Face It, Ravens are For Real

Sam SnyderCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2009

SAN DIEGO , CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Kelley Washington #15 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a touchdown in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 20, 2009 in San Diego, California. The Ravens defeated the Chargers 31-26.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Ravens have always been disliked, disrespected, and underdogs since their inception in 1996.

Now, they aren't disrespected as openly as the Oakland Raiders, but the Ravens are always put down. Whether it is being predicted to lose every week, or being labeled as a bunch of "thugs" and "criminals", the disrespect is there.

Despite being the fifth most winning team of the decade (83-61), 7-4 in five playoff berths, one Super Bowl win, and two conference championship appearances, the Ravens have never been a top-ranked team, or even considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender, or a division title contender.

The Ravens are hoping this season they can overcome that.

Last year it wasn't until they stunned the top-seeded Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs until they were even considered in the Lombardi race.

But almost every year, with few exceptions, the Ravens prove all naysayers wrong.

Traditionally it's always been the defense that makes the Ravens known, they haven't been ranked less than sixth in total defense in the decade, and haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher in 36 games, the most in the NFL currently.

The defense was second ranked last year, and free safety Ed Reed led the league in interceptions, and was the only unanimous selection to All-Pro team.

The Ravens didn't get credit for their elite defense last year, and other years before.

Defensively, they are second in rushing yards allowed (82), and first in average per play (2.2). They have two interceptions, five sacks and three forced fumbles.

Pass defense has been looking very poor, but should improve as the secondary adapts to the new 4-3 scheme, with less linebackers in coverage.

But the story so far is the offense, putting up the second most points in the league with 69. Joe Flacco has thrown for 483 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

All in two games

The Ravens rank third in the league in rushing with 382 yards, and lead the league in rushing touchdowns.

Ray Rice leads the team with 144 yards and a 5.3 average, McGahee is second with 128 yards with a 4.9 average and three touchdowns.

Why am I stating all these relatively meaningless numbers?

Because the Ravens are for real, whether you want to admit it or not. They are just as good as any big name, big market team that has been hyped up to be a Super Bowl contender.

Flacco is the real deal, not a fluke. Ray Lewis isn't aging. No receivers? No problem.

Who's the real bum now Keyshawn?

By the way. Ray Rice is as good as any other starter, and Le'Ron McClain is the best fullback in the league.

Willis McGahee will win Comeback Player of the Year this season. I'm not kidding, you heard it here first.

The irony?

The Ravens probably won't get ranked higher than fifth in the majority of rankings and polls.