Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of the readers of the Baltimore Ravens blog. There will no weekly chat Wednesday as the blog is going to go dark here until Thursday morning.
In the spirit of the season, the Ravens blog is handing out its gifts to the defending champions:
Coach John Harbaugh: A game where a decision isn't second-guessed or isn't decided in the final seconds. It's been a trying season for a coach who won a Super Bowl less than a year ago.
QB Joe Flacco: An improved offensive line. He's been sacked 46 times this season. Only Ryan Tannehill has been thrown to the ground more this season. The Ravens need to protect their $120.6 million investment better.
LT Eugene Monroe: A new contract. Monroe has solidified Flacco's blind side since being traded by Jacksonville, and should get a new deal before he hits free agency in March.
WR Torrey Smith: A pass thrown to him while he's running in stride. Too many times he's had to come back for the ball after getting behind the defense.
TE Dennis Pitta: A round of applause. While he hasn't made much of an impact the past two games, it's remarkable that Pitta is on the field after dislocating his hip five months ago. For a player entering free agency, he took a risk coming back so quickly.
DL Art Jones: A new sack dance. That's really the only criticism you can give to a player who has become the team's best defensive lineman.
LB Daryl Smith: Some well-deserved accalim. The reason why no one is talking about the Ravens missing Ray Lewis is because of the play of Smith. He is the only player in the NFL with at least 115 tackles, five sacks, 15 passes defended, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
CB Jimmy Smith: An apology. I criticized Smith over the past couple of years for not living up to expectations of being a first-round pick. But he has developed into the Ravens' best cornerback this season. It takes time for some players to develop confidence in their skills.
PR-KR Jacoby Jones: Fewer obstacles on the sideline. It amazes me that teams still kick in the middle of the field to Jones. He is a touchdown waiting to happen every time he gets his hands on the ball. That is, when he doesn't have to swerve away from the sideline.
K Justin Tucker: A Pro Bowl invitation. Tucker has had the longest field-goal streak this season (33 straight) and has been the Ravens' most valuable player. Still, as of last week, he was sixth in the fan voting.