The Pittsburgh Steelers have some extra fire entering their game on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens won the first meeting between the teams this season in a 26-14 victory during Week 4. After that game, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco rubbed in the win by talking about how easy it felt.
“I really just felt we could have 28, 30, 35 points up out there at halftime,” Flacco said after the game. “It’s not like today was the toughest Pittsburgh Steeler games I’ve ever played.”
A few Steelers were particularly bothered by that comment.
“He didn’t feel like he was hit hard enough. We’ll see how it goes. You don’t really see a quarterback saying anything like that,” guard Ramon Foster said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“We’ll see if he has the same response after this game,” safety Sean Davis said.
Flacco threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the game, which was part of a 3-1 start. The Ravens have lost two in a row entering this game, while the Steelers have won three in a row. Pittsburgh appears well-positioned for some revenge.
Week 8 marks the halfway point of the season for many NFL teams, and we’re very close to moving into the second half and the subsequent playoff run. That means that things are starting to get real in many of the divisional races, and teams are going to have to start considering the implications of each win and loss even more than they were before.
Several other teams find themselves at a crossroads. There are quarterback decisions to be made and maybe even some coaches whose seats are getting progressively hotter. The scrutiny is getting more intense every week, and Week 8 was no exception.
Here are 15 of the biggest disappointments from the week’s NFL action.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
It’s looking like the Buccaneers are clearly nearing the end of the line with Winston, who may have finally exhausted their patience on Sunday. He threw four interceptions, including a pick-six, none of which were the result of bad luck. He was careless and reckless with the ball and was rightly benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who nearly led them to a comeback. It remains to be seen whether he sticks as the starter, but the odds seem to be long.
Troy Aikman issued some strong commentary during Thursday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals about Joe Flacco’s feelings on moving positions.
During Baltimore’s touchdown drive in the second quarter, Flacco split out to wide receiver as Lamar Jackson entered the game to take a snap at quarterback. The play was a 5-yard rush by Jackson, setting up a 2nd-and-5 from the Cincinnati 8.
Flacco’s showed extreme disinterest during the play, mostly standing straight up and not moving. Aikman, who was calling the game with Joe Buck for NFL Network, said Flacco was “not happy” about having to move.
“If I’m Joe Flacco, I’m not happy about it,” Aikman said. “Joe’s not going to say anything, but I can tell you deep down, he doesn’t like it. If you’re a pocket passer, you’re the quarterback, you do not like running out to the wide receiver position and letting somebody else play quarterback. It’s as simple as that. They talked to me about it one time … that was not gonna happen. I don’t think Joe’s real thrilled about some of the things within that system with Lamar Jackson within that offense.”
Though Flacco has never publicly said anything of the sort, one has to wonder whether there was more to Aikman’s comments than pure speculation. Those comments paint Flacco in a negative light; Aikman surely would take great care before saying anything like that. Perhaps that subject has come up in talks between Flacco and Aikman.
NFL contracts are often a hot-button issue. People love to debate who’s making too much, too little, who deserves more, and who is overpaid. Some athletes outplay their deals, while others cash in and fail to deliver. Teams obviously try hard to avoid the latter situation, but sometimes things don’t work out as hoped.
With all of that in mind, here’s a look at the worst contract on every NFL team entering the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals – Jermaine Gresham, TE
After signing him to two consecutive one-year deals, the Cardinals suddenly decided to invest heavily in Jermaine Gresham, signing him to a four-year, $28 million deal with $16.5 million guaranteed. The $7 million annual salary far exceeds any contract Gresham had previously signed, which is curious considering he hasn’t exceeded 500 yards in a single season since 2012 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Add in that Greshman is now on the wrong side of 30, and it’s easy to understand how he made this list.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has heard it all before.
In light of Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey saying Flacco sucks, the Ravens veteran’s response was essentially “welcome to the club.”
“I don’t really have much of a comment,” Flacco said Saturday, via Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t really care. There’s plenty of people out there saying things. Just add one more to the list. No big deal.”
Flacco is facing a pretty big season after the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round, but he has apparently shown signs of responding. That remains to be seen, but having to answer questions about his peers saying he sucks is probably not his ideal way to traverse the preseason, even if he doesn’t care about it.
Joe Flacco apparently might be responding now that he’s facing a serious challenge to his starting quarterback job.
According to Peter King of NBC Sports, one individual familiar with the Baltimore Ravens said Flacco is having “far and away” the best training camp of his career so far. King said Flacco was making great throws with both power and accuracy, and was very impressive.
Flacco more or less confirmed that the team’s decision to draft Lamar Jackson in the first round was a big motivator.
“There’s definitely a certain feeling you have,” Flacco said. “I don’t know if it’s the worst feeling in the world, but it’s definitely means something. There’s definitely a little bit of a message in there. But this is the NFL, man. I’ve been in it for 10 years, seen pretty much everything. Surprised by this [the drafting of Jackson] a little bit. My approach is I’m gonna show these guys every day what kind of quarterback I am, and I can’t really worry about anything else.”
Jackson is apparently doing well, too, leaving the Ravens with an interesting situation. For now, Flacco looks like the clear starter, though the knives will come out if he stumbles.
The NFL can be notoriously fickle. The risk of injury, the lack of guaranteed money, and the ever-changing game can alter the trajectory of a career very quickly. For some players, it leaves them in a position where they have to prove themselves again in order to re-establish themselves as top-tier stars.
Here are 15 players who are looking to do just that in 2018. They may have had off-field issues, a lot of injuries, are entering a contract year, or any combination thereof. Either way, all eyes will be on them this coming season, and it’s up to them to respond.
1) Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
There’s so much good about Beckham, but we haven’t seen enough of it in the last year or so. He hasn’t stayed healthy. He’s gotten involved in off-field distractions. He hasn’t produced to the standards he’s capable of even when healthy. Now entering a contract year, he needs to prove to the Giants and everyone else that he can let his football do the talking. So far, he’s reportedly off to a good start.
It sounds as if the Baltimore Ravens are going to get a very motivated Joe Flacco for the 2018 season.
According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, there is a belief that the Ravens’ decision to draft quarterback Lamar Jackson has made Flacco more motivated this offseason, and that notion is backed by safety Eric Weddle.
“Drafting Lamar and bringing [Robert] Griffin in, it’s lit a fire under him,” Weddle said. “You can tell. It has shown.”
Just how much this will help is an open question. The prevailing belief is that the Ravens were sending a message to Flacco by trading up into the first round to select Jackson, and that that message has been received. Will it lead to a more efficient and successful Flacco on the field? Only time will tell. Given the belief that the Ravens will cut him after the season if he and the offense don’t show significant improvement, his career in Baltimore may hinge on it.
The overwhelming belief after the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round is that Joe Flacco has just one season remaining in Baltimore, but the veteran quarterback may put up a fight before the team ushers in a new era.
In his latest column for The MMQB, Peter King reports that Flacco understands the Ravens are likely planning to move on from him in 2019, if not sooner. How the 33-year-old responds to the situation will be worth monitoring.
Joe Flacco’s gotten the message. That’s what I hear. And he’s too smart not to have gotten it. Flacco, 33, understands the trade-up pick of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson means the Ravens have noticed his sub-.500 record and 82.4 passer rating in the past three years, regardless how much is his fault. The quarterback always takes major blame when an offense is lousy, and Baltimore’s has been bad—29th, 12th and 29th in passing yards in the past three seasons.
What’s more, the Ravens are a boring offense. They excite no one. They’re inefficient—and you can’t blame only Flacco, because the receiving group has been consistently disappointing too. When I saw this pick, I said I bet this is about more than dissatisfaction with Flacco. It’s about making the team exciting again in a market that has grown blasé, and throwing some change-ups with an electric quarterback. Flacco will get the first shot, and he may well play well enough to beat back Jackson. We’ll see.
The Ravens have made it clear that they still consider Flacco their starting QB, but they can save $18.5 million in salary cap space if they cut him next offseason. If his performance in 2018 is on par with the 83.1, 83.5 and 80.4 passer ratings he has posted the past three years, releasing him will be a no-brainer. In order for Flacco to prove he is worthy of being kept around, he might have to have something close to a Pro Bowl season.
Even if Baltimore has committed to Flacco as its starter, it sounds as if Jackson will have some role in the team’s offense immediately. Should the Ravens look better when Jackson is on the field, it would not be a surprise if he took Flacco’s job sooner rather than later.
It’s quite fair to be excited to see Lamar Jackson head to the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s also worth keeping those emotions in check, as it sounds like we won’t be seeing him play for a while.
After trading up to pick Jackson at No. 32 on Thursday night, Ravens coach John Harbaugh made clear that veteran Joe Flacco remains the team’s starting quarterback.
“[Jackson’s] a great quarterback. But Joe Flacco is our quarterback,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “That’s the thing we got to remember. Lamar is going to have a great chance to develop. When you get to this stage in a quarterback’s career, you’ve seen done in New England and you’ve seen done in a lot of places. This doesn’t really change things in a sense that we’re going to go with Joe and he’s going to roll.”
The conventional wisdom is that Flacco will play the season with the Ravens and then be released, a move that would clear $18.5 million in cap space if done after June 1 of next year. Harbaugh fought back against that narrative as well, comparing the situation to Jimmy Garoppolo in New England.
“You can’t make a lot of assumptions like that,” Harbaugh said. “The Patriots drafted a quarterback and traded him. You take it one year at a time in this league. Predict the future and say what’s going to happen down the road, nobody knows.
“We have a great quarterback in Joe Flacco. There’s no doubt about it. So you want to put as many good football players on your football team as you possibly can. If you get a chance to get a talent like this, I don’t think you can pass it up. It doesn’t say anything other than we got better as a football team.”
Harbaugh has to say this, but let’s be realistic. Flacco has not been great in recent years, is expensive, and just turned 33. The Ravens clearly view Jackson as a quarterback and not some sort of hybrid, and you don’t trade into the first round to stash a former Heisman winner with the intent of eventually flipping him for more picks. Flacco’s days in Baltimore look numbered, and the future belongs to Jackson.