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Ground Game Goes “Ghost” Once Again

Ravens need balance
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It’s been just a single week since the Ravens faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals, and ultimately limped home, wounded (in a very literal sense, with the injuries to C.J. Mosley and Ronnie Stanley), but it feels like it’s been forever. After two games in four-ish days, waiting 10 seems like torture, especially when the Ravens need a win to get momentum back.

However. I am here to help cover at least some of that time, with a handful of quick hits from Baltimore, and around the league. So.. let’s begin.

Alex Collins of the Ravens runs against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Run Game is Pulling a Perriman.

That is to say, it’s gone Ghost. Starting running back Alex Collins has been called upon exactly 16 times through two weeks. Kenneth Dixon has almost as many carries (13), and he didn’t even play in Week 2 due to injury. The Ravens as a team have ran the ball 56 times, but 17 of those carries were QBs (14), TEs (1), or WRs (2).

You can blame Week 1 on the scheme – a pass-heavy scheme against a decent (in 2017) secondary, in bad weather, should catch the opponent off-guard, and it did. In Week 2, you can blame a huge deficit in the first half – down 21-0, you need to pass to chunk the field and catch up. But in the second half, with a five-point hole, there’s no reason not to run, especially when Collins is doing some good things with his feet.

The Broncos defense has allowed 156 yards on the ground in two games, which is decent enough, until you remember that those yards were given up to Chris Carson behind a porous offensive line, and an elderly Marshawn Lynch on a not-great offense. Using that logic, there’s no reason why Collins can’t help this offense open up the passing game – a huge boost, when you consider the following: the Broncos secondary has allowed a 73.8% completion percentage, 523 yards, and four passing touchdowns, mostly to Russell Wilson and what looks like an awful Seahawks squad.

Get. Alex. Collins. Going. Worst case (improbable) scenario, he fails, you go back to the passing game, and John Brown saves the day with some help from Willie Snead.

John Brown hauls in a TD over the Bengals defender.

Speaking of John Brown..

Seven receptions. 136 yards. Two tudders. 19.4 YPC average. It begs the question: Is there anything John Brown can’t do?!

Smokey was brought in during free agency as a deep threat for Joe Flacco – an upgrade to Mike Wallace, if he could stay healthy. He has become so much more than that, over these two games. Saying that he’s caught everything thrown his way would be a stretch, since he only has a 50% catch rate thus far, but when you adjust for catchable balls, that jumps up to around 70%, which is much more respectable (and also points to Flacco’s inability to hit receivers downfield in stride). But when he makes the catch, man, is it fun to watch.

Whether it’s toe-dragging touchdowns in the end zone, or attacking the ball in the midst of three defenders, John Brown is trending up, and becoming the No. 1 receiver that everybody hoped Michael Crabtree would become. Smoke is quickly becom.. You know what? Never mind. That joke is played out.

Power Rankings are an absolute joke..

..and ESPN needs to stop doing them. I mean, come on, man. A winless team in the top 10? A team that has showed minimal signs of life in the secondary, and only slightly more in the front seven? The team that I am referring to, of course, is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 0-1-1, yet somehow still in the top 10 of ESPN’s newest NFL Power Rankings.

It’s not just ESPN, though, folks. As a whole, power rankings around the national media outlets are biased at best. I’ve seen the Dolphins in the top ten, Bengals in the top five, and fans everywhere referring to these cookie-cutter pieces as the gospel.

Do yourself, and everybody else a favor – read them, laugh, then move on. Power rankings are worthless.

*As a note, the Ravens rank anywhere from 7-16 in the power rankings, and I happen to think that any one of those could be accurate through two weeks, so this part is not me being a homer.

Browns fans celebrate with players in the Dawg Pound.

The Browns earn the ‘W’ in their name.

It finally happened. The Browns have a nice, shiny ‘1’ in the win column, moving to 1-1-1, and shoving the Steelers to the bottom of the AFC North.

After a miserable first half (by both teams), Browns QB Tyrod Taylor (allegedly) got concussed, and in came the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield. It was like new life had been breathed into the stadium, the fans, and most of all, the team. He brought the Browns out of a 14-0 hole, to a 21-17 victory, including a 2-pt conversion that was very similar to the ‘Philly Special’ that the now-champions ran in the most recent Super Bowl.

Without Mayfield at the helm, the Browns looked like.. Well.. the Browns. With him, they looked like a team that could push for 5-6 wins in 2018. Congratulations, Cleveland. Early signs are that you’ve found yourself a quarterback. It only took you 20 years.

(Side note: now that the Browns have won a game, the Houston Texans hold the record for longest time period without a victory, at 306 days as of Friday.)

Things none of us saw coming.

There’s a saying in the NFL: ‘Any given Sunday.’ For those new to the sport, it means that anything can happen, in any game. Everything has a chance until it doesn’t. That seems especially relevant in 2018, thus far, and I’d like to go over a few of the things that I believe the larger majority of fans didn’t see coming.

1. The Steelers being winless through two (probably three) weeks.

2. Patrick Mahomes being this good.

3. The Browns winning a game before the Steelers.

4. The Bills, a 2017 playoff team, being this bad.

5. Deshaun Watson being this bad through two weeks.

6. Antonio Brown being this bad through two weeks.

7. Andy Dalton being 2-0.

8. The Bengals offensive line performing well.

9. Vlad Ducasse being one of the highest graded blockers through two weeks.

10. The Dolphins being 2-0.

11. Ryan FitzMagic.

12. The Saints defense completely disappearing.

13. Josh Gordon going to New England.

14. Over half of the league being .500-ish. (Parity!)

15. The Eagles looking like the Eagles of old (pre-2017).

Clay Matthews tackles Kirk Cousins.

BONUS ROUND.

How the HELL are you supposed to tackle in today’s NFL? Go high? Penalty. Go low? Penalty. Hit them in the middle? APPARENTLY IT’S A PENALTY!

However, you can bounce your shoulder into their midriff, and hope that they fall down, which is what happened to Eli Manning. (That guy is getting a signed letter from the commish, and $2500 donated to a school or something, by the way. Because he tackled ‘correctly’. Yeah. This is the NFL we have today.)

What a joke, man. At least one QB doesn’t agree with it, though. Joseph Vincent Flacco, you beautiful (now that the unibrow is gone) sonofabitch, I smiled a bit inside when I heard you say that the game has gotten soft.

MAKE FOOTBALL VIOLENT AGAIN, AMERICA.

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