So let's hope Santa and his elves are nice to Ryan Mink, Garrett Downing and the Ravens this year.
Here's what they wished for:
Ryan's Christmas Wishlist
1) A win in Cincinnati. Duh
This one's at the top of my list. The Ravens can get in the playoffs with a loss, but it would take losses by the Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers as well. Those odds are about as good as getting a Christmas card from Downing. Getting in the playoffs in Week 17 after looking out of it midway through the season would be sweet music to my ears.
2) Charity from the Dolphins or Chargers
C'mon guys. This is the holiday season. How about the Dolphins lose to the Jets or the Chargers choke against the Chiefs. That would really show you care. The Ravens can't get into the playoffs without a little help. I'm ringing the bell and shaking the donations bucket.
3) A misfiring "Red Rifle"
For those who know "A Christmas Story," I'll take another misfiring "Red Rifle" instead of a "Red Ryder" BB gun. The Ravens beat Cincinnati in Week 10 largely because Baltimore picked off quarterback Andy Dalton three times. Dalton (given the nickname "Red Rifle" for his red hair and strong arm) has thrown seven interceptions to four touchdowns over his career against the Ravens.
4) A healthy Joe Flacco
Does Santa have healing powers too? Flacco's knee is banged up, and Head Coach John Harbaugh conceded that it affected his quarterback's performance against the Patriots. A healthy Flacco would have better elusiveness in the pocket and be able to step into his throws more. Rub some pine needles on that left knee or something.
5) A Scroogish defense
Let's face it, the defense is the strength of this Ravens squad. I don't know what it's been, but maybe the holiday season put the unit in a giving mood in the red zone recently. Baltimore has given up touchdowns to opponents the last six times they've gotten inside the 20. The Ravens also need to limit dangerous Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard, who can dash with the best of them.
Garrett's Christmas Wish List
1) A nice gift from the Jets and Chiefs
This really is the most important item on the wish list. If this doesn't happen, the Ravens can book a vacation as their Christmas gift. The Ravens no longer control their playoff destiny, so they need a little help from the Jets or Chiefs to get back into the postseason. If the Ravens get a win over Cincinnati, then they will be back in the playoffs with a Chiefs win over the Chargers or the Jets beating Miami.
2) The Ray Rice of Christmas past
This season has been a disappointment for Ray Rice and the Ravens' running game. He has topped 100 rushing yards just once this season (Week 11 vs. Chicago), and he has not made the same kind of game-changing plays that have defined his career in Baltimore. The last time the Ravens finished the season needing a win in Cincinnati, Rice carried them to a 24-16 victory by rushing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Getting that kind of day from Rice would go a long way in helping the Ravens leave Paul Brown Stadium with a victory.
3) Protection for Joe Flacco
Keeping Joe Flacco healthy and upright has never been more important, as the sixth-year quarterback has to play through an injured left knee. Flacco said that knee is not an issue, but he did not look like the same player Sunday against the Patriots. Flacco acknowledged that he may not have the same burst of speed, which could limit his mobility around the pocket. With the knee possibly keeping Flacco more stationary, the line has to give him time to stand tall and get into a rhythm.
4) A giving spirit from quarterback Andy Dalton
The Ravens have gotten the better of Andy Dalton throughout his career. The third-year quarterback has just one win in five tries against Baltimore and that lone victory came in Week 17 last year when the Ravens rested their starters. Dalton's biggest issue against the Ravens has been his tendency to give the ball away, as he has seven career interceptions compared to four touchdowns against the Ravens. Let's hope he's in a giving mood again this week.
5) The big play from Torrey Smith
After starting the season on a tear, the speedy wide receiver has cooled off in the second half of the year. He has not topped 100 receiving yards since Week 5 against the Dolphins, and he has just one touchdown since Nov. 24. Getting some big plays from Smith may have the Ravens singing Christmas carols on the flight back to Baltimore.