Various thoughts on various things, all in 50 words or less:
The Ravens are rightfully receiving national kudos for figuring out how to give themselves a chance to win every week, no matter which players, or how many, they're missing. But a week in which they only had 13 healthy defensive players at one practice sounds like the biggest test yet.
Not to make light of a serious situation, but it really sums up 2021 for the Ravens and their fans that all anyone wants under their holiday tree is a few more guys coming off the Reserve/COVID-19 list in time to play against the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati.
For Sunday's game (and really for any game going forward), the most sensible calculus for the Ravens at quarterback always was this: If Lamar Jackson is anything less than fully and completely recovered from his sprained ankle, Tyler Huntley plays. If/when Lamar is back to 100 percent, he plays.
You'd think four straight losses in December would kill a team's playoff hopes, but even if the Ravens lose, there are for-real scenarios in which they make it. I've seen simulators giving them anywhere from a 30 percent chance to 90 percent provided they beat the Rams and Steelers.
The Ravens have generally done a better job tackling since they lapsed so glaringly in their first game against the Bengals, and they're really going to need to keep it up. All three of their remaining opponents rank in the top 10 in the league in yards gained after catch.
Little guys rule: of the five Ravens and four former Ravens who made the Pro Bowl this year, only Jackson was a first-round pick. Otherwise, it was three third-round picks, one fourth-round pick, one fifth-round pick, one sixth-round pick and two UDFAs.
How impressive that Devin Duvernay made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist almost exactly one year after he fielded a punt for the Ravens for the first time. The player always deserves the credit, but as Duvernay graciously acknowledged, the Ravens have done a great job coaching him up.
Between Justin Tucker and Patrick Ricard making the Pro Bowl and Huntley playing so well, the Ravens are really showcasing the importance of recruiting quality undrafted rookie free agents. Tucker, Ricard and Huntley all started out as UDFAs, as did other 2021 contributors such as Patrick Mekari and Chris Board.
Although the Ravens' secondary is banged up, I have a hunch the play of their interior defense might be a key factor Sunday. The Ravens have been stout against the run, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry, but the Bengals rushed for 111 yards in their October blowout in Baltimore.
Mark Andrews isn't just setting new single-season franchise records for catches and receiving yardage by a tight end. He is obliterating Todd Heap's old records of 75 catches and 855 receiving yards. Andrews is on pace to total 103 catches and 1,289 yards.