There's been a massive amount of news since our last installment of Late for Work last Friday. With an extra day off for Christmas Day, it feels like an eternity ago.
Speaking of Christmas, here's wishing you and your family had a merry one.
OK, let's get to it all …
Ravens Interested in James Harrison? Nothing More Than Rumors at This Point
Of all the weekend news, the topic we've received the most questions about is whether the Ravens could potentially sign outside linebacker James Harrison to help supplement the pass rush for a deep post-season run.
The Steelers released the 39-year-old veteran Saturday to make room for guard Marcus Gilbert, who finished serving a four-game suspension.
Apparently, a report from CBS Sports indicated both the Ravens and New England Patriots have interest in Harrison, although, I can't find that report digitally. There are blogs, like the one below, who are crediting CBS Sports, so it's possible it was mentioned on air before Sunday's games. (If anyone has the CBS report, please send it my way.)
I'm giving space to the idea because it sent Ravens, Patriots and Steelers fans alike into a tizzy. All are looking for answers.
After 14 years in Pittsburgh, the thought of Harrison signing with a Steelers rival to potentially spoil his former team's playoff goals is a true nightmare for Steelers fans and a heavenly dream for Ravens and Patriots fans. It's easy to see why Baltimore fans would get excited about seeing Harrison in purple taking down quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, just as he's done to quarterback Joe Flacco over the years.
But, at this point, it looks like fantasizing about such a scenario is as far as this will go.
Harrison went unclaimed on waivers and became a free agent Monday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That means both the Ravens and Patriots passed on the 15-year veteran.
"Any team could have claimed Harrison's contract, with the player ultimately being awarded based on priority driven by the reverse priority of teams, from worst to first," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio. "Some had speculated that the Patriots would claim Harrison. Others thought the Ravens would.
"In the end, no one did. Which means he can re-sign with the Steelers as soon as tomorrow, if they want him. And if he wants them."
Until Harrison signs with another team, it's possible the Ravens could still sign him as a free agent, which will make the questions persist.
Analysts thought the Ravens could pad their sack stats Saturday because they were facing an offensive line that had allowed the most sacks (53) in the NFL heading into the game. More injuries along the line seemed to make that an even greater possibility.
But for much of the night, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw from a clean pocket. Baltimore did pick up two sacks, including one on a critical third-down late in the game that contributed to the game-sealing defensive stand.
The Ravens could also potentially make room on the roster by placing cornerback Jaylen Hill on injured reserve, says The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, after he suffered what looked to be a "pretty significant knee injury" Saturday. The Ravens have yet to comment on that injury, however.
It's completely understandable why the Ravens passed on putting a waiver claim on Harrison, and why they may opt not to sign him as a free agent. Harrison has appeared in only five games this season, with no starts and only one sack. The Ravens are seventh (tied with four other teams) in the league in sacks with 40.
Zrebiec brought fans back down to reality.
If Ravens Win Sunday, They'll Face Kansas City Chiefs … More Playoff Scenarios
The playoffs are so close for the Ravens, yet so far away.
After Saturday's nail-biting win over the Indianapolis Colts, there is now a 71 percent chance the Ravens (fifth seed) play the Kansas City Chiefs (fourth seed) on wild-card weekend, according to ESPN's Seth Walder.
The Chiefs are officially locked in as the fourth seed, so they will either host the Ravens, Tennessee Titans or Buffalo Bills.
"The Ravens are in the best situation among the AFC's wild-card candidates," wrote ESPN's Kevin Seifert. "They can clinch with a Week 17 victory over the Bengals. Even if they lose, they'll get one of the two wild-card spots if the Bills or the Titans lose."
It's far from a lock that Baltimore advances, however.
Of the Ravens' last five season finales, four came against the Bengals. The Ravens lost all four. The odds are better this year because Baltimore finally gets a home game and it already trounced Cincy, 20-0, in Week 1, but nobody can look past the Bengals.
You can't count on the Bills or Titans folding either.
Buffalo already beat the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago, 24-16. Even though the Bills will have to travel this time, the Dolphins have little to play for after already being eliminated.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars defense got torched by the San Francisco 49ers Sunday and wound up losing, 44-33. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looks to be the real deal, and he showed the Jacksonville defense can be taken down. Plus, the Jaguars are locked into the No. 3 seed, win or lose, so they may not go all out against the Titans.
Below are all the playoff scenarios, which show there's still plenty to play for this weekend. The Patriots and Steelers (sans Antonio Brown) are fighting for homefield advantage and the final two wild-card spots are up for grabs.
Mike Wallace Defends Breshad Perriman After 'Bronx Cheer'
When Breshad Perriman was asked by The Sun's Edward Lee for his reaction to the "Bronx cheers" Ravens fans gave after each of his two catches in Saturday's game, the 2015 first-round pick said he didn't know the cheers were meant to be sarcastic.
Perriman took the news with a grain of salt.
"I didn't know what the cheers were for," he told Lee after the game. "I didn't know if they were good or bad. So I can’t be mad.
"It is what it is. Regardless, I'm going to still do me and get in my playbook. I don't care what they do. They can boo me if they want."
Wide receiver Mike Wallace, who is more vocal and a loyal teammate, had a different reaction. Wallace knows what Perriman has been through both on the field with injuries and off it with his good friend and teammate's death and dad's health scare.
"That [stuff] is disrespectful," Wallace said. "I don't agree with that. I would have flipped them the bird, everybody, if that was me. I'm happy he's not like me. I would have turned around and flipped the bird to the whole stadium. That's just me. I don't care who likes it or how they feel. That's disrespectful. They're acting like he's trying to have bad games. That's the nature of the business though. To me, I feel like it was disrespectful, but you can't get too caught up into it."
Many fans clarified on social media that their cheers for Perriman were genuine and shouldn't be conflated with the sarcastic cheers from others. Those who participated in the Bronx cheer defended it by saying it's their way of showing their dissatisfaction with Perriman's play and the Ravens' decision to draft him in the first round.
January Joe Is Impressive, But December Joe Ain't Bad Either
Unprompted, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs mentioned Saturday that he's looking forward to seeing "January Joe" if the Ravens make the playoffs.
I admit I'm also super excited to see him for the first time since 2014. However, let's not look past how good "December Joe" has been this year. Flacco made his 20th career home start in December and is now 15-5 in those games after the win over the Colts. That's the second-best win percentage among active quarterbacks.
"The most encouraging trend of the last month continued Saturday as Joe Flacco turned in his fourth consecutive good performance," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "It's no secret that the 10th-year quarterback is in the midst of one of the most trying seasons of his career, but he looks healthier and his play down the stretch has reflected that."
Jones pointed out that Saturday marked the fourth straight game in which Flacco has thrown for at least 237 yards after doing so just once in the first 11 contests this year. He's also cleaned up his game, throwing seven touchdowns to one interception over the last four weeks.
"Most impressive about Flacco's rise has been him doing it with a less-than-ideal supporting cast," Jones wrote. "The Ravens are currently playing with one established NFL wide receiver in Mike Wallace, who recorded his fourth straight game with at least 60 receiving yards. Flacco's scores went to two players — Michael Campanaro and Maxx Williams — who hadn't caught touchdown passes in over two years. The offensive line has improved since the bye week, but its season-long trials are hardly a secret."
- "The Falcons are crazy if they don't bend over backward to lure Gary Kubiak there next season," wrote Jason La Canfora. "That passing game never got going despite having the same weapons as a year ago, when Atlanta was the NFL's best. Kubiak is one of Kyle Shanahan's mentors and the Falcons are trying, and failing, to run Shanahan's offense without him. Baltimore should move heaven and earth to try to bring him back as well." [CBS Sports]