Week 2 (Over)Reaction
As the final seconds ticked off the clock following a Browns failed 4th down conversion, the masses at M&T Bank Stadium began to head for the exits. Typically, the celebration kicks off heading down the ramps (torn paper confetti, chants, the usual), then continues around every concourse, and eventually spills onto Ravens Walk as fans head back to their cars in pure jubilation.
But not this week.
Despite a 2-0 start to the season and the return of a once dominant Baltimore defense, something didn’t feel right.
Simply put, I believe Ravens fans already see the writing on the wall that’s taking place, with the slew of injuries setting the tone for an eventual disappointment of a season.
The biggest blow to the general confidence around Baltimore this week came at the
hands feet of perennial Pro Bowler and generally renown stud, Marshal Yanda, who will miss the remainder of the season with a fractured ankle. You could literally see the masses simultaneously reaching for their phones when they heard the Ravens alert bling, followed immediately by face-palms and four-letter words.
Of course it wouldn’t be a typical Ravens game without multiple injuries, as the team has also lost linebacker Bam Bradley to a torn ACL. Then there’s Brandon Williams, who left the game early with an injury, Maxx Williams, who was seen in a walking boot following the game, and Terrance West, who spent the entire 4th quarter on the sideline, helmet in hand.
Three of the five injured on Sunday? Starters! The other two? Both more than serviceable in their respective rotational roles.
In the big picture, the Ravens have now lost starters to season-ending injuries at the following positional groups: Offensive Line, Tight End, Wide Receiver, Running Back, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Cornerback.
Surely, as a devout fan, one gets irritable and defensive at the notion “sure, they’re 2-0 but they haven’t played a real team yet, just the Bengals and Browns.”
More four-letter words come to mind…
After all, you can only play who is on your schedule! And the Bengals were supposed to be good, and the Browns only lost to the Steelers by 3 in Week 1!
But deep down… you know they’re right. The Bengals are so awful they fired their offensive coordinator after 2 weeks, and the Browns are who we thought they were.
Jacksonville will hopefully fall into that same category with a struggling Blake Bortles behind a porous offensive line and a weak defense that gave up 37 points to the Titans last week.
But what about beyond that? What about when the Steelers come to town following a Week 3 game in London? Or the following week, headed to the left coast to face a high-powered Raiders team? What about when the Ravens actually play good teams like the Packers or Titans later this season?
Can they hide their decimated roster plagued with injuries while backups fill the voids?
I don’t think it’ll be masked nearly as easily as it was against the early season cellar-dwellers they’ve faced.
Sure, this Ravens team has made some roster moves that appear to be an improvement from the previous season (Tony Bergstrom filling in for Yanda looked pretty good, as has Austin Howard thus far), but there’s no way anybody can possibly believe this team is going to win those games against likely-to-assured playoff teams.
Of course, this isn’t to say they’ll get crushed by those teams at all. They’ll be close. Hell, they may steal one game! But it’ll take some serious out-coaching, a bit of dumb luck, and a whole lot of praying to whatever deity you so choose.
In all honesty, I think the biggest cause of the general malaise surrounding this team today is that the whole ‘what could have been‘ mentality has already set in. Just take a look at this team, injuries removed:
-Joe Flacco would have Dennis Pitta & Danny Woodhead as 2 safety blankets in the passing game, while Tim White could make us easily forget that Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace have gone completely M.I.A.
–Kenneth Dixon instantly upgrades the Ravens running attack over Terrance West or Buck Allen.
–Tavon Young in the slot turns the back-end defense into 100% lockdown.
-The offensive line would be (left to right) Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen, Marshal Yanda, Austin Howard. The depth on the Ravens roster could potentially start for teams like Seattle, Green Bay or Cincy, and could honestly be used as trade chips.
That is a Super Bowl-contending team without a doubt in my mind.
The team we will see next week after losing 2 more players to season-ending injuries, and 2 more who will potentially miss multiple weeks?
That’s a wild card team.
And that’s assuming nobody else gets injured. At the rate the Ravens are going – losing 2 players to season-ending injuries per week – we’ll be starting Ozzie at tight end by Week 10, and they’ll be holding tryouts for offensive line by October.
Buckle up folks, we could be in for another long and heartbreaking season…