Suggs Slams Bayless In Playoff Debate
Terrell Suggs' return is complete now that he has battled Skip Bayless.
A favorite on ESPN's "First Take," Suggs was brought in to help settle what is really a silly debate between Bayless and Stephen A. Smith: Will the Ravens make the playoffs?
It's doubtful that Bayless believes his own argument that Baltimore won't advance.
With the way the AFC is shaping up, the Ravens may only need a 9-7 record for their fifth-straight postseason berth. To miss that mark, it would take a catastrophic collapse, losing six of their final eight games, including at least two at home where the Ravens have won 14 in a row. Baltimore also has 11 straight wins against division opponents with three more AFC North games to come this season.
But "catastrophic" is the word Suggs used last week to describe the loss of linebacker Ray Lewis, which is why Bayless says Baltimore will come up short.
"Just when I think more foolishness couldn't come out of your mouth, you surprise me," Suggs said to Skip.
"Do you know our record at home for the past two years?" the outside linebacker asked. "Do you know how many consecutive wins we have in the division? We lost Ray Lewis and do you know what our record was? 4-0. We know the task is hard but it can be done."
Voices started rising when Bayless referred to the Ravens quarterback as Joe "Fluke-o." Sizzle has been one of the biggest (and certainly loudest) defenders of Flacco, and did so again yesterday.
Suggs admitted that the Ravens defense hasn't been playing up to its standards, and said Flacco is a major reason why the team is still in playoff position.
"A large part of the reason we're ahead of our division right now and we're 6-2 is because of No. 5," Suggs said. "No. 5 has taken the bull by the horns and he's winning."
Fans on Facebook, who were listening live to the debate, declared Smith/Suggs the winners with 82 percent of the vote compared to 18 percent for Bayless.
Ravens Midseason Draft Needs: LB, DL
If the Ravens could draft a player tomorrow, they should select Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, says Mel Kiper.
After eight games, the ESPN draft guru believes the emerging needs in Baltimore are at linebacker and along the defensive line.
He says that rookie Courtney Upshaw and a "very good secondary" keeps the defense respectable, but Terrell Suggs needs help in the pass rush and a trio of undrafted free agents are currently playing at linebacker with Ray Lewis out.
"Questions will remain about Joe Flacco's ceiling, but they know they can win with him and should get a deal done to bring him back. Defense will be the priority," concluded Kiper.
Ogletree is currently ranked 17th-overall on ESPN's draft tracker and second at the inside linebacker position. At 6-foot-3, 237 pounds, he shows "outstanding" speed for his size and is praised for his sideline-to-sideline run defense with "big-time" potential as a pass rusher.
Are You A Homer? Answer Coming …
If you're anything like The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel, you are probably conflicted about your feelings toward the Ravens.
Vensel challenged Sports Illustrated's Don Banks for saying Baltimore is the least impressive 6-2 club in recent memory, calling Banks' statements "hyperbole."
"I hate to sound like a broken record, but who cares how impressive the victories have been?" Vensel asked. "Do you think the Dallas Cowboys are pumped about being the most impressive 3-5 team in the league right now?"
While Vensel defended the Ravens against Banks, and other national writers, he wonders if he is being a "homer" for not burying Baltimore like many others.
He too has many questions about the squad. Has Flacco hit his ceiling? Is the leaky defense fixable? Will less-than-100 percent Suggs (Achillies) and Haloti Ngata (knee) be able to do enough? Can they consistently win against teams with winning records?
All these questions could be answered in the next four weeks with two games against Pittsburgh and a cross country trip to San Diego.
"[W]e will find out what these Ravens are truly made of, whether they can figure out their issues on the road when it really counts, whether they are still one of the top contenders in the AFC," Vensel wrote. "We will also find out if I really am a homer, or whether I was right for holding off of shoveling dirt onto their grave."
NFL Responds To Harbs' Injury Report Criticism (Sort Of)
It appears the league isn't concerned with Head Coach John Harbaugh's recent criticism and questions about injury reporting rules.
After being fined $20,000 for not listing safety Ed Reed's torn labrum on the injury report, Harbaugh publicly questioned the reporting guidelines, noting that they prevent the report from having any real value. The Ravens injury report tripled in size after the fine.
The league responded to Harbaugh's comments … sort of.
"On Coach Harbaugh and the injury report comments, we appreciate his commitment to comply with the injury reporting rules going forward," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Baltimore Sun in an email yesterday.
Unless the league privately speaks with Harbaugh about some of his concerns (he said Monday that he and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have not talked about it), it looks like they have moved on.
Power Rankings: Week 10
As already noted above, national media continue to be unimpressed by Baltimore's "ugly" wins. The Ravens mainly rank among the top nine or 10 teams, with NFL.com giving them the highest ranking at No. 6.
Instead of bashing the purple and black with the way they've won, Elliot Harrison believes the Ravens have shown resilience with huge injuries and still maintaining a 6-2 record.
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: No. 7, moved up one spot
"Things looked dicey in the fourth quarter against Cleveland, but good teams find a way. Joe Flacco did it when he had to do it."
ESPN.com: No. 7, no movement
"Joe Flacco now has two fourth-quarter comebacks this season and eight for his career."
Brian Billick, Foxsports.com: No. 10, moved down three spots
"It hardly seems fair that the Ravens drop three spots after a win, but it was less than convincing against a struggling Browns team. The division title will be up for grabs as the Ravens and Steelers square off in two of the next four weeks."
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: No. 6, moved up one spot
"The Baltimore Ravens sit at 6-2 after holding off the pesky Cleveland Browns on the road. Head coach John Harbaugh had nothing but positive remarks about his opponent, praising what's being built in Cleveland. Class. You can't teach it. Another thing that can't be taught: resilience. Baltimore is on pace for a 12-4 mark, despite some huge injuries (Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb) and offseason losses like Jarret Johnson, who now resides in San Diego. Give Harbaugh his props."
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: No. 10, moved down one spot
"When the coach regards a game against the Browns as a "must" win, it's obvious things aren't going well."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: No. 10, moved down two spots
Another unimpressive day -- for 50 minutes -- from quarterback Joe Flacco, who will be needed by Baltimore if it hopes to win big in January. Now: Raiders next week, then what that football-mad corridor between western Pennsylvania and the eastern shore of Maryland has been waiting for -- two Baltimore-Pittsburgh games in a 15-day span.
Brian McIntyre, Yahoo! Sports: No. 9, no movement
"The Ravens have not been themselves for the last month. Sunday's game against the Raiders will be a good opportunity for the Ravens to right the ship as they hit a critical three-game stretch of the schedule — two of their next three games are against the Steelers — that could decide the AFC North."
- Right guard Marshal Yanda was the only Raven to make Pete Prisco's midseason NFL All-Pro team. "He has bounced back from a so-so season for him in 2011 to play a high level," the columnist wrote. [CBSSports.com]
- With the Steelers coming up on the Ravens schedule, here's something to watch for next week … Receiver Antonio Brown, who has given the Ravens fits in the past, will likely miss this week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a right high ankle sprain. Will that injury linger? [Associated Press]
- Hensley gave Flacco an A for his performance in the first and fourth quarters of the Cleveland game, but a D for the second and third quarters, averaging out to a C-plus overall grade. [ESPN]
- Gregg Rosenthal listed Harbaugh as the ninth-best coach in his midseason coach power rankings, saying: "The Ravens are 6-2, seemingly just because of ingrained institutional memory. They're able to win many different styles of games." [NFL.com]
- Several Ravens players passed out winter coats yesterday in the ninth annual Coat Giveaway at the Helping Up Mission Homeless Shelter. As temperatures drop with winter months approaching, players like Torrey Smith feel privileged to help at a critical time. "The city means a lot to us as players, just like we mean a lot to the city, so anytime we get an opportunity to give back, we do," Smith said. [WJZ]