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Late For Work 11/6: Ten of 12 Playoffs Spots Already Look Set


La Canfora: Ten of 12 Playoffs Spots Already Look Set

We've still got seven weeks of football to go, but the playoff picture is “virtually set,” says's Jason La Canfora.

The columnist is already guaranteeing five of six spots in each conference, and the Ravens are one of those surefire teams.

Several squads will scratch and claw for the second wild-card spots in both the AFC and NFC as the season winds down, but La Canfora believes most of the division races are more or less clinched.

Here are the 10 teams he says will make the cut (seeding order is not predicted):

Houston Texans 7-1 (AFC South winner)   Atlanta Falcons 8-0 (NFC South winner)
Baltimore Ravens 6-2 (among top two in AFC North)   New York Giants 6-3 (NFC East winner)
Pittsburgh Steelers 5-3 (among top two in AFC North)   San Francisco 49ers 6-2 (NFC West winner)
Denver Broncos 5-3 (AFC West winner)   Chicago Bears 7-1 (among top two in NFC North)
New England Patriots 5-3 (AFC East winner)   Green Bay Packers 6-3 (among top two in NFC North)

While fans and media are criticizing the Ravens for winning ugly, La Canfora says Baltimore will make its fifth-consecutive playoff berth. Playing dominant football at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens will host the Raiders, Broncos, Giants and Steelers in the second half of the season. They also play the struggling Redskins, Chargers and Bengals on the road, plus the Steelers. Even if Baltimore only wins three more games for the rest of the year (and that is a low bar), La Canfora says it will advance.

"Even 9-7 will be good enough for [Baltimore] to get in," he wrote. "The Ravens' only conference loss so far is to the Texans."

As for the Steelers, La Canfora says they will also advance.

"News flash, the Steelers are still damn good and they're going back to the playoffs, too," he wrote. "The Steelers are finally hitting their stride, Ben Roethlisberger is playing better than ever, the defense and run game are a force again, and they haven't even faced the Ravens yet. If Pittsburgh sweeps Baltimore you know it's getting in, and it still gets Kansas City ... and Cleveland (twice!)."

David Reed Returned To Practice

Wide receiver/kick returner David Reed returned to practice Monday, tweeted Aaron Wilson.

The Baltimore Sun writer added that Reed remains on the physically unable to perform list.

The third-year veteran's season was cut short last year when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Reed has since been a constant presence at the team facility since the offseason going through rehab and strengthening his knee.

If the Ravens decide to activate Reed, they will have to find a roster spot for him and then Reed will have to carve out a role for himself.

Several receivers are currently on the roster, including Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams and Deonte Thompson.

On specials teams, Jones has taken over the bulk of kickoff and punt return duties. Thompson lost his role as the starting kick returner after a crucial fumble in Week 5. He has not been activated since.

 If healthy, Reed could compete for Thompson's spot on the 53-man roster.

Harbs May Rotate Wide Receivers More

Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated in his Monday afternoon presser that he may rotate his receivers in and out of games more in order to keep them fresh.

Up until now, starters Smith and Boldin have rarely taken a breather, playing 495 and 474 offensive snaps, respectively, according to The Sun's Matt Vensel. 

That averages to 61.9 snaps per game for Smith and 61.7 for Boldin. Meanwhile, Jones averaged 30.5 snaps per game during the first four contests, but hasn't played more than 22 snaps since then, reports Vensel. Doss is averaging 9.7 snaps per game.

"Anquan and Torrey are doing a great job, but let's get Jacoby out there a little more, let's get Tandon out there a little more," Harbaugh said.

"Let's keep those guys a little fresher, because Torrey and Anquan … I mean, they'll play every play. They'll go until they can't, so we keep mixing in. We've got some playmakers, and we can mix them in a little more."

Obama, Romney On Monday Night Football

November 6 is finally here.

It's Election Day all across the United States, providing Americans with the precious right to vote for the leader of their country.

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney appeared on Monday Night Football last night, answering sports questions from ESPN's Chris Berman (video below).

It comes as no surprise that President Obama's hometown team, the Chicago Bears, is his favorite and believes they are good enough to win the Super Bowl this season. Living in Massachusetts for most of his adult life, Romney's favorite team is the New England Patriots.

"I have lived in New England 40 years now and I take personal, full responsibility for their two Super Bowl wins," Romney joked, "as well as the Red Sox winning the World Series. Hey, look, as governor you get blamed for everything that goes wrong. You might as well get credit for what goes right."

Both candidates were asked to compare sports and politics.

Said President Obama: "You know, it's interesting, political reporters are a lot like sports reporters — you know, you lose a game and you're a bum, you win a game and you're a god. And the truth is, just like in sports, in politics we are all human. We make mistakes, sometimes we perform well. But the key is to just stay focused on what you are doing."

Romney said the experience of running the 2002 Winter Olympics allowed him "to see the great qualities of the human spirit."

"You see people who when they're pushed to their limit are able to dig extraordinary deep ... with determination, and passion, conviction, sometimes patriotism, loyalty to their teammates. It's a place where you see what is beneath the surface of an individual human being and you come away inspired."

Quick Hits

  • Raiders starting running back Darren McFadden's MRI on his ankle came back negative, but his status for the matchup in Baltimore is still in doubt. His practice participation will be revealing this week. Also, backup Mike Goodson is dealing with an ankle sprain and is awaiting his MRI results. [Associated Press]
  • Jason Butt points out that quarterback Joe Flacco’s completion percentage is dropping. It was over 60 for the first six games and has dipped to 59.8. Harbaugh told reporters Monday: "We've talked about being close to 70 percent. We don't want to be around 60 percent. We're capable of being better than that." []
  • One thing the defense can take pride in this season is its play inside the red zone, says Vensel. "However you look at it, the Ravens defenders are at their best when their backs are against the imaginary wall that is the goal line."  [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Vensel added that the Ravens can't continue to afford to give away penalty yards like they did against the Browns. He wrote: "These penalties haven't cost the Ravens in the win column yet, but it's probably only a matter of time." [The Baltimore Sun]
  • His workload is increasing … @ravens: Terrell Suggs played 54 of the 70 defensive snaps. [Twitter]
  • As Harbaugh indicated before the game, Leach was much more active Sunday … @ravens: In yesterday's win over the Browns, fullback Vonta Leach was on the field for 43 of the 66 offensive snaps.  [Twitter]
  • A packed house … @vleach44: At Ravens women night [Twitter]
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