.

They just seem like a "team" now, rather than a bunch of individuals vying for the biggest contract or prettiest girl in New York.

I can't wait until next baseball season when I can go back to rooting against them again.

It feels too odd to root for them, that's for sure.

And while I'm feeling weird about baseball things, I might as well pile on and admit I'm pretty envious of the Red Sox and the way they do things up there in "Bahhhston".

Two straight division titles for the Red Sox and ----- the manager gets canned.

I'm not a big "fire the coach" guy, as most of you know.

But the big-picture story in Boston is that winning the division doesn't guarantee you a job the next season. They want more up there. They want rings.

The obvious comparisons will be made to the situation in Baltimore, where the Orioles have won just one division title under Buck Showalter and advanced to a single ALCS in his tenure, losing in four straight games to the Royals back in 2014.

Yet, Showalter stays, and so, too, does the mediocrity.

"Mediocrity" might be the wrong word, admittedly. The Orioles were definitely a bottom-feeder this year when the dust all settled, but they made the post-season in 2016, to go along with playoff berths in 2012 and 2014.

And I'm not campaigning for Showalter to take a hike, either. He's the best thing that's happened to Orioles baseball since they put "Baltimore" back on the road uniforms in 2009.

But the difference in what's acceptable and what isn't between the Orioles and Red Sox is fairly obvious.

Can you imagine if the Birds won back-to-back A.L. East titles? We'd have a mini-parade through Roland Park.

The Red Sox won the division in 2016 and 2017, lost in the first round of the post-season in each year, and fired their manager yesterday.

I'm no Red Sox fan, that's for sure. But I like their style.

They look at winning a bit different than we do "down here" in Baltimore, that's for sure.

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thursday sports with 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 Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

Kindled by two rabid fan bases in blue-collar post-industrial cities, spurred by a pair of teams with a combined 21 playoff appearances in the last 17 seasons, and fueled since 2009 by the national spotlight of NBC’s Football Night in America, the rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers has become the best in the NFL.

When the #DMD group leaves Heinz Field in Pittsburgh around midnight Dec. 10, hopefully happily, the teams will have played 48 times, including four playoff games.

Both teams have had their moments, the Steelers a few more of them perhaps. Fans from Arbutus to Zelienople still discuss the ones that got away and the ones that might have turned out differently if only for a play or two, last year’s Christmas Day classic being the most recent one.

We’ll always hate Hines Ward, and they’ll always hate Terrell Suggs. They’ll fawn over Troy Polamalu, and we’ll counter with Ed Reed. There won’t ever be common ground, which is what makes a good rivalry anyway, at least between fans.

There’s no doubt, however, who the best player in the history of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry is.

He wears No. 7 for the Steelers, and his last name barely fits on his jersey.

The best player in the bitter rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers? That's easy. It's Big Ben.

And that guy, Ben Roethlisberger, said the other day that maybe he doesn’t have it anymore — in public, to a reporter.

Which left me with two questions…

First…why the hell would he say that? And second…is he right?

I can think of a few answers to the first question, the most obvious one being that Big Ben was just, well…embarrassed.

He threw “pick-sixes” on consecutive series in the third quarter, something that even bad quarterbacks don’t do, let alone future Hall of Famers.

His team lost handily to the Jaguars, at Heinz Field, an opponent and a game situation he surely expected to manage better.

He had a chance to give his team another big lift after a huge road win against its biggest rival, albeit one that featured some sideline squabbling, and he had maybe the worst game of his 14-year career.

Giving the Jaguars some well-deserved credit, I suppose it’s possible he was more frustrated than embarrassed. Based on his comments this past offseason, at age 35, Roethlisberger certainly sees the end of his long career coming soon. As a Ravens fan, I’m looking forward to that.

But I don’t believe for one second that he said what he said because he actually believes it. And it’s not just because he has a contract with $15 million per year on it through 2019 if he wants.

On Sunday, he found Antonio Brown, with whom he was “disappointed” after a sideline outburst in Baltimore, 10 times for 157 yards. He’s on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards for the fifth time. There are 11 games left in the season. He’ll be ready to go in Kansas City on Sunday, and I’d bet he sees the undefeated Chiefs as the perfect opponent against which to get his team and his season back on track.

The second question is more about what other people see.

The Jaguars? They said he looked old, tired, and flustered. They said he was confused. They said he kept wanting to make the kind of schoolyard plays that only Big Ben makes, and he couldn’t do it anymore.

They talked about him like they’ll never play against him again, even though they easily could do just that in the playoffs or next season.

All I can say is…if that’s what they said about a guy who completed 33 passes after his team completely abandoned the run for no reason, what do they think about Joe Flacco? I don’t recall him playing so great in that London debacle.

And speaking of Flacco, remember the play he made this past Sunday on third down, finding Jeremy Maclin on a decision this website and others described as “ill-advised?” You could make a five-minute highlight reel of Ben Roethlisberger making those plays, with half of them coming against the Ravens.

But I digress…

As for what the football pundits think of Big Ben, that’s been written about extensively over the past few days. Feel free to read through all of it, though I can summarize it for you quickly. They don’t believe that a player with Roethlisberger’s skill set, and his history, is going to “lose it” in that way.

And I agree with them.

That being said, I don’t see why this couldn’t be his last year in a Steelers uniform, whether he throws 20 more interceptions or leads his team to the Super Bowl.

He’s an “old” 35, based on his playing style and his injury history. He has little to prove. He clearly considered retirement after last season, and it surely seems like he’s doubting himself at least a little bit, though his postgame statement last Sunday was just as surely an overreaction.

There’s always been a thought that Roethlisberger isn’t much of a fan of Todd Haley, his offensive coordinator. Now, it seems like he and his teammates might not be getting along that well either. I often wonder how much 30-something veterans really enjoy playing with so many guys that are basically still kids.

So, it’s a possibility that Big Ben will face Baltimore for the final time December 10, whether he’s playing well or not. And it’s up to the Ravens to make it matter.

The Ravens play seven games before that. They’ll play games they “should” win, like Sunday’s visit by the Bears and a Thursday night visit from Miami, and visit Lambeau Field for a game they “should” lose. None of those seven games are against the AFC North, and four of them come against the unfamiliar NFC North.

The NFL is unpredictable from week-to-week, let alone for a two-month stretch.

I won’t try to guess those results, though I’d bet that some of them, on both sides of the ledger, might be surprising.

What I will do is hope. I’ll hope that the Ravens-Steelers game remains on Sunday Night Football because it has playoff implications, and I’ll hope that the Ravens start to play well more consistently.

And sure, I can hope that the Ravens win a lot of those games, and the Steelers lose a lot, and I can hope that Ben Roethlisberger really doesn’t have it anymore. That sure would eliminate a lot of pressure on that Sunday night in December.

Just in case he still has it, though, I’d like for the Ravens to make it interesting for Big Ben. I don’t think all of us, in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, should expect any less.

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interested in a sports "investment"? you've come to the right place

#DMD's resident soccer analyst Matt Carroll checks in below with a new feature we're going to promote for him here. As the professionals in Vegas and Atlantic City remind you, please "invest" within your means.

After taking a week off for the final round of World Cup Qualifying, where just like you I watched in utter disbelief as a lethargic US men’s national team with an absolutely zero sense of urgency about them fell to world footballing minnows Trinidad & Tobago and - for the first time since 1986 - failed to qualify for the World Cup, the English Premier League will return to action in just a few days with our weekly preview of the weekends top games posted tomorrow as usual.

Before then, I wanted to bring your attention to a new feature that will be intertwined within the weekly previews and posted on the DMD Twitter feed (@itsahooded4iron) when available, and that will be my weekly sports investment advice.

To some, the term sports "investing" may be no different than sports "betting", but I want to be clear here that we are not gambling, we are investing, and would be no different than a broker would invest on the stock market.

Everybody thinks they are the best sports bettor in the world, and on a few weekends or weeks out of the year that may be true, but frankly I couldn't care less about how you did on a given weekend or week and more about how consistent you were throughout the month and more importantly what your return on investment was at the end of the year.

Consistently providing a return on investment is what matters and is what I will be striving to provide you with throughout the year.

While the investments that are posted will cover a wide range of sports and leagues from around the world, including football and basketball when the opportunity presents itself, a particular focus will be given to soccer and the English Premier League and the Champions League, specifically on the over game total.

I am asked all of the time why I only play overs and my response is always the same: have you ever watched a game and rooted for absolutely nothing to happen? It’s like watching paint dry, at the same time both painfully frustrating and maddening, and nobody needs that additional stress in their lives so I don’t even bother with the under on any game or in any sport.

Another question I often get is how much should I invest on each game? There are all sorts of theories out there on how much risk you should take on for each investment, but the easiest strategy I have found is to risk only what you are willing to lose.

We will not win them all. I repeat, we will not win them all.

The gambling gods have a twisted sense of humor and no matter how correctly I handicap a game or try to financially capitalize on a certain situation, there are some days when things simply will not go our way.

By risking the same amount on each play, what we are comfortable losing, we can limit our exposure and handle the emotional roller coaster that is often times the sports investment world.

So how many investments can you expect to see each week? If you are looking for some get rich quick scheme or another of the infamous Las Vegas touts promising you an untold amount of riches then keep moving along, you will not find that here.

A disciplined, long-term investment strategy is the basis of all my plays. You will most likely be able to count on one hand the number of investments that I release and post each week.

Less is more for me. Quality over quantity. Love it or leave it. If we love it then we are playing it but if we don’t then we will wait for a better opportunity to invest which, from my experience, always seems to come along.

If we know this to be true, then why force a play? We won’t.

Bottom line, sports betting is a learned skill. I don’t care what anyone else thinks or may tell you but it can be acquired.

Throughout the season we will be digging deeper into the sports investment world and passing along additional insight and tips wherever and whenever we can, as well as keeping a close tab on the pending sports betting case that will be reviewed by the Supreme Court this winter, that could effectively change the entire landscape of sports betting in the United States leading eventually to legalized sports betting throughout the country.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the #DMD Twitter feed for plays to be posted anytime when I believe there is an opportunity for investment.

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October 11
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issue 11
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from 93% to 0% -- u.s. stunned in trinidad

In the end, despite the heroic arrival of perhaps our country's first true American-born soccer star, the United States simply didn't have enough good players.

That's the truth.

It all caught up to the U.S. team last night in a stunning 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that, coupled with wins by both Panama and Honduras, leaves the United States out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Most U.S. soccer enthusiasts were speechless in the aftermath of last night's woeful performance in Trinidad and the two results from the teams beneath them in the standings. No one saw any of it coming before the game, although both Costa Rica (playing at Panama) and Mexico (at Honduras) had nothing at all to play for in their games, so losses by those two squads wasn't all that shocking given they've each already qualified for next summer's World Cup.

The U.S., though, didn't do their part anyway.

Christian Pulisic was one of several U.S. players who couldn't bear to look at the scoreboard last night after the Americans lost in Trinidad, 2-1.

If you can't get a point (just a tie would have sent the Americans through to Russia) against the last place team in a crucial situation, you don't deserve to go to the World Cup.

There will be lots of talk about field conditions in last night's game at Trinidad.

Water covered the field as late as 2 pm yesterday after torrential weekend rains and pumps could be heard still at work during last night's TV broadcast of the game.

That's a lame excuse. Was it a slow field? Yes. Did the U.S. play poorly last night? Indeed they did. That's on them -- not on the field.

Much discussion will ensue about the way Costa Rica and Mexico folded in the second half last night. They were already in. Their business was done. You can't rely on other teams or countries to do your dirty work for you, which is what the Americans wound up doing after their gag-job in Trinidad.

There will be people who point to Panama's first goal against Costa Rica -- which sure looks like it shouldn't have counted as the ball never crossed the goal line -- and say the U.S. got "jobbed" out of World Cup spot by a phantom goal. Maybe there's some truth to that. But the U.S. lost to Trinidad, a team with just one win in nine CONCACAF qualifying games before last night.

This is on no one except Bruce Arena and the players.

Arena's decision to play Tim Howard in goal was questioned last night once the rosters were released and Howard, unfortunately, didn't come up big when he needed to most.

His performance will be in the cross-hairs for a long time. He was off his line and ill prepared for a fluky bounce off the leg of American defender Omar Gonzalez that resulted in an own goal midway through the first half, then was badly beaten on a 30-yard boomer in the 36th minute that gave Trinidad a 2-0 lead at the intermission.

Lots of folks called Trinidad's 2nd tally a "world class goal". It surely wasn't a world class performance from the goalkeeper.

The aforementioned Gonzalez stunk it up -- again. Prior to the 10-game CONCACAF qualifying tournament, experts called the U.S. defensive corps "suspect". Alas, while the Americans scored more goals (17) than anyone else in the 10-game series, they allowed 13 goals themselves, which simply isn't good enough to push through.

Jozy Altidore had two glorious scoring chances -- one in each half -- and true to his general form, was unable to convert on either of them. He was gifted an open shot from 12 yards out in the 7th minute of the game and sent it screaming over the crossbar, then badly missed on a header from six yards out in the 55th minute after the U.S. had pulled to within a goal on a tally from Christian Pulisic two minutes into the second half.

After Altidore's miss early in the game, I mentioned this on Twitter: "I sure hope that miss doesn't come back to haunt us."

It did.

Truth of the matter, the Americans basically created six scoring chances for themselves last night.

Pulisic connected on one of them.

Altidore misfired on his two golden opportunities.

Gonzalez had a clean header from close ranger sail over the goal midway through the second half.

Clint Dempsey hit the left goalpost in the 75th minute.

And Benny Feilhaber headed a ball in the 80th minute that was expertly knocked down by the Trinidad goalkeeper just as it prepared to cross the line for a tying goal.

With their World Cup life on the line, the U.S. essentially created six goal scoring chances.

Forget the team's well documented defensive woes for a minute. The offensive output last night was categorically appalling, particuarly given the circumstances.

The work rate, energy and dedication displayed by the entire team in the first half was an epic failure. I've seen hammocks look more alive. Bobby Wood and Michael Bradley both pulled out of 50-50 balls that were bouncing around near midfield. Gonzalez and his cement feet were twice victimized in the first half, his lazy clearance and own goal almost being a just punishment for his shoddy play.

If you just flew in from Pluto before the game and didn't know what was at stake, you would have throught the two countries were playing a "friendly" that didn't mean anything except who had to buy the pizza and beer afterwards. The Americans were as lifeless as a Slurpee.

There will be lots of talk about what happens "next". Yes, this is a huge stab in the heart of growth for American soccer at the international level. For starters, it robs Pulisic of a chance to play in a World Cup at age 20, something that would prove to be invaluable for him in the future.

A coaching change was coming anyway after next summer's World Cup, so this didn't necessarily cost Bruce Arena his job, per se. It just got him to the unemployment line ten months sooner, that's all.

There are probably only three players who started last night that are likely "fixtures" within the team moving forward; Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Darlington Nagbe. And Wood still has lots of room for improvement.

You want the summary of the current U.S. soccer team? There you have it. Eleven players started last night's game and only three of them would be considered "permanently" in the team.

Age has caught up to the American squad.

And lack of talent in a lot of areas has impacted them, too.

In some ways, what happened last night shouldn't be all that shocking.

The U.S. got off to a terrible start last November when they dropped their first two games. Even though they were able to wiggle their way back into contention, they were always a breath away from having something like last night send them off the rails.

When you put yourself in those situations where you have to perform, sometimes things like sloppy fields and goals-that-other-teams-score-that-shouldn't-have-counted wind up being part of the narrative, in addition to your woeful performance under the gun.

Last night, with their life on the line and a trip to Russia within their grasp, the U.S. flatlined and authored the worst big-game performance in the history of U.S. soccer.

In the end, they didn't deserve to play in the World Cup. The players simply weren't good enough.

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wednesday morning quarterback

When most of us looked at the schedule before it came out, 3 games in the first 5 weeks stood out as clear challenges for the Ravens: at Cincinnati and Oakland, and home against Pittsburgh the week after traveling to London.

If the football gods had put winning one of those three games and starting the season 3-2 on the table, it's fair to say most Ravens' fans would have taken the offer and felt pretty good about their positioning five games into the season.

It didn't work out exactly that way, but nonetheless John Harbaugh's crew is sitting at 3 wins and 2 losses all the same, with a share of first place to boot.

It doesn't really matter that they got embarrassed by Jacksonville instead of losing in Oakland (and don't look now but the Jaguars are a scary team whenever they don't have to rely on their quarterback) all wins and losses count the same. So just a week after everything seemed lost for this team, the worm has turned completely and they're right where a lot of people hoped they would be, and now they play a stretch of games where they should be the favorite each week.

The NFL, ladies and gentlemen.

After two straight dismal performances, Joe Flacco righted himself in Oakland and played well in a 30-17 win over the Raiders.

Here are the winners and losers from Week 5:

Winner: Joe Flacco

For the first time in his career, Flacco was the subject of near universal criticism after two bad losses and four weeks of subpar quarterback play.

To his credit, he both owned his own struggles and then turned it around in a big way in leading his offense to a strong showing on the West Coast. He didn't throw a touchdown, but he snapped his string of 10 consecutive games with an interception, wasn't sacked once, and threw the ball efficiently to finish with 222 yards on 19/26 passing.

Joe's improved mechanics were on display from the first snap of the game, when he threw a beautiful downfield strike to Mike Wallace for 52 yards. His most impressive play, however, came later in the first half on another downfield strike to Wallace. With a max protection scheme, Flacco stood tall in the pocket, slid slightly to his blindside to allow Ryan Jensen an angle to push an Oakland pass rusher out of the play, and fired a perfect strike to Wallace on a deep crossing route.

It was everything Flacco had failed to do correctly in the first four weeks executed perfectly on one play, and an excellent display of what this offense can do when Joe stays fundamentally sound. If Flacco can continue delivering that kind of execution, there's no reason the Ravens shouldn't win every game between now and their trip to Green Bay, at the least.

If you want to nitpick, he could still stand to improve a lot in the goal line passing game, and failing to convert more touchdowns down there is going to bite the team sooner or later just as it has in recent years. Not scoring a touchdown in the second half is worrisome as well, but the playcalling got a lot more conservative after the break, and it was easy to see that the coaching staff decided that they were going to force E.J. Manuel to make plays to bring his team back.

Winners: Offensive line

The much maligned group turned in a stellar effort, dominating a talented Oakland front in pass blocking and run blocking.

The passing attack utilized the tight ends a lot more both in max protect and chipping assignments, which helped a lot, and Flacco's pocket presence coupled with some excellent pass blocking allowed time for routes to develop downfield. This group is going to need that kind of help to be effective given the injuries they've sustained, but the Raiders have some studs to contend with, and the Ravens completely shut them down on Sunday. That's a tremendous confidence boost for everyone.

Winner: Mike Wallace

Only three catches, but they went for 133 yards. It was obvious that Wallace is the guy Flacco has the most chemistry with throwing vertically, and Wallace can probably expect to get his number called a lot more often against Chicago.

Winners: Buck Allen and Alex Collins

I don't know what Collins did to earn some uncharacteristic patience with his fumbilitis from Harbaugh, but he's certainly doing his best to show that that faith was't misplaced.

Collins didn't fumble once in 12 carries, and the CBS broadcast crew at one point made note that he was carrying the ball higher and tight to his chest.

It was Allen, though, who got the bulk of the workload after Terrance West went down, and the former resident in the Harbaugh doghouse amassed 73 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries while catching four passes as well. West had 17 yards on his two carries before leaving with a calf injury as well, and so far the running back trio is showing that they can be very productive when they get seams to run through.

Winner: Marty Mornhinweg

One thing about the offense that stood out in the first four weeks was how little it looked like I expected it would in Mornhinweg's first full season as offensive coordinator.

In Philadelphia, Mornhinweg had blended some west coast offense concepts with ultra fast receivers like Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson to attack defense over the top, and with some similar profiles on this roster that's what I expected this group to do. Instead we've see a lot of check downs and short passes off of playaction, the same stuff Marc Trestman liked to run, and it just wasn't working at all.

Sunday looked a lot more like those Philadelphia offenses did, with more pressure downfield and deep and intermediate crossing routes opening up room to throw, with standard zone running plays mixed in for balance. That's the style this team looks like they were built to play, and it was nice to see them finally figure that out for a week. Hopefully it continues.

Winner: Patrick Onwuasor

This guy continues to be the breakout star on defense. He's all over the field underneath, constantly plugging flowing lanes and ending up around the ball against the run and short passes. He ended with 5 tackles and a great hit that forced the fumble Jimmy Smith returned for a touchdown.

Winner: Willie Henry

Another guy who wasn't a starter out of preseason who just keeps making his impact felt. The second year 4th round pick out of Michigan had 5 tackles, 1 QB hit, and two pass deflections and continues to be a presence in the middle of the line as he gets more chances to play.

Loser: The training staff

There's always gotta be one, right?

These guys already weren't getting any days off, and now they can add Terrace West, Carl Davis, and Matt Skura to the long list of guys they have to try to get back on the field. If the Ravens' upcoming schedule gives you hope that they can make a playoff push with even a mediocre team, the pace at which they're still losing guys to injury has to be at least as much a cause for concern.

This level of attrition just can't go on forever.

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join me for a great day of golf on nov. 13

The great Ben Hogan once said "putting should only count for a half-stroke."

I'm excited to announce that on November 13, I'll be playing in a golf outing where NO ONE WILL PUTT!!

At least not until we get to the post-event putting contest, anyway.

On November 13, I'll be playing in the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Flag Tournament" at Eagle's Nest Country Club. The video below will briefly explain the details of the event, but it's pretty easy to sum up right here: You and your playing partner are trying to hit your ball within the length of the flag on every hole. That's it.

This gives you the chance to literally go "flag hunting" on every shot! If you don't hit it within the flag, pick up your ball and move to the next hole.

I love it!

You'll play three rounds of golf that day. Yes, THREE rounds of golf. There are great prizes -- including a trip for two to the 2018 Masters -- and loads of give-aways, freebies and food and drink.

The goal for the day is to raise money for Maryland's FCA chapter and help them continue to run their amazing sports and faith-based programs here in the state of Maryland.

My friend Brian Hubbard of Kelly Payroll is running the event, so it's guaranteed to be a first-class day all the way around!

I'd love for you to join me, either by bringing your own two-person team and competing against me and the others or by simply sponsoring me and my team as we try to play three rounds of golf in one day and shoot the best score.

You can support my personal efforts by going here. I'm trying to raise $1,500 for Maryland FCA (note: I'm not eligible for any prizes or awards).

If you'd like to register to play, simply watch the video below for details or just go here.

Oh, one more thing. The first team to register today and e-mail me (drew@drewsmorningdish.com) will play in my foursome with my partner and I.

I hope you can make it on November 13th. It's going to be a great day of golf, fun and fellowship.

Here's the video that explains what you need to know about the "Flag Tournament".


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October 10
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issue 10
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this, that and the other

Remember the great Greg Maddux?

While watching Max Scherzer mow down the Chicago Cubs yesterday (that is, until his genius head coach removed Mad Max after he allowed ONE hit), I stumbled on a pitching statistic connected to Maddux that is incredibly mind-boggling.

I was so unsure of its veracity that I did what everyone does these days when they see something on the internet that they don't believe. I went deeper into the internet to make sure it was, in fact, true.

And it is.

Greg Maddux won 355 games in his 23 year big league career.

In the career of Greg Maddux, he faced 20,241 batters.

Let that sink in for a moment.

If you pitched a complete game, the minimum number of guys you could face would be 27.

Maddux faced 20,241 batters in his career.

Not counting intentional walks, how many of those batters ever ran up a 3-0 count on Maddux?

Think it through. And realize as you do that 3-0 counts happen A LOT in baseball. Hell, Ubaldo Jimenez faced six or seven of them every time he made a start.

What's your guess?

Maddux faced 20,241 batters. 133 of them took him to 3-0.

Remarkable, right?

Greg Maddux pitched 23 big league seasons but only 21 of them were "full years". So, roughly six times PER-SEASON, Maddux would allow a hitter to run up a 3-0 count on him.

That's not a typo. It's not six times per-month. Six times PER-SEASON.

Yesterday didn't start off all that great for the Miami Dolphins, in case you didn't notice.

Offensive line coach Chris Foerster -- who was once a member of the Ravens staff -- resigned mid-Monday-morning after a video surfaced that showed him apparently using cocaine. What made it even worse (if that's possible) was that Foerster was doing it in the confines of an office at Dolphins headquarters, prior to a meeting, no less.

That situation unfortunately overshadowed something good that the Dolphins did on Monday.

Head coach Adam Gase instituted a new club policy with regard to the playing of the national anthem before the game. Dolphin players will now stand for the national anthem -- on the field -- or they may choose not to participate in the pre-game ceremony and stay in the tunnel or locker room.

How easy is that solution?

And I'm not saying that just because it's something I championed here a couple of weeks back when the you-know-what hit the fan after a bunch of Ravens took a knee prior to the national anthem in London.

But it does make complete sense.

If players in the NFL don't want to stand for the national anthem, they should be given the choice to wait it out in a private area of the stadium where they won't face scrutiny for their on-field demonstrations. This way, they can take a knee in the tunnel or in the locker room and still feel like they're not giving in to those who say they're protesting without merit.

Gase should be applauded for his decision. It's the best way to handle the issue internally and protesting players can't possibly have a gripe with it, unless they're of the mindset that taking a knee at midfield during the anthem gives them some sort of added edge when it comes to publicity.

But we know the kneeling players aren't actually looking for publicity, right? I mean, this whole "I won't stand for the anthem" ordeal is a serious matter. The players wouldn't diminish its importance by complaining about lack of publicity, would they?

Of course not.

So, Gase has thrown a bulls-eye with this one. Let the players who want to stand for the anthem proudly do so before the game. Let the players who don't want to stand for the anthem proudly do so as well, but within the confines of a private area where the club doesn't have to worry about the distractions that come along with guys who take a knee.

I've always liked the Dolphins' helmets.

Now...I like their head coach, as well.

NFL Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle passed away yesterday at age 90.

I interviewed him once.

It didn't go so well.

I don't remember the year, exactly, but I think it was around 2008 or 2009. Glenn Clark, who was producing my morning radio show back then, informed me early one day we were having Y.A. Tittle on as a guest. He was hawking a book or a video of some kind, I seem to recall.

Clark told me Tittle was booked for 9:30 am. I was excited. Ten or fifteen minutes with Y.A. Tittle couldn't be too bad, right?

As we took a commercial break at 9:27 or so, Clark called Tittle from the producer's studio. Even though the glass between the producer's studio and the on-air studio is thick and somewhat sound-proof, I could hear the volume in Clark's voice rising. He was animated during the conversation.

Finally, I saw the call go on hold, which meant Tittle was on the other end and ready to talk.

Clark rushed into the studio. "Dude, he's pissed," Clark said. "His publicist told me 9:30 am. But they must have meant 9:30 west coast time. He's out in California. We woke him up."

How bad could it be, I thought? "He'll get over it," I said to Glenn as I punched the button and engaged the phone line with Tittle.

Except he didn't get over it. Not that quickly, anyway.

When I opened the phone line, Tittle was having a heated conversation with a female -- presumably his wife -- whom we also woke up at 6:30 am "out there".

"I don't know why they called so damn early," Tittle said to her. "They screwed up. That's all I can tell you."

I tried to interrupt their conversation but Tittle didn't know I was on the other end. He continued to bad mouth us for calling at the wrong time until I finally got his attention and started the interview.

I've had better conversations with pizza delivery guys.

Tittle was short, abrupt and not at all interested in talking with me.

I squeezed some information out of him, he huffed and puffed and said a thing or two that made sense, and I got the whole thing wrapped up in about six minutes.

He was a Hall of Famer. But that wasn't a Hall of Fame interview, for sure.

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join me for a great day of golf on nov. 13

The great Ben Hogan once said "putting should only count for a half-stroke."

I'm excited to announce that on November 13, I'll be playing in a golf outing where NO ONE WILL PUTT!!

At least not until we get to the post-event putting contest, anyway.

On November 13, I'll be playing in the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Flag Tournament" at Eagle's Nest Country Club. The video below will briefly explain the details of the event, but it's pretty easy to sum up right here: You and your playing partner are trying to hit your ball within the length of the flag on every hole. That's it.

This gives you the chance to literally go "flag hunting" on every shot! If you don't hit it within the flag, pick up your ball and move to the next hole.

I love it!

You'll play three rounds of golf that day. Yes, THREE rounds of golf. There are great prizes -- including a trip for two to the 2018 Masters -- and loads of give-aways, freebies and food and drink.

The goal for the day is to raise money for Maryland's FCA chapter and help them continue to run their amazing sports and faith-based programs here in the state of Maryland.

My friend Brian Hubbard of Kelly Payroll is running the event, so it's guaranteed to be a first-class day all the way around!

I'd love for you to join me, either by bringing your own two-person team and competing against me and the others or by simply sponsoring me and my team as we try to play three rounds of golf in one day and shoot the best score.

You can support my personal efforts by going here. I'm trying to raise $1,500 for Maryland FCA (note: I'm not eligible for any prizes or awards).

If you'd like to register to play, simply watch the video below for details or just go here.

Oh, one more thing. The first team to register today and e-mail me (drew@drewsmorningdish.com) will play in my foursome with my partner and I.

I hope you can make it on November 13th. It's going to be a great day of golf, fun and fellowship.

Here's the video that explains what you need to know about the "Flag Tournament".


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Todd Schoenberger promises to deliver provocative commentary on the world of Baltimore sports. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of writing is certain to leave readers debating and disputing, but always thinking. Be sure to follow Tuesdays with Todd!

Twitter: @TMSchoenberger

it's a train wreck in college park

The University of Maryland football program is a disaster.

Only one decade ago, the team had turned a corner and was on the verge of establishing itself as a consistently competitive foe. Now, it’s a laughingstock in a conference many opponents see as a “gimme” win and continues to disappoint the die-hards who remain obnoxiously loyal to a group that should be in serious consideration of dismantling.

Last Saturday’s 62-14 loss to Ohio State was beyond horrific and showcases a program with more downward trajectory than upside potential. There’s no question the braintrust sitting in the Administration Building anchoring the campus mall is regretting its decision to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference for hopeful greener pastures in the Big Ten.

Former Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen took the Terps to heights they haven't yet been able to reach since moving to the Big Ten in 2014.

For the fans, the experiment is not working and rumblings for the termination of President Wallace Loh are beginning to grow. Loh was instrumental in persuading the Board of Regents a move from the ACC to the Big Ten would not only be a big financial windfall for the University, but offer a realistic chance for its football program to compete on a national stage.

Fat chance of that ever happening.

Since Maryland joined the Big Ten Conference in July of 2014, the Terps have compiled a miserable record of 11-19, a .367 winning percentage. If you remove the non-conference games, the football team is rocking a 7-13 record, a .350 winning percentage.

Like I said…it’s a disaster.

The program loves to bring up “big” recruit signings, which cause the fanbase to jump for joy as if the future is promising. But one or two 4-star recruits isn’t going to cut it in a conference notorious for rosters stacked with superstars at Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin—to name a few examples.

However, the train wreck didn’t have to be this way.

As a pioneer member of the ACC, Maryland football had a storied past. It had one National Championship under its belt, with realistic hopes of competing for a second at the turn of the century. It had its coach and a base of loyal fans. But, most importantly, it had financial dedication from the University.

Just like Wallace Loh, former head coach Ralph Friedgen managed to successfully sell his vision to the Regents and Administration upon coming on board in 2001. He virtually guaranteed Maryland football would not only become a top team in the ACC, but also in the national rankings. He predicted the conference would eventually expand to increase its football reach and even forecasted the addition of Penn State and Georgia.

College Park was sold. Despite the Athletic Department’s soaring debt, the University committed millions to Friedgen and his staff to deliver.

The Fridge hired marquee coaches, such as James Franklin, who currently serves as head coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, and current Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien. During his time as coach of the Terps, Friedgen’s teams racked up a complete record of 75-50 with seven bowl appearances including notable Orange, Peach and Gator bowls.

In addition, Friedgen’s teams proudly recognized its 90%+ graduation rate for its players in press releases and media statements.

None of it mattered, though, to University President Wallace Loh.

He cared more about eliminating the heritage of the football team than Friedgen’s success with the program. Loh was determined to destroy the old and focus on the new, ala leaving its home in the ACC for the Big Ten.

His first personnel decision was instructing AD Kevin Anderson to fire Friedgen; his second big executive decision was to change the stadium name from Byrd to the now-boring “Maryland.”

President Loh even went as far as to proclaim the ACC as a non-football conference, which was a statement that has backfired in an epic way. Considering ACC teams have been represented in three of the prior four National Championship games, compared to just one for the Big Ten, Wallace Loh has some explaining to do to Terrapin Nation if he wishes to regain the trust of the boosters, fans and friends of the program.

Unless something material changes in College Park, the Maryland Football program will forever be stuck in the land of mediocrity, playing for hopeful bids to low-level bowls like the Foster Farms or Meineke Car Care games.

I don’t see a turnaround any time soon and think the school should begin the process of dropping the program to the Division-II level. Go Terps!

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October 9
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issue 9
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were the ravens that good or was oakland that bad?

Well, the Ravens didn't lose to a back-up quarterback.

And their quarterback, the guy making $20 million who can't seem to do nearly enough to satisfy the local faithful, turned in a decent enough performance in Sunday's 30-17 win over the Raiders in Oakland.

Just like that, the Ravens are back in a tie for first place in the AFC North at 3-2.

But which Ravens team that we've seen thus far in 2017 is the "real" edition? The one who stomped Cincinnati on opening Sunday, then beat up on poor Oakland yesterday?

Or is the real Ravens team the one that got humiliated in London and then lost to the Steelers in Baltimore last Sunday?

Jimmy Smith's early fumble recovery for a touchdown was a key play for the Ravens in Oakland on Sunday as they soundly defeated the Raiders, 30-17.

It's tough to say.

This much is for certain: The NFL is a crazy, league. I say that nearly every week. But it always bears repeating. Nowhere is there a professional sports league more nutty, more week-to-week, and more dependent on players injuries and availability.

Look no further than yesterday's Raiders team. With Derek Carr, they probably handle the Ravens with ease. Without him, they had little chance.

The Texans' season just took a dramatic turn last night when they lost J.J. Watt for the rest of 2017 due to a broken leg.

The games and the teams are about the players. When your roster gets decimated with injuries, you're eventually going to pay the price. If you can stay healthy -- or least get healthy by season's end -- you always have a puncher's chance if you can just make the post-season.

Yesterday's win in Oakland was particularly gratifying for a Ravens team already wrecked with injuries, and more followed during the game. Terrance West, Carl Davis, Jimmy Smith and Matt Skura all missed bits and pieces of yesterday's game. West (calf strain) looks to have the most serious injury. Smith has been bothered by an achilles strain and once the Ravens went ahead comfortably, a decision was made to rest him.

Everything that could have gone right for the Ravens went right early on. Flacco's first heave of the game was collected by Mike Wallace for a huge gain. On the Raiders first possession, a fumble bounced right into the waiting hands of Smith, who scampered into the end zone for an early 14-0 lead.

Flacco made a highlight film play in the first quarter, but it was actually an ill advised throw -- while he was being taken to the ground -- that somehow found a wide open Jeremy Maclin for a first down on the drive that put the Ravens up 21-3.

That's how it went for the Ravens on Sunday. Whatever they did worked out perfectly. But in fairness to them, after the last two weeks, they deserved some good fortune.

There's no telling what happens next weekend when the Bears come to town. The Ravens could win 34-6 or lose 21-20.

As you'll see below in our "Contender or Pretender" piece, there aren't many contenders these days. Most of the teams in the league are pretenders, at this point.

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contender or pretender? around the nfl

How many NFL teams are there right now who have the "stuff" to make it to the Super Bowl?

Sure, it might not be easy to make that call on October 9, but we're going to give it a shot here at #DMD today.

This, of course, all hinges on team health, as well. If, for example, Aaron Rodgers gets hurt in Green Bay, they immediately fall into the "pretender" category.

Let's take a quick scoot through the NFL and tell you, as of today, which teams are contenders (have enough quality to make the Super Bowl) and which are pretenders (can't make the Super Bowl).

Dallas Cowboys (pretender) -- Not with that defense. And not if they have to face Green Bay again.

Philadelphia Eagles (contender) -- Carson Wentz looked great yesterday. Might be legit in Philly.

Washington Redskins (pretender) -- Nope. Not enough quality there to scare anyone in January.

New York Giants (pretender) -- LOL. Might not win four games this season. Or three. They stink.

Green Bay Packers (contender) -- Getting home field throughout the playoffs would be a big help.

Minnesota Vikings (pretender) -- Won't play the Super Bowl in their own stadium next February.

Detroit Lions (pretender) -- Defense isn't good enough to win big playoff games.

Chicago Bears (pretender) -- Bottom of the barrel in 2017. Might start to improve in 2018.

After a disappointing 2016, could Cam Newton and the Panthers be a threat to return to the Super Bowl this season?

Atlanta Falcons (contender) -- Will be tough again if they get home field throughout the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers (contender) -- Could go 12-4 and NOT win the division. But they're good.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (pretender) -- Getting closer, but not there yet.

New Orleans Saints (pretender) -- Poor Drew Brees. Probably won't get to another Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks (pretender) -- Not with that offense, sorry.

Los Angeles Rams (pretender) -- Might actually be better than Seattle by season's end.

Arizona Cardinals (pretender) -- Can score a lot, but gives up too many.

San Francisco 49'ers (pretender) -- Known more for the knees they take. That's not good.

New England Patriots (contender) -- Defense isn't good, but their quarterback sure is.

Miami Dolphins (pretender) -- Might scratch their way into the post-season, but that's about it.

Buffalo Bills (pretender) -- An 8-win team at best. Nothing to see here.

New York Jets (pretender) -- Best team in New York, if that means anything.

Kansas City Chiefs (contender) -- The team to beat right now. Solid in every phase.

Oakland Raiders (contender) -- With Carr (healthy), they're a threat. Without him, not at all.

Denver Broncos (pretender) -- Let's see how good they are when they face the Chiefs.

Los Angeles Chargers (pretender) -- The end is near for Philip Rivers.

Houston Texans (pretender) -- Losing J.J. Watt again just crushes them.

Jacksonville Jaguars (pretender) -- Better than last year, but they almost had to be.

Indianapolis Colts (pretender) -- Losing Luck has derailed them. Still only so-so with him, though.

Tennessee Titans (pretender) -- As Mariota goes, they go. But they need more from him.

Pittsburgh Steelers (pretender) -- Looks like there's some tension brewing in the Steel City.

Baltimore Ravens (pretender) -- They don't do anything particularly well. Except field goals.

Cincinnati Bengals (pretender) -- Not until they win a playoff game...

Cleveland Browns (pretender) -- Probably don't even rank as a "pretender" at this point.

Three contenders who could be pretenders in five weeks: New England (defense is terrible), Oakland (without Carr, they're no good) and Philadelphia (Wentz has to do it for a full season).

Three pretenders who could be contenders in five weeks: Pittsburgh (have an abundance of play-makers), Seattle (well coached, pretty solid defensively), Dallas (they can put up points).

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u.s. on verge of world cup qualification

There's a funny scene in the awesome 1980's movie Caddyshack where Judge Smails has what looks to be about a 2-foot putt and he nervously giggles and stammers and says, "Now.....if I can just make this one."

That scene keeps coming back to me as I think about what lies ahead for the United States men's soccer team tomorrow night when they face last place Trinidad and Tobago in the final game of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2017 World Cup.

A win and the United States is in.

Since taking over last December, U.S. soccer coach Bruce Arena has seen his team lose just once in seven games.

A tie, even, will almost definitely get them a spot in next summer's World Cup. 4th place Panama would have to beat Costa Rica tomorrow night by eight goals in order to snag that third automatic qualifying spot and nudge the U.S. into a 2-game playoff in December.

So, yes, it's a lot like that scene from Caddyshack. The U.S. has a 2-foot putt to make the World Cup.

But the game is in Trinidad, which hardly makes it a routine challenge for the U.S. While they've had a lot of success in T&T over the years, the Americans haven't yet won a road game in this 10-game qualifying series, losing 4-0 at Costa Rica and earning ties 1-1 ties at Mexico, Panama and Honduras.

Winning on the road in CONCACAF play is never easy, even if you're playing a last place team who saw their World Cup hopes wiped out back in June.

That said, if you needed one point and could pick your place to try and earn it, you'd choose Trinidad. So the U.S. has that going for them -- which is nice.

Friday's 4-0 pounding of Panama was just what the doctor ordered for Bruce Arena's team. Playing as well offensively has they have at any point in the 10-game qualifying series, the Americans removed any doubt about the game's outcome with three first half tallies.

They continued to pour it on the second half, but stayed true to their defensive responsibilities throughout the final 45 minutes to post a clean sheet against a Panama team that had everything to play for on Friday in Orlando.

And those four goals could become a factor tomorrow night since Panama would have to hope for a U.S. tie and then an 8-goal win over a Costa Rican team that has already qualified for World Cup 2017.

There are still lots of moving parts and, as I'm sure Bruce Arena has told his team, there's still a way the U.S. could be completely eliminated tomorrow night (they lose and both Panama and Honduras win their games), but it's looking more and more like the Americans are moving on to Russia pending one more solid night on the field.

And that would be quite a feat for a side that lost the first two qualifying games last November to Mexico (home) and Costa Rica (away), fired its coach, and dropped a shocking 2-0 home decision to Costa Rica just last month to put their hopes in real jeopardy.

Now......if they can just get past Trinidad and Tobago.

Tomorrow's game kicks off at 8 pm.

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Week 5

Sunday — October 8, 2017
Volume XXXIX — Issue 8

Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders

4:05 PM EDT

Oakland Coliseum
Oakland, California

Spread: Raiders -2½

In a game the Ravens need to win to maintain their sanity, John Harbaugh's team travels to Oakland today to take on a Raiders team playing without their starting quarterback.

That's what makes this afternoon's contest even more fragile for the Ravens. If they can't beat E.J. Manuel, how good can they be, really?

Unlike the Ravens, though, the Raiders have some offensive weapons who can put up numbers and produce high quality performances. And their defense isn't a world-beater, but they have players on that side of the ball who can do some damage.

This game, though, will come down to quarterback play. With Derek Carr at the helm today, Oakland would have likely been favored by 5.5 points. Instead, with Manuel behind center, Oakland's a mere 2.5 point favorite.

Baltimore has their own quarterback issues, in case you haven't noticed.

Joe Flacco comes into today's game on the heels of one of the worst back-to-back performances in his career, throwing for 28 yards two weeks ago in the 44-7 loss to Jacksonville and then stinking it up again last Sunday in the 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh, where he threw a pair of fourth quarter interceptions as the Ravens tried to rally against their AFC North rivals.

Which Terrell Suggs shows up today in Oakland? The one who was outstanding in the first two wins or the one who has been a no-show in the last two losses?

Oakland would get a bit of a free pass from their faithful today if they get beat. Their starting quarterback is out.

There would be no such free pass from the Baltimore football fan base if Flacco lays another egg today in Oakland. Their patience is wearing thin. Very thin, in fact.

Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is in the crosshairs as well. His offense has scored seven touchdowns in four games thus far, with five of those coming in the first two weeks against the Bengals and Browns, who have one win between them. He'll face an Oakland team today who loves to get after the opposing quarterback. That means Flacco will have to be mobile and willing to move out of the pocket, something that hasn't been his strong suit this season.

When you're 2-2 and you've laid two eggs in a row like the Ravens have, everyone's under the microscope, truth be told. But Flacco and Mornhinweg are the two who will get the most scrutiny this afternoon in Oakland. Flacco simply must have a solid game in order for Baltimore to have a chance to win. And Mornhinweg's play calling fits hand-in-glove with the Ravens ability to move the ball and put points on the board.

Yes, the Baltimore offensive line is suspect. We know that. The Raiders certainly know that. Somehow, Flacco and Mornhinweg have to put together -- and execute -- a game plan that takes the emphasis away from overall offensive line play, if that's possible.

A series of short passes to running backs and receivers, perhaps? That's a Flacco trademark, actually. He should like those calls. But in all honesty, that might be one way for the Ravens offense to negate the expected the edge Oakland has in going up against a depleted and talent-starved Baltimore offensive line.

The Baltimore running game will matter today as well. Offensive line play comes in there, again, but perhaps something like 35 or so rushing attempts is a way for the Ravens to keep Oakland's offense off the field and turn the game into a clock-burner where defense and field goals matter more than anything else.

Oh, and the Baltimore defense needs to rise to the occasion today, too.

After a barnburner first two weeks, they've been torched in the two most recent losses.

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keys to today's game

For the Ravens --

1. Run the ball, eat up the clock -- Oakland's run defense is one notch better than Baltimore's through four games, which isn't saying much. The Raiders are ranked 24th in the league playing the run, giving up 4.2 yards per-carry. The Ravens haven't had much success running the ball the last two weeks, but they might have found a gem in Alex Collins -- if only he can hold on to the ball. Collins' style could give the Raiders trouble today, but he's likely one fumble away from getting a spot in the corner of Harbaugh's doghouse. Today's the day for the Ravens to use Collins and Terrance West to carry the bulk of the workload and to give Buck Allen a half-dozen or two pitch-and-catch opportunities out of the backfield. Allen is the team's best receiving running back and should be used in that way plenty today. The Ravens should aim for 35 carries in this one, which, if averages play out, should get them somewhere near the 130 yard mark in rushing yards -- a healthy total that could lead to a win.

2. Scoring first matters, so do it! -- The Ravens have played from behind in the last two weeks and the results haven't been pretty for the offense. Scoring first matters for Harbaugh's team today. They'll be a lot more comfortable if they can put up a touchdown early and make the Raiders and E.J. Manuel uneasy.

3. Rattle Manuel, create turnovers -- After recording ten turnovers in the first two games of the season, the Baltimore defense has been rather silent the last two weeks. That needs to change today. The Ravens simply must make life uneasy for Manuel in whatever way they can, whether that's with solid, blanket coverage in the secondary which might force some bad throws out of him, or by working the edges and getting to Manuel in the pocket while he's throwing the ball. Turnovers are crucial for the Ravens today. They need at least two of them, if not more.

For the Raiders --

1. Attack the Baltimore o-line -- If there's one thing Oakland simply must do today, it's put pressure on Joe Flacco at all times. The Ravens are likely going to try and run the ball (see below) so that could offset the importance of Flacco's arm and air game, but on the occasions when Flacco has to throw, Oakland needs to pressure him in a big way.

2. Stop the run, early -- Baltimore will likely try and run the ball early to establish some offensive rhythm and take the game out of Flacco's hands. The solution there? Oakland has to be stout in their run defense at the outset of the game, which will force Baltimore into some 3rd and long situations where Flacco will then have to put the football in the air. Oakland's run defense isn't great. They'll need to find a second gear this afternoon.

3. Throw against the Baltimore linebackers -- Any aerial attack plan from the Raiders should include a bunch of plays that feature throws against Baltimore linebackers playing in coverage schemes. That's where Jacksonville and Pittsburgh both had success in the previous two weeks and it likely remains a sore spot for the Ravens today. And with Manuel at quarterback, short passes of 5 to 10 yards also diminish the chances of him throwing the ball to the wrong team.

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how drew sees today's game

This is a game the Ravens could win.

With Derek Carr in at quarterback, I wouldn't have given Baltimore much hope. But they can beat E.J. Manuel.

The question, of course: Which Ravens team shows up today?

It could be a battle of the field goal kickers today in Oakland.

Will we see Week 1 and 2 Ravens or Week 3 and 4 Ravens?

I hope I'm wrong, but I think it's the latter.

The Raiders strike early for a 3-0 lead but the Ravens settle in and eventually knot things up at 3-3 early in the second quarter.

Another Oakland field goal right before the half gives the hosts a 6-3 advantage at the intermission. As you can see, it's not a day for either offense to shine.

The Raiders go up 9-3 in the third quarter but a Flacco to Maclin touchdown toss late in the third quarter puts Baltimore ahead 10-9.

A suspect penalty call in the fourth quarter gives Oakland a first and goal situation and they cash in with a TD run from Marshawn Lynch to re-take the lead at 16-10.

Justin Tucker follows with his second field goal of the day to cut it to 16-13, but the Ravens can't get the equalizing score despite having the ball with under two minutes remaining.

Oakland grinds out a boring 16-13 win to send the Ravens to their third straight loss.

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show me the money

Another 2-3 week last Sunday has me at 9-11 through four weeks of the 2017 NFL season.

Like Alex Collins, I'm ready to break out and make a name for myself this week. I just hope I don't fumble away my chances, like he's prone to do.

So, here we go...

PANTHERS AT LIONS (-2.5) -- I'm bullish on the Lions this season. I actually think the Panthers are pretty decent as well. This should be an entertaining game, one of the better ones on the week five NFL schedule. I'm sticking with Detroit to win and cover in a 30-26 Lions victory that moves them to 4-1 on the season.

JAGUARS AT STEELERS (-7.5) -- Pittsburgh is a different team at home than on the road. Most teams are, actually, but the Steelers are quite different, particularly on offense. Jacksonville is coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Jets in New York last week, so we should expect them to man-up today, right? Wrong. Three straight "away" games (the London game was technically a home game for them) will catch up to the Jags today as the Steelers pour it on at home. I'm going with Pittsburgh to win and cover, 30-17.

CHARGERS AT GIANTS (-3.0) -- Neither team has a win yet. Vegas thinks the Giants stink so much they're only giving the Chargers three points in NY. Los Angeles (nee San Diego) is terrible, too. There's no way the Giants let the Chargers come east and win, right. Right. I'll take the Giants to roll and cover, as they win easily 23-13.

CARDINALS AT EAGLES (-6.5) -- The battle of the Birds in Philly has a pretty decent Arizona team taking on a Philadelphia club that might actually be pretty good. I like the Eagles to win this one, but I'm going with Arizona to keep it close and lose by a field goal, as they cover the 6.5 point number in a 24-21 Eagles win.

CHIEFS (-1.0) AT TEXANS -- DeShaun Watson makes his "national game" debut tonight vs. the undefeated Chiefs. Kansas City looks like the team to beat in the AFC, but for one night, at least, Watson steals the spotlight. I'm going with the Texans to win outright -- and cover, obviously -- in a 21-19 win over the Chiefs.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Let's go with the Giants (-3.0) over the Chargers as the Best Bet selection for today's games.




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October 7
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how much of "this" is on flacco?

In my weekly appearance on Glenn Clark Radio yesterday, we dove right into the topic of the Ravens offense and how much of what's going on these days is on the shoulders of Joe Flacco.

It's here where I should probably note that Clark would take umbrage with my use of the word "weekly" above, particularly in the summer months. I missed as many Friday appearances as I made this past summer due to my golf and family vacation schedule. There you go Glenn, happy now?

Back to football...

Glenn and I are cut from the same cloth when it comes to Flacco in that we've always been supporters of his from day one of his arrival back in 2008.

But these days, our tunes have changed a bit. I'm of the mindset that Joe's game has regressed over the last few years while Glenn doesn't necessarily think that way. I wouldn't call Glenn a Flacco "apologist" by any means, but it's pretty clear when you listen to the two of us that I'm harder on Flacco than is my former radio co-host.

We both agree on one one thing, though. The Ravens offense isn't very good these days.

Actually, we both agree on two things. The team's offense line is pretty dismal, too.

But we disagree on how much of the burden falls on Flacco.

The more I see of Joe, the more I think it's on him.

During my days on the air, I'd routinely try and solve problems with the Ravens, Orioles, etc. by using what I called "the pie theory". Create a mythical pie and dedicate slices to the various elements of the issue.

Glenn and I tried to do this yesterday.

If the pizza contained eight slices, how would we divide them up in terms of "blame" for the club's offensive woes?

The offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, would have to get a slice, right?

There's an argument he might even deserve two slices.

What about the team's offensive line? Two slices? Maybe more. Clark said yesterday they should get "half the pizza".

Without debate, the loss of Marshal Yanda has had a significant impact on the Ravens' chances for offensive success this season. I think we'd all agree on that.

Austin Howard, acquired back in training camp after the Raiders cut him, has been lousy at right tackle. Ryan Jensen is trying hard at center, but inexperienced there at the pro level.

And then there's James Hurst. Nice guy. But he's "struggling to put it all together" -- and that's a kind way of putting it.

The receivers aren't world-beaters. No need to beat up Breshad Perriman any longer. That's like bashing Van Halen for not being able to get along with David Lee Roth and ruining a once-great band. Perriman is closing in on securing the "bust" label, but we'll give him the rest of this season, at least, to try and keep it from sticking.

Mike Wallace is still serviceable, but nothing more.

Jeremy Maclin can definitely still contribute to a NFL offense and in other circumstances he might have been a showcase off-season addition. But Maclin hasn't been much of a factor so far.

Still, you have to give the receivers at least one slice of the pizza, right?

That leaves Joseph Vincent Flacco.

How much of this is on him? Brien Jackson wrote an exceptional piece here at #DMD this week breaking down Joe's season to date, his career, and the mechanical issues that are holding him back in this, his 10th season in the league.

Jackson would admit he's not a quarterback expert, but he's not the only guy around the country -- and some are "experts" -- saying these things about Flacco: Slow in the pocket, bad footwork, locks on to his first read, hurries through his progressions.

The Ravens, we assume, are fully aware of Joe's play, good or bad. We watch the games because we enjoy football. They watch the games because football is the way they feed their families.

To my untrained eye, Flacco's play last season and this season have been nothing more than "OK", and that might even be giving him too much credit. Forget passing yards, team records and anything else the organization distributes via social media to try and validate Joe's performance. It comes down to watching the games and his performance on each play and assessing whether he added quality to that play or didn't add quality.

I don't see Joe adding much quality these days.

And remember, I like the guy. I'm not in any way predisposed to beating him up. I'm a Flacco fan.

But I'm also a Flacco realist.

He has to play better.

A lot of this is on him, as it should be when you're the quarterback and you make $20 million a year.

$20 million can get you a lot of pizza.

And -- a lot of slices.

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pulisic, altidore spark u.s. in rout of panama

Back in September, U.S. soccer sensation Christian Pulisic was largely held in check by Costa Rica and Honduras as the American team labored through a two-game patch where they gained just one point and dangled precariously in danger of not qualifying for next summer's World Cup in Russia.

Pulisic wasn't held in check last night by Panama in Orlando, Florida.

The 19-year old scored a sensational first goal to get the party started and later fed Jozy Altidore a perfect pass for the first of his two goals as the U.S. climbed oh-so-close to securing a spot in Russia 2018 with a 4-0 win.

A massive performance from Christian Pulisic (left, in red)on Friday evening in Orlando has the U.S. on the verge of securing a spot in next summer's World Cup in Russia.

The Americans now just need a win at Trinidad and Tobago this Tuesday night and they're in. There are still other ways they can qualify (Honduras plays at Costa Rica tonight in a key game) given the results of other games on Tuesday, but a U.S. win on Tuesday is all they need.

Pulisic made sure they got to that point last night in Orlando.

Much has been made about this "wonder-kid" from Hershey, PA over the last two years. Last night was yet again another shining example of just how much he's living up to the hype. He eventually left the game in the 60th minute because the entire Panama team was trying to break his leg every time he touched the ball, but by then the damage had been done.

Pulisic was simply too quick, too shifty and far too creative for the Panamanians to control. They tried. And they failed.

Altidore, with a career label of a guy who can't finish his chances, tallied twice in the first half, including a cheeky penalty kick chip that probably went a long way in aggravating the Panama team. Bobby Wood then scored in the second half to finalize the scoring at 4-0.

There's still work to be done in Trinidad on Tuesday night, though.

Trinidad and Tobago are out of it in CONCACAF qualifying. Long gone, really. They are firmly in last place in the 6-team grouping and were defeated last night in Mexico City, 3-1, by a Mexican squad playing a bunch of back-ups and future stars.

But they are not to be taken lightly at home. The U.S. will have to come to play on Tuesday and play hard for all 90 minutes.

Below are player grades for last night's 4-0 win over Panama.

Tim Howard, 6 -- Hardly saw the ball, but was solid on crosses and anything sent into the penalty area.

Omar Gonzalez, 6 -- Nothing special, but decent enough. Got beat for pace a couple of times early on but settled in nicely after that.

DeAndre Yedlin, 8 -- One of the best players on the field last night. Strong and willing to meet his man head-on. Impressive night.

Matt Besler, 6 -- Solid, but still occasionally gets caught ball-watching. One of his better outings, though.

Jorge Villafana, 6 -- Had a few shaky moments in the first half. Gets pushed around a bit too much.

Paul Arriola, 8 -- One of the best outings of his young career. Spirited work effort and solid on the ball, not to mention his pass to Wood for the second half goal.

Michael Bradley, 7 -- Had a solid night, actually. Played more of his comfortable defensive midfielder role and managed his space extremely well.

Darlington Nagbe, 6 -- Nothing out of the ordinary for him, but a solid performance. Getting better with each game, it appears.

Bobby Wood, 8 -- Was a wise lineup selection by Bruce Arena. Pesky, worked hard, and earned a nice reward for it all with his second half goal.

Jozy Altidore, 8 -- His two goals were of the "easy" variety, but goals are goals in World Cup qualifiers. Acquitted himself very well.

Christian Pulisic, 9 -- You don't see many "9's" on player ratings in soccer, but Pulisic gets one for last night's epic performance where he single-handedly toyed with Panama for sixty minutes. Dazzling on the ball, magical at reading the play in front of him, and precise with his goal and assist in the first half.

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October 6
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corey kluber is the a.l. cy young winner (that's a fact and an opinion)

FACT: Cam Newton's press-conference-dig at a female reporter wound up being one of the rare times an athlete's ill-timed words cost him money. The Dannon yogurt company (they're the makers of Oikos brand yogurt) will no longer work with Newton in the wake of Newton's remarks aimed at Charlotte sports writer Jourdan Rodrigue earlier this week. Despite his (apparent) sincere apology, Oikos will discontinue running their ads featuring Newton.

OPINION: I don't think there's any doubt Newton was trying to take a swipe at the reporter. That was pretty obvious. Perhaps what he really wanted to say was this when she asked him a question about route running: "It's funny to hear PEOPLE who never played the game ask me about route running..." Instead, he said, "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes." And that was the end of the yogurt endorsement. An over-reaction from the folks at Dannon? Sure, probably. But brand protection is important these days and Newton can't disparage females (who buy a lot of yogurt) while getting paid by the yogurt company.

FACT: Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is in his first season as CBS' lead analyst for NFL games, working alongside the great Jim Nantz.

OPINION: Maybe it's just beginner's luck, but Romo might very well be the best "color guy" I've ever heard on television. He's Jim Palmer without all the old stories about Earl Weaver and the digs at everyone's salary. He really knows football. It's a shame he couldn't use that knowledge to be a better player ON the field, but he really gives you some legit football insight behind the microphone. Last night's game between New England and Tampa Bay featured several critical plays that Romo broke down like a 10-year TV veteran. He's really good.

Expect Corey Kluber to win this year's A.L. Cy Young award. He gets the start tonight against the Red Sox, with Cleveland up 1-0 in their A.L. playoff series.

FACT: The Houston Astros lit up Chris Sale yesterday afternoon in their 8-2 win over Boston in Game 1 of the ALDS.

OPINION: Not that yesterday mattered in the Cy Young voting (votes have already been turned in) but Houston's eruption was another indicator that Sale, while authoring an outstanding season in 2017, wasn't the best pitcher in the A.L. this season. The award will rightfully go to Cleveland's Corey Kluber, who will earn his 2nd Cy Young honor in November when the awards are announced.

FACT: Kansas City remains the NFL's only unbeaten team (4-0).

OPINION: The NFL has one really good team (K.C.), one terrible team (Cleveland) and 30 other teams who can beat anyone on any given day. Right now, though, if they stay healthy, the Chiefs look to be a very solid bet to advance to the Super Bowl, particularly if they finish with the best record in the AFC and get home ice throughout the playoffs. There's a loooonnnngggg way to go, sports fans, but Andy Reid might finally get that coveted championship ring.

FACT: The PGA Tour's "new season" kicked off yesterday out in California. This silly wrap-around season they do is just that: silly. But they're off and running (again) and these tournaments count in terms of FedEx Cup points and, more importantly, Ryder Cup points for next September's trip to Paris for the bi-annual event.

OPINION: With the dawning of a new season, I'll go ahead and throw out my four major winners for 2017-2018: Masters (Justin Rose), U.S. Open (Dustin Johnson), British Open (Justin Thomas), PGA Championship (Kevin Kisner).

FACT: The Ravens longest pass play in their two losses this year? 16 yards. That's right. 16-lousy-yards.

OPINION: They should have an easier time out in Oakland with the Raiders forced to go with E.J. Manuel at quarterback, but we all know the Ravens are capable of laying a big egg out in Oakland on Sunday. My guess? If the Ravens stink it up offensively in the first half and Joe Flacco continues to look pedestrian and slow, we might see Ryan Mallett in the second half, particularly if the score is something like 17-3 or 21-6 at the intermission. They'll make up an ailment or injury for Flacco as a way of protecting him, but John Harbaugh can't sit around much longer and watch his team's offense piddle around without any real progress.

FACT: The Caps kicked off their 2017-2018 campaign last night with a shootout win in Ottawa, 5-4. Alex Ovechkin scored three goals in the third period to rescue the Caps from a 3-1 deficit and help send the game to overtime.

OPINION: Alan May, an analyst with NBC Sports Washington (formerly known as Comcast SportsNet) brought up some very interesting points about Ovechkin in last night's post-game show. He says the Caps' veteran has gone back to using equipment manufacturers that he used a decade ago when he was one of the NHL's brightest young stars. Ovi has apparently gone back to his "old" stick, skate and glove companies, eschewing some profitable sponsorship and endorsement deals with different companies and putting his performance first. May is one of the best analysts in the game. He knows his stuff. If he's right about this, it's a very interesting story involving Ovechkin, who is on the 15th hole of his 18-hole career and still doesn't have a Stanley Cup title to his credit.

FACT: Maryland football heads to Ohio State on Saturday with their third string quarterback in tow, apparently poised to get clobbered by the Buckeyes.

OPINION: You thought that Texas victory on opening Saturday was huge? That win would pale in comparison to an upset of Ohio State in their own building tomorrow. It would be the biggest triumph for Maryland football in my lifetime, for certain. And after beating Minnesota last Saturday (yeah, I know, it's Minnesota), who knows what kind of momentum they've built down at College Park. Look, I don't think Maryland's winning tomorrow by any means. But if they do, it's a program changer.

FACT: Speaking of college football, LSU paid visiting Troy University the whopping sum of $985,000 to play them in Louisiana last Saturday. Troy won the game, 24-21.

OPINION: That's the end of Troy's big-dollar-money-grab game. Schools like Troy (and Towson, who once got $600,000 from LSU for the right to go down there and get hammered) take a game or two like that every year, pick up a couple of huge checks, and supplement their entire athletic department with that revenue. Just like big name schools stopped scheduling Appalachian State after they knocked off Michigan a while back, Troy's phone won't be ringing anytime soon, you can bet on that. Who wants to pay them $750,000 or so and then have them come in and beat you? Troy might have won the game last Saturday at LSU, but they lost their future ability to make a bunch of money at the same time.

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it's all on the line tonight for u.s. soccer

The fate of the U.S. men's soccer team rests with tonight's game in Orlando against Panama.

A victory this evening and the American team will be in good position to claim one of the three available spots in the CONCACAF region for next summer's World Cup in Russia. At the very least, a victory this evening will virtually lock up the fourth spot, which would put the U.S. in a 2-game "play-in" series with a yet-to-be-determined team in December, with the winner there also qualifying for Russia 2018.

But a loss tonight...

A defeat this evening would put the American team on life support. They'd need big, big help from others, including Costa Rica, who plays host to Honduras (9 points) on Saturday, and then visits Panama in the final game of the 10-game qualifying tournament next Tuesday.

After being held in check last month in games vs. Costa Rica and Honduras, the U.S. needs a big performance from Christian Pulisic tonight in their key World Cup qualifying game vs. Panama.

The U.S. wraps up their 10-game qualifying tournament at last place Trinidid and Tobago next Tuesday.

And that's not going to be a walk in the park, either, trust me.

But tonight's game is the biggie. A U.S. win would give them 12 points and keep Panama at 10 points, with that one lone game remaining. Honduras has Costa Rica and Mexico remaining on their schedule, but they're far from a shoo-in to win both of those encounters.

Here's what's certain: Two U.S. wins in the next five days will put the American team in the World Cup. Anything other than two wins and it's time to sweat, with either Panama or Honduras capable of claiming the third (and fourth) spot in the CONCACAF region.

Panama is not a patsy. They've only allowed five goals in their eight qualifying games thus far. Yes, they've only scored seven, but their trademark is defense and goaltending. And they're very, very physical.

Much has been made recently about the methods used by Costa Rica and Honduras in September to stymie U.S. sensation Christian Pulisic. In short, they simply put their cleats into his calves every time he touched the ball. Expect Panama to do the same tonight.

Their will be some interesting lineup decisions for coach Bruce Arena this evening.

Who goes in goal? Does veteran Tim Howard get another shot or will Arena stick with Brad Guzan, the guy he trusted in the all-important road games at Mexico and Honduras, both of which resulted in 1-1 ties?

I hope Guzan gets the nod tonight, personally. I think he's earned it.

DeAndre Yedlin should return to the U.S. defensive corps tonight and that will be a big help. He missed the Costa Rica and Honduras games in September with an injury.

What will Arena do with the American offense? Expect Jozy Altidore to be back in the starting eleven after missing the Honduras game due to yellow card infractions. Does Clint Dempsey get a start again or will he be used in that "super sub" role if necessary?

And what about Bobby Wood, the hero of the unlikely 1-1 tie at Honduras last month? Start him? Or bring him off the bench as well?

Arena talked on Tuesday of this week about looking at the final two games in totality and not being overly concerned with one game in particular. That's his way of saying "We need at least four points in these two games", but the reality of the situation is tonight's game is the biggest U.S. soccer qualifier since the 1989 trip to Trinidad where the Americans scored a 1-0 win to earn their spot in the 1990 World Cup.

The times have changed. The U.S. wasn't supposed to get in back in 1989. Their achievement was definitely a surprise. Fast forward to 2017 and it's almost unthinkable that the Americans wouldn't qualify for the World Cup, particularly coming out of a somewhat weak CONCACAF region.

But that's where they've put themselves. Tonight's the night. A win and they're in a great shape. A loss and they're in big, big trouble.

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October 5
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do people really think the ravens are removing the ray lewis statue?

Someone sent me an e-mail on Monday of this week and asked me to rally and show support for the petition to remove the Ray Lewis statue.

"We need some influential people to get behind this and put us over the finish line," Ed wrote.

I told Ed two things. First, I'm not influential. Gerry Sandusky? Influential. Mark Viviano? Influential. Me? Not influential.

Next, I told him the obvious, even though I'm sure he didn't want to hear it: The Ray Lewis statue isn't coming down.

In a nice way, I suggested that Ed and the others move on to another project, because this one isn't going to conclude with the action they're seeking.

News flash: The Ravens are aware of the petition, with apparently 81,000 signatures in place right now. And they do not intend on removing the statue.

Can we now just go back to football? And beating the Raiders, maybe?

From the very beginning, I didn't quite understand the whole "Ray Lewis petition thing". My question for anyone who signed it would be this: "Are you still going to the games? Still watching the games on TV?"

If you answered "yes" to either of those questions and you signed the petition, you need some sort of sports therapy. You're not well.

You mean to tell me that Ray Lewis offended you so much by taking a knee -- oh, wait, Ray took "two knees" -- that you'll sign a petition for the removal of his statue from the walkway of the stadium but you'll still go to the games and watch them on TV?


Ummmm, you do know that nine players who currently play on the team also took a knee in London, right?

You want Ray's statue removed...

But you'll still go see the players play who took a knee?

You need therapy.

Speaking of that petition, how many of the 81,000 people who have "signed" it so far are really fans of the Ravens?

My guess? Not even half.

Let's be honest for a second. If some lunatic Steelers fan had a petition available on-line that asked the Steelers to cut Antonio Brown in the wake of his sideline temper tantrum last Sunday, a bunch of Baltimore football fans would hop on the internet and sign it. Right? You might be one of them, even.

And why would we, in Charm City, care about what they do in Pittsburgh? We wouldn't care. But we'd love to stir up the hornet's nest in Pittsburgh, wouldn't we?

So I'm not buying that 81,000 Baltimore football fans signed that petition. Sorry, I'm not. I think a lot of Baltimore football fans signed it, but I think a lot of people who would like to see the Ravens embroiled in controversy also signed it.

They're all wasting their time.

The Ravens aren't removing the statue of a future Hall of Fame football player who is an integral part of their organization -- oh, and one who didn't do anything "wrong" in the first place to deserve having the statue removed.

I don't agree with anyone who doesn't stand for the national anthem. I've made that abundantly clear over the last year. But I'm not about to hop on the caravan and start blustering for the Ray Lewis statue to be removed.

We just went through a situation two months ago where a bunch of goofs around the country wanted statues of Robert E. Lee removed because they weren't able to get any sleep at night worrying about the message it was sending. I thought that was insanely stupid.

Removing the Ray Lewis statue would be equally as dumb.

And I can't help but stress the point one last time. If you signed that petition and yet, still go to the games, what message are YOU sending? You're OK with the current players taking a knee. There's no petition in place to have Terrell Suggs or Lardarius Webb removed from the team. But you want the Ray Lewis statue removed?

Oh, and one last thing: The Ravens paid for that statue. They forked over a half-million bucks to have it created, transported and embedded into the concrete at their stadium. They own it.

They're not about to take it down because a bunch of Steelers fans who figured out how to use a computer signed a silly petition.

And they're not about to remove it and humiliate perhaps the most iconic player their franchise will ever have.

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caps fans should let it sink in now and avoid the annual spring heartache

The Washington Capitals kick off their 2017-2018 season tonight in Ottawa.

I saw something yesterday that indicated the Caps have odds of 12-1 to win the Stanley Cup this season.

I had to "LOL" at that one.

The Capitals are not winning the Stanley Cup.

Lots of regular season wins, three MVP trophies, and plenty of exciting moments have been authored by Alex Ovechkin in his Caps career. But he still hasn't put his hands on the Stanley Cup. Could 2017-2018 be the year?

Not this year.

You can take that to the bank.


We all know why. Because they can't play in the post-season, that's why.

I'm a Caps die-hard. For those that don't know, I've literally been a fan of the team since 1975. I couldn't tell you how many home games I've been to at both the Cap Centre and the whatever-it's-called-this-year building in DC, but it's probably close to 400.

I'd put my Caps fandom and knowledge of the players up against anyone.

I'm a Washington Capitals junkie.

And I can tell you, without question, they aren't winning the Stanley Cup this season.

In a very odd way, there's a feeling of warmth in writing this today. Last year, and probably in 2014 and 2015, the season kicked off with me and a lot of others thinking the Caps had a realistic shot at finally winning the Cup.

Deep down, we knew they probably weren't going to win, but the pieces were in place and the odds were starting to stack in their favor.

Like the Cubs showed us last October, at some point, the sports gods wink at every team and every organization. Right?

They won't be winking at the Caps this year.

I assume they'll make the playoffs. You have to be a mediocre team to miss out on the post-season in the NHL. The Caps aren't "mediocre", but they lost too much talent in the off-season to be realistically considered a Stanley Cup contender this year.

Their coach is a high quality guy, but only a middle-of-the-pack strategist and in-game mastermind. They're not losing because of Barry Trotz, but they're not winning because of him, either.

Their best player, Alexander Ovechkin, is on the back nine of his career. He apparently showed up to camp 15 pounds lighter than last year. If that helps him score goals in even-strength situations this season, I say "lose 25 and let's beat the Penguins in the playoffs while we're at it."

Ovechkin is a good player. A very good player, at times. But sadly, he's not a winner. Never has been, at any level. Never will be, either.

The Caps aren't a bad team, mind you. They'll win their fair share of games. They'll have a nice December-January run where they're the talk of the league. They'll be in the hunt for prime playoff seeding next April.

But when the dust settles, they won't do anything of note in the playoffs. Save for the spring of 1998, when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals against Detroit, the Caps have always flat-lined in the post-season.


And this year will be no different.

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thursday sports with 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 Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

what really grinds my gears

I humbly kneel before you, #DMD readers, in the hope that maybe you’ll agree with at least some of the things below. If not, feel free to boo as loudly as you’d like and walk out of the stadium; I can’t hear you anyway. Rapid fire…

What was the deal with Jacoby Jones “retiring as a Raven?” Did he ask for that? Did the Ravens think it would be good publicity in a week where they (and the whole NFL) were getting so much bad press?

Jones played three seasons here, as opposed to five in Houston. He made a few great plays, the most famous of which was just lucky. He was basically nonexistent in his third year. Mike Tomlin once tried to trip him. I’m still waiting for any decent reasons for the team to have a press conference announcing his retirement.

It was reported that LSU paid the athletic department at Troy University a $985,000 guarantee for a visit by the Trojan football team to Tiger Stadium this past weekend. As happens very infrequently in these situations, Troy actually won the game.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the players who went to Baton Rouge and pulled the upset actually saw some of that money? Divide that 985K by the 85 scholarship players on the team and you get $11,588 per player. That wouldn’t last forever, but it would definitely help the guys on the team pay for their parents to travel to their sons’ games.

Speaking of paying players, Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino has some nerve, doesn’t he? Either that, or he just doesn’t care.

It’s not that he agreed to or approved payments to a recruit. It’s not that he’s the only coach who was doing it. It’s just that it seems like he actually got on the phone and took care of it himself. Where were the three middlemen to take the fall for him? You’d think an Italian-American like Pitino would have seen a few Mafia movies.

As for the college basketball news, I asked a friend of mine who coaches AAU basketball why this kind of stuff goes on, besides the obvious answer of “greed.” He had an interesting answer.

He said that the Louisvilles of the world might be recruiting four players, but the No. 1 guy is a lot better than the No. 4 guy. They have to get No. 1; he’s the ticket to greatness and sellout crowds, even if it’s only for one year.

The Towsons of the world? They might be recruiting four players, but they’d be happy with any one of them. Even if they had the money and influence to “cheat,” there wouldn’t be any point to it.

At this point in the season in “Power Five” college football, the various TV networks have a 12-day window to choose game times and networks in consultation with conferences. Later in the season, the window can shrink to as little as six days, as in the previous Sunday for a game on Saturday.

The time for Maryland’s game against Northwestern next Saturday was just announced on Monday. It’s Family Weekend in College Park, and I think it would be nice if students and parents could make arrangements a little earlier. It would probably help the crowd, too. This ain’t Ohio State.

Serious question. What is wrong with Chris Davis? He went from a guy who strikes out a lot to a guy who has a hard time getting the bat off his shoulder.

Watching Davis for six seasons, it’s obvious that he’s a “guess” hitter. But at some point like, say, with two strikes, you have to stop guessing. You can’t be expecting a pitch. If it looks like a strike, it’s fair game.

The thing is, of all the guys on the free-swingin’ Orioles, Davis is probably the best at knowing what’s a strike and what isn’t. That’s what makes it so odd.

As for the pitching staff, the Orioles ranked 14th out of 15 American League teams in 2017 in earned runs allowed, hits allowed, home runs allowed and walks allowed. More than half of the team’s games were started by Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman and Jeremy Hellickson, who allowed a combined 327 earned runs in 446 innings pitched, a 6.60 ERA.

I looked back through the period of 1998-2011, when the team had 14 straight losing seasons, and it was tough to find a team pitching performance anywhere close to as bad as 2017. You know this season was bad if it was worse than all of that…

I’ll give Dan Duquette credit for one thing: he sure was right about not bringing arch-villain Jose Bautista to Baltimore for 2017, even if he had a weird way of explaining his rationale.

In Showalter-style fashion, John Gibbons let Bautista play in all but five games this year and saw him stink up the joint with 170 strikeouts, a .203 average and a .674 OPS.

According to Baseball Reference, his WAR was -1.7. Chris Davis’s, for comparison, was -0.1. So maybe we weren’t watching the worst hitter in the Major Leagues here in Baltimore after all.

I can’t decide whether or not I like the one-game Wild Card playoff in baseball.

On one hand, it’s sort of neat that a manager has to treat one game like it’s a seven-game series. Luis Severino…you might win the Cy Young Award someday soon, but you’re useless to me tonight. Hit the showers.

On the other hand, the Norfolk Tides could beat the Yankees in one game. The Detroit Tigers were the worst team in the league this season, and they beat the Yankees three times.

My fall back plan? A 2-out-of-3 series, played on three straight nights like a regular-season series, in the better team’s park.

Count me among the few golf fans (it seems) that think team golf among professionals is sort of silly.

Two sides that “hate” each other? Maybe long ago, but not now. Alternate shot? It’s always seemed to me like something for an exhibition or a charity tournament. Gamesmanship on “giving” putts? What’s the point? Just putt it out like every other week.

I’m fine with team golf in high school and college. That’s just individual matches or 18-hole scores earning points toward a total. Plus, the team camaraderie is kind of the point of the whole thing.

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October 4
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here's why you're losing interest in the ravens

Sounding a lot like Don McLean's song American Pie, I'll start off by saying this: "A long, long time ago..."

Somewhere around 2010 or so, I remember saying on the radio one morning that Baltimore football fans would witness a sea change in the Ravens organization when Ray Lewis was finished playing.

"You all will long for the days when he was around once he's gone," I said. "He's not only a great football player, but he's one of the only players in town we've ever had where people are willing to buy tickets just to go and see him play."

"He makes the games exciting," I added.

Fast forward to 2017. Here we are, now, with the Ravens in the second decade of their existence, two Super Bowl titles under their belt, and firmly entrenched as a contender in the AFC, although the last couple of years have slightly shifted that level of power.

And yet, fewer people are going to games in Baltimore.

Interest appears to be waning, if even only marginally.

There's just not the same level of enthusiasm for home games like there might have been in 2008 or 2012.

Why is that?

I have an explanation.

Would the games be more exciting for Ravens fans if the team had a playmaker with the quality of, say, Rob Gronkowski?

We all see things through our own eyes and own agenda. My base of friends -- race, age, level of sports interest -- might differ from your base of friends. You might be a rabid tailgater. Me, with a 10-year old who goes to the games with me? I'm not much on pre-game revelry.

In other words, we're all a little different when it comes to the Ravens, our connection to the team, and who it is we watch the games with every Sunday.

But my explanation on what's going on with the Ravens has nothing to do with my friends or your friends.

Here's what I think has happened to the Ravens. It's very simple.

They don't have any exciting players.


We can break that down into a few different elements of discussion, but the simple fact, at least with this year's edition of the Ravens, is that they just don't have any players who make you want to go to the games.

They don't have any exciting players.

The games themselves wind up teetering on being "boring" almost, despite the best efforts of the Ravens organization to spruce up and super-jazz the in-game experience. The big video boards are awesome, the cheerleaders are great, the pizza delivery idea is really cool -- and so on and so on. The Ravens are trying to make the games interesting and exciting.

But we don't go to the games for pizza delivery and video boards. We ultimately go to the games because we want to be entertained by the play on the field.

And it's just not doing it for us anymore.

This, by the way, doesn't have much to do with the team's record over the last few years. I dare to say that we'd be a lot more interested in the home games if the team's record was the same but they were losing most games 33-30 because the defense couldn't stop anyone.

Sure, we'd still be griping about Dean Pees and C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs pulling a no-show act (again), but at 33-30 we'd likely have a wide receiver or two who could catch a deep ball and the quarterback would be electrifying as well.

The Ravens are boring.

And that's probably the worst thing you can say about a football team: They. Are. Boring.

Not the game itself. But the team...

Are you really going to the game to see Mike Wallace or Breshad Perriman? Honestly? Of course not.

You can be a Flacco apologist or Flacco critic and there's no way you feel much different about Flacco as a marquee attraction. He isn't one. His style is nothing like that of, say, Aaron Rodgers, or Ben Roethlisberger or, hell, even Philip Rivers.

Flacco is about as interesting -- on the field -- as a deck of cards.

Sure, when Ray Lewis was around, the Ravens were doing a lot of winning and that, perhaps more than anything, keeps the fan base excited.

But I have to tell you, over the last few years, winning hasn't changed much at all about the home games and their level of energy. It's not there.

And this isn't about beer and food prices, either.

You're paying $10.00 for a beer these days whether or not you're at a baseball game, football game or rock concert.

Sure, it's expensive to go to a football game, but that in and of itself has little to do with the actual excitement level of the game you're watching on the field.

You'll gladly pay $30.00 for three beers if the game is entertaining and the two teams are scoring some points. If there's an acrobatic catch or three, you don't mind paying $11.00 for a hamburger and chips.

We want excitement. It's not necessarily only about winning and losing. We'd like to see greatness.


The quality of the play around the league is down, it's worth noting. Watch any game and you see absolutely horrid offensive line play. It's a cyclical game and league and right now, there are simply not enough really good offensive linemen sprinkled throughout the 32 teams.

There are more penalty flags, it seems, than ever before. Why? Part of the reason is because of a lack of quality players. First stringers and Pro Bowl players don't need to bend the rules or hold on a 3rd down running play. Back-ups, rookies and third stringers commit those kind of infractions regularly, though.

But quality of play aside, the Ravens don't have any exciting players. Sorry, they just don't.

Without question, Aaron Rodgers is the most exciting quarterback in the league in 2017.

The two biggest plays of the day against the Steelers on Sunday were both running plays by a guy who probably won't be on the team in a year or two, Alex Collins. He ran for 23 yards on the first play of the game and later scampered for 50 yards in the 3rd quarter as the Ravens tried to come back from a 19-0 halftime deficit.

In 2017, in the NFL, when your most exciting player is a running back, you're in deep doo-doo.

Quick, right now, name the three most exciting players in the NFL -- guys you'd pay money to see play if they came to Baltimore (since, I'm sure, we'd all agree the Ravens don't have one of the three most exciting players in the league.)

I'll play along. I'd say, in no particular order, Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Rodgers.

A wide receiver, a freak-of-nature tight end and a Hall of Fame, once in a generation quarterback.

Your three might vary, but my guess is they'll probably be close to the same in terms of position(s).

Who is the Ravens most exciting player right now, today?

Come on, who is it?

I'm still here...


I don't know that they have one, either.

That's my point.

In the old days, you went to the games to see the team play, yes, but you were also there to see Ray Lewis. He was the drawing card, based a lot on the fact that the Ravens were built with defense back then and that was the style we connected with as fans of the team.

The league doesn't want any defensive stars anymore. I think we all know that. The days of hard hits and big thumps across the middle of the field are long gone. It's flag football without the flags (yet) these days.

So, while offense reigns supreme from an excitement standpoint, the Ravens don't have any quality players on the offensive side of the ball that generate any excitement.

I understand why Ozzie Newsome went "defense crazy" in last April's draft. He wanted to improve the football team.

But doing so also helped to diminish the level of excitement of the on-field product at Ravens Stadium.

You've been to the games, right?

Be honest now. Are they exciting? Edge of your seat kind of stuff? If you're telling the truth, you're saying "no".

Some other things have cut into the team's home attendance and they aren't the fault of the Ravens at all.

More people are staying home to watch the games on their theater-like TV systems.

Internet streaming is now so easily available you can watch your daughter's soccer game on a Baltimore County field and keep up with the Ravens game on your smart phone.

Ten years ago -- five, even -- you would have been forced to make a choice. "Do I get to Lucy's soccer game? Or go watch the Ravens and Steelers at the stadium?"

Now, you can do both. You can stand on the sidelines and cheer for Lucy and her team and never miss a play by watching the game on your phone.

You can travel and watch the games. Sit on your deck and watch the games. Go out on a boat and watch the games.

You no longer have to go to the stadium itself to watch the team play. And a lot of people are choosing to go that route. That's what the empty seats are telling me, anyway.

But more than anything else, I think, right now, the games aren't exciting because the Ravens don't have any exciting players.

The quality of play is down -- around the league. It's not only on the Ravens to be exciting. The other team has to get your blood going, too. When's the last time a guy on the Browns was exciting enough that you were eager to get down to the stadium for that always thrilling Cleveland-Baltimore match-up?

The Bears come to town on October 15. I bet you can't wait for that one.

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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.

Joe Flacco is a bad quarterback.

He hasn't always been a bad quarterback. For the first 5 years of his career he was an underrated and underappreciated quarterback with more ability than people gave him credit for.

But he's been a bad quarterback since Super Bowl 47 came to an end, and he's been one of the very worst starting quarterbacks in the entire NFL since the beginning of 2015. And the scary thing is that he's only getting worse at this point.

In breaking down Flacco's play, there's really nothing that he does well consistently at this point in his career.

He's careless with the ball, and routinely throws into coverage, oftentimes double or even triple coverage. He doesn't read coverage at all, either before or after the snap, and at times it's painfully obvious that he has no idea where defenders are or which of his receivers are well covered.

He has no patience to let routes develop against man coverage, and no timing or anticipation to throw guys open against zones. There's not much more I can say about his footwork, and I'm not sure I can come up with a word to do justice to just how truly atrocious it is.

Joe's never been good at stepping up or moving in the pocket or getting deep into his reads, but at this point in his career all of his weaknesses have grown to cartoonishly bad levels. Flacco's mechanics breakdown completely under pressure and half the field is basically off the table for him on drop back passes because he can't turn his body away from his first look while keeping his feet underneath of him, and that means he can't make an accurate throw.

Indeed, he often can't even get himself into position to physically throw the ball, and these end up being the plays where Joe gets sacked while a stadium full of people scream "throw the ball!" in futility.

"But he's under so much pressure!," the excuse makers will say.

There's some truth to that, but even if we cede the point it's also true that Joe is well below the average for an NFL quarterback on plays when he's pressured. I noted on Tuesday that Joe had a quarterback rating of just 35.8 when under pressure against Pittsburgh, but believe it or not that was actually a marked improvement for Flacco.

Coming into Sunday's game, his rating under pressure was an inconceivable, awful 7.9! That's dead last in the league right now among qualifying quarterbacks, a position that Flacco also owned in the 2015 season. Since 2013 he's ranked 33rd, 29th (the Gary Kubiak year), 37th (last), 25th, and 32nd (last) in that statistic.

The offensive line might not be helping Flacco very much, but he's making them look a lot worse too, far more than the other way around.

This is an important metric for the Ravens to keep an eye on for two reasons. The first is that it's only going to get more important to the overall success of NFL offenses in the next decade. As bad as you might think the Ravens' front five are right now, the rest of the league isn't much better.

I've seen at least one national writer use the word "crisis" to describe the quality of offensive linemen league wide, and the reason for that isn't much of a secret.

College coaches are increasingly utilizing spread-and-tempo concepts that include offensive line schemes that bear little resemblance to the kind of football you see at the professional level. College playcallers are looking to get the ball to the edges quickly, exploiting the large gap in talent between rosters and players, and running as many plays as possible in a game to maximize the value of that talent gap.

There's no sign of this trend reversing itself either, so you can expect the situation to get worse before it gets better. That means it's going to be difficult to turn the Ravens' offense around by trying to recreate the 2003 Patriots' line, and that the best NFL offenses going forward are going to be the ones whose quarterback can best produce under pressure.

The other reason is that, ironically, Flacco's ability to stand in the pocket and make plays under pressure used to be one of the aspects of his game that defenders pointed to to explain how he was underrated. And they were right!

In the first five years of his career, he ranked 17th, 5th, 20th, 25th, and 8th in the league in QB rating under pressure. That's not (ahem) elite or anything, but it was perfectly serviceable and it was good enough to take the team to the postseason in all five of those campaigns. Since winning the Super Bowl, however, Flacco's fundamentals and production have cratered.

Why is Flacco worse in the 10th year of his career than he was as a rookie? I really can't answer that. I could jump on the bandwagon of commentators making claims about Flacco not caring, not working hard behind the scenes, being semi-retired, etc, but I don't like to do that because it's almost never actually true.

Only the coaching staff, and Joe himself, can really figure out what's causing these problems with the quarterback's fundamentals. But I will say this: I don't think it's a coincidence that Joe was better in the years where he had Cam Cameron for an offensive coordinator, a coach he often didn't see eye to eye with. Nor that his best overall statistical season came in 2014 when by all accounts Kubiak and quarterback coach Rick Dennison focused relentlessly on his footwork.

And I think there's good reason to suspect that Flacco gets a bit of a pass for his own flaws from the organization and the coaching staff. It's also pretty clear from some statements Joe's made over the years that he genuinely thinks he's a better quarterback than he really is as well so maybe he's, dare we say it, a bit uncoachable as well?

Whatever the reason, the Ravens need to figure it out, and soon. On Monday, Drew used the word "crossroads" to describe where the Ravens are at right now, and that's a pretty apt description in my opinion.

And like all NFL teams at a crossroad, you have to start your evaluation with the quarterback position. It needs to be made abundantly clear to Flacco that his status as the franchise quarterback is very much up in the air right now, and if he can't improve his own performance, the organization needs to be prepared to start looking for a new quarterback this offseason.

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umbc men's soccer enters top 20

An early season run of excellent play by the UMBC Retrievers has the squad getting some much-deserved national recognition.

UMBC men's soccer enters the national rankings for the first time since 2015, coming in at No. 16 in the latest Soccer America Poll. The team also received a vote in the United Soccer Coaches' Poll this week.

UMBC's Greg Hauck is a big reason why the Retrievers are earning national attention one month into the 2017 campaign.

UMBC has earned a national ranking eight times since 1999.

Earlier this week, sophomore back Trey Vinson was named to the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week, helping the Retrievers to a 1-1 draw against No. 1 Maryland and a win against No. 12 New Hampshire.

"It is always an honor to be nationally ranked. We understand that there is a lot of season left, but it is nice to see our program get some national recognition, as we hit the tough conference stretch," head coach Pete Caringi Jr. stated on Tuesday.

UMBC has played four ranked teams so far this year, including three in a row the past week. The Retrievers took down then No. 19 West Virginia, 3-1, back on Sept. 13 before falling to then No. 12 Western Michigan, 2-0, a week later. The team then tied No. 1 Maryland, 1-1, and beat No. 12 New Hampshire, 1-0, last Saturday. The team going 2-1-1 against ranked teams is the best in the regular season against ranked opponents in program history.

"It is unprecedented to play that many ranked teams so early in a season, and we have had quite a run against the nation's best this year," Caringi said about the tough stretch.

The schedule does not get any easier as the Retrievers will play the next two on the road at Binghamton on Saturday and at UMass Lowell next Wednesday. While the Retrievers are happy with the recognition, the Retriever mentor knows it is back to business having to play in a conference that was ranked third nationally last year.

"This ranking and the way we have played says a lot about our program, but we know we have to get back to business having to play a very good Binghamton team this weekend. There are a lot of good teams in this conference, and we have to be ready to play every game."

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October 3
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the worst thing that could happen to the ravens -- is happening to the ravens

There are lots of moving parts in the first quarter of the Ravens' season, but one thing is certain: Other than being 0-4 or 1-3, the team's current state of affairs is just about the worst thing that could happen to them.

Not much is going right at this point. And it would appear as if things might get worse before they get better for John Harbaugh and Company.

The 26-9 loss at home to the Steelers was one of those "turn around" games for the Ravens.

Having just lost in London the week before to Jacksonville, 44-7, the Ravens had the opportunity to quickly right the ship. "It's the NFL, everyone loses a game or two they didn't think they'd lose," the Ravens could have reasonably said had they knocked off the Steelers on Sunday to get back on track.

Coming off of one of the worst performances in team history in their first-ever trip to London, there was probably no better situation in the offing than a home game against the Steelers seven days later. If you can't get up and play hard against Pittsburgh, you probably don't deserve to play for the Ravens.

And then the Ravens laid an egg on Sunday. It wasn't the colossal fiasco of the previous Sunday at Wembley Stadium, but it had a lot of the same signs and indicators. Poor offensive execution, shabby defensive play against the run and a general lack of sharpness.

To me, the more concerning of the two losses is easily the one they were handed by the Steelers on Sunday. I can wipe away the loss in London quite easily. But to come home and stink up the joint like that against Pittsburgh? Very troubling and very concerning.


Unless you're actually inside the locker room on a regular basis, there's no way of telling just how much "Kneelgate" in London has caused waves in the Ravens' locker room.

In much happier times for both the quarterback and the coach. Now, they both have their back against the wall.

The team put together what turned out to be an awkward, confusing "prayer for unity" before Sunday's home game with Pittsburgh, hoping to stitch up the wounds created by nine players kneeling during the national anthem in London on September 24.

It didn't work.

The fans booed -- many simply didn't know what the team was doing -- and the players responded after the game with some social media snipes at those who showed their displeasure.

The players said all the right things about the "prayer for unity" and no one is publicly talking about stress or strife in the locker room, but the results and the play on the field suggest otherwise. And it's simply impossible on a human level to have 53 players all agreeable on a subject as volatile as the pre-game national anthem and the on-going "protest" some NFL players are still involved in, four weeks into the season.

Perhaps it was a one-time thing. Maybe on October 15th when they host the Bears, the Ravens will simply stand for the national anthem like they used to do "in the good old days". But one thing is for certain: The organization has to figure out a better solution to the national anthem issue and stop making it a centerpiece of attraction for the players AND the fans.

The team doesn't look good. Players are frustrated. Fans are agitated. It has the makings of a boil-over sometime soon.


As is always the case in Baltimore, folks are looking for a scapegoat of some kind for the team's 2-2 start and the consecutive losses to the Jaguars and Steelers.

The guy in the crosshairs right now is Joe Flacco.

On one of the two stations in town that takes phone calls from sports enthusiasts, Monday was "beat up Joe day" on Baltimore radio. Flacco was sliced, diced and grilled by almost every caller on the occasions I tuned in yesterday. A few even suggested that perhaps Ryan Mallett be given a shot this Sunday in Oakland.

Flacco is not playing well. He even admitted that in the wake of another offensive snoozer on Sunday vs. the Steelers.

The question, of course, is "why?"

Is Joe still hurt? He says he's fine.

Is this a by-product of missing all of training camp with a back injury? He says it isn't.

What is it then? Is Flacco entering the downside of his career now? Is Joe in the September of his NFL career?

To me, Flacco looks apprehensive. It's worth noting that I'd probably look apprehensive as well if four of the five guys blocking for me on the offensive line weren't NFL starters.

And on about 80% of the throws Flacco makes, something goes wrong. He's either left unprotected and has to make a hurried throw, the receiver drops the ball, or Flacco's pass isn't accurate enough to complete the reception.

He can still make NFL-quality throws when given time. He showed that again on Sunday. The TD pass to Mike Wallace was placed perfectly. An early over-the-top throw to Mike Wallace along the Steelers sideline was dropped. A throw to Jeremy Maclin near the Ravens' bench was spot-on, but Maclin alligator armed it and the pass was incomplete.

But then Flacco had Breshad Perriman wide open near the end zone after the Weddle fumble recovery in the third quarter and Joe's pass sailed too high for the 3rd year wide receiver (who, frankly, probably would have dropped it anyway).

His favorite target has become tight end Ben Watson, similar to the days when Joe would routinely look for Dennis Pitta instead of looking into the secondary to see what opportunities existed there.

Flacco isn't the only guy on the offense who isn't playing well. But he's the one that stands out because every play revolves around him, somehow.

If his performance doesn't improve -- dramatically -- the Ravens are in trouble.

The Ryan Mallett callers might even get their wish.


I'll give John Harbaugh credit. He handled Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh well. Maybe all of the post-game questions were to his liking, but he answered them without getting agitated and said what you figured he'd say, "We didn't play well enough and we have to get this straightened out next Sunday in Oakland."

Even his Monday press conference, which always has the potential for friction, went off without any obvious signs of frustration.

But Harbaugh is definitely feeling the heat of the 2-2 start and the losses to Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.

It's his team, first of all. Ultimately, he's responsible for everything.

He's the one who kept Marty Mornhinweg on board as the team's offensive coordinator.

John has remained loyal to Dean Pees, the team's defensive coordinator.

If coaching matters in the NFL -- and most say it does -- Harbaugh and his staffers have to be on the firing line over the final twelve weeks of the season. Yes, injuries have certainly hurt the club in 2017. There's no questioning that. But some of the things we're seeing on a regular basis aren't happening only because the Ravens have 17 players on the injured reserve list.

Someone has to unlock Joe Flacco, first and foremost.

Whether that's Harbaugh, Mornhinweg, Flacco himself or a combination of all three, the Ravens can't survive this season if their quarterback play continues to be inferior.

Someone has to get the team back on track and focused on football and football only, something an outsider would say they haven't done in the last two weeks given the pre-game actions surrounding the national anthem.

That "someone" should be the head coach.

Maybe John's trying to get the team settled privately and perhaps they're not responding. That's quite possible.

Harbaugh might be overly concerned with Flacco for all we know, yet there's obviously no way he could say that -- or even hint at it -- in one of his press conferences.

As I always try to remind people, what we see on the outside is often times not like that at all within the walls of the locker room. Hence, my concern about the pre-game anthem stuff. They're saying all the right things after the game, but that could just be eye wash. Inside the locker room, there might be plenty of tension.

Contract extension or not, John Harbaugh desperately wants to win to maintain his own job security. There's not a coach alive who says, "Eh, who cares if we win today? I have a 3-year deal."

But Harbs has to get something going here...quickly. The Ravens might have caught their lucky break for this Sunday's game in Oakland, as Derek Carr will not play and washed up E.J. Manuel will get the start at quarterback for the Raiders.

Make no mistake about it, now. A loss in Oakland will really put the Ravens, Flacco and Harbaugh behind the eight ball.

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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.

tuesday morning quarterback

Sunday's 26-9 loss to the Steelers was a real gut punch for the Ravens and their fans.

The game was never that close, it's never good to lose a divisional game at home, let alone to the hated Steelers, and worst of all it's pretty clear the Ravens have well known weaknesses on both sides of the ball that opponents are going to exploit to the fullest. Here are the winners and losers from Week Four.

Spoiler alert...there's a lot of losers!

Loser: Joe Flacco

There's not much to say about Flacco's performance on Sunday that hasn't already been said.

What we saw has become typical of a Flacco game: Inconsistent, sloppy, and full of ill-timed mistakes.

Joe signaling how many touchdowns his offense has scored in each of the last two games.

His first interception might well have been the quintessential Flacco play for the post-2014 period. After completing a pass to tight end Ben Watson in seemingly impossible fashion, Flacco went right back to Watson on the next play. The problem was that a) everyone in the stadium knew that's where Flacco was going to look, because he's predictable like that and b) Flacco didn't see that Watson was completely covered by Ryan Shazier, because he never looked at Watson before he threw it.

That's not hyperbole either: The play happened right in front of me in the stadium, and Joe was hurling the ball to Watson before he looked upfield at him.

The ball ended up hitting Shazier perfectly in the hands for one of the easiest interceptions you'll ever see. I'd say the easiest, but Flacco actually threw a worse one last year against the Jets, and I'm not at all willing to believe he won't top one or both of those poor decisions before the end of 2017.

Flacco also threw high and missed a wide open Breshad Perriman for what would have been an easy touchdown before that. The excuse makers might spin it as Perriman "dropping" the ball, and maybe he still should have caught it, but there's simply no excuse for a starting NFL quarterback to miss that throw that badly. The way Flacco is playing right now would get him benched by one of the better teams in the Big Ten, to say nothing of the pros.

Ultimately something has to give here, and soon.

The Ravens simply have to demand that Flacco gets better, because he is their single biggest problem, and the one that there's no way to work around given the central importance the quarterback plays to an NFL offense. No, he doesn't have the best offensive line and he has to deal with pressure, but here's the thing: According to PFF Flacco's QB rating under pressure on Sunday was just 35.8. Not only is that really bad, it's well below average for an NFL starter even under pressure.

Yes, the line could be better, but Flacco is making them look worse than they are right now because he's simply not even an average quarterback when it comes to handling pressure, and over the past three seasons there are 20-25 quarterbacks who have clearly been better than Joe at handling opposing pass rushes.

That goes back to Joe's poor footwork and the complete breakdown of his mechanics when pressured, and it's something that the coaches and Flacco simply have to correct. Maybe he is still banged up, but that doesn't explain the persistence of deficiencies in his play that have been there for the last three years now. If Joe can't fix it, then it's time for the team to get a new quarterback. It's really that simple.

Loser: C.J. Mosley

If the shine has come off the Ravens' defense since Week One, no single player better personifies the drastic shift than Mosley. In Cincinnati, the middle linebacker played a whale of a game, and was a key cog in confounding Andy Dalton's ability to find throwing lanes in the middle of the field. Since then he's been absolutely awful in coverage, and just like the Jaguars did in London the Steelers picked on him relentlessly in coverage.

The revamped secondary continues to play well all things considered, but that only goes so far when Mosley (and Kamalei Correa) is playing that bad in the middle of the defense.

Losers: The rest of the linebackers

If Mosley had a game to forget in coverage, the outside linebackers were embarrassed in run defense. Za'Darius Smith, Matt Judon, and even Terrell Suggs failed entirely at setting the edge against the Steelers' running game, and Le'veon Bell and James Connor absolutely gashed them on the edges as a result.

For a team that prides itself on physicality and discipline in that aspect of the game, it had to be humiliating to come back and watch that game tape. You can bet John Harbaugh will make that a point of emphasis as the team prepares to face the Raiders this week.

Winner: Dean Pees

I'm not sure anything better sums up how ridiculous Baltimore fans can often be than the way people in town talk about Dean Pees.

No matter what the roster looks like, now matter how badly the players on the field get beat by the opponent in a game or on a specific play, there's always a large number of people who put the blame on the defensive coordinator's "schemes." Honestly, all 11 players could trip over their own feet and fall on their faces simultaneously, and there are some fans and commentators who would still blame it on Pees' playcalling.

But all his scheme managed to do this week was hold Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in the game, to 4 catches for just 34 yards.

That comes three weeks after A.J. Green was a similar non-factor on Opening Day, and frankly it's becoming common place to see Brown get completely shut down by the Ravens' defense. Ben Roethlisberger is so used to it that he didn't even look at Brown on a pass play that was specifically designed for his number one target, and would have resulted in a gimme touchdown if he had, which ended up causing Brown to melt down on the sideline.

That's the kind of thing that a defensive coordinator can impact on the field, and there's not much you can do to "scheme" around a middle linebacker that can't cover a sheet or outside linebackers who are getting physically dominated by run blockers. The soft underbelly of this defense started getting exposed against the Browns, and it's not Pees that's giving the unit trouble.

Loser: Marty Mornhinweg

On the other side of the ball, it's hard not to imagine that Mornhinweg's tenure as offensive coordinator is nearing an end.

I don't really think that Marty "deserves" to get canned, and I definitely don't expect it to make much of a difference in offensive production, but another week or two of anemic offensive output is going to force John Harbaugh and senior management to do something. And the fact of the matter is that the only big change they can make before March is switching the guy calling the plays, and they've conveniently got Greg Roman sitting right there as the OC-in-waiting.

Of course, they did that exact same thing last season when Mornhinweg replaced Marc Trestman, which made fans happy for about five minutes but ultimately didn't create much of an improvement because Joe Flacco was still the team's quarterback.

Winner: Michael Pierce

The Ravens' defensive line was pushed around and outworked by Jacksonville in Week Three, and it was fair to wonder if they could get the job done without Brandon Williams. But against the Steelers Pierce stepped up and was one of the best players on the field for either side, holding his gap against the run and even putting pressure on Big Ben in the passing game as well.

Willie Henry also turned in a very productive game in just his second active roster appearance.

Losers: The running backs

Alex Collins broke off a 50 yard run and added another 32 yards on 8 more carries....but he also lost a fumble for the second time in three games.

Collins is an explosive runner who can create some big plays, but you can see why he was just sitting around available to be picked up by anyone, and it's hard to imagine he's going to get many more passes on the fumbling from John Harbaugh. Buck Allen and Terrance West combined for a total of 0 yards on 6 carries between them, with West ending the day with -7 yards on 4 carries.

Winner: Ronnie Stanley

On an offensive line that's struggling (though most of that comes from the RG position at the moment), Stanley delivered another very good performance in pass protection and is cementing himself as someone who's going to be an All-Pro left tackle soon.

I'll have more on this later in the week, but with the state of offensive line play in such bad shape around the league and the trends in college offenses promising to make it worse before it gets better, I think there's a real chance that we're going to look back at picking Stanley sixth overall as one of the very best draft picks in the entire NFL in this era.

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Todd Schoenberger promises to deliver provocative commentary on the world of Baltimore sports. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of writing is certain to leave readers debating and disputing, but always thinking. Be sure to follow Tuesdays with Todd!

Twitter: @TMSchoenberger

baltimore loves to riot, but not when it comes to sports

Come on, Baltimore! I know the city loves to create chaos by disrupting the lives of those who live and work in the city. Throwing molotov cocktails through the windows of front facing mom-and-pop corner stores is a Charm City tradition!

So, let’s get it going!

The city’s once proud major league baseball team finished in last place. The team couldn’t even tease us with hopes of a brighter future by finishing a mediocre third. No. This Orioles team continues to sit on its hands while all its primary competitors in the American League East continue to fill the cupboard with high-quality ballplayers.

Tell me again why these players decided to kneel for the national anthem two weeks ago?

Yeah, we have Manny. And the asbestos king himself, Sir Peter Angelos, likes to remind the season ticket suckers “we’ll never get rid of him!”

Imagine if you’re Manny Machado. He probably wonders what tragedy happened in his life requiring him to be stuck in a life of such malaise.

He continues to play in front of sub-par crowds for a city best known to the rest of the world as the town the train goes through between DC and New York. As great as Baltimore can be when a winning team is in town, the inverse makes it a pathetic disaster when they are losing. People are moody, angry, frustrated.

It sucks. Plain and simple.

But hey, Baltimore! All is not lost. There happens to be a tax-funded stadium just steps away housing a champion NFL team, right?

Ha! I don’t know which team is worse: The Ravens or the Orioles. They both suck. Is there a money-back guarantee if we send our once-awesome football team back to Cleveland? I’m sure the warranty has already expired for the Orioles, which means we’re getting nadda if we ship them back to St. Louis.

Oh well.

At least we have our passionate fans who, no doubt, will begin lighting dumpsters on fire and turning cop cars over to protest the constant and toxic losing taking place in downtown Baltimore. I mean, the people wearing Purple and Orange won’t put up with it anymore. Right? RIGHT???

Yeah, Baltimore is a pushover city and its citizens (i.e., sports fans) seem just pleased to put up with the nonsense. And it’s been this way, well, forever.

The culture of losing is generational and both professional teams are quickly falling into a trap filled with quicksand.

Next season will be the thirty-fifth anniversary for the 1983 World Series Champions. Forget about winning a world championship; the O’s haven’t even been able to make a return to the fall classic during this time.

A younger generation who consistently sees last place finishes will not become fans in the future. Guess what those people do when they’re adults and have children? They sure as hell won’t be rooting for a team they never had a connection with them as an adolescent.

Which brings me to the Baltimore Ravens and their constant disregard for liberty and the people paying their salaries.

In the past week, Messrs. Lardarius Webb and Terrell Suggs have provided us with zingers about “not disrespecting the military or the police or the country” when taking a knee during the National Anthem. They claim the protests are about…

You know, they never really told us what the protests are about. Google it, and seek the reason for taking the knee. I know why Colin Kaepernick took a knee: he was protesting the military, police and the country. But his disciples, particularly the knuckleheads on the Ravens sideline, seem to have no clue as to why they’re doing it.

So why do it?

Nobody knows the answer to that one. Of course, we could always ask Ray Lewis because he has all the answers…and a statue.

(How about the petition? Over 70,000 authentic fans want the statue removed. Over the weekend, the Ravens tried their best to get a rally going on the plaza in hopes of forming a large crowd in support of number 52’s legacy. Well, a whopping 40 people showed, and some of those were his family. Any mathematicians out there? Last I checked, 70,000 is greater than 40.)

Since the Baltimore fans are not rioting (which, is not advisable or permitted in the eyes of the law, nor seriously solicited by this writer or any of the contributors associated with DMD), there’s likely one reason to explain the apathy:

The fans simply don’t care.

The Pittsburgh game has always been the must-have ticket in town. Yet, even during perfect Chamber of Commerce weather, many fans collectively chose to do other things on Sunday. Rather than spend $8.50 on a beer or $20 on parking, thousands ignored a passion most consider as equally important as oxygen.

Think anybody really gives a hoot about David Carr missing the upcoming Raiders game? It’s doubtful. But I bet Webb and Suggs will think you do when they drop to their knees this week.

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ravens at crossroads after home loss to steelers

Maybe, in hindsight, it would have been a good idea to take that bye after the London game, huh?

The Ravens were thoroughly outplayed by the Steelers on Sunday in sun-splashed Baltimore, as Pittsburgh produced a 26-9 win before a crowd that booed throughout the afternoon.

I'm not someone who likes hearing the home crowd boo their own team -- and I've never done it myself, I'm proud to say -- but it's fair to note that yesterday's performance from the Ravens probably deserved some in-game derision. The Ravens were bad on Sunday. On both sides of the ball.

Speaking of the fans, after a week of threats and ticket-sales-offers and defiant stances in the wake of last Sunday's "Kneelgate" in London, the stands were mostly filled at Ravens Stadium yesterday. There were pockets of visible seats, but that's the case for nearly any home game these days. But a massive "protest" by the fans never happened, or at the very least, those electing not to go found someone else to take their tickets.

John Harbaugh had plenty to scream about on Sunday: No offensive production, his defense got lit up, and the fans booed lustily throughout the 19-9 loss to the Steelers.

There was some excitement in the pre-game leading up to the national anthem, as the Ravens elected to have a "prayer for unity" on their sideline, with the entire team taking a knee for five seconds or so while the public address announcer clearly stated what was going on.

The stadium filled with boos as the players got down on a knee. Some people left. The Ravens then stood up for the national anthem.

That got the day off to an awkward start in my opinion.

It's certainly far better than taking a knee during the national anthem, but I still don't understand why the team (or any team, not just the Ravens) feels compelled to do that stuff on the field before the game.

What's the difference between praying as a team at midfield before the game or on the field after the warm-up ends twenty minutes earlier or, even better, in the locker room before the game?

I just don't understand why the organization feels like it must do the kneeling thing before the game on the field? I'm all for pre-game prayer -- based on the way the Ravens are playing these days, they should double it and ask for "no ice" -- but given the times and circumstances, it just feels like you're fanning the flames by taking a knee on the field before the anthem.

On to football...

The Ravens were terrible on Sunday.

There's no other way to put it. As was the case last Sunday vs. the Jaguars, a player or three might have produced some quality work, but for the most part there were no standouts in the loss to Pittsburgh.

Joe Flacco was once again off his game, although he's probably the one guy who was victimized the worst by the inefficiency of those around him.

For the second straight week, Joe's accuracy was questionable, he stayed in the pocket too long, and the 10-year veteran showed little or no mobility when pressured. His two fourth quarter interceptions were back-breakers for a Ravens squad that was trying to pull off a miracle comeback after trailing 19-0 in the third quarter.

But it's hard for Flacco to throw when he has no time to prepare. For the most part on Sunday, the Baltimore offensive line was dismal. Ronnie Stanley was decent, as always, but everyone else was sub-standard and that's being kind. Austin Howard had another brutal week on the right side and Ryan Jensen is starting to show signs of mediocrity after getting off to a good start in the first two weeks of the season.

Other than two long runs by Alex Collins, the Ravens' running attack was also dismal. Collins finished with 82 yards, but 53 of them came on two carries. Oh, and he fumbled again, too, the second time in four games he's put the ball on the ground. And Pittsburgh connected on a second quarter TD after the turnover.

But Collins was the best of the three on Sunday, although it's fair to note the Ravens used Buck Allen more as a receiving back in the second half when they were trying to rebound from the 19-0 deficit.

Defensively, the Ravens were shredded by two of the three B's -- Ben and Bell. Roethlisberger only threw for 216 yards on the day, but he delivered several critical throws on the two Pittsburgh TD drives that mattered. And he was sacked just once, a testament to the line play of the guys in front of him.

Le'Veon Bell scampered for 144 yards on the afternoon, as he finally produced the type of performance Steelers fans are used to seeing after three games of so-so results to start the campaign. Whether the Pittsburgh offensive line just had one of those days or the Baltimore defensive interior was that bad, the visitors won Sunday's game in the trenches. On both sides of the ball, Pittsburgh was better.

Where do the Ravens go from here?

They're clearly in trouble, but a win over Oakland followed by a victory at home over the Bears would give them a 4-2 mark through six games, which will most certainly keep them alive and well in the AFC playoff picture.

But can they go to Oakland and win?

That seems highly unlikely given their performance(s) over the last two weekends.

The Ravens have scored one touchdown in each of the last two games. It stands to reason that next Sunday's game in Oakland will require at least 24 points to win given what the Raiders can do on offense (although they did score only ten yesterday in a road loss at Denver).

Baltimore has 16 points in their last two games. I'm not sure they can score 24 in one game, frankly.

There's no question the injury bug has flattened the Ravens. People are always ready to say "you can't use injuries as an excuse", but Sunday's game is a perfect example of the lopsided nature of the health of the two teams who played in Baltimore.

The Ravens have 17 players on the injured reserve list, plus they're missing their best defensive lineman, Brandon Williams.

The Steelers have 6 players on injured reserve.

That's a substantial trade-off in talent, I'd say.

But that's not going to change soon, at least not for the Ravens. They're banged up now and they'll be banged up again on December 10 when the teams meet in Pittsburgh.

Somehow, the Ravens have to right the ship in time for next Sunday's game in Oakland.

I don't know how they're going to do it.

Maybe they should pray. More...

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orioles finish in last place

It doesn't really matter where you finish from one season to the next (ask this year's edition of the Minnesota Twins), but there's something both startling and stinging about seeing the Orioles at the bottom of the American League East after the season concluded on Sunday with a 6-0 loss at Tampa Bay.

There they are, dead last in the division:


Kevin Gausman finished the 2017 campaign at 11-12 with a 4.68 ERA after taking the loss in Sunday's 6-0 season-ending defeat at Tampa Bay.

Just one month ago, literally, the Orioles were in the American League playoff race. Well in it, actually.

Yesterday, they lost for the 22nd time in 29 games.

If you're looking for a formula on how to plummet from the playoff race in one month's time, the Orioles found it. Just go 7-22 in your last 29 games. That will do it every time.

Losing 19 of their last 23 will do it as well. That's how the Birds finished out the last three weeks of the season. But baseball being what it is, you're either in the playoffs or playing golf the first week of October.

The Orioles have a tee-time today.

The manner in which they collapsed in September was unsettling, but the result would ultimately be the same if the Orioles did what Milwaukee did in the National League. The Brewers stayed alive for 160 of the 162 game season, finally bowing out of the post-season chase on the penultimate day of the campaign.

Would we feel any different if the Birds mirrored that sort of play, only to fall short on the final weekend of the season?

We might feel better, but everyone's still playing golf.

It's never good to collapse as a professional sports team, but just about everyone except the Patriots has done it at some point. Things just go haywire, you can't do anything right, everyone else you play seems to be "on", and it all adds up to a lot of losses.

I discovered this a long time ago when I was running the indoor soccer team in town: The hardest thing to do in sports is to stop losing.

The Orioles found that to be true in September and again on the only day in October they'll play. They just couldn't stop losing.

We'll have post-season grades starting tomorrow here at #DMD.

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u.s. presidents cup team rolls to easy win

This was over on Saturday, but they still had to play the singles matches on Sunday.

And even though the International team won Sunday's "session" and claimed a morsel of dignity yesterday, the final outcome wasn't nearly as close as the 19-11 winning score would indicate.

The United States team absolutely throttled the International side in the Presidents Cup.

If not for Anirban Lahiri coming through late in the day on Saturday, the U.S. would have secured enough points in three days to win the four-day competition. As it was, the U.S. led 14.5 to 3.5 heading into Sunday's singles matches, needing just one point yesterday to officially claim the title.

The Americans are now 10-1-1 in the Presidents Cup after a 19-11 win in this year's event in New Jersey.

There's no magic formula for the International team to try and follow. They simply have to play better golf. Only one player on their side (Louis Oosthuizen) won more than one match over the four days (he finished 2-2-1) and three players (Leishman, Grillo and Hadwin) failed to win a match.

Nick Price, the International captain, was honest and gracious in his assessment following play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. "We didn't play nearly well enough to win," he said. I liked hearing that.

Price offered no excuses about the home crowd or anything else. He just broke it down in simple chapter and verse: "They played better than us."

Across the board, the Americans were terrific. The only negative, if one can even be found, was Jordan Spieth's singles loss to Jhonattan Vegas on Sunday. That defeat leaves Spieth with a career singles record of 0-5 in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup competitions.

Dustin Johnson was the best U.S. player, finishing 4-0-1. His only "blemish" if you will was a singles draw with Branden Grace on Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the heart of the U.S. team all played the entire five-match schedule, with Johnson, Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed seeing action in every event.

The only U.S. player with a losing record was Charley Hoffman (1-2-0) but he still handled himself well in his Presidents Cup debut. Hoffman and Kevin Chappell were a good pairing by the captains.

And if this weekend's Presidents Cup was Phil Mickelson's swan song in team-event competition for the U.S., he ended it in style. Mickelson was clearly a popular captain's pick by Steve Stricker and he repaid his friend's confidence in him with some sensational golf, finishing off a 3-0-1 event with a singles win over Adam Hadwin on Sunday.

As I've said for the last year or so, the worm has turned when it comes to the U.S. and their Ryder Cup chances. We saw it last year at Hazeltine and again this past weekend in New Jersey. Yes, they were both at home, but the performances from the American team in those two competitions are a great sign for the future.

Next stop: Paris next September for the Ryder Cup.

The European team better start practicing now.

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Week 4

Sunday — October 1, 2017
Volume XXXIX — Issue 1

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, Maryland

Spread: Steelers -3

Las Vegas and the oddsmakers are so confused by this Ravens team, they've made the Steelers 3-point favorites for today's showdown in Baltimore.

Didn't the Steelers just lose to the lowly Bears last week?

Anyway, last Sunday doesn't matter for both teams, fortunately, as the Ravens were throttled in London by the Jaguars, 44-7. I'm not sure which loss was worse, but the Ravens had to travel about four times as far to get their whoopin', if that means anything.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has a history of doing strange things when his team faces the Ravens. The Steelers need their coach to have his "A game" today in Baltimore.

Today's game is critical in a bunch of ways for John Harbaugh's team.

First, it gives the Ravens a chance to get the aforementioned loss in London "officially" off their plate.

It would also give them a leg-up in the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker with Pittsburgh. It routinely seems like the head-to-head match-up between the two teams comes into play at the end of the season when it's time to start figuring out division winners, playoff participants, etc.

And anytime you beat the Steelers, it's refreshing.

Oh, and then there's that kneeling story from last Sunday in London. With a significant number of fans pledging on social media to sit this game out as a sign of their own "protest", the Ravens would do well to put together a solid performance today in an effort to win back those disgruntled supporters.

Finally, with a cross-country journey to Oakland up next for the Ravens, getting a win here today would eliminate any thought that Baltimore might be 2-3 after next Sunday's contest with the Raiders.

These games with Pittsburgh are always critical, but today's seems to have an air of almost "must win" to it.

Buckle up...

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keys to today's game

For the Ravens --

The Ravens need to do a quality job of slowing down Ben Roethlisberger today in Baltimore.

1. Get the crowd on their side with an early score -- Scoring first in the NFL isn't massively important, but it helps. In the Ravens' case today, it might be of particular importance given the apparent edgy nature of the crowd. One interesting sidebar to that effort will come with the opening coin flip. If the Ravens should win it, today might be a good day to accept the ball first and try and put some points on the board right away. It's important for the Ravens to get the crowd "with them" right from the start today.

2. "Good Joe" needs to show up today -- Based on last week's loss in Chicago, where the Bears ran up, over and through the Steelers defense, we can expect the Ravens to try and do a lot of their damage on the ground today. But there will still be occasions when Joe Flacco actually still has to "quarterback" the team and when those chances come around, Flacco needs to step up and help make some plays. He'll know going in his offensive line is shabby, so Joe better have his scrambling shoes on this afternoon. Whatever it takes to get the job done today, Flacco needs to do it. We know the guy on the other side of the field is capable of beating us.

3. No big gains on defense -- The Ravens need to work hard to ensure Pittsburgh's big play offense doesn't get rolling this afternoon. That means keeping running Le'Veon Bell from breaking off big runs of 10 or more yards and limiting how much damage Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown do in the air. If the Ravens can keep Bell from having no more than two of those 10-plus-yards carries and if they can restrict Brown to no more than two catches of 20+ yards, they have a solid chance of winning today.

Tale of the tape for a Ravens win -- Scoring early would be a major bonus for the Ravens as they attempt to get the fans back on their side. Flacco needs to play error free ball, and the Baltimore defense needs to put particular emphasis on not allowing big plays. No more than two big runs from Bell (10+ yards) and two big catches from Brown (20+ yards) and the Ravens should be fine.

For the Steelers --

1. Slow down Baltimore's ground game -- This might be easier said than done given what the Bears did to the Pittsburgh defensive interior last Sunday, but the Steelers have to figure out a way to not let the Ravens run over them this afternoon. Expect the Ravens to use their "three headed monster" at running back today, with Alex Collins likely getting the start and then Terrance West and Buck Allen chipping in throughout the day. If Pittsburgh can hold the Ravens to less than 125 yards on the ground -- total -- that figures to significantly improve their chances of winning.

2. Get to Flacco early -- Any sack is a good sack, but Pittsburgh's goal should be to put Flacco on his back once or twice right out of the gate. As we saw last Sunday in London, Joe's mobility is still somewhat questionable. If the Steelers can get to him early, Joe might get happy feet for the rest of the afternoon. This game today depends a lot on the play of Flacco. The Pittsburgh game plan should be to rattle him early, hard, and often.

3. Take the points when they're available -- Mike Tomlin doesn't always have his best moments against the Ravens, for some reason. Today is not a day for Tomlin to gamble. Given the nature of Baltimore's offense, points might be at a premium on both sides of the ball this afternoon. If you believe in the trends, this is likely going to be a field-goal game when the final whistle blows. If Tomlin and the Steelers are smart, they take every scoring opportunity that faces them and they cash in with their kicker -- unless, of course, they find the end zone first.

Tale of the tape for a Steelers win -- Don't let the Ravens fun for more than 125 yards, rattle Flacco with at least one sack on the first two series', and take the points whenever they're available on offense.

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how drew sees today's game

This is an interesting game based somewhat on the fact that neither team looked sharp at all last Sunday, so someone's going to bounce back today and someone's going to be tagged with an early 2-game losing streak.

When I look at the game, what sticks out to me is how poorly Ben Roethlisberger has played on the road over the last couple of seasons.

Pittsburgh is most definitely an offensive powerhouse at home, and a grinding, slow, unimpressive offense on the road. Roethlisberger tends to follow that formula himself.

Other than the fact this game comes against the Ravens and Pittsburgh always plays "up" for this one, there's nothing that tells me the Steelers are ready to break out and have a huge game offensively on the road. It's just not in their (recent) DNA to do that.

The other note worth following is how poorly the Steelers defended the run last week in Chicago. This should bode well for the Ravens today, as long as they stick to the game plan and don't get flustered if they produce a couple of 3-and-outs to start the game.

I think the Ravens will come out firing and connect on a field goal in their first offensive series to take a 3-0 lead.

A Flacco to Nick Boyle touchdown pass will make it 10-0 late in the first quarter. The Steelers will follow with a score of their own to cut the deficit to 10-7.

A late 2nd quarter interception by Jimmy Smith will give the Ravens the ball in Pittsburgh territory and Alex Collins will cash in with a touchdown run just before the first half whistle blows to put Baltimore up 17-7 at intermission.

Pittsburgh will collect a third quarter field goal to make it 17-10, Justin Tucker will add one of his own for the Ravens to extend the lead to 20-10, and the fourth quarter will turn into a ball possession quest for the Joe Flacco and the offense.

When the dust settles today in Baltimore, the Ravens will run for 144 yards, Flacco will finish 14 of 24 for 195 yards, and the boys in purple will come out on top.

I'm calling this one a win for the Ravens by the score of 20-10.

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show me the money

Last week's 2-3 performance leaves me just below .500 thus far at 7-8.

I did hit on the "Best Bet of the Day" game last Sunday, but I woefully mismanaged the Ravens-Jaguars game, as did just about everyone else in the country.

There are several games I really like this week, so let's get to it:

BILLS AT FALCONS (-8.0) -- The first of those games I find appealing comes in Atlanta, where the Falcons host the Bills. Atlanta is really good. Buffalo isn't. The Bills defense, though, is pretty decent, which could make this an interesting contest from the point-spread perspective. It might be close for a a half, but I like the Falcons to win and cover, as they score a couple of late touchdowns to win easily, 33-17.

LIONS AT VIKINGS (-2.5) -- Detroit could arguably be 3-0 if not for that wacky play at the end of last Sunday's loss to the Falcons. Minnesota, meanwhile is in all sorts of trouble at quarterback and offensively, in general. I really, really like the Lions today, not only to cover, but win outright. I'm taking Detroit in this one, 20-16.

PANTHERS AT PATRIOTS (-9.0) -- Do the Patriots play 12 home games and 4 away games? It seems like they're home every stinkin' Sunday. Carolina is a real unknown quantity at this point, but we might learn something about them today. New England, meanwhile, is allowing gobs of yards and points, but still winning games because of the guy who plays quarterback for them. I wouldn't be completely shocked to see the Panthers win this one, but either way, I'm going with Cam Newton and Company to cover the nine points they've been afforded, as the Patriots win 29-23.

49'ERS AT ARIZONA (-6.5) -- Boy, the guys at Vegas are just DYING for you to take Arizona here, huh? San Francisco is 0-3 and looks about as bad as any team in the league and the Cardinals, despite last Monday's loss to the Cowboys, can put some points on the board, especially at home. It sure looks like the 6.5 point spread is misaligned, but I don't make the odds. I'm going with the natural choice here and taking the Cardinals and giving 6.5 in a 24-10 win.

EAGLES AT CHARGERS (-2.5) -- How on earth can the Chargers be favored? They're 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the friendly confines of their cozy soccer stadium in Los Angeles. They're favored because no one can figure out the Eagles yet. And since I can't, I'm actually taking the Chargers in this one.

Los Angeles triumphs in this one, 24-20, proving once and for all they will win at least one game this season.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- I'm going with the team that's getting the most points and that's Carolina (+9.0) in New England. The Patriots' defense is just too shabby. Carolina makes a game of it and covers the nine points.




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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.

terps bounce back with big road win at minnesota

What a difference a week makes.

Last Saturday it looked like Maryland football's season had cratered just as it began.

2nd string quarterback Kasim Hill joined week one starter Tyrrell Pigrome on the list of players out for the season with a torn ACL, and the team dropped an ugly game at home to Central Florida in which they were barely competitive.

Fast forward to just one week later and third string quarterback Max Bortenschlager was able to lead the Terrapins to a stirring 31-24 victory on the road against previously unbeaten Minnesota yesterday.

Maryland coach D.J. Durkin scored one of his most impressive wins yesterday when the Terps went to Minnesota and posted a 31-24 victory.

For his part, Bortenschlager was the picture of efficiency, throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns -- with no interceptions. That set the tone for a Maryland team that avoided turning the ball over at all Saturday, and added 262 total rushing yards to the effort as well, along with two additional touchdowns on the ground.

The defense made plays all day long, holding the Golden Gophers to 309 total yards on the afternoon, only 80 of which came on the ground, and picking up two interceptions.

The win is a potentially pivotal one for the Terps' chances at making a bowl game this season. Though they haven't gotten into the meat of it yet, the rest of the schedule is downright brutal, with five of the remaining eight games coming against Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State.

It would have been next to impossible to expect Maryland to come out on top in any of those games even before they lost their top two quarterbacks. With such little margin for error, dropping a winnable game at home could have been a potentially devastating development, and at a minimum it put Maryland in a position where they needed to essentially run the table in the rest of their B1G schedule in order to play in the college football postseason.

But now they've taken a major first step in doing just that.

What's more, by knocking off Minnesota on the road, they've cleared what might have been the hardest of those four hurdles. It might still be unlikely for Maryland to go three-for-three in those other games, but Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers are all definitely beatable opponents for the Terps, and a bowl bid is suddenly a very real possibility again.

More importantly, for the big picture of this program, the victory does a great job of highlighting how well D.J. Durkin is doing in such a short time frame.

You don't win a road game in the Big Ten with a third string quarterback without having a really good roster otherwise (well, assuming it's not Ohio State playing Rutgers or something), and you definitely don't outplay the other team to the degree that Maryland outplayed Minnesota if you don't have a lot of talent in your locker room.

Whether they make a bowl game this year or not, the Terps continue to highlight that the near future looks bright with Durkin at the helm (as long as the quarterbacks stay out of the trainer's room), and that should continue to help Durkin sell his program on the recruiting trail.

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