Tag Archive | "cincinnati"

Ravens’ playoff scenarios come into focus following Monday night win

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ravens’ playoff scenarios come into focus following Monday night win

Posted on 17 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Following their biggest win of the season against the Detroit Lions on Monday night, the Ravens now see their playoff possibilities coming into sharp focus with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Paths to a division title or the second wild-card spot in the AFC remain very reasonable with the Ravens having complete control over both of those outcomes, but Baltimore still has a chance — unlikely as it might be — to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye after the top three teams in the conference all lost in Week 15.

While there are clearly no scenarios in which the Ravens could clinch the division or the No. 2 seed in Week 16, they could punch their ticket to the postseason if they continue their current winning streak and receive help from other teams on Sunday.

Here are the Ravens’ current playoff scenarios entering Week 16:

The Ravens will clinch a playoff spot on Sunday with:

A win over New England AND a Miami loss at Buffalo AND a San Diego loss or tie against Oakland

Skinny: Some have erroneously said the Ravens would clinch the No. 6 seed with a win over the Patriots and a Dolphins loss, but the Chargers remain in the hunt with a 7-7 record, leaving open the possibility of a three-way tie for the No. 6 seed at the end of Week 17. Though the Ravens would win individual tiebreakers against Miami (their Week 5 win) or San Diego (superior conference record), the Dolphins would win the three-way tiebreaker with the best conference record should all three teams finish 9-7 or 8-8.

The Ravens can win the AFC North with:

Two wins OR two Cincinnati losses (home games against Minnesota and Baltimore)

Skinny: The Bengals would clinch the division with a win or a tie against the Vikings and a Baltimore loss against New England in Week 16, but a Ravens win over the Patriots or a Bengals loss to Minnesota would guarantee an AFC North championship game in Week 17. Baltimore would own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win over the Bengals after defeating them once earlier in the season.

The Ravens would clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with:

Two wins AND two New England losses (at Baltimore and home against Buffalo) AND one Indianapolis loss (at Kansas City or home against Jacksonville) AND one Miami loss (at Buffalo or home against the New York Jets)

OR

Two wins AND two New England losses AND two Indianapolis losses

Skinny: Under the first scenario presented, the Ravens would finish with a better conference record than New England and a better record against common opponents than Indianapolis. However, if the Patriots would lose out and the Dolphins would win out, Miami would win the AFC East and the door would remain open for a three-way tie among Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Miami that would give the Dolphins the No. 2 seed by way of the best conference record. This possibility would be eliminated if the Colts were to lose two games as the Ravens would still own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins, meaning a Miami loss wouldn’t be needed.

Comments (4)

Ravens enter Monday night controlling own path to AFC North title

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens enter Monday night controlling own path to AFC North title

Posted on 16 December 2013 by Luke Jones

Sunday’s NFL action brought good and bad news to the Ravens as they traveled to Detroit for a critical nationally-televised meeting with the Lions.

With Cincinnati falling hard to Pittsburgh in a 30-20 final at Heinz Field Sunday night, the Ravens now control their own path to a third consecutive AFC North title if they are able to win their final three games to conclude the regular season. Should Baltimore beat Detroit and New England next Sunday, a Week 17 meeting with the Bengals would decide the division as the Ravens would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cincinnati with a victory in the season finale.

However, the bad news for the 7-6 Ravens Sunday was the Miami Dolphins earning an impressive win over New England to temporarily land in the No. 6 spot in the AFC with an 8-6 record. Baltimore owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami with a Week 5 win earlier in the season, but the Dolphins finish the season with a road game against Buffalo in Week 16 and a home game against the Jets in Week 17, leaving the Ravens with an even smaller margin for error than anticipated a couple weeks ago.

With Miami and 7-7 San Diego both scoring big wins in Week 15, the Ravens were reminded that there will be no such thing as backing into the playoffs like they did a year ago in losing four of their last five to finish 10-6 before making their remarkable run to Super Bowl XLVII. It’s becoming apparent that the AFC postseason is void of any juggernauts — like Seattle is shaping up to be in the NFC — and is setting up nicely for any one team to get hot at the perfect time, but the Ravens’ biggest obstacle is now to simply qualify for the tournament.

Perhaps the biggest message to take away from Sunday’s action is that the Ravens need to continue to win and build on the momentum created by a three-game winning streak to finish out their recent homestand. Otherwise, they’ll be depending on help from other teams to advance to the postseason for a sixth consecutive season, and that’s never a good feeling to be playing difficult games at the end of the season while needing to keep an eye on the scoreboard.

Comments (2)

The 15-7-0 is still mathematically alive to win the NFC East

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The 15-7-0 is still mathematically alive to win the NFC East

Posted on 16 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

15 positive observations from the weekend of football, seven not so positive observations and we acknowledge a “zero” from outside the world of football. A reminder, there’s never any Ravens game analysis here. We do plenty of that elsewhere. It’s a trip through the weekend of football via videos, GIFs, memes, pictures, links, Tweets and shtick.

The 15-7-0 was unthinkably overlooked when the list of the Golden Globe Award nominees was announced. And to think, the performance it gave as “Cord Phelps” in “You Mean You Don’t See It?: The Emotional Story of the Orioles’ Offseason” was particularly breathtaking.

15 Positive Observations…

1. Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way so that we can take like twelve showers and then move on with our lives. We don’t want to say it but we know we have to considering the playoff picture. Okay. Here goes. This is going to suck. Ahem. “Thank You Ste………………………..ve Jobs for inventing the iPad that told me the Bengals lost Sunday night.” Look. You and I both knew this was going to be far too weird to actually say.

Has there ever been a more awkward 10 seconds in the history of television than when NBC  panned to Dan Rooney and no one knew if he was alive?

The Bengals had to spend the night in Pittsburgh getting their asses kicked by a rival and yet somehow it was worse for their punter.

Here’s a two time Super Bowl champion rocking sweatpants.

2. Jamaal Charles posted something in the neighborhood of 5,698,432,921,023,557,806 fantasy points Sunday. It’s more fun to talk about it because when we get to this part of the show Monday I will be able to watch the depressed expression on Ryan Chell’s face when he discusses the guy who knocked him out of the fantasy football playoffs. I live a twisted life.

Charles had three more TD’s than this Raiders fan had middle fingers.

Chiefs fans? Not much friendlier.

The game was lopsided, then not lopsided, then lopsided again so KC’s coaching staff tried to poke in and watch the end of the Patriots game instead.

3. Make it 12 in a row for Navy over Army now. Or as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told me Saturday, “we’re going to be very humble about this and take it one decade at a time”. Yes, the entire point of #3 was to remind you guys that I talked to the Secretary of the Navy Saturday. ARE YOU PROUD OF ME NOW, DAD? What’s that? You are? You always have been? You tell me you’re proud of me most every day? I should probably have gone another direction in my comments. Carry on.

Here’s proof!

Now here’s the most patriotic picture you’ll ever see.

Except for this one.

4. Jay Cutler really put things together nicely in the second half after struggling early to lead the Bears to a really important win over the Browns. In fact, he was so good that he reminded me of a guy that used to play for Chicago awhile back. You ever heard of this guy? Josh McCown? That guy was really good. Whatever happened to him? I bet a team pushing for the playoffs would want to have him.

Bears fans were told not to wear their jerseys when they went to Cleveland. They didn’t fully understand the message.

Jay Cutler got a kiss from Brandon Marshall, which we can only hope isn’t B-Marsh trying to throw him off the scent of secretly stealing his wife’s breast milk.

Alshon Jeffery is stupid good. STUPID GOOD.

5. I wouldn’t necessarily encourage other coaches to use Joe Philbin’s “mass turmoil because of one of the biggest scandals in the history of the sport that lead to losing almost half of our offensive line in order to make us better” strategy with their own teams, but you have to applaud his boldness to try something different.

They won the game, so they can laugh at this-right?

Is hugging the guy who just scored the winner for your team worth losing your beer over?

Something we learned in this game? Julian Edelman dresses the same as Lingerie Football League quarterback Angela Rypien.

(Continued on Page 2…)

Comments (0)

Despite crowded wild-card picture, Ravens’ task clear over final month

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Despite crowded wild-card picture, Ravens’ task clear over final month

Posted on 02 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens entered the weekend with the rare chance to not only rest but take a long look at the rest of a crowded AFC playoff picture.

Moving into the No. 6 spot in the conference by way of their 22-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Thursday night, the Ravens could give thanks at the end of the holiday weekend for still holding the final wild-card position due to their tie-breaking win over the 6-6 Miami Dolphins earlier in the season. But four teams linger with 5-7 records, and different factors are working for and against them in the chase to play football in January.

There’s plenty of watching and wondering what will happen over the season’s final four weeks.

“Everybody is playing everybody right now,” coach John Harbaugh said. “With so many teams involved, it’s going to be the way it’s going to be. One team wins, another teams loses. A lot of times, it helps us either way, and it hurts us both ways — it doesn’t really matter.”

The Dolphins have only one game remaining against teams that are .500 or better (New England).

Pittsburgh plays three of its final four games at Heinz Field and only one of those four contests comes against an opponent with a winning record (Cincinnati).

Despite a crippling quarterback situation, the New York Jets play only one team with a winning record and it’s an NFC opponent (Carolina).

After a disappointing home loss to the Bengals that did no favors to the Ravens’ AFC North title hopes, the Chargers still play three of the final four games at home.

And even 5-7 Tennessee has games remaining against Jacksonville and Houston, two of the worst teams in the NFL.

It’s a lot to process as we start tracking conference marks, records against common opponents, and strength of victory, but Harbaugh and the Ravens choose to focus only on what they can control with so many scenarios still alive with four games to go. The hope of a division title will depend on the Bengals slipping at least once or twice leading into the Week 17 meeting between the teams in Cincinnati, but advancing to the postseason for a sixth consecutive season is a clear path if the Ravens can avoid treacherous detours along the way.

“What matters is us; we just have to win,” Harbaugh said. “If we win games, things are going to work out for us. If we don’t, things are going to be tough. That’s what we have to take care of; we have to take care of ourselves.”

Though facing the best running back on the planet in Adrian Peterson doesn’t sound like a layup, the Ravens will face their last opponent with a record below .500 Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings come to town to conclude a three-game homestand. After that, the road becomes bumpier than at any other point this season with a Monday night road game at NFC North-leading Detroit, a Sunday night home finale against AFC East-leading New England, and a regular-season finale in Cincinnati.

The Ravens hold the one-game edge over all No. 6 seed contenders after Miami, but they’ll still need to win three of their final four to get to the 9-7 mark, a standard that would very likely put them in the postseason. An 8-8 record could still conceivably land the No. 6 seed in the AFC, but such a path will depend on tie-breakers and considerable help from other results.

The good news is Baltimore appears to be getting hot at the right time. After winning two straight for only the second time all season, the Ravens are back at .500 and are on the verge of getting tight end Dennis Pitta back to provide a boost to a below-average offense. Experience is certainly on their side as they can simply point to last year to remember it’s all about clicking when the stakes are at their highest.

However, these Ravens are also 1-5 on the road and figure to need to win at least one of their final two road games. Only one of Baltimore’s six wins — their Nov. 10 home win over the Bengals — has come against teams currently holding a winning record and only one other victory — an Oct. 6 win at Miami — came against a team at the .500 mark.

The Ravens believe they’re getting better and are peaking at the right time. They’ll have every opportunity to show that in the month of December.

Their playoff lives will depend on it.

“We are in position to control our own destiny,” Harbaugh said. “That is what you try to accomplish going into December, so we’ve accomplished that. Now it’s up to us to make the most of it and to go ahead and control our destiny, win the games we have to win, starting with this one – and this is the only one that matters right now – and take it from there.”

Comments (0)

The 15-7-0 is so good you’d forfeit every draft pick to get it

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The 15-7-0 is so good you’d forfeit every draft pick to get it

Posted on 02 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

15 positive observations from the weekend of football, seven not so positive observations and we acknowledge a “zero” from outside the world of football. A reminder, there’s never any Ravens game analysis here. We do plenty of that elsewhere. It’s a trip through the weekend of football via videos, GIFs, memes, pictures, links, Tweets and shtick.

This is the 13th full edition of The 15-7-0 this season. Similarly, if you walk to your car right now and spend an hour listening to your favorite Christmas music radio station, you’ll hear “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey 13 times.

15 Positive Observations…

1. Thanks for your help, kind Cincinnati Bengals! Also, thanks for nothing you stupid Cincinnati Bengal jerks!

Here’s a GIF to prove the game happened.

Now here’s one of those new Amazon drones because they’re WAAAAY more interesting.

2. A lot of people are calling the end of Auburn-Alabama the greatest finish in the history of football, but that’s only because they missed my family’s annual Thanksgiving game where the old guys called the “Double-reverse-fake-the-handoff-to-grandpa-then-stop-the-game-for-a-minute-so-the-young-guys-can-help-grandpa-back-up-because-he-hurt-his-hip-then-start-the-game-back-up-without-telling-the-kids-anything-and-bounce-the-ball-off-the-four-year-old’s-head-and-play-monkey-in-the-middle-for-a-few-minutes-to-try-to-tire-the-kids-out-so-that-they-don’t-break-everything-in-the-house-after-dinner-in-a-crazed-rage-then-throw-the-ball-forward-three-straight-times-and-tell-the-kids-there’s-a-new-rule-that-allows-you-to-do-that-despite-how-much-they-protest-and-the-fact-that-you know-they’ve-played-so-much-Madden-football-that-they-know-the-rules-both-better-than-you-and-hell-they-probably-know-the-rules-better-than-John-Madden-then-halfway-through-the-play-tell-your-nine-year-old-niece-she’s-switching-sides-and-is-on-the-old-guys’-team-now-so-that-she-can-catch-the-ball-and-after-you-go-pick-her-up-and-run-her-the-length-of-the-field-the-other-way-on-your-back-because-she-ran-the-wrong-way-but-then-you-celebrate-her-scoring-the-winning-touchdown-and-let-her-rub-it-in-the-faces-of-the-boys-until-Christmas-and-then-you-have-to-do-the-whole-thing-over-again-because-Aunt-Joan-didn’t-have-her-camera-on-Split-Y-Banana” and ran it to perfection to win the game. Our play was WAY better.

There is so much awesome to share from Chris Davis’ magical return, but I don’t think anything will be better than this.

How amazing was this game? A 99 yard TD might not have made the Top 3 plays.

Did someone freaking hug these guys?

This picture remains mesmerizing.

I hope no one in Auburn needs to wipe this week.

Some of the celebrations were a bit…ummm…strange.

Here’s a note from Takeo Spikes.

3. While I understand Maryland’s excitement in beating NC State in their final ever ACC game, was it COMPLETELY necessary for them to fax over pictures of Gary Williams’ ass to Debbie Yow’s office as a parting gift?

My thoughts on the finale?

Now here’s a video because I’ve got nothing else to say.

4. After someone loses Monday night’s game, I will almost certainly be moving the Carolina Panthers to #2 in my weekly power rankings. What a crazy year. I’d suggest things were so crazy that the next thing we’d see is the Orioles signing a good player-but I realize there are limits to the insanity.

I don’t think one of these nicknames is going to stick for Ron Rivera.

I assume Mike Glennon gets credited with a forced fumble for this, right?

Wrong superhero, Cam.

5. Nick Foles has now thrown 19 touchdowns this season without an interception. For some reason I don’t think “The November Flacco” is going to catch on as a nickname as well as it should.

Sweet play, football teams.

Riley Cooper, however.

(Continued on Page 2…)

Comments (0)

Ravens emerge from Week 13 action holding No. 6 seed in AFC

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens emerge from Week 13 action holding No. 6 seed in AFC

Posted on 01 December 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Armed with the luxury of sitting back and watching the rest of the NFL’s Week 13 action play out Sunday after a 22-20 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday night, the Ravens maintained control of the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

Miami was the only other of the six 5-6 teams entering Week 13 to emerge with a victory to improve to 6-6, but the Ravens hold the tiebreaker due to their Week 5 win over the Dolphins in early October.

The bad news on Sunday came in the form of the Cincinnati Bengals’ 17-10 win over San Diego that allowed them to keep a two-game lead over the Ravens with an 8-4 record in the AFC North. However, a Bengals loss to the Chargers would have forced a three-way tie for the sixth spot in the AFC, a scenario that would have resulted in Miami winning the current tiebreaker due to a superior conference record over the Ravens and San Diego.

The Ravens will welcome the Minnesota Vikings to town next Sunday while Miami travels to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to take on the 5-7 Steelers.

Of course, the road to the playoffs will grow much more difficult for the Ravens after that as they play three projected playoff teams to conclude the regular season — two of them coming on the road.

Here are the Week 14 games impacting the AFC playoff picture next weekend:

Minnesota (3-8-1) at Baltimore (6-6)

Indianapolis (8-4) at Cincinnati (8-4)

Oakland (4-8) at New York Jets (5-7)

Miami (6-6) at Pittsburgh (5-7)

Tennessee (5-7) at Denver (10-2)

New York Giants (4-7) at San Diego (5-7)

Comments (2)

Who helped the Jets more Sunday: Ed Reed or the 15-7-0?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who helped the Jets more Sunday: Ed Reed or the 15-7-0?

Posted on 18 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

15 positive observations from the weekend of football, seven not so positive observations and we acknowledge a “zero” from outside the world of football. A reminder, there’s never any Ravens game analysis here. We do plenty of that elsewhere. It’s a trip through the weekend of football via videos, GIFs, memes, pictures, links, Tweets and shtick. This isn’t where we do Ravens stuff. You can find plenty of that…like…everywhere else on the site.

The 15-7-0 is happy to congratulate Jimmie Johnson on his 6th NASCAR title. I say that as a fellow six time NASCAR champ myself. What’s that, you don’t believe me? Then prove me wrong. Name ONE other NASCAR champion besides Jimmie Johnson.

That’s what I thought.

15 Positive Observations…

1. The Bengals are running away with the AFC North again. This would probably be a more exciting development in Cincinnati but, you know, history and all.

But don’t try to tell Cincy’s finest they shouldn’t be amped up about a big win!

2. Hey there, Terps football fan. Remember how everyone in the office was bragging about their Holiday vacations last year? Mike in finance went to St. Thomas and Jill in accounts payable went to Barbados while you just sat around and ate fruitcake? Well this year you’re going to be the talk of the water cooler because CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’RE HEADED TO BEAUTIFUL SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA! (Or Annapolis). So long, suckers!

Could someone check in to see if Randy Edsall is excited about bowl eligibility?

Elsewhere in the ACC, Florida State’s game against Syracuse was not competitive, but there WAS some competition at the game!

3. When Ed Orgeron replaces Charlie Weis at Kansas this offseason, do you think he’ll bring his sword with him? Like to take it around on recruiting trips? “Hi, I’m Ed Orgeron and this is my sword.” Damn that sounds awesome. If you haven’t picked out a wedding gift for me yet, please make it a sword.

Lee Corso kinda hopes the answer is “no”.

Another question is whether or not he’ll bring his own Doctor.

And also, will he bring his Marqise Lee?

Kansas actually won a game Saturday. This guy got to keep a piece of the goalpost everyone else threw in the lake.

4. In the span of seven days and two wins, Ben Roethlisberger went from a declaration that he’s a “Pittsburgher” to being dressed exactly like a Hamburglar.

I like Jim Schwartz. I do not like this call.

Why did the Lions lose? Because this guy showed up to the game wearing THIS.

5. Denver is the best team in the AFC West. In a related story, a bear was seen relieving himself in an area filled mostly with trees.

There were like 16 people that showed up at the game with this exact sign. I was right about everything I said about you, Denver.

Your reaction, Denver mascot?

Also…this is a thing? Although I’m not surprised Andy Reid would care so much about his postgame spreads.

There’s a big game coming up next week and Tom Brady is apparently a Batman movie villain now.

(Continued on Page 2…)

Comments (0)

D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens – Week 10

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens – Week 10

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Below are our Tuesday Top 7 Ravens players in the 20-17 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. We’ll track our rankings throughout the 2013 season using the following point system:

No. 1 – 7 points
No. 2 – 6 points
No. 3 – 5 points
No. 4 – 4 points
No. 5 – 3 points
No. 6 – 2 points
No. 7 – 1 point

You can listen to their full explanation HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 …

7) Daryl Smith
smith

6) Justin Tucker
tucker

5) Torrey Smith
smith

4) Elvis Dumervil
dumervil

3) James Ihedigbo
ihedigbo

2) Jimmy Smith
Smith

1) Lardarius Webb
webb

Drew Forrester’s Top 7 …

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

Comments (0)

The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bengals

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 20-17 (OT) win over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Justin Tucker 46 yard field goal good (Overtime)

4. James Ihedigbo 37 yard return of Andy Dalton interception intended for Tyler Eifert, Mohamed Sanu called for 11 yard personal foul (2nd quarter)

3. Reggie Nelson draws 48 yard pass interference on Joe Flacco pass intended for Jacoby Jones (1st down)

2. Terrell Suggs and Corey Graham tackle Andy Dalton for no gain on 4th & 1 (1st down)

1. Giovani Bernard -11 yard catch from Andy Dalton on 4th down, tackled by Corey Graham (Overtime)



(Continued on Page 2…)

Comments (0)

Performance to determine carries for Ravens running backs

Tags: , , , , , ,

Performance to determine carries for Ravens running backs

Posted on 11 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What was once brushed off as a slow start can no longer be ignored by the Ravens as Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice averaged less than 2.0 yards per carry for the second straight week in Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win over the Bengals.

For the better part of a month, questions have persisted about Rice’s health after he suffered a hip flexor injury in Week 2 and have gone as far as wondering whether the sixth-year running back is reaching the end of the road as a productive player. Whatever the cause, coach John Harbaugh can no longer ignore Rice’s 2.5 yards per carry average in eight games this season after he gained only 30 yards on 18 carries against the Cincinnati defense on Sunday.

Three or four underwhelming games per season can be chalked up to playing strong front sevens, but Rice has gained only 289 yards on the ground and hasn’t shown elusiveness when catching passes in the open field, averaging a career-low 4.9 yards per reception. Certainly a porous offensive line has played an overwhelming role in limiting Rice’s running room, but the Baltimore coach acknowledged health still being a factor for Rice despite his claims since before the bye in late October that he was 100 percent physically.

“You’ve got to look at the numbers, and definitely, it’s not the same,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no doubt about that, so what is it? It’s injury or it’s not as much room to run, or it’s both. His health has been a factor. There’s no doubt about it. He’s working hard to become healthier; that’s important [to] get past that hip flexor. That’s a muscle injury, and it’s hard to predict exactly what impact that has, but you’ve got to assume it’s had an impact.”

Perhaps Rice’s biggest defense of his performance this season has been the underwhelming numbers of second-year running back Bernard Pierce, who is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry and has battled a nagging hamstring injury that now appears fully recovered. Though not posting numbers on Sunday that would be confused with all-world running back Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Pierce collected 31 yards on eight carries against the Bengals and displayed more explosiveness than seen from him in quite some time.

With the Ravens desperate to generate any production from a running game averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry, Harbaugh was asked Monday whether he’d consider using Pierce as his feature back with Rice playing more of a secondary role. The coach’s answer was predictable in trying to protect his struggling No. 1 back, but he left the door open for altering how the workload is distributed in the coming weeks.

We can only wait to see how it plays out starting on Sunday in Chicago against a Bears defense ranked 31st against the run and giving up 4.5 yards per carry.

“Both of those guys are going to play,” Harbaugh said. “What would [making Pierce the starter] mean? One guy’s a feature back by definition? Both of those guys are going to get a large number of carries and I think whichever guy’s playing better should get more carries as we go forward. Bernard’s had his hamstring issues the last five weeks, which he seems to be coming out of. Ray’s had his hip issue since the second game, but he seems to be coming out of that. Both of those guys seem to be getting healthier. That’s a plus for us.”

Critics will interpret Harbaugh’s nonspecific answer as nothing more than coach speak, but there is precedent for an effective Pierce — and it’s important to remember his numbers have only been minimally better than Rice’s this season — receiving a larger number of carries that cuts into the veteran’s workload.

Late last season when Pierce began earning his reputation as a physical runner capable of gaining yards after contact, the Ravens fed him the ball 14 times for 123 yards in a Week 16 win over the New York Giants. However, Rice was also effective in that division-clinching win as he gained 107 yards on 24 carries.

The Ravens’ willingness to give Pierce the ball was more evident in the wild card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts when the carry distribution was nearly even as Rice gained 68 yards on 15 attempts and Pierce rushed for a game-high 103 yards on 13 carries. However, the workload became unbalanced once again for the rest of the postseason as Pierce dealt with nagging injuries.

It’s easy to bury Rice by suggesting the Ravens give the ball to Pierce — who only outperformed Rice substantially in yards per carry for the second time this season on Sunday — and put the veteran on the back burner, but the 2012 third-round pick has been bothered by various ailments in his brief NFL career while Rice has remained durable for most of his six seasons and played four full seasons between missed games at the professional level until he was sidelined with the hip injury earlier this year.

“Both of those guys have to play for us and play well,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t have one back carrying the ball 35 times nowadays, and we don’t need to do that. We think we’ve got two very good backs.”

 

Comments (2)