Late For Work 6/30: Media From AFC North Rivals Say Ravens Won't Make Playoffs

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Media From AFC North Rivals Say Ravens Won't Make Playoffs

If the Ravens fail to reach the playoffs this upcoming season, it will be the first time in the John Harbaugh era that Baltimore falls short of the postseason in consecutive seasons.

Will the nine-year head coach allow that to happen?

Yes, according to all three ESPN writers who cover the Ravens' AFC North rivals.

(Something tells me the Twitter accounts for the rival writers will be bombarded by Ravens fans today.)

"Baltimore will not make the playoffs for the second year in a row," Cleveland Browns reporter Pat McManamon bluntly wrote.

I couldn't help but chuckle at how Pittsburgh Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler tried to soften the blow of his prediction.

"That doesn't have to be an awful thing, because the Ravens will improve greatly from the five-win campaign in 2015. The Ravens will make at least a four-win jump in 2016. … The Ravens will be much improved in the secondary and should be healthier than last season. Flacco will have more weapons to utilize. This is a team trending upward."

Sorry, but Ravens fans would absolutely consider it "awful" if Baltimore missed out on the postseason again, even if they improve from 5-11 to 9-7. Baltimore doesn't see itself in a rebuilding mode and wouldn't be satisfied with simply "trending upward." 

While I personally predict the Ravens will return to their usual playoff status because of returning injured players like Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr. and Justin Forsett, it isn't a lock for the very reasons these AFC North writers point out:

1)      Baltimore plays in the NFL's best division

2)      The Ravens have an incredibly tough four-game stretch to close the season

"It really has very little to do with the Ravens themselves and more to do with the other teams in the division," Cincinnati Bengals reporter Coley Harvey wrote.  "Anyone who follows the NFL closely knows the AFC North is the best there is in football. I mean, there's really no debate about that, is there? With the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens all relevant and perennial postseason contenders, there is no question this is the best division.

"It is possible those three teams all will make it into the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, but it remains more likely that only two will make the postseason. Right now, a couple of months before the start of the regular season, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have, on paper, the best rosters in the AFC North."

Listen, there's no denying the talent the Steelers and Bengals boast. I have a hard time seeing either team missing the playoffs, which is why Baltimore needs to finish strong against them. The Ravens travel to their three biggest rivals in the final four weeks of the season: New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

"That's brutal," wrote Fowler. "The Ravens' schedule is designed for a late-season stumble."

I agree; it is brutal. But that final stretch will likely decide whether the Ravens are actually contenders. (It is worth noting that the Ravens lost four of their last five games during the 2012 regular season before going on to win Super Bowl XLVII).

And for the love of all that's holy, the Ravens need to beat the Bengals. For the fifth time in six years, Baltimore will finish its season in Cincy. The Ravens have lost five in a row to Cincinnati, and they haven't won at Paul Brown Stadium since 2011.

"Baltimore's most important games this season will be the ones against the Steelers and Bengals," wrote Harvey. "Win three of the four and the Ravens could be in the mix for the division title."

Andrew Luck Takes Over Joe Flacco's Title Of Highest-Paid QB

The cycle continues.

The newest NFL contract for the game's top player beats the previous one, and that's what happened when Andrew Luck signed a six-year contract for a whopping $140 million with the Indianapolis Colts yesterday.

According to Spotrac, Luck's $140 million contract is the most ever for an NFL player. His $23.3 million per year is the most ever. And his $87 million guaranteed money is the most ever.

It's crazy how just three years ago Flacco's $120 million contract was the most ever. It took just three years for the largest NFL contract ever to be increased by a whopping $20 million.

Former Raven Cory Redding Announces Retirement

Former Ravens defensive end Cory Redding is calling it quits.

Redding enjoyed a successful 13-year career in the NFL, including two productive seasons in Baltimore that ended in the playoffs. He started 22 games for the Ravens after signing with the team in 2010.

As the Baltimore Sun's Mark Selig pointed out, Redding's most memorable game as a Raven was in a playoff loss to the Steelers in 2010. In that game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fumbled, but it appeared to be an incomplete pass. The ball sat on the grass for a few seconds before Redding realized the refs didn't blow the whistle and picked it up to score a 13-yard touchdown.

Ravens Have Two Best Defenses Of Past Decade

The Ravens are known for their defense, but this lofty praise takes it to another level.

According to the fancy number crunchers at numberFire, Baltimore not only had the top defense in the past decade, but it had the top two defenses.

The Ravens 2008 squad was ranked No. 2 and the 2006 squad ranked No. 1. Both were listed above other impressive units, including the 2013 Seahawks and the 2015 Broncos. 

"The 2006 Ravens were a nightmare for opposing offenses. In addition to destroying other defenses according to our numberFire metrics, they also ranked at or near the top in most traditional statistics," wrote Barry Cohen.

Category                          Value             2006-2015 NFL Rank

Points Allowed/g            12.6                1st

Yards Allowed/g              264.12           4th

1st Downs Allowed/g     14.8                2nd

Takeaways                       40                   T-5th

Sacks                                 60                   2nd

The defense boasted the likes of Trevor Pryce (13 sacks), Adalius Thomas (11 sacks), Bart Scott (9.5 sacks), Terrell Suggs (9.5 sacks), Chris McAlister (six interceptions), Dawan Landry (five interceptions) and Ed Reed (five interceptions).

"That's seven players playing among the top level at their respective positions, and we haven't even mentioned the leader in the middle of the defense yet. In just 14 games, Ray Lewis amassed 103 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble," wrote Cohen.

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