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Ravens fail to be first team to clinch

Apparently I should have stuck to my guns two weeks ago when I claimed the Baltimore Ravens were a flawed two-loss team. Last week I choked on my words a bit and owned up that the Ravens look playoff-ready. However, after an ugly 13-7 loss to division rival Cincinnati, I’d like to reinstate my original assessment of Baltimore.

Nobody is going to say that the Ravens defense is overrated. The unit causes a ton of turnovers and always puts a great deal of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. However, the offense lacks any real playmaking threat and Steve McNair hardly looks comfortable in the pocket. Jamal Lewis has had a few nice games since Brian Billick took over the play calling duties from Jim Fassel, but he’s not a dominant back by any means. Look at Thursday night’s score. Sure, the field was slick and bad weather always keeps points off the board. But Baltimore faced a Bengal defense that was ranked 31st overall coming into this contest and was one cheap touchdown at the end of the game away from being completely shutout. All Cincinnati seemed to do was take away the underneath passing routes and McNair had nowhere to throw.

The Ravens will make the playoffs and may win a game with their defense and home field advantage. But that’s probably going to be it. As for the Bengals, I’m still holding judgment on whether or not “they’re back” until I see that defense play as well as they did Thursday night.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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NY Giants vs. the NY Media, Part 87

Apparently Michael Strahan forgot to change his diapers on Wednesday. Strahan went off on a female reporter in the Giants locker room when asked if he could elaborate on ripping teammate Plaxico Burress on a recent radio show.

“Come here, I want to see your face when you ask this question,” a confrontational Strahan bellowed. “You’re a responsible journalist, look me in the eye and ask this question the way you want to ask it. Look a man in the eye before you try to kill him or make up something.”

Kill him? I didn’t know you were at war Kellen Winslow.

“You know the difference between me reading your papers now and me reading your papers 10 years ago, is now I know [B.S.] when I read it,” he said. “Ten years ago, I didn’t know [B.S.] when I read it, so now I can read your papers and it doesn’t bother me because half is garbage.”

Why read it at all than Strahan?

Look, I’m not big on these sideline reporters and their terrible attempts at asking decent questions. But Strahan ripped his teammate first. The reporter just wanted a follow up, because that’s her job. For Strahan to bully a reporter because he’s upset that his team is losing has “crybaby” written all over it. Just tell the reporter that it’s an “in-house” situation and move on. You didn’t prove a point to anyone Strahan. You just came away looking like a jerk.

NBA: Eye on the scoreboard

The Jazz shrugged off a two-game losing streak and bounced back against the Spurs, 83-75. Carlos Boozer once again dominated the glass, posting 23 points and 16 rebounds in the win. (That sound you hear is the fans in Cleveland collectively banging their heads against the wall.) Sophomore standout Deron Williams added 15 points and nine assists. Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and 10 rebounds. San Antonio played without Manu Ginobili, who missed the game with a sore back.

The Cavs lost to the Knicks at home, 101-98. (Ugh.) New York shot 53% from the field behind 27 points from Quentin Richardson and 24 points from Eddy Curry. LeBron went for 27/7/6, but it wasn’t enough to carry his team to the win. This team needs Larry Hughes back…now.

Amare Stoudemire had his third straight double-double in the Suns’ 102-91 win over the Rockets. It looks like he’s finally rounding into game shape.

#6 UNC topples #1 OSU

#1 ranked Ohio State jumped out to an early lead, but the Tar Heels fought back and took control in the second half, finally putting the Buckeyes away, 98-89. The game was part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which pits teams from the two conferences against one another.

OSU was without 7’1″ freshman phenom Greg Oden, who should be ready to play in a few weeks. During the game, there were several shots of him sitting on the Buckeye bench, and I have to say that for an 18 year-old, he looks like he’s about 30. Regardless, when the team works him into the lineup, they are going to be tough to beat.

Fantasy Football: The Pregame, Week 13

Each week in the Pregame, I’ll provide a few players to start and a few to bench. These recommendations are based on that player’s strength of schedule (SOS) for that particular week or that player’s specific situation.

I’m a strong advocate of always starting your studs, so I won’t be telling you about LaDainian Tomlinson’s tough matchup or how Peyton Manning and company will light it up against a bad defense. Anyone can make those calls. I’ll be discussing marginal fantasy starters – guys that can start for you, but only under certain circumstances.

START

Several fringe QBs have nice matchups this week. You could do worse than BEN ROETHLISBERGER, JASON CAMPBELL and STEVE MCNAIR this week…With a matchup against the 49ers, his is a good week to start DEUCE MCALLISTER and REGGIE BUSH. JOSEPH ADDAI is a must-start with his recent performance and a nice matchup against the Titans this week…Look for MUHSIN MUHAMMAD and BERNARD BERRIAN to have productive games against the Vikings, who have had trouble defending the pass. Weather is always an issue in Chicago this time of year, so keep an eye on the forecast.

BENCH

JON KITNA, DAVID CARR, JAKE DELHOMME, BRAD JOHNSON and JOEY HARRINGTON all have poor matchups this week and should be avoided if possible…THOMAS JONES, RUDI JOHNSON, FRED TAYLOR and KEVIN JONES face good defenses this week, so choose wisely. It’s tough to bench these guys (especially RJ and KJ), but if you have a good option available, it might be a good idea…KEYSHAWN JOHNSON and CHRIS CHAMBERS have pretty tough matchups this week, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bench them if you have another decent option.

INJURY UPDATE (THURSDAY GAME)

With the season-ending injury to Chris Perry, Kenny Watson takes over as Rudi Johnson’s primary backup…Jamal Lewis is questionable after missing part of Wednesday’s practice, but is still expected to start. Todd Heap also missed part of practice Wednesday and his status for Thursday is considered a “game-time decision.”

Check back Saturday for a complete injury update. Meanwhile, feel free to post a question on our Fantasy Q & A.

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