Late For Work 1/1: One and Done?

Plus Sunday’s picks, Matt Birk’s aching body, Rice vs. Jamal, and Ravens free agents.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, January 1st, 2010 at 9:13 am | Categories: Late For Work, Ryan Mink

One and Done?

Let me begin by saying that the Ravens are not yet in the playoffs. That can’t come until Sunday, when the Ravens play the Oakland Raiders with a second straight postseason berth on the line.

Buuut, because we’re fans, because the Raiders are 5-10 this season and because the Ravens are so good at taking care of business, we can’t help but look forward just a little bit to ponder how the Ravens would fare if they did reach the playoffs.

ESPN’s James Walker did the same, and he doesn’t have a rosy picture.

Last year, the Ravens entered the playoffs as a wild card and went all the way to the AFC Championship. But Walker says the Ravens aren’t playing at the same level as last season and “a repeat of 2008 [is] no slam dunk for Baltimore.”

Walker and Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson have a scale of concern (from 1 to 10), which they use to grade the Ravens. They point to the secondary, which has played much better as of late, as scoring a 10 with several elite quarterbacks waiting in the playoffs and injuries prevalent. They say Baltimore’s penalties are an eight.

Injuries are of some concern since Ed Reed still hasn’t returned along with starting left tackle Jared Gaither. They give the lack of pass rush a seven, although the front four seems to be improving lately.

An identity problem in deciding pass versus run notches a five. People just aren’t satisfied with balance. Lastly, the fact that the Ravens are 2-5 on the road this year scores a five. The Ravens lost several tough games on the road, including in Cincinnati, but did get a win in San Diego.

I, for one, happen to believe this team has all the makings to make another run — if it can stop hurting itself and make a few plays at the end of games. What team doesn’t have some weaknesses?

What do you think?

Sunday Picks

Looks like everybody is thinking the Ravens are headed for the playoffs, except on person. ESPN’s Tom Jackson took the Raiders to score the upset. Jackson isn’t on ESPN’s expert picking squad, however. I wonder why.

Baltimore Sun: six of six pick the Ravens
WJZ’s Mark Viviano: Ravens, 27-13
ESPN: eight of eight pick Ravens
Yahoo! Sports: three of three pick Ravens
Sporting News: six of six pick Ravens
USA Today: eight of eight pick Ravens
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: Ravens, 23-16

How Do You Feel This Morning?

I’ll tell you how Matt Birk feels. The Ravens center probably woke up and popped all of his joints, struggling to roll out of bed after nearly a season’s-worth of 300-pounders crashing into him.

ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill wrote an interesting piece, centered around Birk, about the pain NFL players must endure during the season. Birk made it clear that he willingly signed up for this kind of pain and that he has no complaints or regrets. He feels lucky to be playing in the NFL.

“I mean, everybody’s sore,” Birk said on the Monday morning after playing the Lions. “Everyone who played yesterday is sore today. That’s just part of the game, and you’re not going to last if you can’t deal with it.

“I’m not going to let this stuff slow me down. It’s kind of like mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Rice vs. Jamal

Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun took a look at the styles of Ray Rice compared to the previous great Ravens running back, Jamal Lewis. The local media unanimously picked Rice as the Ravens’ MVP this year.

“It’s not a surprise considering he is having one of the best seasons among NFL running backs,” Hensley said. “But Rice is also having one of the best seasons ever by a Ravens running back, approaching the level of Jamal Lewis’ historic 2003 campaign.”

Who was better, Jamal in his prime or Rice right now?

Ravens’ Restricted Free Agents

If the 2010 season begins without a salary cap, 10 Ravens would become restricted free agents rather than unrestricted, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The group is: wide receivers Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, tackles Adam Terry and Tony Moll, cornerback Fabian Washington, guard Chris Chester, defensive end Dwan Edwards, tight end Quinn Sypniewski, punter Sam Koch and kicker Billy Cundiff.

“I definitely think the uncertainty scares guys,” Cundiff said. “A lot of players haven’t been in the situation I’ve been where I was out of football for two years, and I really don’t think they know what’s in store. As a guy that’s been out of the league, I would encourage both sides to try to come to some sort of compromise as quickly as possible because it kind of sets the game back a little bit.”

Urban Meyer in Coach Mattison’s Thoughts

Former Gators defensive coordinator Greg Mattison expressed concern for his friend, University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer, who is taking a leave of absence for health reasons. Meyer has since been reported to have been in the emergency room.

“We’re very close and I feel bad for him,” Mattison said Thursday. “But it’s funny, my wife and I talked about this a long time ago when we were with Urban. The only thing you ever worried about Urban is, his health is going to go because he works so hard. The man is a tireless worker, and he reminds me of Coach [John] Harbaugh in the fact that he’s not going to have any coach or any player do any more than he does. I just hope his health is fine.”

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