Eric Weddle's Perfect Reaction To Pro Bowl Robbery
Many considered him a "lock."
But when the NFL announced its 2017 Pro Bowl roster, arguably the best safety in football was missing. Eric Weddle was instead named a second-alternate.
That was the perfect response, Eric.
Finding joy in teammates' success is admirable. Plus, there's no sweeter joy in life than sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers – I'm not sure even a Pro Bowl bid can compare. The Ravens experienced that jubilation last year, and doing it for a second consecutive season could quite possibly make Baltimore City explode with Christmas cheer. So, I like that you're keeping your eye on the prize.
While Weddle seems to have already moved on, I'm going to protest on his behalf just a little more.
I'm not trying to hate on Pro Bowl starters Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs) and Devin McCourty (New England Patriots), or backup Reggie Nelson (Oakland Raiders). They've had excellent seasons, especially Berry who is scoring points on defense and is deserving of his Pro Bowl bid. But, Weddle has the edge in the stats department over the others.
Weddle: 81 tackles, one sack, 11 passes defensed and four interceptions
Berry: 73 tackles, eight passes defensed and three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns)
McCourty: 70 tackles, seven passes defensed and one interception
Nelson: 60 tackles, 10 passes defensed and four interceptions
Pro Football Focus grades Weddle ahead of all of them as well.
And it's not just the stats;* *Weddle has helped transform the Ravens secondary, which had a league- and franchise-low six interceptions last season and finished as the No. 23 pass defense.
"I will be the first to admit that I was dead wrong on Weddle," wrote NFL Media's Connor Orr, who listed Weddle as one of the league's biggest snubs. "I thought the three-time Pro Bowler's best years were behind him, but 2016 taught me a lesson. Patriots game aside – who hasn't Tom Brady done that to? – Weddle's four picks, 11 passes defensed and 81 tackles stand up to some of his best seasons in San Diego. Ozzie Newsome's free agency gamble paid off in a big way."
But, I digress.
Below are more reactions to other Ravens Pro Bowl bids and snubs:
FB Kyle Juszczyk (1st Pro Bowl):"At a time when more teams are not using fullbacks, Juszczyk has played 409 snaps, which are 116 more than any other fullback." – ESPN's Jamison Hensley
LB C.J. Mosley (2ndPro Bowl): "Mosley's selection was arguably the biggest surprise of the four as he ranks just third on the team in tackles (72) entering Week 16. However, the 2014 first-round pick ranks second on the Ravens with three interceptions and has graded out as the seventh-best linebacker — not including edge defenders — in the NFL, according to PFF. Two years ago, Mosley became the first Ravens player to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie." – WNST's Luke Jones
K Justin Tucker (2ndPro Bowl):"He has arguably been the most dangerous weapon for the Ravens. … The 27-year-old kicker leads the NFL in field goals made with 33 (on 34 attempts), tied the league record for most field goals of 50-plus yards in a single season with 10 and overtook the Dallas Cowboys' Dan Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history with a career success rate of 89.6 (163-for-182)." – The Baltimore Sun's Edward Lee
G Marshal Yanda (6th Pro Bowl):"The 32 year old is now the fifth player to be named to six Pro Bowls with the Ravens, joining Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs." -- Jones
DT Brandon Williams (snub): "It's the second straight year that Williams has been snubbed. He is the anchor of the NFL's No. 2 run defense. … Despite the lack of recognition, Williams is expected to draw significant interest in free agency." -- Hensley
TE Dennis Pitta (snub): "You could make the case that Pitta should make it on his remarkable comeback alone. Some thought Pitta's career was over after he fractured his right hip in 2013 and 2014. In his first season back, he ranks third among tight ends with 67 catches, trailing only Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen. Pitta also leads the Ravens in receptions." -- Hensley
To Guarantee Playoff Spot, Ravens Need To Accomplish Something Not Done Since September
The clearest path to the playoffs for the Ravens is winning out.
To win out, they must capture road victories.
Unfortunately, Baltimore hasn't accomplished that feat in three months.
"The last time the Ravens won a road game, the weather was warm, the month was September, and the opponent was the Jaguars," wrote CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown.
"That doesn't bode well for the Ravens' playoff chances. They can only guarantee themselves a playoff spot by winning their last two games – at Pittsburgh on Sunday, and at Cincinnati on Jan. 1. For the Ravens to pull that off, they will have to snap a four-game road losing streak."
Since winning in Jacksonville, the Ravens have fallen to the New York Giants (10-4), New York Jets (4-10), Dallas Cowboys (12-2) and New England Patriots (12-2). Outside of the Jets, it's hard to put too much stock into the Ravens' road losses.
The Patriots and Cowboys have the best records in football, and the Giants are expected to advance to the postseason. The Ravens were missing five Pro Bowlers in their loss to the Jets (including two 2017 Pro Bowlers in Yanda and Mosley).
The Ravens opened as 5.5-point underdogs for Sunday's game, but they love playing in Heinz Field and have won their last two meetings there. Despite finishing 5-11, Baltimore still beat the Steelers on the road last season, and the Ravens also pulled off an upset in the 2014 playoffs in Pittsburgh.
Even if the Ravens notch a victory on Christmas day, don't forget they have to pull off another road win in Cincinnati the following week.
"I've seen the Ravens-Steelers game billed as 'winner take all' but that's not the case," wrote The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "In fact, I think the Bengals' game will be nearly as difficult for the Ravens as the Steelers' one will be. The Bengals have beaten the Ravens four straight times in Cincinnati and stud receiver A.J. Green figures to play in that game."
Careful With Vetoing Power
Head Coach John Harbaugh took blame for not vetoing the "all-time worst play call" in Sunday's white-knuckle win over the Philadelphia Eagles. It led to a quarterback Joe Flacco interception that sparked a come-from-behind near win for the Eagles.
While many agree with Harbaugh's assessment, Zrebiec sees some fans wanting to take that vetoing power too far going forward.
"What is unfair is this notion that Harbaugh should be stepping in and vetoing [Offensive Coordinator Marty] Mornhinweg's play calls. That's been a popular suggestion this season, but that would undermine the whole system and benefit no one," Zrebiec wrote. "It would cause delays in getting plays on the field and create confusion with Flacco and the offense. It also would completely diminish Mornhinweg, who you want to be calling plays with conviction and confidence.
"Harbaugh absolutely should remind Mornhinweg on the sideline from time to time to run the football. There was a timeout before the Flacco interception, so Harbaugh presumably had ample opportunity Sunday to tell Mornhinweg to take a couple of shots at running the ball. But suggesting that the head coach should regularly veto the play calls of the offensive coordinator is ridiculous. It just doesn't work that way."
Flacco Nearing 4,000-Yard Mark
It seems like it's been asked for years whether this is the season that Flacco finally throws for 4,000 passing yards.
Well, for the first time in his nine-year career, it looks like he will accomplish that feat. He essentially needs to throw for just over 100 yards in each of the Ravens' final two games to hit the milestone.
"Despite this hardly being his best campaign, Joe Flacco is 212 yards away from his first 4,000-yard season," wrote Jones. "The problem is he's also on pace to shatter his career high for passing attempts (614 in 2013) and is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, the second-lowest mark of his career."
While the 4,000-yard milestone has been a focus for so long, it obviously doesn't necessarily correlate to team success. Flacco has come close two times before, including in 2014 (3,986 yards) and 2013 (3,912).
With Gary Kubiak as the offensive coordinator, Flacco had one of his best seasons in 2014, which also coincided with a 10-6 record and running back Justin Forsett reaching the Pro Bowl. In 2013, however, the Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time in the Harbaugh-Flacco era.
Top-10 Steelers That Ravens Fans Love To Hate
The Baltimore Sun produced a top-10 Steelers list of players that Ravens fans love to hate:
10) TE Heath Miller
9) S Mike Mitchell
8) K Jeff Reed
7) OLB James Harrison
6) S Ryan Clark
5) HC Mike Tomlin
4) QB Ben Roethlisberger
3) OLB Joey Porter
2) S Troy Polamalu
1) WR Hines Ward
What do you think of the list? How would you order it?
And by the way, just because the Steelers are bitter rivals doesn't mean we can't extend a little holiday cheer their way. Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.