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Tag:Ryan Wilson
Posted on: January 15, 2012 8:16 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 8:32 pm
 

And there were 4: the Conference Championships

It's go time: We're down to four teams. Next stop, Indy. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The conference championship schedule is set. The Baltimore Ravens will face the New England Patriots and the New York Giants will play the San Francisco 49ers. The prize for next week's winners? A trip to Indianapolis for XLVI.

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots, Sun., Jan. 22, 3:00 PM ET CBS

Can Baltimore slow New England's TEs? (US PRESSWIRE)
Patriots

How they got here 
New England dismantled Denver Saturday, 45-10, although it wasn't that close. Tom Brady threw for six touchdowns -- five in the first half -- and the much-maligned Patriots defense shut down Tim Tebow after his career performance against the Steelers the week before.

Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were, to varying degrees, unstoppable, but the defense registered four sacks and recovered a fumble, holding Tebow to 136 passing yards and 13 rushing yards.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
The offensive line continues to keep Brady clean, and he continues to wear out defenses with some combination of the aforementioned Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez. But the Ravens aren't the Broncos; they're one of the best units in the league and they're not intimidated by the Pats' high-powered offense. In 2009, Baltimore went to New England in the AFC wild-card round, roughed up Brady, and left Foxboro with a 33-14 victory. The difference in this game will likely come down to the Pats' O vs. the Ravens' D.

Their biggest weakness
New England's defense has been a punchline for much of the season but has come together recently. Head coach Bill Belichick was beaming after the Broncos victory, presumably because the cast of characters on the defensive side of the ball (many in the secondary either undrafted free agents, acquired via the waiver wire, or both) played near flawless football against the Broncos. The Ravens and Joe Flacco have struggled all season with consistency but they have a capable down-the-field passing attack that compliments Ray Rice's dual-threat skills nicely. If the Patriots' defense shows up, the game won't be close; if they don't, it could be a repeat of the 2009 playoff game.

Who's hot?
Brady (6 TDs against the Broncos), Gronkowski (set the single-season receiving yards record for tight ends), Hernandez (led the Pats in rushing -- 5 carries for 61 yards -- against Denver), the pass defense.

Ravens

How they got here
Jumped out to a 17-3 lead against the Texans and then held on for dear life as Houston's rookie quarterback committed critical turnovers at key points. Quarterback Joe Flacco had another uneven performance (14 of 27 for 176 yards, 2 TDs) but some of that can be blamed on one of the offensive line's worst efforts of the season. Anquan Boldin looked sharp after missing the end of the regular season with an injury (4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD) and Ray Rice had a quiet 21-carries-for-61-yards afternoon that kept drives alive and the Texans' D on the field. Baltimore forced four turnovers, including three T.J. Yates interceptions.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
The defense will have to have its best game of the season against Brady, who is peaking. The problem is that Baltimore's secondary can be exploited, especially if the front seven can't mount a pass rush. The Ravens will have to out-scheme New England's offensive line and create pressure with four and five rushers, and force Brady to get rid of the ball early.

Offensively, Flacco will need to step up, avoid silly mistakes, and Cam Cameron needs to be reminded (again) that Rice is his best weapon.

Their biggest weakness
Flacco's inconsistency. The fourth-year quarterback has flashed glimpses of franchise potential, but he's usually taking sacks, throwing inexplicable interceptions, or misfiring on wide-open targets. Historically, he's played well in the playoffs, which is good news, as is the fact that the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks or Chargers didn't qualify for the postseason.

Who's hot?
Boldin looks five years younger, safety Ed Reed is ailing but is playing like it's 2004, cornerback Lardarius Webb had two picks against Yates, and punter Sam Koch might be the most underrated player in the NFL right now.

New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers, Sun., Jan. 22, 6:30 PM ET FOX

Smith has had a resurgence in '11. (AP)
49ers

How they got here
The 49ers beat the Saints at their own game: they forced turnovers and then turned them into points. Embattled quarterback Alex Smith had to wait almost seven years, but he's finally playing like a first-round draft pick, and he out Drew Brees-ed Drew Brees during the final four minutes of Saturday's Divisional game. Tight end Vernon Davis had a ginormous afternoon, hauling in the game-winning touchdown with seconds left and ending up with seven receptions for 180 yards and two scores.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
One word: defense. They took the Saints, a team that looked unstoppable the last month of the season, out of their rhythm, smacking pass-catchers, runners and the quarterback in the mouth in the process. But this wasn't a fluke performance; Vic Fangio's unit has played like that all year long. They're a slobber-knocking, sack-happy, ball-hawking bunch and their closing speed and physicality keep the 49ers in every game. (Thanks, Mike Nolan!)

Their biggest weakness
Can Smith sustain his success? We've starting calling Jim Harbaugh the Quarterback Whisperer because what he's done with Smith is worthy of a show on the National Geographic channel. But at this stage of the proceedings, all it takes is one ill-time throw to ruin a team's Super Bowl hopes. Given that the 49ers haven't had a winning record -- or a playoff appearance -- since 2002, there are worse problems to have.

Who's hot?
Smith (24 of 42 for 299 yards, 3 TDs, 1 rushing TD against the Saints), TE Davis (7 catches, 180 yards, 2 TDs including the game-winner), S Dashon Goldson (1 INT), DL Justin Smith (All Pro at two positions), DE Aldon Smith (1 sack).

New York Giants

How they got here
Eli Manning was clinical and the defense forced four turnovers and registered four sacks. The Packers looked like they were having flashbacks from the Chiefs game, the receivers dropped eight passes, and the defense continued their Season of Ineptitude Tour made all the more inexplicable given that they were one of the league's top units in 2010.

How will they get to the Super Bowl?
New York will have to go through the 49ers -- in San Francisco -- and mistake-free football will be at a premium. That means that offensive line has to protect Manning, he has to make great decisions, and everybody has to keep two hands on the football at all times. Because the 49ers' defense will swarm and strip, in that order.  The Giants can also lean on their running game, a pass-rush that is just as effective as San Francisco's, and their ability to win big games on the road.

Their biggest weakness
If the front four can't pressure the quarterback, the secondary can be exposed. Of course, the defense went off on the Packers' offense, considered one of the two most explosive units in the league heading into the weekend. (In related news: the New Orleans and Green Bay have officially begun their offseason.)

A little history: the first 14 games of the regular season the Giants were 7-7, and the defense allowed 385 yards and 27 points per game. The last four contests: New York is 4-0 and has allowed 14, 14, 2 and 20 points against the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons and Packers.

Who's hot?
Manning is playing out of his mind, WR Hakeem Nicks had two touchdown grabs against the Packers (7 receptions, 165 yards), and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have revitalized the running game. Osi Umenyiora added two sacks and a forced fumble.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 4:54 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 5:19 pm
 

Ravens want Rice, Flacco might have to wait

Flacco and Rice are looking for new deals, although one is more likely than the other to get it this offseason. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Here's what we wrote 24 hours ago:

Running back Ray Rice is in the last few weeks of his rookie contract and it's no secret that he's looking for a new deal. And given his importance to the Ravens' offense, he deserves it. We're guessing the two sides will come to an agreement in this offseason, although the Titans' Chris Johnson has completely obliterated the market for do-everything feature backs.

During Sunday's CBS pregame show, The NFL Today's Charley Casserly spoke about Rice's future in Baltimore.


CBS Sports' James Brown is joined by Charley Casserly to discuss the contract status of Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice for next season.

"The Ravens told me, obviously, it's the No. 1 priority to get him re-signed for the next year," Casserly said. "I think his agent's going to ask for a big contract, north of $10 million. If they don't get a deal done before the start of free agency, they will franchise him at $7.7 million. Another key free agent is guard Ben Grubbs. Last year they paid Marshall Yanda a lot of money to play guard and he can also play tackle so Grubbs may end up going to free agency."

But Rice isn't the only player in Baltimore looking to re-up. Quarterback Joe Flacco will have a year left on his contract after the 2011 season, but like most franchise quarterbacks, he'd like an extension in place before he becomes a free agent. Two weeks ago he spoke to the Baltimore Sun about any impending deal.

"It is what it is," he said. "It's either going to happen at some point or it's not. The bottom line is I'm not too worried about it either way. Do I feel like I deserve one? Yeah. Do I feel like I'm going to get one? Yeah. If I don't get one, is it going to be a huge deal? No, it is what it is. It's not really up to me. It's up to me to go out there and focus on my play each and every game and put our team in the best spot to win a football game."

Here's what we wrote Saturday:

Flacco likes to remind his critics that the Ravens have gone to the playoffs in each of his four seasons, and have put together back-to-back 12-4 campaigns. That's nice, but the bottom line is winning a Super Bowl. Baltimore hasn't come close and part of that lies with Flacco. If he plays well during the playoffs, he'll be in line for a raise; if he plays like he did against the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks or Chargers, the club could choose to reevaluate things after he plays out the final year of his rookie deal.

A day later, NFL.com's Jason La Canfora says pretty much the same thing.

"According to sources close to him, the quarterback also knows that any real leverage in negotiations only will be gained during the playoffs after a season in which he failed to reach many of his 2010 marks," La Canfora wrote. ... "The likelihood of Flacco receiving a new contract rises if he makes strides during this postseason, and it could create more pressure on the organization to get a deal done. If he doesn't perform well, it will be much more likely that he must play out the duration of his rookie deal."

Things didn't get off to a great start against the Texans. The Ravens won the AFC Divisional game, but they needed four turnovers and a last second incompletion to do it. Flacco ended the afternoon 14 of 27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns, but having done nothing to change the perception that he's capable of being a consistently effective NFL quarterback.

So does Flacco deserve an extension? And if so, how much? The Cardinals and Chiefs overpaid Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassel ($63 million, $20 guaranteed; and $63 million, $28 million guaranteed, respectively). That's probably Flacco's ballpark, although that seems like a lot of money to tie up in a guy who completed just 57 percent of his passes in 2011. And his 20 touchdowns and 80.9 passer rating were his lowest totals since his rookie season. 


Baltimore Ravens' QB, Joe Flacco, completed 14 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans. Join CBS Sports' Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf for a recap of all the action.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 3:41 pm
 

Tiki Barber: 'I'm not trying to come back' now

Barber says his NFL comeback attempt is over and is now trying to mend some fences. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

And so it ends … again: Tiki Barber has given up his dream of returning to the NFL even though that career path had been decided for him when the NFL took a collective pass on his services this season.

"No. No. I'm not trying to come back," Barber said according to ESPNNewYork.com. "It was an excuse for me to get up off the couch and do something, and it worked, because now I'm engaged in a few different things and I feel really strong about where I am personally, and that's all that matters in life."

But Barber's not in the news because he didn't make it as a 36-year-old running back. He's a story because his former team, the Giants, are in the playoffs and Barber was looking to un-burn some bridges he set ablaze during his post-NFL career as an NBC Sports analyst.

"We tried [to set up a meeting with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin]. He said no, through his agent, (Giants vice president of communications) Pat Hanlon," Barber said of his attempt to bury the hatchet. "But one of these days I'm sure it'll happen, because as we know, time heals all wounds. And I think at the end of the day, Giants fans, despite their dislike of me at times, know that I was one of the guys that put (it) on the line every time I put on my uniform."

At one time or another, Barber had a falling out with just about everybody in New York, including his former coach and franchise quarterback Eli Manning. In 2007, before New York upset New England in the Super Bowl, Barber famously questioned Manning's leadership skills.

Eli's response at the time:

"I'm not going to lose any sleep about what Tiki has to say. I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season, and (how) he's lost the heart (to play). As a quarterback, you're reading that your running back has lost the heart to play the game and it's about the 10th week. I can see that a little bit at times."

Last summer, after Barber had announced his intentions to return to the NFL, former players-turned-TV-analysts Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan spoke frankly about why it was an awful idea.

“I didn’t think much of him when he did play,” Sapp told Rich Eisen on the aptly named Rich Eisen Podcast. ”I mean that’s the whole point. He was a fumbler all the way through his life, and then all of a sudden, somebody taught him how to hold the ball up high and then he (left the Giants) and said, Eli (Manning) can’t lead them and they’ll never win a championship.

“That kind of lends to who I’m talking about. This is the same guy. This is all encompassed into the same thing. There’s no way you turn your back on your teammates that block for you, that gave you the ball on short fields and did whatever they did. … There’s still no reason for you to attack your teammates.”

Strahan, who played with Barber in New York, was in no hurry to defend his former teammate. “Sapp is 100 percent right,” he said. “Only thing is, if it comes to playing football, he can play.”

Time has softened Barber, it seems. He now recognizes that Eli is a top-flight quarterback and has had a lot to do with the Giants' success.

"Here's what I look for when I'm looking for an elite quarterback. Someone that no matter the circumstances -- whether you're playing great, whether you're playing horrible -- has that unfettered drive to succeed," Barber said.

"That's what Eli has learned over the last five or six years -- from the early days when I saw him where everything used to rattle him -- to now. No matter what happens, he's always into the football game and doing something to help his team win. That's my definition of an elite quarterback, and why Eli is in on that conversation now."

Too little, too late? Probably.

But Barber sounds like he's working through the five stages of grief and after denial, anger, bargaining and depression, he's finally on acceptance. And trying to get on with the rest of his life.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 11:07 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 11:48 am
 

Nolan drafts deserve more credit than McDaniels'

McDaniels is now getting credit for taking Tebow and Thomas but Niners drafted better under Nolan. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

During the last month or so of the regular season, before John Elway and John Fox had committed to Tim Tebow for 2012 but long after Tebow believers were convinced that he was the second (football) coming, another young rising star was the unexpected beneficiary of Tebow's NFL success.

Josh McDaniels, the Broncos head coach for 2009 and part of 2010, was run out of town after winning six straight to begin his career only to lose 12 of his next 17. He left Denver amid another videotaping scandal (McDaniels was on the Patriots staff during the whole Spygate saga) and with a shoddy record as a personnel evaluator.

Divisional Round Recap
McDaniels had been responsible for trading Jay Cutler to the Bears in April 2009, and a year later, he traded three picks to move up and draft Tebow in the first round. Both moves were heavily criticized.

But as the Broncos and Tebow surged this season, so too did McDaniels' reputation. While his coaching abilities have never been questioned, maybe he knew how to put together a roster, too.  In addition to Tebow, the Broncos also drafted Demaryius Thomas (1st round, 2010), Zane Beadles (2nd round ,'10) and Eric Decker (3rd round, '10) on McDaniels' watch.

But after what the 49ers did to the Saints Saturday, CBSSports.com assistant managing editor Eric Kay tweeted this: "If McDaniels is getting credit for drafting Tebow, best we all tip our hats to Mike Nolan and his 2005 draft savvy."

It's a solid point, particularly since Nolan's tenure in San Francisco is better remembered for Reebok suits than anything the 49ers accomplished on the field. (The 49ers were 18-37 under Nolan from 2005-08, his best year coming in '06 when the San Francisco went 7-9.)

We live in a world where the latest is often confused for the best; maybe time has helped repair McDaniels' reputation in Denver but we could be focusing on the wrong former head coach. Yes, Tebow and Thomas are good young players, but some of the names San Francisco drafted under Nolan now serve as the foundation for not only the NFC West champs but legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

(Note: below we've included players taken in the top four rounds as well as notable late-round selections)

Josh McDaniels, Broncos head coach 2009-2010 (GM: Brian Xanders, 2009-present)

2009
RB Knowshown Moreno (Round 1, pick 12)
DE Robert Ayers (1.18)
DB Alphonso Smith (2.37)
DB Darcel McBath (2.48)
TE Richard Quinn (2.64)
DB David Bruton (4.114)
G Seth Olsen (4.132)

2010
RB Demaryius Thomas (Round 1, pick 22)
QB Tim Tebow (1.25)
G Zane Beadles (2.45)
C J.D. Walton (3.80)
WR Eric Decker (3.87)
DB Perrish Cox (5.137)

Thomas, Tebow and Ayers have played well, but critics thought Moreno was drafted too high and those sentiments haven't changed after two seasons. He struggled with effectiveness and injuries before the Broncos eventually gave most of the carries to 30-year-old Willis McGahee. The Broncos traded a 2010 first-round pick to select Alphonso Smith who was such an unmitigated bust that he was shipped to the Lions for the other Gronkowski, Rob's brother Dan.

Mike Nolan, 49ers head coach 2005-2008 (GM: Scot McCloughan, 2005-2010)

2005
QB Alex Smith (1.1)
G David Baas (2.33)
RB Frank Gore (3.65)
T Adam Snyder (3.94)

2006
TE Vernon Davis (1.6)
LB Manny Lawson (1.22)
WR Brandon Williams (3.84)
RB Michael Robinson (4.100)
LB Parys Haralson (5.140)
TE/FB Delanie Walker (6.175)

2007
LB Patrick Willis (1.11)
T Joe Staley (1.28)
WR Jason Hill (3.76)
DE Ray McDonald (3.97)
DE Jay Moore (4.104)
S Dashon Goldson (4.126)
CB Tarell Brown (5.147)

2008
DT Kentwan Balmer (1.29)
DB Reggie Smith (3.75)
C Cody Wallace (4.107)
WR Josh Morgan (6.174)

Nolan, McCloughan, and the personnel department hit on a ton of talent -- from first-rounders to late-round picks. Of the players drafted from 2005-08, 14 are still on the roster and 10 started against the Saints Saturday. Amazingly, Nolan never managed to do anything on the field with a roster he helped build (and neither could Mike Singletary) but Jim Harbaugh certainly has. And now the 49ers are one game away from returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season.

As luck would have it, McDaniels, back where it all started in New England, is on his way to a conference championship game, too. The Broncos, meanwhile, are headed home with plenty of questions.


Harbaugh on wild win: Alex Smith completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis with nine seconds left after Drew Brees had put the high-powered Saints ahead, and the 49ers capitalized on five New Orleans turnovers for a thrilling 36-32 playoff victory Saturday.

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Posted on: January 14, 2012 11:35 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:55 am
 

Is Tebow guaranteed to be Broncos starter in '12?

Tebow's season ends ingloriously in New England. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

We joked last week, days after Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards (including an 80-yard pitch-and-catch to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers in the wild-card matchup), that the big losers coming out of that game were John Fox and John Elway. Because given the way Tebow threw the ball, there was no way either could go back on their earlier promise that he would be the team's starter in 2012.

New England throttles Denver
And while neither Fox nor Elway has explicitly said that they'd prefer a conventional quarterback running a convention offense, neither has come out and fully supported the guy Josh McDaniels selected in the first round of the 2010 draft, some seven months before he was fired.

Complicating matters, at least in terms of Tebow's tenuous hold of the starting gig: the option isn't quite the novelty of the wildcat, but it's also taken less time to crack. Whereas the wildcat required an offseason of film study before defenses were keen to what was going on, the read-option's run has been much briefer.

Denver decided to abandon their original playbook in favor of the offense that made Tebow a high school phenom and a Heisman Trophy winner. The results: a six-game winning streak to get the Broncos to 8-5. And then they ran into the Patriots before the Bills and Chiefs had seen enough film of the option to properly defend it. Denver scored 17 points in the final two weeks of the regular season and even the hardcore Tebow supporters were having doubts.

But then Pittsburgh happened; the Broncos' offense manhandled the NFL's top-rated defense and Tebow looked like a real live passing quarterback. His performance solidified his spot on the depth chart heading into 2012, especially since a) Denver had a playoff win for the first time since 2005, and b) Tebow would have the entire offseason to work with coaches on everything from reading defense to improving his footwork and accuracy.


Tom Brady threw six touchdowns passes, five in the first half, and put the New England Patriots into the AFC championship game after roughing up Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos 45-10. CBS Sports' Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the recap.

Then Tebow reverted to his old form, throwing late and wildly in a lopsided loss in the divisional playoffs against the Patriots. By the time it was over, Tebow was 9 for 26 and suffered five sacks. And while he wasn't solely responsible for another sputtering offensive performance, he is the quarterback; if the running game isn't working, he has to make something happen through the air … except that if the Broncos aren't facing the Steelers, that's a problematic proposition.

Which leads us to this: will Elway and Fox reconsider their quarterback situation this offseason? We're guessing they have to. In fact, we've previously speculated that the next few months will go something like this: Tebow will be promised "a chance to win the job," the front office will sign a veteran quarterback to compete for the starting gig, and come training camp, there's a decent chance that said veteran will be given every opportunity to start.

We've seen this movie before -- last August. Tebow thought he'd enter 2011 as the starter -- the Broncos seemed to confirm as much -- right up until training camp when Kyle Orton was again atop the depth chart. Tebow didn't help himself with abysmal preseason efforts, but that's not his forte. He's at his best when he can improvise, something that doesn't translate well during meaningless preseason snaps against third- and fourth-teamers.

So, who are some early QB candidates? Here's the list of soon-to-be free agents:

* Matt Flynn. We've called him the next Kevin Kolb, which is wholly unfair because Flynn has actually played well as a backup. We can't imagine the Broncos go after him although if they do it's a clear indication that Tebow Time was a one-year deal.

* Alex Smith. Dude's benefitted from Jim Harbaugh's presence and the 49ers head coach says he wants Smith back in San Francisco. Smith will probably get some interest in free agency should he hit the market but his best chance at success is if he stays put.

* Jason Campbell. This seems reasonable. So much so that Campbell could return to Oakland and supplant Carson Palmer as the starter there.

* Kyle Orton. Stranger things have not happened.

* Drew Brees. If he doesn't get a new deal he's getting franchised, but we wonder if Tebow's most ardent supporters would concede that Brees would be a better choice.

Other names (courtesy of Footballsfuture.com):

Chris Redman (ATL)

Derek Anderson (CAR)

Shaun Hill (DET)

Drew Stanton (DET)

Brady Quinn (DEN)

Luke McCown (JAC)

Chad Henne (MIA)

Sage Rosenfels (MIA)

David Carr (NYG)

Mark Brunell (NYJ)

Kevin O'Connell (NYJ)

Kyle Boller (OAK)

Vince Young (PHI)

Charlie Batch (PIT)

Dennis Dixon (PIT)

Byron Leftwich (PIT)

Charlie Whitehurst (SEA)

A.J. Feeley (STL)

Josh Johnson (TB)

Rex Grossman (WAS)

The Broncos' offseason begins now and how things unfold in the next eight months are anyone's guess. But whatever fate awaits Tebow, it's worth remembering that he helped lead this team to the division title and a playoff win. That doesn't guarantee him the starting job, but despite his unconventional style, he's done something right.

"I was really proud with where (Tebow) started and where he brought this team," Fox said after the Patriots game. "You know, we're a work in progress -- we've got a lot of work to do, that hasn't changed for some time. And as I mentioned earlier, the two matchups we had against the New England Patriots it's evident we have work to do."

Fox was then asked if he'd bring back the read-option in 2012. 

"I think every year has its own personality," he said. "We're officially starting our offseason now and we'll do whatever it takes to get better."

And we believe Fox when he says this.

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Posted on: January 14, 2012 10:30 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 10:31 pm
 

Video: Casserly on officiating inconsistencies


Former Broncos head coach joining Will the league do something officiating inconsistencies? Charley Casserly joined James Brown to discuss this issue. 

By Ryan Wilson

It's a pervasive season-long problem, at least in the eyes of fans, but when the postseason arrives and every game is on national television, the scrutiny intensifies because everyone's watching. During Saturday's The NFL Today pregame show, CBS Sports insider Charley Casserly talked about the inconsistencies in officiating during wild-card weekend (James Brown mentioned the Lions and Broncos).

"I've interviews a lot of people around the league about this and … there's a lot of concern this year -- more so than last year -- about the lack of consistency," Casserly said.

The biggest issue -- and this is something that's mentioned all the time -- the variance in rules enforcement from one crew to the next. Topping the list? Offensive holding, pass interference and hits to defenseless receivers.

The solution, clearly: hire officials full time. Actually, we're kidding; not knowing the rules isn't the problem. These guys have the minutiae down pat, it's just that the rule book is unwieldy and often ambiguous. In general, overregulation is a horrible idea. Why shouldn't that apply to the NFL too?

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Posted on: January 14, 2012 7:55 pm
 

Patriots' Mankins, Chung active vs. Broncos


After an impressive overtime win over the Steelers last week, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will face off against the New England Patriots on Saturday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan have the preview. Watch the game on CBS at 8 PM ET. 

By Ryan Wilson

One of the benefits to having a first-round bye: injured players have two weeks to get healthy, and for the Patriots, that means left guard Logan Mankins and safety Patrick Chung will be available Saturday against the Broncos. Both players have been declared active, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard who adds that "Chung is more of a key to the team's success in this game because of the weakness of the defense. The Patriots could get by without Mankins [because] the Broncos don't have much of an interior line."

Which might explain why tackle Sebastian Vollmer is down. Rookie Nate Solder will start in his place.

In addition to Mankins and Chung, wide receiver Wes Welker (questionable) and linebacker Brandon Spikes also will play.

Other New England inactives: Ryan Mallett, Nate Jones, Shane Vereen, Gary Guyton, Donald Thomas and Ron Brace.

And for the Broncos, the inactives include: Eric Decker, Brian Dawkins, Lonie Paxton, Julius Thomas, Ryan Harris, Derrick Harvey, and Mike Mohamed.

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Posted on: January 14, 2012 7:19 pm
 

Flacco says he's not thinking about new contract

Flacco is looking for a contract extension and how he plays this postseason could determine if he gets it. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Running back Ray Rice is in the last few weeks of his rookie contract and it's no secret that he's looking for a new deal. And given his importance to the Ravens' offense, he deserves it. We're guessing the two sides will come to an agreement in this offseason, although the Titans' Chris Johnson has completely obliterated the market for do-everything feature backs.

But Rice isn't the only player in Baltimore looking to re-up. Backfield and draft-class teammate Joe Flacco will have a year left on his contract after the 2011 season, but like most franchise quarterbacks, he'd like an extension in place before he becomes a free agent.

In fact, last April, back when he still had two years on his rookie deal, here's what Flacco said (via the Baltimore Sun):

"I think I've established myself. If you're not confident with who I am, I'm not sure what [difference] a year is going to make."

If the sentiments sound familiar it's because every few months Flacco laments his plight as a franchise player who isn't afforded the same respect by media and fans as others in his position. (We're not exaggerating. Flacco has a knack for saying the wrong thing at the worst possible moment. See here and here for recent examples.)

Two weeks ago, Flacco again spoke with the Sun about his comments last spring and his future in Baltimore.


The Houston Texans will square off against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Which team will advance to the Conference Championship? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this game. Watch the game at 1 PM ET on CBS.

"It is what it is," he said. "It's either going to happen at some point or it's not. The bottom line is I'm not too worried about it either way. Do I feel like I deserve one? Yeah. Do I feel like I'm going to get one? Yeah. If I don't get one, is it going to be a huge deal? No, it is what it is. It's not really up to me. It's up to me to go out there and focus on my play each and every game and put our team in the best spot to win a football game."

We can't imagine that the Ravens won't keep Flacco, though that calculus may depend on how he plays in the postseason. If he has a horrible showing, the team opts to hold off on contract talks, and he plays in 2012 like he did in 2011 -- which is to say: inconsistently -- maybe the front office might choose to move forward without him in 2013. That scenario seems like a stretch, especially when you remember the names that preceded him in Baltimore: Boller, Blake, Grbac, Dilfer, and Banks for starters.

Flacco likes to remind his critics that the Ravens have gone to the playoffs in each of his four seasons, and have put together back-to-back 12-4 campaigns. That's nice, but the bottom line is winning a Super Bowl. Baltimore hasn't come close and part of that lies with Flacco. If he plays well during the playoffs, he'll be in line for a raise; if he plays like he did against the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks or Chargers, the club could choose to reevaluate things after he plays out the final year of his rookie deal.

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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