This has truly been a strange year in the NFL. Granted, every year is strange in the world of professional football. We have teams that start out smoking hot and finish the season 6-10. We have others that start out 1-4 and scratch and claw their way into the playoffs. This season, however, seems to be more of a mystery than ever — particularly in the AFC. The Packers are the clear-cut favorite to win the NFC and the Super Bowl at this point, but what about the rest? With the AFC up for grabs, here’s a look at the teams that are in the hunt. We start with the least likely to play in Indianapolis on Feb. 5 and end with the most.
The Baltimore Ravens lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 12-7 in a pitiful performance Monday night. They only gained 16 yards by halftime, including one passing yard by Joe Flacco, and they didn’t record their first first down until under six minutes left in the third quarter. Coach John Harbaugh called the disgrace “almost as bad as you can play on offense.” Flacco said the team needs to be better even when they’re off their game. But nobody was as straightforward regarding the team’s problems as linebacker Terrell Suggs.
“It baffles me that Ray Rice only had seven carries,” Suggs said. “This is a Pro Bowl running back you’re talking about. They fed their horse. We have to feed our horse. It’s all right, just calling a spade a spade.
“When I have a Pro Bowl running back, and he’s not getting his touches, I’m going to feel some kind of way about it. He wants the ball. And I think we should feed him. Ray Rice is a phenomenal player. You have to use your phenomenal players. I have to question how many touches Anquan [Boldin] had. We’ve got guys on this team that can do some great things. We have to use those guys. It’s that simple.”
The Baltimore Ravens took it to the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7 in Sunday’s opener. Joe Flacco threw for three touchdowns in the game which marked his first time beating Ben Roethlisberger head-to-head. Things were going so well for the Ravens that after they scored to make it 27-7, they pulled out a trick play on their extra-point attempt.
Taking a page out of the Les Miles playbook, holder Sam Koch fielded the snap and ran through a beautiful hole opened up by his blockers. The conversion made it 29-7 and Baltimore added two more field goals to make it 35-7. It was a brilliant play and it was executed to perfection. But why did the Ravens waste it during a game they were winning by a wide margin? Why not save it for a later game when they really needed it?
Not only was the timing questionable, but the play also made enemies in Pittsburgh (as if the rivalry wasn’t already strong enough).
I’m sure by now you have all heard about the earthquake that shook the east coast from Virginia all the way up to Canada on Tuesday. The quake registered a 5.8 on the Richter scale, which is no joke. Somehow I’m the only person on the east coast who failed to feel any effect from it, but that’s beside the point. It certainly put a scare into Ravens second-round pick Torrey Smith, who was filming a commercial for the University of Maryland (his alma mater) when the ground began to shake. Check out the Torrey Smith earthquake video, courtesy of Deadspin:
Earthquakes are extremely frightening for everyone but even more so for us east coasters who are unaccustomed to them. Everyone reacts differently when they experience something unfamiliar, but where was Smith going? I understand hiding under a chair or something if you’re in a building, but he Torrey was just OUT. I guess until I’ve been caught in the middle of an earthquake while filming a commercial I shouldn’t judge.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have one of the best rivalries in the NFL. The teams have been two of the best franchises in the NFL the past 10+ years, they play extremely competitive games, and their games feature tons of hitting. Remember the broken nose the Ravens gave Ben Roethlisberger last year? That picture defines the rivalry.
Only Steelers safety safety Ryan Clark feels differently.
In an interview with 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Clark said the Ravens haven’t beaten the Steelers enough to make it a rivalry. Here’s the transcription from Sports Radio Interviews via Ravens Insider and Pro Football Talk:
Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed returned to the Ravens’ practice facility after spending some time back home in Louisiana visiting with his family, which is dealing with the disappearance of Reed’s brother Brian. Brian Reed went missing on January 7th when he reportedly jumped into the Mississippi River while fleeing police. Investigators founds Brian Reed’s shoes and jacket, but have called off the search for Reed himself.
Ed Reed stayed with his team and played in the Ravens’ 30-7 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s Wild Card game. Reed had a solid, if not spectacular game, recording four tackles including a devastating hit on Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster. After the game, the Ravens presented Reed with a game ball for him and his family. An emotional Reed accepted the ball saying, “I know my brother, he loved football, but he wanted to beat Pittsburgh and now I want a Bowl.”
Reed is an unbelievable talent, leading the NFL with eight interceptions during the regular season, despite missing the first sex games of the year. He returned to the team after just one day home with his family, indicating he’s a teammate any player would love to have. He’s obviously committed to his teammates and the Ravens organization and wants to play well and win for his missing brother, but I don’t think anyone would have held it against him if he spent a little more time with his grieving family.
Everyone handles grief differently. Many people look for things to distract them, and preparing for a playoff game against a bitter division rival would definitely fit that bill. I’m sure Reed’s family was very supportive of his decision to return to Baltimore. I just hope Reed’s preparation for a football game doesn’t come at the expense of his family.
As you have probably heard, Baltimore Ravens rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle was arrested for drunk driving on Sunday and had a blood-alcohol concentration of more than twice the legal limit of .08. This is Kindle’s second DUI since 2007, and he also crashed his car into a building in 2009 — an accident he attributed to texting while driving.
Kindle was the 43rd overall pick in this year’s draft out of the University of Texas. He suffered a fractured skull in July when he reportedly fell down two flights of stairs. The Ravens signed Kindle, despite the fact that he was unlikely to play at all this season (and he isn’t going to) to a one-year contract worth about $300,000. Now, it’s unclear if Kindle will ever play for the team that drafted him — or any other team — given his history of character and health concerns. Doctors recently told Kindle that he may not be ready to play next season, anyway.
The DUI also comes less than a week after Ravens receiver Donte’ Stallworth received an award for courage following his own drunk driving incident in 2009. It seems like Kindle should have learned something from the “courageous” Stallworth, but obviously he didn’t. It’s clear he didn’t learn anything from his previous DUI and obvious he’s an irresponsible person. There are plenty of typically responsible people who make a mistake and learn from it but two DUIs indicates a larger issue.
Kindle’s physical gifts are undeniable, but his judgment is lacking. He’s strong, fast, and agile on the field, but he can’t figure out how to turn the corner when it comes to his decision-making off it. If he’s lucky, the Ravens will consider keeping him around for one more year only because they spent such a high draft pick on him. It seems more likely that his shot will come from somewhere outside of Baltimore, if he’s fortunate enough to be given another one.