Torrey Smith on the bench during the agonizing defeat to the Texans
After a demoralizing 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, a lot of critics, analysts and fans are hitting the panic button on the Baltimore Ravens. Some are jumping ship, others saying it's time to build for next year. In the famous words of Lee Corso, "not so fast my friend!"
While the Ravens loss yesterday was troubling, there is no need to panic. There is a big difference between having concern over a certain aspect of a team and panicking.
The Ravens have lots of life left in them.
After yesterday's loss I've seen a lot of people trying to jump ship on Flacco. We see the same arguments all the time. He has all the talent, but just disappears on the road and the Ravens lose.
Well, if you were watching the same game as I was, Flacco was running for his life on Sunday, and he wasn't getting any help from his receivers either. Flacco has been plagued by inconsistent line and receiver play this year. When Flacco has the time, he generally will find the right pass to make. When he's pressured we see examples of plays like yesterday.
However, the receivers weren't helping him. To be able to throw the ball someone has to be open, and a lot of times yesterday the Ravens receivers surely weren't getting separation needed.
The offensive line was abysmal, and that's being nice. An injury to rookie Kelechi Osemele brought in Bryant McKenie and shifted Michael Oher to right tackle, and the results weren't that much better. K.O. was later able to return to the game, thankfully.
This pitiful play resulted in Joe getting sacked, running around, having balls batted down and getting crunched from the blind side. If your Quarterback doesn't have time to throw, you aren't gonna move the ball effectively.
I still think Joe is the answer at quarterback. The man has more wins than anyone since 2008, and has proven he can win on the road when it matters most: the playoffs. If not for a dropped pass, or a missed FG, we could be talking about Flacco in a very different light.
Give him time and he will get it right.
Terrell Suggs after sacking Matt Schaub Sunday against the Texans.
No one thought it was humanly possible (except maybe himself) for Terrell Suggs to play Sunday. All this time we had heard about a mid-November timetable as the anticipated return for the reigning defensive player of the year, and yet there he was on the field on October 21st.
Even then nobody thought that Suggs would play a lot, maybe a couple series, around five to 15 plays. Suggs dismissed all of those predictions by playing 44 snaps, over 50% of the Ravens' defensive plays.
Suggs looked like he was one of the only players ready and willing to play. He recorded his first sack of the season, had several tackles, hurried Schaub a few times, and knocked down a pass. Suggs was everything and more—a great sight for Ravens fans with all the murkiness regarding his return date.
Now that Suggs has a game under his belt, and a good two weeks of practice and rest time ahead, the Ravens can put him in more and more so that he can regain his form of seasons past. A healthy and dominant Suggs will go a long way in helping the struggling Ravens defense.
With Suggs terrorizing QBs and RBs, the Ravens defense will gradually get better. The Ravens' lack of pass rush has allowed opposing quarterbacks to sit in the pocket and pick them apart. Suggs will help ignite a lacking pass rush and help get some pressure and force some QBs into making mistakes.
Not be overlooked, Suggs is also great in run defense, and he will certainly help out with the Ravens' struggles in that department as well.
The American Football Conference, or as we know it, the AFC, is more average than we have ever seen it. Of course the NFC has its share of average as well—the NFL is experiencing parity on a bigger scale than ever before with 11 3-3 teams before week 7.
Even though the Ravens lost to the Texans, they are still 5-2 and own the No. 2 seed in the AFC. They also still are in first place in the AFC North and have a two-game lead over both the Steelers and the Bengals. The Ravens are in good position with four home games and five away games remaining.
Assuming the Ravens continue their home win streak, a 4-0 slate in the home games puts them at 9-2. They could go 2-3 in their five road games and still win the AFC North at 11-5. Even going 1-4 on the road might guarantee a playoff spot. They could go 4-5 down the stretch and maybe sneak in at 9-7.
You just don't know what is going to happen in the AFC this year.
And that is a good thing for the Ravens, because aside from the Texans, there are no clear cut powerhouse teams in the AFC.
The bye week has come at the right time for the Ravens. They are 5-2 (which most teams will take in a heartbeat after 7 weeks, especially with a grueling schedule like the Ravens) and now they can get some much needed the rest.
The injuries unfortunately have been hitting the Ravens hard lately, with Ed Reed, Kelechi Osemele and Ma'ake Kemoeatu being the latest with the injury bugs during the Texans game. The Ravens can enjoy a nice two weeks of rest and good practice before they travel to Cleveland on November 4th.
The Ravens can also sit back and watch the events of another Sunday in the NFL. Depending on what happens with the Texans, Steelers, Patriots, Bengals and other powers of the AFC, the Ravens will know going into the week about what they need to do to solidify their position in the division and conference.
They will also have ample time to study the Browns game tape, the TNF game they won 23-16 in Baltimore, their game this upcoming Sunday against the Chargers and fix a few things that haven't been working for them, such as run defense and not getting beat on double moves.
Brandon Weeden has had a good string of games lately and the Ravens are going to have to be prepared for a dog fight, because as we saw in that Thursday Night Football game, the Browns aren't just going to let the Ravens walk over them. No game in the NFL is an easy game.
However with all the rest they are getting, and the time they will have to prepare, I expect the Ravens to come out on top.
This is not the time to fret, Ravens fans.
We came out playing the Texans at the worst time. The first game without Lewis and Webb (even with the Suggs return). They had just been embarrassed by the Packers on national television. They were upset about losing to the Ravens twice last season, and they had never beaten the Ravens in their team's history.
The Ravens just got them at the wrong time, and they flat out played a bad game. In a 16-game season, one bad blowout is bound to happen whether we like it or not. The Ravens will make adjustments and they will be just fine.
Joe Flacco and the offense are going to get on track. Cam Cameron (everyone's favorite offensive coordinator) hopefully gets back on the Ray Rice train and gives the Cleveland Browns a steady dose of Number 27.
The offensive line will get better, the receivers will improve and I think the defense will get much, much better. They played well in spurts against the Texans, however the offense just didn't capitalize on their stops. They know what they have to do and they will do it.
The players in the locker room have too much pride. We still have great players like Ed Reed, Suggs, Ngata and Pollard on the defense. They know they need to improve and they will. They won't accept the mediocrity that the Ravens defense has been and will work their butts off to improve it.
The offense is going to get on track. Whether Cam Cameron likes it or not, the Ravens offense runs through Ray Rice. If Rice is not getting 15-20 touches a game, than there is a good chance that the Ravens aren't going to win. Rice will be involved, taking some pressure off Flacco and enabling him to play better.
Being able to run a successful no huddle will also be key for the Ravens down the stretch. We have seen periods of it during the season, and when it's effective they seem to shy away from it. Consistent use of the offensive weapons we have are key to competing in this league.
I still have faith in the Ravens. I don't think there is any need to panic and worry about the team (at least for another month). I still think this team will win the AFC North and make it back to the AFC Championship game.