LOMBARDI’S WAY: TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: TAKE A DEEP BREATH

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Take a deep breath.
 
In many ways a bye week allows a NFL franchise to do exactly that.  Where are we?  How did we get here?  Where are we going from here and how will we get to where we want to be?
 
And those questions are asked on many different levels from Steve Bisciotti’s cushy office right on down to Bill Tessendorf’s training table.
 
This morning the Ravens find themselves tied with the Cincinnati Bengals who escaped with a 17-14 win over the Panthers bringing their record to 4-2.  Meanwhile the Steelers dropped another game and in some ways they may have been exposed losing to Atlanta 41-38.
 
Given the challenging schedules for the Ravens and Bengals at this point ten wins looks like it might be enough to win the AFC North.  Both teams will split their remaining ten games at home and on the road and a simple path to ten wins is to win your home games and steal one on the road.  Losing at home forces more thievery on the road.
 
Here’s a look at the teams’ remaining schedules:
 
DATE
RAVENS
BENGALS
10/29
@ New Orleans       
ATLANTA
11/5
CINCINNATI
@ Baltimore
11/12
@ Tennessee
SAN DIEGO
11/19
ATLANTA
@ New Orleans
11/26
PITTSBURGH
@ Cleveland
11/30
@ Cincinnati
BALTIMORE
12/10
@ Kansas City
OAKLAND
12/17
CLEVELAND
@ Indianapolis
12/24
@ Pittsburgh
@ Denver
12/31
BUFFALO
PITTSBURGH
 
The Bengals aren’t the offensive juggernaut that they were a year ago.  Teams are pressuring Carson Palmer who seems to favor 3 and 5 step drops more these days.  Perhaps he’s just not completely sure of his recovering left knee.  Teams may have figured out how to at least contain Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  Both have been frustrated at times and Palmer has been forcing passes that he didn’t in 2005.  To put the Bengals scoring in perspective, they are only outpacing the Ravens by 3 points per game.
 
How the Ravens emerge from the break will be interesting to observe.  There has been some back biting going on internally but fortunately the conflict isn’t amongst the players.  Whether right or wrong, Jim Fassel is the fall guy for the moment.  If the Ravens correct their offensive woes and can consistently put up 20 points, things will work out fine for the team.  History strongly suggests that the Ravens do extremely well when scoring 20 points.
 
But if the offense fails what then?
 
Do they have the character and leadership to weather a struggling offense like they did in 2000 or are they more likely to cave under the pressure and then start pointing fingers like they did in 2004 and 2005?
 
These are tough questions and the answers just might be provided this Sunday in New Orleans.  This game is a pivotal one and how the Ravens perform could set the tone for remainder of the season.  What may have looked like a very winnable game against the Saints at the outset of the season now looks like quite a challenge.  At the moment the Ravens have been installed as a 1 ½ to 2 ½ point dog in the Big Easy.
 
The game will be anything but easy. 
 
Let’s hope that the Ravens took that deep breath during their brief respite and individually looked at and challenged the man in the mirror.  Let’s hope that Brian Billick can rally the offense and instill a singularity of purpose.
 
The line itself suggests that oddsmakers see the Ravens as the better team if they are able to take the crowd out of the game.  A bigger challenge may be for them not to take themselves out of the game.
 
Take a deep breath and get ready for no less than ten more weeks of war.
 
And if we’re lucky and Brian Billick is successful, the war won’t be a civil one.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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