Late For Work 12/29: Shhhhh. Joe Flacco About To Make NFL History

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Shhhhh. Flacco About To Make NFL History

Joe Flacco is set to make NFL history next week, but keep it on the down low.

Shhh RT @NFLhistory: Next week, @Ravens' Joe Flacco can become 1st QB of Super Bowl era to start a playoff game in 6 of 1st 7 @NFL seasons — lindsey ok (@lindseyyok) December 28, 2014

Flacco inspired his teammates with an "intense" and "powerful" speech that they say snapped them out of their three-quarter funk and propelled them to a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback victory.

But Flacco has no fire and isn't a leader, they say.

Flacco has only missed the playoffs once in his seven-year career. His perfect fourth-quarter performance Sunday (literally perfect – he had a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating) propelled his team to a 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. But Matt Ryan (who was drafted ahead of Flacco in 2008) threw two pick-sixes and crumbled with the season on the line in a 34-3 blowout loss, and is supposedly a better quarterback.

Yeah, they still say Flacco isn't worth franchise money.

Flacco is in the playoffs 6 out of 7 years. But yeah, he sucks. — lindsey ok (@lindseyyok) December 28, 2014

The last time Flacco reached the postseason, he produced a historic run while throwing 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. But they say that's because Ray Lewis made him do it.

"Don't bet on that happening again," wrote ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha. "He's simply not the kind of quarterback who is going to get into a zone like that very often. That's one reason why the Ravens have been criticized for rewarding him with a $120 million contract extension. Flacco isn't entering this postseason with as much talent as he had that year – or the emotional motivation supplied by retiring linebacker Ray Lewis. … Flacco never will be the type of quarterback who can carry a franchise."

Oh good, glad you cleared that up for us.

The facts are that Flacco is a real leader, he does inspire his teammates and he can carry his team if needed. He doesn't speak up often, but when he does, his teammates listen.

He delivered his most clutch performance of the year Sunday, completing eight of his final nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. And he did it with both of his starting tackles missing, a "worn-down" journeyman running back and not a "true No. 1" wide receiver. It was his 21st game-winning drive of his career.

Flacco, of course, has had his bad moments, especially in Houston (three interceptions) and in the first three quarters against the Browns. The outcome of the games coincided with Flacco's play.

That's why ESPN's Jamison Hensley says the Ravens' playoff success is tied to Flacco's ability to put the team on his back.

"When he is on target, Flacco can carry an offense," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens will play at the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday night, and how far they go ultimately rests on the strong arm of Flacco. … The scary part for the Ravens is they don't know which Flacco will show up. It varies from week to week, quarter to quarter." 

But don't worry, if Flacco has a big game in Pittsburgh and the Ravens advance to the divisional round, there's already a built-in excuse for the haters.

"Given what he has right now -- a surprisingly effective running back in Justin Forsett and some solid receivers – he might get the Ravens past the wild-card round," wrote Chadiha.

Steelers 'Excited' To Draw Ravens In Playoffs

Saturday will mark the fourth time the Ravens and Steelers will face off in the postseason.

The other three times? Well, the Steelers won them all.

So how do those annoying, yellow-towel wavers feel about drawing Baltimore once again for a playoff showdown?

"I look forward to it," Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said in his post-game press conference following his 27-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North title.

"It's going to be typical Steelers-Ravens. Steelers-Ravens in January. It's been a while since we had that. I know we're going to be excited."

Get ready for some smash-mouth, knock-em-down, drag-em-out, black-and-blue, lower-the-boom type football.  That's just the way it has always been between these two teams.

The last time these two teams met in the in the playoffs was in the 2010 season. The squads for each city are very different, with only a few familiar faces remaining like Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs and Troy Polamalu.

Obviously the AFC North rivals met twice during the regular season – splitting the games – but as physical as those contests were, get ready for a whole new level. As such, Tomlin says there will need to be an education process for the new, young players.

"We take a lot of pride in being from the North. We're probably going to have to educate some of our guys to what that means," Tomlin said. "And I'm sure they're going to have to do the same thing (and) educate some of their guys to what that means because it's been a while."

There's probably little coincidence that all three previous postseason matchups were in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers capitalized on that home-field advantage. So if the Ravens are going to snap the losing streak, they'll have to find a way to do it at Heinz Field.

So you think the Steelers are happy they will get home-field advantage … again?

"Heck yeah," center Maurkice Pouncey said with a big-man giggle and wide smile.

Steelers Might Be Without Their MVP

There is some panic in Pittsburgh this Monday morning.

It surrounds running back and Steelers MVP Le'Veon Bell, who left Sunday night's game against Cincinnati with a hyperextended knee. Take a look. OUCH!

Tomlin announced that there was no structural damage to Bell's knee, but his status for Saturday's playoff matchup is unknown. If he can't play, Pittsburgh analysts aren't sure if the Steelers can overcome it.

"It will be the Steelers' worst nightmare if Bell can't play against the Ravens," wrote Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook.

Watch Steelers Execute Worst Fake Punt Of Week

The Steelers looked dangerous last night. Very, very dangerous. Especially wide receiver Antonio Brown, who even the most ardent Ravens fan would have to give props for his incredible 71-yard punt return and flip into the end zone.

But I know Ravens fans prefer to relish bad plays from the Steelers, and few are worse than this. SB Nation deemed it the "worst fake punt of the week."

Enjoy.

Harbaugh To Send Andy Reid Thank You Text Message

Head Coach John Harbaugh told CSNBaltimore.com that he plans to send a little thank you text to his former mentor in Philadelphia, Andy Reid.

Thanks to Reid and the Chiefs, the Ravens were able to punch their playoff ticket. Had Kansas City lost to San Diego, it would be the Chargers playing the Steelers in the wild-card round.

A big thank you should also go out to linebacker Justin Houston, after a phenomenal four-sack performance that made Philip Rivers lose his mind.

Priceless Reaction From Suggs …

Did the Ravens pay attention to the Chargers-Chiefs score? Did they use it as a little motivation to get things done in Baltimore against the Browns?

Terrell Suggs' priceless reaction: "Hell yeah!"

Quick Hits

Want to see the highlights from the other AFC games that led to the Ravens advancing? Here ya go! How the AFC playoff picture unfolded in chronological order. [NFL Network]

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