TUCKER IS AFC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK…AGAIN
It’s just another day at the office for kicker Justin Tucker, who was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time in the last six weeks. Tucker connected on all six of his field goals in Detroit Monday night, including the 61-yard game-winner in the final minute.
Tucker can add these honors to the already impressive resume he has put together after winning the award in Week 10 with his 46-yard game-winner against the Cincinnati Bengals and again in Week 12 when he made all four attempts against the New York Jets. Those two awards culminated in Tucker being named AFC special Teams Player of the month for November.
Tucker has drilled his last 33 attempts and is only four field goals away from breaking the Ravens record set by Matt Stover. Even more impressive is that Tucker is only nine field goals behind the all-time record set by Mike Vanderjagt, who made 42 straight from 2002-2004.
Tucker has been so impressive this season, that he has actually convinced ESPN’s Skip Bayless that the Ravens are on a another Super Bowl run, and that Tucker is “the most spectacular weapon in football.” This is from the same guy who claimed all last season he thought Baltimore had a better chance winning with now free agent Tim Tebow than future Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
The kicker also drew praise from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday who opened his weekly radio show by thanking Tucker, and calling the 61-yard kick “amazing.” The loss for Detroit propelled the Chicago Bears into first in the NFC North, and Bears players tweeted praise to Tucker after the game. It’s good to be Justin Tucker.
RAVENS COULD CLINCH A PLAYOFF BERTH
If the Ravens had lost on Monday night to the Detroit Lions, there’s a good chance that they would be left out of the playoff picture. Instead, because of the win, coupled with the Bengals’ loss on Sunday night, the Ravens now have a scenario where they could clinch a berth this Sunday.
If the Ravens defeat the New England Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers both either lose or tie, the Ravens would clinch at least the sixth seed, and would still be in control of their own destiny in the division heading into their Week 17 matchup with the Bengals in Cincinnati.
If the Dolphins win out in their remaining games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, and the Ravens defeat the Patriots, it will set up a win-or-go-home situation between the Ravens and Bengals in Week 17, because the Dolphins would clinch the sixth seed. The Bengals could have gained control of a first round bye if they had won last Sunday, but with the loss, may not even make the playoffs at all.
It’s actually conceivable that the Ravens get a first-round bye as well, if they win out their remaining games, the Indianapolis Colts lose one of their final two games and the Patriots also lose to the Bills in Week 17.
FLACCO SKIPPING MRI
Quarterback Joe Flacco is unquestionably one of the toughest players at his position in the league, as he has not missed a game in his six-year career, and has made more consecutive starts than every quarterback except Phillip Rivers of San Diego and Eli Manning of New York.
Flacco was drilled in the knee by Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy in the fourth quarter of Monday’s win, and had a noticeable limp the rest of the game, but did not come out. The Ravens told NFL Insider Ed Werder the Ravens do not believe the injury is serious enough for an MRI to be necessary.
Flacco downplayed the injury after the game, saying more than anything else it was just scary. Head Coach John Harbaugh supported Flacco, saying “He fought through that, Joe Flacco is one tough guy. He’s a great player in crunch time.”
Flacco is expected to be limited this week in practice heading into the game on Sunday against the New England Patriots, and may wear a protective knee brace, but is not in any danger of missing the game.
RAVENS SURGING THROUGH POWER RANKINGS
Coaches and players hate power rankings, but most fans love them. Winning four games in a row is usually good for a team’s stock, and the Ravens have proven that building their record from 4-6 when they looked dead in the water to 8-6 and in control of their own destiny over the last four weeks.
ESPN ranks the Ravens as the 12th best team in the NFL, up from 14th last week after the win over the Lions. The voters noted that the Ravens are only the second team this season to win a game where they did not score a touchdown. NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison places the Ravens at 14th up from 15th last week.
The moves are significant for the Ravens, who were widely placed in the bottom half of the power rankings just a month ago, and if the Ravens defeat the Patriots on Sunday, they will only continue to rise. Over the same time span, the Bengals have remained constantly in the lower portion of most analysts’ top 10.
If the Week 17 matchup ends up being for the AFC North crown, which is very possible, it would be tough to argue the Ravens are not the hotter team, even going into Cincinnati.