As is usual for this time of year, every media outlet on the planet is releasing some sort of NFL power rankings. And they do it for a number of reasons. Power rankings get attention, stir up fans, and are the source of great debate. They are 100% subjective, often consisting of the opinion of one person. And most of the time, they end up being destroyed by what actually happens throughout the season.
Some teams are bound to be media darlings, namely the Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers, and Patriots. These are easy because all four were pretty good last season. But as we true fans know, the NFL experiences drastic competitive changes every season. This is why we see last place teams make the playoffs the next season, and why repeat championships are so rare.
The Ravens are a team that had a mediocre, but not horrible, 8-8 season last year as the offense stalled and the defense tired down the stretch. But they addressed each hole, brought in some great complimentary pieces, installed a new offensive scheme that plays to their strengths, and went 4-0 in the preseason while leading the league in rushing. One would think that the Ravens would at least be favored to make the playoffs, right? After all, they’ve only missed them once since 2008.
Well you would be wrong. In ESPN’s 2014 predictions by its panel of “experts,” only 4 out of 16 picked the Ravens to win the AFC North. The remaining 12 were split down the middle – six for the Steelers, six for the Bengals. What’s even more surprising is that only four have the Ravens securing a wild card spot. Four picked the Dolphins, one picked the Texans, two the Titans, and one the Jets.
Moving on to ESPN’s power rankings, the sports mega site redeems itself a little by placing the Ravens at number 12. They are behind the Bengals (#9), but it’s still not terrible. It’s better than CBS Sports, who have them at number 14, with the Bengals at #6. NFL.com has them even further down the list at #15, citing their inability to run the football. Guess they didn’t watch any preseason games.
So it’s clear that most pundits are sleeping on the Ravens. Even though the Steelers had an almost identical season in 2013, they are widely expected to perform better than the Ravens in 2014. And for some reason, the Bengals are a favorite of almost everyone to at least make the playoffs. Yes, they were 11-5 last season, and it would seem likely that will eventually snap their current three game losing streak in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
But the Bengals lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators last season. While that can be a good thing (Hue Jackson over Jay Gruden?), it can also be a bad thing (Mike Zimmer has been perennially underrated). And until he proves otherwise, Andy Dalton is still a question mark.
But it’s no secret that NFL teams do one of two things with media opinion. They either ignore them completely, or they use negativity as a motivational tool. The Ravens know what kind of team they have this year, and they are determined to show the world. Once the games begin this weekend, only winning will silence the doubters.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens