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Old 10-31-2009, 02:05 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth
http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/r...17,full.column
* Mike Preston


After watching the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals win games Sunday, Ravens fans should be concerned about their team getting to the NFL playoffs.

We're talking fingernail-biting, feet-tapping nervous.

The magic number to get to the playoffs is always 10 wins, so that means the Ravens (3-3) have to win seven of their 10 remaining games.

At the beginning of the year, the playoffs seemed likely, but after Sunday, it leaves you scratching your head.

The Steelers (5-2) defeated the previously unbeaten Minnesota Vikings (6-1), 27-17, at home, and the Bengals (5-2), also at home, physically crushed the Chicago Bears, 45-10.

What's so disturbing about Pittsburgh is that the Steelers are winning games on the strength of Ben Roethlisberger's arm and the Ravens have one of the worst pass defenses in the league.

And the usually skin-so-soft Bengals punished Chicago with a ground game that produced 215 yards. It was the same running game that collected more than 100 yards against the Ravens a couple of weeks ago. Combine that with the arm of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and 10 wins seem hard.

Besides facing Pittsburgh twice and the Bengals at home, the Ravens have the unbeaten Denver Broncos at home Sunday and must face quarterbacks such as the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers.

If you're looking for some bright spots, consider these: Rodgers' offensive line is suspect, and Denver doesn't like to throw deep often. The Oakland Raiders stink and so do the Cleveland Browns. Chicago doesn't scare anybody, and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is not consistent.

Overall, the Ravens have a lot of work to do. The potential is there, but they need to get better because the Bengals and Steelers certainly have.

Linebacker liabilities
One major problem with the Ravens this season is that they don't have linebackers who can get good depth in pass coverage.

A year ago, that responsibility belonged to Bart Scott, and before him, Adalius Thomas usually covered tight ends and running backs downfield.

With veteran outside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo out the remainder of the season because of an injury, the Ravens need some of these young linebackers to mature faster than expected.

Taking risks on field
It seems like coach John Harbaugh is making an excuse when he says the Ravens are giving up big plays because they aren't disciplined enough on defense, but just go back and look at some of the tapes.

You'll find that some star players like defensive end Terrell Suggs, safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis are culprits.

There's a fine line between gambling and making a play, and gambling and losing, and the Ravens have come up on the losing end quite a few times this season.

Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Greg Mattision are in tough positions. Do you tell your best players, who have made numerous big plays in the past, to no longer take chances, or do you just tell them to execute the game plan without gambling?

Until the losing stops, I'd be more on the conservative side.

NFL surprises
What has been more surprising, the unbeaten Broncos (6-0) or the winless Tennessee Titans (0-6)?

It has to be Tennessee. Even though the Titans lost to the Ravens in the AFC semifinals last season, Tennessee still had the better team, but the Titans just committed more turnovers.

After the preseason, there was an assumption that the Titans would pick up from last season, especially with such an established coach as Jeff Fisher.

But to be ranked No. 31 in total defense is an embarrassment to Fisher, who made his mark as a defensive specialist before becoming a head coach.

As for Denver, and despite all the preseason turmoil, teams that get new head coaches usually perform better than expected because those players want to prove it was the previous coach's fault (Mike Shanahan), not theirs.

It's like the Ravens were last season when Harbaugh replaced Billick.

Ravens-Broncos ties
While on the subject of Denver, the Broncos have some Ravens ties. Former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is the Broncos' current defensive coordinator, and Denver wide receiver Brandon Stokley started his career with the Ravens back in 1999.

With Nolan in his first season as coordinator, the Broncos rank No. 1 in points allowed (11 per game), and second in yards allowed (average of 262.5). Stokley, a reserve receiver, has caught nine passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

Stover's blessings
I recently spoke with former Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who is now with the Colts. In Indianapolis, Stover only has to kick field goals because their punter, Pat McAfee, handles kickoffs.

It couldn't have worked out better for Stover. He is playing for possibly the best team in the league with a great quarterback. He is also kicking indoors, where he doesn't have to be concerned about the weather, and he knows he might end up with another Super Bowl ring.

Stover, a devout Christian, has always said he was blessed. You can't argue with the guy.

Lionhearted Ravens
Harbaugh recently said his players had the "hearts of lions."

Let's hope he wasn't talking about the Detroit Lions.
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Old 10-31-2009, 02:10 PM   #2
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

Must win for the Ravens, go Broncos. It will be a statement game for the Steelers when they defeat an 8-0 Bronco team on the road.

You know, the team can't get up for the Lions or Browns, but didja notice they responded to the Favrings???

You could be watching sports history as I observed in the 1970s.
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Old 10-31-2009, 03:13 PM   #3
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

I'll say this if the rats lose to the broncos they are in real trouble.
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Old 10-31-2009, 03:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

And i was considered CRAZY for suggesting they were no better than an 8-8/9-7 team....here they are sitting squarely at .500 almost at the midpoint....
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Old 10-31-2009, 03:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

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I'll say this if the rats lose to the broncos they are in real trouble.
Go Broncos (Sunday anyway).
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Old 10-31-2009, 05:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

Come on Broncos you can beat the rats and, I would love to see Ray's face after the fourth loss in a row.
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Old 11-01-2009, 02:34 PM   #7
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

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And i was considered CRAZY for suggesting they were no better than an 8-8/9-7 team....here they are sitting squarely at .500 almost at the midpoint....
I will give you credit if the Ravens go 8-8.

When Mason retired, you were saying 6-10 or 7-9, though.
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Old 11-01-2009, 05:48 PM   #8
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

All-in-all I say, well-played.

Yeah, I know Denver at 6-0 isn't Indy or Nawlins at 6-0 to a lot of people, but they are still an undefeated team. Except for some crappy flags on Denver's one scoring drive, the Ravens defense came to play. They were in Orton's face all day, they stuck on the receivers (and Marshall's no slouch) and they only gave up that one TD. The offense started slow but Flacco took control and had a very good day. And Kelly Washington is starting to look like a #2 WR.

And for once, special teams played a solid 60 minutes. The kick-off return TD to open the second half took some steam out of the Broncos.

The game against Cincinnati next week will most likely determine the outcome of the Raven's season. 5-3, and 2-1 in the AFCN wouldn't be bad. 4-4 and 1-2 in the AFCN would most likely take away any chance of even a wildcard spot.
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Old 11-01-2009, 08:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

Yep, I think the Ravens exposed the Broncos for what they really were, a media darling team that was way over rated. Now they get a chance to do the same for the Bengals. Granted, if the Bengals win, I think it would have the opposite effect in legitimizing their season.
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Old 11-02-2009, 08:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: It's time for Ravens to worry about playoff berth

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Yep, I think the Ravens exposed the Broncos for what they really were, a media darling team that was way over rated. Now they get a chance to do the same for the Bengals. Granted, if the Bengals win, I think it would have the opposite effect in legitimizing their season.
If Cincy wins next week, they will be 4-0 in the AFCN, which is a very good place to be. I would think Marvin will have them prepped.
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