As I wake this morning the Baltimore Ravens – and, yes, they used the word “Baltimore” before it was “comprehensive branding effort” – are 6-3 and could be in sole possession of first place in the AFC North if a series of positive events transpire later today at the Meadowlands and in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers host a desperate San Diego Chargers club coming east to play with their season in the balance.
No matter what, we’re gonna learn a lot about January today.
In my 13 years of fandom I’ve never seen a purple team this hard to read. Are they this good? Or were THEY that BAD?
I’m not really sure.
Here are the irrefutable facts:
• The Ravens have played nine games and have played eight of them well enough to win. That includes solid, representative efforts in Pittsburgh and here against the undefeated and “unstoppable” Tennessee Titans.
• The Ravens played one of the biggest turds in the history of the franchise in Indianapolis and any horse player might “throw this one out” if they can legitimately run with the New York Football Giants.
• Their only wins have come at the expense of the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders – the literal dregs of the league and darlings of next April’s NFL Draft.
• The road has been far from a nuisance for rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who after appearing to have been playing the rope-a-dope in that game against the Colts, has rebounded nicely with huge efforts in Miami, Cleveland and Houston.
• The injuries have mounted – Kelly Gregg, Chris McAlister, Marshal Yanda and Dawan Landry are all done for the season – and the “next man up” has gotten the job done. Winning teams do that!
• The team has a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback, a rookie left tackle and aging players at a variety of positions from wide receiver to defensive line to middle linebacker and week after week they’ve brought impressive moxie to the field no matter the circumstance. The secondary has been ravaged but is still percolating and when the front seven brings the heat this is a 3-and-out waiting to happen.
• They know how to come back from behind on the road as was witnessed in Cleveland, where they effectively ended their bitter division rival’s playoff aspirations on Halloween weekend.
• And finally, the Giants are 8-1. So let’s just assume they’re pretty good.
These are the facts. But how this game sets up is anyone’s guess.
The Giants are a prohibitive favorite. The weather is slated to be kinda chilly at 49 degrees. And we’re taking 57 purple WNST fans up to the game via the “Miller Lite Roadtrips.”
The rest is why we take the video camera…
Will the Ravens defense shut down the Big Blue running game – Earth, Wind and Fire – which leads the league in rushing?
Will Rex Ryan’s blitz packages get after Eli Manning or will the Giants solid offensive line give him their signal caller a chance to exploit a depleted secondary?
And how will No. 5 fare up the Turnpike from his home in New Jersey as the Giants disguise packages and send the blitz of Justin Tuck and company?
This is why I love football.
Can the Ravens go into the Meadowlands and defeat the reigning World Champions today?
That’s what we’re all wondering…
The bus leaves at 7 a.m.
Casey Willett, Drew Forrester and I will all be at the Meadowlands.
Blogs, stories, videos and hopefully, a victory, will be coming back with us.