There is really only one more appropriate ending for the Ravens' Ray Lewis, and that won't come for another five years when he takes his place in the NFL Hall of Fame as the greatest middle linebacker ever.
With an AFC North title and a home playoff game next weekend already secured, the Baltimore Ravens treated their regular-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium like a fifth preseason game. The end result -- a 23-17 loss in front of an announced 61,565 on a frigid afternoon -- hardly mattered.
Despite their many differences, the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals can say they share one thing: their approach to Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium. The coaches for both teams said their approach to the regular-season finale won't change despite neither team having much at stake.
Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker, who showed off his strong right leg with a 63-yard field goal during training camp, recorded touchbacks on six of his nine kickoffs Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. But surprisingly, kickoffs were not an area in which he excelled during his college days at Texas. In his senior season, he had just 12 touchbacks on 70 kickoffs.
A.J. Green forged a record-setting campaign in 2011 after being selected fourth overall in the NFL draft earlier in the year. Following a path blazed by Randy Moss formerly of the Minnesota Vikings and Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans, Green headlined a strong group of first-year receivers that included the Ravens' Torrey Smith and the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones.
Signed to a two-year, $2.92 million contract in June that included an $800,000 signing bonus, Bobbie Williams was installed as the Ravens' starting left offensive guard after the Bengals deemed him expendable.
One was expected to be a difference-maker right away. The other was supposed to take a little more time. But last season, Cincinnati's A.J. Green and Baltimore's Torrey Smith both scared the bejesus out of secondaries as the AFC North boasted two of the NFL's most dangerous and productive rookie receivers.
Many draft analysts gave the Ravens solid marks for the draft (and they have also given them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the selection of three Div. I-FCS prospects on draft¿s final day). But they have also handed out strong grades to the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Ravens' other AFC North rival, the Cleveland Browns, put together a deep, above-average draft class.
There could be change for the Ravens this offseason, especially with former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano becoming head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. With Pagano in Baltimore, there were only two other AFC head coaches who knew the Ravens system and the value of certain players. But both New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis have been joined by Pagano. There will be a bidding war, or at least threats, on several of the Ravens other unrestricted free agents. Both Ryan and Pagano will go hard after linebackers Jameel McClain and Jarret Johnson. And even if they can't match certain offers, they can force other teams to over pay and cause eventual salary cap problems.
Now that Chuck Pagano is leaving the Ravens after one season as defensive coordinator to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Dean Pees and Clarence Brooks are two names to remember in the coming days.
New Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is the fourth defensive coordinator in the 16-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to leave to become a head coach elsewhere. Here's a quick look at how the first three coordinators fared after leaving Baltimore.
Can the Ravens overcome injuries and inconsistent play? The banged-up team will have to rise to the occasion against the Bengals in order to lock up a first-round bye and a home game in the second-round of the playoffs.
Baltimore Ravens: Ozzie Newsome is the patriarch of one of the NFL's most bountiful coaching trees, an impressive and expanding group of former Ravens assistants now having success as head coaches elsewhere.
The new-look Bengals look to continue giving the Ravens fits Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green and an overhauled defense have turned Cincinnati into a surprising contender.