Tuesday
September 15
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 15

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would one of the elite qb's make our receivers shine?

In my weekly Tuesday column for Tony Lombardi's excellent Ravens-centric website, Russell Street Report.com, I authored a piece today that centered on a conversation I had with a friend of mine in the aftermath of Sunday's 19-13 loss to the Broncos. To read my column in its entirety, GO HERE.

aaron
So, just what kind of production would Aaron Rodgers get from the Ravens' receiving corps?

Look, I'm on record, long ago, as a card-carrying member of the Joe Flacco fan club. I've argued this point for as long as he's been in the league and will always make the case that it's far more important for your quarterback to be a "winner" (see: Flacco) than it is for him to be technically sound, "look the part", but come up on the losing end a lot (see: Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, et al). So, when I bring up the point that I referenced in the Russell Street Report piece, it's not because I'm trying to stir the pot with regard to Flacco. I'm merely asking the question, or at least pondering the questions that were thrown at me after Sunday's loss. What would Tom Brady do with the likes of Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro and Kamar Aiken? Would the Packers have lost on Sunday, 19-13, with 38 yards of offense and no offensive TD's if Aaron Rodgers were throwing to the same group of ne'er do wells that Flacco had at his disposal on Sunday?

Eight years into the league now -- and still battling that elusive, dumb question, is Flacco "elite"? -- shouldn't Joe be able to make chicken salad out of any receiving recipe the front office concocts for him? I know those four guys he was working with on Sunday were very limited, quality wise, but were they that bad or was Joe off kilter a little bit too? How much of it was the offensive line's play, coupled with the fact that James Hurst was fighting for his life on virtually every snap and Flacco had to know his season was in jeopardy every time DeMarcus Ware came flying his way?

And no matter what the answers to those questions, I go back to what I asked originally. Would Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger finish the day with no offensive scores and a lackluster overall offensive performance if they would have been behind center on Sunday in Denver?

As much as I respect Flacco, it's a fair question to ask.


The Ravens had some outstanding "corner play" from Jimmy Smith on Sunday, and Drew's Morning Dish is excited to announce we've teamed up with our own exceptional corner -- the Corner Bakery Cafe is our newest corporate partner here at #DMD. We've been hanging out at the Goucher Boulevard Corner Bakery location throughout 2015. They offer an awesome sit-down breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, with free wi-fi and plenty of space for your week-day business meetings. My personal favorite at the Corner Bakery is the chopped salad, a lunchtime tradition of mine. I guarantee you this: If you're in there a couple of times a week during the morning or afternoon hours, you're likely going to bump into me. I'm in there all the time!

Catering is an important part of what they do at Corner Bakery on Goucher Boulevard. If you're a business in the Towson area, ordering your office lunch catering platter is easy -- first, check out their website RIGHT HERE and click on "catering" to see all of their made-to-order sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc. Then, just give them a call at 443-279-7377 and place your order!

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Those of you who are Calvert Hall High School supporters are spending a lot of time on the campus these days as both football and soccer have kicked off at CHC. The next time you're heading over to Kelly Field to check out the Cardinals, use the coupon on the Corner Bakery ad below and save $3.00 on a Combo. Just present the coupon or show it to the cashier on your smart phone and you'll save $3.00! We'll be bringing you more information on some fun sports-related things going on at the Goucher Boulevard location, so stick with us here at #DMD and you'll find out more in the coming weeks!

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grading the ravens

We'll be posting Ravens grades every Tuesday morning here at #DMD, but we're NOT going to go with the tried-and-true "A, B, C, D, E" grading system. Instead, we've developed our own "point system" with a couple of special twists. First, we're only grading six players from each game. If you don't make it in the top six, you don't get any points. Second, the points are handed out based on overall play, involvement in crucial/critical plays and contributions to scoring plays. They are also weighted based on the position someone plays. In other words, Marshal Yanda is rarely, if ever, involved in a "scoring play" but Joe Flacco might be involved in four or five in any given game. Therefore, Yanda's "overall play" will garner him his largest chunk of points for the game. It's a work in progress, but I think you'll like our grading system over time. It's designed to showcase individual play on a game-by-game basis but also be an indicator of who has played best throughout the season.

1. Jimmy Smith, 9.2 points -- Scored the team's only touchdown on the day and held Denver's best receiver (Demaryius Thomas) without a score, although Thomas did pile up some yards in the first half.

2. Brandon Williams, 7.6 -- Had a remarkable day against the run, making seven total tackles, with four of those resulting in a net rushing gain of two yards or less for the Denver running back. He and the rest of the defensive line buckled a bit during the Broncos 4th quarter drive that lasted almost eleven minutes, but for the most part, Williams was a beast on Sunday.

3. C.J. Mosley, 7.0 -- The second year Ravens linebacker had a whopper of an afternoon, with five tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection. He was particularly effective in blitz schemes, something I'm sure we'll see more of as the season goes on.

4. Carl Davis, 6.7 -- Had an outstanding NFL debut, as the 3rd round draft pick out of Iowa got the starting nod when Timmy Jernigan wasn't able to go. All he did was team up with the aforementioned Brandon Williams and Chris Canty to stuff the Denver rushing attack and also regularly penetrated their offensive line to chase Peyton Manning around on several occasions. If he duplicates that kind of play every week, we'll be saying "Haloti who?" sooner than we would have expected.

5. Daryl Smith, 5.4 -- The mishandled interception-that-wasn't late in the 3rd quarter was basically the only blemish on his afternoon in Denver. Yes, that one hurt, a game-changer, really, but all in all the linebacker had a super opener vs. the Broncos. Disrupted three passes and was effective against the run as well. If only he would have picked off that ball that was right in his hands...

6. Sam Koch, 2.0 -- True, he was kicking in Denver, which added yardage to all of his kicks, but Sam Koch averaged over 50 yards per-kick on Sunday and did a nice job of flipping the field on a couple of occasions when the Ravens needed to get out of their own end. The punter doesn't make the list much, but on Sunday, Koch had a very strong afternoon.

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"fnkell3" wins Glory Days gift card in "Beat DMD" contest!

27 people entered our Week #1 NFL pick 'em contest at #DMD and ten of the 27 entrants beat me in the contest generated by our friends at Hong Kong Louie.com. True to my word, I'm giving a $50 Glory Days gift card to the person with the most points who beats me, which means "fnkell3", with 1222 points, will be heading to Glory Days for lunch or dinner on me sometime soon! I've listed the top 5 finishers below. Thanks to all of you who participated. Let's do it again this week! Entry details for the contest are below.

Winner: fnkell3 - 1222

Next: djm702: 1167

kulwicky:1167

askal01: 1155

festivusmaximus: 1134

Drew's score: DMD2015: 967


go head-to-head with drew in nfl week 2 and win a $50 gift card at glory days

The NFL season is upon us and our friends at Hong Kong Louie have created weekly Contests exclusively for Drew's Morning Dish readers.

Each week, Hong Kong Louie handicaps all the NFL games. For each game, you have the option of selecting the favorite or the underdog. There are no point spreads – you must select the outright winners of the games – the underdogs are awarded commensurately more points than the favorites to reward those who correctly pick the upsets. To score points, you MUST select the WINNER of a game. If you select the winner, you collect the points indicated for that team. If you select the loser, you collect NO POINTS for that game. After all games are decided, each entrants' points for all games are totaled.

Example: If you take the Ravens to beat Oakland this Sunday, you receive 100 points if the Ravens win the game. If you select Oakland, you receive 313 points if the Raiders win. If you select the loser of the game, you score NO points. The same follows for all 16 games played this week. When all games are decided, each entrants' score for all games is totaled.

The player who beats Drew's total points and who has the highest point-total of all #DMD contestants wins a $50 gift card to Glory Days. If no one beats Drew's total, the gift card goes into the following week's Contest and thus doubles next weeks' prize value. Simple enough, right? Just go to the Hong Kong Louie website, register, and you're all set for the season. Each week—prior to the Thursday night game at 8:30 pm—you go in, make your picks, and go head-to-head with Drew.

Here's how to enter the #DMD Contest:

  1. You must be a registered member of HongKongLouie.com to enter the #DMD Contest (it's FREE to register and there is NO obligation of any kind). Many #DMD readers are already registered members of HongKongLouie.com. [And several have already won HongKongLouie cash prizes!] If you are not already registered, it literally takes only thirty seconds to sign up. Register here.
  2. Once you create an account (or if you already have one), go to the #DMD exclusive contest page.
  3. Copy-and-paste or type this password — r1yocG2E — into the password area in the above (#2) link. [Please don't share the password with anyone who is not a #DMD reader.]
  4. Make your selections of the winners of all the games, and then answer the Tiebreaker questions.
  5. At the conclusion of the last Sunday night game of the week, each entrants' score will be published on any computer or phone on which he or she is logged in to HongKongLouie.com.
  6. If you have any questions about the Contest or the log-in procedures, please e-mail: support@hongkonglouie.com. We realize that the explanation here is more complex than the process of entering the Contest, and for that, we apologize. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible with any clearer explanations necessary.
  7. #DMD readers are also cordially invited to participate in the non-exclusive Hong Kong Louie Contests, and compete against all the world for the cash prizes to the winners. The two currently open for entries are the NFL Division Winners and the NFL Week 1 Contest. And some good ones are coming up on the FedEx Cup and the Presidents Cup; the (baseball) World Series and the World Series of Poker; UFC 192; the Breeders Cup thoroughbred races; and the Primetime Emmy Awards.
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o's win, 2-0, but can't gain ground

Kevin Gausman produced one of his finest pitching performances of the last two years and Adam Jones knocked in both runs for the Birds last night as they opened a 3-game homestand with the Red Sox by winning, 2-0.

Gausman (3-6) struck out seven, walked four and allowed only one runner past second base. The right-hander was 0-4 in his previous seven starts since Aug. 1.

Caleb Joseph had three hits for the Orioles, who moved two games ahead of the last-place Red Sox. Baltimore still trails four teams in the hunt for the second AL wild-card spot, as New York, Texas, Minnesota and Cleveland all won last night.


TUESDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
BALTIMORE
U. Jimenez
11-9, 4.22
J. Kelly
10-6, 4.70
7:05 PM EDT
ORIOLE PARK



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 79 - 64 19 3
Rangers 76 - 67 19
Twins 75 - 68 19 1
Angels 72 - 71 19 4
Indians 71 - 71 20
Orioles 70 - 73 19 6
Monday
September 14
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 14

subscribe to the #dmd rss feed

ravens squander golden opportunity to beat peyton, denver in season opener

Last week while meeting with the media at Owings Mills, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. bristled at a question posed to him regarding teammate Kamar Aiken and the team's lack of experience at the reciever position heading into the 2015 season. Smith was his usual straight-forward self with his answer, challenging the reporter to take off his suit and tie and "try it for yourself". Perhaps this week at practice, Smith will focus more on catching balls thrown his way and spend less time chastising a media member for a perfectly reasonable question.

Smith -- to borrow a popular tennis term -- had the game on his racket with forty two seconds left in the 4th quarter yesterday, but Joe Flacco's pass on the doorstep of the end zone went through his hands and bounced off of his face-mask, giving the Broncos new hope as the Baltimore offense plugged away on what looked to be a game-winning drive. One play later, on 3rd and 10 from the Denver 16 yard line, Flacco's heave into the end zone in the diretion of Crockett Gilmore was intercepted by former Raven Darian Stewart and John Harbaugh's team came up a loser in the season opener, 19-13.

89
The game fell into the hands of Steve Smith Sr. yesterday, and fell out, too.

To his credit, Smith faced the media after the game and took on full blame for the would-be go-ahead score he failed to collect in the game's final minute, but taking the blame is what a professional is supposed to do when he comes up short in the clutch. That it was the Ravens most experienced wide receiver who dropped the biggest throw of the game was indeed ironic. The other three wide-outs in the game, Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro, had almost no impact at all on the contest, and if there was a receiver on the team you wanted to have the ball thrown in his direction with the game on the line, it would have been the normally sure-handed #89.

It's hard to fathom how you can call a loss in Denver to a Peyton Manning-led team a "bad loss", but that's how I chronicle yesterday's defeat to the Broncos. Manning was awful, short-arming throws all day, showing virtually no mobility in the pocket, and basically looking like a guy who should have called it a career last January when he threw up that stinker against the Colts in the playoffs. Peyton's deficiencies were apparent from almost the outset, although Denver did notch a pair of early field goals as the Ravens defense stiffened after allowing chunks of first quarter yardage. When Jimmy Smith picked off a Manning pass just after halftime and returned it for a touchdown, the game was there for the taking. Enter the Baltimore offense, who failed to produce a touchdown of their own in the opener and, save for that final drive in the last three minutes, looked as out of sync and listless as Manning himself did at times throughout the sixty minutes.

That the Ravens didn't win Sunday's opener at Denver was both poignant and justified, I suppose, because a team that gathers just 38 yards of offense in the first half of ANY game should never win. But there they were, trailing by six points, game on the line, ball in the air, Steve Smith Sr. under it, ready to catch-and-fall into the end zone for the game-winning score. Only he didn't finish the play, and the Ravens came up on the bad end of a 19-13 result that they'll probably look back on later in the season and say, "How on earth did we ever lose to Denver back on opening Sunday?"

terrell
The Ravens defense took a major hit on Sunday when Terrell Suggs suffered a season ending achilles injury.

The big post-game news was the announcement that Terrell Suggs tore his achilles during the game and will not play again this season. That he had a miserable game yesterday (before the injury) in no way changes the fact that he will be SORELY missed by the Baltimore defense in 2015. Suggs' presence meant opposing offenses couldn't double-team both #55 and Elvis Dumervil, which greatly helped Doom's play as a Raven. Suggs was also perhaps the best linebacker in the league at sniffing out screens and reverses, a gift he's had since coming into the league in 2003. He's also a techincally sound "edge setter" against the run, which helps send opposing running backs into the heart of Baltimore's defensive line, where they're often gobbled up for little or no gain. The Ravens love to use the "next man up" theory to soften the blow of injuries, retirements, player departures, etc., but ZaDarius Smith is no Terrell Suggs and the Ravens are going to miss their outside linebacker over the next fifteen games.

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ravens lose -- here's why

Here are the five key reasons why the Ravens fell to 0-1 with Sunday's season opening 19-13 loss to the Broncos:

1. Daryl Smith dropped a sure interception late in the 3rd quarter deep inside Denver territory that would have either been a pick-six for him or, at worst, Baltimore would have had the ball on the doorstep and poised to add to their 13-9 lead at the time. As soon as that happened, I said, "Boy, I sure hope that doesn't come back to haunt us..." because plays like that, it seems, usually swing the game one way or the other. If Smith hauls that ball in and takes it to the house (or if he doesn't but the Ravens still manage a TD in the aftermath) the game's over.

2. Steve Smith Sr.'s drop of a touchdown pass in the game's final minute was also a back-breaker, as Flacco and the offense finally found a little rythym after taking over at their own 20 yard line with three minutes left in the game. It's a throw Smith catches 9 times out of 10. Yesterday, unfortunately, was the one he didn't manage to grab.

3. Eugene Monroe suffered a concussion on the second play of the game and the Broncos feasted on his replacement, reserve left tackle James Hurst. In fairness, Hurst was roasted throughout the remainder of the first half and then steadied himself somewhat in the final thirty minutes, but by then, Flacco was running around with a case of happy feet after getting clobbered a handful of times in the first half. Monroe would have had his hands full with DeMarcus Ware just like Hurst did, but it wouldn't have been such a mismatch if the veteran left tackle would have been in there from start to finish.

4. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman needed to use more short passing plays to offset the Denver pass rush and he should have utilized rookie Buck Allen in those situations. Allen showed a good nose for the hole while running the ball (9 carries/30 yards) and he could have been more effective out in the flat catching short throws in open space. Trestman didn't start using Allen until the 3rd quarter and failed to involve him at all in the passing game. Additionally, once Trestman (and Harbaugh) saw how Hurst was getting manhandled, they should have used a running back or a tight end to offer some double-team help for the inexperienced left tackle.

5. Joe Flacco's 3rd quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown by Denver's Aquib Talib was a "bad throw", period. He tried to force the ball into Steve Smith near midfield, which wasn't at all required with the Ravens ahead 13-9 and dictating the pace of the game. It should be noted, in fairness to the quarterback, that Talib ran through virtually the entire Ravens team during the interception return.


ravens game balls for sunday, september 13

Three Ravens get #DMD game balls for their highlight performances in Sunday's loss to the Broncos.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams was terrific throughout most of the afternoon, as he finished the day with six solo tackles and was largely responsible for the Ravens smothering the Denver running attack until that clock-eating ten minute drive that the Broncos produced in the fourth quarter. Williams was one of the reasons the Ravens parted company with Haloti Ngata in the off-season; they figured #98 could basically do the same job as Ngata -- for a lot less money.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith had a quiet first half, but was the team's best player in the third and fourth quarters, returning an interception for a touchdown and clamping down on Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas throughout the second half.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley produced a whopper of an opener, with five tackles and two sacks of Peyton Manning. He was particularly effective on the blitz, where Dean Pees finally figured out the best way to attack the future Hall of Fame quarterback was from the inside, where Denver's inexperienced offensive line had trouble all day long.


And on the other end, these guys stunk it up on Sunday --

Courtney Upshaw -- Largely ineffective all afternoon, particularly against the pass in the first half. Looks to me like he's put on a lot of weight since last season, if that has anything to do with anything.

James Hurst -- His inexperience showed on Sunday plus he was going up against one of the league's premier pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware. It would have helped if offensive coordinator Marc Trestman wouldn't have left Hurst on his own for the most the day, but the reality on Sunday was that Hurst was a tad out of his element going up against Ware and the Broncos pass rush.

Terrell Suggs -- His name didn't appear in the box score on Sunday, that's how irrelevant he was in the 19-13 loss to the Broncos. Of course, he suffered a season ending achilles injury in the 4th quarter, but for the first 45 minutes, he was literally NO factor at all in the game. Didn't make a tackle, didn't have an assist, didn't knock down a pass...his name did not appear in the box score.

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week 1 wagers...for entertainment only

Here's a look back at my five featured games from Sunday's Game Day edition of #DMD and how I fared in picking those games against the point spread:

Panthers (-3) at Jaguars -- If the Panthers are going to be decent in 2015, this is a game they will win. I'm not suspecting Carolina's going to the Super Bowl or anything, but I figure they'll win the games they're supposed to, lose the ones you expect they'll lose, and finish up around 9-7. This is one of those games they should win -- and I think they will. Take Carolina and give the Jags a few points. -- WINNER, 1-0

Saints at Cardinals (-2.5) -- I don't get this point spread at all. It's as if Vegas is just dying for you to gobble up on Arizona so they LOL when New Orleans blasts them by 17. I think Arizona is going to be high-quality in 2015 and I'm not sure the Saints can win half their games. I'm suspicious of this line, but I'm loving the Cardinals in this one, big...Arizona 30-20. -- WINNER, 2-0

Bengals (-3) at Raiders -- This is another spread I don't quite understand, but it actually works well for me because I think Cincy is due for a drop-off in 2015. I also don't believe Oakland's going to be any good this season, but this is a good way for them to start the campaign; with a win and some renewed confidence before the Ravens buzz in there next week and give them the Cleat of Reality. I'm going with the Raiders in a surprise here, 21-20. -- LOSER, 2-1

Dolphins (-3.5) at Redskins -- I do this to myself a lot and I'm going to start the year with one of these crazy backwards games that I know, 100%, I'm going to regret. There is NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that Miami is winning this game. I like the Dolphins to win the AFC East this year and this win will get them off to a good start. Washington, meanwhile, is going to stink to high heavens in 2015. This will be an appropriate way for them to start the season, getting drilled at home by Miami. So -- here it comes, wait for it -- it makes no sense at all to pick the Redskins here, because I think they're going to lose 28-3. That said, I'm picking the Redskins and taking the 3.5 points, although the Dolphins will win on a buzzer-beating field goal, 17-16. -- LOSER, 2-2

Packers (-7) at Bears -- Green Bay is going to be very good, again, and the Bears figure to be decent too as long as their receiving corps can stay healthy. I don't know how the Chicago defense is going to be able to contain Aaron Rodgers and Company, but I'm going to take a big bite out of the 7-point worm the oddsmakers are dangling off that hook. Green Bays wins, but I'll go with the Bears in this one plus the seven...Packers hold on to win 27-23. -- LOSER, 2-3

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- It just HAS to be the Cardinals, right? Arizona is going to beat the Saints by at least a field goal, aren't they? Unless I'm missing something (and I definitely might be), this one is just too good to pass up. Take Arizona (-2.5) for the Best Bet. -- WINNER, 1-0

And finally, I picked Denver to beat the Ravens, 30-21, and cover the 5-point spread, so that puts me at 1-0 picking Ravens games so far in 2015.

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orioles beat royals, 8-2, still in the playoff race

While eveyrone else in Baltimore has switched to football mode, the Orioles continue to hang on in the American League wild card race, albeit with a near impossible hill to climb over the season's final three weeks. The Birds won 2 of 3 from Kansas City over the weekend, including last night's 8-2 win that saw Jonathan Schoop hit two home runs and Chris Davis hit his team high 42nd to back a solid seven inning pitching effort from Wei Yen Chen.

The O's are six games out in the chase for one of the two A.L. wild card spots. While the Birds host Boston this Monday, Tuedsay and Wednesday, here's what the others in the wild card hunt are doing:

Yankees -- at Tampa Bay (Mon-Wed)

Rangers -- home vs. Houston (Mon-Wed)

Twins -- home vs. Detroit (Mon-Wed)

Angels -- at Seattle (Mon-Wed)

Indians -- home vs. K.C. (Mon-Wed)

Rays -- home vs. NY Yankees (Mon-Wed)


TUESDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
BALTIMORE
U. Jimenez
11-9, 4.22
J. Kelly
10-6, 4.70
7:05 PM EDT
ORIOLE PARK



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 78 - 64 20 3
Rangers 75 - 67 20
Twins 74 - 68 20 1
Angels 72 - 70 20 3
Indians 70 - 71 21
Rays 69 - 73 20 6
Orioles 69 - 73 20 6
Sunday
September 13
#DMD GAME DAY
presented by
Volume 14
Issue 13
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos

4:25 PM EDT

Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver

The 20th season of Ravens football in Baltimore starts today with a key AFC match-up for John Harbaugh's team, as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. You never like to think ahead to late December when it's barely past Labor Day, but this one of those games that could be a tie-breaker factor later on in the season if both teams perform at a high level as most of the experts believe they will.

The Ravens haven't fared all that well in the Mile High City since 1996, going 1-4 lifetime at Denver, including a 49-27 drubbing on opening night of the 2013 season (September 6). Overall, in ten regular season games, the Ravens are 5-5 vs. Denver, but they're 2-0 when it matters most...in the playoffs.

As you'd expect on opening day, it's a game where both teams are mostly at full-strength. The Ravens will be missing 2nd year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who bascially missed all of training camp with a knee injury. Defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan might play, but he'll be nowhere near 100% if he does see action. The Broncos will be without safety T.J. Ward, who was suspended ten days ago for violating the league's personal conduct policy and will sit out today's opener.

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today's key storylines


*What's Kubiak's influence on the game? -- After spending the 2014 season as Baltimore's offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak took the Broncos' head coaching job last January and makes his debut today vs. those same Ravens. Kubiak and Joe Flacco hit it off last year and the Baltimore offense was as unpredictable and effective as it had been in quite some time. That begs the question, naturally: How much does Kubiak's one year in Baltimore affect today's game? Does he have the goods on Flacco or is the new Marc Trestman offense in Charm City as unpredictable as Kubiak's schemes were in 2014? With the Ravens limited from a wide-receiver standpoint, this seems like a perfect opportunity for Trestman to use the running backs in the passing game -- which is something Flacco likes to do, too. Kubiak knows that...or does he?

*Baltimore can't afford to fall behind early -- The Ravens need to get off to an even start today, meaning they can't spot the Broncos a couple of touchdowns and expect to compete in the game. It's important for a number of reasons that Baltimore holds serve in the first quarter or so of this afternoon's contest. It will keep Flacco from feeling like he "has to make something happen" and will also allow the defensive players the chance to play the Denver receivers tight and not be overly concerned with a big play or big penalty blowing open the game. The pressure to keep the game close will likely fall on Flacco and the offensive players, which means the quarterback has to avoid costly turnovers and mistakes. Sounds dumb to say this, but if Flacco can avoid throwing a pick today, that stat alone gives the Ravens a 60% chance to win.

*Can the Ravens pass rush make Peyton uncomfortable? -- The old football adage of "the best secondary is actually disguised as a great pass rush" will be critical for the Ravens today as they face Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. If the Ravens front seven can put pressure on Manning and make him move around, their chances for success increase dramatically. That means Dumervil, Suggs and Mosley need to be active throughout, and the linemen -- Brandon Williams, Chris Canty and Carl Davis -- are on double time, clogging up the gaps and also trying to get enough inside pressure on Manning that he flushes to his left and right where the linebackers hopefully await. If Manning gets time to throw, it could be a long day. The Ravens front seven has to come up big today.


percentage points

Here's a look at a handful of key parts and players in today's game at Denver and some percentage-of-success numbers to correlate with all of it.

67% - If you said to me, "Drew, what are the chances Denver wins today?"

28% - Chances of the Ravens holding Manning to under 300 yards passing?

60% - The chances the Ravens win if Flacco throws zero interceptions?

36% - What are the chances Justin Forsett runs for over 100 yards?

10% - The chances Peyton Manning doesn't throw an interception?

2% - Chances Justin Tucker misses an extra point today?

100% - What are the chances CBS shows Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines at Michigan within the first five minutes of the broadcast? 100%

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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.


All the OTAs and preseason games are finally behind us, and today in Denver, the games finally begin to count for real. We will finally get a look at whether all the offseason objectives -- upgrading the secondary, installing Marc Trestman's offense, adding some firepower at wide receiver (well, more on that shortly ...) will bear fruit.

To be sure, a loss at Denver should not lead Ravens fans to the ledge. There are easier things to do in the NFL than beat Peyton Manning on his home field in September. If the Ravens win all their home games and split all their road games, they'd finish at 12-4, and playing at Denver certainly constitutes one of the tougher road games.

Still, here are five (well, six..) players to watch on Sunday who might play a big role in whether the Ravens begin 1-0 or 0-1:

KAMAR AIKEN -- Top draft pick Breshad Perriman remains sidelined with a knee injury, the same one that has been day-to-day since late July. It's clear that Steve Smith is by far the Ravens' most dangerous receiving option, so expect the Broncos to throw a blanket over him. That will leave it up to second and third options such as Aiken, who is expected to make his first NFL start in his fifth season in the league, to pick up the slack.

CARL DAVIS -– Timmy Jernigan has been ruled doubtful with a knee injury, so the rookie defensive tackle from Iowa is expected to start in his first regular-season NFL game. Davis was by far the best of the rookies in training camp, and it’s looking like the Ravens might have gotten a steal grabbing him in the third round.

ELVIS DUMERVIL and TERRELL SUGGS -– Dumervil should be highly excited to return to Denver, and with Ryan Clady on injured reserve, the Broncos will be starting a rookie at left tackle in Ty Sambrailo. It could be Dumervil or Suggs lining up across from Sambrailo, but either way, this is one of the NFL’s most prolific sack artists squaring off against a rookie. It is a matchup the Ravens have to win.

EUGENE MONROE -- Denver last year had 41 sacks, with Von Miller (14) and DeMarcus Ware (10) accounting for 24 of them. Monroe has to prove he can protect Joe Flacco's blind side, and he will most likely have to deal with Ware firing off the right side of the defense.

LARDARIUS WEBB -- The Ravens usually prefer to keep Jimmy Smith on one side of the field and Lardarius Webb on the other, but don’t be surprised to see Smith shadow Demaryius Thomas. That would leave Webb to deal with Emmanuel Sanders. Webb has missed a lot of time in training camp and only looked average at times when he was out there. He needs to be better than average against Manning.

**BO'S PREDICTION** – Not sure how much Peyton Manning has left in the tank, and it will be interesting to watch that over the course of the season. But the Ravens are facing him at his freshest, and he will present a lot of challenges to the Ravens defense. Can a Ravens offense with essentially one proven wide receiver (even though Steve Smith bristled at that notion) do enough to win on the road against one of the AFC’s best teams? Not quite. DENVER 34, RAVENS 23

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put your money where your mouth is

Each week here at #DMD Game Day, I'll give you five NFL selections against the spread, my "best bet" of the bunch, and my official Ravens score prediction as well. This all, of course, is for "entertainment purposes only", although with the NFL officially in bed with both of the major fantasy sports companies in the country, the league is actually far more involved in gambling than any of us are, that's for sure.

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Carolina wins, 17-13

Panthers (-3) at Jaguars -- If the Panthers are going to be decent in 2015, this is a game they will win. I'm not suspecting Carolina's going to the Super Bowl or anything, but I figure they'll win the games they're supposed to, lose the ones you expect they'll lose, and finish up around 9-7. This is one of those games they should win -- and I think they will. Take Carolina and give the Jags a few points.

Saints at Cardinals (-2.5) -- I don't get this point spread at all. It's as if Vegas is just dying for you to gobble up on Arizona so they LOL when New Orleans blasts them by 17. I think Arizona is going to be high-quality in 2015 and I'm not sure the Saints can win half their games. I'm suspicious of this line, but I'm loving the Cardinals in this one, big...Arizona 30-20.

Bengals (-3) at Raiders -- This is another spread I don't quite understand, but it actually works well for me because I think Cincy is due for a drop-off in 2015. I also don't believe Oakland's going to be any good this season, but this is a good way for them to start the campaign; with a win and some renewed confidence before the Ravens buzz in there next week and give them the Cleat of Reality. I'm going with the Raiders in a surprise here, 21-20.

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Redskins fall, 17-16, but manage to cover.

Dolphins (-3.5) at Redskins -- I do this to myself a lot and I'm going to start the year with one of these crazy backwards games that I know, 100%, I'm going to regret. There is NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that Miami is winning this game. I like the Dolphins to win the AFC East this year and this win will get them off to a good start. Washington, meanwhile, is going to stink to high heavens in 2015. This will be an appropriate way for them to start the season, getting drilled at home by Miami. So -- here it comes, wait for it -- it makes no sense at all to pick the Redskins here, because I think they're going to lose 28-3. That said, I'm picking the Redskins and taking the 3.5 points, although the Dolphins will win on a buzzer-beating field goal, 17-16.

Packers (-7) at Bears -- Green Bay is going to be very good, again, and the Bears figure to be decent too as long as their receiving corps can stay healthy. I don't know how the Chicago defense is going to be able to contain Aaron Rodgers and Company, but I'm going to take a big bite out of the 7-point worm the oddsmakers are dangling off that hook. Green Bays wins, but I'll go with the Bears in this one plus the seven...Packers hold on to win 27-23.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- It just HAS to be the Cardinals, right? Arizona is going to beat the Saints by at least a field goal, aren't they? Unless I'm missing something (and I definitely might be), this one is just too good to pass up. Take Arizona (-2.5) for the Best Bet.


How Drew sees the Ravens/Broncos game

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Broncos pull away late to win by nine.

I think this will be a good football game today. I most certainly don't see it being the blowout that we saw a couple of years back in the opener when Peyton lit us up for seven TD's. Our defense is more well-rounded now, with capable players in all three areas (line, linebackers, secondary), but depth could be an issue if a couple of defensive guys get nicked up during the game. I also think it'll be close because the Ravens don't have to rely on throwing the ball 45 or 50 times to win. In fact, that's a losing formula for Baltimore today. If they throw it more than 40 times, they're going to lose. Balance is the key; 30 rushing attempts, 35 passing attempts.

As for how it plays out, I'm still concerned about the Ravens' ability to score points, but I don't think Peyton is going to have a field day with the Baltimore defense, either. I have a feeling the Ravens will be up 14-13 at the half and lead 21-13 early in the 3rd quarter before Manning and his receivers start connecting. Denver scores twice to go up 27-21, kicks a late field goal to make it 30-21 -- and that's how it ends in the Mile High City. Broncos win, 30-21.


DMD readers chime in via #Twitter with their picks

@DaveDschauck -- Denver 41-Ravens 17

@RegularEd -- Denver 28-Ravens 17

@yasin101 -- Denver 31-Ravens 28

@JButta321 -- Ravens 24-Denver 23

@manfredhanover -- Ravens 31-Denver 17

@Red_Head_Ed -- Ravens 27-Denver 24

@RoryMaher4 -- Ravens 34-Denver 30

@knorr_chris -- Ravens 28-Denver 17

FOLLOW DREW FORRESTER ON TWITTER -- @itsahooded4iron

Saturday
September 12
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 12

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too bad birds didn't show this life in late august

The seemingly untouchable Kansas City Royals bullpen had a blowout last night at Camden Yards, as the Birds battled back from a 6-4 deficit in the 8th inning to pull off a 14-8 triumph, punctuated by a grand slam from Nolan Reimold, followed by a home run from Manny Machado, and another grand slam later on in the inning from Steve Clevenger. It doesn't make up in any way for last October's butt-kicking the Royals gave the Birds in the American League Championship Series, but it did mark the O's third straight win and kept their dim-but-mathematically-still-alive playoff hopes flickering for at least another couple of games.

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Nolan Reimold gets the high-fives and back-slaps after his 8th inning grand slam propeled the Birds to a 10-run eighth inning in their 14-8 victory over K.C.

All three of these most recent consecutive wins have been marked by timely hitting, something that has been a wart for the Orioles virtually all season. Chris Davis hit the game-winning solo home run in the 9th inning on Tuesday in the Bronx, Steve Pearce hit one of his own in the 9th on Wednesday night that padded the O's lead to 5-3, and then, last night, Reimold hooked one off the left field foul pole off of Kelvin Herrera to push the Birds over the Royals. It's most likely too-little-too-late, which begs the question: "Why couldn't you guys do this back in August against the Twins, Royals and Rangers when you were busy losing 10 of 11 games to those three teams?"

Speaking of warts, has J.J. Hardy suddenly entered the December of his career or what? That dude hasn't had a timely hit since REO Speedwagon was putting out gold albums. And what to make of Gerardo Parra's struggles at the plate? Like Hardy, his bat has been placed in witness protection over the last three weeks. Not that either of them getting hot right now will propel the O's to a late playoff surge or anything, but it would be nice to see some offense from both of them, particularly Hardy, since the O's still have him under contract for two more seasons.

Mike Wright got the start on the mound for Baltimore last night and continued to struggle, allowing four earned runs in five innings of work, with two strikeouts, two walks and two home runs allowed. There was some good in him earlier in the summer when he was fresh and making his first few starts, but the work he's done since being recalled hasn't been all that impressive. He will, I assume, get a fair shot to start the season with the big league club in 2016, but I wouldn't be expecting much from him next spring.

It could get interesting today and tomorrow at Oriole Park after Friday night's 8th inning fireworks that included the Orioles piling on ten runs and K.C.'s Franklin Morales quite clearly throwing at Chris Davis, which led to the first baseman breaking his bat in anger and Buck Showalter getting ejected for coming out to bark about the gutless toss from Morales. Kansas City, though, still has a division title and the A.L.'s best record to wrap up, so they can't be getting guys suspended.

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drew's "scale of concerns" for sunday's ravens opener at denver

Happy Day Before The Season Starts! Like everyone else, I'm getting amped up for tomorrow's Ravens opener at Denver. I figured now was a good time to take a look at some things that worry me heading into the opener. I'll make this a regular feature on Saturdays during Ravens season, using "1" as a low area of concern and "5" as the maximum amount of concern. I'll address elements of importance from both sides of the ball and with both teams, too.

Playing Manning in September -- If you're going to face Peyton Manning, you'd definitely prefer NOT to do it in the season opener. And you'd rather not do it in Denver, either. The Ravens get both of those on Sunday. If you face him in December, in cold weather, Manning has 10-12 weeks of tread on his tires, he's probably sore and beat up, and, in general, you're getting a guy who is at the 20-mile mark in a 26-mile marathon. This Sunday, he's rested, not nicked up, mentally fresh, and playing in 90 degree temperatures. Scale of concern: 4.0

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One year after working together, former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and Ravens QB Joe Flacco will face one another tomorrow in Denver. How much do they both know about the other and can it help?

The Gary Kubiak factor -- This is probably being a tad bit overblown this week. If you read any of the stuff coming out of Denver, they're talking as if Kubiak was in Baltimore for 10 years and wrote their entire offensive playbook. Sure, he's familiar with Joe Flacco and Company, but Marc Trestman came in and put his own gameplan and schemes in place. In some ways, the Ravens might even have an advantage in that they KNOW, generally, what sorts of things Kubiak favors and likes with his offensive structure. Kubiak doesn't have that same depth of knowledge with Trestman. Concern: 2.5

Ravens injuries -- Breshad Perriman is OUT on Sunday, but that's not a surprise at all. Lorenzo Taliaferro is still out, too, which isn't all that big of a deal. However, If Timmy Jernigan can't go, that might hurt the front seven a little bit. He was expected to play a bigger role this year with the departure of Haloti Ngata, so his absence will put the heat on guys like Brandon Williams and Carl Davis to not only plug the gaps against the run but they'll need to try and get in the backfield occasionally and make Peyton's life difficult. Offensively, it looks the Ravens are OK with the exception of Perriman's continued absence. Concern: 2.0

A stinky pre-season for Baltimore -- If not for a last second touchdown pass in the pre-season opener over the Saints, the Ravens would have gone 0-4. It wasn't that they went 1-3 that was a concern, it was HOW they went 1-3. They were embarrassed in the first half of the Eagles game and the 1's and 2's on defense weren't all that good the next week against a hapless Washington offense. Still, it's only pre-season and nothing we saw in any of those four games was a worry with the exception of an apparent overall lack of depth once the Ravens dipped into their third and fourth string guys. Concern: 1.0


serena's grand slam hopes end, fed/joker in men's final again

Yesterday's semi-final was supposed to be Serena's cakewalk to the Women's final, the unseeded and unknown Roberta Vinci standing in the way of a trip to the U.S. Open Women's final for Serena Williams. She won the first set, 6-2, did Williams, and the trip to this afternoon's championship match was just minutes away. Except Vinci didn't get that message. She suddenly started hitting winners and the match got interesting. Then, of all things, Serena looked tight, with unforced errors and play that we hadn't seen from her in 2015 when she was winning the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles to put her one step away from the calendar grand slam. Vinci won the second set, 6-4, then duplicated that feat in the third, finishing off the match with a terrific touch shot that just settled in on the line, ending the grand slam dream for Serena.

On the Men's side, it's business as usual in Flushing Meadows, as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will meet in Sunday's championship match. They both had surprisingly easy times on Friday, with Djokovic beating an ailing Marin Cilic (0-1-2) and Federer disposing of Stan Wawrinka (4-3-1).

Djokovic is having a tremendous 2015 season. He's now 62-5 on the year with Friday's win and would finish the campaign with three majors (like Serena) if he wins tomorrow's U.S. Open final. Federer, a five-time US Open champion, reached his first final here in six years and will be looking for his first Grand Slam singles title since Wimbledon, 2012.

Federer leads the head-to-head with Djokovic 21-20 and won their most recent encounter three weeks ago in Cincinnati in straight sets.

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SATURDAY AFTERNOON'S MATCHUP
in
BALTIMORE
C. Tillman
9-11, 5.15
Y. Ventura
10-8, 4.34
1:05 PM EDT
ORIOLE PARK



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 77 - 62 23
Rangers 74 - 66 22
Twins 73 - 67 22 1
Angels 71 - 69 22 3
Indians 69 - 70 23
Rays 69 - 71 22 5
Orioles 68 - 72 22 6
Friday
September 11
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 11

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"it's been a while"...but dmd's 3140 podcast is back

For a guy who spent twelve years behind a microphone, you'd think I would want to be barking into one every day still, right? Well, that wasn't and isn't the case. Since #DMD's inception on August 25, 2014, I've admittedly focused much more on the writing and content element of my venture than on the audio side of it. And I've enjoyed the writing part..a lot. The podcast I kicked-off last August was a honest attempt at giving my followers from my radio days a slice of what they had come to expect every morning from 6am to 10am. It didn't work. Not in the way I wanted it to, anyway. I re-launched the podcast in December or so and, again, gave it my best effort to create something new and different that I could distribute a couple of times a week. There were some good pieces, some average pieces and some sub-par pieces. I wasn't "not proud" of it, but I wasn't hitting a grand slam with it, either.

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One of my favorite singers, ever, Ed Kowalczyk was an inspiration for my podcasting break over the summer.

I remember listening to an interview with Ed Kowalczyk, the former lead singer of one of my favorite bands, ever, +Live+. This was roughly in the early 2000's after the band released an album called "Birds of Pray", which, honestly, was horrible. I remember listening to Kowalczyk tell the radio DJ he thought it was "outstanding" and "moving". I thought to myself, "I know you can't tell the guy your new album stinks, but sitting there and telling him it's great? You can't possibly believe that yourself, can you?"

It would be like me telling all of you those first six months of podcasts represented "the best work of my career" when, I knew, for sure, that simply wasn't true. There's nothing wrong with being honest and saying, "I tried hard...wanted to make it great...put forth the effort needed -- but in the end, it just wasn't up to my standards." And that was the case, frankly. I knew what I wanted, but was having a tough time producing it. Much like +Live+ did when they released "Birds of Pray", I thought the product was going to be good but it turned out it wasn't. At least it wasn't to me.

So, I took a podcasting hiatus for the summer. One of the reasons for the break had nothing at all to do with podcasting, honestly. The website underwent some massive internal formatting changes in mid-June and it took me about six weeks to get everything under control and to my liking. By early August, my schedule was somewhat back to normal and I started thinking again about re-shaping the Podcast and bringing it back to life. I circled today, September 11, as the day I would once again produce and distribute a podcast, coinciding it with the kick-off of the first NFL weekend two days later.

As you can see below, the "3140" Podcast is below and ready for your audio consumption. Those of you who are new to #DMD will probably wonder, "What's the significance of 3140?" Well, I spent twelve years on a radio station in town located at 1570 on the dial. If you multiply that times two -- as in, "twice as good" -- you come up with.......3140. I tackle the usual suspects in today's edition of the podcast: NFL, Ravens, Orioles, PGA Tour, etc. It's a 45-minute buzz-around-town, moving along briskly but still giving in-depth analysis where needed and necessary. I'll be back next week with one or two more editions of "3140" and as the weather changes, the leaves turn and the snow comes around, I'm going to finally hit that podcasting grand-slam I was hoping to hit last year.

I hope you enjoy it. Next week's will be better. And the week after that will be better than the previous week's edition. And so on. Thanks for your continued support of Drew's Morning Dish. I'm TRYING to do the best work of my career.


#DMD 3140 Podcast
September 11, 2015
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brady-gronkowski duo too much for steelers on opening night

One thing for certain, Thursday night's season opening win for New England had nothing to do with deflated footballs. Rather, it had EVERYTHING to do with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who terrorized a laughably inept Pittsburgh secondary for three touchdowns in a 28-21 Patriots victory.

One other thing for sure: If Brady doesn't play on Thursday, New England loses. Pittsburgh coulda, shoulda, woulda in this one, as the Steelers had first and goal at the Patriots one yard line in the 4th quarter, trailing 21-11, and couldn't cash in with a touchdown. Pittsburgh had missed two earlier field goals or, at that point, they could have been playing to actually go ahead in the game. When they were stymied at the goal line and forced to kick a field goal to make it 21-14 in favor of the Patriots, that was all she wrote. Brady and Gronkowski would hook up for another touchdown a few minutes later to make it 28-14 and a last second TD by the Steelers finalized the scoring at 28-21.

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Brady and Gronkowski were a fantasy lover's delight on Thursday night, teaming up for three TD's in New England's win.

Pittsburgh's offense racked up 464 yards of total offense on the night and DeAngelo Williams, cut by the Carolina Panthers and signed by the Steelers to fill-in for the suspended Le'Veon Bell, barreled over and through a horrible New England front seven for 127 yards on the ground. In the end, though, Pittsburgh's defense was actually worse than New England's -- which I wasn't sure was possible -- and Brady and Gronkowski were in-sync on a Hall-and-Oates-level, with the much-maligned quarterback throwing for 288 yards on the night and Gronk hauling in 5 catches for 94 yards and three scores.


dmd sponsor spotlight: Dan's Automotive, Novak's Computer Services and Primary Residential Mortage

I decided to take a few minutes every Friday and update you on our corporate partners at Drew's Morning Dish. Nothing elaborate or anything, just a quick reminder of what they do and how they can help you and other #DMD readers. I figured three was a good number to showcase, so I put all of our corporate partner's names in a hat and picked three at random to feature today. That was the fairest way to do it, I thought.

Our newest corporate partner here at #DMD is Dan's Automotive, located at 623 Pulaski Highway in Joppa, MD, about two miles from the intersection of Route 40 (Pulaski Highway) and Mountain Road. Dan's is truly a "community partner" in Baltimore and Harford County, with emphasis on quality workmanship on your vehicle and a dedication to getting the service done right the first time. Dan and Rob are on site daily to handle all of your auto service needs. They'll greet you when you enter the building, explain exactly what work your vehicle should have, and tell you what it's going to cost. You'll feel comfortable with them and Dan's Automotive as soon as you settle in over there. I know getting your car serviced can be a nerve-wracking time, but you will NOT feel nervous handing your vehicle over to Dan and Rob. They're running an awesome back to school special right now for just $29.99. Give them a call to make an appointment and tell them you saw it at #DMD -- 410-538-5900. Their website is www.dansautomotiveinc.com.

John Novak and Novak's Computer Services can handle all of your computer repair and service needs, including virus removal and the general maintenance your computer or laptop requires to keep it running smoothly and effectively. These days, going any length of time without your computer can be damaging to you and your business, so don't wait for a problem to crop up that could put your computer on the sidelines. Take it in to John and let him do a quick test to make sure it's sound and in good working order. If it needs a tune-up, so to speak, he can handle that right away for you. If it requires more in-depth repair and service, John's the man you want handling it, trust me. Call John at 410-687-1090 or look them up online at www.novakscomputerservices.com.

Vic Biscoe and Primary Residential Mortgage saved me -- ready for this? -- eight years on my mortgage when I re-financed with them 14 months ago. That's true. My mortgage went from 23 years to 15 years because I trusted Vic to do his best for me. And boy, did he. Do that math, quickly, and see if you can understand how happy I was with the work and results I got from Primary Residential Mortage. $1,200 a month x 96 months = $115,200...that's what I saved by using Primary Residential. You can reach Vic today at 443-442-1597.

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THIS WEEKEND IN ENGLISH SOCCER
Contributed by #DMD's EPL Reporter

MATTHEW CARROLL

With the first international break of the season behind us and the summer transfer window (which saw Barclays Premier League clubs spends a staggering $1.3 billion in transfer fees to bring new talent to the world’s top soccer league) officially closed, week 5 of the Barclays Premier League kicks off Saturday morning with several high profile early season matchups, headlined by one of the oldest rivalry in the sports world when Liverpool take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. Let’s take a closer look at three of the key BPL matchups this weekend and remember you can watch every game live on the NBC family of networks or online.

Saturday (all times Eastern)

7:45am - Chelsea @ Everton - Goodison Park, NBC Sports Network

It doesn’t get any easier for Chelsea, who have made the second-worst start to a title defense in Barclays Premier League history. They've taken only four points from the first four games, and in the process are eight points behind league leaders Manchester City, and now face a difficult early season road test against Everton at Goodison Park in a lunch time (England time) kickoff.

Although Everton have won four of the last six matchups at home against Chelsea, the Blues dropped six goals on American international Tim Howard and the Toffees in this fixture last season, and Jose Mourinho will be looking for a repeat performance to jump start the Blues current campaign. He may however find it difficult against Howard and defender John Stones, who was the subject of four failed transfer bids this summer by Mourinho and Chelsea, as Everton have kept clean sheets in two of their last three games, conceding only against Manchester City, which is understandable, in a 2-0 defeat.

10am – Manchester City @ Crystal Palace - Selhurst Park, NBC Sports Network

Speaking of Manchester City, Chelsea won’t be the only top side who face a difficult road test this weekend as City travel down the M40 to London to take on the in-form Crystal Palace at the always rowdy Selhurst Park. Palace pulled the biggest upset of the young season when they shocked everyone by beating Chelsea just before the international break, a feat accomplished by only one other side in Mourinho’s last 100 league games at Stamford Bridge.

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The $87 million man, Kevin de Bruyne, could make his Man City debut this Saturday vs. Crystal Palace.

Even with the home field advantage that the crowd at Selhurst Park will give the Eagles, they might find it difficult to pull off another monumental upset. The City defense have yet to concede a goal this season, posting four clean sheets in four games and, since losing in this fixture last season, have won ten straight Premier League games including four in a row on the road. Saturday could also give us our first look at this summer’s most expensive transfer signing Kevin de Bruyne, who City paid a whopping $87 million to be the final piece of the puzzle that brings home another Premier League title.

12:30pm – Liverpool @ Manchester United - Old Trafford, NBC

The two most successful clubs in English Football headline the biggest match of Week 5 when they renew their rivalry at Old Trafford on Saturday. It has been an uncharacteristically slow start offensively to the season for both Liverpool and Manchester United, with both sides managing just two goals in their first four games. Goals may continue to be at a premium again this weekend, at least as far as Liverpool is concerned, with United manager Louis van Gaal set to welcome goal keeper David de Gea back into his starting lineup after his transfer to Real Madrid fell apart in the final hours of the summer transfer window.

The de Gea transfer saga was front page news all summer long as he seemed destined for a long discussed move to Real Madrid. A paperwork snafu just before the window closed last week will see the Spanish international stay at United for at least one more year, and could prove to be the most important bit of business the Red Devils did all summer. With their offense sputtering and striking options beyond Wayne Rooney few and far between, de Gea’s performance between the pipes could be the determining factor in United’s success this season.

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orioles welcome k.c. to town for three this weekend

The Orioles dim playoff hopes could have used a lay-up opponent this weekend, but they're getting just the opposite, actually, as the team with the A.L.'s best record comes to town for their only regular season visit. Kansas City comes in at 83-56, but the Royals have slumped of late, losing 7 of their last 10 including a 3-game home sweep last weekend at the hands of the on-again, off-again Chicago White Sox. If the Orioles hope to produce a miracle over their final 23 games, it would almost have to certainly include at least two out of three over the Royals this weekend. Anything less, and it's time to close the door on the 2015 regular season for Buck Showalter's team.

FRIDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
BALTIMORE
M. Wright
2-4, 5.19
D. Duffy
7-7, 4.17
7:05 PM EDT
ORIOLE PARK



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 77 - 61 24
Rangers 73 - 66 23
Twins 72 - 67 23 1
Angels 70 - 69 23 3
Indians 69 - 70 23 4
Rays 68 - 71 23 5
Mariners 68 - 73 21 6
Orioles 67 - 72 23 6
Thursday
September 10
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 10

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football is back and we can't stop watching

It all starts tonight in New England, where the Patriots -- with a straight face, no less -- will smile and pose for the TV cameras as the NFL campaign kicks off with the defending champs hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. We here in Baltimore are in a virtual no-lose situation with this one tonight in Foxborough. If New England wins, the Steelers start the season 0-1. If the Patriots lose, Tommy Boy and his snarky coach suffer the embarrassment of losing on Guaranteed Win Night in front of a national audience.

For tonight's season opener in New England, I'm going with Pittsburgh in an upset, 30-28. No particular reason why, other than I think Karma gets a ticket left for him at Will Call and sits right behind the Patriots' bench.

Despite the off-the-field wreckage of the last year in the NFL (Ray Rice, multiple cases of domestic violence, DeflateGate and, most recently, CheatGate), we're all going to be watching tonight. And again on Sunday. And next Monday. And for the rest of the calendar year, in fact, we'll be glued to the TV or making our way into the stadium to watch it all unfold in person. We'll be engaged with the NFL because, frankly, what else WOULD we do?

I think it's safe to say we're all sick of the tabloid stuff that has dominated the NFL landscape over the last couple of years. Court cases, lawsuits, concussions, cheating scandals, wife beatings -- it's more of a mess than the 2004 Friends TV show spin-off "Joey" that starred Matthew LeBlanc. In Baltimore, we had to confront the Ray Rice saga head on, our loyalties tested in a way that most fans would much rather avoid. When it's the other team, they're thugs, rapists and cold-blooded killers. When it's your team, "he made a big mistake and he's paying the price for it...but he's not a bad guy."

One of the teams in the spotlight tonight is an outright band of cheating misfits. We're quick to crush the Patriots because, let's face it, they're football's version of the professional wrestler who hides a roll of quarters in his sock and knocks out his opponent with them when the referee is distracted. He gets away with it, smirks into the camera, and leaves the ring a hero. That's Tom Brady. And Bill Belichick. Might as well just put razor blades in their shoes. They're not the only ones cheating, of that I'm certain. Plenty of teams around the league wish they were sophisticated enough to create those formations the Patriots came up with in last January's playoff win over the Ravens. Some teams, without question, spend plenty of time trying to come up with ways to get an edge every Sunday, then raise holy hell when one of their brethren within the league gets caught bending the rules.

X
Presented without comment.

I'm of the mindset most of the team's use the old adage from that 1993 album by The Cranberries: "Everyone else is doing it, so why can't we?" We'd probably all shudder a little bit if we knew how much rules-breaking (or attempted) goes on in the NFL on a weekly basis. In the end, though, the Patriots wear the scarlet letter because they've won four Super Bowls in roughly 15 years and each of them has some darkness surrounding it. The "tuck rule", SpyGate, DeflateGate -- I'm not here to say they won BECAUSE they cheated -- after all, Brady picked apart the Seattle defense last February with "legal" footballs -- but getting an edge and circumventing the rules has been a staple of the New England organization since Belichick and Brady partnered up. They lathered up the Ravens last January with those tricky formations that, yes, were WITHIN THE RULES, but were so far over-the-edge in terms of fair play that the league immediately changed the rules last winter so New England (and any other team who copied them) would cease to use those plays.

So, then, with all of this cheating and chicanery going on -- why do we watch? Don't tell me you don't, because you know you do. If the winner is half-pre-determined before the game kicks-off (as opposed to wrestling where the winner is COMPLETELY determined) why are we paying so much attention? Do we not care at all about the integrity of the game or have we become so consumed with gambling, point spreads and our fantasy line-up that winning and losing doesn't really matter all that much anymore? That's MY guess, by the way, on why we're watching MORE football than ever before while the nightly sportscasts are filled with corruption, criminal allegations and legal angles. We don't care that much who wins or loses, as long as we had the Falcons at +5.5 and they lost 20-17. If our fantasy team piled up 144 points to improve to 5-1 on the year, we're happy no matter the scores and the results of the games. We've replaced the actual on-field competition -- one that we can't control and benefit from -- with a couple of other pieces of competition that we have our fingerprints all over...gambling and fantasy football.

As you'll see below, I'm picking another team to win the Super Bowl this year. I'm doing that simply because I can't fathom the idea of New England repeating. If you want me to apply football-talk to it, I don't think they can run the ball well enough to open up the passing game for Mr. Wonderful and their secondary is the pits. If they win the title with this group of underachievers, they deserve all the accolades they can get. All that said, I'm sitting here today, September 9 (I wrote this on Wednesday night) picking someone else other than New England to win the Super Bowl, yet fully expecting -- much to my chagrin -- that the Patriots will figure out a way yet again to capture the prize. I just don't have the heart to write it. I hope I'm wrong. They don't deserve to win. But they probably will.

Pass the roll of quarters over here and let's get started with the season.

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who is playing in san francisco next february 7?

Like everyone else in the U.S. this week, I made my NFL predictions and published them for all to see. I threw in a couple of surprises along the way (Kansas City and Miami both prevailing as division champs, for instance) and went with the tried-and-true, too (Indianapolis, Green Bay and Dallas). Over the years, though, we've learned one thing about the regular season: It doesn't mean much once January rolls around. Sure, playing at home helps (see: Seattle), but teams like Green Bay, Baltimore and the New York Giants have been more than happy to go on the road and win post-season games.

Here, now, is how I see the playoff picture taking shape in January.

NFC --

Arizona (wild card) wins at Carolina / Green Bay beats Minnesota (wild card)

Green Bay beats Seattle / Dallas beats Arizona

Green Bay beats Dallas in NFC title game

AFC --

Denver (wild card) wins at Pittsburgh / Miami beats New England (wild card)

Denver wins at Kansas City / Indianapolis beats Miami

Indianapolis beats Denver in AFC title game

Super Bowl -- Indianapolis 27 - Green Bay 21


go head-to-head with drew and win a $50 gift card at glory days (if you beat him)

The NFL season is upon us and our friends at Hong Kong Louie have created weekly Contests exclusively for Drew's Morning Dish readers.

Each week, Hong Kong Louie handicaps all the NFL games. For each game, you have the option of selecting the favorite or the underdog. There are no point spreads – you must select the outright winners of the games – the underdogs are awarded commensurately more points than the favorites to reward those who correctly pick the upsets. To score points, you MUST select the WINNER of a game. If you select the winner, you collect the points indicated for that team. If you select the loser, you collect NO POINTS for that game. After all games are decided, each entrants' points for all games are totaled.

Example: If you take the Ravens to beat Denver this Sunday, you receive 169 points if the Ravens win the game. If you select Denver, you receive 100 points if the Broncos win. If you select the loser of the game, you score NO points. The same follows for all 16 games played this first week of the season. When all games are decided, each entrants' score for all games is totaled.

The player who beats Drew's total points and who has the highest point-total of all #DMD contestants wins a $50 gift card to Glory Days. If no one beats Drew's total, the gift card goes into the following week's Contest and thus doubles next weeks' prize value. Simple enough, right? Just go to the Hong Kong Louie website, register, and you're all set for the season. Each week—prior to the Thursday night game at 8:30 pm—you go in, make your picks, and go head-to-head with Drew.

Here's how to enter the #DMD Contest:

  1. You must be a registered member of HongKongLouie.com to enter the #DMD Contest (it's FREE to register and there is NO obligation of any kind). Many #DMD readers are already registered members of HongKongLouie.com. [And several have already won HongKongLouie cash prizes!] If you are not already registered, it literally takes only thirty seconds to sign up. Register here.
  2. Once you create an account (or if you already have one), go to the #DMD exclusive contest page.
  3. Copy-and-paste or type this password — ekGbAZki — into the password area in the above (#2) link. [Please don't share the password with anyone who is not a #DMD reader.]
  4. Make your selections of the winners of all the games, and then answer the Tiebreaker questions.
  5. At the conclusion of the last Sunday night game of the week, each entrants' score will be published on any computer or phone on which he or she is logged in to HongKongLouie.com.
  6. If you have any questions about the Contest or the log-in procedures, please e-mail: support@hongkonglouie.com. We realize that the explanation here is more complex than the process of entering the Contest, and for that, we apologize. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible with any clearer explanations necessary.
  7. #DMD readers are also cordially invited to participate in the non-exclusive Hong Kong Louie Contests, and compete against all the world for the cash prizes to the winners. The two currently open for entries are the NFL Division Winners and the NFL Week 1 Contest. And some good ones are coming up on the FedEx Cup and the Presidents Cup; the (baseball) World Series and the World Series of Poker; UFC 192; the Breeders Cup thoroughbred races; and the Primetime Emmy Awards.
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late homer by Pearce beats yankees

It can probably be filed under "where was that all season?" but Steve Pearce delivered a clutch 8th inning home run in the Bronx last night, putting the O's up 4-3 in a game they'd eventually win, 5-3. The victory gave the Birds a split of their six-game road trip to Toronto and New York, not what they needed to climb back in the wild card race, but enough to keep them above Boston and out of last place in the A.L. East.

The Orioles host the Royals in a 3-game weekend series that starts tomorrow night at Camden Yards. The Yankees, meanwhile, host first-place Toronto for four games beginning this evening in the Bronx


american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 77 - 61 24 4
Rangers 73 - 65 24
Twins 72 - 67 23
Angels 70 - 69 23
Indians 68 - 70 24 5
Rays 68 - 71 23
Orioles 67 - 72 23


Wednesday
September 9
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 9

subscribe to the #dmd rss feed

belichick, kraft, goodell on their last legs (but don't believe everything you read, either...)

The gift that keeps on giving showed up on your doorstep once again on Tuesday. No, it wasn't an Amazon package. It's the New England Patriots, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, both -- again -- embarrassed publicly by a story that showcases their respective nefarious ways over the last decade.

Before Soapbox-Time, let me say this about the big story launched by ESPN.com yesterday. This is the same media entity that published an alarmingly inaccurate tell-all about the Ray Rice saga roughly eleven months ago. They had the goods on that story, remember, right up until folks realized how many mistakes it contained, along with just flat-out-wrong information. They supposedly had "great sources" too, until we all figured out those people with loose lips were within Rice's inner circle. I read the ESPN.com piece on the Patriots yesterday -- every word of it -- and I have my opinion on the whole stinkin' mess. But we should all remember that, unlike Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, ESPN's editorial history doesn't glitter with gold.

Now, let's do some good old fashioned piling on.

It's hard to believe with 100% certainty that all of the witnesses in the story are legit, but it's also easy to know why they wouldn't come clean and allow ESPN.com to identify them by name in yesterday's story. The reason? There's lots and lots of cheating going on in the NFL, on a variety of levels. Some of it is small potatoes, while some, I assume, would be filed under "a big deal" if we knew about it. The Ravens, you'll remember, got caught practicing too much a few years ago and were called on the carpet for it. John Harbaugh said all the right things and fell on the sword, but facts are facts. The Ravens got caught breaking the rules, albeit one of the "small potatoes" kind if you ask me. I'd be willing to bet there isn't a team in the league that doesn't circumvent some kind of league regulation. To borrow that old phrase from NASCAR, the ultimate good-old-boys-network if there ever was one: "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'."

So, why so many anonymous sources in yesterday's piece at ESPN.com? Easy...a lot of those guys are still employed in the league and can't afford to have the "snitch" or "whistleblower" label as their personal bumper sticker. And, like I referenced above, everyone's doing a little rules-bending at some point. There's that unwritten rule in the NFL, I'm guessing. "Don't tell on us and we won't tell on you." All of that said, I look at the three people involved in the crosshairs of the story -- Belichick, Kraft and Goodell -- and say without hesitation that none of those three can be trusted. There's simply too much history, too much evidence and too much suspicion in place. Time has done that to all three of them. It's like baseball players and performance enhancing drugs. They're still using whatever the latest product is to help them stay healthy longer, hit the ball longer and throw the ball harder. It's just that the testing process hasn't caught up to it all yet. What, all of baseball suddenly went cold turkey and just stopped using PED's? Yeah, sure. Same goes for Belichick, Kraft and Goodell. You mean to tell me that suddenly, almost overnight, Belichick stopped cheating, Kraft stopped trying to curry favor with the Commissioner and Goodell stopped sweeping stuff under the rug to avoid embarrassing storylines for his employer? Not a chance.

roger
The relationship between these two could very well cost the NFL Commissioner his job...finally.

As I read through the story yesterday, none of it shocked me until I got to the point where we arrived at last year's AFC Championship Game in New England between the Colts and Patriots. The night before the game, Robert Kraft hosted a dinner party at his estate in suburban Boston. That's not a shock, right? It's expected, really. An old codger who owns a professional football team -- with more money than he knows what to do with -- showing off for his friends and family by having a $50,000 dinner at his place for fifty of his best friends and their plus-ones. Except for this little nugget: Roger Goodell was there. The night before the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots' owner had a dinner party at his house. He not only had the gall to invite the Commissioner of the league, but that dummy checked off "Yes, I will attend" and mailed the invitation back. And then, Goodell showed up.

The Commissioner of the NFL went to a party at the house of the owner of the Patriots the night before the Patriots played the Colts for the right to go to the Super Bowl. What person in their right mind -- with that sort of position and authority -- would do that and NOT expect folks to think it looked a little dodgy? It's one thing for Kraft to invite his good buddy Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS Broadcasting, to those little shin-digs at his place. People get all riled up about that ("The guy who runs CBS hanging out with the Patriots owner...that's a conflict of interest") but that's much ado about nothing if you ask me. The Commissioner of the league, though? He's NOT allowed at a dinner party hosted by the owner of one of the teams playing in the AFC title game less than 24 hours later. He's just not.

Why is that important? Because it shows a glaring lack of awareness on Goodell's part, and, honestly, a horrible sense of fair play and judgment on Kraft's part. Think about it like this: The Ravens are playing the Steelers in the AFC title game this January in Pittsburgh. The night before the game, the Rooney family has a huge dinner party in Fox Chapel, PA and Goodell is there. Outraged? Just a little. And, honestly, I blame Kraft just as much as I blame Goodell, in the same way I'd blame Steve Bisciotti if he pulled a stunt like that. Come on man...you own the team, he runs the league. You guys can have a glass of wine together in a PUBLIC place at the league meetings in Phoenix if you want but you can NOT have the Commissioner (or any league official) at your house the night before a game -- any game -- that counts in the standings.

Now, let's chat about Belichick. It will be brief, thankfully. If -- and that's IF, for those of you in New England who can't read -- the story yesterday is true and Belichick's staff orchestrated such a wide array of cheating and rules-circumventing, he should be terminated immediately. It doesn't matter that it was six years ago. Or, even, ten years ago. And this has NOTHING to do with DeflateGate, because I still contend it's very reasonable to deduct that the coach has no idea on a daily basis what the quarterback's football-air-pressure preference is. This has to do with the Coach directing people in his department to intentionally break the rules in an effort to gain an advantage. That Belichick claimed it was a "rules misinterpretation" means nothing. That's what he says and, perhaps, that's what he really believes. Doing it once would be a minor infraction. Forty times? Not minor.

This, ultimately, is going to be the final straw for Goodell. It won't be easy to fire him, naturally, because his contract is iron-clad, but by this time next year there's simply no way he's still the Commissioner of the NFL. It won't be the end for Belichick, even though it should be, and Kraft is Kraft -- he owns the team, he's not going anywhere. The NFL, though, has become as shady as the guy on the side of the road with one of those "Vietnam Veteran, Homeless, Need Money, God Bless You" signs who talks on his cell phone once the light turns green and traffic starts to move past him. If you haven't read the piece at ESPN.com, seek it out and give it a thorough once-over. I'd link it here, but they've never linked #DMD, so find it on your own (ha ha). You know where to go.

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nfl 2015 -- drew's look at the nfc north and afc north

With the NFL season officially beginning tomorrow night in New England, it's time to finish up my pre-season predictions for their respective divisions before I hand out my playoff teams, conference champs and Super Bowl pick in Thursday's edition of #DMD. I'm doubling up today and giving you the NFC North and AFC North. And away we go...

I don't see a truly "bad team" in this division, honestly. All of them have some sort of positive attribute, including the Chicago Bears, who have a decent quarterback and one of the game's up and coming wide-outs in Alshon Jeffrey. The Chicago defense improved in the off-season and if Cutler holds up his end of the bargain behind center, I can see the Bears hanging around and winning half their games in 2015.

Lots of people are high on the Lions, but I see a team that didn't do much in the off-season to improve and lost their best defensive player (Suh) at the same time. True, they now have former Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, but he's no Suh. Can Matt Stafford stay healthy? Will Detroit be able to run the ball at all? Is Calvin Johnson on the downside of a Hall of Fame career? These are important questions in the Motor City. They'll be competitive, for sure, but I don't see Detroit in the post-season.

If Teddy Bridgewater takes his game up a notch, the Vikings could be a surprise team in the NFC this season. Minnesota added speedster Mike Wallace at the receiver position and they have the great Adrian Peterson at running back to keep every defense honest. If the Minnesota defense can stop the pass -- a very important quality in the NFC North -- they could fight for a playoff spot, as long as Bridgewater doesn't throw a shoe in his sophomore season.

Jordy Nelson or not, the Green Bay Packers are the class of the division...again. They have the best quarterback in the league on their team and, like Brady in New England, Aaron Rodgers will figure out a way to make chicken-salad out of chicken-you-know-what. Just give him three or four players, each with two working arms and legs, and he'll make contributors out of all of them. If the Green Bay defense can hold up, the Packers have a shot at returning to the Super Bowl. I do think the NFC North will be hyper-competitive and the days of Green Bay ringing up a 5-1 division record could be over...but they'll still be on top at season's end.

Predicted order of finish --

Green Bay -- 11-5

Minnesota -- 10-6

Detroit -- 8-8

Chicago -- 7-9


Drew's AFC North Preview

I'll admit, right from the start, that I've paid MUCH more attention to the Ravens in this pre-season than to any of the other three teams in the division. I've done my best to keep up with injuries, signings, transactions, etc., but I most certainly didn't watch sixteen quarters of pre-season football involving the Steelers, Browns and Bengals.

The last place team in the division is easy. I don't know how the Cleveland Browns are going to win any games, even though we know, of course, they'll somehow manage to squeeze out one or two along the way. I just don't see any quality in that team, starting with the coach, moving to the quarterback, and streaming right along to their offense, defense and special teams. They're going to be terrible. If you're looking for a small bright spot, their defense might actually be reasonably adequate, particularly against the run, where they needed the most improvement. Still, relying on newcomers Josh McCown and Dwayne Bowe to change your offensive fortunes is just too much of a gamble. I hope Mike Pettine is renting in Cleveland.

I think this is the year the Bengals take a step back. Playoff participants in four of the last five years, they're still the team that's good enough to get there but not potent enough to rise to the challenge when the stakes get increased. I know they have a decent quarterback and one of the game's top receivers in A.J. Green, but I think the Cincy defense is second-tier now and the Dalton-Green combo all on its own isn't good enough to scrape together double digit wins again. Just a hunch, admittedly, but I don't see Cincy playing over .500 football in 2015.

It pains me greatly to "think" this, but I see the Ravens as a second place team in 2015. As I referenced above, I'll admit to watching much more pre-season action involving the Ravens this summer, but I have major concerns about their receiving corps and the overall health and depth of the team, particularly on defense. I'm also not of the mindset that Justin Forsett is just automatically going to duplicate his outrageously surprising 2014 campaign. Flacco? I'll buy stock in him. The receivers? I'll pass on that stock purchase, no pun intended. Even if Perriman comes back from this knee injury, how do we know he's going to set the league on fire? Maybe I'm just trying to be overly cautious (some might even say "pessimistic") but I don't see the Ravens having the horses to score enough points week in and week out. If they get any sort of injuries in the secondary, watch out. I sure do hope I'm wrong, but I see a January with no playoff football in Baltimore.

steelersqb
A bad offensive line in Pittsburgh might actually help Roethlisberger in 2015...as long as he stays healthy.

While Pittsburgh's defense is clearly inferior to their offense, I think the Steelers will be one of the league's higher scoring teams and that should be enough to put them on top in the AFC North. DeAngelo Williams gives them some running back depth, but it's still the Ben Roethlisberger show and you could do a lot worse than having him run your offense. Pittsburgh's offensive line isn't great, but that actually might help Roethlisberger, who prefers to improvise and run around rather than stand there and play quarterback sixty snaps a game. Like the Ravens, I don't think the Steelers have much depth. And, like the Ravens, they'll go as far as their quarterback takes them.

Predicted order of finish --

Pittsburgh -- 10-6

Baltimore -- 9-7

Cincinnati -- 8-8

Cleveland -- 3-13


go head-to-head with drew and win a $50 gift card at glory days (if you beat him)

The NFL season is upon us and our friends at Hong Kong Louie have created weekly Contests exclusively for Drew's Morning Dish readers.

Each week, Hong Kong Louie handicaps all the NFL games. For each game, you have the option of selecting the favorite or the underdog. There are no point spreads – you must select the outright winners of the games – the underdogs are awarded commensurately more points than the favorites to reward those who correctly pick the upsets. To score points, you MUST select the WINNER of a game. If you select the winner, you collect the points indicated for that team. If you select the loser, you collect NO POINTS for that game. After all games are decided, each entrants' points for all games are totaled.

Example: If you take the Ravens to beat Denver this Sunday, you receive 169 points if the Ravens win the game. If you select Denver, you receive 100 points if the Broncos win. If you select the loser of the game, you score NO points. The same follows for all 16 games played this first week of the season. When all games are decided, each entrants' score for all games is totaled.

The player who beats Drew's total points and who has the highest point-total of all #DMD contestants wins a $50 gift card to Glory Days. If no one beats Drew's total, the gift card goes into the following week's Contest and thus doubles next weeks' prize value. Simple enough, right? Just go to the Hong Kong Louie website, register, and you're all set for the season. Each week—prior to the Thursday night game at 8:30 pm—you go in, make your picks, and go head-to-head with Drew.

Here's how to enter the #DMD Contest:

  1. You must be a registered member of HongKongLouie.com to enter the #DMD Contest (it's FREE to register and there is NO obligation of any kind). Many #DMD readers are already registered members of HongKongLouie.com. [And several have already won HongKongLouie cash prizes!] If you are not already registered, it literally takes only thirty seconds to sign up. Register here.
  2. Once you create an account (or if you already have one), go to the #DMD exclusive contest page.
  3. Copy-and-paste or type this password — ekGbAZki — into the password area in the above (#2) link. [Please don't share the password with anyone who is not a #DMD reader.]
  4. Make your selections of the winners of all the games, and then answer the Tiebreaker questions.
  5. At the conclusion of the last Sunday night game of the week, each entrants' score will be published on any computer or phone on which he or she is logged in to HongKongLouie.com.
  6. If you have any questions about the Contest or the log-in procedures, please e-mail: support@hongkonglouie.com. We realize that the explanation here is more complex than the process of entering the Contest, and for that, we apologize. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible with any clearer explanations necessary.
  7. #DMD readers are also cordially invited to participate in the non-exclusive Hong Kong Louie Contests, and compete against all the world for the cash prizes to the winners. The two currently open for entries are the NFL Division Winners and the NFL Week 1 Contest. And some good ones are coming up on the FedEx Cup and the Presidents Cup; the (baseball) World Series and the World Series of Poker; UFC 192; the Breeders Cup thoroughbred races; and the Primetime Emmy Awards.
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captain's picks a swing-and-a-miss for the u.s. president's cup team

I wouldn't have wanted to be U.S. President's Cup captain Jay Haas yesterday. He had two captain's picks at his disposal and a son, Bill, who had played well enough to deserve consideration after failing to make the team on his own merit via the point system. Haas, Jay, that is, spoke openly about the pressures involved with making the decision as the tournament in Boston came to a close on Monday and his picks were due at 5pm yesterday. Bill Haas seemed comfortable with any decision that was forthcoming, but there's no denying it's a special feeling indeed to be playing for your country AND your father in the same event.

phil
Without a win in two years, Phil Mickelson still managed to get the nod for the upcoming U.S. President's Cup team.

Haas made his two picks on Tuesday, adding Bill, his son, and veteran Phil Mickelson, who clearly was given a career-achievement reward after failing to win a tournament in 2014. Haas spoke about Mickelson's presence in the locker room and the wisdom he can share with the younger players as reasons for the selection. The captain must have forgotten that all 12 players play in each of the two-man team events (albeit with an extra day of competition in there). There's no sitting players out the way they do in the Ryder Cup for the four two-man events on Friday and Saturday. That means, Mickelson better do more than just wear his hat backwards and play ping pong with the guys during the week. He better have his (suffering) game ready for the competition next month (Oct. 8-11) in South Korea. Bill Haas did have a win earlier in the season and narrowly missed making the team on his own accord, but the selection is still somewhat puzzling when you look at the guys his father passed on; Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes, Robert Streb and Brandt Snedeker, just to name four.

I would have taken Koepka and Streb. All four of the players above, in fact, have more FedEx Cup points than Haas (and Mickelson), with Streb ranked 12th right now and Koepka -- after missing two straight cuts to start his playoff campaign -- at #21 on the list. Koepka is a long-hitting, overpowering player with a great future on Tour while Streb is coming into his own as a consistent, solid player from tee-to-green who just needs to get a wee bit better with the putter in order to be a weekly threat.

Captain Nick Price of the International team added Steven Bowditch and Sangmoon Bae on Tuesday to complete his 12-man roster.

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WEDNESDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
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U. Jimenez
10-9, 4.24
C.C. Sabathia
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american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 77 - 60 25 4
Rangers 73 - 64 25
Twins 71 - 67 24
Angels 69 - 69 24
Indians 67 - 70 25 6
Rays 67 - 71 24
White Sox 66 - 71 25 7
Orioles 66 - 72 25
Tuesday
September 8
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 8

subscribe to the #dmd rss feed

birds sink to last place in a.l. east with loss in the bronx

I guess the optimist would point out that with Monday's loss in New York, the Orioles are actually tied for 4th place in the American League East with the suddenly capable Boston Red Sox. That IS true, of course. Both teams are now at 65-72 with twenty five games left in their respective seasons. It's also true, or likely to be, that one of those two teams is going to finish in last place when the dust settles on the 2015 regular season on October 4. I hope it's not the Orioles, but in all reality, who really cares if they finish 4th or 5th in the division?

chen
For a team starving for good starting pitching, it might seem odd to suggest the O's pass on Wei Yen Chen this off-season when he becomes a free agent. But...

Yesterday's loss to the Yankees included a blown 3-0 O's lead, a 7th inning meltdown that resulted in a three-run inning for the hosts, and a failed opportunity in the top of the 8th when the Birds had runners on 1st and 2nd with no one out -- and later loaded the bases -- and failed to produce a single run. The game also featured a typical starting pitching performance from the O's, which is to say, in summary, it simply wasn't good enough. Wei Yen Chen went five innings and threw a whopping 104 pitches before he predictably ran out of gas. Chen's set to be a free agent this winter and his mid-3's ERA will be attractive to a number of teams who need left-handed pitching, but the more I see of him, the more I'm thinking the O's should pass and pursue someone with a lot more durability. It's one thing to throw a lot of pitches and work more than you should start-after-start, but Chen routinely hits the 90 pitch mark in the 5th inning and starts looking into the dugout for bullpen help shortly thereafter. It's an act that is both tiresome and counter-productive, although it's fair to note none of the other Baltimore pitchers this season have been 8-inning workhorses, either.

Let's give the Yankees some credit, as tough as that is to do in these parts. Unless they experience a major collapse in the final three-plus weeks of the season, they're going back to the playoffs in a year that most observers and "experts" thought their age and injury-prone ways would catch up to them at some point. Thus far, they've stayed relatively healthy all season, although first baseman Mark Teixeira finally made his annual disabled-list visit a few days ago with a not-too-serious shin injury. Alex Rodriguez -- admittedly much to this writer's surprise -- has rebounded nicely from his one-year suspension in 2014 and has 29 home runs and 77 RBI in 126 games this season. Ageless Carlos Beltran (.277 batting average), Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius are each enjoying productive seasons at the plate. I didn't expect any of those four to be productive in 2015. Pitching wise, it's all about the New York bullpen, obviously. Their starters are adequate, nothing more, although tonight's starter for the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka, has blossomed into a legitimate major league pitcher in just two seasons. The Betances-Miller duo in the 8th and 9th innings is one of baseball's best, but even those two have shown small cracks and some wear and tear in the last month. Still, if New York has a lead after seven innings, it's likely a win for them and a loss for you.

The Orioles, meanwhile, scuffle their way to the close of a season that will ultimately be remembered for their late-season collapse where the club dropped 16 of 20 games in a three-week span. They might wind up embarrassing themselves to such a degree that the lowly Red Sox -- who were OUT of the playoff race by the week of June -- will by-pass them and occupy fourth place (or better) when the curtain closes on the 2015 campaign. It won't matter to me, honestly. Fourth place...fifth place...who cares?

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go head-to-head with drew and win a $50 gift card at glory days (if you beat him)

The NFL season is upon us and our friends at Hong Kong Louie have created weekly Contests exclusively for Drew's Morning Dish readers.

Each week, Hong Kong Louie handicaps all the NFL games. For each game, you have the option of selecting the favorite or the underdog. There are no point spreads – you must select the outright winners of the games – the underdogs are awarded commensurately more points than the favorites to reward those who correctly pick the upsets. To score points, you MUST select the WINNER of a game. If you select the winner, you collect the points indicated for that team. If you select the loser, you collect NO POINTS for that game. After all games are decided, each entrants' points for all games are totaled.

Example: If you take the Ravens to beat Denver this Sunday, you receive 169 points if the Ravens win the game. If you select Denver, you receive 100 points if the Broncos win. If you select the loser of the game, you score NO points. The same follows for all 16 games played this first week of the season. When all games are decided, each entrants' score for all games is totaled.

The player who beats Drew's total points and who has the highest point-total of all #DMD contestants wins a $50 gift card to Glory Days. If no one beats Drew's total, the gift card goes into the following week's Contest and thus doubles next weeks' prize value. Simple enough, right? Just go to the Hong Kong Louie website, register, and you're all set for the season. Each week—prior to the Thursday night game at 8:30 pm—you go in, make your picks, and go head-to-head with Drew.

Here's how to enter the #DMD Contest:

  1. You must be a registered member of HongKongLouie.com to enter the #DMD Contest (it's FREE to register and there is NO obligation of any kind). Many #DMD readers are already registered members of HongKongLouie.com. [And several have already won HongKongLouie cash prizes!] If you are not already registered, it literally takes only thirty seconds to sign up. Register here.
  2. Once you create an account (or if you already have one), go to the #DMD exclusive contest page.
  3. Copy-and-paste or type this password — ekGbAZki — into the password area in the above (#2) link. [Please don't share the password with anyone who is not a #DMD reader.]
  4. Make your selections of the winners of all the games, and then answer the Tiebreaker questions.
  5. At the conclusion of the last Sunday night game of the week, each entrants' score will be published on any computer or phone on which he or she is logged in to HongKongLouie.com.
  6. If you have any questions about the Contest or the log-in procedures, please e-mail: support@hongkonglouie.com. We realize that the explanation here is more complex than the process of entering the Contest, and for that, we apologize. We'll get back to you as quickly as possible with any clearer explanations necessary.
  7. #DMD readers are also cordially invited to participate in the non-exclusive Hong Kong Louie Contests, and compete against all the world for the cash prizes to the winners. The two currently open for entries are the NFL Division Winners and the NFL Week 1 Contest. And some good ones are coming up on the FedEx Cup and the Presidents Cup; the (baseball) World Series and the World Series of Poker; UFC 192; the Breeders Cup thoroughbred races; and the Primetime Emmy Awards.
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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.

It's just six days before the season opener in Denver, and the Ravens have a grand total of zero players on their team who had any kickoff returns this preseason.

Something's got to give here.

Every player with kick return experience this preseason -- Asa Jackson, Terrence Magee, DeAndre Carter, Tom Nelson, Aldrick Robinson -- has been let go. Maybe Michael Campanaro gets the chance to return kicks, something he hasn't done since preseason of 2014, when he averaged a healthy 30.4 yards on five returns. But speaking of healthy, Campanaro often isn't. Can they rely on him to finally be, and stay, healthy?

jackson
With Asa Jackson's release over the weekend, the Ravens are in search of a kick returner for Sunday's opener at Denver.

Maybe Steve Smith trots back to return kicks, something he hasn't done since 2006. But Smith represents far and away the Ravens most valuable receiving option. Is there any chance they'd risk an injury to him on a kick return?

One intriguing name to watch is former Lions return man Jeremy Ross, who has been signed to the Ravens practice squad. Ross was the Lions' primary kick returner last year, averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff return and 8.9 yards per punt return. He had two return touchdowns (one punt, one kickoff) with the Lions in 2013. Ross is with his fourth organization in five years, but if he shows well in practice he might see a quick promotion to the active roster. The Ravens don't need the next Jacoby Jones. Sure they'd love that. But what they really want is someone who can turn upfield and hold on to the ball, which is what Asa Jackson and DeAndre Carter failed to do.

But Ross has had his own issues with ball security; with the Lions last year, Ross had four fumbles, including three on returns. He fumbled away one kick return and two punts. So the Ravens can essentially audition him on their practice squad, but they won't have any patience for putting the ball on the turf. Ask Jackson, who, by the way, quickly resurfaced with the New York Giants.

For certain, someone will trot deep to return a kickoff Sunday in Denver. But right now, who exactly that will be is anyone's guess.

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with four weeks of baseball left, playoff spots still up for grabs

They play 162 games in baseball, from August until the end of September or so, and every season, it seems a division race or two comes down to the final weekend. I suspect we'll see a couple of teams squeeze their way in to the post-season on the weekend of Oct. 2-3-4 and someone's heart will be broken, too. Here's a quick look at what's happening in the three American League races. We'll look at the three National League divisions in Wednesday's #DMD.

American League East -- It's Toronto and New York, in that order right now, with one of those teams winning the division and the other likely having to play in the one-game wild card playoff on October 6th. They face one another six more times; three times this coming weekend in NY and then Sept. 21-22-23 in Toronto. Those six games will probably decide the division champion. Drew's pick: I think the Blue Jays hold on and win the East by four games.

American League Central -- This division has been over since Memorial Day, but the Royals haven't played all that well in the last few weeks and need to get their mojo back before the playoffs begin next month. Minnesota, meanwhile, has played very well since mid-August and could scratch their way to the second wild card spot if Texas and the Angels both falter. Drew's pick: K.C. rolls on and wins the division by 12 games and the Twins come up short in their quest for a wild card spot.

American League West -- It's hard to believe the Houston Astros have held on this long and are in position to go to the playoffs after being an American League laughingstock for the last three years. They have a huge 7-game road trip coming up starting this weekend, with three games in L.A. vs. the Angels and then four next week in Arlington against the Texas Rangers. They also face both of those teams back in Houston for three games each later in September, so Houston has 13 games remaining against the two teams directly beneath them in the standings. Drew's pick: I think the Rangers are going to sneak in and grab the division by a couple of games, relegating Houston to the wild card spot.


TUESDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
NEW YORK
K. Gausman
2-6, 4.59
M. Tanaka
11-6, 3.73
7:05 PM EDT
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american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 77 - 59 26 5
Rangers 72 - 64 26
Twins 71 - 66 25
Angels 69 - 68 25
Indians 67 - 69 26 5
Rays 67 - 70 25
Mariners 66 - 72 24 7
White Sox 65 - 71 26 7
Orioles 65 - 72 25
Monday
September 7
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 7

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have the orioles "quit"?

While sitting on the outdoor patio overlooking the 9th green at Eagle's Nest Country Club on Sunday, the conversation between golfing friends turned to the Orioles.

"They've given up," said one person after he heard the 10-4 final score of Sunday's loss in Toronto.

"They quit a month ago," echoed someone else.

"Yep, never thought I'd say that, but they've quit," said a third member of the group.

I hopped in to add my opinion. "I don't think they've quit," I countered. "But they do look very disinterested."

"That's the same thing as quitting," interjected one of the earlier commenters.

The subject flipped over to football and that was the end of the Orioles conversation. But it got me to thinking: "Have they quit"? -- or are they "disinterested"? And is there a difference between the two?

adam
Always a free swinger, Adam Jones goes up to the plate four or five times per-game eager to make something happen. "Trying to hard"? Maybe. Quitting? No chance.

Let me say this, despite the tailspin of the last three weeks and getting shelled Saturday and Sunday in Toronto to fall to 65-71 on the season: I don't think the team (or the players) has quit. "Quit" is a bad, bad word in sports. It shows a lack of heart, no matter the circumstances, particularly within professional sports when people are paying money to come out and watch you play and, it's assumed, give your very best effort. I don't think the Orioles lack heart. And, while I won't get agitated to the degree that Adam Jones did last week when someone mentioned "the Q word" to him, I do take umbrage with someone suggesting Jones, Davis, Machado, et al have "quit".

I can find them guilty of being disinterested, though. It's close to that feeling of "let's just get this over with..." and perhaps that DOES mean you're not putting out your full, optimum effort, but I don't think the Orioles go into each game and say, "We're not going to try and win tonight."

That "disinterested" look isn't there at the start of each game. It usually doesn't settle in until around the 4th or 5th inning. You don't have to look very hard to see it on their faces and in the way they play. And it's not a few offenders, either. It's everyone, basically. I think the hitters are tired of the pitchers giving up four runs in 4.2 innings and I think the pitchers are tired of their teammates leaving seven runners on base in the first three innings of 75% of the games. No one is doing their job well, really. The club has essentially produced the same amount of runs (and home runs) as they did at this same juncture last season, but their batting average with runners in scoring position is down and so, too, is their win total. The starting pitching has been woefully inept, particularly since early June. It all adds up to hitters swinging at pitches that aren't worthy of their attention and pitchers not throwing enough quality pitches to get major league hitters out. It's as if both entities are saying, "It's YOUR turn to pick ME up."

By the way, the disinterested-disease isn't afflicting the Orioles and only the Orioles. The Diamondbacks have it, the Tigers have it, the Braves (losers of 12 straight) have it and so do the Reds. Nearly every team playing out the string with a month left in the season can easily lose interest. It happens to everyone. I'm not saying it's something to ignore or accept, even, but it's hard to keep your focus intact night in and night out when you've been playing for five months with the hope of reaching the playoffs and suddenly, in a 3-week span, that dream dies after you go 4-17.

I think Adam Jones -- for example -- has FAR too much character to throw in the towel. Same with Davis and Machado and Schoop and all the rest of them. They may all need a few days off (which, they'll get in about three more weeks) and they might certainly be guilty of "losing steam", but I bristle when I hear or read someone suggest the players have "quit".

Maybe it's just semantics. Maybe "quit" and "disinterested" are, in fact, the same thing. I think there's a difference, though, and one of those traits tells you something about a guy's heart while the other tells you about a guy's energy level. There's a big difference between the two.

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tillman gets rocked as blue jays hit three homers in 10-4 win

Jose Bautista homered for the second straight game and teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar also added round trippers off of Oriole starter Chris Tillman on Sunday as the Blue Jays cruised to an easy 10-4 win in the series finale at Rogers Centre. It was yet another ineffective outing for Tillman, who has labored greatly in the second half of the season and was lifted early on Sunday after Pillar's lead-off home run in the fourth inning made the score 6-0.

A Ryan Flaherty two-run homer in the 5th narrowed the gap to 6-2 and Jimmy Paredes knocked in another run in the 6th with a double off the left field wall. Then, as has been the case about 1,000 times this season, the O's failed to cash in on a golden opportunity when Nolan Reimold grounded out with runners at 1st and 2nd to end the inning. Reimold hit a solo homer in the 9th, but his lazy at-bat in the 6th with the tying run at the plate was symbolic of what the Orioles have been going through virtually all-season.

Gerardo Parra went 0-for-4 and has very quietly sunk to a .222 batting average and .255 on-base-percentage in his five-week stint with the Birds. The O's were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Sunday.

MONDAY AFTERNOON'S MATCHUP
in
NEW YORK
W. Chen
8-7, 3.36
M. Pineda
10-8, 4.07
1:00PM EDT
YANKEE STADIUM



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 76 - 59 79 5
Rangers 71 - 64 27
Twins 70 - 66 26
Angels 69 - 67 26
Rays 67 - 69 26
Indians 66 - 69 27 5
Mariners 66 - 71 25 6
White Sox 65 - 70 27 6
Orioles 65 - 71 26
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nfl 2015 - drew's look at the nfc east

One thing for certain about the upcoming 2015 NFL campaign: If the Ravens somehow struggle, we'll always be able to take great solace in the fact that the Redskins will stink twice as bad. I can make a case for a bunch of different things happening in the NFC East this season, but none of those scenarios involve Washington winning the division. The other three teams would have to defect to the CFL before the Redskins would make the playoffs in 2015. Yes...they're THAT bad. Here's how the division shapes up.

You have to be a very poor outfit to not win at least five games in the NFL each season, but that's just about the limit of expectations for the Redskins in '15. Their quarterback quandry is both sad and embarrassing, plus, they don't really have a good option at that position in the first place. They can run the ball a little bit, but teams will just put eight guys in the box and force Washington to throw the ball and that's where the fun begins. Jay Gruden isn't a NFL-caliber coach and the RGIII fiasco will likely be his undoing, albeit perhaps not all his fault. The good news for Washington football fans? The Caps might very well contend for the NHL title this season.

If things fall into place for the Eagles, that wacky offense could sizzle and produce double-digit wins for them, but I think that's asking a bit too much for a club that's going to battle with the oft-injured Sam Bradford at quarterback. When healthy -- and let's face it, that's almost "never" -- Bradford can make every NFL throw and is as technically sound as any QB in the league, but he's always nicked up or on the I.R. list. DeMarco Murray gives Philadelphia a reliable running back option for Chip Kelly's run-and-gun offense, but the losses of LaSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin will be too much for them to overcome, I'm afraid.

This seems like the type of season where the New York Giants re-surface, win the division, and somehow sneak into the Super Bowl. That's sort of been their M.O. over the last decade. If Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. have one of those magical seasons together, anything is possible, but that's putting a lot of pressure on two players, although the wide receiver is capable of beating just about any secondary in the league on any given Sunday. The Giants have going for them what the Redskins don't -- they have a solid coach who knows his players and their limitations and works wonders with what he has at his disposal. The New York defense is the key in 2015. They'll get their points on offense, but can they stop the other team with regularity? Might be a tall task.

It would be quite a shock if the Cowboys don't win the division. If they don't, it will likely be that Tony Romo suffered some sort of major injury early in the season. Otherwise, expect Dallas to contend for the NFC's best record in 2015. Romo has crazy-but-wildly-good wide receiver Dez Bryant on his side which gives him one of the league's best targets and the opportunistic Dallas defense will give up points but score their fare share as well.

Predicted order of finish --

Dallas Cowboys -- 12-4

New York Giants -- 10-6

Philadelphia Eagles -- 7-9

Washington Redskins -- 3-13

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Sunday
September 6
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 6

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ravens don't have that championship "feel" (but it's only pre-season)

I don't put any stock in what a team's pre-season record is, because roughly eleven of the sixteen quarters a team plays in their four "exhibition" games come with second-tier players or guys not employable at the NFL level. That doesn't mean, however, that I completely discount what I see in pre-season.

In some ways the NFL season perfectly fits the motto, "It's a marathon, not a sprint", but in other ways, it very much IS a sprint. Teams that jet out of the gate with a 4-0 record, for example, have a 92% chance of making the post-season (since 2000). That says something, obviously, about being healthy at the start of the season, having your chakras in line, and getting the benefit of a favorable -- or non-punishing -- schedule. If you can go 4-0 or, even, 3-1, to start the season, you have a very good chance of enjoying a solid campaign. Start off 1-3 and you're in for a battle. It's not impossible to make the playoffs after a 1-3 start, but you've put yourself behind the eight-ball for sure.

joe
This is the "not happy" look for Ravens QB Joe Flacco. I'm fearing we might see that more than we'd like in 2015.

My official AFC North predictions won't be revealed until this Wednesday's edition of #DMD, but this much is for certain: I'm concerned about the Ravens after what I saw in pre-season. The starters -- or at least the ones who played in the first three games -- aren't the issue. Joe Flacco is Joe Flacco. He's the least of the team's worries. They should be able to run the ball decently, too. And, with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's affection for the short passing game, expect a lot of screens to Justin Forsett and Buck Allen plus regular use of the team's tight ends in short yardage situations. We all know what's going on with the receivers. And if we're concerned, as fans, imagine what the Ravens are feeling behind closed doors. An aging Steve Smith will probably do what he did a year ago...meaning, he'll have four really good games, two games where he makes a handful of catches and, in the other ten games, he'll be just another guy. With the Breshad Perriman injury now clearly going to spill over into the regular season, that puts the onus on the likes of Marlon Brown, Darren Waller and Kamar Aiken. That trio won't scare any defensive coordinator or secondary coach, I think we'll all agree on that.

The axe finally fell on Jah Reid yesterday, as the Ravens cut the veteran offensive lineman after yet another uninspiring training camp. Even though the team's depth is a question mark, Reid just wasn't reliable enough to keep around anymore. Some other team will look at him and say, "That dude just LOOKS like a football player...we'll get something out of him." And they'll be disappointed two weeks later. Wide receiver Jeremy Butler was sent packing yesterday as well, and it's my guess some other club will give him a look-see at some point this month when injuries or a lackluster passing game requires a new face in town. Butler had an exceptional mini-camp back in May and was impressive early on in training camp, but once the games started in mid-August, he disappeared. And those, remember, were pre-season games with little or no quality attached to them. If you can't make catches and plays in the games that DON'T matter, you're likely not going to step up three notches in the sixteen week regular season and make those same plays.

The same goes for cornerback Asa Jackson, who was also given his walking papers on Saturday when the Ravens trimmed the fat and got down to their 53-man roster. He couldn't handle his business against the 2's and 3's in pre-season games, how could he be counted on to shut down a legit NFL receiver if called upon? Like Reid, Jackson was given ample opportunity over the last three years to make an impact and just hasn't been able to do it. Sadly, it seems, Jackson actually regressed in the secondary. He was basically beaten out of a job by 2015 draft pick Tray Walker, who was badly outmatched in the Redskins game last Saturday night and hasn't showed much ability to play at the NFL level in this, his first training camp as a professional. Jackson potentially had some value as a kick and punt returner, but he couldn't hold on to the football enough to keep a job based on that specialty.

The Ravens weren't going to win games this year because of guys like Jah Reid, Jeremy Butler or Asa Jackson. They're role players, nothing more, and evidently not even reliable enough to stick around as the 51st, 52nd and 53rd guys on the roster. Their departure, though, means a rookie/draft pick will be stepping in for them and, potentially, suiting up against the Broncos on September 13. That brings me to the original point of this whole thing: I'm not feeling all that warm and fuzzy about the pre-season we've just witnessed. I saw some starters shine. I also saw a lot of starters nursing injuries. And, I saw a team that looks very short in the "depth" category. Perhaps they won't need to utilize their 3rd string right offensive guard or 5th wide receiver on the depth chart. Maybe Tray Walker suits up for four of the sixteen games this season and doesn't hurt the club one iota while doing so. But, if depth becomes a key element of the upcoming 2015 season for the Ravens, I didn't see much in pre-season that tells me everything will fall nicely into place.

I see a Ravens team with a tough first four weeks on the schedule. They start at Denver, head to Oakland for what should be an automatic win, then come home to face a formidable Bengals team before heading to Pittsburgh four days later for a Thursday night encounter with the Steelers. Three out of four on the road to start the season isn't good anytime, but particularly in 2015 when the NFL has pretty much hand-delivered a division loss by making John Harbaugh's team play an away Thursday night game at Heinz Field.

The early-season schedule, the lack of depth and a sloppy pre-season has me worried. I'm not waving the white towel or anything like that, but I wish I felt better about what I've watched over the last four weeks.

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the price was right on saturday in toronto

That's why the Blue Jays gave away some valuable prospects to get David Price for the Tigers at the trade deadline in late July. The dude can pitch.

Price easily handled the Orioles on Saturday, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings of work as the Blue Jays knocked off the Birds, 5-1. Jose Bautista was responsible for the only two runs the Jays needed, as he homered in the first inning and knocked in a second run with a 3rd inning ground rule double. Toronto led 5-0 before the O's pushed their only run across on a Caleb Joseph RBI single in the 7th inning. Mike Wright got the start for Baltimore and wasn't very good, throwing 80 pitches in four innings of work and allowing seven hits and three earned runs while taking the loss. The Orioles had four total hits on the day (Machado, Davis, Lake and Joseph). You can't win baseball games with four hits in nine innings.

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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.

The Ravens reached their 'final' 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon, and yes, 'final' is most definitely in quotes. The truth is, the roster is constantly evolving. In fact, there is almost certain to be one move as early as Sunday: Defensive lineman Brent Urban, who is out with a torn biceps, is on the 53-man roster but is headed to injured-reserve-designated-to-return. Once he is moved to that list on Sunday, the Ravens have an open roster spot. For a kick returner? A running back? They will probably be looking very closely at available options, because clearly holes still exist in both roles.

For now, though, let's break down the so-called final 53-man roster:

Quarterbacks (2): Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub

No surprises here, as the Ravens again keep just two quarterbacks. Bryn Renner is a strong candidate for the practice squad.

Running back (4): Buck Allen, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro

The Ravens cut both bubble backs, rookie Terrence Magee and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Taliaferro is almost certainly going to miss the opener, and it's highly unlikely the Ravens will go to Denver with just Allen backing up Forsett. Look for the Ravens to scour the waiver wire for running back help, or perhaps bring back Magee once Urban goes in IR-designated-to-return.

Wide receiver (6): Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Breshad Perriman, Steve Smith, Darren Waller

Jeremy Butler lands on the wrong side of the roster bubble. Made a lot of impressive grabs in camp but it didn't translate to game action. The Perriman injury remains the team's most troubling storyline.

Tight end (3): Nick Boyle, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams

No suspense here once Dennis Pitta landed on the PUP list.

Offensive line (8): James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, John Urschel, Rick Wagner, Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah

The Ravens must feel good enough about the health of the line that they were willing to cut both veteran Jah Reid and rookie fifth-round pick Robert Myers. The fact that Ryan Jensen played servicably at tackle when called upon, and can also play guard and center, probably was a major factor in his inclusion. The Ravens rarely cut draft picks the same year, and they are probably hoping to sign Myers back to the practice squad.

Defensive line (8): Christo Bilukidi, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Timmy Jernigan, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Brent Urban, Brandon Williams

Lewis-Moore made a late rally to make the team; early in camp he was running with the third- and fourth-stringers, but injuries to Jernigan, Guy and DeAngelo Tyson (waived-injured) certainly helped him. Urban will head to IR-designated-to-return, which will open up a roster spot.

Linebackers (9): Arthur Brown, Elvis Dumervil, Albert McClellan, C.J. Mosley, Zach Orr, Daryl Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw

Arthur Brown lands on the right side of the roster bubble again, and Albert McClellan makes the team again for his special teams play.

Cornerback (5): Kyle Arrington, Rashaan Melvin, Jimmy Smith, Tray Walker, Lardarius Webb

Two fumbled punt returns cost Asa Jackson his job, and the Ravens are going to hope Smith and Webb can stay healthy. Walker is a project who did not show well in the preseason, but the Ravens hold on to the fourth-round pick.

Safety (5): Terrence Brooks, Will Hill, Anthony Levine, Kendrick Lewis, Brynden Trawick

Trawick was considered on the bubble, but his ability on special teams seems to have won him a spot. Brooks' return from the PUP list helps this group.

Specialists (3): Morgan Cox, Sam Koch, Justin Tucker

Nothing to see here; the Wolf Pack returns intact.

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nfl 2015 -- drew's look at the afc east

Like a lot of people, I'm very anxious to pick someone to beat out the New England Patriots in the AFC East. We know the Jets can't do it, but both Buffalo and the Dolphins have reasonable qualities that could make life tough for the Patriots this season. New England has the quarterback and the chemistry, but the margin is as narrow as it has been in that division in several seasons. The Patriots won't breeze through the AFC East like they have in that past, that's a certainty. Here's how I see it shaping up:

If the New York Jets had a real quarterback, they might be able to scratch and claw their way to a .500 record. They have a couple of decent wide receivers (Brandon Marshall & Eric Decker) and their defensive front seven is more than adequate. They brought Darrelle Revis back and signed cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist, so the secondary -- a weak spot a year ago -- should be improved in 2015. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback in place of injured Geno Smith, the Jets have an experienced guy back there, but a second stringer at best.

The Bills could surprise people if Tyrod Taylor turns out to be a legit, first-string quarterback (my bet is he's on the bench by week four), but defense is the name of the game in Buffalo where Rex Ryan takes over as their new head coach. Taylor has some receiver weapons at his disposal, including the speedster Sammy Watkins, and the Buffalo running game figures to be decent with LeSean McCoy's arrival from Philadelphia. The offense might be just good enough to give the Buffalo defense a chance to be a game-changer week in and week out. I see the Bills being tough to beat in their stadium, for sure.

Tom Brady is an excellent quarterback, but the Patriots can't play him at cornerback or safety, and that's where New England will need some major help in 2015. Fortunately, the AFC East isn't a pass happy division or the Patriots could be in danger of missing the post-season. Instead, Brady, Gronkowski and Company will be the difference on offense and the defense will be the liability that keeps New England from returning to the Super Bowl. They'll make the post-season as a wild card, but their reign at the top of the division is over.

dolphinslb
An already-good Dolphins defense added perhaps the NFL's best run stopper in the off-season. Can Ndamukong Suh put Miami over the top?

The Dolphins spent a ton of money in the off-season and added Ndamukong Suh to an already smothering defense, but it's the offense that needed help and Miami made some improvements in the off-season by picking up tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receivers Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. Ryan Tannehill isn't Tom Brady -- not by a longshot -- but he's good enough to engineer the Dolphins to a double digit win season as long as the core defensive players stay healthy.

Predicted order of finish --

Miami Dolphins -- 11-5*

New England Patriots -- 11-5

Buffalo Bills -- 8-8

New York Jets -- 6-10

*wins AFC East via tie-breaker


terps run around, over and through richmond in 50-21 win

They won't all be that easy, of course, but Saturday's season opening Maryland victory over Richmond was a walk in the park -- or, perhaps, more like a "run in the park". The Terps gained 341 yards on the ground and tacked on a remarkable 233 yards of punt return yards in the win over the Spiders, who actually led the game 14-13 at one point in the second quarter before Maryland reeled off 37 unanswered points.

Brandon Ross rushed for 150 yards and William Likely returned eight punts for 233 yards (a new Maryland school record) and added 63 yards on kick-off returns to amass 296 total yards for the afternoon. Perry Hills, making his first start at quarterback since 2012, went 12-for-21 with 138 yards in the air.

Maryland returns to action next Saturday at 12 noon in College Park against Bowling Green.

Saturday
September 5
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 5

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redskins latest anti-service policy is one of their all-time worst decisions

This should probably fall under the "nothing surprises me anymore" file, but even this does, in fact, surprise me. The Washington Redskins have done it again. Under the ownership of Dan Snyder, the football team in D.C. has built up a lot of ill-will. It's almost like they're trying to be obnoxious because they're bored with being sensible.

Earlier this week, the Redskins announced they will no longer permit non-season-ticket holders to leave game tickets at the Will Call window at FedEx Field. In the past, an even dumber policy existed, if you can believe that. Prior to this week's announcement, the Redskins actually charged non-season-ticket holders $50 PER-ENVELOPE left at the Will Call window. $50 per-freakin'-envelope! Calling that policy "outdated" (I have another term for it...), the Redskins announced their new guidelines as the 2015 season gets ready to kick-off. They'll simply no longer allow a non-season ticket holder the option of leaving tickets at Will Call. Period.

skins
This guy is the king of customer service, eh?

Frankly, this is something the Orioles would have done back in 2005-2010, when they were busy fighting with the fans instead of welcoming them in with open arms. Once Andy MacPhail arrived, followed shortly thereafter by Buck Showalter, things started to improve on the field and, lo and behold, the O's front office shaped up, too. This move in D.C. though reeks of arrogance and a general lack of benevolence that does nothing except make the Redskins look like the petty organization they've become. It's not like the Will Call window option is even used all that much by people going to the games. Rather, it's simply a nice option to have if you have four tickets, but you can only use two and your friends from Richmond are driving up for the game but they won't get there until just before kick-off. In a friendly world, you'd slip those two tickets into an envelope and leave them at Will Call. You'd get in the stadium thirty minutes before kick-off like you always do, get that first beer in you, and your two pals from Richmond would get there when they get there. Easy stuff. But it doesn't work that way at FedEx Field.

This is what the Redskins are missing (besides a quarterback and a real coach): Once a sports ticket is paid for, meaning once the club has received its money for that game ticket, it's incumbent upon the club, then, to make every reasonable effort possible to ensure their customers are able to get in and watch the event unfold in person. That includes the designation of some sort of window or public portal where those fans can leave tickets for friends, family members, co-workers, etc. They do have such a window in place at FedEx Field -- but it can only be utilized by season ticket holders. I wholeheartedly agree that there should always be "special perks" for those folks who purchase season tickets. They should ALWAYS get the best price, for starters. They should, in my opinion, also receive some sort of "pre-game entry privilege" so their wait-time in line at security screening is more expeditious than those who AREN'T season ticket holders. I could go on and on with the perks thing...

For certain, though, eliminating the availability of a Will Call or ticket pick-up window for non-season ticket holders is a bush league move, particularly when you consider such a window already is in place at the stadium. They don't have to build a new office, purchase more computers or hire four more people. They have all of that in place, already. This decision is nothing more than the Redskins flicking a booger on people who are attending the games but aren't the actual season ticket holder. For an organization that has steadily been losing steam over the last five years or so, it's a senseless way to tell the fans in their market "we care about you". I don't really care at all about the Redskins, and can count on one hand the number of times I've even opined on them over the last year here at #DMD. This new policy, though, is so silly, so dumb, so...Redskins, that I had to make a point of shaming them on it.

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o's wallop blue jays, 10-2, as davis goes deep twice -- again

The Orioles formula for winning games is very apparent and easy to dissect. They just haven't done it enough this season, unfortunately. Two home runs from Chris Davis and homers from Adam Jones and Matt Wieters helped the Birds to an easy 10-2 win on Friday night in Toronto, as the O's started a crucial six-game road trip against the Blue Jays and Yankees with their second consecutive victory.

Davis collected his 39th and 40th home runs of the season, marking the second straight game the pending-free-agent hit two homers. Every O's starter had at least one hit on Friday night, making a winner out of Ubaldo Jimenez, who walked six Toronto batters in 5.2 innings of work.


SATURDAY AFTERNOON'S MATCHUP
in
TORONTO
M. Wright
2-3, 4.99
D. Price
13-5, 2.47
1:07PM EDT
ROGERS CENTRE



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 75 - 58 29 4
Rangers 70 - 63 29
Twins 69 - 65 28
Angels 68 - 66 28
Rays 66 - 68 28
Indians 65 - 68 29 5
Orioles 65 - 69 28
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nfl 2015 -- drew's look at the nfc south

We officially have a division in the NFL that could be won by any of the four teams. Sure, some things would have to really work in Tampa Bay's favor for the Bucs to come out on top in the NFC South, but an injury to Cam Newton or Drew Brees would shake things up in a hurry and allow a club like Tampa Bay to make a move we didn't think they were capable of making. Every team has a reason why they can win the division and a reason (or two) they can't. Here's how I see the NFC South shaping up:

I think the Dan Quinn hire was a good one, but the Atlanta Falcons don't have the horses to win the NFC South in 2015. They have a good quarterback in Matt Ryan and an elite wide receiver (Julio Jones) but that's about the extent of their offense in Atlanta. Quinn's defensive philosophy might eventually work down there, but he'll need some vastly improved personnel before he's able to replicate what he did in Seattle with the Seahawks. No running game, no secondary -- no hope. Buckle up Atlanta...you're in for a long season.

winston
Plagued by off-the-field troubles at Florida State, Jameis Winston has the goods to be a big-time QB in the NFL. Can he stay out of trouble and produce for Tampa Bay right away?

In Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston is either going to break out in his rookie season and show off the skill set that made him a dynamic college quarterback or he'll find the game too fast for his liking and take a while to catch on to things. I'll bet ON Winston in this case. I think he's going to look the part and settle in nicely for the Bucs in 2015. I'm not saying he's the next Joe Montana or anything -- but he's not going to be Blaine Gabbert or Matt Leinart. As long as the Mike Evans hamstring injury suffered two weeks in pre-season doesn't linger on throughout the season, Winston should find him to be a very reliable target throughout 2015. Tampa Bay's defense will need to man-up early while Winston is finding his way.

I don't see how the New Orleans Saints can be anything but average in 2015. I'm still dumbfounded by the trades of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills and I'm sure Drew Brees echoes that thought. Brandin Cooks looks like he might be a legit receiving threat and the New Orleans running game that includes newcomer C.J. Spiller and returning veteran Mark Ingram should be decent enough. This isn't the Saints team of five years ago that was an offensive juggernaut, but there might be a little more balance now, even with Graham and Stills gone. If the Saints defense holds up their end of the bargain, New Orleans could win the division by the skin of their teeth.

The Carolina Panthers won the division last year at 7-8-1, then won a home playoff game by beating the injury-riddled Arizona Cardinals. They added a couple of tier-two wide receivers in Jarrett Boykin and Ted Ginn Jr., but the Panthers will go as far as Cam Newton takes them. If running back Jonathan Stewart stays healthy, he can give Carolina the balance they need offensively to take advantage of Newton's arm and his ability to make plays with his feet. The Panthers defense is good enough. It's all about Newton and the Carolina offense. I think they'll be just good enough to win the South again.

Predicted order of finish --

Carolina -- 9-7

New Orleans -- 8-8

Tampa Bay -- 5-11

Atlanta -- 5-11

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UMBC scores huge soccer win over Ohio State, 1-0

Darius Madison's goal in the 59th minute was the lone tally of the night and it was enough to give UMBC an impressive 1-0 win over Ohio State on Friday night at Retriever Soccer Park. It was the first time in school history that UMBC met the Buckeyes in soccer and the game matched the build-up, as the Retrievers (2-0-1) played solid defense throughout and took advantage of Madison's second goal of the season to earn the home victory. UMBC will now play Oakland University at home tomorrow night (7pm) before visiting cross-town rival Loyola next Saturday, September 12.


pga tour playoffs -- day continues to sizzle, spieth continues to fizzle

At this rate, Jordan Spieth might actually be handing over the 2014-2015 Player of the Year trophy to Jason Day. Round one of the second FedEx Cup playoff event is in the books and Spieth posted an ugly round of 75 to put himself in danger of missing his second consecutive cut. Meanwhile, Jason Day, who won last week's playoff opener at Plainfield CC, toured the TPC of Boston in 3-under par 68 in Friday's first round and trails leader Brendon de Jonge by three shots. Luke Donald, Colt Knost, Kevin Chappell, Ian Poulter and a host of others were two behind de Jonge at 4-under par.

Day made five birdies and just two bogies on Friday, while Spieth -- tied for 80th in the 99-player field -- had eight bogies on his card to go with four birdies. Phil Mickelson, who needs a strong finish this week to play in the next playoff event in Chicago and, perhaps, to qualify for the President's Cup team, shot 1-under par 70 on Friday. Rory McIlroy matched Mickelson's 70, as did Dustin Johnson. British Open champion Zach Johnson fired a 69 to trail de Jonge by four shots after round one. My pre-tournament pick, Bubba Watson, battled a bad back and a balky putter to shoot 73.


nadal out at u.s. open after squandering two-set lead

Upsets at the 2015 U.S. Open Tennis Championship aren't just going to happen on the women's side, it appears. Rafael Nadal -- seeded #8 -- was sent home last night (technically at 1:30 am this morning) by #32 seed Fabio Fognini and the loss ended two remarkable streaks for the 14-time major champion. In losing the match 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 4-6, it marked the first time in Rafa's Grand Slam career that he lost after taking the first two sets of a match. That record of 151 straight wins when up two sets ended when Fognini produced 70 winners in their 3rd round match last night. The defeat also ends an even more impressive streak as Nadal had won at least one Grand Slam major in ten straight years. After losing in the quarter-finals in the Australian and French earlier this year, he bowed out in the second round at Wimbledon back in late June. Last night's loss in the U.S. Open means Nadal will go "major-less" for the first time in eleven years. His ten straight years with a major was two better than Federer, Sampras and Borg, each of whom won a major in eight straight years during their respective Hall of Fame careers.

Thursday
September 3
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 3

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september swoon is going to cost the birds big bucks

I get it. You can't win EVERY year. Well, unless you're the New England Patriots or St. Louis Cardinals, that is. But seriously, there are going to be baseball seasons when your team doesn't win and that makes for long, long months of September. In the Orioles' case, this epic collapse they've authored over the last two weeks is going to do a lot of damage in a place that won't make Peter Angelos very happy. And that, of course, would be in his wallet.

A couple of weeks back, it looked like a sure thing that we'd be watching baseball that mattered at OPACY during the month of September. Even if the O's eventually didn't grab one of the wild card spots, the games were going to be important, the opponents would be attractive and, with both Boston and New York visiting in the final month, crowds figured to be steady if not over-flowing. Last season, the club routinely drew 30,000 or more as they barreled in the direction of an American League East crown. There were a handful of 40,000-plus crowds in there as well, which not only helped the revenue stream, but allowed the O's to pre-sell 2015 season ticket plans by forcing folks to put a deposit down on those just to have a chance at post-season tickets.

The subject of the Orioles' finances has been a sticky situation in these parts for a long, long time. While the club's one-season payroll has hovered in the $100 million range over the last couple of years, Peter Angelos has never once handed out a contract worth $100 million since taking over the team in 1993. He forked over $85 million to Adam Jones a couple of years ago and that's the closest Peter has come to reaching the century mark for a guaranteed deal. The lingering MASN squabble between the Nationals and the Angelos-owned regional sports network SHOULDN'T affect Peter's ownership of the Orioles, but we all know it does. This, though, isn't about Angelos and his miserly ways. It's not about giving Nelson Cruz the extra year or spending money on Jon Lester last off-season or David Price this off-season. It's simply about the fact that this late-season collapse has been costly to the franchise in more ways than one.

bucks
This is what a million bucks looks like. The Orioles will lose this and a whole lot more because of their late-season flop in the standings.

The club now has a solid core of 19,500 ticket holders, meaning for virtually every home game, they're always going to have a revenue slice equaling 19,500 full and partial plan holders. Anyone else who comes to the game paying full price (or a group price) just gets added on. Last night's awful crowd -- there MIGHT have been 10,000 in the place -- still had a revenue stream of 19,500 no matter who did or didn't actually sit in the seats. But...when the Royals come to town next weekend, the crowds will likely be more in the 25,000 per-game range instead of 40,000 that likely would have made their way in had the games against KC factored into the wild card race. Do the math: 15,000 fans at an average ticket price of $15.00 is...$225,000. Three games of that equals $775,000 of lost revenue. The Red Sox come in after the Royals leave town. A mid-week series with the Sox might not see a 15,000 per-game decrease -- particularly now that school has started -- but I bet over the three games they'll see 30,000 less folks in the stands than they would have had the O's stayed in the pennant race. There's another $135,000 down the drain. Get the picture? When it all shakes out at the end of the season, with KC, Boston, Toronto and New York due in to Baltimore in September, this wreck of a final 40 games is probably going to amount to at least $2 million in lost cash. That's a lot of money. And then you can also factor in lost revenue on concession sales, parking, etc. I don't know all the ugly details there, but it's probably safe to say there's another million gone.

The critics will point to last off-season and say, "We didn't spend money last winter after we had that cash-cow September and October (and that's true, by the way), so not having a cash-cow September and October this year can't make much difference to the owner." That could be true. Then again, what's three or four million to Angelos and his partners? If they lose three million this September, what's the big deal, right? Well, it's easy to say that when it's not YOUR three million. Losing hurts in more ways than one, as the numbers show. When you're winning, people open up their wallets. When you're losing...they don't.

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nfl 2015 -- drew's look at the nfc west

Unless the Seahawks start suffering from "we're too good to try every week syndrome", they're going to be a very tough out in the NFC West. It's not that the rest of the division isn't a challenge, but there's Seattle and then there's everyone else. The three teams NOT in Seattle will be busy beating up on one another, although there's a reasonable chance San Francisco only pulls off one division win, two at best, in 2015.

We'll start the preview with the aforementioned 49'ers, who have been a mess all summer and, unless I'm reading the tea leaves wrong, could rival the Raiders for stinkiest Bay Area squad. The Ravens will get a look at the 49'ers on October 18 and unless S.F. beats visiting Minnesota in their regular season opener, there's a good chance the 49'ers won't have a win when Baltimore comes to town. Colin Kaepernick put in extensive off-season work with Kurt Warner and that should help -- as should ex-Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith and former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, two key free agent acquisitions. That offense better score 35 points per-game, though, because the defense might give up 34 every Sunday.

St. Louis figures to be better simply by trading oft-injured Sam Bradford and acquiring Nick Foles from the Eagles. Nick Fairley and Akeem Ayres should bolster the Rams' defense, which was already starting to show signs of legitimacy under Jeff Fisher. Scoring points has been issue, though. If running back Todd Gurley is the real deal and Foles goes back to his accurate ways, the Rams might hang around the playoff race through Thanksgiving at the very least.

The Cardinals could be a division winner if Seattle somehow stumbles for whatever reason. Last year, remember, they were 6-0 with Carson Palmer at the helm and eventually extended that start to 9-1. For a while there, it looked like they might actually play the Super Bowl in their own stadium, but injuries -- especially the one to Palmer -- and a struggling offense finally caught up to them in the playoffs vs. Carolina. They added a handful of decent linebackers in Sean Witherspoon, Darryl Sharpton and LaMarr Woodley, as well as ex-Raven defensive tackle Cory Redding. Palmer -- if he stays healthy -- should be able to manage the game well enough to let the Arizona defense be the difference in a bunch of wins.

seattle
Two straight trips to the Super Bowl have elevated Russell Wilson's status in the NFL. Can he make it three in a row in 2015?

If they stay healthy and avoid asinine play calls on the goal-line in the last minute of games, there's no reason to think the Seahawks can't make a third straight trip to the big game. Everything being equal, they have seven wins in their back pocket to start the season with that absurd home field advantage they have in Seattle. As long as Russell Wilson doesn't fall apart, they should be an easy 12-win team if not more in 2015. Injuries, of course, could derail them, but not much else will get in their way. Their defense remains as good as any in the league and the addition of tight end Jimmy Graham gives the Seahawks' offense one of the NFL's top scoring threats. Everyone will be gunning for them, naturally, but a healthy Seattle team will be very potent in 2015.

Predicted order of finish --

Seattle -- 12-4

Arizona -- 10-6

St. Louis -- 8-8

San Francisco -- 6-10


do you know the nfl? if so, you might win $500 from #dmd

Our friends at HongKongLouie.com have several outstanding NFL contests on the horizon for the 2015 season and we want YOU to get in on the fun. Best of all (and there's no other fantasy sports site that can make this claim), it doesn't cost you a penny to enter a contest at HongKongLouie.com. Every contest they design is FREE, and the cash payout is REAL.

cash
That's what your $500 will look like if you win HongKongLouie.com's division winners contest!

Their "NFL Division Winners" contest has now gone live and you can win $500 if you're the winning entry at season's end. Here's how it works. You pick the team you believe is going to win the division in each of the NFL's eight divisions. As you'll see when you go to make your selection, the teams are weighted based on odds that have been given for winning the division. Let's look at the AFC East, for example. If you pick the Patriots to win -- and they do -- you get 64 points. The Dolphins would get you 230 points if you select them and they win the division. Buffalo gets you 261 points and the Jets get you 522.

The winner of the contest (which is open to anyone in the world, by the way -- a rather large playing field) receives $250 cash at the end of the regular season. That's a pretty good deal for not putting down one nickel to enter. Ready for the bonus? If a #DMD reader (who enters the contest) wins the NFL Division Winners contest, I'll throw in another $250 for you. That gets you $500!

Here's an important note: If you enter the HongKongLouie.com "NFL Division Winners" contest and you want to be eligible for the #DMD bonus payment of $250, you MUST e-mail me (dmdscore at gmail.com) and notify me you've entered the contest. Nothing fancy...just put "Hong Kong Louie" in the subject line of the e-mail and let me know you entered so I have record that you're a #DMD reader who entered the contest. Without that, you're not eligible for the additional $250 bonus payment.

To enter the NFL Division Winners contest, simply go to: www.hongkonglouie.com -- and create a username and password for your account. Again, it costs nothing at all to join or enter. Once you've created your account, go to the Contests page and you'll see the NFL Division Winners contest along with several others HKL is currently running. Get in as many as you want, they're all FREE! Don't forget, once you've entered the contest, send me an e-mail and notify me you've entered so you eligible for the $250 bonus payment. Note: I do NOT need to know your division winner selections. Just let me know you've entered the contest.

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pga tour playoff stop features rare friday-to-monday schedule

The upcoming Labor Day weekend creates a change in the PGA Tour's schedule this week, as the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs will begin on Friday and end next Monday. The top 100 players will make the trip to TPC Boston, with last week's winner Jason Day in the field, along with Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and the rest of the big boys who are vying for the $10 million playoff payoff.

It's easy to stick with Day, he of the three victories in his last four starts, but I'm going to bet the other side of that option this week and say he doesn't show up on the leaderboard come Monday afternoon. The same for Spieth, who seems to have hit a little bit of lull since failing to catch Day on the back nine at the PGA last month. They both have enough playoff points to move on to the third round, so it doesn't matter what they do this week in Boston. I'll give you my three picks for the week below. Per my usual M.O., I'll give you one off-the-radar screen guy to watch plus the eventual winner.

kevin
Playoff losses at The Players and Hilton Head were close calls for Kevin Kisner earlier this summer. A win in Boston this week would erase those two painful memories.

Kevin Kisner is "owed one" after a handful of near misses earlier this summer. TPC Boston is a bomber's paradise, which doesn't particularly suit him, but his 109th ranking in driving distance gets off-set by a solid greens-in-regulation percentage (67%) and a high ranking in the all-important putting categories. He ranks 13th in the standings right now, so he's not under any kind of pressure to play-well-or-go-home this weekend, and I have a sense he might rise to the occasion and pick up that elusive first win in Boston.

Like Kisner, Hideki Matsuyama is in a free-wheeling position this week, as he's currently one spot in back of him at #14 in the standings. Matsuyama has made 20 of 22 cuts this season and hits it from tee-to-green as well as anyone in the game. His putting has improved dramatically in 2014-2015 and if you just look at his statistical data, you think you're looking at a guy with two or three wins this season. Alas, he has eight Top 10 finishes but no wins -- a fact that could change this weekend in Boston. I have a feeling he's going to be there come Monday afternoon.

I'm taking Bubba Watson to win this week's event at TPC Boston. The golf course fits him like a glove, the par 5's are quasi-par-fours for him, and if you look at his play over the last month, all you see are Top 5 finishes and close calls for the long-hitting left-hander. He hasn't developed much of a reputation as a closer, so perhaps this win will be of the come-from-behind variety, but I see him firing 18-under par for four days and winning by two shots over Matsuyama.

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orioles rally to win (finally) on davis hr in 11th

There were probably more stadium employees in the ballpark than fans in the seats when the game ended, but those who hung in there for the conclusion of Wednesday night's series finale with Tampa Bay were treated to a rarity these days: An Orioles win.

Jonathan Schoop's two-run HR in the bottom of the 9th inning tied the game at 6-6 and Chris Davis hit his second round-tripper of the night in the 11th to give the O's a much-needed 7-6 victory. The win snapped a six-game losing streak and kept the Rays from sweeping the Orioles in their final trip to Baltimore this season.

The O's now head to Toronto for a weekend series with the red-hot Blue Jays, then make their way to New York for a series with the Yankees that begins on Monday and concludes next Wednesday. This is it. The club's wild card chances are down to about 2% or so, but there's still a sliver of hope if they can somehow come out of this Toronto-New York trip at 4-2 or -- gasp! -- 5-1. I know, I know...pigs have a better chance of flying.


FRIDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
TORONTO
U. Jimenez
9-9, 4.34
D. Hutchison
13-2, 4.87
7:07PM EDT
ROGERS CENTRE



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 74 - 58 30 4
Rangers 70 - 62 30
Twins 69 - 63 30 1
Angels 67 - 66 29
Rays 66 - 67 29
Indians 64 - 68 30 6
Orioles 64 - 69 29


Wednesday
September 2
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 2

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it's time to start thinking football, football, football

Not that last night's Orioles loss all by its lonesome spelled the end of the team's pennant hopes, but the 11-2 thrashing at the hands of the Rays on Tuesday night was the unofficial end of baseball season and beginning of football season. The O's are 63-69 now. They'd have to go something like 23-7 to even have a prayer at stealing a wild card spot. So......

Eight days from now, the NFL season kicks off in New England when the Patriots host the Steelers on Thursday night. That means, of course, it's time to roll out the 2015 season predictions and give you my "official" thoughts on what's to come during the 2015 NFL campaign. We'll go division-by-division over the next week, culminating with the AFC North next Wednesday and then my playoff and Super Bowl picks next Thursday.

If you're wondering how much stock to put in my picks, here's a thought: Not much. I had a nice run on the PGA Tour earlier this summer, with four outright winners of tournaments, but that's golf. I'd like to think my football picks will be on par with my golf selections...but don't count on it.

I'm the guy last March who picked the Mariners and Nationals to fight it out in the 2015 World Series and both of those teams are likely not even going to make the post-season. The Mets could do a Mets-thing and collapse over the last month and the Nats could somehow sneak in, but I don't see that happening. Seattle's done. So, there you go. Let's just say it wasn't the best work of my predicting career. I will tell you that I have a few surprises in my NFL picks, starting with today's rundown of the AFC West, which you will find below in this edition of #DMD.

Don't forget, our friends at HongKongLouie.com are running an awesome contest that allows you to pick the eight division winners and receive points based on which team you select and their "odds" of winning. The winner gets $250 dollars -- cash!. It's free to enter and I'll throw in an additional $250 if a #DMD reader wins the contest. All the details can be found below. A couple of people e-mailed me on Tuesday and asked, essentially, "what's the catch?" There isn't one. None at all. Pick the eight division winners and get $250/$500 if you're the winner at season's end.


we have room for three foursomes in my 11th annual charity golf outing

My 11th annual charity golf outing -- presented this year by Jerry's Toyota-Scion -- will be held on Monday, October 19 at Eagle's Nest Country Club in Towson. This year's event will benefit The Bennett Institute at Kennedy Krieger, plus, we'll be honoring Loyola High School grad Van Brooks, who recently opened his very first S.A.F.E. Center in West Baltimore and has become a real leader in our community since starting his foundation four years ago. The golf begins at 12:30 pm on the 19th, followed by an outstanding dinner and awards/prizes ceremony right there at the Eagle's Nest clubhouse. The event is a captain's choice/scramble and we have a $2,500 prize pool in both the gross and net divisions, so don't worry about your various golfing levels or handicaps. Whether your team shoots 55 or 75, we might be giving your foursome a prize at day's end!

The event is limited to 25 foursomes. We currently have 22 registered, leaving three openings. The foursome cost is $600 ($150 per-player) and that includes golf, prizes, a great putting contest and dinner and awards after golf.

If you'd like to secure one of those three remaining foursomes, please e-mail me today -- 18inarow at gmail.com.

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nfl 2015 -- drew's look at the afc west

The AFC West is like a lot of divisions in the NFL. One team (Denver) is the perennial favorite, another always seems to be there, somehow, in December (San Diego) and another has the goods to be a contender but they need some things to go right (Kansas City). Oh, and there's a doormat in the division, too (Oakland).

Denver is an intriguing team. Gary Kubiak returns to the NFL as a coach and has at his disposal one of the game's all-time greats at quarterback in Peyton Manning. Yes, Manning's in the December of his career, but we all know how this plays out for the Broncos. As long as he stays healthy, he'll put up terrific regular season numbers, then wobble in the post-season and bow out gracefully. Denver's defense is good enough to pick up the offense on days when Manning and Company are stymied. With Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and rookie Shane Ray chasing opposing quarterbacks, there won't be many Sundays that the Broncos get picked apart in the air. Their biggest issue, clearly, is the health of Manning. If he stays upright, Denver will be dangerous for sixteen weeks.

The Chargers have a stud quarterback, too, but Philip Rivers is no Peyton Manning and Rivers, like the guy in Denver, always seems to have a stinker at some point in the playoffs. San Diego's defense was a problem in 2014 but they spent some big money in the off-season to try and improve it for the 2015 campaign. They signed DE Corey Liuget to a $51 million dollar deal and their cornerback duo of Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett will be among the AFC's best if the two of them stay healthy. Unlike most years when the Chargers would score 30 and try to hold the other team to 29, this year's squad in San Diego might actually be able to hold the opposition to 20 or points per-game. If Rivers produces one of his typical seasons at quarterback, the Chargers will play games that matter in December.

The Raiders won't be playing games that matter in November, let alone December. They do have a quarterback with an up arrow in Derek Carr and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree can occasionally be dangerous receivers, but Oakland is facing a major uphill climb just to win six games in 2015.

justin
Just having the game's best pass rusher doesn't make you a division winner, but K.C.'s Justin Houston is a one-man wrecking crew.

I'm taking the Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West in 2015. They have a light schedule (yes, I know, EVERY game is tough...) and an early season home game (week 2) against Denver that will be critical to their 2015 campaign. The defense is solid, allowing the second fewest points in the league last year and owning one of the NFL's top pass rushing groups with Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe. Their question mark is at quarterback and, in general, just plain old offense and point scoring. Alex Smith is serviceable, nothing more, and they are coming off a season in 2014 that saw them fail to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver -- for the entire season. Smith and the KC running game will generate enough offense to help the Chiefs take advantage of their schedule and win the division in a tiebreaker with the Broncos.

Predicted order of finish --

Kansas City -- 11-5

Denver -- 11-5*

San Diego -- 8-8

Oakland -- 5-11

*Broncos finish 2nd via tiebreaker

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orioles free-fall continues with 11-2 loss to tampa bay

Now we all know how Mike Hargove felt back in 2002 when the O's finished the campaign losing 32 of their last 36 games. Back then, no one in town cared about the team. The club was out of the race by late May throughout most of that decade and the attendance on some nights (actual human beings in the seats) didn't reach five figures. That 4-32 finish in '02 was produced in relative obscurity unless you were one of the 4,000 diehards in town who still followed every game until the end of September.

We pay attention to the Orioles now. Thankfully, the tide has turned over the last five years and the club is (was) good again, with a playoff appearance in 2012 and a surprising trip to the American League Championship Series last season. With that in mind, watching the club crash-and-burn like they've done over the last two weeks has been tough to witness. Heading into August, the O's were actually ahead of the Blue Jays and within striking distance of the Yankees. Heck, when they swept the Oakland A's four straight back in mid-August, they moved into the second wild card spot by percentage points for 24 hours. It wasn't that long ago, as crazy as that seems. They're all but done, now, prospects for another trip to the post-season torched by a 4-game home sweep at the hands of Minnesota and a 1-6 road trip to Kansas City and Texas that had the O's trying hard but not coming up with any success.

birds
Steve Johnson got the call-up on Tuesday and couldn't stem the tide in last night's 11-2 loss to the Rays.

Two nights in a row this week, they've been jolted by Tampa Bay, a team with FAR less individual talent than the O's but, somehow, a better record with a month of baseball left to play. Last night's 11-2 loss wasn't anything special. Predictably, the Birds had chances to go up early and didn't. It was a rather mundane 0-0 game until the 4th, when the Rays pounced on O's starter Chris Tillman for a four-spot and the bells started ringing like Gordon Lightfoot crooned about in "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". The Rays added four more in the fifth off of Tillman and recent call-up Steve Johnson and you could sense as the game went on that the Birds were just trying to get to Little Italy as quickly as possible for a late meal. Chris Davis hit his 36th home run of the year in the bottom of the 9th when it didn't matter to finalize the scoring. At least the O's weren't shutout. I guess that counts for something. Probably not...


WEDNESDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
BALTIMORE
E. Ramirez
10-5, 3.68
K. Gausman
2-6, 4.39
7:05PM EDT
ORIOLE PARK



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 73 - 58 31 4
Rangers 69 - 62 31
Twins 68 - 63 31 1
Angels 66 - 66 30
Rays 66 - 66 30
Indians 64 - 67 31 5
Orioles 63 - 69 30
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bo's eye view

BO SMOLKA is a longtime member of the Baltimore-Washington media. He covers the Ravens for #DMD and ComcastSportsNet. Bo's insights and analyses are presented by Advanced Heating & Cooling, which offers a variety of energy saving, high-efficiency equipment for heating, air conditioning, and geothermal systems.

The Ravens formally conclude the preseason on Thursday night in Atlanta, with many players who won't make the Ravens final roster facing off against many Falcons who won't make theirs. Yes, it will be borderline unwatchable, but that's Week 4 of the preseason every year.

But as the Ravens wrap up the preseason, the troubling thing is this: They didn't really accomplish a whole lot. Oh, the coaches and players worked their tails off. Joe Flacco got used to Marc Trestman's offense, and veteran players such as Marshal Yanda and Terrell Suggs got some run in. But the simple fact is that some of the most pressing questions entering the preseason remain pressing questions at the end of preseason.

Let's look at a few of them:

1. The wide receivers

With Torrey Smith gone, top draft pick Breshad Perriman was expected to get used to the NFL grind and position himself as the Ravens No. 2 receiver behind Steve Smith. A slew of other receivers were expected to challenge for the No. 3 receiver spot. Instead, Perriman got hurt on the first day of camp and hasn't suited up since, and virtually no one else has seized the moment and declared by his play that he wants to start. Kamar Aiken appears in line to be the No. 2 receiver by default. Michael Campanaro has shown a lot of potential, but once again has seen the inside of the trainers room far too often. Marlon Brown? Jeremy Butler? Both have had some moments but also long stretches where they vanished. Aldrick Robinson, DeAndre Carter and a host of others simply didn't do enough, and the bar wasn't set very high. The biggest bright spot among this group was the emergence of sixth-round draft pick Darren Waller, who seems a lock to make the roster.

2. The kick returners

The Ravens began camp looking to find Jacoby Jones' replacement on kick returns. They might still be looking. Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg has to be beside himself that so many opposing kicks went for touchbacks, giving his returners few audition chances. Asa Jackson might have won the job with a 103-yard kickoff return last week against the Redskins, but then promptly made an awful decision to field a punt, was hammered and lost a fumble. Carter, the speedster rookie from Sacramento State, was billed as a possible return threat -- until he fumbled kickoff chances in each of the first two preseason games. He was among the first roster cuts this week. Campanaro hasn't been able to stay healthy and has one punt return. Not much of a sample size there. Backup running back Terrence Magee is getting a shot as a kick return option, but it's clear the Ravens are still looking. In other words, they are right where they were in July.

3. The cornerbacks

kyle
The off-season pick-up of Kyle Arrington is looking more and more like a beneficial move for the Ravens as Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb both battle pre-season issues.

The Ravens secondary figured to be improved this year with a healthy Jimmy Smith and a healthy Lardarius Webb. The catch is Webb hasn't been healthy. He flunked his first conditioning test, looked only average once he passed it, and then was sidelined by a bad hamstring. Veteran Kyle Arrington has upgraded the depth, but Rashaan Melvin could very well be starting if Webb isn't ready to go. The Ravens drafted Tray Walker in the fourth round, but he was a disaster against the Redskins, with whiffed tackles and blown coverage. He has potential but isn't ready yet. The good news is that Smith is healthy and appears primed for a huge season. He was playing at a Pro Bowl level when he got hurt last year. On paper, this group has upgraded and improved from last year, which isn't hard to do. But Webb's health certainly leaves questions as well.



Tuesday
September 1
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XIV
Issue 1

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showalter's line-up shuffle fails to ignite birds in 6-3 loss

Last night was Buck Showalter's attempt to put his mark on the Orioles' 2015 season. He took a look at Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, breezed through his own notebook of stats and tendencies, and sent out a wacky, offensively capable line-up (insert joke here) in hopes of getting the O's back on track in the American League wild card race.

It was a good idea. But it didn't work.

Archer stymied the Birds for six innings and even though the O's touched up the Tampa Bay bullpen in the bottom of the 7th, it was too-little-too-late as the Rays won the series opener at Camden Yards, 6-3. Tampa Bay went up early and never looked back, building leads of 1-0, 3-0, 5-0 and 6-0 before the Orioles could hit the scoreboard. If not for a 5-home-run game in K.C. last Wednesday that gave the O's an 8-5 win over the Royals, last night's loss would have been the team's 12th straight defeat. As it is, losing 11 of their last 12 has all but eliminated them from serious contention in the wild card chase. Winning 11 of 12 over the next two weeks would put them back in it, obviously, but you have a better chance of Miley Cyrus appearing at her next concert fully clothed than you do the O's stringing together 11 wins in 12 games.

It's easy to say this now, particularly after the woeful road trip and last night's home contest with the Rays -- the 4-game sweep by the Twins in Baltimore ten days ago was the pin in the balloon for the Orioles and their 2015 campaign. It might have even been that 15-2 shellacking that punctured their lungs beyond repair, but that's only one game. The Yankees got pounded by Houston, 15-1, in New York last week, and they didn't collapse. For the O's, the other three losses to Minnesota were just as damaging and you can't help but wonder if that 4-game sweep didn't end things for this year's edition of the Birds. They just haven't been the same since.

showalter
That's the look of a manager who has tried everything and knows it isn't working.

If you listened to the pre-game radio show last night and then checked out the post-game show on MASN after Monday's loss, you can hear the despair in Buck's voice, even though he's doing his best to contain it and sound optimistic. He pulled out all the stops last night, putting Machado at shortstop so Flaherty could get some swings against Archer, whom he had hit fairly well in his career. He also put Wieters at first, Davis in right and Joseph behind the plate. In other words, Buck put the best nine offensive players the team has on the line-up card last night and it didn't produce anything except another loss.

Fairly soon, the O's are going to need to face the inevitable and start using the month of September to take a look at some of the guys in Norfolk and Bowie who could be roster considerations in 2016. Pitcher Steve Johnson will likely get yet another chance to impress the big league brass. The oft-injured St. Paul's grad has enjoyed a very strong 2015 and will likely see extensive action in the final 31 games to try and prove his worth for 2016. Christian Walker has 16 home runs this year at Triple A Norfolk and is likely going to get a shot to make the club next spring in Sarasota. With Chris Davis potentially not returning, Walker is the team's in-house first base candidate along with Trey Mancini at Bowie, who is hitting .348 for the Baysox this season and has 11 home runs as well. That's not to say either of those guys are ready for big league pitching, but their time will come soon and Showalter might use September to give one or both of them a cup of coffee just to get their feet (lips?) wet.

It's not time, yet, to throw in the towel and start playing the kids, but we're in that neighborhood for sure. If we were playing a game of D-O-N-E instead of H-O-R-S-E, the O's would have "D", "O" and "N" and you'd have the "E" in your hand, ready to apply it. Thanks a lot, Minnesota Twins...


primed for football season, #dmd welcomes back harpoon, glory days and hongkonglouie.com

September is here, and football is right around the corner. We're putting together some big plans for the upcoming Ravens/NFL season and three of our corporate partners have renewed their relationship with #DMD just in time for the boys in purple to get started. Harpoon will continue to be the "official beer" of #DMD and the only cold refreshment we'll be enjoying on Sundays for the next four or five months! If you're heading to Pittsburgh with our Ravens bus trip on October 1st, you'll be enjoying Harpoon on the way up the PA Turnpike and at our pre-game "toast" before the group heads to Heinz Field.

Glory Days will continue to serve as DMD's official "sports bar" and we'll be hosting several Ravens (and other sports, too) viewing parties at their Towson location (Joppa Road, right across from SECU) throughout the upcoming season. Last winter, we gathered at Glory Days to watch Caps hockey and earlier this spring and summer, we were there with #DMD readers for the Masters and Orioles baseball. Glory Days is a great place to hangout with your friends and watch all the games on Sunday during the NFL season.

And, as you'll see below, our friends at HongKongLouie.com are once again serving as #DMD's official "sports fantasy site" and we're launching a contest today (NFL Division Winners) and next Monday as well (Week One, NFL), where you can win prize money and Glory Days gift cards if you're the winning entry. Log on to www.hongkonglouie.com and check it out for yourself. It's ALWAYS free and they have several unique, well-designed contests that are sure to pique your interest if you love sports.

A special thank you to Harpoon, Glory Days and HongKongLouie.com for their continued support of #DMD. Please patronize those three if you get the opportunity -- along with the rest of our corporate partners you see in today's edition.

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do you know the nfl? if so, you might win $500 from #dmd

Our friends at HongKongLouie.com have several outstanding NFL contests on the horizon for the 2015 season and we want YOU to get in on the fun. Best of all (and there's no other fantasy sports site that can make this claim), it doesn't cost you a penny to enter a contest at HongKongLouie.com. Every contest they design is FREE, and the cash payout is REAL.

cash
That's what your $500 will look like if you win HongKongLouie.com's division winners contest!

Today, their "NFL Division Winners" contest goes live and you can win $500 if you're the winning entry at season's end. Here's how it works. You pick the team you believe is going to win the division in each of the NFL's eight divisions. As you'll see when you go to make your selection, the teams are weighted based on odds that have been given for winning the division. Let's look at the AFC East, for example. If you pick the Patriots to win -- and they do -- you get 64 points. The Dolphins would get you 230 points if you select them and they win the division. Buffalo gets you 261 points and the Jets get you 522.

The winner of the contest (which is open to anyone in the world, by the way -- a rather large playing field) receives $250 cash at the end of the regular season. That's a pretty good deal for not putting down one nickel to enter. Ready for the bonus? If a #DMD reader (who enters the contest) wins the NFL Division Winners contest, I'll throw in another $250 for you. That gets you $500!

Here's an important note: If you enter the HongKongLouie.com "NFL Division Winners" contest and you want to be eligible for the #DMD bonus payment of $250, you MUST e-mail me (dmdscore at gmail.com) and notify me you've entered the contest. Nothing fancy...just put "Hong Kong Louie" in the subject line of the e-mail and let me know you entered so I have record that you're a #DMD reader who entered the contest. Without that, you're not eligible for the additional $250 bonus payment.

To enter the NFL Division Winners contest, simply go to: www.hongkonglouie.com -- and create a username and password for your account. Again, it costs nothing at all to join or enter. Once you've created your account, go to the Contests page and you'll see the NFL Division Winners contest along with several others HKL is currently running. Get in as many as you want, they're all FREE! Don't forget, once you've entered the contest, send me an e-mail and notify me you've entered so you eligible for the $250 bonus payment. Note: I do NOT need to know your division winner selections. Just let me know you've entered the contest.

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ravens first wave of cuts yield no surprises

Some guys might have played their way onto the Ravens practice squad with either a good or sub-par performance in Saturday night's loss to the Redskins, but Monday's first group of roster cuts didn't contain any real surprises. Handed their walking papers yesterday were: Leon Brown (G), DeAndre Carter (WR), Tramain Jacobs (CB), Marcel Jones (G/T), Justin Manton (P), Aldrick Robinson (WR), Patrick Scales (LS) and Trent Streelan (WR). Of those, the only two who had even a slight chance of making it all the way through to the 53-man opening day roster were Carter and Jacobs. Carter was somewhat impressive during the early stages of training camp and some thought he might challenge for a spot, while Jacobs was with the club last year, albeit in a very limited role.

arthurbrown
The frustrating Ravens career of Arthur Brown might be coming to an end after Thursday's pre-season finale in Atlanta.

There are still cuts to be made today, with the remainder coming after this Thursday night's game in Atlanta that concludes the four-game pre-season schedule. One or two wide receivers previously thought to be locks to make the club (Jeremy Butler, Marlon Brown) might be playing for their paycheck this Thursday, as well as a linebacker (Brown, McClellan, Orr) and a running back (Touissant, Magee).

My call? I think Marlon Brown makes the 53-man roster and Jeremy Butler slides through to the practice squad. Zach Orr will make the roster, as will special teams ace Albert McClellan. That means -- barring injury to one of those two -- that the Arthur Brown experiment is going to come to an end later this week. And I also believe Terrence Magee is going to beat out Fitzgerald Touissant for the 4th string running back spot, although the Lorenzo Taliaferro injury could benefit Touissant if Taliaferro's injury necessitates a move to the I.R. list.

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TUESDAY EVENING'S MATCHUP
in
BALTIMORE
D. Smiley
1-2, 3.82
C. Tillman
9-9, 4.58
7:05PM EDT
ORIOLE PARK



american league wild card standings
– top two teams qualify –


Team Record Games
Remaining
Games
In/Out
Yankees 72 - 58 32 4
Rangers 68 - 62 32
Twins 67 - 63 32 1
Angels 65 - 66 31
Rays 65 - 66 31
Indians 64 - 66 32 4
Orioles 63 - 68 31


O's SCOREBOARD
Sunday, October 1st
Orioles
0

Rays
6
WP: B. Bell (5-7)

LP: K. Gausman (11-12)

HR: Casali (1)

RECORD/PLACE: 75-87, 5th place
RETRIEVER ROUND-UP

UMBC baseball fell to in-state rival Maryland, 6-2 on Tuesday afternoon in College Park. The Retrievers fell behind early, but got a two-run home run from Hunter Dolshun to take the lead. However the Terps scored four runs in the sixth to take the victory.

The Retrievers fall to 18-20 on the year while Maryland improves to 32-15 in 2017.