Baltimore and Pittsburgh have played four times in the past two years.
Baltimore 2 wins, Pittsburgh 2.
Baltimore 67 points, Pittsburgh 67.
Baltimore 7 touchdowns and 6 field goals, Pittsburgh 7 touchdowns and 6 field goals.
With four regular-season weeks left in the 2010 season, we may be about to see the rich get quite a bit richer. The Carolina Panthers, 1-11, have a one-game edge over Detroit, Cincinnati and Buffalo for the top pick in the draft, and for the top pick in each of the subsequent six rounds. This year, for the second time, the NFL Draft will be held over three days, with the first round on a Thursday (April 28), the second and third rounds the next day, and rounds four through seven on Saturday. That means the 33rd pick in the draft, the first pick of the second round, will hold inordinate value -- because teams will have most of the day Friday to haggle with the team holding that pick to try to deal for it.
Carolina's second-round pick in 2011 belongs to New England.
That could give New England, in essence, three first-round picks to use as currency next April. The Patriots always wheel and deal on draft weekend -- they made eight trades on draft weekend 2009 and seven on the three-day draftathon in 2010. New England already has Oakland's first-round pick from the 2009 Richard Seymour deal and its own. If Carolina picks first overall, that would give New England three in the top 33, and the most desirable, tradable pick after day one.
Last April, the St. Louis Rams had the first pick of the second round, and with 19 hours between the end of the first round and the start of round two, entertained offers for the pick. But once they saw the player they longed for still available, Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold, they refused to deal the pick and chose Saffold. Wise move. Saffold (as noted above) has been the starter at left tackle from day one and allowed only two sacks in 12 starts.
No doubt Carolina has regrets over trading its 2011 second-rounder to New England for a third-rounder last April, the 89th pick overall. They used that pick to select mostly benchwarmer Armenti Edwards from Appalachian State. Maybe Edwards will eventually make the switch from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver, but it was a slow process this year, and in 2011 Edwards will have to do it with his second head coach. The Panthers surely will miss this valuable pick while trying to rebuild this offseason. Instead, a team that needs another valuable draft piece as much as the Carolinas need another barbecue restaurant will get another chess piece to play.
The Games That Changed The Game, by Ron Jaworski, with Greg Cosell and David Plaut of NFL Films.
I've been asked by quite a few of you for book suggestions for the holiday -- other than the paperback version of my monstrously successful and insightful Monday Morning Quarterback wonderbook, of course -- and I would give you three that are very good reads, and very educational about the game: Blood, Sweat and Chalk, by my friend Tim Layden, a great one about the roots of football and why today's game is so sophisticated; The One Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s and the Fight For America's Soul, by Chad Millman and Shaun Coyne, which, though overtitled, is a fascinating look at football and life in the seventies, with my favorite parts those concerning the connection between the Steelers and their city; and the Jaws book about the seven most important games and football schemes of the last 50 years.
I write on the Jaws/Cosell/Plaut book today because of the Jets-Patriots game tonight, and the two chapters they write that tell such a good story about what is coming tonight. There's a chapter on Buddy Ryan and the rise of the 46 defense, and another on Bill Belichick and his game plan that beat the 14-point-favorite Rams in the Super Bowl nine years ago. And if you read those two chapters, you'll have a good idea what we're about to see tonight. Which is to say a bunch of weird pressures from the Jets (with Buddy's son Rex as head coach) and from the Patriots, anything goes. I say anything because as the book so deftly points out, Belichick can have an attacking style one game, a sit-back-and-cover style the next, or anything in between.
Jaworski on Rex Ryan, from the Buddy chapter: "I think Rex has expanded the scope of the 46 in ways his father could not have envisioned. Rex will take a linebacker from one side of the field and move him to cover a wide receiver [note from me -- we have seen this dating back to Adalius Thomas covering the then-Chad Johnson when Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator], and rotated his down linemen in unconventional ways, with coverage concepts I've never seen before. Rex is vigorously responding to the many new looks he sees from offenses, figuring that he needs to be aggressive in order to stay ahead. In that respect, he's a chip off the old block. Mike Singletary has noticed the resemblance, saying, 'It's obvious Rex is carrying on his father's legacy. He's so much like Buddy, it's frightening.' ''
As Jaworski concludes, Buddy Ryan, and now his son, so well understood how the game was headed toward an aerial showcase. Buddy was ahead of everyone in creating schemes to stay ahead of the smart offensive guys. And now Rex, tonight, will show us a couple of things we hadn't expected.
Now for Belichick. Sunday morning's important NFL Matchup show on ESPN revealed an oddity that hadn't been uncovered yet -- Belichick has sneaked cornerback Kyle Arrington onto the line as a down, hand-in-the-dirt defensive end 20 times in the past three weeks. Anything, it seems, to help a mediocre rush get better. As Jaworski and Co. wrote: "He drew up schemes that had never been tried in an NFL game and had his players ignore long-accepted defensive concepts.''
Enjoy the game tonight. Enjoy this smart book.
Good MMQB Samaritan of the Year: Chris Bierly, Newton, Mass.
I stood in Penn Station in Manhattan Wednesday at 11:50 a.m. with a friend, Alex Stern of the Elias Sports Bureau. He was going south on the Amtrak Acela for the Thursday night game in Philadelphia. I was going north, home to Boston, after the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year event Tuesday night. And we discovered trains were frozen in the northeast in a heavy rainstorm due to a downed wire in Newark. So we waited. And waited. Finally, around 1:45, in a packed train station, with no end to the delay in sight, I got on the phone to my travel agent and asked her to look for a car-rental place anywhere near Penn Station. Much to my chagrin, because I wanted to work on the way home, now I'd have to slog five or six hours through the nor'easter to get home.
"Want a ride?'' a complete stranger to my right said.
I looked at him, wondering if I should know him. "I recognized you and heard you on the phone, trying to get a car,'' Chris Bierly, a businessman from suburban Boston, said. "I just got one. I'm going home to Boston. You can come if you'd like.''
"Wow,'' I said. "Thanks. I'm in.''
So we sat in the back of a Town Car, Chris on the left, me on the right, and we chatted for a few minutes, then settled in to work/call/write, thanks to the wireless DSL devices we both had. Ryan Clark of the Steelers called, and I made a couple of calls on a story I'm working on for the magazine. I napped for 20 minutes. All in all, a great trip. When we were close to his home in Newton, I asked him if I could pay the driver to take me the final 15 minutes home to downtown Boston. "It's all taken care of,'' he said. "He'll take you there.''
That, ladies and gentlemen, is one class guy. Just when you think they don't exist anymore, here comes a gem of one.
One other Acela note, from a Friday afternoon trip back to New York. As critical as I've been of their awful coffee, I've got to hand it to Amtrak for adding Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA to the beverage list. I asked my Twitter followers Friday afternoon if it was too early to sample one of the Dogfish Heads, and the answer was about 269-0 in favor. Very good decision.
"This game has just turned into a classic.''
--@ChrisHarrisNFL, Bears safety Chris Harris, at the two-minute warning of the Steelers-Ravens instant classic in the Inner Harbor Sunday night.