AP Pro32 ballot from Pompei

AP Pro32 ballot from Pompei

Ballot and comments from AP Pro 32 panel voter Dan Pompei of Chicago Tribune:

Week 15

DAN POMPEI (Chicago Tribune)

1. New England Patriots - Step into Bill Belichick's web, Colin Kaepernick.

2. Denver Broncos - They need to beat the Ravens in order to keep their hopes alive for a first round playoff bye.

3. Green Bay Packers - Mike McCarthy believes this team can be better than the 15-1 Packers of a year ago. Can the Bears make him look wrong on Sunday?

4. San Francisco 49ers - Beating the Dolphins was one thing; beating the Patriots would be something else.

5. Houston Texans - In three of their last four games, Texans have a blowout loss to the Patriots and close call wins against the Jaguars and Lions. Any question about which direction the Texans are headed?

6. Atlanta Falcons - Was loss to the Panthers a blip, or was it the start of a tailspin?

7. New York Giants - If NFL teams had no secondaries, the Giants would be No. 1.

8. Indianapolis Colts - The best teams can win games in different ways. The Colts have done that.

9. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens defense needs a savior. What do you know, here comes Ray Lewis.

10. Seattle Seahawks - They are starting to have the look of a team you would not want to be playing in January.

11. Washington Redskins - You know things are going their way when Kirk Cousins can lead them to an overtime victory over a formidable opponent.

12. Cincinnati Bengals - Their litmus test will be against the Steelers in two weeks, but they can't overlook the Eagles on Thursday.

13. Chicago Bears - The more passes Bears receivers drop, the more the Bears drop in the power rankings.

14. Dallas Cowboys - Could they ride a wave of emotion all the way to the postseason?

15. Minnesota Vikings - They have the best one-dimensional offense in the NFL.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers - Against the Raiders, Browns, Titans and Chargers, they are 0-4. Good thing the next two games are against contenders.

17. St. Louis Rams - It's not saying much, but this is the best Rams team that St. Louis has seen in quite some time.

18. New York Jets - The fact that they may be a playoff team does not speak well to the quality of the AFC this year.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Any team that can blow a 21-10 lead with four minutes left against the Eagles is not a good bet to be playing on February 3. Or Jan. 20. Or Jan. 12, 13, 5 or 6.

20. Cleveland Browns - If the season started three weeks ago, they would be a top five team.

21. New Orleans Saints - Joe Vitt describes his team as "fragile." And the Giants did not handle with care.

22. San Diego Chargers - It might be too late to save jobs, but that was an impressive effort by Norv Turner and the Chargers Sunday.

23. Miami Dolphins - Bad news: they have dropped five of six. Good news: up next are the Jags and Bills at home.

24. Buffalo Bills - Who needs to use C.J. Spiller when you are 5-8?

25. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton is starting to look like the 2011 version of Cam Newton. Where was this guy in September?

26. Detroit Lions - Their fifth straight loss has clinched them last place in the NFC North.

27. Philadelphia Eagles - Nick Foles has begun making his argument for why he should be the Eagles' staring QB in 2013.

28. Tennessee Titans - The Titans can write off the season to the education of Jake Locker.

29. Oakland Raiders - It might be Terrelle Pryor time in Oakland.

30. Arizona Cardinals - Fifty-eight points separated them from the Seahawks in their ninth straight loss. Change is coming in Arizona.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars - Look at the bright side, Jacksonville - only 19 days until it's the offseason.

32. Kansas City Chiefs - Getting blown out by the Browns might not do much for team morale.

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AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

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AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

The Ravens can expect to see Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison as an opponent again in 2016. Harrison confirmed on his Instagram account Monday that he would return for another season.

Harrison will turn 38 years old Wednesday (May 4), but he was still effective in 2015 with five sacks and 40 tackles playing in the Steelers’ linebacker rotation. With his announcement that he was returning, Harrison wrote “I’m feeling just like a fine wine. Getting better with age.”

Despite Harrison’s age, the Steelers believe they got younger and better on defense through the draft. Five of the Steelers’ seven picks were on defense – cornerback Artie Burns (first round), safety Sean Davis (second), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (third round), outside linebacker Travis Feeney (sixth round), and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich (seventh round).  

Clearly, there will be plenty of new names in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, with both teams looking to get younger and faster. However, Harrison plans to be part of the mix for at least another season. The Ravens host the Steelers in Week 9, and visit the Steelers on Christmas afternoon.

MORE RAVENS: BISCIOTTI GETS HIS WISH WITH BOLSTERED PASS RUSH

Bisciotti gets his wish with draft class full of pass rushers

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Bisciotti gets his wish with draft class full of pass rushers

At the team's "State of the Ravens" end-of-season news conference, owner Steve Bisciotti made no bones about where he thought the Ravens needed to improve in 2016: rushing the passer.

So although Bisciotti didn't speak to the media after the draft, he had to be pleased with the results.

With two of their first three picks, the Ravens selected players who figure to pressure the quarterback -- Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa and Brigham Young defensive end Bronson Kaufusi.

"They both have pass rush ability," coach John Harbaugh said. "They both get sacks, they are both high-motor players and high-energy pass rushers. These two guys are going to run to the ball. These two guys are going to run to the ball 100 miles an hour every single play. That’s really important on defense.”

The next day, the Ravens added Grand Valley State defensive end Matt Judon -- who had 20 sacks last year -- in the fifth round. Just for good measure, they also reportedly agreed to sign undrafted rookie linebacker Victor Ochi of Stony Brook, who led the Football Championship Subdivision with 13 sacks.

Harbaugh said after the draft that "I don't think it was a secret" that Bisciotti wanted the Ravens to upgrade the pass rush, "and we were able to fill (that need). I’m really fired up about that. I’m really excited about these guys getting to the quarterback.”

Bisciotti said in January that losing Terrell Suggs to a season-ending injury in Week 1 had a "domino effect" that greatly disrupted the defense. Elvis Dumervil was forced into more of a three-down role, and Courtney Upshaw never came close to replacing Suggs' sack numbers. Dumervil dropped from 17 sacks to six, and overall the Ravens dropped from 49 sacks in 2014 to 37 last season.

When the pass rush failed to pressure the quarterback, coverage linebackers or defensive backs were frequently exposed.

"I think I have a true appreciation of what pressure means, and so that’s what I think we need to do," Bisciotti had said in January. "I think we need to focus on our free agency and our draft, and I think we have to have multiple pass rushers in order to let everybody else be effective.”

Suggs turns 34 in October and is coming off his second major Achilles injury. Dumervil is 32. So the need to develop good young pass rushers is obvious. The Ravens hope they took a big step in that direction over the weekend.

MORE RAVENS: EVALUATING ALL FIVE 4TH-ROUND SELECTIONS

Will Ravens' record-setting fourth-round bonanza live up to the hype?

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Will Ravens' record-setting fourth-round bonanza live up to the hype?

Will the Ravens’ fourth-round haul live up to the hype?

No team in NFL history had ever made five fourth-round picks, and some felt the Ravens hit on all of them. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay says, “This might be the best fourth round I’ve ever seen from a team.”

Here’s a closer look at how the five players the Ravens selected in Round 4 could fit in next season:

Tavon Young, CB, Temple (104th overall)

Young will compete for a nickel corner spot as a rookie. Barring injuries, the only certainty about the Ravens secondary is Jimmy Smith starting at one corner and Eric Weddle starting at safety. Young will compete for playing time with Shareece Wright, Kyle Arrington, Will Davis, and others. But if Young plays regularly as a rookie and helps them win games, it’s a steal.

Chris Moore, WR, Cincinnati (107)

Moore has legit deep speed, joining Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace as receivers that can stretch the field for quarterback Joe Flacco. Think about it, the Ravens didn’t’ have Perriman, Wallace, or Moore on the field last season. If Moore has a strong training camp, the Ravens will find a way to get him some opportunities. Remember the big plays Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones made during the Super Bowl year? The Ravens hope Wallace, Perriman, and Moore provide that kind of impact.

Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska (130)

If the Ravens part with left tackle Eugene Monroe, Lewis could become the backup at left tackle behind first-round pick Ronnie Stanley. Lewis could also be the backup to right tackle Rick Wagner. Either way, Lewis could be one injury away from playing.

Willie Henry, DT, Michigan (132)

He’s the fourth-rounder with the hardest path to immediate playing time. The Ravens are deep at defensive tackle with Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, and Carl Davis. But if Henry shows he can help as a run stopper, he’ll be part of the defensive line rotation.

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech (134)

Some thought Dixon was the best pass-catching back in the draft. Justin Forsett will enter camp as the starter, but the Ravens want to keep him fresh. It’s a crowded running back group right now, but Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro both saw playing time as rookie running backs. Dixon will too, if he shows he’s ready to make plays.

MORE RAVENS: A WAY TOO EARLY NFL DRAFT TOP 10