Topic: Ray Rice
Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens have developed a fierce rivalry over the course of 22 all-time meetings since the series originated in 1996, including three playoff battles. The frequency of the encounters has slowed, however, with the clubs playing only three times since the start of the 2009 season.
Each team has won 11 times in the highly competitive series. Of the 22 games the teams have played against each other, 12 have been decided by four points or less, with the Titans holding a 7-5 advantage in those meetings.
Tennessee Titans running back Shonn Greene (23) carries the ball against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 9th, 2014. (Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports)
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Johnson unquestionable is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL and the 5,645 yards he rushed for in his first four years attest to that.
Two years ago, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson set the NFL a blaze with the 2,006 yards he rushed for and this week came out and told the world the wants to show he has plenty left.
Johnson unquestionable is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL and the 5,645 yards he rushed for in his first four years attest to that. Johnson has gained over 1,000 yards in each of those season with 1,228 s a rookie, the amazing 2006 in year two, 1,364 in Jeff Fisher’s last year and his self-admitted underwhelming 1,047 last year.
When you take a step back, most of us would love to have a career like Johnson has. And if he gets back to the level he feels he needs to be at, with the help of a hopefully improved offensive line, Johnson no doubt will certainly dazzle us again.
But it does beg the question that if Johnson is at his best is he one of the top 10 running backs in the NFL. And the answer is close, but not quite. The following is the list of the 10 best running backs heading into next season (if fully healthy). Stats are from last year and the number
t10. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (1,204, 15 games): Give him some Skittles and watch in go. It’s taken him some time but Lynch was always talented. Maybe it just took him getting back to the left coast to find himself.
t10. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (997 yards, 12 games): The former Tulane Green Wave gives the Bears something the haven’t had since Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton roamed the backfield at Solider Field. Forte can do it all. It’s unfortunate he got hurt the year before he deserved to get his big contract. But the Bears aren’t the same without him.
9. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (1047 yards, 16 games): When Johnson is good he is one of the best in the NFL. But without a lane he is easily bottled up. He also needs to become a bigger threat in the passing game, cause he speed is a game-changer. He’s got to become bigger than is contract.
8. Stephen Jackson, St. Louis Rams (1,145 yards, 15 games): Talk about a great back who missed out on the fun times. Jackson has been the Rams only shining light for years. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards the last seven years. He’s been in the league eight years before the start of this season.
7. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (1,340, 16 games): Turner is a bull and one the Atlanta Falcons are so happy to have. Believe it or not he is actually a little under utilized in short-yardage situations and at the goal line.
6. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1,211 yards, 16 games): Of all the backs to come out of the The U, Gore is surprisingly the best of the lot. He combines strength between the tackles with his ability to get outside. And finally Alex Smith can run the offense..
5. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (1,309, 15 games): McCoy is second coming of Brian Westbrook just a tiny bit bigger and faster. Want to keep Michael Vick in the game more, give the ball to McCoy and let him carry it.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (1,606 yards, 16 games): The thing that plagues MJD the most is he plays in Jacksonville. Imagine if the former UCLA product played on any of the dominate teams in the league in his seven years in the NFL and they might be on a run matching those of the Steelers, Packers, 49ers or Patriots.
3. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (1,364 yards, 16 games): Rice is so good that the Ravens vaunted defense has at times had to go remind the offense to use him, because when Rice is rolling he is so hard to contain. One little lane and the Rutgers alum can go. Plus, he is so deadly coming out of the backfield in the passing game.
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (970 yards, 12 games): Peterson is exactly what you want in a running back: Big, fast, agile, smart and powerful. He only played in 12 games last year, but started 15 of 16 games the past three seasons.
1. Arian Foster, Houston Texans (1,224 yards, 13 games): The fact he went undrafted out of Tennessee is still amazing. But all Foster has done is mesmerized the NFL with his speed, agility and ability. He is the league’s best.
Honarable Mentions: Amhad Bradshaw, New York Giants; Fred Jackson, Buffalo; Willis McGahee, Denver; Darren McFadden, Oakland; LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay
Football is my sport. Always has been always will.
I started on the offensive line my junior and senior years in high school for 15 of 20games for C. Leon King High, the Roaring Scoring Lions, the first one my junior year, then every game after the fourth one.
I love most others — I won’t list any in fear of offending someone — and enjoy learning about new ones, for example I was bowled over the first time I saw Curling and now I LOVE Curling, seriously.
Football is a tough and yes violent sport. And that’s violence as described by the first definition in Merriam-webster.com as: marked by extreme force or sudden intense activity. Or by Dictionary.com as: intense in force, effect, etc.; severe; extreme.
And that’s what I love about football and that’s what you love about football. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Ray Rice break ankles on the way to a 70-yard run or watching Aaron Rogers hit Greg Jennings on a 70-yard bomb is exciting and scoring is what the game is about.
But we all love the bone-rattling, back-breaking and jaw-crushing hits. That barbaric yawp that surges from your belly when you see Ray Lewis, Clay Matthews, James Harrison, et al decleat someone is almost, that’s almost, as good as …. a full rack of slow-smoked ribs (you thought you knew where I was going with that one didn’t you, dirty mind!)
Those hits get you off your seat.
Since Roger Goodell has taken over an emphasis of safety has taken over as the NFL’s guiding force and as a purist, I at times resists his calls for better, safer hitting. But as a former player he is right, because ALL football players should be taught to not hit with their heads. I was taught that in high school and college and I taught it when I coached pee-wee football myself.
All that together is why I’m so bothered by what has transpired in ‘Bounty Gate’ with the New Orleans Saints and the now released audio of Gregg Williams pre-game talk before playing the 49ers.
It’s one thing to want to take an opponent’s will and desire to go against you play after play away. My goal as an offensive lineman was by the end of the game for you to feel like you had no control of your body for 60 minutes because of the way I blocked you all over the field whether by sheer force if you where smaller or speed and quickness if you were bigger.
But it’s sadistic to want to physically hurt or injure someone and even worse to go after people’s livelihoods and that’s where the Saints crossed the line and that’s where I applaud Goodell for his efforts.
Since weíre headed to a conference title games that few predicted (49ers-Giants) and one that pretty much anyone that watched the AFC this year saw coming (Patriots-Ravens), I thought it would be a good time to break down the match-ups. The AFC title game preview will run today, followed by the NFC tomorrow.
I donít know about you guys, but Iím pretty tired of the Patriots at this point. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and his Uggís, Robert Kraft, even a good soldier like Wes WelkerÖ Iím just tired of the whole thing. I want a Patriot-less play-offs, maybe even one where Brady and his Bieberesque hair-do trade chuckles with Shannon Sharpe on CBSí pre-game show in the most awkward conversation of all time.
Most pundits are predicting a Patriots victory, because itís the safe bet. Any team with Brady and Bill Belichick looks better on paper, especially after last weekís dismantling of the Fighting Tebows. But with a terrible defense facing a Ravens offense led by the immortal Joe Flacco, who has a chance to become the next Vinny Testaverde if things break right for him, itís a classic ďMovable object faces the resistable forceĒ-type game. This is much closer than everyone realizes, mostly because these teams arenít nearly as good as anyone thinks they are.
Anyway, letís break this bad boy down and see who has the upper handÖ
Harbaugh has already de-pantsed Hoodie and the Pats once in the play-offs, in 2009, when Baltimore raced out to a 24-0 first-quarter lead and won 33-14.
Harbaugh has made out well with an aging defense, old receivers and Testaverde 2.0 in an almost Belichickian fashion.
Itís hard to bet against Belichick. The guy has three Super Bowls and has a remarkable knack for turning chicken you-know-what into All-Pros. I really donít think heís going to get caught napping against Harbaugh again.
Does Harbaugh have the potential to become the best coach in the league? Yep. If itís going to happen, this will be his coming-out party. But Iím not going against Belichick. Not yet.
With Brady back there, itís hard to worry much about who is in front of him. The line keeps Brady up-right most of the time (32 sacks allowed) and opens enough holes for the runners (4.0 ypc as a team) that itís not a complete train wreck. If Iím a Patriots fan, do I worry that we start a rookie right tackle (Nate Solder) and a 12-year vet (Brian Waters) at right guard, against one of the best d-lines in football? Yes.
As for the Ravens, Flacco gets hit a little more (78 hits, 12th-most in the league), but offer a better running game (1,996 yards, 10th-best in the league). And I can almost see the puff pieces and stories on Michael Oher (of The Blind Side fame) during Super Bowl Week; thatís a story that will always be good theatre.
In the end, I like the team with the better running game that can protect its quarterback. One out of two isÖ all weíre gonna get here.
Some of the most prominent Patriots (Brady, Deion Branch, Kevin Faulk) are leftover from the Super Bowl days, and several were around for the Perfect Season That Wasnít. This is a team that does know how to win, and in this game that will be an added bonus. These guys have big-game wins and wonít be scared because they lack the explosiveness of Baltimore.
They also carry the baggage of two ignominious exits in their two play-off appearances since 18-1. Even after dusting Denver, how likely are they to tighten up in a close game?
As difficult as the answer is for New England, itís impossible for the Ravens. This will be the biggest question mark for the Ravens. Can these guys finally get over the hump in the big game? This is a team Harbaugh has moved to the cusp of greatness, and this game would put them over it.
The Pats know the tricks of play-off football; the Ravens are still picking them up. Could this be the game where they put it together, lay the smack-down on the Patriots and become the next dominant play-off team? Could be but I wouldnít bet on it.
Slim Advantage: Patriots
The Patriots canít stop anyone; the Ravens are still a consensus top-five defense with Hall of Famers (Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs) and some young guys with great futures contributing right now (Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody). Iím not even going to bother breaking this down further; the Ravens front seven is better than the Patriots and anybody that believes otherwise is crazy.
A Belichick staple; even a poison like Chad Ocho Cinco is a good soldier in Foxboro. Welker, Dan Connolly, Branch, FaulkÖ itís an endless list of good guys that donít pout, bust their butts and get the job done. More than anything, I think itís Belichickís best coaching quality: you NEVER see one of his teamís lay down and quit.
The Ravens leaders are guys like Ray Lewis (not strange unless you remember he was acquitted of double murder circumstances and was later found guilty of obstructing justice), Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. Yes, the same Bernard Pollard that dive-tackled Bradyís ACL and ended his 2008 season. Oh, and earlier this week Reed called out Flacco, saying he looked rattled in last week’s game. I’m sure there are no hard feelings.
Also, the Ravens led the league in penalty yards on the defensive side this season (1,032 total yardsÖ ahead of even the Raiders); I feel like somebody on that side of the ball is going to commit a stupid personal foul at the worst possible time. Not something emblematic of high-character guys.
In addition to Reed (a no-doubt Hall of Famer in my book) and Pollard, they have a good young corner in Jimmy Smith that a lot of people doubted before the draft due to character issues. Throw in Tom Zbikowski, LaDarius Webb and Cary Williams (hands up if you knew he broke up 18 passes this season, second-most on the team) and this team goes deep in the secondary.
The Patriots have good young guys (Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling), but nowhere near the depth and talent in Baltimore. Easy choice; Iím starting to be concerned about that on the Patriots side.
Old guys (Anquan Boldin, Lee Evans) and talented youngsters (Torrey Smith, tight end Ed Dickson) give Baltimore a good blend of experience and skill.
But the Pats have Brady; he makes everyone around him better, as evidenced by Branchís entire career. While it would be nice to have a deep threat like Randy Moss back in uniform, all-galaxy tight end Rob Gronkowski is the single toughest guy in the NFL to cover. When the Pats get Gronk and Aaron Hernandez in a two-tight end formation, I say itís one of the toughest schemes in the NFL for a team to contend with. Expect Baltimore to see a lot of it on Sunday.
The Patriots have to stop the Baltimore ground game and dare Flacco to throw. The main man in the middle for New England is big Vince Wilfork, a mountainous human at 6í2Ē, 325 pounds. Wilfork is the kind of guy that demands double-teams on every play and still manages to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. If he can get through blocks or eat enough space that his linebackers can get to Rice and Williams before they get upfieldÖ then the pressure will be on New Englandís God-awful pass defense to make plays. Iím obviously dubious.
For BaltimoreÖ it has to be Pollard and Reed. If they can limit Gronk and Hernandez (not shut down; limit), maybe Baltimoreís offense doesnít have to get into a shootout with the Pats. Or maybe Welker just goes for 15 catches and 200 yards as the third option. I really donít want to choose here; I donít feel good about either of these.
Slightest of Edges: Ravens
Baltimore trots out the leagueís second- leading rusher (Ray Rice) and my favorite NFL player to take a year off to devote himself to smoking marijuana full-time (Ricky Williams). The Patriots have the Law Firm (Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis), along with Faulk, Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley.
Taking it to the numbers, the Ravens outgained the Pats by more than 200 yards and were one of only two teams in the league (along with Minnesota) with five runs of 40 yards or more. The Patriots did tie with New Orleans and Carolina for fewest fumbles (three), but lack any sort of explosiveness in the run game (season-long run: 33 yards).
In the end, it comes down to who you want to hand the ball to when the bread needs to be buttered. Iíll take Rice over the Law Firm and all the rest of the Pats backfield every day of the week.
One guy is Tom Brady; the other guy I compared favorably to Vinny Testaverde a few paragraphs ago. Who do you think has the upper hand?
Huge Advantage: Patriots
I really hate to choose here. On the one hand, Baltimore does all the things that have proven to win play-off games over the years: run the ball, control the trenches and dominate on defense. On the other hand, thereís Hoodie and Brady. Three rings and all that nonsense.
I canít help it. Iíve got to take the Patriots. The thought of picking Joe Flacco, on the road, against the best big-game quarterback since Joe Montana scares the devil out of me. I canít pick against Brady and Hoodie; maybe if Flacco wasnít prominently involved I would.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Ravens 20