Playoff Schedule, Ravens Scenarios
The playoff schedule and Ravens' postseason scenarios are in.
Baltimore (No. 4 seed) will host the Indianapolis Colts (No. 5) at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS.
Obviously if the Ravens lose, they'll be one and done for the first time in the John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco era. But if they win, they'll travel to either Denver (No. 1 seed) or New England (No. 2).
Here are the Ravens' divisional scenarios:
Baltimore at Denver (Saturday, January 12, 4:30 p.m. on CBS):Ravens win PLUS Bengals (No. 6) loss to Houston Texans (No. 3)
Baltimore at New England (Sunday, January 13, 4:30 p.m. on CBS):Ravens win PLUS Bengals (No. 6) win over Houston Texans (No. 3)
The NFL announced the full wild-card and divisional playoff schedule late last night:
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND
Saturday, January 5
AFC: 4:30 p.m. (ET) Cincinnati at Houston (NBC)
NFC: 8 p.m. (ET) Minnesota at Green Bay (NBC)
Sunday, January 6
AFC: 1 p.m. (ET) Indianapolis at Baltimore (CBS)
NFC: 4:30 p.m. (ET) Seattle at Washington (FOX)
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Saturday, January 12
AFC: 4:30 p.m. (ET) Baltimore/Indianapolis/Cincinnati at Denver (CBS)
NFC: 8 p.m. (ET) Green Bay/Washington /Seattle at San Francisco (FOX)
Sunday, January 13
NFC: 1 p.m. (ET) Washington/Seattle/Minnesota at Atlanta (FOX)
AFC: 4:30 p.m. (ET) Houston/Baltimore/Indianapolis at New England (CBS)
Ravens Favored By 6.5, But Colts Popular Upset Pick
The Ravens are favored to beat the Colts by 6.5 points Sunday.
But Indianapolis is already a popular wild-card round upset pick.
"[T]here's plenty of reason to think the Ravens can crush the Colts," wrote CBSSports.com's Will Brinson. "But do you really want to bet against Pagano and Andrew Luck at this point?"
Even though the matchup seems* *to favor the Ravens, it's tough to count Indy out, especially after watching them play inspired football with absolutely nothing to gain as far as the AFC seeding. They were guaranteed the No. 5 seed, but in the return of Head Coach Chuck Pagano from a bout with cancer, the Colts knocked off their division rival and top-seeded Texans.
The Colts are the NFL's "most improbable playoff team," wrote FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez, partly because the young team already knows how to win close games. Nine of their 11 wins have come by seven points or less.
"This Colts' story just keeps getting better and better by the week. It's beyond even fairy-tale status, because no one could have dreamed it up in the first place," wrote SportsIllustrated.com's Don Banks. "I have a feeling they're going to be the most popular upset pick in the opening round of the NFL's 12-team Super Bowl tournament. Whatever category is a step or two beyond late-season mojo, that's what Indianapolis carries into the playoffs."
'No Issues' With Harbs' Decision, Strategy
Harbaugh's decision to rest his starters in the season finale was a strategic choice to make health his top priority heading into the playoffs.
As a consequence, the Ravens replacements couldn't deliver a win and Baltimore will head into the postseason losing four of its last five. Harbaugh could have kept his starters in the game, risking further injury to an already banged-up squad, but many analysts believe Harbaugh made the right call.
"I have no issues with how coach John Harbaugh handled this game," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "The Ravens have been banged up all year and they couldn't afford to lose more key players."
CSNBaltimore.com's J. Michael believes deactivating players, like Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Bernard Pollard (chest), "was a good decision."
"[T]hat statistic [1-4 record in December] looks really bad, but they needed to be healthy going into the playoffs," he said. "This defense, in particular, has been decimated all season. I didn't think he could take too many chances."
The Ravens had no guarantee of boosting their positioning in the AFC seeding with a win. They would have had to rely on the Miami Dolphins to beat the Patriots, and instead the Dolphins got smoked.
"When it came down to it, there were too many outside factors working against the Ravens to play their starters extensively — without any guarantee of a win, anyway," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Sunday's decision was a sign that the Ravens wanted to buy some stock in themselves instead of putting their health at further risk and hanging their hats on the mediocre Miami Dolphins to offer a hand.
"In weighing all the options, the guaranteed chance of having a healthier team in January was just too much for Harbaugh and the Ravens to pass up."
Rice Gives Burfict Piece Of Advice
Known for his undisciplined character, yet impressive play, Bengals undrafted rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict got into two separate scuffles with Ravens players – Ray Rice and Bobbie Williams – resulting in two personal foul calls against Baltimore.
Rice shoved Burfict to the ground in the first quarter after a play had ended (although it didn't look like Rice knew it was over with his back turned to the play), triggering an uncharacteristic unnecessary roughness penalty on the running back.
Rice said Burfict was talking a lot of trash, according to The Sun, and offered a piece of advice.
"I told him he'll be a great player if he didn't talk so much," Rice said, per Aaron Wilson. "I got a personal foul messing with him. I don't know if it was that personal. I cut him and went back and I finished him off.
"He's going to be a good player. He's feisty, that's what I told him. You see a young guy like that and talent will only take you so far."
Burfict didn't seem to take the advice.
He "gloated" after the Bengals win, in which he had a game-high 18 tackles.
"[Rice] chopped me," he said. "I don't know what he tried to do, but he tried to take a cheap shot. That's football. At the end of the day, he got a personal foul and I didn't. Big man wins. The old Vontaze would have did exactly what he did, talked a little [stuff] and then walked off."
Taylor 'Serviceable' Backup, But No Flacco
During the Ravens' recent three-game losing streak, quarterback Joe Flacco received heaps of criticism and the cries to start Tyrod Taylor grew.
With Flacco getting rest after two series yesterday in Cincinnati, fans got to see what Taylor could do against a starting defense. While his elusiveness and scrambling skills were exciting to watch, CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka says his performance proves that he is "nowhere near the quarterback Flacco is."
"[F]ans should realize, after seeing the game in Cincinnati, that [Taylor] is not the answer," Smolka wrote. "Don't misunderstand: Taylor is a serviceable backup who can come in and shake things up with an option pitch or a bootleg that he can turn into a big play. But he still struggles in the traditional passing game, as he is quick to bail on the pocket and try to make a play with his legs. … And despite what the Flacco haters say, that definitely is the Ravens' best option."
- Oh geez, is there any surprise that experts are already pulling for a Manning vs. Brady AFC championship. Get used to more commentary like this from Clark Judge: "Let's be honest, folks: The AFC playoffs are a two-team race, and Denver and New England are the two teams. … That should make it Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady for the conference championship game … how perfect." [CBSSports.com]
Pollard, who has been dealing with a rib injury and missed the last three games, said he could have played in Sunday's game against the Bengals if he was needed. "I could have went," Pollard told Wilson. "Just being smart." [The Baltimore Sun] * @vleach44: #Ravensnation I'm ok and will be ready for playoffs [Twitter] * @gerrysandusky: Joe Flacco [tied] the Ravens team record today for most consecutive starts: 80 in a row. He ties Jarret Johnson's mark. [Twitter] * @profootballtalk: The MVP award and all other regular-season awards from the AP will be announced . . . IN THIRTY-FOUR DAYS. [Twitter] * Tackle Michael Oher was fined $10,000 by the NFL for his chop block last week on Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka early in the third quarter [The Baltimore Sun] * @ravensinsider [Wilson]: Ravens evaluating tight end Billy Bajema for potential concussion. Nothing definitive yet. [Twitter] * @untouchablejay4 [Suggs]: ALLS WELL CHARM CITY! remember its chess not checkers. [Twitter] * @pmgleason [Ravens PR]: #Ravens set franchise single-season records for most points scored (398) & fewest turnovers (16) in 2012. [Twitter] * The Gradkowski bowl … Bengals backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and Ravens rookie backup center Gino Gradkowski both got extensive playing time in front of friends and family. … @bgradkowski5: We are very blessed to both be playing in the NFL and against each other [Twitter] * The Browns will get the sixth-overall pick in the draft, and the Steelers will get the 17th pick. [USA Today]