Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'

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Lewis: 'They make you these gladiators'

NEW ORLEANS -- Quick inventory of Ray Lewis' week:

On Tuesday, he accused a new-age medicine man of attempting to intrude on "my speeches or my moment" at the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, he said he announced his retirement before the season ended because "I would have robbed a lot of people of those last goodbyes for me and them. That is why I did it that way.

On Sunday, he will execute his Squirrel Dance (has anyone ever noted that the only time a squirrel would dance like that is if it ate 23 Ex-Lax coated acorns?). Cameras will be trained on him. He will cry. He will wail. He will emote. He will be the antithesis of unassuming humility.

There is a consuming conceit inherent in many professional athletes. But Lewis is at the top of the list when it comes to sending off the vibe that it's his world and we are just living in it. And it is by his benevolence that we are allowed to share in the glory of Ray.

How, I asked Ray Lewis on Thursday, will he deal with life without being the center of attention.

"Easy," he laughed. "Very easy. Seriously. I live a very normal life outside of the game. My life is so normal. And it's hard at times because people want you to live off the field like you are on the field but I try to separate that. When I'm a father, I'm a father. When I'm a son, I'm a son. When I'm a person just shopping, I'm a person just shopping."

Lewis has a post-football job awaiting him at ESPN. His intelligence and passion may play well on TV. But his reliance on the same talking points -- the main one being himself and his preacherwarrior persona -- could potentially turn him into a font of nonsense we haven't seen since Emmitt Smith sat at a studio desk.

How much humility has he demonstrated in his NFL career, I asked Lewis. Between his retirement announcement and his Squirrel Dance, it's been a bit much.

"That's a totally different person you're talking about," he pointed out. "You're talking about on the field, an ultimate warrior. That's what I do, that's what I do. On the field ain't about humility. I don't get paid to be humble on the field. I get paid to hit people in the mouth. And that takes on its own attitude in itself.

"Off the field is what people don't see," he added. "And that's with all athletes. They make you these gladiators because they only see you on game days. But off the field you will find some of the most genuine people ever in life and I promise you in my heart I'm definitely one of them just because of the way I treat people and the way my mom has raised me."

I would have liked to ask Lewis more questions. I would have liked to follow on his statement that "they make you these gladiators because they only see you on game days" and found out who made who? Who built the "Ray Lewis Football Gladiator" brand and has fed, watered and fertilized it for more than a decade while adeptly re-directing any questions that threaten the brand.

I would have liked to ask him if he understands that much of the football-viewing America considers him a hypocrite even as it respects his ability.

I would have loved to see if he understands why a very funny "Haters Guide to Ray Lewis" on Deadspin resonates so strongly with a swath of football fans that would like him to just follow the Favre route into post-football obscurity.

But I couldn't. Eyes were rolling among my media brethren. Ray's attention was waning. And people needed to know how Ray Lewis has been a mentor to his teammates. Nobody's ever heard that line of questioning.

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

The Patriots and Raiders and neck-and-neck as the race for home field in the AFC turns for home. And, with four games left, the Raiders are ahead by a nose. The tiebreakers between the 10-2 teams in play currently? Common games followed by strength of victory. 

The first tiebreaker – conference record – is a deadlock as both teams are 7-1 in the AFC (the Brady-less Patriots lost to the Bills back in Week 4.

After conference record, it's the teams record in common games. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So far in common games with the Texans and Bills, the Patriots have gone 2-1 and the Raiders have gone 2-0. The Patriots play the Ravens next week. Oakland beat them. The Patriots play Denver after that. Oakland beat them as well but have one more game against Denver in Week 17.

So if it comes down to common games the Patriots really need to win these next two games.

Or hope the Raiders stub their toe a time or two in their final four games which are at the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos with a home game against Indy in Week 16.

As for strength of victory, that too goes to Oakland at this point. The Raiders’ strength of victory is at .471. The Patriots’ is at .370.

But the tiebreaker that kicks in after conference record and before strength of victory – common games – is very much unresolved.The remaining picture as it stands right now? The Ravens are the No. 3 seed with a 7-5 record that leads the AFC North. The Texans’ 6-6 record is good enough to lead the AFC South. The 9-3 Chiefs are the top Wild Card. The 8-4 Broncos are the No. 6 seed.

The Patriots play the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks. Currently, the Dolphins (7-5) and Steelers (7-5) are on the outside looking in.

The Titans (6-6) will have a chance to get even with the Texans in Week 17 in head-to-head matchups but they host Denver and play at Kansas City the next two weeks so they have obstacles to clear before they get there.

AFC PLAYOFF RACE: Steelers end Giants' winning streak at 6 in 24-14 victory

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AFC PLAYOFF RACE: Steelers end Giants' winning streak at 6 in 24-14 victory

PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the New York Giants' winning streak with a familiar formula.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns, Le'Veon Bell rolled up 182 yards of total offense, and Pittsburgh's resurgent defense harassed Eli Manning into a flurry of mistakes in a dominant 24-14 win on Sunday.

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