While the Baltimore Ravens are a very impressive 9-3, and currently hold a two game lead in the AFC North with just four games to play, the feeling among a large number of the purple faithful is one of unease.
After losing what should have been – on paper – an immensely winnable game against arch rival Pittsburgh, who was starting third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, and in the process blowing the chance to completely eliminate the Steelers from AFC North title competition, many Ravens fans find themselves ready to jump off the proverbial cliff.
Ravens fans are split between two camps. One camp is all “doom and gloom,” predicting the Ravens will lose AT LEAST three of their final four games, despite the fact that the team hasn’t lost even two games in a row since October 2009.
The other camp seems to be spending most of their energy chastising the first camp, calling the gloom-and-doomers “bad fans” for daring to speak ill of their team and admit that they are very, very flawed despite their record.
It’s hardly a new situation in which we Ravens fans find ourselves. Back in 2010, after the Ravens fell to 7-3 after a loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, fans were in a similar uproar – I wrote something then trying to talk people off the ledge.
Instead of going that route this time around though (I hardly have the energy to have this fight again, and, to be honest, I find myself in a third camp – a “no idea what to expect from this team AT ALL” camp) I wanted to look at some similarities between 2010 and 2012, to try to get an idea of what feeds this malaise over a team that is still good-to-very-good.
My guess is that the “problem” is that the team doesn’t blow anybody out. They win a lot of close games and let “lesser” teams hang around a lot longer than they probably should. Fans love things like the “eyeball test” – completely subjective measures that can define how they feel about their team.
Let’s take that subjective measure and try to find an objective scale on which to equate it…let’s have a look at what we’ll call “convincing” wins. As a Ravens fan watching games from your couch, are you still on the edge of your seat late in the game, or are you comfortably sitting back in it, chalking up another win? The second scenario would be what I’d call a convincing, or comfortable, win.
Let’s count up the number of such victories each year during John Harbaugh’s tenure. To qualify, the Ravens must have won the game by at least 10 points, and must have never led by any less than a touchdown with 10 minutes or less to play.
2008: 8/11 (Cleveland, @ Miami, Oakland, @ Houston, Philadelphia, @ Cincinnati, Washington, Jacksonville)
2009: 6/9 (Cleveland, Denver, @Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Oakland)
2010: 4/12 (Denver, Miami, @ Carolina, @ Cleveland)
2011: 6/12 (Pittsburgh, St. Louis, New York Jets, San Francisco, @ Cleveland, Indianapolis)
2012: 2/9 (Cincinnati, Oakland)
See any similarities between 2010 and 2012?
In 2010, eight of the team’s 12 regular-season victories were “close” games. Here in 2012, seven of the nine had us on the edge of our seats late in the contest.
Even in 2009, when the team won only nine games, they at least “blew out” the other team when they did win, which gave fans confidence.
This year’s team of Cardiac Kids has fans’ blood pressure at an all-time high, winning seven of their nine contests so far by the skin of their teeth. While it was cute for a while that the squad kept “finding ways to win,” and was so “resilient,” and blah, blah, blah, it’s no surprise that a loss – after so many “should-have-been-losses” – would send a large segment of the fan base into a panic.
Everyone remembered the last time the Steelers came to town – with Ben Roethlisberger – and the Ravens blew them out of the water, and fans were expecting a similar outcome, especially with Charlie Freakin’ Batch as their quarterback. Not only did that not happen, but the Ravens somehow lost the game.
Who converts a 4th-and-29?
As long as the team kept winning those close games, words like “destiny” were tossed around. Once they finally lost one, though, our eyes looked back up at the schedule and all we could think was “luck…that has ran out.”
It’s understandable to be on the ledge this time around. Again, I’m not trying to talk anybody down.
Now, with four very tough games remaining on the schedule, it’s not only fans that find themselves on the edge. Unless the Ravens can continue finding ways to win close games (and give fans continued heart attacks along the way) or figure out a way to start blowing teams out (very unlikely), they could tumble down the standings rather quickly.
Again, at this point, I have no idea what to expect from this team. What I certainly don’t expect, though, is to add anything more to that “convincing win” list.