Five Divisional Round Takeaways
There can only be one team to win it all, and if it's not the Ravens, the next sweetest thing for Baltimore fans is to see the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steeles get knocked out.
That wish was granted Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars won at Heinz Field* *for the second time this season, ousting the Steelers, 45-42.
Terrible Towels are also good for wiping tears — Joe Schiller (@JoeSchillerr) January 14, 2018
Here are five takeaways from the divisional round:
1) Don't Overlook Your Opponent
For weeks, the Steelers' main focus has been to beat the New England Patriots in the AFC conference championship game. The problem is Pittsburgh needed to get there first.
The big talk started with Head Coach Mike Tomlin way back in November saying the Steelers' "second" game against the Patriots would be "big."
Then, all week leading up to the Jaguars divisional round matchup, the Steelers continued to look past their opponent. Before even playing the Jags, Steelers safety Mike Mitchell said, "We can play [the Patriots] in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England ... we're gonna win."
Pittsburgh talked the talk, but didn't walk the walk. Mitchell and the Steelers defense never showed up, surrendering 45 points to quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars offense.
After the game, the team's Twitter account trolled Pittsburgh with the ultimate comeback.
"[The Jags] were ready to go; they were mad; they were angry; they had something to prove, and they did it," Steelers offensive lineman David DeCastro said. "Yeah, it's embarrassing. It really is, man. It just blows my mind. They beat us 30-9. We played like crap, and we want to talk about New England? I don't know what to say about that. It's just stupid. It's just not what you do. You don't need to give a team like that more bulletin-board material."
Perhaps the Steelers have learned from their mistake, but it doesn't look like Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has. He told Jaguars fans that Jacksonville will go to the Super Bowl and win it … overlooking next week's opponent.
2) Big Ben Says He's Not Retiring
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ended the 2016 season saying that he was going to take some time to think about whether he wanted to continue playing football. He ultimately returned, but it signaled the near end to a possible Hall of Fame career.
After last night's loss, it was no surprise that Ravens fans hoped Big Ben would again seriously contemplate hanging up his cleats.
He says he's returning.
"I definitely have a desire to play football," Roethlisberger told reporters after the loss. "I love this game. I love these guys. It's tough. It stings. You hate to lose. You hate to lose at home. I feel bad. I feel like I let the fans down, my teammates down."
That wasn't an absolute statement that he'll be back, but it sure seems like he will. This means the Ravens will have to continue trying to stop Big Ben.
"Good for Ben Roethlisberger saying he'll be back in 2018, and of course he should," wrote Sports Illustrated's Peter King. "He diced up Jacksonville after early struggles for 469 yards, five touchdowns and 42 points."
3) Revisiting Draft History Isn't Fun Sometimes
You can't avoid the game of draft revisionist history.
Sometimes it's fun, and sometimes it's not.
After watching Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs reel in the first ever “walk-off” touchdown in the fourth quarter of a postseason game, fans and reporters were quick to remember that the former Maryland Terp wanted to be drafted by the Ravens, but they passed.
Of course, all 32 teams passed on him at least four times until the Vikings selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
The revisionist draft history game was also played during the Jags-Steelers contest when Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack made an impressive juggling interception on the sideline and kept his concentration to keep two feet in bounds.
4) Don't Underestimate Defense in Today's NFL
So, let's get this straight. The four quarterbacks that will play in the conference championship games next week are:
Case Keenum (for the first time)
Nick Foles (first time)
Blake Bortles (first time)
Tom Brady (12th time)
It's obviously an intriguing note when the NFL has been deemed the "quarterback league." Keenum, Foles and Bortles have all had their moments and deserve credit, but their three teams have largely advanced to this stage of the playoffs because of their defenses.
It demonstrates that defense can still be relied upon to win games, but King urges people not to read too much into it.
"Don’t overrate this and think it means the decline in importance of the Franchise Quarterback," King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column. "It doesn't. Just think of championship weekend as an outlier. All four defenses can win games."
5) Jags and Eagles Offer Ravens Fans Rooting Interests in Conference Games
While Ravens fans are watching next week's conference games, there are two teams Baltimore may want to support.
After getting immense pleasure from watching the Jags dismantle the Steelers, would it also not be greatly entertaining to see their defense rattle Brady?
"New England is a better team. They should be favored. They are playing in their seventh consecutive AFC championship game. But the Jaguars can beat them. Don't be surprised if they do," wrote CBSSports.com's Will Brinson.
In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles have a number of former Ravens like Torrey Smith and Timmy Jernigan that you may want to see succeed.
"The Eagles will still be viewed as the underdog with backup quarterback Nick Foles under center in the NFC championship game, but there are a number of reasons for Ravens fans to pull for them next Sunday," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.