Fret over Ravens? Why? NFL stands for 'not for long'

October 15, 2008|By PETER SCHMUCK | PETER SCHMUCK,peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

If you're a pro football fan, it's hard not to get swept up in the emotion of the moment, which explains why so many fans jump on and off their respective bandwagons on an almost weekly basis.

Here's an example - from a fairly prestigious blog - of what I'm talking about:

Can we finally just agree that the Ravens have been, for a while now, a mediocre team that's gotten fat on mediocre or poor opponents, and move on? Flacco's not the savior, the D isn't amazing, the coaching's not great. ... Ravens fans, it's not all bad - you're still much better than the Orioles.

Guess that kind of sentiment shouldn't surprise anyone after the way the Ravens were humbled by the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, except that to make the point I'm about to make, I had to make some editorial changes in that blog post, which actually ran on The New York Times' Web site yesterday. Here's the actual post from a frustrated fan named Corey:

Can we finally just agree that the Giants have been, for a while now, a mediocre team that's gotten fat on mediocre or poor opponents, and move on? Eli's not the savior, the D isn't amazing, the coaching's not great. ... The Giants are just your run-of-the-mill average/slightly above-average team.

Giants fans, it's not all bad - you're still much better than the Jets.

Couldn't help but laugh. The Giants, you might recall, were undefeated going into Monday night's 35-14 upset loss to the Cleveland Browns, and their winning streak was eight games - including a little event called the Super Bowl. But Eli Manning had a tough night against a less-than-respected opponent, and that was all it took to bring a lot of repressed fan angst bubbling back to the surface.

I know, I'm not telling you anything you don't know about the knee-jerk nature of some passionate sports fans, but it's probably a good idea to look outside your fishbowl once in a while and see what's going on somewhere else. Ravens fans are frazzled because their team got smoked by a Colts team that is considered a solid Super Bowl contender, regardless of its shaky 2-2 start. Giants fans are upset because their team missed an opportunity against a 1-3 opponent to pick up a game on two of its divisional rivals, whose fans are also upset because they (the Redskins and Cowboys) lost to lesser teams.

What they don't seem to understand is that the competitive climate in the NFL is a little like the weather in Maryland. If you don't like it, wait a week.

That's why I've been accused by some of the posters on my own blog (The Schmuck Stops Here) of drinking the Purple Kool-Aid - because I'm not all that worried about Joe Flacco or the Ravens. At least not just yet.

Flacco had a lousy day against the Colts. He had trouble executing a handoff and threw three interceptions and no touchdown passes. But he was not exactly the Lone Ranger in that regard. There were breakdowns everywhere. The Ravens just came up on the wrong end of a couple of big Peyton Manning plays, and they just came unglued. It was ugly, but it happens.

The Ravens' young quarterback completed 28 of 38 passes for 241 yards, which wouldn't have been so bad if much of that yardage hadn't come when it didn't really matter anymore. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning, by comparison, completed 18 of 28 passes for just 196 yards and also threw three interceptions, and he did that against a team that Flacco and the Ravens beat pretty handily three weeks earlier.

Just for fun, here's another perspective-piquing post from the Times' football blog:

The Giants are a joke, and all the sports "experts" ranking them as an NFL elite team didn't bother to check the schedule.

Ravens fans would certainly trade places with the disgruntled fans of the Giants, who are 4-1 and leading the NFL's most competitive division, but then they would have to live in New York and drive all the way down to Camden Yards to see the Yankees play. Better to stick with the Ravens and gut out a few tough games to develop an elite quarterback of the future.

No one really believed the Ravens were going to the playoffs this year, did they? Everybody knew that their first two victories came against two teams - Cincinnati and Cleveland - that weren't going to beat anybody unless one of them pulled a freak upset of the Super Bowl champion. This season was always about trying to be competitive with a new coach and - though we didn't know it until halfway through training camp - a developing quarterback.

Listen up. Sunday was the only time Flacco and the Ravens have not been competitive in their first five games. They won the first two and lost to a couple of likely playoff teams by three points each before unraveling against the Colts. I'm guessing they beat the Miami Dolphins this weekend and feast on the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank 11 days from now, so everybody can cheer up and start dreaming again until all those NFC East teams show up on the schedule in the second half.

It's going to be a rocky ride that probably won't end well, but this is pretty much what you signed up for, so you might as well sit back and enjoy it.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on most Saturdays and Sundays.

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