Tag Archive | "cincinnati"

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Only one scenario remains for Ravens to make playoffs

Posted on 23 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens already knew they needed a win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 to keep their playoff hopes alive, but one of their two remaining possibilities for help was thrown out on Monday night.

Baltimore would have clinched a playoff spot with a win on Sunday and Cincinnati losing its final two games, but the Bengals defeated the Denver Broncos on Monday night to officially clinch a playoff spot. They will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday night with the winner taking the AFC North crown.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are still in the hunt, however, as they can punch their ticket to the postseason with a win and a Kansas City victory over the San Diego Chargers. At 9-6, the Ravens currently hold the same record as the Chargers, but San Diego’s Week 13 win in Baltimore serves as the tiebreaker.

Harbaugh’s younger brother Jim was unable to lead San Francisco to a win over the Chargers on Saturday, so the seventh-year head coach will now turn to his NFL mentor Andy Reid and the Chiefs for the necessary help to get into the playoffs. Harbaugh served as the special teams coordinator under Reid for eight years in Philadelphia before becoming the head man in Baltimore in 2008.

“Our emphasis is completely and squarely on the Cleveland Browns,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we’re going to be doing. I’m sure they’ll flash the score up there; I’m sure we’ll see it. It’ll be a matter of [looking up], ‘OK, what’s the score?’ But we’re not going to be immersed in any other game. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

After the Orioles were swept by the Royals in the American League Championship Series in October, perhaps it’s in the stars for Kansas City to do Baltimore a favor by beating the Chargers on Sunday.

Otherwise, the Ravens will face the reality of having missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

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Two scenarios remain for Ravens to make playoffs

Posted on 21 December 2014 by Luke Jones

As many debate whether or not the Ravens deserve a playoff spot after their disappointing loss in Houston on Sunday, their postseason chances remain in decent shape despite now needing help to advance to January.

Two scenarios would land Baltimore in the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years under John Harbaugh, but both require a win over Cleveland next Sunday. The Browns lost their fourth straight game in a 17-13 final at Carolina in Week 16.

The first scenario that would give the Ravens a playoff spot would be two losses by Cincinnati to conclude the regular season. The Bengals host the Denver Broncos on Monday night before traveling to Pittsburgh next Sunday night in what amounts to an AFC North title game.

As strange as it sounds, the Ravens could be forced to root for the hated Steelers in order to receive the invitation to January. Pittsburgh officially punched its ticket to the postseason Sunday with a home win over Kansas City.

A second outcome that would land the Ravens in the playoffs would be San Diego losing at Kansas City next Sunday. The Chargers currently own the same 9-6 record as Baltimore, but their Week 13 win at M&T Bank Stadium gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Again, both of these scenarios become moot points if the Ravens don’t handle their own business against the Browns.

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Only one scenario remains for Ravens to clinch playoff spot in Week 16

Posted on 21 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Jim Harbaugh is likely on his way out as the head coach in San Francisco, and his team was unable to put his older brother and the Ravens in position to potentially clinch a playoff spot on Sunday afternoon.

With the 49ers’ overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens can only clinch an AFC wild-card berth with a win over the Houston Texans and losses by Pittsburgh to Kansas City and Cincinnati to Denver. Such a scenario would not only guarantee the Ravens no worse than a wild-card spot, but it would land Baltimore in first place in the AFC North entering Week 17.

The Ravens can win the division by running the table and Pittsburgh and Cincinnati each losing at least one more game. The Bengals host the Broncos on Monday night before traveling to Heinz Field to take on the Steelers in Week 17.

Of course, John Harbaugh and the Ravens are guaranteed a playoff berth if they win their final two games against Houston and Cleveland.

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Ravens moving closer to clinching playoff spot entering Week 16

Posted on 15 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Even after a sloppy performance in their 20-12 win over Jacksonville in Week 15, the Ravens now see the light at the end of the tunnel in securing a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

The Ravens knew last week that a trip to the postseason would be guaranteed with three straight wins to close out the month of December, but they now enter Week 16 with the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with some help. At the conclusion of Week 15, Baltimore holds the No. 6 spot in the AFC playoff race thanks to San Diego’s loss to Denver.

Three scenarios exist that would allow the Ravens to officially punch their ticket to the playoffs in Week 16:

1) A win at Houston + a Pittsburgh loss to Kansas City + a Cincinnati loss to Denver

2) A win at Houston + a Kansas City loss or tie at Pittsburgh + a San Diego loss or tie at San Francisco

3) A tie at Houston + a Kansas City loss at Pittsburgh + a San Diego loss at San Francisco + a Buffalo loss or tie at Oakland

Of course, the Ravens still have visions of winning the AFC North, which will happen if they win their final two games and both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh lose at least one more game.

However, Week 16 could also bring an end to the Ravens’ hopes of a division title if both the Steelers and the Bengals are able to secure wins. If that were to happen, the winner of the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game at Heinz Field the following week would be the AFC North champion.

Both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh clinch postseason berths with wins in Week 16.

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Ravens control own path in returning to playoffs

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Luke Jones

After securing their biggest win of the season to prevent their playoff hopes from becoming a faint dream, the Ravens now have their path to the postseason staring them directly in the face.

The 28-13 win over the Miami Dolphins puts Baltimore in a position where three consecutive wins to close the regular season will guarantee a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. The Ravens currently stand seventh in the AFC playoff hunt, but the Week 17 rematch between current No. 4 seed Cincinnati and No. 5 seed Pittsburgh — who owns a better division record than the Ravens — guarantees they would leapfrog one of their AFC North foes should they handle their own business over the final three weeks of December.

“We’re pleased with the fact we’re in the hunt, that we control our own destiny,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. “You can ask for more, but boy, it’s a great accomplishment to be in that position right now. It’s just our job to make the most of it, and our guys are very aware of that. They really are. Our guys are really tuned into the fact that it’s in their hands, and it’s our responsibility to get the job done.”

Of course, the Ravens still have a chance to take the division if they win out and both the Bengals and the Steelers lose at least one game down the stretch. So, how realistic is that outcome?

It’s very difficult envisioning 2-11 Jacksonville giving the Ravens too much trouble in Baltimore this Sunday, but a Week 16 trip to Houston won’t be easy as the Texans are currently in the best shape of the 7-6 teams due to a superior conference record and have won three of their last four games. Should Baltimore get by Houston, a Week 17 meeting with the Browns is never one to overlook, but the game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, giving the Ravens a distinct edge.

As for the Bengals, a road trip to Cleveland on Sunday and a Monday night home game against Denver in Week 16 will be dangerous to navigate before their regular-season finale in Pittsburgh. The Steelers travel to Atlanta — who will be coming off a short week following a Monday night road game — this Sunday and host Kansas City in Week 16 before welcoming the Bengals to Heinz Field for the season finale. Pittsburgh would win the division by winning its final three games.

It’s nearly impossible trying to predict the fate of these three AFC North teams who have been up and down at various times this season, but the Ravens’ ability to take care of business in Miami makes their objective clear.

Win out and they’re in the playoffs.

Another loss and they again find themselves looking around to see how others are faring.

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Contender or pretender: Sizing up the 2014 AFC wild-card race

Posted on 02 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Even as the Ravens and their fans continue to seethe over a surprising 34-33 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 13, head coach John Harbaugh took a more pragmatic approach when addressing reporters on Monday afternoon.

The loss certainly didn’t help, but defeats suffered by several other AFC teams left six teams with a 7-5 record as we enter the final quarter of the regular season. It won’t be easy for Baltimore as it tries to survive with the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense, but a reasonable schedule down the stretch leaves the Ravens in good shape if — and that’s a big if — they handle their own business.

“We wake up this morning, we look at the standings and we are right in the thick of it,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to go down to the wire. And we have a huge game down in Miami this week, and it’ll be a lot on the line. They’ll be ready, and they’re good. We’ll have a great opportunity to make a move.”

There’s no understating how important Sunday’s game against the Dolphins will be as it represents another head-to-head tiebreaker scenario after the Ravens dropped one to San Diego this past week. A win pushes Baltimore to 8-5 and knocks Miami down a peg in the standings while a defeat all but guarantees the need to win out and to hope for assistance from other teams in the playoff race.

The Ravens still hold out hope for a chance to win the AFC North, but Cincinnati currently leads by 1 1/2 games over the other three teams in the division. With the Bengals playing the Steelers twice and the Browns once in the final month, the division race is far from over, but Cincinnati has firm control of its path as we enter Week 14.

Below is a look at the current wild-card field — with numbers indicating each team’s current place in the conference — as we determine who the contenders and the pretenders are:

Conference record: 6-3
Remaining schedule: New England, Denver, at San Francisco, at Kansas City
Skinny: How big was Sunday’s win in Baltimore for Mike McCoy’s team? All you have to do is take a look at the Chargers’ remaining schedule and realize you wouldn’t have liked their chances at all had they fallen to 7-5. Instead, they own a one-game lead over the 7-5 teams in the AFC and remain in excellent shape if they can go 2-2 in their final four. A year ago at this time, the Chargers were 5-7 and looked all but dead before running the table — including wins over Denver and Kansas City — and receiving lots of help to sneak into the postseason. They’ll need another good finish, but they have some margin for error this year.

Conference record: 6-3
Remaining schedule: Baltimore, at New England, Minnesota, New York Jets
Skinny: It wasn’t pretty, but the Dolphins’ Monday night win over the Jets kept them in prime position to secure a playoff spot with a strong finish in the final month. A Week 15 trip to Foxborough won’t be easy, but their final two home games are very winnable against two teams with a combined seven wins. Anything can happen considering the Ravens and the Dolphins both lost their final two games in 2013, but it certainly looks like Sunday’s game in Miami could go a long way in determining who secures a wild-card spot in the AFC playoff race.

Conference record: 5-4
Remaining schedule: at Arizona, Oakland, at Pittsburgh, San Diego
Skinny: The Chiefs were feeling really good about themselves a few weeks ago, but consecutive losses to woeful Oakland and powerful Denver have brought them back to the rest of the pack. Kansas City can’t throw the ball and the run defense has been gashed in recent weeks, which doesn’t make for a good combination entering the season’s final month. With three games remaining on the schedule against teams with winning records — two of them on the road — it’s hard to envision the Chiefs playing well enough down the stretch to secure one of the two wild-card spots.

Conference record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: at Denver, Green Bay, at Oakland, at New England
Skinny: The Bills continue to hang tough in the AFC playoff race after a nice win over the Browns on Sunday. However, remaining games against the Broncos, the Packers, and the Patriots should end any serious discussion about Buffalo qualifying for the postseason. With their other game being a cross-country trip to Oakland, the Bills might be fortunate just to win one more game in the final month of the regular season. It’d be interesting to see what the Bills could do with a real quarterback even if veteran Kyle Orton has done a respectable job since taking over for E.J. Manuel. Injuries at running back haven’t helped, either.

Conference record: 3-5
Remaining schedule: at Miami, Jacksonville, at Houston, Cleveland
Skinny: Sunday’s loss to San Diego was brutal as it gives the Ravens little wiggle room the rest of the way as they really need to beat the Dolphins on the road. The remaining schedule is reasonable, but how do you trust a secondary that continues to be toasted by any opposing passing games with a pulse? Even a road trip against the Texans is concerning with talented receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins waiting. A lousy 3-5 conference mark doesn’t help matters for the Ravens, but we’ll see what Harbaugh’s team is made of in the next three weeks. The running game and the offense will need to come up huge.

Conference record: 6-3
Remaining schedule: at Cincinnati, at Atlanta, Kansas City, Cincinnati
Skinny: The Steelers continue to be one of the most bipolar teams in the NFL as they stubbed their toe Sunday against New Orleans, who was coming off three straight losses. When at their best, the Steelers have one of the most balanced offenses in the league, but the defense doesn’t scare anyone and could easily be exploited down the stretch. The biggest factors working in the Steelers’ favor are a 6-3 conference record and two games with the Bengals, which could catapult them into the AFC North lead. Given how unpredictable they’ve been, the Steelers could win out or lose out and no one should be surprised with either outcome.

Conference record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Carolina, at Baltimore
Skinny: Quarterback Brian Hoyer has really struggled in recent weeks, but a change at quarterback isn’t exactly what you’re looking for while in the playoff hunt and that’s exactly where the Browns find themselves. Maybe rookie Johnny Manziel is the spark to light the fire for Cleveland down the stretch, but nothing else about the Browns’ final month of the schedule makes you think they’re going to do enough to sneak into the playoffs. They’ll need to beat either the Colts or the Bengals at home to give themselves any decent chance at all in the final two weeks.

Conference record: 5-3
Remaining schedule: at Jacksonville, at Indianapolis, Baltimore, Jacksonville
Skinny: Why even include the Texans on the list considering they have the worst record of the bunch? Two of four remaining games coming against Jacksonville certainly helps, and a home game against the Ravens looks more and more reasonable given Baltimore’s pass defense woes. Of course, Houston isn’t a real contender, but no one thought the Chargers were at this time last year, either. If you’re looking for that deep sleeper to finish strong — three out of four wouldn’t be out of the question — and take advantage of a slew of other teams being mediocre down the stretch, Houston is your team. A good conference record also helps.

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Orioles add left-hander Barnes, infielder Navarro to 40-man roster

Posted on 26 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles officially added two more players to their 40-man roster Wednesday with the acquisition of left-handed relief pitcher Scott Barnes and the signing of infielder Rey Navarro.

The 27-year-old Barnes was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations. He appeared in 25 games for Triple-A Columbus in 2014, going 3-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 31 2/3 innings. In two major league seasons for the Indians, Barnes pitched to a 5.20 ERA in 27 2/3 innings spanning 22 appearances.

Barnes was effective against both righties (.194) and left-handed hitters (.192) for Columbus last season and struck out 9.9 batters per nine innings pitched.

Navarro, 24, was previously a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization, splitting his 2014 season between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville. In 65 games for Louisville, Navarro hit .296 with a .351 on-base percentage, three home runs, and 24 runs batted in.

The infielder has the ability to play second base, shortstop, and third base.

With Wednesday’s transactions, the Orioles now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

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Ravens get some help in AFC North during bye week

Posted on 16 November 2014 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens were enjoying their bye this weekend, they could thank J.J. Watt for providing some help in their quest for an AFC North title.

Watt’s impressive performance on both sides of the ball led the Houston Texans to an impressive road win over the Cleveland Browns. The All-Pro defensive end and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, five tackles, and a first-quarter touchdown catch in the 23-7 final.

The loss knocked the 6-4 Browns out of first place as they’re now tied for second with Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Of course, the Steelers travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans Monday night.

While the Texans helped out the idle Ravens, the New Orleans Saints laid an egg at home in a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati, which propelled the 6-3-1 Bengals back into first place in the division. Dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Saints lost their second straight home game after previously winning 20 in a row at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Considering how unpredictable the 4-6 Saints have been this year, it’s difficult trying to figure out which team will show up against the Ravens next Monday night. But you can bet head coach John Harbaugh will remind his team throughout the coming week that the Saints are no longer invincible at home as they had looked the last few years.

As for the rest of the AFC playoff landscape, the Kansas City Chiefs beat Seattle for their fifth straight victory, which leaves them tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West after the Broncos were beaten in St. Louis. At 7-3, the Chiefs are making a loud statement for a playoff spot for the second straight season as they currently hold the top wild-card spot in the conference.

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Controversial call shouldn’t forgive Ravens’ late-game shortcomings

Posted on 26 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The fallout from the Ravens’ 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday centered around the controversial offensive pass interference call that wiped out what would have been an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith in the final minute.

Frustration was understandable as Smith and safety George Iloka jockeyed for position on the deep ball before the veteran receiver’s hand made contact with the defender’s jersey, and, well, the rest was open to interpretation. Whether you saw Smith pulling the Bengals defensive back to the ground or Iloka doing a fine acting job, it was the kind of play that would have made the Bengals and their fans just as angry had the touchdown stood without any penalty, but we’ve all seen the direction of the NFL in recent years with more flags being thrown in the passing game and offensive pass interference being a proverbial “point of emphasis” this season.

Let’s not forget we’re also talking about the Ravens needing an 80-yard prayer to pull out the victory in Cincinnati, which speaks to the shortcomings on both sides of the ball leading up to that moment.

Was offensive pass interference on Steve Smith's 80-yard touchdown the right call?

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Yes, injuries were a significant storyline for the Ravens in Week 8 as they missed the short-to-intermediate presence of tight end Owen Daniels as well as the Pro Bowl-caliber play of Jimmy Smith in the secondary after the cornerback exited in the first half with a sprained left foot. Baltimore was also missing a number of other players at various times in the game as offensive linemen Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, and Marshal Yanda as well as wide receivers Torrey Smith and Michael Campanaro received varying degrees of medical attention.

But the story could have been much different had the Ravens gotten more from either side of the ball in the final six minutes of the game and not put it in the hands of an official making a questionable call.

It was a bad day for Flacco as he threw two interceptions and completed only 50 percent of his passes, but the Ravens offense had its second straight possession off a turnover after safety Matt Elam stripped a pass away from wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and the ball landed in the arms of linebacker C.J. Mosley with 6:12 remaining and Baltimore leading 21-20. With the ball at the Cincinnati 43, the Ravens had the opportunity to add to their lead while running down a huge chunk of the clock, but they were unable to pick up as much as a first down and instead settled for a 53-yard field goal for Justin Tucker.

Though the Ravens came away with points, a few first downs and a touchdown would have made it a 28-20 lead and left little time on the clock for the Bengals. Instead, Tucker’s field goal went through the uprights with 3:59 still remaining.

And that’s when the defense followed its two biggest plays of the game — game-changing turnovers created by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and the combination of Elam and Mosley — with a letdown drive in which the Bengals ultimately won it. A secondary forced to rely on cornerback Dominique Franks in a starting role was in position to steal the win in Cincinnati before rookie safety Terrence Brooks lost Sanu in coverage for a 53-yard completion on third-and-10. Instead of the Bengals punting deep in their own territory and needing to use their timeouts in hopes of getting the ball back, the Ravens were burned on third-and-long and Cincinnati moved inside the Baltimore 30 with less than four minutes remaining.

Baltimore surrendered another third-down reception to Greg Little to move the Bengals inside the 10 before quarterback Andy Dalton crossed the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 57 seconds to go.

The Ravens couldn’t make a stop when they needed it, instead allowing Dalton and the Bengals to drive 80 yards on 10 plays in just over three minutes.

Dwell on the interference call if you’d like, but the Ravens had their chances to protect their late lead.

Of course, there were earlier moments on which the Ravens can look back such as the decision to throw a fourth-and-goal pass from the 1 to Kamar Aiken that netted zero points on the opening drive of the game or the fact that running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was Baltimore’s leader in receiving yards with 42, illustrating receivers’ inability to get open down the field. Flacco’s pair of interceptions led to 10 points, which put the Ravens in an 11-point hole early in the second half.

And the defense allowed Dalton to complete 75 percent of his passes as the secondary was bending throughout the game before finally breaking late.

Did the Ravens receive the short end of the stick on the interference call that wiped out the last-second touchdown to Steve Smith?


But needing an 80-yard miracle wasn’t exactly how you draw it up before that little yellow flag was ultimately thrown.

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 26 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will have their entire starting offensive line together for the first time since Week 3 in facing the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

In a key AFC North showdown that could go a long way in determining who wins the division, left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are both healthy and active after practicing fully all week in preparations for Sunday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium. Monroe missed the last four games while Osemele was sidelined in each of the last two contests.

The most surprising player to be included in the inactive list was running back Bernard Pierce, who entered the season as the starter and now finds himself as a healthy scratch against the Bengals. Though he’s scored two touchdowns in the last two games, Pierce has only gained 53 yards on 23 carries — a 2.3 yards per carry average — against Atlanta and Tampa Bay and continues to look indecisive in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking schemes.

Backup interior offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski was also a healthy scratch for the first time this season, which reflects his stock dropping after rookie John Urschel was chosen to fill in for Osemele at left guard in the last two games. Fourth-year tackle Jah Reid joined Gradkowski as a healthy inactive.

With tight end Owen Daniels out after undergoing a cleanup procedure in his knee, rookie Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw will be trusted to handle the tight end duties against the Bengals. The Ravens elected to keep all six of their wide receivers active with Daniels out, and the 6-foot-5 Marlon Brown — who was inactive the last two weeks — could be viewed as an attractive red-zone option.

Meanwhile, the Bengals will be without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green as he continues to recover from a toe injury. He was listed as doubtful on Friday, so the decision to deactivate him wasn’t at all surprising.

Sunday marks the 38th all-time regular-season meeting between the Ravens and the Bengals with Baltimore holding a 20-17 edge. However, Cincinnati has won three of the last four, including the last two played at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals will be wearing black jerseys and black pants while the Ravens don white tops with black pants.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Cincinnati Sunday afternoon calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s with minimal winds up to four miles per hour.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

CB Chyke Brown
RB Bernard Pierce
LB Arthur Brown
OL Gino Gradkowski
OL Jah Reid
TE Owen Daniels
DE Chris Canty

WR A.J. Green
LB Rey Maualuga
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
RB Rex Burkhead
DE Will Clarke
G Tanner Hawkinson
DT Brandon Thompson


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