I was partially correct. I am hoping that there is real hope, instead of false hope. Watching the Bengals play football gives one hope that the division is not lost for the Ravens. However, the Ravens’ performance last week did nothing to improve the opinion that they are a playoff caliber team. Thank goodness the AFC is weak this year.
This week I am smashing together a bit of last week’s Reality Assessment with a running list of plotlines for today’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Today’s weather in the mid-west sounds disconcerting. I hope and pray the tornados avoid the area and people remain safe.
As far as the possible torrential rainstorms and gusting winds invading Soldier Field, this could have a major impact on the Ravens. With no running game to speak of, the Ravens have leaned on the pass for much of the season. The rain and wind could impact that strategy today. Will we see more short passes giving the receivers opportunities to make plays after the catch?
I trust Joe Flacco’s arm strength more than Josh McCown’s.
Road Warriors, Not So Much
The Ravens have been abysmal on the road. Do they shake it this week? The Ravens are winless in Chicago.
Revenge of the Backup QB
The Ravens sometimes struggle against backup quarterbacks. Here is a list of backup quarterbacks who have done well against the Ravens: Jason Campbell, Kirk Cousins, Charlie Batch, and Dennis Dixon.
Josh McCown has been hot in his relief of Jay Cutler. Can the Ravens halt his hot streak?
Ngata Out, Forte Unleashed?
The late scratch of Haloti Ngata is worrisome. Last week against the Bengals, he played his most inspired game in quite awhile. Matt Forte needs to be corralled, putting the game in McCown’s hands.
I am assuming Terrence Cody, DeAngelo Tyson, and Brandon Williams (a curious scratch last week) will be filling the large void. They need to get the job done.
The offense not running down the play clock in the fourth quarter last week against the Bengals was unacceptable on every level. The explanation may have been even stupider—what rhythm did the Ravens’ offense have last week in the second half? Coaching staff (and Flacco), please correct this.
On a related note, can the Ravens please figure out how to protect against the delayed blitz up the middle? It has been an issue since August!
While we are at it, tighten up the decisions on when to challenge a play.
The Ray Rice Debate
Ray Rice’s struggles running the ball are well documented. He is clearly lacking explosion and the ability to break tackles. That could be chalked up to his injury situation.
However, Rice has really struggled in pass protection this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he is one of the worst rated halfbacks when blocking. He missed a crucial block last week against the Bengals and that type of play has been the norm all season.
I don’t believe that Rice is finished (he is only 26 years old), but things are starting to add up in a negative way for him. I hope the Ravens stay with the hot hand, and if that means Bernard Pierce gets more carries then so be it. Either way, the team will need both players moving forward this season.
Continued Quiet, Steady Improvements
Courtney Upshaw, Jimmy Smith, and Corey Graham have all stacked some very nice performances of late. They have been making steady improvement which has helped stabilize the defense.
After a dreadful start to the season, Graham has played very nicely in the last three games. His coverage has been tight, and he has been aggressive.
Smith has been steady since the Green Bay game. His confidence seems to be gaining, and I liked the fire he showed at the end of the Bengals game (James Ihedigbo handled it very well too).
Upshaw's play has gone a little unnoticed. He has done very well setting the edge and he has provided a pass rush burst when called upon.
The Ravens will need all three today against the Bears, as the Bears have versatile running back Matt Forte and big receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.
Ed Reed a Jet?
This move makes sense, but I am not so sure it will be a fruitful reunion. Ed Reed had every right to go out and secure another paycheck. While the sentimental side of me would have loved to see him ride out on an emotional high with a Super Bowl win in his hometown with the only professional team he has ever known, Reed chose a different path. This does nothing to change his hall of fame legacy, but it sure is a little painful to watch a career end in this manner.
Unsung Player to Watch, aka the “Corey Graham 2012 Postseason Award”
In lieu of a prediction of the score of the game, I will pick a Raven player each week that I think will have an impact on the game. I won’t pick an obvious player (like Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, etc.), but a player that flies a bit under the radar. Think of this as the “Corey Graham 2012 Postseason Award.” Who would have predicted that Graham would have been last year’s postseason-player-of-the-game in Denver?
I think Graham wins his own award this week with a timely interception or a fumble recovery. Ironic, huh?