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REALITY: The Baltimore Ravens fell to their arch-rival Sunday and it was never close.

Perception: Yes, there was a point in the 4th quarter that the Ravens pulled within one score (if they had made the 2-point conversion), but it really was never that close. But was it just me, or did this game not feel like the normal Ravens-Steelers rivalry game?

I refuse to talk about any of the non-football things in my articles, and I truly believe that it has nothing to do with the “protests.” Maybe it’s just that the Steelers and the Ravens both played terribly the previous week. Maybe it’s because it was a 1 pm, non-national game. Maybe it’s because… well, I don’t know what it is. But there was no “Steelers Week.” There was no build up. And there was no aggression, no trash talking… it was just another game, and I didn’t like it. I miss the rivalry.

REALITY: Quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown at least one interception in 10 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Perception: Man, Flacco looks terrible. I really wonder if his back is much more of an issue than he wants to admit… or at least I hope it is. If it’s not, then Flacco and the Ravens are in much worse shape than we realize.

When I watched the 4th quarter of the Oakland Raiders game on Sunday, against the Denver Broncos, I saw something that I really liked… a quarterback who looked comfortable and stepped into his passes, putting on in the right spots. No, I’m not talking about Derek Carr… I’m actually talking about EJ Manuel.

Is Manuel a great QB? No, but when I watched him throw, I thought, “I have never seen Flacco throw a pass like that.” If Joe Cool would stop throwing off his back foot, a lot of his issues would be fixed.

Everyone wants to blame the Offensive Coordinator. Fans want him fired. But how many OC’s can you go through before they admit there is a different issue?

I had a job once where seven staff members changed, and there was still an issue. Finally, it was realized that he only constant during all the change was the real issue. I feel the same way with the Ravens. When you keep having new OC’s come in and nothing changes, maybe it’s not the OC?

But then again…

REALITY: The Ravens have run the ball 114 times in the first four games: 40 times in Game 1, 21 times in Game 2, 15 times in Game 3, 11 times in game 4.

Perception: The Ravens brought in Greg Roman to help get the running game back to where it used to be and needs to be. After game one, it looked like it was going to work, but then the commitment to the run game has gone away. From 40 runs, to 21, to 15, and now just 11 in the last game. Don’t say “it’s because they were playing from behind,” because if you go back and look through the game play logs, you’ll see that even in the first half, they went pass first.

I really hope it has nothing to do with Flacco saying that Game 1 “wasn’t fun”… because a win is fun, no matter how you get it. Losing by 30+ is not fun, even if you throw for 400 yards.

The Ravens running backs aren’t game-breakers, but they can do the job. Even with a poor offensive line, Alex Collins has shown he can still be a quality running back. Buck Allen and Terrance West can break tackles and make good plays. So why aren’t they being given a chance? Stop trying to force a passing game that clearly is NOT working.

The couple of times they have tried to run the ball worked and then opened up the passing attack, but they aren’t doing it enough to make it work fully. Is that on the OC or John Harbaugh? We may never know.

REALITY: The Ravens are not a good road team.

Perception: Under Harbaugh, during the regular season, the Ravens are just 32-42 on the road, and since their Super Bowl win in 2012, they are just 11-23 on the road. As Dan McDermott of the NFL Network pointed out, their 11 road wins during that time are against terrible teams.

Why is that, well, I can go back to my previous point. You must establish a run game, especially on the road, to grind it out, take the crowd out of the game, and run the clock… all things the Ravens are not good at going. Now, if 3-and-outs won you a game, we’d be undefeated.

REALITY: The Ravens lead the all-team series with the Oakland Raiders 6-3.

Perception: The Raiders have won the last two meetings, including a one-point victory last September in Baltimore. But if you are like me, then you remember one meeting specifically against the Raiders… January 2001, when the Ravens went into Oakland as an underdog and tore the Raiders apart, 16-3. That’s the game that Trent Dilfer connected with Shannon Sharpe over the middle for a 96-yard touchdown in the second quarter. I was on the island of Trinidad watching on satellite and I will never forget it.

The Ravens received good news when Carr was named “out” for Sunday’s game. Manuel is a decent back-up who can win them games, but I think the Ravens defense might be able to force some turnovers too. But the Ravens will have to stop Marshawn Lynch, and without Brandon Williams, it will be tough.

When it comes to the defense, the Raiders rank 22nd in the NFL while the Ravens are 23rd. Offensively, the Raiders are 27th, while Baltimore is 30th. So by looking at those stats, this game might be an ugly one to watch… but we are used to that in Baltimore.

Raiders win 17-13.

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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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