GRAPEVINE: The Inside Skinny from 1 Winning Drive

Lombardi's Way GRAPEVINE: The Inside Skinny from 1 Winning Drive

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The Ravens say Todd Heap could get the green light to return to the field in Cleveland on Sunday. Count me among those who think that is a mistake. The cold weather coupled with the 40% chance of snow showers suggest that footing in Browns Stadium might not be ideal and that is hardly a welcome mat for a recovering hamstring.

Hopefully all this talk about Heap’s return coming from John Harbaugh is just Harbaugh being Harbaugh – that is added gamesmanship for the opponent. Heap should sit until the playoffs start, end of story.

Heap’s forced vacation has allowed Ed Dickson to gain some needed experience. Clearly he’s not an accomplished blocker but he does provide speed to the position, perhaps the best speed the Ravens have ever had at tight end and that speed creates mismatches. Dickson’s contributions combined with those of David Reed’s are finally providing substance to the Ravens’ draft class of 2010.

Speaking of which, rookie DT Terrence Cody showcased some vast potential during the preseason and then again in Atlanta against the Falcons. This past week in Baltimore against the Saints, Cody was on the field for just five plays. Insiders say that the former Alabama run stuffer was dominant during those five snaps. If you buy into that the obvious follow up question is, “Why didn’t he see the field more?”

Well for one the Saints are first and foremost a passing team and that alone will knock off potential plays for Cody as Greg Mattison opted for more nickel and dime sub packages. Secondly, the Ravens are dealing with the fading star of a very prideful Kelly Gregg, a well-liked, well respected member of the Ravens family. The organization is handling the delicate situation with kid gloves.

That said there’s at least a 50-50 chance that 2010 is Gregg’s swansong season and an even greater chance that he will never be a starter again beyond the ’10 campaign if he does return.

The Ravens play at cornerback as of late has been very solid. Lardarius Webb is beginning to regain the form he showed during his rookie season and is playing with better technique in pass coverage while supporting the run with more assertiveness. Newcomer Josh Wilson has been steady while producing some impact plays and Chris Carr has developed into a model of consistency. These plus developments coupled with the expected return of Domonique Foxworth in 2011 suggest that the Ravens will be more inclined to improve their pass rush and weaknesses at linebacker during the offseason than augmenting the secondary – at least on the edges.

Another area the Ravens will likely address in the draft is a speed receiver in the mold of Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace. The team is said to believe in David Reed’s upside as well but when considering the age of the receiving corps, it is unlikely that both Derrick Mason and TJ Houshmandzadeh will return next season. And if the Ravens are successful in adding impactful speed, Donte Stallworth’s tenure with the team could come to an abrupt halt.

Many within the team were surprised by the healthy scratch of Stallworth this past Sunday against the Saints. Word is the speedy receiver while disappointed is taking the ego shot in stride and continues to demonstrate humility and a team first attitude.

Time to Dance?

With a win on Sunday in Cleveland the Ravens will clinch a playoff berth for the third consecutive season, a franchise first. The Ravens can however become a post season dance participant even with a loss to the Browns if:

·         The Kansas City Chiefs lose and the Jacksonville Jaguars lose or tie

·         The Chiefs lose and the Indianapolis Colts lose or tie

·         The San Diego Chargers lose or tie and the Jacksonville Jaguars lose or tie

·         The Chargers lose or tie and the Colts lose or tie

Here is list of games involving those teams and the corresponding point spreads per fooballlocks.com:

·         Jacksonville -7 @ Washington

·         Tennessee @ Kansas City -5

·         Indianapolis -3 @ Oakland

·         San Diego -7.5 @ Cincinnati

Ravens v. Browns Quick Hitters

The Ravens have won five consecutive games against the Browns and aim to sweep the series for the third straight season and the seventh time ever. John Harbaugh has never lost to Cleveland as the Ravens head coach.

The Ravens’ record against teams with sub-.500 records under John Harbaugh is 16-1, the only loss to such a team occurred during Week 2 this year in a tight albeit ugly 15-10 defeat at 0-1 Cincinnati.

During the Ravens 5 game winning streak against the Browns they have averaged:

·         27.8 points per game while allowing just 11.4 points per game

·         364.0 yards of offense compared to 218.6 for Cleveland

·         144.6 rushing yards per game while giving up 92.8

·         219.4 yards per game passing against 125.8 for the Browns

The Ravens also hold a +8 turnover margin during those 5 contests.

DID YOU KNOW?

·         Terrell Suggs is 1 sack shy of tying his career high heading into Cleveland, a team against which he has registered the most sacks (12) in his eight-year career. With 2 more sacks, Suggs (68.5) will become the Ravens’ all-time sacks leader, passing LB Peter Boulware’s 70. The team’s single season record is owned by Boulware as well (15) set in 2001.

·         The Ravens are on pace to produce the fewest turnovers in team history (17 now, with a projection of 19). They also are tracking to throw the fewest INTs in team history (8 now, with projection of 9 thefts).

·         John Harbaugh’s emphasis on cleaner play is paying off. At their current pace the Ravens are projected to record the fewest penalty yards and third-fewest penalties in team history.

·         The Ravens’ “D” has only allowed 24 points in the third quarter this season, the NFL’s fewest. Baltimore has now gone 23 consecutive games without allowing a TD in the third quarter. That streak is the most consecutive games without permitting a TD in the third quarter in football’s modern era (since 1933).

·         The purple and black play consistently tight games. The Ravens’ average margin of defeat in their four losses this season, is 4 points, the NFL’s second-lowest margin (3.3 for Green Bay in six losses). In their 10 wins, the team’s margin of victory has been 8.7 points.

·         Sam Koch has 36 punts inside the 20 this season and needs 7 more to set the NFL-single season record. Currently, the mark of 42 is held by Andy Lee (2007) and Ben Graham (2009).

·         Kicker Billy Cundiff needs just 3 touchbacks to break the NFL single-season record for TBs on kickoffs from the 30-yard line (starting point was moved from 35 in 1994). Mitch Berger holds the record of 40 in 1994.

THE QUOTABLE

On the notion of possibly breaking the NFL touchback record Cundiff said, “I’m excited, but I also realize that there are a lot of things working against me, like the winter weather. It’s fun to think that I could do that, considering where I’ve been. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my excitement to an even keel so I can just do my job.”
 

 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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