Ravens' Reasons For Optimism ...

December 02, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY

1. Confidence on offense. Since Brian Billick took over the play-calling, the Ravens are enjoying their most success moving the ball in the coach's eight-year tenure. In six games with Billick as coordinator, the offense has averaged 334 yards, including four games with more than 300 yards.

2. Stingy defense. The Ravens limited the Bengals to 13 points, matching Cincinnati's season low, proving once again they are one of the toughest teams to score against. They have allowed just one touchdown in the past 11 quarters.

3. Soft schedule. The Ravens face only one team with a winning record (the Kansas City Chiefs at 7-4) the rest of the way. Their final three games are home against the Cleveland Browns (3-8) and Buffalo Bills (5-6) and at the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7)

.... AND REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. Lapses in secondary. The Ravens' vulnerability to the big play crept up again when the Bengals burned them for a 40-yard touchdown on a flea flicker. They could face big-play quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer in the playoffs.

2. Road concerns. After failing to win on the road last season, the Ravens have done a respectable job to go 4-2 this season. But they did not look sharp at Cleveland, Denver, Tennessee or Cincinnati.

3. Red-zone troubles. The offense has shown new life under Billick, except when it gets inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The Ravens have scored only six touchdowns in their past 19 trips to the red zone, a meager 32 percent.

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