December 31
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can they win four more in a row?

One of the 12 teams left standing in the NFL is going to go on a three or four-game winning streak and claim the Super Bowl title.

For the first time since 2014, the Ravens are one of those teams with a chance.

Sunday's 26-24 thriller over the Browns not only secured the AFC North for John Harbaugh's team, but it completed a remarkable, fairy-tale-like turnaround from a woeful 4-5 start to finish the campaign at 10-6.

And in the meantime, the Ravens might have jump-started a sullen fan base.

Let's get that point out of the way first as we take a quick look at what happened on Sunday in Baltimore.

The crowd absolutely made a difference in the game.

C.J. Mosley's last minute interception on Sunday sealed the Ravens 26-24 win and sends the team into the post-season for the first time since 2014.

While there were maybe two thousand empty, scattered seats, the stadium was packed, and loud, and precisely what the Ravens needed to help disarm rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. While he acquitted himself well overall, Mayfield and the Cleveland offense definitely had their fair share of issues dealing with the hostile environment.

Sunday's game was Exhibit A in why it's important for people to go to the games. No need to beat that dead horse.

Oh, and the coaching saga continues to be interesting. Even had the Ravens not announced (or jumped the gun, perhaps) John Harbaugh's contract extension back on December 21, he officially sealed-the-deal on that situation with yesterday's win. Rumors around the league won't go away though. Would Harbaugh really refuse the extension and "coach out" his current deal to test the open market after the 2019 season?

If that's indeed what the 11-year coaching veteran intends to do and he tells the Ravens such in the coming weeks, the team would have no choice but to try and work out a trade to a team of his preference.

Just like no coach should ever have to coach in the final year of a deal ("lame duck"), no team should have to employ a coach who has been offered a contract to stay, only to have such offer refused.

Back to the game...

The Ravens won despite Marty Mornhinweg's insistence on using Ty Montgomery on perhaps the most important offensive play of the game. And then, much to everyone's horror, Lamar Jackson and Montgomery couldn't connect on the quarterback's hurried pitch and the ball was on the ground for a moment until the running back fell on it with 3:40 remaining in the game.

More on Mornhinweg tomorrow. He was nearly the goat (not to be confused in any way with the g.o.a.t.) yesterday, for other reasons.

Lamar Jackson's performance mirrored most of what he's done over the last seven games. He was great with his legs, so-so with his arm and careless with the football. Jackson's gaffe on the doorstep of the end zone late in the second quarter was a game-changer, as the Ravens were set to go up 27-7 and cruise in from there, only to see the quarterback fumble the ball as he tried to stick it over the plane of the goal-line.

If not for the official's quick whistle, Cleveland would have run the ball back 99 yards for a touchdown.

Then again, had Mornhinweg not called a crazy play moments before involving Maxx Williams, Jackson wouldn't have been in position to fumble. There's Mornhinweg again...

The second half was probably the first time in his seven games I can say Jackson looked "tight". That's to be expected, I'd say. He was playing in the biggest game of his life.

Of course, Jackson did run the ball into the end zone in the third quarter only to have the score negated by a puzzling call on Williams. Much has been made about the "holding" call on Williams that nullified the score, but I have two thoughts to try and rationalize it. At first glance, I thought the penalty was actually "holding" on Nick Boyle, #86. And then, on replay, it looks to me more like Williams shoved the Cleveland defender from behind. I'm not sure Williams was guilty of "holding", but perhaps either Boyle was and the refs got the numbers mixed up or Williams was flagged for blocking from behind and the call was relayed wrong to the head official.

That was a critical part of the game that needs to be cleaned up by the NFL. What was the call? And was it the right one, no matter if it was on Boyle or Williams?

Earlier in the game, on Jackson's fumble on the goal-line, the refs "got it right". It takes 2-3 minutes, sometimes, to make sure you have the call right, from a procedural standpoint. That was a critical part of the game and, to their credit, they made the right decision.

Why, then, couldn't they apply that same measured reasoning on the Williams "holding" call that took six points off the board in the third quarter. This is where the NFL needs to get better. Maybe it was a penalty on Williams. Or on Boyle. But just get it right. Announce the correct penalty so the whole stadium isn't in an uproar. GET IT RIGHT, no matter how long the review takes. (And yes, I'm aware there's no challenge on penalties...but perhaps there should be in the future. But at the very least, make sure the actual "call" is relayed to the teams and the crowd correctly).

From the point of the Jackson TD run/Williams penalty -- the Ravens would kick a field goal there to make the score 23-14 -- until the end of the game, it was all Browns. And when Montgomery couldn't handle the pitch-back from Lamar on 3rd and 5 late in the game, the 68,000 or so in the stadium were panicked.

"You know how this is ending," a guy behind me in Section 553 moaned. "Perriman is going to catch a 15-yard TD pass with 30 seconds left to beat us."

I rubbed my ears for a few seconds to get that thought out of my mind. But it was hard to dismiss it, especially since Perriman had already collected one TD pass earlier in the game and the football gods probably owed Cleveland this one for what Baltimore did to them back in 1995.

But as the Browns moved down the field -- aided by two miraculous catches, one to Perriman, of course -- and were within ten yards or so of a potential game-winning field goal attempt, something happened.

The Ravens defense, which betrayed the team's playoff efforts in crucial moments in both 2016 and 2017, stood tall when needed the most.

Wink Martindale took advantage of Mayfield's rookie status and decided to bring maximum pressure on first down. And second down. And again on third down. And then, finally, one final time on fourth down.

Two years from now, Martindale probably won't be able to use that same strategy on Mayfield in a late-game situation. He'll know better how to offset that rush with a quick dump-off. But yesterday, he was in over his head on those final four plays.

And when C.J. Mosley intercepted Mayfield's final 4th and 10 throw, the Ravens were back in the playoffs.

From 4-5 to 10-6.

Back in the playoffs.

And now, a new story begins. Can the Ravens beat the Chargers and start that one month winning streak every team covets in January?

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

Great Teams Edition


Trevor Lawrence

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa might have won the Heisman if he hadn’t been pulled from so many blowout wins. Neither of them, however, has the NFL star potential of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, a freshman who just turned 19 in October.

We often hear about college quarterbacks that look the part (see: Boller, Kyle), and every college quarterback from Division I to the NAIA seems to have the ability to throw for 400 yards these days. Lawrence, at 6-foot-6 with a cannon arm, appears to be on the highest level we’ve seen for such a young quarterback in many years.

The accolades started coming for Lawrence early in his high school career in Cartersville, Ga., northwest of Atlanta. When he was a sophomore, he was already being considered as the top recruit in his class. Former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer, who works on skill development with prep quarterbacks, said that Lawrence as a high schooler possessed more talent than 15 of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Dilfer knows that playing quarterback in the NFL requires more than just talent, but it’s easy to see what he’s saying. Lawrence stands in the pocket and scans the field, unlike so many college players who look for the first opportunity to run. He throws the ball well down the seam, to the sidelines and over the top. He never appears rushed, and always looks smooth even when giving maximum effort. Lawrence, as a true freshman, has two more years until he’s eligible for the NFL draft.



Meanwhile, the Alabama-Oklahoma CFP semifinal was over by the coin toss. The Crimson Tide took a 28-0 lead 17 minutes into the game, and it’s hard to say that was surprising despite what might be expected in a playoff game between two great teams.

For the third time in four years, Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide will face Clemson in the college football title game.

Now that the undefeated Tide is back in the CFP championship game, set for January 7 in California, it’s time for another reminder of Alabama’s dominance of college football in 2018. Individually, Tagovailoa has thrown for more than 3,300 yards despite the fact that he barely played in the fourth quarter of any game during the regular season. Entering next Monday’s game against Clemson, he’s thrown 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Oh, and the guy he replaced, Jalen Hurts, threw eight touchdowns in 67 attempts in mop-up duty. Hurts, who will be an Alabama graduate soon, might transfer elsewhere for a final graduate year and lead that team to a great season.

Alabama has scored 668 points in 14 games, an average of nearly 48 points per game; only Oklahoma scored more points. On the other side of the ball, only three teams have given up fewer points than Alabama; one of them is Clemson, who gave up just three to an undefeated Notre Dame team.

The most interesting thing about Alabama are the adjustments made by Nick Saban over the past few years. Somebody, or something, made him realize that it was just as cool to be a great offensive team as it was to be a dominant defensive squad.



The final standings show that the New England Patriots finished 11-5 and won the AFC East division by a four-game margin. Those numbers would be 12-4, and a six-game margin, if not for a ridiculous end-of-game play by the Dolphins several weeks ago.

The Patriots have now won the AFC East 10 seasons in a row, and in 15 of the last 16 seasons. In 2008, when they didn’t win the division, they still finished 11-5 with Matt Cassel (!) playing quarterback. The point is…I know that Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes and the home-field advantage, and I know that Houston won nine consecutive games after losing their first three, and I know that supposedly Tom Brady is declining and Josh Gordon isn’t around anymore.

Doesn’t matter. I still say that the AFC championship goes through the Patriots, even if geographically it might go through Arrowhead Stadium.

The Patriots have the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round, so they’ll host a game in two weekends at Gillette Stadium. That game could be against the Texans, the Ravens or the Chargers. At this point, I’d choose the Ravens as the team most likely to win that game, but only because of the unique style in which the Ravens are playing.

I’m sure the Patriots would be betting underdogs heading into Kansas City, but I wouldn’t call them true underdogs. Mahomes is awesome, but the guy who’s old enough to be his young father would have a lot to say about the outcome.


November 18

Fine, the Ravens aren’t really a “great” team. A great team would have found a way besides an ill-advised jump at the goal line to score a touchdown late in the first half, gone ahead 27-7 and then scored early in the second half, basically putting the game away before Baker Mayfield had a chance to change the outcome.

Still, looking back, I can remember the general moment the Ravens became a team good enough to make the playoffs. It was somewhere between 1:00 and 1:30 on a chilly November 18 at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens, knowing they could be more aggressive on defense before Lamar Jackson had even taken one snap as the starter, forced a Cincinnati three-and-out. Then Jackson ran for 12 yards on second-and-long, and completely fooled the Bengals with a 21-yard called quarterback sneak on third-and-four three plays later.

All-in-all, the Ravens went 75 yards in 11 plays without attempting a pass. Alex Collins, soon to be sent to the showers, scored from seven yards out to give the Ravens the early lead. That was it…there was no turning back. This stuff worked, because Lamar Jackson was a one-of-a-kind quarterback and the Ravens had spent their bye week, and time throughout the season, getting prepared to play a different way.

Everything changed in that half hour in Baltimore. The offense changed, the defense changed, the fans changed, and the opponents’ frame of mind had to change. The fact that it eventually led to six wins and an overtime loss in the last seven games was a change that nobody could have expected.


The team to beat…

The Ravens are the cool team to pick and, as it will be said several hundred times over the next week, NOBODY WANTS TO PLAY THE RAVENS. The Patriots are the Patriots. The Chiefs and the Rams played one of the more amazing games in NFL history on November 19, and it would be an exciting Super Bowl if they played again.

#DMD's David Rosenfeld picks Drew Brees and the Saints to win the NFL title.

All that being said, before the playoffs begin, I’m picking the New Orleans Saints to take the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta on February 3.

Sure, the choice is hardly a bold one. The Saints finished as the NFC’s top seed, and they probably would have won a 14th game on Sunday if Drew Brees had played. Teams that would be 14-2 if all their starters played ought to be considered the favorites in the playoff tournament.

Brees, who turns 40 on January 15, has simply been spectacular this season. He’s completed a career-best 74.4% of his passes and tossed 32 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Passing less than he has in recent years, he’s been more efficient than ever.

Obviously, the Saints will be difficult to beat in the Superdome. In the seven games that Brees started in New Orleans this year, his team scored 40 or more points four times. New Orleans has an excellent running game with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. You’ll have to win a shootout to beat the Saints in the dome, which even the Rams couldn’t do earlier this year.

In this era of the grizzled quarterback, I’m going with a 40-year-old Drew Brees this year. I suppose we can only hope he wins it against the 22-year-old Lamar Jackson.


top sports story of 2018 -- tiger wins again

With all due respect to the other four stories that made our list, none of them missed nearly three years with a significant back and neck injury.

None of those stories endured FOUR surgeries.

And none of the stories were 42 years old in 2018.

Finally!!!! Tiger wins again.

Our #1 national sports story for 2018: Tiger Woods wins again.

Not only did Woods win again, he came within a Justin Rose three-putt from 45 feet at the final hole of the TOUR Championship from winning the season-long FedEx Cup title. If Rose takes "5" instead of "4" on that final green at East Lake, Woods wins the $10 million first prize and the whole dang shootin' match.

As it was, just winning the TOUR Championship was more than enough for Woods, who nearly won back in March in Tampa Bay and had the back nine lead at the British Open in July before Frankie Molinari outputted him on the inward nine to claim his first-ever major title.

Woods would sniff around at the PGA in August, but he saved the best for last, winning at East Lake and claiming his 80th PGA Tour title and first victory in four years.

There were lots of people -- perhaps even Woods himself -- who didn't think Tiger could ever win again.

Not only did he, in fact, win again, but his play from July through the end of the season was better than anyone else, including the two major winners in that time, Molinari and Koepka (British).

What will 2019 bring for Tiger?

That remains to be seen.

But 2018 brought him a much-needed victory and continued his rise back to the top of the golf ranking order.

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Week 17

Sunday — December 30, 2018
Issue #1588

Cleveland Browns

4:25 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, MD

Spread: Ravens -5.5

"just need to win a game"

That's what John Harbaugh said after last Saturday's win over the Chargers in Los Angeles.

He repeated it again this week when asked about the team's preparations for the Browns today.

"We just need to win a game," Harbs said.

That's it.

Doesn't matter if it's 10-9, 31-25 in overtime or a 44-16 blowout. As long as the Ravens have one more point than the Browns at the end, Baltimore will see playoff football for the first time since 2014.

In a lot of ways, though, the questions only get more difficult after today's game.

Could today be the final regular season home game in the great career of Terrell Suggs?

Does Harbaugh get that much-discussed contract extension or is there validity to the story circulated by national writer Peter King this week that suggests Harbaugh could very well turn down the extension offer and seek to become a coaching free agent after the 2019 campaign?

If that's indeed the scenario, why, then, would the Ravens keep him around next season if they know he's not interested in staying on board?

Joe Flacco's status is almost certainly a closed case now in Baltimore. They're either going to cut him or peddle him off to a team of his choosing. As one team source said to me this week, "There's no way we'd ever mistreat Joe. If we trade him somewhere, it will be because that's where he wants to go."

And what of guys like Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs? Smith and Weddle have been rumored salary-cap-casualties in the off-season, but if the Ravens go on another playoff run in January, how easy will it be to part ways with them? And what of Suggs, the longtime veteran, future NFL Hall of Famer, who might still think he has a couple of years left?

Lots of moving parts...all tied into today's football game and the upcoming playoff campaign.

The Browns come to town looking like the two brothers from the movie Wedding Crashers. They're in this game at no cost to themselves and no matter what happens today, they're a successful story in 2018. They'll drink your booze, eat your food and dance with your girl at the wedding -- and think nothing of it.

Cleveland would love to end the Ravens' season today, if for no other reason than just being mean. The Browns have had this opportunity once before, remember, and it came in the final game of the 2014 season, when Baltimore needed a win and a Kansas City victory to make the playoffs. The Chiefs abided, but the visiting Browns led 10-3 going into the fourth quarter before Joe Flacco and the offense came alive for 17 fourth quarter points and a 20-10 win.

It's easy to say this -- and be right: "If you can't win a home game on the final day of the regular season to make the playoffs, you don't deserve to go."

Fair enough. As John Harbaugh said earlier this week, "If you would have told me back in August we have to win a home game on the last day of the season and we're in the playoffs I would have taken that in a heartbeat."

Well, coach, you got it. Right here, in front of you.

Now, all you have to do is just go win a game.

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how drew sees today's game

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense get in gear right away, scoring on their first series of the game. Jackson finds Mark Andrews for a big third down throw near midfield and two plays later, the Ravens open up an early lead when Chris Moore runs it in from 15 yards out on a wide receiver reverse.

It's 14-0 early in the 2nd quarter after Jackson hits Hayden Hurst for a 9-yard touchdown.

The lead gets extended to 17-0 on the next Baltimore series. It's a blowout.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns find the end zone late in the second quarter on a Jarvis Landry TD catch. It's 17-7 in favor of the Ravens at the intermission.

Cleveland shows some life in the 3rd quarter with an early 40-yard field goal to make it 17-10.

But Jackson and the Ravens shed their third quarter blues and march right down the field to make it 24-10, with Jackson running it into the end zone himself from six yards out.

It stays that way until the middle of the fourth quarter when Justin Tucker hits a 44-yard field goal to make it 27-10.

Mayfield and the Browns score a late touchdown to get back within ten points at 27-17, but that's the way it ends.

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens win 27-17 to finish 6-1 in their last seven games and make the playoffs, finishing as the #4 seed after the Patriots and Texans both win their home games today.


show me the money

Well, I made money off those fools in Las Vegas this season.

How much? That remains to be seen.

After last week's 2-3 mark (where I could have EASILY gone 4-1), I'm at 43-34-3 through 16 weeks of the season. That puts me NINE games to the good.

I'll throw five more games up there today in hopes of finishing at least ten games above the "pay the man" mark. That means I have to go 3-2 today. This is a tough Sunday to pick games because only about 10 of the 32 teams are really trying.

But here goes...

FALCONS AT BUCCANEERS (+1.5) -- It would be just like the Falcons to man-up today when there's nothing on the line. But I think we'll go with the Bucs here and take the 1.5 points as Tampa Bays wins by a field goal, 23-20.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons are 1.5 point road favorites today in Tampa Bay.

JAGUARS AT TEXANS (-6.5) -- I can't imagine Houston loses this game. And my guess is once it's 17-3 in the second quarter, Jacksonville starts playing not to get hurt. Houston covers and wins easily, 30-17. Note: This is also our "Best Bet" selection for today.

BEARS AT VIKINGS (-5.5) -- It's "win and you're in" for Minnesota. The Bears don't have much to play for, but they could finish as the #2 seed if they win and the Rams inexplicably lose at home to the lowly 49'ers. Either way, the Vikings are winning here and earning a trip to Chicago next weekend to face the same Bears team. But this one goes right down to the wire, so we're taking the Bears and the 5.5 points as the Vikings win 27-22.

EAGLES AT REDSKINS (+7.0) -- Some of what happens here depends on what's going on in Minnesota at the same time. If the Vikings jump out to a 21-3 lead and Philly knows their fate is sealed, who knows how this one plays out. Seven points is a lot to give up to the home team, but we've seen the Giants go into D.C. and open up a can on the 'Skins recently and we suspect the Eagles do the same tomorrow. We'll take Philly and lay the points in a 27-13 win.

BENGALS AT STEELERS (-14.5) -- Nothing comes easy for the Steelers, and even though they're nearly out of the playoff race, expect Pittsburgh to play this one as if a win gets them in. That said, the Bengals have perked up a little recently, playing decently -- albeit not winning -- with Jeff Driskel at quarterback. The guess here is that Cincy covers the same way they did last Sunday in Cleveland. Pittsburgh goes up 28-10, Cincy makes it 28-17, Steelers go up 31-17 and the Bengals score a useless TD late to make it 31-24. We'll take the Bengals and the 14.5 points, in other words.




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top story #2 - "where are the football fans?"

Granted, this isn't really a new story.

But in 2018, it became a significant one.

And if things don't improve in the next year or two, the NFL is going to be forced to look at their product and its appeal and come up with a new formula for keeping people interested in attending their games.

The NFL still has a massive connection with the American sports fan. Let's not forget that. While TV ratings are down from, say, 2016, they're still among the most watched programs of the 12-month calendar.

But while one can argue about the league's impact with TV viewers, there's no arguing the point about fewer people actually going to the games.

The drop-off in NFL attendance -- bodies actually in the seats -- is Number 2 on #DMD Top 5 National Sports Stories of 2018.

The league has major problems.

The Raiders don't have a place to play next season.

Think about that for a second. "Next season" starts with pre-season games in August. The Raiders have no idea where they'll be playing in 2019.

They're slated to move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season. No one is quite sure how that's going to go. They're leaving a city that just recently appropriated money and downtown property for a new baseball stadium, perhaps to stick it to the NFL one final time.

The Chargers and Rams are both moving into a new stadium in Los Angeles. Neither team has captured the hearts of L.A., with the Rams probably the closest to doing so just because of the previous "Rams heritage" that existed when the team moved from St. Louis to southern California in 2016.

As for the Chargers, they're playing in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium right now and on any given Sunday when they're home, 20-30% of those in the stadium are there cheering on the visiting team.

Los Angeles now has two teams. And they can barely support one.

Empty seats are also being found in real football cities. Like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New York and Cleveland. It's one thing if people stop going to the games in Los Angeles. It's another story entirely when 15,000 people who bought tickets for a game in Baltimore decide to stay home.

In some ways, sadly, the recent attendance issue in our city is the most agonizing of them all for the NFL. Baltimore lost a team in 1984. We went 12 years before getting another one. And it took all of 20 years or thereabouts for the luster to wear off. Not 30 or 40 years. Twenty. Years. And suddenly, the team can't sell out its 70,000 seat stadium any longer.

But this isn't just a "Baltimore problem". The league is struggling in a number of cities.

And the problems within the NFL are many. Some they can control, others they can't, and many they've made for themselves.

They've signed a deal with virtually every multi-media platform under the sun -- TV, streaming, various mobile phone apps -- and then they wonder why people would rather just stay home and watch the game on the television, laptop or other electronic device.

The NFL isn't in "trouble", per se, but they have some major issues to confront in the next 9 months before the 2019 campaign kicks off.

December 29
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tomorrow's game will be a franchise changer

This is a lot to put on one football game.

And there's a certainly a chance I'm making too much out of it. But I don't think I am.

Tomorrow's showdown with the Browns is a pivotal game for the Ravens organization. Not the team. Not the football players. The entire organization.

Let's be up front about what's happened in Baltimore over the last 16 months.

The football community has soured on the organization. That's not to say that everyone out there is unhappy with them, but a significant portion of the team's fan base has fallen out of love with Steve Bisciotti's franchise.

The owner and coach both have a lot on the line tomorrow when the Ravens host the Browns at 4:25 pm.

Some of that is just the natural evolution of the common sports fan. A slight regression is expected every year.

The lack of winning hasn't helped, for sure.

And the league has grown easy to dislike over the last few years.

A victory on Sunday and a home playoff game will go a long way in helping the Ravens prepare for the 2019 season.

No matter what happens in the playoffs, the Ravens will go into the off-season with some legitimate momentum for the first time since 2015. They'll have a new quarterback, a revamped offense, a successful, top-tier defense and the realistic possibility that the two teams previously fighting with them for the division's top spot -- Cincinnati and Pittsburgh -- both appear to be starting transitional periods that might make them average teams at best for the next couple of seasons.

This off-season, when they try to sell PSL's and season tickets, the Ravens will actually be able to peddle legitimate excitement about their organization and on-field product instead of just selling hope.

But they have to win on Sunday in order to capitalize on that opportunity.

A loss...and...well...I don't know how the organization would position themselves in the off-season if they fall at home to the Browns tomorrow.

They'd probably focus on Lamar Jackson's emergence and the (expected) contract extension of John Harbaugh, plus emerging stars like Marlon Humphrey, Mark Andrews and their 2019 draft picks.

But if the Ravens fail to win tomorrow, many people out there will think nothing much will has changed. "Same old Ravens..."

So, yes, the off-season sales effort will be much, much easier if the Ravens win tomorrow and capture the division title. New, younger fans -- the one the team craves these days to replace the older, worn out group who have likely missed more games than they've attended this season -- are turned on mostly by winning these days. If the Ravens become a hot ticket again, PSL's and season tickets suddenly become valuable to 20-somethings who want to get in on the ground floor, so to speak.

There's a lot at stake tomorrow.

It's an "everything or nothing" game for the Ravens.

The franchise's fortunes change dramatically in the off-season if the Ravens beat the Browns.

If they don't win, it's eight more months of soul-searching.

And selling...

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top story #3 - alex ovechkin and the capitals...finally

If you look at the history of sports, the so-called "best player" of any sport (at their peak) won a championship during his career, with perhaps the notable exception of Dan Marino and Barry Bonds.

Jordan, Magic, Bird. Yes, yes, yes.

Montana, Brady, Manning. Check, check, check.

Gretkzy, Lemieux, Crosby. All three won multiple Stanley Cup titles.

Mike Trout hasn't yet won one in baseball, but he has a dozen years remaining to get that done. And he will, somewhere.

But there was one player at the top of his game who hadn't won a title prior to 2018. Not only was he arguably the top offensive player now in his league, but he might wind up being the greatest offensive player ever. All that greatness, though, didn't come with a title.

It finally happened on June 7, 2018.

Alex Ovechkin is Number 3 on #DMD Top 5 National Sports Stories of 2018.

Ovechkin finally did it.

And after 43 seasons of existence and only one prior crack at winning a title, the Capitals finally did as well, running through Columbus, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Las Vegas last spring to capture the NHL's Stanley Cup.

And Ovechkin was the guy who got it done in crucial moments in virtually every series.

The Caps went down 0-2 to Columbus, losing both games in D.C. to start the series. Four games later, the Capitals were on their way to a meeting with Pittsburgh, a playoff demon unlike no other for the Washington franchise.

In Game 3 in the Steel City, Ovi's goal with 1:07 remaining pushed the Capitals to a key victory. They'd go on to win the series in six games, with Ovechkin setting up Evgeny Kuznetsov's game-winning and series-clinching overtime tally in Pittsburgh.

Things got tougher from there, as the Tampa Bay Lightning extended the Caps to seven games, with the series finale taking place in Florida, but Ovechkin's goal in the first minute of that contest tilted the ice in Washington's favor and the visitors never looked back, winning 4-0 to advance to just their second Stanley Cup Finals.

He registered three goals and two assists in the five games vs. the Golden Knights, including a goal in the series-clinching 4-3 win in Game 5.

Some athletes win their coveted first title by just being on the team.

Others play a role within the team and help them win.

A few great ones raise their level of play in helping their team win.

Last spring, Alex Ovechkin was the best player on the ice...for any team...for about six weeks.

He was always going to make the Hall of Fame, with or without a title. He might very well finish as hockey's all-time leading goal scorer. Ovi currently has 636 goals and Gretzky finished with 894. It doesn't seem likely that The Great Eight can score another 260 goals, but that speaks more to Gretzky's unreal career than Ovechkin's inability to reach that level.

But there was always a chance Ovechkin also wasn't going to win a Stanley Cup title. Until last June, that is.


who deserves to make it that didn't?

While doing our best not to reveal who finished #2 and #1 on our "Top 5 Sports Stories" of 2018, we thought we'd list five stories that didn't make our final list and see where you think we might have Chris Davis'd it. In other words...did we whiff anywhere?

We'll leave this poll up for a day or two to get as many votes as possible, then give you the vote tally on Monday, December 31 when we unveil #1 on our list.

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December 28
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sunday? no worries at all

This one sure could come back to bite me.

Roughly 24 hours after authoring a piece here at #DMD outlining a number of reasons why Sunday's visit by the Browns worries me, here I am, pecking away at the keyboard with a list of reasons why I'm actually not worried.

I'll start with the easiest reason of all.

The Browns don't have an impressive road win all season. Frankly, they look like a bit of a paper tiger when you really go through their schedule and its accompanying results.

Cleveland's 7-7-1, yes. But they really haven't defeated a decent team all season...except, yes, the Ravens back on October 6th. And if Michael Crabtree catches that ball in the end zone on the final series of the 4th quarter, the Browns don't even win that game. Their other six wins have come against half-a-scrubs.

When they played varsity teams this season -- like Kansas City, Houston and the Chargers -- they got clobbered.

So, if they come into Baltimore and win on Sunday, they'd be doing something almost unheard of. Are they improved from a year ago? Of course they are. But their list of conquests isn't all that impressive.

In the battle of two rookie quarterbacks on Sunday, can Lamar Jackson beat Baker Mayfield to send the Ravens to the post-season?

I don't subscribe to worrying all that much about things that happened one or two years ago, other than to note they did, in fact, occur. Did the Ravens throw away a key game in Pittsburgh in 2016 and a season-ending home contest with the Bengals last New Year's Eve? Indeed they did. But I just can't put much stock in that mattering on Sunday when the Browns come to town.

Different players, different coaches, different styles and completely different situations.

Instead, I'd like to look at recent history and assume there's a new pattern. And if you look at the Ravens' play in the last six weeks, they've closed out five of those six games with impressive fourth quarter defensive performances. Sure, the Kansas City game got away from them down the stretch, but other than that, the Ravens have been door-slammers in the final 15:00 of recent games.

I don't see the Browns going the length of the field in the final 3:05 of Sunday's game to stun the Ravens, 27-23. Nothing in either team's recent past tells me there's a high percentage chance that occurs.

I might feel a tad different about the game if the Browns had seen Lamar Jackson's quarterback style up-close-and-personal already this season. But they haven't. So, like the Bengals, Raiders, Falcons, Chiefs, Buccaneers and Chargers, Cleveland will be getting their first dose of Jackson on Sunday. No one else has done well dealing with their initial "Lamar game" and I can't see the Browns faring all that much better on Sunday.

While there's no telling how many people are going to be in the stadium on Sunday, here's the way I see the whole thing. This is an elimination game (unless the Bengals beat Pittsburgh). The crowd -- even if "only" 65,000 wind up in the building -- will be foaming at the mouth by 4:25 pm. It will be loud. It will be raucous. And it will be just like -- think about this for a minute -- a playoff game in Baltimore.

It basically is a playoff game for the Ravens.

So, let me ask you this. Pretend the Browns finished the season 8-7-1 and were the 6 seed coming into Baltimore, who finished as the 3rd seed at 10-6. What chance would you give Baker Mayfield and his wide eyed, young team on Sunday if it actually was, in fact, a playoff game? Right. Not much of one.

I like Mayfield. I think he's going to grow into a good quarterback. A very good one, perhaps. But I can't see him coming to Baltimore this Sunday and piloting the Browns to a win in a do-or-die game for the Ravens. He's just not ready to paint that masterpiece yet.

I don't see the Ravens losing on Sunday. Too much at stake. Too many demons to be exorcised. Too much working in their favor.

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top story #4 - nick foles and the eagles

Yes, the smart guy (or gal) in the room will note that some of what Nick Foles did on his rise to the top occurred late in calendar year 2017. That's true.

But we're ignoring that, for none of it really matters. It didn't matter how many games Foles played in and how many of those the Eagles won (or lost) last December when the journeyman quarterback took over for an injured Carson Wentz.

The only games of importance for Foles and his Philadelphia teammates took place in January, for those were "lose and go home" encounters.

Nick Foles celebrates last February's Super Bowl win over New England with his child in hand.

And in case you haven't noticed, Foles is once again up to his old tricks, pioneering the Eagles to a pair of December wins that have them on the cusp of a playoff return.

Nick Foles is Number 4 on #DMD Top 5 National Sports Stories of 2018.

What Foles did last January and again, recently, is even more impressive when you take into account not only was he one of the least unlikely candidates for such an uprise, he also played well throughout the games that took the Eagles to last season's Super Bowl.

With all due respect to Ben Roethlisberger, as an example, he didn't have a great game the first time he won a Super Bowl back in 2006. Ben went 9-for-21 for 123 yards. Keen observers of that game will recall a wide receiver (Antwaan Randle El) threw the best pass of the game, a 43-yard strike to Hines Ward for a Pittsburgh TD. I bring that up not to diminish Roethlisberger's career in any way, but to simply point out that a quarterback can play in a Super Bowl, win one (or more) and not play all that well while doing so.

Nick Foles was no Ben Roethlisberger against the Patriots in last year's Super Bowl.

He went toe-to-toe with the best quarterback of this generation -- and maybe ever -- and beat Tom Brady at his own game.

But the two playoff games that earned the Eagles a trip to Minnesota for the championship game, Foles went 23-of-30 in the win over Atlanta, then produced a stellar 26-of-33 in their 38-7 thumping of the Vikings in the NFC title game.

Prior to last season's playoff action, how many post-season games had Nick Foles played in? If you said "one", you're right.

Then, in the Super Bowl, he went 28-of-43 and even caught a touchdown pass in addition to throwing three others.

For the 2018 post-season, Foles threw six TD's and just one interception.

Two weeks ago, he stepped in for injured Carson Wentz again and promptly delivered two wins, throwing 4 TD's in the win over Houston last Sunday and going 24-of-31 in a surprising upset of the Rams in Los Angeles.

It's been quite a 2018 for Nick Foles. He started the year as the Eagles' quarterback and will finish it in that spot, as well. All he's basically done, save for a road loss at Tampa Bay back in September, is win 6 of the 7 games he's started, with 11 touchdowns and an average quarterback rating just a shade over 100 per-game.

Oh, and he beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. That alone should get him the honor of #4 on our list.


as for sunday's crowd in baltimore

I reached out to a Ravens official on Thursday and inquired about ticket sales for Sunday's game.

"Only single seats left," was the reply.

OK, that's a good start. If nothing else, the 2,500 tickets the team had to peddle for the season finale with the Browns are all but gone. That's the good news.

These guys want you there on Sunday.

The bad news, if you want to pick at the situation a bit, is that the team's efforts to sell the Buccaneers and Browns games as a package (two tickets for $88.00) a few weeks back clearly didn't work. The organization still had to move 2,500 tickets this week in order to get the building filled to capacity. In other words, local football enthusiasts weren't "moved" to buy tickets just for the sake of buying them earlier this month when the team had their 2-game ticket pack sale.

But they're sold now. That's all that matters.

There's still a lingering issue, though. How many people will actually go to the game on Sunday?

Recent games have seen upwards of 20,000 seats left empty. But this Sunday is for all the marbles, or at least enough marbles to get the Ravens to host a playoff game next weekend.

If you were waiting for an important game, your time has arrived.

The reason it seems likely the seats will be filled is because of the re-sale possibilities for this game vs. the others. It stands to reason the Bengals, Raiders and Buccaneers weren't exactly "hot tickets" and thus, not all that appealing on the secondary ticket market.

If you own four tickets and you don't want to go on Sunday, for whatever reason, you should be able to move them without much trouble.

That wasn't the case in recent home games.

My guess is we'll see the obligatory 3,000 or so empty seats scattered throughout the stadium that happen on almost any given Sunday in Baltimore, but there will be upwards of 65,000 in the facility at kick-off.

I don't think people are going to stay home for this one. But we'll see...

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December 27
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why i'm worried about sunday

I've seen enough football games in recent weeks that have ended with bizarre, questionable and almost-downright-nefarious conclusions that I'm not at all comfortable with Sunday's upcoming Ravens-Browns tilt.

I'd like to brashly state something like my old radio buddy Glenn Clark once said about a Maryland visit to Duke for an October football game: "I don't care what you say...Maryland's not losing to Duke in football", he said on Friday's show. Roughly 24 hours later, the Terps lost to the Blue Devils. In football.

So while I'd like to spout off: "I don't care what you say, the Ravens aren't losing to the Browns in Baltimore with their season on the line," I'm not doing it.

I don't think the Ravens are losing on Sunday. I don't. But I can also say this: I wouldn't bet the game.

Here's what I'm worried about.

For starters, I've watched the Ravens play excellent football for the last six weeks. In those games, they're 5-1. They could easily be 6-0. Yes, as I noted earlier this week, they didn't exactly squash the Bengals, Raiders or Buccaneers in that stretch, but they also outplayed all three of those teams by comfortable margins.

So why am I worried? Because it's hard to play excellent football for seven straight weeks. The Ravens are due for a stinker. Perhaps not an all-out abysmal performance or anything like that, but if market correction is a real thing, it's due to come around sooner rather than later for the Ravens.

I hope market correction doesn't come around this Sunday.

The referees definitely worry me. They don't concern me because I think they favor the Browns or anything like that. They worry me because they're liable to call anything, at any time, and it doesn't necessarily have to even be the right or proper call.

Like most people in Baltimore, I snickered last Sunday when the Steelers got the short end of the stick in their pivotal loss to the Saints. But while one part of me think it's funny that the refs stuck it to Pittsburgh, another part of me hates it...because it jabs a knife right through the heart of the league's supposed integrity.

There's no telling what impact these guys might have on Sunday when the Ravens host the Browns.

And it reminds me that the Ravens could be in the exact same situation as the Steelers were last need of a stop late in the game, with the Browns facing 4th and 5, and Jimmy Smith making a perfectly acceptable defensive play to seal the game and the team's trip to the playoffs -- only to have one of those morons throw a flag with 1:08 left in the contest that gives the Browns new life.

In last Saturday's game in Los Angeles, the Chargers were driving in the fourth quarter and made an apparent first down. Upon "official review", the referees determined their spot was incorrect and gave the Chargers the option of either losing a time-out or having to run ten seconds off the clock.

Does the league not realize how stupid that rule is? The ref spotted the player's forward progress incorrectly. They then did the right thing and went to replay to fix it. After agreeing -- with themselves -- that they spotted the ball wrong, they then gave the Chargers the option of losing a time out or running off 10 seconds. What, tell me, did the Chargers do wrong to warrant that penalty?

It strikes me that the exact same thing could easily happen again on Sunday in Baltimore and the Ravens could somehow be on the bad end of such a horrible, awful rule.

Lamar Jackson's fumbling issues worry me. Not because he fumbles a lot, per se, but because, to date at least, none of his carelessness has really crushed the Ravens. Sure, he coughed up the ball in Atlanta and the dude for the Falcons ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown, but that was as much about Kenneth Dixon failing to make a professional tackle than anything else.

Jackson's late game fumble in Kansas City almost cost the Ravens a regulation loss, except the K.C. kicker choked on the game-winning field goal attempt.

It worries me that at some point, Jackson's inability to protect the football will come back to haunt him at a crucial time.

I'm worried that the Browns will be free-wheeling it this Sunday. All of the pressure, every single smidgen of it, is on the Ravens. If the Browns make a mistake or two, it doesn't matter. They'll all be in Florida by Wednesday afternoon, no matter what happens in Baltimore. If the Ravens make a mistake or two, it could cost them a playoff berth. And a shot at a Super Bowl.

The Browns aren't completely "back" yet, but they're definitely on the rise.

I'd almost prefer that Cleveland be coming to town with something on the line. That would at least even out the "pressure playing field", so to speak.

Baker Mayfield worries me. I have this feeling that we're going to grow to dislike that dude in the same way we've grown to respect, but strongly dislike Ben Roethlisberger. Mayfield might be a rookie, prone to a mistake or two, and in general still be green enough to cave in under the pressure of a big-time NFL game. But one thing he won't be on Sunday is afraid of the moment.

I'm worried the Browns enjoy playing for Gregg Williams, their interim coach, and might be trying to show ownership and management that he's the guy for the job in 2019. I think we can all say two things, safely, about the Browns in 2018: 1. They did not like playing for Hue Jackson and their record proved it. 2. They like playing for Gregg Williams and their record proves it.

Tomorrow here at #DMD, I'll give you all the reasons why I think the Ravens are going to win on Sunday. Yes, despite my worries listed above, I think John Harbaugh's team is winning on Sunday.

But I'm worried...

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top story #5 - lebron takes over l.a.

Unlike the first time when LeBron James packed his bags and left Cleveland behind, the great one "did it right" last summer when he decided to join the Lakers.

No lengthy six-week courting session with a handful of teams. No nationally televised show and painful self-promoting about "taking his talents" to the City of Angels.

Instead, James did what everyone else does these days. He used Twitter and social media to make the announcement last July 2nd that he was signing with the Lakers as a free agent.

LeBron's move to one of our country's most storied franchises is Number 5 on #DMD's Top 5 National Sports Stories of 2018.

In going to Los Angeles, James did in 2018 what he opted not to do when he left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010.

He went to a team and a franchise on his own...without bringing along anyone else or having a handful of other talented players waiting for him to take them over the top.

This time around, James essentially said, "I'll come there and make you a champion."

He's getting rich, of course. Or richer, I guess. But he was always going to command top dollar no matter where he decided to play. So, going to L.A. wasn't really about money, but more about maximizing his potential to earn sponsorship dollars and residual lifetime income through the vast array of contacts he'll make in Southern California.

In the meantime, though, he has basketball to play. And if the early returns in L.A. are any indication, James is still able to deliver his best on the court on just about any given night.

He speaks his mind these days, as we've seen with his comments about the President and, most recently, NFL owners. Some of those words were mean-spirited. Some were factually inaccurate. But when you're an iconic athlete, you're no longer part of the rank and file. Your voice booms louder than others. That's just the way it is.

So, off the court, James is using his tenure in Los Angeles to increase his visibility. But his work on the court is doing it as well.

Ten years ago, just before he finally won a title in Miami, some folks opined that LeBron "has a chance to be just as good as Jordan."

Five years ago, people said, "He might be as good as Jordan."

These days, there's almost no arguing the point. James is the best player of the last 20 years. And anyone saying "he's just as good as Jordan was" probably won't get much push-back.

Different players, yes. But both were dominant in their own way. Jordan is LeBron and LeBron is Jordan. Not much separates them when it comes to the impact they've had on the game, their teams and the players who were privileged to share a locker room with them.

That doesn't mean they're both blemish-free. In fact, they each went through periods in their respective careers where they weren't well liked within their own franchise.

But these days, James is the stirring force that every team desperately wants and needs. He does it all. James sells tickets and merchandise, increases media and internet following, wins games on the court and, in summary, dramatically increases the visibility and viability of any franchise that employs him.

This edition of the Lakers will be better off for having signed him.

Their organization is bound to rise to the top once again, thanks to LeBron.

Need any convincing that he's been a rock star so far this season in Los Angeles? Just watch the video below.



"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

First Place!

JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Steelers lost control of the ball and, fortunately, happened to be on top of a New Orleans defender and not on the ground. Drew Brees then took a knee on the final play. Just like that, the Baltimore Ravens had sole possession of first place in the AFC North with one game to play.

Should the Ravens defeat the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, they’ll finish alone in first place for the first time since the 2006 season.

I suppose that could have been one of the reasons that owner Steve Bisciotti might have been looking elsewhere for a coach in 2019. For all of his success in his first 10 years, John Harbaugh has never won an outright AFC North title.

A win on Sunday gives John Harbaugh just the third home playoff game of his 11-year tenure in Baltimore.

Should the division title happen after Sunday’s results, it will come as a much greater surprise than any of the shared AFC North titles for Harbaugh’s team in 2010, 2011 and 2012. No matter how it happened, getting from 4-5 in early November to 10-6 by season’s end would be unexpected.

Should the Ravens win on Sunday, they’ll truly look like a first-place team besides actually being one. Remember…Harbaugh’s team enters this week having outscored its opponents by 100 points, behind only Kansas City in the AFC. By almost any measure, Baltimore is the best defense in the league. Since Lamar Jackson’s first start on November 18 against Cincinnati, the Ravens have run the ball better than any NFL team has in many years.

In other words, Harbaugh’s team is one with dominant parts. There’s no reason to believe those parts couldn’t be dominant in the postseason, though that’s no guarantee of a win against a team that also has dominant parts.

As far as the future beyond this season, finishing in first place would mean the Ravens would play a “first-place” schedule in 2019 for the first time since the 2013 season. A game against New England at M&T Bank Stadium was already on the schedule for 2019; odds would suggest that the other AFC first-place teams on the 2019 schedule will be the Texans from the AFC South and the Chiefs from the AFC West.

Should the Ravens win on Sunday, their outright division title will be somewhat unusual in that both the Steelers and the Browns will finish with better divisional records. In that case, Ravens’ fans would like to thank the AFC West for winning all four of its games against Pittsburgh this year.

On Second Thought?

Both the Titans and Colts have kept pace with the Ravens over the past several weeks, and those teams play each other in Nashville Sunday night. Barring just the third tie in the NFL this season, one of those teams will get its 10th win.

So, the mood in Baltimore is strangely morose for being so celebratory. Remember…nobody’s betting on the Bengals these days: the Ravens have to win on Sunday.

If not, none of those numbers above will matter. The big margin between points scored and points allowed. The great defense and running game. The stylistic changes that have confused defenses and kept opposing offenses off the field.

None of it will make a difference. Barring a minor miracle in Pittsburgh, the Ravens will once again be another disappointing second-place squad.

Every team and every fan base can go back at the end of the season and think about those plays and those games that might have been different. With the Ravens hosting the Browns this weekend, many of us are thinking back to the game in Cleveland in Week 5.

Looking at the play-by-play, Joe Flacco threw an incomplete pass in the direction of Michael Crabtree on third down at the Cleveland 14-yard-line with 1:00 left in the fourth quarter. Justin Tucker then came on for a chip shot that sent the game to overtime tied at 9-9.

So what? Well Crabtree sure had a chance to catch that pass thrown in his direction in the end zone. It wasn’t an easy catch, but it was one he’d made plenty of times in his career.

The Ravens lost that game in overtime, and another loss to the Browns would be the ultimate ruination of their season. Then again, a win over the Browns would be ultimate redemption for that loss.

Then there’s Pittsburgh, who we can only hope spends the offseason losing sleep over losses to the Broncos and Raiders. Against Denver, Ben Roethlisberger threw the oddest pass near the goal line in the final minutes, one that was intercepted by a defensive lineman. Against the Raiders, Chris Boswell slipped and the Steelers lost to the worst team in the AFC.

The point is…every team can go back and look at the games that got away, but not every team can say that one game made the difference between the playoffs and heading home. Certainly, the Ravens hope to avoid that predicament for the third year in a row.

Third Time’s A Charm?

So here we are…three years in a row…the third AFC North opponent that the Ravens must beat at or near the end of the year to make the playoffs a reality.

For extra fun, it’s been a different team every year. First the Steelers in 2016, then the Bengals in 2017, now the Browns in 2018. While all of these games have been meaningful ones, they’re certainly not the same in terms of expectation.

If the Ravens win on Sunday, this guy's season ends.

The Ravens were underdogs in Pittsburgh on Christmas 2016; not only that, they were a game behind the Steelers heading into the game. The fact that Pittsburgh had to win the game in the final moments was a bit of a surprise, as much as that can be a surprise when the two teams get together.

Last year the Bengals came limping into M&T Bank Stadium on a frigid New Year’s Eve with a 6-9 record. The fact that they outplayed the Ravens for most of the game was a bit of a surprise; while they had to make a big play on fourth-and-12 to win the game, they probably deserved to win.

So what of this year? The Browns are in the same situation as the 2017 Bengals, in the sense that they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention, but their level of play currently is probably closer to the 2016 Steelers.

At a high level, not much separates the Ravens at 9-6, the Steelers at 8-6-1 and the Browns at 7-7-1. If Zane Gonzalez, now playing for Arizona, had made a 43-yard field goal at the end of overtime in Week 1, it would be an even smaller separation.

As for this week, I wouldn’t expect the game to go much differently for the Ravens than any of their previous home games since November 18, against Cincinnati, Oakland and Tampa Bay.

I see no reason to believe that the running game will be held down by a poor running defense. I see no reason that the Baltimore defense can’t bring pressure early and often and make a rookie quarterback make quicker decisions than he’d like.

At the same time, I see no reason why Lamar Jackson will be any tighter with his hold on the ball than he’s been so far. With the emphasis on time of possession, I also no reason for Sunday’s game to be a blowout.

What it will be, I think, is a win, not unlike every win over the past two months. See you at M&T Bank Stadium in the New Year…

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local sports story of the a landslide

The readers of #DMD have made their choice. And in a landslide victory, UMBC's basketball win over Virginia in the 2018 NCAA tournament is the winner of our "Top Local Sports Story for 2018".

The UMBC win received a whopping 42% of the vote.

A 47-win season for the Orioles finished 2nd, garnering 21% of the vote.

The emergence of Lamar Jackson as the Ravens starting quarterback in mid-November came in third with 17% of the vote.

The Ravens' attendance issues received 15%.

And the October firings of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette received just 5% of the vote.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to vote in our year-end poll!

December 26
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harbaugh in the drivers $eat now

One game sure changed a lot of things for the Ravens. And John Harbaugh.

Yes, they still have to beat Cleveland on Sunday. All things change again if the Browns come to town and pull off the upset of all upsets.

But a Ravens win on Sunday starts what could be a whirlwind month of activity that could make John Harbaugh a rich man. More rich than he already is, is probably a better way to put it.

Last Friday, the Ravens announced that Harbaugh would be returning for the 2019 campaign and that the two sides are working on a contract extension.

That declaration came before the team's 22-10 win over the Chargers and the Pittsburgh loss in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. Those two events changed a lot of things for John Harbaugh as it relates to his future in Baltimore.

Longtime -- and well sourced -- national football writer Peter King opined on Christmas Eve that Harbaugh might just "pull a Flacco" and table any extension discussions in Baltimore with the hope he can win another Super Bowl, at which time he would hold extraordinary negotiating power with either the Ravens or another NFL franchise. It's already well known throughout the NFL that Harbaugh is an inviting candidate to a number of organizations, but a second Super Bowl win would increase his attractiveness by a thousand percent.

We don't link national stories much here since they don't often (OK, more like "never have") link #DMD pieces, but here's King's story on Harbaugh.

In a nutshell, it simply says Harbaugh might finish out his Ravens deal in 2019 -- the final year of his contract -- and then hit the open market in 2020.

I think there's a far better chance of that scenario playing out than the one suggested earlier this season that Harbaugh would quit after 2018 and start new somewhere else in 2019. The most important thing to Harbaugh -- much more than his job and football -- is being with his daughter in her senior year of high school, which begins in September of 2019. Once she graduates and is off to Notre Dame in the fall of 2020, John is free to roam about the country. Until then, I can't see him going anywhere.

But the thought that Harbaugh could opt to play out his contract rather than sign an extension right now is worth considering, if nothing else. It's not the craziest idea I've ever heard.

Then again, the Ravens could beat the Browns on Sunday and then lose 28-13 to the Chargers on the first weekend of January and where would that leave Harbaugh's negotiating power?

It's a risky game, for sure.

But Harbaugh has been around long enough now to know this: Coaching opportunities are all about just that -- the opportunity. The most inviting job in the entire NFL is in Green Bay. No, not because they have Aaron Rodgers. He can't play forever. It's the most inviting because there's no owner to answer to and they have a well structured management team that divides authority into a nice, neat package.

Dallas is another attractive position. Sure, you have to deal with Jerry Jones, but in case you haven't noticed over the last decade, Jones is a pretty patient man when it comes to his head coach. Jason Garrett shoulda, coulda, woulda been fired two or three times, but he's still there. That said, Garrett can't stay there forever, either. And at some point, that gig is going to open up.

Those are just two examples of opportunity coming around, but coming around rarely. The Green Bay job is open now. Unless something really strange happens, Harbaugh won't be going there. That's the one destination I think he'd be interested in, though. It's the football mecca, close to his parents, and in 2020 when his daughter starts at Notre Dame, he's a 45-minute flight away.

Dallas would be interesting to him as well, I'd guess. The Cowboys are called "America's Team" in case you don't recall. They have a magnificent stadium, it's easy to attract free agents, and your earning potential is almost limitless with Jones as the owner.

Some have suggested Denver might come calling for Harbaugh. I don't see anything particularly appealing about that location and organization, unless Harbaugh just thinks it's best to change things up for the sake of changing them up -- and signing a new, $40 million deal for five years or something of that nature.

One thing is for certain. Saturday night's win over the Chargers put a lot of new wheels in motion. Or just made them spin a lot faster.

It seems now that Harbaugh owns the trump card and can play it however he likes. If he wants another two or three years, he'll get them, and with a fair pay increase, one would suspect.

Or he can wait to see how this playoff run turns out and then go back to Bisciotti with his "new" extension pay plan. If Harbaugh's worth "y" right now, he'd be worth "yyy" if the Ravens somehow win the Super Bowl again.

It's probably easy to gamble like this when you've made upwards of $50 million over the last 11 years. If you're up $50 million, why not roll the dice and see if you can turn it into another $50 million or more?

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what's the biggest sports story of 2018?

We're closing in on putting another year in the books.

Seems like just yesterday it was 25 degrees on New Year's Eve and the Ravens were hosting the Bengals with a playoff spot on the line.

Where does the Red Sox title rank in 2018 sports moments?

A lot has transpired in the world of sports over the last twelve months.

What five stories stick out the most?

Over the next few days, we're going to examine the five biggest and most important national sports stories of 2018. We'll add one per-day until December 31, when we reveal the biggest story of the year.

But in the meantime, we have some unfinished business from last week to attend to. What's the biggest LOCAL story of 2018? We started a #DMD reader's poll last week and received an overwhelming response...but we'll throw the poll up one more time and get an additional day of voting before revealing the winning "moment" tomorrow.


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December 25
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merry christmas!

Good morning and Merry Christmas to all!

I hope you have a great day celebrating the holiday with your family and friends!

We'll get back to sports tomorrow here at Drew's Morning Dish.

These are exciting times here in Baltimore, what with the Ravens surging from off the pace to now sit within one game of an improbable division title AND home playoff game. Some would say the Baltimore sports community deserves this good fortune, with the football team missing the post-season in agonizing fashion in each of the last two seasons and the Orioles enduring a miserable 47-win campaign in 2018.

It's going to be a great week around here as we all ramp up for Sunday's showdown vs. the Browns.

But we'll focus on sports and football tomorrow.

Today, we're celebrating Christmas and finishing up our Dave Matthews Band "Best Of" compilation with a fitting final song.

A quick note on the other song that appears today, the 13th of the 14 songs I highlighted over the last week. "Idea of You" is my favorite Dave Matthews song ever. It's been in the concert rotation for a decade or more but wasn't actually included on an album until "Come Tomorrow" was released this past November.

Back to "Christmas Song". When I started the "Best Of" compilation I first decided to add two songs a day and include 14 total songs. That immediately became 13 songs, though, because I knew "Christmas Song" had to be the last one...the encore, if you will.

It's a fitting way to both end the "Best Of" compilation and leave you with a Christmas message, courtesy of Dave Matthews.

You can watch the Dave Matthews "Christmas Song" video here


She was his girl, he was her boyfriend

Soon to be his wife, take him as her husband

A surprise on the way, any day, any day

One healthy little giggling, dribbling baby boy

The Wise Men came, three made their way

To shower him with love

While he lay in the hay

Shower him with love, love, love

Love love, love

Love, love was all around

Not very much of his childhood was known

Kept his mother Mary worried

Always out on his own

He met another Mary who for a reasonable fee

Less than reputable as known to be

His heart was full of love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas to all!

When Jesus Christ was nailed to the his tree

Said "Oh, Daddy-o, I can see how it all soon will be

I came to shed a little light on this darkening scene

Instead I fear I spill the blood of our children all around."

The blood of our children all around

The blood of our childrens all around

So the story goes, so I'm told

The people he knew were

Less than golden-hearted

Gamblers and robbers

Drinkers and jokers

All soul searchers

Like you and me

Like you and me

Rumors insisted he soon would be

For his deviations taken into custody

By the authorities, less informed than he

Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers

Searching for love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

Preparations were made

For his celebration day

He said, "Eat this bread, think of it as me

Drink this wine and dream it will be

The blood of our children all around

The blood of our children all around

The blood of our children's all around"

Father up above

Why in all this anger do you fill me up with love, love, love?

Love, love, love

Love, love was all around

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December 24
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the morning after the morning after

Well, a lot has changed since Saturday around 8 pm eastern standard time.

There's a football game coming up this Sunday for all the marbles. Or at the very least, enough marbles to either get the Ravens into the post-season with a home game or out of the post-season with another eight months of head hanging and self evaluation.

It all comes down to this Sunday's home game with the Cleveland Browns.

A win and the Ravens are the AFC North champions. Heck, with a bunch of crazy results happening on Sunday before their 4:25 pm start, the Ravens could actually wind up the #2 seed in the conference and get a bye in the first round.

A loss and the season's over for the Ravens, unless the Steelers were to unpredictably lose to the Bengals in Pittsburgh at the same time the Browns are beating Baltimore.

Say what you will about the NFL. A lot of the rules are stupid. The referees are borderline negligent at times, if not down right corrupt. The games change on inches -- Saturday night's win hinged on two inches of Antonio Gates' knee not hitting the ground before the ball came loose, for example -- and the ball bounces one way this week and the other way the next. The league is maddening, in almost every imaginable way.

And yet it's remarkable, compelling theater, year after year after year.

I offer this challenge every January. When the dust settles and the 12 playoff teams are finalized next Sunday night, go ahead and pick the four teams who will meet in the two respective conference championship games. I guarantee you can't do it.

"And, John, here's the best part. They were out on Twitter on Friday night saying, 'Bisciotti doesn't know what he's doing. Harbaugh couldn't coach a high school team.'"

We'll have some sort of contest here and I'll give out a nice prize to the person who can nail both title games. Good luck with that one.

The league's insane.

The Ravens were 4-5 on November 4.

Now they're 9-6 and a win away from the division title.

The Eagles were 6-7 going to Los Angeles last week and hosting red-hot Houston yesterday. Two wins later, they're 8-7 and can make the playoffs by beating the Redskins next week and having the Vikings lose at home to the Bears.

The league is so crazy, the Titans can finish as the #2, #3, #4 or #6 seed. Or they can miss the playoffs entirely. One game.

Let's put the Ravens in the crosshairs for a minute and examine what lies ahead for them in the season finale.

They play a Browns team that is actually better than their 7-7-1 record would indicate. Yet...they're still the Browns, a team that nearly blew a 23-point 4th quarter lead yesterday to a Bengals squad that checked out weeks ago. They fired their coach midway through the season and have been barnstorming ever since, hanging around in the playoff picture up until week 15.

The Ravens have been in this spot a lot in recent years. And on every occasion, they've failed to deliver. Last year, of course, it was the 4th and 12 season-ending TD from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd. 364 days later, the Ravens will get the chance to partially make amends for that fiasco this coming Sunday.

It's easy to say, "If we can't beat the Browns, we don't deserve to be in the playoffs," but the reality is, if you can't win a "win and you're in" home game against any team, you're probably not good enough to consider yourself a championship contender.

But the Ravens are good enough to roll right through Cleveland, beat up on the Chargers in the playoff opener in Baltimore, and then go toe-to-toe with either Kansas City or New England the following week.

They're 5-1 in their last six games and would have been 6-0 had the defense made either of two 4th down stops in Kansas City earlier this month. Then again, to be fair, they didn't exactly lay the smack down on the Bengals (November 18) or Raiders (November 25) before prevailing with impressive fourth quarter performances.

No matter how you evaluate what the Ravens have done over the last six weeks, one thing is definite: They're playing with more confidence right now than they've played with in several years. And confidence can take you places. Just ask the Eagles of last season, who lost their star quarterback with two weeks left in the season and still managed to win the Super Bowl.

Sunday is not going to be a walk in the park, though. Cleveland is not to be overlooked. And despite their recent surge, the Ravens aren't perfect in all areas. They're still a work in progress, with a rookie quarterback and a quirky offensive scheme, not to mention a proclivity for losing these season-ending "must win" games in recent years.

A lot is on the line this Sunday.

We know the coach's job isn't, but lots of other stuff is.

This Ravens team can peel off three playoff wins in January and play for the world championship in Atlanta on February 3.

Or they can lose 26-23 to the Browns on Sunday and watch the post-season from home.......again.

My first blush thought is the Ravens prevail on Sunday and win the AFC North.

But I sure as heck wouldn't bet anything of substance on the outcome. I've seen too much crazy stuff happen over the last two weeks...

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

five thoughts from a great win


John Harbaugh

The guys in the production truck picked the right moment to pan to the Baltimore sideline a little past 11 p.m. Saturday night. John Harbaugh was in the middle of a bear hug with his great friend Jerry Rosburg after his team pulled off a win against the Chargers that was, by betting line and otherwise, an upset.

Harbaugh has reached the pinnacle of success in his profession, winning the Super Bowl, and fashioned a long career with one team that he could have only dreamed about in 2008. Yet I can’t imagine he’s ever been happier than he was in this moment.

It was special for him, and I think almost everyone at home could see that, separately from being happy that the Ravens won a game they needed to win against an excellent opponent.

John Harbaugh is a football coach — he knows more about that than you — but he also knew that you were right. His team really hadn’t “played up” for a long time.

For three years running, his team might have made the playoffs with one more play or one break. I don’t remember anybody in those three years, however, making that clichéd statement about “nobody wanting to play” Harbaugh’s team in the playoffs.

Say want you want about the cliché, but the sentiment is true in 2018 should the Ravens make the playoffs. His team, should it get there, will really belong there. The smiles on the sideline Saturday night came partially from that realization.



Much was made entering Saturday’s Ravens-Chargers game about the fact that Baltimore’s defense, while ranked highly throughout the year, had somehow forced fewer turnovers than every other team in the league besides the lowly 49ers. Ironically, Brandon Carr then intercepted Philip Rivers on the game’s first play from scrimmage.

Saturday’s game, then, proved a few things about turnovers in the NFL.

The obvious one, having nothing to do with the Ravens specifically, is a reminder just how important turnovers are to the eventual outcome of a game. The Chargers might have scored a go-ahead touchdown if not for a late turnover; at the same time, the Chargers might have scored no touchdowns at all if not for a Ravens’ turnover.

Less obvious, when it comes to turnovers, is something analogous to a professional golfer who just can’t make a putt. Or, to put it another way, the difference between that player hitting the ball well and actually shooting a good score.

An NFL defense can be legitimately good at every level, like the Ravens, yet it can go many games without picking up a fumble at just the right spot. A mediocre NFL defense can be nothing special, yet the one time a ball gets tipped by a defensive lineman it falls right into the hands of a linebacker.

In other words, I’d say that the Ravens’ turnover stats in 2018 are really just an aberration, a strange journey away from the mean that wouldn’t happen if the team had the same exact defensive unit in another year.



Let’s pretend the Steelers would have held on to win in New Orleans...

Earlier in the day, Andrew Luck found Chester Rogers for a one-year touchdown pass with 55 seconds left in regulation, and Adam Vinatieri’s extra point then gave the Colts a 28-27 win over the Giants. Indianapolis had trailed by two touchdowns in the first quarter.

So, nothing would have changed in the three-way do-si-do between the Ravens, Titans and Colts. Entering the week, each team was 8-6. Leaving the weekend, each team is 9-6. The Ravens would still hold the tiebreaker, just like they did the previous week.

Luck and the Colts looked like they were on the way to a bad loss, at home, to a bad team. It would have made for an interesting Week 17…not that it won’t be interesting enough.

If the Colts had lost, and then beaten the Titans next week, and Cleveland could come into M&T Bank Stadium and roll out with a win, that would mean yet another three-way tie between Baltimore, Tennessee and Indianapolis, this time at 9-7. In that scenario, assuming the Steelers won the AFC North, the Colts would have gotten the No. 6 seed on “strength of victory.”

Alas, it doesn’t matter anymore, but for a while it was definitely a real possibility.

Both the Colts and the Titans, who played the Redskins on Saturday, could easily have lost their games considering the situation in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. The same could be said, of course, about the Ravens.


January 3, 2015

Three days into 2015, the Ravens went into Pittsburgh and kept going where they left off in the playoffs about two years before.

After a year out of the tournament, it seemed like John Harbaugh’s team had never left it. The 30-17 playoff win over the Steelers was vintage Raven football; the offense did enough to win, and the defense hounded Ben Roethlisberger, even knocking him out of the game late before he was (woozily, and questionably) sent back into the game by Mike Tomlin.

Anyway, that was the last game featuring the Ravens that felt anything like Saturday’s win over the Chargers in Los Angeles. More importantly, this past Saturday’s game seemed to show that the Ravens could have a similar road performance in this year’s playoffs, if that is the situation.

The play I’ll always remember from that 2015 (2014 season) playoff game was the ridiculous interception by Terrell Suggs, who “caught” a tipped short pass with his thighs while falling to the ground. When plays like that go your way, it’s usually a good sign that the football gods are on your side that day.

In general, though, I’ve never enjoyed seeing the Ravens play the Steelers in the playoffs. It just doesn’t seem right after two (usually) hard-fought battles during the season. As far as this year goes, I’m like most people here in the Baltimore area; I think it would be great if the Steelers were playing golf someplace warm next weekend.


The Pro Bowl

Back before the Ravens rolled into Carson and beat up on the Chargers, there was some agita by the hometown flock over this year’s Pro Bowl selections from the squad.

No. 1 on the list of eye rollers was, of course, Eric Weddle, who earned the Pro Bowl honor for the third time in three seasons with the team. I can’t say I disagree with the fans’ sentiment entirely, particularly over the past two years. Weddle, when forced to make a tackle, hasn’t seemed to make it. When forced to make a decision, he’s seemingly made the wrong one a lot.

That being said, his peers and NFL coaches have to know something, right? In some ways, I trust the Pro Bowl selection process more than the one for the MLB All-Star game.

The only thing I can really say about Eric Weddle is that I hope that the “good-guy” personality he shows to the fans and to the media is real. If it is, I have no problem with him being selected to the Pro Bowl every year.

I don’t want to forget C.J. Mosley, of course. He keeps getting selected to the Pro Bowl even though, according to the fan base here in town, he is 0-for-500 in his career in terms of proper pass coverage. Again, somebody knows something, right?

Finally, let’s not forget Justin Tucker. I mean…if you can’t make a 65-yard field goal and also miss an extra point for the first time in your career, you just suck.


from the desk of
brien jackson

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

In a development that shouldn't seem as surprising as it is, the Ravens have already announced that John Harbaugh isn't going anywhere. He'll be back on the Ravens' sideline in 2019, with a shiny new contract extension in tow.

At some point you'd think we'd get used to overeager predictions of Harbaugh's impending departure, which have been a near annual occurrence since around 2010, failing to materialize, but this year really felt different. Apparently it's not.

This piece was provided to #DMD before the Ravens' penultimate game in Los Angeles, which is appropriate since it appears that the outcome of the game, and the season, had no bearing on Steve Bisciotti's thought process. If nothing else, I really like that aspect of the decision.

What happens from here on out really shouldn't change anything at this point, unless they would have been blown out by the Chargers (didn't happen) and then lost at home to the Browns. The Chargers may well be the best team in the NFL at the moment, and a hypothetical loss to them, on the road, wouldn't really reflect anything about the quality of coaching.

And as for the playoffs or bust attitude, you're essentially saying that you're going to leave a crucial decision about the future of your own franchise in the hands of events outside of your own control. That's not the way successful people or organizations handle decision making, and it's a good sign that Bisciotti continues to eschew the impulse to follow through on "playoffs or bust" declarations.

Back when the Ravens were 4-5 and reports surfaced that this was going to be it for Harbaugh in Baltimore, I wrote that that was a good decision and that it was time for Harbaugh to be moved out.

DMD's Brien Jackson says Mornhinweg and Harbaugh have been supremely important to the Ravens in their 5-1 run since the November 4 loss to Pittsburgh.

Not all that much has actually changed since then but, like the Ravens, I find myself backing down from that impulse and coming back around to Harbaugh.

For one thing, I don't think that the Ravens could reasonably expect to replace him with anyone better. And contra the critics who declare that to be a "losing mindset" I don't mean that in the sense that there aren't good coaches out there to be hired, I mean it in the sense that John Harbaugh is a really good coach.

Yes I know that his record is just above .500 since the start of 2013, but putting aside whatever caveats you can make about that period it remains a fact that you just can't write off the success of his first five seasons.

Bad or mediocre coaches just don't have that kind of sustained run of success in an NFL that is extremely coaching intensive. A mediocre coach gets the results of someone like Jeff Fisher, who almost won a Super Bowl and is currently just above .500 for his career in 20 full seasons and parts of two others...but only had six winning seasons in that time span and collected 3 of his 5 playoff victories in that Super Bowl run.

Harbaugh, by contrast, still has only one sub-.500 season, in a year that was comically beset by injuries (and near victories early in the season for that matter), has 8 playoff victories on the road, and continues to have teams who play hard for him week after week, no matter the situation.

That last bit sounds trite and cliched, but the fact is that you see teams quit on coaches every single season in the NFL. There are plenty of groups who would have packed it in after losing four out of 5 games and falling to 4-5 on the season like the Ravens did. It really is no small thing that Harbaugh's teams have never done this, even in the aforementioned 2015 season.

Secondly, my previous opinion was mostly centered on offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and finally getting fed up with Harbaugh's procession of unimpressive offensive coaches.

But six weeks later I have to admit that I was simply wrong about this.

For as critical as I've been of him, on balance Mornhinweg has done a really good job with the offense since Lamar Jackson took over as the starting quarterback. He's not been perfect or anything, but no coach ever is. Heck, even Bill Belichick is on something of an unprecedented run of making some truly massive mistakes.

But on the whole, the offense that Mornhinweg has developed, and called, has been among the most innovative and creative in the league right now, and it suits the abilities of his QB quite well. It's not only that he's calling a bunch of running plays, Marty has at times dialed up some truly creative looks and concepts (most notably the touchdown "pass" to Chris Moore last week) and has designed an offense that takes advantage of the fact that Jackson isn't just a good, fast, runner but is in fact quite skilled at making reads and executing fakes in the read-option game, making it even harder to defend him on those plays.

And while it might seem like an easy thing to do, I find myself going back to Drew Magary's opus on how Pat Mahomes fell all the way to the 10th pick in the draft a couple of years ago a lot these days.

The vast majority of "football people" are committed to a set of beliefs about how NFL football has to be played, and in addition the modern era of focusing on"systems" has only made coaches more myopic in insisting on doing things a certain way rather than adapting their strategies to the strengths of the players they have to work with.

It is simply not a given that some other coach or coaching staff wouldn't have demanded that Jackson play like a square peg rather than building and calling a gameplan suited to what he's capable of doing. And by doing so the Ravens are on the cusp of a playoff berth and are a superhuman throw from Mahomes away from being 9-6 with a 6-0 record with Jackson as a starter.

Does that mean that will continue? No, not necessarily, and I'm not here to make bold predictions about what the future will bring for this current group. Maybe the current coaching staff can refine some of Jackson's mechanics and help him learn the reads he needs to make as a pro passer. Or maybe he'll never be able to do that. Maybe the run heavy offensive set will work in a pass happy league where defenses are built to stop the Brady's and Rodgers's and Roethlisberger's and the Jackson led Ravens are an outlier.

Or maybe a hard hit will wreck Jackson's career at any time. I don't have definitive answers for these questions....but neither do the people who are absolutely convinced it won't work either. If two people take strong opposing positions then one of them is bound to be right, but it doesn't mean that whoever ends up being right actually has any idea a priori so much as that they just got lucky in making their prediction.

I think the system the Ravens are running now can be effective so long as 10-12 teams don't copy them. If most teams keep trying to run a standard pocket passing offense then other teams have to build defenses to stop that, and that creates an opportunity for the Ravens to exploit the market just by being different.

I also think Jackson can stay healthy playing this style of offense, and see no real evidence that "running" quarterbacks are uniquely prone to injury. Yes there's the RG3 type situations where one hit results in a major injury, but there are plenty of examples of quarterbacks suffering significant injuries and missing a lot of time as a result of hits sustained from inside the pocket as well. So yes, I think the current system is sustainable, all things considered, but I don't actually know that by any means.

What I do know is that John Harbaugh is a good coach with a record that's not matched by very many other men who have held that position in NFL history.

I also know that, believe it or not, Harbaugh isn't far off from punching his ticket to Canton. Eight road playoff wins is a lot. Give Harbaugh a half a dozen more playoff victories and another 10 years or so without a losing season and he's probably getting inducted to the Hall of Fame.

Give him another Lombardi trophy and its an absolute lock.

Could these two get the last laugh in January?

And I also know that when speculation was flying that the Ravens would fire him, it was taken as a given that teams would be lining up to outbid each other to hire him. I know that Baltimore fans are largely conditioned to believe that the rest of the football watching world is wrong when their opinions don't match the conventional wisdom here, but at some point maybe it's worth considering that it's not actually everyone else who's crazy, ya know? Sometimes it really is you.

I also know that a lot of what passes for anti-Harbaugh conventional wisdom among Ravens fans is absolute bunk, a downright embarrassing array of truisms that come from a basis of nothing more than the ramblings of two particular, and particularly ridiculous, local media personalities.

It's even self-contradictory at times!

I mean, how many times have you heard a Harbaugh hater (who, incidentally, almost perfectly overlap with the Flacco fanboys) claim in one breath that Harbaugh is so to blame for the bad draft choices because he "demanded more control" after Super Bowl 47 and then in the next breath dismiss the offensive success of the 2014 season because "Bisciotti forced Kubiak on him?"

Yes, I'm sure that Harbaugh's standing in the organization was so high that he wrestled a formal level of personnel control away from a Hall of Fame caliber GM in Ozzie Newsome, but then so low that the owner uncharacteristically forced an assistant coaching hire on him. While apparently not revoking any of that personnel control either. This absolutely makes perfect sense in every regard, and is in no way clearly just people throwing out anti-Harbaugh fodder to the talk radio crowd that wants to believe it and will goose ratings to hear it. Nosiree!

I also know that the Ravens are tacitly making a statement about what has gone wrong over the past 6 years now, at least in their eyes.

Since the end of last season, Ozzie Newsome announced he'll be passing the torch to Eric DeCosta after this year, the Ravens traded back into the first round to draft a new quarterback, and John Harbaugh is getting a contract extension. You don't need to be Miss Cleo to read those cards: The Ravens have diagnosed that the problem with the organization is that a) Ozzie Newsome lost his fastball over the past few years and b) Joe Flacco couldn't handle the mantle of being a true franchise quarterback.

Opinions of Harbaugh aside for a moment, that's encouraging to me because, well, that's been my diagnosis for years now. Obviously there's a lot of people who disagree with me, and maybe they're right. Or maybe I'm right. Or maybe we're both a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Maybe the next few years will give us answers on that, or maybe it will remain the subject of argument here for the foreseeable future and beyond.

In any case, despite my feelings earlier this season I'm glad that Harbaugh will be back and after 5 weeks of watching him and his coaching staff manage an unorthodox offense with an unorthodox quarterback, I'm cutting against the grain in my genuine excitement to see what Harbaugh can do with Lamar Jackson just by, as Drew said the other day, letting him be Lamar Jackson rather than trying to radically reinvent him as "an NFL quarterback."

Like Drew, I'm not sure there's another coach out there who can do that both because I think other coaches are too hell bent on forcing players to do thins their way, regardless of said players actual abilities, and because I think you need to have the kind of security and faith of the owner that Harbaugh clearly has in order to truly try to do something different in the NFL.

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drew's holiday gift to you

I never know what to get you all for the holidays.

Sizes, styles, all gets too much.

The great Dave Matthews.

And I'm really busy in January. I don't have time for returns.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a holiday CD for everyone. That first one was a compilation of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. I added one every day for a couple of weeks and produced my own basic "Greatest Hits" album for you to enjoy.

No one asked me for the receipt, so I didn't have to go back to the store and return any of them.

This is my second effort at a holiday CD and it involves the Dave Matthews Band, one of my favorite bands of the last twenty years.

I'll add two songs per-day over the next week so we'll have a nice, neat 14-song "Best of Dave Matthews" CD for you by Christmas day.

Now well into their third decade (wow), the catalog of Dave's music is vast and extensive. My selection of favorites from DMB range from oldies to a song that just appeared on the band's recent 2018 album, Come Tomorrow.

The two songs I'm adding today are DMB staples and would likely appear on any fan's personal "greatest hits" compilation. Just like Springsteen fans would include "Born to Run" and "Jungleland", "#41" and "Grey Street" are songs every Dave Matthews fan knows and loves.

True story about #41 (it's called #41 because it was the 41st song the band wrote and they didn't have another name for it). It was the first Dave Matthews Band sang I really connected with and liked. I was a tad late to the DMB party. #41 appeared on their "Crash" album, which was released in 1996.

"Grey Street" was on the Busted Stuff album (2002) and has become an encore "go-to" for DMB for well over two decades now. They played it as the final song in Washington DC a few weeks ago, in fact.

I'll add the final two songs tomorrow...

December 23
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beatdown of chargers puts ravens in great position

That building in New Orleans has been awfully kind to the Ravens over the years.

Later today, the Ravens could greatly benefit from just one more bit of good fortune in the Superdome. A win by the Saints over the Steelers (4:25 pm) and John Harbaugh's team can win the AFC North title next Sunday with a victory of their own over the Cleveland Browns.

What a long, strange trips it's been...

The Ravens created the above scenario and cast themselves as legitimate AFC contenders last night with a 22-10 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles. The win puts Baltimore at 9-6 and leaves them fully in control of their own playoff destiny. A win next Sunday over Cleveland and the Ravens are in the post-season, no matter what happens later today in New Orleans.

Don't be misled by the late scoop-and-score by Tavon Young that turned a nailbiter into a 12-point victory. The Ravens punched Philip Rivers and the Chargers in the mouth on Saturday. The scoreboard might have read 22-10 at game's end, but that was a thorough, bloody beating the Ravens put on the hosts.

If things swing the way of the Ravens over the next seven days, they might very well see the Chargers again in the first round of the playoffs -- in Baltimore. The bruise from last night's beating will still be under the eyes of the Chargers in two weeks. They'll remember that loss for a while, I'd suppose.

Let's just throw five bullet points out there and let them marinate for a bit. We'll circle back on Monday to discuss them in more detail.

Reaching the 200 yard mark in passing for the first time in six games, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens beat the Chargers on Saturday night, 22-10.

Several players said after the game that Friday night's news that John Harbaugh was "safe" for 2019 provided a calming influence on the locker room. Lots of folks wondered about the timing of that announcement -- given that a loss to the Chargers would have all but sealed the team's playoff fate for 2018 -- but in the end, the calculated gamble paid off for the organization. Knowing their head coach would be returning next season win or lose on Saturday night did wonders for the team's ability to focus. Kudos to Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass, Kevin Byrne or whomever it was in the building that decided Friday night was the right time to release the Harbaugh news.

Lamar Jackson continues to do impressive things, while still making just enough mistakes to remind us all that he's just a kid in his first season as a professional player. Jackson was really good in several spots during the opening thirty minutes, but he wasn't quite sharp enough to get the Ravens into the end zone, as several trips deep into Los Angeles territory resulted in just two field goals and a 6-3 halftime lead. His perfect throw to Mark Andrews for a third quarter touchdown was, without question, his highlight moment as a NFL quarterback (thus far). While "quarterback record" isn't an official statistic or anything, the team's 5-1 with Jackson at the helm. Do with that stat what you may...

The Ravens organization has been looking for a signature win ever since the playoff victory over Pittsburgh in January of 2015. Sure, they've won a bunch of games since then, but they've largely played .500 football since capturing the Super Bowl in February of 2013. Last night's win was Baltimore's biggest regular season victory of the last four years and maybe the team's best defensive performance -- given the opposition and the stakes -- since Ray Lewis retired following the 2012 campaign. L.A. scored one touchdown and that came on a short field after a third quarter Kenneth Dixon fumble. Other than that, the Ravens blasted Rivers and his high-powered offense. They made Ray proud last night.

There's something about momentum in sports that's impossible to define. Where it comes from and how you get it -- and lose it -- is one of the great mysteries of our time. The Ravens were 4-5 after a November 4th loss to the Steelers. They were going nowhere. Now they're 9-6 and just one win away from not only a playoff spot, but the label of being "dangerous" in the post-season with their new-fangled offense and stifling defense. Yet, we all know what we've seen here for the last few years. The Saturday night defensive stand on the final series was a rare bird...more times than not, the defense hasn't held up its end of the bargain in those situations in '16, '17 and '18. It was good to see them experience a change of fortune last night. Maybe momentum is swinging their way, too.

I keep hearing the Ravens (and people associated with the team) say "No one wants to play us" and it's kind of borderline dumb, frankly. This isn't the CYO, where the U-12 Yankees have four kids who can throw 70 miles per-hour. It's the NFL. If a team makes the playoffs, they'll play anyone anywhere, anytime. Suggesting that you're suddenly so good (at 9-6) that other professional teams don't want to play you is the way you get beat. The players and organization should follow Harbaugh's lead on this one. He gets it. "We have to beat Cleveland. Period." That's the only comment players and staffers should make.

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show me the money

I'm two weeks away -- ten total picks -- from posting a winning regular season here at "Show Me The Money".

What's that mean? It means the obvious. Any dummy can pick NFL games and get it right. You just need a little knowledge, more than a little luck, and off you go.

Last weekend's 2-3 record puts me at 41-31-3 through 15 weeks. I did hit on last night's Ravens win over the Chargers, so I'm now 9-6 on the year in games involving John Harbaugh's team.

Let's get to my five games for today as I look to close out the creeps in Las Vegas and post a winning record on them for the regular season.

JAGUARS AT DOLPHINS (-3.5) -- I know it's really dangerous to get involved in a game where neither team really cares who wins or loses, so I'm going with the better team and just assuming they'll cover a 3.5 point margin. We'll take the Dolphins here, as they cover and beat the Jags, 20-16.

The Browns, minus 9.5 points at home vs. the Bengals today? Yes, please.

GIANTS AT COLTS (-9.5) -- Can the Colts pitch back-to-back shutouts of a NFC East team? I don't see that happening, but this one looks like a bit different than last week's win over Dallas. I'm still taking the Colts to win, but the play here is the Giants plus the 9.5 points as Indy wins 30-23.

BENGALS AT BROWNS (-9.5) -- Another 9.5 point margin. The last time these two teams met, the Browns beat the snot out of the Bengals in Cincinnati. I assume Marvin Lewis' team remembers that shellacking. Cleveland, meanwhile, is just looking to get better every week, with the playoffs now out of reach. I like the Browns today, as they put up a 4th quarter rally to win and cover, 24-13. Note: This is also our Best Bet of the Day selection.

PACKERS AT JETS (+2.5) -- Packers are away favorites in this one? Really? I know the Jets aren't all that good, but I'm hopping all over this one, as Green Bay plays out the string under an interim head coach. I'll take the Jets to win outright, actually, 29-25.

BEARS AT 49'ERS (+4.5) -- After a few weeks of surprising teams with decent performances, it's time for the 49'ers to go back to being bottom feeders. Chicago goes in there and opens up a can on them today. We'll take the Bears in an easy 27-16 win.





dale williams aims
the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

seton hall rallies late to edge terps

I can’t say that I’m all that surprised by Seton Hall’s victory over the Maryland Terrapins last night.

I knew the game would be closely contested, but I expected the home team to pull out a late win. The 7.5 points the lines makers gave to the Pirates were a gift, as Seton Hall beat the Terps 78-74 behind a game high 27 points from their star guard, Myles Powell.

Make no mistake when evaluating this Seton Hall team, they are very athletic and feature a legitimate “go to” scorer in Powell. They’re a good team.

But, when you play horrible defense for most of the game, miss critical foul shots, and get poor play from your ballhandlers during crunch time in a tight game, you won’t beat good teams. The Terps were guilty of all three and as a result wasted their last chance to gain a meaningful out-of-conference win.

Maryland gave up 48 second half points. Yes, a handful of those were the result of foul shots late in the game when the Terps were forced to put the Pirates on the line, but Maryland’s overall second half defensive effort, along with the lack of “D” during the first 8 minutes of the first half, put way too much stress on the rest of minutes.

The game started out very badly for Maryland. Seton Hall had an 11-point lead, 16-5, with only 4:30 gone in the first half. They were getting the ball inside at will, and connected on a couple of three-point shots. Meanwhile, Maryland couldn’t buy a three (they missed their first 7 attempts) and the rest of the offense wasn’t clicking either.

But the Terps rebounded from the early double-digit deficit by turning up the defensive intensity and by getting the ball into Bruno Fernando.

Despite an impressive first-half from Bruno Fernando, Maryland couldn't hold off pesky Seton Hall down the stretch on Saturday, dropping a 78-74 home decision to the Pirates.

Maryland’s fortunes changed when Mark Turgeon brought in Darryl Morsell, Ricky Lindo Jr, and Serrel Smith. Smith’s impact may have been negligible, but Lindo scored almost immediately and that was followed by a Morsell bucket. Meanwhile, Morsell was doing a credible job on the scoring machine, Powers.

Maryland then went on a nice roll offensively, led by the strong inside presence of Fernando. The big Terp center would post 13 first half points to lead the surging Terps to a 34-30 halftime lead. After giving up 16 points in the first 4:30, Maryland only allowed 14 points during the last 15:30 of the half. The Maryland lead could have been significantly bigger had the Terps not missed 7 of 8 three-point shots and done better than 5 of 9 from the foul line.

As they did in the first half, Maryland limped out to start the second. Their 4-point halftime lead was a 2-point deficit after only three minutes had elapsed. Maryland’s first 6 shots from the field in the second half were all three pointers and they hit just 2 of those.

Give credit to Seton Hall, they made a decision to front, double team, and even triple team Fernando. Bruno was denied touches inside, but still had 6 second half points to go along with 2 assists. The move forced Maryland to rely move heavily on their perimeter players, and those positions failed to perform with enough efficiency to catch the streaking Pirates.

Each team took turns holding small leads and the game was very much in the balance despite Maryland missing multiple scoring opportunities from the foul line. This is where the Terps needed their guards to step up, and this is when those players faltered.

After Seton Hall’s Myles Cale hit a jumper to give Seton Hall a four-point lead (the shot was part of Cale’s impressive 18-point second half), Anthony Cowan found himself trapped with the ball just inside the foul line. The Pirates were able to cause a turnover that lead to a layup by Cale. The lead was now four points and the bucket added to Seton Hall’s total of 16 points scored off of 10 Maryland turnovers.

Turgeon called timeout, but following the 30 second break, Cowan again found himself in trouble in the paint. This time his forced shot was rejected by Quincy McKnight. The Pirates failed to capitalize on the empty possession as their center, Sandro Mamukelasvil, was fouled, but missed the front end of his one-and-one.

An offensive foul by the Terp’s Jalen Smith ended Maryland’s next possession. After a foul by Morsell, and two successful foul shots by Powers, the Terps found themselves in a 6-point hole with less than two minutes remining.

The deficit proved to be too deep.

Although Maryland had two chances to tie the game with three pointers, both were missed. The first was missed by Fernando and the second was missed by Eric Ayala. Fernando’s miss was a wide open shot from the top of the key while Ayala’s miss came from the left wing and may have been shot a little early in the possession. After that miss, the Terps never really challenged the lead.

Powers and Cale were each a perfect 8 for 8 from the foul line and the visitors connected on 18 of 21 overall. Meanwhile Maryland went to the line 20 times, hitting only 12. That’s a 6-point disparity, and the Terps lost by 4.

In my pre-game column I wrote that Seton Hall would score inside as they have too many athletes that can handle the ball and finish. I mentioned that in order to beat the Pirates the Terps had to stop their three-point shooting. In the second half Maryland allowed Seton Hall to shoot 62.5 from the three-point line.

In the end, the Terp defense just wasn’t up to the task in the second half. They also missed way too many foul shots and their guard play down the stretch was extremely costly. Against a quality team with stellar point guard play, those three flaws spell defeat.

I’m really perplexed and disappointed with the play of Anthony Cowan. Regardless of his point total (15 vs. Seton Hall), he hasn’t been the leader that I expected him to be this season. The point guard position is so vital in college basketball, especially in tight games against quality competition. Cowan isn’t producing against the better teams.

In Maryland’s three losses, Cowan shot 27% from the three-point line and just 33% from the field overall. So far this season his assists per game have dropped, turnovers per game increased, and he’s not getting to the foul line with the same frequency as he did last year.

Some of that can be attributed to him now drawing the other team’s top backcourt defenseman, but for this team to be successful, he needs to be up to task.

Maryland’s losses this year have been to two All American point guard candidates, Myles Powers and Purdue’s Carson Edwards. They also lost to Virginia’s solid trio of guards. The college game is guard dominant. Despite having a front court that might rival any in the country, until the Terps up their guard game, beating quality teams is going to be a real challenge.

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drew's holiday gift to you

I never know what to get you all for the holidays.

Sizes, styles, all gets too much.

The great Dave Matthews.

And I'm really busy in January. I don't have time for returns.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a holiday CD for everyone. That first one was a compilation of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. I added one every day for a couple of weeks and produced my own basic "Greatest Hits" album for you to enjoy.

No one asked me for the receipt, so I didn't have to go back to the store and return any of them.

This is my second effort at a holiday CD and it involves the Dave Matthews Band, one of my favorite bands of the last twenty years.

I'll add two songs per-day over the next week so we'll have a nice, neat 14-song "Best of Dave Matthews" CD for you by Christmas day.

Now well into their third decade (wow), the catalog of Dave's music is vast and extensive. My selection of favorites from DMB range from oldies to a song that just appeared on the band's recent 2018 album, Come Tomorrow.

Today's additions are two of my favorites, naturally. The way I see it, if you can work War's "Why Can't We Be Friends" into the lyrics of a song, it has to be an all-time great, which is what Dave did on "Funny The Way It Is": "The evening comes and we’re hanging out. On the front step and a car rolls by with the windows rolled down. And that War song is playing, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”. Someone is screaming and crying in the apartment upstairs."

The other addition today is one of the best tracks from "Everyday" called "Fool To Think". I've seen DMB play this one in concert several times and I rank it as one of the best live versions of any song in their catalog.

I'll add two more songs tomorrow...

Week 16

Saturday — December 22, 2018
Issue #1581

Los Angeles Chargers

8:20 PM EDT

StubHub Center
Carson, CA

Spread: Chargers -4.0

it's (almost) all on the line tonight

Well, the Ravens might be playing for their lives tonight out in California but John Harbaugh's not coaching for his.

Merry Christmas, John.

24 hours before a nearly must-win showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers, the Ravens announced on Friday night that Harbaugh would be returning as coach in 2019. That news -- the timing of it, at least -- was met with equal parts delight and disappointment in Baltimore, where the fan base has seen the team miss the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

If they don't beat the Chargers this evening and the Titans beat the Redskins (today) and the Colts hold off the Giants (tomorrow), you can make that four straight playoff-less campaigns for Harbaugh and the Ravens.

For some reason, the Ravens felt it important to announce on Friday night that Harbaugh was returning. Curious timing to say the least...

Two days ago, local columnist Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun wrote that sources were telling him Harbaugh could still be out even if the Ravens made the playoffs this season. Was yesterday's announcement a fire-back at Preston, who has long drawn the ire of team executives? Maybe.

Still together...after all these years.

Or was it also a dagger thrown at Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who wrote six weeks ago that the Ravens and Harbaugh were going to "mutually part ways" at season's end?

The Ravens won't say what prompted yesterday's disclosure that Harbaugh will return for a 12th season in 2019, as the two sides continue to hammer away at a contract extension.

No matter the reasoning, though, this much is very, very clear: The Ravens are hitching their wagon to John Harbaugh. Win or lose tonight out in California, Harbs is back next season. Whether he retains Marty Mornhinweg, Wink Martindale and Jerry Rosburg remains to be seen, but the bet here is all three return in 2019 unless they leave for a better job elsewhere around the league.

Social media was lively on Friday as ticket holders who wanted Harbaugh gone reacted with their typical venom.

"PSL's for sale," one fan posted on Twitter. "If the team doesn't care if they win anymore and they're keeping Harbaugh, I don't care either. Who wants my PSL's?"

"Does Bisciotti watch the games?" another asked. "Two or three more years of bad clock management, terrible challenges and a coach who doesn't know how to draft talent. Thanks alot (sic) Steve."

And this, of course, coming with the Ravens currently at 8-6, playing a rookie quarterback for the last five games, and staying in the thick of the playoff race despite injuries along the way to key players like Joe Flacco, Ronnie Stanley and Marlon Humphrey.

Sure, they could get clobbered tonight in L.A. and miss the post-season and people will have a bone to chew on all spring. What happened to the "playoffs or else" credo Bisciotti (apparently) established with Harbs last January after that awful season-ending home loss to the Bengals?

On a personal note, to me, the Harbaugh extension makes sense, win or lose tonight. Playoffs or not, just up and firing the coach isn't always the answer, particularly if there isn't someone else out there who is obviously better.

I do think there must be consideration given to Lamar Jackson and his emergence as the team's starting quarterback in 2019. Is the Harbaugh-Mornhinweg duo the one you want grooming and ripening Jackson for his NFL career? Bisciotti apparently thinks so.

Someone asked me last night why this situation is different than the one Brian Billick faced in 2007 when he was ousted after going 5-11 -- just one season after a 13-3 record and an AFC North title.

I can't speak for Steve Bisciotti. Ultimately, he'd be the one best suited to answer that question. But my guess is the owner felt the team quit on Billick back in 2007. He had gotten all he could out of that group in 2006. The 2018 Ravens certainly haven't quit on John Harbaugh. I think everyone would agree with that.

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how drew sees tonight's game

I don't think Friday's announcement that Harbaugh is returning makes much different this evening out in Los Angeles. It might have made a difference if the players wanted the coach out, for example, but I can't imagine that's an issue in the Ravens' locker room.

So, this one plays out just as a football game, a big one, mind you, with the Ravens potentially sealing their fate with a loss and moving one step closer to a playoff spot and a potential division title with a win.

Things start off well for the Ravens in this one, as Jackson guides the team down the field on the opening series, mixing the run and pass effectively. The drive stalls inside the red zone, but a Justin Tucker 37-yard field goal puts Baltimore up 3-0.

It stays that way until late in the quarter when a Cyrus Jones punt return gives the Ravens prime field position at the L.A. 42-yard line. Five plays later, Jackson ducks in and out of traffic for an impressive 15-yard run that puts the ball on the Chargers' 5-yard line. Gus Edwards scoots into the end zone on the next play and the Ravens go up 10-0.

The Chargers finally get on the board in the second quarter, as Philip Rivers finds Keenan Allen on a 14-yard touchdown pass to cut the Baltimore lead to 10-7.

Jackson is hit and fumbles on the next series, with the Chargers scooping it up and taking it back to the Baltimore 15 yard line. With Jackson in the medical tent, Melvin Gordon catches a short 4 yard pass for the go-ahead score just before halftime. L.A. leads 14-10 at the intermission.

Then, the football gods take over.

Joe Flacco starts the third quarter behind center, as Jackson is out of the game with a concussion. Flacco's first series is perfect, as he goes 6-for-6, including two big throws on 3rd down, and his strike to John Brown from 11 yards out puts Baltimore back up 17-14.

It stays that way until late in the third quarter when Flacco guides the Ravens on a 12-play, 77 yard drive that culminates with a 4-yard over the shoulder TD throw to Mark Andrews and it's suddenly 24-14 in favor of the visitors.

The Chargers climb to within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a field goal, but Flacco and the Ravens aren't letting this one get away. Joe makes a huge 3rd and 8 throw to John Brown with six minutes remaining in the game and the Ravens extend their lead back to ten points on a Tucker field goal from 42 yards out.

And that's how it ends, as the Ravens hold on to beat the Chargers, 27-17.

And all heck breaks loose in Baltimore.

The guy who was Wally Pipp'd might have just Wally Pipp'd the guy who Wally Pipp'd him.

Do you believe in miracles?

Merry Christmas, Ravens fans.


dale williams aims
the terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his fourth season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2018-19 season.

terps host dangerous seton hall today

An athletic Seton Hall team with a 7-3 record will invade the XFINITY Center tonight at 5:30 pm to take on the Maryland Terrapins (9-2). Seton Hall notched a nice win on December 8th when they toppled the Kentucky Wildcats, 84-83 in overtime, behind 28 points from the high scoring guard Myles Powell, and a flurry of three point shots.

Powell’s 28 points against Kentucky led the team that day, as he was exceptionally deadly from behind the three point line, going 6 for 11. As a team, Seton Hall knocked down 11 of 26 three point attempts in that win. When you compare that to the combined 9-51 that they shot from beyond the arc in their three losses (Nebraska, St Louis, and Louisville) it becomes very clear what Maryland’s defense must do to stop the Pirates.

The Terps can’t let Seton Hall beat them from the three point line.

Seton Hall has multiple players who can get to the rim and stopping all of the penetration attempts is impossible, so if the Terps are to pull out the victory, limiting the outside shot is paramount. That all begins with defending Powell.

Maryland has to stop Seton Hall's talented guard, Myles Powell, tonight. Powell scored 28 points earlier this month in Seton Hall's win over Kentucky.

The 6’2” junior guard is currently 20th in the country in scoring with a 22.7 ppg average. When he heats up from long range, he can drop big points on an opponent. He has had games of 40, 30, and twice went for 28. Even when he is cold from the outside, Powell will still ring up numbers because he’s so fast with the ball off the dribble. When he gets inside, he can finish strongly, but he also has his flaws.

Powell will accumulate turnovers as quickly as he gets assists. He’ll also launch ill-advised shots from outside of his range. He averages taking 15 shots per game, with 9 of those being threes. Powell was the 2018 Big East Most Improved Player of the Year. Despite his athleticism and his 2 steal per game average, Powell’s highlights come on the offensive side of the court and I don’t see him as a “plus” defender.

Seton Hall’s interior in anchored by the 6’10”, 230 pound, Sandro Mamukelashvili. The Tbilisi, Georgia native (not the southern state, but the country bordering Armenia) loves to go outside. The Pirate big has hit 7 of his last 9 three-point tries, but he’ll also put the ball on the floor with drives and spin moves.

What I haven’t seen do Mamukelashvili in the three games that I scouted Seton Hall, was be an effective back-to-the-basket player. That might be because he is a former point guard who experienced a major growth spurt. His 10 point per game average comes mostly from put-backs, drives, and threes. They don’t run many sets that isolate him down low. Mamukelashvili’s 8 rebounds per contest lead his team. Defensively, he’ll go aggressively after the blocked shot, but he’s going to have his hands full stopping Bruno Fernando down low. Fernando just needs to make sure he doesn’t accumulate fouls while guarding Mamukelashvili away from the basket.

While Seton Hall has many interchangeable pieces, another starter whose game stands out to me is the 6’4” transfer from Sacred Heart, Quincy McKnight. McKnight has a style that puts me in mind of ex-Terp Rasheed Sulaimon. Similar in build, the junior showed me some hustle, tenacity, and solid defense. He’s making 39% of his three point shots and could make things tough for whatever Terp guard gets matched up with him.

Rounding out the Pirate starting line-up are senior forward, 6’8” Michael Nzei, and 6’6” guard Myles Cale. Both are athletic and play long, especially Nzei. NZei figures out ways to score inside, while Cale is more of a perimeter/slash guy. Nzei plays hard-nosed ball on both ends of the floor. I expect his match up with Jalen Smith to be a real battle.

Off the bench, Syracuse transfer Taurean Thompson offers 6’11” length, and solid scoring moves with the ball. He’s a former top 60 recruit with a ton of potential.

The Terps will have an advantage, offensively, inside with Fernando. They’ll need to exploit this frequently because it might be the only consistent advantage they’ll have today. That will require smart guard play to set up the deep entry pass. I’d also like to see Maryland run when they can, either by quick kick-outs off of a missed shot or pushed tempo from a turnover.

Because Seton Hall will fly around on offense and drive the ball hard with a slew of guys that can finish, Maryland must counter with equal defensive movement. It’s also absolutely vital that the Terps rebound the ball well on the defensive end. Second chance Seton Hall points will be disastrous today.

Seton Hall reminds me a bit of Penn State in that they can be prone to frittering away precious possessions. I’ve seen them have stretches where they are far from the most disciplined squad. This bodes well for the home team today.

Man to man, the match-ups could slightly favor Maryland if Morsell plays. The Fernando vs. Mamukelashvili match-up falls clearly to Maryland’s favor provided Bruno can stay on the court. Smith vs. Nzei looks fairly even on paper and might be where this game is decided. It’s a battle of the finesse and height of the freshman Smith against the strength and experience of the stronger senior, Nzei.

I see Morsell being pitted on Powell and that’s a win for Seton Hall unless Morsell can force Powers to downgrade his shot selection. Anthony Cowan should draw McKnight. As much as I like McKnight and have been very critical of Cowan’s play thus far, I’m giving this duel to the Terp point guard. I expect Cowan to get a boat load of assists today and severely hamper McKnight’s offensive output.

The last potential match-up would have Eric Ayala (or Aaron Wiggins) against Cale. This is a toss-up on both ends of the court for either Terp.

Does Maryland possess the kind of talent that allowed Nebraska to beat Seton Hall by 23 points early this season? In my opinion, they don’t. I see these two teams being evenly matched.

The Pirates coach, Kevin Willard, has done a very nice job this year after losing four starters from last season’s team that made it to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. They have a bunch of athletes that can attack the basket and occasionally drain threes. They will force Maryland to run extended sets on offense but will get careless at times when they have the ball.

If Seton Hall hits threes and hits the boards, they will walk out tonight with a win.

But this is an important game for Maryland and I expect them to be near their best.

Fernando should claim another double-double and Cowan could get 8 assists. The Terp defense will limit the Pirates to one shot on most possessions and, as a result, Maryland will earn a hard fought 64-61 win.

With the current line favoring Maryland by 7.5 points, I can’t give the home team the lean. However, it’s an important victory and a step in right direction as Turgeon seeks what could be a job saving trip to the big dance in 2019.

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drew's holiday gift to you

I never know what to get you all for the holidays.

Sizes, styles, all gets too much.

The great Dave Matthews.

And I'm really busy in January. I don't have time for returns.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a holiday CD for everyone. That first one was a compilation of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. I added one every day for a couple of weeks and produced my own basic "Greatest Hits" album for you to enjoy.

No one asked me for the receipt, so I didn't have to go back to the store and return any of them.

This is my second effort at a holiday CD and it involves the Dave Matthews Band, one of my favorite bands of the last twenty years.

I'll add two songs per-day over the next week so we'll have a nice, neat 14-song "Best of Dave Matthews" CD for you by Christmas day.

Now well into their third decade (wow), the catalog of Dave's music is vast and extensive. My selection of favorites from DMB range from oldies to a song that just appeared on the band's recent 2018 album, Come Tomorrow.

Today's additions are two unique songs that probably aren't on every rabid Dave fan's ultimate "best of" album, but they made mine with ease. Led Zeppelin had All of My Love and Dave Matthews has written and performed a number of slow, "love song" type tunes over the years. "Stolen Away on 55th and 3rd" is a catchy song from the 2005 album "Stand Up".

"You Never Know" was featured on the 2002 album, Busted Stuff, and gives off a Jethro Tull sound throughout. It's long been a favorite of Matthews, personally, who once said in an interview he felt the song's lyrics and meaning -- You Never Know -- connected with him in a special way. The band has played the song a lot in recent tours, including using it as the opening song a couple of weeks back in Washington D.C.

An interesting note about the version of "You Never Know" that you're hearing today on my holiday CD. It was recorded six years ago today, on December 22, 2012, in Philadelphia.

I'll add two more songs tomorrow...

December 21
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just two guys riding around in a car...

When I first released information about the car karaoke contest hosted by our friends at, I boasted that my entry was going to be unmatched.

That's not a feeling you get very often in athletics or any kind of competition, mind you. Knowing before you start that you're winning almost feels like cheating.

But I had good reason to feel that way. I brought a ringer with me to the contest.

No, I didn't have Philip Bailey in the car with me. Stevie Wonder wasn't sitting next to me. I didn't have that kind of ringer with me earlier this week when we filmed my car karaoke contest entry.

But, boy, did I have a ringer with me.

And so it goes that we're officially entered into the contest at There's still time for you to enter. And there's even still time for you to pull off a 1980 Olympics miracle and beat my entry, I suppose, but I wouldn't count on doing that. Second place isn't bad, remember.

If you do plan on entering a video before the end of the month, you need to follow some simple directions. All entries have to be in before December 31...December is National Car Donation Month at The Cause Network and

Here are the rules and details about the car karoake contest. Click here for all the details!

OK, here's your competition.

I don't have to say anything's all explained in the video below.


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best of baltimore 2018 is a pressbox hit

I love when I can read something sports-related and pick it apart.

"They picked who for that award?", I said to myself as I went through the year-end edition of PressBox's "Best of Baltimore 2018".

Funny, though, I didn't do that very often. They got it right nearly every time, although I'll admit there were lots of names I'd never heard of. Kendyl Scott, for example, won the publication's "Best Female College Athlete" award. She plays softball for Towson University.

The first thing that came to mind when I saw her name and selection was this: "They must not have allowed my buddy Glenn Clark to pick the winner in this category because he would have almost certainly selected a young lady from the University of Maryland."

UMBC's Jairus Lyles was quite the story last March when the Retrievers became the first #16 seed to beat a #1 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Clark, as it turns out, had a significant hand in the compilation of the categories and results. He and the rest of the folks at PressBox did a great job with this one.

They went with all things UMBC for the "big" categories like "Sportsperson of the Year" (shared between Ryan Odom and Jairus Lyles), "Best Upset" and "Best Team". That was one monumental win for the Retrievers last March when they dumped #1 seed in the NCAA hoops tournament and kudos to PressBox for getting it right.

Click here for the complete list of categories and winners from the year-end "Best Of" edition.

But there's no way I could possibly pass on this opportunity to nitpick. I have to find fault with a selection or two, right? Don't worry, I'll be nice, it's the holiday season after all.

In their Best Raven category, PressBox went with Justin Tucker. OK, Tucker's really good. And if you're going strictly on performance achieved vs. possible performance achieve, Tucker seems like a great pick since he hardly ever, ever misses a kick. There was, of course, a fairly important miss at the end of this season's New Orleans game that we all remember, but I'm not holding that against Tucker when I say he's not the best Raven of 2018.

Michael Pierce, not Tucker, is the Raven who has enjoyed the best season thus far in 2018. Frankly, I don't even think it's close between Pierce and anyone else on the team.

I also thought PressBox missed an obvious category and winner.

"Best local high school golf coach who once saved a fellow radio station employee's job after he failed to show up on the second day of employment."

I can't imagine who would have won that award, but I thought the category was worth having among the list. Next year, PressBox?

We can't bring you along without presenting #DMD readers the opportunity to choose a winner of a category we just created. What's Baltimore's "top" sports moment from 2018? In other words, what's the one story you'll remember most from Baltimore sports in 2018?


drew's holiday gift to you

I never know what to get you all for the holidays.

Sizes, styles, all gets too much.

The great Dave Matthews.

And I'm really busy in January. I don't have time for returns.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a holiday CD for everyone. That first one was a compilation of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. I added one every day for a couple of weeks and produced my own basic "Greatest Hits" album for you to enjoy.

No one asked me for the receipt, so I didn't have to go back to the store and return any of them.

This is my second effort at a holiday CD and it involves the Dave Matthews Band, one of my favorite bands of the last twenty years.

I'll add two songs per-day over the next week so we'll have a nice, neat 14-song "Best of Dave Matthews" CD for you by Christmas day.

Now well into their third decade (wow), the catalog of Dave's music is vast and extensive. My selection of favorites from DMB range from oldies to a song that just appeared on the band's recent 2018 album, Come Tomorrow.

Today's additions are one of the band's best live efforts (although the track I've added is the studio version), a fiery tune called "Drive In Drive Out". I once heard Dave Matthews say he and former violinist Boyd Tinsley came up with the lyrics and music while they were waiting for other band members to come back with carry out food during a recording session. "Drive In Drive Out" appeared on the 1996 "Crash" album, which peaked at #2 on Billboard's album chart.

The other song is from the band's "Everyday" album and is one of my personal top five DMB songs: "What You Are". Everyday was a #1 selling album for DMB in 2001.

I'll add two more songs tomorrow...

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December 20
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my hall of fame votes go to...

They didn't ask me to vote, but I'm doing it anyway.

The Baseball Hall of Fame asks that all ballots be in no later than December 31, 2018, so I'll get mine in a few days early in hopes my votes actually count.

I've included the "real" ballot of Ken Rosental to the right. You're allowed to vote for up to ten each year, and Ken, as you can see voted for ten:

The completed Hall of Fame ballot of Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

He selected the following: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Fred McGriff, Curt Schilling, Billy Wagner and Larry Walker.

All of those are fair selections, mind you. I'm not here to crush what Rosenthal thinks. He's been in and around baseball more than anyone else in the country, media wise, over the last two decades. I have great respect for his wisdom.

My ballot is significantly different. I have three names on mine: Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mariano Rivera.

That's it. No, I'm not voting for Derek Lowe, even though it pains me to leave him off the list. He's one of my favorite all time pitchers and he had a nice career -- and made lots and lots of money -- but a Hall of Fame player he was not.

Halladay, Martinez and Rivera. Those three get my vote.

I subscribe to the old school theory when voting for and agreeing on what makes up a Hall of Famer -- in any league or sport. Is the answer to this question "yes"? If so, you're in. If not, you aren't. Were you among the most dominant players at your position during the bulk of your career?

There are some tentacles to that question, of course. How long for example, does one's career need to be? Don Mattingly is always the best argument for this, like Sandy Koufax was back in his day. Mattingly had six amazing seasons where he put up league MVP type numbers. But is six years enough? For Mattingly, the answer was "no".

My three selections all dominated their position. Halladay was as good as any right handed pitcher we saw throughout his 16 year run. He won two Cy Young awards, won 20 games three times, posted several sub-3.00 ERA campaigns. Oh, and from 2003 until he retired in 2013, "Doc" never once walked more than 48 batters in a season (roughly 1.25 walks per-start).

Edgar Martinez was perhaps the best designated hitter baseball has seen, although Boston fans will try and throw David Ortiz in that category when he's eligible. He finished his 18-year career with a .312 batting average and .418 on-base percentage. He also hit 309 home runs. The last time I checked, the key word in designated hitter is hitter and that's what Martinez was, for certain.

Mariano Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball. Enough said on that subject...

I almost voted for Mike Mussina, Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones and Jeff Kent. But you can poke holes in all four of their stories, I think. Not huge, gaping holes. But a Hall of Famer should be, in my opinion, a complete, 100% slam dunk. If you're not a slam dunk, you don't go in.

I didn't vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. Why? You know why. They were known steroid users.

Those three were all great players, listed above in order of their greatness. But all three used PED's and anabolic steroids. I suspect Bonds and Clemens will someday get in, but that will be more about our society's lowering of common standards than anything else.

I'd never vote for them, but concede they'll probably get in.

In the meantime, let's focus on and honor three players who respected the game and deserve the accolades that Cooperstown provides for them: Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mariano Rivera. Hall of Famers!!

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thank you, everyone

For the 9th straight year, the men at Helping Up Mission in downtown Baltimore received an early Christmas treat yesterday, thanks to all of you!

We took 70 bags of clothing to HUM yesterday and the men (400'ish) made their way through the room and picked out personal items or items they'll use as gifts for loved ones during the holiday season that they otherwise couldn't afford or provide.

An army of people made yesterday's event happen, starting with my longtime friend and former radio co-host Glenn Clark, who continues to push this event into a bigger and better direction than I ever could on my own. I always feel like the proud papa bear when I see and hear Clark promoting this event every November and December. He does amazing work.

Brad Foxwell (left) and John Novak (second from right) brought their sons along on Wednesday to help distribute donated clothing to the men at Helping Up Mission.

We continue to enlist the assistance of my friend Brad Foxwell from Hughes Mechanical. Brad's truck does the most important part of the labor process. It carries 80% of the donated items from Towson to the HUM facility downtown. Brad brought his 13-year old son, Thomas, along this year to help distribute the clothing and learn about the importance of "giving back" to the community. Brad's a great man.

We were also fortunate this year to get some help from another friend, John Novak (Novak's Computer Services), who used his vehicle for more pick-up duties and brought his son along as well. We could never do this without people chipping in, so it was great to hear from John a week ago when he reached out and asked how he could be of assistance.

One of my dearest friends, Brian Hubbard, showed up yesterday with two dozen almost-new suits, sport coats and pieces of business attire. Upon graduation from Helping Up Mission, the men are furnished with a suit or sport coat, symbolic of their "re-entry" into the business world. The Hubbard donation (from Kelly Payroll) will go to almost immediate use at Helping Up Mission.

And then there's Tony Young, who helped start the whole Winter Apparel Drive nine years ago when he called into the radio show and suggested we give the clothes to Helping Up Mission. That started a decade long friendship between the two of us that roars on today. Tony was there yesterday helping get things organized and filming it all for our annual highlight video, which should be out in the next week or so.

If not for those guys I listed above, there would be no project like this come to its completion. They're the best.

I'd like to thank our friends at Glory Days Grill in Towson, UMBC Athletics and Chick fil-A Nottingham Square for serving as drop-off locations this year. Without a place to gather the donated items, we'd be in big trouble. Please support those fine people when you can.

My friend Don Mellinger and Site Support Services also gathered up donated items and we'll be dropping those off down at Helping Up Mission on Friday of this week.

Last, once again, I need to thank all of YOU who donated clothing. There's no Winter Apparel Drive without -- winter apparel. So thank you for taking the time to gather it and bring it to one of our drop off locations.

We're already making plans for next year's event, as we celebrate 10 years of donating clothing to the good men at Helping Up Mission.


drew's holiday gift to you

I never know what to get you all for the holidays.

Sizes, styles, all gets too much.

The great Dave Matthews.

And I'm really busy in January. I don't have time for returns.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a holiday CD for everyone. That first one was a compilation of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. I added one every day for a couple of weeks and produced my own basic "Greatest Hits" album for you to enjoy.

No one asked me for the receipt, so I didn't have to go back to the store and return any of them.

This is my second effort at a holiday CD and it involves the Dave Matthews Band, one of my favorite bands of the last twenty years.

I'll add two songs per-day over the next week so we'll have a nice, neat 14-song CD for you by Christmas day.

Now well into their third decade (wow), the catalog of Dave's music is vast and extensive. Today's two additions to the CD are "oldies".

"Granny" was supposed to be the first single from the band's debut album, "Under the Table and Dreaming" but it got shelved at the last minute and never actually appeared on an album. Still, it's become one of the most requested songs on the concert trail and the band plays it regularly to this day.

"Pig" is one of Matthews' best lyrical works, appearing on the "Before These Crowded Streets" album. It was originally called "Don't Burn The Pig", then shortened to just "Pig" days before the album's release in 1998.

I'll add two more songs tomorrow...

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

lethal weapon 8

Lamar Jackson, who’ll turn 22 a few days before this season’s AFC Championship game, is the greatest weapon in the NFL in 2018.

He isn’t the greatest quarterback, though I’m not sure anyone besides Dan Marino was the best quarterback in the league only five games into his starting career. He might never be the Most Valuable Player of the league or become the face of a franchise, whether it’s the Ravens or someone else. His game comes with more risk of injury than most at his position, though it should be noted that an injury to one of the more risk-averse players at the position allowed Jackson to take the starting role.

All fodder for the future, I say, a couple years down the road. Right now, Jackson is the player in the NFL for which you must prepare the most.

He will not carry the ball on every play, though he might carry it on any play. He is the only player in the NFL about which you can say that.

He misses open throws by a mile, clearly has small hands for a passer and defaults to a sidearm throwing motion for no reason. Yet, with the defense trying to spy on him and concerned about setting the edge, the middle of the field is wide open for slot receivers nearly 100 percent of the time. There is no other quarterback who has that luxury.

More than any other team in the NFL, the Ravens might run the ball on second down or third down no matter what the distance. Like every other coach in the NFL, John Harbaugh should forego punting on fourth-and-short more often, but now he has a reason to believe that’s a good idea, even down near the goal line.

Don’t forget the fact that Jackson is even faster with a football in his hands than you might have hoped. Yes, defenses can be designed to rein that in. And yes, there are defensive players who can catch him. This is the NFL, after all.

When he isn’t caught, however, Jackson turns seven yards into 14 yards. He can make it to the edge, and the first-down marker, even when he can’t get into the secondary. He has already gotten better at using that speed to get as much as he safely can before falling to the ground or going out of bounds.

As #DMD's David Rosenfeld points out, Lamar Jackson is the only current NFL quarterback who is a threat to carry the ball on every play.

Jackson is both predictable, in the sense that an RPO game is always predictable, and unpredictable, in that he doesn’t always make the same decision to pull it down and run on an imperfect called pass play.

The idea that five games of film is enough to “figure him out” doesn’t fly. Perhaps it’s enough to have figured out the Ravens’ run-heavy offense, but not Jackson specifically. He’s not Gus Edwards or Kenneth Dixon or Willie Snead; he’s the quarterback, he can do more and do it in different ways than those guys.

Sure, the current combined record of the four teams the Ravens have defeated during Jackson’s tenure as the starter is 19-37, and the one loss was to a playoff team, in the one game in this stretch where the Ravens had a difficult time keeping the opposing offense off the field.

That doesn’t mean that Jackson wasn’t the same weapon against Kansas City that he was this past Sunday against Tampa. The ultimate outcome of a game can turn on plays that have nothing to do with any one player.

There’s no way that John Harbaugh wanted Lamar Jackson to be his starting quarterback in Week 16 on the road against an 11-3 team with a playoff berth potentially on the line. In his dreams, I’m sure he’d rather have an 11-year veteran out there with his team having already clinched a playoff spot.

Right now, however, Harbaugh must be thrilled that Jackson’s going to be out there leading the offense at the soccer stadium against the Chargers on Saturday night. Considering the circumstances, who else would he rather have?

“GOOD!” as Harbaugh has taken to saying. And it’s actually true!

Here’s what’s not good. While Jackson playing is…well…good, a whole bunch else is terrible.

The Chargers are…um…good, could earn the AFC’s top seed in the playoffs, just came from behind to beat a terrific Chiefs team on the road and had three extra days off before Saturday night’s game.

The Colts get the 5-9 Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium, where Indianapolis has won five straight after losing its first two home games. The Titans’ only home loss was to the Ravens back in October; they host Josh Johnson (look him up from 2011) and the Redskins on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Saints haven’t been the same juggernaut over the last month, and the Steelers have to be headed to New Orleans with confidence they were lacking two weeks ago. New Orleans was fortunate to win close games against both the Browns and the Ravens; it’s almost like they’re bound to lose one game against the AFC North this season.

Lamar Jackson may be the best weapon in the game right now. Even better, he might play his best game on Saturday in Los Angeles. He might hold onto the ball, make few mistakes and continue to lead an unusually effective running game for an NFL team.

And despite that, by midnight Eastern time Saturday, the Ravens might be staring at a really difficult situation. Less than 24 hours later, when Saints-Steelers concludes at the Superdome, they might be staring at a meaningless final game at home against Cleveland.

“BAD!” as even the uber-positive Harbaugh will be saying if that scenario occurs.

A player like Lamar Jackson can certainly change a team, but he can’t control everything about the other team.

In the history of competitive sports, no matter how many superstitions have been tried by players or fans, nobody can control the outcome of a game being played by two other teams thousands of miles away. So, it’s important to think positively.

The Redskins, no matter who’s playing quarterback, are still very much in the playoff race, and they won a game on the road last weekend. The Giants were shut out on Sunday, so the law of averages says they’ll be much better offensively this week. Meanwhile, the Saints want home-field advantage like the Chargers, and the Patriots kind of stunk it up at Heinz Field more than the Steelers played like champions.

As for the Ravens, things are good. Lamar Jackson is an amazing weapon, and he’ll step onto the field on Saturday night knowing that the defense probably hasn’t figured out how to stop him. After more than a month, there’s no reason for us to believe otherwise.

December 19
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the "what if?" game?

This isn't the first time I've broached this subject, but with the circumstances being what they are, it's once again time to ask the question.

"What happens to John Harbaugh at season's end?"

It's become an especially intriuging question given what's transpired since November 11 in these parts. The team looks refreshed, revived and ready, perhaps, to own one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses.

But there's still this little thing left looming called "the playoffs". And that was, we think, the one condition John Harbaugh had to meet this season in order to return for his 12th season in 2019.

We don't know what we don't know, right? We don't really know if Steve Bisciotti set that standard as "must-do" back in August, but we can assume he did based on the owner's comments last January during the team's annual season-ending press conference.

For the purposes of this discussion, we're just going to assume the owner told the coach throughout the off-season, "You need to make the playoffs in 2018.....or else."

Fair enough. The Ravens are two wins away from doing just that. We can loosely assume if the Ravens beat the Chargers and Browns and finish 10-6, there's little choice for Bisciotti but to give Harbaugh a contract extension.

Editor's note: All of this presupposes that Harbaugh does, in fact, want to return as Ravens head coach in 2019, a point that seems almost undisputed at this stage. His daughter will be in her senior year of high school in 2019-2020, his wife loves Baltimore and Harbaugh, of course, doesn't want to disrupt his family at such a crucial time.

But now, let's play the "what if?" game. For that's when it becomes fun.

John Harbaugh was the first head coach Steve Bisciotti ever hired. Is it time for the two to part company or will Harbaugh return in 2019?

What if the Ravens go to L.A., play their hineys off, and lose 24-21 on a late field goal? The Colts and Titans both win on Sunday...and the Ravens are eliminated from the post-season.

Baltimore finishes out the season with a 30-17 thumping of the Browns to finish the campaign at 9-7 and lose out on the playoffs -- again -- by just one game.

What if?

How do you fire the head coach (and, subsequently, most or all of his staff) after the team rallied themselves from a 4-5 start to go 5-2 in the last seven games with a rookie quarterback?

The ultimatum was set back in the spring (apparently). It was there. "Playoffs or else".

But can you really fire John Harbaugh if the team went 5-2 down the stretch and lost close road games to Kansas City and Los Angeles during that run?

I'll concede this scenario might change if the Ravens do the unthinkable and beat the Chargers this Saturday but then lose to the Browns at home with their life on the line on December 30. That might present an entirely different picture of Harbaugh's future.

Losing at home to the Browns -- who most definitely are improved -- with a playoff spot at stake might be Harbaugh's last unforgivable sin. But if they lose to the Chargers and beat the Browns, finish 5-2 with Jackson at the helm, and lose out on the post-season by one stinkin' game, how do you fire Harbaugh?

I don't see how you can do that if you're Steve Bisciotti.

A wise guy said to me on Tuesday while we had this very discussion, "You fire Harbaugh because there's no way he and Marty Mornhinweg can produce a game plan that utilizes the strengths of Lamar. Those two can't win with Jackson as the quarterback."

"They can't?" I replied.

"Nope!" he shot back. "They can't."

"Ummmmm, in case you're unaware, they're actually winning with him right now. Those two are 5-2 with Jackson at the helm."

"Yep, but that's different," he said.'s different. I get it. This is just about firing Harbaugh and not really about whether or not Harbs and Marty can win with Jackson as their QB.

I'll play quarterback whisperer for a second and tell you why I think Harbaugh and Marty (and the rest of the offensive staff) might be perfect for Lamar going forward. I actually think they're less likely to mess with the kid's mechanics than, say, a newcomer would, along with his staff.

I don't think Jackson's mechanics need to be torn apart and rebuilt, as some have been suggesting. He's played "this way" for a long time. Weird, sidearm throws. Shoulders not always square to the line of scrimmage when he releases the ball...and so on.

There's an old saying in golf: "Beware of the guy with the bad grip and bad swing who shows up in the clubhouse and asks for a match with the club champion."

Jackson sorta-kinda fits that profile. He's had "a bad grip and a bad swing" since high school. He was decent enough in high school to get drafted in college. I'm sure there were many doubters back then.

"Throwing the ball like that will never work at Louisville" they probably said.

A Heisman trophy later, those same critics probably said, "Yeah, but he'll never be able to make it throwing like that in the pro ranks."

So far, so good. He's 4-1 in his five starts and would be 5-0 if the Ravens' defense would have manned up on the final series in regulation.

This is an off-the-path way of re-stressing that firing Harbaugh and Marty "because they can't get the best out of Lamar" might very well be an unfounded opinion. They might actually be perfect for him, frankly. Leave the kid alone and let his natural athleticism carry him, the way it has since he was 12, I'd suppose.

All of this circles back to the question of "What if?"

Can you really fire the head coach if the team goes 9-7 but becomes the talk of the league with their new age quarterback-running back tandem?

Oh, and just to throw one more log on the fire, how about this one?

Let's pretend the Ravens finish 10-6 and make the playoffs, only to go to Houston for the playoff opener and get run out of the gym, 33-16.

How is that scenario "acceptable" in terms of continuing Harbaugh's employment? Is it? I'm asking for a friend.

I could be wrong on this one, and certain things have to happen along the way over the next two weeks to put this in cement, but I don't see a legitimate reason to fire John Harbaugh at season's end.

I think he's done a masterful job of getting the Ravens to this point, honestly. And I think he deserves the opportunity to move forward with Lamar Jackson.

We can discuss the offensive coordinator another day...

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drew's holiday gift to you

I never know what to get you all for the holidays.

Sizes, styles, all gets too much.

The great Dave Matthews.

And I'm really busy in January. I don't have time for returns.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of creating a holiday CD for everyone. That first one was a compilation of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. I added one every day for a couple of weeks and produced my own basic "Greatest Hits" album for you to enjoy.

No one asked me for the receipt, so I didn't have to go back to the store and return any of them.

This is my second effort at a holiday CD and it involves the Dave Matthews Band, one of my favorite bands of the last twenty years.

I'll add two songs per-day over the next week so we'll have a nice, neat 14-song CD for you by Christmas day.

Now well into their third decade (wow), the catalog of Dave's music is vast and extensive. The sounds are different from, say, the band's 1994 work to today's offering. Even Dave's voice has changed, dramatically, over the last twenty years.

And that's how we're starting the holiday CD. The first song, "The Best of What's Around" was actually the opening tune on the band's very first album back in 1994. It's the first song any #DMB fan heard, assuming they listened to that debut album front to back.

The second song, "Why I Am" showcases Dave's older voice (2009) and also features the remarkable percussion work from Carter Beauford. Most Dave Matthews Band experts say Beauford's work on "Why I Am" is among the best in his career.

I'll add two more songs tomorrow...

Dave Matthews Holiday CD

The Best of What's Around

Why I Am

Happy Holidays !


remembering chris farley

I missed this one yesterday here at #DMD.

December 18, 2018 marked the 21-year anniversary of the death of former Saturday Night Live standout Chris Farley.

He would also go on to star in several movies, including the always-funny "Tommy Boy".

For whatever reason, the world of comedy has developed a penchant for losing talented people at a young age, including Farley, John Belushi, John Candy, Sam Kinison and lots more.

Chris Farley was really funny and really talented.

In keeping with our lighter, festive holiday mood, I thought you might enjoy this clip of Farley's most well-known SNL character, "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker".


December 18
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about that attendance "issue" in baltimore

You probably know this by now if you're even a casual Ravens fan, but half the stadium was empty this past Sunday when the home team sloshed their way to a 20-12 win over Tampa Bay.

It was the third consecutive home game where the empty seats were a real topic of concern, and this visit from Tampa Bay was the first of two games the Ravens tried to "sell" ten days ago as part of a season-ending pitch to fill the seats.

So much for the two-tickets-for-88-bucks idea.

We've spent the last couple of weeks here writing about the attendance, producing surveys, and trying to come up with our reasoned thoughts on why so many people in Baltimore are no longer going to the games.

Let's first re-emphasize this note so no one out there thinks the Ravens aren't fazed by what's going on in the stands. The team is very concerned about the empty seats. As well they should be.

Attendance is a tricky thing, especially when each NFL team brings in upwards of $250 million annually in TV revenue.

"Who cares how many people go to the stadium if you're getting $250 million." Right?


It's expected that owner Steve Bisciotti will discuss the team's attendance issues during the Ravens' "State of the Team" press conference sometime in January or February.

There's almost no doubt that live bodies in the stadium/arena/venue directly correlates to overall interest in the team. It always has and it always will.

When people stop showing up, the impact is felt in a variety of ways, including loss of food and beverage revenue, novelty and souvenir purchases and the all-important corporate marketing category.

Without betraying their confidence, I'm fairly close to the decision makers who are -- and have been for quite some time -- significant corporate sponsors of the Ravens. They spend in the neighborhood of $250,000 a year with the organization.

They are so concerned about the home attendance and what they perceive to be a rapid drop-off in interest that they're strongly considering "taking a break" from sponsoring the team to see how -- and when -- they go about seeing an attendance uptick again.

If a $250,000 sponsor pulls out completely, that's not a nick in the door...that's a full sized dent.

With very few exceptions (some would point to the Browns, circa 1994-95), teams that fill the stands and pack the stadium/arena aren't candidates for moving. We all know what happened right here in Baltimore back in the 1980's. People stopped going to the games and the maniac owner up and moved the team overnight.

These days, owners trying to leverage local and state governmental agencies for new or better stadium deals are the ones most prone to packing up and finding a new home. That's precisely how we stole the Browns from Cleveland in 1995.

But there's still one issue that doesn't change. When the crowds start dwindling, leagues get concerned.

That goes for any sport. The NHL shuttered the Atlanta franchise when no one down there went to the games for a couple of years. The Expos were an easy target for MLB owners once folks stopped going to the games in Montreal 15 years ago.

When people stop going to the games, something's wrong. There's almost no arguing that point. If 70,000 people used to regularly attend Ravens home games and now they're regularly seeing crowds of 50,000 or thereabouts, something has really changed in the way people value the product.

There are definitely plenty of excuses for the diminished crowds. Some are legitimate and some aren't.

Without question, the biggest reason in general that people aren't going to games as much -- and our survey questions back this up -- is they'd simply prefer to stay home and watch it on television. That goes for any sport.

That's a legitimate, easy-to-understand excuse. Staying home saves you time, money and aggravation. It turns a six or seven hour day (travel time, tailgating, fighting post-game traffic) into a three and a half hour devotion.

But at the same time, the leagues have created this massive catch-22. They'll rake in TV money and disperse it to the owners in the respective leagues, forgetting for a moment that there will be a long term impact down the road in terms of people realizing they no longer really need to be at the stadium/arena/venue in person.

The Ravens are a perfect example of this issue.

There are plenty of other reasons why the seats are empty in Charm City, but "staying home is a lot easier and cheaper" remains at the top of the list.

Excuses are plentiful.

"The team doesn't play exciting football."

That could be the case, but for the last three weeks, anyway, the home fans have been treated to the beginning of the Lamar Jackson era, and that hasn't done anything at all to percolate the team's attendance numbers.

Sure, people who aren't in the stadium are perhaps at least talking about the team on social media. But complaining about the team on Twitter doesn't help pay the bills at One Willing Drive.

"The team hasn't won anything in three or four years."

True. The Ravens last made the playoffs in 2014. But last season, with their playoff lives on the line down the stretch, there were 15,000 no-shows at each of the two final home games.

I feel comfortable saying there's almost no way the stadium will be filled for the December 30 home game against Cleveland, no matter the importance of that contest.

And this past Sunday's home crowd for the Tampa Bay game was one of the worst in recent history in terms of the "gate count" (tickets actually scanned/used).

I wouldn't have thought that possible a couple of years ago. But things have changed a lot in 2017 and 2018.

The weather has been used as an excuse a lot over the last couple of seasons.

"It's too cold."

"It's such a nice fall/winter day."

"It's raining."

Only six years after this moment in the AFC title game in New England, the shine appears to have worn off of the Flacco-Harbaugh combination in Baltimore.

There's no doubt weather impacts people going to the games. That's definitely true. But it doesn't -- or shouldn't -- turn a 70,000 crowd into a 50,000 crowd.

When 20,000 people who own tickets aren't going to the games, there's something really, really wrong.

This is not a criticism of the people who aren't going. You bought the ticket...if you don't want to go, don't go.

But it most certainly suggests that there's a legitimate problem when 67,000 people own tickets and roughly 50,000 of them are being used at every home game.

A friend of mine in the food business used this analogy last week and I thought it was really representative of what's going on with the Ravens.

"Let's pretend we start a mail-order shipment service for my restaurant," he says. "On the day we start it, our yearly in-store revenue is $2 million. This comes from customers filling up our 28-table restaurant six days a week."

"After six months," he continued, "we notice a significant increase in mail-order sales. Where we used to do $40,000 a week in store sales, we're now doing $30,000 in store sales and $10,000 via the mail order side."

"If at the end of the year, we're at $20,000 and $20,000, we'd definitely start making changes in our restaurant staffing, purchasing, etc.," he explained. "In other words, if customers stopped coming into our restaurant, things would naturally change. Employees would probably have their hours cut or lose their jobs completely. Eventually, we might find it much more profitable to just sell our food via direct shipment rather than having a store with rent, insurance, employees, etc."

"This is what's happening with the Ravens," he reasoned. "If people stop going to the games, what do they have? If people stop coming to my restaurant, what do I have?"

What the Ravens have, of course, is $250 million in TV money. But they used to have 70,000 people in the stadium AND the $250 million. Not so much these days.

And as they try and figure out how to fix it in Owings Mills, the games keep coming and going and the empty seats keep piling up.

These days, it's safe to say the Ravens have a multi-pronged problem.

They have longtime fans, PSL owners from way back, who are no longer going to every game. They're leaving their seat(s) empty.

They have a few thousand unsold invididual tickets for each home game that are becoming nearly impossible to sell. Last Sunday's game, according to the official attendance report, was NOT sold out, for example.

And they have a growing number of people who would be happy to sell their PSL and season tickets to someone...if only they could find that someone to sell them to.

The Ravens are worried about why people aren't coming, yes. But I'd say they're far more concerned with how to get new people into the stadium.

More media members keep bringing up the attendance because it doesn't seem to be improving.

The sponsors get concerned.

PSLs become impossible to sell or "move" because there's no demand at all for the tickets.

Everything centers on the one constant: People just aren't as interested in going to the games anymore.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

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

It's the best of times, it's the worst of times.

The Ravens beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday to claim their fourth victory in five games and push their record to 8-6. They control their own destiny for the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs, and are still in the hunt for the AFC North championship.

On the other hand, the Steelers victory over the Patriots leaves the Ravens in a difficult position, and if they don't manage to pull off a road victory against a Chargers team that might be the AFC's best this Saturday night (with Los Angeles having a long week to prepare coming off of Thursday night football) they could end Week 16 eliminated from the playoffs entirely.

And I'm weirdly ambivalent about that, honestly.

There's no real disappointment about the fact that actually making the playoffs at 9-7 is pretty unlikely, but there's not much excitement at the prospect of an unlikely playoff run either. But I wouldn't say that's because I'm disinterested or don't care by any means.

I guess I'm just enjoying each game for what it is without much thought to the bigger picture.

Maybe that's because finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs is exactly what I've expected them to do since they fell to 4-5 last month. Maybe I'm just enjoying watching football games without Joe Flacco as a starting quarterback.

In any case I'm enjoying the ride and I'm happy to go wherever it takes us, for better or worse.

Back to the bullet points this week:

-Say what you will about the Ravens' offense, but it's undeniable that they have an identity right now. That's something that you really couldn't say about them for quite some time. In theory they wanted to be a running and downfield playaction based offense, but that rarely happened.

It might take occasional prodding from John Harbaugh, but Marty Mornhinweg (left) has developed a run-heavy game plan that seems to be confounding the opposition and using the talents of both Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards.

They were always at the top of the league in pass attempts, but with concepts that didn't really have any coherent philosophy to them. They weren't a West Coast team, they weren't an Air Raid team, they didn't even seem to have a real philosophy or plan of attack from one possession to the next quite often.

I'm not sure who takes the blame for that, but it was certainly a long running problem to the extent that you think these things matter.

That's changed in a big way over the past five games.

They've run for 200 yards or very near that in each of those contests and, more tellingly, they've exceeded 40 running plays all five weeks. If nothing else, this is now an offense that knows what it wants to do when it has the ball and is able to stick with a coherent gameplan for the course of the game.

You might even argue that no game better shows that than this week: The Ravens weren't especially impressive in the running game in the first half and at times Tampa Bay had them bottled up near the line of scrimmage. They only led 10-9 at the half..and could have been down by a much larger margin without some good luck.

But they stuck with the basic game plan, and it worked exactly how it's supposed to in theory. The Ravens dominated time of possession in the second half, and the Tampa Bay defense was visibly wearing down with each running play.

Individual runs got more and more effective the longer the game went on and the longer the Bucs' defense was forced to stay on the field. It reminded me a lot of the "three headed monster" 2008 team that won 11 games and made the AFC Championship game...and not for the first time.

-Before we get to Lamar Jackson, who seems destined to be the town's biggest topic of conversation from now until next September at least, let me offer some credit for Marty Mornhinweg. I've been a strident critic of "Martyball," and I don't want to give the impression that I'm a fan all of a sudden, but fairness does compel me to say that he's doing an increasingly good job of designing offensive gameplans for the Jackson led offense.

There's sticking to the run, yes, but in addition to being able to execute that gameplan, Mornhinweg is also peppering in some genuinely creative plays that he's calling at the right time, particularly when it comes to playaction passes that have gotten receivers WIDE open at times.

Some of them haven't worked out due to off the mark throws by Jackson, but that's not something you can pin on the coordinator. Sunday's touchdown "pass" to Chris Moore was a similar play.

When you break the play down, it's really just a basic counter trap. But having Jackson show a speed option motion before tossing the ball to Moore, who at first glance looked like a receiver moving to block down to get the play outside to the offense's left, was a very creative wrinkle that added an extra layer of deception and clearly flummoxed Tampa Bay.

All of that said, it wouldn't be Marty if there weren't some downright terrible playcalls that were nothing short of inexplicable. There were still too many passes on 2nd and 7 type situations for my tastes, but the really egregious plays were the two jet sweep calls that preceded that touchdown by Moore.

I mean, when your base offense is a read option look, the other team's base defense entails having linebackers staying home on the edges until they know where the ball is going. With that in mind, what exactly would make you think that a straight sweep by a wide receiver would find open running room as opposed to running right into those edge linebackers? And surprisingly, that's exactly what happened!

For as good of a job as he's doing overall, every game is still a nerve wracking exercise in wondering when Marty is going to dial up a truly terrible playcall that might turn the course of the entire I guess you can't say he's boring at least!

-Oh, let me interject a note on John Harbaugh: With their 8th win of the season, the Ravens have secured another season in which they will not lose more games than they win in the Harbaugh era.

After 11 years with the team, Harbaugh literally has as many seasons that have ended with a Superbowl championship as have ended with a sub-.500 record. I'm up in the air on what I think Harbaugh's future with the team should be, and I understand a lot of the arguments put forward by critics who blame Harbaugh for the team's overall mediocrity over the past 6 seasons. many Superbowl victories as losing seasons. In 11 years.

That's just a remarkable feat that deserves some real recognition, and in a coaching intensive league I don't know how you easily write that off and decide that you like your odds of finding a replacement who can do better than that.

-Alright alright, let's talk about Jackson. Truth be told, I don't think there's really much to say about him that hasn't been said over and over at this point. This week's game was basically exactly what we've seen from him for weeks now.

The Ravens are five games into the Lamar Jackson era and it's safe to say no opposing defense has yet to figure out how to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore running attack.

Obviously there's a big impact on the running game, and again the read option based ground attack came just short of averaging a full 5 yards per carry. The Ravens ran a lot more than they passed, and no one was confusing Jackson from Brady or Brees by any means.

That said, there were some very good passes as well.

One saw Jackson stand in the pocket under pressure and fire a ball to the outside shoulder of Mark Andrews that effectively threw the tight end open. Another saw him perfectly place a throw to Willie Snead against zone coverage. But again, there were ugly passes too. At this point that's Jackson at his best when he's throwing the ball: He struggles with quick reads and throwing the ball to the outside like a lot of rookies, but he's perfectly capable of making a great throw too.

And if the formula of running for 200 yards a game and playing good defense continues to work, that's a perfectly workable style of play for a quarterback. Especially when you consider his ability to take passing plays where the opposing defense gets good pressure and, thanks to his ability to make guys miss, turn them into big running plays.

And to borrow a point a commenter made weeks ago (I think it was RJ but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) one big thing the Ravens have working in their factor right now is that NFL defenses simply are not built to defend the offense they're running.

Years of focusing on stopping pass heavy offenses helmed by big armed pocket passers with pinpoint accuracy has put a premium on pass rushers on the defensive front and linebackers who can rush the passer or cover in space.

An offense that wants to run the ball 40-50 times a game, and will have the option of handing the ball off to a back up the middle or turning Jackson loose to the edge on the vast majority of those plays, is an offense that a defense built to defend Tom Brady or Jared Goff is not going to be well suited to adjusting to.

And as an added bonus: Unless a bunch of other teams decide to copy this offense, which is unlikely since there aren't many Lamar Jackson's available, they really can't afford to make a decision to tailor their defense to stopping the Ravens. A lot of arguments over the sustainability, or lack thereof, of this philosophy are missing the possibility that the Ravens might have found themselves a bona fide way to exploit the market for an extended period of time.

-Speaking of pass rushers....I sure hope the Ravens recognize that they need to get some better ones this offseason. This has been a standout problem for years now, and is a constant feature of discussions over the team's defensive deficiencies since 2016.

It's not that they can't get pressure at all or anything, but they're very reliant on complex blitz patterns to do it. When they go to a four or even 5 man base rush, either because they're forced to or choose to, it's a recipe for disaster.

We've seen it more than once when opposing offenses go to no huddle pace in the 4th quarter, but also when the Ravens have faced 3rd and long scenarios that call for additional bodies in coverage and a more basic pass rush. This week it was a 3rd and 20 on which the not particularly mobile Jameis Winston was able to dance his way outside the pocket, avoid Terrell Suggs, and heave the ball downfield to Mike Evans for a big play and critical conversion.

In addition to the infamous 4th and 9 play, Patrick Mahomes had a similar 3rd-and-forever play in Kansas City. And the common thread is that they just don't have pass rushers who can consistently beat blockers one on one and get to the quarterback in these scenarios.

-Eric Weddle was again in the mix of nearly all of the team's worst plays this week, and missed a gimme interception early on. On the other hand Marlon Humphrey, who Weddle tried to give some veteran "tough love" to a few weeks back after the second year corner got some much deserved praise in the media, was an absolute beast.

In related news, Eric Weddle is firmly in the running for the title of my least favorite Raven ever, and I don't think there's any reason for anyone to seek out public comment on him from much of anything at least until he stops being a massive liability on the actual playing field.


anyone up for car karaoke?

Our friends at MyRideMyCause have come up with a really cool idea to celebrate National Car Donation Month.

They're hosting a car karaoke contest, with five winners receiving prizes that they in turn can donate to their favorite charities.

Here's the good news. This is a GREAT contest. You and your friends can have a blast with this!!

Bad news? First prize is already gone. I'm winning it. You'll see!

But if you want to get in and compete with me and the others around the country who are putting together their best car karaoke videos, please join us! This is going to be a lot of fun.

I've included a sample car karaoke video for you below. It gives you an idea of what you need to do. You'll also find directions on how to submit your video and participate in the contest.

Oh, and I'll go one step further!

Any #DMD reader who submits their car karaoke video in the contest can send it to me for publication here at Drew's Morning Dish. And every #DMD reader who submits a car karaoke video in the contest will go into a special drawing. We'll pull one name at random and you'll win a night at Maryland basketball with me and our outstanding Terps writer, Dale Williams. We'll get down to College Park for dinner beforehand and you'll sit with us during the game (great seats, too!).

So, for starters, here are the rules and details about the car karoake contest. Click here for all the details!

And below you'll find a sample video of what your submission MIGHT look like. You can also go to YouTube and just type "car karaoke" in the search bar and you'll be in car karaoke heaven.


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December 17
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it's nail biting time

This can't possibly surprise anyone. It was always going to come down to one game.

For the Ravens, it's coming down to two games, actually, but this one coming up on Saturday in Los Angeles is the game at this point. We'll worry about the Browns next Sunday morning.

The road would have been much easier had the Steelers not done the near-impossible (for them, anyway) and defeated New England yesterday. That one really left a mark.

Let's pick up the energy in the room and start with the good stuff.

The 35,000 of you who braved the drizzle on Sunday in Baltimore were treated to yet another victory by the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens. Like the other three wins he's been a part of, it was a mixed bag offensively, with the Ravens only scoring two touchdowns against a pretty dismal Tampa Bay defense. But this game, of the four he's won, was the one Jackson impacted the most, particularly in the second half.

The Ravens owe a nice gift card to the NFL schedule maker. While it's true you can only play the teams they put in front of you, this late-season run of delapidated defensive units the Ravens have faced since Jackson took over on November 11 has been quite beneficial. To wit, the Ravens ran the ball for 242 yards against Tampa Bay yesterday. Gus Edwards had 104 of those. A Wet Paper Bag had 78 yards. They couldn't tackle him, either.

I watch these games sometimes and marvel at how a team wins any games in the league. How on earth Tampa Bay beat anyone this season is a complete mystery.

Even though he failed to reach the 200 yard mark in passing for the fifth straight game, Lamar Jackson was once again a dual-threat on offense, as he led the Ravens to a 20-12 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

That said, if the Buccaneers could have caught the football in the opening 15 minutes yesterday, they coulda, shoulda, woulda been up 14-0 right away. The second play of the game was a sure touchdown if Chris Godwin doesn't drop a perfectly thrown ball at the Baltimore 35 yard line. And on the Ravens' second offensive series, Jackson threw the ball directly into the hands of Tampa Bay defender Riley Bullough, but he too couldn't gather it in. It would turn out to be that kind of day for the visitors.

Meanwhile, the Ravens offense took a full 30 minutes to get into gear, then steamrolled the give-up-mode Buccaneers defense in the second half.

Jackson played every offensive snap. Earlier in the week, trying to soft-peddle his way through the Joe Flacco-demotion, John Harbaugh stressed there would be a role for Joe "moving forward". Joe's role on Sunday was to try and not get wet standing on the sidelines.

Even after an unsettling first quarter, which brought out some boo birds after Jackson fumbled a snap from center and gave Tampa Bay decent field position, Jackson steadied himself and looked the part throughout most of the rest of the afternoon, leaving Joe on the bench to look up at the scoreboard and see how the Giants were faring against the Titans in New York.

The most obvious occasion for Flacco to be used turned out to be a shining moment of sorts for Jackson, who engineered a late second quarter drive that boosted the Ravens to a 10-9 halftime lead. While some thought the two-minute-offense was better suited for Joe than Lamar, Flacco stayed on the bench with his ski cap on and Jackson neatly guided the team down the field, making throws and running wild against a confused Tampa Bay defense.

It's fair to nitpick that Jackson could only get the Ravens into field goal position, sure, but just earning a lead at the half was a positive thing for the rookie and the Ravens. Rome wasn't built in a day, remember.

So Flacco's role appears settled at this point. He's not playing unless Jackson completely stinks it up for some extended period of time during a game or gets injured. Other than that, the Ravens have turned the team over to the rookie.

It's safe to say Joe Flacco has been Wally Pipp'd.

The AFC playoff picture is interesting to say the least. Pittsburgh's surprise win over New England puts them at 8-5-1 and if you're willing to grant them a loss at New Orleans next week and a win over Cincinnati on December 30, that leaves Mike Tomlin's team at 9-6-1 to end the season.

For the Ravens to win the division, they'd have to beat both L.A. and Cleveland. And the Browns, while hurt in a big way by yesterday's Pittsburgh win, could still come to Baltimore and impact the playoff race by beating the Ravens on December 30.

The Colts and Titans are both 8-6, but they can't both finish at 10-6 because they play one another in the regular season finale in Nashville. That said, because Indy hosts the Giants and the Titans host the Redskins next week, one of those two is likely finishing 10-6. That means the Ravens have to win out, in all probability, or hope the Bengals somehow upset the Steelers on December 30 (assuming Pittsburgh loses at New Orleans next Sunday).

Got all of that?

It's not really all that confusing for the Ravens. Really, it isn't.

If they win their final two games, they're in the post-season.

If they lose at L.A. next Saturday, they'll need a number of things to shake out their way -- miracles, almost -- in order to play January football.

At stake are lots and lots of things.

It seems likely that John Harbaugh gets a contract extension if he navigates this team -- with a rookie quarterback at the helm for the second half of the season -- to the playoffs. That means, of course, we'll get another season (or more) of Marty Mornhinweg running the Baltimore offense.

It would appear this second half surge seals the fate of Joe Flacco in Baltimore as well. I guess there's an argument that had Lamar Jackson dipped his toe in the water and looked completely out of his element after taking over on November 11, the Ravens might have been forced to keep Flacco around in 2019.

At this point, for better or worse with Jackson, the Ravens might as well go ahead and try and move Flacco in the off-season.

I can't imagine Joe's going to get traded. Why would a team trade for Joe when they know the Ravens are going to cut him on June 1st?

All of that stuff is eye wash though. What's important now for the Ravens is going to Los Angeles on Saturday and beating the Chargers, who just last Thursday night did what John Harbaugh's team couldn't do to the Chiefs. It might be suggested that L.A., not Kansas City, is the AFC's most well-rounded team at this point. The Chargers could wind up having home field throughout the AFC playoffs if they win their final two and the Chiefs stub their toe along the away.

The Ravens need two wins. It's that simple. But it's certainly not going to be simply done.

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"The Keen Eye" of David Rosenfeld

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

weekend observations


Gus Edwards

Sometimes you find a player who just fits into the situation you have at the moment, as opposed to one who was the obvious choice the whole time.

A power running game needs a power runner. A run-pass option game necessitates a runner who communicates well with the quarterback. Any team wants a runner who, even if nothing is there, seems to get one or two positive yards as opposed to one or two negative ones.

Gus Edwards certainly fit the profile of the power runner before he ever became a featured back. What we didn’t know is that he’d look like he’d been playing with Lamar Jackson for years, and just how good he’d be at finding something out of nothing.

It’s easy, of course, to place all the responsibility for Edwards’ success on the shoulders of Jackson. On any play where the two of them get together, unlike any other team in the NFL, the quarterback might legitimately keep the ball.

Still, Edwards hasn’t just run the ball through big holes, though those have certainly been there. He’s fit his big frame through tiny gaps, he’s bounced off tacklers for first downs, and he’s given full effort on every play without trying to do things he can’t do.

It was only fair, then, that Edwards clinched Sunday’s game against Tampa with a season-long 26-yard run before the two-minute warning. A guy who’s made lots of small “big plays” over the last five weeks rewarded the drenched crowd and his teammates with a truly big gain.


The monitor

Kansas, currently ranked No. 1, hosted No. 17 Villanova in a great intraconference college basketball matchup on Saturday. The Wildcats, who just lost to Penn, outplayed the Jayhawks for much of the game and then nearly came back in the final minute before losing.

About that final minute, though. It’s just awful what college basketball officials and their reliance on the courtside monitor and replay do to a game.

In Saturday’s game, the refs went to the monitor three times in the final minute to look at the clock. There was no reason for any of the stoppages of play; there were no mistakes made in any of the situations.

Unless there is an obvious and noticeable error, there is simply no reason for the officials to spend two minutes at a monitor to change the game clock from 0.5 seconds to 1.0 seconds. Stopping the clock, whether done by a ref’s whistle in many modern arenas or by an operator at the scorer’s table, is done by a human being. There’s no such thing as perfection.

If the official is certain the ball went out of bounds off a player on one team, there is no reason to confirm that just because it is the final minute of the game. Why should the role of the official be different in the final minute than at any other time?

Then there’s the fact that a team with no timeouts gets two free timeouts because of unnecessary reviews. But that’s a whole other story…



Baker Mayfield and the Browns were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday but they could still finish at 8-7-1 by beating the Bengals and Ravens in their final two games.

After Saturday night’s 17-16 win for the Browns over the Broncos, fans in Northeast Ohio may have been surprised to learn that their 6-7-1 team was still in the hunt for a playoff berth. ESPN listed the terribly unlikely scenario by which the Browns could earn a wild card, assuming they could win their final two games against the Bengals and Ravens.

Sadly, the dream ended when both the Titans and Colts won on Sunday; since those two teams play each other in Week 17, one of them is going to get to at least nine wins.

And then, a second dream ended when Pittsburgh beat New England, thus making an even more unlikely AFC North title impossible for the Browns. Even if both Pittsburgh and Cleveland were to finish 8-7-1, the Steelers would hold the tiebreak thanks to a win and a tie against the Browns.

All kidding aside, the Browns look to have finally picked well at first-round quarterback when they chose Baker Mayfield over Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and others. He’s got a certain craziness about him, which we saw at Oklahoma, but he also has the talent to back it up. Eventually, he’ll have enough players around him to be a star.

With the Ravens underdogs to beat the Chargers on the road next week, and Pittsburgh’s big win against the Patriots, the matchup with the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium in two weeks will be a big one for Baltimore even if it isn’t for Cleveland.



Weather records in Baltimore go back to the 1870s. If you weren’t aware, it’s already been a month since we surpassed the record for the wettest calendar year. The amount of rain in the area this year compares favorably to the average amount in tropical South Florida.

The rain pelted down on M&T Bank Stadium Sunday; it marked the third of seven home games this season for the Ravens where that was the case. Seeing as it’s December, the temperature was colder than it was for the season opener against Buffalo or the Week 3 game against Denver.

There was a point in the first quarter when the camera panned to John Harbaugh, as usual trying to look tough by wearing the rain jacket but not the hood, instead staying with just the ballcap. His look of pain and annoyance was clearly with the rain, not with his team.

It’s easy to suggest that NFL receivers ought to catch the ball when it’s in their hands, that the quarterback ought to grab a good shotgun snap without any issues, or that tacklers ought to face up ball carriers and always make the play.

Still, it’s impossible to prepare for the exact conditions you’ll face when the ball is kicked and the game is live. Sunday’s game started at 1:00; by 2:00, there had already been seven or eight plays that would have been different on a dry day.

It rains plenty in Tampa, it’s been a wet year at games here, and the teams still weren’t ready for it.


3rd or 4th and long yardage

Ravens fans, including me, don’t watch almost every play of every game of the other 31 NFL franchises. Obviously, statistically, the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the game.

Still, it really seems like Wink Martindale’s defense has the penchant for not making the plays you’d expect any NFL defense to make. The long pass from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans on third-and-20 late in the first half of Sunday’s game was a notable example.

We know that the Ravens, earlier this year, had an astonishing 11 quarterback sacks in a shutout win over the Titans in Nashville. We saw Matt Judon sack Oakland’s Derek Carr on three consecutive plays a few weeks back.

The truth is, however, that the Ravens don’t have a stellar pass rush most of the time. And, for whatever reason, they’ve been particularly mediocre at getting the quarterback on the ground when they’ve had the chance.

When the quarterback breaks the pocket, any structure disappears, for both the offense and the defense. Anything can happen. With the athleticism of NFL players, and the technique taken by defensive backs these days, something often does.

Honestly, fans of the Ravens ought to be more understanding of big plays on long yardage situations than any other team. Lamar Jackson is living proof that not every huge play needs to be a perfectly run route or a perfectly blocked run.

In other words, the fans of the other team must be shaking their heads too when an impossible situation for the Ravens turns into a first down.


please join us tonight - and bring your coats!

For the ninth straight year, I'll be teaming up with Glenn Clark for our annual "Holiday Clothing Drive" to help the men -- and women -- of Helping Up Mission. Yes, the soon-to-be finished women's facility at Helping Up will need help too! And we're going to lean on all of you again this year to help make someone's holiday special in 2018.

Glenn and I first started this effort back in 2010 when we were on the air together at a Baltimore radio station. He and I joke about this all the time: That first year, we collected 440 coats and pieces of winter clothing! We strolled into Helping Up Mission like we were a big deal that day, lugging in about 20 bags of clothing.

Last year, we took over 4,000 pieces of clothing to Helping Up Mission!

We loaded over 100 bags of clothing into the back of my buddy Brad Foxwell's truck.

We're ready to top that number this year. But we need YOUR help.

Helping Up Mission has come a long way since this photo was taken in the 1950's and so, has our annual holiday apparel drive.

Take a minute today clean out your closet or go through your clothing racks and pick out some things you no longer wear or no longer fit. Just yesterday, I dug about 25 items in my closet. And I know I can find more!

We need men's coats, jackets, sweatshirts and any other piece of new or gently worn apparel you can donate. We'll also take any kind of women's clothing. And, yes, we'll even take children's clothes. A lot of the men (and women, eventually) at Helping Up Mission use the donated items as holiday gifts for loved ones they're not able to support and provide for while they're in the facility getting their life back together.

Tonight, Glenn and I will be at Glory Days in Towson from 5 to 8 pm to collect clothing. It's $5.99 burger night, for starters, which is always a great reason to visit Glory Days, and Glenn and I will have some more "treats" for anyone dropping off items this evening.

If you can't make it to Towson tonight, Glenn and I will be at Chick fil-A at Nottingham Square in White Marsh on Tuesday evening (Dec. 18) from 5 to 8 pm.

We'll be taking everything to Helping Up Mission on Wednesday, December 19, with a full video of the day's events published here at #DMD so everyone can see the happy faces as the clothes are displayed and the men come in the room to choose their jacket, shirt, etc.

Please help us make this a successful event. Without you donating the items, we can't make it happen!

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Week 15

Sunday — December 16, 2018
Issue #1575

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, MD

Spread: Ravens -8.0

with browns surging, ravens need a win today

I've been worried about this particular game for a month.

But now I'm concerned about it for a different reason. I can't even believe my fingers are typing this next sentence. I'm worried about this game because of the Cleveland Browns.

I know. You probably spit out your Royal Farms coffee just now, right?

Don't laugh, because here's the deal.

If the Ravens don't beat the Buccaneers today, they'll most likely have to win their last two games just to have a shot at the AFC North crown. Pittsburgh could win it, still, and now, so too could the Browns, who beat Denver yesterday, 17-16, to move to 6-7-1 on the season.

Cleveland plays at home next Sunday against Cincinnati. It would be the Browns-thing to do to lose to the lowly Bengals, but let's pretend Baker Mayfield and Company take care of business. Cleveland would then come into Baltimore on December 30 with everyone's season on the line, perhaps.


But first, the Ravens have to take care of this game today against Tampa Bay.

And I've been worried about this one for a while, well before Lamar Jackson took over as the starting quarterback. Jackson only adds to the concern, if for no other reason than another week has gone by that's provided the opposition with a chance to watch the rookie QB on film.

Can Jameis Winston and the Bucs go into Baltimore and help spoil the Ravens playoff chase?

Tampa Bay comes in with a high-powered offense, nothing at all to play for, and a quarterback scenario that scares the heck out of me.

Yes, the Ravens have played well recently. They've won 3 of 4 and are in prime position to potentially capture the AFC North if they win their final three games (two of three could do it, actually).

But this Tampa Bay team reminds me a lot of that Bengals squad that came into Baltimore in last season's final game and beat the Ravens.

What concerns me the most is the possibility that Jameis Winston stinks it up in the first half and the Bucs make a QB change at the intermission. In comes Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw three second half touchdowns and lead a comeback that crushes the 50,000 or so who are likely to be in the stadium today.

This is the one game where the Ravens, I think, will have to score something in the high 20's to win. I'd love to be wrong. I'd be more than happy with the Bucs going through the motions offensively and the Ravens winning this one, 23-10. I know it might not make for exciting football, but at this stage of the season, a win is a win is a win. Remember, it's not "how?", it's "how many?"

There will be two very interesting sub-stories to the big one today -- can the Ravens win again with Jackson at the helm?

The first: Does Joe Flacco get factored into the game plan at all or will Jackson take all the snaps. Earlier in the season, Flacco and Jackson shared the field, albeit only occasionally, as Marty Mornhinweg endeavored to get Jackson into the game somehow.

Will Flacco get 10 snaps today, in obvious passing situations, or will something like that just seem too obvious to the Buccaneers' defense? I mean, let's face it, Flacco wouldn't be coming into the game on 3rd and 13 to run it himself or pitch it to Gus Edwards.

The second: How many people will be at the stadium today? My social media pages were FLOODED yesterday with people trying to peddle their tickets for today's game. The "rain excuse" will be the one most folks use today. I get it. 44 degrees and drizzle isn't optimum sitting-there-for-three-hours weather. But this one looks like a half-filled stadium, at best, by the 1:00 pm kick-off.

This is a huge game, to say the least.

A Ravens win today puts them at 8-6 with a visit to L.A. next week and a home finale with Cleveland on December 30. That feels like 9-7.

Pittsburgh sits at 7-5-1 now, with games vs. New England and at New Orleans before a season finale at home vs. the Bengals. I'm thinking 8-7-1 for Mike Tomlin's team unless they pull off a miracle today or in New Orleans to finish 9-6-1.

But Cleveland could easily come rolling in to Baltimore on December 30 with the chance to win the division. They need Pittsburgh to lose the next two for that possibility to exist. And they'd need the Bengals to go into Pittsburgh and win the season finale. I seem to remember Cincinnati pulling that very thing off once before...

This one is big today for the Ravens. It's as must-win as must-win can get without being an elimination game.

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how drew sees today's game

I'm going to play this one out -- in my mind -- the way I've been seeing it for a month now. Follow along.

The Ravens jump out to a quick 7-0 on their opening offensive series. Jackson and Gus Edwards team up for 49 yards of rushing on that series, with Jackson scampering into the end-zone from five yards out to Baltimore ahead early.

A Jameis Winston interception (by Jimmy Smith) gives the Ravens the ball deep in Tampa Bay territory and Jackson cashes in with a 12-yard TD throw to Michael Crabtree. Make it 14-0 in favor of the Ravens at the end of the first quarter.

Tampa Bay cuts it to 14-7 after a long kick-off return gives them a short field.

Another day of heroics on the horizon for Justin Tucker?

After a defensive stop, Winston and the offense take over with 2:05 left in the half, trailing by seven. But on the second play of the series, Winston again throws another interception (Eric Weddle) and the Ravens are in the red zone with 1:20 to go in the quarter.

Jackson finds Mark Andrews in the end zone with 24 seconds left in the half to make it 21-7 Ravens at the intermission.

Ryan Fitzpatrick makes his way to the field to start the second half and things suddenly change. The Bucs score on a short TD throw to O.J. Howard on opening possession to make it 21-14.

The Ravens go three and out for the first time all day on the ensuing series and Fitzpatrick promptly leads Tampa Bay right down the field again, tying the game at 21-21 on a TD throw to Mike Evans.

Lamar guides John Harbaugh's team down the field on the next drive and a Justin Tucker field goal from 37 yards out puts Baltimore up 24-21 heading to the 4th quarter.

But Fitzpatrick isn't done. He throws a 29 yard TD to Evans with 10 minutes left in the game to give Tampa Bay their first lead of the day at 28-24.

The Ravens march down the field, but are unable to get in the end zone, and with 6 minutes remaining Tucker hits another field goal from short range to narrow the deficit to 28-27.

The Baltimore defense holds Tampa Bay on the next series and Jackson and the offense get the ball back, down one, with 2:59 left in the game.

And Justin Tucker wins it from 46 yards out, as the Ravens escape with a 30-28 win over Tampa Bay.


show me the money

I'm one good Sunday away from locking up a profitable 2018 regular season.

But, like the NFL every week, I'm always leery of what I call market correction.

Things have gone so well for me this season that I've only had three LOSING weeks out of 14 to date. That would get me a new built-in-pool, if I wanted one.

But all that good fortune I've built up could come crumbling down if I hit a bad patch. I'm doing my best to avoid it.

I went 2-3 last week. I'd like to reverse that pattern today and get back in the black.

CARDINALS AT FALCONS (-9.5) -- Having just seen the Falcons completely give up two weeks ago in Atlanta, I can't see any way possible they beat the Cardinals by ten points. Except for one thing: They're due to blow someone out. And Arizona is just the team to accommodate that need. Look for Matt Ryan to have a big day because the game doesn't matter at all and he can free-wheel it with his talented receiving corps. We'll take Atlanta in a rout here, 33-17.

Can Matt Ryan and the Falcons cover 9.5 points at home against Arizona today?

DOLPHINS AT VIKINGS (-7.5) -- What happened to Minnesota? I guess "Kirk Cousins" happened to them. Both of these teams are still in the playoff hunt, and a loss today will just about end it for one of the two. I love Miami in this one. I think the Vikings figure out a way to steal it at the end, but I'm going with the Dolphins and the 7.5 points in a 27-22 Minnesota victory.

PACKERS AT BEARS (-5.0) -- It's been a long, long time since I went against the Packers in a game with the Bears. But Chicago is legit. And the Green Bay team is just trying to get through the last three games without anyone getting injured. We're going with Chicago to win and cover here, as the Bears put up another impressive defensive performance in a 24-13 win over Aaron Rodgers and Company.

COWBOYS AT COLTS (-3.0) -- OK, so this is one of those games I want to completely steer away from. I have no idea at all how this one's going to play out. Everything tells me to take the Colts, at home. So for reasons I can't explain, I'm going with the Cowboys to win outright (and cover), 26-23 in overtime.

REDSKINS AT JAGUARS (-7.5) -- There's no way Washington wins this game, right? Not with Mark Sanchez at quarterback. But Jacksonville's terrible, too. They can't beat anyone by eight points, can they? They will today, even though it will be boring as heck. Jacksonville wins and covers in a snoozefest, 20-6. Note: This is also our "Best Best of the Day" selection.





Duclaw banner

meet us tonight at umbc!!!

For the ninth straight year, I'll be teaming up with Glenn Clark for our annual "Holiday Clothing Drive" to help the men -- and women -- of Helping Up Mission. Yes, the soon-to-be finished women's facility at Helping Up will need help too! And we're going to lean on all of you again this year to help make someone's holiday special in 2018.

Glenn and I first started this effort back in 2010 when we were on the air together at a Baltimore radio station. He and I joke about this all the time: That first year, we collected 440 coats and pieces of winter clothing! We strolled into Helping Up Mission like we were a big deal that day, lugging in about 20 bags of clothing.

Last year, we took over 4,000 pieces of clothing to Helping Up Mission!

We loaded over 100 bags of clothing into the back of my buddy Brad Foxwell's truck.

We're ready to top that number this year. But we need YOUR help.

Helping Up Mission has come a long way since this photo was taken in the 1950's and so, has our annual holiday apparel drive.

Take a minute this week or next to clean out your closet or go through your clothing racks and pick out some things you no longer wear or no longer fit. Just yesterday, I dug about 25 items in my closet. And I know I can find more!

We're going to have several drop-off events in December where you can bring your clothes and donate them to Helping Up Mission. We need men's coats, jackets, sweatshirts and any other piece of new or gently worn apparel you can donate. We'll also take any kind of women's clothing. And, yes, we'll even take children's clothes. A lot of the men (and women, eventually) at Helping Up Mission use the donated items as holiday gifts for loved ones they're not able to support and provide for while they're in the facility getting their life back together.

We have two dates lined up thus far, with a third (at Chick fil-A Nottingham Square) likely to be announced early next week.

On Sunday, December 16 at UMBC's new indoor arena, we'll be collecting donations for Helping Up Mission prior to and during the UMBC men's basketball game vs. Florida Gulf Coast at 7 pm.

Glenn and the folks at UMBC have teamed up for a GREAT offer. You'll get $5.00 off your ticket to the game that night if you'll bring us some winter apparel for our Helping Up Mission project.

Gates open at 6 pm on Sunday the 16th and Glenn and I will be stationed at the front entrance to greet you and collect your donated items.

The next night, Monday, December 17, Glenn and I will be at Glory Days in Towson from 5 to 8 pm to collect clothing. It's $5.99 burger night, for starters, which is always a great reason to visit Glory Days, and Glenn and I will have some more "treats" for anyone dropping off items that night.

We'll be taking everything to Helping Up Mission on Wednesday, December 19, with a full video of the day's events published here at #DMD so everyone can see the happy faces as the clothes are displayed and the men come in the room to choose their jacket, shirt, etc.

Please help us make this a successful event. Without you donating the items, we can't make it happen!