Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs celebrates after a sack… (Kenneth K. Lam, MCT )
Once the Ravens had defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, reality returned to the AFC North and the Ravens still appear to be the team to beat in the division.
You can laugh, but is anyone taking the Bengals seriously anymore, or Cleveland even though the Browns are playing well? The Ravens get a certain respect because they are the defending champions and have a proven track record in November and December.
The Bengals (6-4) had a chance to knock the Ravens (4-5) out of contention last week, and they came to Baltimore and played perhaps their worst game of the season.
That showed the Bengals lack killer instinct and are still capable of having their usual regular season swoon where they lose a couple of games. The Ravens and Bengals have similar remaining schedules with both playing more games at home than on the road.
Cincinnati has home games against Cleveland, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore and away games against the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Ravens play four of seven games at home against three stellar opponents in the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and New England Patriots. They have the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions on the road and close out the season at Cincinnati.
Besides the Ravens winning their own games, this race will come down to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. He is the X-factor again. In the last two games, both Cincinnati losses, Dalton has thrown three interceptions in each.
This means he has returned to normal after having a hot stretch, and this is the old Cincinnati team that we've all come to know and love in Baltimore.
Ravens' D doesn't compare to 2000
There was a sigh of relief around town when the Ravens beat Cincinnati, but that excitement might have caused some brain damage.
There are some fans who now say this defense is as good as the one during the Ravens Super Bowl run in 2000, and it could carry the offense and team back to another NFL title.
Besides having much more physical talent than the present group and also having the best player in the NFL at that time on the roster (Ray Lewis), the Ravens also had a strong running game led by Jamal Lewis, as opposed to the current team which is ranked No. 30 in rushing.
Fans are fans, but let's not get ridiculous.
Yanda says he is 100 percent
Ravens guard Marshal Yanda hasn't played well this season, and he has an excuse considering he had major shoulder surgery during the offseason and missed most of the mini and training camps.
But given the opportunity, he said the shoulder wasn't the problem.
"I'm 100 percent," Yanda said. "You just got to play. Actually, I'm better than I was last year because at this time a year ago I couldn't get the arm above my head, but I can now. "
Ravens need to win on the road
I get tired of hearing about why teams lose on the road. Excuses range from time difference to different sleeping environments to crowd nose.
Simply put, teams lose on the road just because they aren't good enough. The good teams win anywhere at any time and the Ravens need to learn that lesson because they are 1-4 in away games.
"I think the craziest part is that we all love it," Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain said. "We all love being hated. The road, it's a special type of game, to me. You get the opportunity to feed off the energy of the stands – in a negative manner. A lot of guys thrive off of that. We all know one of the most notorious people in the league is Terrell Suggs. He thrives off of the opponent's energy. We are looking forward to it."
With quarterback Joe Flacco, sometimes you have to read between the lines when he speaks.
Here was one of those moments Wednesday when he was asked about pass protection issues.
"Teams are coming after us a little bit, and we're kind of letting them," Flacco said. "We're really not doing anything to combat it. We haven't been good enough to stop it and do other things to get them out of it. It makes those guys' jobs tough up front. Teams have been able to get enough guys up in there to cause a little bit of confusion, and I think that's been the biggest issue.
"We've got to hit them with stuff that makes it hurt. [If] you're going to put guys up in there, you're going to double-mug guys, and you're going to bring guys off the edge — you're going to do all these things — you're going to play one-on-one coverage, [then] we've got to make it hurt. And we just haven't been good enough to really have teams feel the effect, or the negative effects, of them doing it."
I'm assuming Flacco wants to run more screens and draws. He might want to get his tackles more help by chipping with the running backs or tight ends and he probably wants to challenge the cornerbacks who are left one-on-one because so many teams are blitzing.
If not, it sounds good to me.
We've heard excuses all week on why the Ravens didn't use the play clock to their advantage in the fourth quarter Sunday. The best one was that the Ravens didn't want to get out of an offensive rhythm.
Who writes this stuff? This offense has no rhythm.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh should just fess up and say they blew it and next time we'll all pay more attention to the play clock. End of story.