Ravens news, notes and opinions including potential Pro Bowl picks

The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced tonight and the Ravens figure to be well-represented. The selections often amount to a popularity contest, but it's hard to imagine offensive guard Marshal Yanda, safety Eric Weddle and kicker Justin Tucker not receiving the honor.

No kicker has had a better season than Tucker, while Yanda and Weddle have again proven to be among the best players in the league at their respective positions.


Other Ravens who have a chance: fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end Dennis Pitta, nose tackle Brandon Williams and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs. No team uses its fullback more than the Ravens use Juszczyk. Pitta is second in the NFL in tight end receptions behind the Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce. Williams is deserving, but it's often tough for run stuffers to get the Pro Bowl call.

> Bengals game looms: While hyping Sunday's Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup, let's not forget the Ravens not only need to win Sunday, but they'll have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 to win the AFC North. I've seen the Ravens-Steelers game billed as "winner take all" but that's not the case. In fact, I think the Bengals' game will be nearly as difficult for the Ravens as the Steelers' one will be. The Bengals have beaten the Ravens four straight times in Cincinnati and stud receiver A.J. Green figures to play in that game.

> Careful with veto power: There is certainly enough blame to go around on Joe Flacco's fourth-quarter red zone interception Sunday that started the Philadelphia Eagles' comeback.

With a 10-point lead, the ball on the Eagles' 11-yard line and it being first down, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should have run the ball.  Ravens coach John Harbaugh should have vetoed what he later called the "all-time worst [play] call." And Flacco should have never thrown the ball when Steve Smith Sr. was blanketed in coverage.

All are fair criticisms, but what is unfair is this notion that Harbaugh should be stepping in and vetoing Mornhinweg's play calls. That's been a popular suggestion this season, but that would undermine the whole system and benefit no one. It would cause delays in getting plays on the field and create confusion with Flacco and the offense. It also would completely diminish Mornhinweg, who you want to be calling plays with conviction and confidence.

Harbaugh absolutely should remind Mornhinweg on the sideline from time to time to run the football. There was a timeout before the Flacco interception, so Harbaugh presumably had ample opportunity Sunday to tell Mornhinweg to take a couple of shots at running the ball. But suggesting that the head coach should regularly veto the play calls of the offensive coordinator is ridiculous. It just doesn't work that way.

> More careful with the ball, and words: Flacco is one of the most accountable and honest athletes I've ever covered. The local media loves how he doesn't dodge questions and makes himself available in the good and bad times. Flacco is easily one of the most forthcoming players the Ravens have when it comes to answering questions from reporters.

With that being said, sometimes Flacco would probably be better off choosing his words a little more carefully. Good for Flacco for not throwing Mornhinweg under the bus when asked about the play call on the ill-fated interception. But in saying, "My thought was 'Shoot, Marty is going to give me a third touchdown pass on the day,' " Flacco  sounded like a quarterback who was more concerned with padding his stats than winning the game. That's not how Flacco is at all, but it wasn't a good look, especially since, as he later mentioned, he could have saved Mornhinweg and the Ravens a lot of angst by just making a better throw and decision.


> Wideouts must help: Flacco needs some help from his receivers, too. On one occasion against the Eagles, Mike Wallace cost Flacco a big completion by not coming back to the ball. On another, Breshad Perriman didn't finish a route and dropped a pass.

Ravens receivers aren't going to get a whole lot of space this Sunday against the Steelers, and they're going to need to make those contested catches to help their quarterback out. That's one thing I've always appreciated about Kamar Aiken. He finishes his routes and makes some tough catches.

> Little trust in tailbacks?: Juszczyk played more snaps than any other Ravens' running back against the Eagles and that was partly a function of him being the lone back in the game on third downs. The Ravens still don't trust primary backs Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon in third-down, pass-protection situations. Dixon missed a block that led to a sack against Philadelphia.

Ultimately, that's going to need to change and West and Dixon are going to have to prove they can handle those responsibilities. The Ravens need as many playmakers as possible on the field.

> Former Ravens struggling: In ex-Ravens news, you might have missed that the team's former second-round pick, inside linebacker Arthur Brown, was released by the New York Jets yesterday. Brown, who was also let go by the Jacksonville Jaguars, is now looking for his fourth team in 3 ½ months.

Tabbing him as the heir apparent to Ray Lewis, like some did, was probably unfair, but I'm shocked Brown hasn't at least become a serviceable linebacker. Former Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones also was put on injured reserve with a groin injury, ending his season and likely his Indianapolis Colts' career.


Jones, who left the Ravens in 2014 to sign a five-year, $33 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts, played in just 17 games over three seasons with the Colts.