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Late for Work: Ravens Win the Bye Week With Others' Losses


Ravens Twitter Reacts to "Winning" the Bye Week

The Ravens didn't play a game on Sunday, but they sure enjoyed a few wins.

The Browns and Steelers both lost, dropping their records to 7-5 and giving the Ravens (9-3) a two-game lead in the AFC North. That's important breathing room considering Baltimore's remaining schedule.

Then the top-seeded Chiefs fell to the Packers on "Sunday Night Football," dropping them out of pole position in the conference.

For now, the Ravens are the AFC's No. 2 seed, trailing the 9-3 Dolphins. If the Jaguars beat the Bengals tonight, the Ravens fall to the No. 3 seed.

However, Baltimore controls its own destiny for the top seed because it still has games remaining against the Jaguars and Dolphins.

If the Ravens win out, they get the No. 1 seed and bye week. Ravens media reacted to this Sunday's action.

If Zach Ertz Is Monitoring Competitors, Ravens Bye Week Went Even Better Than Expected

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, former Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz is looking to land with a new team in the next couple days.

Four teams have reportedly expressed interest in adding the tight end: Chiefs, Eagles, Bills and Ravens. If Ertz was tuning in on Sunday, the Ravens became a more desirable landing spot.

In the middle window, the Eagles were clobbered by the San Francisco 49ers, 42-19. Hours later, the Chiefs lost to the then 5-6 Green Bay Packers, and Ertz would play second fiddle to tight end Travis Kelce in that offense.

That would seemingly make the Ravens a clear choice for Ertz on account of their defense being top ranked and their offense being more welcome to adding a tight end after the loss of tight end Mark Andrews.

Ed Reed Is Grateful Joe Flacco Didn't Become a Steeler

The sight of Joe Flacco suiting up yesterday for the Cleveland Browns was… unpleasant. To see the former Ravens legend and Super Bowl XLVII MVP winner join an AFC North rival who could, with a bit of Flacco magic, make a push for not only the playoffs but the division crown hasn't sat right with fans.

But teammate and Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed isn't criticizing Flacco's move to Cleveland; he's counting his blessings that Flacco didn't join the Pittsburgh Steelers, and … rooting for Flacco?

"It's not like he's going to the Steelers, man!" said Reed to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. "He's somewhere that actually has a connection to Baltimore. But I'm all for it. It might be a Cinderella thing, it might be awesome, if Joe can get them to the playoffs."

Though Flacco and the Browns lost on Sunday to the Los Angeles Rams, 36-19, Flacco played a respectable game, going 23-for-44 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

To Reed's claim, he's right that at least it's not the Steelers, who could be in need of Flacco's services after quarterback Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury that has him undergoing surgery on Monday.

According to Rapoport, Pickett will be out Thursday when the Steelers play the New England Patriots but is not expected to be placed on injured reserve.

If Flacco and the Browns get in a rhythm, Reed sees the Browns being dangerous.

"If they can get on a run and Joe protects the ball the way Joe knows how, the coach is going to put Joe in position to be successful," Reed said to Rapoport. "We're going to see how far they can go."

The Steelers and Browns would both still make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Judging Eric DeCosta's Offseason

The bye week gave an opportunity to look back on the offseason and see what decisions General Manager Eric DeCosta made to help bring the Ravens to 9-3 and in contention for the coveted No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Baltimore Banner's Kyle Goon pointed out several areas where DeCosta succeeded.

Signed QB Lamar Jackson

"The easiest explanation for the Ravens' good vibes is the cloud that's cleared over the team. DeCosta signed Lamar Jackson to a then-record-setting five-year contract," Goon wrote. "To be frank, paying Jackson was an easy decision — but DeCosta deserves mountains of credit for setting the organizational tone of being receptive …"

After lengthy contract negotiations, DeCosta and Jackson brought it home when pen hit paper. Jackson's a Raven long-term and a vital component to the team's success in 2023.

"Beyond Jackson's performance, the most compelling point in DeCosta's favor is what's happened to the other quarterbacks among the league's best-paid passers," Goon wrote. "Cincinnati's Joe Burrow is done for the season. L.A.'s Justin Herbert and Buffalo's Josh Allen are stuck on teams that might not make the playoffs. Cleveland's Deshaun Watson is injured again. Arizona's Kyler Murray is just now on the comeback trail from injury for a bad team. A great quarterback is the hardest piece to get for a contender, and Jackson has helped the Ravens be in position for the top overall seed."

Turning away from multiple re-signing opportunities

The Ravens saw some highly talented players step out their door this offseason, including two future Hall of Fame defensive players. There were reports that both defensive end Calais Campbell and Justin Houston had varying levels of interest in re-signing, but DeCosta didn't bring either back. He also let safety Chuck Clark, cornerback Marcus Peters, and guard Ben Powers go elsewhere, too.

"If you look at what those guys are doing now, DeCosta's decisions, as painful as they were, were largely correct," Goon wrote. "Letting the vets walk was, in one sense, a bet on the talent already in the building. At some of those key positions, Justin Madubuike, Geno Stone and Brandon Stephens are enjoying the best seasons of their careers."

Hit on aRound1 receiver.

This offseason, DeCosta added a young star in rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers.

"… the rookie has been a smashing success — which has rarely been the case when the Ravens select a receiver in Round 1," Goon wrote. "He's got 58 receptions, he averages more than 10 yards per touch, and his three total touchdowns are almost certainly just the start of his scoring impact. DeCosta said Flowers was the highest-graded receiver on the Ravens' board before the draft, and honestly it feels as if they could use him more, perhaps as a returner. But Flowers has played more than 86% of offensive snaps and is a workhorse."

Hit on free agents

Not always do veteran signings pan out, but this season has brought major production from several, including outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

"The Ravens' best offseason signing didn't join the team until Aug. 18. Jadeveon Clowney is in the midst of a renaissance season, punctuated recently by his forcing two fumbles and recovering one against the Chargers," Goon wrote. "The 30-year-old has 7.5 sacks and is eighth in pass-rush win rate, a better mark than pass rushers such as Bryce Huff, T.J. Watt and Nick Bosa. It's a remarkable turnaround for a journeyman, but DeCosta said in September that the Ravens have been eyeing Clowney for years."

Another big add was outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

"Baltimore also got a huge boost from Kyle Van Noy (6 sacks), helping compensate for injuries to David Ojabo and Tyus Bowser, who were originally seen as key pieces of the pass rush," wrote Goon.

Pundits Ponder What It Will Take to Win the AFC North

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, Zac Jackson and Paul Dehner Jr. all considered what the final record will be for the division winner, with the two latter predicting the Ravens to win the North.

Jackson: "The Ravens will be 12-5. They should be slightly worried that the charmed Steelers might finish with 13, but I think it's a fair guess that the Ravens get 12 and win the division. That Dec. 17 Ravens-Jaguars game gives the winner a real chance to get the AFC's No. 1 seed — and doing that might require 13. I'm not sure the Ravens can get that top seed and the playoff bye with 12 wins, but I'm sticking with that number."

Dehner: "Baltimore's schedule offers no gimmies, with arguably three of the best six teams in the NFL (Jacksonville, San Francisco, Miami) in a row. But I still believe the Ravens to be the best team in the AFC. I think they go 3-2 over the final five, and that should be enough to hold off Pittsburgh. … but inevitably [the Steelers] will need to beat the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 18 to win the North — and I just don't see them pulling it off."

Zrebiec: "Even if the Steelers go 4-1 during that stretch, that may still force the Ravens to get to 12 wins — including beating Pittsburgh in the season finale — to win the division. My guess is 12 wins get it done, but that Week 18 Ravens-Steelers tilt could be for all the AFC North's marbles. I don't want to dismiss the Browns, either, but it's going to be tough for them to win five of their last six with their quarterback situation."

Ravens Coaches Among Those Wanting Hip-Drop Tackle Banned

More talk has surfaced in the NFL world surrounding the hip-drop tackle as the NFL continues to pursue player safety.

According to The Athletic's Ted Nguyen, the tackle that took out tight end Mark Andrews is likely to become banned.

"The league now is gathering information on "hip-drop" tackles to decide if they should join the list of banned actions and how they will address it," Nguyen wrote. "Based on my conversations with league officials, it sounds like it's only a matter of time. Opinions will vary on whether the tackle should be banned, but it's important to understand what it is and why a rule change that may affect NFL games as soon as next season is possible."

The NFL wouldn't be the first to attempt to define the specific tackling style; the National Rugby League has defined and banned the tackling style.

According to NFL executive vice president of health and safety Jeff Miller, this would be the second year the NFL and NFLPA have worked to raise the topic of the hip-drop tackle and collaborate with a possible rule change. Some Ravens coaches want the tackle to be banned, according to Nguyen.

"After Ravens star tight end Mark Andrews fractured his fibula on 'Thursday Night Football' after Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson hip-drop tackled him, a source told me some of the Ravens coaches expressed they thought the tackle should be banned," wrote Nguyen.

However, banning the play could take some time.

"Again, the first step for the league is coming up with a consensus definition and then deciding if it can be officiated," Nguyen wrote. "The NFL has had conversations with rugby leagues about rules and behavioral changes. New Zealand Rugby was able to effectively eliminate the hip-drop tackle with after-game penalties, knowing that they could have trouble trying to officiate it during the game."

Quick Hits

  • The Athletic's Mike Jones considers the Ravens a "Stone-Cold Lock" to make the playoffs: "The Ravens have had some ups and downs. They have lost a few games thanks largely to self-inflicted wounds. But Baltimore has a championship-caliber defense and a balanced offense led by an MVP-caliber quarterback in Lamar Jackson. The Ravens' overall physicality and versatility in the run game cause problems for teams and will serve them well in the postseason, especially during those January games in poor weather conditions."

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