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What they're saying about the Ravens -- Jan. 3

Here's a look at what other media outlets are saying about the Ravens as they prepare for the NFL playoffs:

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The Ravens (12-4) are a prideful bunch and maybe they wanted to get another shot at the injury-depleted Colts, especially with Indianapolis being a No. 3 seed this time around and having a relatively weak 10-6 record. But Baltimore won't have to match wits once again with Manning, and that's a break for the Ravens, who have consistently shown signs of having No. 18 lodged in their heads. Why deal with your No. 1 nemesis if you don't have to?

After all, Baltimore has played New England into overtime this season in Foxboro, and split its tight series with Pittsburgh. The Ravens beat the Jets in the season opener in New York, and should match up well against the playoff-novice Chiefs, who looked dreadful in getting dominated by the Raiders. It was only Indianapolis that posed something of a roadblock for Baltimore, and now it can't see the Colts unless both reach the AFC title game.

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Sunday was a win-win day for Baltimore, even if Pittsburgh did rout Cleveland and lock up the AFC North title and a first-round bye. The Ravens almost certainly aren't going to get Manning-ed again this year in the playoffs, and that may be the best news they could have received in Week 17.

&bull Yahoo Sports' Jason Cole thinks the Ravens are the AFC team with the best chance at beating the New England Patriots.

Sorry Steelers fans, but the Patriots own Pittsburgh right now and have for the past decade. In fact, during that span, only one team has won a playoff game at New England. That was Baltimore last season, as the Ravens stuffed New England's injury-ravaged passing attack. Then, earlier this season, the Ravens held Pats quarterback Tom Brady to a season-low passer rating of 69.3 and intercepted him twice in an eventual 23-20 overtime loss to New England. But that was before Brady had a lot of time to work with the likes of Deion Branch in New England's reworked offense. That said, Baltimore is best equipped to derail the Patriots' Super Bowl hopes.

Here is an early wild-card angle to watch: Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin will face Todd Haley, Boldin's former offensive coordinator in Arizona and current head coach with Kansas City. Boldin got into a much-publicized shouting match on the sidelines with Haley during the playoffs two years ago with the Cardinals. Both parties have since moved on, but there could be some attention drawn to it since their first reunion comes in a must-win game. Expect Boldin to brush off the topic. But I'm sure deep down he would rather send Haley home packing this season than have it the other way around.

• In another post, Walker previews the matchup with the Chiefs.

Ravens catch a break: Baltimore (12-4) caught a huge break by avoiding the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round. A loss by the Chiefs (10-6) and a win by the Colts in Week 17 sent Baltimore to Kansas City. Although no playoff draw is easy, the Ravens are just 2-8 against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, including last year's playoff loss in the divisional round. Now, Manning and the Colts are the New York Jets' problem. Kansas City is a team without a lot of playoff experience, and that could work in Baltimore's favor.

• John Clayton of ESPN.com takes a look at the AFC playoffs. He thinks the Ravens have an advantage in a close game, thanks to kicker Billy Cundiff.

If it comes down to a field goal, who has the edge or the disadvantage? The Ravens and Colts have a significant advantage. The Colts have Adam Vinatieri, perhaps the best clutch kicker of his era. He's 26-of-28 this season. The Ravens have Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff, who made 26 of 29 field goals and tied a league record with 40 touchbacks.

• SportingNews.com breaks down the teams remaining in the NFL playoffs, including the Ravens.

With the Steelers jumping out to an easy win, the Ravens quickly learned they would have to settle for the No. 5 seed. That still didn't stop them from bearing down and swarming the Cincinnati Bengals, stuffing the run and forcing key takeaways in the 13-7 victory. One worry is safety Ed Reed, who injured his side in the fourth quarter. The other concern has to be the play of QB Joe Flacco, who dealt with much pressure, made ill-advised throws downfield, struggled on third down and generally was just out of sync. Flacco must correct that fast to give his team a chance to win next weekend at Kansas City.

A lot, actually. And he's not the only one to admire in this story. Cox is the Ravens' long-snapper. Was. Last week, early in the second quarter, he got hurt in a pileup on a Baltimore field-goal try. Hurt would be putting it mildly. Actually, 700 pounds of lineman -- Cleveland defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and Baltimore guard Marshall Yanda -- fell on his left leg after he'd snapped the ball for the field goal, and the knee concaved to the right. Cox screamed so loud, Rogers said, that he knew he was hurt severely. Somehow, Cox limped to the sideline, where he collapsed and started rolling around in pain. "An extreme amount of pain,'' he said.

At first, docs thought it was an MCL tear, but that he could return to the game and gut it out. At halftime, upon further review in the locker room, he said he was diagnosed with grade-three (severe, that is) ACL and MCL tears. "But I knew I could get the job done,'' he said. "There's lot of different ways of snapping. Some guys use their legs for power. I pretty much do it all with my arms. And I don't think it fully registered with me how serious it was. It was a big game, and I said, I'm fine to play. I went up to the guys on the line, and said, 'I'm gonna need some help. I'm gonna get the snap off, but you gotta help me after that.' So when we went back out there, I heard Michael Oher say to the Browns, 'Stay off the snapper, stay off the snapper.'"

There's a fine line here between playing hard and being sympathetic to a wounded competitor, and Rogers did a gallant job straddling it in the second half. Rogers knew Cox was injured; he'd heard him scream in agony after the injury. On an extra point try, after the ball was over the line, Rogers saw Cox falling back awkwardly. He reached over and grabbed Cox's jersey to prevent him from falling and perhaps hurting the leg further. "Unbelievable," Cox said. "I felt this hand hold me up and just figured it was one of our guys, but it was Shaun Rogers. I'll never forget him for that."

• Jeremy Elliott of The (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) Patriot-News talks about Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason's milestone as one of the 10 highlights from Week 17.

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The Baltimore Ravens offense is struggling, but that hasn't stopped Derrick Mason from adding lines to his career resume. Mason, considered a borderline hall of famer, took a step towards Canton when he joined Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez as the only players in NFL history to have 60 catches in 11 straight seasons.

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• While recapping the Ravens' win over the Bengals, Walker says playoff opponents could look to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's lackluster stats against Cincinnati for scouting purposes.

Neither quarterback played well. Palmer had three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), which kept Cincinnati's offense from sustaining many scoring drives. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was accurate, but he couldn't do much damage against Cincinnati for the second time this season. He threw for 125 yards and an interception. He has four picks against the Bengals in two games this season. Look for future playoff opponents to take a look at Flacco's two meetings with the Bengals as a way to scheme against Baltimore's offense.

• SI.com's Andrew Perloff analyzes the Ravens' win over the Bengals.

Baltimore defenders had good games, but it was the perennial Pro Bowlers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed who stood out. Lewis was everywhere and scooped up a fumble in the final minutes after earning his 12th trip to the Pro Bowl earlier this week. And Reed had two interceptions to increase his total to eight in just 10 games this season. The Ravens did lose a lot of steam in the second half after they learned the Steelers were winning big; that's when the Bengals had a chance. But they couldn't hold on to the ball, and they blew a chance to score in the final minute from within the Ravens' 5-yard line. If this was Marvin Lewis' final game as Cincinnati coach, it was no way to go out for a man who brought respectability to the Bengals during his tenure.

[Compiled by Dean Jones Jr.]

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