The Baltimore Ravens are making the turn towards the homestretch of the 2012 season as they reach the three-quarter pole. The good news is that the team is 9-3 with a 2 game lead in the AFC North. One win during the next 4 games pretty much assures them of a playoff berth.
More good news lies in the fact that the Ravens have yet to peak and as we’ve seen in the past, particularly with the Eli Manning led New York Giants, championships are not as much about how you play during the season but rather how you play when you enter the postseason.
But that said, the 2012 edition of the Ravens is difficult to figure out and it’s a struggle for observers and probably even the team to define its identity. The Ravens were once defined by their defense. Today, their inconsistencies on both sides of the ball blur who they really are. But for now, let’s just call them “Leaders in the AFC North” and hope that they can hold that lead while carrying momentum into the season ending tournament.
Highlights: Ray Rice is clearly the best player on Cam Cameron’s unit yet remains underutilized. Torrey Smith is on track for 976 yards receiving and 9TD’s but he and Joe Flacco have left many explosive plays on the field either through errant passes to an open Smith or drops by the former Terrapin. Anquan Boldin is on track for a 1,000-yard season. Bernard Pierce is developing into a very good change of pace back. Vonta Leach remains the game’s best fullback. He and RG Marshal Yanda are having Pro Bowl seasons once again.
Lowlights: Joe Flacco has been a model of inconsistency. He has a QB Rating of 100.7 at home and 70.2 on the road. Michael Oher is just an average left tackle, disappointing for a first round pick. Jacoby Jones is underutilized and Cam Cameron’s play calling is abysmal. John Harbaugh’s enabling of said play calling is equally disgusting.
Highlights: Dannell Ellerbe is beginning to approach the physical potential we all knew he had. His maturation and playmaking ability will cost the Ravens next season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Bernard Pollard has been steady at strong safety while special teams ace Corey Graham has filled in capably at corner for the injury-depleted secondary. Cary Williams after a slow start has come on strong for Dean Pees’ unit. Paul Kruger’s relentless is paying dividends. He leads the team with 6 ½ sacks, 5 of which have come in the last 4 games. Art Jones is coming on strong with 13 tackles and 3 sacks over the last 3 games. The return of Terrell Suggs undoubtedly has helped both Jones and Kruger.
Lowlights: Haloti Ngata looks like he’s already played a 16 game season. Nagging injuries and increased reps are taking their toll. Chykie Brown was awful against the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium and if Pees continues to put him out there on the corner, he’s inviting trouble.
Highlights: Jacoby Jones has been an impact player with 3 returns for a score, one that turned out to be a game winner against the archrival Steelers. He is second in the league in kick returns with a 34.2-yard average. Sam Koch has been better over the last 4 games averaging 49 yards on punts and the coverage teams have been very good as of late. Justin Tucker is now 24 of 26 on FGA’s, 12 of 14 on attempts of 40+ yards. He also leads the NFL with a 68.6-yard average off the tee and nearly 60% of his kickoffs are touchbacks.
Here’s a look ahead at the homestretch of games:
- Ravens 24, Redskins 20
- Broncos 30, Ravens 20
- Ravens 27, Giants 23
- Bengals 23, Ravens 16