Ravens emerge as Super Bowl contenders; The tackle of the year; Colts’ remarkable comeback: Just another week in the NFL. We’ll give you all the 2018 NFL news you can handle in under three minutes (Disclaimer: you can stay longer than three minutes. Time is relative). Here’s the best—or worst—of the NFL from Week 16.
Ravens Emerge As Potential Playoff Nightmare
Let’s be honest, the Ravens probably are still not among the top few teams you’d put a few bucks on to win the Super Bowl. The Saints, Rams, Chiefs, Patriots, Bears, and the Chargers all still figure to be more popular picks to win it all.
Such is the trust factor with a rookie quarterback like Lamar Jackson (better known for his running than his passing) calling signals in Baltimore. But, over the fast few weeks, the team has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in January and beyond. Maybe it's time the Ravens get some respect as a legit Super Bowl contender and Jackson as a bonafide NFL quarterback.
At the very least, they’re a team that no one wants to draw as a playoff opponent, with that lock-down defense, which held the high-octane Chargers to 198 yards of offense (their lowest total since 2014), with Patrick Onwuasor winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
In addition, defensive coordinators will have to game-plan for an offense that is unlike any other in the NFL, tailored as it is to Jackson’s electric running ability. The first-round pick from Louisville has revived the Ravens since taking over for then-injured Joe Flacco, going 5-1 as a starter, with the only loss being a near-miss in Kansas City.
Thanks to the Steelers’ late-season collapse, the Ravens can win the AFC North if they defeat the Browns at home in Baltimore on Sunday.
At this point, would you bet against them?
A Punter With The Tackle Of The Year?
So the bone-jarring, body-slamming tackle of this NFL season comes courtesy of a…punter.
By now you’ve probably seen the footage of Falcons’ punter Matt Bosher catching Panthers’ kick returner Kenjon Barnes as he tried to make a cut, lifting him into the air and driving him to the turf.
Bosher, who also kicks off for the Falcons, even stood over his victim in triumph and flexed his muscles. And though he didn’t draw a taunting penalty, the disrespect prompted ESPN analyst Ryan Clark to call out Barnes for not responding to such an insult.
“If a punter does that to me, I’ve gotta get up and fight him right there,” Clark said.
At 6-feet, 208 pounds, Bosher is no lightweight and has made his share of tackles in the past, even engaging then-Jets’ coach Rex Ryan in trash talk after one such hit.
Bosher’s tackle definitely caught the attention of the NFL -- after the game, Bosher confirmed reports he’d been drug tested, but showed a sense of humor about it.
Luck, Colts, One Win From Completing Memorable Comeback
Ok, so who had the Colts in the playoffs back when they were 1-5?
Well, why not? Andrew Luck is the favorite to earn Comeback Player of the Year honors, and with a win over the Titans on Sunday night, his team would cap off quite a comeback of its own by earning a wild-card playoff berth (or the AFC South title, should the Texans stumble against Jacksonville).
The Titans have just as much at stake in the win-and-in game, but in the name of star power, most NFL fans are likely rooting for Luck, who has reclaimed his status as one of the top quarterbacks in the league after missing all or parts of the last three seasons.
Indeed, Luck has thrown 36 TD passes, including the game-winner in the final minute against the Giants last week. Only the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes has thrown more TDs, with 48.
Luck, after all, is merely 10-0 in his career against the Titans.
Bowles Said What?
The Quote of The Week comes from the least quotable coach this side of Bill Belichick: Todd Bowles.
The Jets’ head coach, usually blander than bland at his press conferences, lashed out at what he saw was terrible officiating after last week’s 44-38 loss to the Packers:
“I thought we were playing two teams,” Bowles said. “I thought we were playing the Packers and the striped shirts.”
Freely translated, that sounded like: “I know I’m getting fired in another week so I might as well go out with guns blazing.”
Raiders Go Out With A Bang In Oakland…Maybe
You don’t have to be old enough to remember Kenny Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, Lyle Alzado, and Jack Tatum to know the Raiders have long been regarded as the outlaws of the NFL, just as the late owner Al Davis wanted it.
And that reputation was tied directly to the blue-collar image of Oakland, featuring a crazed fan base, especially those sitting in the legendary Black Hole section of the Coliseum.
All of which made for something of a sentimental night on Christmas Eve, as the Raiders showed some pride in a lost season by defeating the Broncos 27-14 in what may have been the final game in their long-time stadium (their new stadium in Las Vegas will be ready for them in 2020).
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who once played for the Raiders, explained why the connection between the team and the fans will make leaving so difficult.
“It’s a sad day for the NFL,’’ Riddick said. “You can’t explain it unless you’ve worn the silver-and-black, and run out of the tunnel, past the Black Hole and looked at those people, their faces. It means everything to them.
“It truly is their team. They feel they’re one with you, and that’s unique.”