By now the Ravens Nation has had time to absorb the 23-24 loss to the Eagles. There is disagreement, however, in what the loss means. For some, it is a mere hiccup for a team bound for the next Super Bowl. For others, it represents proof that all the preseason and week-1 hype surrounding a Ravens offensive juggernaut was overblown. As is the case with most issues in the real world, the answers defy simple binary classification and fall somewhere between 0 and 1.
I am not a blind optimist, but I admit that I do my best to find the positives in any situation. The Ravens’ most recent performance at Lincoln Financial Field provides an opportunity for such thinking. Therefore, here are a few thoughts that should shore up the confidence of Ravens fans.
1) It is still early. That’s right; there is still 87.5% of the regular season remaining. Therefore, it’s entirely too early to throw in the towel and declare the revamped Ravens offensive experiment a failure. In fact, Flacco’s 265 yards per game and 60.6 completion percentage coupled with Rice’s 122 (all-purpose) yards per game indicate that not all is lost. While I think that most would have preferred to see more of Ray Rice’s ground game (especially on that 3rd and 2 on the final drive), it is impossible to predict if that would have made the difference.
2) This was no “Jaguars-let-down” like we experienced last year. Philadelphia is a very good team and has one of the better defenses we’re likely to face this year. I watched a replay of the game last night and was struck by how close the game really was. Notwithstanding Jones’ 4thquarter touchdown which was called back for offensive pass interference, the Ravens still had an opportunity to win this football game in the final minute. By the way, I’m still trying to figure out that PI call… Anyway, I see nothing in the last performance that can’t be fixed with some film review and practice. The Flacco-inconsistency argument is already bubbling to the surface, but I say give it a few more weeks – part of taking charge of any organization is having the power to make mistakes and recover from them. I think we’ll ultimately be satisfied with the results.
3) Even with injuries (Suggs, Kruger, Pollard) the Ravens’ defense was able to hold the Eagles (and Vick, McCoy, Jackson, Maclin, and Celek) to 24 points. Admittedly, this was with 3 Philly turnovers, but I was impressed overall with the improvements to the Ravens run defense – holding McCoy to 3.2 yards per carry is no easy feat. Upshaw’s performance was greatly improved, and both Webb and Pollard had a strong game. (Pollard suffered a rib contusion in the 2nd quarter, but says he’ll return for the New England game). The only real downsides to the defensive performance on Sunday were a poor outing by CB Williams and the frustrating free reign that Celek had in the defensive backfield (8 receptions for 157 yards). These are issues to be sure, but if the Ravens stay healthy, this is a defense that can and will stay true to the franchise model.
4) Justin Tucker is the real deal.
Now, onto my predictions for week 3.
Buffalo at Cleveland (Sun, 1:00pm EDT, CBS)
What Vegas says: Buffalo by 3.
What I think: Trent Richardson’s 109 yard game against the Bengals was impressive, but not as impressive as C.J. Spiller’s 10 yards per carry over the past two weeks. Cleveland continues their building season, but does so as the only 0-3 team in the AFC North.
Bills win 24 – 17.
Cincinnati at Washington (Sun, 1:00pm EDT, CBS)
What Vegas says: Washington by 3.
What I think: The Redskins lost Orakpo and Carriker to injuries which will make this a tighter game than it otherwise would be, but RG III will give the Bengals’ defense fits.
Redskins win 31 – 24.
Pittsburgh at Oakland (Sun, 4:25pm EDT, CBS)
What Vegas says: Pittsburgh by 3 and ½.
What I think: The Raiders have struggled to find the end zone this year, so even though the Steelers are flying across the country and will likely be without Harrison again they walk away with the “W”.
Steelers win 27 – 17.
New England at Baltimore (Sun, 8:20pm EDT, NBC)
What Vegas says: Baltimore by 3.
What I think: With Hernandez out and some adjustments for Gronkowski and Welker, the Ravens’ defense (aided by the return of Paul Kruger) is able to contain Tom Brady and the Patriots for the second time in 9-months. Also, after some offensive adjustments I expect another large performance from the Ravens’ offense. Jacoby Jones, in particular will draw a lot of attention which translates into more opportunities for Boldin and Smith, as well as the running game. See you at the game.
Ravens win 31 – 23.
Upset of the week: Seattle delivers the Packers their second loss of the season.
– Last week: 3/4
– 2012 Season: 7/8