Archive for December, 2008

SI Captures "Huge Dork" Chad Pennington at his Huge Dorkiest

December 31, 2008

“[Flacco] was certainly better than his opposite number, Chad “I’m a giant dork and point like a tool when I scramble for a 4-yard first down” Pennington.  Seriously, his goofy air-stab whenever he fell past the sticks made me lose what was a decent amount of respect I had for the guy previously.  Maybe Chad and Phil Rivers can get together and form a Dorky Douchey Hillbilly Quarterback Club.” – Me, 10/20/08

Thanks to Sports Illustrated for obtaining photographic evidence of Pennington’s patented “air stab.”[insert your stupid Ray Lewis “stab” joke here, haters]  Sunday, the Ravens will redefine the SI curse, from the “cover jinx” to the “caught looking like a moron” jinx.


Ravens 27 Jaguars 7 (The FESTIVUS IS UPON US Game)

December 29, 2008

Sorry for the late posting today.  Like so many of you, I did my fair share of celebratin’ after this one, and as a result was in no shape to attempt coherent thoughts until about dinner time today.  Well worth it, if I do say so myself.  As a matter of fact, I look forward to doing it 4 more times over the next 6 weeks.  

The Ravens absolutely dismantled a pretty listless Jacksonville Jags squad yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium.  It was the home finale for our purple birds, and what amounted to their lone home playoff game of this particular Festivus season.  Since the Buffalo Bills were unable to tame Matt Cassel’s Patriots (and the wind) in the early game, the Ravens’ playoff lives were at stake, and the B’More crowd was aptly amped up.  The decibel level at the purple palace rivaled that of the runway over at BWI, as I could tell even from my seats, which were up around the flight altitudes of some of those planes.

The Ravens took an early 3-0 lead on a 32-yard Matt Stover FG, which had been set up by a beautifully thrown and caught 48-yard bomb from Joe Flacco to Mark Clayton.  How Clayton was able to corral that ball, which was blown around by the 15-mph winds, I’ll never know – but it wasn’t even Mark’s best of the day.  That distinction came on a 47-yarder from Joe Cool late in the 2nd quarter, on a ball that was about even with my sight line at its apex.

Jacksonville struck back though, scoring on a 23-yard TD pass from David Garrard to Alvin Pearman, and the Jags led 7-3 after the opening period.  That would be the last time the Jags would score.

The crowd became eerily silent and nervous after that play, but Joe Cool would have none of it.  “Hop on my back, B’More, we’re going to the playoffs,” Flacco’s play assured us, as he had his best day yet as a pro.  He was 17-23 for 297 yards, and the two long passes to Clayton were the most beautifully thrown balls we have seen around these parts in many a year.  Joe took only 1 sack, didn’t turn the ball over, and finished the day with a passer rating of 115.8.  After a string of mediocre games in front of his adoring fans (seriously, did anybody in Baltimore NOT get a Flacco jersey for Christmas?), Joe finally dazzled us in person.

The Ravens defense, playing without Fabian Washington, who was a late scratch because of a toe injury, clamped down after that early hiccup.  By holding the Jags scoreless over the final 45 minutes, the Ravens managed to accomplish a feat not seen since the 1962 Green Bay Packers:  no visiting team put up more than 13 points in Charm City all season.  Fast Eddie Reed had not 1, but 2 more interceptions, to give him the outright NFL lead for the 2nd time in his career.  Reed should garner heavy consideration for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year – yes, Ed Reed, playing at about 75%, is still better than the rest of the league.  Incredible.  Eddie also laid a vintage Reed crushing hit on Reggie Williams for a 2-yard loss (the play where Suggs got his obligatory stupid penalty for roughing the passer.)

Ray Lewis also recovered 2 fumbles, as the Ravens ended the season +13 in turnover differential, good for 3rd best in the NFL.  Their 26 interceptions led the league in that category.  Baltimore also finished the season #1 in the NFL in time of possession, at 33:23 per game.

That last stat would not be possible if not for the incredible play of the Ravens’ offensive line and running backs.  Le’Ron “Pain Train” McClain ran for 70 yards on 25 carries and added 2 more touchdowns to give him 10 for the 2008 season, and Willis McGahee scored on an impressive 13-yard draw play.  McGahee is showing the kind of speed and elusiveness we have not seen from him all year, and is hopefully, along with Ray Rice, finally getting healthy in time for the playoffs.

That’s right, Ravens fans.  Playoffs.  The most improbable and unexpected season in the Ravens’ short history was not to be ended prematurely.  We could have been forced into wondering “what if?” if they had been unable to pull off the victory yesterday, and spent all offseason agonizing over those painful last minute losses to Pittsburgh and Tennessee.  We’d have been rationalizing until training camp to ourselves, saying how the year was still a success because the team so exceeded all expectations, even if they playoffs weren’t in the cards.  Well, the Ravens saved us all that shit and gave us what we really wanted:  a playoff berth.  And, to be honest, we love the Ravens’ chances.

Up first are the equally surprising Miami Dolphins, who the Ravens pasted 27-13 in Week 7.  We’ll delve into that match up as the week goes on.

For now, let’s all take a deep breath and take in this beautiful Festivus air.

Jaguars (5-10) @ Ravens (10-5)

December 26, 2008

It all comes down to this.  Assuming that the Buffalo Bills are unable to knock off the New England Patriots in the early game (a fairly safe assumption given that the Bills have not beaten the Pats since the first game of the ’03 season), the Ravens, although already in double-digit wins, will need one more victory to get into the post season.  Their opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are having just as surprising of a 2008 season as the Ravens, albeit in an opposite sense.  The Jags, after seeing their 2007 campaign end in New England in the divisional round, seemed poised to take the next step this year.  Injuries and inconsistent play have derailed them though, and they have stumbled to the basement of the AFC South.  They are 0-3 against the AFC North this year as well (yes, they actually lost to the Bengals).  Quaterback David Garrard, who threw only 3 interceptions and was sacked just 21 times in 2007, has went down 41 times so far this year, and has thrown the ball to the wrong team on 11 occasions.  Their two-headed backfield of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew is down to one, with Taylor having been placed on IR several weeks ago.  Jones-Drew is a bit banged up as well, but is expected to play.  The Jags leading receiever, Matt Jones, is serving an NFL-imposed suspension for the final 3 games of the season.  Good news for the Ravens, as both Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington are nursing minor injuries this week.

After seeing the top defenses of the Redskins, Steelers, and Cowboys in recent weeks, the Jags’ 12th-ranked unit could look like a pop-warner squad to Joe Flacco.  Not that they are a pushover, but Jacksonville does not feature the likes of Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, or DeMarcus Ware.  They have racked up only 13 interceptions and 26 sacks so far this season.  After being manhandled for 5 sacks in the first half in Dallas, the Ravens O-line stepped it up and kept Joe Flacco upright for the entire 2nd half.  As for their ground defense, the Jaguars held Adrian Peterson to just 80 yards in Week 12, but allowed the Texans’ Steve Slaton to gash them for 130 just a week later.  The Ravens should be able to wear them down just as they have done to teams all year.  Ray Rice has been back at practice, and hopefully Willis McGahee’s 77-yard TD run in Big D will give him the confidence boost he so desperately needed to regain his 2007 form.

Joe Flacco gets one last shot to have a good game at M&T Bank Stadium, before taking his act (The Joe Flacco Show) on the road for the playoffs.  Joe Cool has continued to struggle at home, but perhaps this 19th-ranked Jags pass defense is just what he needs to regain his comfort zone.  Helping keep him comfortable will be Derrick “Superman” Mason, he of the one good wing.  Mason’s performance in Dallas will go down in Ravens lore for the ages.  Unless Buffalo pulls the upset and makes this game meaningless for the Ravens, bet your last dollar that Mason will again be playing through the pain.  The Jags’ weak pass-rush should also allow Todd Heap to get himself back into the passing game, instead of being forced to hang in and block all game again.

Jacksonville’s return game, like that of the Ravens, is sub-par – neither team has scored a return TD this season.  Jim Leonhard has given the Ravens a big boost over the ineffective Yamon Figurs in punt returns, averaging over double per return (12.2 to 6.0).  Unfortunately, Figurs remains the Ravens best option on kickoffs, at least until that shin bruise of Ray Rice heals completely.  The Ravens have missed Rice catching passes out of the backfield, and can’t risk having him reinjured returning kicks.

Now, it isn’t impossible, of course, that the Bills upset New England.  It’s a division game, Buffalo would love to end New England’s season, the Bills already potentially spoiled the post season dreams of one team (Denver, last week), and yadda yadda yadda.  We’ll be rooting like hell for them, but a Belicheck team losing a must-win Week 17 game just doesn’t seem all that feasible.

So, it will fall onto the Ravens to once again overcome the pressure.  They owe the Jags one.  The last time these teams met, in 2005 in JAX, the Ravens were stomped, 30-3.  The 2008 Ravens, though, have thrived on beating up on lesser teams, having outscored teams with losing records by an average of 31-12 in going 6-0 in those games.  Unless everything we know about this team comes crashing down at the worst possible time, Festivus will officially be upon us by Sunday night.

Ravens 28 Jaguars 10

An Unexpected Xmas Present

December 24, 2008

From myself.

When I went on Ticketmaster in July to try to get some face-value Ravens tickets for the 2008 season, this game was, needless to say, not my first choice.  However, it was all I could get.

I tried to ramp up my enthusiasm.

“Well, maybe it won’t be THAT cold.”

“Maybe the Jags won’t have their playoff spot locked up yet, and the Ravens can play spoilers.”

“They always play better at home.  Look at last year’s final game, against Pittsburgh.  Troy Smith beat the Steelers!”

“Hey, at least I’ll be at the game.” (For the atmosphere.  I, like most, feel like I get a much better view of the actual ‘game’ itself when I watch on TV)

My, my, my, how things have changed.  It came to pass that one of the teams on the ticket has a playoff spot (spot – get it? jaguars?  nevermind.) on the line, but it ain’t the bad guys.  This game turned into the culmination of the most unexpected of seasons, and is really a win-win at this point.


1.  The Patriots win their 1 o’clock game.  Since the Ravens can be no higher than the #6 seed in the Playoffs, this becomes their one and only home game of the “postseason.”  Sure, it won’t be a REAL playoff game, but for all intents and purposes it is.  The Ravens win, they keep playing.  They lose, they go home.  The atmosphere at M&T will certainly be that of a playoff game.  (On the bright side, the Ravens are 0-2 in “real” playoff games that I attend, so maybe its for the best that this will only be a “playoff” game and not a playoff game.)


2.  The Bills somehow pull the upset of New England.  In this case, the Ravens can have their Playoff berth secured before the coin even flips at midfield.  Festivus locked up, the playoff atmosphere at M&T will turn into 100% party atmosphere.  We will be able to sit through a game with 0% stress, which is not something that comes around often.

I’ll be pulling for the 2nd scenario.  As much fun as watching the Ravens throttle the Jags with everything on the line would be, being at a game that is essentially one huge celebration from start to finish just sounds too damn awesome to pass up.  Ideally, the Bills will be up like 35-0 at half time or something ridiculous, and the party can start in the pre-game tailgate lots.

Now I’m just getting ahead of myself though.  The point is, what seemed like an OK purchase at the time has turned into a great one, and potentially a historic one.  Merry Xmas to me, from me (and the Ravens).


Suck My A$$$$$$$$, Mark Teixeira

December 24, 2008

I had held off on posting about this, because I was pretty sure all along this was how it was going to end; with Mark Teixeira never playing in Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a member of the home team.

The Great Peter Angelos has once again hoodwinked the city of Baltimore and it’s baseball fans, by going through the charade of pretending to try to bring Tex “home” while all along knowing full well that the offer they had put on the table was nothing more than the proverbial bone to appease the dwindling fan base.  Sure, the 5000 or so orange-glasses wearing fools that still buy O’s season tickets will continue to tow the company line of “trust in the plan of MacPhail.” You’ll hear that sentiment echoed time and again by the media outlets in town who are nothing more than Peter’s pawns, but I, along with most everyone who has ever donned a cartoon bird proudly, have had just about enough.

Teixiera was too good to be true.  The Severna Park kid with the sweet swing and slick glove who could instantly become the face of the franchise and put butts in the seats again.  The Cal Ripken for the next generation.

A pipe dream, and nothing more.

With Angelos at the helm, the O’s are but a shadow of the team Mark cheered for growing up anyway, a barely recognizable imposter to the great tradition of Orioles baseball.  Sure, he dreamed of playing for the O’s as a kid.  But not Pete’s O’s.

I’m not even sure who to be angrier with.

Peter the Great, for never even seriously trying to lure Tex home?  By most accounts, the Orioles’ initial offer to Teixeira was in the 7-year-140-million range.  Now though, its coming out that the offer was more like $125 million.  For a free agent that was expected all along to command near $200 million, offering just over half seems like a pretty laughable tactic.  And then, to NOT ONCE upgrade the offer as more and more teams entered the bidding?  The question becomes:  Does Pete really think WE are this stupid to think they were ever serious, or, is HE really that stupid to think Tex would give a “home town discount” of such ludicrous proportions?  And of course, there is his famous promise that the money from his precious sports network (MASN) would be used to compete for free agents with the likes of Boston and New York.  Three years later, that promise is still showing just how empty anything from a lawyer’s mouth really is.

Or should the anger be directed at Tex?  For using his home team (and it’s fans) as nothing more than leverage.  For paying lip service all these years, saying things like, “Baltimore is somewhere we would have to look very seriously at in the future.”  For signing, of all places, with the NEW YORK YANKEES!  Mark, Mark, Mark.  I’d say I’m looking forward to hearing you lustily booed by your home town, but we all know that Skank fans outnumber O’s fans at Oriole park 10-to-1 these days.  Hell, come to think of it, Mark gets the best of both worlds.  He gets to play on a team that is actually committed to winning, AND gets to hear cheers when he plays in the ballpark he spent so many summer nights at as a kid.  So what if the cheers are coming from the visiting team’s fans?  Can you really blame the guy?

Or how about MLB itself, for allowing such a mockery to come of it’s attempts at parity?  This “luxury tax” is really doing the job, isn’t it Commissioner?  The Yankees now have the Top 4 highest paid baseball players in the league on their roster at the same time (Jeter, GayRod, Tex, Sabathia).  The retched excess being shown by the Skanks, especially during these tough economic times, is truly vomit-worthy.  Speaking of, I’m hoping that the Steinbrenner’s money is actually wrapped up in the Madoff scandal, but they’re just too stupid to have realized it yet.  Defenders of MLB will point to the fact that the Yanks haven’t won a World Series since 2000, and didn’t even make the playoffs last year.  While true, that misses the point.  The fact that one club is paying individual players what some pay their entire rosters is just flat wrong.

Ugh.  It’s Christmas time, and bringing Mark home could have, along with the Ravens potentially clinching an improbable playoff spot, could have made this one of the most memorable weeks in Baltimore sports history.  Instead, we are just reminded of how much more competent the guys in purple are at their jobs than the guys in orange are at theirs.

Go Ravens.

The Steelers Hate Christmas, Santa, and You

December 24, 2008

Just one more reason why the Pittsburgh football organization is the root of all that is evil.

“Later, the Steelers said there would be no future appearances from Santa at any of their news conferences.”

Ravens-Cowboys Screen Grabs

December 23, 2008

For several reasons, rather than watching Monday Night Football last night, I decided I’d rather re-watch the Ravens-Cowboys game.  First off, because I could give a crap less about the NFC North.  Secondly, because my fantasy football teams were all eliminated from any money-winning scenarios weeks ago.  And finally, of course, because the game was friggin’ awesome and I want to relive it time and time again (full disclosure:  this was my 3rd time re-watching said game, but first time being sober while doing so.  Yeah, it was Monday and the game was Saturday – you do the math.)

Anyway, there were a couple things that jumped out at me that I missed during the original broadcast. Seeing as it’s the Holidays, I want to share them with you just in case you may have missed them too.

Derrick “Superman” Mason Moonlights as Roy Williams

Alternatively, Roy Williams and the Cowboys WISH he was Derrick Mason.

Mr. Purple Heart Himself

That guy looks familiar…

Rex Ryan is a Mad Scientist

Yeah, we always hear the announcers talking about how Rex loves to confuse an offense with pre-snap movement.  And, to an extent, we do our best to try to watch everything the Ravens do on defense before the play even starts.  But, and this may be just me, I’m always too pumped up and preoccupied worrying about down-and-distance and what the offense might be about to do and when the nachos are going to be ready, etc. to REALLY pay attention to what Rex is cookin’.  Slowing things down with the DVR frame-by-frame gives me a whole new respect for the intricacies of a Ravens defense.  Here is one such play that I’ll take as an illustrative example, from the Cowboys first drive.

Ok, I’ve highlighted several players that we will follow throughout this play (all pre-snap, mind you).  They are (1) Fabian Washington, (2) T-Sizzle, (3) Jim Leonhard, (4) Jarrett Johnson, and (5) Fast Eddie Reed.  Things start out innocent enough:  Washington lined up to cover Terrible Owens, Suggs looking to rush from Tony Romo’s right, Leonhard (no, not the ref – he is behind the ref.  Yes, he’s that small) and Reed as the deep men, and Johnson covering up the slot man, Patrick Crayton.

In the next frame, we see no big changes from Reed, Leonhard, or Johnson.  Suggs, however, appears to be starting to walk out towards Owens.  Perhaps there is some hot Terrell-on-Terrell action in store?

Now Suggs definitely appears to be telling Fabian “I got this.”  Leonhard (out of the frame) and Reed are still deep, looking to be in an apparent Cover Two shell.  Johnson is on Crayton, with safety help, Ed Reed about 10 yards off the line.  The Ravens are down to only 3 men at the line of scrimmage.

 In the final frame before the snap, we see that Suggs looks poised to escort TO straight into the Cowboys bench area, with Fabian Washington there in case TO gets by him.  On the near side of the field though, Jim Leonhard has now sprinted forward and is lined up in JJ’s outside LB spot, while Johnson is now showing blitz from Romo’s left.  Ed Reed is now out of the frame, most likely off introducing Jessica Simpson to “lil’ Eddie.”  I promise you, this is all the same play, and transpired in probably 7 or so seconds of real time.

Well, that’s it for todays “Chalk Talk.”  David Garrard, you are so not ready for this.


December 22, 2008

Trivia Time:  Print these out and use them as a conversation piece at a party in 2030.

Q:  Who was the last team to win a game at Texas Stadium?

A:  The Baltimore Ravens

Q:  Who was the last quarterback to win in Texas Stadium?


Q:  What 2 players hold the NFL record for longest running plays on consecutive offensive snaps?

A:  Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain.  McGahee went 77 yards for a touchdown, then McClain went 82 for the score on Baltimore’s next snap during their 33-26 win over the Cowboys in 2008.

Q:  What visiting player had the longest run at Texas Stadium?

A:  McClain, who did it on the final offensive play (besides kneel-downs) ever by an opposing team.

What a night in Dallas Saturday for the good guys, huh?  Possibly the most exciting 4 minutes in Ravens regular season history, as those two huge runs deflated the soon to be demolished Texas Stadium not once but twice, over a span of about 10 minutes real-time.   Entering the 4th quarter with a 16-7 lead that seemed bigger than it was with the way the Ravens’ D had shut down Dallas all night, the purple-and-black did what they were unable to do at home a week ago and finished the game strong.  The Cowboys finally came to life in the final period, putting up 17 points on 2 70-yard touchdown drives, after they had, to that point in the game, needed a fumble recovery on the Ravens’ 4-yard line to even sniff a score (since its Dallas, maybe we should say “snort” a score?)

Before we go any further, let’s talk about Derrick Mason for a minute.  Holy Shnikeys.  That guy gets a “Purple” heart for his performance in the Dallas game (and please…don’t accuse me of disrespecting those that earn true Purple Hearts – I said “purple” in quotes for a reason.  It works on a couple levels.  Deal with it.)  Mason, who re-injured his dislocated shoulder on his first catch, spent the rest of the game showing TO what a real NFL wide receiver looks like.  Derrick left the field on two separate occasions following later catches, in obvious pain, only to return and make huge grabs to keep the chains moving and the scoreboard turning.  He got shot up with some pain killers, rubbed some dirt on his near-lifeless limb, and ran all over Texas Stadium with one arm.  He literally made one catch across the middle with one arm.  After his touchdown that gave the Ravens their crucial 9-point lead, he could barely do his trademark Michael Jackson dance.  This is a guy that knows his career is winding down, and is leaving every drop of blood and sweat he has on the field trying to get himself a ring.  Derrick Mason should get the loudest cheers from the Ravens faithful when the team comes out on Sunday against the Jags.

Joe Flacco, after two sub-par performances against Washington and Pittsburgh, redeemed himself in a big way.  His numbers were not gaudy (17/25 149 1 TD), but he hung in there and made some incredible throws, holding the ball until the last possible second in the face of a vicious Dallas pass-rush that sacked him 5 times in the first half.  He could have crumbled after that early fumble in a hostile environment.  But, as he continues to show, there is no rattling Joe Cool.  He didn’t have to do much at the end to help the team seal the win, not with McGahee and McClain running wild, but we’re pretty confident he could have kept the chains moving had the need presented itself.  He also had a 14-yard first down run on a sweet fake draw call by Cam Cameron.

Speaking of good coaching, how about that gem by John Harbaugh and Ravens’ special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg?  After seeing Dallas nearly get a hand on their first 3 field goal attempts by overloading the right side of the line, Rosburg/Harbaugh gave holder Sam Koch the freedom to audible to the fake, should the ‘Boys get tricky again.  Well, Koch saw what he liked and the former high school fullback sprinted 9 yards for the first down that allowed the aforementioned TD pass to Mason to transpire.  It would have been great to see Sammy, who has been an important weapon for the Ravens all year, get into the end zone (when is the last time a punter scored a TD, we wonder?), but it was still a great play call and great execution.  Kudos to you, Sam Koch, for the run as well as for your 55+ yard punting average on the night.  You should be going to Hawaii.

Finally, we’d like to thank the actual football, for not allowing itself to come to rest in the arms of anybody not wearing purple after Le’Ron McClain had another silly fumble on the fake field goal-TD drive (priority #1 for Le’Run this offseason: ball security).  Ken Hamlin got his hands on it, but pretty much THREW it right to the one-armed man, Derrick Mason.  Thanks for the early Xmas present, Dallas defense.

Also, thanks to Tony Romo, who was definitely in the giving spirit.  His high, floating Hail Marys that Fast Eddie Reed was all too happy to scoop up (Reed is now tied for the league lead in INTs with Michael Griffin and Troy Boy), along with his overthrowing Miles Austin and TO on separate likely touchdowns, played a big part in the win (or loss, if you prefer blue to purple) as well.

One of the impressive things about the Ravens this year is that they have been winning without those lucky bounces being needed (as they were time and again in 2006).  This one in particular though, couldn’t have come at a better time.

With the win, the Ravens kept control of their own playoff destiny.  A win against the 5-10 Jacksonville Jaguars, a game in which they are TWELVE (!?) point favorites, will secure the Ravens the final AFC Wild Card spot.   All of this makes for a very happy holiday week here in Charm City.  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays, from the Ravens and from B’More Birds’ Nest.

Smash is Cool in My Book

December 22, 2008

I’d be happy to go out for value meals with LenDale White after this:

Ravens (9-5) @ Cowboys (9-5)

December 18, 2008

Good news and bad news.  Which would you like first?

I’ll just assume you said “good.”

Ok, here’s the good news.  We can finally move on from last week’s gut-wrenching crap show.

Yup, that’s about it.

Now the bad news.

The Ravens, and us fans, get to move on to a game against another 9-5 team, the Dallas Cowboys.  A team that is fighting for their playoff lives every bit as much as we are.  A team that sports weapons in the passing game the likes of which we haven’t seen all year.  A team that boasts yet another top-10 defense.  Oh, and we get to do it amidst a celebration of what will probably be the FINAL game ever played in their historic home.

Don’t accuse us of jumping off the purple bandwagon just yet…but looking at this game is doing nothing to help push that knot out of our stomach’s that has been there since Sunday at around 7:30.


A week ago, this game was looking a lot more appetizing.  The Ravens were about to smash Pittsburgh to go into a tie for the division lead, and Dallas was in the midst of another Terrell Owens blow-up, which, when coupled with a loss at the hands of the New York Giants, was about to send them into a complete tailspin.

Well, we know how those worked out.  No need to rehash things on our end, but as for the ‘Boys…they only spanked the defending champs 20-8, and put all talk of locker room mutiny, and new T.O. backstabbings, aside.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has been nursing a sore back all week, but is expected to play.  He looked hurt last week, but still completed 20-of-30 passes for 244 yards and 2 scores.  His main targets, Owens and Jason Witten, pose match up problems for the Ravens’ defense.  You know, kinda like the Colts.  Ugh.  Fabian Washington, injured with a sore hamstring, is expected to play – and he’d better, if the Ravens are to stand any chance.  Please don’t show us Frank “Spitgate” Walker and Corey Ivy trying to cover these receivers.  Along with Roy Williams, Owens and Witten could have a field day if Romo has time to throw.  Like baby ben’s bitch a$$, Romo is at his best when a play breaks down and he can improvise, so the Ravens need to wrap him up and get him to the ground when they have the chance.

Running back Marion Barber is at less than 100%, which is a plus.  However, rookie Tashard Choice has played very well filling in, and the Ravens will have to work a bit to force the Cowboys to become 1-dimensional.  Look for Romo to operate from the shotgun spread early, as Dallas tries to use quick, short routes to set up their running attack.

Things don’t get any easier for the Ravens’ offense this week either.  The question around town is “Has Flacco hit the rookie wall?”  Well, this week there is a proverbial “wall” in front of Flacco, and his name is DeMarcus Ware.  Ware, who leads the NFL with 19 sacks, will demand double-teams on nearly every play.  The Ravens will again be forced to keep Todd Heap in to block, losing a valuable option in the passing game.  Flacco and the offense as a whole will have to play much better than they did last week – 9 points, which should have been enough to beat Pittsburgh, will not be nearly enough to beat Dallas.

If there is one area where the Cowboys are vulnerable, it is on the ground.  Although they allow an average of only 93 ypg, according to one Dallas area sportwriter this week, they have trouble with big, bruising backs.  The Rams’ Stephen Jackson and the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs (in their first meeting) each went over 100 yards in victories over Dallas.  Le’Ron McClain, who was well on his way to sealing the win for the 2nd straight week before landing on his head after a Troy Polamalu tackle, will have to pace the B’More attack all night.  Another positive note is the potential return of Ray “first down” Rice, who practiced Wednesday, and who was sorely missed on 3rd downs last week.  Willis McGahee, until further notice, is an afterthought and completely worthless at this point.

The Ravens’ best chance in this one will be for Haloti Ngata to fall on Romo’s back, full-weight, on Dallas’ first series.  Short of that, unless you see T.O. sneaking up on Romo “Freddie Krueger” style, don’t be surprised if this one is never really close.

The Ravens control their own playoff destinies at this point – wins in the final 2 games and they are in.  Otherwise, they will need help from those teams playing against the AFC East Wild Card contenders.

Go Kansas City!

Cowboys 23 Ravens 13