Ravens have slim chance of bucking Colts

Colts are the best team in the AFC at 9-0

Ravens had mediocre win vs. Browns

November 19, 2009|By Peter Schmuck

Every visit from the Indianapolis Colts creates a special level of angst around here, what with the way that franchise left town and the way Baltimore was jacked around by the NFL afterward. This year, however, we don't have the luxury of wallowing in our ancient football history.

There is way too much to worry about in the here and now.

The Colts are the best team in the AFC and they'll bring a 9-0 record to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. The Ravens will be coming off a short practice week and an unimpressive Monday night performance against the unimposing Cleveland Browns.

Peyton Manning just pulled off one of his greatest comeback performances ever and has to be salivating during the film sessions on the Ravens secondary. Top Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs is out with a sprained knee and - if that isn't enough uncertainty for one week - the Ravens will be debuting a new kicker.

Needless to say, I'm a little concerned and you should be, too.

OK, I'm a lot concerned. During the past several weeks, I've gone from being a glass-half-full guy after the Vikings near-miss to a glass-half-empty guy after the second Bengals loss to a does-anybody-know-where-I-can-find-a-clean-paper-cup guy at about halftime on Monday night.

The Browns game never figured to be a true litmus test of the Ravens' potential in the second half of this on-and-off season - because nobody really knows what to make of the feeble Browns at this point - but just about everybody agreed that the Ravens needed to make some kind of statement heading into back-to-back showdowns with the Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.

I was thinking that 37-7 would be a nice way to kick off Colts week, but the Ravens and Browns combined on the first completely scoreless first half in the NFL this season, and the Ravens offense managed just one touchdown against a team that had allowed an average of nearly 30 points in its previous seven losses.

If you want to get really negative about it: The Ravens executed just one really big offensive play on Monday night - the long completion to Derrick Mason that set up that lone offensive touchdown.

So, what are we supposed to think as they prepare for a Colts team that boasts one of the greatest clutch passers in the history of the game and just scored 35 points against the New England Patriots?

I know what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that the Ravens just lost Suggs and Haruki Nakamura and just released kicker Steve Hauschka and now have about the same chance of ending above .500 as next year's Orioles. But that might just be a knee-jerk overreaction to the way they have declined over the past seven weeks.

The Ravens looked so good after the first Browns game that ESPN.com and SI.com moved them to the top of their respective NFL Power Rankings. ESPN had them down to 14th last week, but the experts over at The Worldwide Leader took a much less jaundiced view of Monday night's performance than I did and kicked them back up to No. 11.

That's not all. The oddsmakers have posted the game as pretty much an even matchup, some even posting the Ravens as - get this - a one-point favorite. Those Vegas guys are pretty smart, so maybe I'm missing something.

Maybe coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were just keeping their powder dry during Monday's sleepwalk. Maybe they've got a special chapter in the playbook for the Colts and Steelers. Maybe the people in Vegas got an advance look at Suggs' MRI. Or maybe the ball will finally bounce the right way a couple of times. Strange stuff happens in the NFL every week.

The Colts will be the fifth undefeated team the Ravens have faced this season (counting the 0-0 Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1), and they are every bit as formidable as their record indicates. But if you're looking for something to hang your hopes on, three of the first four undefeated opponents were not undefeated after they played the Ravens and it would have been all four if Hauschka hadn't missed that big field goal against the Minnesota Vikings.

See, I'm not really such a sad sack after all.

Listen to Peter Schmuck | The Baltimore Sun when he hosts "Sportsline" on WBAL (1090AM) and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.