The Heat is On

Ravens v. Chiefs

The Ravens have a chance to assume the No. 1 seed in the AFC if the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at Arrowhead. I don’t see it happening. Look for Andy Reid to have his struggling offense running on all cylinders against a suspect Eagles defense. And let’s not sell KC’s defense short. They’ve been good.

Both teams are rested coming off their byes and that additional prep time favors the Chiefs. That said, a Chiefs loss will make the Ravens the top dog in the conference, but they’ll need help moving forward, even if Mahomes, Kelce & Taylor Swift fall to The Birds. The Chiefs are (5-1) against AFC opponents while the Ravens are (5-3).


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First Place

The Ravens hold on first-place in the AFC North grew a bit tighter following the Browns 13-10 win over the Steelers. The game was one featuring offensive futility on both sides. Kenny Pickett couldn’t complete throws beyond the sticks and averaged an anemic 2.5 yards per pass play.

With this Steelers offense, long-term success is not sustainable. But that doesn’t mean the Steelers will go away any time soon. The balance of their schedule includes in order (home games in CAPS): Bengals (5-5), CARDINALS (2-9), PATRIOTS (2-8), Colts (5-5), BENGALS (5-5), Seahawks (6-4) and the Ravens (8-3).

But the Steelers success is completely predicated upon the strength of their defense and winning the turnover battle. If they fail, Pittsburgh is toast. And judging from the body language of Najee Harris below, the offense is feeling the heat.

After a few days off the Ravens will begin preparing for the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday. The team will practice Tuesday and Wednesday, spend the day with their families on Thursday, and then have their walk-thru on Friday before boarding the charter to LA. Currently the Ravens are listed as 4-point favorites.

Bolts Lack a Charge

The Chargers just lost to the Packers in Green Bay by the score of 23-20, a game during which quarterback Justin Herbert threw for 260 yards and two scores, but it could have been much worse for the Cheeseheads’ defense. Check out the vid below.

Of note, WR Quentin Johnston is a player the Chargers selected with the 21st overall pick in 2023, one selection before Zay Flowers. On the season, the lengthy Johnston has 20 catches for 183 yards and 1TD. Flowers has 53 grabs for 588 yards and a score. Clearly different types of players and while Johnston is that big, tall, red zone target, Flowers’ versatility makes him a much better fit for the Ravens, and arguably the Chargers too.

The Bolts appear to be doing Bolt things again in 2023. They have loads of talent but once again the results are falling short of the potential. And maybe the Chargers coaching staff is beginning to feel the heat. That’s a natural byproduct when results fail to approach expectations.

Staley has earned the criticisms tossed his way. The Chargers have made huge investments in their defense, including a 5-year, $80M deal for J.C. Jackson that included $40M in guarantees. Jackson played in all of 7 games for the Chargers before they traded him to the Patriots. That’s a waste of cap resources, $9.6M in 2023 alone. Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, the latter of which will probably be unavailable for the Chargers v. Ravens, take up a combined $32.4M in ’23 while CB Michael Davis and Safety Derwin James eat up a combined $18.5M. All told, the Chargers defense accounts for $101.7M in cap space and that number climbs to $133.5M in 2024.

The investments aren’t paying dividends and that’s something that hasn’t escaped one of the biggest windbags in sports media (no, not Jason LaCanfora) — Rex Ryan.

A quick start on Sunday night for the Ravens offense could quickly sabotage all hope for the once-promising (4-6) Chargers.

Oweh-Oweh, Oweh-Oweh

Odafe Oweh has benefitted from the tutelage of LB Coach Chuck Smith arguably more than any other Raven. The team’s personnel group knew that when they used a first-round pick on Oweh in 2021 that he was raw with a high ceiling but questionable floor. Now, he’s beginning to show why the Ravens spent the draft capital to acquire Oweh’s services.

The former Nittany Lion has a relentless motor and even when he isn’t credited with a measurable stat, Oweh is regularly disruptive. His arsenal of rush moves has improved, and his athleticism can be a detriment to opposing offensive tackles with limited mobility. Case in point, his head-to-head battle with Orlando Brown, Jr. on Thursday night. Oweh notched a sack, 7 pressures and according to’ Next Gen Stats, he posted a 35% pressure rate.

That’s progress. There was some question as to whether the Ravens would exercise Oweh’s fifth-year option. Count me among those who believe that Odafe has removed all doubt. Rashod Bateman’s on the other hand, is still to be determined.

[Check out The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox]

Go to Black

Every now and then I’ll hear from fans about the Ravens official website and how they are such homers. But really, what do you expect them to be? Critics? Maybe throw shade on the team like the guy 105.7 The Fan does every afternoon? The Ravens Media staff needs to support their team in an overt way. Could you imagine the employee newsletter at Under Armour trashing the comfort level of their golf 1/4 zips?

But let’s give credit where it’s due. The Ravens Media team does an amazing job with multi-media. Their “Ravens Wired” program is top-notch and the videos they pump out on Twitter (I’m not ready to call it “X” just yet) are fabulous. Want some evidence? Ok, here you go…

Feel The Heat

Amazon’s Charissa Thompson admitted during a Barstool podcast that she put words in the mouths of NFL head coaches when she worked as a sideline reporter. In case you missed it, here’s what she shared about her days hustling to come up with soundbites from head coaches in-game.

“I would make up the report sometimes, because A, the coach wouldn’t come out at halftime, or it was too late and I didn’t want to screw up the report. So, I was like, ‘I’m just gonna make this up.’

“Because first of all, no coach is gonna get mad if I say, ‘Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves, we need to be better on third down, we need to stop turning the ball over and do a better job of getting off the field.’ They’re not gonna correct me on that. So I’m like, it’s fine, I’ll just make up the report.”

And with that, Thompson just made everyone question the authenticity of all sideline reports. She planted the seed in the minds of the viewing audience that content is more important than the truth and accuracy viewers seek.

Thompson attempted to come off as cool and hip, but instead she came off as disingenuous. And in the process, she smeared her own reputation. Who will trust anything she says from this point forward? And as long as her employment with Amazon remains intact, she’ll bring down the entire production of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime.

For the benefit of her colleagues and employer, Thompson should step down.

Maybe she can join Nickelodeon’s NFL Slimetime and make shit up.

And if so, let’s hope that what she does conjure up is more creative than her lame apology to journalists worldwide:

“Working in media I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation. I’m sorry.”

heat is on Charissa Thompson
Amazon’s Thursday Night Football host Charissa Thompson on set (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

Parting Shots

Joe Flacco has signed with the Browns. I’m rooting for Joe. I hope he becomes Cleveland’s starter. I hope he leads them to the playoffs. I hope that he wins a Wild Card game that leads him to the divisional round and I hope that divisional playoff game is hosted by the Ravens. Could you imagine the electricity at The Bank then?

• You must give credit to the Steelers and the collective will of the team and coaching staff, to fight throughout the season and land upon a (6-4) record. They really aren’t that talented of a team. They are the only team with a winning record that owns a negative point differential. The Steelers have scored just 166 points while giving up 195 (-29). But as mentioned, their schedule sets up well and it would be no surprise to see their January 7 game in Baltimore get the prime time treatment.

The post The Heat is On appeared first on Russell Street Report.

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Title: The Heat is On
Author: Tony Lombardi

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