PiR: Best OL vs. Banged-Up OL in Dallas Bob Carr/Getty Images

Street Talk PiR: Best OL vs. Banged-Up OL in Dallas

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Reality: The Ravens offensive line has struggled to stay healthy.

Perception: The Ravens starters on the offensive line are listed as Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda and Rick Wagner. Only Zuttah and Wagner have played in all nine games this season. And it appears that Yanda and Lewis may not start for a number of weeks, if at all the rest of the season.

The loss of those players and the lack of consistency with the o-line has made it tough to give Joe Flacco time in the pocket. He has been hurried more than anyone would like.

Frankly, the offensive line has actually done pretty well when it comes to run blocking with a bunch of guys being thrown together. But they will need to hold up better, if the Ravens are going to continue to find ways to win.

And we got good news on Wednesday when Yanda was a full participant in practice. After where he was on Monday, that’s very good news for the Ravens.

Reality: The Ravens are back to what they’ve been known for – defense.

Perception: They are the best in the NFL in yards per game, rushing yards per game, average rushing yards per carry, average first downs per game, third down percentage, and forced three-and-outs. They are second in the NFL in interceptions.

Last year, they were awful in interceptions, only racking up six, which was a Ravens franchise low. Now, they are catching the ball on defense.

I’m extremely happy that this year’s team is playing so well on defense, but some people are trying to compare this year’s team to other top ranked Ravens defenses. To say this year’s D is better than 2000 or 2006 to me is nonsense. And if you look only at the rankings, they are better, but you have to look at the actual stats. The stats show that no team in the history of the NFL will ever compare to the 2000 team, and even the 2006 and 2008 teams would be hard to equal.

But this defense will be tested this week, as the Cowboys have the best rushing and third overall offense in the NFL. Something has to give, as the Ravens have given up less than 40 yards rushing in each of the last four games. Will that continue, or will the Cowboys break through with the leader in the MVP category, Ezekiel Elliott?

Reality: Baltimore goes to Dallas to take on the team with the best record in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys.

Perception: The Ravens and Cowboys have only faced off four times in the regular season, with the Ravens winning all of those match-ups. Most fans remember the 2008 game, the final game at Texas Stadium, as the Ravens surprised the Cowboys, and most of America, to win that game, on their way to the AFC Championship.

But back to this year. The Cowboys are 8-1. The Ravens are 5-4. On paper, should this game even be close? Does that mean there is no pressure on the Ravens?

The Ravens have always liked being the underdog and maybe this team will also. Certainly, anyone watching the game will be paying attention to Dak Prescott and Elliott (and even Tony Romo on the sideline). They are the reason the Cowboys have won eight games in a row, but every week is a different challenge.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reminded us that rookie quarterbacks have lost five straight games to the Ravens. The last rookie to beat the Ravens was EJ Manuel in 2013. So the Ravens do well against young quarterbacks, and one of the reasons is because they get good pressure.

For the Ravens, they need to play it safe. They need to have a solid run game and if Flacco doesn’t turn the ball over, there is no reason the Ravens aren’t in this game come the 4th quarter. But that is probably just the purple and black fan in me talking. The Ravens should probably lose and it probably shouldn’t be close, but I’m just hoping that somehow they can find a way to make it another nail-biter at the end. That’s what they do best, right?

I want them to win (say, 27-24), but I’m going to have to go with Cowboys 28-14.

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Joe Polek

About Joe Polek

Joe Polek was born in Baltimore, MD, and was raised in Bel Air, MD. He lived in Maine from 2001-2012, where he met his wife and had two daughters. He now resides in Columbia, SC where he has left TV/Radio and is the South Carolina Marketing Coordinator for Bojangles’ Restaurants. Joe is a huge sports fan, but most importantly he lives and breathes Baltimore (and Maryland) sports. He routinely gets back to Baltimore for a Ravens and Orioles game once a year. A couple of his highlights were being at the final game at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, and also sitting in left field for “2130”, and “2131” (Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak).

Find Joe on Twitter @JoePolek.

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