Is Joe Flacco Overpaid?

I’m back, and Ravens fans aren’t going to like me for this one.

I just don’t get it. I really don’t. I don’t usually like to take down athletes because I know that I could never be doing what they are doing on the field each week, but this one continues to be mind-boggling to me.

Joe Flacco
Flacco signed a three-year, $66.4 million extension during the 2016 offseason.

Joe Flacco continues to get paid among the top-five quarterbacks in the league and I really cannot figure out why. He enters the 2016 season as the highest-paid quarterback on average per season at over $22 million a year, having just signed a contract extension this offseason.

Yes, I know he made that incredible run during the 2012 playoffs to win the Super Bowl. And I know he always makes it to the playoffs, but is that really because of Flacco?

I don’t think Joe Flacco is a bad quarterback. I just don’t think is very good either. He is just kind of average with help from some great running games and defenses.

For starters, Flacco has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a single season. He came very close in his last full season, 2014, where he came up just 14 yards shy of the 4,000 mark. Looking at that season though, there were 11 quarterbacks that did hit the 4,000 yard plateau. Throwing for at least 4,000 yards is common place in the league now and Flacco failing to hit that mark is not a result of him not throwing the ball enough. A better indicator of his struggles is lackluster yard per attempt average. He only finished 13th among quarterbacks that threw at least 400 passes in 2014 and for his career has an average under seven. If he cannot hit these benchmarks, then it is hard to justify paying him more than any other quarterback in the league.

Flacco doesn’t throw many touchdowns either. In fact, only twice in his career has the Delaware product thrown for 25 or more in a single season. He has never hit 30 either, with his career-high sitting at 27. In an age where quarterbacks regularly throw 30-plus touchdowns in a given season, Flacco’s numbers once again come across as average at best.

His lack of scores is not because he is an overly cautious player either. Flacco has thrown double digit interceptions in each of his eight NFL seasons. That includes 22 in the 2013 season and 12 during his injury-shortened 2015 campaign, where he only played 10 games. His completion percentage leaves a lot to be desired as well. Flacco completes roughly 61 percent of his passes, a pretty typical figure for middle of the road quarterbacks in the NFL.

It’s not like Flacco can complain about being constantly under pressure or knocked around either. He had a rough year in 2013, taking 48 sacks, but over the course of his last 26 games (the 2014 and 2015 seasons) Flacco has only been sacked 37 times. For some reference, there were 10 NFL quarterbacks sacked more than that in just 2015 alone.

Joe_Flacco
Flacco is under contract with the Ravens until he is 37 years old. 

Baltimore has always been good about giving its quarterback tons of help too. During his first four seasons in the NFL, Flacco had a top 10 scoring and yardage defense to rely on, often with that group ranking in the top three. He also can’t carry the team on his own. 2013 was Flacco’s worst statistical season and it was the only one where he played the whole year and did not have a ground game that ranked in the top half of the league.

On top of all of this is the fact that Flacco is coming off a torn ACL and MCL. That is a major knee injury at the age of 31 for a team to decide to invest in him long term. The Ravens have him locked up until 2022 despite the injury concerns.

Breaking Flacco down even further, over the course of his career, he has thrown for about 232 yards per game, while averaging about 1.4 touchdowns and 0.86 interceptions per game. Those numbers are very comparable to Ryan Tannehill, whom many view as the definition of an average quarterback. NFL franchises seem more than willing nowadays to pay top dollar for average quarterback play.

Joe Flacco has had a ton of success, including a Super Bowl ring. No one can take that away from him. However, he does not deserve to be one of the top paid players in the world of professional sports. If you ask me, he is just an average Joe.

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Counting down the most successful sports city

So following the Super Bowl and now starting the long four-month lull until another championship game is played, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city makes the list.

The cities just missing the cut are Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Houston has two titles, both coming from their MLS club the Dynamo. The Astros made a World Series run in 2005 but got swept. The Texans haven’t helped. Philly has four appearances in the big game but only one victory. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 but then lost the next year. The Eagles lost in 2005 as did the Flyers in 2010. Baltimore has two titles but both came from the Ravens. The Orioles did not do enough to really pad Baltimore’s resume.

#10 Kansas City 2 total titles in 4 total appearances
Not exactly a massive market but Kansas City has been a pretty solid sports city since 2000 when it comes to success. The forgotten team here will be the MLS club. The Kansas City Wizards, who is now Sporting KC, won the MLS Cup in 2000 and later made it to the 2004 final. 13 years later, Sporting KC left its mark with a MLS Cup victory. Then just this past year, the Royals made a shocking run to the World Series, eventually losing to San Francisco. The Kansas City NFL team, the Chiefs, could have boosted this city up the list some but they have had very little playoff success since 2000, not coming anywhere near the Super Bowl.

#9 St. Louis: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The St. Louis Rams were actually the first team to win a sports championship in the new millennium, taking home the 2000 Lombardi Trophy (which I ranked as my most exciting Super Bowl game of all time). The baseball team in St. Louis has done most of the heavy lifting though as the Cardinals have been among baseball’s best in the past 15 years. The Cards have two World Series titles from the 2006 and 2011 campaigns. This MLB team also came up just short in both 2004 and 2013, at the hands of the Boston Red Sox on each occasion. A little help from the Blues in the NHL could’ve pushed St. Louis above the next few cities on this list.

#8 San Francisco: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The San Francisco Giants have been baseball royalty over the past five years. In that time span, they have nailed down three World Series titles. San Francisco also made a trip to the Series in 2002, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Anaheim Angeles. The football team in San Francisco is pretty good as well. The 49ers came close for years to making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They finally accomplished that goal in 2013, but came up short against the Baltimore Ravens. Close, but no cigar. That Super Bowl victory could have vaulted San Francisco past the number seven city on the list.

#7 Pittsburgh: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
If this were an all-time list, Pittsburgh would have to be higher up on it. As it is only since the year of 2000, the city takes a drop. This has still been a successful city though when it comes to sports titles. The Steelers have earned two of them, in 2006 and 2009. They also came up a touchdown short in 2011 of winning another one against the Packers. On the ice, the Penguins have been one of the top teams in the NHL for some time now. They are perennial contenders and managed to make a Stanley Cup run in 2008, losing to the Detroit Red Wings, before returning the following year to beat those same Red Wings. Unfortunately, the Pirates haven’t been much help to the Pittsburgh cause in a while. Pittsburgh has been good, just not as good as…

#6 San Antonio: 4 total titles in 5 appearances
Amazing that a city with only one professional sports team can make the list. Well that’s what happens when the San Antonio Spurs are that one team. After a win in the NBA Finals in 1999, the Spurs watched as the Lakers won three consecutive titles to open the 21st century. The Spurs retaliated by winning three out of the next five. After an eight-year finals drought, San Antonio got another shot at a ring in 2013, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Heat. The rematch the following year though fell the other way giving the Spurs their fourth title since 2000.

That is the bottom half of the list. Check back in tomorrow for the top half of the countdown.

NFL Divisional round predictions

The Wildcard round featured storied rivalries and entertaining finishes. This weekend though gives us some of the best storylines of the season. We will see Tom Brady face off with the team that has given him so much trouble in the playoffs when Joe Flacco and the Ravens come to town. Two quarterbacks who have greatly changed how the position is viewed will share the field in Seattle when Russell Wilson’s Seahawks host Cam Newton’s Panthers. Two MVP candidates square off as a hobbled Aaron Rodgers takes on Tony Romo’s Cowboys at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The best though is the showdown in Denver between golden boy quarterbacks of present and future. Andrew Luck battles the man he replaced in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning, when the Broncos match up with the Colts. This is Manning’s first playoff game ever against the franchise that drafted him in 1998. Now it is time to break down these divisional round games and tell you who will be advancing to the conference championship.

I will start in New England with the Patriots and Ravens will play for the second time in three years in the playoffs. The last time these two teams met, the Pats lost in Foxboro as Baltimore continued its run to the Super Bowl. This time around will be very different though. This New England defense resembles nothing that it did two years ago. There are a couple of holdovers but the biggest additions include corners Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis. Those two alone allow Bill Belichick to pressure the quarterback without safety help for his corners. Joe Flacco has been on a quite a run of late in the playoffs but it will end in Foxboro. Belichick will be sending pressure Flacco’s way all game long and he will emphasize shutting down the Ravens rushing attack as Pittsburgh did a week ago. I think Brady will exorcise some demons and key on a Baltimore secondary that struggled throughout the regular season. Look for Tim Wright and Rob Gronkowski to have big games. The Ravens are a talented enough team to keep the game close but I think New England will pull away late and win 27-14.

Flipping to the NFC now, many are calling this a mirror image game. Seattle and Carolina play very similar styles of football relying heavily on the defense to make plays and the offense to kill the clock with an explosive running game. At the helm, both squads have talented, mobile quarterbacks, who can give defensive coordinators nightmares when trying to game plan against them. The Panthers have been on a hot streak entering the playoffs and continued it last week with a commanding win over Arizona. The score was closer than the game ever seemed. Seattle had the week off and should be ready for the former Heisman winner. Saturday’s game will be very scrappy and I expect some turnovers. Seattle had the best defense in the league and Carolina’s was no slouch either ranking tenth. The first half will be a lot shifting momentum with both teams exchanging field goals. The Panthers might be the underdog but this team came close to upending Seattle earlier this season. This game will go down to the wire and I think in the end Russell Wilson’s ability to make plays outside the pocket will be too much for Carolina to handle. In this defensive battle will be low scoring and finish 19-13, Seahawks on top. When all is said and done, Seattle should be set to host its second straight NFC Championship game.

Dallas will travel north to take on Green Bay in the other NFC divisional round game to travels to Seattle. This should be an exciting game to watch. The Cowboys will need to start fast in this one if they have any hopes of surviving until the next round. They fell behind early and were lucky to escape with a win over Detroit. This game could be much easier for Dallas though than was initially thought if Aaron Rodgers is truly not at 100% with a serious calf injury. However, Rodgers was clearly hobbled in his game against Detroit two weeks ago and still led the Packers to a victory. Yet, the key to this game will be the Packers’ defensive front. The Lions laid out the blueprint to beat the Cowboys last week getting after Tony Romo and limiting Demarco Murray’s ability to break long runs. Romo was sacked six times, Murray averaged less than four yards per carry and it was clear Dallas struggled. I think Green Bay will come out with a plan early to get after Romo. Meanwhile, Dallas’ defense ranked in the bottom quarter of the league for passing yards allowed. I think Rodgers gets the Packers out to an early lead that the Cowboys, as good as they can be, are unable to overcome. Green Bay wins 34-28.

The last game pits two quarterbacks desperate for a playoff win. Peyton Manning’s career is winding down and his critics have always pointed out Manning’s struggles in the playoffs. On the other hand, Andrew Luck has burst onto the scene and has be called a great quarterback but the doubters still have yet to see Luck take his team past the divisional round of the playoffs. When the Colts visit the Broncos, we should see two offenses heading in completely different directions. Indy has struggled running the ball all year and Denver’s defense ranked second during the regular season for rushing yards allowed. This game will fall squarely on the shoulders of the former Stanford quarterback if Indianapolis is going to stand a chance in this game. Luck has the ability to put up incredible numbers but he has also been turnover prone of late. He will need to play mistake free to give the Colts a chance. For Denver though, this game will be about running the football. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase completely restructured Denver’s offense down the stretch this season to rely heavily on the running game, taking the weight off Manning. The Broncos will want to keep the ball out of Luck’s hands as much as possible and simply wear the Colts defense out with C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. This approach should make also negate the Colts pass rush, which registered an impressive 41 sacks this season. This should be an interesting game but in the end, I think the quarterback of the present holds off the quarterback of the future. Broncos win 31-21.

So my prediction is that we will see the Packers travel to Seattle and another round of Brady versus Manning in the conference championship. Let me know if you think I completely overlooked something or you have a different idea of how next weekend will look. Keep an eye for next week’s predictions as well. Enjoy all of these great matchups this weekend.

NFL Wildcard madness

The Wildcard round of the 2015 playoffs kicks off tomorrow meaning postseason professional football is back. Saturday’s games include the Cardinals versus the Panthers and the Steelers hosting the Ravens. Sunday features the Cowboys taking on the Lions and the Bengals visiting the Colts. The playoffs are unpredictable and can bring out the best in players. Nothing is a sure bet in the NFL, but I will do my best to predict who will win and who will go home.

I will start in Charlotte where the Panthers snuck into the playoffs with a losing record, only the second team ever to do so. That being said, Carolina is hot at the right time as the Panthers won four straight to make the postseason, which included a 34-3 thumping of division rival Atlanta to clinch the division. Arizona on the other hand, has limped into the postseason losing its last two games. The running game has stalled since Andre Ellington landed on injury reserve. The Cards are playing Ryan Lindley at quarterback as well having lost both Drew Stanton and Carson Palmer for the season. Bruce Arians still has the Cardinals alive though between creative play calling and an attacking defense that is capable of keeping Arizona in games, even when the offense sputters. This will be a defensive battle. Carolina caused three turnovers last week and should generate more at home against a shaky Lindley. I think the Panthers have too much momentum and Cam Newton can create just enough offense for Carolina to pull out the victory. Panthers win 24-14.

To the other NFC game, the Dallas Cowboys are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and this Cowboys team is definitely better suited to make a Super Bowl run. The Cowboys have one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL between Tony Romo, Demarco Murray and Dez Bryant. Dallas can beat you through the air or on the ground. Romo is having the best season of his career, as is Murray. These two will carry the Cowboys offense when it goes into battle with Detroit. The Lions’ defense has been one of the many surprises of this 2014 season. This unit finished second in total defense, third in scoring defense and tops in rush defense. Those are some elite numbers. The Lions front four grinds on offenses and generates hits on the quarterback. Eventually those start to take a toll. This game will rest more than anything else on Romo’s ability to improvise in the pocket and exploit Detroit’s secondary, which has only been average so far this year. Offensively, Matt Stafford and the Lions have looked out of sync. I do not expect too much from them, especially going on the road Stafford completion percentage on the road is thirteen percent worse than at home and his yards per attempt drops from 8.0 to 6.3. Detroit also has only one win against a .500 or better team this year. Look for Dallas to roll through a Detroit team still a year or two away from seriously contending. Cowboys win 31-17.

Switching over to the AFC, two young quarterbacks will duel in Indianapolis on Sunday when the Colts take on the Bengals. Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton lead their respective teams into a rematch of a Week 7 game. Indy won the regular season matchup between these two teams, blowing away Cincinnati 27-0. However, the Bengals ground attack has vastly improved since then with Jeremy Hill forming an excellent one-two punch with Giovani Bernard. The Bengals can wear down opposing defenses with its running game but this team’s playoff hopes still hinge on Dalton. Luck knows how to generate points and can get the Colts out to a lead in a hurry. If this game rely too heavily on Dalton’s arm, Cincy will lose. Dalton has never performed well in the playoffs and I do not see it starting now as a solid Colts’ pass rush and Vontae Davis roaming the secondary will cause him problems. For the Colts, Chuck Pagano has to be sure he gets Luck to avoid committing early mistakes. The former Stanford signal caller accounted for 28 turnovers this season. If Luck can hold on to the ball, this is Indy’s game to lose. Neither team is perfect but I trust Luck in the playoffs a lot more than I trust Dalton. I think the Colts win 34-21.

Every year, division rivals meet twice during the regular season, unless they matchup in the playoffs. Saturday night brings us one of the best division rivalries in league history as the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh for round 3. Pittsburgh will be without star running back LeVeon Bell meaning Ben Roethlisberger will have more pressure than ever to carry his team to victory. The toughest thing for the Steelers is how much Bell’s injury limits the play calling. Not only was Bell a top rusher, he was also an asset out of the backfield. Pittsburgh could have desperately used a bye week to get ready but Big Ben has shouldered the load before and he knows what is coming his way with a familiar foe. The Ravens are getting back to playing smash mouth football though which could make life difficult for Roethlisberger and company. Justin Forsett has been a revelation at tail back for Baltimore and taken a lot of pressure off Joe Flacco. The Ravens also have a potentially dynamic passing attack if the offense is firing on all cylinders. The Ravens defense finished tied for second this season in sacks with 49. Look for Baltimore to bring the house, as it knows Pittsburgh’s ground attack is weakened. This should be a great game but in the end, the Steelers’ other one-man show, Antonio Brown, should prove to be way too much for a reeling Ravens’ secondary. Steelers win round 3 by a score of 20-13.

AFC playoff scenarios

Week 17 in the NFL is approaching quickly and while the playoff picture is beginning to take shape, there is still a lot of shuffling around that can occur. I am going to take some time here to explain all of the scenarios and then tell you which I think is the most likely.

Here is what we already know: New England has secured the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if they lose this weekend to Buffalo and Denver wins against Oakland, the Patriots have the advantage with a victory over Denver earlier this season. Outside of that, the Broncos, Steelers, Colts and Bengals have all also earned playoff berths. The only one cemented into a spot is Indianapolis who has grabbed the fourth seed.

Here is what is still undetermined, the seeding for numbers two, three, five and six, not to mention who will be the sixth seed. I will start from the top and work my way down. First, Denver can clinch a first round bye with either a win over the Raiders or a loss or tie by the Bengals against the Steelers. This is probably how things shake out. Oakland has played better recently but I don’t think the Broncos will lose to a division rival at home with so much on the line.

Cincinnati can nail down the third seed if they beat Pittsburgh on the road this Sunday. A Bengals loss would mean a drop to the fifth seed and a trip to Indianapolis rather than hosting the eventual sixth seed. I think it’s likely for Cincy to come up short based on the last match up between these two teams, where Pittsburgh ran away with it late. That being said, if the Steelers win as I think, Pittsburgh would be the third seed and play host to the eventual sixth seed. If the Black and Gold fall however, their fate is a road trip to play Andrew Luck. Neither Pittsburgh nor Cincinnati can be caught by another team and drop lower than the fifth seed.

The sixth seed is an absolute toss-up. There are four teams alive for the final spot including San Diego, Baltimore, Kansas City and Houston. For the Charges, a win means a playoff berth. It is as simple as that. If the Bolts can knock off the Chiefs in Kansas City than San Diego will be heading to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati for a wild card match up. I think this is the most likely scenario to play out. The Chargers have been a good team down the stretch while the Chiefs have struggled to find an offense outside of Jamal Charles. The Chiefs could make it with a win over San Diego and losses by both the Ravens and Texans. Seeing as Kansas City needs the most outside help, I don’t see a playoff appearance happening.

Those Texans are still alive and have a tiebreaker over the Ravens after beating them this past weekend. But Houston needs help from Cleveland, who must defeat Baltimore for that tiebreaker to mean anything. The Texans also need to make sure not to slip up against division rival Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Ravens fans will be rooting for both their team and the Chiefs this weekend, as that is their team’s recipe for playoff life. I think the Ravens will win at home versus the Browns but I just don’t see the Chargers losing meaning Baltimore will be kept out of the playoffs for the second year running.

That’s all the possible scenarios here. So my wild card round matchups would be the Steelers hosting the Chargers and Cincinnati trekking out to Indianapolis to play. Keep an eye for first round predictions once the playoff field is set. To see the NFC playoff scenarios, click here. Hope you enjoy this final week of regular season football.