Monday 23 October 2017 / 09:40 AM

Ravens, Chumps Or Champs?

They say that aerodynamically speaking, a bumblebee should not be able to fly, but since nobody has ever explained this fact to the bumblebee he just goes right on doing it anyway.

This is kind of what happened with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. They weren’t supposed to be much of a threat in the playoffs, but they just went right on and kept winning.

Sure, they were the AFC North division champions and had advanced to the 2011 AFC Championship game, but heading into last year’s post-season, few folk not named Ray Lewis gave the Ravens much of a chance to win at Denver, let alone be victorious in the Super Bowl.

Steady but boring Joe Flacco caught fire during their playoff run, tossing 11 touchdowns to go with 0 interceptions. Only two other QBs in the Super Bowl era have accomplished this feat, and Flacco’s QBR rating in the big game was better than Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.

The season ended, Ray Lewis retired, Flacco got paid, and the Ravens subsequently fell off the face of the Earth. I honestly can’t remember a season where the reigning champion has been covered with so little fanfare.

Sure, analysts accurately predicted a ho-hum season after losing so much talent in free agency, but what ever happened to the old adage about not counting out the champs until they have been eliminated?

So here we are, three quarters of the way through the season and the Ravens are sitting at (6-6), edging Miami on tie-breakers for the final AFC Wild Card slot. They are down, but most certainly not out.

So the question we all should be asking ourselves is, “Is it time for some Flacco magic?”

 

Three of Baltimore’s final four games are against division leaders (@Lions, Patriots, @Bengals), so Unibrow Joe will have to heat up long before the Wild Card round this time around if he wants to lead his team to six straight playoff appearances. A (9-7) record ought to do it, but to pull it off we’d realistically be looking at two upset wins; they managed to knock off the Vikings today 29-26. Add to the formula that the Ravens have only won once on the road all season, and it’s starting to look pretty bleak.

The Ravens’ defense has been OK considering the hits they took in the off-season. The squad ranks 10th in total defense, allowing 329 yards per game, and with a couple exceptions, like the blowout loss to Denver in Week 1, they generally hold opponents to under 20 points.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, however, the Ravens have been atrocious. They rank 29th in rushing and 29th in total offense, with 81 and 309 yards respectively in the two categories. These numbers are truly unacceptable considering the fact that talent-wise, Ray Rice is still one of the best running backs in the business.

What Do The Ravens Need To Do?

 

Logic would tell you that the secret lies in pounding the rock with Ray Rice, but the o-line simply hasn’t been able to open up any running lanes for the Pro Bowl runner. Rice has only eclipsed 100 yards once this entire season. That stat in itself is indicative of the Ravens’ 2013 campaign.

What Baltimore really needs to do is get the ball to Torrey Smith. Smith is the team’s top playmaker and leads the team with 952 receiving yards. While this total is only good for 15th best in the league, it’s nearly twice as many rushing yards as Rice has and almost triple the receiving yards of Baltimore’s #2 receiver. In games where Torrey Smith tallies at least 6 receptions this season, the Ravens are undefeated.

The Ravens are a team that seems to play their best ball when they are backed into a corner, so down the stretch football fans can look for them to make it interesting. They have the offensive playmakers and a solid enough defense to repeat the 2012 miracle in 2013, but it all starts with Joe Flacco’s magic arm.

Will the Super Bowl curse take another victim?

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Michael Airhart

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