The Baltimore Ravens have the third best record in the NFL at 8-2, have won 13 straight AFC North games, and are in the driver’s seat to winning the division and getting at least a first round bye in the playoffs
So why is no one excited about this team? You listen to sports talk radio and read the message boards and it seems that most Ravens fans are very cautious about the 2012 version of the Ravens.
When you look at the stats, you can somewhat see their reasoning. The Defense is not even a Top-20 defense. The injury bug has hit the Ravens hard. And the offense is terribly inconsistent. The only pleasant surprise has been the special teams. But, when you take a closer look, you can see how this team continues to succeed.
Let’s start with the injuries. If you only say, “Without Ray Lewis, Webb, Suggs, and Ngata banged up, this team can’t stop anyone.” But as soon as Lewis and Webb went out, Suggs came back and hasn’t missed a step. No, Ngata hasn’t been great as he has been nursing injuries, but he is still better than 50% of the guys in his position around the league, even injured.
But the real factor with all of this is Ozzie Newsome. Some people like to give him flack for not being 100% on his finds, but when you actually look at it, he’s finding gems more often than not, and this year is no exception. Corey Graham stepped up big this week. Dannell Ellerbe has been fantastic. James Ihedigbo has filled in nicely. Jacoby Jones was a great pick-up. Kelechi Osemele has been better than advertised, and Justin Tucker has been incredible. But then this week, Ozzie goes out and finds a guy who is not even in the league in Chris Johnson. He starts and goes out and forces a fumble, just when it looked like the Steelers would go up 14-0. The “next man up” philosophy continues to succeed in Baltimore, and is really helping this team cope with the major names they have lost to injuries.
The offense is one that makes you scratch your head. They put up 55 points at home, but fail to score an offensive touchdown the next week. Is it Cam’s play calling? Is it Joe’s audibles? Is it a combination of both? Does this team really get that frazzled in an opponent’s stadium? Those are questions that still remain unanswered. But if they don’t get it together for their trip to San Diego, you could see a repeat of last year’s blowout. And I’m sure their old friends (Johnson, Barnes, Carr, Gaither, Franklin and McClain) would like nothing more than to stick it to their old team.
But the key to this team has been that whenever one of them falls, the others pick them up. The D has struggled most the year, but when the O has taken a step back (especially on the road), the D put a stop to opposing teams. Their Red Zone D is top notch once again. Plus, for the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens have a top-notch special teams unit. Most of us assumed that would be this team’s strong point all along, as Harbaugh was a special teams coach before coming to Baltimore. However, over the years, the Ravens have struggled on special teams… but not this year.
The Ravens have had their share of injuries and issues this season, but they continue to find ways to win… just like the Ravens of 2000. Remember when they didn’t score an offensive touchdown for 5 straight games? That didn’t stop them from going to and winning the Super Bowl. Who’s to stay this team can’t keep finding ways to win all the way through January? I’m not gonna doubt them. I’ll just hold on for the ride!