Late for Work 12/31: Ravens Scoreboard-Watching Guide

Plus Meriweather’s reduced fine for his hit on Heap and the end of T.Ocho’s days in Cincy?

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Friday, December 31st, 2010 at 9:06 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Ravens Scoreboard-Watching Guide

Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh admitted the Ravens will be looking at the scoreboard "quite often" this weekend.

And Head Coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t have a problem with that.

That’s because the outcomes of four other games are just as important to the Ravens’ playoff destiny as taking care of business against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Thus, I thought it would be helpful to expand my weekly round-up of picks and predictions I do each Friday to help you prepare for your own scoreboard watching on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-11) at Baltimore Ravens (11-4), 1 p.m. on CBS

The skinny: The Ravens are on a three-game losing streak to the Bengals, which suppresses any confidence that would come from Cincinnati’s 4-11 record. Neither receivers Chad Ochocinco (ankle) nor Terrell Owens (knee, Injured Reserve) will be active. Cincinnati is playing for pride and future jobs. The Ravens are playing for the chance to win the AFC North, a first-round bye, and a second-round home game. Analysts from around the Web unanimously think Baltimore will get the win, but they’ll still need a little help…

Baltimore Sun
: Six of six pick Ravens
WJZ’s Mark Viviano: Ravens 24, Bengals 10
ESPN: Eight of eight pick Ravens’s Peter King: Ravens 27, Bengals 25
USA Today: Eight of eight pick Ravens
Yahoo! Sports: Three of three pick Ravens
Sporting News: Five of five pick Ravens
Pro Football Talk: Two of two pick Ravens

Picks total
: Ravens 34, Bengals 0

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) at Cleveland Browns (5-10), 1 p.m. on CBS

The skinny: In order to win the division, the Ravens need what the Baltimore Sun’s Jamison Hensley calls a "football miracle." Hensley gives the Browns a 15 percent chance of upsetting the Steelers and says two players could be key in doing so: cornerback Joe Haden and running back Peyton Hillis. A Haden interception could give the Browns good field position and Hillis could break some long runs…against the league’s best rush defense. I didn’t find a single analyst brave enough to predict a Browns victory.

Picks total (includes picks from all the same outlets above, except the Sun and WJZ): Steelers 27, Browns 0

Oakland Raiders (7-8) and Kansas City Chiefs (10-5), 1 p.m. on CBS

The skinny:  ESPN says the Chiefs have little to play for Sunday. The only difference this weekend’s results will have on the Chiefs is who their opponent will be in the first round: the Steelers, Ravens, or the Jets. If they want to avoid the Ravens/Steelers, they’ll want to beat the Raiders. As of right now, it’s up in the air as to how much the Chiefs will play their starters.  Oakland has won three straight at Arrowhead Stadium, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them pull off the upset. Regardless of what happens in the Colts game (see below), Ravens fans will likely be pulling for the Raiders.

Picks total
: Chiefs 19, Raiders 8

Tennessee Titans (6-9) at Indianapolis Colts (9-6), 4:15 p.m. on CBS

The skinny: If you are looking to avoid the Colts, it could happen with them winning or losing this weekend. If Indianapolis beats (or ties) the Titans and the Chiefs drop one to the Oakland Raiders, they would swap the three and four seeds. That would mean the Ravens would travel to Arrowhead Stadium in the first round (assuming the Ravens don’t win the AFC North). On the other hand, if the Colts lose and the Jags win, the Ravens will play in Jacksonville. Experts advise you not to count on that. With so much on the line for the Colts (matching Dallas for the longest streak of postseason appearances in NFL history), nobody was willing to predict a Titans upset.

Picks total
: Colts 27, Titans 0

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7) at Houston Texans (5-10), 4:15 p.m. on CBS

The skinny: Things aren’t looking good for the Jags now that they have lost their starting quarterback David Gerrard. Plus, they will likely be without starting running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Backup quarterback Trent Edwards will try to exploit the Texans league-worst pass defense and give his team a chance to play in the postseason. Not many think Edwards is capable of such a feat, as most experts picked Houston to notch the victory.

Picks total: Texans 24, Jaguars 3

Meriweather Got Reduced Fine for Hit on Heap

The NFL reduced the fines for Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, following an appeals process.

Meriweather was originally fined $50,000 for two helmet-to-helmet hits on tight end Todd Heap in Week 6. The Pats safety got a 15-yard personal foul penalty when he leapt into Heap’s head with his helmet. Heap lay on the field for several minutes before walking off under his own power. Earlier in the game, Meriweather hit Heap in a similar fashion near the goal line, but did not receive a penalty.

According to an NFL statement via USA Today, NFL appeals officer Ted Cottrell and Commissioner Roger Goodell were in agreement to reduce the fines.

"Cottrell said he reduced the fines because the players said they understood the rules and have made efforts to adjust their techniques to play within the rules that protect player safety," the NFL said in a statement.

Honest Housh on the Best NFL Receiving Corps

The Ravens are the first team in NFL history with three wide receivers on the same roster that have 600 or more receptions: Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Houshmandzadeh.

That doesn’t even count the talent added with Donte’ Stallworth and tight end Todd Heap.

So do the Ravens have the best receiving corps in the NFL?

As always, Houshmanzadeh can be relied upon to give an honest answer.

"I would say if you base it off of talent, then yes," said Housh. "But if you base it off of statistics and what we’ve done thus far this season, I would say no."

Batman and Robin’s Days Over in Cincy?

Speculation on whether Marvin Lewis will remain the Head Coach in Cincinnati has been ongoing all season.

But what about receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco?

Owens was a one-year free agent signee last offseason, and leads his team with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns.

Ochocinco, who was drafted by the Bengals in 2001, is second on the team with 67 receptions for 831 yards and four touchdowns.

Neither the duo nor the Bengals’ offense lived up to expectations this season, and it seems the unit may be better off without the receiving tandem. Quarterback Carson Palmer is fresh off his best game of the season, throwing to youngsters Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham.

Sports Illustrated’s
Peter King says Cincinnati should forget about both players and turn to other prospects in seasons to come.

"[It's] time to move on," tweeted King. "[There's] no sense to keep either."

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