Tag Archive | "indianapolis"

Unlikely events led to new destinations for Pagano, Caldwell

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Unlikely events led to new destinations for Pagano, Caldwell

Posted on 03 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As much as Lee Evans’ failed effort to catch the game-winning touchdown and Billy Cundiff’s subsequent missed field goal broke the hearts of the Ravens and their fans in last year’s AFC Championship, the pair of unfortunate events created a unique opportunity for one member of the organization.

The chance to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts may not have come for Chuck Pagano had the Ravens advanced to the Super Bowl. The former defensive coordinator departed Baltimore on the day following the conference championship game and never looked back as he was hired to replace Jim Caldwell, who is now the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Ravens. The Colts may not have waited an additional two weeks to talk to Pagano had Evans made that catch or Cundiff converted the 32-yard field goal and the Ravens prevailed in overtime.

Having defeated leukemia before retaking his place on the sideline last Sunday, Pagano now brings his Colts to Baltimore for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game, knowing he might still be in Baltimore if not for the failures of two former players.

“We had the catch we thought that was a touchdown and then [Cundiff] runs off and pulls that one,” Pagano said. “There’s a lot of things that transpired through the course of the end of that football game that you look at and say, ‘Yeah we make that catch and score that touchdown or make that kick and go to overtime and win that football game and you don’t have an opportunity to visit with somebody about a job.’ It’s funny how things happen.”

Caldwell could say the same about his final year in Indianapolis after he saw his longtime quarterback Peyton Manning miss the entire 2011 season after undergoing several neck surgeries. The current Denver Broncos signal-caller had never missed a game prior to that point in his first 13 NFL seasons.

Left without a viable quarterback, Indianapolis went an abysmal 2-14 and Caldwell was fired after his third season as head coach of the Colts. A few months later, the organization drafted rookie quarterback Andrew Lucky and began a turnaround that left them with an 11-5 record and a trip to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

A year later, does Caldwell wonder what would have happened had Manning not been injured or if Indianapolis had stuck with him another year with the veteran quarterback departing and Luck joining the fray?

“It doesn’t even cross my mind — not one second,” said Caldwell, who was promoted to offensive coordinator following the firing of Cam Cameron on Dec. 10. “I think for the most part, I believe that the good Lord has a plan for us. Often times, it’s not as picturesque as we might like it. It may not unfold exactly the way that we had it planned, but it unfolded in [the way] He wanted it.”

The feelings toward Pagano are conflicted this week as he brings the Colts to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens in the postseason for the third time — and second in Baltimore — in the last seven seasons. It’s in a Baltimorean’s DNA to hate the Indianapolis Colts for obvious reasons, but Pagano’s inspiring story makes that more and more difficult every day.

His courageous fight against leukemia inspired not only his own team but also players in the Ravens locker room, including a defensive line that shaved their heads and facial hair in support of the former coordinator. Veteran Ray Lewis estimated that he exchanged text messages with Pagano “every other day” as the linebacker rehabbed his surgically-repaired triceps and the coach underwent cancer treatments during the regular season.

There are nothing but positive memories for Pagano, who spent four seasons as a member of Harbaugh’s coaching staff in Baltimore.

“[I] love all those guys. [I have] great relationships with so many people in that organization,” Pagano said. “They were so good to me and my family. I wouldn’t be sitting where I’m at today if John Harbaugh hadn’t given me the opportunity to join him when he was first hired as a head football coach there.”

The Baltimore defense received extra motivation with the expected return to action but unexpected retirement announcement of Lewis earlier this week, but many players were already eager to show Pagano what his former unit was still capable of doing. Despite struggling for most of the season, an improving Baltimore defense finished 17th in yards allowed and tied for 12th in points allowed despite a plethora of injuries.

The admiration is still there almost a year after Pagano last coached the prideful group.

“It’ll be great; Chuck is a motivation to all of us with all he went through,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. “Just to know a person that strong says a lot. Chuck always shot you straight. He was great in the meeting rooms. He was never one of those coaches to [get] down his players or cuss them out. He’s a very likable guy.”

Not to be outdone, Caldwell acknowledges it will be different coaching against the team with which he spent a decade, but the Ravens offensive coordinator denied any chance of it impacting his performance on Sunday. With a new coaching staff in place in Indianapolis, Caldwell hardly recognizes what new coordinator Bruce Arians has done with the offense and Pagano has implemented a defense similar to what he did with the Ravens.

It’s a battle both men are looking forward to as they now look on from the opposite side.

“It’s ironic that we get an opportunity to play against them, which is going to be a lot of fun,” Caldwell said. “You have two teams with great desire. Chuck probably feels the same way on the other side of it. It’s going to be fun.”

Both can look back on the ironic events of last season to explain where they are today.

 

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Leach only player missing from Thursday’s practice

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Leach only player missing from Thursday’s practice

Posted on 03 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after every player on the 53-man roster practiced in preparation for Sunday’s wild-card matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens were without a key starter on Thursday.

Fullback Vonta Leach wasn’t present during the media viewing part of practice as he continues to deal with an ankle injury that’s plagued him for several weeks. He left Sunday’s game in Cincinnati in the first quarter after aggravating the ankle, but the Pro Bowl fullback practiced on Wednesday and has expressed confidence that he’ll play on Sunday.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata practiced on a limited basis despite not being present for the open portion of Thursday’s workout. The four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman sat out the regular-season finale in Cincinnati but has practiced on a limited basis the last two days.

Starting left guard Jah Reid was practicing for the second straight day but was a limited participant and was listed as having a toe injury on Wednesday. The second-year lineman did not appear to be very active during the first 25 minutes of practice as teammates went through individual drills.

Safety Bernard Pollard (chest) and right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle) were again present and working in a limited fashion for the second day in a row. Both players were inactive in Week 17.

Meanwhile, four players failed to practice for Indianapolis, including linebacker Robert Mathis (non-injury) and left guard Joe Reitz (concussion).

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), TE Billy Bajema (head), WR Tandon Doss (ankle), CB Chris Johnson (thigh), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), RB Bernard Pierce (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), G Jah Reid (toe), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), DE Arthur Jones (thigh), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder/thigh), T Kelechi Osemele (knee), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), WR Torrey Smith (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps)

INDIANAPOLIS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Robert Mathis (non-injury), T Bradley Sowell (illness), DT Kellen Heard (illness), G Joe Reitz (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: C Samson Satele (ankle), LB Jerrell Freeman (thumb), QB Andrew Luck (knee), CB Teddy Williams (knee), RB Delone Carter (ankle), DE Cory Redding (quad), NT Antonio Johnson (ankle), S Tom Zbikowski (knee), T Winston Justice (shoulder), C AQ Shipley (knee), LB Pat Angerer (illness)

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“The Reality Check” Final Regular Season Power Rankings

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“The Reality Check” Final Regular Season Power Rankings

Posted on 02 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Kansas City Chiefs (32)

Okay, so no Josh McDaniels. Umm…Marty-ball?

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (30)

Mike Mularkey: “Are you sure you didn’t want to fire me?”

30. Arizona Cardinals (31)

I cannot believe they’re really considering hiring Todd Haley. OH.MY.GOD.

29. Oakland Raiders (29)

Now they get ready for their Super Bowl…the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine.

28. Detroit Lions (28)

The problem for Jim Schwartz is that he’s a former defensive coach for a team that can’t play defense.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (27)

Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole tells us the Eagles could keep Michael Vick around if they hire Chip Kelly.

26. Cleveland Browns (26)

While the Browns’ first choice is the same Chip Kelly, no one’s first choice EVER has been the Cleveland Browns.

25. New York Jets (23)

QUARTERBACKS FOR SALE!!!!!!!!!!

24. Tennessee Titans (25)

Check back in with me in five minutes to confirm Mike Munchak still hasn’t been fired yet.

23. Buffalo Bills (24)

I think a Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm combo would be a good fit there.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22)

Do you focus more on what went wrong? Or do you focus more on how to build off of seven wins?

21. Miami Dolphins (17)

At least they have a quarterback.

20. St. Louis Rams (18)

Are they as close as their record would make you believe?

19. San Diego Chargers (21)

If Peyton Manning isn’t in the AFC West, they win the thing and save Norv Turner again.

18. New Orleans Saints (16)

I’ll go ahead and assume they win 13 games next season.

17. Carolina Panthers (19)

By keeping Ron Rivera, they’d give up potential “most desirable location” status for coaches.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (20)

If they had a healthy Ben Roethisberger for 16 games they would have won the division. Unless the Ravens had a healthy Suggs/Ngata/Webb/Lewis. I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter.

15. Dallas Cowboys (13)

What the eff do you do here?

14. Chicago Bears (14)

I’d want this job.

13. New York Giants (15)

“Hynocerous” is one of the Top 5 nicknames in football this year.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Eleven Ravens players practice on limited basis

Posted on 02 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — While all players on the 53-man roster took part in Wednesday’s practice in preparation of their wild-card matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens are still feeling the effects of a season’s worth of injuries as 11 players worked on a limited basis.

After missing practice all last week and being listed as inactive for Sunday’s regular-season finale against Cincinnati, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and right guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice on a limited basis as both appear set to make their respective returns for the first round of the playoffs. Others limited for Wednesday’s workout included fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, and left guard Jah Reid.

Reid was listed as having a toe injury and appeared to be taking part in little activity during the portion of practice open to the media.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis was missing four players from practice as linebackers Dwight Freeney and Pat Angerer, defensive tackle Kellen Heard, and guard Joe Reitz all sat out.

BALTIMORE
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), TE Billy Bajema (head), WR Tandon Doss (ankle), CB Chris Johnson (thigh), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), RB Bernard Pierce (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), G Jah Reid (toe), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), DE Arthur Jones (thigh), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder/thigh), T Kelechi Osemele (knee), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), WR Torrey Smith (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps)

INDIANAPOLIS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dwight Freeney (non-injury), LB Pat Angerer (illness), DT Kellen Heard (illness), G Joe Reitz (concussion)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Delone Carter (ankle), DE Cory Redding (quad), NT Antonio Johnson (ankle), S Tom Zbikowski (knee), T Winston Justice (shoulder), C AQ Shipley (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: C Samson Satele (ankle), LB Jerrell Freeman (thumb), QB Andrew Luck (knee), CB Teddy Williams (knee)

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Ray Lewis says Sunday will be his last trip through tunnel in Baltimore

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Ray Lewis says Sunday will be his last trip through tunnel in Baltimore

Posted on 02 January 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

He couldn’t play forever. Of course, after watching him roam the defense for Baltimore Ravens as the spiritual and physical leader for 17 years, many of us wouldn’t have bet against Ray Lewis playing into his 40′s.

Today, in a not surprising but somehow still strangely shocking announcement, Lewis told the media that he had just informed his teammates he’s walking away from the NFL at the conclusion of this Super Bowl drive. Several times during his media session, Lewis had to stop and control his emotions. Ray Rice followed him to the podium and welled up twice.

The reaction from his teammates was a mix of pressure, emotions and the reality that no one wants to be the reason Ray Lewis ends his career without another championship.

I wrote about the life and times of Ray Lewis two seasons ago in a three-part series.

Part 1: Is it Safe to Say The Ghost of Ray Lewis Has Passed?

Part 2: Celebrating The Ray Of Today

Part 3: Will Ray Lewis be a “ray of light” in the future?

Obviously, this announcement will take months — and maybe years — to digest for the Baltimore Ravens and everyone in the organization and the city.

There will be statues. There will be Hall of Fame ballots. There will be a bronze bust in Canton in five years. There will be “Thank You Ray” days and a Ring of Honor enshrinement.

So, for a few hours today, everyone will share a Ray Lewis memory.

But the fact remains that Lewis’ former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will be bringing the upstart Indianapolis Colts into Baltimore on Sunday and suddenly it could be No. 52′s final hours in an NFL uniform.

Ray Rice had a hard time internalizing that and had to choke back tears on Sunday.

Chance are, he won’t be the only one.

One more reason the Baltimore Ravens need to win on Sunday and continue this now-final drive to get Ray Lewis another chance to dance with the Lombardi Trophy before he rides into the purple sunset.

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 31 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Boxing-Friday Night Fights: Rances Barthelemy vs. Arash Usmanee (Friday 10pm from Miami live on ESPN2); Women’s College Basketball: Florida State @ Maryland (Sunday 1:30pm from Comcast Center live on ESPNU); High School Basketball: Perry Hall @ Dundalk (Wednesday 6:30pm), Perry Hall @ Chesapeake-Anne Arundel County (Friday 7pm)

10. Badfish (Friday 8pm Rams Head Live); Ryan Cabrera/Teddy Geiger (Sunday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Wale (Tuesday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Delta Rae (Saturday 7pm 9:30 Club); Pat McGee Band (Friday & Saturday 7:30pm Birchmere)

I wish I could say I wasn’t familiar with Ryan Cabrera. I wish more that I could say I didn’t enjoy this song.

Wale is a Redskins fan. As much as that bothers me, I still enjoy this tune.

Delta Rae likely the best band you weren’t listening to in 2012…

I genuinely enjoy Pat McGee.

9. “Looper” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); “Texas Chainsaw 3D” out in theaters (Friday); Cirque Eloize iD (Saturday 8pm Sunday 1pm & 5:30pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); Glenn Clark’s New Year’s Day plans (Tuesday parts unknown)

Honestly, you really don’t want to know what I do to celebrate the New Year. I’ll give you a hint. It doesn’t involve pants.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Harbaugh silent on status of Lewis — and everyone else — for Sunday

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Harbaugh silent on status of Lewis — and everyone else — for Sunday

Posted on 31 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have played their cards close to the vest when it comes to their plans for veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and his improbable comeback.

If Monday was any indication, we should expect much of the same this week as they turn their sights toward a wild-card meeting with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Lewis began practicing on Dec. 5 and was moved from injured reserve to the 53-man roster last week but hasn’t played in a game since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14.

Asked what it would take for Lewis to finally return to game action this Sunday, Harbaugh offered no indication whether he expected the 37-year-old to play against Indianapolis. However, it’s difficult to envision the 17th-year linebacker not giving it a go with Sunday potentially being his last game in Baltimore.

“It will take me not putting his name on a piece of paper for the [inactives], and you will find out an hour-and-a-half before the game whether or not that takes place,” Harbaugh said. “It’s all going to be a game-time decision as far as anybody knows. That’s where we’re at. This is the playoffs.”

The Ravens have been more tight-lipped than usual in recent weeks regarding their slew of injuries, and it will only get worse as Harbaugh tries to keep their plans under wraps.

Sixteen players were listed on last week’s injury report and six starters were ruled inactive for the final regular-season game.

“We’re not talking about injuries, we’re not talking about activations,” Harbaugh said. “We really don’t care what you or anybody else thinks about that — as much as we love you — and we’re getting ready to play a football game.

Critics question whether Harbaugh’s tactics — which are, in fairness, becoming more common across the league — really provide any tangible advantage over opponents, but the Baltimore coach was unconcerned with anyone questioning him on Monday.

“I don’t think it really matters,” said Harbaugh when asked if the team truly benefited from hiding injury information. “I think that’s what we’re doing.”

No more shenanigans

Asked to revisit a pair of frustration penalties committed against Bengals rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Harbaugh offered an understanding tact but a matter-of-fact stance in responding to fouls committed by running back Ray Rice and guard Bobbie Williams.

The Ravens committed 10 for 102 yards in Week 17 and finished 31st in the league with 111 penalties this season.

“We don’t need any of that. We don’t need any penalties,” Harbaugh said. “We certainly don’t need any post-snap shenanigans. I don’t care what they do. I don’t care what they say. We don’t need a flag thrown. [We need to] be smart enough to make sure the flag is thrown on the other guy. It’s just that simple.”

In the first quarter, Rice was flagged for unnecessary roughness after pushing Burfict to the ground following a chop block and said after the game the rookie linebacker talked trash throughout the day.

“Ray was trying to finish a block. I thought it was more of an aggressive foul than anything else,” Harbaugh said. “I would counsel him not to do that in the future, but he felt like the play was still on. He didn’t know the play was over; he thought he was getting up to go rush the passer. Not that we excuse that. We don’t want any personal foul penalties.”

Williams’ infraction occurred in the second quarter when he retaliated after Burfict kicked him, according to the veteran offensive lineman. It was an uncharacteristic moment for the 36-year-old, who is regarded as one of the nicest guys in the Baltimore locker room.

“There wasn’t much there, but there was enough to be called, obviously, because it was called,” Harbaugh said. “We counseled him not to get involved in any of that.”

Black Monday

With seven head coaches receiving their walking papers on what’s become the annual “Black Monday” around the NFL, Harbaugh saw his good friend and mentor Andy Reid join the list of dismissed after 14 seasons as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harbaugh and Reid spent nine years together as the former served as the Eagles’ special teams coordinator for eight seasons and secondary coach in 2007 before being hired to become the third head coach in the history of the Ravens on Jan. 18, 2008.

Joining Reid on the unemployment line were Chicago’s Lovie Smith, San Diego’s Norv Turner, Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt, Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur, Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel, and Buffalo’s Chan Gailey.

“The toughest thing is on the families,” Harbaugh said. “As coaches, we all understand the nature of the business. Players, too, understand the nature of it. That’s part of the challenge, but it’s hard on families. It’s hard on kids who have to change schools, pick up and move and start in other cities and things like that. That’s what you feel for the most, and that’s kind of where your prayers go out towards.”

Of the seven coaches fired on the day after the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, three were hired — and have now been dismissed already — after Harbaugh took the Baltimore coaching job.

DeCosta staying put

In what should come as no surprise, teams have already contacted the Ravens with requests to interview assistant general manager Eric DeCosta regarding potential openings.

However, the longtime Ravens executive isn’t going anywhere. DeCosta was awarded a long-term, high-priced contract last year and is the heir apparent to general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. The Ravens reaffirmed that reality once again on Monday.

“I love being a part of the Ravens and plan to stay here and help them win championships,” DeCosta said in an official statement released by the Ravens. “I have no intentions of leaving this team.”

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Ravens will take on Indianapolis in wild-card round next Sunday

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Ravens will take on Indianapolis in wild-card round next Sunday

Posted on 30 December 2012 by WNST Staff

After dropping their regular-season finale in a 23-16 final to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens are locked into the No. 4 seed and will face the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round of the playoffs at 1 p.m. next Sunday.

Baltimore and Indianapolis have faced off two other times in the postseason as the Peyton Manning-led Colts knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs in the 2006 and 2009 seasons.

In head coach Chuck Pagano’s triumphant return to the sideline after battling leukemia earlier this season, Indianapolis knocked off the Houston Texans in a 28-16 final on Sunday afternoon.

The game will be televised on CBS with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND

Saturday, January 5

AFC:    4:30 PM (ET)
Cincinnati at Houston (NBC)

NFC:    8:00 PM (ET)
Minnesota at Green Bay (NBC)

Sunday, January 6

AFC:    1:00 PM (ET)
Indianapolis at Baltimore (CBS)

NFC:    4:30 PM (ET)
Seattle at Washington/Dallas (FOX)

NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

Saturday, January 12

AFC:    4:30 PM (ET)
Baltimore/Indianapolis/Cincinnati at Denver (CBS)

NFC:    8:00 PM (ET)
Green Bay/Washington/Dallas/Seattle at San Francisco (FOX)

Sunday, January 13

NFC:    1:00 PM (ET)
Washington/Dallas/Seattle/Minnesota at Atlanta (FOX)

AFC:    4:30 PM (ET)
Houston/Baltimore/Indianapolis at New England (CBS)

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The Reality Check Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

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The Reality Check Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 27 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Kansas City Chiefs (32)

Who’s a fit here? Josh McDaniels?

31. Arizona Cardinals (31)

At this point I have to assume Whisenhunt is gone. Players openly bitching there.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (29)

I can’t wait until they go 7-9 next year and somehow make the playoffs with Tim Tebow as quarterback.

29. Oakland Raiders (30)

I ASSUME Dennis Allen is safe, but you absolutely never know.

28. Detroit Lions (27)

But that was at least fun to watch Saturday night.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (28)

Nice of them to give Michael Vick a farewell show.

26. Cleveland Browns (26)

I honestly wouldn’t want the job of having to solve this puzzle.

25. Tennessee Titans (25)

Jake Locker gets another year before he’s fully labeled a bust.

24. Buffalo Bills (24)

I really have nothing to say about the Buffalo Bills.

23. New York Jets (20)

HIGH-LAIR-EE-USS.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (21)

I wish I had paid enough attention to the Bucs to know whose fault their collapse was.

21. San Diego Chargers (23)

“You think Jon Gruden would go there?” is the question you’ll hear most related to the Bolts in the coming weeks.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (16)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

19. Carolina Panthers (19)

Is the late push enough for Ron Rivera to keep his job?

18. St. Louis Rams (22)

They can finish ABOVE .500…

17. Miami Dolphins (18)

Please beat New England.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Your Monday Reality Check: Ravens should absolutely play to win in Cincinnati

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Your Monday Reality Check: Ravens should absolutely play to win in Cincinnati

Posted on 24 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

I’m amazed by how many people I had to explain it to Sunday night. I honestly had to give up after a little while.

The stupidity of the statement “I’d rather the Baltimore Ravens be the four seed because the path looks easier to me” is unbelievable.

I was impressed by a number of things I saw from the Baltimore Ravens Sunday (weren’t we all?), but one that probably went unnoticed by many was how head coach John Harbaugh addressed the question of how the team would handle next week’s game.

“The thing we’re going to do for sure is we’re going to try to win the game” Harbaugh explained. “We’re also going to try to make sure we’re as healthy as we can be going into the playoffs so I think we’ll merge those two considerations.”

Bingo. The Baltimore Ravens absolutely MUST try to win their Week 17 date with the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

By virtue of their 33-14 win over the New York Giants Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens clinched the AFC North title and a home playoff game. They are guaranteed to play on Wild Card weekend of the NFL Playoffs, but they are not yet locked into the four seed. The Ravens could still clinch the three seed in the AFC Playoffs with a win over the Bengals and a New England Patriots loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The difference in the third seed and fourth seed isn’t necessarily significant, but it has the potential to be. Getting the third seed could be the difference in whether the Ravens are able to host the AFC Championship Game.

It seems like an unlikely scenario, but it’s not impossible. Should the Ravens and Patriots end up as the third and fourth seeds but each win their first two playoff games, they would meet in the AFC title game. If the Pats are the three seed and the Ravens the four, the Pats would host the game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. I vaguely remember such a game happening there before.

But if the Ravens were to finish as the three seed and the Patriots the fourth seed, the game would then be played in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium, the place where the Baltimore Ravens have won 15 of their last 17 games (including playoffs).

Which scenario would you prefer?

I got this question Sunday night. “This seems so unlikely. When was the last time something like this even happened?”

The person who asked was right. It IS an unlikely scenario. But if the Ravens are to return to the AFC Championship Game at all, they will HAVE to knock off one of the top two seeds. The Pats would then only need to win a game either in Houston or Denver, neither of which seems like an impossible scenario.

And if you’ll allow your memory to serve you right, you’ll be reminded that the Ravens were a second half collapse away from having this scenario play out in January 2011. The New York Jets stunned the Patriots in Foxborough, so had the Ravens avoided blowing a fourteen point halftime lead to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, they would have hosted the AFC Championship Game as a five seed.

Some people argued to me “Glenn, I think the road is easier as a four seed because I’d rather play Indianapolis and Houston than Cincinnati and Denver.”

I have absolutely no idea why there is a sudden fear of the Cincinnati Bengals amongst Ravens fans. The difference between the Bengals and Colts is minimal at best. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has thrown for three touchdowns and five interceptions over the course of the last three weeks, is 0-3 in his career against the Ravens and thus far in his NFL career has not defeated a team that has clinched a postseason berth (although that could change next week if the Washington Redskins or New York Giants get in).

The Houston argument is more compelling. Despite the fact that the Ravens suffered a 43-13 shellacking earlier this season in Houston, it’s easy to understand why fans would believe that task more likely to be accomplished than a Ravens win in Denver. What’s forgotten in this scenario is that the Texans have not yet clinched the top seed in the AFC. They will need to do something they’ve never done in franchise history-win in Indianapolis-next Sunday in order to nail down the top spot, and RB Arian Foster’s availability could be an issue after he left Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings with an irregular heartbeat.

Should the Texans lose (as well as the Patriots) and the Broncos win, the Broncos would be the one seed and the Texans would be the two seed. Which scenario is better for the Ravens at that point?

The NFL did the Ravens no favors in scheduling, as their tilt with the Bengals will kick off at 1pm Sunday, while the Patriots won’t kick off until some three hours later. The Ravens will not have the benefit of knowing what the Patriots are doing to decide if there’s a point where they want to pull their starters.

Instead, they’ll simply have to channel former NFL coach Herm Edwards and “play to win the game.”

That doesn’t mean they should go crazy.

The Ravens are smart enough to know that the Patriots are unlikely to lose to the Dolphins and will most likely open the postseason by hosting the Colts in a playoff game for the second time in franchise history. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

As Harbaugh said, merging the two considerations is very plausible.

It would make total sense for the Ravens to consider giving oft-injured DT Haloti Ngata another week off (he rested for the team’s blowout win over the Oakland Raiders in November) and even LB Terrell Suggs (who has played the last two weeks after suffering a torn biceps tendon) the day off. Harbaugh also confirmed LB Ray Lewis wouldn’t be a consideration to return from Injured Reserve until the postseason. It wouldn’t be stunning to see S Bernard Pollard miss a third straight game either, and if WR Anquan Boldin’s shoulder is of significant concern it would be understandable to see him miss the finale as well.

But there is absolutely no reason for the Ravens to spend Sunday’s game with Tyrod Taylor handing the ball off to Anthony Allen all afternoon while Joe Flacco and Ray Rice watch in sweats. It’s one thing to be prudent. It’s quite another to just plain give up.

With something to play for still, there’s no reason the Ravens should do the latter. Judging by John Harbaugh’s comments, I’ll assume they won’t.

-G

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