Quick Links

AP Pro32 ballot from Marvez

AP Pro32 ballot from Marvez

Ballot and comments from AP Pro 32 panel voter Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com:

Week 14

ALEX MARVEZ (Foxsports.com)

1. Houston Texans - The J.J. Watt-led defense got back on track in last Sunday's 24-10 win at Tennessee.

2. New England Patriots - The outcome of upcoming home games against Houston and San Francisco will largely determine whether the Patriots can land a first-round playoff bye.

3. Denver Broncos - Yeah, that Peyton Manning signing worked out all right. The Broncos have already clinched the AFC West.

4. Atlanta Falcons - Thanks to San Francisco's upset loss to St. Louis, the Falcons are guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with two more victories in their final four games.

5. San Francisco 49ers - What is it with the St. Louis Rams? The 49ers are 0-1-1 against that mediocre franchise and 8-2 versus the rest of the league.

6. Baltimore Ravens - With subpar performances in two games against Pittsburgh this season, Joe Flacco needs to get his act together if the Ravens face the Steelers again in the playoffs.

7. New York Giants - Penalties, a bad field-goal snap and the defense's inability to stop Washington's read-option offense were the main reasons for New York's 17-16 road loss to the Redskins.

8. Chicago Bears - Speaking of the inability to stop the read-option, that's what doomed the Bears in last Sunday's overtime defeat against Seattle.

9. Green Bay Packers - Minnesota's Adrian Peterson deserved the spotlight for a 210-yard effort, but let's not forget Green Bay rushed for 152 yards in last Sunday's 23-14 win.

10. Indianapolis Colts - The Colts continue to squeak past the opposition, winning for the seventh time by seven points or less in last Sunday's 35-33 comeback over Detroit.

11. Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are getting more dangerous offensively now that the rushing attack is getting on track. BenJarvus Green-Ellis enjoyed his third consecutive 100-yard outing in last Sunday's 20-13 win over San Diego.

12. Seattle Seahawks - If he continues to play like in Sunday's 23-17 overtime win over Chicago, Seattle's Russell Wilson should draw strong consideration with fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Robert Griffin III (Washington) for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

13. Washington Redskins - The last time the Redskins made the playoffs came after a strong finish to the 2007 season. History may be set to repeat itself based upon Washington's performance in Monday night's 17-16 win over the New York Giants.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers - A gritty 23-20 win in Baltimore ultimately could be remembered as the victory that propelled the Steelers into the playoffs.

15. Dallas Cowboys - As reinforced by a 38-33 victory over Philadelphia, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo deserves a spot in the playoffs with the way he's performing. The same can't be said about some of his struggling teammates (I'm looking at you, Doug Free).

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Note to Bucs head coach Greg Schiano: There is such a thing as karma. Remember that each time you attack the victory formation like at the end of last Sunday's 31-23 loss to Denver.

17. Minnesota Vikings - Adrian Peterson looks like a lock to win another NFL rushing title. But with the way the rest of Minnesota's offense is playing, he'll have to enjoy the honor at home during the playoffs.

18. New Orleans Saints - That really wasn't Drew Brees forcing passes, mismanaging the clock and throwing five interceptions against Atlanta, was it?

19. St. Louis Rams - If they could only play San Francisco every week, the Rams (5-6-1) might be in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. But with three road games remaining, a postseason berth seems unlikely.

20. Buffalo Bills - The defense is moving toward respectability by limiting the past three opponents to 20 points or less, including Jacksonville in last Sunday's 34-18 win.

21. Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill's roller-coaster rookie season took a downward turn with his erratic passing in last Sunday's 23-16 loss to New England.

22. Detroit Lions - The Lions were one of the NFL's best fourth-quarter teams at the midway point of the season. Following last Sunday's 38-33 home defeat against Indianapolis, Detroit (4-8) has now become the first NFL team in at least 30 seasons to lose three straight games after taking a lead into the final two minutes.

23. New York Jets - A 7-6 victory over Arizona was a perfect embodiment of just how ugly this season has become for the Jets (5-7).

24. Cleveland Browns - Pat Shurmur's job as head coach may be safe if Cleveland keeps showing improvement. The Browns (4-8) would string together their first three-game winning streak since the end of 2009 with a victory Sunday against Kansas City.

25. San Diego Chargers - A piece of advice for Chargers fans: Watch only the first three quarters of every game because the fourth will leave you heartbroken. A 20-13 loss to Cincinnati was the latest example.

26. Tennessee Titans - Firing offensive coordinator Chris Palmer didn't pay immediate dividends in last Sunday's 24-10 loss to Houston. If the Titans don't finish strong, expect some other members of the Titans staff to get booted after the season as well.

27. Arizona Cardinals - With the NFL's most pathetic offense, the Cardinals have a legitimate shot at becoming the first team in league history to start 4-0 and finish 4-12.

28. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton is getting back on track. The rest of his team isn't.

29. Philadelphia Eagles - By the time this miserable season is over, head coach Andy Reid may have no more assistants left to fire.

30. Oakland Raiders - Can things get worse in Oakland after a five-game losing streak? You bet - Denver (9-3) comes to the Bay Area for a Thursday night matchup.

31. Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs responded valiantly in the face of tragedy in last Sunday's 27-21 win over Carolina.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars - Now that quarterback Blaine Gabbert is on injured reserve, let's turn the blame for this 2-10 season on a horrendous defense that has generated a league-low 13 sacks and allowed Buffalo to rush for 232 yards in last Sunday's 34-18 loss.

---

Online:

http://pro32.ap.org/poll and

http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

WR Perriman hopes to impress not only with speed, but with hands

WR Perriman hopes to impress not only with speed, but with hands

OWINGS MILLS - People often call Breshad Perriman fast. They don’t always call Perriman sure-handed.

However, criticism of Perriman’s hands may be a thing of the past, according to Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. One of the few knocks on Perriman entering the 2015 draft was that he sometimes dropped catchable balls due to a lack of concentration. However, the Ravens’ second-year wide receiver has worked hard on catching the ball consistently, even when he wasn’t able to run during his recovery from two knee injuries.

Now Perriman finally seems close to making his Ravens debut. When that happens, Trestman said he expected to see a receiver not only with impressive speed, but reliable hands.

“I think his hands and concentration have even got better since he first got here,” Trestman said. “He is much more sure-handed – not that he wasn’t – but he has become even more sure-handed. I think that goes with confidence. He just needs to get out and play and run routes and do it consistently and get some reps. He just needs reps. He has go-to speed, and he has size to go with it. It is a unique package.”

A package the Ravens are eager to unwrap.

RELATED: WHO WILL GRAB HOLD OF RAVENS KICK RETURN JOB

Quick Links

Ravens kick return job still up in the air

Ravens kick return job still up in the air

With two preseason games left, the Ravens appear to have little clarity in their efforts to find a kick return specialist, and although Michael Campanaro had all three punt return chances against the Colts last weekend, the Ravens aren't ready yet to declare the job his.

Last year's leading returners — Kaelin Clay and Jeremy Ross — are no longer with the team.

RELATED: MAKING SENSE OF FLACCO VS. THE LIONS

Coach John Harbaugh, the former special teams coach that he is, blasted the Ravens special teams play against the Colts, both in kick returns and in kick coverage.

"We kicked the ball to them, and they kicked the ball to us, and we got our butts kicked," Harbaugh said after the game. "That's unacceptable."

Harbaugh seemed particularly agitated about the Ravens kickoff coverage; the Colts averaged 28.0 yards per kick return, nearly 10 yards better than the Ravens (18.8).

Earlier this week, Harbaugh declared, "We have not found our punt returner or our kick returner yet."

As for kick returns, three running backs — Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West and Stephen Houston — returned kicks at Indianapolis last week with unimpressive results. West had the longest return at 23 yards, and two returns left the Ravens inside their 20-yard line.

The Ravens are giving both West and Dixon a long look as kick returner — Houston is a longshot to make the team — with the idea that a fourth running back could also contribute in the return game. Rookie Tavon Young has also been given reps as a kick returner, though he missed the Colts game with a hamstring injury.

Campanaro headlines a group of punt return candidates that includes former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Campanaro had all three punt return chances against the Colts, with one fair catch and one 21-yard return. Reynolds, who has had an inconsistent camp as a returner, served on the punt coverage team and had a tackle against the Colts but was not back as the return man at all.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Campanaro "showed some real positive things" against the Colts, but Rosburg was not ready to hand him the job yet.

"Michael's out there trying to win the job," Rosburg said after practice on Wednesday. "It's really not his job, it's the returner. The job belongs to the team, and he's trying to get that job."

Expect the auditions for both jobs to continue Saturday night against the Lions.

Quick Links

Why Ravens' decision to play Joe Flacco against Lions makes sense

Why Ravens' decision to play Joe Flacco against Lions makes sense

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will see his first game action since last November on Saturday night, when he starts the Week 3 preseason game against the Lions.

“You need to get back out there, you need to get your mind used to getting ready for a game,” Flacco said Tuesday on Mad Dog Sports Radio with Adam Schein.

Here are three reasons why playing Flacco makes sense:

1. Flacco can benefit from playing before the regular-season opener:

Flacco has shown no indication that he is thinking about his surgically-repaired knee during practices. However, Flacco also knows that no teammates will hit him during practice. Game action will give Flacco a different feel, the test of facing tacklers who will hit him if given the opportunity. Look for the Ravens to call plays that require Flacco to get rid of the ball quickly. The Ravens don’t want Flacco to get hit. But they want him to knock off any potential game rust before the regular season starts.

2.  Flacco can build more chemistry with some of his receivers.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Chris Moore, as well as tight end Ben Watson, have never caught a pass from Flacco during a game. This will be a chance for them to get a better feel for each other heading into Week 1.

3. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and rookie left guard Alex Lewis have been practicing and playing with confidence.

It’s early, but Stanley has looked more like a five-year vet than a rookie. Lewis is a physical blocker who doesn’t look intimidated by anyone, or anything. With guard John Urschel missing another day of practice on Wednesday, Lewis is expected to start next to Stanley on Saturday night. The Ravens feel their two rookies on the left side of the line can protect Flacco’s blindside well enough to the Lions away from him.

MORE RAVENS: Scrambling QB's could give Ravens problems