Various thoughts on various things, all in 50 words or less:
It's hard not to give a thumbs-up to hiring Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator. Steeped in the Ravens' ways yet sprung from a new generation, he projects to hit that sweet spot between tradition and invention. My hunch is some bedrock concepts will go unchanged while others get major makeovers.
In a way, the hiring is as bold as going for two to try to win a game. Macdonald is familiar, smart, rightfully viewed as a rising star, but he's also so young he has little history as a signal-caller, and now it's on him to fix a legendary unit.
The way Macdonald intensified Michigan's pass rush surely helped him stand out, because that's exactly what needs to happen here as the Ravens come to grips with facing Joe Burrow twice a year. The Titans sacked him nine times last week, and although they lost, it was a great equalizer.
Sobering fact: The Ravens play in a bruising, gritty division, but Burrow's Bengals are just the second team from the AFC North to reach the conference championship game since 2012, when the Ravens last went and eventually won the Super Bowl. (The Steelers went in 2016 and lost.)
I'm picking the Chiefs over the Bengals by more than a touchdown Sunday. And I'm going with the 49ers over the Rams. The Rams look more potent, but the 49ers are built for January and they've won six straight games in the rivalry. Some matchups just tilt a certain way.
No surprise that the Ravens bought back Ben Mason. A blocking fullback is a key piece of their offensive blueprint, and I always thought the point of drafting Mason last year was to provide a potential backup plan if they couldn't reach a deal with pending free agent Pat Ricard.
Please, no more questions about why the Ravens put so much into having strong special teams. The Packers were eliminated from the playoffs by a blocked punt and blocked field goal. The Bills would still be playing if only they'd better handled a kickoff situation with 13 seconds to play.
A bone bruise is preferable to many injuries that sideline players, but Lamar Jackson sounded like he'd dealt with a fairly significant issue when he spoke to the media after the season. With that in mind, he obviously made the right choice in reportedly skipping the Pro Bowl.
The intense reaction to his retirement announcement surprised him, but when you work hard, pay attention to detail and take a non-nonsense approach, as Anthony Levine Sr. did for a decade with the Ravens, you develop admirers. His teammates surely agree it's wise to keep him in the organization.
I'm probably out in left field with this, but my "fairer overtime" idea is forget sudden death. Just play a quarter and see who's ahead at the end. Both offenses and defenses see the field. The drawback is asking for more from players who are already beat up and exhausted.