There’s little to take away from what amounted to the Ravens fifth preseason game yesterday and it along with several other meaningless games around the NFL should be proof positive to King Goodell that an 18 game schedule is a joke in more ways than one.
Therefore this edition of The Good, Bad, Ugly & The Megan Fox won’t try to give meaning to the meaningless but instead it will focus in on the current status of your 2012 Baltimore Ravens.
THE GOOD: The Ravens are actually getting healthier and they will soon welcome back their General, Ray Lewis. Lewis and last year’s DPOY Terrell Suggs have yet to take the field together this season but they will do so on Sunday against the Colts at M&T Bank Stadium. Yesterday the Ravens rested Suggs along with Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard and Marshal Yanda and the day off should help give them an extra bounce in their step when they take the field against Andrew Luck & Company.
It would be a bit Pollyanna to think that Ray Lewis will be the impact player that he once was but even a No. 52 in the December of his career will be better than the man currently standing beside the surging Dannell Ellerbe. Lewis’ leadership and recognition skills alone should elevate the play of the defense. And when Ray Lewis is a few yards away decorated in his war paint, staring a rookie quarterback in the eyes on a national stage and calling out the plays pre-snap that said rookie is about to run, that has to be somewhat unsettling even for the calm and collected Luck.
THE BAD: The Ravens offensive line play fell under the discerning magnifying glass again yesterday and they failed. In their defense the psychology of this meaningless game must be considered in any evaluation of performances particularly when one side is playing reserves and the other side starters.
But that said, Michael Oher was about as nimble as a zombie against the Bengals regardless of what side of the line the Ravens lined him up on. And Bryant McKinnie’s effort should put to rest any argument about him supplanting Oher at left tackle. That suggested change would simply make a bad situation even worse. Let’s hope that McKinney’s dentist’s name is Jonathan Ogden and he provides some useful advice for the team’s Tin Man this morning.
THE UGLY: League officiating has become so inconsistent now and in some ways it really isn’t all the fault of the on-field officials. Rules to protect quarterbacks are ridiculous and inconsistently enforced, seemingly favoring the established elitists among the QB ranks; violent collisions synonymous with the game are overly scrutinized and THAT influences officials to just toss the yellow laundry whenever they are in doubt; maintaining the catch all the way through and “second acts” within a play (sounds like Broadway to me) are misinterpreted and the result can be an obvious touchdown taken off the board (see Jacoby Jones).
And perhaps the most disconcerting development amongst the league’s zebras is the apparent disregard during reviews of the cardinal rule of “irrefutable visual evidence” to reverse calls on the field. It makes me want to replace the replacements of the replacements.
So what does this all mean to the Ravens?
Well John Harbaugh’s gang does lead the league in penalty yards with 1,127, which is 117 yards more than the next most penalized team, the Cleveland Browns at 1,005 yards. Yesterday, the Ravens were flagged 10 times for 102 yards. By contrast the league’s least penalized team on the season, the Atlanta Falcons, have just 415 penalty yards this season.
With the inconsistencies in officiating combined with a burgeoning reputation as an undisciplined team vis-à-vis their propensity to be penalized, the Ravens are at a disadvantage in the post season if they don’t clean up their act. After 17 weeks and a weekly average of 7.6 penalties and 70.4 penalty yards, it’s difficult to imagine that discipline will suddenly arrive on Harbaugh’s sideline.
THE MEGAN FOX: Despite the team’s inconsistencies on offense and questionable discipline, the Ravens do appear to be playing spirited, hard-nosed football and their quasi-bye week in Cincinnati could provide an even more rejuvenated squad. The emergence of Bernard Pierce, a very balanced attack showcased against the New York Giants and a developing momentum on the defensive side of the ball could make the Ravens a legitimate under dog threat in the 2013 post season.
If the Ravens successfully get past the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday, their opponent will be either the Denver Broncos or the New England Patriots. The Ravens should be confident heading into New England and the team showed that they can compete with Peyton Manning. If not for a pick-6 courtesy of Joe Flacco, the Ravens were in that game versus Denver and it’s anyone’s guess what the outcome may have been.
The team assembled a winning formula back on December 23. If they can execute that formula going forward, the Ravens are as dangerous as any team in the playoffs. The key however is consistency and discipline and that is something the team has struggled with since Day 1 of the 2012 season. If they can ditch the Jekyll and Hyde act, Baltimore can be a champion again.
But that’s easier said than done.