Broncos Win Puts Heat On Ravens
The Denver Broncos (10-3) rolled to their eighth straight victory last night, beating the Oakland Raiders, 26-13, taking over the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the divisional round.
And if the Ravens want even a shot at taking all that back this week, they need a win against the Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon.
Peyton Manning now has the luxury of comfortably sitting on his couch Sunday afternoon, "knowing he put heat" on the Ravens (and Patriots), and watch to see if either can take back the No. 2 spot.
The Broncos win gives them a half-game lead on Baltimore and the Patriots, who play the AFC's current No. 1 seed Houston Texans Monday.
According to ESPN's playoff machine …
- If both the Ravens and Pats win this weekend, they will continue to be in a three-way tie and the seeding remains: 2) Pats, 3) Ravens, 4) Broncos
- If both the Ravens and Pats lose this weekend, the seeding becomes: 2) Broncos, 3) Ravens, 4) Patriots
- If the Ravens lose and the Pats win this weekend, the seeding becomes: 2) Pats, 3) Broncos 4) Baltimore
- If the Ravens win and the Pats losethis weekend, the seeding becomes: 2)Ravens, 3)Broncos, 4) Pats
"The Ravens and Patriots probably head into the weekend feeling some pressure after watching Denver hit double-digit wins Thursday night," wrote ESPN's Bill Williamson.
That said, even if the Ravens lose against the Redskins, they could still re-take the No. 2 seed next week by beating Denver in a head-to-head matchup at M&T Bank Stadium (with some help from the Pats).
But that will be a tall task.
The Broncos are red hot. They are riding the NFL's longest win streak, the offense is gelling and Manning looks like the league's MVP.
"Regardless of whether Denver gets the edge this weekend, it knows it has a big game against Baltimore," wrote Williamson. "That contest is important for several reasons.
"If the Broncos can go on the road and take a game away from a potential playoff opponent, it will serve both as a confidence-builder and a message to the rest of the AFC – particularly coming from a Denver team that lost to Houston and New England earlier in the season."
Kruger Fined For Pulling Up Jersey Too High
Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger was fined $5,000 by the NFL for violating uniform rules, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Kruger indicated the fine was for wearing his jersey too high, exposing the back of his shoulder pads.
"[He] frequently wears his jersey tight and pulled up high, presumably because it makes it harder for opposing offensive linemen to grab it. But now that habit has proved costly for Kruger," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith.
Kruger said he would appeal the fine, and never received a warning.
Did Cam Newton "Diss" Ray Lewis?
Something caught the eye of CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco when he noticed at the 2012 Pro Bowl that pass rushers where actually trying to go hard after then-rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
That's a rare thing in Pro Bowls these days.
So Prisco polled some players and found out that many were upset with Newton for being a "standoffish diva" at the Pro Bowl, a game known for being laid back and a chance to spend mingle with peers.
An unnamed player told Prisco that Newton even "dissed" Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
"That's the godfather there," he said. "Can you believe he did that?"
Said another player: "It didn't matter who it was, he didn't care about anybody but himself."
Prisco said that Lewis denied he was dissed when asked through Public Relations Vice President Kevin Byrne.
"But other players confirmed that it happened," wrote Prisco.
Even if he was dissed, do you think a 37-year-old Lewis cares? Lewis seems above the childish drama, if you ask me.
Goodell Floats Idea Of Eliminating Kickoffs
With NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell focused on reducing the number of head injuries suffered during NFL games, he told TIME magazine that he recently discussed the idea of eliminating kickoffs from the game.
Instead of the kickoff, the scoring team would get the ball on its own 30-yard line with a 4th-and-15 situation. It would have the option to pick up the 15 yards and first down (replacing the onside kick) or punt.
"The idea would be to remove completely the high-speed, open-field collisions between large men who dip their heads instinctively at impact and place extra pressure on the C3-C4 area of the spine," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio. "While other injuries would be possible during the punt play that replaces the kickoff, the risk of catastrophic injury would be reduced."
But after the way fans reacted when the NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line, decreasing the number of returns, they may not take to this idea very well if it is actually implemented.
"Limiting kickoff returns is one thing (even that drew groans from fans), but eliminating them completely in favor of an off-the-wall replacement rule? That might change the game dramatically, and not necessarily for the better," wrote SI.com's Chris Burke.
College Roommate: Bad Blood Between Tomlin, Harbs
Well the insignificant, but "awkward" handshake between Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh continues to fuel chatter.
Harbaugh said he wasn't uncomfortable, and Tomlin said he was just in a hurry to get back to the locker room.
But Tomlin's college roommate and NFL Network analyst Darren Sharper said there is something more going on.
"There's bad blood between these two coaches," Sharper said, per USA Today. "You think about the fact that the teams do not like each other, so that carries over to the coaches because they're the ones preaching to the team before the games.
"And before this game there was a little bit of an incident in which Coach Harbaugh had some comments after they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers which he knew the camera was on, too."
USA Today's Nate Davis says the comments Sharper is referring to was a locker room clip in which Harbaugh said to his team: "The toughest team won that football game. The mentally tough team won that football game. The better team won the football game. The team that knows how to win won that football game."
Said Sharper: "I know this for sure. I talked to Mike, and after the game I asked him about the handshake, and he said that there is some bad blood there. And he did not appreciate what Coach Harbaugh said postgame after the first victory."
Week 14 Picks: Ravens vs. Redskins
The Baltimore Sun: 4 of 7 pick Ravens
Zrebiec (Ravens 23, Redskins 21): "I have no idea how the Ravens are going to slow down RGIII, but this is the type of game that over the years, they've risen up and found a way to win. I think they'll do it again, barely."
ESPN.com: 8 of 12 pick Redskins
Yahoo! Sports: 2 of 3 pick Ravens
SportingNews.com (Vinnie Iyer): Ravens 24, Redskins 23
"This is a critical game for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Ray Rice will be held in check by the Redskins' run defense, so the Ravens need to be aggressive with Flacco because Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Rice create issues for Washington's vulnerable back seven coverage. The Ravens have been very good at rebounding from tough losses under John Harbaugh, and they will grind out a victory in their backyard."
FoxSports.com (Peter Schrager): Redskins 31, Ravens 23
"The fine folks of Pikesville, Maryland, don't want to hear this, but the Ravens are in trouble. And they're not just in trouble in terms of the No. 2 seed in the AFC (which the Patriots currently possess due to the NFL's three-team tiebreaker rules), and not just the AFC North title, either — but for a playoff berth, at all. The Ravens are 9-3, but have the Redskins in Washington this weekend, the Broncos in Week 15, the Giants in Week 16, and the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 17. Are any of those games surefire wins? Baltimore's been fortunate all season long. Did Week 13's loss to the Charlie Batch-led Steelers expose the Ravens? We'll find out rather quickly. RG3 could take this defense to school."
CBSSports.com (Pete Prisco): Redskins 26, Ravens 20
"The Ravens are struggling to score and now must go play a hot team in the Redskins. Washington has done some good things on offense in the past month and the Ravens defense isn't what we've come to expect. Look for the Redskins to inch closer to a potential playoff spot."
SI.com (Peter King): Redskins 23, Ravens 16
"You know what the saddest part of this game is? That Ray Lewis won't be playing in it. Think about it. Ray Lewis is going to go down as a top 20 player of all time. Robert Griffin III is one of the most exciting rookies to enter the NFL – ever. And Lewis is one week away from a likely return after his torn arm muscle. I just wish we could have seen Lewis chase RGIII once in an NFL game. Not that it'd be a fair fight, but just so we could say: Hey, Ray Lewis played against Robert Griffin III."
ProFootballTalk.com (Mike Florio): Redskins 23, Ravens 21
"The Redskins currently look more like the potential Super Bowl team, beating every other team in the NFC East in a three-game stretch. Though it remains to be seen whether God really is on the Redskins' side, He's definitely not on the Ravens' this year."
ProFootballTalk.com (Michael David Smith): Redskins 13, Ravens 10
"The Ravens' run defense is terrible, and the Redskins' run offense is excellent. Washington will rush for 200 yards and win a tough, physical game."
- Robert Griffin III respects Ed Reed's ability to make game-changing plays and the rookie said he has to know where No. 20 is at all times. [The Baltimore Sun]
- Receiver Torrey Smith will return to FedEx Field after building some fond memories there during two NFL games he attended as a high school student in nearby Stafford County. He saw some NFL greats play the game there, but he did have one unforgettable encounter with Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Theismann: "I asked for an autograph and he told me, 'No.' Kept walking. I remember that, too," Smith said. [CSNBaltimore.com]
- Griffin feels it's unfortunate he won't get to play against the great Ray Lewis. So now he's holding out hope he will still get to face outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who will be a game-time decision with a biceps injury. "He's another guy that you respect for what he's done for the game," Griffin said of Suggs. "So if he doesn't get to play, I'll feel bad that I get to miss out on that as well. I know a lot of quarterbacks would probably celebrate because he is one of the more fierce defenders in the league. But I feel like … you want the best out there from every team." [CSNBaltimore.com]
- @mayorsrb [Mayor Rawlings-Blake]: @LWebb21 thank you for helping to light a Baltimore tradition. #MonumentLighting everyone was excited to see you! Especially my daughter :) [Twitter]
- @jeffzrebiecsun: In last 3 games, #Ravens have run just 5 total plays out of no-huddle, according to game books. Flacco would like to do it more. [Twitter]
- Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a big Ravens fan, issued a challenge to friend and fellow Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, saying if the Redskins beat the Ravens Sunday, Ulman will wear an RGIII jersey all day in the office. But if the Ravens win, Baker has to wear Ulman's personal favorite jersey – No. 92, Haloti Ngata – on a Friday and make it "Purple Friday" in Prince George's County. Baker has yet to respond. [YouTube]