Ravens Run Hot And Cold - Unlike Lambeau Field

December 07, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd , kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Figuring out the emotional state of an NFL team is always tricky.

Players can look listless all week in practice and come out on game day running around like gerbils on Red Bull.

Or they can look focused and fired up in practice and come out for the opening kickoff looking like everyone needs a nap.

Which brings us to tonight's big game between the Ravens and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

(Updated Lambeau weather forecast: cold, snow, wind. This forecast good through April.)

On paper, of course, this looks like a game the 6-5 Ravens desperately need to keep their playoff hopes alive.

But coming where it does on the schedule, it has all the characteristics of a classic letdown game, too.

This is because the Ravens are coming off the tremendous high of that hard-fought, 20-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Let's face it, nothing gets the Ravens more amped up than a game against the Steelers.

All you have to do is whisper "Pittsburgh" in the locker room and players start clenching their jaws and cracking their knuckles. Little puffs of steam start coming out their ears. Then they're looking around for someone to smack.

But it's hard to summon that kind of emotion two weeks in a row, especially after a thrilling OT win that left them drained, battered and exhausted.

Another thing working against the Ravens tonight is that they're facing a team that hasn't played since 11 days ago.

The Ravens are starting to get a complex. They show up for games with half the roster banged up and limping. And the other team looks like it just came back from two weeks in Cancun.

So the 7-4 Packers should be nice and rested for this one, since their last game was on Thanksgiving, when they engaged in the usual ritual slaughter of the Detroit Lions. (Final score: 34-12. Note to the NFL: How much longer will the Lions be allowed to ruin this great national holiday?)

You can bet the Packers will also be jacked up for their appearance on "Monday Night Football."

On the other hand, this will be the Ravens' third game in prime-time this season, making another night with Hank Williams Jr. and all his rowdy friends seem almost ho-hum.

Finally there's yet another X-factor in tonight's game: quarterback Joe Flacco's right ankle.

Flacco, you'll recall, first rolled the ankle in the 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 18.

And he rolled it again against the Steelers last week.

Sure, he looked like Peyton Manning the first time the Ravens had the ball, hitting five straight passes on bullets all over the field to four different receivers - none of them, strangely enough, named Derrick Mason.

That led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee and a 7-0 Ravens lead. And, suddenly, you thought Flacco was headed for a performance they would be replaying on "SportsCenter" for weeks.

Only it didn't happen that way.

Sometime during the course of the game, he took another hit and rolled the ankle. By the second half he was limping noticeably. And TV cameras captured him grimacing and shaking the ankle after taking a couple more thunderous sacks.

But good luck getting the Ravens to open up about the ankle.

Like every other team in the NFL, the Ravens are totally paranoid about discussing injuries.

You have a better chance of getting details of U.S. troop movements in Afghanistan than you do about injuries in the NFL.

This is because all these teams feel their opponents somehow gain an edge knowing that, for instance, Player X has a sore hip and Player Y has an abdominal strain.

So the Ravens treated the ankle as a nonissue with the media all week.

So did Flacco, who's so laid-back, he would probably consider the amputation of the entire leg a nonissue.

"It still feels really good right now," Flacco said the other day. "It's just going to be a matter of making sure it doesn't happen again."

Well, good luck with that plan, too.

Should be a tough game at Lambeau tonight.

Wait, I just got the updated forecast: cold, snow, wind.

What a surprise.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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