Tag:Ray Lewis
Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:49 am
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Film Room: Ravens vs. Jets preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Ever since Rex Ryan left Baltimore to become New York’s head coach, we’ve viewed these two teams as mirror images of one another – and understandably so. Both have young quarterbacks. Both have running backs entering their primes who are backed up by a sage veteran. Both feature an aggressive and deceptive 3-4 defensive scheme. And both talk abundant trash even though their respective rivals – the Patriots and Steelers – have all the rings.

Let’s take a closer look at these teams’ similarities.

1. Young quarterbacks
Something that stood out in Week 3 was how the Ravens and Jets heavily utilized play-action early on, but for different reasons.

The Ravens referred to it to allow time for downfield routes to unfold. They wanted to take advantage of a depleted Rams secondary that was starting undrafted second-year nobody Darian Stewart at safety and disintegrating Al Harris at nickel corner outside. (They succeeded, by the way).

The Jets referred to play action because they wanted to prolong the time that Raiders’ defensive backs had to hold up in man coverage. They also wanted to coax the Raider linebackers into running out of position. (They succeeded, but only in the first half.)

Same offensive tactic, but with vastly different inspirations. The Ravens were trying to showcase their young quarterback, while the Jets were trying to simply make life easier for theirs (nothing wrong with that). This makes sense. Flacco has been around a year longer than Sanchez and is clearly a year ahead of him development-wise. He has a stronger arm and, as of late, more refined tools. He has really improved his pocket movement, becoming more consistent in resetting his feet before he throws.

The Jets are working with Sanchez in this realm. Entering this season, the USC star had a habit of bringing the ball down while eluding rushers in the pocket. This compelled him to reset both his feet AND throwing mechanics, which is too slow of a motion for the NFL.

For what it’s worth, don’t expect such a heavy dose of play-action in this game. Both defenses have savvy linebackers and are too likely to blitz. Instead, the key will be which young quarterback does the best job at diagnosing coverages and pass-rushing attacks prior to the snap.


2. The running backs
Let’s get one thing clear: Ray Rice is a better football player than Shonn Greene. It’s not even close. If Rice were a Friday night, Greene would be, at best, a Wednesday afternoon. Rice runs with superb balance and strength, and his lateral agility is second to none (especially when he gets to the second level). What’s more, he’s a demon in the passing game, both as a receiver and blocker.

Greene, on the other hand, has been somewhat disappointing. He sits out most passing downs and has 1,440 yards rushing…in 32 career games. One issue is Greene’s more of a momentum runner than explosive runner. He excels on sweeps because those runs naturally allow him to hit the line of scrimmage going downhill. But sweeps don’t work against elite outside linebackers (like, say, Terrell Suggs).

Between the tackles, Greene’s vision and timing are very average. That’s why the Jets made LaDainian Tomlinson a prominent part of their offense last season. Tomlinson is off to a fantastic start as a receiving back this season (12 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown), but that’s in part because he knows how to outwit pass defending linebackers. On film, it’s clear L.T. has lost a lot of his speed and quickness. If the Jets are to go anywhere in 2011, they’ll have to ride Greene.

Same goes for the Ravens and Rice. Rice’s production is not a problem, though the Ravens were wise to bring in a supporting No. 2 back like Ricky Williams.

3. The receivers
Derrick Mason is the X-factor. He was Baltimore’s possession target last year and is now filling that role from the slot in New York. The crafty 15-year veteran is one of the few players in the league who does not need to get separation in order to be open.

Plaxico Burress is another one of those players. He’s been, for the most part, his same old self this season (which is remarkable when you really think about it). His matchup Sunday night against Carry Williams will be worth watching. If you asked God to make a cornerback specifically for defending Burress, you might get Williams. He’s only 6’1”, 185, but long and upright, he plays much bigger than that. He has an intriguing combination of physicality and change-of-direction ability, and if asked to play man coverage, he won’t be shy about using trail position technique (which will compel Burress to use his “speed” more than his strength).

It will be interesting to see what the Jets do with Darrelle Revis. The likely assignment will be Anquan Boldin, though last week, rookie Torrey Smith turned in a jaw-dropping three-touchdown first quarter that had the Rams redirecting their safety help concepts. Smith gets faster at the end of his routes, which is something all great deep threats do. Antonio Cromartie has the speed to run with him, so expect the Jets to trust that matchup. But expect the Ravens to readily go after it.

The weak link of both cornerbacking groups happens to be an ex-Boise State Bronco: Chris Carr for the Ravens and Kyle Wilson for the Jets. If it comes down to these ancillary matchups, the Jets have the overall advantage. Mason, their No. 3, is as reliable as they come. For the Ravens, newcomer Lee Evans (who now figures to be the No. 3 receiver) has not established any sort of a rhythm with Flacco.

4. The defensive lines
The Jets have a unique run-stopping approach with their three-man defensive line. Instead of asking their downlinemen to occupy blockers and fill two gaps, the Jets ask them to focus on physically manhandling the guy in front of them. The idea is this creates congestion through penetration and also defines the inside linebackers’ path to the ball (David Harris and Bart Scott are tasked with reading the defensive linemen’s action and attacking in the opposite direction that it’s drifting. More on that in the next section.)

The Jets are the only 3-4 team in the NFL that plays the run this way.

This unique approach is why general manager Mike Tannenbaum drafted a fist-fighter like Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round. Tannenbaum would probably give his right eye for a chance to have a guy like Haloti Ngata. The Ravens 335-pound defensive end/nose tackle is the most destructive front line force in the NFL today.

Ngata has the power of a tug boat and mobility of a clipper. Truly, he moves like a linebacker. Expect him to spend most of his time at defensive end this season, as last year’s second-round pick, Terrence Cody, has looked great at nose tackle.



5. The inside linebackers
These are the entertainers – the guys NBC cameras will fixate on Sunday night. The sagacious Ray Lewis and loquacious Bart Scott. Both back up their personas. Lewis no longer has elite sideline-to-sideline speed, but he compensates with instincts, ferocity and fundamentals.

He was a demon attacking Rams lead-blockers last week. The Ravens’ defensive style will always allow Lewis to be productive, as so much of their run approach is predicated on his teammates occupying blockers.

Scott, who is as aggressive downhill as any linebacker in the league, has both an easier and tougher job than Lewis. It’s easier in that he has a stellar running mate in David Harris. It’s tougher in that, as mentioned earlier, he must read the defensive linemen’s battles in front of him and pursue the ball accordingly.

The reason other 3-4 defenses don’t take this type of approach is it requires great intelligence and pursuit skills from both inside linebackers. Most defenses don’t have an inside combination like Scott and Harris.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 4 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 10, 2011 10:38 am
 

7-Point Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens



Posted by Ryan Wilson


1. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
The Ravens will begin the 2011 season the same way they ended 2010: facing the Steelers. Not only are they AFC North rivals, but there's a good argument that this matchup is annually the NFL's fiercest. At least in terms of physicality; as for the results, Pittsburgh has the edge, especially when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is under center. In fact, Big Ben is undefeated against the Ravens in his last seven starts, something that leaves defensive end Terrell Suggs a little queasy.

"They spoiled our Super Bowl dreams for the last two out of three years," Suggs said. "We have to switch that, you know? It's sickening. It ends our season every year we lose to our division rival. I'm sick of it. I'm disgusted. I'm tired of having a sick feeling in my stomach for a whole year."

But the Ravens have their own franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco, who has helped his team to the postseason his first three years in the league, and has yet to miss a start during that time. Still, the playoff wins on the road against the Patriots in '09, or the '08 AFC Championship Game appearance don't mean much unless the conversation ends with "and the Ravens won the Super Bowl." Exacerbating matters: Flacco is 2-6 against the Steelers in his career and he has yet to beat Roethlisberger. (The two wins came against a Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh team -- Dennis Dixon started late in the '09 season, and Charlie Batch was under center during Week 4 of the 2010 campaign.)

The Rivalry

2. What the Degenerate Gamblers and Eggheads Are Saying:
"You can throw the records out the window" is a cliche, yes, but in this case it's also fitting. While the Steelers hold the win-loss edge, these matchup are invariably close, usually coming down to a huge fourth-quarter play. That, their similarly bruising styles, and the game being in Baltimore means the Steelers are just one-point favorites, according to Bodog.com.

As for the pocket-protector set, our good friends at Football Outsiders have the Steelers atop their preseason rankings (2nd in defense, 5th in offense, 5th in special teams), and the Ravens are sixth (9th in defense, 8th in offense, 3rd in special teams).

The CBSSports.com experts are split: three like the Steelers, two favor the Ravens.

3. Key Matchup to Watch
For the first time in his career, Flacco finally has a legitimate deep threat. The Ravens traded for wide receiver Lee Evans after rookie Torrey Smith's unimpressive showing during the first week of the preseason. (To be fair, Smith didn't have a chance; the second-round pick out of Maryland missed OTAs and minicamp because of the lockout, and had just a few weeks to transition to NFL.)

Evans will play opposite Anquan Boldin, but Flacco's two go-to targets -- Derrick Mason and Todd Heap -- are no longer with the team. Mason signed with the Jets and Baltimore released Heap, who is now in Arizona. Second-year players Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will replace Heap although it may take time for Flacco to develop a rapport with them that he shared with Heap.

The Steelers will try to stop the Ravens' passing attack with what many experts consider its weakest link: the cornerbacks. Ike Taylor broke a finger during the preseason but will be on the field Sunday. And, frankly, the cast he'll be wearing won't have much bearing on his performance. He's a solid cover cornerback who's been known to drop an interception or 12. As long as his legs work, he'll be fine. The other corner, Bryant McFadden, is another story. He's battled a hamstring injury for all of training camp and if 2011 is anything like 2010, offenses will target him all day.

Safety Troy Polamalu, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, can mitigate many of the secondary's shortcomings, particularly when he's at full strength. And to hear him tell it, his Achilles injury, which bothered him late last season all the way through the Super Bowl, is healed and he feels as good as ever.

The Steelers' defensive backs might have more critics but the Ravens' secondary is young and inexperienced, the two things you absolutely don't want to be when facing the likes of Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, and with Roethlisberger throwing them the ball.

Rookie first-rounder, cornerback Jimmy Smith, will start, as will Cary Williams, who spent much of his NFL career on the practice squad. But future Hall of Famer Ed Reed will be on the field, too, which means that a turnover is always just a play away. Still, Reed understands what his guys are up against.

“We have to do our job, and that job is to slow those guys down, keep them out of the end zone, and cover them," he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. We’ve got fast guys around here, too. The only disadvantage for the defense is, for the secondary guys, we’re moving backwards at the start. But it’s part of the game. We knew that. We signed up for it. And we’re definitely ready for the mission.”

Whether Baltimore's offensive line, currently held together by duct tape, feels the same way is another story. Recent free-agent additions Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode join a group that has been reshuffled due to injuries and inconsistencies. It's one thing to make these changes months before the season; it's something else entirely to try to pull it off in just a few weeks after a lockout against a front seven that led the NFL in sacks a season ago.

And this is where the most important cog in Baltimore's offense comes in. Ray Rice is one of the most dangerous players in the league, a sure-handed running back who is both powerful and elusive and also serves as a genuine pass-catching threat. If he's running the ball effectively, Flacco's job is made markedly easier. The problem, of course, is that the Steelers stop the run better than any defense in the league.

4. Potentially Relevant YouTube
Apparently, these two teams play a physical brand of football.


5. The Steelers win if…
The defensive front seven creates confusion for the Ravens offensive line and forces Flacco into mistakes. If Big Ben and his stable of big-play pass-catchers take advantage of a young Baltimore secondary, the game might not be close.

6. The Ravens win if…
The offensive line holds up and gives Flacco an opportunity to exploit McFadden (particularly if he's covering Evans), which should also allow Rice more room to make plays. Defensively, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Suggs will have to help their young secondary by getting consistent pressure on Roethlisberger.

7. Prediction: Steelers 24 Ravens 20

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Posted on: July 6, 2011 10:30 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 10:41 pm
 

Lewis on Brady: 'one of the greatest of all time'

Posted by Ryan Wilson

We joked earlier that if you're weary of the Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning arguments, you could refocus your energies into deciding if Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg knows what he's talking about when he says that Michael Vick could be better than Steve Young.

Well, it seems there's no escaping Brady-Manning. NFL Network finally unveiled the No. 1 player in their countdown of the top 100, and Brady was the big winner. (In related news, Dhani Jones has asked for a recount.) Manning, of course, was No. 2.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who ended up fourth on the list, on why Brady was deserving of the honor:

“He’s not the biggest. He was never the strongest. He was never the fastest. He was overlooked. He went in the sixth round. So with that being said, all of the intangibles that a quarterback is supposed to have, they overlooked with him because it was burning from the inside of him. ...

“It’s a chess match because he understands every coverage, he understands every defense. And if you give it away too early, then the game is like checkers then for him. He plays it how he wants to play it. … And that’s what makes it frustrating playing against him; he always finds those mismatches. … You don’t find too many people playing (who are) willing to sacrifice that much time to do that. That’s why Tom Brady will always be considered one of the greatest of all time.”

Football Outsiders agrees with Lewis. Looking at the last five years of FO's quarterback efficiency ratings, Brady ranked fifth in 2006, and first in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (Brady missed all but 15 minutes of the 2008 season with a knee injury). Manning ranked first in '06 and second every season from '07-'10 (which includes '08, when Drew Brees was first).

So it's finally settled … except that Lewis' teammate Derrick Mason thinks that a) Peyton is "hands down" the NFL's best player and that b) Joe Flacco is the Ravens' "Michael Jordan."

We're still waiting to hear what Terrell Suggs thinks about all this.

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Posted on: June 22, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 7:30 pm
 

Britt issues statement, explains Facebook hacking

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Kenny Britt refuses to go away. He's been in the news recently for various legal entanglements, and then, earlier this week, Britt was the victim of a Facebook hacker. At least that's the story he's telling.

On Monday, this post showed up on Britt's Facebook wall:

"Retiring from the NFL. F*** You Goddell. So there is that."

It was promptly deleted and the "real" Britt informed his readers through a series of Facebook posts that his account had been hacked, he's not really retiring, and he's very much looking forward to the start of the NFL season.

Everyone hoped that would be the last we'd hear from Britt until there was actual football to discuss. Nope. The Titans wide receiver released a statement Tuesday night further explaining what happened.

Details via the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt:

“I have the utmost respect for Commissioner Goodell, the NFL and the TN Titans,” Britt said. “The Facebook posting as reported was not made by myself nor have I given any statements to anyone regarding this matter. It is not a defense but a fact that this Facebook page and associated email account were hacked and reported more than 120 days ago.”

Please. Stop. Talking. The first rule of PR is to bury the story and pray people forget about it. The recent news about the possibility of a new CBA had done just that … and then Britt goes an issues a statement.

Assuming for the moment that his Facebook account really was hacked, does Britt believe people are going to take him seriously after spending the last few weeks in court rooms and squad cars? (Also worth noting: Britt's been arrested at least six times since the Titans drafted him in April 2009.)

We joked about it Monday, but Britt's "Hey, my Facebook got hacked!" defense is right from the Anthony Weiner playbook. All that's left is for Britt to hold a press conference and have Benjy Bronk yell out unprompted questions about hot physiques and smooth sexy chests.

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Posted on: June 21, 2011 11:35 am
Edited on: June 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

LB Akeem Jordan latest NFL player to be arrested

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Linebacker Akeem Jordan, who played for the Eagles last season but will be a free agent once the lockout ends, is the latest NFL player to make the police blotter.

Jordan was arrested in Harrisonburg, Va., early Sunday and charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in an incident with an unidentified person, according to the Harrisonburg Police Department.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that the incident occurred in the parking lot of the Firetap Bar and Grill on Evelyn Byrd Avenue at 2 a.m.

"They got into a verbal altercation, which led to a physical disorderly incident," police spokeswomen Mary-Hope Vass said, according to the Daily News. "The incident was reported to us on Sunday afternoon. The victim went to the magistrate and obtained the warrant. Jordan turned himself in Sunday without any issues."

Jordan, 25, is a Harrisonburg native. He was released on his own recognizance Monday.

"It's always unfortunate when these things happen," said Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, Jordan's agent. "Circumstances happen, but I'm confident it will be figured out. He is cooperating fully. Getting into the details doesn't help anybody; it impedes the process. I stand behind the kid 100 percent. He's a first-class kid, but you always wish these things never happen. He's got a great track record as a citizen."

Injuries to the victim were described as "nothing life-threatening." The Eagles had no comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, we have another name to add to the offseason wall of shame. And even though Ray Lewis' theories on criminal behavior have been debunked, the arrests continue. Weird.

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Posted on: June 17, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Crime data don't support Ray Lewis' claims

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Most of us are aware of Ray Lewis' warning last month that if the lockout looms, and there is no football, crime rate will increase.

"Do this research if we don't have a season -- watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game," Lewis told ESPN at the time.

In the weeks since, we've joke that, every time an NFL player is cuffed and stuffed, Lewis' doomsday prophecy seems less absurd. Since Lewis' May 22 comments, Raheem Brock and Javarris James have been arrested, and Kenny Britt has had several run-ins with authorities.

But is this out of the ordinary? It seems that way, probably because there's not much else going on in the NFL, between the lockout and June historically being the slowest month on the league calendar. Plus, this phenomenon could be nothing more than selective perception, which is a fancy way of explaining how expectations affect perceptions. Because Lewis' warning was at the front of our minds, we noticed arrests when we might not otherwise pay attention to them.

Well, PolitiFact.com took Lewis up on his "do the research" offer. They looked at the 1982 NFL work stoppage, when a 57-day labor dispute led to the 16-game schedule being reduced to nine games.
The nation’s violent crime rate in 1982 was slightly lower than it was the year before the work stoppage, according to FBI crime data. The violent crime rate dropped more significantly the following year, the data show.

Northeastern’s Sport in Society center examined Lewis’ claim after a call from us and also focused on the 1982 NFL work stoppage. It, too, reached a similar conclusion.

"There is very little evidence supporting Lewis’ claim that crime will increase the longer the work stoppage lasts," the center told us.

PolitiFact.com also cited a recent Baltimore Sun study that looked at crime in 1982 and found an increase during the strike in only one category: homicides. (Note: The Sun stressed that the study was unscientific.) Other findings:
  • The newspaper’s Crime Beat blog looked at crime data last season when the Ravens had their bye (off) week. The Sun found there was slightly more crime during the bye week. 
  • There were the same number of crimes in Baltimore the four weeks before the season started as the first four weeks of the season. They also found that there was less crime after the season ended in early January. 
If you're still not convinced (and at this point, only Ray Lewis wouldn't be), there's this: "The FBI says crime typically decreases during football season, but it doesn’t see a correlation, according to a newspaper account provided to us by the Sport in Society center," PolitiFact.com notes. "The FBI believes criminals prefer to strike when the weather is warmer."

Northeastern University criminologist James A. Fox did his own study after hearing Lewis' comments and he also came away unconvinced. "I took the Ray Lewis challenge and I don’t see any evidence of [a crime increase]," he Fox.

Mystery solved … although expect us to keep making "Ray Lewis can predict the future!" jokes every time an NFL player gets arrested. He can talk to animals, after all.

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Posted on: June 17, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: June 17, 2011 10:37 am
 

Raheem Brock arrested for running out on $27 tab

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Raheem Brock, who played for the Seahawks last season but will be a free agent once the lockout ends, was arrested Thursday night after he ran out on a $27 restaurant tab, Philadelphia Magazine reports.

According to MyFoxPhilly.com, the former Temple player allegedly walked out on a bill at the South Street club, Copacabana, before police questioned him nearby. A source told MyFoxPhilly.com that "there [was] a minor struggle and police put Brock under arrest."

PFT.com says Brock was charged with theft and resisting arrest and was released Friday morning without bail.

We've written previously that the lockout isn't strictly a billionaires-vs.-millionaires battle over money. Like most of us, many players rely on their weekly paychecks. They aren't all wealthy enough to take eight months off work with no financial worries. That was the case with Dolphins rookie fullback Charles Clay. Apparently, Brock could use some walking-around money, too.

Too bad he didn't call Roger Goodell for a loan before allegedly dining and dashing.

Meanwhile, Ray Lewis nods knowingly.

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Posted on: June 16, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Possible NFL landing spots for Terrelle Pryor

Posted by Ryan Wilson

If you're of the opinion that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would be good locker room influences on any player with off-field issues, then you may have no problem with John Clayton's suggestion that the Ravens might be one of five teams willing to take a flyer on Terrelle Pryor. If you don't buy the initial premise (and some folks are understandably skeptical), then the whole argument falls apart.

Writing for ESPN, Clayton admits that "This might be a bit of a reach, but as a lower-round selection Pryor could interest the Ravens as a receiver. Having him learn under Anquan Boldin would be the key. Boldin was a quarterback in college and uses the knowledge gained there to put himself in position to help his quarterback."

We agree. It's a reach. Not because the Ravens aren't willing to gamble with talented but troubled players (they are), but because if we're to take agent Drew Rosenhaus at his word (we'll wait while you quit laughing), he thinks Pryor is not only an NFL quarterback but a "first-round pick."

Perhaps that stance will soften as teams explain to Rosenhaus that his client probably isn't worth more than a fourth-rounder. Although, as Mike Mayock pointed out Wednesday night, "Nobody is better than Rosenhaus in driving perceived value. … Sometimes perceived value is almost as good as real value if he can get enough people talking about [Pryor] as a first-round pick."

Other possible destinations, according to Clayton: Oakland, Miami, Pittsburgh and Washington.
Terrelle Pryor's NFL future

The Raiders makes sense because, well, it's the Raiders. Once Al Davis sees Pryor's 40 time, he very well could be a first-rounder. Still, that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Clayton says the Dolphins "want to add someone to compete against Chad Henne," and we agree. It's just not going to be Pryor. Remember: Miami wasted a second-rounder on Pat White two years ago. Pat White is now out of the NFL.

As for Pittsburgh, Clayton notes that, "Many scouts believe Pryor potentially has Dennis Dixon-like ability as quarterback." Dennis Dixon also never had off-field issues (just the opposite, in fact). He's also been an adequate NFL backup and nothing more. Probably not worth the potential headaches that will accompany Pryor, even if Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is impartial to Ohio State players.

Finally, there are the Redskins. Like the Raiders -- and given their blindfold-and-a-dartboard personnel philosophy -- it makes too much sense not to happen. To Clayton's credit, he calls Pryor-to-Washington a long shot, even given the fact that Mike Shanahan doesn't have an starting-caliber QB currently on the roster.

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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