Maybe you are new to the Russell Street Report. Let me explain this series “Perception is Reality” a bit. I remember growing up reading the sports pages of the Baltimore Sun newspaper every single day. I really looked forward to one specific article that happened every month or so that was a “Fact and Opinion” column by John Eisenberg. It must have been popular, because I remember the sports editor of The Aegis in Harford County, Randy McRoberts, copying the idea every now and then in his column.
It was a favorite of mine, and when I started writing for Eutaw Street Report and the Russell Street Report a few years ago, I wanted to do something similar. That’s when “Perception is Reality” was born. The “reality” is basically the fact, while the “perception” is my opinion on the topic of the fact.
And you can read about my road to RSR here. (http://russellstreetreport.com/2016/08/22/road-rsr/south-carolina-baltimore-sports-guy/)
REALITY: Injuries are a big part of the NFL and that’s why a little bit of luck plays into the success of a team.
So far this year, Joe Flacco hasn’t seen the field, and they have already lost Kenneth Dixon, Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady Alex Lewis, Albert McClellan, and Nico Siragusa.
That is part of the game. And luck or good fortune is also part of the game. Teams that win the Super Bowl are not necessarily the best teams in the league, but they are “the team of destiny.” Why is that phrase always said in the playoffs? Because the team has gone through some adversity and luck or good fortune has helped them get past that and helped them recover to win it all.
The whole “next man up” will continue to be a popular slogan with the Ravens. Last year, the guys who were the “next man up” didn’t do the job and it led to a season without the playoffs. The Ravens have seen some holes in the preseason and have tried to sign/trade players they feel will fill those holes. Let’s hope the replacement players help more than they did last year and move the needle for the Ravens.
REALITY: The Dallas Cowboys have the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2017.
Perception: According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys schedule is the toughest in football. But when you look at the schedule based on opponents’ winning percentage in 2016, the Denver Broncos have the hardest schedule.
The Ravens have the 24th hardest schedule… or the 9th easiest schedule. This year’s opponents had a .461 winning percentage last year.
The Ravens should beat the Browns, both times they play. Then you hope to get a split with the Bengals and Steelers. That leaves them at 4-2 in the division. They have 10 games outside the division, which include games against Jacksonville, Bears, and Lions… all should be wins. If they can also beat the Dolphins and Vikings, that puts them at 9 wins.
Of course, a winning record doesn’t automatically equal playoffs.
REALITY: The Pittsburgh Steelers are the reigning champions of the AFC North.
Perception: ESPN, CBS Sports, and every football site on the web has released their predictions for 2017 and they all have the Steelers winning the AFC North… some even having them win the Super Bowl.
If the Steelers are one of the top two teams in the AFC (the Patriots being the other), then the Ravens would have to fight it out with the others for one of two wild card spots.
Many of the “experts” have the Ravens finishing 7-9, 8-8, or 9-7 this year, and honestly, I agree with them. But if Joe Flacco can stay healthy, and the defense can play as well as many of us expect them to, then the Ravens could have things fall their way and go 9-7, and maybe even 10-6. Both of those records would have the Ravens in the playoff hunt, which is something Baltimore desperately wants.
Unfortunately – barring some big injuries in Pittsburgh – I do not see how they can win the division.
REALITY: The Ravens open their season on the road in Cincinnati Sunday at 1 pm.
Perception: The Bengals and Ravens have played 42 times in the regular season, and they have each won 21 times. However, the Bengals have won six out of the last seven games, including the last four in Cincy.
The Bengals have had the Ravens’ number since 2013, but each of the games have been close. Seven of the last nine games have been decided by one score or less.
This game will come down to Quarterback vs Secondary. Will Andy Dalton continue his trend of going deep successfully against the Ravens? Or will Flacco be able to jell quickly with his receivers after not playing in eight months?
It’s been a while since I have felt this good about the Ravens defense, but I’m betting on Brandon Carr, Tony Jefferson, Eric Weddle, and Jimmy Smith. They will pick Dalton off three times, including a Pick-6, and the Ravens will leave Ohio with a 23-17 win.