Archive for September, 2011

Goob's Ravens-Steelers Wedding Weekend

September 12, 2011

With the Ravens handing the Steelers, the beat down of a lifetime on Sunday, it was the perfect ending to a weekend we will not soon forget here at the Nest. Enjoy some sights and sounds from Goob’s nuptials in beautiful Beaufort, North Carolina.


Steelers @ Ravens

September 9, 2011

For the second consecutive year, the Ravens start off the season with one the previous season’s AFC Championship game participants. Last year, it was the New York Jets, who had fallen to the Colts for the right to play in Super Bowl XLIV. This year, it’s the Steelers coming to town, fresh off their Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers. Both these teams’ 2010 campaigns ended in the most excruciating fashions possible, with the Steelers coming up short on a final-minute 4th-and-5 in Indianapolis when a touchdown and extra point would have given them Lombardi Trophy number 7, and the Ravens once again failing to get over the hump of their hated rivals despite building a seemingly comfortable 21-7 halftime lead at Heinz Field in the AFC Divisional round.

The Ravens have undergone plenty of turnover on their roster since that playoff game. Gone are Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain, Kelly Gregg, and others. New on the scene are Vonta Leach, Lee Evans, Ricky Williams, Jimmy Smith, Tandon Doss, Torrey Smith, Bernard Pollard, and Brandon McKinnie. Terrance Cody, Cary Williams, and Ed Dickson go from backups to starters. Michael Oher returns to his rookie-year position at right tackle, and Marshal Yanda moves back inside from right tackle to right guard. All told, the Ravens will have nine players either new to the lineup or in new positions compared to the last time they lined up against Pittsburgh in January.

The Steelers, on the other hand, stood nearly completely pat following their Super Bowl defeat. They return 21 of 22 starters, with the only “new” addition being right guard Doug Legursky. Legursky isn’t really new though, having started several games last year, including the Super Bowl, where he filled in for injured center Maurkice Pouncey.

So which team is at an advantage? The Ravens, who know exactly what they are getting from Pittsburgh, but aren’t nearly as certain what to expect from all their own new pieces? Or the Steelers, who are fully confident with their roster, but aren’t quite sure what to make of or expect from these new look Ravens? Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin came out this week and said that he was “uneasy” after the Ravens changes – don’t put too much stock in that, though. Mike Tomlin isn’t rattled; he was just blowing smoke.

The changes that the Ravens made were 100% necessary if they ever want to evolve as a team. They got younger, faster, and stronger. However, the timetable on which all of these new pieces will gel to be in a position to take the next step is far from certain. It seems highly doubtful that the offensive line, for instance, five guys who have never played a single snap together in their current formation, will be world beaters here in week 1, especially against such a formidable front seven as the one possessed by the Steelers. Or that a secondary with 75% new pieces will be able to adequately contain a strong Pittsburgh passing attack right off the bat.

IF the offensive line can open holes for Ray Rice and protect Joe Flacco

IF Dickson and Dennis Pitta can pick up Heap’s slack not only receiving, but blocking

IF Cary Williams can carry over his strong preseason performances to a time when the games really matter

IF Jimmy Smith can learn from his mistakes and match up with Hines Ward and/or Mike Wallace in his first ever real NFL action

IF Flacco and Evans can be effective in their debut, despite missing nearly a week of practice together as Evans sat out with an injured ankle

If all of those things come together, the Ravens should be able to not only beat the Steelers, but beat them handily. Which is to say, if these teams were once again meeting in week 4 or 5, things would be looking a lot more optimistic in Charm City. The Ravens, as currently constructed, are built to improve as the season goes on, not fire right out of the gates on all cylinders. A warm up game or two against Cincinnati or Seattle would sure be nice, but the NFL schedule makers granted the Ravens no such reprieve. Three straight AFC games right off the bat, one against 2010’s division/conference winner and another against the AFC runner up. Things get real immediately.

To expect all of those “If” coin flips to come up Ravens in the season opener is probably a bit much to ask.

While the way to beat Pittsburgh is to spread them out and throw the ball, John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron seem much more likely to retreat even further into their conservative shells this Sunday with all the question marks around the team, rather than to suddenly get super aggressive and risk a potential feast on Flacco by linebackers LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, and Lawrence Timmons. After all, their conservative approach beat the Steelers once last year, and very nearly beat them two additional times. Save for a single play in each of the final two match ups between these teams in 2010, the Ravens could have very realistically posted a three-game sweep.

Which isn’t to gloss over the Steelers’ wins. Hell, if Charlie Batch is able to pick up just one first down in the final two minutes in week 4, Pittsburgh sweeps the Ravens three games for the second time in three years.

The point is, the approach that Harbaugh and Cameron have been using over the past several years against their fierce division rivals hasn’t been nearly as futile as their 2-6 record would indicate; they’re close, time and time again. But, time and time again, someone wearing a logo on only one side of their helmet steps up in crunch time and wins the game. The law of averages would seem to dictate that, eventually, a Raven or two will step up when it matters – like Flacco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh did last year.

Which is why Ravens fans should expect the coaching staff to once again put together a game plan designed to limit mistakes and keep the game as close as possible as long as possible, with the hope that it will be Flacco, Rice, Suggs, or Reed that makes the decisive crunch-time play, and not Polamalu, Roethlisberger, Wallace, or Woodley.

That’s the hope.

There are, unfortunately, just too many “ifs” to feel too confident in that hope.

Steelers 20 Ravens 13

I just can’t bring myself to do it.

/puts on homer glasses

/chugs purple kool aid

Ravens 23 Steelers 17

Lookalikes! Steelers Edition 2K11

September 7, 2011

Time to get started with another season of Lookalikes! here at the Nest. For previous Steelers versions, click any of the links below:

It’s been a couple years since we went through the ugly mugs on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, so what better time than here in Steelers Hate Week 2011 (Part 1) to take a look at the hideous beasts that are coming to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday to try to ruin our weekend.

Granted, roughly 51 of the 53 men that only wear logos on one side of their helmet have faces only a mother can love. Surprisingly, though, there’s actually a couple guys on the roster who wouldn’t send young children screaming in the other direction upon laying eyes on them.

Hell, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen hordes of teenage girls running AT punter Daniel Sepulveda.

As for tight end Heath Miller, his gig as a professional football player seems to actually be an undercover operation – in actuality, he’s CIA agent Stan Smith (as seen on FOX’s “American Dad.”)

Personally, I’m relieved that Smith/Miller is on the job up there in the Appalachians. Not only do the Steelers harbor terrorist sympathizers like running back Rashard Mendenhall on their roster, but word has it that recently deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is hiding out up there as well.

Yikes. Save us Heath Miller, you’re our only hope!

All this serious talk about CIA agents, terrorists, and dictators has me a bit on edge. What I need is a friendly, good-natured ogre to talk to his pet donkey and cheer me up. Luckily, offensive lineman Chris Kemoeatu is here to oblige.

Finally, while this one probably would have fit in better with 2009’s Xmas edition, defensive lineman Brett Kiesel didn’t have this woodland creature living on his face back then.

Like his doppelganger Yukon Cornelius, Kiesel went hunting for valuable metals last winter. Of course, he happily came up empty in his trek for a Super Bowl ring, thanks to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Steelers-Ravens kickoff is in just about 98 hours. Hopefully in 101 hours or so, these goofy looking mofos and their entire team will be headed back west bruised, beaten, and defeated.

GOOBVISION – Steelers Hate Week '11 Edition

September 6, 2011

Just like the Ravens don’t get any “warm-up” games this year, clashing with the division rival Steelers right off the bat, Goob is ready for NFL Kickoff Weekend and is in mid-season hating form as he rails against Pittsburgh fans.

Great way to kick off the new season!

Hey Cam! Wanna Beat the Steelers? SPREAD THEM OUT!

September 3, 2011

In 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a total of five games. Four of these came with Captain Rapey, Ben Roethlisberger, as the starting quarterback – the fifth was, of course, in Week 4 when the Ravens won in Pittsburgh against starting quarterback Charlie Batch.

In three of those other four losses – all with Ben as the starter, an obstacle the Ravens have not been able to overcome since 2006 – the offensive game plan of Pittsburgh’s opponent was strikingly similar: spread them out and throw the ball.

Let’s look at some visual evidence of this, from each of those three games:

Week 8 – New Orleans Saints 20, Squealers 10

Drew Brees: 34/44 305 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

5 WR, 0 TE, 0 RB – 18 yard completion to Lance Moore

3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB – Run, 1 yard loss

4 WR, 0 TE, 1 RB – 14 yard completion to Jeremy Shockey (TE lined up as WR)

Week 10 – New England Patriots 39, Shittsburgh 26

Tom Brady: 30/43 350 yards 3 TD, 0 INT

3 WR, 2 RB, 0 TE – 19 yard TD to Rob Gronkowski (TE lined up as WR)

5 WR, 0 TE, 0 RB – 16 yard completion to Wes Welker (tackled by James Harrison)

The Steelers’ final regular season loss came to the New York Jets, who scored only one offensive touchdown in the game, to go along with a kick return touchdown and a safety. Their game plan didn’t fit this mold, so I’m not including any screencaps from that contest. If it weren’t for the special teams touchdown – hardly something you want to count on – they would have likely lost the game.

The Steelers’ final loss of the season – one we all very fondly remember – came at the hands of the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

4 WR, 0 TE, 1 RB – Incomplete to Nelson (likely TD if caught)

4 WR, 0 TE, 1 RB – 21 yard TD to Jennings

4 WR, 0 TE, 1 RB – Drop by Jones (likely huge TD if caught)

Please also take note that, in addition to having three, four, or five wide receivers, in each of the above plays the quarterback is in the shotgun formation.

We Ravens fans have been begging Cam Cameron to use the shotgun more often for two full seasons now, to no avail.

Joe Flacco shows, time and again, that he is most effective from the shotgun, yet for some unknowable reason, Cam keeps putting Joe under center. Under center, where valuable seconds are wasted dropping back and setting up, seconds Flacco often doesn’t have, with his offensive line’s shaky play and his (still, ugh) relatively long delivery.

The blueprint on how to beat Pittsburgh is right there for all to see. Spreading them out gets their blitzing linebackers and safeties away from the line of scrimmage, severely hampering defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau’s ability to disguise his intentions. As noted in the second Patriots picture above, James Harrison was 16 yards downfield tackling Wes Welker, not wreaking havoc in the backfield.

Troy Polamalu is a severe liability in coverage, something other teams take full advantage of, while the Ravens simply let him blitz off the edge and blow up their plays again, and again, and again.

Now, some will obviously point out that a detail I am glossing over in my above analysis is that the three quarterbacks in the example games are three of the top five in the NFL today – Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers.

(As an aside, I wonder if dipshit sports-talk radio callers in Pittsburgh drone on and on about how Ben “can’t beat the elite quarterbacks?”)

Flacco, while good, is not on the level of those guys at this point in his career. However, my point is simply that you have to give the guy a chance – send him out there with a strong game plan and let him sink or swim. Use the blueprint that the successful teams have handed you.

In 2011, the Ravens have the personnel to spread the Steelers out. Cam, just pick any combination (at least 4) of the following: Anquan Boldin, Lee Evans, Ed Dickson, Tandon Doss, Dennis Pitta, Torrey Smith (hell, just send the guy deep and they have to at least pay attention to him), and even Ray Rice (remember his huge 4th-down catch against the Steelers in Baltimore in 2009, when he split out to Joe’s right). Line those guys up on the outside, put Joe back in the shotgun, and let’s see what happens.

I’m begging you.

Game after game, the Ravens continue to play right into the Steelers’ hands, trying to run the ball against their immovable front seven (eight, if you count hair-boy), and passing from under-center five- and seven-step drop designs. They’ll likely come out on September 11 and do the same, and I’ll be in a bar in Beaufort, North Carolina banging my head against the wall.

Kicking Off STEELERS SUCK Week – That Time We Watched them Lose the Super Bowl

September 2, 2011

To kick off STEELERS SUCK week here at the Nest, we take a look back to one glorious day last February when the Steelers sucked enough to lose Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers.

We were there to witness this amazing yellow and black loss in person, and to see all those stupid Steelers fans go home crying in their silly little rags.

Want to see more of our Super Bowl XLV fun?

Chris Johnson's Contract Bad for Ravens, NFL, and Fans

September 2, 2011

On Thursday, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson’s training camp holdout came to an end, as he was rewarded with a four-year, $53.5M contract with $30M guaranteed. The former East Carolina Pirate, 26, leads the NFL in rushing yards since coming into the league in 2008.

The impact of Johnson’s new contract will be felt by the Ravens in much more significant ways than just the fact that they now have to see him on the field in Nashville on September 18. Ozzie Newsome and company will definitely have Johnson’s deal in mind this offseason when negations start for Ray Rice.

There is no arguing that CJ is one of the top talents in the NFL. He should be compensated just as anyone should for a dominating effort at his job. However, the landscape of NFL salaries is out of control and this just seems to be another step in the wrong direction.

With more money for veterans being made available with the introduction of the Rookie Wage Scale, across the board, more NFL franchises will be paying their top talents as opposed to overhyped rookie draft picks.

Notable contracts given this pre-season:

  • Chris Johnson- 4-yr $53.5M with $30 M guaranteed
  • Larry Fitzgerald- 8- yr $120 M with $50 M guaranteed
  • Lamar Woodley- 6- yr $61.5 M with $35 M guaranteed
  • Joe Thomas- 7- yr $84 M with $44 M guaranteed
  • Michael Vick- 5- yr $80 M with $40 M guaranteed *

*realistic terms of the new contract

Each of these players are elite in their position but an argument can be made that they aren’t the overall best at what they do, which creates even more opportunities for more (lesser) players to be compensated amongst these going rates.

This is a nightmare for teams with some top level drafted players who happen to be in their “contract year”.

***(Cough) (Cough) Ravens (Cough)**

The Ravens’ ownership and Ozzie Newsome have to be losing sleep right now seeing the way the market value has been dictated for some of these players. Ozzie is already struggling to work out a deal to make Haloti Ngata a “Raven for life” but he’ll have double the work next year as he negotiates with both Joe Flacco and Ray Rice.

The salary cap is a firm $120.375 . Ravens fans were already harshly reminded of the effects of the salary cap with the cuts of beloved players such as Todd Heap and Derrick Mason last month. With a team struggling to be under the cap and also adding another big deal like Ngata’s, we may have just gotten a small preview of what next season is going to look like.

The market for many players whether salary or trade value is typically dictated at the hands of a few desperate owners (ie: Dan Snyder, Jerry Jones and Al Davis). Their stupidity has created an “idiot tax” which will be paid by other franchises…and which is then passed onto the fans.

Most of you know it’s almost unbearable financially to attend an NFL game. Regardless of the economy, the Ravens are going to fill up 60,000+ seats each home game and that won’t change. No evidence exists to convince the Ravens that they need to stop raising prices because the threat of a blackout hasn’t existed with this franchise.

Personally the seats I sit in have DOUBLED in price. The trend I’ve noticed is a team will increase prices every other year. Even in a good economy these prices are unbearable and there isn’t an end in sight.

The NFL product will take a hit itself as well. Fans will pay more money to see overpaid players along with a bunch of minimum salary teammates. Technology and social media (Twitter, etc.) has given athletes more exposure than ever and allows them to personally market themselves in a way never before seen. More teams will now be paying into the “hype factor” just because a player can now communicate with his fans, which drives up popularity, which in turn drives up their price tag (see Chad Ochocinco’s career.

Looking at their output versus their salaries, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have been steals for the Ravens but their time has come to be rewarded for their contributions. With an inflated “market value” I’m scared to see what it’ll actually be, I can promise you that it’ll be more than it should.

This isn’t the player’s fault; it’s the owners who are stupid enough to give into it.

We Ravens fans have to brace for the worst because – while in this quarterback-driven league Flacco is likely safe in purple – there is a good chance you may not see Rice after this season. Time will tell if that actually happens or not but if it does, you can thank the Dan Snyders, Jerry Joneses and Al Davises of the NFL for putting the league in the state that it is.