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Late for Work 12/20: After Crunching Numbers, the Most Likely Playoff Game Is Ravens vs. Chiefs


After Crunching Numbers, the Most Likely Playoff Game Is Baltimore vs. Kansas City

It's a little nerve-racking to even talk about the postseason because the Ravens still have to win their final two games to be guaranteed a ticket.

The players and coaches can't do it, but media and fans can have a little fun looking ahead. And the ESPN Football Power Index's crystal ball sees the Ravens playing the Kansas City Chiefs in the opening wild-card round.

In fact, based on FPI's fancy number crunching, a Ravens-Chiefs showdown is the "most likely playoff matchup," with a 67 percent chance of happening.

"The reason is the Chiefs appear locked in as the No. 4 seed and the Ravens are the favorites to be No. 5. Baltimore (8-6) can move into the fifth seed if it wins its last two regular-season games, and the Tennessee Titans (8-6) lose at least once. This is considered likely based on the teams that the Ravens and Titans have to face.

"Baltimore has the easiest remaining schedule of the four major wild-card contenders. … The Titans are tied for the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL."

The Ravens close their season at home against the Indianapolis Colts (3-11) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-9). The Titans will take on the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams (10-4) and the AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4).

Assuming the Ravens take care of business, there are many who feel Kansas City is a far better matchup than the alternative, which would likely be the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing broke it all down in this week's Mailbag.

How Does This Happen? Reaction to Ravens' Pro Bowl Snubs

Who knew there could be so much outrage over special teams? It's as if kickers and punters really are people too.

When the NFL announced its AFC and NFC 2018 Pro Bowl rosters, Ravens fans weren't too happy about kicker Justin Tucker and Sam Koch being left off the list.

There's no doubt Tucker and Koch are having Pro Bowl-worthy seasons, but were they more worthy than Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell and Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern?

"Count me among those who felt that Ravens kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch are Pro Bowl-worthy, but it isn’t an egregious snub that they are not going," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.

Tucker vs. BoswellThe most glaring weakness on Boswell's resume is his two missed extra points. Extra points should really never be missed, but one fluke kick is possible. Two? That hurts. Tucker hasn't missed one in his six-year NFL career.

Both kickers have missed three field goals this year, with one blocked for each kicker. Boswell's non-blocked misses were from 44 and 37 yards. Tucker's were from 58 and 62.

Boswell converted four kicks from beyond 50 yards, while Tucker hit five from that same range.

There are two problems for Tucker this season, however. Even though his missed kicks were from ridiculous distances, his overall field-goal percentage of .906 (29-of-32) ranks seventh in the AFC. Boswell ranked two spots ahead of him with a .935 (33-of-36) field-goal percentage.

The biggest thing voters probably looked at when giving Boswell the Pro Bowl nod THIS YEAR were his game-winning kicks. It's tough to ignore a kicker when he makes his biggest kicks, at the biggest moments, with the game on the line and his team depending on him.

Boswell has four game-winning field goals this season, including three as time expired against the Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals. Ravens fans will surly remember Boswell's fourth game-winner, as it was against Baltimore two weeks ago.

"To no fault of Tucker, Boswell has just had more opportunities with the game on the line, and those kicks are always going to stand out more to those selecting the Pro Bowl teams," wrote Zrebiec.

Koch vs. KernAfter Koch pinned the Cleveland Browns inside the 5-yard three times last week, fans are particularly irked about his snub.

The man has an eye-popping 37 punts that have pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line. Nobody else in the league comes anywhere close that mark, not even Kern. The Titans punter has 15 fewer.

The stat that goes against Koch is his 15th-ranked 45.4-yard gross punt average. In that area, Kern might be the best in NFL history.

"Kern is on pace to set an NFL record for top gross punting average in a single season, so you can see why he's Pro Bowl-bound despite the fact that no punter has been even close to Koch when it comes to pinning teams inside the 20," wrote Zrebiec.

On another note, let's not forget to celebrate the three players that were selected to the Pro Bowl: outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley. All three are deserving, and it's a testament to the respect people have for the Ravens defense.

Congratulations to Kamalei Correa on the Birth of His Daughter

Life seems to be going well for linebacker/special teams contributor Kamalei Correa, who welcomed in a darling little girl Sunday morning.

Correa gave her a beautiful name, Reign Ku'uipomaikeapoalewa Correa, which will be even more difficult to pronounce than her father's.

"My God has blessed me with a gift I'm forever grateful for and humbled to call this little girl my daughter," Correa wrote with the picture below. "Football does not define what kind of man I am but being a father to this little girl does. Nicole was amazing through it all, she is one of the strongest women I have ever met and [I'm] so grateful she is the mother of our little girl. Our God is truly amazing."

Carl Davis Adamant He'll Play Saturday, Jeremy Maclin's Status Still up in the Air

Neither defensive tackle Carl Davis (shoulder) nor wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (knee) finished last week's game in Cleveland because of injuries, so many will be watching their status for this week.

As of right now, Davis seems more likely to play when the Ravens host the Colts Saturday. That's because he was a limited participant in yesterday's walk-through and he said he plans to play.

"I had an unfortunate end to the game, but I'm fighting through it, and I'll be all right," Davis told The Sun's Edward Lee. "I want to be here for my teammates, and I don't want to miss this opportunity to be out there. So I should be good by then.

"I'll be ready to play. I've got to run it by the trainers and see what they think and see what the best option is for me and see what they want me to do. Yeah, I should be ready to go."

Maclin was listed as a non-participant in yesterday's practice, which isn't surprising based on the hard hit he absorbed from Browns safety Jabrill Peppers. Maclin temporarily returned after that hit, but he was still clearly injured and ended up leaving the game again and didn't finish.

"Maclin has taken a lot of outside criticism for both his body language and his weekly injury struggles," Zrebiec wrote. "I don't get into all of the finger pointing when we truly don’t know what he's going through physically, but let's not act as if he hasn't absorbed some huge hits this year in the middle of the field. The one Sunday by Peppers was the latest."

Ravens Coaching Staff Deserves Credit

When you really think about it, it's kind of crazy that the Ravens control their own destiny and are completely expected to advance to the playoffs with two games remaining.

Just think about what the team has endured in terms of injuries and adversity. Rock bottom may have been the Week 9 loss to the Tennessee Titans just before the bye week. That three-point defeat, combined with close losses to the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, seemed like major blows to the Ravens' season.

They went into the bye with a 4-5 losing record.

But since that time, Baltimore has flipped its record by winning four of the last five games and is now playing some of its best football.

"The team deserves credit for weathering adversity," wrote Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi. "When they fell to (4-5) on the season thanks in large part to an offense that then ranked 31st in the league, many of us laughed when head coach John Harbaugh said, 'We're in it!'

"Harbaugh hasn't wavered. His belief in his team and coordinators and all of the next-men-up who have filled in admirably for many competent vets lost for the season, has resonated. Today, the 2017 Baltimore Ravens appear more galvanized than at any point during the season. Their collective focus appears razor sharp and while their long-term goal is a championship, as a team, they possess steely-eyed conviction with short-term sights – one game at a time."

Some of the Ravens' season-ending losses included starting linebacker Zachary Orr, starting tight end Dennis Pitta, All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda, starting guard/tackle Alex Lewis, Pro Bowl-worthy cornerback Jimmy Smith, starting defensive end Brent Urban* *and ascending running back Kenneth Dixon.

"The 2017 season could have and should have been a colossal mess, yet for the moment, the Ravens appear stronger than they've been for years," Lombardi wrote. "And the oft-maligned coaching staff deserves credit for navigating the turbulent waters that 2017 has presented. "

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