I’ve spent much of this week reading the musings of the so-called experts from the national media and the blogosphere and in particular what they had to say about the Baltimore Ravens.
Needless to say they aren’t that impressed. Here’s a few samples.
Don Banks from Sports Illustrated:
“I think we’ve seen enough of the Ravens by now to know that nothing is going to come easily this season in Baltimore,” he wrote. “The Ravens are 6-2 at midseason, but I can’t really recall a less impressive 6-2 club in recent memory.”
Clark Judge of CBS Sports:
“You want to know why few people trust Baltimore at 6-2? Look what happened Sunday: It went 30 minutes and seven consecutive series in Cleveland without gaining a first down … and defense, not offense, is supposed to be the Ravens’ problem,” Judge wrote.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
“Another unimpressive day — for 50 minutes — from quarterback Joe Flacco, who will be needed by Baltimore if it hopes to win big in January,”
As you can imagine I have a very different view than these gentlemen about the state of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens are 6-2. They have the second best record in the AFC (that would be good for a playoff bye). They are in first place in the AFC North, one game ahead of the Steelers and three games in front of the Bengals. These statements are facts, they are not opinions spun by newswriters and pundits. This is the reality.
So why all the concern over a first place team? Isn’t winning the most important statistic? Should it really matter how it happened as long as it did happen?
That answer for most people seems to be a resounding “NO”. Now I don’t put myself in that category. If this team were 3-5 then I’d scrutinize every flaw. But as for now they are who there record says they are and that’s pretty good at this point.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no apologist. I understand that this team has a below average defense with almost no pass rush, and an inconsistent offense depending on the venue. These aren’t exactly the traits of a Super Bowl contender but for now it’s good enough because of the record.
So let’s get back to winning. Last Sunday’s victory over the Browns marked a significant milestone in the Harbaugh/Flacco partnership as they reached 50 wins as a combo. (50-22 to be exact) That’s a whole mess of victories as each is into his fifth season in Baltimore. Considering the ineptitude we’ve seen from some of the Ravens opponents this season (Dallas, Kansas City, Cleveland) it makes that intangible -”knowing how to win games” all the more important and special. Not every team can do it. Either players can’t execute in crunch time or coaches make poor decisions. It’s what separates the winners from the losers and the consistent playoff teams from the perennial cellar dwellers.
So let me address what’s really eating at people – two AFC Championship appearances in four seasons – no Super Bowl appearances. Really good, but not good enough. Yeah, they won a lot of games but they don’t have anything to show for it.
Ricky Bobby said it best, “If you aint first, you’re last” and that phrase seems etched in the fanbase’s collective memory. Yes, Baltimore was a few plays away from a Super Bowl last season and they blew it. The expectations were clear that this year ,even more than most anything less than a title would be seen as a step backward and unacceptable. At this stage we don’t want good enough, we want great. We want more than a winner, we want a champion.
The great thing about football is that each week is a test and you learn just a little bit more about where your team is on the Super Bowl barometer. After this week’s home game against Oakland we are going to learn a whole lot about this edition of the Ravens. Two games against the hated Steelers, and a road trip to San Diego.
Once the winter winds of December start to chill the air we will look at this team and see if all the concerns were unfounded or that “knowing how to win” will only take you so far.
Either way show some patience, stop acting like a coach, and try to enjoy the fact that your team is winning more games than most and currently is positioned for a fifth straight playoff appearance. Who knows what the future may bring?