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Lots of tough decisions for Harbs before Steelers arrive for a strange one

The Baltimore Ravens are in the best position in the entire NFL playoff tournament. But the playing-for-their-lives Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to town with a quarterback controversy and a real reason to win. Meanwhile, Luke Jones and Nestor discuss the waiting and the hardest part of Steelers Week with nothing on the line and who will play in the rain and snow on Saturday afternoon.


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Luke Jones, Nestor J. Aparicio

Nestor J. Aparicio  00:01

Welcome home we are W NSTA in 1570, Towson Baltimore and Baltimore positive it is a new year it’s 2024. But I have the same old lottery tickets. So you know, we’re putting a little bit of, I’m gonna say a hiatus, but a little bit of a chill pill on the crabcake tour for the next couple of weeks so that we may bring you the largest promotion we’ve ever done. It’s gonna be radio row week. Trust me it’s gonna be big, it’s gonna be large. It’s February 5, so it wants to follow that we’ll be giving away fresh lottery tickets I still have these these are so good the peppermint payouts if you when we talked to John Martin about that. Also our friends are window nation 866 90 nation you by two you get two free 0% financing, all winter long and the doors and all that good stuff, as well as our friends at Jiffy Lube. Multi care want to give them some love as well. Oil changed. My new year resolution lights been on since like December 18 I’m not driving a lot. And I’m not really added code too much on the oil. But I gotta get over to Jiffy Lube. There’s no excuse other than I’m busy I’m doing stuff I’m planning for AFC Championship games I’m I’m counting Lamar Jackson’s MVP trophies and the ways I’m so counting the points that the Ravens scored by the way the the running up the score thing dude, like I’ve never seen more heel heat brought upon me than to say that he ran the score up and that might not be you know, cool, nice biblical sportsman. Like any of these things that John portrays himself to be. And then I like said, we know what they scored 70 Hi, Lauren Mike McDaniel FM, big fan to whom I like emit. I like a lot more than I like John Harbaugh. And I’ve known longer than I’ve known John Harbaugh, and I like him a whole lot more. But I would say this. McDaniel kneeled on the ball when they had 70 points. I had to do the revisionist history because the Palm Beach Post wrote about it. The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel wrote about at the Miami Herald, everybody wrote about pilot on. And meanwhile, we’re just brushing it off. And it’s time to wait three weeks and see which six starters we’re going to put on the side here. Luke Jones joins us now after yet another. I don’t know if there’s any victory lap. I don’t want to be crass in regard to John and certainly not Eric, in what they’ve built here to get this thing to, as you pointed out, where it was in 2019. There are a lot of decisions that are going to be made the next two and a half, three weeks, and they’re all going to be heavily scrutinized based on whether they go out and wax Jacksonville 42 to 19. Or whether they stumble and Bumble to lose the Joe Flacco 27 to 26 or something. Who knows how this is gonna go. But man, this is where the head games all get played Luke, and we’re gonna play him right. Yeah, I mean, and let’s be clear, these are


Luke Jones  02:57

very good problems to have. These are the best problems that have as I mentioned in our previous conversation, regardless of what happened with the Orioles and the rangers and the Division Series, you’ll still take that over playing in the previous round. Because you know, if you play in the previous round, you can get beat in that round. And then it’s over. And you’re not even making it to the divisional round. So that being said, yeah, there’s certainly some interesting decisions, and not even so much the decision of who plays who doesn’t on Saturday. And by the way, as an aside, who saw that coming? I know the Ravens were even surprised to see Steelers ravens in a game that doesn’t mean anything to Baltimore and means a lot for the Steelers for that to go into that Saturday national TV spot. Spot. I know.

Nestor J. Aparicio  03:45

We’re just giving you another extra day’s rest for the game that matters later.

Luke Jones  03:50

Right. That’s how you have to spit it but I don’t think John Harbaugh was outrageous. Let me be clear about that. But they were definitely surprised. You know, there was definitely some surprise talking to a couple people within the organization, but is what it is they’re gonna play. They’re gonna rest their top guys, you can’t rest everybody. I’ll continue to stress that you don’t have a 90 man roster like you do in the preseason where you can legitimately sit all of your starters.

Nestor J. Aparicio  04:17


I don’t know what this feels like. We haven’t played a whole lot of games like this ever, like ever. Right? So we haven’t talked much about like resting everybody in ROSS versus like, you know, we chased Ross versus rest only caught it once or twice. Really? Right.

Luke Jones  04:32

Yeah, yeah. I mean, they did this. They did have this scenario at the end of 2019. And I went back and looked and the guys that sat are not overly shocking Lamar Jackson sat Mark Andrew set, sat Mark Ingram was dealing with a calf injury so he was injured and did not play. Marshall yonder, Ronnie Stanley, Brandon Williams, Earl Thomas and I believe Jimmy Smith was out active but he did not play. So really when you look at it keep in mind you have a 53 man roster in this recent years now you have the two practice squad elevations that are available to you as well. So you would fully expect the ravens to use a couple of those you can have you deactivate seven, and you can have 48 up, you know when when you’re counting elevation. So you have a 55 player pool, if you’re going to use your two elevations, and you can have 48 active one of those seven inactives is your emergency quarterback, as we’ve seen that brought back this year. So the point is, you can’t Yes, you deactivate. You’re the best of the best. You know, I fully expect Lamar Jackson. I mean, Marlon Humphrey is injured right now. Kevin Zeitler is injured right now. Kyle Hamilton injured right now. So I mean, a few of those decisions are going to be made for them in the sense that guys that are banged up, they’re certainly not going to put out there, but you kind of you do the math, acknowledging that you don’t want to compromise, even your key backups or your lesser starters too much. So you, you kind of do the math and you say, Okay, you can probably rest 10 Guys, let’s say now, you can rotate other guys, guys that are starters suddenly become the backups in terms of the rotation for the outside linebacker position or, you know, kind of go through. But the point is, you’re going to try to rest guys, you try to make the most informed decisions you can but as John Harbaugh said in his Monday press conference, because imagine this there weren’t too many questions about Mason Rudolph in the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. Imagine that. But he said, Look, we can go back and look at 2019. And I have some thoughts private and some thoughts that we’ve talked about. I mean, it’s but it’s very difficult to quantify all that right. I mean, I’ve said to you over and over even going back to four years ago. I think the rest verse Ross thing I think a lot of that’s a self fulfilling prophecy. I think you make as much out of it as you want to or as little out of it as you want to. They didn’t play

Nestor J. Aparicio  07:00

well. And they weren’t prepared for what the Chargers did with the Titans did in any of those sir, and they weren’t the better team against the bills and certainly against the Bengals state. There was just it was a Herculean effort. Um, you were the backup quarterback to almost beat. I mean, so I mean, when I think about preparedness, you preparedness is coaching X’s and O’s. jimmies and Joe’s health health L. And then some of it’s like, it’s fourth in one you don’t get a yard because your quarterback trips or something like I Yeah, you know, and then the decisions, everything supremely magnified. In a game that might not be 50 6019. It might be it might be, but if it’s not, and it’s a seven point game, and Joe Flacco has got the ball or Josh Allen’s got the ball or whoever it’s going to be Patrick mahomes At this point has the ball. You know, I mean, it could be any of this huge pool of different teams at this point. So we have all of our fun talking about all those but the preparedness is going to be based on mental reps healthy been prepared for the last 17 games, Lou, they’ve been the best team in the NFL. They’ve been the best ravens team ever man, like so to your point. They don’t make the Super Bowl win the Super Bowl, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, but some issues gonna have to really go wrong. And somebody’s gonna have to come in there play it play their asses off to beat the Ravens.

Luke Jones  08:26

Yeah, but but on the flip side and agree with everything you just said. We also know history suggest and look no further than the history of this own. This franchise that to win the Superbowl, inevitably, some things are going to have to go in your favor to it’s not just going to be that you’re better in each of the games that you play. You’re going to have to have some the ball bounce the right way at some point in time to because you’re playing good teams in January and I get it. The ravens are the best team in the NFL. We’ve talked about that. We I don’t think anyone’s arguing otherwise, at this point. In Baltimore outside Baltimore. I mean, Patrick


Nestor J. Aparicio  09:00

mahomes First row game, right if they play a home game. Yeah, right. I mean, it’s crazy.

Luke Jones  09:05

And looked at. Look, the chiefs are still there. And I know they’re a mess, but it’s still Patrick mahomes and Andy Reid, Josh Allen in the bills if they take care of business this week, which again, what’s funny now is the ravens are in this mode, where it’s all about preparation, trying to get some rest. The guys that are playing in the game. Yeah, they’re preparing to play the Steelers. I mean, you want to put your best foot forward with guys that are actually going to play especially. Hey, backups, and yeah, someone like Geno’s stone, he’s gonna play in this game. He has two more picks that his his stat line for this season. He’s cashing in on the free agent, cash registers. So there’s still plenty of that going on. But there is this big picture sense that you have in the offseason and you have in training camp where you’re doing prep, but it’s kind of a faceless opponent. You know, that’s where the ravens are right now because you don’t know who you’re playing. You have a pool of teams that you’re Bad scouts are doing work on but it is this this different dynamic that you have all these other teams are looking at in week 18. And I know some others have clinched. And certainly there’s some others besides the ravens, but I mean, you look at all the, you know, the Steelers, for example. I mean, they need to win and they need help to get into the playoffs. I mean, but the Ravens there’s none of that this week. So, you know, if you’re John Harbaugh, you’re trying to weigh all these different decisions you have whether it’s you know, guys that are banged up your most important players that you don’t want to get banged up and

Nestor J. Aparicio  10:29

they’re losing 23 to three to halftime and Steelers are kicking your ass, because like it really means something to them. And you’re like, just get me out of here. Literally just get me out of here. And listen, I don’t want to pile on John, but I will and and the late points. They did, Shep got carted off and then they threw the ball over their heads, like I mean, it’s totally a VIC Fangio thing and like all John’s little personal slights, they’ll probably have against me the rest of his life, and I’ll probably have against him. But nonetheless, like, there is a point where you just watched their best player go down when they were losing 30 points. Lamar was running into people like like, what were they doing? And this whole weekend is gonna be that Luke for everybody was mad at BK to your point. He wants to play patho stats, Daddy, oh, give me two more sacks. Let’s go you know what I mean? Like the guys that need to pay for play, as Brian Billick would say and need to pad stats and have whatever their personal number is, whatever their agents telling them, whatever. But they also all want to win a Super Bowl. I mean, there’s no doubt about that. But yeah, this is a game where I say likely is gonna play some of those guys. And you know, I heard hardball talking about oh, op K kick off for 10 catches maybe this was that week? I don’t know. I mean, because they’re gonna go have some fun. I get it right. I mean, the guys that are out there playing it is sort of a preseason game to go out there and try hard and put some good tape down and do all of those things that you’d like to say. But my God as we sit here, the guys that are important. Having watched Chubb go down having watched anybody go down and watching a real NFL game. You know, this whole against the Steelers, no less. You know it. It’s a real game to the Steelers. It really is. And you know that and we’ll all have to ask it and it’s Saturday, everybody sell their ticket to Steeler fans and go down there have a good time I’m saving up for my $800 it’s gonna cost me to get an AFC Championship Game ticket or whatever it’s going to be. or saving up for Vegas. People better have a gold card. If you’re going to Vegas. I’ve talked to my ticket brokers and I have to some I will have tickets here if people want to go I have a got I got a guy. But you know tickets, right grant, so it’s not like, so this is your chance. If you want to go see a play. Go spend another 150 200 bucks and go down next week. Have a good time and, you know, do whatever it takes against Joe Flacco to atone for Lola. I mean, I guess it could be any of these different combinations of different players. But that’s what the next two weeks is for us. Right? We’re gonna be watching these other games, these other teams, where the seating is Steve Kornacki lining things up at a good time. And then we’re gonna sit around on a cold last weekend holiday weekend, Martin Luther King weekend, and we’re gonna sit and watch two games Saturday three games Sunday one game Monday night and might be the game that feeds the Ravens who knows right? And the ravens are gonna sit around here and wait until the 20th or 21st maybe early may be late they’re gonna screw me play the Sunday late game because the Smithereens are playing Annapolis watch me. Well, I’m just mark that down. We’re playing the late game the 21st that’s just intuition. But this is this is fun. Like this is fun. But it’s also get me to seven o’clock Saturday night. Get hardball to seven o’clock and whomever plays stone Mata BK Stevens. I’m just going through the list of, you know, the center, Picard. I mean, all of these guys that are going to have to play. You can’t say I think they’ll be gentle with TJ while he’s playing with his career on the line playoffs in line but, you know, I don’t man this is a different kind of game. Different kinds of games. And I always felt like Tony Dungy was out there playing patty cake with everybody when they were 15 and won and whatever. This isn’t and even Bella check would have this sometimes happen December 10. Who Tom Brady and have to kind of navigate it. i This is we’re going to talk about this a long time. And honestly, dude, Purple Reign three, which I’m sure you’re gonna author. This is part of the lead story if they win the Super Bowl, how this gets managed and how it gets managed well, and how they get all their horses to the course. Maybe even mark Andrews maybe maybe at some point on this journey. The way rod Woodson came back and played in the Super Bowl, you know, 28 years ago now. And that’s possible. They’ve written such an incredible story dude from where Lamar was where their contract was, where the team is where the wide receivers were. were horrible, hasn’t won playoff games and they still haven’t won playoff games really. They’ve they’ve written the nice purple rain three years, they can play three hours of really, really exceptional. Joe Flacco 2030 exceptional football. Yeah,

Luke Jones  15:26


I’ll actually disagree with one thing you just said from the standpoint of you said how they navigate now until the divisional round, is a big story, I would suggest they want it to be the other they want. Otherwise, they want it to not be a story how they navigate now to three weeks from now, because that means they didn’t get anyone of significant note hurt against the Steelers and you didn’t have anything weird happen. No off the field stuff. And anything that would take away from whoever you’re playing the third weekend of January, which is where we are at this point. I want to go back to something you said though, and maybe we could turn this into a separate piece maybe even but I just think it’s interesting, because you mentioned Superbowl. You mentioned the cost. You mentioned fans, you know, would they go to Vegas, you know how it’s an expensive ticket. But I also just love the idea. And we talked about this in 19. But we didn’t get to talk about it very long because it ended just like that. The idea that the AFC Championship game can be played in Baltimore for the first time since 1971. And think about it. There are plenty of Ravens fans who made it to Tampa in Super Bowl 35 plenty that went to New Orleans. But no Ravens fan has been to an AFC Championship game played in Baltimore Ravens fan not an old colts fan. So there’s something that has is very special there. And I do wonder where the juice for that, where that ranks compared to attending a Super Bowl knowing that the Super Bowl is never going to be played in Baltimore, you know what I mean? So what did you see that special?

Nestor J. Aparicio  17:04

Let me make it let me make make this into something because I mean, well, you take me down to a whole different path here. Just to get really special out there. I’ve been to a dozen championship games. I mean, let’s say at least but about a dozen because I haven’t been in a long time. But for a dozen years I went every year and you can’t go to both you can only go to one right so like literally I can tell you which one I was at all of those years. So I was in Green Bay the first time they won in the cold beat Carolina and it was five degrees and my french fries got frozen as I bought them and brought it back to Lambeau I remember telling you that story pretty damn cold the day we were there it was only like 28 this was different but um so I saw champs of game there. I was in the press box. Imagine that at the Metrodome in Minnesota. The data Brian Billick and the dirty birds. But the day our franchise changed and I took the elevator downstairs and I saw Taylor Smith Rankin Smith’s son, David Modelo, the Falcons, hyperventilating at the fact that the Falcons were going to the Super Bowl with Jamal Anderson. So like, I remember the building and I remember the deflation of the building. Dude, I was at the Dr. Game in Cleveland. How about that with Phil Jackman. You know, I was sitting on the 50 yard line, which was basically right field. It you know, in in the old Cleveland municipal stadium section 10. Right where the foul pole would be but was a 50 yard line. Array. Of course, he got me that ticket. Dude. They were going to the Super Bowl I’m in they’re going to the Super Bowl. And then I watched Elway go left to right from the from the from home plate to the Marlboro sign out in centerfield and just slice dice across the middle. I saw Ozzy make the big catch the left before that, the whole deal. And I’ve seen it’s a much richer experience. Yeah, I mean, like from a fan experience of having been to those New England games haven’t been to the Pittsburgh game right. Like a lot of our fans what the Pittsburgh i It’s one of our stories that glory this week brought to you by curio and foreign daughter is that that Pittsburgh trip we put 1200 people in a ballroom up in Pittsburgh and went into the stadium thinking we were gonna win the Flacco to Polamalu I mean I can do all these ways. Oh, my God, I went to a lot of championship game. Oh, the one that it could be here never upset like

Luke Jones  19:30

I just I think there’s there’s some you just said it’s an authentic do it. There’s a little it’s a little more organic, right. It’s your home stadium, you know, as in this case, and I think, for me and I and I’m trying to do this, taking off my reporter hat for a second and thinking about it just in terms of an experience as a fan. Cuz I actually had this conversation with my best buddy on New Year’s Eve. You know, I went over to his house late after the game and everything and he’s been he went to New Orleans, he went to Super Bowl 47. So he’s seen the Ravens play in person in the Super Bowl. And we were kind of talking about, you know, the richness of the idea of the Ravens playing an AFC Championship game at home, you know, and, you know, if you had to choose one or the other, and let’s say money’s not an option, but just know that that’s something that that’s on your bucket list that you haven’t had a chance to attend a Ravens home AFC Championship game. Now I’d be interested to hear what people would think as far as whether would you choose that compared to going to a Super Bowl and understanding Hey, they could win it and that’s it’s a Super Bowl. And that’s the pinnacle of major American professional sports. We understand all that. But the authenticity of it being 71,000 Ravens fans or 68,000, and maybe a couple 1000 Whatever fans

Nestor J. Aparicio  20:46

bro 90 days out with you are joking about what a World Series ticket what a cost here, right? You know what I mean? Like how, how deep are your pockets to 568 100 1000 bucks just to get in that Cal Ripken night, right. I’m thinking of a couple of nights we’ve ever had here. I mean, we’ve had big playoff games in the Colts game and Oh, six, I mean, that really special, memorable and credible. I mean, the Ray Lewis game was incredible. I mean, salutely I think we thought we could win the Super Bowl, but we knew it was Ray Lewis, his last game. So that in those moments that are seminal, you know, and what was taken away from us by Angelo’s after the parade to which we really would have been special. Sure, sure, it was but again,


Luke Jones  21:31

an AFC Championship. And you just said it. I mean, for someone my age, who was two weeks old when the Orioles won the World Series, as I’ve noted over and over, as I have gray hair now, and I’m 40 years old. But the idea of Baltimore, World Series games, which we have not seen any since 1983, and the Ravens hosting an AFC Championship Game, which, from a an authentic fan experience, that’s as good as it gets in this in the sense of a celebration where I mean, the Super Bowl look, the most dedicated fans who have deep enough pockets, you know that that’s a part of it, especially more and more as time goes on. But just the idea of that stadium where you’ve seen preseason games, you’ve seen regular season games, I mean, you know, we’re talking about a stadium that’s 25 years old now at this point, to have that in your own stadium and luck. You’re hoping that the celebratory side of that understanding, as you mentioned, it can also be very, very quiet as you’re leaving if things don’t go your way. I just think there’s there is an appeal to that. And that’s why that was another reason why not 2019 was just so darn disappointing. You know, or, or even oh six, when you think about the way it played out. Remember the Chargers were the number one see that your ravens were to the to the Chargers last the next day, and the Ravens would have been hosting the AFC Championship. And I remember that following week, I was actually in Federal Hill walking, you know, having been out with some friends that night. And it was a Sunday morning, I was getting ready to leave and I thought an AFC Championship could have been here today. And I just thought how disappointing that was. So this is such a rich opportunity to experience that, you know, for Ravens fans who experienced that and I think yeah, of course the Superbowl is the pinnacle. I’m not suggesting that the game itself is more important, but I do think there’s an argument to be made about the authenticity and just how special that could be

Nestor J. Aparicio  23:24

the Mile High miracle that week. I’m not crazy, but it was so effing cold in Denver, and you know was there my wife was there after the game. I watched the video last year my breath down on the field the whole deal. The sort of the exultation of all of it used to be like the next day the Patriots could have lost to somebody and we would have had the championship game I knots in saying that, like Jacksonville, they they played some third team. And maybe it was canceling I mean, I was it was but they played because I watched it like in an Applebee’s in a frozen. I mean, dude, it was five degrees. It was so cold in Denver that next day, and we didn’t get out till the next night. And I remember being out by the airport, this little area at some little Applebee’s, like watching and like rooting against Tom Brady obviously right and thinking we got to go to New England, but also know we had a bus trip. But I think maybe we I could be nuts but it feels

Luke Jones  24:24

like wasn’t that wasn’t sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. I wasn’t sure. But I just looked at it. Houston, the Ravens were the force member going into week 17. They played Cincinnati and you know, we kind of heard beforehand that Flacco probably wasn’t gonna play very much and you know, great rice and all the different guys that they ended up resting. They played. Flacco played what two series I think in that game. That was the game that if they had won that game, they had a chance to move up to the three spot and the Ravens decided you know what, that’s probably not going to happen. Let’s hedge our bets here and make sure no and gets hurt, have real significance. And remember they punted that game and the Bengals beat them. So the Texans who played in Foxborough the following day you were right about New England hosting a game the following day. The Texans were the three seeds so if you would have gone to Houston have gone to Houston right. So

Nestor J. Aparicio  25:18

I plan to clarified because like, years later, I’m like, I remember but what was about the bus trip or not? I’m sure that’s what it was about, like putting a bus trip on sale before I jumped on the plane. And of course, that became the magic. We sold five buses to New England. There wouldn’t have been any buses to Houston loop. Right. So I think that was the issue. The issue was was trip or no bus trip was why we were sitting at the apples. Look, John’s is here. Let’s break we got plenty more to talk about your offense, defense, health. The pathway memories, memories made along these ways and people picking up tickets, picking up memories, where were you when it happened and five touchdowns and all my Jackson Five memes and all that we’re gonna get to Maryland crabcakes represented by the Maryland lottery and window nation, and our friends at the Jiffy Lube. MultiCare back out on the road. We are planning the biggest radio row promotion we’ve ever done. It’s gonna have an incredible vibe and an ask of you, our community and our listeners and our readers, and our subscribers and our podcast, whatever subscribers and people say, Do I call now do I say do we do my radio show? Or my podcast? What’s cooler? I’m not sure but it’s sort of the both all wrapped into one here as we enter 2020 for Baltimore positives. The way to find both of us you can find Luke out at Baltimore positive Instagram, find them out knowings Mills, getting on the WNS T tech service, if there’s injury reports, weird things happening here, but we’re going into a couple of weeks where maybe the Orioles will make more news in the Ravens knock on wood, hopefully. But the notion of when these games will be on the 20th or 21st How the Ravens get out of this on Sunday, Luke and I are going to be talking about all of that. And more on Nestor. He’s Luke we are wn St. am 1570, Towson Baltimore. And we never stop talking Baltimore positive

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