The Ravens are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot; should the rest of the AFC be worried?
It wasn't pretty—the home fans were booing midway through the fourth quarter of a game that their team was winning—but Baltimore moved into sixth in the AFC with a 23-16 win over Houston Monday night (the Ravens are tied with Buffalo at 6-5 but ahead for now thanks to a better in-conference record). The Texans were in it all night. They were down four with the ball in Baltimore territory with under five minutes to play, but Terrell Suggs stripped Tom Savage, ending the threat. After a Justin Tucker field goal pushed the lead to seven, Savage threw an interception on the next drive. Houston fell to 4-7, essentially out of the playoff picture.
With better injury luck, the Texans likely would have claimed a wild-card spot if not the AFC South title. Instead, we have three teams—the Chargers, Raiders, and Bengals—sitting one game behind the Bills and Ravens. There's a good chance that mess won't be sorted out until Week 17, when the Chargers face the Raiders and the Bengals and Ravens square off. And it might well come down to complicated tiebreakers, which could give the edge to Los Angeles or Baltimore (they're both currently 2-0 against this group of teams). For what it's worth, FPI favors them as well.
Either of those two could be a scary opponent come January, the Chargers because of Philip Rivers plus the NFL's best edge-rushing tandem in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, and the Ravens because of what we saw last night. Even when Joe Flacco is ineffective—141 yards, no touchdowns—Baltimore's defense and special teams can secure a win. Not counting Monday night, both units were already ranked first by Football Outsiders. And we know what John Harbaugh can do in the playoffs.
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LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Our Week 13 Power Poll ... Albert Breer discusses Schiano in his college column ... Ben Baskin profiles Josh Gordon upon the WR's return to the NFL ... and more. Stay tuned.
1. Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib were both suspended two games for their roles in Sunday's Raiders-Broncos fracas, and the explanations given by the league are gold. NFL VP of Football Operations Jon Runyan said Crabtree "triggered a melee" (fair) and told Talib "you deliberately ripped your opponent's chain from his neck" (also fair). Still, Oakland coach Jack Del Rio wrote on Twitter that the reasoning was "hard to understand."
2. Friends, teammates, coaches, and opponents shared their Sean Taylor memories with Judy Battista, 10 years after the late Redskins safety was killed in a home invasion. "Every time you watched him play was watching magic," former college teammate Vince Wilfork said.
3. How about that Grey Cup, eh? No matter the league, Bruce Arthur is worth reading. This time he's got a great column on the misfit Argonauts (last place a season ago, without a coach or general manager until March, a weak draw for fans all year) who became champions. The Grey Cup MVP was Jets, Broncos, and Texans reject DeVier Posey. The winning coach was Marc Trestman, fired as head coach in Chicago and offensive coordinator in Baltimore in a 21-month span, who said afterwards, "We all have our wounds." How can you not love this stuff?
4. No team has played a Super Bowl at its home stadium. What would it mean for the Vikings (whose chances seem to improve every week) to become the first?
5. As The Broncos Turn . . . Trevor Siemian is back as starter in Denver, with Paxton Lynch out two-to-four weeks due to an ankle injury. After replacing Lynch in Oakland on Sunday, Siemian led two touchdown drives to make the game interesting late.
6. Guess who's back? Josh Gordon! 2013's receiving yards leader, suspended for all of '15 and '16, is expected to suit up for the Browns Sunday against the Chargers, the team they beat for their lone win last season. And coach Hue Jackson sounds amped to have the wideout. "Oh boy, let me tell you," Jackson said Monday, "I have big plans for him." We'll see if Gordon's addition is enough to give Cleveland its first win of 2017. Vegas seems to think not, posting the Chargers as 13-point favorites.
7. I'm not sure why, but I loved this story. Jason Witten was asked seriously about the possibility of taking over as the head coach at the University of Tennessee—like, now. And he answered, seriously. "I will be here Thursday night," he said, as in playing for the Cowboys, like he has since 2003. "God willing."
8. Thirty-seven years old, on his fifth team in four years, defensive end Dwight Freeney thinks he's still got it. We'll see Sunday when he makes his Lions debut against Baltimore, but Detroit coach Jim Caldwell, who was in Indianapolis during Freeney's heyday, is already a believer. "He's still got juice," Caldwell said.
9. It might be time for Jimmy Garoppolo to start in San Francisco, whether Kyle Shanahan is ready or not. Shanahan said he'll make the call between the presumed new franchise QB and banged-up rookie C.J. Beathard tomorrow.
10. Remember that talk we had two weeks ago about the NFL's plans regarding primetime assignments? Well, now it sounds like Fox would rather not let the Rams and Eagles play under the Sunday night lights.
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After encountering plane issues Sunday night, the Bears returned to an awful smell at Halas Hall. It turned out the team's play wasn't the only rotten thing in the building.
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