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Late For Work 10/24: Pundits Suddenly Doubting Ravens' Playoff Chances


Pundits Suddenly Doubting Ravens' Playoff Chances

The change is remarkable.

Last week, the widely-accepted consensus was that Baltimore was one of the two best teams in the entire AFC.

With one blowout loss, pundits now doubt whether the Ravens can even make the playoffs.

And the list of doubters isn't a bunch of schleps either.  It includes Peter King, Ron Jaworski, Merril Hoge and Ashley Fox.

"If Joe Flacco isn't better than he was Sunday, and if he isn't better than he's been, the Ravens will have a very short postseason run – if they have one at all," wrote King.

"That's where it feels like the Ravens might end up: on the outside looking in," Fox wrote.

Jaworski and Hoge debated whether Baltimore's 2012 championship window is closing. They blasted the defense for showing teams they can be physically dominated, and then scolded Sunday's offensive game plan for essentially removing running back Ray Rice from the equation.

The ESPN analysts were reminded of the Ravens record and state of the conference, but they stood by their doubts.

"But 5-2. It's just so weird," host Kevin Negandhi said. "There are only three teams in the AFC with winning records."

The Ravens still own the second-best record in what is considered a mediocre conference.  Houston (6-1) leads the group and New England (4-3), who barely beat the New York Jets Sunday, is trailing Baltimore by a full game. After the Patriots, there are five teams with .500 records.

In the AFC North, the Ravens lead the Steelers team (3-3) by two games, but that could be cut in half this Sunday with Pittsburgh playing the Redskins and the Ravens taking a break.

With the lead Baltimore currently holds in the division and conference, it would have to undergo a collapse in the second half of the season combined with a surge from a currently flawed Pittsburgh team, plus at least two other AFC teams that have lost half their games so far this season.

NFL Network's Heath Evans and Darren Sharper and The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel brought a little sanity to the situation.

In the video below, Evans and Sharper say they don't see the Steelers being able to reemerge and win the AFC North over the Ravens. 

Evans believes the two rivals will split their two games this season, but added that Baltimore will rebound and return to form after the bye. Sharper agreed, saying Sunday's pitiful defeat was an aberration.

And Vensel asked an important question: "I’m sorry, but do you really think the Ravens won't find a way to finish the season with 10 or 11 wins?"

If you don't think the Ravens can get to 10 victories, that means you think they will lose at least five of their next nine games. And of the remaining teams left on Baltimore's schedule, only one has a winning record.

Week 9: @Browns (1-6)
Week 10: Raiders (2-4)
Week 11: @Steelers (3-3)
Week 12: @San Diego (3-3)
Week 13: Steelers (3-3)
Week 14: @Redskins (3-4)
Week 15: Broncos (3-3)
Week 16: Giants (5-2)
Week 17: @Bengals (3-4)

Sure, it's possible that the Ravens could lose five more, but it's not probable.

Power Rankings: Week 8

It comes as no surprise the Ravens fell fast and hard after their 43-13 defeat to Houston.

Pete Prisco, No. 8, moved down six spots
This defense hardly resembles what it used to be. And I'm not sure it's fixable. They have issues -- big ones. No. 6, moved down two spots
The 30-point loss at Houston marked the largest margin of defeat for Baltimore in coach John Harbaugh's five seasons, a span of 80 games.

Brian Billick, No. 6, moved down four spots
The 30-point loss Sunday was the Ravens' worst since 2007. They have given up at least 180 yards rushing in three straight weeks.

Elliot Harrison, No. 8, moved down four spots
Baltimore takes a dip, and the blame can't all be laid at Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron's feet, per the usual. The Ravens can't stop anybody right now, which is why they fall below Seattle in our Power Rankings. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees' outfit has allowed 214, 227 and 181 yards on the ground over the last three weeks.

Mike Florio,  No. 9, moved down seven spots
Joe Flacco really is a top-five quarterback. In his division.

Peter King, Sports Illustrated: No. 9, moved down four spots
Stunningly bad performance by a good team. I understand the injuries, of course, but I don't get it, honestly.

Zac Wassink, Yahoo! Sports: No. 8, moved down two spots
It's soul searching time for a Baltimore team that showed zero heart at Houston. The Ravens need the upcoming bye and badly.

Pro Bowl Voting Now Open

The league announced yesterday that the Pro Bowl polls are now open.

Baltimore fans have until Monday, Dec. 17 following the conclusion of Monday Night Football to vote for their favorite Ravens players. The Pro Bowl team will be announced on Dec. 26 on the NFL Network.

The All-Star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches, each group counting as one-third toward the final selections.

Which Ravens should make it?                                                                                                      

Upshaw No Longer Fined For Weight

Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw has been drawing fines for playing above his prescribed weight of 270 pounds, according to Aaron Wilson of The Sun.

After losing nearly $20,000, according to the report, the Ravens' 2012 top draft pick finally got his weight under the limit and is no longer receiving fines from the team. Upshaw said he is now playing around 266 to 268 pounds and hasn't been fined since Week 5.

"I didn't even look at the fines," Upshaw told Wilson. "I just knew they were taking my money. That started getting me down."

"Of course, I came in [to camp] heavy. It was eating at night that was killing me."

Quick Hits

  • Ravens All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach was limited to a season-low 14 snaps during Sunday's game against his former team, the Texans. Head Coach John Harbaugh talked with Leach about that on the plane ride home from Houston, and a change could be coming. [The Baltimore Sun/]
  • Quarterback Joe Flacco received an F grade for his performance Sunday, which also earned him the No. 1 spot in Dave Dameshek's Shame Report. [ESPN/]
  • @ravensinsider: Sergio Kindle had a $469,960 salary with weekly $27,644 check. Now, practice squad salary is $96,900 with weekly check of $5,750 [Twitter]
  • @tandondoss: Think I might get tatted this week. [Twitter]
  • @torreysmithwr: I think I want to be @BarackObama for Halloween [Twitter]
  • Here's the top 10 worst non-playoff losses in Ravens history. [The Baltimore Sun]
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