Joe Flacco Not Elite? 'You're Crazy.'
Once again, it's time to bring up the seemingly never-ending debate about whether Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is an elite signal caller.
After Flacco threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's 38-35 upset over the Denver Broncos, his agent Joe Linta spoke up for the impending free-agent.
"He's a top-five guy, if not better," Linta told the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. "If you don't think that's an elite guy, then you're crazy."
Flacco has the Ravens back in the AFC championship for the third time in his five seasons. He out-dueled future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning last week and is again on the national stage with a rematch against Tom Brady looming Sunday.
Flacco is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and Linta emphasized that Flacco will soon get the national respect he deserves.
"The guy has won 54 (regular-season) games; (the) guy is eventually going to get respect," Linta said. "The great thing about Joe is he doesn't care."
Flacco and the Ravens weren't able to agree on a contract extension before this season, and the two sides decided to table talks until after the season. They plan to pick up the talks at the end of the Ravens' playoff run, Linta said.
Ravens brass has been clear that it views Flacco as the organization's franchise quarterback, and Flacco has said on numerous occasions that he plans to be in Baltimore for many years to come.
The Ravens don't plan on letting Flacco walk away, and if they aren't able to reach a long-term deal with him in the offseason, they could also use the one-year franchise tag to make Flacco one of the five highest paid quarterbacks in the league.
Ravens Still Not Getting National Respect
The Ravens are in a familiar spot this week.
Despite the thrilling win in Denver, Baltimore is once again a heavy underdog as they prepare to face the New England Patriots in the AFC championship. And once again, the national media doesn't seem to be giving the Ravens much respect.
"Patriots are a machine right now," tweeted ESPN radio and TV personality Colin Cowherd. "Baltimore hope you enjoyed the cigars last night. You will be getting smoked in a week."
The comeback win over Denver sent shockwaves through the NFL and has the Ravens feeling like a "team of destiny" determined to send leader Ray Lewis into the sunset with a proper goodbye.
The players and coaches in the Ravens locker room have embraced that mentality, but pundits aren't buying it.
"The Baltimore Ravens offered plenty of great quotes about resolve and a relentless spirit, which was their right after their 38-35 victory in double overtime," wrote ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha. "But nobody outside of their fan base should buy into such bluster. The Ravens won because they hung around long enough to take advantage of the Broncos' critical errors. That's the only way to explain the way this AFC divisional playoff game played out."
Patriots Lose Gronkowski
The Patriots lost a critical piece of their offense en route to the AFC championship rematch.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski went to the locker room early in the first half against the Texans after reportedly re-breaking his left forearm, which will end his 2012 season.
Gronkowski, who missed six games with the broken arm this season, will now require a second surgery on the arm, according to ESPN.
The loss of Gronkowski is a blow to the Patriots offense, which often uses two-tight end sets with him and Aaron Hernandez.
"It is fair to say that his probable absence makes life much easier on the Ravens," Chadiha wrote. "Without Gronkowski, the Patriots can't capitalize on their beloved two-tight end sets, and they also lose a huge big-play target. That could be a major loss against a Baltimore defense that is feeling as good as it has all season."
Gronkowski led the Patriots with 11 touchdown grabs this season.
Eagles Interview Former Ravens Coach Brian Billick
Former Ravens Coach Brian Billick has interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching opening, according to multiple reports.
The Eagles have interviewed a number of candidates since firing long-time coach Andy Reid after the season, and the team's management reportedly liked what they saw in Billick.
"Eagles very impressed with 8 hour interview with Brian Billick this week," wrote CBS NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. "He is very much a candidate there in their meandering search."
Billick, 58, won the 2000 Super Bowl with the Ravens and went 80-64 in his nine seasons in Baltimore. He was fired after the 2007 season and has not coached since.
Billick is currently a color analyst for NFL games on FOX and is also a commentator on the NFL Network.
- Ravens PR Manager Patrick Gleason (@PMGleason): "Joe Flacco has 613 yards, 5 TDs & 0 INTs (120.0 rating) in this year's playoffs. The average length of his 5 TDs is 39.8 yards." [Twitter]
- How unlikely was the Ravens' comeback over Denver? Consider this: According to ESPN Stats & Information’s win probability model, Denver had a 97.2 percent chance of winning the game before the [Jacoby] Jones touchdown. In other words, Flacco might have had a better shot at winning the lottery than this game. [ESPN.com]
- The victory over the Denver Broncos was viewed by 35.3 million people, the largest TV audience for an AFC divisional playoff game in 26 years. [The Baltimore Sun]
- The Ravens-Broncos divisional-round matchup was the fourth longest game in NFL history, lasting 76 minutes, 42 minutes in actual game play. [ESPN.com]
- Flacco had the deep ball working this weekend. He was 4-for-7 with three touchdowns on throws more than 20 yards downfield. The Broncos had allowed only three such touchdowns all season. [ESPN Stats and Information]
- Jameel McClain (@JameelMcClain): "Here we go again." [Twitter]