Stillers-Ravens Preview(Game #8)
The Stillers venture to Piss-i-Net Stadium to face the Woodpeckers, a team that shut them out in the season opener. The Ravens are in a bit of a tailspin, slipping to 5-3 after a promising 5-1 start. The Stillers, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-game win streak, though all the wins have come against either soft or injury-ravaged opponents. Without question, this game will be a true litmus test as to whether this Stillers team is basically the same laggards who were shut out in week 1, or if the Stillers truly have improved their preparation, assimilation, and execution.
* When the Ravens have the ball, they'll be led, if you can call it that, by subpar journeyman QB Trent Dilfer. Tony Banks has been demoted, and Dilfer, who has never been worth a tinker's damn, will assume the starting chores. Sure, Banks has struggled, but I welcome the chance to face the erratic, clumsy, and clodhopping Dilfer. Expect the Ravens to minimize Dilfer's mistakes by trying to pound RBs Lewis and Holmes into the Stiller defense. The Ravens had surprisingly good success running the ball against the Stillers in week 1, and despite a vast improvement by the Stiller defense, the Ravens will surely try to run the ball a good bit and keep Dilfer from blowing the game with hideous mistakes. Of course, the Ravens won't throw the passing game into the Baltimore harbor. Billick is a passing coach at heart, and he seems persistent in his attempt to get this Ravens passing game out of its funk. Dilfer is slow and plodding back in the pocket, but tackles Ogden and Swayne are good blockers who are more than capable enough to protect Dilfer's flanks. In fact, because of the injuries in the Jags O-line, this OT duo in Baltimore is by far the best the Stillers have faced all season. If starting C Jeff Mtichell is unable to go, then backup center Mike FLynn may have his hands full trying to contain Kimo. The key matchups will be TE Shannon Sharpe against the Kirk and Flowers, as well as WR Quadry Ismail against the Stiller CBs. After a slow start, Sharpe has really come alive the past month, and Dilfer may very well look to Sharpe as a comforting security blanket. Kirk and Flowers will likely alternate on covering Sharpe, depending on formation. Of course, Sharpe is often split out wide, so anyone in the secondary could also be tasked with coverage. Ismail is a journeyman WR against the rest of the NFL, but match him against the Black & Gold, and the guy becomes Jerry Rice, Mark Duper, and Cliff Branch all rolled into one. In fact, if you can acquire Quadry onto your fantasy team this week, offer the kitchen sink, as this guy has simply killed the Stillers the past couple of meetings. The Stillers must limit Ismail to some short gains and clamp down on any deep passes to The Scud Missile.
* When the Stillers have the ball, they'll apparently ride The Bus and hope for the best. Stewart will start at QB, and although he's appeared more comfortable these past 3 weeks, he still has yet to throw passes further than 15 yards downfield with any kind of regularity or confidence. Despite what some of the media dummies will proclaim, rookie FB Dan Kreider is not the key to this game. Kreider, despite the fawning by the local media over Jon Witman, is just as good a blocker as Witless. I saw Kreider play in preseason, as well as in last week's game. Replacing Jon Witman in the starting lineup is no more difficult than replacing Courtney Hawkins. I'm worried more so about the Baltimore defensive line, which is so damn strong and fierce. Burnett, Adams, Goose Siragusa, and McCrary are all havoc-wreaking animals. We've faced some adequate DLs this season, but these 4 men comprise the best thus far. The key matchup is Off. Coord Kevin Gaypride against the Baltimore defense. You may recall that in the opener, it was Gaypride who essentially sent his offense into a gunfight armed only with picnic plastic-ware. While Baltimore stacked the line with 7 and 8 men, and run-blitzed galore, Gaypride had this ludicrous fallacy that his Whaleshit Offense was going to pound the ball between the tackles. The result was a fiasco pretty much on par with George Custer at Little Big Horn, as Gaypride's popgun, glacially-slow offense was annihilated by the Ravens. You can bet the mortgage that Baltimore will once again stack the line with 7-8 defenders, as well as heavy doses of run-blitzing. If the Stillers have any chance of moving the ball and scoring, Gaypride must spread the field; use some quick-hitting running plays & minimize the Whaleshit Counter; and have his passing game prepared for the heavy blitzing by throwing some quick-strike pass plays that do not involve advanced trigonometric calculations by the QB and WR. Gaypride, and others, are probably under the assumption that Stewart's feet can help move the ball. This, along with the erroneous belief that we can pound the ball with Bettis 30+ times against the Ravens, is an outrageous fantasy. Ray Lewis is almost as fast as Stewart, and is more than savvy and quick enough to chase down Stewart when Stew tries to scramble. Moreover, Lewis' spy duties will also allow him to engulf Gaypride's 2 favorite plays -- the draw and the screen. This is an immense challenge, but if he is to have some success in the air, Stewart must throw on the run. The Ravens defense, with a supremely quick LB corps of Sharper, Lewis, and Boulware, is simply too fast and shrewd for Stewart to have any continuous success running the ball. On boots and rollouts, Stewart must be able to look UP and find open receivers, and then have the GUTS to throw while on the run. This might sound simple, but Stewart has a long history of refusing to throw while on the run. He is willing to roll out, and plant his feet, and then throw. But in his entire career he has actually thrown the ball on the run perhaps 4 times. Total. What happens with Stewart, is that when he starts running, he becomes a smaller version of Larry Czonka, and he totally suppresses any other thoughts except toting the pigskin. To beat Baltimore, Stew must be able to complete some passes while on the run.
* The time is ripe for the Stillers to exact revenge on the Woodpeckers and give them a whipping. The Ravens are foundering and losing confidence, while the Stillers are gaining confidence and playing with pretty good emotion and on-the-field smarts. I expect our defense to play significantly better than it did in the opener. Problem is, I expect nothing different from Kevin Gaypride than the half-assed, half-baked game plan that he crapped out onto a wad of toilet paper prior to that opening game fiasco. The Ravens will capitalize on a key turnover, and their offense will be only slightly less sloppy that ours. Woodpeckers win, 13-10.
The Still Mill