Playoff prognosis: Ravens at Chiefs

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Playoff prognosis: Ravens at Chiefs

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
12:10 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

One more time around for Ray Lewis.

The Baltimore middle linebacker has willed his teams to epic heights in the past and the best guess now is that hell do it this one more time.

Hell have help.

Joe Flacco burst on the NFL with a splash in 2008 and has been a winning quarterback in at least one playoff game in each of his first two seasons. His passer rating has improved significantly every year, from 80.3 as a rookie to 88.9 in 2009 and 93.6 this season.

But the key to the offense has unquestionably been running back Ray Rice, and in a game against a Kansas City team with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, the role of Rice in keeping the Chiefs offense off the field looms even larger.

When Ravens got away from Ray Rice, they broke down, said ESPN analyst Herman Edwards. When you do that, it hurts your defense. Your defense is built to play so many plays and you dont want to be stopping the clock when your offense is on the field.

We always say its a passing league but heres the deal: You pass to score, you run to win.

The surprise will be if the Chiefs can run against Baltimore well enough to win. Flacco and Matt Cassel are a virtual wash at quarterback, with Cassel holding a slight edge in TDs and INTs. Charles finished No. 2 in the NFL with 1,467 rushing yards and a stratospheric 6.4 yards per carry. No other rusher in the Top 20 averaged more than 5.2. Jones added 896 yards.

No team rushed for more than the Chiefs 2,627 yards and their 4.7 yards per carry is second only to Philadelphias 5.5 among playoff teams.

But four of the five best teams against the run (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Jets, Baltimore) are in the playoffs for a reason. No team allowed fewer than the 5 rushing touchdowns given up by the Steelers and Ravens.

Four of Kansas Citys six defeats were by double digits, including blowout losses to division rivals Oakland and San Diego in the span of the final four games.

Baltimore 17 Kansas City 14

No Bears move yet on CB Deiondre' Hall except maybe to safety

No Bears move yet on CB Deiondre' Hall except maybe to safety

PHOENIX – If the Bears intend to cut ties with Deiondre' Hall after the first-year cornerback become involved in an ugly police incident last weekend, they have not indicated their decision yet. They have, however, begun looking at a possible position change for Hall as they gather information on events of last Saturday night.

Hall was tasered by police in Cedar Falls, Ia., after he and a former Northern Iowa University teammate were allegedly involved in a fight at a bar. Hall was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct, public intoxication and interference. Hall allegedly spit in the officers' faces, according to an affidavit, police saying that an officer used a Taser on Hall's legs in order to get him into a squad car.

GM Ryan Pace confirmed that the team is still gathering information and said, "it's just [that] the circumstances are a little disappointing, to be honest with you. We're aware of it, it's just kind of gathering more facts as we go forward."

Pace has spoken to Hall and said that the team wanted to investigate thoroughly, "but the circumstances surrounding it are obviously disappointing."

In the meantime, the 2016 fourth-round draft choice is slated to be tried at safety when the team convenes for the start of offseason work. Hall played the position in college, and has traits that the Bears value at the safety position.

"One of Deiondre's best traits is his ball skills, his ball clock, the ability to time the pass breakup," Pace said. "He's very natural at playing safety and that's one of the reasons we drafted him, because he has the versatility to do both. That's something we're going to talk about this offseason and he could start taking some reps there in the offseason program."

Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who missed all of last season following arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August, will stay at cornerback.

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell believes he will be ready for Opening Night. Right now, Cubs manager Joe Maddon says his All-Star shortstop starting the season on the disabled list is an option that "I'm not considering."

But Russell hasn't played in a Cactus League game since March 22 and the Cubs have only three exhibitions left before facing the St. Louis Cardinals on national TV. The new 10-day disabled list would also allow the Cubs to backdate Russell's injury (stiff back) to March 30 and create a degree of roster flexibility. 

"We're trying to start the season out on a good note and definitely in St. Louis," Russell said Tuesday. "That's kind of the goal, but if the back doesn't feel well until then, maybe that's something that we'll have to do. With the way that I'm feeling, I don't think that's necessary."

The Cubs did get Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) back into the lineup that afternoon against the San Francisco Giants at Sloan Park. Russell estimated he's around "95 percent" and hoped to play Wednesday before the Cubs leave Arizona and fly out for two exhibition games against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.      

"We're not trying to take it too quick," Russell said. "Missing a few games here in the spring is a lot better than a few games in the season. I've talked to Joe and there's no hurry back."

Five days out from what should be an electric atmosphere at Busch Stadium, Maddon said athletic trainer PJ Mainville didn't sound concerned about Russell's back issue.

"PJ felt very strongly that he's going to be fine over the next couple days," Maddon said. "From Addison's perspective, knowing baseball players who've been doing so well, you take a couple days off, you're concerned that you're going to lose it. 

"I'm certain he's going to be fine. Actually, I'm OK with him getting some rest right now. The biggest thing is: Medically, is he going to be fine? Everybody thinks that he is, so I'm not concerned."