8 weeks from today, Super Bowl XLVII will take place at the Superdome in New Orleans. With that in-mind, here are 47 Ravens related observations, questions, and thoughts.
1) There is an abundance of doubt locally and Nationally about this Ravens team. Some of which is understandable, as this team has some obvious limitations. However, people should remember this team is 9-3 overall. People should also remember this organization has been to the Playoffs each of the previous 4 years. In that time, they’ve won 5 Playoff games, 4 of those wins coming on the road, and have advanced to the AFC Championship Game twice. This is a franchise that plays with the pride which comes from consistent winning. Or you could argue their pride has allowed for that consistent winning. Baltimore will remain a difficult out.
2) While I think the Ravens will be a difficult out against anyone, I think it is imperative for the Ravens to secure the 2nd seed in the AFC Playoffs, to have a realistic chance of being in New Orleans February 3rd.
3) Playing without Ellerbe was a huge detriment against Pittsburgh, and will remain an issue tomorrow.
4) Last year, Rice averaged 129.3 yards per game, on 23 combined touches per. This year, Rice is averaging 106.8 yards per, on 20.58 combined touches. Not only are his touches down, his yards per carry and yards per reception have decreased.
5) Compared to his rookie season, Torrey Smith is averaging more yards per game, yards per catch, and yards after the catch. Still, he has had only 2 games over 100 yards (a 3rd with 97), and has been held under 50 yards in 6 of his past 8 games. Every play to Smith can not be a chuck down the field on a go route. There needs to be more slants over the middle.
6) Last year I expected Cameron to be retained. This year, I think the only chance he returns for next year is if the Ravens are coming off a Super Bowl win.
7) Before the year, I thought the best offensive line would be McKinnie, Osemele, Birk, Yanda, and Oher from Left to Right. The first 12 games haven’t changed my mind.
8) Suggs possibly being in position to play tomorrow is pretty remarkable. If he plays, the obvious question will be how well will he be able to tackle.
9) With Suggs back, Kruger has been on fire lately, racking up 5 sacks in his last 4 games. With each sack, the pending Free Agent is only increasing the amount of money he is going to sign for.
10) At 27:12 per game, the Ravens have the 3rd lowest time of possession in the league.
11) Justin Tucker is 24 of 26 for the year on FG’s, being a huge part of the NFL’s best Special Teams.
12) The signing of Jacoby Jones was not universally celebrated in Baltimore, but he has produced. His 3 combined Kickoff and Punt return TD’s have been huge.
13) This week Cameron blamed the offensive struggles on the lack of success on 3rd down. The Ravens are in the lower 1/3 of the league with their 36.3 conversion %. If you want to have better success on 3rd down, you have to avoid facing so many 3rd and long situations.
14) Could be a lot of flags on the ground today, as the Redskins and Ravens are two of he most penalized teams in the league.
15) The near ‘mutiny‘ story as reported by Yahoo Sports at the end of November, was interesting. I’ve always been a bit lukewarm on Harbaugh. Not so much due to in-game coaching, or strategy (I find him average in those regards, but those issues are lower on the totem pole for me); but because I had felt his biggest perceived strengths (leadership, focus, preparation, discipline, communication) might be a bit exaggerated, as the Ravens were doing a lot of winning.
Meaning that I know a lot of people have attributed part of the Ravens success during Harbaugh’s tenure, to Harbaugh; but I’ve been hesitant to give him a lot of credit. I’ve always thought he was due some credit, but I’ve also thought the situation around him (the talent, the front office, the structure) was so strong that anyone should have been able to be successful in his capacity.
My question has always been how will he handle adversity? Part of the reason I’ve had that question is my general feeling that everything is better when you are winning. Which is true, but probably unfairly does not give him the credit deserved for helping contribute to an environment which allows that winning to flourish. The other reason I’ve had that question is that there have been constant rumors out of Owings Mills over the years of a locker-room that was not in love with their Head Coach.
This article was a great glimpse into real adversity, and a reminder of all of the different relationships a Head Coach has to deal with. I’ve never been more pleased to have him as the Ravens Head Coach.
That said, the poster – bnickle – on our Message board made points hard to disagree with, when he stated, “I give credit to Harbaugh for being open, discussing things with his team, and apparently patching things up but what does a potential mutiny with a 5-2 or 6-2 division leading record show you in the first place? What does it show you after 4 straight winning years? Why are players this upset and questioning the HC this much with so much success? It tells me what I’ve believed all along and touched on earlier. These players at their core do not like Harbaugh.”
Harbaugh’s players don’t have to like him or love him to respect him – but it is worth noting that he risked losing the team as they were winning.
16) Why didn’t the Ravens pursue an extension with Flacco after the 2010 season? Is there anyone out there that actually believes Flacco won’t be back? I’ll be surprised if the Ravens have to Franchise him, but it is possible I guess. The odds of him not being the Ravens QB in ’13 have to be pretty much close to zero.
17) Since the bye, Pierce has had 4 games with at-least 7 carries. For the year, he is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He has just 4 receptions, which basically telegraphs to the opposition that it will be a run when he is in the game.
18) The 2x All-Pro Vonta Leach has 16 grabs on the year (15 in 2011), and is probably the best blocking FB in the league. He’s also making $3M this year, and next. I could be wrong, but it feels as if he has been on the field for fewer snaps this year. Regardless, we know that Rice is getting less carries. Should the Ravens continue to pay Leach at this level, if his blocking is utilized less?
19) At 253 yards per game, Flacco is averaging 28 more yards per game in ’12, vs. ’11. His completion percentage is under 60% (59.2) for the 2nd straight year. He is 18th in the league in Total QBR.
20) Dickson and Pitta combined for 94 receptions, 933 yards, 58 1st downs, and 8 TD’s last year. This year the two have 59 catches, 594 yards, 28 1st downs, and 4 TD’s. Dickson’s production has been extremely minimal. 6 games this year he has 11 yards or less. We understand Dickson’s drops last year caused a lack of confidence from Flacco, but his under utilization has hurt the offense as a whole.
21) The Ravens are 19th in Total Offense, 15th in Passing, 23rd in Rushing.
22) Arthur Jones’ 3 sacks the last two games has been encouraging. Which is good, because…
23) It has been a disappointing year for Pernell McPhee. Before missing Weeks 7-12 due to injury, McPhee as a non-factor in the first 6 weeks of the season. If McPhee is past the knee and thigh injuries, he could make a difference these next few weeks as a pass rushing specialist similar to what he provided last year.
24) Prior to the season opener, Cary Williams turned down a 3 year extension worth a reported $15M. He started every game last year for the Ravens, he has started every game this year. I imagine he would grade out very average overall, but an average NFL CB has a lot of value. Will be interesting to see the type of contract he commands on the open market.
25) One of the most disheartening aspects of this season was losing Lardarius Webb to the ACL tear. He has now torn both of his knees. He overcame the prior injury and became the Ravens best cover corner. Will he be able to do it a second time? In addition to his $2.385M salary next year, he has a $5M option bonus.
26) It is possible – perhaps even likely – that future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed have two regular season home games at M&T Bank Stadium left in their careers. Of course they could play another home game or two in the Playoffs, but those two should really feel the love these next few weeks.
27) Boldin is having another solid year. 5 games with at-least 79 yards. 55 catches overall, for 750 yards. His yards per catch is down from 15.6 last year to 13.6 this year though. YAC also down.
28) In June, Ngata was named the 9th best player in the league by his peers. He is a multiple time All-Pro. On the Ravens website, Ngata is quoted as saying he is getting back to the player he wants to be, after struggling with injuries the past two months. That is good, because his production has not matched his name this year. He has to dominate the man (men, as he is regularly double-teamed), in-front of him the rest of the way. If he wins the battle at the line of scrimmage, this is a different team.
29) When Terrence Cody was drafted, it was said that he would never be a NT that collapsed the pocket. I was fine with that. I had high expectations that he would clog the line and make a difference in run defense. For whatever reasons (the weight fluctuations?) that has not happened. Perhaps stubbornly on my part, I still want to see him getting the most snaps at the position.
30) Corey Graham was signed in the off-season to bolster Special Teams. His play at CB the last few weeks has been strong. A terrific signing from the Ravens Front Office.
31) This is not a great tackling Ravens team, but you have no issues in that regard with Bernard Pollard. The Safety has already racked up 90 tackles.
32) Good stories this week about Dennis Dixon running the scout team offense as RG3. I don’t think the Ravens defense has much chance of slowing down Redskins options offense. Washington is going to put up points. The key to me is Baltimore putting up points of their own against the league’s 2nd worst pass defense. Beyond the points, you would like to see some sustained drives, which keep RG3 on the sidelines.
33) Jimmy Smith practiced for a few times this week, but is not expected to play tomorrow. He is expected back for Denver next week. Drafted to be a shut-down corner, Smith’s first two years have not gone according to plan. The labor situation last year probably halted some of his development. Then he was injured right as last season got under way. He still got plenty of time in 2011, but never looked overly comfortable. Before he got hurt this year, it was hard to really evaluate him because of the minimal pass rush. From what we saw, he looked improved, but was still getting beat fairly often. Missing the past Month coming off the hernia surgery, I’m just hoping he helps the Secondary depth.
34) Lots of NFL types are excited about a possible P.Manning vs. Brady match-up in the Playoffs. If Ray is back, I’m excited about seeing Manning and Lewis facing each other one last time. Both commanding their sides of the field, making adjustments.
35) While the hype will be about Manning, Denver currently has the 3rd ranked Defense in the league, excelling against both the pass and the run. Manning is going to put up his points on the Ravens. It will be another game where the Ravens offense has to score for Baltimore to win.
36) Ihedigbo seems to make a Special Teams play every game.
37) After Peyton leaves town, the Ravens will get to welcome in his brother Eli the following week. Unlike Denver, the Giants are not particularly strong against the run (21st overall). Run the ball, keep the NY defensive line honest, and keep Eli off the field.
38) Jameel McClain signed a 3 year $10.5M contract in March. Has he been worth it?
39) Every Ravens fan knows the Baltimore Front Office will stick to their board and take the best player available in the Draft next April. While knowing that, what position group do you think will be their priority?
40) If the Ravens do not win the Super Bowl, and Cameron is replaced; there will be more scrutiny locally on Harbaugh next year.
41) Thoughts on the rest of the division? The names will change, but like Baltimore, Pittsburgh will remain competitive. Anyone else think Cleveland is a draft away from being a .500 esque team? Cincinnati has won 4 in a row, allowing 42 points in that span. A lot of young talent on both sides of the ball for the Bengals.
42) The Ravens beat the 44-13 in Baltimore to start the year. I’m guessing Marvin Lewis has had the season final in Cincinnati circled on his calendar for some time.
43) Upshaw has had a nice rookie season. One of the things you have to like is his versatility. Pees has lined him up in multiple positions during the year.
44) Earlier this season it was reported that the Ravens had had preliminary contract extension talks with Oher. Are you going to pay him as a RT or a LT? Assuming he wants the going rate for LT’s, is that an investment the Ravens are committed to making? Should they be?
45) Birk has held up better than some might have expected this year. He was coaxed into coming back for ’12, going for another shot at a ring. If he is not back for ’13, is Gradkowski going to be ready to start at Center?
46) I think the most physically talented team in the league is Houston. That was quite a beating the Texans delivered to the Ravens in Week 7. If Baltimore has to go back to Houston in the Playoffs, leaving with a win will very difficult. Still, I would expect a game that was in the balance in the 4th Quarter.
47) In October, the Orioles played their first Playoff games in 15 years. The entire season was easy to celebrate, because it was unexpected. The emotion showed at OPACY in the Division Series, looked vastly different than the scene at Yankee Stadium. Yankee fans were bored with redundancy of the Playoffs for them, and it showed. In some ways I see parallels with Ravens fans. The passion for the Ravens remains, and M&T Bank Stadium continues to roar; but talk radio, and local message boards show a fan base that is not having a lot of fun win or lose. In some ways it is easier to enjoy a season where results exceed expectations. We get that. However, you only get lowered expectations when the results have been poor. The Ravens have consistently won. They have built to a point where anything less than a Super Bowl appearance will feel deflating. If you have not been enjoying this season, buy back in. There are legitimate questions, but you have a team that is 9-3 in December, with a chance. That is something to be celebrated.