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Tag:Terrell Suggs
Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:00 pm
 

DPOY Suggs talks about losing Chuck Pagano

                 (Photo credit: Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)
By Ryan Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Terrell Suggs has played for several great defensive coordinators during his nine-year Ravens career, the most recent one lasting just a season before landing a head-coaching job. The Colts hired Chuck Pagano last month to replace Jim Caldwell and rebuild a franchise that, after losing Peyton Manning for the year to a neck injury, fell to 2-14.

Pagano has been busily assembling his coaching staff, and Saturday night, Suggs, in Indianapolis to accept the Defensive Player of the Year Award at the inaugural NFL Awards Show, spoke about Pagano.

"I kind of predicted it Week 1 because I knew the defense that we had and I knew what kind of coach he was and how he was calling the game," Suggs told the media. "He definitely deserves it -- I'm sad to see him go because of things we did this year. I just wish we got the opportunity to see what we'd do next year, with him having a second year of experience under his belt being a defensive coordinator.

"But the world decided he didn't need anymore experience and it was his time to go and be a head coach (in Indianapolis)," he said. "He's going to do some great things and he definitely has the weapons to do it."

One of those weapons will be the Colts' yet-to-be-determined quarterback. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is apparently infatuated with Peyton Manning, who is still recovering from multiple neck surgeries. And the Colts hold the first-overall pick, which they will undoubtedly use on a quarterback. The only question is if it will be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have named linebackers coach Deen Pees as Pagano's replacement. He'll join Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan as coaches who have served as Baltimore's defensive coordinator.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to be a defensive coordinator for anybody in this league,” Pees said two weeks ago. “But it’s especially humbling to be one for Ravens. . . . The tradition of this defense will continue, and it will flourish and it will get even better.”

[Follow all of CBSSports.com's Super Bowl Coverage] 

It certainly helps to have the Defensive Player of the Year on the roster.


Follow all of CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage (Photo credit: Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com)

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 10:05 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 10:13 pm
 

Suggs, Kluwe defend Cundiff, take aim at Bayless

Suggs and Kluwe have no time for silliness. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

ESPN First Take co-host Skip Bayless is known for many things: unconditional faith in Tebowmania, contrarian viewpoints, and TALKING IN A VERY LOUD VOICE when making his case. 

Shortly after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff honked what would've been the game-tying field goal in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots, Bayless tweeted this:

RealSkipBayless
Honestly, I felt sorry for Suggs/Ray/EReed. Fought guts out, lost b/c a nonplayer missed easy kick. WHY I HATE FG KICKING. Ban it!
1/22/12 6:31 PM

Doing away with kickers is a predictably tired argument that pops up every time a game is lost on a botched field-goal attempt. 

On Monday, Cundiff's teammate, linebacker Terrell Suggs, called into First Take to talk about what transpired in Foxboro the night before. Bayless asked Suggs if the confusion leading up to Cundiff's missed kick was because the Patriots were beneficiaries of "home cooking" from the officials.

Suggs was having none of it. In much the same way a grizzled parent dismisses their unruly kid begging for attention, an unemotional Suggs kindly asked Bayless to join him back on Earth.

“Stop that. I know what you’re doing,” Suggs said, chastising Bayless. “Once again, stop it. Be an analyst. Don’t be a d-----bag. You know what I meant.”

(You can watch Suggs calmly put Bayless in his place here.)

A great moment in unintentional comedy, for sure. But it gets better.

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe weighed in on Bayless' "I hate FG kicking...ban it" tweet. (If you're not familiar with Kluwe's work, he's not your typically mild-manndered punter. He has opinions on matters outside football, is smart, and wickedly funny. In short: he's somebody you want to keep on your good side. Just ask former NFL wide receiver Nate Jackson.)

After Suggs scolded Bayless for his over-the-top schtick, Kluwe piled on via Twitter:

ChrisWarcraft
Couldn't have said it better myself. T. Suggs to Bayless on First Take: "Skip, be an analyst. Don't be a d-----bag." #wordsofwisdom
1/23/12 1:21 PM

And this, a few hours later...

ChrisWarcraft
I'm confused @RealSkipBayless. After Super Bowl XXXVI, you wrote that Vinatieri should be in the HoF. But now kickers are non-players?
1/23/12 6:09 PM

ChrisWarcraft
How is Adam going to make it to the Hall of Fame if you abolish his position @RealSkipBayless?! YOUR WORDS MAKE MY BRAIN ASPLODE #factssuck
1/23/12 6:10 PM

So, yes, don't make Kluwe angry. You won't like him when he's angry. The NFL can confirm this (Kluwe has taken great pleasure in mocking the league for, among other things, using season-ending injuries to promote fantasy football and their wishy-washy rules on injuries, fake or otherwise.)

Bayless has yet to respond to Kluwe.

Meanwhile, SportsIllustrated.com's Richard Deitsch, who follows the media closely as part of his day job, offered this frank assessment Monday afternoon:

richarddeitsch
ESPN execs have no idea how badly Bayless's flotsam reflects on its network & those at ESPN trying to do good work.
1/23/12 1:56 PM

via Shutdown Corner 


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Posted on: January 23, 2012 9:18 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 9:20 pm
 

Scoreboard mistake caused Cundiff to rush kick?

Cundiff isn't making excuses but admits there was confusion on the sidelines Sunday. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Not long after kicker Billy Cundiff pull-hooked a 32-yard field-goal attempt that would've likely sent the Ravens and Patriots to overtime, we wondered why Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh didn't use the team's last timeout. He said it never occurred to him, even though Cundiff was clearly rushed as he set up for a pretty important kick. By the time the ball was finally snapped, there was just one second remaining on the play clock.

A day later, there were reports that Cundiff "wasn't paying attention" which, frankly, seemed ludicrous.

Stefan Fatsis, who wrote a book on his summer as a training-camp kicker for the Broncos, spoke Monday with Cundiff who explained exactly what happened on that final, fateful play.


Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime, and instead sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl. 

Like most kickers, Cundiff has a routine on every drive that starts on first down and ends on fourth down, either with him on the field attempting a field goal or with the Ravens' punting. As he explained to Fatsis, because NFL sidelines are a crowded place, it's easiest to follow the action by watching it live on the stadium scoreboard. Except on the Ravens' final drive Sunday, the scoreboard read third down when, in reality, it was fourth down. Fatsis explains:

"Then, suddenly, chaos on the sidelines. Coaches were screaming — from the opposite end of the field to where Cundiff was thinking his third-down pre-kick kicker thoughts — for the field-goal unit. The play clock was ticking and Cundiff, as per normal, was back from the sideline and farther from the line of scrimmage than his teammates. As he was not expecting to go in yet, he had to run to get into position for a game-tying kick."

The confusion stemmed from an Anquan Boldin catch-and-fumble that was mistaken for a first down. (Boldin had fumbled the ball forward past the first-down marker. The rules state the ball must be returned to the spot of the fumble, which is what happened.)

According to the Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel, "[Terrell] Suggs said there was a discrepancy between the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium and what the officials were saying about what the down and distance was after Boldin’s fumble. The Ravens took shots at the end zone on 2nd-and-1 and 3rd-and-1 before bringing out Cundiff for a 32-yard field goal attempt."

The problem: what was actually second and third down on the field was shown on the scoreboard as first and second down, respectively. Hence Cundiff's confusion and the subsequent scrambling to get the kick off.

Which again raises the question: why didn't Harbaugh call timeout.

It doesn't matter now, of course. Cundiff, to his credit, isn't looking to shirk the blame. And his teammates, to a man, have his back.

"Every single guy who said something to me after the game, in the locker room, or on the plane" was supportive, Cundiff told Fatsis, including Harbaugh.

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Posted on: January 20, 2012 6:04 pm
 

Rex Ryan: 'Ravens are going to win this game'

Ryan likes Baltimore and Suggs. Welker's response: 'That's Rex for you.' (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Las Vegas and CBSSports.com's NFL experts may not give the Ravens much of a chance against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game but not everyone is sold on New England. Take unbiased observer, former Ravens defensive coordinator, and current Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who appeared on WFAN Friday to make his bold prediction.


“First off, the Ravens are going to win this game,” he told Mike Francesa. "But the truth is this. The only way you’re going to beat New England is if you have a great defense. And when you look at the teams that won – obviously Buffalo was the one exception – the Giants had a great game defensively, they were able to get pressure on the quarterback, make plays in the back end. The Ravens had beaten New England before with a dominant defense."

Seems reasonable enough, especially Ryan's implication that the Jets, who finished the season 8-8 and missed the playoffs, didn't have a great defense (they went 0-2 against the Patriots in 2011). And he alluded to that during his conversation with Francesa.

"We beat New England three times but we did it creatively … a different type of defense, (Tom Brady) wasn’t comfortable," Ryan said. "There are only a few teams…Pittsburgh, was more physical than New England. That’s why they won. So the Ravens, in my opinion, are going to take a similar approach to how the Giants played them. Meaning, they’re going to rush four guys on them, I truly think they’re going to rush four. I think Terrell Suggs might be the difference in this game. I don’t know how many guys can block Terrell Suggs. I’ve got the answer: none of them. So I think Suggs is going to be huge but they’ve got to be physical. And the Ravens’ offense does have to show up. They have to protect the football."

It's no surprise that Ryan likes Baltimore this weekend; he has ties to the organization and he's bound by rivalry to loathe New England. But he also lays out a game plan (if not wholly convincing then certainly credible) for stopping Tom Brady's high-powered offense. Ryan, after all, was the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2007 when a not-very-good Baltimore team almost upended the undefeated Patriots. (Of course, Ryan's decision to call a timeout late in that game, when it appeared that Baltimore had stopped Brady on 4th and 1, played a non-trivial part in the outcome.)

Wide receiver Wes Welker, one of Brady's favorite targets, was asked Friday about Ryan's prognostication. "That’s Rex for you," he said according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard. "Hopefully we can prove him wrong."

As for slowing that tenacious Ravens' defense, guard Logan Mankins suggested more no-huddle.

"I think it helps," Mankins said via Bedard. "(The Ravens) do a lot of different things, so maybe (the no-huddle) will make them not do so many different things."


After a win over the Texans last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this game. Watch the game on CBS at 3 PM ET. 

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:20 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs. Ravens AFC CG preview

Brady and Lewis will match wits in the AFC Championship Game. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Tom Brady is right: the Ravens are the best team the Patriots have faced this season.

Cam Cameron’s offense poses problems for Bill Belichick’s defense, while Ray Lewis’ defense actually has a fighting chance against Brady’s offense. Here’s the breakdown.



1. Patriots formation versatility
Keep in mind, the Patriots, at least offensively, are also the best team the Ravens have faced all season. Their versatility is like nothing we’ve seen before.

Last Saturday they spent a bulk of the game in a no-huddle that featured tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and wideouts Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman. Remarkably, they were able to run effectively out of this personnel grouping, as Hernandez carried the ball five times out of the backfield for 61 yards.

Those runs are almost just gravy – something the defense must now respect. The real purpose of putting Hernandez in the backfield is the same purpose as all of New England’s other alignments: to get a potent pass catcher matched up on a linebacker. Even safeties have major trouble covering Hernandez and Gronkowski.

This game will be no exception, as Baltimore’s strong safety Bernard Pollard is simply not capable of doing it, and the Ravens are unlikely to remove Ed Reed from centerfield. Brady rarely throws in the direction of starting cornerbacks. Even when he goes to Wes Welker, it’s often when Welker has drawn a matchup against a backup slot corner or non-cornerback.

Because the Patriots don’t try to confuse defenses so much as force them into bad matchups, HOW the Patriots line up to play is almost more important than how they actually play. Most of the damage is done through crafty presnap alignment. (This is one reason so many of Brady’s throws come off three-and five-step drops; the decision of where to go with the ball is made prior to the snap.)

The Patriots frequently go up-tempo to prevent defenses from having enough time to regroup or alter matchups before the snap. The only sure way to take the chess match element out of the equations and force the Patriots to win with execution is to play press-man coverage across the board. Problem is, no defense, including Baltimore’s, has enough quality cover artists to do this.


After a win over the Texans last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this game. Watch the game on CBS at 3 PM ET. 

2. Baltimore’s response
The Ravens may not have enough cover artists to play the Patriots man-to-man, but they might be the one team capable of matching wits with them. Ray Lewis is arguably the smartest front seven defender in the league, while Ed Reed is arguably the smartest back four defender. Those two are capable of recognizing New England’s subtle tendencies and getting their teammates into the proper defensive play-call.

Of course, Brady and Bill O’Brien know this and will likely inject a few tendency-breaking wrinkles into the gameplan. Of course, the Ravens know that the Patriots know that they know this, and the Patriots know that the Ravens know that they know and ... you get the idea – this has the potential to be one heck of a chess match.

Look for the Ravens to do plenty of presnap communicating and disguising at the line of scrimmage. It helps that they’re comfortable playing a plethora of different coverages. The outcome may be decided by which side can bully the other into a reactionary position. The Patriots can do that by going hurry-up; the Ravens can do it by blitzing fervidly up the middle.

3. Ravens pass-rush
To beat Tom Brady, you have to rob him of the trust he has in his pass protection. Brady – like any quarterback – does not like pressure directly in his face. And though he’s as tough in the pocket as anyone in the game, he has a tendency to get just a tad jumpy after taking a few hits from edge-rushers.

Recent playoff history shows that if a defense can create pressure and doubt, Brady will eventually start eating up the play clock worrying about protections. That makes him a significantly less dangerous player versus when he’s hurrying things up and concentrating on his receivers’ routes.

The question is, can the Ravens generate a pass-rush? If they blitz, they likely can. But one of the best kept secrets in football is that this is generally a four-man rushing defense. Because the Ravens use so many 3-4 or 2-5 fronts, their four pass-rushers come from a variety of different spots, thus creating the illusion of a blitz:

The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

Above (click image to enlarge): Upon first glance, this appears to be a blitz featuring five, possibly six pass-rushers.

Below: The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

The Ravens’ four-man rush has seemingly evaporated over the last month. It registered a quiet five sacks over the final three weeks of the regular season and then got zero pressure on T.J. Yates in the divisional round. With talents like Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, it’s imprudent to assume the pressure can’t suddenly return.

But worth noting is that the Patriots’ pass protection in the last month has also been as sharp as the Ravens’ pass-rush has been dull.

4. Dialing in on Ray Rice
Bill Belichick always builds his defensive gameplan around eliminating the opponents’ greatest strength. This season, no man has done a better job at eliminating Ray Rice than Cam Cameron. (Rice averaged less than 10 carries a game in Baltimore’s four losses.)

To be fair, Cameron has featured Rice most of the season, and the results thus far speak for themselves: 13 wins and Rice leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

But if Belichick has inside linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo shadow Rice, or if he brings safety Patrick Chung down in the box every play or has his linebackers sellout against the run, will Cameron have enough patience to stay with his superstar?

The Patriots run defense is coming together, while their secondary can be tempting to attack.

5. Baltimore’s passing game
It was virtually nonexistent against Houston, mainly because deep threat Torrey Smith was nullified by Johnathan Joseph. The Patriots don’t have a corner on Joseph’s level (or even in Joseph’s stratosphere).

If the Ravens want to take their deep shots with Smith, all they’ll have to do is block a mundane Patriots pass-rush (last week’s performance at Foxboro notwithstanding). Devin McCourty was serviceable as a nickel free safety against Denver, but it remains to be seen whether the struggling corner can suddenly play a new position when facing a strong-armed quarterback and polished play-action passing game.

In other matchups, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson were quiet against Houston but should be able to work the seams against New England. Anquan Boldin will be extremely problematic for the Pats. The thought of him working outside against Kyle Arrington seems patently unfair; inside is even worse, as the Patriots don’t have a true slot corner.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Championship games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:42 am
Edited on: January 13, 2012 9:44 am
 

Film Room: Ravens vs. Texans divisional preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Texans are hoping they can do what the Ravens did three years ago: reach the AFC Championship with a rookie quarterback. Like the ‘08 Ravens, Houston’s rookie quarterback is a complimentary piece, not the focal point.

Gary Kubiak might be offensive-minded, but his current squad is built around the run and defense. Come to think of it, so are the current Ravens ... if they play their cards right. Here’s the breakdown.


1. Baltimore’s offensive approach
With Joe Flacco turning 27 next week and entering his eighth playoff contest, the manual says this is the time for the quarterback’s coming out party. But it’d be unwise of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to buy into that.

Cameron has been Flacco’s most boisterous supporter – and rightfully so. He and John Harbaugh have gradually loosened the quarterback’s reigns over the past three years and all but removed them this year. That approach has had its ups and downs, but through it all the Ravens have continued to win.

Flacco had a poor season statistically – his completion percentage dropped below 60 for the first time, which is why he averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt – but he was also playing with more freedom/responsibility than ever. You can tell a lot about what a coaching staff thinks of its quarterback by the plays it calls.

Most fans just assume the black-and-blue Ravens have a safe, methodical passing game. In reality, much of what the Ravens do centers more around Flacco’s big arm. Instead of using Anquan Boldin primarily underneath, the Ravens often push the ball to him downfield outside the numbers. They use their tight ends down the seams and it’s not uncommon for Flacco to launch multiple bombs in a half, usually targeting rookie burner Torrey Smith.

It’s encouraging that the Ravens have opened things up, but in this case the numbers don’t lie: Baltimore’s offense is inconsistent through the air and survives primarily because of Ray Rice. The fourth-year superstar led the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. In Baltimore’s 12 wins, Rice rushed for an average of 100 yards on 21 carries. In their four losses, he averaged 39 yards on nine carries (and in those losses, the score was never lopsided, making Rice’s decreased touches hard to explain).

Rice is one of the league’s few runners who can consistently move the chains with power or go the distance with speed. His low center of gravity lends him superb lateral explosiveness. That’s deadly behind an effective zone-blocking line that features guards as mobile as Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda.

Will Joseph try to neutralize Boldin this time? (Getty Images)

2. Facing Houston’s D
If Cameron wants to win, he’ll work the offense through Rice. The Texans’ swarming front seven can be difficult to run against, but the Ravens have the game’s most effective lead-blocking fullback in Vontae Leach. He takes great angles to blocks and hits moving targets adroitly, which can help neutralize the downhill speed of linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. The objective of the Ravens run game is to get the defense flowing laterally and allow Rice to cut it up inside.

Flacco won’t be irrelevant, of course. In fact, it’s not unforeseeable for Houston to bottle up the run early and for Baltimore to take to the air. Getting Anquan Boldin back from a knee injury is huge, as he’s a much tougher inside matchup than agility-based tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens have the speed to beat teams downfield, but Torrey Smith is still raw and can be taken out of a game by an elite corner like Johnathan Joseph. It will be interesting to see who the Texans have their No. 1 corner defend. If it’s Smith, they theoretically eliminate Baltimore’s field-stretching prowess. But last time these teams met, Boldin was the one who caught eight balls for 133 yards. Wade Phillips may not be willing to surrender that again.

Regardless of how the secondary matches up, Flacco will have to play with poise. Even when they’re not sacking quarterbacks, the Texans pass-rushers are disruptive. Flacco was impressive keeping his eyes downfield and sliding in the pocket in the last meeting, but he’s still somewhat of a week-to-week player in this sense.

3. Test for Yates
All in all, T.J. Yates has done a commendable job keeping the ship afloat.

 Gary Kubiak did not ask a lot of the rookie in the wild card round. In response, Yates was somewhat reactive reading the field, but he capitalized when a big-play opportunity came about (Andre Johnson’s double move on Pacman Jones). He also did not turn the ball over (though it was lucky that Chris Crocker dropped a surefire pick-six in the second half).

This performance, however, came against Cincinnati’s 4-3, zone-based scheme, which was similar to what Yates saw from the Jaguars, Falcons and Titans in previous starts. Yates is yet to face a 3-4, or even a blitz-oriented defense. He’ll face both Sunday, when the Ravens show him things he’s never seen before.

4. Ravens secondary
One thing Yates has never seen before is a safety like Ed Reed. The future Hall of Famer is not just rangier than all of Yates’ previous foes, he’s much savvier. Most safeties force turnovers by baiting quarterbacks into throws on a given play. Reed will bait a quarterback throughout the game.

He’ll bite on the first route of a play in the second quarter; then in the fourth quarter, against a similar play, Reed will assume the quarterback knows not to try to fool him twice. Thus, while every other safety would play conservative and make sure not to give up that first route again, Reed will abandon that first assignment and jump the second route.

This is how he gets a lot of his interceptions. He’s a master at recognizing how offenses use certain plays to set up other plays. This is no different than a great chess player thinking four or five moves ahead.

It’s unreasonable to expect a third-string rookie quarterback to win the mental battle against Reed. Thus, the Texans might be hesitant to have Andre Johnson stretch the field too many times.

Reed isn’t the only noteworthy defensive back in purple. Lardarius Webb has had a terrific season playing outside and in the slot. Webb defends the deep ball as well as any corner, and he’s great at jumping passing lanes from over-man coverage. His versatility expands what the Ravens can do with their disguises.

5. Houston’s run game
It will be difficult for Arian Foster to get outside against the Ravens the way he did against the Bengals. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is too good as a downhill run defender and outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson are the best in the business when it comes to setting the edge:

You’ve probably heard the term “setting the edge”. Setting the edge is when an outside run defender (in a 3-4 it’s usually an outside linebacker) entrenches himself along the line of scrimmage or in the backfield near the offensive tackle or tight end. In doing so, he forces the running back to either cut back into the teeth of the defense or run parallel to the line of scrimmage (which allows time for other defenders to chase him down).

No outside linebacking duo sets the edge better than Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson. This snapshot offers an extreme example of fantastic edge-setting. Suggs didn’t just stalemate Duane Brown – he drove him back four yards.
(AP)

These days, the key to running on Baltimore is, believe it or not, attacking Ray Lewis. The 36-year-old Pro Bowler is still terrific at diagnosing plays, shedding blocks and wrapping up anywhere near the hash marks, but since returning from his toe injury (perhaps too soon), Lewis’s lateral limitations have been exacerbated.

When he’s going east and west, ballcarriers have little trouble bursting by him (especially when the ballcarrier hits the hole with as much authority as Arian Foster).

To get Lewis going sideways, the Texans linemen will have to have fully beat Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Cory Redding off the ball. Houston’s front line doesn’t have the strength to block any of those guys – especially Ngata, even though the 345-pound monster has looked less than 100 percent down the stretch – but as a cohesive zone unit, they can nullify them by quickly establishing favorable angles.

That’s exactly what they did against the Bengals, who can be considered a good “pretest” for a bout with the Ravens.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Divisional Round games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 9:08 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 9:11 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 17

Posted by Will Brinson

Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 17 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Cruz Broncos  Akers McCarthy
Judge  Flynn  Allen  Akers Coughlin
Prisco  Flynn  Allen Carpenter Coughlin
Brinson  Flynn  Allen Carpenter  Coughlin
Katzowitz  Flynn  Allen  Akers Harbaugh
Wilson  Flynn  Suggs Carpenter  Turner
The NFL's regular season is over. It seems kind of crazy, right? Somehow the lockout was just a few months ago and now we're headed for the playoffs. Whatever, that doesn't stop us from handing out our final regular season Eye on Football Awards of the year.

Matt Flynn wasn't completely a consensus pick for the Eye on Offense Award, but with his performance there's no question he's making some coin in 2012.

Jared Allen can't love his ex-teammate Brett Favre, since he'd have the NFL single-season sack record if Favre hadn't flopped for Michael Strahan. Somehow I doubt the Week 17 Eye on Defense Award will make up for that.

Usually I give tiebreakers to the guy I picked ... and I'm doing it again this week. Dan Carpenter's 58-yarder nudges him past David Akers, despite a touchdown pass, for the Eye on Special Teams Award.

And Tom Coughlin closes out the season with the Eye on Coaching Awards similar to how he closed out his real season: by winning two straight headed into the playoffs.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Victor Cruz Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
Big play after big play when the defense knows Eli Manning is going to him. He still produces. He obliterated the Cowboys as he has almost every team he's gone against within the latter part of the year. It's been incredible to watch him become the next great receiving star.
Matt FlynnMatt Flynn, QB, Packers
He's the backup for Green Bay, and he doesn't play much because ... well, because that's what happens when you sit behind Aaron Rodgers. So , when he does get his chance all he does is throw for six touchdowns and set a franchise record with 480 yards passing.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Matt Flynn Matt Flynn, QB, Packers
Flynn makes his first start of 2011 and throws for 480 yards and six touchdowns in place of Aaron Rodgers, who the Packers were resting. Wow. He made himself a lot of money.
Matt FlynnMatt Flynn, QB, Packers
Credit the Packers for finding hidden talent (even if Flynn won a BCS title). Flynn's not hidden anymore -- 480 yards and six teeters Sunday against the Lions means Flynn's the head of the class in terms of free-agent QBs heading into the 2012.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Matt FlynnMatt Flynn, QB, Packers
It’s unfortunate for Matthew Stafford that he came up against Flynn, who set Packers club records in passing yards (480) and touchdown passes (six). Flynn was incredible, leading Green Bay to a victory and making himself a ton of money in the process. By playing him this week, GB assured themselves that they’ll lose him in the offseason.
Matt Flynn Matt Flynn, QB, Packers
If nothing else, Flynn's performance on Sunday (480 passing yards and six touchdowns in a win against the Lions) proves that Aaron Rodgers is a system quarterback. So does that mean Flynn deserves to be in the MVP conversation, too?
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Von MillerDenver Broncos, DST
This is a team award presented to one of the best and most underrated defenses in football, saddled with a terrible quarterback. The Broncos defense held the KC Chiefs to a touchdown and still lost, 7-3. Denver's defense has actually been one of the great surprises of the season.
Jared Allen Jared Allen, DE, Vikings
He produces 3.5 sacks to finish the season with a league-leading 22, just a half-sack short of Michael Strahan's single-season record. What I love about Allen is his motor. The Vikings won three games, but this guy never let up and never quit.
Prisco Brinson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
Allen had 3 1/2 sacks against the Bears, but feel one short of Mike Strahan's single-season record for sacks in a season with 21.5.
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
Allen got his Ginsu on against Chicago's line and nearly broke Michael Strahan's record for 22.5 sacks in a season. His 3.5 on Sunday left him just short but considering Brett Favre's flop and how horrible this Vikings team is, he really deserves it more.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
He was a man possessed as he went for the NFL season sack record, and though he fell a half-sack and a Brett Favre dive short of Michael Strahan’s record, Allen put the exclamation point on the best year of his career, recording 3 ½ sacks against Bears.
Terrell Suggs Terrell Suggs, OLB, Ravens
He had a sack and a forced fumble in a game that a lot of people thought the Ravens would lose. Now they're perfectly positioned for a Super Bowl run and Suggs could be the defensive MVP
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
David AkersDavid Akers, K, 49ers
Lined up for a field goal but it was a fake. Excellent throw by Akers who tossed a touchdown throw to Michael Crabtree. The most amazing thing about Crabtree's throw? He had better form than Tebow.
David Akers David Akers, K, Eagles
He sets the single-season record for field goals one week, then throws a touchdown pass the next -- a touchdown that, oh, by the way, is the difference in the 49ers' game-ending victory. The more I see of Akers the more I wonder Philadelphia gave up on him.
Prisco Brinson
Dan CarpenterDan Carpenter, K, Dolphins
Carpenter made four field goals, one from 58 yards, as the Dolphins beat the Jets to end their playoff chances. Carpenter's 58-yarder was into the wind.
Dan CarpenterDan Carpenter, K, Dolphins
If not for Carpenter, the Dolphins don't send Jason Taylor out the right way and end Rex Ryan's hopes. Carpenter converted field goals after three turnovers (4/4 on the day) including banging home a 58-yarder that was good from 73.
Katzowitz Wilson
David Akers David Akers, K, 49ers
He established the new league record for field goals byfinishing the season with 44, and he threw an awesome TD pass on a fake field goal that helped the 49ers beat the pesky Rams. For his career, Akers is now 2 for 2 passing for 25 yards and a score. With a passer rating of 158.3.
Dan Carpenter Dan Carpenter, K, Dolphins
Carpenter was 4 for 4 on Sunday against the Jets, including a 58-yarder. With his perfect performance, he helped the Dolphins seal the Rex Ryan's fate and finish the season with a 6-10 record (after an 0-7 start).
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickMike McCarthy, HC, Packers
McCarthy lost one game all season. He beat Detroit with Matt Flynn at quarterback. He might have the best offensive system going in football right now. He's the offensive Bill Belichick.
Mike Munchak Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
For the second straight week he pulls off a huge victory -- this time winning the NFC East with a decisive defeat of Dallas. For weeks, Coughlin was subjected to questions about his job status and the Giants' second-half collapse. Then he produced the season's two most important wins, and, just like that, the questions ended.
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, Giants
It was win or go home and he had Coughlin team ready to play against the Cowboys for the NFC East title. Coughlin is good in big games, which bodes well for the playoffs.
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
At this point, I'm rooting for the Giants to run the table, win the Super Bowl (again!) and have Coughlin set his pants on fire at trophy ceremony, just to make the fans happy that his seat is finally hot enough. Great job getting his team ready down the stretch.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz John Harbaugh, HC, Ravens
His brother received so much credit this season, but look at what John pulled off Sunday. He beat the Bengals in Cincy and earned a playoff bye and homefield advantage in the second round. Given how mediocre Baltimore is on the road, that’s one heck of an accomplishment.
Hue Jackson Norv Turner, HC, Chargers
Did he really save his job? Turner and the Chargers beat a Raiders team with everything to play for -- in Oakland, no less. If Turner does return, imagine how good San Diego will be if they ever put together an entire season mistake-free football.

Posted on: December 21, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Rodgers tops Pro Bowl voting; Tebow third AFC QB

Aaron Rodgers led the way in all Pro Bowl voting.(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've wondered whether or not Tim Tebow is a Pro-Bowl candidate before this year and the answer is probably "no." But that doesn't matter when it comes to Pro-Bowl voting, where Tebow was the third-highest vote getter among AFC quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers, named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, was the top vote-getter among all NFL players, pulling in 1,581,982 votes from fans. Tom Brady was second among all NFL players with 1,454,311 votes. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Brady in the top 10, via NFL.com:

Top-10 Pro Bowl Vote Getters
Player Position Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311
Drew Brees
QB Saints 1,188,893
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886
Ben Roethlisberger
QB Steelers 935,535
Adrian Peterson
RB Vikings 925,554
Mike Wallace
WR Steelers 923,073

So, yeah, breaking: the Patriots and Steelers are popular! Also popular? Tebow.

AFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311 Andre Carter
DE Patriots 511,693
Arian Foster
RB Texans 896,804 Haloti Ngata
DT Ravens 592,603
Vonta Leach
FB Ravens 149,801 Terrell Suggs
OLB Ravens 546,851
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787 Ray Lewis
MLB Ravens 413,222
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886 Darrelle Revis
CB Jets 561,986
Michael Oher
OT Ravens 327,644 Troy Polamalu
SS Steelers 230,649
Logan Mankins
G Patriots 337,844 Ed Reed
FS Ravens 198,075
Maurkice Pouncey
C Steelers 376,457 Shane Lechler
P Raiders 228,782
Sebastian Janikowski
K Raiders 244,512 Joe McKnight
KR Jets 140,926

Once again, I'll point out that the Ravens and Patriots are popular (and also good at what they do), along with the Steelers. Brendon Ayanbadejo was the leading "special teams" vote-getter, with 106,515. On the NFC side, well, I hope you like the Packers:

NFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982 Jared Allen
DE Vikings 784,527
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824 Justin Smith
DT 49ers 525,578
John Kuhn
FB Packers 322,260 DeMarcus Ware
OLB Cowboys 581,554
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777 Patrick Willis
MLB 49ers 581,554
Jimmy Graham
TE Saints 725,612 Charles Woodson
CB Packers 763,198
Chad Clifton
OT Packers 392,106 Roman Harper
SS Saints 147,542
T.J. Lang
G Packers 327,740 Morgan Burnett
FS Packers 223,292
Scott Wells
C Packers 436,693 Andy Lee
P 49ers 161,812
Mason Crosby
K Packers 184,665 Devin Hester
KR Bears 268,293

For the NFC, Jarrett Bush of the Packers received the most special teams votes with 134,696. (And yes, I suppose I could have kick returners on the offense side, but I'm not trying to have my tables be all uneven. Oh no I'm not.)

Naturally, none of this means any of these guys are guaranteed to make the Pro Bowl -- the fan vote only counts as one-third of the total. The players vote is worth two-thirds. But there's a good chance that many of these guys will end up in the Pro Bowl.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com