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October 15
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issue 15
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championship caliber?

They could still be playing in Nashville today and it's likely the Titans wouldn't have any points on the scoreboard.

That's how much the Ravens defense dominated Marcus Mariota and Company on Sunday in Baltimore's 21-0 win.

11 sacks. 11. Four sacks in a NFL game is good. Six sacks is great. But 11? Only four other teams in NFL history have recorded more sacks in one game (12) than the Ravens accumulated on Sunday.

You're going to win a lot of games with defensive performances like the one we saw yesterday in Nashville.

It's perfectly fine to be over-the-moon about Sunday's victory. It was dominant, well played, and, most of all, very timely.

A week after losing to a bad Browns team, the Ravens went out and erased most of the stink from that defeat and, thanks to a last second Pittsburgh win in Cincinnati, pulled even with the Bengals at the top of the AFC North at 4-2.

Za'Darius Smith recorded three sacks on Sunday as the Ravens ripped the Titans in Nashville, 21-0.

Everything that could have gone wrong last Sunday did. The Ravens lost, the Bengals came back from a 17-0 deficit to win, and the Steelers beat up on a hapless Atlanta defense to earn their second victory of the season.

Yesterday, everything went right for the Ravens. Everything...

And now, let's focus on what lies ahead.

The Ravens most certainly have a championship caliber defense on their hands. Yes, yes, I'm aware they've played four pretty lousy offenses and two good ones thus far. Buffalo, Denver, Cleveland and the Titans...none of those teams will remind anyone of the 1980's 49'er's. I get it.

But those bad teams still have players on scholarship too, remember. And the Baltimore defense didn't just "win the battle" in those four games, they suffocated those offenses. Dominated them.

Oh, and don't forget, they stifled Big Ben and Company at Heinz Field three weeks ago as well. They can play a little, you might remember.

It's a week-to-week league, yes indeed. And the New Orleans Saints will most certainly provide a stern test this Sunday in Baltimore. But the Ravens have allowed just 77 points in six games thus far. It's OK to start building hype.

This defense can take the Ravens places.

Sure, Joe Flacco and his group did more than enough to earn accolades on Sunday. Marty Mornhinweg weathered the storm of last week's horrific showing in Cleveland and rebounded with a well-called offensive game plan. Michael Crabtree caught the balls thrown his way.

But yesterday in Nashville was the defense's day to shine.

And shine they did.

Next up: Drew Brees. Something tells me it won't be quite as easy this Sunday in Baltimore.

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so who's the best in the afc?

With New England's last second win over Kansas City last night, there are now no undefeated teams in the AFC. And, strangely, after Cincinnati's late loss to the Steelers on Sunday, there are no other one-loss teams in the AFC either (other than the Chiefs, obviously).

So, through six weeks of the NFL season, who is the AFC's best team?

The Patriots and Chiefs put on quite a show last night in Foxboro. It went down to the very last play before it was decided.

The Chargers clobbered that same Browns team that beat the Ravens a week ago in Cleveland. Don't look now, but Los Angeles is 4-2 with a patsy schedule ahead of them, with five lay-ups over the next month.

The Bengals beat the Ravens, but lost to the Steelers.

The Ravens beat the Steelers, but lost to the Bengals.

I'm not sure the Chiefs can beat anyone in January with their defense. The same might be said for the Patriots, although they always figure out a way to cobble something together in the post-season.

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it's only ten grand, don't sweat it

Well, you remember that old Maryland Lottery slogan, don't you?

You gotta play to win.

I'm going to remind you of that today. Because if you would have wagered a thousand bucks on all thirty of my NFL picks so far this season, you'd be up a cool $10,000 thus far.

Or thereabouts...there's something about a 10% "juice" that George and some others will remind me of today. But you get the point.

Thank you Matt Ryan...

After yesterday's 4-0-1 mark (thanks a lot, Vikings), my 2018 record thus far is 19-9-2. I've yet to have a losing record through six weeks this season. I'm starting to get concerned that perhaps I've figured out the NFL and that sometime soon I'll be hounded by TV show producers who want me to go on the air and explain myself.

Just to recap (you can hear my picks in podcast section of #DMD), I won on the Falcons, Dolphins, Bills and Broncos. Only the Vikings-Cardinals game ending in a push kept me from 5-0.

19-9-2 through six weeks.

4-2 picking the Ravens against the spread (I love that I lost yesterday. The Ravens needed that win more than I did, for sure).

4-2 in "Best Bet of the Day".

As Woody Harrelson said in the movie White Men Can't Jump, "It's like the luck of the Irish...only I'm not Irish."

If only you would have had the courage to pony up a grand per-game, you'd be rolling in the money right now.

Oh, and so would I, of course.

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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.

“around the nfl” edition


Eli Manning

If the end is near for the 37-year-old Giants’ quarterback, in one way or another, his career is an interesting test case for greatness and for one of the end results of greatness, which is induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Manning has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, and he was named the MVP in both of those games. His first Super Bowl win was an historic upset of the Patriots, who didn’t lose a game in the 2007 regular season.

When you’ve started for 15 seasons in a pass-happy NFL, as Manning has, the numbers add up. Eli is sixth all-time in career passing yards, trailing only Brees, his brother Peyton, Favre, Brady and Marino. He trails the same five quarterbacks, in addition to a player he’ll always be connected with, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, in career touchdown passes.

And yet, he doesn’t necessarily feel like a Hall of Famer, or even a great quarterback. That’s what recency bias will do for you.

Since the beginning of the 2013 season, the Giants have a 34-51 record in games started by Eli Manning. The Giants have made the playoffs once since that run to the Super Bowl following the 2011 season, getting blown out by Green Bay in a Wild Card game two seasons ago.

The Giants have been mostly mediocre, and occasionally terrible, for about as long as most people can remember now. And Eli Manning has been the quarterback taking the snaps for New York the entire time.


“Historic Ineptitude”

I like to head to the website of the news outlet of record for the opposing team after every Ravens game, win or lose. Each outlet tends to cover gameday similarly these days—lots of Tweeting during the game, quick hits immediately afterward, and usually some kind of short video blog featuring the beat reporter and columnist once they’ve filed their stories.

After yesterday’s game in Nashville, I headed to the Tennessean and noticed something familiar in a headline. The Titans’ performance, said the copy editor, was best described as “historic ineptitude.”

Perhaps it was — 106 yards and 40 total offensive plays by an NFL team is an atrocity. The familiarity for me came from the fact that it’s the second time this season the other team’s hometown paper has said the same thing.

Remember the Buffalo game? Somehow the Bills scratched out 153 yards in that blowout, but in reality it was even a worse performance.

Credit must be given to the Ravens, of course, and to defensive coordinator Don Martindale, and to anyone else who helps his defense prepare for an opponent. Twice in six games, the opposing offense has played so poorly that it had writers searching for the right words to describe the scene.

The Ravens, by the way, now have a net scoring advantage of 76 points through six games, second in the league behind the +78 of the undefeated Rams.



It must be interesting to be a fan of the Oakland Raiders these days.

Derek Carr and the Raiders are 1-5 through six weeks and looking a lot like a four win team in 2018. Maybe...

Jon Gruden’s team fell to 1-5 on the season after getting blown out by Seattle, 27-3, at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday. Oakland might just be in full rebuilding mode now, even with a good young quarterback in Derek Carr, who was injured toward the end of Sunday’s game.

Alas, they’ll be doing most of the rebuilding in Las Vegas, I would assume.

If you don’t remember, back in March 2017, the NFL owners voted 31-1 to approve the Raiders’ move to Sin City. The team may play in Oakland again in 2019; it depends on the completion date of their new palatial stadium in Las Vegas.

If you’re interested, the only owner who voted against the move was Stephen Ross of the Dolphins, who said that he didn’t feel like the Raiders and the NFL had done enough to make a stadium deal happen in Oakland.

Anyway, Gruden was an interesting choice, to say the least, to bring the team to its new home in a couple years. For one, he is a strong connection to the Oakland Raiders; for another, he hadn’t coached in the NFL in 10 years.

The Raiders made the playoffs after the 2016 season; it was the first time in 14 years the Silver and Black had made the postseason. At this point, it looks like the Las Vegas Raiders may take a while to get the franchise back into the tournament.


Every week

The NFL is nuts, especially if you’re a fan of maybe 28 of the 32 teams. Think about the Ravens through six weeks.

Week 1, well that was awesome, but look at the competition. Week 2, well…where are we exactly? Are we the kind of team that isn’t good enough to beat a good team? Week 3, well that was ok, but we’ll probably need to be better overall to beat those good teams. Week 4…whoa! We weren’t expecting that. Week 5…let’s forget that one. Week 6…well how about 11 sacks of a guy known for his mobility.

Point is…every week brings a new narrative. I suppose professional sports is often like that, since both teams have guys that get paid, but the NFL seems like it’s cornered the market on surprises.

Prior to Sunday night’s game between the Chiefs and Patriots, and tonight’s game between San Francisco and Green Bay, 29 of the 32 teams had already lost at least two games. Only the Rams and Saints in the NFC, and the Chiefs in the AFC, were not included in that group.

Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville all have 3-3 records in the AFC South. If the season ended today, Tennessee would actually win the division, since the Titans have already beaten the Texans and Jaguars.

Of course, the season doesn’t end today, or anywhere near today. It’s likely that a team you’re not thinking about at all will make the playoffs, and one that you think looks pretty good won’t make the playoffs. Hopefully, the Ravens won’t be the latter.


The Steelers

For what reasons, exactly, do we ever count the Steelers out? They continue to make fools of us, even the ones that are rooting for them all over the country.

Yesterday, it was heroics again from Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who connected on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to beat the Bengals, in Cincinnati, 28-21.

The Bengals had scored the go-ahead touchdown only moments earlier, with 1:21 left on the clock, but Roethlisberger led his team 77 yards after that, including a 23-yard pass play on the play before Brown’s touchdown.

Sound familiar?

The Steelers had nearly 500 yards of offense, including 111 yards on the ground from James Conner. Roethlisberger threw for 369 yards and did not toss an interception. Brown averaged more than 20 yards per catch, and the Steelers controlled nearly 36 minutes of possession time.

Sound familiar?

The Steelers have given up 154 points, exactly twice as many as the Ravens. Actually, the Bengals, Browns and Steelers have all given up more than 150 points, compared to the Ravens’ 77, but there isn’t much separating the teams in the standings right now, except for maybe the fact that Baltimore has already lost two division games.

As a reminder, the Ravens are done early with the Steelers this year, which might be a good thing. Mike Tomlin’s team comes to M&T Bank Stadium on November 4, the first of three straight home games for John Harbaugh’s crew.

Week 6

Sunday — October 14, 2018
Volume LI — Issue 14

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans

4:25 PM EDT

Nissan Stadium
Nashville, TN

Spread: Ravens (-2.5)

ravens, titans meet in critical contest

Since you never know what's going to happen down the road, these games against "decent" AFC opponents are always important. That's why both the Ravens and Titans are especially hopeful of winning today's game in Nashville.

Who knows what the standings will show in late December? These two teams could both finish 9-7 and tied for a wild card spot in the AFC. And that first tiebreaker would be head-to-head meetings.

Perhaps this one won't decide a playoff spot ten weeks from now, but if there's one thing the Ravens learned from their November loss in Nashville last season, it's that these conference battles are (far) better won than lost.

And with New Orleans and Drew Brees coming to town next Sunday, the Ravens don't want to put themselves in position to be 3-4 as they near the halfway point of the season.

This is an important game today in Nashville. You can even say very important if you want and I'll sign off on that statement.

For the Ravens, as we pointed out here yesterday at #DMD, this one is going to fall on Joe Flacco and Company. There's little chance they'll replicate last Sunday's miserable offensive performance in the 12-9 OT loss to the Browns, but if the Ravens can't generate something in the 23 to 27 point range today, they could be in trouble.

Can the Ravens get a big game from Terrell Suggs today in Nashville?

As we noted in Saturday's edition, the Ravens have reeled off just 22 offensive touchdowns in their last 11 road games. And five of those came in one outing at Pittsburgh last season.

If the Ravens score two or fewer offensive TD's today, they're likely not going to win.

It's about offense today.

The bad news for John Harbaugh's team is that Tennessee isn't a defensive pushover. The Titans are actually a lot like the Ravens...their offense is hot and cold and their defense is generally very reliable.

So how do the Ravens pull this one out?

Glad you asked.

We're going to intentionally leave out the obvious stuff...like Marty Mornhinweg not abandoning the run if the Ravens trail at the half. Or Alex Collins not fumbling. Instead, we'll give you three players the Ravens need to turn loose in order to win this game today in Nashville.

Pressuring Marcus Mariota is critical for the Baltimore defense, and there's no one better at doing that for the Ravens than the great Terrell Suggs. Yes, there isn't much tread left on his tires. But Suggs can still be a menace when his number is called and the scheme allows for it. Wink Martindale needs to draw up a handful of plays where Suggs and a blitzing linebacker go after Mariota. In his heyday, Suggs didn't need much help. Now, he might. But "Sizzle" can still be a threat if used properly.

Speaking of guys chasing Mariota around, today would be a perfect opportunity for Tim Williams to break out with a big game. Like a lot of Ravens linebackers, he hasn't shown much ability to cover pass catching tight ends, but his skill set and ability to get to the quarterback is perfectly suited for today's game in Nashville. We'd like to see Martindale turn him loose this afternoon.

Willie Snead has quietly been very impressive thus far in 2018, and with Michael Crabtree's drop issues being a legitimate concern, why not target Snead ten times or so today and see what he gives you? That's not to say Crabtree should be ignored, but Snead deserves a deeper look from Mornhinweg and Flacco and this afternoon in Nashville seems like a great time to give him some more play.

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how drew sees today's game

It's hard to say with much conviction that the Ravens should win today, despite the fact they're a 2.5 point favorite vs. the Titans.

They could win, sure. It's not like the Titans are Super Bowl contenders or anything like that. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Ravens go down there and win. But in the same breath, it wouldn't be a shock if they lose, either.

With iffy weather on the horizon in Nashville, there's no telling (as of this writing, 9:30 pm on Saturday night) how the field conditions might impact the two offenses. So far this season, Flacco has excelled when rain fell throughout the game (Buffalo and Denver), but it's fair to point out that both of those contests were at home.

We expect this one to start out slow. The Ravens generate a turnover in the first quarter on a Jimmy Smith interception, but the first 15 minutes comes and goes without a score.

Flacco hits Mark Andrews for a TD in the second quarter, but Marcus Mariota scrambles in for his own TD on the next series to tie it up at 7-7.

A Justin Tucker field goal just before the half puts Baltimore ahead 10-7 at the intermission.

Mariota connects with Corey Davis on a 45-yard touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter to put Tennessee up 14-10, then the Titans make it 17-10 just before the end of the quarter after a Flacco interception.

Tennessee burns almost eight minutes of the fourth quarter on a long drive that results in another field goal and they lead 20-10.

Flacco finds Michael Crabtree in the end zone (and, yes, he holds on to it!) for a TD with three minutes left to make it 20-17, but that's the closest the Ravens will get, as the Titans hold on to win, 20-17, and drop Baltimore to 3-3 on the season.

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this, that and the other

Manny Machado isn't on the Orioles any longer but that didn't stop O's TV analyst Jim Palmer from blasting the former Baltimore infielder on social media yesterday.

Machado completely lollygagged a grounder in the top of the 4th inning of Saturday's NLCS game in Milwaukee. It was so obvious and such blatant jaking that even FOX play-by-play man Joe Buck pointed out Machado's stroll down the first base line.

Later, Palmer took to Twitter to jab Machado.

@Jim22Palmer -- Once again Manny doesn’t run hard. Down 0-1 in series, 0-0 game in 4th. Too tired to run hard for 90 feet. But wants the big $$ #pathetic

Nothing grates a professional athlete like someone "in the profession" -- either a teammate, opponent or former player -- mentioning their salary or their contract demands.

Palmer has never been one to shy away from barking about a lack of hustle during his TV commentary, and he's also not adverse to mentioning salaries and money, either. He covered both of those bases on Saturday afternoon with his dig(s) at Machado.

If you think 'Cakes is hard on Manny now, wait until he gets to call some games next season when Machado is wearing a different uniform color other than orange and black.

Tom Flacco and the Towson Tigers are on top of the CAA at 3-0 after yesterday's home win over William & Mary.

Maybe a Flacco quarterback is elite after all. Tom Flacco, Joe's youngest brother, rescued Towson University from a 13-10 halftime deficit on Saturday and led the Tigers to their fourth straight win, a 29-13 victory over William and Mary that keeps the Tigers (3-0 CAA) in first place in conference play.

Flacco ran for 109 yards and threw for 188 in Saturday's win, as the Tigers turned back a spirited effort from the Tribe.

Towson heads to Albany next Saturday to take on the Great Danes, who are 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the CAA.

We're a week into the NHL season and the Toronto Maple Leafs look pretty strong, thanks in part to last night's 4-2 win over the Caps.

The Leafs are 5-1-0 to start the campaign after last night's win, which included yet another goal from Auston Matthews, who has tallied 10 times in Toronto's first six games. With that goal last night, Matthews joined Mario Lemieux as the only players in the last thirty years to score at least 10 goals in their teams' first six games.

Toronto made big headlines in the off-season when they added former Islanders scoring star John Tavares, who is also off to a great start with the Leafs but was held off the scoreboard in last night's win over the Capitals.

There's a lot of hockey left, yes, but Toronto is looking like one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference this season.

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October 13
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issue 13
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once again, "road joe", "road ravens" in the spotlight

Here are the raw stats. In their last 11 road games, dating back to the start of the 2017 season, the Ravens have scored a grand total of 22 offensive touchdowns.

That's not very good.

And to make it worse, if that's possible, you have to remember 5 of those 22 offensive scores came in one game, at Pittsburgh, in week 15 of last season.

"Road Joe", as we affectionately refer to Ravens signal caller Joe Flacco when he plays away from M&T Bank Stadium, is definitely not as sharp as "Home Joe".

To be be fair, the whole offense, actually, isn't very good away from home.

That needs to change tomorrow afternoon when the Ravens visit the Titans in Nashville.

In the last 11 Ravens road games, Joe Flacco and the offense have scored three offensive touchdowns on just one occasion.

John Harbaugh's team needs a win in the worst way tomorrow.

The season's far from over if Baltimore comes up short in Nashville, but a 3-3 mark makes going 11-5 almost impossible. A 4-2 record? That definitely changes things a bit...in a good way.

How are they going to pull off a victory on Sunday? Well, for starters, they have to play better -- MUCH better, in fact -- on offense than they did last Sunday in Cleveland.

And that's not going to be easy.

Tennessee's defense is pretty good to start with...plus they're playing at home, where the Titans are 14-1 in their last 15 starts...and they have former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees dialing up the schemes and pressures against Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense.

I wouldn't say the odds are stacked against the Ravens on Sunday, but they have a difficult task on their hands tomorrow, that's for certain.

22 offensive touchdowns in their last 11 road games is pretty bleak. And this season, in particular, the Ravens offense hasn't done much of anything on the road.

They scored two touchdowns in the 34-23 loss at Cincinnati in week two.

They connected for two more offensive TDs in the 26-14 win at Pittsburgh on September 30.

And then last Sunday in Cleveland...they failed to get in the end zone at all in that 12-9 OT loss to the Browns.

Four offensive touchdowns in 190 total minutes of away football this season. That's poor, to say the least.

And just because it's always fair to compare yourself with another team of similar ilk, let's look at the Los Angeles Chargers. I picked them because they shared the same record (9-7) as the Ravens a season ago and have the same 3-2 mark as Baltimore does in five games this season.

In their most recent 10 road games (they've only played 2 away games this season), the Chargers have scored three or more offensive touchdowns in FIVE of them. The Ravens have three or more offensive touchdowns just once in their last 11 away games. So, there you go...

This isn't all on Joe Flacco's shoulders tomorrow. The rest of the offensive players have to do their thing and come through as well. The line has to block, the pass catchers have to catch and the running backs have to run.

Oh, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg needs to pay special attention to the pass-run balance and not foolishly give up on the running game if, say, the Ravens trail by a touchdown in the third quarter.

There's an argument Mornhinweg is more important than Flacco on Sunday in Nashville.

Flacco can only do so much.

Mornhinweg calls the plays and sends them in. Joe and the offense then tries to execute them.

The Ravens are trying to win tomorrow. By any score, really. If they pull out a 12-9 OT win, for example, no one's going to complain.

But something tells me Tennessee's not going to score a measly 9 points on Sunday.

My guess? The Ravens will need to score at least 20 or more to win on Sunday. They scored 20 in Nashville a season ago, remember, and that wasn't enough, as the Titans pulled out a 23-20 win in early November.

I think this Ravens defense is fully capable of holding the Titans to under 20 on Sunday. But the offense has to come though in a way they didn't at Cincinnati and Cleveland earlier this season.

I could be wrong. This one might be a 39-35 shootout where the two defensive units both throw up a stinker and the offenses roll.

But if I'm betting a buck or two, I'd say the game total doesn't get into the 50's. It might barely reach the 40's, even.

I'll simplify it. If the Ravens' offense scores three touchdowns tomorrow, Harbaugh and Company will win the game.

It's that simple.

The only problem? They've done that -- scored three offensive TDs in one game -- exactly ONCE in the last two seasons.

Sunday in Nashville would be a great time for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense to kick it into gear.

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manny to.........the bronx?

There's no way we can be surprised by this.

But the rumor mill is now in full gear up in the Bronx after Thursday's news that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will undergo Tommy John surgery in the near future and will miss part of the 2019 season.

The rumor?

Manny Machado to the Yankees.

This story has been circulating for a couple of years now. Machado's boyhood idol was none other than former Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, so New York becomes a natural fit for the former Oriole. The Yankees have a habit (see Rodriguez and last winter's acquisition, Giancarlo Stanton) of going hard for the big-man-on-campus, which Machado will be this winter when the free agency signing period kicks-off. And having just lost to the Red Sox in the post-season, New York will be desperate to one-up their friends in Boston.

It looks awful, doesn't it?

It's true the Yankees have cooled their jets a bit over the last few years when it comes to free agent spending. And it's fair to look at that Stanton acquisition as almost a free agent signing since they inherited a whopper of a contract while bringing him over from Miami.

But the Yankees also believe in signing really good players. They like to win. And the fact that Boston is the king of the A.L. East these days might very well lead the Bronx Bombers to open their wallet more this off-season than they have in recent years.

Machado seems like a perfect fit, doesn't he?

For us here in Baltimore, seeing Machado in pinstripes will be particularly hard to stomach. It won't quite feel like the Mussina departure of nearly twenty years ago, but it will have the same basic odor. Mussina was offered a deal to stay in Baltimore -- albeit at a "hometown discount" -- but chose the big bucks and bright lights of New York instead.

The Orioles can't afford to give Manny the $200 or $250 million he'll get from the Yankees, especially not with that $100 million Chris Davis contract still suffocating them. So this one will be different than Mussina signing with the evil empire.

But it's still going to hurt to see Machado play for those creeps.

And to make it worse? We all know that deep-down, that's really where Manny has wanted to land all along.

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October 12
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issue 12
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so, i wonder...

This topic is probably only going to connect with those of you who are diehard lovers of University of Maryland sports.

I can't imagine it will really matter to those of you who don't fit that criteria.

Full disclosure, I've never really been a "lover" of Terps athletics. I talked about that issue a lot back in my radio days and have written about it at #DMD quite often. In my 55 years, I've never felt at all connected to Maryland football. On a 1-to-10 scale, I'm an "8", let's say, for Maryland basketball.

So perhaps the story that trickled out of a New York federal court this week won't bother or surprise you. If you're not an ardent supporter of Maryland sports, I assume, like me, you won't really pay it much mind.

But if you are a Maryland athletics diehard, and specifically a basketball devotee, I wonder what this week's news does to you, if anything?

So, if Silvio De Souza turned down $60,000 from Maryland, how much did he get from Kansas?

In case you missed it, Maryland basketball is part of the case centered on sports apparel giant adidas funneling money to high school basketball players -- often through a family member or appointed agent. A Terps booster gave a representative of Silvio De Souza -- who would later sign with Kansas instead of Maryland -- $60,000 in exchange for De Souza agreeing to play basketball for Mark Turgeon at College Park.

That's the extent of Maryland's involvement in the story. The feds are trying to hook a big fish -- adidas, and two of their employees -- and Maryland just happens to be part of the crew getting the rods and reels loaded on the boat.

But now that you know Maryland's playing at the big-boy table and luring (or attempting to) high schoolers to College Park with promises of under-the-table cash, does your impression of the program change at all?

I wonder...

I'm not judging you one way or the other, mind you.

If you say "I couldn't care less, I just want them to win basketball games," I get it. That's the way they function at places like Kansas, Louisville and Kentucky, just to name three. We've become immune to judging colleges who play the game that way.

And if you say, "I'm not supporting any school that is involved in illegal payments to players," I get that too. The under belly of college sports is about as rotten of a place as you can find. Maybe only the men's room at a Flyers home game stinks more than big time college sports.

But one thing Maryland basketball has had in its favor for the better part of two decades -- starting with Gary Williams' arrival in the late 1980's -- was a clean track record. Personal opinion here: One of the reasons the community at large adored Williams and his teams so much was because we knew (or had no reason to doubt) they were beating the cheaters with a fair-and-square program down at College Park.

I'm not sure it would be easy to root for Rick Pitino, for example, when you know going in he's a shady character.

Williams and Maryland basketball did it "the right way", I always thought.

It would appear, given the De Souza story and a couple of others that have circulated over the last year or so, that Maryland basketball under Mark Turgeon has shifted to the dark side.

Giving a kid $60,000 to play hoops for you might be the way most big schools do business these days, but it certainly doesn't mean you, as a fan and a supporter, have to like it.

So, I wonder...

Is the overall perception of Maryland sports changing these days?

There's already a massively important story down there involving the football program and the death of a player. The head coach, suspended in mid-August while an investigation was conducted, is still suspended now, two months later. What's it say for Maryland's administration that they haven't either reinstated or fired D.J. Durkin at this point?

And while the death of an athlete is far more important than a $60,000 payment to a potential student-athlete, it's fair to lump them together as part of a bigger problem at College Park. Winning, apparently, has taken over as the number one priority at Maryland.

You might be OK with it.

You might not really care at all.

I'm wondering where you fall...

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"clean up in aisle five"

You might not be paying much attention to what's going on with the Orioles these days.

If you stopped following them a couple of Sundays back when they blanked the Astros, 4-0, to finish the season at 47-115, I completely understand.

But you're missing some pretty juicy stuff if you checked out back on September 30 and haven't bothered to check back in.

It's starting to get interesting, actually.

Several things have happened over the last two weeks, most notably, a story out of New York where former O's closer Zach Britton all but revealed that the Orioles were (are) not using data and analytics in nearly the same way as other big league clubs do. Britton made specific mention of the information he's given from the Yankees analytics department that, in one example, shows what pitches he threw to hitters (and what the count was, too) and how those hitters fared against said pitches.

The O's analytics department apparently isn't quite as in-depth as the one in New York. Maybe that's why the Orioles won 47 games and the Yankees won 100. Or, one reason, at least.

Outgoing general manager Dan Duquette also took a loose shot at Buck Showalter this week when he mentioned that Buck isn't a big fan of analytics. Duquette openly mentioned pitchers like Wade Miley, Jake Arrieta and Kevin Gausman and wondered why they immediately see their numbers improve when they leave the Orioles organization.

A story circulated on Thursday -- again, analytics intensive -- that suggests one of the reasons why pitchers fare better once they leave Baltimore is because of how bad Orioles catchers have become over the last decade.

Duquette doesn't get absolved from this train wreck, either, though. His passion for Rule 5 picks is well known. This past March, the Orioles came north with 22 major league players and three minor leaguers on their roster. They were pigeon-holed into having to keep Anthony Santander on the 25-man roster throughout all of April and half of May...all because Duquette didn't want to have to offer him back to the Indians if he didn't stay with the big league club for the first six weeks of the 2018 campaign.

So, we get it. Buck is an old school guy who isn't particularly fond of new-age data and analytics. And Duquette is a new school guy who is really fond of finding a diamond in the rough and force-feeding him into a major league dugout two or three years before he's ready for it.

Both guys sound like they won't be employed for long. Oh, wait, they're both unemployed right now.

While these stories aren't the only reasons why Duquette and Buck aren't around any longer, they both go a long way in painting the picture we all thought we'd see once the cover came off the canvas.

It became a dysfunctional dugout in Baltimore, and both Showalter and Duquette were contributors to the chaos.

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October 11
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issue 11
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hot take answers

Yesterday here at #DMD, I threw out five "hot takes" (some hotter than others) and asked all of you to pick the one you most believed in.

We'll get to those poll results momentarily.

In the meantime, I bumped into a #DMD reader on Wednesday who engaged me in conversation about the five topics and asked me my answer on all five. I stopped early on and said, "You know what, I'll just write about them tomorrow!"

So here we are...

Hot Take #1, Joe Flacco stinks -- OK, so his performance last Sunday in Cleveland didn't remind anyone of Joe Montana in his prime. I get it. But the amount of hate Flacco gets in this town is puzzling. He does not stink. Is he Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees? He is not. Guess what, neither is Russell Wilson. Neither is Matt Ryan. Neither is Andy Dalton. I could go on and on. People like to link Flacco's contract with his performance and beat him up for that, as if he owns the team and he's paying himself $24 million annually. Here's the skinny on Flacco: He's a good quarterback. He might not be anything more than that, but he's nothing less than that, either.

Hot Take #2, Orioles need a new owner -- If for no other reason than a new owner would bring new ideas, new people into the mix and, perhaps, a new identity to the team, then yes, the Orioles need a new owner. From what it looks like now, the two Angelos sons, Lou and John, have taken over the day-to-day running of the ballclub. Whether that remains the case once Peter is no longer alive remains to be seen. As I've said recently, it might be fair to give Lou and John a crack at owning the team and managing the operation. They have a fairly clean slate at this point. But it would probably be best if someone new came along to own it and run it.

John Harbaugh's tenure in Baltimore is safe with #DMD readers.

Hot Take #3, Harbaugh needs to go -- I left this question open ended on purpose. "Harbaugh needs to go". When? After the season if the Ravens go 7-9? Or just in general? As the poll results show, Harbaugh remains fairly popular, at least with the #DMD crowd. This is John's 11th year in Baltimore. By NFL standards, that's quite an impressive run. The team's failure to make the post-season in three of the last four years is the nagging cough that won't go away, but one of those years came with the team's starting quarterback tearing his ACL halfway through the season, so that one is sort of understandable. Bottom line: Harbaugh's under the gun. Does he need to go? Not at all. The players still love him and play for him, which is really the number one sign of a coach who is still part of the solution vs. part of the problem. But if the Ravens don't make the post-season this year, he's likely done.

Hot Take #4, Re-sign Adam Jones -- This one is also a little lopsided in that the Orioles could "want" to re-sign Jones but he might get a better offer with guaranteed playing time from someone else and almost be forced to sign there. But the easy and obvious answer to this one is: Yes. The Orioles should make every effort to keep Jones, somehow, even if it's making him the opening day right fielder and giving him a day off a week thereafter. Whether Jones will sign up for a couple of 60-win seasons in '19 and '20 remains to be seen. My guess is he doesn't want to do that. But the O's would do themselves well by re-signing #10.

Hot Take #5, Bad move firing Buck -- I thought this was the easiest "hot take" to answer. After the September 2017 collapse, the rumors of a locker room that had lost faith in him, and the team's 47-115 campaign this past season, it was time for Buck to go. Easy peasy. He did a wonderful job, for the most part, over the last eight years. And some of what happened this season definitely wasn't his fault. The Orioles brought 22 "real" players to Baltimore with them last March. It's hard enough competing in the big leagues when its 25 vs. 25, let alone 22 vs. 25. But the time had come for Buck to move along. It was the right move.

And now, the poll results from Wednesday.

The overwhelming winner was "new Orioles owner", garnering 41% of the vote.

"Re-sign Adam Jones" was next at 28%

"Bad move firing Buck" collected 16% of the tally.

"Harbaugh needs to go" came in at 9%.

And "Joe Flacco stinks" was at 6%.

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dmd's week five nfl team performance value (TPV) chart

You'll notice a change in the way the TPV chart is configured through five weeks of the NFL season.

Chris and Leo, the two Towson students who compile the data and create the formula explain.

"We knew once the bye week started coming into play that we'd have to make an adjustment, somehow," says Leo. "You'd always have teams playing one less game than a bunch of the others and by ranking the teams based on aggregrate point totals, we'd have to come up with a solution that's inclusive of all games played."

So that they did.

Starting with week five, they'll be ranking teams based on their average game-by-game point value. The results, they say, are no different than if they listed the total for the season.

"It's always been a work in progress for us," Chris explains. "We're still tweaking the way we award points. In fact, after looking at the win/loss records of home and away teams through the first four weeks, we went back and changed the scoring for road wins by more than six and a half points. We also tweaked the relative value of a division road win, since those are few and far between."

As a reminder, the maximum points a team can receive for a win is "100". As Leo explains, that would be the NFL's equivalent of a perfect game in baseball. "In our formula, which includes an expected win percentage, a score of 100 could probably only be attained by a winless 0-10 team going into the stadium of a 10-0 team within their division and beating them 20-0. Anything less than that would always have an adjusted point value off of 100."

Here's #DMD's NFL Team Performance Value chart through week five of the season:

1. Kansas City Chiefs -- 82.4

2. Los Angeles Rams – 81.6

3. Cincinnati Bengals – 77.2

4. New Orleans Saints – 76.9

5. Chicago Bears – 74.2

6. Carolina Panthers – 73.9

A home win over Atlanta moved Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers up to #16 on the Team Performance Value chart.

7. New England Patriots – 72.2

8. Minnesota Vikings – 70.9

9. Tennessee Titans – 70.3

10. Baltimore Ravens – 69.5

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 68.9

12. Jacksonville Jaguars – 68.6

13. Los Angeles Chargers – 68.0

15. Green Bay Packers – 67.9

16. Pittsburgh Steelers – 67.5

17. Miami Dolphins – 67.4

18. Detroit Lions – 66.8

19. Cleveland Browns – 66.3

20. New York Jets – 65.8

21. Philadelphia Eagles – 64.9

22. Washington Redskins – 64.5

23. Houston Texans – 64.4

24. Buffalo Bills – 63.9

25. New York Giants – 63.4

26. Denver Broncos – 62.9

27. Dallas Cowboys – 62.6

28. San Francisco 49’ers – 61.8

29. Atlanta Falcons – 61.5

30. Indianapolis – 60.9

31. Oakland Raiders – 60.4

32. Arizona Cardinals – 59.6

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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.

one man's opinion

The 2016 season marked the first time since the 2002 NFL realignment and expansion that all 32 teams attempted more passes than runs. That trend continued last season, with even the offensively-challenged playoff teams in Buffalo and Jacksonville throwing slightly more than half the time.

This year, through five weeks at least, offensive coordinators and play callers have taken it to a whole new level.

Two teams, the Colts and Vikings, have thrown the ball more than 71 percent of the time. Half the league has thrown it more than 60 percent of the time. The aforementioned Jaguars have called a pass almost 65 percent of the time this season, compared to barely more than 50 percent last year, with the same Blake Bortles playing quarterback.

Remember first-and-10? It used to be that a good offensive team made the defense worry about both the run and the pass. This year, a full one-third of the league has called a pass at least two out of three times on first down. The teams that have been more balanced on first down are mostly poor offensive teams: Buffalo, Dallas, Cleveland, etc.

So, what gives, exactly? Some of it is old news, really. There are all the defensive rule changes, which simply make it harder to cover receivers and hit quarterbacks than ever before, which certainly make passing less tricky than ever before.

When teams are paying $25 million or more to their quarterback, they expect the offense to be geared around his arm.

Quarterbacks are paid a lot of money, and teams expect them to showcase their arms for that expense. Kirk Cousins signed a fully-guaranteed three-year contract in Minnesota worth $84 million this past offseason; perhaps it’s no surprise the Vikings have been so pass heavy.

Meanwhile, more quarterbacks are accomplished passers coming out of college, even though many of them played in systems that don’t necessarily translate to the NFL. They’ve thrown it a lot, since they were in high school, and they’ve done it mostly out of the shotgun. There are quarterbacks who’ve never taken a snap from under center before they become pros.

What makes more sense? Teaching them passing concepts that take advantage of their considerable throwing abilities, or forgetting about that and concentrating on handoffs?

Understandably, especially after games like Sunday’s weird one in Cleveland, Ravens fans have a hard time with all this.

From 2010 through 2012, the Ravens were a particularly good team. They won 12 games in both 2010 and 2011, and then won 10 games in a 2012 season that ended with a Super Bowl. How did they do it, besides a miracle in Denver? Balance.

In 2010, Joe Flacco threw a pass 52 percent of the time. In 2011 and 2012, as Flacco matured, that number went a little higher, closer to 56 percent. Either way, the percentage was still well in the bottom half of the league.

In 2014, even with Ray Rice gone, the Ravens made the playoffs again with Flacco throwing the ball around 56 percent of the time. Heck, in 2017, the Ravens were just one defensive play, on a fourth-and-12, from another 10-win season and the playoffs with a similar balanced offense.

So again, what gives?

Even in one game like the Cleveland game, which had more possessions than the average game, why would the coaching staff call so many passes? Ego aside, why wouldn’t a veteran quarterback like Joe Flacco suggest that such a pass-happy strategy wasn’t working?

Maybe it’s because they know that, as much as it seems like the wrong answer, NFL teams still don’t pass the ball as much as they should.

In the last 11 years, passing attempts per game, per team, have increased by about four per game, but there’s actually been an increase in passing efficiency. Yards per attempt are significantly higher than 10 years ago, completion percentage is higher, and interception percentage is lower.

It’s time to finally forget about Woody Hayes, who famously said that “there are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.”

This is the 2018 NFL. We haven’t even come close to the point where more passing leads to bad things, at least over an entire season.

The first down statistics mentioned before, where Minnesota is currently throwing a pass 80 percent of the time? Maybe the Vikings are just being smart. Against the typical defense on first down, which must at the very least be concerned about both running and passing, teams still run too much.

Not to throw too many analytics at you, but according to Sports Info Solutions, only one team in 2017 passed the ball more than they ran it on first down when at least seven defensive players were “in the box.” Only one team was “smart” enough to turn that into a passing situation.

That team was the Eagles, who happened to win the Super Bowl. Doug Pederson’s team broke tradition in a lot of ways, and it’s a copycat league. Maybe the Vikings and others have taken that to heart in 2018.

Through a little more than one quarter of the season, with players returning from injury and other transactions, 2018 has been unique in that regard. The Colts couldn’t pass a lot last year with Jacoby Brissett; they don’t feel the same with Andrew Luck. The Vikings played similarly to the Colts last year with Case Keenum; thanks to the Cousins signing, they’ve reversed course in a big way.

Green Bay has increased its passing volume, and it will stay that way if Aaron Rodgers plays every game, unlike last season. Pittsburgh had Le’Veon Bell last season and threw the ball less than 60 percent of the time; without Bell so far, that number for Ben Roethlisberger this season is more than 67 percent.

When a team feels it can depend on its quarterback to be efficient, no matter how much the run seems like the right play, that team is going to pass more than it used to. Sometimes, like for the Ravens on Sunday in Cleveland, it will feel like they’ve forgotten to run the ball at all.

NFL teams did this to themselves, of course. They realized, albeit slowly, that more passing was almost like more three-point shooting in the NBA. The advantages of the lower “percentage” play far outweighed what was traditionally thought to be the right way.

And it’s changed the game, in the same way that basketball has pretty much eliminated the “inefficient” mid-range game. You either have a good passing game or a lousy offense. There really isn’t any in-between.

Of course, to pass that much, especially in situations that for many years seemed to call for runs, you still need the right person doing the passing. Right now, almost every team in the NFL is willing to believe their quarterback fits the profile.

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October 10
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issue 10
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opinions are part of the game

In perusing the comments section of #DMD last night while I watched the Red Sox eliminate the Yankees, I noticed a flare up from a few people who were chastising commenters for posting their opinion(s) about the Ravens.

Shame on you. The last thing we need here are comment bullies.

There seemed to be a general notion from some folks that sports fans shouldn't be critical of coaches and players. "They know more than you" was the overriding theme, or at least the one that I gathered from reading the comments and rebuttals.

Well, of course they know more than we do. That's a given.

But in no way does that absolve them of criticism when its due or proper.

I'll admit there's a difference between watching a game and commenting about it after the fact and watching it and commenting about it as it happens. I can cite a great example of those two theories.

It was a warm, almost summer'ish night in Baltimore on October 4. I remember watching the wild card game between the Orioles and Blue Jays from Toronto with the front door to my house open, a nice breeze blowing through the living room well into the late evening.

Some people in town never forgave Ubaldo Jimenez for his performance in the 2016 Wild Card loss at Toronto. Others blamed manager Buck Showalter for having Jimenez in there in the first place.

Me in the bottom of the 11th inning: "No, Buck, not Jimenez. Not here. Not now. You have Britton in the bullpen. Use him now."

Me later in that inning: "Come on Buck, don't let Jimenez be the goat here. Get him out. Use Britton."

Me a few minutes later: "Well, Buck, you're going to get crushed for that decision for a long, long time."

Two years later, some baseball followers call it the worst managerial move (or non-move) in playoff history. It was that dumb.

Buck deserved all the criticism he could handle for that situation. That didn't make him a terrible manager, mind you, although there are folks within the Orioles organization who claim to this day that veteran players never forgave Showalter -- or trusted him again -- for that faux pas in Toronto.

But we, the folks on the outside-looking-in, had every right to be critical of Showalter.

Here's a more recent example and another one of those "I said it when it was happening moments".

As soon as I saw the Friday morning Ryder Cup pairings and Phil Mickelson wasn't playing in the better-ball format, I predicted gloom for the U.S. team. Not because Mickelson was some sort of "must use" superstar or anything like that. I just knew the pairings were going to be fouled up right from the start with Phil sitting out the format more fitting for his game and, I assumed (correctly), playing the alternate shot format later that was ill-fitting for his style.

I didn't have to wait until Sunday afternoon to beat up Jim Furyk. I started doing it Friday morning, even when the U.S. initially surged to a 3-1 lead after that morning session.

I'm certainly not saying I would make a better Ryder Cup captain than Jim Furyk. But I'm definitely saying I wouldn't have ever sat Phil Mickelson for the better ball portion of the event and then inserted him into the alternate shot format.

That much I do know.

We are all allowed to be critical of John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Buck Showalter, Jim Furyk and anyone else in the world of sports.

Guess what? Sometimes they goof up. If coaches and players didn't make mistakes, they'd never change teams or organizations.

I noticed some wise guy yesterday said to someone in the comments section: "Are you scrutinized at work by people outside your chosen profession?"

That's the "gotcha question" of the day right there. But the truth is there are plenty of professions in our country where people from the outside get a chance to be critical of employees. Ask anyone who works for a publicly traded company how nerve wracking it is to face the shareholders on a quarterly basis.

But that's neither here nor there, really.

Part of professional and college sports is, and has always been, outside criticism, whether that's from season ticket holders, sponsors or the media. It comes with the territory.

We try to be as cogent about our criticism as we can be here, mostly in an effort to have a higher set of standards than you might find on the street or at the neighborhood bar. But in reality, everyone watching the games has a right to their opinion(s).

Please don't let comment bullies get to you here.

Chime in whenever you want and make your take as tepid, hot or scorching as you prefer.

You might not be right. Or perhaps you are.

Either way, you're entitled to your opinion here and it's always welcomed.

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joe girardi?

Maybe Joe Girardi and Brady Anderson had a golf date for October 9 set up long before the Orioles canned Buck Showalter last week.

I guess that's possible.

But let's pretend for a minute yesterday's round of golf at Caves Valley wasn't pre-planned.

Why, then, would Girardi and Anderson be playing golf on a Tuesday in October?

Could Anderson already be interviewing potential managerial candidates? Girardi would certainly be on anyone's short list, although he and the Orioles had a brief flirtation a decade ago before he asked for an "out" in his contract that would allow him to leave Baltimore for an opening with the Cubs or Yankees and the O's said "no" to that request.

Could an October golf get-together with Brady Anderson be the first step for Joe Girardi to be the next O's manager?

I assumed that might forever keep him out of orange and black.

Maybe it won't.

At the risk of reading too much into a Tuesday afternoon golf game in Baltimore, I'll stop stirring the pot on this one. But it is fair to ask one question, at least.

Isn't the new Orioles general manager going to hire the next field manager? Isn't that the way it read in last week's press release? (I know...that's actually two questions, but the second question was just a continuation of the first one.)

Maybe Anderson's just previewing potential candidates. Maybe he and Girardi have an annual golf trip together and this year it just happened to be in Charm City.

But if Girardi does wind up getting the O's gig, it stands to reason he was pre-appointed before the new GM took the reins in Baltimore.

I like Joe Girardi, actually, and would applaud the Birds if they can snag him for 2019.

That said, I'm following along with the process the O's publicly announced last week and just wondering why Anderson would be hanging out with a managerial candidate when we were led to believe the new GM would be handling that decision?

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October 9
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issue 9
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the morning after the morning after

Sometimes it takes a couple of days for clarity to settle in and take hold.

In the immediate aftermath of a loss like the Ravens suffered on Sunday, you think crazy thoughts. You see things differently, or at the very least, your quick assessment of the good, bad and ugly tends to lean more in the direction of the negative.

The morning after the morning after is almost always a better time to reflect.

But not today.

Thirty six hours later and not much has changed. That loss in Cleveland on Sunday was terrible.

Yes, all the cliches still ring true: "The other team tries, too." Still fits.

"The Browns have players on full scholarship as well." Indeed, they do.

"On any given Sunday..." Oh boy, don't we all know that.

But the Ravens lost on Sunday because they didn't coach very well.

No offense to Hue or his family, but when you lose to the Browns, you're losing to Hue Jackson. That's about as low as you can get.

Marty Mornhinweg and John Harbaugh are in need of a better game-plan for this Sunday's road game in Nashville against the Titans.

You know Hue Jackson, right? He's the coach who signaled "two" with his index and middle fingers on Sunday afternoon after his field goal kicker nailed the game-winner with just 00:02 left on the clock. Hue, you see, either forgot or just plain didn't realize the game was over when the kick was made. He was still "coaching 'em up" at that point, reminding his team they still had two seconds left on the game clock.

Yeah, we lost to the that guy.

But more importantly, the Ravens lost to themselves. There's a saying in golf: "I couldn't stay out of my own way". It applies to someone who has a really good, sometimes career-best stretch of holes, and then suddenly finds themselves on the cusp of doing something special, whether that's winning a key match or tournament or shooting a low 18 hole score for themselves.

Eventually, they get bogged down with thoughts that shouldn't really be there in the first place. That's when you "can't stay out of my own way".

That's precisely what happened to John Harbaugh and Marty Mornhinweg on Sunday in Cleveland.

Harbaugh gets a slice of the blame for one reason; he's the head coach. If it happens under his watch, he gets a piece of the credit or the blame.

Mornhinweg gets a huge piece of the blame because he designed the game plan and made the play calls during the 12-9 OT defeat. I don't care how hard the other team tries, when you don't get in the end zone of 70 minutes of NFL football, you're doing something wrong.

In both of their losses this season, the offensive coordinator did essentially the exact same thing midway through the game. He stopped using the running attack, instead opting to just throw the ball on virtually every play in an attempt to "get back in the game".

Here's the problem from Sunday's loss that perhaps Marty didn't see for himself: The Ravens were never out of the game in the first place.

Cincinnati was different. Not by much, mind you, but it was different. Mornhinweg abandoned the team's running attack in the third quarter when the Ravens trailed 28-14. In that case, specifically, the Ravens were down by two scores.

On Sunday, they trailed 6-3 at the half when Marty's air-assault-game-plan was instituted. It eventually became 9-3 in favor of Cleveland, but, still, that's a one score game.

It's true Joe Flacco didn't remind anyone of Joe Montana on Sunday, but it certainly wasn't all Flacco's fault. His receivers dropped a number of balls thrown perfectly in stride. Still, as I wrote on Monday here at #DMD, anytime a NFL team doesn't score a touchdown in a game, the quarterback almost always gets the lion's share of the blame.

But this time around, you can tag the offensive coordinator with the loss.

Mornhinweg's insistence on involving Lamar Jackson in the game plan remains puzzling. Maybe one of these games Jackson will break off a huge run or throw a big-gain-completion and everyone will be able to say, "You see! I told you it would pay off!"

I'd bet that does happen at some point. Jackson has been close to creating a big play for himself on a few occasions in the first five weeks.

But every time you bring Jackson on and replace the team's real quarterback with a rookie, it lessens your chances for success on that play. That's my opinion, anyway. The Ravens have a better chance of doing something well offensively if Flacco is on the field and participating in all 70 of the team's offensive plays than if he's only involved in 64 of the team's 70 offensive plays.

And I'm not anti-Lamar Jackson, mind you. I'm just anti-we-have-to-get-Lamar-Jackson-into-the-game-as-a-rookie, I suppose.

Here's the skinny on the Ravens through five weeks. If you look at the schedule now, the Ravens have yet to defeat a team over .500.

There wins are against Buffalo (2-3), Denver (2-3) and Pittsburgh (2-2-1). Yes, yes, I'm well aware of the old adage, "You can only play who they put on the schedule." I'm just pointing out that Baltimore's three wins haven't exactly come against New England, the Rams and Kansas City.

It might take two weeks to see how good the Ravens really are. After next Sunday's visit to Nashville to take on the offensively challenged Titans, the Ravens get back to playing varsity teams on October 21 when the Saints come marching in. Drew Brees and Company will present a huge challenge for the Ravens defense, but an even bigger one for the offense. They'll have to score some points against New Orleans in order to win. More pressure on Marty, Flacco and the offense...

The scheme and game-plan mean everything in the NFL. It's what coaches are paid to do, mostly, in the NFL. The players are all mostly of equal caliber, although clearly some teams have a better collection of talent than others.

It's the coaching and "coordinating" that separates teams on any given Sunday. Two weeks ago, Mornhinweg authored a remarkable game-plan against the Steelers and was a huge reason why they went to Heinz Field and won, 26-14. Sadly, he was a big part of Sunday's 12-9 stinker in Cleveland.

Players play and coaches coach.

They tend to make each other look good.

Or, as Mornhinweg showed on Sunday...not good.

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the nfl's top six

Our #DMD "Team Performance Value" chart will run in Wednesday's edition, as our friends Chris and Leo provide analytical data to rank the 32 NFL teams through week five.

I'll typically receive the chart from them sometime mid-day Tuesday, once they've had time to calculate everything from all the games, including the Monday Night contest (won last night by the Saints, by the way, 43-19 over the Redskins).

In the meantime, I'll start something every Tuesday that tells you who I think the six best teams in the league are right now. As you'll see, that might even mean a team in my top six has a worse record than a team I failed to include.

You'll see how it works. You'll probably even disagree, which is all the better. Feel free to throw in your top six teams in the Comments section below.

We even have a reader's poll today that asks you to pick the THIRD best team in the NFL, acknowledging that the top two are Kansas City and the Rams, in some order.

So here we go...

#6, Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) -- I'm not sure if Sunday's win in Philadelphia tells us more about the Eagles or the Vikings, but when you go into the defending champ's stadium and win, it's a big triumph. I still say the Vikings will be heard from when the dust settles in January.

#5, New England Patriots (3-2) -- They still have Tom Brady, so they're always dangerous. If you're willing to concede that loss to Detroit was in part because of Matt Patricia's in-depth knowledge of Brady and the New England offense, than they're better than they've showed thus far. It's fair to point out, though, that their three wins (Houston, Miami and Indy) have all come at home and have come against "meh" teams.

A.J. Green and the Bengals find themselves in first place in the AFC North.

#4, Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) -- I can't imagine the Bengals are going to stay in the top six very long, but let's face facts, they've won 4 of 5, including victories in Indianapolis and Atlanta. They still have five division games remaining, though. Those will likely decide their season. I'm not sure their defense is stout enough to win in January but they can definitely put some points on the scoerboard if everyone stays healthy on the offensive side of the ball.

#3, New Orleans Saints (4-1) -- Speaking of putting points on the board...these guys can do it in a hurry. A 43-19 clobbering of Washington last night only confirmed what we already knew about the Saints. Their offense is the real deal. In their five games this year, they've scored 40, 21, 43, 33 and 43 points. You can add 'em up if you want. I'll just say "that's a lot of points".

#2, Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) -- It's a coin flip for #2 and #1. I went with the Rams at #1 because of their offense. But that K.C. offense isn't chopped liver, either. Sunday's win over the Jaguars might have told us more about Jacksonville than anything else, but that was still a pretty impressive beatdown they put on Jalen Ramsey and Company.

#1, Los Angeles Rams (5-0) -- True, they've allowed more points over the last three weeks (31, 31 and 23) than you probably think championship-caliber teams should, but they've scored more than their opponent in all three of those games. The L.A. offense is legit. Jared Goff might be on his way to an MVP season.

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October 8
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issue 8
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market corrected

You can't possibly be surprised by what you saw in Cleveland yesterday.

An upset? Of course. When a team that hasn't won a game on a Sunday since Obama was President wins one, it's an upset.

But you can't be surprised.

The Ravens were due for a colossal stinker like yesterday's 12-9 loss in Cleveland. And the Browns were due to snag one that they otherwise half-gave-away (again) by not being able to convert on an extra point in the second quarter.

Don't think for a second that I'm underselling what happened yesterday. I'm not in the least. It was a bad, bad loss for John Harbaugh's team.

When all the dust settles in late December, a loss like the one we saw yesterday might be the difference between 9-7 and 10-6. It might keep you out of the playoffs...again.

There will be "experts" around town who will bash the Ravens for the loss with sticking points like, "Great teams don't lose games like that to the Browns."

The Patriots lost -- badly -- to the Lions earlier this year. The Bills beat the Vikings in Minnesota. Denver just went to New York yesterday and got run out of the gym by the Jets. The same Jets, you'll remember, who lost to the...Browns.

The NFL is a crazy league. The craziest of them all, I'd say.

It wasn't pretty and it barely toppled through the uprights, but this kick sent Cleveland home a winner over the Ravens on Sunday.

So, yes, what we saw on Sunday was bound to happen to someone at some point. Cleveland is an improving team with a pretty solid defense. If they weren't the Browns, they might actually be 4-1 or 5-0. Time and time again this season, they've shot themselves in the foot worse than Plaxico Burress.

And the Ravens, coming off that huge win in Pittsburgh last Sunday, were ripe for the picking.

I like to call it "market correction".

But how, exactly, did it all happen?

For starters, when Joe Flacco throws the football 56 times in a game (granted, they played ten extra minutes), the Ravens are losing. Had you told me on Sunday morning you saw the script and "Joe has 56 pass attempts" I would have most certainly said, "Well, that's a loss."

Five quarterbacks in week five threw the ball 50 or more times: Blake Bortles (61), Andrew Luck (59), Flacco (56), Aaron Rodgers (51) and Case Keenum (51).

All five have something in common from their respective efforts. Even a Flyers fan can figure it out (I think). All of them were losers in week five.

It's not an exact science. Occasionally you'll win a game throwing it 50 or more times. History says, though, that Joe Flacco won't be one of those guys.

Look, Flacco and the offense were due for a bad game. Part of that was on the quarterback, for sure. Part was on Michael Crabtree. And part was on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

Oh, and the Browns have defensive players on scholarship too, don't forget.

You'll get a bunch of goofs this week who try to blame it all on Flacco because that's the sexy take to throw out there. "If Joe doesn't throw that pick on the 2 yard line..." we'll hear over and over and over.

How about this...if Michael Crabtree catches that ball in the end zone in the final minute of the fourth quarter, that second quarter red zone mistake gets swept under the rug.

Quarterbacks make mistakes. It's how they rebound from those that matters most. Flacco coulda-shoulda-woulda rebounded from his mistake by throwing a TD pass late in the game except the wide receiver didn't hold on to the ball.

But...let's also call it like it is: Flacco didn't play well on Sunday.

When you don't score a touchdown in a 60-minute NFL game -- and Sunday's actually went 70 minutes -- that's a bad offensive performance, period. And when you don't get in the end zone, the quarterback will get a large chunk of the blame. That's just the way it is.

But there's plenty of blame to go around.

It goes without saying that Crabtree is really struggling. Picking up a case of "the drops" in the NFL is akin to getting the yips with your putter in golf. "They're like a virus," said Roy McAvoy's caddie, Romeo, in the movie Tin Cup. "They just show up out of nowhere and no one really knows how to fix them."

The Ravens will have a tough time winning big games if Crabtree isn't going to hold on to the ball when it's thrown his way.

Sunday's game was in his hands. Unfortunately, the ball wasn't.

And for all the back slaps and fist bumps everyone gave Marty Mornhinweg after his masterful coordinating effort last Sunday in Pittsburgh, he was awful on Sunday. Jose Feliciano could have done a better job.

As he did in the second and third quarters at Cincinnati in week 2, Mornhinweg panicked when the Ravens could only put up three points against the Browns through thirty minutes on Sunday. Rather than just grind away and use the run and pass in balance, he abandoned the run and just had Flacco throw the ball 8 of 10 times throughout most of the second half and overtime.

He was so panicked, Mornhinweg even inserted Lamar Jackson into the game in overtime to try and catch Cleveland off guard.

I don't get it.

It's like Van Halen going with that Gary Cherone guy as their lead singer for three years. He can sing and all, but they would have been better off just sticking with what got them there.

Putting Lamar Jackson into the game in overtime to try and make something happen is dumb. Make that..."was" dumb.

The Ravens will no doubt bemoan the questionable block-in-the-back call against Chris Moore when it looked like they were on their way to a Justin Tucker overtime game-winner. It looked like a soft call, for sure, but when you let the Browns hang around long enough, market correction is bound to happen.

And here's the thing. It's hard to accept this because there's no place in the standings for "deserved to lose" or "deserved to win", but if you're the Ravens and you make the mistakes they made and do the puzzling play calling things they did throughout the game, you basically deserve to lose.

Oh, and let's give the Browns some credit. They're no longer a push-over, which I first mentioned last Monday here at #DMD and reiterated again in the Sunday morning preview piece. They are a team that will hang around and be a nuisance if you allow them to do so.

The Ravens let the Browns stay in the game yesterday.

And the market got corrected.

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coaches edition


Buck Showalter

The numbers will say that Buck Showalter’s managing record in Baltimore resulted in more losses than wins, though the truth is that the Orioles lost more games than they won while Buck was the manager only three times in eight seasons, plus about one-third of a ninth.

The last postseason memory involving Showalter involves Edwin Encarnacion hitting a game-winning dinger while Zach Britton sat in the bullpen, but the Orioles also won six postseason games while Buck was in charge.

The Orioles finished 47-115 in his final season, one of the worst years in the history of Major League Baseball, which makes it a little harder to remember the good years, not to mention a little easier to let him walk away.

Buck’s time in Baltimore was a triumph, both for the team and for him personally. He hadn’t lasted more than four years at any of his previous managerial stops. In his fourth full year in Baltimore, the Orioles won 96 games and the AL East title for the first time in 17 years.

My favorite memories of Showalter as the O’s manager are his reaction shots when the Orioles won clinchers—the 2012 Wild Card game, for instance. He was now the older guy, watching with a wry smile from the bench as the young men on the field celebrated. He’d been to the playoffs before, once in New York and once in Arizona, but you got the sense these were different.


A genius move

No, the Ravens did not win Sunday’s frustrating semi-epic (sarc) in Cleveland, though I’m not sure they deserved to. And yes, Baker Mayfield made some plays, and there’s no doubt he’s gone quickly from quarterback of the future to quarterback of the present.

Still, what defensive coordinator Don Martindale said about Mayfield last week was a stroke of genius. The quote was great. “I’ve already told the defense this: I think Baker Mayfield is this generation’s Brett Favre or John Elway,” Martindale said.

I can’t imagine that Martindale didn’t hyperbolize on purpose. It seems like he was trying to get someone’s attention, whether he actually sat in the meeting room last week and told Terrell Suggs that this guy was the second coming of John Elway.

Honestly, it was almost like Martindale was trying to talk to the fans too. If Mayfield made some nice throws and found a way to help his team win, which he did, then let’s give credit to the young quarterback as opposed to blame to Martindale’s defense.

There is something about Mayfield that looks different, at least in the early going. He really is able and willing, as Martindale said, to fit balls into tight windows. He really does have a personality that easy to be drawn to, for his teammates and the long-suffering Cleveland fans.

For their sake, here’s hoping that Martindale is right. They definitely deserve it.


College Park

Practice has started for Mark Turgeon’s Maryland basketball team, who’ll play their first regular season game exactly four weeks from tomorrow (!) at home against Delaware. A few days later, they’ll make a short trip to Annapolis to play Navy at Alumni Hall as part of the annual Veterans Classic.

Certainly it would help Turgeon if the Terrapins returned to the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus. Before that, though, Maryland needs to figure out how to win on the road.

Last season, the Terps went to Michigan State and Ohio State on consecutive Thursday nights in January and lost by 30 points and 22 points, respectively. Then, they coughed up a big lead at Michigan and lost in overtime. Maryland also lost at Indiana, Penn State and Nebraska, none of whom made the NCAA tournament. In fact, the Big 10’s four NCAA bids last year were its fewest since 2008.

Good teams win almost every conference game at home and sneak a few good wins on the road. Maryland was not a good team last year; they were an average team with one player (Kevin Huerter) who often played spectacularly.

The Navy game is Maryland’s only road game before visiting Purdue December 6. The Big 10 has gone to a 20-game conference schedule this year, becoming the first league in NCAA Division I to do so. The ACC will go to a 20-game schedule in 2019-20.


After every loss

The Ravens have so much recent history with replacing offensive coordinators that it’s become a weekly game in Baltimore to blame the coordinator after a loss.

This week, after he got so much praise the first month, the boos are raining down on Marty Mornhinweg. Joe Flacco passed it 56 times in Cleveland, and it wasn’t the good Joe Flacco. There’s just no way the Ravens are ever winning a game when Flacco throws it that much, right?

Sure, in hindsight. But, if Michael Crabtree catches one of those 56 passes, the Ravens escape with a win and nobody is really saying anything about play calling.

The fact is that the NFL is a passing league; it may be a cliché, but it’s never been truer.

On Thursday, the Patriots beat the Colts 38-24. The game featured 103 passing attempts and 44 rushing attempts.

On Sunday, the Panthers beat the Giants 33-31. The teams combined for 47 rushing attempts and 72 passing attempts, and it was only that “even” because Cam Newton runs the ball more than any other quarterback in the NFL.

In the NFL in 2018, you don’t win by running the ball. You don’t even need to try to run the ball. Your quarterback is going to throw a lot of passes; he has to be efficient doing it, and he (and his receivers) have to make a big play once in a while.


Picking the new O’s manager

As with many job openings, there are plenty of good candidates for the Orioles’ managerial opening. Plus, as teams have proven with guys from the broadcast booth, there isn’t necessarily a straight-line background to managing in the majors anymore.

The one thing to remember, for fans and for anyone interested in the job, is that the team is going to be terrible for a while.

That (almost) certainty makes it seem like someone from the organization, like Gary Kendall or Ron Johnson, would be a good fit for the job. Kendall has worked with many of the players who may make up the next good Orioles team, while Johnson is a player favorite and has big league experience.

The world is full of ex big-league skippers, though it’s unusual to have a guy available who just finished a 19-year career with one team. Mike Scioscia doesn’t seem like much of a fit in Baltimore, though. Paul Molitor was just canned in Minnesota, though I’d bet he’ll be back somewhere in the big leagues soon.

Then there’s Mike Bordick, who definitely wants the job. Whether that will be enough to get him hired is questionable.

A name to consider, maybe even high on the list, is former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, brother of former Oriole Gary Roenicke. Ron Roenicke won more games than he lost in Milwaukee, though he was let go after just 25 games of the 2015 season when the Brewers started the year 7-18.

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

Not that I'm celebrating but...I called that one!

In a result that wasn't nearly as surprising as a lot of people are making it out to be, the Ravens went off to Cleveland and laid an egg against the revamped and very tough Browns, 12-9.

The "new and improved" Ravens' offense looked suspiciously like the same old offense we've gotten used to seeing during the Harbaugh-Flacco era, failing to score a single touchdown in 70 minutes of football, and with miscues from pretty much everyone killing drives and ultimately contributing to the loss.

But before we get into what went wrong, let's give some credit where it's due: These are not the same old Browns. As many other people have noted, Hue Jackson's crew are a mere two bad kicks and a blown referee's decision away from being 5-0.

Furthermore, in the first two games of the season they weren't even starting Baker Mayfield. Their defense, in particular, has a lot of talent on it and, as they showed by holding the Saints to 21 points (in overtime) in New Orleans, are capable of hanging with anyone.

At 2-2-1, and 2-1 under Mayfield, they're still in the AFC wild card picture approximately 1/3 of the way into the season, and Mayfield is likely to get better the more he sees of NFL defenses. In other words, don't put Week 17 in the win column for the Ravens just yet either!

Now, onto everything else:

-The week's biggest goat, without question, is Marty Mornhinweg. I've often thought that Marty gets a bad rap here given what he's had to work with here since he took over in 2016, but I have absolutely no idea what the heck the idea was coming into this game, and the execution was, obviously, even worse.

Did the Browns win on Sunday or did the Ravens lose?

After two weeks of well designed offenses coming up big in important games, this week looked like a throwback to some of the worst moments of the Cam Cameron era. Flacco threw 56 times, mostly to receivers running isolation routes, and sometimes seemingly to no one in particular.

Despite having four tight ends active, and with three of them having been successful through the first four games, Mornhinweg didn't come up with any particularly clever ways to get any of them open and allow them to run with the ball. And though it's a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, despite the fact that the read option play with Lamar Jackson was consistently gaining yards at Pittsburgh, the Ravens ran it only twice in Cleveland.

The first time Jackson threw a roll out pass incomplete on a play that was well covered, and the second time he converted a 3rd and 2 on the run even though the Browns had it well defended because he was simply too fast and athletic for the defender to keep from getting to the edge.

The whole thing was uninspired, to say the least, and at times it looked like the offensive coaches thought that all they needed to do was show up with their uniforms on to win this week.

-After every game this year I've said the same thing: Michael Crabtree's drops are a problem. This week that problem finally reached the point where it might have cost the Ravens the game, as Crabtree killed more than one drive with an ill timed drop.

Ironically, the play he's gotten the most flack for wasn't actually even that bad. Though Joe Flacco made a good throw against good coverage, making sure that no defender had a chance on the ball, Crabtree's chance at a go ahead touchdown wasn't actually a sure thing by any means as the ball was still thrown high and hard, a difficult play for a receiver to make.

Then again, if he'd reeled in a few gimmes earlier in the game, it might not have mattered.

-And then there's Joe Flacco. I'm writing this on Sunday evening, and it's already setting up to be a classic week for the cult of Flacco apologists looking for any way to absolve the $24 million quarterback of any blame whatsoever for a loss in which the offense didn't score a single touchdown.

And here's the thing, it's not that Flacco was awful, and certainly not that he was the worst thing about the Ravens' offense in Cleveland. That's not beyond him or anything, but it also is far from a regular occurrence that Flacco is just dreadful and single handedly keeps the team from winning a game.

But he didn't really do anything particularly good on Sunday either, and did it in pretty much the way he does it every game the offense struggles without being downright horrendous. He threw deep balls into coverage on 2nd down where incompletions left them trying to convert 3rd and longs instead of more manageable distances.

His footwork got away from him and he missed receivers or put balls in tough to catch locations. And yes, he combined all of that to throw a dreadful and terribly costly interception in the red zone that, at the risk of invoking the fallacy of the predetermined outcome, ultimately served as a proximate cause for the Ravens losing 12-9 in overtime instead of winning 12-9 in regulation.

And despite all of the upgrades the Ravens made to the offense this offseason, it simply remains the case that you can't have a $24 million quarterback play like that and expect to win a game in the NFL. It's just not going to happen.

But I do appreciate how seamlessly we went from "see Flacco is awesome now that he has really good receivers" to "Michael Crabtree is trash and 100% to blame for that loss" in all of one week though. You can never say that the Flacco apologists don't stay on brand.

-Switching gears, the Ravens' defense turned in a really good game, and has been a lot better than I thought they'd be at this point. Some of that was Mayfield holding the ball too long in the pocket like a rookie and letting the Ravens' pass rushers get to him, but a lot of it was Wink Martindale coming up with some good blitz packages and guys making plays.

And the secondary continues to be very good. Yes it's aggravating that they had Cleveland in a 2nd and 21 inside their own 10 and let them move into position for a game winning field goal, but it's hard to put any blame on a unit that only allowed 9 points in regulation in today's NFL. Brandon Carr in particular had another nice game and made some solid plays. Tavon Young, on the other hand, offsets some of his big plays by getting burnt when he's being picked on.

-Here's something to keep in mind moving forward: It's hip to say that the Ravens can't keep asking Flacco to throw 45+ times a game, and I understand that people have an aesthetic preference for a run based offense but...the Ravens aren't very good at running the ball!

Don't get me wrong, they can hit some big plays here and there as we saw when Alex Collins and Buck Allen ripped off runs of 19 and 17 yards respectively, but they can't gain solid positive yardage on a consistent basis and that's what you need to "establish the run."

You can't call up running plays only to gain 1 or 2 yards at best and put yourself in 3rd and 7 or longer, and you also can't surrender multiple possessions trying to "establish the run" like that. The biggest problem here is the offensive line, and specifically that Ronnie Stanley and James Hurst in particular are just not very good at run blocking. And again, that's not the worst thing in the world at all: The Ravens have a quarterback with a $24 million cap number, and they've built an offensive line that specializes in pass blocking. That's reasonable!

You can't really demand an offense built to help the quarterback but then also lament when they aren't specialists in ground and pound offense because you want to avoid having your very expensive quarterback throw the ball 40 times a game. At some point we're going to have to decide whether Flacco can carry an offense for a whole season with no more than one or two games like this one or whether it was, in fact, a huge mistake to sign him to a big contract after four big playoff games in 2013. It really can't be both.

-Speaking of that Super Bowl season, anyone inching too close to the ledge can find some consolation in the way that year played out. The Super Bowl 47 champions won an ugly game with an anemic offense against a Kansas City team that went on to claim the number one pick in the draft after that season, and actually lost to a Philadelphia team that ended up picking fourth.

The fact that they lost in Cleveland won't have any bearing on how they play in November or December or (possibly) January, and despite the fact that the loss itself is a setback, if you're being honest with yourself you wouldn't be sweating a 3-2 record if the two losses came in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh rather than Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Just about every team drops a bad game on the road that they probably should have won, and if it turns out that that's all this is then it won't necessarily be a big deal at all at the end of the year. Heck if the Ravens win next week and Cincinnati delivers their customary loss to the Steelers, then the Ravens are right there in first place with a chance to run the table at home against the other AFC North teams still on the table.

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Week 5

Sunday — October 7, 2018
Volume LI — Issue 7

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

1:00 PM EDT

FirstEnergy Stadium
Cleveland, OH

Spread: Ravens (-3)

show them proper respect

This is not Johnny Manziel's Cleveland Browns.

Heck, this isn't even Brock Osweiler's Cleveland Browns.

These Browns have actually won once during the first four weeks of the season.

Let's hope today isn't their second win.

The Ravens are in Cleveland today for what previously was always a guaranteed win. Those days are slowly starting to end, it would appear. The Browns have improved on both sides of the ball and with a real kicker and a dash of good fortune (and a couple of referees who know what they're doing), they'd be 3-0 or -- gasp -- maybe even 4-0 at this point.

Cleveland's defense might present a challenge today. While it's certainly not a week-to-week league, a quick look at what the Browns have done shows three good defensive performances and one lousy one in the season's first month.

They held the Steelers to 21 points (without Le'Veon Bell, granted) in the season opener on September 9, gave up the same number of points in New Orleans the following week (21-18 OT loss) and then surrendered just 17 points against the Jets four days later in a 21-17 win.

Oakland put up 45 points on them last Sunday, but that appears to be the outlier of the group.

Cleveland is 1-2-1, but have played teams much tighter than that record shows.

John Harbaugh's team comes in at 3-1, a week removed from a 26-14 thrashing of the Steelers in Pittsburgh. This Ravens team, as good as its been through four weeks, shouldn't lose to the Browns today. But it's the NFL. It's a crazy, crazy league.

Of particular importance is the fact that this afternoon's game in Cleveland ends the Ravens' road schedule within the division. A victory today and they're 2-1 in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Over the years, a team that goes 5-1 in their division has about a 90% chance of making the playoffs. A 4-2 division record gives you about an 80% chance of making it. Still good odds, but 5-1 sure is a lot better than 4-2.

A Ravens win today means they can still finish 5-1 by sweeping their division foes in Baltimore later this season. A loss...and the best they can do is finish 4-2 in the AFC North.

So just how can the Ravens win today? I'm glad you asked.


Let's hope "Road Joes" is smiling like this around 4:00 pm today.

NO FLACCO TURNOVERS -- "Road Joe" and "Home Joe" are different guys, as anyone knows who follows the Ravens closely. "Home Joe" rarely throws that interception that Flacco tossed early in the week two loss to the Bengals. "Road Joe" has a tendency to toss one or two of those when the Ravens are on foreign turf. One of the only ways the Ravens can lose today is if "Road Joe" shows up and authors a couple of untimely blunders, like throwing a pick or having the ball knocked out of his hands late in the game (Exhibit B from the Bengals game). If Flacco finishes today with no turnovers, the Ravens are likely an easy winner.

KEEP EVERYONE INVOLVED -- Perhaps the biggest strength of the offense thus far has been their ability to "spread the wealth". No longer is Flacco keying on just one or two receivers. He has six or seven different options to throw, not counting his running backs, and he's been masterful at using them all. That formula needs to continue today. If the stat sheet has more than seven players with a reception at game's end, the Ravens are likely winners.

RED ZONE DEFENSE -- Cleveland's offense perked up last week in Oakland with 42 points, but that was probably more of a testament to how bad the Raiders are, honestly. In today's game, the Ravens have to clamp down in the red zone and not allow Baker Mayfield and Company to build up any confidence with scoring plays and TD strikes. Field goals are fine. Touchdowns aren't. Holding the Browns to no more than two TD's should be the goal. Two or fewer touchdowns for Cleveland and the Ravens should come out on top.

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how drew sees today's game

I've been saying all week this game concerns me.

Here we are on Sunday, and it still does.

I'm a believer in "market correction", as a lot of you know. Miami was a victim of that concept last week in New England, for example. A couple of weeks ago it was Minnesota losing at home to Buffalo.

Drew sees good things for the Ravens today.

The league is nuts. And teams that "appear" good for a week or three suddenly find themselves on the bad end of a puzzing result. You know why? Just because...

The Ravens will jump out to a 7-0 lead on a first quarter TD run by Buck Allen. Cleveland will kick a field goal on the next drive to make it 7-3.

It stays that way until late in the second quarter when Lamar Jackson -- yes, Lamar Jackson -- scampers into the end zone on a quarterback keeper and the Ravens will lead at the half, 14-3.

But Cleveland doesn't go away.

The Browns score a third quarter TD, scoop up a fumble on the next series, and quickly add a field goal to make it 14-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

A Flacco to Crabtree TD pass early in the fourth gives the Ravens a 21-13 lead. But the Browns counter with a drive of their own which results in a field goal to make it 21-16.

After the Ravens can't put the game away in the final four minutes, Cleveland has one last drive. They get the ball to the Ravens 26 yard line, where Jimmy Smith picks off a Baker Mayfield throw and returns it for a game-ending touchdown.

It's a battle all the way, but the Ravens prevail, 28-16.

Flacco finishes the day 21/34 for 298 yards. Buck Allen rushes for 69 yards and Alex Collins chips in with 45. Crabtree is the leading receiver with 6 catches for 99 yards.

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show me the money

Four weeks into the 2018 season and we've already had a couple of people come out and give us estimates on one of those big, fancy in-ground swimming pools for the backyard.

I'm hoping to add a nice deck and tiki bar, too.

To borrow a line from Wesley Snipes in the movie White Men Can't Jump...this is TOO easy.

We had our fourth straight non-losing week in week #4, although we didn't have a winning week, either. Thanks to those goofs in Dallas and Philly, we went 2-2-1 last Sunday, hitting on the Patriots and Saints and losing on the Cowboys and Eagles. The Seahawks-Cardinals game was a push for us.

We're 12-7-1 thus far in 2018.

By the way, in case you care about these things, I'm 4-0 on the Ravens against the spread this season.

So here we go with our week #5 picks.

Can Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense silence Jalen Ramsey and Jacksonville's #1 ranked defense?

TITANS AT BILLS (+5.5) -- I love, love, love this game. Since that opening week demolishing in Baltimore, the Buffalo defense has actually been pretty good. I can't see Tennessee going on the road and scoring enough points to win this game. I'm not sure Buffalo's offense is all that great, either, but we're going with the Bills at home to not only cover the 5.5, but win the game outright, 20-19.

PACKERS AT LIONS (-1.0) -- I sense something's wrong in Green Bay. Maybe not. Maybe this is the game where they break out and look like the Packers of the last five years. But I'm thinking this might be where we see the opposite...that they can't beat the Lions, even. We're taking Detroit here in a mini-upset, as they hold off a late Green Bay rally to win 31-27.

DOLPHINS AT BENGALS (-6.0) -- Miami's not very good, but they're not going to get run out of the gym two straight weeks. The Bengals are good, but at some point their charmed life is going to take a turn. What better place for Cincy to come back to earth than at home, playing a team they should beat. Right? I don't see Miami winning, but I'm taking the Dolphins and the six points, although the Bengals score another late TD to win a close one, 27-22.

RAIDERS AT CHARGERS (-5.5) -- I have no idea what to make of the Chargers. I think we all know the Raiders stink. But Los Angeles? I just don't know. I realize it's tough to play in that awful, bandbox of a stadium they're playing in, but the Chargers don't have much of an identity at this point. We're going to go with the Raiders and the 5.5 points in this one, and, what the heck, we'll even call an Oakland outright win, 32-29.

JAGUARS AT CHIEFS (-3.0) -- The Game of The Day. Who woulda thunk it, right? If I would have told a year ago today that next October 7 the Jaguars and Chiefs will play in K.C. and it will be the best game on the schedule, you would have thought I was nuts. Can Jacksonville finally put an "L" on the Chiefs record? Will Patrick Mahomes shut up Jalen Ramsey? Not many can do that. I think the Jags defense will do a solid job of quieting the K.C. offense, but I'm not sure Jacksonville can score enough points in this one. Kansas City covers and wins a tight one, 20-16.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Let's take the Bills at home getting 5.5 from the Titans as our "Best Bet" today.




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October 6
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the o's first off-season step should be...

I have a feeling this is probably asking too much.

But it has to be brought up.

Coming off the worst on-field performance in franchise history -- not to mention one of the worst ever in the major leagues -- and the departures of both their manager and general manager, the Orioles are clearly at a "starting over" point.

And with the owner of the franchise no longer involved in the operation of the club, it's time the fans be given a clear picture of what's going on at Camden Yards.

This won't sit well in the Warehouse, but it's time for a press conference.

A real one, too.

I'm not talking about a "gathering" organized by the's PR staff where a half-dozen of the beat writers get invited over for lunch in a round-table setting where they get to lob questions for thirty minutes.

That's not a press conference.

Now that he's running (along with his brother, Lou) the Orioles, will John Angelos make himself available to the media on a regular basis to allow for questions about the organization?

The time has come for the Orioles to set up 60 chairs in a large room, get a podium and microphone, send out a "press release" (if those even exist anymore), and invite the media -- everyone in town -- to the event.

If John Angelos and Lou Angelos are indeed now the two figureheads of the Orioles, they need to be there. Since there's no manager or general manager, the Angelos boys can be the only two representatives from the organization at the podium. That's fine.

After their brief opening statement(s), the floor gets opened for questions.

And John and Lou should take every last one of them.

This isn't a "beat up the Orioles" press conference. It's more like a "get to know the Orioles" press conference.

No one can recite the last date and time of a full-blown Orioles press conference where ownership was there and participated. It's been that long.

That needs to change moving forward if the Orioles are going to (re) gain the trust of their fan base.

Comparisons between the Ravens and Orioles are delicate. Media members in town rarely drive that narrow, winding road because they know how much the Orioles front office bristles at any story that contains the words, "Unlike the Orioles, the Ravens..."

But here it is: "Unlike the Orioles, the Ravens hold an annual press conference featuring the owner, general manager and head coach, plus several times a year their President (Dick Cass) is made available to the media to discuss off-field issues involving the organization."

Critics will point to the annual "State of the Ravens" press conference as nothing more than one hour of posturing and dancing from Steve Bisciotti and others, but the truth of the matter is those events are only as good as the media makes them. It's not up to Bisciotti to prepare your questions for you -- you have to come up with one or two that matter and have the gumption to ask.

The Orioles haven't had an everyone-is-invited press conference since Bush was President. And I'm not sure which Bush, frankly.

I do understand the times have changed. Sports franchises control the narrative these days. They're worried about their own website traffic and Twitter followers and all that other social media stuff. Why gather the media and allow them to ask questions when the club can just send out the information in their own words and get it re-printed to their satisfaction?

We all know the answer to that question.

Because that forum doesn't give the media a chance to ask a question that you might not have covered in your club-distributed press release.

Oh, and speaking of the times changing, the Orioles are entering uncharted territory in 2019. New ownership "face" (same ownership family, but new people at the helm), new coach, new general manager, and, we hope, new direction.

Someone at the top has to be willing to field questions about the new direction -- or the intended new direction, at least.

Once the general manager is hired, he (or she) can have their own press conference, obviously.

But the ownership of the Orioles has to step up and be willing to field questions from the media. Not a couple of questions. Not just questions from the team's website writer. Questions. Lots of them. From anyone in the media who wants to ask one.

The fans are owed that much.

Having been "on the inside" of a sports organization from 1981-1998, I completely understand the need to keep things in-house. I get it. The fans aren't necessarily entitled to know everything about the decisions you make and the way you go about your business.

But there are occasions when the fans should know what your plan is for the future, how you're going to change things, what improvements you plan on making and, in general, that you have a direction and a blueprint for, say, the next five years.

As someone who gives the Orioles roughly $600 a year for tickets, I'd like to know that stuff. I think I deserve to know it.

The sponsors deserve to know, too.

It's the way the Ravens have done it since moving to Baltimore in 1996. I don't think the Ravens tell us everything, by the way. I'm sure there are things they'd rather not talk about publicly that they do their best to keep to themselves.

But for the most part, the Ravens have been an open book with the media for two decades now.

It's time the Orioles start following that same path.

And now, with John Angelos and Lou Angelos taking the reins at Camden Yards, the time has to come to walk that path.

It's time for a press conference. A real one.

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anyone up for an atlanta road trip?

#DMD is heading to Atlanta for the Ravens-Falcons game on Sunday, December 2nd (1:00 pm).

We have room for you if you're interested in traveling with us!

Head down to Atlanta with us on December 2nd and watch the Ravens smack Matt Ryan and the Falcons around in what could be a critical late-season game.

Our group departs at 3:00 pm on Friday, November 30. We'll stay in Atlanta Friday and Saturday night, take in the Ravens-Falcons game, and return home on Sunday evening, December 2nd.

Also, in case it helps sway you to join us, the SEC Championship Game is in Atlanta on Saturday night, December 1st. Downtown Atlanta should be quite a scene that weekend!

Your price of $780 per-person includes round trip airfare, two nights hotel at The Ellis, ground transportation in Atlanta, and game tickets for Ravens-Falcons.

We'd love to have you join our group if you're interested! A good time will be had by all, for certain.

Email me directly if you have any questions or if you'd like to reserve space on the trip: drew@drewsmorningdish.com

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"upon further review"

The NFL does this a lot.

And by "this", I mean what they just did again on Friday when they admitted a crucial mistake was made by the referees during last Sunday's Oakland/Cleveland game.

"We screwed up that call," the NFL said on Friday. I'm paraphrasing, of course.

The call in question was a fumble late in the fourth quarter of the 45-42 OT win for Oakland, where Raiders quarterback Derek Carr fumbled at his own 38 yard line, with the Browns (apparently) recovering for a critical change in possession.

But referee Walt Anderson stepped in, ruling that a whistle had blown before the fumble because Carr's forward progress stopped. Anderson ruled the play a sack, and the Raiders punted on fourth down.

In a weekly video review released on Twitter, NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said: "We ruled the passer stopped for forward progress and we kill the play. This is not forward progress. Obviously, this is a fumble. We should not have blown the whistle."

Thanks a lot.

And no, this isn't a gambling gripe, although if you had the Browns as the outright winner on Sunday, you'd have every reason to be as mad as a wet hen.

This is about the same thing it's always about when the refs make a game-changing decision (see week one, Matthews vs. Cousins, 4th down play). Games and outcomes are changed on these calls. In some cases, playoff spots might be determined by these calls. Coaches (and their assistants) might lose their jobs as a result of a lost game that was impacted by these calls.

Sure, I guess I admire the fact that the NFL stands up a few days later and admits they made a mistake. They're at least being accountable in that regard.

But what I'd much rather see is this: GET. THE. CALL. RIGHT.

I'm sure the folks in Cleveland are saying the same thing.

Oh, and speaking of Cleveland...

Now that the Browns are "owed one", you can expect a late-game call to work in their favor sometime soon. Let's look at the schedule and see who they play in the next few weeks just to prepare their fan base for a hosing.

Uh oh...

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October 5
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this, that and the other

Lots of small ground to cover today. Things on my mind, some important, some not.

That was amateur hour stuff from the Capitals on Wednesday night when they failed to include former head coach Barry Trotz in any of their banner-raising festivities.

I get it. He's no longer there, his departure was dirty and not very friendly -- from either side -- and there probably exists some animosity between Trotz and owner Ted Leonsis.

Despite leading the Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season, Barry Trotz was ignored on Wednesday night when the Caps unveiled their championship banner.

I've been on the "bad side" of an owner-coach relationship. And when the owner says "don't include Trotz in the video montage and don't mention his name during the ceremony", the person in charge follows orders.

Jack Nicholson famously once said in the movie A Few Good Men, "We follow orders or people die." In this case, you follow Mr. Leonsis' orders or you get fired.

But either way, that was some bush league treatment of Trotz on Wednesday night. He was the head coach of the team who ended a four decade championship drought. Not only that, he was the FIRST coach to ever win a Stanley Cup for the Capitals. There might be others, but he'll always be the first.

A very polite, 10-second "thank you Barry" clip would have been the right thing to do.

I hate when ego gets in the way of stuff like that.

I'd love to see the Orioles make a serious push for Ben Cherington as the team's new general manager. He's currently in the VP of Baseball Operations role with the Blue Jays, but has said in the last 48 hours his goal is to find a situation where he'd be "building from the ground up". Cherington already took his name out of consideration for openings in both San Francisco and New York (Mets).

I'm sure Ben realizes it, but you can't get much more of a "ground up" opportunity than in Baltimore, where he'd be inheriting a Triple-A team on the field, basically, and would have his pick of any manager he wanted, assuming the Angelos boys will allow him to handle the managerial hiring.

Cherington would also get a crack -- eventually -- at his former employer, the Red Sox, and his current team, the Blue Jays. Who knows if that's important to him or matters in the least, but if he has any axe to grind at all with the Red Sox, maybe the Baltimore gig has a special appeal to him.

There are lots of people qualified for the Orioles general manager job. Cherington, to me, would be the perfect candidate.

Oh, and if Cherington gets the job, might he bring along someone he's familiar with from his days in Boston? Kevin Boles, who managed the Red Sox farm team in Pawtucket from 2014-2018, is highly regarded around baseball as one of the game's up and coming managerial candidates.

Fits like a glove, doesn't it?

I never really made my official post-season baseball predictions. Even though we're a game into a couple of the division league series', I'm sure you'll still accept them.

I'm taking the Yankees to beat the Red Sox in five games. Yes, that means New York wins the deciding game at Fenway. Holy cow...

I know it's sacreligious in these parts to be excited about a Red Sox-Yankees playoff series, but this one really should be great to watch. And here's the best part: One of them is losing.

I like Houston to beat Cleveland in four games in the other ALDS series. Houston's just too good.

In the National League, I'll take the Dodgers to beat the Braves in five and the Brewers to beat the Rockies in three straight.

Houston beats Milwaukee, 4-games-to-2, in the World Series.

By the way, I'm rooting for the Dodgers to win it all, finally. Not because of Machado, in case that was your next question. But it would be cool to see him get a ring, I suppose.

Are we going to dislike this guy in Baltimore as much as we've grown to root against Ben Roethlisberger over the last 15 years?

I'm still feeling queasy about this Ravens trip to Cleveland this coming Sunday. I wrote it here earlier in the week. This game will not be a lay-up.

I know the Ravens are 9-1 in their last ten trips to the Land of Cleve, but this time around it's different.

I'll throw out my official game prediction on Sunday morning here at #DMD, but I'm worried about this one.

Remember a few weeks back when I wrote about "market correction" in the NFL? This is one of those games where the market could get balanced out a little bit. I sure hope not. Can you imagine losing to those creeps?

I also have a weird feeling -- others might even agree -- that we're going to grow to dislike Baker Mayfield a lot in these parts. He seemingly has the perfect mixture of talent and frat-boy obnoxiousness to stay in the NFL for a while. I fear that someday soon we're going to consider him the "new Roethlisberger".

I was happy to sit down with Bill Bolander of Jerry's Auto Group earlier this week for a new podcast and it's available in "The Juice" today (upper right corner of the website).

Bill and I talked about lots of sports-related stuff, including the Ravens, Orioles and Jerry's recent car show, which featured 215 vehicles on display at Jerry's Chevrolet on Joppa Road.

Besides his vast knowledge of cars, Bill is also an ardent Ravens and Orioles fan and has no shortage of opinions on both local franchises.

I hope you enjoy the podcast!

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anyone up for an atlanta road trip?

#DMD is heading to Atlanta for the Ravens-Falcons game on Sunday, December 2nd (1:00 pm).

We have room for you if you're interested in traveling with us!

Head down to Atlanta with us on December 2nd and watch the Ravens smack Matt Ryan and the Falcons around in what could be a critical late-season game.

Our group departs at 3:00 pm on Friday, November 30. We'll stay in Atlanta Friday and Saturday night, take in the Ravens-Falcons game, and return home on Sunday evening, December 2nd.

Also, in case it helps sway you to join us, the SEC Championship Game is in Atlanta on Saturday night, December 1st. Downtown Atlanta should be quite a scene that weekend!

Your price of $780 per-person includes round trip airfare, two nights hotel at The Ellis, ground transportation in Atlanta, and game tickets for Ravens-Falcons.

We'd love to have you join our group if you're interested! A good time will be had by all, for certain.

Email me directly if you have any questions or if you'd like to reserve space on the trip: drew@drewsmorningdish.com

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the "armchair quarterback" debuts

I'll let my friend Tony Lombardi bask in the glow of his new project in the next couple of weeks, but one of the components of Tony's "Fanimal" app and sports website is a show called "The Armchair Quarterback", which details every Ravens game in "TV show" style.

I join Tony and my friend Dean Johnson of Primary Residential Mortgage every week to break down the latest Ravens win, complete with lots of fun other stuff including NFL related segments and three "Reverse Lock" wagering picks for the weekend in pro football.

Tony and Dean both really know football. I just come along to keep them company and occasionally add something insightful. I should have put occasionally in italics to emphasize it.

This week's show is featured below. In the coming weeks, you'll be able to access it easily via Tony's new app and website. Details will be shared as soon as its launched.


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October 4
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and now...we have to trust

The Orioles will have to excuse us if we're not quite as faithful as they'd like us to be now that the "rebuild" has officially commenced.

47-115 will do that to you.

With yesterday's announcement that both Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will not return to the organization in 2019, an era ends and a new one begins in Charm City. We can only hope the next eight years go as well as the last eight have gone at Camden Yards.

Despite the awful season of baseball we all just witnessed, the Buck-Duquette partnership was a good one. Better than good, really, when you consider the 14 straight losing seasons and the moribund state of the franchise that existed back in 2010.

The two guys who replace Showalter and Duquette have their work cut out for them.

In traditional Orioles fashion, "the end" was quite confusing. Many folks around town now wonder why the team wouldn't have just let Showalter go mid-season and turned things over to Norfolk Tides manager Ron Johnson, whom some insiders say the front office has been impressed with over the years. While a three month "trial" during a historically bad season might not have been the perfect audition, it would have been good to see what Johnson could have done with live bullets in the air in July, August and September.

Word also leaked out during the summer that the O's had interviewed longtime baseball executive Ned Colletti for the general manager position, although Duquette was still employed at the time.

The two men who helped bring winning back to Baltimore baseball were both kicked to the curb on Wednesday. Let's hope their replacements are good.

But when Duquette was allowed to consumate all of the deadline deals at the end of July, it seemed reasonable to believe that he'd return in 2019. Why let someone make deals that help craft the future mold of the organization if he isn't going to be with the team moving forward?

So, as you might expect, this hasn't been the easiest project for the Orioles to start. A longtime manager is gone and so, too, is the general manager. And despite the need for better players, there's also this: The people who run the show really do matter.

And now we wait. And we trust.

We have to trust that the Orioles can do things right. The bad news? They haven't given us a lot of reasons over the last 20 years to have complete faith in their efforts. The good news? The two brothers who are now running things at Camden Yards -- John and Lou Angelos -- don't have much of a track record. They deserve, some would claim, the benefit of the doubt.

With Wednesday's press release that the club would be looking outside the organization for a general manager, the first domino to fall in place involves Brady Anderson, whom many thought would be a candidate to replace Duquette. Anderson will likely remain with the club in his current capacity but will not be promoted to the GM spot. That's a relief to many followers and supporters of the team.

The new general manager will then have the task of finding a new field manager as his (or her) first important task. It will be up to that person to sift through the available names and make the right choice, the same way Andy MacPhail did back in 2010 when he was able to land Showalter for the dugout gig. Sources tell #DMD the front office currently has a list of several names, including Mike Matheny, Kevin Boles, Mike Bordick and the aforementioned Johnson, who has been the skipper in Norfolk since 2012.

Matheny was the manager in St. Louis for seven years before he was fired in mid-season. Boles developed a solid reputation in the Red Sox organization and was the successful manager in Pawtucket before abruptly resigning back on September 8. One person associated with the Orioles said on Wednesday that Boles is a favorite candidate of several executives within the warehouse.

Bordick is a former Oriole shortstop who has done some work in the minor league system and has served as a TV analyst for the MASN network througout the last six years. Several people believe he'll receive strong consideration for the vacant managerial position.

It remains to be seen whether the new GM will hire the manager from a list of candidates provided to him (her) or have the freedom to bring in anyone of their choosing.

These things pile up when you fire the manager and GM three days after the season ends instead of sometime in mid-season when you'd then have some lead-in time to evaluate people in temporary roles to see if, in fact, they were right for the job.

But that's water under the bridge now.

It's time to trust the Orioles. Trust that they know what they're doing. Trust that they know how to get this ship righted. Trust that the people they choose are the right choices.

It's OK if you're leery.

Just about everyone else is, too.

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most of you wanted buck to stay

Our #DMD reader's poll on Wednesday yielded some interesting, but not totally surprising, data.

Despte the team's 47-115 record in 2018, the majority of you who participated in the poll wanted the team to retain Buck Showalter.

41% of those who replied wanted Showalter back in 2019.

33% would like to see the team hire Joe Girardi, the former Marlins and Yankees skipper.

20% indicated they'd like to see the O's hire Mike Bordick.

Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia both received 3% of the vote.

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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.

It’d be easy to say that the behavior of Seattle Seahawks’ safety Earl Thomas, up to and including when he flipped the bird at his own sideline after a gruesome leg injury, is an example of everything that’s wrong with America in 2018.

Earl, you see, was in the middle of some serious disrespect from his employer. The kind of disrespect you can only find in the NFL…$40 million over four years, $26 million of it guaranteed, including a $9.5 million signing bonus…but no real progress on a new contract.

Thomas was so annoyed about that, he waited and waited to report to the team this summer, then pretty much pulled an Allen Iverson once he showed up. Then he basically begged for the Seahawks to trade him to Dallas. And now this.

His teammate, linebacker Bobby Walker, said it best after the game. “If he (Thomas) doesn’t come, then he’s not a team player. If he does come and gets hurt, then it’s ‘he shouldn’t have come.’ If I was him, I’d be pissed off.”

Terrible, isn’t it? I’d say Thomas could have gone a step further than the finger, maybe the deal where you take your left arm and put it over your right bicep and then give it, indicating that you’d also like to shove something somewhere.

All kidding aside about that, and noting that suffering a broken leg during an NFL game is nothing to laugh about, Walker is right. Thomas should be pissed off.

Just not at the Seahawks, is all. They didn’t do anything wrong.

The finger ought to have been pointed right back at himself.

Not the best way to go out...

It’s true — Thomas wasn’t a team player, and neither is Le’Veon Bell. Sure, all of their teammates understand their tactics, and most of them know not to talk about another guy’s money. But being a team player requires you to be with the team. It requires you to be a teammate.

No matter how many of your teammates think what you’re doing is reasonable, you’re still not there. No matter how Thomas’s 2018 season might have ended, he acted like a jerk the entire time. Thomas signed his contract in 2014. By holding out, he was looking for respect.

He even wrote a long treatise about it for The Players’ Tribune. But doesn’t Thomas have to show respect on his end by honoring the contract he signed?

For the first four games, though, he was just being a jerk. He was under contract and getting paid. He ought to have been acting like that was the case.

And it’s true, based on hindsight — Thomas shouldn’t have come. You can’t break your leg playing football in Arizona on September 30 if you’re not playing football in Arizona on September 30.

Again, though, Thomas was under contract and was going to be paid. When he finally made the decision to show up, that was his decision alone. Nobody made it for him. He was in Arizona because he wanted to be there.

He has every reason to be mad at himself — first he made himself look bad, and then he made a decision that potentially cost a lot of money. Those decisions, however, were all his.

He gave the finger to the Seahawks for doing what almost every team would have done in that situation. They didn’t owe him any more than they gave him.

Besides that, Earl Thomas was already on his second contract with the team, one that he (and his agent) negotiated. He’ll be 30 before next season, and 2018 is already his ninth year in the league. He plays a position, safety, that’s been marginalized a bit, and that shows up in the contracts the best safeties are getting.

The problem for Thomas, and for Le’Veon Bell, and for others, is that the best NFL teams often get that way at the expense of the wishes of their best players. Management always figures out ways to stick it to labor, but teams in the NFL have made it a science.

Earl Thomas is lucky, and happened to be good enough, to have gotten one more contract than most of his peers. The moment before his injury, no matter what he thought, and no matter how good he was, he was being paid what he was worth.

As for the actual money, I’m sure that Thomas wanted the mantle of highest-paid player at his position. Most of the time, however, getting that honor is all about the timing. Many of the best players at their positions rank well below the top, almost always because others signed their contracts well after they did.

Bell’s situation is different. He’s now twice been slapped with the franchise tag, and he’s looking for that second contract that Thomas got. He now says he’s going to return for the Steelers’ October 28 home game against the Browns, because he has to show something this year if he wants that contract next year.

Like the safety spot, the running back position has been, if not marginalized, then adjusted for a different type of game. Like Thomas, Bell is a spectacular player at his position, albeit more well-known because offense sells tickets and gets highlights. When you combine rushing and receiving, Bell may be the finest running back in a generation or more.

Even with all that, however, the Steelers were always going to do what they thought was best for them, not for Bell. That meant the franchise tag last year, at more than $12 million, and then again this year, at more than $14 million, of which they’ll pay a little more than half if Bell does report for Week 8.

Bell is an awesome talent, one that all 32 teams in the NFL would love to have, even with his off-the-field issues. He did things in his first five seasons in the NFL that no other offensive player has. Yet, even he isn’t worth what he thinks he is. Certainly the Steelers are better when he’s on the field, but they don’t see themselves as better with Bell on a long-term contract.

A team that makes good decisions is often one that makes the opposite decision the player would like.

Maybe someday, perhaps with the next collective bargaining agreement, NFL players like Thomas and Bell will gain more leverage. Maybe someday, who knows how far in the future, NFL players will earn guaranteed deals like their baseball counterparts.

Before any of that happens, some of the best players in the league every year will continue to flip the bird at somebody, if not literally, then figuratively. Those players will continually talk about how much they are worth, and how they’re just trying to protect themselves. Their employers, however, will continue to operate as if they can’t hear a word those players are saying.

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October 3
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"very serious about bordick"

A person associated with the Orioles tells #DMD the Orioles and Mike Bordick have had numerous discussions about the team's 2019 managerial position but that no formal offer has been made to the current MASN color analyst.

"They're very serious about Bordick," the person says. "Unless someone pops up in the next couple of weeks that's one of those have-to-talk-to-that-guy kind of deals, I think there's a good chance they're going to hire Mike."

There's still no official word from the Orioles that Buck Showalter won't be back.

Three weeks ago, national baseball writer Bob Nightengale authored an article in which he said the Birds were going to part company with Showalter at season's end but retain Dan Duquette as the team's general manager.

Over the weekend, another well known baseball scribe, Jerry Crasnick, offered a different take, saying the organization still hadn't made a decision on Showalter and Duquette.

There's no telling where the truth lies, of course.

From broadcast booth to dugout? Mike Bordick's name continues to be linked to the Orioles managerial job in 2019.

But Bordick's name first surfaced in early August, as whispers around town grew stronger that the Orioles were going to bid farewell to Showalter and turn the reins over to a fresh voice as their on-field "rebuild" commenced.

Despite having no managerial experience at all, Bordick remains an intriguing option for the Orioles.

For starters, it's doubtful any veteran, unemployed skipper would take the gig in Baltimore knowing what the team faces and their position in a strong-and-getting-stronger American League East.

Why would Mike Scioscia, as an example, take the Baltimore managerial job?

After nearly two decades in Los Angeles, with a fairly competitive team almost every year, what's in it for Scioscia to pitch his tent on the other side of the country and go 60-102 for the next three years?

If your answer is "money", save your breath. Scioscia doesn't need money.

The name Dusty Baker has been bandied about over the last few weeks as well. While he doesn't have the one-city longevity that Scioscia enjoyed with the Angels, the mold is essentially the same. Baker would have to know the odds of winning under his tutelage in Baltimore are slim. Does he love managing that much that he'd sign up for guaranteed losing? Maybe he does. Baker's an interesting name for sure.

But everything tends to point to Bordick at this point.

Whether you like him as a broadcaster or not, he has a number of the qualities the Orioles would be looking for in a new skipper.

He knows the roster and the organization up and down.

While his time working with the O's minor league teams was brief (2010-11), he does have experience with the "teaching" element of the game.

And he wouldn't be afraid of the uphill climb the organization faces while rebuilding in a difficult division with several glaring holes at key positions on the field.

In other words, whereas people like Scioscia and Baker might take the job if nothing better came along, Bordick wants the job.

Stay tuned. As we know with the Orioles, nothing's ever done until it's done.

But it's looking more and more like Mike Bordick might be the team's new manager.

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a story about two guys at a conference

Two men, Dave and Bill, are sitting at a bar in Washington D.C. today.

Both, it turns out, live in the same town and work for the same company, although they don't know one another.

They're in D.C. for a work-related convention. Dave noticed Bill's name tag bearing the company logo.

"I'm in quality control for the company," Dave says.

"Outside sales here," Bill offers.

They small talk for a few minutes, exchange pictures of their soccer-playing children, and discuss the good and bad of the company that employs the both of them.

Dave says, "Hey, are you a hockey fan?"

Bill politely says no. "I've been to a few games when the company has extra tickets. I like it. But it's not like I go all the time."

"I was the guy who won the drawing for the two hockey tickets tonight," Dave explains. "You know, when we checked in you dropped your business card off in the fishbowl. I won! They texted me a little while ago and told me."

A few minutes later, Dave asks Bill again if he'd go with him to the game. "It's six blocks away from here," he says. "I'll grab a Lyft and we'll go check it out for a while. Come on, we'll have fun."

Bill agrees.

Just before 7 pm, they settle into their seats.

The lights go down shortly thereafter.

There's a ceremony of some kind on the ice.

Dave looks to his right and asks the 30-something gentlemen next to him what's happening on the ice. He explains he's from out of town and hasn't ever been to a hockey game in Washington DC before.

"They're raising the banner from last season when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup," the man explains. "The players are all getting their rings tonight and then they raise that banner to celebrate winning the championship."

"Oh," Dave says. "I see. I live in Philadelphia. We haven't raised one of those banners in like 40 years or something. I forgot what it was like."

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more ryder cup fallout

Another day, another story.

On Monday, it was the aftermath of Patrick Reed's late night phone call with a New York Times reporter, where he trashed Jim Furyk, Jordan Spieth and anything else in his way.

On Tuesday, news broke of an "incident" of some kind involving Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. There are reports that there were, perhaps, two issues between the pair of U.S. Ryder Cup players, starting on the team flight to Paris and continuing at the post-event party on Sunday night in Paris.

Oddly, Johnson and Koepka are both very good friends back in Jupiter, Florida. They work out together, play off-TOUR golf together and hang out as buddies when they're not chasing the little white ball.

Brooks Koepka (left) and Dustin Johnson (right) reportedly had to be separated at a Sunday night event in Paris.

But something apparently happened last week.

The incident could explain the bizarre Friday morning pairings, when the expected partnership of Johnson-Koepka was not used in the better-ball format. Instead, Koepka went out with rookie Tony Finau and Johnson played with Rickie Fowler. It wasn't until the Saturday afternoon foursomes match that the two finally teamed up with each other.

Nothing good comes from losing.

That we're reading these stories now, three days after the U.S. got drummed in Paris, shouldn't be a surprise. Reed is always on the verge of spouting off about something and with the high ego team room the U.S. had at the Ryder Cup, there was bound to be friction at some point.

But an "altercation" of some kind? Between friends? Come on, man.

Perhaps alcohol was involved, both on the flight to Paris and at the post-event party. That's always a good bet.

Maybe some feelings got hurt throughout the week as the golf got worse and the beating became reality. Whatever it was, it's obvious there were some deep-seeded issues within the U.S. team.

I hope Steve Stricker took good notes.

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maybe this will fix the ryder cup

No one from the PGA of America asked me, but I have a long term solution to our country's Ryder Cup woes.

I'm not talking about just putting a new plan in place for the 2020 edition at Whistling Straits. We might win that one the same way the Europeans just won in Paris. We'll play the course at 7,500 yards, cut down all the rough, make the greens a "13" and birdie-them-to-death.

Instead, this plan is a long-range effort to get the team competitive regardless of country or venue. If the U.S. is going to dominate the bi-annual event, they need to win on foreign soil once or twice a decade, at the very least.

I have a thought on how to do that.

But first, some history.

Way back in 1998, as plans were being discussed for the '99 Ryder Cup at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, a story surfaced that shook the golf world. U.S. Ryder Cup players, primarily led by David Duval and Mark O'Meara, suggested that those who participated in the event should be paid for their services.

The push-back was immediate and forceful.

"How dare you!" people said. "You can't play golf and represent your country for three days without being paid? You should be ashamed of yourselves."

How motivated would Phil Mickelson be to pick the right team and pairings if he receives $5 million if the U.S. wins the Ryder Cup when he's the captain?

Long story short, the PGA of America came up with a plan that basically gave the Ryder Cup players a donation that they, in turn, could hand off to their favorite charity. It wasn't quite the "pay for play" scheme the players wanted, but it was a step in the right direction.

Let's cut to the chase so we can move ahead to the important stuff.

Twenty years later, guess what? Duval, O'Meara and the PGA Tour players who wanted compensation for playing in the Ryder Cup were right.

Yep. They were right.

So let's start there.

If they gave me brush and canvas, I'd create a payment plan for those who make the team and a bonus plan to help motivate them to put their best foot forward as Ryder Cup members.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. I'm thinking the same thing. "These guys shouldn't need to be motivated by money for the Ryder Cup. They should want to play for their country and beat the European team every two years."

That's fantasy land stuff now. That thinking worked in 1965 and 1975. Even in 1985, perhaps. But it doesn't work any longer. Sorry...

Our resident expert-on-everything, George, can give you the exact dates and what not of this story, but a decade or so ago, a Baltimore golfing representative contacted Arnold Palmer's "people" to see if Mr. Palmer would like to visit Mount Pleasant while he was in town for a senior golf event. For those that don't know, Palmer won at Mount Pleasant in the late 1950's.

Mind you, Arnold was 20 minutes away from the course that week. "We'll send a car up for him and bring him down to Mount Pleasant, take some pictures, have some lunch with a bunch of old guys who were there at the course when he won, and get him back up to the course in Hunt Valley within a couple of hours," Palmer's representative was told.

"Sure thing," the rep said. "His appearance fee is $100,000."

Arnie, it turns out, wasn't doing anything free of charge.

And that's partially why today's PGA Tour players don't do things free of charge, either.

Why do that corporate luncheon for nothing when you get $40,000 for four hours of work?

Try this the next time you're bored and have a couple of hours of spare time to kill. Take any TOUR player in the top 50 on the money list. Create a fake event that focuses on children and send out an invitation to his agent (or the player, directly) and ask for the player in question to make an appearance at your upcoming event.

"He'd love to come out and be involved," the rep will say. "His fee for the day is $75,000."

In fairness to the players, it's not their fault. This is how we've built the sports landscape in our country these days. We built it. They just live in it.

High profile college football and basketball players have been moaning for a long time about not getting paid to represent their school(s). Ignoring the fact that in many cases they get a scholarship in exchange for their participation in sports, the fact of the matter is once they figured out that some school, somewhere, was willing to funnel money to them in exchange for playing, everything about college sports changed.

The same theory applies in professional golf. Nothing's free. "You want me to use your equipment or wear your golf apparel? Love to do that. It's $2.5 million for three years."

"I'm not sure if I can fit your tournament into my schedule next season. What's that? You'll give me $100,000 for showing up and playing? I'll be there with bells on."

So, beginning in 2020, players who make the Ryder Cup team receive $500,000 for making the team. You get no money if you're a captain's pick. That rule is in place so we don't encounter anyone saying, "The captain's probably getting half the bonus from the guy he selected."

In 2020 and beyond, you get $500,000 per-point you earn in the Ryder Cup. That bonus doubles if the U.S. wins the event. Oh, and to make it a little more attractive, if the U.S. does win, each player, no matter how much they played or how many points they earned, receives an additional $1 million.

Under this formula, as an example, Francesco Molinari would have picked up a cool $6 million this past weekend for being on the winning Ryder Cup team. He won all five of his matches and was on the winning team.

Maybe Patrick Reed's wife will just shut up and let her husband play golf if she realizes he might bring home three million bucks for a weekend worth of work.

Oh, and maybe Reed won't be such a pompous s**t stirring whiner when he realizes the same thing.

Let's stop dancing around the subject moving forward and put the cards on the table.

Money talks...

It's the culture of today's American athlete, where guys sit at a table and sign your mini-football-helmet for $50.

I'll keep repeating this over and over. You can fight it, not like it, and be totally against it if you want, but it's not changing anything. American athletes have been conditioned to ask for, and receive, money for doing just about anything and everything.

That includes playing in the Ryder Cup, where the PGA of America rakes in millions and millions of dollars over a one-week period.

Yes, some players receive a bonus from their equipment or apparel sponsor for making the Ryder Cup team. But then, oddly enough, they're not allowed to sport that logo or advertise that brand during the actual event itself.

It's backwards thinking. At least to the American guys, anyway.

The European team might not need this sort of extortion to remain competitive and interested in winning. They're raised differently over there. The professional sports landscape isn't the same as the one we have here.

We clearly need *something* new to galvanize our team and motivate the players. Since 1995, there have been 12 Ryder Cup events held. The Europeans have won nine of them. The U.S. has won just three times. Three. All at home -- 1999, 2008 and 2016.

It's not about the golfers. Our players have far better golfing records than the Europeans. Yes, the stats are skewed greatly by Tiger's dominance over the last twenty years, but side-by-side, our players are better than those from Europe.

Until the Ryder Cup gets played, that is.

Then, something weird happens.

It's time to change things up. And we should change it up by basically bribing the players to care more and play better.

And speaking of money and bribing and playing better, the captain of the team will have some new rules moving forward as well.

Starting in 2020, the captain of the U.S. team must fit the following criteria: A) He can not have played on the team in the most recently competed Cup. B) He can not be a current player on the PGA Tour.

In other words, that would effectively eliminate the idea already being bandied about that Phil Mickelson should be the captain in 2020. Sorry, Phil, them's the new rules.

The 2020 captain would likely be someone from the senior tour, with Ryder Cup experience, who didn't play on the 2018 team.

Oh, and the captain gets $500,000 for being nominated and $5 million if the team wins.

Maybe in 2020, the captain will think a little more about the pairings instead of trotting out a wildly inaccurate veteran who "loves the event" but wasn't playing worth a hoot for a month leading up to the competition.

Money, money, money.

If we can't get you to care and play your best golf just for the heck of it, we'll do the same thing corporate America has to do when they want you to show up. We'll pay you. We'll pay you a lot of money, in fact, if you'll put on your big boy pants and play your heart out.

Nothing else has worked since 1995. Let's see if paying them will help them play better.

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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.

Some games tell you that a team is going to be good no matter when they happen on the calendar.

Back in 2011, the Ravens' Week One demolition of the Steelers was an early sign that that team was going to be a good one, and would be able to compete with anyone else in the league. The next season a tough win at home against New England, on a late field goal no less, exorcised the demons of Billy Cundiff and again served notice that that year's team had what it takes to win big games.

Sunday night's showing at Heinz Field had the feel of one of those games in its immediate aftermath, especially given the way the game transpired.

The Ravens got out to a hot start and looked like they had the much maligned Pittsburgh defense's number, only to see some ill-timed miscues get Pittsburgh back into the game thanks to a red hot Ben Roethlisberger and his arsenal of offensive weapons. When Antonio Brown snared a touchdown catch against excellent coverage by Marlon Humphrey, I'm pretty sure most of us had that "here we go again" feeling.

Except that's not what happened, at all.

The Ravens completely dominated the second half on both sides of the ball (even if they didn't score a touchdown) and in the end even the 26-14 margin didn't feel like it accurately conveyed how thoroughly the Ravens outplayed their hated rivals for at least three quarters.

The win was one of the most complete ones the Ravens have put forward in recent memory, with the offense and defense both holding their own against the competition, and meaningful contributions coming from all over the depth chart. There's a lot of credit to dole out, so we'd better get to it.

Might as well start with the obvious: Joe Flacco was outstanding on Sunday night, and so far he's proving the optimists right in a big way this season.

In this game Flacco torched the Steelers for 363 yards and added two touchdowns without turning the ball over once. With the exception of the loss in Cincinnati the mistakes from Joe have been kept to a bare minimum, and that debacle had much more to do with an offensive line that couldn't block anyone.

What continues to be impressive is the way he spreads the ball around and uses the whole field without getting too locked on to one receiver, even when someone like John Brown is having a good day. He's not forcing any balls right now, and he's consistently finding the open guy on the field for solid gains. People still like to say that the Ravens can't win while throwing the ball 40+ times a game but it's pretty obvious that that's not the case right now, and that is in fact when the Ravens are at their most effective and efficient.

And with 1/4 of the season in the books, Flacco is staking out ground as a true MVP candidate.

A second quarter fumble on the two yard line in Sunday night's win at Pittsburgh earned Alex Collins a brief stay in the coaching doghouse.

-I want to touch on one of the few negative aspects of the game early, because it was such an important point in the game and was getting so much of the attention when things started going poorly.

It was really disappointing to see Alex Collins getting so much crap for his red zone fumble from Ravens fans on social media, and even more disappointing that he might have been taken out of the game itself for a while because of it. I get it, Collins has had a fumbling issue, but that wasn't the problem on this particular play.

Collins had a firm hold on the ball, but he was stacked up by two defenders at the point of attack and one of them was able to aggressively go after the ball while the other held Collins up. As Drew likes to say, the other guys get paid too and that's just an example of a defensive players making an excellent play.

Yes the fumble came at a very poor time in the game, but it wasn't nearly as "bad" as Vance McDonald letting Tony Jefferson simply take the ball out of his hands in the open field, and not only did McDonald not get sent to the "doghouse," he was a key component to the Steelers brief period of offensive productivity.

This generalized tendency to blame every single fumble on the ballcarrier, as though they're never about defenses making great plays, is getting really silly.

-Another great game by the offensive line, at least in pass protection, though I don't know how much of that owes to the fact that the Steelers' pass rush is BAAAAAAAD.

-Defensively the Ravens still haven't allowed a second half touchdown all season, which is nothing short of amazing. I'm not sure how they're doing it at times, especially since they really can't generate any pressure off the edge, but they're doing it all the same.

The secondary in particular has been really outstanding, with a big proportion of their "miscues" amounting to A.J. Green and Antonio Brown making great plays against good coverage. Oh, and they're getting Jimmy Smith back next week.

-Speaking of guys coming back in the near future, the guys at the Castle are going to have a really tough time figuring out what to do with the roster when Hayden Hurst is healthy and ready to play. The tight ends have been a key element of the team's offensive success so far and were so again this week, with Maxx Williams (5), Nick Boyle (3), and Mark Andrews (2) combining for 10 catches and 99 total yards.

Williams and Andrews caught every one of the passes thrown to them, and Williams and Boyle both continue to show good ability to run after the catch and block for the run, with Williams adding a real wrinkle to their short yardage sets when he lines up in the backfield.

Andrews was the quiet one this week, but we saw just last week how explosive he can be in the middle of the field. The Ravens might actually want to consider using all four of these tight ends when they finally get their top pick available, but for now the other three guys are allowing him to take plenty of time to heal and putting no pressure on him to rush back whatsoever.

-John Brown had another great game and is going to continue to get most of the attention, but right now Willie Snead might be the most important pass catcher on the team. When he lines up in the slot he seems to beat his man every single time and he's got incredibly strong hands to boot. Brown might have made the big plays for the highlight reel, but Snead is a chain moving machine and when Flacco is finding him the Ravens have been able to move the ball down the field with relative ease.

-Big kudos to everyone involved in putting together that offensive gameplan. Marty Mornhinweg is going to be a goat again whenever the Ravens lose their next game, but this season he's getting a chance to show that he really does do a nice job of drawing up offensive schemes in today's game, and it looks a lot better when they can actually be executed.

I didn't much care for the passing plays on second and third downs when the Ravens were in the redzone with less than 4 minutes to go. Those two incompletions left 1:20 seconds in additional clock time that the Ravens could have burned off, which could well have made a lot of difference if Pittsburgh had been able to score.

I get wanting to be aggressive and all that, but the other side of the coin is that Pittsburgh wasn't defending the run well at all at that point, and it's entirely possible that they would have converted a first down with two runs anyway.

-And finally, speaking of the coaches getting things right it looks like they might actually be figuring out how to use Lamar Jackson in a gameplan! The silly fake sweeps and decoy plays were kept to a very bare minimum this week and instead just let him line up at quarterback and run some option plays.

And go figure, that worked out pretty well!

For most of the game the Ravens were getting 4+ yards on the ground every time they called one of those plays, and Jackson had a wide open field and a sure touchdown early in the game that was only prevented by a nick-of-time Steelers timeout.

This has been a trend early on, with plays where Jackson lines up at quarterback being much more productive on average than plays where he lines up somewhere else on the field, and hopefully everyone is starting to get that through their heads. Just let him run the read option 5-8 times a game to add a wrinkle to the running attack, maybe hit a big play in the process, and when safeties and linebackers start attacking the line to stop it you can start sprinkling in some play-action and RPOs to take advantage of them.

It really doesn't need to be any cuter than that, and my guess is that Joe Flacco would like that a lot better than running silly fake sweeps and lining up to stand around and watch the game too!

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next sunday is not an automatic win

I know this is one of those things a lot of teams in the league could do through four weeks.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda...

Two missed kicks and an awful, "almost looks like it was fixed" reversal of a first down are what's keeping the Cleveland Browns from potentially being 4-0.

4-0, people. The Browns. If their goofy kicker makes an overtime field goal against the Steelers on opening day and then hits an extra point the following week in New Orleans, they go from 0-1-1 to 2-0-0. After beating the Jets, they had the Raiders beat two days ago until the referees/NFL stole the game from them with a horrible first down reversal late in the fourth quarter.

These are not the Cleveland Browns of 2016 and 2017 any longer. The Ravens are in Cleveland this Sunday to experience that for themselves.

If, if, if, if. Lots of "ifs".

But the reality is the Browns could easily be 4-0.

And that means the Ravens are not going to roll their helmets out there on the field next Sunday and beat the Browns by whatever score they want.

Be prepared, gang. It's going to be a dogfight.

I know Cleveland gave up 45 points to the Raiders on Sunday. I also know they scored 42. And I also remember they gave up 21 to the Steelers back on September 19 and 21 in overtime the following week against the Saints -- in New Orleans.

They're not going to the Super Bowl or anything. They might not even win five games this season. But they're not the 2016 and 2017 Browns. Not by a longshot.

Maybe I'm just writing this to prepare myself for the possibility -- I can't even believe I'm saying this -- that things don't go favorably for the Ravens on Sunday. Better to fire a warning shot five days out, I guess.

Under any normal circumstance, I wouldn't be at all concerned about the Browns.

But they're getting better. They are better, in fact. And because of that, the Ravens have to take their trip to Cleveland this Sunday very seriously.

your confidence is starting to show

On Monday here at #DMD, we ran a reader's poll asking you to pick the Ravens' record now that you've seen them through four weeks.

They're 3-1 thus far, of course. They've won in Pittsburgh. And defeated a then-undefeated Denver team that took previously unbeaten Kansas City down to the wire last night before losing 27-23.

Are the Ravens good? Or just experiencing some favorable eary season fortune?

You seem to think John Harbaugh's team is plenty good.

48% of those who responded think the Ravens are going 10-6 in 2018. If that happens, they should be playing January football for the first time in four seasons.

32% of you said they'll go 11-5. That would be one heckuva of a regular season. They'd probably win the AFC North title with that record.

9% of you took it a step further and predicted a record of 12-4. Wouldn't that be awesome.

A handful of you aren't buying stock in the Ravens just yet. 7% said they'd go 9-7 and 5% predicted a .500 record of 8-8.

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Four weeks into the NFL season and we now know this: The Ravens are pretty good. And the Steelers aren't.

How's that for a tidy summary from Sunday night's 26-14 win for John Harbaugh's team?

It's the truth, you can look it up.

The Ravens are 3-1 after the Sunday night victory, while the Steelers fell to 1-2-1 on the year, including 0-2 at home. When the dust settles on the 2018 season, Pittsburgh won't finish .500. You can't look that up yet, of course, but keep that in mind as we go along this season.

Sunday night's game featured a lot of mistakes by the Ravens, several of which were punished by the Steelers. Against a good team, Baltimore might have regretted those miscues at game's end. In this case, though, it merely turned what should have been a 35-14 romp into a 26-14 win that wasn't really over until late in the fourth quarter.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg again produced a stellar game plan, mixing the run with the pass and sprinkling in just enough Lamar Jackson to keep Pittsburgh off balance. Even an Alex Collins goal line fumble and subsequent trip to the darkhorse couldn't keep the Ravens from winning.

Last year, Big Ben got the better of Joe Flacco in two games. Last night in Pittsburgh, Flacco turned the tables as the Ravens won the series opener at Heinz Field, 26-14.

That the Ravens held Pittsburgh to just two touchdowns in sixty minutes was the prominent story of the night. And they did it without any sort of pass rush on Ben Roethlisberger.

One thing we know after a month of the 2018 season: This is a much different Ravens team than the 2017 edition that fizzled out on the final day of the regular season.

The Ravens are good.

Joe Flacco is healthy (knock on wood) and the wide receivers at his disposal are all catching balls and making plays. The tight ends are not only a good compliment, but dangerous in their own right.

The defense lacks a quality pass rusher, yes, but the rest of the unit is sound. No one is going to run the ball on the Baltimore front seven and the secondary has more than held its own in the four games if you're willing to concede that what happened in Cincinnati in week two was more about the Mosely injury than anything else.

And the Ravens have the best kicker in the world.

There's lots of the season left to play and a key injury or two could send them in a different direction, but all things being equal, this is a playoff-bound football team that could do some real damage come January.

I'm talking about the Ravens there. Not the Steelers.

For once, it feels good to know in early October that Pittsburgh won't be a factor come late December.

The Ravens proved that point on Sunday night.

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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.

losers and winners edition


The Orioles

Ok, it’s all over, whether you were watching after Memorial Day or not. The 2018 Baltimore Orioles won 47 games.

Once again, the 47 wins were the fewest by a Major League team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who won only 43 games. In the era of 162-game seasons (since 1961), only that Tigers team and the expansion 1962 Mets (40 wins) were worse.

Interestingly, the Orioles did not finish with the fewest runs scored in the league in 2018; both the Marlins and Padres scored fewer. The Baltimore pitching staff did allow the most runs in the majors, however, by a significant margin over the lousy Royals, White Sox and Rangers.

As noted here before, just as an opinion, the 2018 Orioles are the worst team in modern history without an excuse to be that bad.

Yes, nearly every decent (or more than decent) Major League player was off the roster during the final two months of the season. It was obvious what would happen then. Before that, however? It’s still hard to believe.

I mean, even the run differential would indicate that the Orioles might have finished with 55 or 56 wins, not 47. Really bad, but not quite historic. Oh well.

One last reminder. The Orioles won on Opening Day when Adam Jones hit a game-winning home run off the Twins’ Fernando Rodney in the 11th inning at Camden Yards. Jones crushed it; it was a no-doubter. Literally nothing that happened the rest of the season came anywhere close.


Alternate shot, aka “foursomes”

A charming guy named Mark Carnevale, once the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, now calls live golf for PGA Tour Radio. I happened to hear him Saturday morning reporting from the Ryder Cup, and he was going half-nuts.

Every time a U.S. player hit a poor shot after a Euro player did the same, Carnevale went ballistic.

Here’s an example: “Stenson played first on this par 3 and hit it short left of the green. After DJ sees that, he has to hit the ball on the green. It’s inexcusable!”

I laughed. I mean, I appreciate his passion. I’m sure he wants a guy like Dustin Johnson, who made it No. 1 in the world recently, to play like it.

But seriously, don’t you think that Johnson was really trying to hit that ball on the green? Don’t you believe he was thinking the same thing as Carnevale -- “I get this on the green relatively close, advantage us…”

He didn’t do what he wanted. It’s the alternate shot format…there are only two balls hit off every tee, not four. You don’t get a second chance after your first guy hits a bad one.

There’s this idea that the American players are selfish in the Ryder Cup; they think like themselves, not like members of a team. Perhaps there’s some truth to that, and if there is it certainly makes foursomes play more difficult.

Somehow, I think better execution would make all that moot, but what do I know?


Atlanta, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York.

Well, if you’re into playoff baseball, you can watch all those guys the Orioles traded a couple months ago over the next few weeks. That doesn’t include sidearmer Darren O’Day, of course, who had surgery back in July and hasn’t pitched for the Braves.

Manny Machado's RBI triple on Friday night was a key hit for the Dodgers as they swept a final weekend series in San Francisco to finish tied with Colorado for the N.L. West title.

Manny Machado was the first to go, on July 18. Compared to his 96 games in Baltimore, Machado struggled for the Dodgers. He had more strikeouts as a Dodger in 2018 than he did as an Oriole, in more than 100 fewer at-bats.

Zach Britton went to the Yankees on July 24, and he’s made 25 appearances since. He doesn’t appear to be the pitcher he was a couple years ago, but New York really doesn’t need him to be.

On July 30, the Orioles sent Brad Brach to the Braves for international bonus slot money. The 32-year-old struggled for a bad team in Baltimore but has been excellent for a winning team in Atlanta, allowing just four earned runs in 23 innings with 22 strikeouts.

The following day was the last day in Baltimore for both Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop. Gausman has five wins in 10 starts and has allowed just five home runs in 59 innings for the Braves. Schoop, surprisingly, has been terrible; the guy the Orioles got to replace him, Jonathan Villar, was significantly better.

Nevertheless, every one of those guys was hoping they’d get a chance to perform in the playoffs, and every one of them will, besides O’Day.


Saturday night

They played a real thriller up the road in State College on Saturday, with Ohio State scoring two late touchdowns and then stopping Penn State on a questionable fourth down play call; the Buckeyes won 27-26.

Spend all the time you want talking about the issues, whether past or current, surrounding the football programs at Penn State and Ohio State. Lord knows I have. Still, if you happened to tune into that game just to watch some football…

There were 110,889 people in Beaver Stadium, almost every one of them wearing white. It was incredible, and the fact that the road team came back to win was even more incredible.

While I was watching, I started to chuckle at the fact that the football team from the University of Maryland is supposed to be among the “peers” of these teams. Seeing the atmosphere in the stadium, it might as well be another planet, though the Maryland and Penn State campuses are only 200 miles apart.

During the NCAA basketball tournament, we love to talk about the “mid-majors” and “low-majors” who beat the big boys. For sure, it’s a big deal when Middle Tennessee takes down Tom Izzo’s group of McDonald’s All-Americans.

I’d say that the football team at Maryland, or at Rutgers, is less of a peer of Ohio State or Penn State than Ryan Odom’s UMBC team is of Virginia. The problem, of course, is that the Terps can’t schedule those teams when they want; they have to play them every year.


New England Patriots

There are teams that you can count on to recover from poor performances, and there are teams that never really have poor performances. Then there is the team in Foxboro.

The New England Patriots were on their way to a division deficit of three games if they lost at home to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Even for a team with the Patriots’ history, coming back from 1-3 to a division title would have been hard.

Was there really any question of what the result would be? I don’t mean just a New England win, since anybody can win in the NFL. I mean a serious beatdown of Patriot-like proportions.

When Bill Belichick’s teams play well, they usually do so because of their defense, no matter how good Tom Brady may be that day. I heard all week how Ryan Tannehill was off the schneid of so-so quarterbacks, and then I saw him with 99 yards passing at the end of the third quarter. At the same time, the Dolphins had run the ball nine times for 15 yards.

Fact is…the Patriots get to play six games this year, like they do every year, against the Dolphins, Jets and Bills. I think Sam Darnold is going to be good, and the Dolphins still lead the division, and the Bills have been less embarrassing than they were in Week 1.

Still, I’d bet more money on New England going 6-0 in division games than I would on any other potential finish.

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the right team won

The Ryder Cup mattered more to the European team. And they won.

This year's event in Paris was supposed to be one for the ages, with Tiger Woods coming out of hibernation and everyone's favorite Tour uncle, Jim Furyk, getting the captain's nod this time around.

Add to Woods and Furyk a talented group of proven winners and it was all set up for the first win on European soil since 1993.

But it never materialized. In fact, it was a rout, really.

The team that cares more about winning the Ryder Cup won.

The 12 American players and their leader(s) care, too. Don't be one of those goofs who says "our guys don't really want to win". That's simply not true. But the Europeans see the Ryder Cup differently than we see it. It's important to them. Vitally so, in fact. The American team would like to win. The European team needs to win.

How did it happen?

There are many reasons.

Without question, the golf course was tailored to perfection to help the European team and hurt the U.S. squad. No sour grapes there. It should be that way. That's why it's called home course advantage.

By narrowing the fairways, growing the rough and slowing down the greens, the European powers-that-be sauced up Le National like a traditional European Tour event and, at the same time, created something unlike just about anything you'll see on the PGA Tour on any given week.

That was step one, but it was a big one. Rory McIlroy gave away a slice of the secret in the post-match interview yesterday when he said, "We took one look at the set-up on Monday when we got here (Paris) and said to ourselves, 'They're going to have a tough time with this layout'."

And indeed the Americans did have a tough go of it. Well, everyone except Justin Thomas, I guess.

Tommy Fleetwood (left) and Francesco Molinari (right) went 4-0 together in this year's Ryder Cup, the first time in the event's history one pairing won all four matches they played as a team.

Anytime a team golf event is lost, "pairings" are always considered part of the problem. It's natural, of course. "This guy fit better with him," "their styles aren't good for one another", and so on.

When four of the five sessions in the Ryder Cup are played in pairs, the pairings are important. And despite Jim Furyk's hours and hours of thinking, scribbling, crossing out and finally deciding on groups of two to play with one another, he whiffed on the pairings issue right from the very start on Friday morning.

By not playing Phil Mickelson in the AM session -- the better-ball format, much more to his liking and style -- Furyk was pigeon-holed into sending him out on Friday afternoon in the alternate shot event. Bad move. Not only is alternate shot a quirky format for Phil, he had no real partner, either.

Easy to say this now, but Mickelson should have played in the AM with Rickie Fowler. That would have given Dustin Johnson the perfect partner in Brooks Koepka. Spieth and Thomas could have gone out as planned, and Tiger could have partnered with Bryson DeChambeau, a perfect compliment for the mad scientist and an easy way to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Mickelson could have been rested on Friday afternoon and would have been fresh for Saturday morning's better ball format, if needed.

Giving Patrick Reed to Woods for two matches was strange, and that's being kind. That's more about Reed than anything else, but we know, for sure, Reed and Spieth had a track record of success together back in 2016. While the Thomas/Spieth pairing worked out well (3-1) in Paris, the inability to find a partner for the enigmatic Reed was a significant blow to the U.S. hopes.

The European team is made up of 12 players who can seemingly play with one another and not miss a beat.

The American team is made up of 12 players who need to have a comfortable relationship with their playing partner in order to have a chance. It's not easy to make those pairings when half the players on the team aren't a good "fit" with the other half.

But pairings aside, the biggest issue of the three days came down to one thing; the European players played better golf.

And that's where the likes of Woods and Mickelson are going to get the bulk of the criticism, since they're not only the elder statesmen on the team, but they've both had a hand in how the U.S. Ryder Cup team is put together these days.

Tiger went 0-4. Phil went 0-2. In fairness to Woods, he deserves a small pass given his playing schedule over the last ten weeks. He played in nine events, including four straight in September, and won the TOUR Championship just eight days ago in Atlanta. If he was a bit fried landing in Paris last Monday, you can't really blame him.

Mickelson labored all week in practice sessions, then played horribly on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday in his singles loss to Francesco Molinari.

For those two to play in six matches and not get one point tells you everything you need to know about the U.S.'s chances of winning. Mix in Bryson DeChambeau and his 0-3 mark and you have three of the four captain's picks going a combined 0-9, although it's fair to point out that Woods and DeChambeau actually played OK on Saturday in the alternate shot match against Molinari and Fleetwood...they were just run out of the gym by those two European stalwarts.

So, what went wrong the most?

It came down to golf. If you look at the total three day event as a "tournament", only four U.S. players played well: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau. Spieth got drummed on Sunday but his opponent, Thorbjorn Olesen, was the equivalent of six under for 15 holes. Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson had flashes of solid play but neither was dominant. The other six guys didn't do much of anything, all but one of them losing on Sunday in the singles competition.

Every European player recorded at least one point out of the 17.5 earned by Thomas Bjorn's team. That's how you win.

Veteran Ryder Cup stalwarts like Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter came through big time for Europe. Woods and Mickelson, as mentioned above, offered no real value on the scoreboard.

In the end, the Americans will need to take a look -- again -- at the points system they use to calculate their Ryder Cup standings. Perhaps more emphasis should be put on the final four months leading up to the event itself. This year, a formula like that would have helped the likes of Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley and would have hurt Mickelson, Spieth and Reed, all of whom didn't do much of anything in the summer.

One final thing: Playing the Ryder Cup the week following the Tour Championship and the completion of the FedEx Cup was a huge mistake. And that's not just a "Tiger thing", either. 11 of the 12 American players played all four September events leading up to the Ryder Cup. That's a lot of golf to play -- with some pretty high stakes -- over a one month period. And then twelve hours after your final putt in Atlanta you're in Paris, teeing it up in one of the most important events of your life?

Fortunately, the 2020 TOUR Championship will end about one month prior to the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, so this issue shouldn't be a problem in two years. But this time around, at least, the cramped PGA Tour schedule was part of the narrative in Paris.

Better planning is needed by the U.S. team in the future.

Better golf would help, too.

Let it be known, in 2018, the right team won. And the team that planned better also played better.

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