Week 14 is upon us and it looks to be one heck of a matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings. There will be plenty of battles in this game, but the two that stand out are Joe Flacco vs. the Minnesota defense and Adrian Peterson vs. the Ravens’ defense. The player out of these two who can shoulder the load and help their offensive unit shine will lead their team to victory.
I’ll start with Flacco. He has had to step his game up lately in the absence of a run game from Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Flacco has had more on his shoulders this season than any other because of the lackluster run scheme thanks to no holes being opened by the line. It appears that the Super Bowl MVP needs to step his game up as he has thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions in the last four games.
“Even money” in blackjack is not winning, and those stat will probably have you losing in football.
Flacco is fortunate to have a stout defense returning to form that has put him in good field position to start drives. He is also lucky that “Swag-matic” Justin Tucker has been so accurate when Flacco comes up short on a drive. He will need to take advantage of this weeks’ matchup as he faces the 30th-ranked pass defense in the league. Flacco is not the only one with a tough battle ahead. Having his own mountain to climb is Peterson.
Peterson has had to deal with injuries and when he is healthy, he has to worry about who is actually handing the ball off to him that week, as the Vikings have gone through the QB carousel this season. This week, it is Matt Cassel handing the rock to Peterson with Christian Ponder out.
This, however, is not the biggest of Peterson’s problems. He faces the NFL’s sixth-ranked run-stop in the Ravens. Now some would say, “oh well he’s Adrian Peterson”, assuming he’s going to handle business as usual. Baltimore is well aware of this type of offensive monster. I am certain they still remember Peterson chalking up 143 yards on 22 carries against them in 2009, and are preparing extra hard to at least slow Peterson down.
However, with such a poor offense, Peterson will have to shoulder the load in order to will his team to victory.
So considering the above, who’s going to put their team on their back and carry them to another win? Will it be Peterson on the ground or Flacco through the air? You be the judge.
The big play has been a problem for the New York Jets‘ corners and safeties this year. Every week, it seems they are gashed for big plays. Antonio Cromartie may not be healthy, but he looks slow anyway. Quick receivers gave him issue last season as well. Ed Reed looks old and his signing has not worked out. Antonio Allen shows some encouraging signs, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a reliable starting option.
Week 13 offers stiff competition in electrifying competition. Jacoby Ford provides explosiveness to his receiving corps. If Cromartie covers him, then there could be big plays to be found. Kyle Wilson should draw this assignment because he is faster. Dee Milliner has been benched several times during his rookie season. Head Coach Rex Ryan recently graded his rookie class with an “A+”, and I just don’t see it with Milliner.
Yes, injuries hurt, but too many blown overages have taken place. While the Oakland Raiders has struggled for over a decade, their roster has pass catchers who can make big plays. New York will benefit however, if Denarius Moore can’t perform on Sunday. Undrafted free agent quarterback Matt McGloin has demonstrated enough arm strength and decent decision-making.
It will be up to Gang Green’s vaunted front seven to pressure him and prevent big gains through the air. Ryan’s defensive prowess must be on display while his players put on a much-improved showing. The wind has taken some passes over their heads recently, but that is not an excuse. Schemes and individuals are responsible for their opponents.
It wasn’t so long ago that Monta Ellis was the up-and-coming star shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors. He was a guy who shot an excellent 45 percent from the field, dished some assists and averaged over 20 points a game.
Then he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, a decision that has clearly paved the way for a talented Warriors team and allowed Stephen Curry to become the face of the franchise, but the Bucks never made good use of Ellis. Through the end of the 2011-12 season and entirety of 2012-13, Ellis was stuck on a team that had Brandon Jennings as their point guard — a guy who pretty much just jacks up whatever he wants whenever he feels like it instead of running the point — and Scott Skiles as their head coach — whose philosophy is play hard on defense and hope to score enough points throughout the game to win.
That combination turned Ellis into a highly inefficient, and relatively average two-guard. He only shot 43 percent to close out his first year there, and then that dropped to under 42 percent the following season. His points per game average fell from mid-to-low 20s while at Golden State to around 18-19 up in Milwaukee. Never mind the fact that his team just wasn’t very good around him.
Ellis still dished out his six assists, swiped a couple steals and pulled down about four boards every game, but it was clear his effectiveness scoring wasn’t nearly as potent as it was with his previous team.
Now, some critics thought that this was just Ellis — that he had regressed, was taking a lot of bad shots and that he couldn’t be the player he once was.
I didn’t really buy that, though, because he was so great with the Warriors, and could those critics not see how bad that Bucks team was? I actually thought for a little while that maybe the Chicago Bulls — my favorite team — would be wise to try and trade Luol Deng and amnesty Carlos Boozer to try and make a run at him this past offseason. With Derrick Rose going down, that wouldn’t really matter at this point, but really, I don’t believe that their front office would be so bold to attempt that type of move anyway.
Regardless of all that, what actually happened was him signing with the Dallas Mavericks. A team that was ancient in basketball standards needed an injection of youth and a scorer. They got both with the 28-year-old Ellis.
The Mavs are now back in the playoff hunt at 13-8 after missing out last season, and Ellis has been a huge part of that. He’s averaging 21.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 47 percent from the field, not to mention 36 percent from deep — a number that is almost eight percentage points better than his final year in Wisconsin.
Just last night, Dallas even knocked off the Portland Trail Blazers, the best team in the Western Conference so far this season, for their third-straight win, 108-106. And who hit the game-winner as time expired? Monta.
With just under two seconds to go in the game, Ellis came off of a screen and got the inbound pass. He then took the ball around a pick set by DeJuan Blair and raised up for a beautiful-looking leaner at the top of the key and drained it as the backboard lit up red.
Now that he’s got some structure on a team with a good head coach in Rick Carlisle, a couple of good point guards who don’t take a bunch of unnecessary shots in Jose Calderon and Devin Harris, a few good scrappers with Blair, Shawn Marion and eventually Brandan Wright (he’s been injured) and a couple of excellent veterans who can space the floor in Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki, Ellis can finally flourish once more — and he’s done just that.
Despite a couple of mediocre years with the Bucks, Ellis is back on track to be the exciting and acrobatic scorer he once was with Golden State. I’m sure he’ll be a staple of the Mavericks’ franchise for at least the next few years that he’s signed with them and prove a great move by Mark Cuban and his front office.
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Last week's eye-popping demonstration by Amazon.com of its proposed method of delivery -- packages dropped on doorsteps by little helicopter drones -- has become an Internet sensation. Amazon's drones are warm and friendly, like the heroes of a Disney movie. Others coming your way, not so much.
The New Orleans Saints were embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football as they lost 34-7. With that loss in the back of their minds, the Saints have to be ready when the Carolina Panthers visit the Superdome on Sunday night.
The good news for the Saints is that they are undefeated at the Superdome this season with a 6-0 record. The bad news is the more I think about it, the more I realize that Carolina is very similar to the team that just dominated the Saints, the Seahawks.
Like the Seahawks, the Panthers boast a dominating defense that is great against both the pass and the run. Furthermore, Newton is a big, strong mobile quarterback who can beat opposing defenses with either his arm or his legs. Last week, the Saints’ offense only managed to put up 188 total yards. If the Saints want to beat Carolina, they will need more production from their running game as well as their wide receivers.
I would expect Jimmy Graham to have a much better game this week against the Panthers’ smaller secondary. Graham will be vital to the Saints’ success against the Panthers and with all the attention focused on him, it should create opportunities for other receivers as well as the running game.
It will surely help that the Saints will have their home crowd, which will be going for the loudest indoor stadium noise record, backing them up. This is a very important game for the Saints and if they win, they will be in control of the NFC south. The Saints would very much like to have home-field advantage in the playoffs, and that will start with a win against the Panthers.