After Three Losses; Ravens at the Crossroads of the 08 Season

As a NFL fan you have to love the unpredictability that this season has had to offer. Nothing is assured and there is no true dominant team regardless of what the records say, especially in the AFC.

But if you happen to be a fan of the Baltimore Ravens you are already sick to your stomach with the roller coaster ride that this first part of the season has given you.

First, there was the good. A divisional win against the Bengals, Chad was Ocho Stinko, Cameron was getting tricky and Flacco showed he could run. Then the Ravens built on that momentum after nature halted Week two and once again slammed a divisional foe to the mat and used a heavy dose of “Old-Time Football” to reign victorious. For a season where expectations were not that high to start, some around town started whispering the “P” word.

Then there was the bad. Baltimore was ready for a bigger test on Monday night against the hated Steelers and played a dominating game for three quarters. The team let a lack of composure get in the way of what would have been a great upset at Pittsburgh. The following week a similar game had a similar result as costly penalties and turnovers were too much to overcome. The team was then at .500 and even though they were losses they were competitive and reason for optimism or insanity. I mention this only as the Flacco bandwagon started getting a little less crowded.

Then there was the ugly. The Ravens were ripped by the former Baltimore Colts and exposed as too slow and unprepared. The game looked all too familiar to last year’s tilt. Flacco had the worst game of his career and looked confused and unsure of NFL coverages. Flacco’s corner had become even sparser. I actually heard a fan on a local radio show wonder aloud why the Ravens didn’t sign Joey Harrington or Chris Simms, certainly they would have won those games. Ugh.

So who are these Baltimore Ravens? Are they a contender or a pretender? Can John Harbaugh rally this team with its three game losing streak? Can Joe Flacco improve since was given the vote of confidence and named starter for the rest of the season? I could go on and on with all the questions that have popped up in the minds of the Ravens faithful these last few weeks.

Here’s my take on the situation. Expectations were low this season and after two victories over subpar opponents the fans expectations changed dramatically. The team squandered chances to sit at 4-0 because their old problems came back to the surface. Penalties, undisciplined play, lack of a vertical passing game, and a lack of pass rush which exposes the secondary. “Winning hides problems, Losing magnifies them.” The Colts game further exemplified that this team will need roster upgrades to get to the next level. Realistically if the team goes 8-8 it’s considered a success. But now that the organization has its coach they must jettison some older players and get younger and faster as they look to the future.

So where do they go from here? This week is a crucial game to their season; they enter into Miami to play a team that was the exclamation point to a forgettable season last year. So interesting that the Ravens must face them once again and with it a chance for redemption and to move things back in the right direction.

The Dolphins can certainly be beaten but they are a team playing loose and with confidence as they reopened the playbook from Pop Warner to get shot in the arm. It won’t be easy as they must prove they can win on the road and they must not be overly aggressive. They just get back to basics and play better football. But a win here is vital. They go back home the following week to play a very bad Raiders team, then road games with Houston and Cleveland. You have all winnable games for this team in the next few weeks.

A couple of wins and all of a sudden things look and feel very different…again.

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