The Baltimore Ravens are now in their 22nd season. However sports fans are feeling about them today, they are an integral part of our community.
While there wasn't instant adulation during their first couple seasons, there has certainly been a lot of it heaped on the purple and black since winning Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Fla. That is until the past few seasons since winning Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Since then, they have gone 37-38 and have missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons.
So it's understandable head coach John Harbaugh, who is fighting hard for his job, is heaping the platitudes on his team, framing things in as positive a light as possible. And, as Harbaugh is wont to do, mentioning that every goal the team has is still attainable.
At 6-5 and fresh off back-to-back wins as the Green Bay Packers and home versus the Houston Texans on "Monday Night Football," a playoff sport is certainly attainable. And if the Ravens win out, they'll finish 11-5 and have quite a head of steam going into the playoffs.
But there is one tiny problem with all the positivity. In order to do anything approaching those 11 or 10 or even nine wins, the team will have to beat a real NFL starting quarterback.
To date, only the team's 20-0 victory at the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 was against a true starting signal caller in Andy Dalton, who may in fact not be a starter much longer.
This points directly at the 8,000-pound elephant in the purple and black room: the Ravens' defense is far from the near-great unit many thought it would be by this point in the season.
But what about the three shutouts? The fact that each of those games was started by a less-than-stellar QB -- Dalton, Matt Moore and Brett Hundley -- doesn't disqualify them as good performances. But don't try to convince me they were anything better than just that -- good performances against bad quarterbacks.
Does anyone for a moment really think if Derek Carr would have played in Oakland instead of EJ Manuel, or Aaron Rodgers would have played in Green Bay instead of Hundley, or Deshaun Watson would have played instead of Tom Savage that the Ravens would have those three wins?
Notice I haven't even bothered to mention the Cleveland Browns and their rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer, because truth be told, beating a winless team doesn't carry a lot of weight.
To suggest that you take those four wins away and they'd be 2-9 isn't fair, but it does shed light on the fact that to talk about playoffs, the Ravens have to beat a true No. 1 quarterback.
We don't know how the next two weeks will turn out, but things would look a lot more promising if the Ravens manage to beat Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium Dec. 3 and Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field Dec. 10.
Color me a skeptic, but I think the Ravens will likely be 6-7 after these next two games. A pretend defense doesn't lie.
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