Sure, if the NFL season ended today and if we could count on Joe Flacco to perform like he did versus Cincy, it would be perfectly fine to say this team was Super Bowl-bound.
The reality of the situation isn't clear-cut, though there are a few clear reasons why the Ravens and your expectations of them should be treated with caution at this early point in the NFL season.
Flacco had good protection most of the night, though his offensive line did allow three sacks. He was playing at home against a Bengals secondary that can't cover, and his performance—though impressive and noteworthy—can't be seen as a template of what we can expect from him going forward.
Furthermore, Flacco still needs to prove (to me, at least) that he isn't still accursed with the occasional case of the yips in random games. He had four games where he completed less than half his passes in 2011, and if this were to happen in an important playoff game, it won't matter how well his defensive teammates play, the Ravens will lose.
I don't expect we'll see any big-time stinkers from Flacco in 2012, but the fact remains that the Bengals aren't exactly a good team right now—especially on defense. Their secondary is so thin that Mike Zimmer is being forced to use Taylor Mays, for crying out loud.
Yes, Flacco was brilliant in his Monday night showcase , but he was lucky he wasn't picked on two separate occasions against the Bengals. I'm not ready to buy into him as a Super Bowl quarterback at this point—not when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are still going strong.
For the life of me, I can't understand why Jay Gruden didn't run the ball at the Ravens more. Sure, the final score indicates that the Bengals were playing catchup all night, but the truth is that the team was only down by one touchdown to begin the third quarter.
Gruden never made the running game a priority.
When he did call running plays, the Bengals were highly successful. For the night, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Cedric Peerman rushed the ball 21 times for 113 yards and one touchdown, an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
The Ravens gave up over 100 yards on the ground eight times during the regular season in 2011 and once in the playoffs.
Most teams seem to just give up on the run before ever giving it a chance, but the Ravens are susceptible to any team with a strong offensive line that is dedicated to pounding the ball.
The NFL is a War of Attrition
Sometimes, all it takes for a team to suddenly find itself out of playoff contention is rash of injuries, and the Ravens are already behind the eight ball in the injury department.
The NFL season is a brutal endeavor. It's a long road to New Orleans, and the Ravens have many battles ahead of them on their road to potential glory.
Week 1 is too early to call the Ravens, or any other team, Super Bowl favorites. Such talk is but foolish blabbering, and I won't have any of it.
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