And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
-Edgar Allen Poe from “The Raven”
The Cowboys and their fans have now had a full week apart, and we’re very close to getting back into the thick of it. What will we find when the 2-2 Dallas Cowboys return from their bye week to meet the 4-1 Baltimore Ravens? I haven’t the foggiest notion, friends. What I do know is that this Ravens team is beatable.
The Dreaded Ravens Defense… isn’t what you think it is.
When the topic of the Ravens defense comes up, the average NFL fan’s eyes glaze over. Their lips begin to tremble ever so slightly – their voice cracks with fear. The memory of the dreaded Ravens defense of past comes marauding through our imaginations. The problem is, that defense doesn’t exist anymore – or at the very least, resides in San Francisco these days.
Ok, their PPG against is in the top 10, but that number is artificially low after allowing only 6 points to the terrible Chiefs last week.
Ray Lewis is now 37 years old and merely a shadow of his former self. Before the season, his point of emphasis was to lose nearly 30 pounds in order to regain the step or five he has lost through age and the punishment of being a player in the NFL. The end result has been that he is not nearly as effective at the point of attack as he once was. He is routinely pushed around by lineman, resulting in a diminished effectiveness in run defense.
In the aforementioned game against the terrible Chiefs, the Ravens ceded 140 yards rushing to Jamaal Charles, despite him being the only effective weapon that the Chiefs boast at the moment. J-Mail is clearly a remarkable talent, but the defense of Ravens past would have loaded up the box and dared Matt Cassel to throw on them. Not so much anymore. The Ravens also gave up 91 yards rushing to the wiggleless and underperforming BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Week 1. As a whole, they’re giving up almost 120 yards rushing per game, which could be just what the Cowboys need to get their run game a much needed jump start. That is assuming that this team can run block against anyone in the league, which at this point, might be asking too much.
The Ravens pass defense might actually be worse. With Terrell Suggs out until roughly Week 9, the Ravens have not been able to get anything resembling a pass rush going. They have a couple of talented pieces, but this is not the ball hawking defense of old.
In five weeks, they’ve allowed (3) 300 yard passing days to Michael Vick, Tom Brady, and Brandon Weeden. I’m convinced that Tom Brady could throw for 300 yard against the All-Pro team, but the other two aren’t exactly elite throwers. In the two remaining weeks, they allowed a 200 yard day from Andy Dalton… and then they faced Matt Cassel last week. Again, if the Cowboys are going to get their offense going, this is a team that they should be able to throw on. That is assuming this offense is capable of the potent offense we’ve known in years past, which they haven’t really shown to this point.
The Ravens are 4-1 by the hair on their chinny chin chin.
When you look at the standings, it’s hard to not be impressed by a team that is 4-1, especially considering the success the Ravens have seen in recent years. Aside from a Week 1 blowout of the Bengals, their next 4 games were decided by one score.
In Week 2 and 3, they lost to the Eagles by 1 and beat New England by 1. Those are both pretty talented teams, so we can give them a pass on those. In Week 4 and 5, they beat (0-5) Cleveland by 7 and (1-4) Kansas City by 3. The past two weeks should have been a glorified scrimmage for them. If the Cowboys aren’t better than the Browns or the Chiefs, then we have a very long season ahead of us.
None of this is to diminish Baltimore’s success so far. It’s only to illustrate that they are not dominating teams week in and week out as you might be lead to believe by general uninformed rhetoric. There is something to be said for the ability to finish close games. They are a well coached and disciplined team, and clearly a worthy opponent, but they are beatable.
The Ravens offense has improved over previous years.
The knock on the Ravens of old was that their defense carried the team and the only weakness they had was their offensive unit. It seems this season that those two units have switched places in terms of dominance.
Those stats are none too shabby at all, but they’ve shown that they can be shut down. Up until Week 5, they had shown that they could put up excellent offensive numbers, fairly at will. Then they faced the “dreaded” Kansas City Chiefs and were held to only 9 points.
Here is how the Chiefs defensive has fared in their other games:
Ok, there are a couple of really talented offenses in there, but the story on the Ravens was that their offense had taken significant steps and was to now be listed among the best in the league. The Buffalo Bills scored 35 points against the Chiefs, but the Ravens only managed 9. Do we consider the Bills offense to be elite level?
If you give Joe Flacco time to find a receiver, he will take advantage and hurt you. He can make every throw on the field and has a pretty good compliment of weapons to throw to. The Chiefs decided that they were not going to worry about the play action and bring rushers no matter what. As a result, Ray Rice gouged them for over 100 yards, but the Ravens didn’t score a TD and had to resort to winning the game with three field goals.
I am not going to go out on a limb and say that the Ravens offense has been figured out in one week, but it surely bears consideration.
None of this matters if the wrong Cowboys show up.
I thought long and hard about who this Cowboys team really is over the past week, and for the life of me, I’m still not sure. On one hand, I think the hopes of every fan was lifted with their performance against the Giants – and subsequently crushed as we watched the Bears stomp a mudhole in that…
We’re a quarter of the way through the Cowboys season and the division is very much in the Cowboys’ reach. Can the offense return to anything close to what we’ve seen in the past? Can they take better care of the ball? Can we continue to improve upon the drive killing penalties?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that we have some good teams coming up on our schedule very soon, and if this team has any chance of still being in contention at the season’s midway point, they better figure out who they are and what they’re made of very soon.
Ravens 21, Cowboys 17