1. How do you think Joe Flacco will fare in his first road game against the Steelers' blitz packages?
I'm expecting him to struggle mightily. One of the areas where he struggled in college was blitz recognition and with his understanding of what he was seeing. In other words, because he didn't have enough playing experience, he didn't always understand what defenses were throwing at him.
Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is going to throw a lot of zone blitzes at him and Flacco will be challenged immensely with what the Steelers will try to do to him.
If Flacco handles LeBeau's blitz packages well then that will go a long way toward his development.
2. Do you think Baltimore will be ale to run the ball up the middle with Casey Hampton out?
Hampton's replacement, Chris Hoke, is a workmanlike player who can do well in spurts but asking him do perform at a high level for 50-60 plays might be asking too much. Hampton is arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL so his presence against the run will be missed. I think the Ravens will be more successful running the ball this time around and don't underestimate the loss of DE Brett Keisel as well. Keisel is an athletic defensive lineman who could also drop into coverage. He gave their defense the ability to use different looks.
3. Who do you like in the Hines Ward-Chris McAlister matchup?
McAlister is doing a decent job of playing with a bad knee and it's a good matchup against two physical players. I would expect both to have their moments in this game. Where Ward will become key is in the red-zone area.
4. Is rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall a fumbler and do you think he'll struggle against the Ravens' top-ranked defense?
I don't see Mendenhall doing much in this matchup against one of the top run defenses in the NFL. But what I'm interested in seeing is if they commit to running the ball if he struggles.
5. Do you think the Browns should be fined for the incident with Willis McGahee's eye?
Tough call there. It's hard to say if it was deliberate or not. Those kind of judgment calls are always hard to predict.
6. What's the likelihood that Ben Roethlisberger will be able to stay standing with the state of the Steelers' offensive line? What's the problem with these guys? Ability? Scheme? Both?
The first two games, the Steelers' offense line was pretty solid but then again, they faced pretty weak front sevens (Houston and Cleveland).
Philadelphia did a great job of disguising their blitz packages and the offensive linemen could never really adjust to what was being thrown at them. Rex Ryan is the master of chaos when it comes to disguising fronts so Pittsburgh's offensive linemen must communicate better this time around.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought this unit was better than average but they have some good players. The biggest problem they have is in the interior with C Justin Hartwig and LG Chris Kemoeatu.
7. Any rumors about the Ravens' guys in the final years of their contracts?
I believe they want Ray Lewis back, but at their price. It's a tough call because of his age and injury history. On the other side of it, I don't see anyone who is ready to replace him.
I haven't seen much of a sense of urgency to get Bart Scott re-signed. He's a solid player but you can only pay out so much in salary cap dollars.
Chris McAlister is also a big issue in regard to his cap value of nearly $11 million. I have to think for him to come back that he will have to take a pay cut.
8. Do you think Todd Heap is finished or just rusty or in a slump? Should they draft a tight end?
I really thought he looked slow and not moving as well as he has in the past over their first two games. We know about his injury history and I'm starting to wonder if he's regressing. I would draft a developmental tight end for sure.
9. What's your take on Ravens safety Jim Leonhard as he fills in for Dawan Landry while he recovers from a spinal cord concussion?
Leonhard is a small but scrappy defensive back who is fairly athletic. The problem he has is teams go after him because of his size. That was one of the reasons why Buffalo didn't want him back.
10. Do you think the Browns should replace Derek Anderson with Brady Quinn soon or is it pointless at this juncture of the season?
If Anderson gets off to a good start in this week's game, they should keep him in there. If he struggles by half time, they might as well put Quinn in and leave him in there for good. Anderson clearly has lost some confidence that I'm not sure if he can get it back.
Cleveland has been wanting to get a look at Quinn so they may get their chance very soon.
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