Broncos, Pats Fans Don't Want To Face Ravens
While the Ravens are hard at work preparing for their wild-card round matchup against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, the AFC's top two seeds are enjoying their bye week and waiting to find out who they will face at home in the divisional round.
Fans in Denver (No. 1 seed) and New England (No. 2) were both asked in polls who they would most prefer to battle. Baltimore came up last in the two polls below, implying fans from the two cities see the Ravens as their greatest threat.
The Broncos will play the lowest-seeded winner from the first round: Ravens (No. 4), Colts (No. 5) or Cincinnati Bengals (No. 6).
In an ESPN SportsNation poll of 4,742 votes (as of Wednesday morning), fans were asked: What team do you want to see Denver play in the divisional round?
- Indianapolis: 60 percent
- Cincinnati: 24 percent
- Baltimore: 16 percent
The Patriots will play the highest seeded-winner of the wild-card round: Houston Texans (No. 3), Ravens or Colts.
In a WEEI (New England radio station) poll of 765 votes (as of Wednesday morning), fans were asked: Who do you want to see the Patriots play in the divisional round?
- Doesn't matter. Patriots will be well-rested and prepared: 43 percent
- Colts. Andrew Luck is still a rookie quarterback in playoffs: 23 percent
- Texans. Houston is very vulnerable and banged up: 22 percent
- Ravens. Patriots want revenge for last-second loss in September: 12 percent
Football Outsiders: Momentum Means Little For Postseason
How big of a deal is the intangible "advantage" going into the playoffs?
The Ravens, who lost four of their last five regular-season games, don't believe their recent streak will have any bearing on what happens Sunday. But the Colts, who won five of their last six games, hope they can ride a wave of momentum into Baltimore and pull off an upset.
According to Football Outsiders' Vince Verhei and some fancy number crunching, being the "hot" team doesn't really matter heading into the postseason.
Verhei used two metrics called DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and its cousin, weighted DVOA, to discover the value of momentum.
You can get a full explanation of the two statistics here, but in summary: "DVOA tells us which teams have played best over the course of the season, while weighted DVOA should tell us which teams are playing best right now." Looking back at every playoff game in the NFL since the 1991 season, Verhei found that "peaking in December is meaningless when it comes to predicting the winner of playoff games."
When looking specifically at the Colts-Ravens matchup, Verhei concludes that Indianapolis is in the worst spot of all the playoff teams.
"The Colts (minus-16.0 percent DVOA, minus-14.0 percent weighted) are, by far, the worst of this year's playoff teams," he wrote. "This past weekend's victory over the Texans was easily their best win of the year, but the rest of their résumé consists mostly of nail-biters against bad teams. A ridiculous 9-1 mark in close games has inflated their record. The Ravens (9.8 percent, 8.3 percent) look like solid favorites here."
2012 Ravens Regular-Season Superlatives
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec published 20 Ravens regular-season superlatives. Here are few:
Team MVP: Ray Rice
Unsung Hero: Corey Graham
Play of the Year: Hey Diddle, Diddle – Rice's 29-yard, catch-and-run on fourth-and-29 in San Diego
Top newcomer: Jacoby Jones
Biggest revelation: Art Jones
Biggest disappointment(s): Terrence Cody, Pernell McPhee, Jimmy Smith
Best coaching decision: Choosing Justin Tucker over Billy Cundiff
Worst coaching decision: Ignoring Rice on an 0-for-6 sequence in Philadelphia
Best organizational decision: Not panicking and giving in during contract negotiations with Flacco
Worst organizational decision: Not matching the offer from the Saints to Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs
Power Rankings: Wild-Card Weekend
Losing to Cincinnati in a meaningless season finale with their second* *string in for most of the game did little to the Ravens' rankings.
More than anything, experts are just waiting to see which Ravens team will show up in the playoffs and whether Flacco can outperform Luck.
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: No. 11, no movement
"It's Joe Flacco time. Isn't this when we decide if he's elite or not? He better be."
ESPN.com: No. 10, no movement
"Baltimore is limping into the playoffs. The Ravens' past three losses have come against teams that made the playoffs this year."
Brian Billick, Foxsports.com: No. 6, up one spot
"The Ravens sat the majority of their starters on Sunday and lost for the fourth time in the past five weeks. However, the Ravens are in the postseason for the fifth straight year, making the playoffs every season under Coach John Harbaugh, and should be tough enough at home to beat the Colts."
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: No. 12, moved down two spots
"The Baltimore Ravens have a classic case of the backing-ins. Does this mean John Harbaugh's squad will be one-and-done? Not necessarily. The 2008 Cardinals lost four of six entering the postseason. Then Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald got hot. In similar vein, can Joe Flacco dominate playoff secondaries? Torrey Smith compiled 156 yards in five December games. Yes, he sat some of the time, but bottom line is Flacco and Smith must rekindle their chemistry on Sunday, lest the game rest on the league's 17th-ranked defense. That's a 50-50 proposition."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: No. 12, moved down one spot
"No one really has any idea what the Ravens are right now. And what a weird turn of history that Jim Irsay brings a different franchise quarterback into town Sunday to try to end another Ravens'season. Six years ago, it was Peyton Manning beating a broken-down Steve McNair. This week, it's Andrew Luck against Joe Flacco."
- @ravensfan59: @334Upshaw41 great pic of coach and u [Twitter]
- The San Francisco 49ers signed kicker and former Raven Billy Cundiff yesterday to compete for the postseason kicking duties with struggling veteran David Akers. [Associated Press]
- Andy Reid is expected to be the Cardinals' next head coach by the end of week. [CBSSports.com]
- The Ravens don't make the playoffs without Flacco. [WJZ]
- Keeping tradition alive, the Ravens painted the town purple for the fifth straight year. [WJZ]