Local Football Bloggers
The Ravens are pumped up for their playoff game against Indianapolis on Sunday. They’ll play for a chance to compete in the divisional round of the postseason. Now, they’ll play for a chance to compete with Ray Lewis for at least one more game. On Wednesday, Ray Lewis announced his plans to retire at the end of the postseason.
The NFL Playoffs are never without their story lines. In the career of an NFL player/coach, one has the opportunity to form friendships that go deeper than football. So is the case with Chuck Pagano and the Baltimore Ravens. Though the two will face off for a chance to play in the divisional round, the relationships that connect the two parties are special indeed.
You couldn’t mention the Baltimore Ravens without bringing up Ray Lewis. That’s the way it always has been. But in 2012, the change in philosophy has been dramatic. Flacco is now the face of the franchise. And without him, the Ravens don’t make it very far.
Baltimore handled their business prior to this game. They clinched the AFC North title and earned the opportunity to rest their starters in preparation for a postseason run. That is exactly what they did as marquee starters saw little to no playing time. Baltimore used this game to evaluate young talent and were pleasantly surprised with a few players.
The Ravens have long awaited the return of Ray Lewis. And while it seems that he’s finally healthy enough to play, Baltimore has decided to wait one more week before starting the future hall of famer. The Ravens will most likely take the same approach with a few other players that are dealing with nagging injuries as they approach the final game of the regular season.
The Ravens aren’t playing for a playoff spot; they earned that last week against the New York Giants. Baltimore will enter a hostile Cincinnati environment with the goal of building momentum. Against a division rival on the road, that can be a daunting task, and facing off against a player like A.J. Green doesn’t make things any easier.
The Ravens clinched the division last week and have all but been given a pass for their upcoming game against Cincinnati. No one would blame Baltimore if they decided to rest their players in preparation for the postseason, but coach John Harbaugh has instilled a winning culture in Baltimore and have made it clear that they are in it to win it on Sunday.
The Ravens are back-to-back AFC North Champions. They’ll play either Cincinnati or Indianapolis next week. With their home playoff game secured, many wonder if Baltimore should rest their starters to avoid further injury. But Harbaugh expects to keep the foot on the gas as he looks to sweep Cincinnati for the second straight year.
Many had written off this team prior to this contest. If they were making the playoffs, it would be a short trip for the injured team. But after embarrassing the defending Super Bowl Champions, the mood has changed for Ravens fans. Baltimore showed that when given the opportunity, they can put up points in bunches. And as the defense get’s healthier, they have the scheme in place to shut an offense down.
Some questioned his ability to play. Many believed he was done. But none can overvalue what he means for the Ravens’ defense. And with the defense at its lowest point, it appears Baltimore will get Ray Lewis back when they need him the most.
The Ravens haven’t been fans of running the football this year. And it has cost them a great deal. But if the Ravens want to clinch the AFC North title for the second straight year, they’ll have to do it with the help of Ray Rice. The Giants have struggled stopping the run. If they are forced to do so, it could be a long day for New York
The Ravens goals are right in front of them. Defeat the Giants and win the division. The division title secures at least one home playoff game. A huge advantage for a team that struggles on the road. But with injuries mounting and inept play from their offense, a victory is not guaranteed. If Baltimore is to make any impact on the post-season, they’ll need to snap their losing streak against New York in their home finale.