It is a word used regularly as a means to an end – to amp up the level of motivation for a player, a team, or both.
It has become a rallying cry of sorts around the NFL, employed by those who feel they aren’t properly admired or held in high enough esteem.
Such feelings crystalize and they develop into a collective chip on the shoulder propelling determination, perseverance and endurance.
Disrespect a team regularly and they develop an us-against-the-world mentality. And that can become a galvanizing force for the disrespected.
For the Baltimore Ravens the regularity of the disrespect morphed that chip on the shoulder into a suit of armor – and they wear it well.
Instead of being exulted as the World Champions, a team like many others before that caught lightening in a bottle at the right time and rode it like a tsunami to the title, the Ravens have been criticized for not holding together their Super Bowl winning team.
Many so-called experts pick the Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC North. Others peg the Ravens as an 8 or 9 win team. Roger Goodell and his merry band of owners who harbor greed and larceny in their hearts have robbed a team and their fans of hosting the season opener.
Could you imagine the NFL forcing the New England Patriots, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys or even the Denver Broncos on the road to start the season? Messrs. Kraft, Mara, Jones or Bowlen would have whipped out their inner Tony Soprano and forced an intervention upon The Commish.
Yet here we are, opening night is but two sleeps away and the champs are on the road against one of the media darlings – Buick’s own Peyton Manning.
And once more the disrespect pours in to the tune of 8-½ point underdogs.
“Here We Are”, the Ravens 2013 slogan may as well be, “Here We Go Again.”
As we all know the Ravens are a battle-tested, resilient team capable of overcoming the odds on the road. In case you’ve forgotten (and apparently many have) John Harbaugh & Co. did exactly that in 2012 on their way to the Super Bowl XLVII title.
This season the Ravens will have a rather unfamiliar look to the Denver Broncos, who will be the first to test the younger and faster retooled champions. And that’s exactly where they will present problems for Peyton Manning.
Manning, 37 is a student of the game and his preparedness is more essential now in the November of his career than ever before. He’s made a career out of exploiting opponents’ weaknesses but with little to no game film to go on, Manning will be forced to discover those weaknesses on the fly.
Last season in the Divisional Playoff Game behind an offensive line at full strength, Manning was sacked by the Ravens 3 times and hurried 5 other times contributing to 2 interceptions.
This season Manning’s offensive front isn’t as strong and they will have to ward off the likes of a healthy Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata along with newcomers Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty. The Ravens linebackers are faster and more capable in coverage than predecessors Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe.
Defensively the Broncos will need to get after Joe Flacco but do they have the horses to do so now that two players responsible for nearly 60% of last year’s sacks will not suit up in orange and blue (Von Miller, Dumervil)? And let’s not forget that Champ Bailey struggled mightily to stay with Torrey Smith when his foot was healthy. He’s been hobbled by it most of the preseason and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will likely look to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to check Smith.
Yet such a move could expose the Broncos elsewhere because the element of surprise isn’t just on defense for the Ravens. Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette are unknowns as far as Denver is concerned but if they go by the film available from the preseason, they will have to account for the rookies. Together with Jacoby Jones’ speed, responsible for ongoing nightmares throughout the Mile High city since last January, opportunities will open up in the running game with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, arguably the league’s best one-two punch.
PREDICTION: The disrespect feeds the beast in the Ravens. They are better and faster than the team that won it all last season and on Thursday night the rest of the world will see that contrary to what the national talking heads will tell you, there is life beyond Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
RAVENS 27 BRONCOS 24