Week 17

Sunday — December 31, 2017
Volume XXXXI — Issue 31

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

4:25 PM EST

M&T Bank Stadium

Spread: Ravens -9½

15 games later, it all comes down to 60 minutes of football

The Ravens haven't had the easiest go of it in 2017, but they can end the year, and their regular season, on the very best note possible late this afternoon in Baltimore.

Playing at home.

Against a team with nothing at all at stake.

And needing just a win, even by one point if that's what it takes, to make the playoffs.

It's all there for the Ravens today when they host the Cincinnati Bengals.

Nothing suggests John Harbaugh's team is going to lose this afternoon. Sure, the football's not round and "on any given Sunday" and all that other stuff people say to offer a warning shot -- it's all in play. But unless something really wacky happens at Ravens Stadium today, Joe Flacco and Company are headed for a 5th seed in the AFC playoffs and a first round match-up at Kansas City.

The quest for another photo opportunity like this one for John Harbaugh is on the line today when the Ravens host the Bengals in a critical game.

The oddsmakers say the Ravens are 9.5 point favorites.

My guess is it will wind up being a little tighter than that, mainly because the Bengals might get the bit between their teeth one last time for coach Marvin Lewis.

But the Ravens are winning today. It's as much of a done deal as it was on Friday night when Maryland trailed UMBC at the half in college hoops. The Terps were ALWAYS going to clobber the Retrievers in the second half and win that game going away.

The Ravens aren't losing to the Bengals today in Baltimore.

If they do...if they do...then someone's head is gonna roll next week at 1 Winning Drive. You can take that to the bank.

The primary goal is to win the game, of course. But second to that is team health. If the Ravens win and come out of the game with their key players healthy and available for next week's trip to Kansas City, then 2017 will have indeed ended on a high note for Baltimore's NFL franchise.

And, because it's clearly going to be a story on Monday and throughout next week, let's get out in front of it right now and state the obvious: The attendance is going to be an issue today. There will be lots and lots and lots AND lots of no-shows. How many? Who knows...

But it's New Year's Eve. The game start was pushed to 4:25 pm. People have already not been going even when there weren't holiday distractions. Oh, and it's "effing freezing" in Baltimore.

At 6 pm yesterday I counted roughly 15 "offers" on my Facebook page for Ravens tickets that were available for sale for today's game. People are bailing in droves -- or attempting to, anyway -- and we shouldn't be surprised or act outraged next week when we talk about 50,000 in the seats and 20,000 no-shows.

And let me end this on a personal note, too. Please be smart tonight if you are out and about celebrating the New Year. It's 2018 (almost) and there are many ride options available for those of you who enjoy a cocktail or three this evening after the Ravens clinch their playoff spot. Our friends at Lyft are one of those options that we'd suggest you consider tonight in lieu of transporting yourself and others while you're out on the town.

You can click the Lyft ad on the right side of the page here at #DMD or go here. It takes two minutes to set up your Lyft account and once you've done that, you're always going to get "to and from" safely, which is what matters most, of course.

Oh, and when you reserve your ride (or if you'd like to be a Lyft driver), here's our special DMD code that we'd like you to use. It helps us strengthen our partnership with Lyft: DMD2014.

Ride sharing is a great way to get you everywhere you want to go, anytime, but we especially ask that you use it tonight and stay safe on New Year's Eve! Thanks!!!

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how drew sees today's game

There's not much about today's game that suggests the Bengals really have a chance of winning.

Their defense is decent and their offense has some weapons, but the biggest intangible they'd need in Baltimore -- heart -- is simply not one of their main assets.

The Ravens are fortunate this game comes on December 31 and not November 30. Cincy might have still been engaged at that point.

Baltimore's 2017 team MVP has the chance to help put the Ravens in the playoffs for the 7th time in 10 years today.

But, as I wrote above, don't expect this to be a blowout. The frigid weather isn't pleasing to anyone, really, and while quality usually rises to the top, no one on either team is really looking forward to being out there in 10 degree weather at 7 pm.

Joe Flacco vs. Andy Dalton in and of itself is an interesting match-up, particularly since Dalton has some legit weapons to throw to and Flacco doesn't. But Joe can make "something out of nothing" much better than Dalton, which will be critical in today's game.

Look for Alex Collins to have a big first half as the Ravens jump out to a 10-6 lead at the intermission.

The home faithful start to get a little nervous in the third quarter as the Bengals score an early TD to lead 13-10, but Flacco finds Ben Watson for a TD drive on the next series and the Ravens are on their way.

A scoop and score by Terrell Suggs pushes the lead to 24-13 as the game enters the fourth quarter.

Cincy scores another TD to cut the Baltimore lead to 24-19 (Cincy goes for two and fails), but Justin Tucker converts on a field goal just outside of the two minute mark to put the Ravens up by eight, 27-19.

The Bengals have the ball last with a chance to tie, but the Baltimore defense holds and plans are made for a trip to Kansas City next weekend as the Ravens win, 27-19.

pees out, pagano in?

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees is expected to retire at the end of the season, according to multiple reports.

Rumors started circulating around town several weeks ago that Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees had told the organization he'd be retiring at the end of the season.

ESPN reported it early this morning, so someone in the know within the Ravens organization has clearly slipped the story to one of the big talking heads at the four letter network.

There have also been reports out of Indianapolis over the weekend that former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will be coaching his last game today when the Colts host the Texans.

One would expect that Pagano -- if he still wants a job in the NFL in 2018 -- would be among the first considerations for John Harbaugh when he begins his search for a new defensive coordinator.

Pagano will not be a candidate for any head coaching openings in the upcoming off-season. His cachet around the league just isn't that strong.

There will be others rumored to be good fits in Baltimore, but the early money on the Ravens opening goes to Pagano, whom Harbaugh greatly admires.

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show me the money

"Show Me The Money" is like a NFL team that already has their playoff fate sealed and January football awaits. We're over .500 by six games at this point -- which means we're finishing the 2017 regular season IN THE BLACK.

For those of you who have socked away a bunch of money this year using our second-half-of-the-season hot streak (20-11-4 in the last seven weeks), please keep #DMD in mind if you ever get the opportunity to play Augusta National. We're always available to join you.

We're looking to end the campaign on a good note, though, so let's get to today's games and make you some more end-of-year cash for that Ocean City beach house you're on the verge of being able to afford.

PANTHERS AT FALCONS (-3.5) -- Atlanta needs a win to get in the playoffs. Carolina -- already post-season bound -- still has something to play for, depending on what the Saints do, but the thought here is the Falcons come through in a squeaker. We'll take Atlanta and the half-point hook, 27-23.

BROWNS AT STEELERS (-6.0) -- This one could get weird today at Heinz Field. Are the Browns REALLY going 0-16? And the Steelers have to expect that New England's not going to stub their toe at home against the Jets. If the scoreboard shows New England up 30-10 in the 3rd quarter, what keeps Ben, Bell and JuJu interested? And do they even play at that point? We're going with Pittsburgh minus the 6.0 points but it will be closer than most expect as the Steelers scratch out a 27-20 win.

JAGUARS AT TITANS (-2.5) -- The late season collapse of the Titans is a story about to be written if they can't get past a Jaguars team that has nothing at stake this afternoon in Nashville. If the Jags had something on the line, they'd be the easy pick here. But we're leaning heavily on the fact that the Titans need a win to make the post-season and the thought here is they get it and cover the 2.5 points, 23-17.

49'ERS AT RAMS (+4.0) -- The Rams are 11-4 and playing at home against a 5-10 San Fran team and it's the Rams getting the four points? Wow. Jimmy Garoppolo fever has officially hit the NFL. True, the Rams have their post-season spot on lockdown, but they can still drop down to 4th seed in the NFC if they lose today. We'll buy some "Jimmy G stock" -- but not on this game, as the Rams win 31-26.

SAINTS AT BUCCANEERS (+6.0) -- New Orleans needs a win today to clinch the NFC South, and if they win and the Rams lose, the Saints are suddenly the #3 seed and would avoid going to Philly, potentially, in the second round. This game matters to the Saints and it doesn't mean anything at all to a very inconsistent Tampa Bay team. We'll go with New Orleans today in a mini-blow-out, as the Saints cover the six points on the road and win 30-17.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Let's go with the Rams getting four points at home against the 49'ers as today's "Best Bet".




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December 30
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issue 30
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"london kneeling" is year's top story

I could probably write 5,000 words on this and not do it justice.

But, frankly, it might not even be all that complicated.

The once impenetrable NFL has experienced perhaps its most volatile year since the 1982 strike-shortened season and this time around, there's far more at stake and a more varied list of reasons for concern.

No matter what you might think is the primary reason for the empty seats and tuned-out-TV-sets, one thing is for sure: It's not just one thing that's wobbling the NFL these days.

There are two ways to look at the NFL's 2017 situation. You can view it from 35,000 feet and talk about the league as a whole, or you can look at ground level -- individually at your own city -- and try to come up with some reasoning for whatever it is that might be leading to the diminished interest.

The moment a season changed in Baltimore.

I'm not all that close to what's going on in Nashville (lots of empty seats there last Sunday for a HUGE game against the Rams) or Cleveland (no one's going, I think we know why), or any other city for that matter, so I'll stick with what I know (insert joke here).

Let's talk about Baltimore and why fewer people are going to games. And while we're at it, let's note here, that the #1 sports story in Baltimore for the year 2017 is this very subject.

I've actually addressed some of this in length earlier in the season. Not much of it has changed, although the team's on-field performance has certainly improved over the last month.

And let's please not make this about the President and his decision to stick his nose into the whole kneeling debate and the indecent comment he made at a speech in the south where he called NFL players "sons of bitches".

Let's instead focus on what happened when the players did kneel and let's look at that from our vantage point in Baltimore only.

The moment those players went to their knees in London, the fabric of the relationship between the Ravens and their loyal fan base was torn.

The kneeling incident -- to borrow a sports term -- was a "game changer".

It didn't change for everyone, mind you. Lots and lots of people still go to the games. And there are some in the fan base who supported the actions of the players in London.

But many -- let's just say "thousands" and leave it at that -- didn't support what happened at Wembley Stadium. And many of them are not going to the games and haven't gone since the incident on September 24.

And there's little doubt at all that the kneeling situation and the organization's public stance in the days thereafter became the most divisive moment(s) of 2017.


Easy answer.

Baltimore is a simple but extraordinarily complex place.

Maybe it's the situational position between Washington D.C. and New York. Perhaps we've always felt, in our soul, that people forget about us along I-95.

We're a prideful city. Sometimes too much, I'd say. Then again, maybe you can never be proud enough of the place you call home.

In either case, though, Baltimore folks are a loyal bunch. If you're with us, you're one of us. When you go against us, you're basically "dead to us".

Ask Mike Mussina. It didn't matter that the Orioles botched his free agency in 2000. When he left the Orioles for the Yankees, his proverbial coffin was lowered into the ground.

The same went for Mark Teixeira and he never even played in Baltimore. His fate was sealed when he eschewed a token Orioles offer and signed with the Yankees in 2008. Bye, bye.

And, as sure as the sun rises in the East, the same exact treatment will be afforded to Manny Machado when he signs for "Team X" next winter and thumbs his nose at Baltimore and the Orioles. He will forever be a bum once he makes that decision.

When you're with us, you're one of us. When you go against us...you're done.

And that's the simple answer to what happened -- in part -- when the players took a knee in London on September 24.

A lot of Baltimore football fans, including corporate sponsors, took that opportunity to play "an eye for eye". As in, You take a knee and disrespect our national anthem...we'll leave our seats empty for the remainder of the year and show you how it feels to be turned against.

I'm not sure if the players really understood what was going to happen in Baltimore when they took that knee in London. Maybe they didn't care. The players, internally, say they were under great league-wide pressure to react to Trump's comments since they were the first game played on that Sunday.

That might have been true. The pressure to act may very well have led them to make the decision to take a knee.

But whether they knew what kind of reaction it would generate back home -- or didn't know -- or didn't really care to know...their decision to take a knee in London was terribly ill-timed with regard to the heart and soul of Baltimore.

We're a blue collar town. The national anthem was written in our waters. We're not the friendliest place on the planet and the daily news feeds are filled with crimes and deaths in our streets. But the make-up of the sports audience -- both the ticket buyers and sponsors -- is far from what we've seen on TV shows and the internet.

The Baltimore sports fan has a lot of pride in ----- Baltimore.

And when a dozen players took a knee in London, Baltimore people looked at those men like they were disrespecting everyone who paid their hard-earned money for tickets and corporate partnerships.

You can debate that if you so choose or say, "Those fans shouldn't have felt that way", but that's precisely how it went down in the aftermath of the players kneeling in London.

A lot of people in Baltimore effectively said, "F-you."

The Ravens knew they were in hot water right away. Corporate sponsors literally sent Steve Bisciotti in-game text messages -- some from London -- telling him they were outraged.

The team quickly added extra people to man the phones that were being peppered with calls from angry ticket holders.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti worked hard behind the scenes after the Ravens kneeling incident in London, but thousands of fans still left their seats empty at home games throughout October, November and December.

Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass reached out personally to sponsors when the team returned from London and asked for their understanding while they sorted through the situation and figured out how to handle things.

Fans wanted an apology from the organization. Instead, Bisciotti's only real remark was more of show of support for his players.

That irked everyone even more.

And the seats started being made available just a little bit more the following week when the Steelers came to town.

A couple of weeks later when the Bears showed up, the upper deck was showing more signs of fan discontent.

The Thursday night home game against Miami was the night where it all hit home. And the Houston game on a Monday night had less than 50,000 people in the seats.

What once was a guaranteed sell-out was still just that, but only on paper. But it was far from a sell-out in terms of enthusiasm.

People were no longer going. And, worst of all, if Facebook, Twitter and social media could provide a true indicator, it didn't seem like they were missing it, either.

Folks trying to sell their tickets via social media started out at "I'll take face value" and eventually finished up at "Make me an offer". Lots of people, this writer included, turned down completely free tickets to the Lions and Colts home games.

Full disclosure, I didn't turn down the tickets because I was protesting the player-kneeling issue. I simply had other things going on that kept me from wanting to rearrange my schedule for a game. I wasn't a fan of the kneeling incident in London and my position on Colin Kaepernick is both well documented and unchanged. But I went to home games after September 24, although I'll admit I might have gone out of my way to avoid buying anything in the stadium food or drink wise just as a small measure of my own show of discontent.

Oh, and I'm quite certain I wasn't the only person in town who declined a complimentary ticket to either of those two home games.

Now, it's fair to point out that other factors were in play in Baltimore during the season.

Despite getting off to a 2-0 start, the team, and particularly the offense, wasn't all that exciting. The home loss to a woeful Bears team was the low point, but that, I guess, is the good news as far as the season goes. They managed to right the ship thereafter and are now just a win away from securing a playoff spot in the AFC.

So, yes, the games weren't all that attractive in September and October. November wasn't much better, either.

The schedule was quirky, too.

You had a Thursday night game (who wants to go down there for that?) and a Monday night game, both against opponents that didn't draw much interest from the diehard or casual fan.

The home schedule itself wasn't at all appealing. Who got your blood boiling? Pittsburgh might have, but they came to town on October 1st.

Anyone else? The Bears, Lions and Colts certainly don't wag anyone's tail.

So, in the end, the season in Baltimore took an abrupt turn for the worse on September 24. And when there are only seven more home games after that date, it just doesn't leave a lot of time for "kiss and make up".

Cass tried to rally everyone on December 21st with a lengthy e-mail letter to season ticket holders and PSL owners, but that really didn't get much traction with the fan base. Most looked at it like "too little, too late".

The team's play has improved -- albeit in part due to a soft second-half schedule -- but barring a miracle in the AFC playoffs, the Ravens won't host a playoff game in January. That, without question, would offer a true telltale sign of the city's "status" with the organization.

One would imagine (allow this scenario to play out) that if somehow the Titans finish as the 6 seed and the Ravens end as the 5 seed and those two teams would meet in the AFC title game that the Ravens would be able to completely sell-out that game in Baltimore.

But I sure wouldn't bet my house on it.

Not in 2017-2018, anyway.

People in Baltimore get hurt easily and they are not quick to forgive. If that's a character flaw, so be it, but the history of the city -- sports wise anyway -- documents it as the truth.

Just ask Jim Irsay.

Or Mike Mussina.

And, in 2021, ask Manny Machado what happens when you scorn Baltimore.

It ain't pretty.

The Ravens found that out in 2017.

Everything's cyclical. And this tiff between the city and the franchise will heal, I believe. But these are indeed fractured days in Baltimore.

And the top story in these parts for 2017 is about a relationship that was damaged and efforts to repair it have really only just begun.

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predicting every pga tour winner for 2018 through the tour championship

I thought this would be fun. Hopefully someone cuts it out and puts it on their refrigerator and keeps track of it for me.

Anyone up for that? Let me know if you are...

Below is the tournament schedule for the 2018 PGA Tour season through the Tour Championship.

And next to each tournament is my predicted winner. Look, I don't even know who is actually playing in the event(s), so I'm just taking cold, hard guesses here. So when I only get four or five right, remember that little note, OK?

Jan. 4-7, Tournament of Champions -- Rickie Fowler

Jan. 11-14, Sony Open -- Justin Thomas

Jan. 18-21, CareerBuilder Challenge -- Kevin Kisner

Jan. 25-28, Farmer's Insurance Open -- Xander Schauffele

Feb. 1-4, Waste Management Phoenix Open -- Dustin Johnson

Feb. 8-11, Pebble Beach Pro-Am -- Jordan Spieth

Feb. 15-18, Genesis Open -- Rafael Cabrera-Bello

Feb. 22-25, Honda Classic -- Justin Thomas

Will this scene repeat itself for Jordan Spieth at the 2018 Masters (except it won't be Bubba Watson slipping the jacket on him)?

Feb. 26-Mar. 4, Puerto Rico Open -- Cameron Tringale

Mar. 1-4, Mexico City WGC Championship -- Dustin Johnson

Mar. 8-11, Valspar Championship -- Ryan Palmer

Mar. 15-18, Bay Hill Invitational -- Tiger Woods

Mar. 21-25, Match Play Championship -- Jon Rahm

Mar. 22-25, Puntacana Championship -- Patton Kizzire

Mar. 29-Apr. 1, Houston Open -- Smylie Kaufman

Apr. 5-8, Masters Tournament -- Jordan Spieth

Apr. 12-15, RBC Heritage -- Emiliano Grillo

Apr. 19-22, Valero Texas Open -- Charley Hoffman

May 3-6, Wells Fargo Championship -- Justin Rose

May 10-13, The PLAYERS Championship -- Kevin Kisner

May 17-20, Byron Nelson -- Daniel Berger

May 24-27, Dean & Deluca Invitational -- Zach Johnson

May 31-June 3, The Memorial -- Tiger Woods

June 7-10, Fed Ex St. Jude Classic -- Kevin Chappell

June 14-17, U.S. Open -- Justin Rose

June 21-24, Travelers Championship -- Jordan Spieth

June 28-July 1, The National -- Tony Finau

July 5-8, The Greenbrier Classic -- Matt Kuchar

July 12-15, John Deere Classic -- Brendan Steele

July 19-22, Barbasol Championship -- Denny McCarthy

July 19-22, British Open -- Tyrrell Hatton

#DMD is calling for PGA Tour veteran Kevin Kisner to have a big year in 2018.

July 26-29, RBC Canadian Open -- Si Woo Kim

Aug. 2-5, Barracuda Championship -- Chris Kirk

Aug. 2-5, Bridgestone Invitational (WGC) -- Justin Thomas

Aug. 9-12, PGA Championship -- Marc Leishman

Aug. 16-19, Wyndham Championship -- Rory McIlroy

Aug. 23-26, Northern Trust (Fed Ex Cup) -- Kevin Kisner

Aug. 31-Sept. 3, Dell Technologies (Fed Ex Cup) -- Rory McIlroy

Sept. 6-9, BMW Championship (Fed Ex Cup) -- Patrick Reed

Sept. 20-23, TOUR Championship (Fed Ex Cup) -- Gary Woodland


Sept. 28-30, Ryder Cup, Paris -- USA wins 16-12

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red sox interested in machado? it doesn't matter

I guess someone of note started floating a rumor on Friday about the Red Sox being interested in trading for Manny Machado.

I saw tons of commentary and retweets about it.

That the Red Sox are interested in Machado probably shouldn't be a surprise. They covet good players up there and they annually try and field a team worthy of being a World Series contender.

But Manny Machado isn't going to play for the Red Sox in 2018.

The Orioles aren't trading him there.

Would the Red Sox locker room forgive and forget this incident and welcome Machado for 2018?

On a side note, I'd be curious to see what the locker room in Boston would do if Machado were to be sent to Beantown. He's not exactly a favorite son up there, you might remember.

But -- there's no need to worry about that. Because the Orioles aren't sending him to Boston.

The Birds apparently aren't sending Machado anywhere. At least not over the winter, anyway.

As a source told me three weeks ago during the winter meetings in Orlando, Peter Angelos isn't signing off on any kind of deal for Machado in the off-season. In his mind -- and this isn't all that illogical -- the kid has a contract for 2018 in Baltimore and he's going to play that out in its entirety.

What's not logical at all is that the Orioles stand to get almost nothing in return for Machado if they make him play out the 2018 portion of his contract.

They'll head into next off-season with their pride intact and they'll be able to look ticket holders in the eye and say, "You bought tickets last season expecting to see Machado in Baltimore and we gave him to you".

But they won't improve their team that way.

I understand trying to avoid shipping Machado off to Boston or New York in 2018. But everyone already knows he's going to be in Yankee Stadium for 81 games a year starting in 2019. So, why not just make the best deal -- even if it's with the Red Sox or Yankees -- and get the agony over with in the off-season?

Answer: Peter doesn't want that.

Someone casually mentioned to me on Thursday of this week that the Orioles still haven't sent out their ticket price information for 2018 season ticket and mini plan holders. That same person suggested that perhaps they didn't want to do that until a resolution on Machado was in place for the upcoming season.

Well, there's no way at all the Orioles are doing these two things: 1) Lowering ticket prices if they trade Machado, or, 2) Raising prices if they increase the budget in 2018, because they AREN'T increasing their $150 million payroll from a year ago.

So...ticket pricing has nothing at all to do with what's going on ticket sales wise.

The Orioles are always slow to distribute their ticket pricing information.

Heck, they're slow at just about everything.

There have been numerous years when the team's radio flagship deal for the upcoming season wasn't finalized until spring training.

The Orioles never move fast. And that's not exactly a criticism, either. Sometimes it's good to stop, take a breath, size up the conditions, and make your next move.

But nothing ever goes smoothly for the Orioles.

The Machado saga is proof positive of that.

Take into account right from the start that Machado is, well, a "mercurial" personality. There are other words you can use for his personality, but it's the holiday season.

So, you have a highly capricious athlete who now knows his employer openly shopped him at the winter meetings.

It didn't work out. So now, said employer wants him back to work, friendly and accommodating as ever before.

Oh, and the player wants to change positions and potentially disrupt 75% of the team's infield in the process.

How does anyone think this is going to turn out well for the Orioles?

It can't.

It won't.

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December 29
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issue 29
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astros, nfl harassment cases easily make top 5 list

In the interest of keeping Sunday's edition of #DMD dedicated to our usual "Game Day" Ravens coverage, we're going to take a look at the Number 3 and Number 2 sports story in 2017 today.

That gives us the chance to showcase #1 in tomorrow's edition and give it all the attention it needs and deserves.

Earlier this week, we started our Top 5 Sports Stories idea with the Patriots coming back from 28-3 down in beating Atlanta in last February's Super Bowl (#5) and Tiger Woods' rollercoaster year that culminated with his promising return in the Bahamas earlier this month (#4).

But if those two firmly belonged at 5 and 4, respectively, there's no doubt the next two stories are perfectly placed at 3 and 2.

Something really odd happened two weeks ago. The NFL learned that one of its owners, Jerry Richardson in Charlotte, had previously settled four workplace harassment cases out of court and was, apparently, still involved in some questionable behavior at the Panthers office. Richardson did the smart thing and immediately put the team up for sale.

What's odd about that, you ask?

Jerry Richardson is the original owner of the Carolina Panthers but come 2018, he will no longer own the franchise after a series of workplace harassment charges were brought to light in 2017.

Two weeks later, no one's talking about it. It's as if it didn't happen.

The NFL, with stories coming out almost regularly throughout the month of December, has a sexual harassment "issue" on its hands.

That's #3 on our list of Top 5 stories from 2017.

I saw it happen time and time again in the Ravens locker room, circa 2010.

A promiment player, a Hall of Famer someday, maybe, would stroll into the locker room after a shower, towel around his waist, singing and jabbing at teammates as they sat at their locker or tried to conduct a post-practice interview.

Reporters -- some of them females -- were already stationed next to his locker, chatting with another player.

"Oh, y'all don't want me today?," he'd yell, clearly trying to have it be heard by the folks recording their interview next to his locker. "That's good. Because I didn't feel like talking to y'all punk asses anyway.."

I would stand there, watching, knowing what was coming next.

He'd drop his towel, turn so his rear end was now facing the reporters, and start drying himself off.

And, of course, he'd eventually turn and face them all to dry off his front. And, yes, there were female TV reporters right there in full view.

They'd come to expect from this particular player, so perhaps it didn't shock them. But that didn't make it any less offensive or out of place.

Team PR folks -- the two or three who were in there at the time -- were probably numb to it or, because what he was doing was "within the means of acceptable locker room conduct" ("I have to dry off after a shower, don't I?"), did nothing to stop the scene from occurring. And, in fairness to them, it was over in 10 seconds. If they were attending to something else for just a moment, they would have missed the whole thing.

I bring that whole story up for one reason only.

Things like that have been happening in the NFL for a long, long time. It didn't just start in 2017 and snowball out of control at the end of the year when a handful of NFL Network on-air folks were exposed for harassing an employee or the NFL Network top-man, David Eaton, resigned due to his own issues within the workplace.

ESPN's President just resigned in an effort to clean up his personal life after a lengthy addiction battle.

No one's perfect. We all understand that.

But what happened in the NFL in 2017 with workplace harassment is a major, major story that seemingly came out, was discussed, and now no longer matters.

The owner of a team was essentially FORCED to sell his company -- albeit, it looks like he took the preemptive step to do it on his own before the league made him do it -- and get out of the NFL and no one seems all that bothered by it.

The NFL Network hires gobs of ex-players as their "talent" and a number of them have apparently been involved in workplace harassment and no one seems that concerned. Other than the victims who are speaking out on it, that is.

If you're interested in some daytime reading about this story, Deadspin got all the not-so-juicy details and splashed them out there for everyone to see. I should warn you, though. The details are somewhat selacious and vulgar. It's all here.

So, as you might have read, the locker room towel dropping and small but very obvious efforts to make it uncomfortable for females (Or anyone, for that matter. I didn't particularly like seeing a guy dry himself off five feet away from me, either) matriculated from the locker room to the television studios, without missing a beat.

And, yes, it's fair to note that indecent behavior from NFL players came from -- at least to my eyes, anyway -- an extremely small percentage of men. I would say, based on 53 players in there at any given time, we're talking about 95% of the guys acting appropriately and conducting themselves they way they should.

But that 5%? Out of line.

It all came to a head in December when Jerry Richardson's interest in taking young female employees to lunch and "accidentally" rubbing up against their breasts while he buckled their seat belt for them was finally brought to a halt.

And the NFL Network, already reeling from lousy production and a Thursday Night product that stinks, is now fully engulfed in a massive sexual harassment lawsuit that will no doubt cost that enterprise millions and millions of dollars. And, likely, sponsors as well.

The NFL has a lot of problems to fix as they move into 2018.

The #2 sports story from 2017 is the Houston Astros.

In one of the wildest games in any sport in 2017, the Astros beat the Dodgers 13-12 in 11 innings in Game 5 of the World Series. Los Angeles scored 3 times in the top of the 9th to tie it.

Framed against the backdrop of Hurricane Harvey and one of the worst natural disasters our nation has ever seen, the Astros somehow rallied from that situation and from a 3-2 deficit in the ALCS to fight their way to the World Series and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a dramatic 7th game in L.A.

If you're a fan of teary eyed sports events that transcend the "possible", the Astros winning the World Series is right up your alley.

The Cubs winning in 2016 was a story of epic magnitude because they hadn't won the title since 1908. But the Cubs have had several chances at post-season glory and at some point, somewhere, they were going to win.

The Astros winning in 2017 was a story of epic magnitude because the Astros hadn't ever won anything of note. And were never supposed to win anything.

Oh, and they were 100-loss doormats just six years earlier, annually failing to win even 70 games while playing a bunch of rookies and no-names in an effort to "build it from the ground up".

The plan all came together in 2016.

After a remarkable regular season and a first round elimination of the Red Sox, Houston faced the Yankees in the American League Championsihp Series. Somehow, New York actually led 3-2 and had all the momentum as the teams went back to Houston for Games 6 and 7.

The Astros won them both.

And in the World Series, they were able to use a suffocating collection of starting pitching (and starters coming out of the bullpen) and home runs galore to turn back the Dodgers in 7-games, winning the decisive game with ease in Los Angeles.

Six years ago, they dismantled their team. In the 2011 season, Houston went 56-106, an almost unthinkable campaign of losing baseball games.

In 2017 they went 101-61 and won the World Series.

And it wasn't a fluke, either.

They might not win it again in 2018 simply because teams don't repeat much these days, but you can bet you'll be seeing them again in October sometime very soon.

In an era where teams like Boston, New York and the Cubs simply buy up the best available talent and patch it together with the hope that they'll win with it -- and in fairness to those ploys, they often do win -- Houston did it by building from within and added a key piece here or there via free agency or trade. Other teams around the league will no doubt follow the plan previously laid out by Houston.

Who knows what might happen in 2022? Could we see the Cincinnati Reds win the World Series? Or maybe the Philadelphia Philles?

Or.......yes......we can dream......maybe even the Baltimore Orioles?

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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.

The NFL's decision to flex Week 17 games with playoff implications to the 4:00 window has caused quite a bit of stir, and understandably so.

While game time changes are always annoying, having kickoff moved on the day of a major social holiday when most people make plans to get together with friends and family imposes a tremendous strain on ticketholders, and attendance is all but guaranteed to suffer.

Here in Baltimore, where attendance woes have been an issue all season, things could get really ugly. I know you can count me as a season ticketholder who had planned on going to the game but probably won't now.

But if we're being honest about the dollars and cents of football, there's certainly a compelling logic to the move.

Here's one thing you need to know about modern professional sports leagues. All of the major ones, anyway, and certainly not just the NFL. Attendance at the games just isn't that big of a cut of revenue, and as a result it's not a top priority for leagues or individual franchises.

Will NFL master-negotiator Roger Goodell be able to get the league even more TV money in the future given the league's attendance, player-protest and workplace harassment issues front and center?

Let's do some (very) rough math here. The Ravens' average ticket price in 2016 was $112.11, and Wikipedia tells me that M&T Bank Stadium has a capacity of 71,008 fans.

So if the Ravens sell out 8 games a season, they earn $63,685,654.40 in revenue. That's a lot of money, right?

Well ESPN paid the NFL $1.9 billion for the right to broadcast Monday Night Football this year. If you divide that number by the 32 franchises in the NFL, the Ravens' cut of that pie comes out to $59,375,000, or just about $4.3 million less than what they would make on a full season slate of sold out home games.

And that's just for Monday Night Football. We haven't even factored in what the team makes on Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, the Fox/CBS Sunday afternoon packages, Sunday Ticket, Redzone, and even partnerships with local affiliates.

In short, television is king in the business of professional sports, and all of the leagues are going to do what they can to keep the network partners happy.

It's not Vegas who stands to take a hit if early game results make later games meaningless, or at least that's not whose interests the NFL is worried about looking out for, it's the television networks broadcasting those games. And the NFL cares very much about that right now, because those rights deals are set to be re-negotiated in the near future in ways that could drastically reshape the landscape of both industries.

Make no mistake, the NFL isn't in jeopardy of seeing any serious reduction in the amount it's earning from its television contracts.

Yes the NFL's ratings are down across the board, but that top line number isn't really that important. What's most important is where the NFL stacks up in relation to everything else on television, and in that metric they're stronger than ever.

According to Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily, despite having its lowest average total viewership since 2008, Sunday Night Football was not only the highest rated primetime show on television in 2017, its margin of "victory" over the second highest rated program was the largest one yet since NBC started airing it. In other words, television as a whole is declining as a medium, but NFL programming is among the most durable of television programming and, as a result, arguably more valuable than ever to broadcasters.

And here's where things get really interesting: There's nothing that says the NFL can only negotiate with networks, or even just television companies. In fact, the lingering possibility of Amazon making a play to buy the right to stream a package of games has been lingering for quite a while, and now it looks like the NFL is actively encouraging digital platforms to jump into the fray. If they take them up on the offer the potential is nearly unlimited for the NFL.

Imagine this scenario: The networks are not fans of football on Thursday nights. They think it oversaturates the NFL television product, and increasingly you see them floating the theory that they're effectively bidding against their own Sunday programming by moving a game to Thursdays. And the finances reflect this: While the NFL is making just under $2 billion on the Monday Night Football brand, Thursday Night Football earns them a comparably meager $450 million in annual revenue. That's better than nothing, and I wouldn't turn up my nose at it by any means, but it's not actually all that much by NFL standards.

Now imagine that Amazon gets ambitious, and decides they would like to take a run at being an NFL broadcaster by bidding on the Thursday Night Package, making it available to stream to all Prime customers. With a $99 annual subscription fee, Amazon could make back the $450 million rights fee with just a touch over 4.5 million new Prime subscribers.

That might sound like a lot, but for perspective about 10.6 million people watched the Broncos play the Colts on Thursday night during Week 15, and keep in mind that Amazon Prime membership comes with a lot more benefits than just watching NFL games. If 10.5 million people will sit down and watch two garbage teams on NBC, it doesn't seem like a stretch that 4.5 million will drop $100 for a whole year's slate plus free two day shipping on anything you buy from Amazon.

And even if it doesn't work out that way, the mere presence of Amazon in the process will provide a big kick in the rear for the broadcast networks, who will no doubt be motivated to keep Amazon, or any other digital company, out of this particular domain of programming, and with good reason.

While much has been made of the effects of cord cutting on the television industry (and ESPN may actually not be kidding when they float the possibility of dropping NFL games altogether), that really only affects cable companies, not their broadcast counterparts. In fact, in the long run the cord cutting movement might actually be a significant boon to the traditional networks, once more people actually remember that you can watch those channels for free if you go out and buy a cheap antenna.

The networks themselves certainly seem to be bullish on their future, as while cable companies are scaling back drastically broadcast networks are plowing more money into production, and spending money to operate much like digital companies such as Netflix. One big change: More networks are producing their shows in house instead of buying them from third party studios which, ironically, means that digital libraries like Hulu and Netflix have to pay the networks themselves big bucks for the rights to catalog their hit shows.

In other words, CBS, NBC, and FOX are almost certainly going to end up paying the NFL a lot more money for the right to continue broadcasting NFL games in the next round of contracts, and there's really no end in sight to the upward pressure on rights fees.

What that means to you is that the television product is only going to increase in importance to the league, and by comparison the in-stadium product will only become less and less important.

And since one of the networks' biggest complaints has always been the potential for getting a stinker of a matchup in a primetime spot, you'd probably better learn to live with game times getting flexed if you're a season ticket holder, because the networks are only going to put more pressure on the league to expand the number of last minute changes to the schedule to maximize viewership....and everyone's piece of the pie.

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baltimore hockey fans unite! we're heading to hershey for a hockey game!

#DMD is set to make its annual pilgrimage to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a family-night-of-fun, as the Hershey Bears host the Rockford IceDogs on Saturday, February 24th at 7:00 pm.

We'd love for you and your family to join us.

Unlike the NHL, which can be a very expensive product to see -- especially if you're taking the whole family -- we're able to do the whole thing rather affordably for our local hockey fans.

For $89.00 per-person, you'll get the following:

Round trip luxury motor coach transportation from Baltimore to Hershey.

A lower-level ticket for the game.

Chick fil-A dinner on the ride to Hershey, plus drinks (water, soft drinks, beer) for the family.

Snacks on the ride home.

And a great night of fun seeing the Bears and IceDogs meet up in an AHL game.

To order tickets for the trip, just go here.

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December 28
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issue 28
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and the ravens' mvp is........

I don't see any way one remaining regular season game can change my thinking on the Ravens MVP for 2017, so I'll just go ahead and put it out there today.

And, no, winning or losing on Sunday wouldn't change it, either. (Editor's note: The Ravens aren't losing to the Bengals on Sunday. We all know that.)

I've heard the banter recently on local talk radio and I've seen the back-and-forth on Twitter and social media. Five or six different names get mentioned time and time again, but I've zeroed in on my guy -- and haven't wavered -- over the last couple of weeks.

And no, the MVP of the team isn't Sam-freakin'-Koch.

He's a punter, folks.

Koch is tremdendous. There's no doubt about that. And he's had a whale of a season, too. But the punter of the football team isn't the MVP. Ever. I'm sorry. He's just not.

After a stumbling-bumbling first-half, did Joe Flacco do enough in the season's final eight games to warran the team's MVP selection for the 2017 season?

You can sorta-kinda make a better case for a field goal kicker, I suppose, and Justin Tucker is always a worthy MVP candidate for the Ravens because, A) he's really, really good at his craft and, b) the Ravens offense stalls so much in the red zone that having an ultra-reliable kicker is a "must-have" for Joe Flacco and Company.

But, Tucker's not the MVP this season, either. When a team finishes 10-6, it's hard to nominate the kicker for the team's Most Valuable Player award. It's one thing if he kicks six game-winning field goals or something like that. But Tucker doesn't have those kind of numbers in 2017.

Great kicker? Yes. MVP? No.

Joe Flacco has enjoyed a successful second half of the season and his play is certainly a reason why the Ravens are about to sew up the 5-seed in the AFC playoff race.

But Flacco's training camp injury and subsequent slow-start-to-the-season are a major reason why the Ravens are playing this Sunday's home game against Cincinnati with their playoff life on the line.

Flacco was terrible in the first half of the season and excellent in the second half of the season. Thankful for that? I sure am. Is he the MVP? Nope.

Running back Alex Collins has been a sexy pick among media members -- from what I hear -- but he's not the MVP of the team, either. Sure, he's had a few stellar games, but his biggest night came against the Dolphins in that 40-0 rout in Baltimore. You and I could have run for 67 yards that night.

I like Collins as a running back. He's part Jamal Lewis-part Corey Dillon, with even a touch of Marshawn Lynch thrown in. He's been a great find after coming over at the beginning of the season from Seattle.

But Collins hasn't been the team's Most Valuable Player. Best newcomer? Sure thing. MVP? No.

Who does that leave, you're wondering?

It's not Breshad Perriman.

Or Jeremy Maclin.

And it's not Terrell Suggs or C.J. Mosley either, although both are going to the Pro Bowl in January unless the Ravens work their way through the AFC playoffs and make the Super Bowl.

But the MVP does come from the defensive side of the ball.

The Most Valuable Player of the Ravens in 2017 -- is Brandon Williams.

The first note about Williams is the most obvious one: When he missed four games earlier this season, the Ravens went 1-3.

They got run over -- literally -- in London by the Jaguars. Without Williams in the lineup, the Jags had a field day, piling up 157 yards on the ground in that 44-7 romp.

Pittsburgh wallopped a Williams-less Ravens team the next week in Baltimore, as Le'Veon Bell accounted for 144 of Pittsburgh's 170 rushing yards.

The Ravens did manage to beat a depleted Raiders team the following week in Oakland, but seven days later in Baltimore, they suffered the most embarrassing loss of the campaign -- at home, no less -- falling to the Bears in overtime, 27-24.

The numbers don't lie. When Brandon Williams plays, the Ravens tend to win. When he doesn't play, they tend to lose.

In that Chicago game, Williams' absence was critical. The Bears piled up 231 yards of rushing offense on the day and in overtime, the crushing blow was a 53-yard run by Tarik Cohen that set up the game-winning field goal for the visitors.

Four games, a 1-3 record, and the opposition ran over and through the Ravens like they were the Browns.

Sure, the following week in Minnesota, Williams returned and the Vikings piled up 169 yards on the ground in a 24-16 win. But that was about the last time this season anyone ran the ball on the Ravens with any degree of success.

The Titans and their great running game? 71 yards on the ground back on November 5.

Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue combined for 66 yards for the Texans when the Ravens whipped them on November 27.

And when the Ravens lost in Pittsburgh on December 10, what were the rushing totals for the great Le'Veon Bell in that encounter? He had 48 yards on the ground. Yes, he hurt the Ravens catching the ball out of the backfield (that was the night Roethlisberger threw for 11,000 yards, remember), but Bell and the Pittsburgh running game was a non-factor that night at Heinz Field.

Wanna play a quick game of "Fact and Opinion"?

FACT: When the Ravens didn't have Brandon Williams in the lineup, teams ran the ball with ease and beat the Ravens.

OPINION: When Williams was in the lineup, he was the reason why teams didn't run the ball with ease and didn't beat the Ravens.

His stats and game-data aren't gaudy. They don't knock you over. He "only" has 15 solo tackles in 11 games to date this season.

But that doesn't tell his story. Time and time again, teams either game-plan to avoid Williams outright or use blocking schemes to double-team him at the snap. It's hard to make tackles when you have two guys blocking you, but Williams has done it.

He's the best Ravens defensive player BY A LOT.

And with all due respect to Jimmy Smith, Williams' injury and absence bothered the Ravens much more than has Smith's season-ending achilles injury.

Your 2017 Ravens MVP is -- Brandon Williams.

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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.

Back in mid-September, after a 20-0 win in Cincinnati to begin the 2017 season, this columnist said that the Ravens could win 10 games, but they’d probably have to do it in 10 different ways.

You know…running, passing, special teams, defense, etc.

Cincinnati is once again the opponent this week, on the last day of 2017, and a victory over the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium will give the Ravens that 10th win. If the Chiefs lose in Denver, the Ravens would be one of only four AFC teams to get to double digits.

This is a spot the Ravens have been in before, one rung below the top tier, but never quite in this way.

They’ve gotten here in a manner I couldn’t have predicted. It’s none of those 10 ways.

When Oakland's Derek Carr missed the October 8 game due to injury, it marked the start of a long line of starting, quality quarterbacks the Ravens would avoid in 2017.

E.J. Manuel played quarterback for the Raiders.

Matt Moore played quarterback for the Dolphins.

Brett Hundley played quarterback for the Packers.

Tom Savage played quarterback for the Texans.

Jacoby Brissett played quarterback for the Colts.

Derek Carr made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016. His Oakland team was a Super Bowl contender last season before he got hurt. He was healthy again to begin this season. And then he wasn’t.

When Ryan Tannehill got hurt in the preseason, Miami went to a guy who had retired to television, Jay Cutler. But the Ravens got to face the guy that couldn’t beat out a half-retired guy.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is one of the best players in NFL history; Brett Hundley was sacked six times, lost a fumble, threw three interceptions and had a 43.6 rating.

In Week 4, against the Titans, Houston’s Deshaun Watson became the first NFL rookie since 1961 to throw for at least four touchdowns and run for a touchdown in a game. On November 8, Watson underwent successful surgery to repair his right ACL.

Andrew Luck hasn’t played the whole season, but you have to figure he’d have helped Indianapolis win a couple of their close games. As for Brissett, tell me what you’d be thinking of his performance if the Ravens hadn’t dropped those sure interceptions.

And don’t forget, we wouldn’t even care about the result of this Sunday’s game if the Ravens somehow hadn’t figured out a way to lose a home game against Mitchell Trubisky, who threw 16 passes and completed eight of them.

Don’t let me overlook DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan. Kudos to Case Keenum, but he’s still Case Keenum.

Quarterback is the most important position in team sports, and the Ravens’ quarterback luck this season has been unbelievable.

It’s possible the Ravens would be at six or seven wins if those quarterback situations were different.

It’s possible we’d be talking about the coach and his future.

It’s possible that the empty seats in the stadium would mostly be about the team’s results as opposed to the litany of off-the-field reasons.

We didn’t get there, though. The only way we’ll get even close is if John Harbaugh’s team loses to Cincinnati and misses the playoffs thanks to Buffalo and Tennessee wins. And I wouldn’t bet on that.

Instead, we’ll probably be back in the playoffs after a two-year hiatus, playing a Wild Card game against a Kansas City team that started 6-0 but could finish 9-7. Or the opponent could be the Jaguars, who won’t fill the stadium for their first home playoff game in 18 years.

Maybe, just maybe, the Ravens’ luck will continue before they’ll have to play in Foxborough or Pittsburgh, which wouldn’t be that much different than in years past.

Or maybe it’s something else right now.

Are the Ravens, as the calendar turns to 2018, actually a good football team?

They scored 38 points in Pittsburgh and lost on a last-second field goal; they are that close to finishing the season with seven straight wins should they win on New Year’s Eve. That sounds like a good team to me.

When they needed a good performance against a big-time quarterback and a team fighting for a playoff spot, they got it. The December 3 win over the Lions and Matthew Stafford must have given them confidence headed into Pittsburgh and beyond.

Except for those dropped interceptions on Saturday, the last two weeks have been exactly what I’ve expected from the Ravens. They are better than the Colts and Browns and it showed.

Maybe Joe Flacco really is that much healthier than he was earlier in the year. Or maybe he was so bad earlier in the year, what he’s doing now is just a lot better. Either way, when he rolled to the right while being chased early in the third quarter on Saturday and fired a howitzer to Alex Collins inches before he ran out of bounds, it was a big-time play.

And how about Collins, who has (mostly) stopped fumbling the ball and turned into a legitimate NFL running back. For every disappointment there is during an NFL season, sometimes there is a surprise like Collins.

I don’t believe the Ravens will be underdogs against the Chiefs, though the home-field advantage will surely make them so. I don’t believe the Ravens would be underdogs against the Jaguars, despite the score of the game in London three months ago.

Of course the Ravens are underdogs to New England and Pittsburgh, but who said they weren’t before the season started?

Without question, the Ravens have been lucky. They’ve missed a Hall of Famer, a Rookie of the Year and a couple of Pro Bowlers. With the exception of that Chicago game, they’ve taken advantage of that luck.

Without question, the Ravens have been good. They’ve tossed three shutouts, outscored their opponents by nearly 100 points and, when they most needed it, played their best football of the season. Despite the old saying, when it comes to being lucky or being good, give me the latter.

But you need both to succeed, in the NFL like anywhere else. And the combination for the Ravens during this 2017 season has been one to remember.

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top five sports stories of 2017

We're taking some time this week to go over the top five stories from the year 2017 in the world of sports.

Number five on the list appeared in the Wednesday edition of #DMD -- the dramatic Super Bowl overtime win for the Patriots last February, who came back from a 28-3 second half deficit to win, 34-28.

Number four on the list is an individual, not a game.

#4 - Tiger Woods -- Woods had a memorable 2017, to say the least, but it's the way he ended it that has everyone talking. Last February, after a disastrous first-round 77 in Dubai, Woods packed it in. For the season.

But he was far from out of the news, despite not playing any golf on the PGA Tour.

In late May, Tiger was arrested on a DUI charge in Florida, although officers detected no alcohol in field testing. It was later learned that Woods was driving under the influence of prescription pain medicine, a by-product of his back surgery in March.

Woods was done.

That's what all the talking heads said on The Golf Channel.

Every prominent golf writer worth his/her salt said it, too. "Tiger's finished."

It was hard to find anyone of note who predicted Woods would battle back from his injuries and personal failings and rise to prominence on the PGA Tour once again.

And he might not.

But for four days in December, Woods showed that he might.

After what he called a "life-changing" back operation last March, Woods started to slowly distribute videos of a shot chip shot, a full 150-yard shot, a drive, and his famous "stinger" shot.

This was all a tease for the real thing, of course. In early November, Tiger announced he would play golf once again, teeing it up in the Bahamas the first weekend in December.

As we end 2017, people like Brandel Chamblee, perhaps the most ardent Tiger critic of them all, are saying what many thought would be impossible to hear: "Tiger's back."

Now, that's Chamblee saying "Tiger's back". That's a far cry from Woods winning a PGA Tour event or slipping on a 5th green jacket in April. But there was something in Tiger's play and "look" this time around that told everyone he was ready to compete once again.

Will he?

That remains to be seen.

But the year 2017 was memorable for Tiger Woods in a lot of ways. From the operating table to the police blotter and back to the golf course again, looking, in many ways, like a guy we knew a decade ago.

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December 27
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issue 27
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harbaugh has a right to be ticked off

I love that John Harbaugh took a shot at the NFL on Tuesday when he was asked about the game-time change for this Sunday's big game with the Bengals.

It's garbage. And Harbaugh knows it.

The league, of course, tried to disguise their decision to move five games by claiming it was done "for fairness". "Teams competing for post-season spots should all be playing at the same time," is essentially what the NFL said when they announced the game-time changes.

Sure. On the surface that makes sense.

But this is the NFL we're talking about. Nothing much about the league is making sense these days.

"Was that a catch?" (Answer: Today it was, last week it wasn't, next week, who knows?)

"Did he fumble that ball?" (Answer: See above)

"That sure looked like holding to me. Was it?" (Answer: See above)

This could be what the stadium looks like in Baltimore this Sunday afternoon at 4:25 when the Ravens host the Bengals in a critical AFC game. What happened? Where did everyone go?

The NFL is moving the important games to 4:25 pm on Sunday because Las Vegas wants them moved. That's what I think.

There's no way Vegas would want a team playing at 4:25 on Sunday who moments before kick-off learned their playoff fate and might then be less inclined to "give it their all".

Even one game that was way out-of-balance could disrupt the whole day for the guys with big houses and large swimming pools who call Las Vegas home.

It's one thing if you have Pittsburgh facing Cleveland. The Steelers still, technically, have a shot at the #1 seed in the AFC. The Browns don't want to go 0-16. Both teams have something reasonable to play for on Sunday. That's a game you can bet either way.

But if the east coast teams in the AFC would have won on Sunday (with 1 pm starts) and the Chargers knew at 4:25 pm they had no shot at a playoff spot, how could you possibly make a smart, reasoned wager in that game? San Diego finds out 15 minutes before kick-off that they can't make the playoffs no matter what they do in the next three hours -- and you're going to bet on them to come out and play well?

Harbaugh has every right to be agitated with the league for moving Sunday's game. He knows now, for certain, the crowd is going to be impacted by the later start time.

How many people were going to pass on the game with a 1 pm start because it's New Year's Eve? Thousands. And thousands.

Now, you won't be getting home until 8:30 pm or later with the game kicking-off at 4:25 pm. How many "new" people -- who might have otherwise attended the game at 1 pm -- are going to pack it in now and not go on Sunday? Thousands more, I'm guessing.

And Harbs wants the stadium packed for Sunday night's game. Understandably, right?

I say this often when discussing athletes, but in particular, football players, since they only play once a week and it's usually on Sunday.

They're like race horses. They get up at the same time, go to work at the same time, eat the same stuff at work, get home at the same time, etc. A football player's weekly calendar is essentially made out for them by the team and the coaching staff.

Every coach would tell you they'd prefer to have 16 games, all on Sunday, all starting at 1 pm.

Any deviation from that is troubling.

And the last thing Harbaugh needs this Sunday is an excuse for his team to not put away the Bengals and advance to the playoffs.

Oh, and the league should be ashamed of themselves for turning everyone's New Year's Eve upside down in the cities where they changed the game times to 4:25 pm.

That takes a lot of friggin' nerve.

I didn't like that 12 teams played games on Christmas Eve. Are you telling me the NFL couldn't have just scheduled EVERYONE in the league to play on Saturday the 23rd?

Games on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? I can't stand it.

And I can't stand when the NFL just decides on a whim to change the game time and expects everyone to just drop what they had planned to go out to the stadium at a time they've decided is convenient for you.

I want the Ravens to win on Sunday. No two ways about it.

But in a strange way, I want the stadium half-full.

I want the NFL to get the message.

They're not all that important anymore.

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top five sports stories of 2017

We'll take the last five days of the year and look back at the top five stories from the world of sports in 2017.

Some you might be able to figure out for yourself.

#5 - New England's dramatic Super Bowl comeback-- This was a game for the ages. If only it wouldn't have been the Patriots who won the damn thing.

New England beat Atlanta in last February's Super Bowl, 34-28, in overtime.

But's that only the smallest part of the story.

The Falcons led in the game 28-3 at one point in the third quarter. 28-3. Game over, right? Nope.

The Patriots came back to outscore Atlanta 19-0 in the 4th quarter. Wait, that doesn't do the whole thing justice. New England trailed by 19 points with 9:48 left in the game. And they somehow tied it.

There was the Dont'a Hightower strip-sack of Matt Ryan that essentially changed the entire fourth quarter. There was a wild, inches-above-the-ground catch by Julian Edelman that kept a late New England drive alive.

And there was, as always, the frighteningly outrageous play of quarterback Tom Brady, who looked like a kid playing a pick-up game, slicing through a previously-solid Atlanta defense and sending the game to overtime.

I'm never one to root for the Patriots, but by the time they tied it up at 28-28, I wanted them to go ahead and finish it off and win. I wanted to be able to say, I guess, "I saw it with my own two eyes."

I've seen some people say the comeback and result showed us more about Atlanta's lack of big game experience and heat-of-the-moment resolve than anything else.

That might be true. The Falcons couldn't do ANYTHING right in the game's final 20 minutes or so. In fact, everything they did contributed to New England's revival.

In the end, though, the Patriots won because that's what they do. Their coach and quarterback are never out of it -- NEVER -- until the final score is published on Twitter and the teams are back in the locker room.

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my christmas gift to all of you

This "gift" appeared in the Christmas Day edition, but I know some of you celebrate the holiday throughout the week, so I thought I'd leave this up for those of you who didn't get a chance to receive my 2017 Christmas gift to #DMD readers.

Editor's note: This is the third and final day the holiday gift will be up on the site. It's still a great today, two full days after Christmas!

Shopping for all of you is extremely difficult.

I mean, I don't know if you're male, female, big, small, etc.

Are you a baseball fan? Football fan? Basketball fan?

From Baltimore originally? A transplant? Born in Baltimore but now living elsewhere?

How on earth can I give all of you something that will make each of you smile -- across the board?

So, I thought...

And I thought...

I had it figured out. Then I went to something else.

And finally...it hit me.

You can click on it below and see your gift. Trust me, you might have prior experience with it, actually, but you're never too old to appreciate it.

I can say, for sure, what you'll see below truly is a gift that fits everyone -- and it NEVER gets old.

Click Here for your Holiday Gift from Drew


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this weekend in
english soccer

Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter

epl leader man city plays in prime time today

Wednesday, December 27 (all times eastern)

2:45pm – Manchester City @ Newcastle United – St. James’ Park, NBC Sports Network

After dropping eight of their last nine (D1) and their last four at home to slip from the sixth spot they had held in the table back in October all the way down to the relegation places, all three points against relegation rivals West Ham was a must for Newcastle United as they prepare to welcome Manchester City to St. James’ Park on Wednesday, with City continuing to break records just for fun as their dismantling of Bournemouth extended their winning run to seventeen, and guaranteed that they will finish the entirety of 2017 unbeaten at home across all competitions.

Despite coming in full of confidence following the win over West Ham, which moved Newcastle two points safely outside the relegation zone for the time being, the task looks mighty for the Magpies to take anything away from the matchup and their only hope coming that in the midst of the busy Festive Fixtures might mean they avoid seeing some City regulars who are due a rest, as the Citizens are unbeaten in their last thirteen meetings (D1) with the Magpies and in their last ten visits to St. James’ Park (W8 D2), with just one loss in their last twenty-one get togethers across all competitions (W17 D3).

December 26
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issue 26
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beggars can't be choosers, but......

I feel kind of good about the fact that late last month, I moved the Ravens into the playoffs, four weeks before the season even ended.

A few people here beat me up for being presumptious, but the Ravens were never losing to stiffs like Houston, Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

And they're not losing to the Bengals this Sunday, either.

So, I've been able to watch the last month of action without much concern about the outcome of any of the games. I wasn't even worried about the game at Pittsburgh. I assumed the Ravens would lose that one. And they did.

I wish I was as unconcerned about the Ravens' first round playoff match-up, though.

Would you really be all that concerned about the Ravens facing Blake Bortles in the playoffs?

I'm worried.

Here's the deal: The Ravens can go to Kansas City and win on January 6 or 7. Or they can get beat 23-20 on a late field goal.

I'd much rather they travel down to Jacksonville that weekend and play the Jaguars.

In my opinion, the Ravens have a much better chance of beating the Jaguars than they do winning in Kansas City.

I know, beggars can't be choosers. I've heard that before. And it's true, I guess.

That said, if the Ravens were to lose this Sunday to the Bengals but still get in as the AFC's 6th seed, I wouldn't be all that worked up about it.

They'd draw the Jaguars instead of the Chiefs and that, to me, would be a good thing.

Sure, that also means if the Ravens escape Jacksonville instead of Kansas City, they get New England in the second round instead of Pittsburgh. That's OK. You have to beat the Patriots at some point, so seeing them in round two or in the AFC title game doesn't bother me at all.

Why Jacksonville instead of Kansas City?

Some of this is "fact", some of it's "opinion".

I'm not buying stock in Jacksonville, for starters.

Sure, they're 10-5, which is a remarkable transition from a year ago, but it's not like they're the Vikings and they've wallopped everyone in their path this season.

The Jags have lost to the Jets, Cardinals and 49'ers this season. The combined record of those three teams? 17-28.

That's just a note to point out, more than anything, that Jacksonville hasn't been weekly steamroller in the NFL this season.

Are you telling me Blake Bortles really figured out how to play quarterback overnight? He was terrible last season. Suddenly he looks like Joe Montana.

I'm not buying it. I think it's possible for Bortles, or any veteran QB, to take a while to get his career rolling, but I'm not ready to proclaim that Bortles has "found it".

To me, he's still half-a-bum who might just be on a lucky streak, sort of like Alan at the casino in the final half-hour of The Hangover.

Get back to me when Bortles wins a couple of playoff games. Until then, I'm not sold.

Jacksonville has ZERO playoff pedigree.

They haven't really played a BIG game in like, forever.

I'm not trying to poo-poo what they've done this season. 10-5 is 10-5. They've had a good season. But they've sort of cruised in late in the year after the Titans stumbled in December.

They're not "battle tested". I'm telling you, they're not.

Kansas City, meanwhile, is a "real" team.

Their coach -- maligned as he's been in his career -- has been there, done that. He's been in a lot of playoff games and knows how to prepare his team for the post-season.

And, no matter what the regular season records might say, Kansas City is better equipped for January football than is Jacksonville.

This season, the Chiefs had a 4,000 yard passer, one 1,000 yard rusher, a 1,000 yard wide receiver and a 1,000 yard tight end. Only one other team in NFL history (1981 Chargers) had an offensive unit with that much variety and excellence.

Travis Kelce isn't the only reason I'm worried about the Chiefs, but Baltimore linebackers haven't been the best at covering tight ends over the last few years.

And, yes, while the Ravens have been good at stopping the run (particularly when Brandon Williams was healthy and in the lineup), K.C. has the ability to wear you out with their line play and running game.

Jacksonville's defense is better on paper than Kansas City's, but the Jaguars didn't look all that great this past Saturday when Jimmy Garoppolo -- four games into his 49'ers career -- lit them up for 44 points.

Both the Jags and Chiefs are about equal stopping the run. It's "against the pass" where the Jags are obviously superior to Kansas City.

That means, of course, the Ravens will likely have to attack the Chiefs in the air. So, it's Joe Flacco throwing to Mike Wallace and.....and.....and.....

Oh, and if you believe in such things, it will be MUCH easier to go into Jacksonville as a visiting playoff opponent as it would be to go into Kansas City.

It's like going to see Sarah McLachlan in concert -- or -- the Dave Matthews Band. One show will be much louder than the other. By a lot.

Jacksonville won't sell out their stadium for a playoff game. Arrowhead Stadium will be roaring at kick-off.

I'm not "afraid" of the Chiefs. They're not in the class of New England or Pittsburgh, by any means.

But if the Ravens happen to lose this Sunday against the Bengals and still get in, I'll be thrilled to see John Harbaugh's team in Jacksonville instead of Kansas City.

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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

Merry Christmas! I trust Santa treated all DMD readers with elite white glove service this year, because everyone knows only ‘nice’ people frequent this site.


Well, if you were one of the unlucky folks who found coal in their stocking, you weren’t alone. All of Buffalo, New York feels they were shortchanged this holiday season.

For Buffalonians, Santa turned into the Grinch a full day early when the hometown Bills were, once again, on the losing side of a divisional game against the New England Patriots.

If you missed the Bills/Patriots game because you were still hungover from celebrating the Ravens virtually locking in place a spot in the postseason, you missed the most obscene version of professional referring in the history of the NFL.

It's always good to see Tom and the refs getting together to make sure the right call was made.

Well, that’s not a valid comment because every single freakin’ year, it seems the Patriots get every call to go their way. For University of Maryland basketball fans, it kind of reminds you of when the Terps played Duke in the 1990s and referees always sided with the Blue Devils. Similar to “Carolina refs” we now have “New England refs.”

Opposing teams have to face the 11 guys on the field AND the entire squad of referees.

Unfair? You’re damn right it is.

Against the Steelers, the Patriots seemed to be given a “gift” call when a touchdown was actually ruled an incomplete pass. And, this past weekend, the refs decided to overturn another opposing team touchdown when everyone on the planet could tell Kelvin Benjamin scored a touchdown. A clean touchdown.

But the refs didn’t see it that way as someone else looked at the bigger television draw for postseason ratings and decided to remove the touchdown because, well they say it’s because the receiver didn’t have complete control of the ball.

I suppose “New England refs” will only be satisfied when opposing receivers catch the ball, sign the ball, adopt the ball and put the ball to bed before signaling a legit touchdown.

Make the call one time, and fans become angry. Make it two weeks in a row and fans begin to look at conspiracy theories. (And why is it every time there is a conspiracy theory in the NFL, it always involves the Patriots?)

I don’t get it.

The head of officiating for the NFL is Alberto Riveron. An immigrant from Cuba who was born and raised in South Florida, and has no readily apparent ties to New England. He has a son named Austin, which I suppose rhymes with Boston, so maybe that is why he is always giving the Pats the benefit of the doubt in questionable calls on the field.

But, that’s a reach.

However, there are some well-respected analysts questioning these reversals in favor of the Patriots. As former NFL vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira, currently an analyst for FOX Sports stated in a shot at Al Riveron: “Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing more irritating to an official than to make a great call then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it. It is more and more obvious that there isn’t a standard for staying with the call on the field.”

Shots fired.

So Ravens Nation, let this be a warning. When our Baltimore Ravens face the Patriots in this year’s AFC Championship Game, look for a few of these zingers to go against us. The question I want to ask is how will you react if the refs overturn one of our touchdowns?

Happy New Year!

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my christmas gift to all of you

This "gift" appeared in the Christmas Day edition, but I know some of you celebrate the holiday throughout the week, so I thought I'd leave this up for those of you who didn't get a chance to receive my 2017 Christmas gift to #DMD readers.

Shopping for all of you is extremely difficult.

I mean, I don't know if you're male, female, big, small, etc.

Are you a baseball fan? Football fan? Basketball fan?

From Baltimore originally? A transplant? Born in Baltimore but now living elsewhere?

How on earth can I give all of you something that will make each of you smile -- across the board?

So, I thought...

And I thought...

I had it figured out. Then I went to something else.

And finally...it hit me.

You can click on it below and see your gift. Trust me, you might have prior experience with it, actually, but you're never too old to appreciate it.

I can say, for sure, what you'll see below truly is a gift that fits everyone -- and it NEVER gets old.

Click Here for your Holiday Gift from Drew


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December 25
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issue 25
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merry christmas to all!

I hope this finds you and your family enjoying a wonderful Christmas morning!

Our celebration started last night with 9 pm Christmas Eve mass at our church, followed by an early alarm this morning and gifts for my family of four.

We'll be spending time with my wife's extended family today and tomorrow. If you're out traveling and visiting friends and family, please drive safely.

As I watch my children unwrap their presents this morning and later on today, my thoughts will turn to the happiness we get from different things at various points in our life.

When you turn ten, a bike, a skateboard or even a video game can bring a smile to your face.

Maybe at age sixteen, it's a cell phone or a laptop computer that excites you.

When you get older, the gifts that are important don't typically come in boxes or bags, though.

They come in the form of phone calls -- in 2017, even text messages can suffice -- or personal get-togethers where you can share friendship and love for one another.

If you have family around you today, consider yourself fortunate. There are lots of people who don't have that luxury today -- or any other day.

If you have friends around you today, consider yourself fortunate there, too.

And take some time at some point this afternoon to reach out to your friends and family members -- those you can't see in person -- and just let them know you treasure their friendship and support.

As you know when you receive one of those messages, it's the best kind of gift you can get.

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my gift to all of you

Shopping for all of you is extremely difficult.

I mean, I don't know if you're male, female, big, small, etc.

Are you a baseball fan? Football fan? Basketball fan?

From Baltimore originally? A transplant? Born in Baltimore but now living elsewhere?

How on earth can I give all of you something that will make each of you smile -- across the board?

So, I thought...

And I thought...

I had it figured out. Then I went to something else.

And finally...it hit me.

You can click on it below and see your gift. Trust me, you might have prior experience with it, actually, but you're never too old to appreciate it.

I can say, for sure, what you'll see below truly is a gift that fits everyone -- and it NEVER gets old.

Click Here for your Holiday Gift from Drew


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ravens-bengals flexed to 4:25 pm

I had to LOL last night when I saw the press release from the NFL about the changing of game times next Sunday.

I won't bore you with all the fancy-schmancy wording. Here's the synopsis: "In the interest of fairness..."

I've seen several games in recent weeks that didn't look anything like "fair" to me. So, I snickered long and loud last night when the NFL announced that the Ravens-Bengals game will be moved from a 1 pm start to 4:25 pm next Sunday. They'll also move the Titans-Jaguars, Bills-Dolphins, Saints-Buccaneers and Falcons-Panthers to 4:25 pm (EST).

That means all games with playoff spots on the line -- including the Chargers hosting the Raiders which was already a 4:25 pm EST start -- will begin at the same time.

Look, I get it. This is the fairest way to do it, admittedly.

But what about the fans (those who were going to go...) who had New Year's Eve plans in the cities where the game time was changed?

The NFL saw first-hand on Christmas Eve what kind of impact the holiday season has on attendance. With Tennessee playing for their playoff lives against the Rams yesterday, it looked like about 40,000 people bothered to show up in Nashville.

It doesn't happen often, but when Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve both fall on Sunday, the league shouldn't have ANY games that day. Period.

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December 24
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issue 24
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"play like that against a really good team and..."

A win's a win.

Lots of people scoff at that famous sports cliche, but it's oh so true.

They can't take a win away from you (Steelers fans can mumble about last Sunday's win-turned-into-a-loss against the Patriots if they so choose.).

So, with yesterday's 23-16 win over Indianapolis, the Ravens have now moved into the most favorable of all positions heading into week 17 of the season. A victory next Sunday against the uninterested Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Flacco and Company will be heading back to the post-season.

Seems easy enough to me.

But yesterday wasn't nearly as easy as expected, thanks to a spirited effort from the woeful Colts and a Ravens offense that mustered just two touchdowns on the day against one of the league's worst defenses.

Once again yesterday, Justin Tucker had more field goals (3) than the Ravens scored offensive touchdowns (2) in Baltimore's 23-16 win over Indianapolis.

The game went down to the Colts' final offensive drive, in fact, after they blocked a punt and moved deep into Baltimore territory in the game's final two minutes.

John Harbaugh even helped keep it interesting with some bizarre time-outs that gave the Colts ample opportunity to catch their breath and think things through late in the game.

And, yes, that might have been pass interference on Maurice Canady on Jacoby Brissett's fourth down that fell incomplete and ended the game.

But 3-11 teams become 3-12 teams for a reason. They can't stand prosperity. And they can't score. And that's how the Ravens wrapped up the win on Saturday, by nullifying Indy's final offensive series with solid defensive play of their own to avoid one of the season's more stunning upsets.

To me, while it's fair to parse through the details and look at the good and the bad, I'll still subscribe to this theory: Better to barely beat a stinky team like the Colts than to lose to a stinky team like the Colts.

Most Baltimore football enthusiasts were less than impressed with yesterday's win, however.

"If they play like that against a really good team, they'll get hammered," was a common refrain of sorts on Twitter following the 7-point win.

Well, the standings don't lie. The Ravens beat precisely ONE team this season that still has a chance to make the playoffs as of week 16 (Detroit). Baltimore's other eight wins came against stiffs, basically. Oakland (without their starting QB), Green Bay (without their starting QB), Cleveland (twice), Cincinnati, Houston, Miami and the Colts, in case you were keeping score.

So, sure, when the Ravens played "up" this year, they didn't fare well. But in fairness, the only "up" team they've really played since late October was Pittsburgh and they lost that game by a single point on a miraculous late drive by the Steelers.

The schedule played out oddly for John Harbaugh's team this season. Nearly all of the hard games were in the first half of the season. All of the laughers were in the final eight games.

You play who they tell you to play, though. And the Ravens are a 9-6 team because they played a fairly easy schedule this season, for starters, and they got healthy later on in the season when the creampuffs happened to show up on the schedule.

But 9-6 is 9-6. And after next Sunday, it will most certainly be 10-6.

And when their playoff life starts in either Kansas City or Los Angeles, the Ravens will have a puncher's chance of beating either of those two AFC West winners.

It's hard to say if the Ravens are really any good. But they're going to finish the regular season as one of the six best teams in the AFC and that's all they need to be to have a chance at playing in the Super Bowl on February 4.

One thing that we know isn't good, though, is the home attendance.

But before everyone starts bellyaching about the letter distributed by Dick Cass on Thursday and how "it didn't do any good", let's be clear on one thing.

Only the diehards were there yesterday.

Excuses were plentiful. And understandable.

Two days before Christmas.

Rain all morning and drizzle throughout the early afternoon.

An unworthy opponent.

There you have three factors that kept people like me away. Nothing about the game motivated me to go downtown to watch it in person and I had several offers from friends who had extra tickets.

The empty seats you saw at the game on Saturday were likely going to be empty whether Dick Cass sent out that e-mail or not.

And, for the record, I still maintain that more seats are empty because of the NFL product than because of the kneeling incident in London back in September.

One thing for sure though: The Ravens have an attendance problem. So, too, do other teams around the league. But I really only care about Baltimore. And right now, in Charm City, the empty seats are speaking loud and clear.

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show me the money

If you've been a loyal follower of #DMD's "Show Me The Money" over the last six weeks or so, you're no doubt enjoying a great holiday season.

Gifts for everyone! And expensive ones at that!

You have the "Super Expert Insider" to thank for your prosperity. Since he joined the #DMD staff in early November, we're 18-8-4 against the spread.

After last week's 2-1-2 mark, "Show Me The Money" is now 39-32-4 on the season -- a whopping SEVEN games above .500 against the spread for the season! Just think...if you and your buddies chipped in and put up $1,000 on every game we offered here at #DMD, you guys would be up roughly $7,000 on the season!

But this is all for fun, so we don't encourage any sort of actual gambling here.

However...you wouldn't be dumb to look at these picks below today and end your 2017 on a GREAT note.

LIONS AT BENGALS (+3.0) -- Some rare good news for the Bengals, as they finally get a few veteran players back from the injury pile. Burfict and Mixon will help give Cincinnati the boost they need to get the win while separating Detroit from their playoff hopes. We'll take the Bengals and the points in a 20-19 win over the Lions.

BROWNS AT BEARS (-6.5) -- #DMD would like to congratulate Cleveland on getting their first win of 2017. Look for Isaiah Crowell to be leaned on heavily against an uninspired Chicago defense. 23 degree temps with light snow means a low scoring affair, which is ripe for a Browns upset. We're going to take Cleveland and the 6.5 points but expect an outright win by the Browns, 16-14.

SEAHAWKS AT COWBOYS (-4.5) -- Ezekiel Elliott is back and ready to carry the load on his rested legs. Seattle hasn't been very good lately and we're a bit concerned by the possibility of them having an embarrassing-game-bounce-back against Dallas today. But the Seattle playoff hopes are virtually non-existent while Dallas may have a more reasonable shot at squeaking in. We're taking a rejuvenated Cowboys squad today, as Dallas covers and comes out on top, 27-20.

BRONCOS AT REDSKINS (-3.0) -- This game features two teams eliminated from the playoff race with one of them traveling all the way across the country to play a game without much significance. You have to like the home team only giving up three, especially since we believe Washington will have success throwing the football all over the field. The Redskins easily cover the three points and win in a mini-romp, 30-17.

STEELERS AT TEXANS (+9.0) -- Pittsburgh's history of failing to cover on the road when favored (in the Mike Tomlin era) is legendary. Without Antonio Brown on Monday afternoon, that trend might very well continue. Pittsburgh has played the three prime-time games in a row and every one of them went down to the last play. This team is worn out, needing a break, and on the road. Combine all these factors together and you get a prime situation for an upset. We're not sure that Houston, with T.J. Yates under center, has enough to get the win. But the Texans certainly have enough to keep this game close and cover the nine point spread, with Pittsburgh winning a tight one, 24-23.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Take the Redskins minus 3.0 at home to lay the smack down on the Broncos. That one won't be close.




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need a late christmas gift idea? we're heading to hershey for a hockey game!

#DMD is set to make its annual pilgrimage to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a family-night-of-fun, as the Hershey Bears host the Rockford IceDogs on Saturday, February 24th at 7:00 pm.

We'd love for you and your family to join us.

Unlike the NHL, which can be a very expensive product to see -- especially if you're taking the whole family -- we're able to do the whole thing rather affordably for our local hockey fans.

For $89.00 per-person, you'll get the following:

Round trip luxury motor coach transportation from Baltimore to Hershey.

A lower-level ticket for the game.

Chick fil-A dinner on the ride to Hershey, plus drinks (water, soft drinks, beer) for the family.

Snacks on the ride home.

And a great night of fun seeing the Bears and IceDogs meet up in an AHL game.

To order tickets for the trip, just go here.

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Week 16

Saturday — December 23, 2017
Volume XXXXI — Issue 23

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

4:30 PM EST

M&T Bank Stadium

Spread: Ravens -13.0

colts still bring back lots of memories

The pain of "the move" has long since left me, but I can see where folks in their 70's and 80's who are still alive don't feel quite as warm and fuzzy about the Colts coming to Baltimore to play a NFL game today.

If either my mom or dad were still alive, they'd no doubt be foaming at the mouth at 4:30 pm when the Colts take the field. The departure of the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984 was a crushing blow for both of them. My mother passed away from cancer in 1987, but I always thought in the back of my mind a small part of her died on that snowy night in 1984 when the Mayflower moving vans took her football team to the midwest.

I was a Colts fan and went to the games with my dad, but I was knee-deep in my own sports career -- with the Blast -- when they left town, so I didn't feel the impact nearly as much as did the long time fans and season ticket holders.

Expect Terrell Suggs and the other Ravens pass rushers to have a field day this afternoon against a depleted Indianapolis offensive line.

Then, during my 12 years on the radio in town, the Indianapolis Colts were quite a formidable opponent, winning a Super Bowl and beating the Ravens in Baltimore along the way to do it.

I remember "officially" giving up my hatred for the Colts when they beat the Ravens on January 13, 2007. That season (2006) was supposed to be magic for Baltimore, not Indianapolis, as the Ravens finished the campaign at 13-3 and earned a first-round bye and a visit from Peyton Manning and Company in the second round.

All through the week leading up to the game, I fielded venomous calls from Baltimore football fans. The vitriol was very real. This, practically, rivaled a Super Bowl for the fan base. They wanted the Ravens to win that badly.

At some point that week, I had an epiphany. "After this game's over, no matter who wins, I'm done hating the Colts," I proclaimed. The logic of hating Indianapolis for stealing the Colts from us wasn't adding up anymore. Baltimore, of course, had done the exact same thing to the Browns. Yes, yes, I'm well aware we left the Browns names and colors back in Cleveland. I get it. But we stole their team in the same way Indy stole our team.

So...I stayed true to my promise. When that game ended, with Indy winning 15-6, I no longer carried any hatred for the Colts with me. Frankly, it felt good, almost like going to confession. I'm not sure my mom or dad could have been that generous with their feelings, but I was able to do it.

A generation later, my 10-year old doesn't even know anything about the "Baltimore" Colts. It's as if they didn't even exist to him. All he'll ever know (hopefully) is the Baltimore Ravens.

There was also a certain radio caller who made the Ravens-Colts rivalry special. That is, if you consider getting antagonized by a guy who called in every time the Ravens lost as "special".

My old buddy "Merton from Indianapolis" was a regular contributor to my radio show over the years. He was aggravating, funny, relentless, mean and snarky. All rolled into one.

His formula for success was simple. On any morning following a Ravens loss (or, occasionally, a big Indianapolis win), he would call the show at 8:30 am on the button. It was like clockwork.

Over the years, I had plenty of folks cling to the idea that he was a station employee or a "plant" that we enabled to help liven up the show. False. And false. I never met the man. Never. Not once.

I suspect he wasn't "really" from Indianapolis, but that's as far as I go in terms of knowing anything about him.

But he was freakin' funny.

His act was cookie-cutter in form, but the variety of topics was always different. He'd check in and start laughing about how the Ravens lost. He'd poke fun at Brian Billick or John Harbaugh...make a disparaging remark about Kyle Boller or Joe "Flunko"...and always end his three minutes of fame with a song.

"Indianapolis Colts, number 1, you're the best dang football team in the whole USA, Indianapolis Colts fans are true blue, Peyton Manning is better than Johnny Who!!! And we're going to the cotton' pickin' Super Bowl"

That's how he ended every call to the show. By singing like a wack job.

I always found it funny. Did it hurt to occasionally hear him filet the Ravens on live radio after a difficult loss? Sure. A little bit. But I always had to remind myself I was doing talk radio and the show was, effectively, a "neighborhood bar". He was welcome to come in and buy a few beers every Monday. As long as he didn't swear on the air and get me in trouble with the FCC, I allowed him to have a beer or two.

And then, of course, there was the occasion when he got me, hook, line and sinker with one of his famous "knock, knock" jokes.

By the end of this call, I wasn't even paying attention to what he was saying. He was blabbering on about how Joe Flacco wasn't any good and the Ravens were terrible and the Colts were going to the Super Bowl and then he started singing.

After he finished the song, he quickly added, "Oh, Andrew (that's what he called me), I have a joke for you. Knock-knock."

"Who's there?" I said. At this point, I wasn't paying attention at all.

"Johnny", he replied.

And then I uttered something I immediately regretted. Why I didn't pick up on it, I have no idea.

"Johnny who?", I said.

"Exactly...." Merton quickly snapped, followed by his famous belly laugh.

I fell victim to Merton's knock-knock joke on my own show and worst part of all, I contributed to his silly notion that Peyton Manning was better than Johnny-"who" (instead of Johnny U).

I never lived that down.

But it was good for the show, I suppose.

So, the Colts will come to town today for a butt-whoopin' and seeing them in Baltimore won't bother me one bit.

Sure, their helmets and uniforms are way better than anything the Ravens can sport, but that's neither here nor there.

Indianapolis has their football team and we have our football team. It's been that way since 1996.

Oh, and since then, we have two Super Bowl titles in Charm City. And they have one out there in the "friendly heart of the midwest".

Not that I'm keeping score or anything...

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this is going to be a blowout

It's pretty rare I'd suggest someone with a wagering interest take a 13-point favorite, but you can do that today and rest comfortably.

The Ravens are going to blow out the Colts.

It should be a very Merry Christmas in the Flacco house after the Ravens inch closer to a playoff spot with today's anticipated pounding of the 3-11 Colts.

In fact, it wouldn't at all be a shock to see Indianapolis fail to score a touchdown this afternoon.

With their playoff lives on the line, there's no chance the Ravens overlook Indianapolis today. Sure, the weather (warm and rainy) might not be great, but that's all the more reason for Indy to pack it in early once they fall behind 17-0.

The Colts might somehow manage to kick a field goal in the second quarter, but the Ravens will be cruising at the intermission, 17-3.

It will expand to 24-3 in the third quarter.

By the time the final whistle blows, the Ravens will have moved one win away from the post-season by beating the Colts, 34-6.

The most interesting part of the day will be the attendance and how many empty seats are in the stadium.

The game will be over by the end of the first half.

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towson blows late nine-point lead, loses at pitt

Towson University had the chance for a marquee win on Friday night at Pitt.

Sure, the Panthers aren't nearly as strong as they were a decade ago, but a road win over an ACC team is still a road win over an ACC team.

And Towson had it almost locked away. Almost.

Towson's Mike Morsell contributed 11 points on Friday night, but his failure to score down the stretch was a key part of the loss at Pitt.

The Tigers led by nine points with five mintues remaining, but couldn't finish the job, failing to score down the stretch and missing a pair of key free throws in falling to Pitt last night, 63-59.

That loss might leave a mark for Pat Skerry's team.

"Give them credit, they kind of hung in there and stole it at the end," Skerry said. "They beat us on the glass, which doesn't happen very often."

Towson led 51-42 with 6:49 remaining in the game. They'd be outscored 21-8 from that point forward to drop their second straight game and fall to 10-3 overall.

"Give Pitt credit," Skerry reiterated. "They hung in there and made some plays late. We're too experienced to make a couple errors that we made, but that falls on me and we've got to get that figured out."

Sophomore guard Zane Martin led Towson with 20 points. Junior guard Mike Morsell chipped in with 11 for the Tigers, who kick-off CAA play next Saturday, December 30 with a road game at pre-season conference favorite College of Charleston.

Towson didn't score a point in the game's final 2:49, as Pitt rallied from a 59-54 deficit with clutch shooting from the field and the foul line.

"I thought we had them on the ropes a couple of times," Skerry lamented.

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December 22
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issue 22
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cass, ravens want you to know they're paying attention

Make all the jokes and snarky comments you want about the Ravens' failure to produce quality wide receivers, but the organization sure does understand public relations.

They're the best at it in our town by a mile. There's no disputing that notion.

Yesterday, team president Dick Cass reached out to Ravens' season ticket holders with a well-timed message about the team's trials and tribulations in 2017, going as far as acknowledging the damage that was done by the 12-player protest in London back on September 24.

Ravens president Dick Cass reached out to season ticket and PSL holders on Thursday with a lengthy message about the team's performance on the field and several off-field issues, including the kneeling incident in London on September 24.

The e-mail reached most people around 2 pm yesterday and it quickly made the rounds on social media, as PSL and season ticket holders were uniquely addressed in a way I can never once remember the baseball team in town taking the time to do.

Cass wrote, in part: We had the poor showing in London, complicated by the kneeling of a dozen players during the National Anthem. That became an emotional and divisive issue. We know that hurt some of you. Others saw it differently and welcomed the dialogue that followed. Others bluntly told us to keep statements and protests out of the game. There are some of you who have stayed away from our games.

We have had significant numbers of no-shows in the past when our play on the field has not met the high standard we and you have set for the Ravens. But this year has been different. The numbers are higher, and it is noticeable. There are a number of reasons for the no-shows, but surely the one-time protest in London has been a factor.

We have responded to your concerns about the protest by re-doubling the efforts of both the organization and our players to make the Baltimore area a better community. We have also reached out to a number of you who wrote or called about the protest. I personally made a number of phone calls and met with some of you. Some of my Ravens colleagues have also made a number of calls. While we have not been able to reach all of you, we have learned a lot from these interactions.

There's a lot more, but most of it is stuff about the team's play on the field (But we know it has been an unusual season. A glut of injuries, especially on offense, had us struggling early to find both consistency and our identity.) or their efforts in the community (All along, our organization and our players have volunteered to make our community better. That work continues almost daily and, certainly, weekly.

The most important part of the letter from Cass, without question, is the mention of the kneeling episode in London and the team's awareness that the in-game protest has cost the team not only butts-in-seats, but affection as well.

Cass -- and owner Steve Bisciotti -- knows it all too well since, as he indicated in Thursday's letter, the team president spent much of late September and early October reaching out personally to ticket holders via phone calls and direct e-mail.

Yesterday's letter was well-timed, of course. The team is on the verge of making the playoffs again, and even though there's little chance they can host a home playoff game in January, there are two home games remaining in the regular season and the club is obviously concerned about the number of empty seats they might see this Saturday vs. Indianapolis and next Sunday, December 31 vs. Cincinnati.

Making matters worse, the Colts returned just over 400 tickets on Wednesday of this week and the Ravens immediately put them up for public sale. 400 tickets seems like nothing, right? Those should be sold in about two hours. Right? We'll see...

It's interesting to consider what the Ravens did yesterday juxtaposed against the backdrop of fourteen straight losing seasons from the Orioles and a decade of despair where the organization issued an inner-organization mandate prohibiting their employees from using the word "Baltimore" in connection with "Orioles" while they french-kissed places like Germantown, Fairfax, Alexandria and Bethesda in the mid 2000's.

Then again, as much as we all love the Orioles (I've been a ticket plan holder in five of the last six seasons and will renew in 2018 with or without Machado), we've never considered them wise-beyond-their-years when it comes to connecting with their loyal supporters.

Admittedly, the Orioles of the last five years have improved dramatically in public and fan relations. That should be DRAMATICALLY in all caps.

But they'll always play second-fiddle to the Ravens when it comes to wearing their heart on their sleeve and communicating with the people who buy their product and, essentially, keep them in business.

Can you see, sometime this August when they're 58-80 and on their way to a 69-win campaign, Peter G. Angelos authoring a letter (e-mail) to the ticket holders acknowledging that "the club botched the Manny Machado situation over the winter". Yeah, me neither.

The Ravens are far from perfect when it comes to PR. Their admitted flub of the Ray Rice situation is one painful reminder that no one makes a birdie on every single hole.

But, if nothing else, the Ravens get on top of things quickly, like they did in late September once the immediate push-back occurred in the wake of the kneeling episode in London.

Truth be told, they've spent most of the season (since then) with a fire-hose, dousing out dangerous situations with fans and corporate sponsors.

In a weird kind of way, the Ravens' reward for their effective public relations efforts might wind up being a playoff spot in the AFC.

Given the ups-and-downs of the 2017 campaign, I'm sure Cass and members of the organization will see a trip to the post-season as a small but welcomed bonus for the countless hours of calls and e-mails they've made this year connecting with a fan base that has clearly distanced themselves from the on-field product.

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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.

The Baltimore Orioles have Manny Machado on the trading block, and will move him for the best offer by the end of this week.

Or, they're not happy with what other teams are offering, and if someone doesn't make them an offer that's more to their liking they'll take him off of the trading block entirely.

Or maybe general manager Dan Duquette will reach an agreement to trade Machado, only to have owner Peter Angelos veto the trade at the last minute. Depending on who you believe, any of these scenarios are possible.

Whatever happens with Machado, the Orioles remain committed to rebuilding their beyond-awful starting rotation.

They're "interested in" every available starting pitcher, and have made calls inquiring about Kansas City lefty Danny Duffy and Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole.

They've maybe entertained trading Brad Brach to the Mets for what's left of Matt Harvey.

Where's the plan? Does one even exist? And if it does exist, will owner Peter Angelos follow through on it or stop it mid-stream because of one losing season or fewer people at the ballpark?

They've even gone so far as to listen to offers on stud outfield prospect Austin Hays in a bid to put a contending team on the field in 2018. Or maybe they'll tear the entire roster down and do an entire rebuild.

The truth is: No one knows what the Orioles are planning on doing.

The scary thing is: The Orioles don't know what the Orioles are planning on doing either.

That is the fundamental fact to understand about where the Orioles sit as they enter arguably the most critical juncture the franchise has seen in 20 years. Two months into the offseason, the franchise still hasn't decided if they're trying to win a World Series in 2018, or if it's time to pursue a total rebuild.

The difficult thing about this moment is that there's really good arguments in favor of both sides. The Orioles were a huge disappointment in 2017, but the shell of a good team is there.

They'll get more out of the shortstop position, may get more out of right field, and Machado is unlikely to repeat his incredibly unlucky first half performance at third base.

Plus, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo almost have to be better, right? (Spoiler: They don't)

The bullpen remains a strong unit on paper even with Zach Britton hurt for the first 2-3 months of the season, and Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are great building blocks for the rotation. The pieces the Orioles need to flesh out that rotation are available on the free agent market, and should be affordable for the team based on past budgets, especially if a long term deal for Machado is out of the question.

The Yankees may well have pushed the ball out of reach in terms of a divisional crown, but the Orioles could theoretically by right in the mix for a wild card bid, and the Yankees may even fail to reach expecation a la the 2011 Red Sox.

On the other hand, none of this is likely to actually happen.

Davis and Trumbo can not only be as bad as they were in 2017...they can be worse.

Trey Mancini could very possibly regress from his outstanding rookie season.

Caleb Joseph's strong offensive performance might have been a fluke, and Chance Sisco might not be good enough defensively to carry extra weight behind the plate.

Jonathan Schoop might have had the best year of his career in 2017.

Adam Jones is declining fairly rapidly in terms of production, even if he remains very popular with the fanbase.

And the Orioles almost certainly aren't in the mix for starting pitchers like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, because they've convinced themselves that 3+ year deals for starting pitchers don't work by....signing past their prime free agents that no one else wanted, and then shockingly having those players perform poorly. Who coulda known?!?!

And given that the Orioles probably won't actually be aggressive enough to push their 2018 roster to the 90 win mark, a tear down and rebuild makes sense. The Orioles have a number of valuable parts in addition to Machado, and some strong pieces to build on in the form of players like Bundy, Gausman, Hays, Sisco, and Mancini.

A well executed sell-off this winter could see the team back in the playoff hunt by 2019-20 in the best case scenario, and owning a large amount of payroll flexibility in a year that's currently slated to have a rich free agent class.

So of course, in true Orioles fashion, the franchise has stumbled into the one path that can't be defended on any terms: punting the question down the road indefinitely, with no clear direction for the franchise's future. They're neither rebuilding nor reloading, at least not yet, and it's entirely possible that the plan is to do nothing and then sell the team as a real contender because they're got high-paid stars like Jones, Davis, and Trumbo. Sign me up for season tickets!

On Wednesday here at DMD, Drew got right to the heart of the Orioles problem: Angelos himself.

A lot of things have been written about the Orioles' owner, both nationally and locally. Most of it has been bad, and a pretty decent amount of it has been unfair. In all honestly Angelos almost certainly isn't a bad guy, at least not by the standards of professional sports owners, and he's definitely not cheap either.

The Orioles' payroll rank has been above their comparable rank in market size for several seasons now, and probably will be in 2018 as well. If anything, Angelos' biggest mistakes in the middle of the dark period in Orioles' history was wasting free agent money on "big" signings like Sammy Sosa and Javier Lopez who were both past their primes and not good enough to rescue a dreadful team like those Orioles' teams in their best days anyway.

What Angelos needed to do was let his general managers accumulate cheap young talent instead, but Angelos has it in his head that "punting" on any given season in order to plan for the long term is somehow cheating the fanbase or, if you're more cynical, bad for sales.

And maybe that's true, but you know what else is bad for sales? Losing.

And you know what's really bad for sales? Losing while giving your fanbase the impression that there's no hope for a turn around. Fans will buy in to a well sold rebuilding project. Especially right now, as the Astros reign over the baseball world after winning the World Series (right on schedule), a team with an aging, declining, core like the Orioles have can tell its fans that it's time to start accumulating high end young talent and forming the foundation of the next great run of winning seasons...and they might even sell some tickets along the way.

Austin Hays is an exciting young hitter who might win Rookie of the Year this season. Dylan Bundy hasn't even turned 25 yet and was more than solid in his first full year as a starter. We're not talking about going back to the point where the Orioles barely had anyone who could crack the starting lineup of any other big league team by any means.

But Angelos just can't think like this, which is bad enough, but he also can't competently manage the basic operations of a large organization, to say nothing of a professional baseball team.

Drew called it "feet-dragging", but I don't think that really does justice to the dysfunction at the top of the Orioles' managerial structure.

Angelos has had years to consider the various possible outcomes of the Machado situation, and what he would prefer to do in each case. And yet, again, we're almost to January and Angelos still has no idea what he wants to do.

Not only that, no one else in the organization knows what they can or are allowed to do.

Angelos hasn't even gone so far as to give his general manager direction on the team's offseason, which essentially paralyzes the front office entirely. Duquette clearly thinks the best play is to rebuild, but Angelos hasn't approved that...and he also hasn't rejected it.

Meanwhile other teams are negotiating with Duquette while knowing the Orioles, if not Duquette himself, can't necessarily be treated as good faith partners because the owner may well end up refusing to approve any deal made.

All of which is to say that Orioles' fans should probably begin bracing themselves for another round of wandering around baseball's wilderness in the next decade.

Faced with a decision that should have been impossible to get wrong a priori, it sure looks like the Orioles have managed to find a way to stumble upon the worst possible outcome, with all of Angelos' worst traits coming to the forefront.

In all likelihood, this team will somehow manage to go into 2019 without Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach, poised to lose Schoop as well, all without getting any assets of real value in the process, and refusing to push for starting pitching reinforcements while they were here.

And in the meantime, maybe Angelos can start making contingency plans for Kevin Gausman's free agency in 2021.

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this weekend in
english soccer

Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter

It’s hard to believe but when Matchday 19 of the English Premier league kicks off this afternoon, we will officially move past the halfway point of the season. Manchester City may have the title locked up but there will still be plenty to play for as six teams will be fighting it out for the three remaining Champions League spots while at the other end of the table there are nine teams trying to stave off relegation down to the second division. Call it an early Holiday weekend and cozy up at the bar to catch the action live on the NBC family of networks or, if you are stuck at the office, online at NBC Live Extra.

Friday, December 22 (all times eastern)

2:45pm – Liverpool @ Arsenal – Emirates Stadium, NBC Sports Network

While their frustrating inconsistencies in the final third were once again on full display, Arsenal managed to make it thirteen wins from their last fourteen at the Emirates Stadium with German international Mesut Ozil’s wonder volley midway through the first half just enough to give the Gunner’s their first win of the month over Newcastle United 1-0. They will look to continue the form at their friendly confines when they welcome Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium for a top four tussle later today, with the Reds jumping back over the Gunners in to fourth place following a clinical 4-0 win over Bournemouth.

While both sides would have entered the season with their eyes the title, when Manchester City restored their eleven-point cushion at the top following their win 4-1 over Tottenham they were forced to turn their sights on top four finish, and both will be confident of making their case in the Friday primetime fixture as the Reds are now unbeaten in their last five meetings following the 4-0 drubbing they put on their hosts back in August (D2), while the Gunners have walked away empty handed in just two of the last twenty meetings between the two in the capitol (W11 D7).

New Everton manager Sam Allardyce has seen his team win three of four games since his arrival in late November.

Saturday, December 23 (all times eastern)

7:30am – Chelsea @ Everton – Goodison Park, NBC Sports Network

Another side forced to settle in for a top four fight over the next eighteen week's is defending champions Chelsea, who saw their title defense prematurely fall feebly by the wayside just as it did two seasons ago following a surprise defeat to relegation candidates West Ham United two weeks ago. They managed to solidify their place in the top four when they squeaked past Southampton 1-0 and will look to do so further when they kick off the Saturday card at Goodison Park against Everton, who continued their rise up the table, and added to the misery of cellar dwelling Swansea City, with a 3-1 win.

It is hard to believe that only weeks ago we were talking about a down and out Everton side facing a possible relegation scrap but the appointment of manager Sam Allardyce has created the all too familiar new manager bounce, with Big Sam guiding the Toffees to wins in three of his first four games in charge (D1) and in to the top half of the table. The league took notice when they earned a draw in the Merseyside Derby and would to do so again if they can do at least the same against a Chelsea side that have won the last four between the two and seven of the last ten across all competitions (L2 D1).

12:30pm – Tottenham @ Burnley – Turf Moor, NBC

With seven points from their previous three games, Tottenham had seemingly overcome a dreadful November that had reduced Spurs from title contenders to on the outside looking at the top four, however the setback to City has dropped them down to seventh in the table and three points off the Champions League pace. They will need to rebound quickly as they travel to Turf Moor for a crucial showdown with the surprise Burnley, who moved a point ahead of their weekend visitors and in to sixth place when they grinded out a scoreless draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.

There is nothing fancy or flashy from the Clarets and manager Sean Dyche, affectionately known as the ginger Mourinho by his club’s supporters, but they continue to churn out results thanks mainly to a defense that has conceded the second fewest goals behind only the teams from Manchester. Three points will be a must for a desperate Spurs side that have struggled on the road this season against teams in the top six (L3), but with only one loss in their seven all-time top flight meetings with Burnley (W4 D2) they will like their chances of breaching the stingy Burnley back line and maybe the top four.

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December 21
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issue 21
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o's bad luck disguises inability to improve

Even if you're one of the folks in town who are angry with the Orioles for failing to improve over the last couple of years, you have to feel a twinge of sadness for them after yesterday's news about Zach Britton.

If the Birds didn't have bad luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all.

But here they are, now, poised to enter 2018 with two real starting pitchers on their roster (neither of whom are world-beaters, by the way), a disgruntled 3rd baseman, a gaping hole at the catcher position, no closer and a handful of Rule 5 players who are either going to start the season on the big league club or get shuffled back to their former team in a massive exercise in futility.

In some ways, the Orioles deserve this downturn.

The Orioles have a full season of Dylan Bundy to look forward to in 2018 -- but the team's starting rotation is looking bleak beyond Bundy and teammate Kevin Gausman.

In other ways, it's almost laughable how misfortune seems to find the baseball organization in Baltimore.

A friend called me yesterday to talk about Britton's achilles injury and we both commented about the team's run of bad luck. But I was forced to remind him of something that lots of people seem to forget around here.

"This is what happens when you don't make moves to improve your team every year," I told him. "And I mean really try and improve the team. No marquee free agent signings (other than Chris Davis in 2016), no creative trade-deadline or off-season trades for younger, controllable talent...it all adds up after a while."

The Orioles are getting grief around town for hanging on to Britton for too long, wasting an opportunity to ship him to a team-in-need last July at the trade deadline. Depending on whether you believe the media or not, the Astros underwhelmed the Birds with an offer for the All-Star closer at the deadline and the O's turned them down.

That decision last July doesn't really have anything to do with what happened to Britton on Tuesday when he tore his achilles. Sure, the Orioles could have parted company with him last July and his 6-month absence would be on Houston's plate. But getting fewer quality players in return for Britton could have been more damaging than having him miss 80 games witha an achilles injury.

What hurts the Orioles more than Britton's absence is this: The team hasn't improved their starting pitching in Lord knows how long. They patchworked it together by signing stiffs like Jimenez and Gallardo, then added walk-an-inning Wade Miley at the deadline back in 2016.

While it's true that signing free-agent pitchers is a complete roll of the dice, one thing we also know is that NOT signing free-agent pitchers or trading for quality arms doesn't help you win, either.

Some would argue that Houston won the World Series last season based solely on the deal they made at the deadline for Justin Verlander. Did they take on an enormous financial obligation with the aging Verlander? You bet. Did they gamble on him? Sure they did.

But Houston won the World Series last year and if you asked them, I'm sure they'd say the Verlander deal was worth every penny they're going to spend on him.

There are plenty of examples of bad signings and bad trades. Heck, the Orioles have made gobs of 'em. But when you stop trying, you start losing.

And unless something really crazy happens over the next two months, the O's are going to spring training destined to be a 70-win team in 2018. Their lack of quality starting pitching will be their death knell.

A team in the A.L. East has already started their rebuilding process. Tampa Bay shipped off their best player ever yesterday, Evan Longoria, and there are now reports circulating that they're going to part company with All-Star pitcher Chris Archer as well. It probably won't end there. The Rays see what Boston and New York are doing in the division and they understand there's just no reason to finish 76-86.

As it stands now, the Orioles will be lucky to finish 76-86 in 2018.

In fact, there's a better chance they go 66-96 than, say, 86-76. And that's precisely why they should trade Machado, Trumbo, Brach or Beckham right now and start their own rebirth of sorts.

But as I've said for a while now, just saying "trade those guys" is easier said than done. You have to find people to trade with, for starters, and the owner of the organization has to be willing to sign off on a season or two of intentional losing.

If the Orioles were smart, though, they'd be OK with losing 96 for two years as long as the plan they have in place calls for them to win 96 by 2021 or so.

They're not beating anyone in 2018 with their current lineup, particularly if Dan Duquette decides to keep a few of those Rule 5 guys around. And remember, Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 pick from a year ago, has to be on the 25-man roster for the first 44 games of the 2018 season or he goes back to the Indians after a pre-season "injury" last spring kept him from playing.

I don't think the O's are coming north with 21 real players and four Rule 5 guys. That won't happen. But their reliance on the Rule 5 draft has become a punchline around Major League Baseball. They're essentially going to try and win games with players who are clearly Triple-A quality -- at best.

Ultimately, there's still time to make some moves and add a few quality guys.

Cleveland lost their starting first baseman last week, with Carlos Santana going to the Phillies. They added Yonder Alonso yesterday. He's not quite the total package of Santana, but he'll do just fine in Cleveland, one would suspect.

The clock is ticking on the Orioles. So far this off-season, they've done nothing. Zero. Nada.

It might not be time to panic, yet, but as the days go by and no improvements are made, all the Birds are doing is setting themselves up for a massive season of frustration on the field and an obvious lack of direction for the future.

We've seen it all before.

If you care about the organization, it's maddening to watch.

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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.

There are great plays made in almost every Major League Baseball game, even by average players.

And there’s nothing new under the sun. The catches Adam Jones can make by reaching over the center field wall are pretty much the same as the ones Brady Anderson made 20 years ago.

Since the Orioles came back from the dead, though, beginning on the final day of the 2011 season, there’s one play I remember with remarkable clarity.

It was a Wednesday night in September of the following year. The Orioles and Rays, both in the pennant race, were tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth at Camden Yards. With a runner on second and two outs, Evan Longoria hit a soft chopper down the third base line. There was no chance for an out.

But Manny Machado had other ideas. He violently faked a throw toward first and then spun around, hoping Rich Thompson, the runner, made the fatal mistake of going too far past third base. He had, and he was immediately dead. The throw to J.J. Hardy at third was perfect, the runner tagged out in a rundown seconds later, the inning over.

Then Machado singled in the bottom of the inning, scoring on Nate McLouth’s hit two batters later. The next day, Machado’s bloop hit in the 14th inning gave the Orioles another walk-off win.

Compared to his defensive play, those almost seemed anticlimactic though. Anybody can hit a bleeder or a bloop, but how many people would have done that?

At a month past 20 years of age, Machado made the kind of play Orioles fans had been waiting for, well, almost 20 years.

Since then, we’ve seen Manny do a lot. He’s made so many other plays that boggled the mind; he’s hit a home run in each of the first three innings of a game; he’s hit a walk-off grand slam to finish another three-homer game.

He’s taken a close bronze medal in the race with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper for “best young player,” and there’s no shame in that.

Heck, he’s even developed a new celebratory handshake with Jonathan Schoop seemingly every week.

But I always come back to that one play, all these games after that charmed 2012 season. Because it was a sign that a different kind of player had arrived at Camden Yards, finally, after all these years. Finally, all those lousy teams had resulted in something good, except it wasn’t just good, it was great.

Plus, that was probably the last time I wasn’t thinking that, at the age of 26, Machado probably wouldn’t be around anymore.

That seems almost a given now. If the Orioles trade Machado prior to July 6 of next year, say during this offseason, he’ll still be only 25 actually.

If Machado gets traded tomorrow, and never plays for the Orioles again, he’ll be 52nd on the franchise’s all-time list in games played. If he plays the entire 2018 season with the Orioles, he’ll be approaching the top 30. Either way, it’s a pretty good sample to analyze.

Before Machado arrived, the franchise’s best defensive players were, among others, Robinson, Belanger, Blair and even Ripken.

Like Ripken, Manny is actually playing out of position yet at the same time setting a Hall of Fame standard for the position he is playing. Like Robinson, he makes spectacular plays in any direction. Like Belanger, his skills seem to come naturally, as a gift.

He’s certainly one of the best fielders I’ve ever seen, for any team. His partner on the left side of the infield for most of his career, Hardy, is about as solid a shortstop as there is, and often noted as the best athlete on the team, yet you could easily miss that watching him play next to Machado.

As for his offensive numbers, it’s obviously a long way to Eddie and Frank, or even to Cal or Brooks. It’s somewhat foolish to project, yet it’s enlightening to read that Baseball Reference’s “most similar” batter to Machado at every age so far is Adrian Beltre, who just passed 3,000 hits last season.

He’s a powerful guy, yet at 25 is probably only just now reaching his full power. Injuries aside, he’d probably have more hits overall if he’d spent his first five full seasons playing for a team other than the free-swinging Orioles.

So Machado might be the next Beltre, who came to the majors at 19 and is still playing 20 years later. If so, we can say we saw a Hall of Famer way back when.

But this is not really about his stats, or who he’s most like at his age, or whether he’ll make the Hall of Fame one day.

It’s just been cool having him here.

Very few guys come to the majors so eminently prepared to play there, even if they went to college or spent four or five years in the minors. Yet there he was, dropped in our lap, at exactly the time we needed him.

For five seasons, the Orioles’ success was always viewed with wonder: starting pitching average at best, good fortune with players performing way beyond their career numbers, results in one-run and extra-inning games that had to turn around.

But not Manny. He was real. When he struggled last season, it was just a blip. Most players regress to the mean, but he advanced to it.

Turn the game on at any point, against most teams, and Machado gave the Orioles the best player on the field. He knows it, and sometimes he acts in ways that shows that he knows it, and as an Orioles fan I love it. The Red Sox manager, for instance, didn’t quite get that, and he didn’t exactly get a ringing endorsement from his own players.

It’s easy to compare Machado’s current situation to that of Mike Mussina, especially if Manny somehow ends up with the Yankees. Moose was the same, really: he was great from his first game, his best always surpassed his worst, and he was usually better than the team he was facing.

Comparing a pitcher to a position player is an inexact science, and Mussina at 32 isn’t the same as Machado at 25. But I can see how it might feel the same way…the brilliant player who just can’t stay, but never quite got the team over the hump while he was here.

Maybe it would feel different if the team had won the World Series in 2014, and maybe they might have if Machado was around for the playoffs. Maybe it would feel different if the Yankees hadn’t already created a chasm between themselves and everyone else before Machado ever got traded.

Right now, though, it doesn’t feel great, not when someone so good is about to leave and it might be another 20 years before another one comes along.

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ravens can't clinch playoff spot on saturday

For John Harbaugh and Company, it's pretty simple. Win two football games and they're in the playoffs.

Here's what else is clear: There's no way the Ravens can clinch a post-season spot by beating the Colts this Saturday, no matter what the Bills and Titans do this weekend.

The easiest way to look at the Ravens' playoff chances is by understanding this:

The Ravens are in if they finish 10-6. If they finish 10-6 and Tennessee finishes 10-6, the Ravens are the six seed and the Titans are the five seed.

If Baltimore and Buffalo both finish 10-6, the Ravens are the five seed and the Bills are the six seed.

If the Ravens, Bills and Titans all finish 10-6, the Ravens are the five, the Bills are the six, and the Titans sit home.

But wait -- if the Ravens, Bills and Titans all finish 9-7, it gets wacky. In that case, if all three teams lose one game in their last two outings and they each finish 9-7, it would be the Ravens who miss out on the post-season via the tiebreaker.

So, it's pretty simple for the Ravens. Win two and they're in. Win one and lose one and they'll have to sweat it out.

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December 20
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issue 20
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one week later and manny's still here

I can't imagine you're surprised by the fact that Manny Machado hasn't been traded.

I'm certainly not.

Two trains of thought currently exist with regard to the off-season move of Machado.

One is that the Orioles floated the idea of a trade to see what sort of response they'd get from other MLB teams. It's baseball's Hot Stove version of fishing, basically. Bait the hook, throw the line in the water, and see if you get a nibble or two.

The other concept -- one that you're hearing more folks "in the know" starting to cling to -- is that Dan Duquette wasn't under any directive at all to try and put together a Machado deal. Instead, teams inquired about Manny, the GM politely replied to those requests, and the potential for a trade took on a life of its own last week during the winter meetings in Orlando.

Orioles VP/GM Dan Duquette is still trying to work out a trade for Manny Machado. Or is he?

I wrote here last week at #DMD that a source within the organization said they felt it was highly unlikely that Peter Angelos would approve any kind of trade for Machado prior to the season.

To that end, the club has yet to send out its 2018 season ticket renewal information and pricing for next season is still unestablished as well.

Not that the Orioles would reduce the price of tickets if, for example, Machado and Zach Britton were to be dealt over the winter, but Angelos has always been concerned about the connection between the on-field product and the viability of his enterprise from both a ticket-buying and corporate sponsorship standpoint.

I think we'd all agree on this: If the Orioles move Machado in the off-season, it stands to reason that season ticket and mini-plan sales for 2018 will be impacted by that decision. How much? That's anyone's guess.

There will be folks in town who criticize Angelos for being involved at both the macro and micro levels. He sees everything from both 25,000 feet and right down on the ground, as well. And this Machado deal is no different, save for the fact that Peter's probably not considering anything at all about the future of the on-field product when he refuses to trade Machado prior to the third baseman reaching free agency next winter.

Mainly, Peter looks at a trade for Machado and sees the impact on ticket sales, which then collides with lots of other things; parking, concession sales, merchandise sales, etc.

Someone said to me on Monday night during our winter apparel collection event at Glory Days, "At this point, the Orioles should just get whatever they can for Machado and move him on."

I completely disagree with that idea.

Sure, with each passing day, his trade value goes down. There's little argument that he's more valuable to a team now (getting him for 162 games) than he would be in late July (55 games or so). And, yes, he would have been even more valuable to someone last July.

But you don't just give away one of the game's top five players for a couple of rag-arms and two kids who might not ever get a hit in the big leagues. That's silly.

And for everyone who continues to make the blanket statement that "the Orioles really need to trade Machado", please keep in mind every sports transaction requires a party trading the entity and a party giving something in return for the entity.

The Orioles can't make a deal unless someone is giving up something of value to them.

Now, therein lies the ultimate rub, and those who have followed the team for a long time know how active Angelos can be in matters like these.

Even if they got the value they were seeking, there's no guarantee at all that Peter will approve the trade.

And that's when it's very fair to say, "Well, why even peddle Machado to the highest bidder if Angelos isn't going to do the deal?"

There's lots of logic there, obviously.

Teams and free agents all over baseball have found the Orioles to be a difficult partner based largely on the involvement of Angelos. Sometimes, like in the case of pitchers Aaron Sele and Grant Balfour, the Angelos impact has been beneficial. Other times, not so much.

And more than the actual result of Peter's involvement, it's more about the time-consumption of the whole thing that frustrates folks, including those who work in the Orioles organization itself.

Angelos is a well known, verified "foot dragger", if you will. Every decision requires a multi-step approval process and that typically means Peter takes his good old time -- and then some -- before rendering a verdict, to borrow a law term.

Oh, and that's not necessarily a criticism of his style, but more an observation and a connection to why lots of teams and agents in the league refuse to deal with the Orioles. They know, when all the dust settles, anything being waved in front of them by the GM still has to go through the process of being approved by Angelos. And that's too much of a roll of the dice for lots of people within baseball these days.

It just takes too long to do business with the Orioles.

So here we sit, a week after the winter meetings, and Machado is still in orange and black.

This isn't a shock to anyone who knows the organization and Angelos, who is always hesitant to deal away anyone of significance that might cost the team ticket and sponsorship revenue.

And to further support the position of the team, let's remember this. Since the early 1980's, the Orioles have realistically had one bonafide, legitimate home-grown Hall of Fame player: Cal Ripken Jr.

Mussina was a home-grown product who was terrific here for a short time before heading off to the Yankees as a free agent and finishing his career there.

But Ripken is the one guy -- and the only one -- over the last 40 years that the club cultivated from day one of his career...and saw him flourish into a Hall of Famer.

Machado would be the second player of that ilk if he stayed in Baltimore.

He's a once-in-a-generation talent, for certain. He was drafted by the organization, brought up through the system, and emerged as a superstar almost right away once he made it to Baltimore.

For years, people in town bellyached about the team's terrible farm system and how it rarely, if ever, produced a star player.

And, finally, that kind of circumstance actually transpired in Charm City when Machado blossomed into a star.

So trading him isn't that easy of a decision, nor should it be.

Oh, and let's not forget, Machado is foaming-at-the-mouth to be a free agent next winter. He's been waiting for this moment since about 2015 or so, when he first realized he could make upwards of $30 million annually for playing 162 games of baseball every year.

This is a much more complicated issue than just "making a trade".

I wrote that here last week and I'll remind you of that again today. Do I believe the best thing for the Orioles to do is trade Manny? Absolutely. It's the only thing to do at this point, actually.

But someone has to want the guy. And someone has to give you real value for him.

And, as we know, the owner has to be willing to part company with him.

And that, of course, is probably the biggest hang-up of them all.

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skerry signs contract extension at towson

Towson University men's basketball coach Pat Skerry has agreed to a contract extension, the school announced on Tuesday. The deal is pending approval from the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.

Terms of the extension were not disclosed, but Skerry was entering the final year of a contract (in 2018) that paid him $443,000 last year.

"Coach Skerry has consistently finished in the top three of the conference every year and he is knocking on the door to get this program to the NCAA tournament," Towson director of athletics Tim Leonard said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the job Pat has done."

Towson's recent success under Skerry made him a natural candidate for other Division I schools looking for a new basketball coach, a situation that heightened Towson's interest in getting a new deal done to keep him in Baltimore.

There are only two things Pat Skerry hasn't done yet at Towson; win the CAA conference tournament and take Towson to the NCAA tournament. Both of those are within reach this season for Skerry and his Tigers.

"Coach Skerry is well-regarded throughout college basketball as an outstanding coach and a man who conducts his program with integrity and class. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community. This spring when other schools started talking with Pat, we worked over the summer to get this done. He's an important fixture here at Towson and I feel he's the coach that will get us to the NCAA tournament."

Over the past five years, the Tigers have won 105 games, including a CAA-best 53 conference wins. They have three 20 win seasons over the span and are coming off of consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in program history.

Participating in the postseason has become the norm as the Tigers have made two postseason appearances in the last four seasons.

Currently, Towson has won 10 consecutive games and is off to its best start in its Division I era at 10-1. Towson is ranked fourth in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. The Tigers are also receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25.

The success has carried over into the classroom as Skerry has a 100 percent graduation rate. Towson had a perfect four-year score in the latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) numbers that was released earlier this year. The Tigers also earned public recognition from the NCAA for posting scores in the top 10 percent of their sport.

In addition to the athletic and academic success, the Tigers also made an impact in the community this year. The Tigers ranked first nationally in Division I men's team sports for their community service activities in the 2017 NCAA Team Works Helper Helper Community Service Competition.

Skerry was named the 2017 Gene Bartow Award winner, recognizing outstanding achievement and contributions to the game. Skerry along with current University of South Florida assistant coach Tom Herrion started Coaches Powering Forward, an autism awareness weekend each season in college basketball where hundreds of coaches and media members wear a blue puzzle piece pin on their lapel.

Skerry was named the CAA Coach of the Year following the 2012-13 season after leading Towson to the greatest single-season turnaround in Division I history. He was also recognized by the NABC with its Guardian of the Game award.

"I am excited for the continued opportunity to serve Towson University," Skerry said. "I am especially thankful to Dr. Schatzel and Mr. Leonard for their belief in me and our program. My family and I love Towson, both the University and the community. I have been fortunate to work with great people on campus, an outstanding basketball staff and most importantly, our student-athletes, past and present."

Parts of this story were originally published by the Towson University sports information department.

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we're heading to hershey for a hockey game!

#DMD is set to make its annual pilgrimage to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a family-night-of-fun, as the Hershey Bears host the Rockford IceDogs on Saturday, February 24th at 7:00 pm.

We'd love for you and your family to join us.

Unlike the NHL, which can be a very expensive product to see -- especially if you're taking the whole family -- we're able to do the whole thing rather affordably for our local hockey fans.

For $89.00 per-person, you'll get the following:

Round trip luxury motor coach transportation from Baltimore to Hershey.

A lower-level ticket for the game.

Chick fil-A dinner on the ride to Hershey, plus drinks (water, soft drinks, beer) for the family.

Snacks on the ride home.

And a great night of fun seeing the Bears and IceDogs meet up in an AHL game.

To order tickets for the trip, just go here.

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December 19
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issue 19
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maybe nfl should allows players to set the rules

For most of the 2017 season, the NFL has been in a quandry with regard to letting their players make decisions.

The kneeling saga has obviously been the most obvious of those situations. The players have created an enormous league wide controversy by failing to stand for the national anthem.

So it stands to reason that this next suggestion might be scoffed at simply because the NFL is struggling with the idea of letting the players be involved with the operation of the league and the games.

But here goes...

Larry Fitzgerald was on the radio last night speaking to longtime broadcaster Jim Gray. Their discussion immediately turned to the events of Sunday night in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers had an apparent touchdown overturned by instant replay.

Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald claims Sunday night's catch-that-was-reversed by Jesse James of Pittsburgh was indeed a catch. Why not let him and other NFL players figure out the rules this off-season?

"Was that a catch, in your mind, on Sunday night?" Gray asked the future Hall of Fame receiver.

"I guess the rule says it wasn't a catch, but in my mind and the minds of the players, it absolutely was a catch," Fitzgerald claimed. "He caught the ball, maintained possession until his body hit the ground, and only when he stretched the ball out was there any issue at all about whether it was a catch."

"It's amazing the league can't get it right," Gray continued.

"The players know what's a catch and what's not a catch, said Fitzgerald. "We might not know all the rules are going to be applied in any given situation, but we know what's a catch and what isn't and that was a catch."

And that got me to thinking.

Why not let the players get involved in establishing the rules of the game?

And I'm not talking about being on a silly committee where they "recommend" rules or rule changes, only to have the owners and the league's competition committee then parse through them and configure them to their liking.

What's the danger in saying to the NFL players: "You tell us the definition of a catch. Tell us what you want it to be."

I'm curious about the dangers of doing such a thing. There are other rules too, ones that I'm sure the players would enjoy examining and potentially adding, altering or doing away with entirely.

Would the players be OK with changing the pass interference penalty, for instance? Would they rather it be 15 yards instead of the current "penalty marked at the spot of the infraction"?

I'm sure the players would like to minimize the amount of penalties that result in fines and punishments. That's understandable since it's money coming straight out of their pockets. So perhaps the league would be smart to continue adjudicating those situations themselves, but allow the players to be more involved in the actual rules of the game.

I guess it would be OK to ask the coaches for their opinion as well, but it's fair to note that not every coach in the NFL actually played in the league. Asking the players who are on the field every Sunday to help establish and define the rules might not be a bad idea.

This is a very slippery slope, of course. Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile, a skeptic might say. And there's probably something to that, honestly.

But hearing Fitzgerald's logic on Monday night really made sense to me.

"Ask any player in the league and they'll tell you that was a catch on Sunday night," he said.

So, if that's the case (and I'm assuming it wouldn't be "every player" who would agree with that, but I'll concede a majority of the players probably would) and the players all think that should be a catch, why not make it a catch? In other words, why not allow the players to have a say in the rule changes this winter?

Admittedly, I've never been moved to think like this before. Probably because I've never seen a circumstance like the one on Sunday night, for starters, and perhaps because of the enormous impact the decision to overturn the call on the field might have on the entire 2017 season.

Oh, and here's the other thing: Let's pretend for a second that the call would have stood and Pittsburgh went on to win the game. Would the reaction on Monday morning have been as long and loud as it was yesterday? Would the entire country be up in arms in support of New England, claiming they got jobbed?

I don't think so.

Sure, Patriots' supporters would have been irate, but would the rest of the football-watching country have shouted from the rooftops on Monday that the Patriots got the bad end of the stick on the catch by James?

I doubt it.

Look, it's one thing if that call happens with three minutes to go in the game. Or in the second quarter.

What happened on Sunday night was, effectively, akin to reversing the outcome of the game.

Could New England have pulled off a miracle in the final 28 seconds and gone down the field to score a touchdown of their own? Maybe. But by and large, the game was 90% in the books when James scored that (apparent) touchdown.

And if Pittsburgh wins that game, their path to the Super Bowl is much cleaner than it is now. Barring something unforseen happening in the final two weeks of the regular season, the road to Minneapolis will go through New England in some way, shape or form.

Jacksonville might have had a bye and a home game in mid-January if that catch is ruled a catch after replay.

Reversing that call and changing the outcome of the game had gigantic implications on the AFC playoffs.

And, really, did they have conclusive evidence to change the call? It's tough to say. If the key word there is "conclusive", you'll find half the people say "yes" and half the people say "no".

Why? Because the catch rule is too complicated. Plain and simple.

So, when the NFL owners gather in March and the inevitable discussion about tweaking the "catch rule" comes up to avoid situations like the one we saw in Pittsburgh, why not let the players sit in the room and tell the powers-that-be how the rule should be worded and defined?

I don't see a reason why that doesn't make sense.

We've seen this season through the kneeling and in-game protests that the players don't have much of an idea about the business of football and how their decisions can impact everything from ticket sales to corporate support to TV ratings.

But they do know football. And they know, better than us, what constitutes a catch and what doesn't.

How about a trade of sorts?

The players all stand for the national anthem -- and they get to decide what the rule is for a completed catch.

I'd vote "yes" to that one.

And maybe Larry Fitzgerald would, too.

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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

Beating the Browns isn't exactly a pre-ordained outcome, but it's about as close as anything gets in professional sports

Still, you've got to win the games you're supposed to win, and the Browns ever so briefly flirted with turning this one into a classic trap-game scenario after driving the length of the field for a touchdown that put them up 7-3, just after some questionable goal line playcalling cost the Ravens a chance for an early two possession lead.

But nope, the Ravens rallied, dominated every aspect of the game from there on out, and beat the Browns with relative ease. John Harbaugh's crew is now just two home wins over crumbling franchises away from their 7th postseason appearance during the Harbaugh/Flacco era, and a good chance at securing the fifth seed in the AFC and avoiding the red hot Jaguars in the first round.

Here are the highs (and very few lows) from the mistake by the lake:

Winners: Sam Koch and Chris Moore

Another week, another excellent performance from the Ravens' punt team. The Browns were pinned deep multiple times and coughed up a defensive touchdown on one of those possessions, as Koch continues to be the best in the world at dropping his punts on a dime inside the five yard line. This year he's being helped out tremendously by the presence of Moore, who has already developed into the NFL's most consistently outstanding gunner, if not the best all around special teams player period. Moore actually dropped what would have been a crucial third down catch and still made up for it.

Winner: Brandon Carr

Bounced back from a dreadful game "covering" Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh to have a very solid game in Cleveland. A gimme interception capped off a very solid game. Deserves a shout out for an all around productive season when not being asked to go one on one with top 3 caliber receivers.

Winner: Joe Flacco

Another great game from Flacco, stretching that streak to three games following the Monday night game against Houston. Threw for 288 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, and just as importantly delivered several top notch balls to throw open receivers, pick apart zone defense, etc. Joe finally looks like he's getting comfortable within the game, and the quality of his play has gone up markedly. If this keeps up, the Ravens won't have any trouble beating Indianapolis or Cincinnati, and will have a good chance at winning another road playoff game in either Kansas City or Jacksonville.

Eric Weddle had a key interception in Sunday's win over the Browns and figures to be vitally important come playoff time.

Winner: Eric Weddle

Another guy who's playing at a very high level right now, coming up with big plays every week. This time it was an interception in Cleveland territory that gifted the offense starting field position in the red zone, as well as several solid plays in pass coverage.

Winner: Mike Wallace

Part of the resurgence of Joe Flacco has been the rising importance of Wallace in the passing game. The days of forcing the ball to Breshad Perriman are gone, and the Ravens' leading receiver from a year ago is getting a chance to show off his rhythm with Flacco, and make big plays downfield as well.

Winner: Ben Watson

The tight end who has spent most of the season as the team's leading receiver has been pretty quiet for a few games, but busted out in a big way against his former team. Pulled in four passes for 74 total yards, and reeled in what was arguably Flacco's best throw of the day for a back breaking touchdown.

Loser: Jeremy Maclin

I don't really want to put Maclin here, since the only contribution he got a chance to make was a tough 22 yard catch over the middle which he took a tremendous hit to haul in, but at this point the constant injuries are becoming a real problem, and Maclin can't be counted on at all.

Loser: Breshad Perriman

Got a chance to play on the active roster again, and even after Maclin's injury failed to make himself a factor. There's no reason for Perriman to suit up for the Ravens again. Ever.

Winner: Za'Darius Smith

Another guy who's been quiet for a few weeks, Smith got into the Cleveland backfield with regularity and capped his day with an important strip sack. Matthew Judon also brought down the elusive Deshone Kizer and added three additional tackles.

Winner: Anthony Levine

The feisty veteran keeps finding his way to big plays, recovering a fumble as well as providing some nice coverage from the nickel/linebacker position. If the Ravens can get that far, I'd peg Levine as a great sleeper candidate to come up with a big play covering Rob Gronkowski.

Winner: Buck Allen

Alex Collins had a pretty quiet day, racking up just 19 yards on 12 carries in the face of a defense that was clearly keying on him, and with little help from Marty Mornhinweg's playcalling. Thankfully Allen was able to shoulder a bigger share of the weight for the Ravens' rushing attack, with 70 yards on the ground on 13 carries. Allen and Collins have steadily developed into a very nice complimentary set of backs, and with Danny Woodhead changing the pace even more with his pass catching ability the Ravens suddenly have the dangerous stable of running backs they've been searching for since 2015.

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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

Here we go again.

All across Ravens Nation this week, in homes proudly painted purple resting on streets named Rise and Conquer, fans are repeating the same slogan over-and-over again to themselves: Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

The 2017 campaign was supposed to be the transition season for the Ravens. Despite the quick 2 and 0 start, many prognosticators figured the team would be best served if it tanked the season and played for picks.

Before the first game even started, most fans figured the most vulnerable spot for the team was at the quarterback position. So, if improving its 2018 draft status meant suffering humiliating losses to teams like the Browns, Colts and Bengals, then so be it.

Better days were ahead.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco is heating up in December, as usual, and the fans are starting to buy into this late-season revival in Baltimore.

The pessimists wanted Harbaugh gone too. ‘Enough is enough’ was the common theme in Federal Hill bars, and the removal of the team’s coach and quarterback were necessary if the team wanted to return to its glory days.

Oh, and then we had the push to dismantle the Ray Lewis statue. Baltimore was tired of the old, the present and didn’t care much for the future. The mindset was if the team remained on its current path, they’d be riding the mediocre train to a series of 8-8 seasons.

Well, guess what happened?

The Ray Lewis statue remains standing. John Harbaugh is looking like a 21st century version of Tom Landry. And Cool Joe Flacco is quickly becoming the NFL’s most prolific passer of the year.

And, yes, the Ravens faithful are beginning to embrace their team, once again.

The reason for the renewed optimism has to be Flacco. He is on fire, carving up defenses at will and displaying a ruthless knack for destroying the opposition.

These are attributes we haven’t seen out of Flacco in…well, really, ever. He’s never been the extroverted, outspoken competitor everyone in Charm City has asked him to be. Now he’s running for touchdowns while showing his agile athleticism and keeping opposing teams on their heels.

According to ESPN, Flacco’s Total QBR of 68.1 since Week 13 ranks ninth in the NFL and is better than those of Tom Brady (64.4), Drew Brees (60.1) and Russell Wilson (60.1).

He ranks eighth in the league in touchdowns (5) and fifth with completions for twenty yards or more (7). (Imagine if Breshad Perriman knew how to catch a football…these figures would be well into double digit territory.)

Throughout his career, Flacco has proven to be electric in the month of December. His .600 winning percentage ranks third amongst active quarterbacks since he entered the league in 2008; and in the years the team made it to the postseason, Flacco boasts a .643 winning percentage.

For this December, Flacco is sporting a winning percentage of .667.

And what should we expect when our all-world quarterback makes it to the postseason? Here’s the quote of the year, from ESPN.

To wit, “Flacco has made a habit of elevating his game when it counts. Since 2011, he has thrown 21 touchdowns and three interceptions in the playoffs, for a 107.5 passer rating (second only to Matt Ryan among quarterbacks with a least three playoff games).”

In other words, the one thing this month has told Ravens Nation is the team is destined for stardom this postseason. And the only question any of us should be asking is what kind of car Flacco will receive when he wins his second SuperBowl MVP.

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stop by chick fil-a nottingham square tonight, please

It's that time of year where we do a lot of begging here at #DMD.

We need you and your help. And your winter apparel.

For the 8th straight year, I'm involved in a project that will benefit the men at Helping Up Mission in downtown Baltimore. How can you help? I'm glad you asked.

Just go through your closet(s) and grab any jackets, coats, sweaters or sweatshirts you no longer wear and bring them out to us at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square (White Marsh) tonight from 5-8 pm. Our friend, store owner Steve Pavlosky, will be happy to give you some free Chick fil-A food coupons for your participation in our annual event.

My old radio buddy Glenn Clark will be there at 5 pm tonight to greet you as well.

Our collection-event-series kicked off last Wednesday night at Jerry's Toyota. We collected over 800 pieces of apparel from those of you who stopped by!! Another 600 pieces were collected on Monday, December 18 at Glory Days Grill. Tonight's our final night for collecting before we take everything to Helping Up Mission this coming Thursday.

Please come out tonight and say "hi" at Chick fil-A and bring that winter apparel with you!

And here's a look at last year's event and the video that accompanied the entire Winter Apparel Drive.


December 18
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issue 18
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in crazy nfl, ravens chances keep improving

One throw into the end zone might have completely changed the landscape of the AFC playoff picture.

No, not Ben Roethlisberger's ill-advised laser that was picked off in the end zone to seal New England's 27-24 win over the Steelers late yesterday afternoon.

The end zone play that might have changed everything came in the same game, but in the second quarter, when Pittsburgh all-world receiver Antonio Brown suffered a significant injury to his calf that will sideline him for the remainder of the regular season. They're saying he'll be back for the playoffs, but the damage his absence caused yesterday might be just what the doctor ordered for teams like the Ravens, who suddenly find themselves in good position with two weeks left in the campaign.

The Ravens did what everyone expected them to do on Sunday, defeating Cleveland, 27-10. It went about the way you expected it would. The Baltimore offense did just enough to keep some distance from the Browns and Cleveland's absolutely-awful-quarterback, DeShone Kizer, was actually worse than perhaps we all thought he'd be in the loss.

A perfect synopsis of the Ravens season, 2017: Punter Sam Koch was the team's best weapon in Sunday's win over the Browns.

So, now, the Ravens are 8-6 and two wins away from returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

And get this: There's a really good chance John Harbaugh's team is going to snag the 5th seed in the AFC and wind up visiting Kansas City in the opening round of the playoffs. There's a curveball no one saw coming, huh?

Here's how crazy the AFC playoff picture is and how it all unfolded yesterday.

This is an "if", obviously, but if Antonio Brown doesn't get hurt, the Steelers would have likely won yesterday's showdown with the Patriots. Pittsburgh battled to the end without Brown and had a game-winning TD taken away on a controversial replay-review. And if New England would have lost that game yesterday, they could have very easily wound up as the AFC's third seed, with Jacksonville winning out to claim the #2 seed behind Pittsburgh, who would have owned home field throughout the playoffs.

One play, one calf injury, one overturned TD at the end of the game -- and suddenly New England will likely host all playoff games (again) and Pittsburgh will face a much different road in the post-season.

The poor Tennessee Titans squandered a game they had in the bag and their playoff chances are now diminishing by the week. Their biggest fault? Playing the 49'ers in week thirteen instead of week three. Had Tennessee faced San Francisco in October, they would have won that game going away. Instead, with the 49'ers experiencing a rebirth behind new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Tennessee got unintentionally hosed by the schedule makers yesterday.

The Ravens, of course, experienced a similar twist of fate when they got to face Oakland without Derek Carr back in early October and Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers a few weeks later. The Ravens might very well be 6-8 instead of 8-6 if they didn't have the luxury of meeting up with two duds in E.J. Manuel and Brett Hundley.

The NFL is the craziest league in the history of sports. (It's impossible to figure out, unless you consider #DMD's last six weeks of picks in "Show Me The Money" as figuring-it-out, where we are a remarkable 18-8-4 in picking against the spread.)

As it stands now, the Ravens appear on track to be heading to New England for a mid-January showdown with The Hoodie and The Ageless Quarterback.

The #6 seed in the AFC (Tennessee or Buffalo) goes to Jacksonville and gets clobbered on the opening playoff weekend.

Should the Ravens then go to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs (by the way, that's FAR from an automatic win for Baltimore...), that would send Baltimore to New England and the #3 seed Jaguars would head to Pittsburgh, where they've already pounded the Steelers once this season.

Had Jesse James held on to that ball long enough for the refs to claim he did via the replay yesterday, Baltimore might have been heading to the Steel City in mid-January instead of New England.

And if Tennessee could have stopped Garoppolo and the 49'ers on their final drive yesterday, the Ravens might have been going to Jacksonville instead of Kansas City.

Heck, the league's so insanely crazy, the Buffalo Bills (8-6) are still alive for a playoff berth, although their run to the post-season will get abruptly chopped in half by the Patriots next Sunday.

Buffalo could still make it at 9-7, though. The Titans have the red-hot Rams coming to Nashville next Sunday. A loss there and they're 8-7. They then finish the season hosting Jacksonville, who might enter that game with nothing at all to play for...which could help the Titans.

If both Tennessee and Buffalo finish 9-7, Tennessee gets the nod via the tiebreaker and they'd be the 6th seed.

Oh, and here's one for you: If the Ravens, Titans and Bills all finish 9-7 (meaning the Ravens would lose to either Indy or the Bengals), guess who would be out? Yep, the Ravens.

Here's a prediction -- It's all going down to the 4th quarter of the very last game. For everyone. On December 31st, with 15 minutes left in the season, we'll still have no idea who is going to the playoffs in the AFC.

The Ravens know one thing for sure. If they win out and finish 10-6, they're in. And they'd likely be the 5th seed, unless the Titans win out to finish 10-6, at which point they'd be #5 and Baltimore would be #6.

There's still a chance the Ravens could face Kansas City, Jacksonville or even Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. They could then go to New England, Pittsburgh or Jacksonville in the second round.

Heck, the Ravens could finish as the 5th seed and host the AFC championship game against either Buffalo or Tennessee. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

The summary of all of this? The NFL is a crazy league.

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about "the catch" (that wasn't)

Everyone has seen it, I assume.

And by my non-scientific research via social media (of course), I'd say it's split right down the middle, 50/50.

Half the people think Jesse James caught the ball yesterday in the New England-Pittsburgh game.

Half the people think he didn't catch it.

For the record -- and admittedly, I'm "old school" in matters such as these -- I say it was a catch.

But, of course, the only folks that matter, the referees, said he didn't catch it after reviewing it on replay.

At this moment, it appears to be a catch.

So there's that.

It was impossible to have a dog in the hunt in that game yesterday. If Pittsburgh would have won, at least New England loses. That's a good thing. And if the Patriots win, at least the Steelers lose. And that's a good thing as well.

So I didn't really "care" that the call got changed, other than it cost us a win in "Show Me The Money".

But as I watched replays of it last night time and time again, I wondered to myself why the NFL opens itself up to such scrutiny with regard to the fancy language they use to deem something an actual "catch".

"The player didn't survive the ground," was the official ruling.

"Survive the ground?" How stupid is that?

There's no doubt the dude caught the football. In fact, had Pittsburgh not needed a touchdown to win right there, James would have likely collected the ball and fallen straight to the ground (which, in hindsight, the Steelers wish he would have done anyway).

A split second later, it's not a catch.

His mistake was trying to extend the play by reaching for the end zone after he was on the ground.

The ball clearly broke the plane of the goal-line while in his grasp but as he fell to the ground, the ball came out of his grasp and spun out of his immediate control.

By league rules, that's not a catch.

But why does the NFL insist on opening themselves up to the kind or backlash and criticism they're getting over plays like that?

Why not just simplify it?

If a player has full control of the ball and the ball breaks the plane of the goal-line, it will be deemed a touchdown, regardless of what happens to the ball after that moment.

That's essentially the rule for running backs, quarterbacks, and anyone NOT catching the ball, but running it in. Once the ball breaks the plane of the goal-line, it's a touchdown.

Why wouldn't the league just make the same rule for receivers and avoid this mess when they have a situation like the one yesterday in Pittsburgh?

The player catches the ball. He reaches over the goal-line with it in his hands. At that moment, it's a touchdown.

Easy, right?

There's also a train of thought that says the NFL actually likes what happened yesterday in Pittsburgh. They're going for the outrageous these days, so whether it's kneeling or protests or catches that were catches until they weren't catches, the league likes being the center of attention. It's weird. But I kind of think they relish being in the eye of the hurricane.

Ravens fans can easily identify with what happened to the Steelers yesterday.

A similar type play -- and heartbreak -- occurred in the AFC Championship game in January of 2012 when Lee Evans sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl with a last-minute catch, only to have the ball knocked out of his hands late (or, perhaps, "very" late) in the reception process. I remember having a UMBC mathematics professor look at it on video and tell me on the radio that Evans needed to hold on to the ball for three-tenths of a second longer and he would have "completed the catch".

The NFL could help themselves by simplifying a lot of rules in the league. Pass interference should only be a 15-yard penalty, for starters.

And receivers should be treated just like everyone else. When the ball breaks the plane of the goal-line, it's a touchdown.

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we're heading to hershey for a hockey game!

#DMD is set to make its annual pilgrimage to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a family-night-of-fun, as the Hershey Bears host the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday, February 3rd at 7:00 pm.

We'd love for you and your family to join us.

Unlike the NHL, which can be a very expensive product to see -- especially if you're taking the whole family -- we're able to do the whole thing rather affordably for our local hockey fans.

For $89.00 per-person, you'll get the following:

Round trip luxury motor coach transportation from Baltimore to Hershey.

A lower-level ticket for the game.

Chick fil-A dinner on the ride to Hershey, plus drinks (water, soft drinks, beer) for the family.

Snacks on the ride home.

And a great night of fun seeing the Bears and Checkers meet up in an AHL game.

It's also "Baseball Cap Night", as the first 5,000 fans in attendance receive a free Hershey Bears hat. So we'll leave at 4 pm on Saturday to make sure we're there in time to get our hats!

To order tickets for the trip, just go here.

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stop by glory days in towson tonight, please

It's that time of year where we do a lot of begging here at #DMD.

We need you and your help. And your winter apparel.

For the 8th straight year, I'm involved in a project that will benefit the men at Helping Up Mission in downtown Baltimore. How can you help? I'm glad you asked.

Just go through your closet(s) and grab any jackets, coats, sweaters or sweatshirts you no longer wear and bring them out to us at Glory Days Grill in Towson (1220 East Joppa Road) tonight, December 18. I'll be there from 5-8 pm to greet you and collect the apparel, and our friends at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square will be happy to give you some free Chick fil-A food coupons for your participation in our annual event.

My old radio buddy Glenn Clark will be there at 5 pm tonight to greet you as well.

We'll also be collecting apparel tomorrow, Tuesday, December 19, at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square in White Marsh (5-8 pm).

Our collection-event-series kicked off last Wednesday night at Jerry's Toyota. We collected over 800 pieces of apparel from those of you who stopped by!!

Please come out on Monday and Tuesday night this week and say "hi" at Glory Days and Chick fil-A and bring that winter apparel with you!

And here's a look at last year's event and the video that accompanied the entire Winter Apparel Drive.


Week 15

Sunday — December 17, 2017
Volume XXXXI — Issue 17

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

1:00 PM EST

First Energy Stadium

Spread: Ravens -7

ravens face winless browns with playoff hopes in the air

We're not down to "must win" games just yet, but it's getting to be just about that time.

And when the team you're facing is 0-13 on the year, it becomes "must win" in a completely different kind of way.

The Ravens face the winless Browns today in Cleveland. Everyone in America expects Baltimore to win the game. But stranger things have happened in the NFL, as the Ravens themselves can easily remember from the 2007 campaign when they lost to a winless Miami Dolphins team in mid-December.

Mike Wallace had a pair of TD catches in Cleveland in last season's contest. The Ravens would love to see similar production from him today.

But that Baltimore squad in 2007 wasn't as polished as this 2017 edition is, and this Ravens team has everything to play for today in Northeast Ohio.

A win and the playoff train chugs on. A loss and Baltimore's post-season hopes would take a severe hit. They wouldn't be out of it, not by a longshot, but a defeat today in Cleveland would create quite a mess in the fight for the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC.

The Ravens aren't losing today.

I think we're all pretty confident of that.

But I also think we're also a smidgen nervous about the game if not just for the simple fact that it's really hard for a NFL team to go 0-16 these days. Somewhere along the way, the ball has to bounce right for a winless team. The law of averages say so if nothing else.

Let's hope the ball bounces Cleveland's way in week 16 or week 17. Just not in week 15.

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keys to today's game

For the Ravens --

Don't become one dimensional offensively -- The Browns are very adept at stopping the run (6th in the NFL), which strongly suggests the Ravens are going to need to throw the ball well today to win. In that, there's a chance the Ravens abandon the run completely (a favorite in-game trait of Mornhinweg's). That would be a mistake! The Ravens need to dedicate themselves to balance on offense, even if their run game is stymied at times by the Browns. Sure, the data suggests Baltimore's air game will be more important than its ground game, but the Ravens need to stay balanced offensively.

Pressure Kizer all day long -- As the Ravens have seen all season long and particularly in last week's Cleveland loss to Green Bay, DeShone Kizer is a turnover waiting to happen. Dean Pees needs to dial up constant pressure on Kizer and force him to make throws while hurried or on the run. There's simply no excuse at all for the Ravens to not be blitzing with regularity this afternoon.

Respect Gordon's ability -- Let's hope Dean Pees learned his lesson last week against the Steelers. The Ravens simply must keep wide receiver Josh Gordon in their crosshairs today and if he starts to pile up the catches and yards, Pees will need to double-cover the talented, athletic pass catcher. It's OK to start the game in single coverage and see if a one-on-one matchup on Gordon is successful, but if it's not, the Ravens have to switch things up and keep him in check as best they can.

For the Browns --

Go to Gordon often -- In the same way the Ravens should respect Gordon's ability, the Browns should do their best to showcase his talents against a Ravens secondary that is likely still numb from last Sunday night's beating in Pittsburgh. Sure, it's Kizer throwing the ball today -- not Roethlisberger -- but Cleveland should make it a pre-game plan to go Gordon's way at least a dozen times, if not more. He's big and strong enough to give Baltimore problems. Real problems.

Keep that series going -- This one is from the "tell me something I didn't know" file, but the longer that Baltimore defense is on the field, the more prone they are to a late-game meltdown. The Browns need to be aggressive on third down, possibly even fourth down, and they simply need to do their very best to keep the Ravens on the field as long as they can today. It might require some gambling they normally wouldn't do, but if Cleveland can wear down the Ravens defense, they help their chances a lot.

Protect Kizer -- Cleveland's offensive line has to win the battle in the trenches today. If they can keep the Ravens from getting after DeShone Kizer, that's a huge step for Cleveland. For the Browns to have any chance at all to win, Kizer has to remain steady and poised. It's hard to do that when you're running for your life. If the Browns can keep him upright, their chances improve.

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how drew sees today's game

I'm more than aware of the way in which the Ravens could lose today.

Kizer makes a few nice throws early, Gordon gives the Ravens secondary fits, Cleveland gets the benefit of a couple of well-timed penalty flags, Baltimore fumbles a ball along the way, and suddenly Cleveland's ahead 17-13 late in the game and the Ravens offense has to step up and win the game for them.

Let's hope we see this look on Joe's face at the end of today's game.

You're naive if you think Joe Flacco and the offense aren't capable of producing a stinker today and, suddenly, it's a one-score-game to start the fourth quarter. That's how the Ravens roll. And, frankly, the Browns have been in a lot of games this season despite being 0-13.

But reality will set in and the team that's supposed to win will wind up winning.

The Ravens will always be in control today, although it's not going to be a blowout until midway through the fourth quarter.

Flacco throws an early TD pass to Benjamin Watson and Tucker tacks on a field goal after a Kizer fumble, and it's 10-0 Ravens after the first quarter.

Cleveland counters with a second quarter field goal of its own and Tucker adds one more before halftime to make it 13-3 at the intermission.

The Ravens make it 16-3 in the third, only to have the Browns finally find the end zone and make it a one score game with a TD throw to Josh Gordon. It's 16-10 Ravens heading to the fourth quarter.

Flacco finds Danny Woodhead on a short TD throw with eight minutes left to make it 23-10 and the Ravens finalize the scoring with a late field goal to win, 26-10.

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show me the money

To borrow a line from Wesley Snipes' character in the movie White Men Can't Jump -- This is TOO easy.

#DMD racked up a 5-0 week last Sunday and is now a whopping 16-7-2 over the last five weeks. Rather than send me some sort of thank you "reward", just donate that money to the charity of your choice.

Here's another chance for you to cash in on our wisdom. Be prepared to win. Just remember, it's all fun and games until someone can't pay the mortgage. In other words, this really is for entertainment purposes only.

We'll turn things over once again to our "Super Expert Insider", who knows more about the NFL than the NFL knows about itself.

BENGALS AT VIKINGS (-11.0) -- We don’t like double digit favorites in the NFL and we don’t particularly care to bet against professional teams that are coming off of an embarrassing outing like the one the Bengals authored at home against the Bears last Sunday. That said, the injury to Philly’s Wentz has the Vikes thinking about the #1 seed in the NFC. Cincinnati’s Minter added another defensive IR to their long list. We're going with the favored Vikings here, 34-20.

PACKERS AT PANTHERS (-3.O) -- Let’s go ahead and jump on the Rodgers bandwagon like everyone else in America is doing. Actually, it’s not so much Rodgers as it is that we're just not sold on the Panthers. Let's take Green Bay here and the 3 points -- and expect a close game. While the Panthers' owner is being investigated, his team struggles with the Packers, but Carolina wins, 23-21.

TEXANS AT JAGUARS (-11.0) -- Another double digit favorite that we can’t pass up. It’s not unreasonable to expect a bit of a let down for the Jags after their grueling game with Seattle last Sunday. And with Fournette out, Jacksonville's offense will have to come up with something new. On the other side, T.J Yates gave the Texans a bit of a spark last week after Savage got knocked out. However, almost all the damage was inflicted by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins missed practice on Friday with a toe injury and is questionable for today. If he's on the sidelines with defensive star Clowney, this will be a long day for Houston. We're going with Jacksonville to cover the 11 points and win comfortably in this one, 27-10.

COWBOYS AT RAIDERS (+3.0) -- Did you see the success that the New York Giants had, early in the game, moving the football last week against the Cowboys? Look for Beast Mode to have a Sunday Night prime time effort as Oakland keeps their flickering playoff hopes alive. And Dallas’s playoff hopes get dashed. We'll take Oakland and the three points at home in a 33-30 Raiders win.

PATRIOTS AT STEELERS (+3.0) -- With Brady’s loss to the Dolphins last week, everyone is expecting a bounce back effort here. Pittsburgh beat a really bad Cincinnati team two weeks ago with a miraculous comeback win and then did the same thing last Sunday to the Ravens. Everything points towards New England. That’s a perfect time to buck the betting trend and go the other way. The Pats have holes defensively and Pittsburgh will find them. In a shoot-out, let’s go with the Steelers and the three points at home as they win outright, 40-38.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Oakland getting three at home against the Cowboys seems like the safest of our five games above. We'll take the Raiders as today's "Best Bet".




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stop by glory days in towson on monday night, please

It's that time of year where we do a lot of begging here at #DMD.

We need you and your help. And your winter apparel.

For the 8th straight year, I'm involved in a project that will benefit the men at Helping Up Mission in downtown Baltimore. How can you help? I'm glad you asked.

Just go through your closet(s) and grab any jackets, coats, sweaters or sweatshirts you no longer wear and bring them out to us at Glory Days Grill in Towson (1220 East Joppa Road) this Monday, December 18. I'll be there from 5-8 pm to greet you and collect the apparel, and our friends at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square will be happy to give you some free Chick fil-A food coupons for your participation in our annual event.

My old radio buddy Glenn Clark will be there at 5 pm on Monday night to greet you as well.

We'll also be collecting apparel on Tuesday, December 19, at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square in White Marsh (5-8 pm).

Our collection-event-series kicked off last Wednesday night at Jerry's Toyota. We collected over 800 pieces of apparel from those of you who stopped by!!

Please come out on Monday and Tuesday night next week and say "hi" at Glory Days and Chick fil-A and bring that winter apparel with you!

And here's a look at last year's event and the video that accompanied the entire Winter Apparel Drive.


December 16
r logo#DMDfacebook logovolume xxxxi
issue 16
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why isn't billick in ravens ring of honor?

Earlier this week here at #DMD, I made casual reference to the Ravens' Ring of Honor and listed the only three players on the current roster who are virtually guaranteed a place on the stadium facade upon their retirement from the NFL: Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda and Justin Tucker.

Those three are in.

Joe Flacco is a possibility but given the team's criteria for admittance, he has to make at least one Pro Bowl while a member of the Ravens. That's what's keeping Derek Mason out, after all.

But there's someone else who should be a lock, too. Why he's not in, I have no idea.

Brian Billick.

There's obviously not a Pro Bowl for Billick to make, so he can't check off every box of the conditions the Ravens have created to judge someone's candidacy. Billick did coach in at least one, though, but that's more of an honor than an actual "vote".

No matter what way you slice it, Brian Billick should be in the Ring of Honor.

The question is: Why isn't he?

The easiest answer might be this: The team won't put him in until John Harbaugh's era comes to a close.

If that's the case, so be it, but even that seems like a strangely configured unpublished condition. It's not like Billick and Harbaugh despise one another. I can't imagine John gives a hoot when Brian goes into the Ring of Honor.

And I don't think it would be at all awkward to have Billick be inducted while Harbaugh is still the coach. Heck, the ceremony itself is held during halftime. Harbaugh would be in the locker room at that point, anyway.

Again, to stress this point as much as possible: I don't think John Harbaugh cares one bit about whether Brian Billick goes in now or ten years from now.

So......why isn't Billick in yet?

The team hasn't inducted someone into the Ring of Honor since 2015. Two full seasons have now passed without a new name being added to the stadium facade.

That alone tells me "something's up" with Billick's honor. Wouldn't it have made sense to have him inducted in 2016 or 2017?

I can't for one second believe the organization doesn't think Billick is "Ring worthy". I sure hope that's not the case. He was part of a massive culture change with the organization when he arrived in town back in 1999.

Sure, he coached a Super Bowl champion with an all-time great defense.

Yes, Billick was afforded the luxury of coaching Hall of Famers like Lewis, Ogden and, someday, Ed Reed (and maybe even Terrell Suggs).

But all Super Bowl winning coaches have great players on their team. That's how they win, after all.

Are the Ravens really considering not having Brian Billick in their Ring of Honor? His absence from the 2016 or 2017 induction ceremony tells me there's a hang-up somewhere.

I don't think Steve Bisciotti is the kind of guy to say, "I gave him $18 million of free money after I fired him. That's his honor from me and the organization."

Everyone knows the way Bisciotti fired Billick was crappy, including the owner himself, I'm guessing. It wasn't Brian's fault that Steve had to pay him the $18 million that was left on his contract after the Super Bowl winning coach was shown the door.

That can't be it, though. Right? This isn't about Steve Bisciotti not liking Brian Billick, is it?

Is there something else we don't know about that happened after Billick's dismissal that has him on the bad-list with the club? I guess that's possible, but I also figure we probably would have heard it about it throught the grapevine by now.

Something's not adding up.

Brian Billick belongs in the Ring of Honor, just like John Harbaugh will also someday deserve his moment of recognition.

Why Billick isn't already in "the Ring" is a perplexing issue. The Ravens get "history" as well as any organization I've ever seen. They most certainly understand how vitally important it was for Billick to come in when he did and establish himself as a no-nonsense coach who was ready (and did) to get the team to the next level.

So why the delay?

2018 should be the year Brian Billick's name goes up on the stadium facade.

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no news on machado isn't a shock

Anyone who thought the Orioles were going to field a few calls and pick the best offer for Manny Machado and make a deal by Friday obviously doesn't know much about the way the Orioles work.

They always tend to dddddrrrrraaaaaaagggggg things out.

Depending on how much you believe the inside scoop around Major League Baseball, the Orioles pace at signing free agents is one of the reasons why the club is rarely "in the mix" for veterans who are on the open market.

It just takes too long for the organization to make a decision. The most recent rumor involves pitcher Mike Fiers, who signed with the Tigers for one year instead of taking a supposed-two-year-offer from the Orioles. Just after making the offer to Fiers, the O's went back to his agent with a qualifier of sorts that effectively made the proposed contract more of a one-year/one-year option circumstance.

That delay tactic scared Fiers and his agent. Rather than go through another week of ironing out the details with the Orioles, they instead opted to sign with the Tigers.

I'm not saying the Orioles have bungled the Machado trade. Not in the least. In fact, if there was ever an occasion to make sure every "I" was dotted and every "T" was crossed, this is that moment.

But teams have to put their own rosters together for 2018 and sitting around waiting for the Orioles to fish-or-cut-bait on Machado isn't helping them prepare for next season. Other deals are being made, free agents are signing, and teams could be losing out on players they might have otherwise pursued if not for their interest in the Orioles' third baseman.

So the Orioles are between a bit of a rock and a hard place, it seems.

On one hand, they need to make a deal quickly.

That said, they need to make sure they've heard from every potential suitor and explored every available option before making their decision.

And I think we all know -- or at least suspect -- that would could be holding up the deal for Machado is the Orioles insistence he not be "re-traded" to the Yankees, somehow.

With all due respect to Peter Angelos, who occasionally is unfairly maligned in matters like these, that would be a very "Peter like" thing to do: "I want an agreement in writing with the White Sox that they won't deal Manny to the Yankees, Nationals or Red Sox. If they won't do that, we're not trading him to Chicago." You can hear Peter saying that now, can't you?

If that's indeed a hurdle the Orioles are asking teams to jump over, I can sort of understand it. It's one thing if the O's trade Manny to Arizona and he plays a season there, then shows up in pinstripes in 2019.

It's entirely different if Machado homers to left field in his first at-bat on April 5 in New York when the O's face him for the first time, then comes to Baltimore next May 31 and patrols third base in those gray uniforms with NEW YORK across the chest.

Here's the deal: I think the Orioles should trade Machado to any team, including the Yankees. Their goal in this exercise is to get the best package in return for Machado, no matter what team gives it to them.

But I do understand the issue of having Machado leave the team this winter and then show up here in May as part of the Yankees. That's going to be a tough pill to swallow for Angelos and the organization.

In the end, though, it won't matter. If Machado goes to the Yankees, he'll immediately be a villain. And based on the way we've seen him behave in his Orioles career, it will be a role he plays well.

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stop by glory days in towson on monday night, please

It's that time of year where we do a lot of begging here at #DMD.

We need you and your help. And your winter apparel.

For the 8th straight year, I'm involved in a project that will benefit the men at Helping Up Mission in downtown Baltimore. How can you help? I'm glad you asked.

Just go through your closet(s) and grab any jackets, coats, sweaters or sweatshirts you no longer wear and bring them out to us at Glory Days Grill in Towson (1220 East Joppa Road) this Monday, December 18. I'll be there from 5-8 pm to greet you and collect the apparel, and our friends at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square will be happy to give you some free Chick fil-A food coupons for your participation in our annual event.

My old radio buddy Glenn Clark will be there at 5 pm on Monday night to greet you as well.

We'll also be collecting apparel on Tuesday, December 19, at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square in White Marsh (5-8 pm).

Our collection-event-series kicked off last Wednesday night at Jerry's Toyota. We collected over 800 pieces of apparel from those of you who stopped by!!

Please come out on Monday and Tuesday night next week and say "hi" at Glory Days and Chick fil-A and bring that winter apparel with you!

And here's a look at last year's event and the video that accompanied the entire Winter Apparel Drive.


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Adam Hadwin