When the Ravens travel to New England on Saturday for a Divisional Playoff matchup, there will be several key battles the Patriots will have to win. One of the most critical will be the Patriots offensive line versus the Baltimore defensive line. In the past, the Ravens have shown a unique ability to harass Tom Brady and force him into mistakes or short offensive series. They have also consistently been able to get pressure against any team. This season has been no different for the Ravens and Saturday will be tough for the Patriots up front.

In 17 games (16 regular season, one playoff) this season, the Ravens have accumulated 54 sacks total which comes out to roughly three per game. In an eight game stretch in the middle of the season, the Patriots only gave up four sacks total. However, they gave up that many in the first half of their week 16 game against the Jets and had some issues in week 17 against Buffalo before resting their starters. Dan Connolly has missed time late in the season which has caused reshuffling and the Patriots will hope that he is fully healthy for Saturday. Nate Solder also struggled the last two games and Sebastian Vollmer was inactive for the final game although that seemed more precautionary than anything else. Continue reading Baltimore Defensive Front Could Sabotage Patriots »

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1.PATRIOTS – RAVENS PREVIEW:

* Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker 4 for 9 from 50 yards out

* Dumervil and Suggs combined for 29 sacks

* 350 pound Haloti Ngata leads the Ravens with 2 interceptions

* 2014 Regular season – Ravens are 1-4 when a team throws for 300 yards / Ravens are 1-5 when they have at least 2 turnovers / Ravens are 2-3 when a team runs for 100 yards

* Patriots are favored by 7 – they have not covered in the last three Baltimore playoff games being favored by 7.5 / 7.0 / 4

* Last three playoff games with Ravens: Patriots 10 turnovers to 3 for Baltimore

* Patriots are 7-1 against Baltimore regular season and 1-2 playoffs (got lucky on the win)

* Ray Rice and Aaron Hernandez will not be playing in this game Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Like Christmas Eve! »

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Donte Clark develops as UMass improves (Photo courtesy of UMass Athletics)

The 2014 calendar year was one of ups (a thrilling ride to the NCAA Tournament) and downs (a mediocre start to the 2014–15 season) for the UMass Minutemen basketball team. However, a new year means new year’s resolutions, and while most of you are probably saying things like “I’m going to eat healthier!”or “I’m going to the gym more!”, the Minutemen seem to have made a resolution to play better and try to right the ship. Let’s throw out the loss to St. Bonaventure and concentrate on everything else that has happened since the season’s low point.

On December 20, UMass hit the road to finish off the New England portion of its non-conference schedule against the Providence Friars, a team they defeated in a thriller at the Mullins Center a season ago. Without going into too much detail, UMass was anything but thrilling as Ladontae Henton and the rest of the Friars embarrassed UMass in an 85–65 beatdown. Since then, the Minutemen have played very, going 2–2. Continue reading New Year’s Resolution in Full Swing for Minutemen »

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gronk1

Several times this season I have written about the impact that a healthy Rob Gronkowski can make in a game. It is no secret that he is the league’s most dominant tight end and one of the premier offensive weapons in football. He is virtually uncoverable and will provide the Patriots with a distinct advantage this weekend. The Patriots have played the Ravens three times in the postseason since 2009. In those three games, they have had Gronkowski for a total of less than three quarters. He was not on the roster for the 2009 game, injured in the third quarter of the 2011 game, and missed the entirety of the 2012 game due to injury.

If Gronkowski can be healthy for the entire game Saturday, he can dramatically affect the outcome. Continue reading Rob Gronkowski Could Prove a Nightmare for Ravens »

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Remembering Stuart Scott

January 6, 2015 at 8:20pm in Featured, News, Opinion
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The loss of Stuart Scott at age 49 has touched us all. His voice as a sportscaster on ESPN’s flagship show SportsCenter was unparalleled. Scott, along with Keith Olbermann and longtime co-host Rich Eisen, changed sportscasting for the better, nay the best, as they searched for the “cool side of the pillow.”

Continue reading Remembering Stuart Scott »

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Take a bow, Pedro: You are now officially a Hall of Famer. (Wikipedia)

What we Red Sox fans have known for a long time is finally official: Pedro Martinez is a Hall of Famer.

The wiry, fiery starter, who already was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame earlier this year, was elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility, receiving 91.1 percent of the BBWA vote (500 ballots).

Martinez won three Cy Youngs in his 18-year career, including back-to-back awards in 1999 and 2000 with the Red Sox. He was 219-100 with a 2.93 ERA and 3,154 strikeouts, and helped deliver the 2004 World Series Championship to Boston after 86 years (in case you didn’t know).

Continue reading Pedro Elected into Hall of Fame on First Try »

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One of the surprises of the NFL season was the emergence of Ravens running back Justin Forsett. Forsett, who had bounced around several teams before landing in Baltimore, saw his chance early in the season in the aftermath of the Ray Rice domestic violence situation. Forsett seized the moment, running for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which was good for one of the best marks in the league. His mix of power and speed as well as vision makes him difficult for the Patriots to defend. The Ravens offensive line has also done a good job opening holes for him and they show no signs of slowing down.

Most games are won and lost in the trenches and this week’s game will put the play of the Patriots’ defensive line into even greater focus than normal. If the Patriots allow Forsett to run as he has throughout the season they will have a tough time getting off the field, and it will open things up for the Ravens passing attack. There are two players above the rest that will need to play well for the Patriots to slow Forsett down: Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga.

Wilfork has been the anchor of the Patriots defense for a decade and the Patriots will need all of his 6’2” 325 pound frame to clog the middle of the line. Siliga is also 6’2” and hovering around 325 pounds next to Wilfork. Siliga missed eight games while on the Injured Reserve/Return list but has been healthy for the last four games. In the nine games that Siliga missed, the Patriots gave up an average of 122 rushing yards per game. That number nose-dived to 87 yards per game in the month of December once Siliga returned to action. Siliga and Wilfork together will need to push the middle of Baltimore’s offensive line back and come up with tackles for losses or force the Ravens to bounce runs outside. This will also mean Rob Ninkovich, Akeem Ayers, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower will need to be stout outside and in the second level.

The Patriots cannot miss tackles and allow Forsett to gain yards after contact. Forsett has to be met at the line of scrimmage and forced to move around before hitting the hole. If the Patriots can accomplish this, it will go a long way towards limiting his effectiveness. Alan Branch could also factor into stopping Forsett as well as being a key rusher up the middle. Wilfork and Siliga will not be able to play every snap so Branch will have to perform when he is called upon. Forcing the Ravens to be a one-dimensional passing team will allow the Patriots vaunted secondary to shine. This is the first postseason in nearly a decade that the Patriots will have a distinct advantage in the secondary against nearly any team they will play. However, if they do not stop Forsett, that advantage will not be as useful.

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