Divisional Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

Now its time for the big boys to swing into action. For most Patriot backers, they believe that Rob Gronkowski is going to be the difference. He wasn’t there as the Ravens had playoff success in Gillette Stadium.

Terrell-Suggs-Baltimore-Ravens-Football-2011-NFLIf you think back to Lee Evans dropping that last second touchdown in the 2011 the AFC Championship, this team would be on a winning streak in Foxboro. Baltimore can pressure with Elvis Dumervil along with Terrell Suggs. This will allow Darryl Smith and CJ Moseley to concentrate on clogging Brady and Gronk’s passing lanes. With Haloti Ngata back from suspension, he’s rested and should stop the run.

New England fields a better defense and Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner can take away the Ravens receivers as well. The truth is Steve Smith will sneak open a couple times as will Torrey Smith. It will be a tight contest and the winner will be the Baltimore Ravens 26-21.

Ravens Rebuilding Defense With Dumervil and Huff Signings

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

Michael Huff signs 3 year deal to replace Ed Reed at safety.

The start of NFL free agency wasn’t kind to the Baltimore Ravens. They lost LB Dannell Ellerbe,  LB Paul Kruger, then both Safeties in Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. All of this with the retirement of Ray Lewis meant the defense would see a dramatic makeover. Yesterday they signed former Raider S Michael Huff just days after landing DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil. You can hear the “ahhhs” coming from the Raven fan base that there is life after Reed and Lewis. The question is did they get better??

Well upon further review… In Huff you have to measure his projected production vs what Ed Reed would have brought to the table. First things first they signed him  for $6 million over 3 years where Ed commanded $15 million from the Texans. They did get younger by 5 years going with Huff but they’ll need him to be more productive than he’s been. In 7 years he has averaged 58 tackles and only has 11 career interceptions. Reed had 15 in the last three years and 4 last year alone.

In some circles he has been considered a bust after being drafted so high out of Texas. He averages 8 passes defensed per season and needs to make more tackles. In that department Reed had 15 passes defensed in 2012 and averaged 12.5 per season. He has to show improvement and that is hard to do when learning a new system. He will probably be teamed with a rookie unless an experienced SS comes available later before the season starts. They signed a veteran safety but our CEO doesn’t think they improved the position.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn't offer in 2012.

Elvis Dumervil provides primetime pass rush that even Terrell Suggs didn’t offer in 2012.

With the signing of Elvis Dumervil, GM Ozzie Newsome has pulled a coup. Not only did they rip the Broncos for one of the league’s best pass rushers, they took a defensive captain from a conference rival. What do you think that “C” means on his jersey. Don’t forget he’s only going into his 8th year, has been to the last three Pro Bowls and is just two seasons removed from a 17 sack season.

They saved $5 million in signing him v. Paul Kruger, whom has to live up to his contract and hasn’t been a full time starter yet. Dumervil is just in time to aid a Terrell Suggs who should be back to full strength and needs a bounce back year. Coming back from an Achille’s injury he was a shell of his former self. It might be ironic that his best game of the season was the 2 sacks he had against Denver in the playoffs with Dumervil watching.

Now its reported that Suggs helped recruit Dumervil and has a proven running mate to crash the pass pocket. Elvis is going into his 8th year and has averaged 10.5 sacks in his first 6. Which is good until you realize how good he was last year. He was a force across from Von Miller and had 11 sacks but more important 6 forced fumbles. He’s not only going to be able to duplicate the pass rush with two guys on the corners, there will be Haloti Ngata providing a push up the middle. He’s also reuniting with linebacker coach Don Martindale, who coached in Denver when Dumervil came into the league. He’s already played in a 3-4, is familiar with the coaching staff and has an effective pass rusher on the other side, this was a dramatic upgrade that should affect the overall defense.

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly "I got this" can't you?

You can hear GM Ozzie Newsome saying quietly “I got this” can’t you?

What Ozzie is hoping for is the improved pass rush to affect Huff in being a better center fielder as a safety. However there is a wait and see aspect to this because it hasn’t translated into better performance yet. In 2010, the Oakland Raiders were 2nd in the NFL with 47 sacks and he only had 3 interceptions. Last year they were 31st in sacks with 25 and he had 2 picks. However he can benefit from the standpoint of more crowd noise and Baltimore having more leads which forces opponents to pass.

Let it be known that Dumervil will draw the initial double teams and if Suggs returns to form, this could be a sack machine in 2013.  Haloti in the middle and these two from the outside and don’t forget they picked up Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to possibly emerge as a DE who can provide support.  This can be a 40 -45 sack team in 2013. The question remains who they have at the inside linebacker position. However now you get a sense that Ozzie might have something up his sleeve. Which leads to a question… Having built two different Super Bowl winners, is Ozzie Newsome the best General Manager in the NFL??

Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Week 12 Thanksgiving Edition III: Sibling Rivalry

Look up sibling rivalry in a 2011 NFL dictionary and you would find these two teams at the top of the list. Fro the first time ….what?? No we’re talking about playing rough and tumble smash mouth football, supplemented by stout defense not brother coaches. Come on they won’t take the field. Now where were we… The surprising 9-1 San Francisco 49ers have run up a gaudy record while playing physical lights out football and are on the verge of tying the 1988 Buffalo Bills as the earliest division winner in NFL history. Standing in their way is the team that has made playing football in a traditional sense a way of life: The Baltimore Ravens. Since the 2000 season the Ravens have been the vanguard of playing football from a defense first perspective. Presently the Ravens sit 7-3 and atop the AFC North as we head toward the stretch run. So who will win tonight’s game??

As we take a look at the 49ers the first thing that pops out is how strong they’re running the football. Right now they are averaging 4.3 yards per carry led by Frank Gore who’s averaging 4.6. In his 9 starts he has slashed his way to 870 yards and 5 of the 49ers 9 rushing touchdowns. Beneficiary to all of this running are both quarterback Alex Smith and a rested defense. Do you realize the 49er defense hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown all year and are #1 against the run?? Alex Smith is enjoying his best season ever with 13TDs to only 4 interceptions. He looks much more sure of himself and that has to attributed to former quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The Niners are waiting for Michael Crabtree to break out also. Aside from TE Vernon Davis there really isn’t a home run hitter on the team that defenses fear.

However when it comes to games like this and of this magnitude, the Baltimore Ravens are ready. When they see a game against a fellow heavyweight coming they rarely lose. Before we get into the players performance…do you realize the Baltimore Ravens are 5-1 against teams with winning records?? Where San Francisco fields the 8th best defense in pro football, Baltimore fields it’s 4th best. With Ray Lewis status still unknown it’s hard to pick against this defense. They performed well in his absence in the 31-24 lead to take the division lead away from Cincinnati last weekend. The pass rush, which at one time was just Terrell Suggs (6 sacks), has been supplemented by young rushers in Paul Kruger (4.5 sacks) and Pernell McPhee with 4. In fact there is a tie between 3 teams with 31 sacks and it’s the Ravens who are 4th in all of the NFL with 29 sacks. Yet oddly enough the Ravens are -2 in the turnover ratio over the last seven weeks. They rarely force turnovers against teams they don’t know well.

So it comes down to which quarterback will be able to get their passing games off the ground. At a loud outdoor palace we have a hard time seeing Alex Smith bringing his “A” game with him. In his 6 years, this is really the biggest game he’s played and he hasn’t had to face fire breathing defenses out in the NFC West. With a pedestrian set of receivers the Ravens should be able to handle TE Vernon Davis. By the third quarter the Ravens on pass defense will have 9-10 men within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage since they can’t get deep. Consequently Torrey Smith (29 rec. / 590 yds / 5TDs), Anquan Boldin (44 rec. / 684yds /3 TDs) are both headed to 1,000 yard seasons. Ravens wide receivers?? Seriously quit laughing.

So there you have it…we pick the RAVENS in this one. We’re not entirely sold on Joe Flacco, but with a last second touchdown throw to beat arch rival Pittsburgh, he can prove himself further with another big win. As for Alex Smith, he better pray that Frank Gore and the running game can get underway or he’ll be running for his life.  Keep in mind the Ravens are the 5th best in defense against the run. Michael Crabtree you’re up!! Time to be the receiver that held out for all that money when you came in. If you’re going to do it, it had better be tonight. Just don’t think the Ravens pass rush will allow Smith time to find him.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy the games, good food, and remember to share the article…will ya’??