Posts Tagged ‘Ray Lewis’

Unlike Rocky's desire I do see a rematch from the regular season

Unlike Rocky’s desire I do see a rematch from the regular season

Its one of the great Hollywood lines.

Apollo Creed the heavyweight champion has just been taken the distance by the unknown southpaw Rocky Balboa.

Just as the bell goes at the end of the 15th round Creed turns to Balboa and utters; “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”

With one of the few breaths left Rocky retorts; “Don’t want one.”

This was of course an exchange of lines from a fictitious movie, where the heavy underdog   finally finds a purpose and emerges a hero.

With the NFC and AFC Championship games starting in less than 24 hours there are two Hollywood scripts that are waiting to grace the silver screen.

For two future Hall of Fame enshrinees it is an opportunity to match Rocky, and take a further step to becoming a World Champion.

Both the Atlanta Falcons tight-end Tony Gonzales and the Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis have huge emotional investment from their fans as Sunday ‘could’ be their last ever NFL game.

Anyone who is not a fan of the final four teams should be having their heart-strings pulled by these two living legends, as they battle through to the Super Bowl complete with teary post-game press conferences and premature confetti.

Problem is some dreams are not meant to come true, and Sunday will be where the analogy of this particular Hollywood boxing film will fade away like a reel of archived 1970’s celluloid.

I just can’t see the Baltimore Ravens stopping the New England Patriots (who will be at home) from returning to the Super Bowl, where I predict they will battle the San Francisco 49ers, fresh after defrosting from a cryogenic freezing process administered in the mid 1990’s. Saying that I must have Sylvester Stallone on the brain as the whole defrosting comparison led me to think of Demolition Man.

I am admittedly making a big hash out of my playoff predictions this season, with my only two highlights being predicting the exact correct score for the Texans v Bengals Wild-card game and the fact that the Falcons would actually advance from the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

So to my predictions – about as scientifically prepared as Bob the Builder with a bunsen burner brewing crystal meth (yes I am watching Breaking Bad – currently just started Season Tw0 in case you were wondering)…

49ers @ Falcons

49ers backs Frank Gore and Lamichael James will grind out the tough yards behind battering ram fullback Bruce Miller. The Falcons will be intent on holding Kapernick to under 75 yards rushing so Gore will want to get 20 carries. If Gore gets over 25 I can see the Niners winning by at least a touchdown. 49ers outside linebackers containing Tony Gonzales. Dialing up too many blitzes will give Tony time to get warmed up so the 49ers will need Ahmad Brooks to remain patient.

49ers to win 31-27 in a game that looks close if you just see the final score but in truth is dominated by the 49ers for the majority of the game. I don’t think Colin Kaepernick will be as dominant as he was against a porous Packers defense, but I do see him passing for three touchdowns.

Ravens @ Patriots

Pats tight-end Aaron Hernandez need to have a big game. As the Boston Mayor informed the media ‘Gonk’ is out, so Hernandez will be asked to form part of the big woven safety blanket that consists of Wes Welker and any Patriots running back named Ridley, Vereen or Woodhead. The Ravens will be determined to get in the grill of Tom Brady to stop him getting into that mesmeric rhythm that has taken him to five previous Super Bowls. The Ravens gave up two special teams touchdowns last week, something that the previous Super Bowl winning Ravens team would not have allowed. I have predicted the Ravens to lose the last two weeks so I feel obliged to do the same again. This time I don’t see the result being as close as last year. I do see the Patriots offense stalling in the red-zone, but my bold prediction is Pats kicker Gotkowski connecting on five field goals.

Patriots to win 29-19 in a game where Tom Brady is rattled but not derailed.

This gives me a 49ers v Patriots Super Bowl. To end on a pugilistic note a knockout game you must agree.

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Gronk wont be playing in the Super Bowl regardless if the Pats win on Sunday

Gronk wont be playing in the Super Bowl regardless if the Pats win on Sunday

Five Super Bowl performances in the last eleven seasons is pretty remarkable, all led by the same quarterback and head coach combination is mind-bending.

Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots franchise stand on the verge of a sixth Super Bowl berth in the last dozen seasons, which if they do succeed means they have represented their conference in 50% of Super Bowls since 2002.

They face a Baltimore Ravens team this weekend in  a rematch of last years AFC Championship, a game the Patriots triumphed 23-20.

The Ravens are now in their third conference championship in five years, hoping that it’s third time lucky.

There are many many storylines and matchups to look out for:

– Can Ray Lewis fire up his team enough or will his final NFL game be a heartbreaking defeat?

– Can the Patriots live without the man-beast Rob Gronkowski?

– Can the Ravens pull-off a third playoff win in a row against a fresher team who will have a huge home field advantage?

– Can the Patriots secondary live with the speed of Torrey Smith – will it be Aqib Talib marking Smith to leave Anquan Boldin to have a big game?

– Will there be a Ravens player do a ‘Lee Evans’ and drop a game winning touchdown?

I have to say I love the way the Pats have taken the two tight-end set into a different stratosphere, which is why it’s such a shame that Rob Gronkowski re-broke his arm last weekend and will next suit up in anger in about six-months. I do expect a big game from the ‘other’ tight-end Aaron Hernandez.

Regardless of Hernandez’s stat-line, or the lack of the Gronk, the Patriots are 60 minutes away from their eighth Super Bowl, and for me a seventh time watching those silver helmets take on an NFC opponent.

When you are a supporter of such a dominant team then you are hoping the Super Bowl performances are never-ending, but when you are a fan of one of the other 31 NFL teams you just hope that there are some new teams losing their Super Bowl virginity.

As a neutral it has been a lot of fun seeing the likes of the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals reach (and in the first two cases win) a Super Bowl.

It’s not so much fun watching the same teams keep going back. The irony is not lost that we have the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Championship as I grew up watching Joe Montana and Steve Young win three Super Bowls over a seven year stretch.

I do have very clear memories of the Ravens winning their only previous Super Bowl appearance, and likewise the Falcons somewhat flat performance against the John Elway led Denver Broncos in 1999.

As long as the Patriots are held out of this Super Bowl I really don’t mind who wins out of the 49ers and the Falcons. You have to love the dynamism of Colin Kaepernick and then the emotional high that would be experienced if Tony Gonzales the future Hall of Fame tight-end would get if he could somehow play his last game in the Super Bowl.

Just don’t think I can stomach another two-weeks of hype led by Tom Brady’s face and the grey face of Bill ‘the Emperor’ Belichick.

Come on Ray & Ray you wouldn’t want to let down your international admirers would you?

brigance-crushing-the-opponent-300x283Early this morning I put on the internet radio to listen to ESPN 980 to get the latest playoff gossip.

Didn’t expect to shed a tear whilst feeding my daughter breakfast, but after listening to the story of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and special-teams ace O.J Brigance I had to go and get a tissue.

Brigance has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis otherwise known as motor neuron disease.

This means Brigance cannot use his arms or legs, and cannot speak. He communicates via an electronic voice box.

None of this has meant Brigance has spent time away from football, as he is the director of player development at the Ravens.

It was Brigance who set the tone at Super Bowl XXXV (the only one the Ravens have won) as he recorded the opening tackle of the game as a special teams ace on the Giants kickoff return.

Now Brigance is again setting the tone as the Ravens, led linebacker Ray Lewis, the MVP of that said Super Bowl, are two games away from playing for a second Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Brigance sends team mates email messages and also speaks to the players and coaches during the week and in the locker room.

The vast majority of focus will be on Ray Lewis v Peyton Manning today, but spare a thought for a man who cannot stand, cannot talk, cannot tackle, but CAN inspire a team and a city to a huge playoff upset against the red-hot Denver Broncos.

I do love a good Disney film, where you root for the hero to conquer all evil. OJ Brigance is no cartoon hero, he is a real person, and whilst his vocal cords no longer generate any sound, it is his heart and soul that will scream above all the noise of two sets of fans and the stadium sound system inside Mile High Stadium later today.

Can the Ravens win today – yes they can. Adversity is simply a word.

To find out more about OJ Brigance’s Foundation the Brigance Brigade click here.

Perhaps the best example of the Madden Curse
Perhaps the best example of the Madden Curse

I’m here instead to raise my concerns about the health, happiness, well-being and possibly mortality of Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers S Troy Polamalu.

They are the new faces of the Madden computer game.

Lets look at the fate of previous Madden stars

09 – Brett Favre QB – was pictured in Packers and Jets uniform but either way he crashed and burned late in the season and left his record setting career on a pretty awful note, hence his flirting with the Vikings.

08 – Vince Young QB – He is now backing up Kerry Collins – yep Kerry Collins. Young is about one cameo apperance from becoming the next Akili Smith

07- Shaun Alexander RB – In 2006 Alexander had his highest number of career fumbles and missed 6 games. His career has gone down quicker than Gillian Tailforth in a Little Chef car park.

06 – Donovan McNabb QB – In 05 McNabb only managed 9 games.

05 – Ray Lewis LB – Anyone for murder charges?

04 – Michael Vick QB – Enough said – 2 years in prison and global hatred from every dog lover

03 – Marshall Faulk RB – Only 10 starts and the first time in 6 years he rushed for under 1,000 yards

02 – Daunte Culpepper QB – 16 starts in 2000, 16 starts in 2002 – but in 2001 when he was on the Madden cover only 11 games.

01 – Eddie George RB – Only Madden cover star to have a MONSTER season – 1,962 combined yards and 16 touchdowns.

I have Fitz in one of my NFL.com fantasy teams so I hope he stays fit.

It is pretty much a guarantee though that Fitz or Polamalw will suffer somewhat and I would put £10 on that both of them will combine to play under 30 games this season between them.

What u guys think – nonsense or curse of the cover?

This weekend belings to Ray Lewis and the Ravens - my upset special against an 'on paper' better team.

This weekend belongs to Ray Lewis and the Ravens - my upset special against an 'on paper' better team.

After two rounds of hitting and high fives I have managed to get six out of eight playoff winners correct, and this means I did predict the Ravens, Eagles and the Steelers to reach the final four.

Where I messed up and where I suspect the rest of the world messed up was not giving enough respect to the Arizona Cardinals. Yes the Arizona Cardinals – a team historically so inept they can talk long into the night with the Detroit Lions and still feel bad.

Say it in your head, or say it out loud – the Arizona Cardinals are JUST ONE game away from the Superbowl. It sounds like some sort of joke, or maybe something that you can only witness when playing John Madden on your console, but no this is real, and in about 30 hours the Cards HOST the NFC Championship game against the wily Philadelphia Eagles, so that is where my prediction will start.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

On the surface this is a battle between Donovan McNabb (one Superbowl played one loss) and Kurt Warner(two Superbowls played one won one loss) to show which veteran quarterback has the intestinal fortitude to lead their team to the promised land, but this game will come down to the brute strength and blocking power of the offensive and defensive lines – as they will be the guys pressurising or protecting Mc Nabb and Warner, and the ones making the gaps or shutting down the run.

Both McNabb and Warner were sacked an average of less than twice a game, so both offensive lines are solid but are able to be exploited.

The real key is that McNabb is more likely to take a sack and keep possession of the ball. Cardinals have looked awful at points this season when Warner has spilled the ball, and I think the Eagles will dial up the pressure throughout the game.

NFL FAN IN ENGLAND gives his KEYS to the game

1) The Cardinals need to get 120 yards rushing to stand any hope of winning this game, and this does not necessarily mean 100 from Edge – it could be 65 for Edge and 55 for Tim Hightower who looks to be swimming in shark infested water at the moment.

2) The Eagles WRs need to make a statement early that they can be difference makers. Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson can both have huge games but someone like Reggie Brown or Jason Avant could be the player to break the game open as they will get single coverage.

3) Neil Rackers needs to be there and come through in the clutch. He has gone from fantasy gold to an after thought, and this game could come down to a kick. David Akers has the NFL post season consecutive completed fg record. Rackers has never been to a championship game – will it overawe him or will he become a hero.

 4) Brian Westbrook . He has had a rather quiet post season, so is this the game he busts out of his funk? YES in my opinion it is. Westbrook has more talent than Edgarrin James but has so far not been the multi dimensional weapon that he has been in the regular season. Providing he has 15 touches each half this could decide the game.

5) This game comes down to the Eagles secondary beating up on the Cardinals wideouts, and despite the hype surrounding Fitzgeral and Boldin this is where I think the game will be won for the Eagles, who will pick off Warner three times.

Prediction – Philadelphia 27-17 Arizona – MVP Donovan McNabb 2 passing tds

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – BALTIMORE RAVENS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Ravens have shown that the formula of Defense Defense Defense is enough to mask any offensive deficiences. Only one problem its exactly what the Steelers have in their very own test tubes also.

On paper he Steelers have the all round talent and also are the most recent of the final four to win a Superbowl, and the last time they did it they had Ben Roethlisberger who will again be under center for this bruising affair.

The 2008 season will be remembered as the Wild Card winners Superbowl as I think the Ravens will get revenge against a Steelers team that is going to be thinking it is the better team right now. I expect this game to be as ugly as the Titans v Ravens game last week – but for the defensive purist this will be a thing of beauty.

 NFL FAN IN ENGLAND gives his KEYS to the game

 1) Flacco has to be a handoff robot. If Joe Flacco wants to be the first rookie qb to start in a Superbowl then he needs to be disciplined and listen to his coaches instructions. This is what has got him this far, and despite a pass rush that will be scarier than being stuck in a lift with Plaxico Burress and an AK-47, if Flacco stays disciplined this could be his ticket to immortality.

2) The emotional impact of Hines Ward. Whilst the linebackers of the Steelers have been the highlight reel champions the Steelers go as far as Hines Ward’s catches. He is destined to go to the Hall of Fame (and I am no terrible towel waver) and he can ignite Heinz Field with a crucial 3rd down conversion or a touchdown. Take him out early – no – take him out late. When the game is on the line that’s when the Ravens need to cover every blade of grass that Ward does.

3) The Steelers offensive line protecting Big Ben. Its all very well saying Willie Parker is gonna have another huge game – but you cannot get the running game going unless the pass is successful early. Look for Big Ben to try and pass the Steelers out of the blocks with some screens and te hitches. I think the Ravens D will be ready for this and an early pickoff will get Big Ben nervous.

4) Can Mark Clayton please show up. Derek Mason is a stud and deserves respect (I said last week he would be huge and he was) but he cannot win the game by himself as a WR. Fans will have Clayton as an afterthought but he does have the talent to change a game, and this in my humble opinion is where he will do it.

5) Todd Heap. It seems the real Todd Heap hasnt shown up for about 2 seasons, but when it counts Heap can be dangerous. He may not be the Todd Heap of old – but he can get 5 catches this game. If he does the Ravens win.

Prediction –  Baltimore 21-20 Pittsburgh – MVP – Ray Lewis 12 tackles and 1 INT.

That leaves me with a Baltimore v Philadelphia Superbowl – Any thoughts ?????