Scattershooting on the Ravens as they seek to nail down the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs:
There has been a lot of chatter all week about the Ravens wanting to avenge their Week 4 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won big at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 28. The teams play again Sunday in Cleveland.
But there's one small problem with the revenge storyline. More than one-fifth of the players on Baltimore's 53-man roster weren't around for the first game.
Twelve guys. They were scattered all over the football world on Sept. 28.
Marcus Peters was playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Jihad Ward was with the Indianapolis Colts. Jordan Richards was with the New England Patriots. L.J. Fort had just been released by the Philadelphia Eagles. Hroniss Grasu was playing for the Tennessee Titans. De'Anthony Thomas was with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Parker Ehinger was on the Ravens' practice squad. Brynden Trawick and Iman Marshall were on injured reserve. Josh Bynes, Justin Ellis and Domata Peko Sr. were out of the NFL entirely.
A majority play defense, the unit the Ravens basically took apart and reassembled after losing to Cleveland in September. In-season changes seldom work so well, but boy, these did.
Maybe their teammates can get the even-dozen in-season additions up to speed on why the Ravens want to whip the Browns.
Raise your hand if you thought Mark Andrews would have more touchdown receptions (8) than Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. combined (7) heading into this Baltimore-Cleveland rematch?
If the Ravens secure the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout January, they'll likely open the playoffs with a divisional-round game against the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers or Tennessee Titans – the teams currently in the running for the Nos. 4-6 seeds. (The No. 3 seed can't play No. 1 in that round.)
If I'm the Ravens, I don't know which team I'd most like to play. (Baltimore has already beaten them all except the Titans, who aren't on the schedule.) But I'd least like to see the Bills, whose aggressive defense did a pretty decent job against Lamar Jackson.
Look, I'm as sentimental as anyone and would have enjoyed seeing Terrell Suggs wrangle his way back for a final go with the Ravens as they aim for a deep playoff run.
But the reality is the Ravens no longer needed him.
Oh, they missed him earlier in the season, when they were struggling to set edges and pressure quarterbacks. Suggs was playing pretty well for the Arizona Cardinals. He recorded five sacks in their first seven games.
But the Ravens' reconfigured defense (see above) has become one of the league's better units. Baltimore is ranked No. 5 in the league against the run. The pass rush is disruptive.
Suggs, meanwhile, totaled just one-half sack and nine solo tackles from Week 8 through the end of his Arizona tenure last week.
Over the same period, the players now manning his old position in Baltimore were more productive. Tyus Bowser recorded three sacks. Jaylon Ferguson recorded 17 solo tackles.
For the season, Suggs is ranked No. 74 in the league among all players at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. Bowser is ranked No. 35. Ferguson is No. 85, but that figure is lowered by the slow start he experienced as a rookie being thrown into the fire; he is coming on strong.
A reunion with Suggs, who ended up with the Chiefs, might have made more sense if the Ravens needed a spark as they hunted for a playoff spot. But they've won 10 straight games. They own the league's best record. Their locker-room chemistry is a thing of beauty. They didn't need to tamper with what's working.
The late Art Modell is on quite a list of finalists for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 under the "contributor" category. The list of 10 also includes a former commissioner (Paul Tagliabue), the founder of the Dallas Cowboys (Clint Murchison), the mastermind of NFL Films (Steve Sabol), Baltimore native George Young, who built the New York Giants into a Super Bowl winner; and Ralph Hay, the car salesman from Canton, Ohio who organized the meeting at which the NFL was formed.
One could make a case for each deserving to be selected. Modell had a huge role in helping turn the NFL into a valuable television property.
Modell has been a finalist before, but what's different this year is a blue-ribbon panel of Hall of Famers and historians are voting, as opposed to the normal body of media selectors. Three of the 10 contributor finalists will get in. It's probably Modell's best shot.