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AP Pro32 ballot from Glauber

AP Pro32 ballot from Glauber

Ballot and comments from AP Pro 32 panel voter Bob Glauber of Newsday:

Week 12

BOB GLAUBER (Newsday)

1. Houston Texans - When your defense isn't at its best, nice to have

Matt Schaub save the day with five TD passes, including the

game-winner in OT of a surprisingly difficult win over the Jaguars.

Not gonna penalize Texans on style points. Bottom line: They got it

done.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Too soon to call it a slump. But a week after

losing a battle against Drew Brees, Matt Ryan throws a career-high

five INTs as Atlanta narrowly holds off Arizona. If he doesn't get

back on track quickly, then there's a problem. A big problem.

3. San Francisco 49ers - You don't often see a quarterback controversy

on a winning team, but the 49ers sure seem to have one. Who's it going

to be, Jim Harbaugh? Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith? Either way, looks

like Kaepernick has a terrific future.

4. Green Bay Packers - Nothing pretty except the final result, as the

Packers outlast the Lions in Detroit to continue their domination over

their NFC North rivals.

5. Baltimore Ravens - Another ugly win for another highly regarded

team. But when you beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, who cares how it

looks? Ravens now in firm control in AFC North.

6. Denver Broncos - Three more TDs for Peyton Manning and three more

sacks for Von Miller add up to a convincing win over San Diego. Looks

like Denver will cruise to the divisional title and perhaps even a

trip to New Orleans in February.

7. New England Patriots - Blowout win over the Colts is great, but

losing Rob Gronkowski to a broken forearm takes away Tom Brady's

biggest offensive weapon. Pats won't be the same without him.

8. Chicago Bears - Jay Cutler can't get back soon enough, but it's the

defensive meltdown in San Francisco that should have Lovie Smith just

as concerned.

9. New York Giants - Giants return from bye rested and ready, but the

schedule is a killer down the stretch. It starts with Green Bay at

home on Sunday night and includes games against New Orleans, Baltimore

and Atlanta. That one-game lead over Dallas looks mighty tenuous.

10. New Orleans Saints - Hottest team in the league? Could be. Saints

roll to their fifth win in the last six games and are right in the

thick of NFC wild card race. Would be an incredible feat if they get

there after overcoming 0-4 start.

11. Seattle Seahawks - Seahawks return from bye to face reeling Miami.

Can't afford a misstep here, not when Seattle is still very much in

the thick of it in the divisional and wild card races.

12. Dallas Cowboys - Just when it looks like the Cowboys will go

kerplunk - i.e. lose at home to the awful Browns - they pull off a

dramatic comeback and remain a factor. Only one game behind the

slumping Giants, and this thing can change in a hurry.

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Another terrific comeback effort from Josh

Freeman in a road win over the Panthers. Statement game now on tap for

Sunday: Falcons at Tampa.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers - With the quarterback situation a mess

because of injuries, it'll be Mike Tomlin's greatest coaching jobs if

he gets to the playoffs.

15. Indianapolis Colts - Mr. Luck, say hello to Mr. Brady. Carry on.

16. Minnesota Vikings - Vikings come off bye with chance to take a

huge step in the division. A win over Chicago, and they're in

business. Looks like they might have to face Jay Cutler, though. Not

easy with Bears in bounce-back mode after San Francisco embarrassment.

17. Cincinnati Bengals - Bengals follow up blowout of defending Super

Bowl champions with another excellent performance, even if the

competition was inferior. But hey, the Chiefs played well the week

before in Pittsburgh, so give credit to Cincy for not giving KC a

chance in this one.

18. Washington Redskins - RG3 has his way against the Eagles' reeling

defense. Still a ways to go in the playoff chase, but at least there's

a chance.

19. Tennessee Titans - Still in the hunt for a wild card, Tennessee is

on the road to face Jacksonville. A tougher task perhaps now that Chad

Henne gets his shot as the Jags' starter.

20. New York Jets - Just the way Rex likes to play: Run the ball, play

good defense, have the quarterback manage the game. The Jets did just

that to beat the Rams on the road. A win over New England at home on

Thanksgiving, and hope lives on.

21. Detroit Lions - It's just about over for the Lions. A Thanksgiving

Day loss to the Texans, and that could be it.

22. Buffalo Bills - Bills are still far from good, but they kept their

flickering playoff hopes alive by beating Miami at home in an ugly

one. Now let's see what they do at Indy in a virtual must-win

situation.

23. San Diego Chargers - Is Philip Rivers really a descending player?

The evidence is hard to ignore. Maybe a change of coaches next season

will signal an eventual rebirth. The Chargers can only hope.

24. Miami Dolphins - It wasn't long ago the Dolphins looked as if

they'd turned the corner. Now they look as if it's 2011 all over

again.

25. Arizona Cardinals - Cardinals haven't won since September. Really.

26. St. Louis Rams - So much for that. A week after the Rams tie the

mighty 49ers on the road, they come up small at home against the Jets.

Not the kind of payback former Jets offensive coordinator Brian

Schottenheimer was looking for.

27. Philadelphia Eagles - The offense is miserable. The defense is

worse. And Andy Reid's time is just about up in Philly. What a mess.

28. Cleveland Browns - Browns come close in Dallas, but can't finish

off the upset. Woulda shoulda coulda - the three words that have come

to symbolize the Browns since their return to Cleveland in 1999.

29. Carolina Panthers - Latest heartbreak for Panthers' fans: Watching

the home team blow a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead with 4:34 to play.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars - Mike Mularkey hands the ball to Chad Henne

after a terrific performance in relief of Blaine Gabbert in Houston.

Let's see if it does the trick at home, where the Jaguars have been

embarrassingly bad.

31. Oakland Raiders - Will Dennis Allen be a one-and-done? Not like

the Raiders haven't pulled the plug early before. Let's see if Mark

Davis is like father Al when it comes to impatience with losing

coaches.

32. Kansas City Chiefs - Back to the basement for the Chiefs, who

follow up a gutty effort in an overtime loss in Pittsburgh with a

miserable showing at home against Cincy.

---

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Playing Flacco in preseason makes sense, but still a risk

Playing Flacco in preseason makes sense, but still a risk

The Ravens feel good about their decision to play Joe Flacco on Saturday night. However, watching Tony Romo of the Cowboys grimacing in pain Thursday night was another reminder why teams have become more cautious about playing franchise quarterbacks during the preseason.

The Cowboys got a scare Thursday night against the Seahawks, when Romo went down holding his back after taking a hit just three plays into the game. Romo did not return, but he never left the sidelines and said he was fine after the game.

The hit on Romo was a reminder that Saturday’s preseason game against the Lions (7 p.m.) will have some angst for the Ravens, with Flacco playing his first game since a serious knee injury last November. Should the Ravens have elected to keep Flacco out the entire preseason? They could have, but coach John Harbaugh decided against it.

RELATED: HOW BIG IS RAVENS ROSTER BUBBLE?

“There’s really no doubt that he’s ready to play,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “But football is risky for everybody. That’s just the way it works. You have to weigh the benefits with the risks and put them out there. Joe is a quarterback. He’s not going to break. He’s going to play. We’re planning on him playing well, just like he has in practice. It will be his first game action in a long time. I’m sure that’s going to be a factor, but I’d rather have it be in this game than in two weeks from now against the Bills.”

Flacco said he could have been ready for Week 1 without playing in the preseason. But he wanted to get some live action before the real season began. Saturday night’s third preseason game, playing with most of the starters, represents the best time to do it.

Flacco is anything but a fragile quarterback. Until last year, he had gone more than seven seasons without missing a start.

Sooner or later, Flacco has to play. But that doesn’t mean Ravens fans won’t hold their breath Saturday night if Flacco gets hit.

MORE RAVENS: WILL LEWIS WIN STARTING LEFT GUARD SPOT OVER URSCHEL?

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How big is the Ravens' roster bubble?

How big is the Ravens' roster bubble?

With two preseason games left and a little more than a week until the 53-man roster has to be set -- the first cut from 90 to 75 players must be done by Tuesday, with the final cut to 53 by Saturday, Sept. 3 -- the bubble is about to burst for many Ravens.

There has been speculation all camp about players landing on the right side or the wrong side of the roster bubble, but how big, exactly, is that bubble?

The hard truth is it's not very big at all. This isn't the case of 90 people competing for 53 jobs. By our count, 47 spots on the team can be considered locks, which leaves just six open spots. And one of those is at quarterback.

Here's how my colleague Clifton Brown and I view the Ravens roster bubble with two games left, although an injury could send one of these locks to IR and make the bubble just a bit larger.

RELATED: WILL LEWIS WIN STARTING LEFT GUARD SPOT OVER URSCHEL?

QUARTERBACK:

Locks (1): Joe Flacco

Bubble: Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson

The Ravens will keep just two quarterbacks, but Johnson has done enough to warrant consideration for the job and put Ryan Mallett on the bubble.

RUNNING BACK:

Lock (5): Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Kyle Juszczyk

Bubble: Lorenzo Taliaferro

With an outstanding camp West moves to the 'lock' category, and Taliaferro could begin the year on the PUP list, which will buy him some time to get healthy. But that doesn't guarantee Taliaferro will play for the Ravens again.

TIGHT END:

Lock (4): Dennis Pitta, Ben Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams

Bubble: Daniel Brown

Pitta is still out with a broken finger but he will be on the active roster, something few expected four months ago. Maxx Williams has also missed time recently, so this group at the moment isn't nearly as deep as once thought. Darren Waller (four games) and Nick Boyle (10 games) will begin the season on the suspended list but could be heard from later in the year.

WIDE RECEIVER:

Lock (6): Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore.

Bubble: Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds

This group is deep but also loaded with injury concerns. If healthy, the top six will all make the 53-man roster. Given the injury questions surrounding Perriman, Campanaro, Moore and Smith, it makes sense to keep a seventh receiver, and Butler is well ahead of the other two.

OFFENSIVE LINE:

Locks (7): Rick Wagner, Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen.

Bubble: Vladimir Ducasse, James Hurst, De'Ondre Wesley

Lewis could be the starter at left guard if Urschel remains sidelined, giving the Ravens an all-rookie look on Joe Flacco's blind side. Jensen had a rough night at Indianapolis but can play anywhere on the line. They love that versatility. The Ravens will likely keep an eighth lineman, and they usually stash a couple of others on the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

Locks (5): Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban

Bubble: Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce

Henry earned coach John Harbaugh's ire with a penalty that gave the Colts a chance to attempt a potential game-winning field goal last week, but the Ravens rarely cut draft picks, let alone fourth-rounders. He is pretty close to a lock. The season-ending injury to Bronson Kaufusi opens the door for someone.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER:

Locks (5): Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za'Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon

Bubble: Chris Carter, Victor Ochi

With Kamalei Correa also playing outside, the Ravens probably keep only the top five.

INSIDE LINEBACKER:

Locks (4): C.J. Mosley, Zach Orr, Kamalei Correa, Anthony Levine

Bubble: Arthur Brown, Patrick Onwuasor

Levine remains one of the Ravens top special teamers and can play safety in a pinch. His move to linebacker spells trouble for Brown.

CORNERBACK:

Locks (4): Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young

Bubble: Sheldon Price, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington, Maurice Canady

Rookie sixth-rounder Canady has missed time with an injury but returned to practice this week. Arrington remains out and his spot on the 53-man roster is looking more tenuous by the day. Ozzie Newsome likes to say that "you can never have too many corners," but it remains to be seen how many the Ravens will keep.

SAFETY:

Locks (3): Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis

Bubble: Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam

Elam is sidelined by arthroscopic knee surgery, which could open the door for Brooks. Levine's ability to play safety could factor here. Don't rule out the Ravens signing a veteran safety once other teams make cuts; that's when they landed James Ihedigbo a few years ago.

SPECIALISTS:

Locks (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

Bubble: None

All have been to the Pro Bowl and all are back. No questions here.

MORE RAVENS: ZA'DARIUS SMITH AMONG THOSE NOT PLAYING SATURDAY

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Will Lewis win starting left guard spot over Urschel?

Will Lewis win starting left guard spot over Urschel?

OWINGS MILLS – Will the Ravens go into the regular season with two rookies protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside?

“If we go into the regular season that way, it will be because I’m confident in those two guys over there,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Those two guys are rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who already has the starting job locked down, and rookie left guard Alex Lewis. Lewis heads into Saturday night’s preseason game against the Lions making a push to be a Week 1 starter as well. Third-year left guard John Urschel hasn’t played since the preseason opener and he didn’t practice this week. Lewis has taken advantage of the extra reps.

RELATED: ZA'DARIUS SMITH AMONG THOSE NOT PLAYING SATURDAY

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said that Urschel has a “contusion”, and was expected to be back soon. But the longer Urschel is out, the more time Lewis has to convince the coaches he should start.

That’s why Saturday night’s preseason game is huge for Lewis. He’s making a rapid adjustment from being a fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, to a possible starter in the NFL.

 “You’ve really got to focus on your technique, your fundamentals, because everyone at this level is good,” Lewis said. “You don’t have those one or two guys you game plan for. In the NFL, all 11 guys on the other side are those dogs you’re trying to get ready for.”

With Flacco starting at quarterback Saturday night, the pressure will be on Stanley and Lewis to play well as a tandem. The Ravens knew they would need a new starting left guard, after Kelechi Osemele signed with the Raiders during free agency. Urschel could still be that guy. But if Lewis plays well Saturday night, it could sway the coaching staff in his direction.

MORE RAVENS: FLACCO LOOKS FORWARD TO PLAYING, BUT NOT GETTING HIT