Reality: Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, 41-7, was the most lopsided loss for the Ravens since John Harbaugh took over as head coach.
Perception: It was not pretty. But there really are no excuses for it. The Ravens played on a “short week” since they played last Monday and then Sunday, but plenty of teams do that throughout the year. Harbaugh said the short turnaround “was a legitimate factor” in the team’s poor performance. But if that’s true, this team has bigger issues. The Ravens played on four days rest earlier this season and won. They had six days’ rest, instead of seven. But it was a playoff type game… you need to be ready and jacked up.
Reality: John Harbaugh, Monday, admitted he was wrong to try a field goal on 4th and 5 in the 4th quarter. He said if he could do it over again, he would have gone for it.
Perception: I like when coaches can admit when they are wrong… but have we heard it a few too many times this season from Harbaugh? I feel like at the normal Monday press conference, Coach has said “on second thought, I might have done it differently” a number of times. I know that we all make mistakes, but as the leader of a championship caliber team, you can’t afford to have multiple mistakes that the fans/media saw as it was happening, but the head coach didn’t. Once again, I’m a huge supporter of Harbaugh, but this season I’ve been left scratching my head at a number of his mistakes.
Reality: The Ravens rushed 24 times for 110 yards Sunday against the Patriots (though Tyrod Taylor had 39 of those yards during “junk time.”)
Perception: The Ravens were successful in the run game, as they should have been, but the coaching staff never gave the team a chance to capitalize on it, as they constantly called pass plays.
Going into Sunday, the Patriots ranked 31st against the run and 24th overall on defense. Ray Rice had 11 carries for 40 yards, and Bernard Pierce got 31 yards on 10 carries. For a team that struggled to even gain three yards on the ground all season, those numbers were a step in the right direction. As I wrote Sunday night, the Ravens were outcoached and outplayed and I believe the coaching staff tried too hard to rely on the passing game with a quarterback who wasn’t 100%. If they had stuck with the running game, especially on 3rd and 4th downs, I think the game goes drastically different.
Reality: The Baltimore media voted kicker Justin Tucker as the Ravens Most Valuable Player for 2013.
Perception: Hey, we all get it! Justin has been money all season. He’s been incredible, and arguably the best kicker in the NFL. But it should goes say a lot about your team when the kicker was voted the Most Valuable Player. I mean, we have a former Defensive Player of the Year, a Super Bowl MVP and many other great players on the team… and a kicker is your team MVP. It just doesn’t seem right… but I’m proud of Tucker and glad he’s on our team.
Reality: There are 5 teams vying for the #6 seed in the AFC going into the final week of the season.
Perception: The Dolphins, Chargers, Steelers, Jets, and Ravens all still have a shot, but the Ravens have the best shot with five possible scenarios putting them in the playoffs, but they also have the most difficult game to play. The Ravens travel to Cincinnati, who will be fighting hard because they have a chance to get a #2 seed which comes with a first-round bye in the playoffs. The best chance for the Ravens to make it to the playoffs is to win and hope that either the Dolphins and/or the Chargers lose.
The Dolphins host the Jets in what some say could be Rex Ryan’s final game as head coach of the Jets. So the team could fight hard, but also could lay an egg. The Chargers host the Chiefs, which could be a tough game, but Kansas City head coach Andy Reid has already said he may rest his starters this week, which gives the Chargers a big advantage. The Steelers still have an outside shot at the playoffs, and they host the Browns.
One thing is for sure, you can’t predict the NFL. Just because the Ravens have beaten the Bengals earlier this season means nothing for this game. Different venue and different motives. The Patriots lost to the Bengals and barely beat the Browns, but destroyed the Ravens and Steelers. As well as I have done on NFL Picks this year (161 correct picks), this league is still nearly impossible to pick correctly or understand. Any Given Sunday is truly accurate, and this coming Sunday will prove that once again.