September 15
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issue 15
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the morning after the morning after

With all due respect to the great Pete Yorn and his amazing 2001 album, "musicforthemorningafter", we're going to take it one day further here at #DMD.

You see, sometimes it takes a couple of days for clarity to set in.

So I'll try and make this a regular feature at #DMD this football season.

The morning after the morning after...

Two days removed from the Ravens 34-23 loss in Cincinnati, I'm still trying to piece together what happened on Thursday night.

No game can be perfectly dissected. We won't try and do that here. But what we will do, hopefully, is shed some light on one particular part of each game that stands out as an inarguable piece of evidence supporting a win or lamenting a defeat.

On this occasion, sadly, we're examining yet another Ravens loss to their division foes from Cincinnati.

The 21-0 deficit in Thursday's game can partially be explained by giving the Bengals credit. They have players on full scholarship too, remember.

Andy Dalton is known for his quick release. So, with the Ravens in a flux from an alignment standpoint after the departure of C.J. Mosley, and Dalton sensing that things weren't clicking for the Baltimore defense, it wasn't a complete surprise that John Harbaugh's team sputtered in the opening 18 minutes.

Another bizarre in-game decision from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was part of the narrative on Thursday night as the Ravens fell to the Bengals.

If you're a silver lining type, you've no doubt already drawn this conclusion: The Ravens lost the opening 18 minutes, 21-0. They won the final 42 minutes, 23-13.

But it was in those final 42 minutes where the real meat of the game was actually contended, and lost. And the Ravens, as they've done time and time again over the last three years, made too many mistakes at the worst time, including coaching errors that seemingly never seem to get corrected.

There's a balance between the obvious realities of playing a road game on a Thursday night versus the opportunity the Ravens had at their disposal in the second half of Thursday's game.

Yes, you might have circled the 9/13 game at Cincinnati as a loss when the schedule was released last April, but midway through the third quarter the Ravens had wiggled their way back into the game and stood to gain something very valuable if they could have finished the job.

But they couldn't do it. And because the NFL doesn't have a moral victories column in the standings, that loss could be significant in December if, say, the Ravens have six or seven others during the regular season.

When you squander a regular season game in baseball, basketball or hockey, you get a beer at the team hotel afterwards and laugh it off.

There's no laughing off losses in the NFL. If you lose seven games, you have roughly a 50% chance of making the playoffs. That also means, of course, if you lose seven games there's a 50% chance you won't make the post-season. Last year, the numbers were much more lopsided. Seven teams finished 9-7, including the Ravens, and only two made the post-season.

Yes, they all count the same. One loss is just one loss. But if it's one of seven, that's not good.

And that's why coaching blunders in the final two minutes of a two-score game aren't overblown. They're very real. It's hard enough to win in the NFL without botching a relatively simple process when the game is in the balance late in the fourth quarter.

Ask the Chicago Bears about late-game coaching blunders. They gave the Packers a gift-game last Sunday night, all kick-started by an unnecessary, amateur-hour decision to throw the football on 3rd and 2 with 2:47 left in the game. Their rookie coach realized the faux pas afterwards and, to his credit, called himself out the next day when clarity had set in. He was in his first game as a NFL head coach. You can cut him some slack.

But how do you give relief to veteran coaches and coordinators who bungled the simplest of procedures on Thursday night in Cincinnati?

There's no telling what the percentages were in the final two minutes on Thursday night when the Ravens trailed 34-23 with no timeouts to use. My amateur guess? The Ravens probably had a 5% chance of collecting 11 points and sending the game to overtime.

But that 5% should have been more than enough to keep the Ravens engaged and focused in the final two minutes. Instead, they looked a lot like they've looked time and time again over the last few years -- slow, methodical, unprepared and lacking basic football IQ.

Once the game clock wound down to the one minute mark, the decision should have been made right then and there to attempt a field goal and get three of the necessary eleven points that were needed to tie the game. Remember, there's no policy or rule that says if you trail by eleven that you have to get the touchdown and two point conversion first and the three-point field goal second.

Instead of attempting a 55-yarder to draw to within 34-26, the Ravens meandered around, threw a few ten yard passes, and frittered away both the clock and their chance for an improbable, but still possible, comeback.

Here's probably the oddest thing about Thursday night: When the Ravens needed to play with desperation, they didn't. Yet when they didn't need to play with desperation, they did.

The coaching staff panicked in the 3rd quarter of a two-score game, going for it on 4th down when they didn't need to, abandoning the run game when they didn't need to and throwing caution to the wind when they didn't need to. There was no reason to be desperate in the 3rd quarter, trailing 28-17, but they were.

Then, late in the game, when every second was valuable and being "engaged" was far more important than being "precise", the Ravens resorted to their old ways. They strolled along like they were ahead instead of behind, failed to make simple, basic decisions and, for the most part, showed little desperation despite being down 34-23.

The Ravens didn't lose because of what happened in the final two minutes on Thursday night.

But they didn't win because of it, either.

And now they can really only afford to lose five more games this season.

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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.

Who didn't see that one coming?

After shellacking the Bills at home in Week One, the Ravens hit the road on Thursday to face a team that always gives them trouble, and promptly dropped a brick in an ugly 34-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The loss was a well-rounded one, shall we say, with every area of the team save for the kickers making mistakes and contributing to the disappointing outcome in one way or another.

The defense gave up 34 points, the offense was MIA at points, there was a fumble in the return game, and the coaching staff was thoroughly bested by their Cincinnati counterparts.

That said, much like the 47-3 victory over the Bills, it's important to not overreact to this loss or draw too many conclusions from it.

The Bengals are a good team that can play like a great team when Andy Dalton is on (unless they're playing the Steelers obviously). The Ravens were playing on the road on Thursday night, a tough assignment for any team to manage. If the Ravens weren't as good as they looked thrashing Buffalo, they also might not be as bad as they look in Cincinnati.

On the other hand, there were some really worrying signs Thursday night, on all sides of the ball. The Ravens and fans will hope they're aberrations, but don't be surprised if they're recurring themes over the course of the next 3+ months.

When I "previewed" the team a couple of weeks ago, one reason I had for being pessimistic about this team's chances to go to the postseason was the quality of their pass rush.

An atrocious Buffalo offensive line made that look like less of an issue last Sunday, but on Thursday a Cincinnati unit that is far from the best in the league absolutely neutered the Ravens' front in the passing game.

Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green took advantage of an early-game injury to Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley and posted his first career 3-touchdown game on Thursday night.

Not only did the Ravens fail to sack Dalton even once, they barely even harassed him at any point in the game, and the Bengals' blockers looked like they weren't even being challenged by Ravens' rushers, no matter what they threw at them. When Cincinnati went with an up tempo pace and forced the Ravens into basic schemes, no one could beat their man to get after the quarterback.

And when Wink Martindale could dial up a designed blitz, they were either picked up by Cincy blockers, or Dalton neutralized them with quick passes. The result was a Bengals offense that had little trouble moving the ball for most of the game and put 34 points on the board. And you don't win very many games when the other team scores 34 points.

Again, maybe this is an aberration brought on by the Thursday night road game against a good team, but I'm betting this won't be the last time this season we lament a bad defensive performance that featured a non-existent edge rush.

There's a lot to break down on the offensive side of the ball, and a lot of mistakes that dug a huge hole, but there's no better place to start than with Ronnie Stanley.

The entire Baltimore offensive line struggled throughout the game, though Cincinnati does have a very talented defensive line so you expect that they'll make a few plays in every game. Stanley's struggles stood out like a sore thumb though, and not for the first time. The former top ten pick was absolutely terrible on Thursday night, to the point that he was actually taken out of the game altogether, and reporters wondered if he had some sort of injury.

Stanley denied having any physical maladies, and I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse. Stanley had a pretty bad game against Buffalo too, completely blowing his block on multiple plays. Something isn't right with the left tackle, and if he can't figure it out over the long break then this offense is going to have a very long day against the Denver Broncos' edge rushers.

John Brown is a really good receiver whose route running and ability to play the ball in the air might actually surpass his much vaunted speed, and he's going to have a big year if he stays healthy. I can't confidently say the same thing for Michael Crabtree. Nick Boyle really isn't good enough to get away with committing as many penalties as he does.

I don't have a clue what the coaching staff thinks they're doing with Lamar Jackson, or what kind of value he's adding to the offense working primarily as a decoy. Once again they didn't actually give him the ball on any motion plays, and Cincinnati barely paid him any attention when he was out there.

They paid even less attention to Joe Flacco when he lined up wide, and all the Ravens managed to accomplish there was leaving themselves short one blocker. There are good ways to use Jackson and his unique abilities even as Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback, but Marty Mornhinweg and John Harbaugh aren't getting anywhere close to them.

Case in point: If you're putting in package plays just for Jackson, why in the world wouldn't you have him in going for a two point conversion? If there's any situation where Jackson can add a lot of value to this team, no matter how highly you think of Flacco, it's in short yardage/goal line situations where the run/pass threat gives defenses even more to account for. And that's before you factor in his speed and ability to make defenders miss when he's carrying the ball.

Watching the first two weeks it's like the offensive staff knows they're supposed to figure out some way to use Jackson, but they really don't have any idea what the heck they're doing.

Speaking of the coaching staff, I guess this is as good a point as any to tackle that topic. Here's the long and short of it: No NFL team should ever be punting on 4th and 2 inside of the 50 yard line.

At this point any head coach who calls for a punt in that situation deserves to be fired before the game even ends. First and foremost the success rates on those plays are very good, which stands to reason since, ya know, you only need 2 yards.

If you don't think that can be converted you might as well just call off the rest of the game and let everyone go to bed early. Secondly, the value of the coffin corner punt just isn't what it was 20-30 years ago. There are too many punters in the league who can uncork a 55-60 yard kick and completely negate the net yardage value of playing a field position game once your offense gets inside the other team's territory.

In the most realistic best case scenario, what you end up doing is punting the ball, getting a three and out, and then getting the ball back further away from the endzone than you were when you punted, with less time on the clock to boot.

Finally, you don't actually know what's going to happen for the rest of the game. Maybe you'll end up in a better position if you punt, but you might also end up in a much worse position.

Just go back to last year's Big Ten Championship for a good example of this. Wisconsin adhered to the "just punt it" book perfectly, and their reward for punting on fourth and short in the fourth quarter was.....facing a must-convert 4th and 20 on their final drive. Gee, do you think 4th and 2 is easier to convert than 4th and 20? Spoiler alert: Wisconsin didn't make it and Ohio State won the game.

Given that you don't actually know what's going to happen in the future, coaches who are good at game management and actually help their teams more than they hurt them do so by taking their chances when the odds are in their favor. 4th and 2 from inside the 50 is one of those chances and again, not to belabor the point, you should be going for it every single time in those circumstances.

Harbaugh is among the better coaches in the league at understanding this point but, unfortunately, the Ravens have been absolutely dreadful at playcalling in these situations for the past several years. The advantage to being in a situation where going for it on 4th makes sense is that you get to use all four downs to try to convert, rather than just three. What that means is that, if you know you're going to go for it on 4th and short, then your third down playcalling in particular can be guided by that strategic knowledge.

So if, say, you have a strong running back who is having a nice game, you can feel confident about handing him the ball on 3rd and 2, knowing that if he doesn't move the chains he'll at least probably gain a little bit and cut that 4th and 2 to a 4th and 1 (give or take) which opens up even more of your offense on fourth down and really puts the defense at a disadvantage.

What you REALLY don't want to do is call, say, a single read quick pass to the flat that a little bit of penetration from the defensive line can completely blow up, especially if your offensive line has been struggling with that last point for darn near the entire game!

Long story short: The 4th down decision itself was the right one, but the approach prior to that and the playcalling in particular in these situations is as bad as it could possibly be, and that's something that happens to the Ravens over and over and over.

You know what really grinds my gears? The way the Ravens continue to go about their two minute offense without the slightest hint of urgency.

Despite 55 pass attempts, Joe Flacco couldn't pull off the big play at the big moment on Thursday night in the loss to the Bengals.

Yes, as many people have noted, the smart way to handle the end of Thursday's game was to kick a field goal and then hope for an onside recovery and a miracle touchdown. That said, I've been watching the NFL long enough to know that there isn't a single head coach other than Bill Belichick and, possibly, Doug Pederson who has ever devoted as much thought to that topic as approximately 10,000 random Baltimoreans did at 11:30 Thursday night, so I don't actually expect to see them do that.

That said: Is it too much to ask that you not look like you're just trying to get into the locker room already? What's the point of checkdown passes in the middle of the field, exactly? Why even bother going through the motions if you're clearly not even bothering to play to win anymore?

And we see this same thing happen game after game after game, in the second half and the first. I don't know if Harbaugh or Joe Flacco are to blame for it, but either way it's just downright insulting to the fans sticking it out to the bitter end at this point.

One major takeaway from this game: High end talent goes a really long way when they're playing well. AJ. Green's stat line belies that fact that the Ravens actually did a pretty good job of covering him, but great players make big plays even when the other team is doing a good job, which is exactly what Green did.

On the other side, Geno Atkins was a one man wrecking crew in the trenches, and both he and Green forced the Ravens to devote extra attention to them, making life easier for the other receivers/defensive linemen in the process. That's the most glaring thing that the Ravens lack, on both sides of the ball, and honestly have lacked for multiple seasons now.

Then again, if you were to look at cap numbers alone you'd assume that the Ravens' quarterback is that guy for them, so we might as well close things out by talking about Joe Flacco. And yet, what is there left to say about him? There was enough wrong with the rest of the offense that you can find ways to deflect blame from Flacco if you want to, and lord knows the Flacco apologists will do that with gusto, but it's certainly not as if you can say that he played a good game either.

He missed too many throws, made poor decisions that sometimes led to turnovers, didn't come through with a good play when the Ravens needed him to on plays like that 4th and 2 situation, and just never quite did enough to pick up the struggling offensive players around him. Which would be fine except for the fact that he's being paid to be the kind of star who picks up and elevates the guys around him, yet even his relentless brigade of apologists concede that he can't do that when they argue that he needs a Pro Bowl level supporting cast around him at every position to be successful.

A Hall of Fame coach once famously said that you are what your record says you are, and what the Ravens are since they committed a gargantuan contract to Joe Flacco is a .500 team.

It's tempting to fall into the habit of saying "there's a lot of football left to play" early on, but the truth is that in a 16 game season there's never really that much football left to play. With such a small sample, you don't always get a chance to recover from an early loss, especially in a game that you're supposed to win on paper.

For as much as 4th and 12 looms large in our minds when we think about how last season ended, that wouldn't have mattered if the Ravens hadn't lost to the Bears at home earlier in the season. The 2016 season ended with an Antonio Brown touchdown on Christmas Day, but things could have gone differently if thr Ravens hadn't lost to the Redskins and Jets in the season's first half.

With that in mind, the upcoming game with Denver stands as a crucial one for the Ravens. The Broncos are good but probably not great, and the Ravens will be playing at home with extra time to prepare for the game. Yes it's only week 3, but this could easily be the game that ultimately determines whether or not they get back to the postseason this year.

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September 14
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issue 14
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tough to win playing like that

Around these parts, any loss is met with massive overreaction, so last night's Ravens defeat in Cincinnati will almost certainly spark a tidal wave of discontent among the purple faithful.

I'll try my best not to overreact.

Any division loss is critical. There's no debate about that. But there were lots of good signs from Cincinnati on Thursday night. And, yes, some unsettling signs as well.

You're not going to win many games when you fall behind 21-0 after just nineteen minutes.

That's the first note of importance for everyone to consider.

The Ravens did scratch and claw their way back into the game, but it was too little, too late.

When you fall behind 21-0, you're going to lose almost every time.

And how did they fall behind by three touchdowns? That's pretty easy. No pass rush. Slow secondary coverage. And too much A.J. Green.

Andy Dalton lit up the Baltimore defense for four first half touchdowns on Thursday night as the Bengals beat the Ravens, 34-23.

The Ravens didn't have one sack all night. Once again, from the "tell me something I don't know" department, you're not going to win many games in the NFL if you don't register one sack in sixty minutes.

And in that opening nineteen minutes when Andy Dalton and Green were playing pitch-and-catch, the Cincy QB had all kinds of time to throw and the Baltimore defensive backs just weren't good enough to cover the talented wide receiver. Some folks will talk about scheme and bellyache about Wink Martindale's coverage patterns in that opening quarter, but at some point, pro players have to make a play.

And no one could cover Green adequately early on.

The C.J. Mosley injury didn't help matters, but let's remember Mosley is far from the greatest coverage linebacker in the league. Mosley's departure impacted the Ravens more as a defensive unit than it did anything else. He was wearing the communication helmet that picked up the plays from the sideline. Terrell Suggs -- who was nowhere to be seen on Thursday night -- admitted after the game that losing Mosley was a big blow because it led to some initial confusion relating to play calls, assignments, etc.

Once the Ravens got their feet under them, things started to improve. The defense gathered themselves after that initial 21-point onslaught. Flacco made some quality throws. The wide receivers again contributed to the cause. And the game was still in the balance at 28-14 after two quarters of play.

If we're being honest, it was a mini-miracle that the Ravens only trailed by two touchdowns at the intermission given how woeful the offensive line played in the opening 30 minutes. Ronnie Stanley looked like he'd never played a down in the NFL and James Hurst was equally unreliable. The Bengals feasted on Flacco in the first half.

But because they're the Bengals and because the Ravens now have some guys who can actually catch the ball and help Flacco out, the game was still there for the taking throughout the second half.

Someone forgot to tell Marty Mornhinweg that the game was still very much up for grabs, though.

Midway through the third quarter, the Ravens' offensive coordinator completely abandoned the run and threw "balance" out the window, opting to just have Flacco throw the ball around like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite.

It worked for a little while. But it also reeked of desperation. And that lack of balance left little to the imagination for the Cincinnati defense, who eventually tightened up and forced Flacco into some bad throws in the fourth quarter.

On the night, the Ravens threw the ball 55 times and gave it to their running backs 15 times. Even a Flyers fan can figure out that's a lopsided ratio. Sure, some of that was a by-product of falling behind 21-0, but in the second half, when they were actually back in the game, the Ravens stopped running the ball. It made little sense.

Oh, and bad coaching again made an appearance on the Ravens sideline. From an ambitious, completely unnecessary 4th and 2 gamble in the 3rd quarter when the score was 28-17 to a puzzling sequence at the end of the game, John Harbaugh was again in the crosshairs of some head scratching moments.

With nearly half the third quarter still left to play and the score 28-17, Harbaugh elected to go for it on 4th and 2 near midfield. If it's 35-17 or 38-17, the gamble might have made sense. But not in a two-score game with 21 minutes of football remaining.

Some folks tried to argue that going for it there made sense. No, my friends, it didn't. If you want to make the case for going for it EVERY TIME on 4th and 2 because "4th and 2 should be easy to pick up", that might be a fair point. But going for it at that precise moment, with gobs and gobs and gobs of football left to be played, was the wrong decision.

By the way, that's not the first time Harbs has been guilty of getting suckered into a bad decision at the wrong time.

But what happened in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter was far more puzzling.

The best kicker in the NFL stood on the sidelines in the game's final minute last night as the Ravens bungled another late-game situation in a two-score contest.

Driving in Cincinnati territory and trailing 34-23, the Ravens plodded along in an effort to score a touchdown and narrow the margin. Short passes in the middle of the field -- which the Bengals were happy to give up -- helped keep the drive alive, but all the while the clock was winding down.

Why not get the ball down around the 35 yard line and have Justin Tucker kick a field goal with a minute or so left to make it 34-26? They actually did do that, except they got it to the 38 yard line with 0:59 left, then continued on in search of a touchdown.

Tucker can hit 55 yarders -- like he did earlier in the game -- from the Royal Farms parking lot. They're not automatic for him, but they're certainly worth trying almost every time.

Trailing 34-23, the Ravens needed some combination of 11 points to send the game to overtime.

In the NFL, you can't get eleven in two scores without getting "3" and "8". There's no requirement to get the "8" before you get the "3".

Either way, once you score, you have to pull off the onside kick and hope for a miracle.

The logical process in the game's final two minutes was to get the ball deep enough into Cincinnati territory to let Tucker try a field goal and then go for the touchdown and two point conversion if you were fortunate enough to recover the onside kick.

Instead, the clock ran out with the Ravens trying to score a touchdown...first.

That's certainly not why the Ravens lost, but it's foul-ups like that that make me wonder if the coaches and the guys in the press box are paying attention.

But there were some good signs, as I indicated earlier.

The receivers all look completely competent, which must warm Flacco's heart. Alex Collins looks like a legitimate NFL running back with some Jamal Lewis run-you-over tendencies that should bode well in the AFC North. And the quarterback himself appears to be healthy, with a noticeable spring in his step.

It's only one loss.

Falling behind 21-0 was a tonic for losing. Not being able to contain A.J. Green was a backbreaker. And panicking like a JV team playing in front of the varsity coaching staff was a recipe for failure.

And the Bengals, while 2-0, aren't going to buffalo anyone into thinking they're this year's version of last year's Philadelphia Eagles. If they make the playoffs, it will be by the skin of their teeth. And if they do, we all know what happens to Marvin Lewis and his team once they reach the post-season.

If I'm the Ravens, I'm not overly concerned about the Bengals.

I'm more concerned with the Mosley injury and the potential he might miss 2-4 weeks with a bone bruise, Ronnie Stanley's awful night at left tackle, a general lack of speed in the secondary, and an offensive coordinator who once again completely lost his "feel" for the moment and the situation at hand in the second half of two possession football game.

Player's play and coaches coach.

On Thursday night, everyone had a hand in the loss.

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o's have two weeks to figure something out

The heat is officially on the Orioles' front office.

Granted, Adam Jones will have a say in this, but the Orioles better do the right thing and honor Jones in one of the final four home games against Houston later this month.

It would be oh-so-Orioles for them to do nothing at all.

They better not let this opportunity get past them.

Jones deserves a full-on day/night of celebration and adoration, not only from the organization, but from the city and state as a whole.

Sure, there's a slight chance Adam will be back next year. But there's a strong chance he won't be in Baltimore in 2019. And if the club has any inkling at all that they're not interested in bringing him back, they owe it to Jones to tell him that now and offer him a memorable send off at Camden Yards.

They've already created a firestorm over the last three weeks by sitting Jones on the bench while a bunch of other ne'er-do-wells patrol right field. There's no telling if Jones is agitated by the treatment he's receiving, but you suspect he might not be overly thrilled seeing some guy named John Andreoli run around and get at-bats over him.

But the Orioles can rationalize guys like Rickard, Andreoli and Mullins playing.

They can't fail to have an Adam Jones appreciation day at the end of the season and act like that's a reasonable thing to do.

Jones deserves a proper good bye.

The O's are in the spotlight on this one. They better not screw it up.

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Week 2

Thursday — September 13, 2018
Volume L — Issue 13

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

8:20 PM EDT

Paul Brown Stadium

Spread: Ravens - 1½

ravens face bengals with 4th and 12 still on their minds

The last time the Ravens saw Andy Dalton and the Bengals, an entire season came down to one play.

There's no need to rehash what happened in Baltimore last December 31. If you're a fan of the Ravens, you know it all too well.

Tonight, in Cincinnati, John Harbaugh's team gets their first 2018 crack at stitching up that wound when they face the Bengals on Thursday Night Football. It might be a tad too early for dramatic talk about "playing for the division lead" and all, but that's what the two teams are doing tonight in Ohio.

The Bengals won their opener last Sunday, 34-23, in Indianapolis, outscoring the Colts 17-0 in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens beat the NFL's sacrificial lamb, the Bills, 47-3 in Baltimore.

It won't be 47-3 tonight, that's for sure.

Can the Ravens limit the production of Cincinnati all-pro wide receiver A.J. Green tonight?

The Bengals are legit, boosted by a solid defensive interior and a quarterback and wide receiving corps who can put up yards and points in a hurry. Cincinnati has worked hard to beef up their offensive line which, for the last two seasons or so, has been among the least effective in all of football.

The history between the two teams is quite fascinating.

Baltimore is 8-14 in Cincinnati, with their last win coming on opening day last season, 20-0.

The Bengals are 8-14 in Baltimore.

Let me do that math real quick for the Flyers fans out there. I know it's a challenge for you. The lifetime series between the two teams is tied at 22-22, with each side owning a 14-8 record at home.

In other words, this one tonight is a coin flip.

The Ravens are 1.5 point favorites, if that matters, which probably points more to their lopsided 47-3 win over Buffalo than anything else.

The biggest challenge for Baltimore tonight is keeping Bengals' wide receiver A.J. Green in check. And that's easier said than done. He's been a lifetime thorn in the side of the Ravens.

Cincy's signal caller, Andy Dalton, seems to boost his game against division rivals. In the past five games against the AFC North, Dalton has 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions for a 101.7 passer rating. He aims for his fourth game in row against the division with two or more passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

Dalton was the guy who threw the ball to Tyler Boyd last season on that 4th and 12 play. I don't think I need to remind you of that.

While tonight's game won't come down to what Dalton and Green do and nothing else, there's definitely a component of this evening's contest that says, simply, "Don't let A.J. Green beat you..."

Of course, it wasn't Green who beat the Ravens last December 31. It was Tyler Boyd.

This is a great opportunity for the Ravens tonight, as they play a Thursday night game with a relatively healthy lineup and a somewhat rested group as well after being able to rest some regulars in the second half of last Sunday's opener against Buffalo.

Make no mistake about it, playing the Bengals in week #2 in their building on a Thursday night is far, far better than playing them in week #11 in their place on a Thursday evening.

Let's hope the Ravens take advantage of that goodwill extended to them by the schedule makers.

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how drew sees tonight's game

The oddsmakers have the Ravens a 1.5 point favorite tonight. That's an interesting angle, particularly with Cincinnati winning their opener a week ago and the visiting teams on Thursday night traditionally having difficulty getting their motor going.

I try my best not to play the conspiracy-theory-game with NFL point spreads, but that number seems odd to me. They're dying for you to take the Bengals in this one.

(Yes, yes, I know how gambling works. What the oddsmakers really want are 50% of you to take the Ravens and 50% of you to take the Bengals.)

Unlike a lot of Thursday night junk we'll watch this season, I think tonight's game sets up to be a good one. Both teams are mostly healthy, the bumps and bruises from two months of football haven't accumulated, and, in general, these two squads tend to play "up" against one another.

I suspect we'll see another good night from Joe Flacco. I don't think he'll torch the Bengals like he did the Bills last Sunday, but I see Joe with numbers in the 23-36, 290 yards range, with two touchdowns.

The Ravens get on the board first when Flacco finds Nick Boyle for a short touchdown toss in the opening quarter. A late second quarter TD run by Alex Collins gives the visitors a 14-10 halftime lead.

Cincinnati eventually goes ahead 20-14 after three quarters on an A.J. Green TD catch.

Flacco connects with Michael Crabtree early in the 4th quarter for Crab's second TD in two games, and the Ravens lead 21-20 throughout most of the final period.

A Justin Tucker field goal makes it 24-20 with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

But Dalton and -- who else -- A.J. Green connect on a late touchdown to give the Bengals a 26-24 win (they miss the extra point, in true Bengals fashion).

Green finishes the night with 9 catches for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. The malady lingers on.

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new golf rules for 2019 officially published

With three months and some change remaining before the new rules officially take hold, the USGA and R&A yesterday published their 2019 Rule Book, and inside were several new changes for 2019 and beyond.

In my opinion, the changes are both long needed and outstanding.

There are 30 or so total important changes. I'll give you the ten best, in my estimation.

1. You can now tap down spike marks or any other damage on the putting green. (Finally...even though plastic spikes have improved the condition of the greens over the last twenty years, there's no reason why you can't give yourself the best possible chance to make a putt.)

2. You can now putt with the flagstick in the hole and if your ball hits the stick, there's no penalty. (This especially helps when it's just you and a friend on Saturday morning and you're both a long way from the hole on the putting green. Now, you just knock it up there with the flagstick still upright. Your ball might hit the stick and richocet away from the hole, of course, but that's the risk you take leaving it in there.)

3. The time for searching for a lost ball is now three minutes instead of five minutes. (I'm not 100% sure I agree with this one, but anything to speed up the pace of play is a welcome relief.)

A "double-hit" will no longer penalize a player for hitting a moving ball, like the T.C. Chen incident in the 1985 U.S. Open (note in the photo that the ball looks stuck on the clubface).

4. If you're taking a drop (penalty or free), you can drop the ball from knee-length height instead of shoulder-length. (This will go a long way in eliminating a "bad drop". I like it.)

5. If you accidentally move your ball while searching for it, it's no longer a penalty. (Makes complete sense. Accidents do happen.)

6. There is no longer a penalty for a double-hit. Most of us with a memory call this "T.C. Chen'ing it", as he double-hit a chip back in 1985 when he was leading the U.S. Open. Previously, there was a penalty for hitting a moving ball. There is no longer a penalty for hitting a moving ball. (Yes, this rule was already in place long before Phil Mickelson's stunt at this year's U.S. Open.)

7. Caddies can no longer stand behind you while you are lining up your shot. (This one has become an issue on the junior golf circuit. Once a player goes into his "routine", a caddie can not stand behind him/her and line him up, whether it's in the fairway or on the green.)

8. You can now continue to use a damaged club, even if that damage was caused in anger. But you can not replace a damaged club if you were responsible for that damage. (I'm not sure I understand this one, but fair enough. I think we need more rules to encourage young golfers NOT to lose their cool.)

9. When taking a drop and using clubs to measure the drop distance, you must use the longest club in your bag that is NOT your putter. (Easy enough.)

10. "Ready golf" is now encouraged. (I love this one. The AJGA junior circuit has used it for years. The first person to finish putting heads to the next tee and hits it (assuming the fairway and hole are clear for you to hit, obviously).

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September 12
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issue 12
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o's not at fault

When you're 41-103 with 18 games remaining like the Orioles are this morning, there are a lot of things wrong. And most of those "things" can be blamed on the organization.

But the current situation involving Adam Jones is not an Orioles screw up.

In case you missed it, Jones was the center of a mini-controversy in Birdland last weekend when he failed to start any of the three games in Tampa Bay. He was back in the lineup last night at home when the O's lost (I know, you're shocked) to the A's, 3-2.

But his absence last weekend set off a firestorm of sorts with many of the O's faithful. They believe Jones should be playing right field and seeing regular duty in this, his (potentially) final month in Baltimore.

The undeniable leader in Baltimore, Adam Jones has seen his playing time dramatically reduced over the last five weeks.

I'm a card carrying member of the Adam Jones fan club. I think anyone who has read #DMD this season knows that.

The truth? There's actually more reason for Jones to not play at all in September than there is to play regularly.

The Orioles aren't screwing this up. They're doing the right thing by giving playing time to Cedric Mullins, John Andreoli and Joey Rickard. Mullins is the team's centerfielder of the future. I think we all know that. Andreoli isn't very good in my opinion, but we're finding that out now instead of using next April or May to learn if he can play at the big league level. And Rickard, despite his obvious warts, might be the incumbent right fielder in spring training next February.

The team doesn't owe Jones playing time right now. So what, then, are they obligated to do for him?

The organization owes Jones a well-planned, thoughtful and appreciative day-of-honor during the final home series against Houston in a few weeks. Jones might not want that. If that's his wish, the team should abide by it. But that's all the club owes Adam at this point.

He knew when they wanted to trade him to Philadelphia at the end of July that the landscape was changing in Baltimore. He also knew -- or should have suspected -- that his August and September playing time would change dramatically.

I thought it was admirable of Jones to stick it out here at the trade deadline given the losing season and the promise of nothing getting better over the last two months of the campaign. I love his spirit and his connection to the city and I really do admire his soul as the captain of the franchise.

But that doesn't mean the Orioles have to stick him out there in right field every day.

The O's have bungled a lot of things over the last year or so but this situation with Jones isn't one of them. And I'm pretty sure, deep down, he knows and agrees with that.

He could have opted out in July and played the final two months in Philadelphia. He chose to stay. When he did that, though, he also chose to be a part-time player.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

good ol’ joe

For a good part of his 11-year NFL career, maybe six years or so, Joe Flacco was part of a national running joke. I believe it had something to do with whether or not he’s “elite.”

Back in 2008 and 2009, it wasn’t the question yet. Flacco was a young guy managing the game with a great defense propping him up. In the last couple years, the question’s gone away, because it got answered with a “no” that, if not resounding, was at least pretty clear.

Now that the question’s been answered, though, it’s time to ask a different question. Actually, like the running joke, it’s a question that’s already been answered. Joe Flacco is a good quarterback.

Occasionally, he plays better than that. As a first-round draft pick with a cannon arm, he’s always had the requisite tools to do so. Sometimes, he plays worse than that—questionable pocket awareness, mechanical issues, and a certain lack of interest.

Mostly, though, he’s been a good quarterback.

Through good times, Joe has always considered himself a good quarterback.

He can, and does, make every throw an NFL signal caller might be expected to make, no matter what the conditions or the setting. His fundamentals—from throwing to handing off to pitch plays—are usually stellar. His durability is laudable; it’s still hard to believe that he was injured seriously enough to miss almost half of the 2015 season.

Joe Flacco is everything an NFL team would want in a quarterback, and more than everything that might have been expected of him by Ozzie Newsome and brass a decade ago.

Besides that, he’s a devoted family man who has never once done or said anything controversial, with the possible exception of his own answer to the “elite” question. His speech is straight Philly, but he’s really the perfect quarterback for Baltimore.

On Sunday, Flacco picked apart the hapless Bills, and it was fun to watch, but it’s not like he hasn’t done that before. Then again, at some point this season, maybe even tomorrow, he’ll make a bad play that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers would never make.

Inasmuch as every NFL player gets mercilessly graded every game, by experts and armchair quarterbacks, the evaluation of Joe Flacco won’t end until he retires. That’s fine.

What Flacco has done in a Ravens uniform is good enough for me.

Saying that takes a certain change in thought process. For one, as hard as it may be, it means thinking about Flacco by himself, as opposed to comparing him to others or to the mythical quarterback the fans at M&T Bank Stadium have been pining for these 11 seasons.

Flacco has now played in and started 155 regular-season games and 15 playoff games. His presence on the field—the big arm, the stoicism, his voice calling out the signals picked up by those big parabolic TV microphones—is as much a part of the fabric of Ravens’ football as that of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs or Jonathan Ogden.

Barring some kind of later-career renaissance, featuring several years filled with performances like Sunday’s against Buffalo, Flacco isn’t making the Hall of Fame like those guys have or will. You can’t say the same about the elite quarterbacks whom we would have liked to him to approach.

So there’s no point in talking about them. There’s little to be gained in deconstructing the careers of Flacco and his exact contemporary Matt Ryan. There’s no good reason for hand wringing about Ben Roethlisberger tossing it for 457 yards like it’s a flag football game at the local park.

We know what Flacco can do, and we know he can do it well. We know he can lead the Ravens to wins with his arm, and we know that there have been plenty of games the Ravens might have won had he played better. As he (fortunately) left Sunday’s game by the third quarter, we were excited to see him play the next game. We always have been, even when he’s coming off the opposite type of performance.

In a world of wins and losses, there’s some skepticism about that. It’s understandable. This is not a place where players win trophies for participation. If the Bengals beat the Ravens, and both starting quarterbacks play, then we wish we had Andy Dalton instead of Joe Flacco. Ol’ Red won the game.

And it’s easy to praise Flacco, or at least be thankful for him, after a game like Sunday, his own performance aside. Can you imagine going into a game with Nate Peterman as your starting quarterback? That was real, not some kind of sick joke.

And through bad times, Joe has still considered himself a good quarterback.

But you shouldn’t compare Flacco to Peterman either. Rookie, veteran, future Hall-of-Famer or career backup, everyone else plays for somebody else.

We’ve watched Joe Flacco outlast everyone on his side of the ball except for Marshal Yanda. He’s the guy here, whether you think of him as your guy or not. And there’s a reason for that. Like Yanda, Flacco is here starting for his 11th year in a row for good reasons.

He’s a good quarterback. Perhaps nothing more, and maybe nothing less, if you average out all the times he’s seemed like a little of both.

There are things that make a good quarterback better. Newsome and Co. went to the wide receiver well in the offseason for John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead, and Flacco and the football gods made sure each of them caught a touchdown pass against the Bills.

A player’s health makes a big difference, whether he or the team is willing to admit it or not. Flacco’s first play in Sunday’s game was an immediate indication that he was moving better than early last season, and that can make a good player shine.

Last year’s opener, interestingly, was equally gratifying for the team but not for Flacco. The Ravens went into Cincinnati and came away with a 20-0 win, but the staff essentially took the ball away from their quarterback in the second half. The Ravens ran it 42 times, including all but a couple plays in the last 30 minutes.

We were left wondering about Flacco. He was still hurt, or maybe he wasn’t. He wasn’t having a great day, or maybe it was going to be hard to trust him the whole year. There was a lot of talk. In retrospect, he was the same quarterback he’s always been—a good one, but one who sometimes doesn’t look like we’d like to see.

There may come a time when he’s not the Joe Flacco we know. Hopefully, Eric DeCosta and Co. will make the right move, or have already made it. Maybe Lamar Jackson will be a player in that story, or maybe he won’t.

Flacco is likely to stay the same player he’s been. It’s everyone’s right to wish he was different, or to wish someone else would take his place. They’d be wrong, however, to say that he’s not a good quarterback who deserves the spot he occupies both now and in team history.

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September 11
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not what it used to be

Monday Night Football returned last night.

There was a time when a Monday night game was a big, big deal. It was, for lack of a better term, "The Game of The Week".

It's not like that anymore, unfortunately.

With the development of Sunday Night Football and the NFL's mega-deal with NBC, the marquee game of the week is typically reserved for Sunday evening. Sure, there are afternoon games that could fit the evening bill as well, but there's rarely a Sunday Night Game that doesn't feature star power.

Look no further than this past Sunday night in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers pulled a Tiger Woods stunt and beat the Bears on one leg. Twenty years ago, that game would have been the Monday Night choice. But either way, one of the best quarterbacks to play the game in the last decade, chaperoning his iconic franchise, against a major market up-and-comer...that's about as marquee as it can get for a first weekend game.

But with the bulging popularity of the Sunday Night Game on NBC comes the diminished value of Monday Night Football. Sure, there's still something special about playing on Monday, but there's no doubt it plays second fiddle to the Sunday evening contest.

Jets vs. Lions?

Rams vs. Raiders?

On the surface, there's not much there.

But we all know the why and how of those two games. It's New York, the biggest market in the country. And it's Los Angeles, a market the NFL so desperately covets, facing off against Jon Gruden in his (re) debut as the Raiders' new coach.

Beth Mowins was the play-by-play voice for last night's Monday Night Football opener in Detroit. Last year she became the first-ever female to call a MNF game.

Gruden, you'll recall, was the color analyst on Monday Night Football for a half-decade until he went back to the sidelines this season.

During last night's Lions-Jets broadcast, they reflected back on the start of Monday Night Football. Howard Cosell was part of that inaugural broadcast team. He was a gem, to say the least. So, too, were guys like Frank Gifford and Don Meredith. Those early years of MNF were memorable more for the shenanigans of the broadcasters than any of the games they called.

People tuned in back then for "the show" that was Monday Night Football. It was a football game, yes, but it was sports theater on top of that.

Last night, Beth Mowins served as the play-by-play voice for the opener from Detroit. Honestly, I thought she did just fine. Social media roasted her for most of the night, but I didn't hear anything from her that was worthy of that kind of ridicule.

She definitely knows football. And she kept up with what was going on in front of her without any frat house jokes or reminders of a game she did five years ago. She kept it simple, I thought, and did a decent job with it all.

Is it odd to hear a woman calling football? Of course. There's no history in place for a female broadcaster to be in our living room calling football games on Sunday and Monday. But that doesn't mean Mowins or any other female is incapable of doing the job.

In a lot of ways, having Mowins broadcast last night's Jets-Lions game only further proves what is becoming an obvious point in the NFL these days: The days of broadcast teams drawing people to the TV set are all but gone.

Sure, some folks might still make it a point to tune in to Orioles baseball to hear Jim Palmer handle the color analyst duties, but he's on so infrequently these days that you almost find him by accident.

In college basketball, it was always a stroke of great fortune to find out that Gus Johnson was calling the game you were watching. But then Johnson got too big and too popular and his role at CBS was changed.

Some folks clamor for Johnny Miller, the sharp-tongued NBC golf analyst. I'm not one of them. I don't think he's terrible or anything like that. But I much prefer the humor and golf wit of someone like David Feherty or Gary McCord. Too each his own, I guess.

Monday Night Football doesn't have "it" any longer.

Some of that is the NFL's fault. They sold their premium soul to NBC. CBS also gets their fair share of "handpicked games", so you can throw them in as well. Money talks and the rest of it walks, as the saying goes.

We all know Thursday Night Football is an awful product. But that's because none of the teams actually want to be out there playing.

Monday Night Football is no longer a memorable evening around the television because the best teams, players and announcers are all doing other things -- like working on Sunday night instead of Monday.

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#dmd's "team performance value" is unveiled

When Towson University students and ardent #DMD readers Chris and Leo reached out to me about "nerd football stats" as they playfully called them, I wasn't sure about biting the hook.

But I did.

And I think this might be fun.

For starters, I'm not the one doing the work or the computing. Those two are going to handle it all.

And because I'm not the one configuring the rankings, I can poke fun at those two if I don't agree with what they offer us.

Chris says the "team performance value" (TPV) will be graded weekly on a 1-to-100 scale, with 100 being the highest possible score a team could receive for a victory.

"Let's pretend the Bills are 0-15 and they play in New England in week #16," Chris explained to me. "If Buffalo were to win that game, it would be the most unlikely, but impressive, win they could possibly post. They would receive 100 points for that win. It would be a perfect win, so to speak."

A.J. Green and the Bengals scored high on #DMD's "TPV" chart after an impressive comeback win in Indianapolis last Sunday.

Chris went on to explain that the rankings will fluctuate week-to-week based on team records, injuries, home/away favorites and underdogs, and much more.

The two will also use data from within the game itself.

"We're literally going to look at everything," he continues. "Win probability, point spread, injuries, etc. Leo is the football guy. I'm the math wizard. Together we think we'll have a really interesting statistical formula for you to use."

"Cincinnati's win in Indy graded out very highly with us," Chris says. "Indy had a comfortable 4th quarter lead at home and the Bengals came back to win with a big fourth quarter rally. That earned them a lot of points in our ranking system."

"We had to go off a little bit of the 2017 season in this first week," Chris continues. "We looked at that Jacksonville win in New York over the Giants and took into consideration that the Giants only won 3 games last season. As the season goes, if they're better this year, a win in New York over the Giants might be worth more than what Jacksonville got for it this past Sunday."

"In simple chapter and verse," Chris explains, "our ranking system indicates that the team with the most valuable performance in week one was Tampa Bay. They went to New Orleans, a divisional rival, and won a game with their back-up quarterback starting. There was no better value in week one in our estimation."

So, #DMD is joining the ranks of "stat nerds", as I like to call them. We have our own fancy formula that will get updated every week.

"If we do this right," Leo, a Towson senior, says, "the two best teams at the end of the regular season will finish 1-2 in our rankings."

What would fun would that be? Right?

#DMD's "TPV" rankings through week one.

1. Tampa Bay -- 84

2. Kansas City -- 83

3. Cincinnati -- 82

4. NY Jets -- 81

5. Green Bay -- 80

6. Washington -- 79

7. New England -- 78

8. Philadelphia -- 77

9. Jacksonville -- 76

10. Denver -- 75

11. Miami -- 74

12. Minnesota -- 73

13. BALTIMORE -- 72

14. L.A. Rams -- 71

15. Carolina -- 70

16. Cleveland -- 69

17. Chicago -- 68

18. Houston -- 67

19. Pittsburgh -- 66

20. New Orleans -- 65

21. L.A. Chargers -- 64

22. Atlanta -- 63

23. Seattle -- 62

24. San Francisco -- 61

25. NY Giants -- 60

26. Indianapolis -- 59

27. Dallas -- 58

28. Arizona -- 57

29. Tennessee -- 56

30. Oakland -- 55

31. Detroit -- 54

32. Buffalo -- 53

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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.

So far so good.

Week one in the NFL often gives way to "overreaction Monday," as it's easy to draw too many conclusions from the opening games simply because they're your first look at every team in real games. That's a trap people might easily fall in to in assessing the Ravens' 47-3 shellacking of the Bills.

It's hard to imagine how John Harbaugh's team could have played any better, but the Bills are a BAD team with a bad roster and easily the worst coach in the NFL.

Still, we all know that the Ravens are far from immune to playing down to their competition, and the offense in particular is prone to struggling against bad teams. So to see the offense come out firing on all cylinders right away and scoring touchdowns was a big relief, and a reason to feel really good about how the rest of the season will go.

And while Buffalo's offense is likely the worst in the entire league, their defense is okay on paper.

Some notes for Week One:

Joe Flacco was great from the very first play, giving a boost to those who think this is going to be a big year for him. What really stood out to me about the offense however was the play of the receivers and tight ends.

The route running was as crisp as it's been in a long time and outside of a couple of bad drops by Michael Crabtree everyone was snaring passes despite the wet conditions. The big standout to me was John Brown. He looks like he has a knack for getting open, and the chemistry between him and Flacco is obvious already.

The group may lack an obvious go-to option, but if everyone can stay healthy it's a deep group that Flacco can spread the ball around too.

The Ravens made a big deal about the packages they had in place for Lamar Jackson, but what they showed of it on Sunday was underwhelming to say the least.

A lot of people on Twitter were calling it a gadget set, but if anything it stood out for how basic it was. Other than one play that looked like it was supposed to be a halfback pass before a missed block blew it up, Jackson didn't really do anything other than go in motion for playaction and misdirection.

If it had been Chris Moore lined up on those plays instead of Jackson you wouldn't have thought anything of it. And after the first such play, which was called back by a holding penalty, Buffalo played like they didn't believe the Ravens would give the ball to Jackson.

I assume the Ravens kept those plays vanilla on purpose given how easily they were moving the ball, and I bet they'll have more to show against the Bengals on a short week.

Just a general observation: Conventional wisdom says it easier to run the ball on a wet field, but considering how modern running games depend on quick cuts and maintaining balance after contact, it seems that it's actually easier to throw on a wet field in today's game.

It's hard to say that we learned anything about the Ravens' defense considering how awful Buffalo's offense is, but the Ravens might have themselves a REALLY good group of cornerbacks this year. Brandon Carr and Tavon Young both made nice plays, and Marlon Humphrey was outstanding. If Humphrey takes a big leap forward in his second year, this is going to be one tough group when Jimmy Smith returns in 3 weeks.

Off the field, the Ravens seem to have taken complaints about a stale gameday experience to heart. The pregame videos were new, and the in-game playlist got a major overhaul for what seemed like the first time in years.

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September 10
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demote the bills to the big east

I knew the Ravens were going to win yesterday, so whether it was by 47-3 or 20-6, as I predicted here at #DMD, I wasn't going to be doing handstands today.

And I'm definitely not pre-booking hotel rooms in Atlanta for the first weekend in February, even though Sunday's beatdown of the Bills was overly impressive in virtually every aspect of the game.

The Bills were -- in a word -- pathetic.

That's what $53 million in dead money against the salary cap will get you, I suppose. I predicted here last week that Buffalo would go 3-13 in 2018. I'm not sure they can win three, frankly.

Other than the Ravens' run blocking, which wasn't all that impressive, they clicked in almost every other department on Sunday.

Joe Flacco was outstanding. The three new wide receivers looked like they knew what they were doing. The tight ends were heavily involved.

The defense was outstanding. Yes, yes, I know all about Nathan Peterman and how awful he was yesterday. But let's not diminish the fact that the Ravens held Buffalo without a touchdown on Sunday.

There was a lot to like on Sunday. I even finished 3-2 in "Show Me The Money", winning on my against-the-spread picks with Carolina, Cleveland and Miami while losing on my selections of Arizona and the NY Giants. I also won the "Best Bet" when I took the Panthers over Dallas.

So there was good news all around yesterday.

But I'll keep reminding myself of this: The University of Alabama would have given the Bills a battle on Sunday. Hence, I'll remain cautiously optimistic that the Ravens can fulfill my pre-season prediction of 11-5 and an AFC North title.

Let's see what happens on Thursday night when John Harbaugh's team travels to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals.

One thing for sure...Sunday's waltz over Buffalo will be the easiest task on the Baltimore schedule in 2018. Yes, even easier than playing the Browns.

The real season begins on Thursday night.

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speaking of apologies, serena

Saturday's meltdown at the U.S. Open women's final was the lowest point of Serena Williams' illustrious, Hall of Fame career.

She's had a number of other blow-ups over the last two decades, including the 2009 U.S. Open final, but nothing cracked her reputation like the scene we saw Williams author on Saturday.

It was embarrassing. And that's being kind.

Here's the point people seem to be missing: Even the great ones can succumb to the heat and pressure of a critical moment.

She's human. It was a highly charged, emotional match for her. Williams has been chasing a 24th major title for a while now. Her career clock is ticking.

And on Saturday, Serena was losing to a young player who, while certainly on the uptick, wasn't supposed to beat her.

Phil Mickelson snapped at the U.S. Open in June. He lost it, just like Serena did on Saturday. It happens. If anything, it goes to show that even the all-time greats -- in any sport -- are vulnerable and susceptible to losing their cool at the worst time possible.

But there was something worse than Serena's bush league outburst(s) on Saturday.

The defending of her was far worse.

There was no defense for what she did. None. Zero. Zilch.

She was wrong. All the way. The umpire who enforced the rules wasn't to blame. Williams was to blame.

Defending her was nonsense.

And what happened Saturday had nothing to do with men vs. women, equality, race, or any other garbage that her defenders spewed over the weekend.

Here's what took place. Williams was losing. She was frustrated. Her coach attempted to help her. She was called for a violation.

She complained. She whined. She talked about having a baby at home and not wanting to be accused of cheating. She sounded silly, if we're being honest.

Then she broke her racquet. She was still losing.

After that, she called the umpire a "thief" and continued to complain.

She was out of control. Completely.

That's what happened. Serena lost her composure. End of story.

People quickly took to social media and brought up something Jimmy Connors did 40 years ago.

They mentioned "everyone coaches from the stands".

I saw folks even use the famous line -- "You just don't realize how badly Serena wanted to win that match."

All of that garbage was just that...garbage.

What Jimmy Connors did 40 years ago in a tennis match has not one thing to do with what Serena did on Saturday. You can think it does if you want, but you're wrong.

"Everyone coaches from the stands" is as lame as you getting a traffic ticket for going 84 in a 65 mph zone and saying to the judge at court, "Your honor, everyone else on I-95 was going at least 85 when I got pulled over."

You got caught going 19 miles an hour over the speed limit. That's what happened. Anything else you bring to the table is an excuse.

Serena's two go-to excuses on Saturday; men vs. women and race, were both so comically misplaced she should have penalized a point in her next match for trying to wave those two flags.

I'm kidding about the point penalty, of course. But the equality and race cards were both poorly framed by Williams on Saturday night.

Let's stop for a second and give her credit, though. Once she took a minute to breathe after the loss and realized how foolishly she had behaved in that second set, Williams got her head on straight and said all the right things to Tom Rinaldi during the trophy presentation.

But her radical position at the press conference afterwards, bringing up gender equality and race, was another unforced error by Serena.

And the people defending her? Shameful.

It's weird what's happened in our country. We're always looking for an excuse. We're looking to cast blame somewhere else. We're looking to make a new story out of this that absolves us of any wrong doing and points to whatever the real issue might be. You know, the one we're making up as we go along.

Serena screwed up on Saturday. That's the story. And, by the way, there's no reason to hate her for it. None at all. She's human. She's fragile. She was wrong. It happens to everyone.

Did you see the men's U.S. Open final yesterday? Juan Martin del Potro lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic. del Petro gave it his all. He hung in there for a while. But it wasn't his day. There were no outbursts. No scrapping with the chair umpire. No racquet abuse. He put forth his best effort and lost. He shook Djokovic's hand and that was that.

Williams wasn't able to do that on Saturday. She couldn't lose gracefully.

And that's too bad, because, like Mickelson, what happened on Saturday at Flushing Meadows will be on her Wikipedia page forever. It's part of her career history, now.

That doesn't diminish her greatness, mind you. She's on 23 majors and counting and Saturday's fiasco doesn't change that at all.

But she'll always have that scarlet letter as a reminder that she blew up on September 8, 2018 and tried to wiggle out of her responsibilities as an athlete by blaming the umpire for her actions.

When you're at the top of the sporting world, more is expected out of you.

That's just the way it is.

Tiger Woods was vilified for his extra-marital affairs in 2009.

Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger have never been able to shake their sexual assault histories.

There are a dozen other stories I could bring up but you get the point. When you're one of the most visible athletes in the world, and Serena is certainly one of those, you're held to a higher standard.

She missed that high standard bar on Saturday in New York. She missed it in a big way.

At one point during her childish tirade, Serena demanded an apology from the umpire.

Actually, it's Williams who owes the umpire an apology, much like Mickelson owed the golf world an apology after his boneheaded mistake at the U.S. Open in June.

If she can muster up the courage to say, "You know, I was wrong," she might win some fans back.

If she can't, all that proves is she still doesn't get it.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

college pigskin edition


Ed Oliver

After Week 2 of the college football season, Oliver, a defensive tackle who plays for Houston, was listed at No. 2 in ESPNs “Heisman Watch.”

Even being listed that high is an accomplishment, since there’s only been one person in Heisman Trophy history to win the award as primarily a defensive player—Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997. Woodson did return kicks and occasionally play wide receiver, so Oliver would be the first to win the award entirely as a defensive player.

Oliver, 6-foot-3 and 292 lbs., is an interesting case. He was listed among the top five or 10 high school prospects in the nation, a player any school would have coveted, but decided to stay at home and play for the Cougars. His older brother was an offensive lineman who finished his Houston career last season.

Almost any NFL scout would have told you that Oliver was a consensus top five pick in this year’s NFL draft, but he didn’t have the option of coming out after his sophomore year. So, he’s back at Houston in 2018, hoping he doesn’t get injured, I assume.

Oliver announced on March 5, six months before his junior season, that this season would be his last in a Cougars uniform. Like so many big-time college basketball players, he viewed his career at Houston simply as preparation for the pros…though the NFL rules make you spend three times as much time preparing before you get there.


A bowl game

Without knowing the future of the team’s head coach, D.J. Durkin, or being able to predict things like poor weather and other flukes, chalk up a postseason appearance for Maryland if its skill players can remain healthy and on the field.

Off to a 2-0 start after a road win at Bowling Green, the Terps should improve to 3-0 with a win over Temple in their next game.

Of course, the latter hasn’t happened much recently, especially at the quarterback spot, but that has to change at some point, doesn’t it?

The Terps SHOULD be 5-1 after the Homecoming game against Rutgers October 13. That assumes that they not only can beat the Scarlet Knights that day, but also an 0-2 Temple team (that lost to FCS Villanova) next Saturday and also Minnesota in the Big 10 opener in College Park in two weeks.

After that, the Terps, whether led by current interim coach Matt Canada or Durkin, would only need one win to get “bowl-eligible.” That might come against Illinois at home in late October, at Indiana two weeks after that, or maybe in both places.

As usual, though, it’s tricky. Maryland isn’t winning at Michigan or Penn State, and the Terps have no chance of staying within four touchdowns of Ohio State.

In other words, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to “make up” for a bad loss with a signature win, like the game at home against Michigan State on the first weekend of November.

When that situation will change for Maryland football is anyone’s guess, though a winning season would mean something after the events of the summer.


Gainesville, Fla.

It hasn’t been a great year or so in Gainesville. Last October, native son Tom Petty passed away. A few weeks later, Florida football coach Jim McElwain was canned after his team lost to Georgia 42-7 in Jacksonville. The Gators finished the year at 4-7, only their second losing season since 1980.

Then, on Saturday, Florida lost to Kentucky in Gainesville, ending a 31-game winning streak against the Wildcats. Kentucky hadn’t beaten the Gators since 1986, and not in Gainesville since 1979.

The winning streak/losing streak of 31 games was the fourth longest in NCAA history in an “uninterrupted” series, trailing only Navy’s 43 losses in a row to Notre Dame, Kansas’s 36 consecutive losses to Nebraska and Kansas State’s streak of 32 straight defeats at the hands of Oklahoma.

Ironically, Florida’s next game is a home game against Colorado State. That game was scheduled as part of the “buyout” that allowed McElwain to leave Fort Collins to become the Gators’ head coach. Now, Florida will pay Colorado State several million dollars having dumped McElwain before the game ever took place.

And yes, Kentucky has a football team. The coach is Mark Stoops, brother of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. After three losing seasons, Stoops’ has led the Wildcats to bowl games in each of the last two years.

That being said, basketball practice starts up in a few weeks, so Stoops and his team better take all the accolades they can get while there’s time.



The Knights of Central Florida won their 15th straight game on Saturday.

No matter who it is UCF is playing, it’s difficult not to be amazed at the turnaround in the program. In 2015, the Knights went winless, as in 0-12. Two years later, they went…um…loss-less, as in 13-0.

They have a great quarterback, McKenzie Milton, who could probably start for any team in the Power Five. They have lots of great skill players around him. They easily could go undefeated again, since their Power Five non-conference opponents are Pittsburgh and North Carolina.

Yet, they have no chance to make the College Football Playoff. They will never have a chance to make the College Football Playoff, at least as it’s currently organized, or maybe even if the playoff had six or eight teams.

So, what’s the answer, besides declaring themselves national champions after every unbeaten season?

Maybe, it comes from Troy Calhoun, the head coach of Air Force.

His idea? Have another playoff, a four-team one, consisting solely of Group of Five teams. The winner of that playoff would join the five Power Five conference champions, along with two Power Five wild cards, in an eight-team College Football Playoff.

On paper, it sounds cool. In reality, it’s probably a pipe dream. That’s way too many extra games after the season. Plus, how exactly would the four teams in the first playoff be chosen? Any time teams are chosen, somebody deserving gets left out.


The 12th Man

The Clemson-Texas A&M game down in College Station on Saturday had an interesting storyline before the game—with former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher facing his former conference nemeses Dabo Swinney and Clemson—and another one toward the end of the game after a controversial call. Clemson, ranked No. 2, held on for a 28-26 win.

Despite the fact that Johnny Manziel played there, I always enjoy watching games from College Station. Obviously, over 100,000 fans at Kyle Field make it a great atmosphere. Besides that, there’s the 12th Man, one of the better traditions in college sports.

Many fanbases, most notably that of the Seahawks, refer to themselves as “the 12th Man.” Many years ago, of course, Texas A&M took it much further. They actually had an entire unit of non-scholarship students, part of the “12th Man” that supported the team, who made the team for the sole purpose of covering kickoffs. Later on, that changed to one representative, who always wears #12.

The current #12, by the name of Cullen Gillaspia, turned out to be a good enough player to earn a scholarship by his sophomore year and then transition to the team’s starting fullback this year. The team had not needed fullbacks until Fisher became head coach.

As a junior, Gillaspia blocked two punts, including one for a safety against Alabama. After earning that scholarship as a sophomore, he was named the team’s special teams MVP after the season.

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Week 1

Sunday — September 9, 2018
Volume L — Issue 9

Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium

Spread: Ravens - 7½

ravens should roll today, even in slop

There's no question the weather could be a factor today in Baltimore.

It might keep the Ravens from running up 30 points or more on what figures to be a vulnerable Bills defense.

And, because the ball is round and slippery in conditions like the one both teams will face this afternoon in Baltimore, it stands to reason that this is one of those "anything can happen" kind of days.

But no matter what, I can't see it being enough to help the Bills to a win.

Sorry to end the suspense so soon. The Ravens aren't losing to Buffalo today. Not at home. Not in the opener. Not with Baltimore being almost 100% healthy.

Welcome to another season of NFL football here at #DMD. We do this Ravens preview on each gameday here at #DMD, but this year with a new twist. In the past, I'd write out the "Show Me The Money" section here on the website. This season, you'll find my five selections on "The Juice" podcast, which you can find in the upper right corner of The Dish.

If you were here a couple of weeks back, you know I've predicted the Ravens to go 11-5 this season. Although I didn't specifically do a "win this one, lose this one" game-by-game projection as I made that prediction, I can say with great certainty I was thinking "win" with this game against Buffalo.

Hell hath no fury like a fan base scorned if the Ravens lose today's game against Buffalo. They'd have to put on four pots of coffee over at 105.7 for their post-game show, because the phone lines would be lit up until midnight.

No worries, though. And here's how it will all pan out.

How the Ravens win --

Running back Alex Collins figures to get a lot of work today in Baltimore as the Ravens kick-off their 2018 campaign against Buffalo.

Run the ball -- 35 or more carries between Alex Collins, Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon is today's prerequisite for success. Of course, not fumbling during that heavy workload would also help, but the main idea is to keep things safe and simple. If the Ravens can grind out 120 yards or so on the ground, they'll be fine.

No dumb penalties -- It's almost a given that this category could be in every Ravens game, because they're prone to dumb penalties. Or, they have been in the past, let's say. Given the new rules and everyone's (still) unfamiliarity with them, expect a couple of weird/questionable flags. But for the Ravens to play well today, they need to avoid the hit-out-of-bounds, late QB hit, etc. that fall under "dumb penalties".

Get off the field on 3rd down -- This has been a Ravens bugaboo over the years when they've lost big games. Then again, that was under Dean Pees. But today's effort vs. the Bills must include an emphasis on getting off the field on 3rd down. Last year, opposing offenses cashed in on 3rd down a whopping 36.9% of the times. That number needs to be closer to 30% in 2018. Today's the day to start in the direction of that trend.

How the Bills win --

Keep Baltimore's offense off the field -- This probably means Buffalo is going to have to run AND throw the ball with some success while they're on offense, but the visitors have to figure out a way to hold the Ravens to 13 or fewer offensive positions. That spells "ball control" in English. If the Ravens offense gets on the field 13 or fewer times, Buffalo could keep the game close.

Turnovers, turnovers -- The Bills have to figure out a way to slow down the game. One way is create a few turnovers and eat up the clock and, perhaps, win the field position battle. If they can generate three or more turnovers (and assuming the Ravens don't have four or more in that instance), the Bills could turn this one into a dogfight.

Don't fall behind -- Easier said than done, but the day gets much easier for Buffalo if they can somehow scratch out an early lead and keep things close. What they can't do is come from behind if they trail 17-3 at the half.

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how drew sees today's game

The weather definitely changes things.

Before this crappy stuff settled in, I figured this would be a routine 27-7 win for the Ravens, with little issues at all.

I still don't see Buffalo winning or even keeping it close, but I'll temper my scoring thoughts just a tad given the weather.

Flacco goes 13-for-21 (and gets a bunch of post-game grief from his brother, Tom, who completed 35 passes for Towson University yesterday in their 51-20 loss at Wake Forest) and throws for 171 yards and one TD (to Michael Crabtree).

Alex Collins runs for 81 yards. Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon collect 31 yards between them.

Baltimore scores an early TD, then adds a field goal before halftime to lead 10-0 at the intermission.

They tack on a 3rd quarter field goal to make it 13-0 before Buffalo finally gets on the board with a field goal themselves to make it 13-3 heading to the fourth quarter.

An Alex Collins TD run and final Buffalo field goal finalize the scoring at 20-6 for the Ravens.

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saturday hot takes

A nice win for Maryland, as they turned a 14-10 halftime deficit into a second-half pounding of host Bowling Green, 45-14. That moves the Terps to 2-0 on the season. Their remaining schedule being what it is and all, the Terps could actually sniff a bowl game if they just follow along and win the games they're supposed to win (Temple in College Park, next Saturday, for instance) and beat the lower Big Ten teams they should beat.

An embarrassing display from Serena Williams on Saturday overshadowed the U.S. Open women's final at Flushing Meadows.

Another loss for the Orioles, as they fell to 41-101 with a 10-5 defeat at Tampa Bay. That leaves the Birds with 20 games remaining. To go 55-107 and avoid having the worst record in franchise history, the O's have to go 14-6 down the stretch. Larry Sheets and his friends from that awful 1988 team can start putting the champagne on ice, I'd say. David Hess threw the worst pitch of the year in last night's game. If you haven't seen it, and you think I might be exaggerating, look it up on the internet and see it for yourself.

Serena Williams completely embarrassed herself on Saturday in her straight sets U.S. Open Finals loss. I'll write more about it on Monday, and give Serena her due for actually acting like an adult in the awards ceremony afterwards. But her outburst marred what should have otherwise been a memorable day for her opponent and the game of women's tennis. "Bush league" comes to mind right away. The men's final should have a lot less drama and perhaps even better tennis later today when Juan del Potro takes on Novak Djokovic. Look for Djokovic to win in four sets.

Xander Schauffele is still in the hunt at the BMW Championship up in Philly, and if he somehow wins today, Jim Furyk will have a decision on his hands tomorrow morning at 9:00 am when he announces his final captain's pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup. Of course, there's a good chance they don't finish play today because of the rain, and that means the event gets extended into Monday or later, perhaps. The PGA Tour announced on Saturday evening they will NOT reduce the event to 54 holes because of the FedEx Cup playoff ramifications, so this one is getting played out, somehow, even if it takes until Tuesday. Justin Rose is the leader at 17 under par, with Rory McIlroy and Schauffele next at 16-under. Tiger Woods continued his sublime tee-to-green game on Saturday, but another balky putting day left him at 12-under-par, five shots behind Rose.

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September 8
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issue 8
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embarrassing...really embarrassing

I completely realize this is howling at the moon material.

Outrage on September 8? When the team is 55.5 half games out of first place? Kind of silly, I'll admit.

But I also think when you watch a game -- any game, no matter the circumstances -- you own a small right to pontificate about it. If I gave up a couple of hours of my time on Friday night to watch the Orioles slobber all over themselves like a 2-year old eating Gerber's Peach Delight, I have permission to lash out if I so choose.

So, I will.

100 losses.

In 141 games.

Along the way this season, the Orioles have lost a lot of games that they could have won with a favorable bounce, five more (or less) feet on a fly ball, or a ball that was called a strike that wasn't a strike or vice versa.

In other words, along the way, s**t happens. To borrow a phrase Brien used this week that might apply here, the Orioles have, at times this year, probably been "uniquely unlucky".

I don't know how many of those games they were involved in since late March, but it's enough to provide a clear comparison to what we witnessed last night in St. Petersburg.

Last night's 14-2 shellacking at the hands of the Rays was not one of those nights where the bounces went against the Birds.

Friday night was an embarrassment.

Not because the Orioles lost by 12 runs, mind you.

Dan: "You're still getting paid, Buck. Try keeping this group of guys professional for the last 21 games, please." Buck: "Huh? You gave them to me."

Because nothing at all about the game gave any indication that the organization cared one iota about producing a representative, professional performance.

It was minor league stuff last night. And that might be a disservice to minor leaguers.

Granted, there were three major league field players in the starting lineup. Jonathan Villar was one. Trey Mancini was another bonafide major leaguer. Tim Beckham was the other. If we're being nice, we'll make it 3.5 and give Joey Rickard a half-a-point.

I would have included Dylan Bundy on that list but, these days, I'm not so sure.

Since July, he has a 1-7 record, an 8.83 ERA and a 1.801 WHIP, while allowing 19 home runs. Last night he surrendered his 36th home run of the season, which sets a new team record.

My take? Dylan Bundy stopped trying a month ago. Why the Orioles continue to trot him out there once every five days is anyone's guess. And that's not me saying that now. I wrote the same thing here four weeks ago when Bundy looked uninterested.

I understand the team's position. They don't really care if they win at this point. They don't have the players to compete. And in a lot of ways, they can't be blamed for what's happened since the trade deadline.

But they can't just lose 14-2 and have it be swept under the rug like it's "just the way it goes".

Prior to the game, David Hess, the scheduled starter tonight in Tampa Bay, was hit in the eye with a football while he was playing catch with teammates in the outfield.

Not a big deal, right? The team's 41-99. Hess is a rookie, just goofing around before the game, winking at girls in the stands, and trying to keep things loose with his teammates.

It's not a big deal. But it is symbolic of a poisoned season and a complete lack of professionalism. Tomorrow night's starter, playing football in the outfield? Torn achilles. Blown out ACL. Broken index finger on his throwing hand. Hit in the eye with a football. Any of those things could have happened. One of them did happen.

Who in the organization saw those pre-game shenanigans and thought it was OK for Hess to be involved?

I can't imagine Max Scherzer would be doing that before his next start. And his team is essentially out of the playoff race at this point, just like the Orioles.

Then again, Scherzer is a professional.

The Orioles, at this point, are no longer really professional.

They have some professional players, still. But their locker room is filled with junior varsity call-ups. Some will be with the team next year in spring training. A few will be in the starting lineup on opening day in New York on March 28 when the Yankees blast the Birds, 9-3.

And some of the guys playing right now won't be good enough to be on the team next year.

Yes, that's what happens when you're 41-99 and then, hours later, 41-100. You lose 14-2 because a majority of the players on the roster have no idea what it takes to win at the major league level.

But it's even worse when you lose 14-2 because you deserve to lose by that score.

When you deserve to be embarrassed because you're unprofessional, you've reached the low point of the season.

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schauffele and finau generating interesting ryder cup question

Give Xander Schauffele some credit. A lot of credit, actually.

There are still two rounds left in the BMW Championship up in Philadelphia, but he's in the lead through 36 holes in what he believes is a must-win situation.

Winning the tournament might still not secure that final Ryder Cup captain's pick that gets announced on Monday, but Schauffele thinks he has to win to make the team and all he's done thus far is post 13-under through two rounds at Aronimink.

The bad news for Schauffele is that the guy most folks think is the odds-on choice for that pick, Tony Finau, is playing well too, posting 8-under through two days of play.

For what it's worth, the golf rumor mill continues to suggest that Furyk has been leaning all along in the direction of Kevin Kisner, is way back in the pack at 1-under par.

Back to Schauffele and Finau for a minute.

No matter what happens over the next two days, here's the reality. Unless someone on the U.S. side can't play in France due to injury, Furyk is going to leave one of those two players behind when the matches start later this month. Finau has exploded onto the scene in 2018 with an outstanding season and Schauffele, a two-time winner last year and solid performer this season, is known as one of the best putters on TOUR.

The odds-on favorite to be the final U.S. Ryder Cup captain's pick, Tony Finau sits five shots off the lead after 36 holes at the BMW Championship in Philadelphia.

If you're going just off of 2018, which, sensibly, most captains do, Finau is the pick. But what if Schauffele blows everyone away over the next 48 hours and wins the BMW? How do you call him Sunday night and deliver bad news?

Outside of golf, we tend to put a lot of stock in winning. It's why everyone has marveled at what Tiger Woods accomplished from 1996 through 2014. 79 wins and 14 major titles. Tiger made winning important.

But within the world of professional golf, consistency is valued on par with winning, if not more. If player "A" wins a tournament, finishes T5 or better in one other, and T10 or better in two others, his season -- within the rank and file of the TOUR -- wouldn't be valued nearly has high as the guy who finishes runner-up in three events, T5 or better three other times, and T10 or better five other times.

Some would say, at that point, "you're just counting dollars and cents" and that might be true. But on the TOUR, money and FedEx Cup points -- no matter how you earn them -- are supremely critical.

I bring that up to get to this point: The U.S. should probably reconfigure -- again -- their Ryder Cup selection process.

They tweaked it a while back and it worked wonders. There was a time when the U.S. captain added only two picks, while the Europeans were always adding four. The PGA of America got smart and allowed the U.S. captain to also add four a few years back. And that change in formula has worked wonders.

It's time to change it again, in a very small but important way.

Furyk should be announcing all four of his picks THIS Monday. Adding three last week and waiting one more week to add one? All that's done is created this situation where he's now locked into losing out on one of Finau or Schauffele, plus even Kisner if you want to throw his name in just putts and giggles.

What disadvantage would have been created by Furyk announcing all four picks this coming Monday?

None that I can figure.

As it stands now, there's a strong argument that Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth could be replaced on this year's team by some combination of Finau, Schauffele and Kisner and the U.S. might actually be better than the 12 guys they'll wind up taking over there this month.

But I get it. Those two earned their way on the team. They're not chopped liver. And I'm not suggesting Furyk be allowed to remove already-qualified players, either. That's far too radical.

Perhaps the point system has to be tweaked a bit to allow for more weight to be placed on tournaments played in the final six months leading up to Ryder Cup. By the way, in that scenario, in case you care, Woods and Schauffele would have surpassed Fowler and Spieth.

And here's the final piece of the puzzle. If everything right now plays out exactly as it might over the next couple of days, by adding four players next week instead of three last Tuesday and one this Monday, Furyk might have left Phil Mickelson off the squad and gone with Woods, DeChambeau, Finau and Kisner. And isn't that what the captain's picks are really there for in the first place? You add the four players who, at the moment, are the ones that give you the best chance to win.

We're splitting hairs here, but one player is important when you only take 12 with you and all of them will play at least two times, if not more.

Finau AND Schauffele both deserve to be on the team. One of them won't make the trip. Sure, it's easy to just say "you should have played better" and there's some truth to that. With my coach's hat on, that's probably what I would say to the one who doesn't make it if he gave me any grief. "Play better next time and make it on points."

But a lot of this nail-biting could be solved by just making the easiest call of them all: Add four picks at the same time, three weeks before the event.

By the way, that's exactly how the Europeans do it. And they've been beating our brains in at the Ryder Cup since 1995. Just sayin'...

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September 7
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issue 7
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can a case be made for mike bordick to manage in 2019?

With the baseball season winding down and nothing else to really focus on in terms of on-field issues, it's time to start thinking about what lies ahead in terms of off-the-field decisions for the Orioles.

Because they're the Orioles, nothing is in concrete for 2019. We all think Dan Duquette won't be back, since he's currently working without a contract for 2019. While it seems likely he won't return in his current capacity, they are the Orioles, remember. You just never know.

The same goes for Buck Showalter. It seems obvious he's in the final month of his managerial tenure with the O's, but you can't be so sure about that. Odds are that Buck won't return as the manager, but nothing would shock me.

But I'm going to operate under the premise that Duquette and Buck won't return as the GM and manager, respectively. I just don't see the logic in letting either of them operate without a contract for 2019 if, in fact, the plan all along was for one or both of them to return next year.

In that case, what happens?

Could the Orioles turn to MASN broadcaster Mike Bordick to manage the club in 2019?

I think we all know the plan of attack in the front office. Brady Anderson steps in to assume most of Duquette's current duties and serve as the team's de facto GM, although -- because they're the Orioles and all -- he might not be called the "general manager". For some reason, the organization has never actually liked that title for their head baseball guy.

But what about the manager for 2019 and beyond?

If not Showalter, then who?

This won't come completely out of left field...but can a case be made to give Mike Bordick a shot at managing the Orioles?

The former shortstop has no managerial experience. That glitch can easily be glossed over by the Orioles. They'd point to the Bronx and Aaron Boone and remind everyone he'd never managed a day in his life, either.

Me? Personally? I'd prefer my major league manager have some managerial experience of some kind, even if it was as a major league bench coach or pitching coach.

But I also realize it is possible -- and not just because of what Boone has done in New York -- to go from the broadcast booth to the dugout and not be a bumbling fool.

Bordick might make sense for a lot of reasons, some of which we probably don't want to hear. He's been around the organization for the better part of six years as a broadcaster for MASN. Before that, he worked a couple of seasons for the club in their minor league scouting and coaching department.

One thing for sure: Bordick knows baseball. He might not sound like he knows it the way Jim Palmer comes across in his savant-kind-of-way, but Bordick definitely knows the game. You don't play in the big leagues for the better part of thirteen seasons without learning the nuances and strategies that might come in handy some day if you earned a managerial position.

The fact that Bordick is a team broadcaster would certainly help him if he got the call. He's seen the players up close and personal, travels around the country with them, and knows far more about them than any outsider ever would.

And if you listen to him during a broadcast, he's constantly harping on "little things" he sees that players either do well or don't do well. It's not quite what we used to consider "the Oriole way" back in the 1970's and 1980's, but it sounds like a first or second cousin, at the very least.

I'm not a big fan of his broadcasting style, by the way. Too many nicknames, too much "comfort" and a little more cheerleading than I like to hear from a broadcaster. But I get it. He's employed by the team. That said, I don't hold my lack of enthusiasm for his broadcasting style against his potential to be a good baseball manager. The two have nothing at all to do with each other.

I'm not starting a campaign for Mike Bordick to be the manager. But I do see the merits in giving him consideration.

Frankly, I'm not sure who should manage the team in 2019. Other than the fact that it pays well and it's one of 30 major league managing jobs, there's not much about the position in Baltimore that's going to excite anyone.

Bordick might make sense. I'm sure Rick Dempsey will want his hat thrown in the ring......again. But there's little chance of Dempsey getting the gig. Bordick has a lot of things in his favor and really, just one thing working against him. He's never managed at any level.

If the Orioles wind up giving him a shot, I wouldn't be totally shocked. And I probably wouldn't be all that disappointed, either.

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poll results: you're still watching baseball in september

Our #DMD reader's poll from Thursday basically asked you how much Orioles baseball you figure you might watch in September.

The results were a tad surprising.

30% of you said you were going to watch "none". Frankly, I thought that answer would garner at least 50% of the votes, if not 60%.

34% of you said you would watch "some of it on most nights". In other words, you'll flip over from time to time to see the score or watch a few innings.

18% indicated you will watch "if nothing else is on". Not a ringing endorsement by any means, but at least you'll be watching. Maybe.

14% of you say you'll watch every game. Wow. You deserve a medal.

And 4% you will watch if they get close to 50 wins. You might not get that opportunity, sadly.

So, 70% of those who responded are either going to watch or could be inclined to watch September baseball. 30% said, flat out, "I'm not watching any."

Maybe that 30% will change their mind when the Orioles play that final Sunday at Camden Yards with a record of 49-112 and they have one final opportunity to secure that magical 50th win.

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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.

As the 2018 NFL season kicks off, optimism is flowing through the streets in Baltimore. The receiving crew has been overhauled, the quarterback is healthy and motivated, and predictions of double digit win totals and playoff glory are easier to find than election signs.

I don't want to be Debbie Downer, but if I could insert a Rachel Dratch GIF, this is where it would go.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the Ravens are a bad team per se, but I don't see where everyone is getting the idea that we should expect them to be improved over last year.

Yes the receiving corps is overhauled, but that's not the same thing as saying that it's improved. Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown are nice, solid, receivers, but none of them are game breakers, and none of them are guaranteed to be productive and/or healthy either. In fact, between the 3 of them they combined for a total of 87 catches and 1,009 yards. Mike Wallace alone accounted for 52 catches and 748 yards in 2017. Hayden Hurst is an exciting young addition who might eventually be a legitimate difference maker as a tight end, but he's already fighting injuries and will miss the first few weeks of the season at least.

Stop me if you've heard that one before.

Can C.J. Mosley and the Ravens' defense step up in class in 2018 and lead the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014?

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens look basically the same as they did when their 2017 playoff hopes died on a 4th and 12 disaster. Of particular concern is the fact that they didn't manage to do much of anything to upgrade their pass rush, which was adequate but not dominating a season ago.

Maybe Matt Judon will emerge as a premier pass rusher and make that moot, or maybe he won't. Or maybe his gains will be offset by the fact that Terrell Suggs is getting older. Maybe Tim Williams will emerge as a threat as a pass rush specialist, but I really didn't see any sign of improvement from him this preseason. Did you?

And yes, Wink Martindale might bring more creative and aggressive blitzes than Dean Pees did, but eventually the Ravens are going to have to defend against a no-huddle offense, and they'll need pass rushers who can win matchups and generate pressure from a base four or five man rush, and I just don't see anyone I'd be confident will do that on a consistent basis.

In fact, that right there might be this team's main weakness: The Ravens have good depth, especially on defense, but they're noticeably lacking in high end talent that can win one on one matchups on a regular basis and take over a game in crunch time. There's Jimmy Smith, when he's on the field, and that's about it.

And then there's Joe Flacco. I'm not going to belabor the point, because everyone has their opinion on Flacco headed into the new year, and nothing is going to change them at this point. Yes he's healthy now, but he was healthy going in to the 2015 season too, and he wasn't great before the knee injury either. Yes he looked good when he played in the preseason, but he got limited snaps against first stringers and didn't see any of the blitzes that gave him so much trouble last season.

And you might have missed it, but a bunch of the other factors that Flacco apologists have blamed over the years, like Marty Mornhinweg and a lack of Pro-Bowlers at every other offensive position, are still in place. I guess I'll just refrain from asking why they suddenly think Flacco won't be held back by these things anymore.

But much like the team at large, I'm not willing to say that Flacco will be downright bad, or even that I think he will. I'm just not sure he's going to be particularly good either.

And then there's the problem that the baseline Ozzie Newsome & Co. were working from over the offseason wasn't actually that high. Yes the Ravens went 9-7 last season, but they went 0-5 against playoff teams, and five of their wins came against backup quarterbacks. Two more were against the Browns.

This year their schedule is a lot tougher on paper to boot. I've seen a lot of people putting a lot of weight on the fact that the Ravens swept the NFC South the last time they faced them (2014), and that probably says a lot about the sort of motivated reasoning that's driving predictions of 11 and 12 wins from some corners.

Not only was that a whopping four years ago, but the NFC South failed to produce a single team that wasn't below .500 at the end of that season. This year the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints all look to be bona fide contenders in the NFC, and the Ravens have to play the former two on the road. On the whole, the Ravens have to face 6 teams between the NFC South and AFC West that Drew predicted to finish with a winning record, five of whom Drew picked to win 10 or more games. That's in addition to their four games against the Steelers and Bengals, plus a road game against the Titans.

Oh, and the Bills made the playoffs last season as well, and the Flacco defenders assure me that Tyrod Taylor shouldn't be missed by Buffalo fans.

But again, I don't think the Ravens are a bad team, and I'm not confident that they won't win 11 games and take the AFC North crown. That's well within the realm of possibility if enough things break the right way.

But then, that's been true for the last four seasons, hasn't it?

There are some new faces here, enough that a hope for improvement isn't unreasonable. But the basic storyline, and all the questions surrounding the team, are the same as they've been for years now.

Maybe that just means they're due to finally catch a lucky break, but I can't escape the feeling that this is yet another 8-8 Ravens team that's going to spend their January on the couch.

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September 6
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issue 6
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meanwhile, how's coach durkin doing?

Maryland won their season opening football game on Saturday with an interim head coach.

You know the story by now. Matt Canada is serving as the Terps' football coach while the University decides what they're going to do with currently-suspended coach DJ Durkin.

Durkin was cast aside last month after an story revealed a "toxic culture" within the Maryland football program, some of which might have been directly connected to the death of Jordan McNair back in mid-June.

Maryland fired the program's strength and conditioning coach -- Rick Court -- almost immediately after the story was published by Court was found to be at the center of a lot of inappropriate "practices" within the training program, so his dismissal was both natural and simple.

Durkin's dismissal was also assumed.

But here we are, approaching the second week of the season, and he hasn't been fired.

And now, there are actually whispers that Durkin might not be let go after all.

Crazy, right?

The prevailing thought originally was that Maryland and Durkin's attorney were merely piecing together a fair severance package and that it was only a matter of time before he was dismissed. The issue, of course, would be whether the school could fire the coach "with cause" and avoid having to pay him all of the guaranteed monies he is owed.

That seemed to be the issue.

But there now appears to be a different problem. Maryland might not have the goods to fire Durkin.

A source associated with the University revealed earlier this week that the school is finding less and less evidence that Durkin supported Court's oddball training tactics. "There's almost no doubt some of what was going on happened when DJ wasn't around," the source said, pointing specifically to off-season workouts and conditioning programs that Court would oversee.

None of this is being made up to absolve Durkin of his responsibility as the head of Maryland's football program. No one is saying that. But when it comes to piecing together the language of his termination, it hasn't been as easy as "the coach was a complete lunatic, so we're firing him".

He might still get fired. That much hasn't been decided yet.

But the issue now seems more about "should we actually fire him?" than "we're firing him, but how can we not pay him?"

One thing for sure. Durkin's scarred, no matter what happens. If he stays at Maryland, he'll have to walk the narrowest tight rope ever. If he gets fired, getting another head coaching job at a top school will be next to impossible.

But Maryland is scarred in all of this, too. No matter what they do with Durkin, the University will be wearing a scarlet letter just like him.

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closing in on 100 losses

The Orioles fell to 41-99 last night with a 5-2 loss to the Mariners.

The game was in Seattle, so you probably missed it. Come to think of it, you probably would have missed it had the game been at Camden Yards.

Most people I know checked out back in June. I'm one of the dummies who has watched bits and pieces of roughly 120 of the team's 140 games to date.

So the only thing left -- other than seeing some kids play that were part of the late July fire sale -- is to see whether or not the Birds can get to 50 wins.

The thought that they could put together a September run and finish ahead of the '88 Birds and avoid being the worst team in franchise history is all but gone. They'd have to go 14-8 in their final 22 games to end the season at 55-107. I don't think that's happening.

Can Buck and the Birds somehow win nine more games this month and avoid finishing with fewer than 50 wins?

But they can still scratch together nine wins this month and finish with 50, right? Stick with me here and I'll tell you how.

I know Tampa Bay is decent this season -- surprisingly so, in fact -- but the Birds can win of three there this weekend. That's 42 wins.

Then the A's, White Sox and Blue Jays come to Baltimore, each for a 3-game series. Somehow, someway, the O's can win at least four at Camden Yards. Heck, they just swept the Blue Jays in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. Four wins in nine games gives them 46 wins.

We're getting closer...

The season then ends with three games in New York vs. the Yankees, three at Boston and four games at home vs. Houston. Seems daunting, right? Well, the O's have actually played OK in New York this season. Yes, I know, that's when the team had a handful of good players, but maybe they'll get a gem from Alex Cobb up in the Bronx.

Let's go with one win in New York just for kicks and giggles.

By the time the Birds head to Boston for that penultimate series of the season, the Red Sox will have likely clinched the A.L. East. They might be in "rest up" mode by then. Maybe we steal one up there.

That's 48 wins if you're following along.

And Houston will almost certainly have the A.L. West locked up when they get to Baltimore for that final series of the season in late September.

The Birds can win one or two against the Astros if nothing's on the line. Right? Can't they?

It's indeed a sad state of affairs when this is what's dominating our Orioles discussion in September: Can the team win 50 games?

So, here's my question for you: How much will you be watching the last 21 games of the season?

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

as the nfl season begins, there’s only one odd team out

The NFL regular season starts tonight, when the Super Bowl champion Eagles host the Falcons, but there’s lots of optimism beyond the gates of Lincoln Financial Field.

And why not? 13 years have passed since a team repeated as champion, with 10 different franchises winning the title in that span. It’s been almost even between the conferences, with the AFC winning seven Super Bowls and the NFC six.

Hope springs eternal in places like Indianapolis and Houston, where stud quarterbacks are returning from injury to rescue their teams. Hope has its usual hold over the evil burgs of Foxboro(ugh) and Pittsburgh. Hope at least exists in the swamps of North Jersey, where the Jets may have chosen the right rookie quarterback and the Giants are rarely bad two years in a row.

There’s only one place where there is no hope. That place is Cleveland.

While the group of “Mighty Men” here in Baltimore tries to figure out how to turn eight or nine wins into 10 or 11, and the fans down in Landover wonder whether a pretty decent NFL starting quarterback will be better than…a pretty decent NFL starting quarterback, Cleveland will be trying and wondering much simpler things.

Trying to win one game, at first. Then trying to win two games in a row, which they haven’t done since 2014. Trying to somehow avoid finishing “4th of 4” in the AFC North, which they’ve “accomplished” seven years in a row and 13 of 16 years since the 2002 divisional realignment.

There is no other team in American professional sports like the Cleveland Browns.

When will Baker Mayfield gets his shot at leading the Browns back to respectability?

They returned to the NFL a generation ago, colors and history intact, and have proceeded to win a total of 88 games in 19 seasons.

Hue Jackson is the 10th head coach in those 19 seasons. Their three division rivals, who they’ve played twice a year in each of those seasons, have combined for a grand total of five head coaches in the last 16 years.

In the last 10 years, no Browns team has averaged more than 19 points per game. The 2011 team scored an almost hard-to-believe 13.6 points per game.

Yes, every pro league is littered with bad teams. In any given year, somebody wins a lot, and somebody loses a lot. As we know, the Orioles were bad for years. As we also know, the Orioles are historically bad this year.

Meanwhile, even good teams in baseball aren’t good all the time. That’s the beauty of a long season. The 1983 Orioles won 98 games and then the World Series, despite having two seven-game losing streaks.

But football is different.

There are only 16 opportunities to play. 960 minutes, which we know adds up to about 250 minutes of real action, to show any competence at all.

There’s no time to have a really bad stretch; six losses might mean a division title and home game in the playoffs, while seven losses might mean the coach is fired. There’s also not a lot of time to be great, thanks to injuries and the fact that entire teams can turnover in four or five years.

The entire nature of the league, from off-the-field rules like the franchise tag to various on-the-field rules, is designed to make it nearly impossible to be incompetent. Yet one team, the Browns, are 4-49 in their last 53 games.

They’ve been outscored by nearly 600 points in those 53 games, an average loss of nearly 11 points per game. The four wins have come against teams that finished 3-13, 5-11, 5-11 and 5-11.

You may remember that the 2014 Browns were 7-4 heading into Thanksgiving. After that, they scored a total of four offensive touchdowns in their last five games. You can blame that on Johnny Manziel, I suppose, but I’m sure he was trying.

The facts are that those five games came against four playoff teams, including two division champions, and another team that finished 9-7. At 7-6, and playing for their lives against the Bengals as a one-point favorite at home, Cleveland managed five first downs and 107 total yards in a 30-0 loss. Cincinnati had 39 minutes of possession and rushed for 244 yards.

They didn’t just lose a game against a good opponent. They weren’t just blown out. They were an NFL team that gained about as few yards in a game as is legitimately possible, all while being dominated physically by the other offense.

That game wasn’t really an aberration; it was more like a sign of things to come. While those kinds of numbers may not have happened again, the Browns really were that bad, no matter what their record was.

You could argue, I guess, that the Browns have played a lot of close games. Four of Cleveland’s first seven losses in their winless 2017 season came by three points, including an overtime loss to a Tennessee team that made the playoffs. The Browns were 17 seconds away from a win against Green Bay in December before allowing a game-tying touchdown that forced overtime.

In a way, though, isn’t that even more terrible for Cleveland? Sometimes the Browns are just awful, so out of their league that it’s obvious a few minutes into the game. Other times the Browns can’t make the one play they need, letting a team that doesn’t deserve to win sneak out of Ohio having avoided embarrassment.

Over the past three years, the Ravens have hardly been a lead pipe cinch to play well in any game, let alone win any game. Yet you can always count on at least a couple games where it’s obvious that, on that day, the other team isn’t going to win, like the Miami and Detroit games last season.

When will that day come for the Browns? They start the year with Pittsburgh, then head to New Orleans. They host the Jets and their rookie quarterback in Week 3, on a Thursday night, which seems like maybe it could be the day.

Of course, there’s a possibility that the Browns’ own rookie quarterback could be on the field for that game too. So I wouldn’t be too excited just yet.

Here in Baltimore, and in Pittsburgh and even in Cincinnati, it’s easy to make fun of the Browns. It’s easy to be happy that you’ll play two games against a team that even an NFL coach has a hard time calling “a good football team” with a straight face.

Until something changes, though, you can at least feel a little bit for Cleveland. Beginning tonight, there are 31 cities with some reason for optimism and one that’s, incredibly, still so far away.

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September 5
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issue 5
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2018 nfl preview: one year too late

It's time for my annual attempt to accurately predict the upcoming NFL season.

This will, of course, likely be all wrong by about mid-November, if not earlier.

But I'll qualify what you're about to read by reminding you that everyone who makes pre-season picks does so assuming the teams will stay fully healthy for the entire season.

And we all know there's no way that can happen.

But there's no other way to do it, except to look at the pre-season rosters and make your guesses based on what you know as of Labor Day.

You know already that I think the Ravens are going 11-5 this season. I wrote that last week here at #DMD.

But I'll save their playoff fate and what happens to the rest of the AFC North for a little later in this season preview.

Let's start in the NFC.

NFC East --

What I know: Washington is going to stink it up, even with Alex Smith. The Cowboys aren't going to be any good. If Carson Wentz is healthy, the Eagles will be a legit threat again.

What I don't know: Can the Giants keep Eli Manning healthy all season? Will Jason Garrett survive the season in Dallas? Will the Eagles suffer from the expected "Super Bowl Hangover"?

My guess: Philadelphia (10-6) wins the division with a December run of four wins in five games. The Giants (8-8) and Redskins (6-10) are in the race for a while before they sputter. Dallas (5-11) finishes last.

NFC South --

What I know: These teams will beat up on one another like they usually do, losing at home, winning on the road, and having a crazy 2018 season. Tampa Bay won't be a factor. Everyone else will.

What I don't know: Can the three quarterbacks that matter in the division all stay healthy for the whole 16-game season? If Atlanta, New Orleans or Carolina lose their QB for any extended period of time, they're done. Will Tampa Bay win six games? I'm not sure.

My guess: This division goes down to the wire and gets decided on a wacky tiebreaker and a crazy game-ending play on the final Sunday of the regular season. New Orleans (11-5) wins the division and Atlanta (11-5) snags a wild card berth. Carolina (10-6) loses their last two to miss the playoffs. Tampa Bay (4-12) gets eased by the jockey at the half-mile pole.

Can Stefon Diggs and the Vikings do one better than last year's loss in the NFC Championship Game?

NFC North --

What I know: Chicago and Detroit will be better than a year ago, mostly because they have to be. Kirk Cousins will do the same thing in Minnesota he did in Washington DC. He'll throw for a lot of yards, a bunch of TD's and drive the fan base nuts. Aaron Rodgers will be a rock star, like always.

What I don't know: Will the excitement of acquiring Khalil Mack boost Chicago right away or might it take a full season? Can the Lions get a full, healthy 16-game campaign out of Matthew Stafford? Will the Minnesota defense be as staunch in 2018 as it was in 2017?

My guess: The Vikings (12-4) face a tough early-season schedule, but they'll get a boost from Cousins and a rejuvenated running game and their defense stands tall again. Green Bay (10-6) gets the other wild card spot in the NFC. Chicago (7-9) and Detroit (6-10) aren't ready for prime time just yet.

NFC West --

What I know: The Rams are the real deal. Seattle isn't ready to go away as a perennial NFC contender. The 49'ers are going to be better with Jimmy G. at the helm, but they're still a year away from being serious. The Cards might be two years away. Or more.

What I don't know: Were the Rams lucky last year? Was the late run by the 49'ers a hint of things to come or just "right place, right time" stuff? Is Pete Carroll's magic running low in Seattle?

My guess: The Rams (11-5) win the division, with Seattle (10-6) losing out on a wild card spot by virtue of a tiebreaker. The 49'ers (8-8) are a threat until December. The Cardinals (4-12) aren't much of a threat once November comes around.

AFC East --

What I know: No one is even close to unseating New England unless Brady goes down in September and can't return. And even then, who knows? The Dolphins and Jets will need to be respected throughout the season. Buffalo won't need any respect.

What I don't know: Can Miami and/or the Jets circle around the 9-win mark to somehow squeeze their way into the post-season? Will New England have to go on the road in the playoffs for the first time in forever?

My guess: The Patriots (12-4) win the division easily, of course. Miami (8-8) is decent enough, as are the Jets (6-10), who are actually in the race until a December swoon costs them a shot at the post-season. Buffalo proudly boasts the worst record in the NFL at 3-13.

AFC South --

What I know: Ten wins should be enough for the division crown. All four teams could win ten, though. Houston should be better with Watson back at the QB spot and the same goes for Indy who get Luck on their side in 2018.

What I don't know: Was Jacksonville a fluke last year? Can their defense be that good again? Can Watson do what he did in the first month of his rookie season before suffering that knee injury? And are the Titans going to prosper or falter with Dean Pees running their defensive unit?

My guess: Defense reigns supreme in this division, which means Jacksonville (10-6) winds up winning the division, with Indianapolis (9-7) and Houston (8-8) following closely behind and Tennessee falling short (7-9).

Derek Carr and the Raiders have a huge task ahead. They have to compete in a very talented AFC West and overcome the boneheaded trade of linebacker Khalil Mack.

AFC West --

What I know: This division is a lot like the NFC South. Three of the four teams could wind up winning it. The Chargers appear to be the favorites, but don't discount the Chiefs or the Broncos. Forget about the Raiders. The magic of Jon Gruden didn't come back to Oakland with him.

What I don't know: Can Denver win without a "real" quarterback? Will the Chiefs' offense be enough to overcome what will likely a vulnerable defense? Can the Chargers win big games playing in a 25,000 seat stadium?

My guess: Philip Rivers and the Chargers (11-5) are finally going to break through and win big post-season games. The Chiefs (10-6) make the post-season as a wild card team, while Denver (9-7) misses on a tiebreaker and Oakland (6-10) wishes they wouldn't have hired Gruden or traded Mack.

AFC North --

What I know: Joe Flacco is going to have a big season. So, too, will the Baltimore defense. The Pittsburgh offense will score gobs of points, but might give up gobs AND gobs of points. Cleveland will win a game or three.

What I don't know: How many games will Le'Veon Bell play? If it's 14 or more, Pittsburgh might win the division. The bet here is he doesn't play until September 30 vs. the Ravens, missing the first three games. Can the Bengals finally play disciplined football in big games?

My guess: The Ravens (11-5) win the division, with Pittsburgh (9-7) squeaking into the post-season by a tiebreaker. The Bengals (8-8) come close but don't get it done. Cleveland (4-12) wins some games, but not nearly enough to challenge.

NFC Championship Game: Vikings beat Saints, 33-23.

AFC Champioship Game: Chargers beat Patriots, 23-17 in OT.

Super Bowl 53: Vikings beat Chargers, 30-24.

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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.

As the Labor Day holiday passes and we get set for a fall season full of football and stretch run baseball, let's take a moment to examine another battlefield in the ever tense situation between Major League Baseball and its players' union.

Last week, Chicago White Sox's prospect Eloy Jimenez's agent openly stated that the top outfielder will likely file a grievance against the team for service time manipulation one day.

Despite hitting .355/.399/.597 in Triple-A this season entering play Monday, Jimenez won't be getting a call up this September, because the rebuilding White Sox aren't interested in starting his service clock now, but would likely prefer to wait until a few weeks into next year at least before calling him up.

If they do that, they'll prevent him from earning a full year of service time in 2019, pushing his eligibility to free agency back by a full year.

They won't say that, of course, and they haven't. Teams aren't supposed to make roster decisions for the purpose of manipulating service time, although there's no clear way to enforce that standard, and a team needs only to offer up the most perfunctory of excuses in order to put their decision making process beyond sanction.

The White Sox brass has said that Jimenez isn't coming up because he's not ready defensively. The Blue Jays have used the same excuse with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who hit .340/.419/.566 in 29 Triple-A games with a combined 49 extra base hits throughout the minors.

The Braves simply said that Ronald Acuna Jr. needed more "seasoning" before promoting just after the cut off period this season, insuring that he'll have to wait until after the 2024 season to file for free agency rather than 2023. Acuna has hit .296/.361/.577 with 23 home runs through his first 85 big league games.

Such shenanigans aren't new by any stretch, and a couple of other players have filed grievances over it in the past. One of them is the Cubs' Kris Bryant, who was promoted to the big leagues exactly one day after the cutoff before going on to win Rookie of the Year that season.

It does seem like it's getting more extreme, however, and Jimenez and Guerrero are prime examples. Both players were clearly ready to move to the major leagues this season, defense be damned (both of them play for American League organizations, after all). While it would have been one thing for them to have to wait until May to get the call, the White Sox and Blue Jays are going to keep them in the minor leagues until at least May of NEXT season.

The Blue Jays have a star on their hands in Vlad Guerrero Jr., but they'll wait until 2019 to showcase him in the major leagues.

That's something new altogether, and portends a major shift in how teams handle the promotion of top prospects. It also stands to cost these players A LOT of potential earnings over the course of their careers, amounts that could total in the eight figures if they live up to their All-Star potential.

Personally, I don't think this is good for baseball at all.

Young guys like Guerrero and Jimenez are potential stars in the making, and it's good for the game, the league, and the fans if these guys are in the big leagues showing off their talents for our entertainment. That's the whole point of the business, after all.

But you know who it's not good for? The teams that actually control their rights. As good as they are, Jimenez and Guerrero would not have made the White Sox or the Blue Jays playoff contenders this season, so if you're the GM of one of those teams, promoting them now is effectively burning a year of team control for nothing, and sacrificing one down the road when the team might be in contention. And on the other side of the ledger, waiting an extra 3 or 4 weeks to call up a top prospect doesn't actually have that much of an impact on a team's chances.

The Cubs went to the NLCS in Bryant's rookie year, and the Braves are currently leading the NL East by 4 games after holding Acuna down a bit longer. It might not always work out that way, and the Braves could even end up missing the postseason altogether. But simply knowing that you'll still have a very good shot AND controlling another prime year of a great talent down the road makes the decision an easy one for front offices.

It's not as if no one has noticed this problem, and a cadre of national baseball writers have taken up the charge in earnest on the issue.

Unfortunately, I mostly think they're missing the forest for the trees. Typically they've focused on the finances of the issue and excoriated owners for being cheap and, to a lesser extent, fans for taking the side of ownership. There's some truth to that, but not much, as you can see when someone makes a comment like "fans don't root for executives" only to have a bunch of fans show up to disagree with them (which usually prompts responses about how the fans are wrong about what fans think).

On the books, the difference in salary cost to owners is minor at best, and I certainly don't get the sense that fans generally care whether a particular dollar ends up in the pocket of Player A, Player B, or the team's owner. What I do think fans care about is how many games their favorite team wins, and how likely they are to win a championship at some point. National writers and a subset of fans might prefer the sheer entertainment value of a baseball game, and those people want to see uber talented youngsters in the big leagues ASAP because they're fun to watch.

But my own sense is that, at this point, the average fan sees "entertainment" and "winning" as virtually the same thing. I would wager that if you polled Blue Jays' fans, most of them would say they'd rather have the possibility of winning 90 games and contending for a World Series in 2025 over having Vlad Jr. called up at any point in a pointless 2018 season, no matter how many home runs he could have hit this year.

The same likely goes for ownership, especially as there's now an increasing overlap between strategies that making winning more likely and strategies that save the club money.

With that in mind the answer to this problem, as with so many other burgeoning problems in baseball's labor market, is to adjust the rules to change that basic fact. In this case, we ought to want to see changes to the way service time is tabulated such that it doesn't benefit the teams so much to delay call ups of the game's brightest young prospects, and to better align the goal of winning with the goal of putting the best, most entertaining players at the big league level where the audience is paying to see them.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that anyone is going to take up that cause anytime soon. Fans and owners are having their interests served just fine by the current arrangement, and since the problem effects the young players that the union pays so little attention to (and in this case specifically, young players who aren't technically union members yet) MLBPA shows no sign of caring about the issue either.

And the writers who are quick to call attention to this problem will generally tolerate no criticism of the players' union or their priorities, so they're not interested in lobbying the union to care about and try to change the arrangement rather than just complaining about executives and fans on Twitter.

But the union should care.

They've been prioritizing big free agent contracts forever, but now the league almost universally recognizes that those are bad expenditures. Tony Clark & Co. can keep chasing that white whale forever, but it's not coming back. And other than accepting a salary cap (which at this point I think the players will do at some point in the next 10-12 years), the only way to increase the players' overall share of league revenues at this point is increasing the salaries of the valuable young players teams actually covet.

And fans should care too.

Having more great players on the field makes the game better and more fun and, yes, it even makes your team more fun to watch. A good set of rules would try to maximize the entertainment value of the game, without putting that at odds with teams' interest in long term roster building.

Having to choose one or the other frankly just isn't a whole lot of fun.

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September 4
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just ignore it

I'm not anti-Nike in the least.

And I'm not in the pro-Nike camp, either.

They're a sports apparel and shoe company. They dabble in golf, too, although they gave up the club-making part of the business a couple of years back.

I don't find their golf apparel to my liking, so I don't buy any of it.

That's the extent of my "relationship", if you will, with Nike apparel.

Yesterday's news that Nike has named Colin Kaepernick as one of the athletes who will help push their "Just Do It" campaign left a lot of people angry. And it also endeared some folks to Nike as well, particularly those who see Kaepernick as a real life mover-and-shaker.

Those against Kaepernick's portrayal as a modern-day hero went on social media and vowed to burn their swoosh-laden shoes, shirts and apparel. I'm not rich. I don't burn any of my clothes. I just mostly grow out of them, sadly. So even if I did have a closet full of Nike stuff, I wouldn't burn it.

I can't remember the last time I bought a piece of sports clothing because of an athlete endorsement. We might have to go all the way back to 1992, when Fred Couples was the man wearing Ashworth golf apparel. I loved those shirts he wore. So I bought a few. But -- and here's the kicker -- I bought the first one because of Couples but all the rest were purchased because I liked the style and, most importantly, the fit.

Former 49'ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be featured on Nike promotional ads later this year as part of their "Just Do It" campaign.

This all leads me to say: Please don't spend a lot of time worrying about Colin Kaepernick and Nike and the relationship they announced on Monday.

Either way, you're getting nothing out of it.

If you like Kaepernick and believe in his kneeling-during-the-anthem protest, all you're doing by purchasing more Nike clothing next month is making Nike more wealthy than it already is. You're not really doing anything for Kaepernick himself by buying Nike stuff.

And please don't think you're going to change anything at all about Nike's values by helping them make more money. They'll still make their apparel in foreign countries, employ foreign workers and, mostly, do a lot of "un-American" things in order to maximize their profit line.

For those who don't like Kaepernick, burning Nike stuff, making videos and trying to show off your distaste for both parties is only going to help prove the polarizing impact of the apparel company's decision to go with Kaepernick.

They could have gone with J.J. Watt, who raised over $40 million in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. But he wouldn't have been nearly controversial enough for Nike. Not in this case, anyway. They needed someone with impact power to get their message across -- and the best way to do that is to have half the people love him and half the people hate him. Those numbers might not be precise, but you get the idea.

This is all a marketing endeavor by Nike.

Nothing more, nothing less.

They needed a face to go with their campaign. Kaepernick made sense for them.

If they sell more clothes from it all now, that's a major win. If they don't sell more clothes now, they will later. That's probably the way they see it.

Sure, they'll have to shell out some money for Kaepernick's participation in this scheme. He's not doing it free of charge. And even though he's made roughly $40 million in his football career, another couple of million won't hurt.

But Nike has plenty of money. They can afford to give it away to a guy who never would have made poster-boy status for them if not for his pre-game protest a couple of years ago.

If you have lots of money, you can afford to burn all of your Nike gear in your own form of "protest". Have at it, as Coach Billick used to say.

Me? If I had any Nike apparel that I liked and routinely wore, I wouldn't think twice about wearing it. It's clothing. It's supposed to be worn.

I don't find their stuff to be any good, so I don't own any. And just so you don't think I'm picking on Nike, I own exactly one adidas golf shirt. I don't care much for their apparel, either.

Now if Peter Millar came out with a Kaepernick-based advertising campaign, I might be in trouble. I'd have to burn a dozen shirts.

I'm kidding...

I'm not burning anything.

These apparel companies aren't fooling me.

All they're trying to do is make money. Nothing more, nothing less.

They'd use the Son of Sam in a marketing campaign if they thought he could sell them more shirts, shorts and hats.

I'm not buying it.

And I'm not buying it.

Just ignore it.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

opening week edition


The Buffalo Bills

The Ravens host the Bills in the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. The teams are playing in 2018 because each finished in second place in its respective division in 2017. Sounds like a good matchup, unless you pay attention to reality.

According to Brent Sobleski from Bleacher Report, “Sean McDermott’s squad doesn’t look ready for the regular season. The preseason may be for tinkering, but the Bills have major personnel deficiencies that will be difficult to overcome once the games count.”

So, the Ravens have that going for them, which is nice…

After trading former Raven Tyrod Taylor in the offseason, and then dumping A.J. McCarron on the Raiders on Saturday, the Bills have named Nathan Peterman their starting quarterback.

If you don’t remember, Peterman’s first NFL start last November will go down as, perhaps, the worst starting debut in league history. Against the Chargers, he threw five interceptions…in the first half. Until that game, no quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 had been intercepted five times in a half.

Meanwhile, the Bills’ offensive line is graded pretty poorly. The wide receiving corps lacks a great threat (sounds familiar). The defense is a lot better, but there are plenty of questions in the secondary.

Oh by the way, if Peterman isn’t the answer, the next man up is rookie Josh Allen, the seventh pick in this year’s draft. After a litany of matchups against rookie and backup QBs in 2017, the trend continues for the Ravens in 2018.


The 53-man roster

The Ravens’ 53-man roster, at least as it’s currently constructed, has some interesting wrinkles to it, for sure.

Terrell Suggs starts his 16th season in the NFL this Sunday when Buffalo comes to town. Could this be Sizzle's last year in Baltimore?

The most obvious difference from previous years is having a third quarterback on the active roster, though that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be three active quarterbacks for every game.

In the event that Joe Flacco has to go out, even if it’s just for one play, I assume that Lamar Jackson will take his place. In the event that Joe Flacco got injured tomorrow and was ruled out for Sunday, I’d bet that Robert Griffin would start the game.

Another wrinkle is the 6-foot-3, 311-lb. Patrick Ricard, whom I’m guessing is the only player on an NFL roster listed as a fullback/defensive lineman. Did you know that Ricard was named the league’s top fullback a year ago by ProFootball Focus? Sure, a lot of teams don’t use a fullback much anymore, but that’s still pretty good for a guy who’s listed as a defensive lineman.

Only four players in the last decade in the NFL have played at least 50 snaps on both offense and defense during a season. The most recent is Nikita Whitlock of the Giants in 2015.

The youngest players on the Ravens are Jackson and wide receiver Jordan Lasley, each 21. The oldest is punter Sam Koch, who is 36. Amazingly, in his 16th season in the league, Terrell Suggs is still only 35 years old.



It’s another year, and another chapter, of the Le’Veon Bell saga up in Western Pennsylvania.

Last year, Bell skipped the preseason but finally showed up at practice on Labor Day Monday. This season, there was no sign of Bell on Monday; the Steelers open in Cleveland on Sunday.

The rub here is, of course, the franchise tag. The Steelers slapped it on Bell last season, and they did it again this year. Let’s just say that the running back out of Michigan State with the Hall of Fame skills doesn’t exactly like it.

He can report any time before Sunday to sign the franchise tender of $14.5 million, all fully guaranteed. Or he can keep sitting out and forfeit more than $850,000 for every week he doesn’t play — and he can’t play until he signs the tender.

Ravens fans should assume Bell will be on the field for the Week 4 game in Pittsburgh, though it remains to be seen how long it will take him to get into good form.

Bell aside, the real question for the Steelers is their defense. When last we saw them, they gave up 45 points to the Jaguars on an 18-degree day at Heinz Field in the playoffs. They only lost by three points, but the game wasn’t really that close.

Whether the questionable Pittsburgh defense gets challenged by the questionable Cleveland offense on Sunday remains to be seen, but it’s unclear if the Steelers have done enough in the offseason to make their defense a stout one again.


Thursday night

It’s a stroke of good fortune, I think, that the Ravens’ Thursday night appearance comes in Week 2 against the Bengals in Cincinnati.

Nobody likes the Thursday night games — the players, the coaches, most of the fans, probably. That’s especially true later in the year, when more players have the kind of minor and/or major injuries every NFL player gets. So the Ravens are getting it out the way early, win or lose.

Programming note…though FOX bought the Thursday night NFL package this season, the first two Thursday games will appear only on NFL Network, and locally on Fox 45 for the Ravens-Bengals game. FOX’s top team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be on the call for the Thursday games, except in October when Buck will be doing baseball playoff games.

After the first Thursday game of the year between Baltimore and Cincinnati, Buck and Aikman will be forced to call the Jets-Browns game in Cleveland the next week. Yikes. The first FOX Thursday broadcast is, not surprisingly, a lot better — Vikings against Rams in Los Angeles Sept. 27.

In other schedule news, both Ravens-Steelers games will have finished by early November, so any late-season wrangling between those two teams will come against third parties. As usual, one of those games is an NBC Sunday nighter, the Week 4 game in Pittsburgh.



I’m predicting that record for the Ravens in 2018, which should be good enough for a playoff berth. That isn’t based off a preseason game-by-game prediction, which is nearly impossible, but rather a general hunch about the year.

As mediocre as the team has appeared the last two seasons, the fact remains that they were very close to the playoffs both years. In the case of last season, they were literally one play away. Somehow, I think those plays will turn in the Ravens’ favor in 2018.

Despite what he’s said, I think Joe Flacco got a strong message when the team drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round. With that in the background, and a healthier start to the year, Flacco will be significantly better than he was last year.

As for the defense, the Ravens were one of seven teams to allow less than five yards per play last season. There are solid players at every position, even without Jimmy Smith for a while.

Interestingly enough, new coordinator Don Martindale has been a defensive coordinator one other time, in Denver in 2010, and that unit finished last in the NFL in both yards and points allowed per game. I’m not sure he had the depth of talent on his defensive unit as he does with Baltimore in 2018.

Better than 10-6 will be difficult, I think, but I’d say that’s more likely than a losing season. In any case, I’d bet on 1-0 by 4 p.m. this coming Sunday.

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dechambeau rests his case

Your move, Captain Furyk.

With Bryson DeChambeau winning his second straight FedEx Cup playoffs event on Sunday at TPC Boston, one of Jim Furyk's Ryder Cup captain's picks was decided for him. Not that B.A.D. was going to be left off the team if he somehow didn't win on Sunday, but a second consecutive victory on TOUR drove the nails in the box and sealed it up.

DeChambeau is headed to Paris later this month.

Has Phil Mickelson done enough to be one of Jim Furyk's captain's picks for this month's Ryder Cup?

Furyk will make three of his four picks known today at 5:00 pm. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and DeChambeau are thought to be the three announcements today, although a rumor filtered through the golf world over the weekend that Furyk is leaning heavily in favor of veteran Matt Kuchar, who finished outside the Top 70 after yesterday's event in Boston and won't even play in the final two FedEx Cup playoff events.

Kuchar wouldn't be a terrible pick. Any other year, that is.

There are a handful of players who deserve the selection more than Kuchar, including Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele. You could even make an outside-the-box argument for Keegan Bradley, who has played very well of late but lost some steam in Boston over the weekend.

Finau finished T4 in Boston after posting a runner-up finish to DeChambeau last week at The Northern Trust. If you're going with the "hot hand", Finau gets the nod over Schauffele, who hasn't really played all that well since his T2 at the British Open in late July.

Personally, I wouldn't have a problem taking Finau and Schauffele over Mickelson and going with Tiger and DeChambeau to round out the four picks. But I can't see Furyk passing on Mickelson, who has been playing well of late.

Today at 5:00 pm, though, DeChambeau's name is getting called. That's as much a certainty as Tiger's name being announced.

If not for Brooks Koepka winning two majors, DeChambeau would be a near-lock for PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. He has three wins, all coming in full-field, "elite" events if you will. And he's not done yet, either.

But it's hard to not go with Koepka, who won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Major championships are the king in professional golf. DeChambeau would likely have to win the last two events in the playoff series to have a shot at unseating Koepka for POTY honors.

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September 3
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happy labor day!

I never know quite how to celebrate Labor Day.

Or, more importantly, why we're celebrating it.

Mother's Day, I get. Father's Day, I understand.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. I understand that one, too.

Labor Day? We're celebrating the fact that we work, I suppose?

So I looked it up.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

It seems kind of contradictory to actually work on Labor Day, but I know lots of people are doing just that today. I'm doing it, too, by writing this and publishing #DMD.

In accordance with the celebration, I'm going to be brief here today.

I see blue skies out there this morning. A golf course and swimming pool are both calling my names, as are my friends and family members. I'll celebrate this unofficial end to summer by hanging out with them this afternoon.

We'll be back here tomorrow with an updated, "new sound" version of our daily podcast, The Juice, plus we start getting knee-deep into the NFL. On Wednesday, I'll publish my official 2018 NFL Predictions edition of #DMD.

In the meantime, have a great Labor Day and celebrate it in a manner you enjoy.

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u.s., europe have ryder cup decisions to make

If things go as expected tomorrow at 5:00 pm, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk will pick Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as three of his four captain's picks for this month's U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Anything other than those three announcements tomorrow would be a shock.

Furyk still has a week before he'll announce his final selection. That one comes next Monday, September 9.

It would appear that there are really only two contenders left for the last captain's pick; Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele. While Furyk certainly has the option to pick anyone he wants, those two have continually played solid golf all summer, with Finau in contention at today's final round of the event at TPC Boston.

Englishman Paul Casey is expected to be one of Thomas Bjorn's four captain's picks when the European Ryder Cup team is finalized this Wednesday.

The European team has also started to take shape, but there are bigger problems facing their captain, Thomas Bjorn. With Thorbjorn Olesen making the European squad on Sunday, that leaves Bjorn with his four captain's picks -- but no matter who he chooses, he'll be leaving out some stalwart European players and, potentially, some veterans with significant Ryder Cup experience.

Bjorn makes his captain's picks official this Wednesday.

Olesen joins the seven automatic qualifiers who had previously been confirmed for the European side: Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood via European Points and Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Alex Noren via World Points. Those are eight solid competitors there, for sure.

Who is left to choose from? His pool of potential candidates will include Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Thomas Pieters.

Uh oh.

Two of those six aren't making the team.

Poulter and Garcia have not only been longtime Ryder Cup performers, but each brings an immense amount of pride and energy to the European team. How can you leave those two out?

Garcia hasn't played well at all in 2018. He didn't even make the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoff finals, that's how bad his season was here in the states.

Stenson's been bothered by a wrist injury throughout the summer, so his status is also questionable.

My guess? Garcia and Cabrera-Bello are out, with the latter serving as a de facto "alternate" in the event Stenson winds up not able to play because of his wrist injury.

That would leave Poulter, Casey, Pieters and Stenson as Bjorn's picks. To me, anyway.

But I'm not the captain.

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September 2
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such a shame

In another city or community, what the University of Maryland football team accomplished on Saturday would have been met with jubilation.

The Terps not only beat the nation's #23 team in a "home" stadium that was 60% filled with visiting fans, they did so with an interim head coach and a grieving locker room.

Nothing really pointed to Maryland beating Texas on Saturday. But beat them they did, 34-29.

Sadly, the Washington/Baltimore market paid little attention to the victory or the odds Maryland had to battle to come out on top.

It truly is sad that Maryland's footprint in these parts is so subtle. It is, after all, our state school.

But there's just no momentum at all for Terps football. Not here, not down in D.C., not in northern Virginia, either. It's just not important.

I realize they do have a fan base. People actually go to the games on occasion. But Maryland football is essentially followed at roughly the same level as Navy, with perhaps a few thousand more folks in the market more keenly interested in what the Terps do during the Fall.

A crowd of just over 47,000 left FedEx Field nearly half-empty on Saturday. And a large number of those 47,000 wore orange, not red.

For Texas, where they actually care about college football, the loss had to be almost embarrassing. They're the 23rd ranked team in the country. Or they were until Maryland got a hold of them on Saturday.

It's just a shame no one around here cares all that much, because yesterday was one heckuva story.

And no, this isn't about the death of Jordan McNair or the murky details of an out-of-control locker room and training regimen. Maryland football was largely ignored in the mid-Atlantic long before this past Memorial Day.

But what's happened in College Park over the last few months is part of the narrative connected to Saturday's win over Texas in Landover.

The Terps celebrate a touchdown in Saturday's 34-29 win over Texas, the second year in a row Maryland upset the Longhorns.

The distractions were just too much to expect anyone to overcome, let alone a bunch of 19 and 20 year olds who are far too young to have to come to grips with the death of a teammate and the volcanic disruption to their innocence.

Yet, they pulled it off on Saturday. I'm not sure how, but they did.

That's the good news. For those who do care about Maryland football, yesterday's win was a mammoth victory.

But for everyone else out there who couldn't tell you who the Terps face next on their regular season schedule, Saturday's triumph was about as meaningful as an Urban Meyer apology.

That's the bad news. Maryland football is an afterthought around here.

And that's really, really a shame. Those kids deserve better. And they deserve it even more in the wake of what's happened in College Park over the last three months.

Sure, in many ways the school and it's athletic department are responsible for their lack of football following. The University does very little in the way of football marketing and promotions, particularly in Baltimore.

When's the last time you bought a ticket to a Maryland football game? Be honest. (I rest my case.)

I have a friend who has been a basketball season ticket holder in College Park for the better part of 25 years. He's an annual donator to the Terrapin Club. When they made the move from Cole Field House to what is now known as the Xfinity Center, my buddy ponied up money to help the cause.

He's a "10" when it comes to Maryland basketball. He's traveled to all points U.S. to see them play games.

In 25 years of being a Terps basketball supporter, guess how many football games he's attended? That would be "zero". Not one. He's never once stepped foot into the school's football stadium.

Oh, and before you ask if he likes football, I guess I should note he's a Ravens season ticket holder.

Sure, his story is just one example. But you know an example, too. You might even be one.

It's the ultimate catch-22. Maryland doesn't market their football program very well and they get very little traction in D.C. and Baltimore. They'd probably say the reason they don't market to the community is because they don't think they'd get any return from it.

I don't know the answer. If I did, I'd package it all together and make a lot of money off of it.

I'm sure the school would love to know how they can get more people to care about Maryland football.

Winning a couple of Big Ten games and surprising Ohio State or Michigan might help. Or not.

There doesn't seem to be a slam-dunk remedy for Maryland's football problem. They've always been second fiddle to the basketball program. And despite yesterday's win over Texas, it looks like it's going to be that way next week, next month and, for sure, next year.

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it turns out perriman wasn't safe (and neither was vedvik)

Breshad Perriman might have indeed been "blesssed beyond measure", as we wrote about here yesterday at #DMD, but those blessings didn't help him stay employed.

Perriman was one of several veteran players who received bad news on Saturday, as he was cut by the Ravens after four largely unproductive seasons in Baltimore. Longtime linebacker and special teams ace Albert McLellan was also axed, as were Bronson Kafusi and Carl Davis.

The Ravens apparently tried to swing a trade for Perriman, but the market for fast guys who don't catch well and run routes within their design wasn't very active.

McLellan was beat out by a younger, cheaper option in Kenny Young. Kafusi never really flourished in Baltimore and Davis, despite some very promising play two years ago, drew the team's ire with his lackuster conditioning efforts.

This wound up being the highlight of Breshad Perriman's Ravens' career.

As you know, the NFL stands for a lot of things (except the national anthem). On Saturday, it stood for "Not For Long".

Perriman's departure almost certainly marks him as the team's least productive first round pick ever. Others like Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton, Kyle Boller and Matt Elam weren't nearly as successful as their draft day status made them out to be, but at least those four guys helped the team win games during their brief tenures in Baltimore.

Free agent punter/kicker Kaare Vedvik also wasn't safe over the weekend, but it had nothing at all to do with the Ravens cutting him loose. He was assaulted on Saturday morning, found by Baltimore paramedics at 2000 North Boone Street.

The story is still very new and no one has yet figured out how Vedvik got to that part of town or why he might have been there in the first place. Did he get lost? Was he with someone he met earlier in the evening? Was he assaulted somewhere else and dropped off there?

It brought to a temporary end the issue of Vedvik's availability after a stunningly impressive training camp. There was almost no doubt at all that Vedvik would have been scooped up by an NFL team within minutes of being released by the Ravens. Some folks, including me, thought the Ravens would somehow try and "stash" Vedvik on the injured reserve list and potentially bring in him next year as Sam Koch's replacement.

Now, for the time being at least, they don't have to stash him. It's a weird, crazy story.

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heartbreak in kansas city

The Orioles have lost 96 games this season, so it stands to reason they've dropped a bunch of games in odd, different ways.

But nothing hurts worse than the way they lost on Saturday night to the lowly Kansas City Royals.

Holding a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the 9th -- and without anyone closely resembling a true "closer" in their bullpen -- the Birds turned to Mychal Givens to shut the door on the last place Royals.

After an awful start to the 2018 campaign, Trey Mancini is likely going to wind up with a 25-home run season. He hit his 21st last night in Kansas City.

Givens walked the lead-off hitter to start the inning. You knew right then and there trouble was brewing.

Two batters later, Whit Merrifield blasted a 415 foot home run to center field, and that was that.

Another loss.

Givens fell to 0-7 with the defeat. Prior to this season, he was 16-3 over the last two seasons in Baltimore with a combined ERA of roughly 2.95.

I have no idea what's happened to him. Maybe he's ailing with what the rest of the club has had all year. I think it's called "not very good".

Speaking of not very good, consider this nugget of information for a minute.

With last night's loss, the Orioles are now 16-52 on the road in 2018.

Back in June, the Houston Astros went on a 10-game road trip that took them to Texas, Oakland and Kansas City. Not murder's row by any means, but a road game is still a road game and most teams are thrilled with a .500 road record.

The Astros won all 10 games on that road trip.

They won 10 games on the road in one fell swoop. The Orioles have 16 road wins -- since March 29.

It's almost over, though. The only thing left now is the chase for 50 wins. There's no telling how important that is in the locker room, but common sense tells you it should be important.

The Birds are now 40-96. They have 26 games remaining. Hang in there Flyers fans...I'll do the math for you since I know it's not your strong suit. The Birds have to go 10-16 to finish at 50-112.

In other words, they have almost a full month to win as many games (10) as the Astros won consecutively (10) back in June.

Gonna be close...

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o's should come up with september "goodies"

This is not an overreaction to last night's dismal 9-2 shellacking at the hands of a lousy Kansas City team.

It's more of a reaction to the calendar flipping from August to September. Mercifully -- at least in Baltimore -- we have entered the final month of the baseball season.

The Orioles have 13 home games remaining. Over the final month of the season, they should figure out a way to thank the people who have been torturing themselves for the last five months and making their way down to Camden Yards to see what is almost assuredly going to be the worst team in franchise history.

There's a difference between luring fans to the ballpark to see a subpar product and putting together a program that says "we appreciate your support". But they ultimately look and feel the same.

With no more Yankees or Red Sox fans to worry about and with school back in session, the number of visiting fans streaming into Camden Yards will be few and far between in those last 13 home games. The A's can't draw fans to their home games in Oakland. I don't think you'll see a bunch of them packing the lower deck in Baltimore for a mid-week series September 11, 12 and 13.

In other words, for the most part, the only people coming to see the remaining 13 home games are Orioles fans.

If you thought some of the summer crowds were meager, wait until you see the numbers for the last month of the season. It will be family, friends and ushers in the stadium and not much more.

But it's incumbent upon the Orioles to do something for those that do attend. And for those who have already been to games this season.

Should the Orioles approach their team captain about hosting an "Adam Jones Appreciation Night" at the final homestand of the season vs. Houston?

I'll give the organization credit. I'm a 13-game plan holder and they've reached out to me twice in the last two months to "check in", as my sales representative calls it, and see if there's anything at all that I need (besides better players on the team).

That's a nice gesture on their part. And it shows not only a little forward thinking ("see how they're doing and hint around about next season and whether they'll be back or not") but also serves as the chance to say "we appreciate you sticking with us this season", which my sales rep has done on both occasions.

The Orioles aren't dumb. They know this has been dreadful, not only for themselves, but for the fans as well. So any chance they get to offer gentle reminders that they appreciate your support is a good thing.

But over the last month, they need to do more. Their first order of business should be to give everyone who owns some sort of ticket plan a handful of complimentary seats. Yeah, I know, that's like giving free cheeseburger coupons to a vegan. Why would you give free tickets to see the worst team in franchise history play 13 completely meaningless games? It's the thought that counts, right?

If you own a full season ticket, the Orioles should -- and I'm not kidding here -- give you two free tickets to all 13 remaining home games. There are some admission and amusement tax rules that make providing someone with an actual hard ticket a potential money loser (the club pays a tax on all complimentary tickets issued, whether they're used or not), so the team can simply give out "passes" that have to be redeemed at the box office on the day of the game.

I don't think "long lines at the box office" will be an issue in September.

Any 29-game plan holder gets two free passes to seven of the 13 games.

And any 13-game plan holder gets two free passes to four of the 13 games.

Just do something to reward the folks who have come out to the games this season. And offering them the chance to come back in free of charge seems like a good first move.

Decreasing food and beverage costs in the stadium for September seems like a reasonable thing to do as well. The Ravens are trying that tactic in the regular season in 2018, trying to make up what they lose in money by dramatically increasing their volume. The Orioles would simply be saying "we appreciate the fact that you're out here in September when you have no real reason to be here."

There should be NO upper deck seating in September. Period. That is, unless, the entire lower deck gets filled up. And that's not happening again this season.

Anyone with an upper deck seat for a September game can turn it in at the box office for a lower deck seat, plus you get a free soda or hot chocolate for doing so.

Autographs should be mandatory from all Orioles for a designated period of time before the game. Let the kids wander down to the front row at 6:30 and have players sign stuff. The team should put up a sign in the locker room. ALL PLAYERS SIGN AUTOGRAPHS AROUND THE PERIMETER OF THE FIELD FROM 6:15 TO 6:40 PM FOR ALL SEPTEMBER HOME GAMES.

It's not going to kill anyone to sign 45 items for a few minutes in September. You wanted to be a big league ballplayer...this comes with the territory when the team is 40-95 and careening in the direction of the worst season ever.

Of course, you're not trying to make this out to be a punishment of any kind. These are just the sort of things you have to do to show the fan base you appreciate their support.

There are gobs of other things the team can do over the last month of the season to show their appreciation. It would be touchy, of course, but some sort of "thank you" night for Adam Jones at the final home series vs. Houston would be more than appropriate. If marketed correctly -- and this is all assuming Jones would be good with it, which he might not -- you could potentially sell out the Friday, September 28 home game vs. the Astros.

You'd have to open the upper deck for that one, I bet. Jones has been a wildly popular player in Baltimore. If that Friday night home game is potentially his final one as an Oriole player, people should be there. Every Oriole fan should be there, in fact.

That the Red Sox and Yankees don't come back to town in September makes doing a lot of these things much more possible. No one wants to give those goofs anything free or reduce their food and drink prices. And if they buy an upper deck seat, we want them sitting up there, not downstairs.

No, this last month of baseball in Baltimore will be held exclusively for those who bleed orange and black.

And that's why the Orioles should figure out a way to make sure they say "thank you" as often and obviously as they can.

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#dmd poll result: ravens are going to be good in 2018

Most of the folks responding to our #DMD reader's poll yesterday think the team is going to be pretty good in 2018.

I wrote here on Wednesday I see the team finishing 11-5 in 2018, as long as all the key figures stay healthy, of course.

On Friday, we offered readers the chance to make their call on where the team will finish this season.

46% of you predicted a record of 10-6 in 2018.

21% of you said 9-7.

15% of you said 11-5 or better.

That's a whopping 82% of those who responded saying the Ravens will finish BETTER than .500 in 2018.

10% of you predicted an 8-8 finish.

And 8% said "7-9 or worse".

perriman safe?

After the first wave of roster cuts with no surprises on Friday afternoon, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman published a very brief tweet.

"Blessed beyond measure" Perriman wrote.

That led, naturally, to people assuming Perriman has been told by the coaching staff that he's safe. For now, at least.

There was wild speculation that the former first-round pick would be among those cut when the roster got chiseled down from 90 to 53 players this weekend. Friday's first wave of cuts included no surprises at all. The Saturday announcement might include a surprising name or two. But, apparently not Perriman.

It's true that Perriman could have been just tweeting out "Blessed beyond measure" because he believes he is, in fact, a blessed man. Nothing at all wrong with that.

But there's no denying the cryptic nature of the tweet, coming on day one of roster cuts, would seem to be connected to his fate as a member of the Ravens.

The Ravens have very strict rules about players tweeting out team information, injuries, etc., so Perriman would know very well not to come right out and say, "They're keeping me!".

Why, then, risk even slightly offending John Harbaugh with the "blessed" tweet?


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