Ravens Pro Bowl Selection Analysis
Fans, players and coaches voted, and they've determined that six Ravens players – the third most among all AFC teams – are deserving of a 2013 Pro Bowl nod.
Four Ravens starters: safety Ed Reed (9th Pro Bowl), fullback Vonta Leach (3rd), guard Marshal Yanda (2nd), and kick/punt returner Jacoby Jones (1st)
Two non-starters: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (4th), running back Ray Rice (3rd)
1st alternate: safety Bernard Pollard (1st)
Now it's time for the reaction. Who most and least deserved his selection, who was a surprise and who made it on reputation?
Jones, Yanda Make 'Perfect Sense'
It makes “perfect sense” to see Yanda return for his second Pro Bowl and Jones burst onto the scene for the first time of his career, says ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
While many linemen make it to Hawaii based on reputation, Hensley said that Yanda is not one of them. He deserved the nod after allowing zero sacks and only three quarterback hits this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Jones "made a splash" in his first season in Baltimore, becoming the first player in NFL history to record two kickoff returns for touchdowns of at least 105 yards.
Reed Made It On Reputation
Of the Ravens' six Pro Bowlers, Reed is the one who made it on his past reputation, according to Hensley.
A quick look around the Web will tell you that Chargers safety Eric Weddle was one of – if not THE – biggest Pro Bowl snubs this season. Weddle called his absence from the list "a slap in the face."
CBSSports.com's Clark Judge believes Weddle's name should have appeared in place of LaRon Landry's, while Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole says he could have taken Reed's spot too.
"Reed … symbolizes what happens when a guy makes several Pro Bowls," Cole wrote. "All of a sudden, he makes one or two when his ability has started to fade. Reed is still a fine player and a future Hall of Famer. But there are plenty of better free safeties in the AFC, starting with [Weddle]."
Ngata A Surprise
CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson was surprised to see Ngata make his fourth Pro Bowl after the massive defensive tackle struggled with shoulder and knee issues for most of the season.
"By all accounts, Ngata had an off-year," Wilson wrote. "And while his numbers don't look much different from previous years – 51 tackles, 5 sacks – he hasn't dominated the line of scrimmage."
Cole believes that Leach is undeserving of his Pro Bowl trip, but Cole's reasoning is interesting. It's not because Leach isn't a top fullback, it's because the fullback position's significance has dwindled in today's NFL offenses.
"Look, no offense to Leach and Felton, a couple of guys who are just doing their jobs," Cole wrote. "However, fullback is about as useful in today's NFL as an appendix. Yeah, there are some occasional short-yardage plays and power-running schemes, but most teams rarely use a true fullback and, if they do, it's not much more than about 30 percent of the time. This is the era of three-, four- and five-wide receiver sets. Fullbacks are little more than window dressing."
While the fullback trend may be true from a global NFL perspective, that's not how Rice feels, who has said that Leach is the best thing that has ever happened to him since becoming a Raven.
Harbaugh Deserves COY Consideration
With the AP Coach of the Year honors around the corner, Judge named five coaches who likely won't be in the final conversation, but deserve to be considered.
Atlanta's Mike Smith and Denver's John Fox are expected to be among the top vote-getters, but Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and his five consecutive playoff appearances merit mention.
Harbaugh has exceeded Judge's expectations. The columnist predicted before the season began that Baltimore would miss out on a postseason berth because of the Achilles tendon injury to Terrell Suggs, plus the distracting contract negotiations with Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco.
Thus, Judge picked the Bengals and Steelers to make the playoffs, with Baltimore taking a step back.
"I underestimated Harbaugh," he wrote. "I know, he had that three-game losing streak where the Ravens looked miserable ... and he fired his offensive coordinator with three weeks left ... and he lucked out with that fourth-and-29 in San Diego. But he just won his second straight AFC North championship, for crying out loud, and that counts for a lot.
"All I know is that there are fewer coaches in this league more predictable than Harbaugh. Every year you can count on him in the playoffs. Moreover, every year he wins at least one playoff game, and tell me who else can say that the last five seasons. Someone? Anyone? At some point, we must recognize Harbaugh for what he is: One of the game's sharpest, shrewdest and best head coaches."
Ravens' Complete List Of 2013 Opponents
Now that the AFC division winners have been decided, the Ravens' complete list of 2013 opponents are set.
All AFC North teams will play each other twice, plus these AFC East and these NFC North teams: Patriots, Jets, Packers, Vikings, Bills, Dolphins, Bears and Lions.
What hadn't been decided prior to last weekend were which AFC South and West teams the Ravens would draw. As the division winner, Baltimore will play the winner of each of those two divisions next year: the Houston Texans and the Denver Broncos.
Here's the complete list of the Ravens' home and away opponents (outside the division) in 2013:
Home: New England, N.Y. Jets, Green Bay, Minnesota and Houston.
Away: Buffalo, Miami, Chicago, Detroit and Denver.
Ravens Q&A: Put Ravens On A Lie Detector …
Hensley hosted an AFC North chat with fans, and here are a few interesting opinions about the Ravens you may want to debate amongst yourselves.
Question: "Regarding Baltimore's 1st round playoff game, I feel like they can beat Bengals without too many problems. An emotional Colts team, however, riding on Luck's arm could pose some problems for the Raven's defense. Thoughts?"
Answer: "Put the Ravens on the lie detector, and my guess is they would prefer to play the Colts instead of the Bengals. Cincinnati has more playmakers and can get after the quarterback on defense. Luck has been good, but he's still a rookie and throws a lot of picks."
Question: "How far do you think that the Cincinnati Bengals & the Baltimore Ravens will be in the Playoffs?"
Answer: "I don't see either team winning more than one playoff game." (If they face each other in the first round, one of them will have to.)
Question: "Why is Norv Turner a***pipe dream**** for the Ravens OC next year?"*
Answer: "Even though he has said he would consider an OC job, not sure why he would take that step down after being a head coach for all of these years."
Question: "After week 17 is finished, which team would the bengals have a better match up against?"
Answer: "The Bengals would be smiling if they played in Baltimore instead of New England in the first round."
Question: "Both Marvin and Harbs seem to be talking a good game this Sunday about playing to win. Your thoughts on what will really happen?"
Answer: "It's hard to rest all of your starters when you only have a 53-man roster. But both coaches should take this opportunity to take this as a bye because they're not getting one in the postseason."
- The Bengals feel like they owe the Ravens one after suffering their worst lost since 2010 in the season opener in Baltimore. [The Baltimore Sun]
- Michael Oher may not have deserved his personal-foul penalty for a chop block Sunday. [CSNBaltimore.com]
- Flacco received an “A” grade for his performance Sunday, going 25-for-36 for 309 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. [ESPN]
- @vleach44: Thanks to my teammates, fans and peers it a great honor to be selected to my 3rd pro bowl. Congrats to everyone who made it [Twitter]
- @pmgleason: #Ravens have had at least 5 players named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past 5 seasons. [Twitter]
- @jasonbuttcbs: Good sign for #Ravens to have Bernard Pollard fully participate in practice. Same goes Dannell Ellerbe, who had no setbacks w/ ankle. [Twitter]
- @ravens: Paul Kruger now leads all 3-4 outside LBs in Pass Rushing Productivity, according to @PFF [Twitter]