My blog yesterday was rather cynical and I apologize for that. Like most of you, I was dealing with one of the worst football hangovers in my life. It was almost as bad as the Colts playoff loss back in 2006. I didn’t even watch the Super Bowl that year for obvious reasons.
My dad and I have made it a habit to sit down and watch Monday Night Football every night ever since I became a true NFL fan. Even when I wasn’t in town and I was studying at Washington College, we would text each other. We would make fun of stupid decisions and give praise where praise was due.
Last night we couldn’t stomach it. It was that bad.
For a little over 24 hours, you couldn’t pay me to watch the NFL or even SportsCenter. I would have rather watched a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie (they aren’t a sponsor, right?).
But today, I took some football B vitamins with a side of gridiron aspirin…rehydrated with some mental Gatorade…or, as college kids across the world will swear by: I fixed the ultimate football hangover by having a proverbial cold shower and a Natty Boh.
Enough with the analogies. The point is that my head is finally back on my shoulders and I’m no longer mad or bitter about the devastating loss this past weekend.
Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the Ravens playoff chances in 2008:
5. Joe Flacco – He made the list yesterday as one of the 5 reasons why things went wrong, but the fact that this guy was back at the complex early on Monday morning to view game tape shows all of us a lot about his character and his desire to win. It makes me feel a little better about making the playoffs. Joe was on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew this morning and was also seen or heard on several other media outlets. He’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t play well…that he missed Mason in the endzone and overthrew a few balls. He’s a stand-up guy with a hard-nosed work ethic, and that makes me feel better about the future of this team, both immediate and ongoing.
4. Ray Rice – As we all saw against Pittsburgh, without Ray Rice this offense takes a completely different shape. Although his bone bruise is bad, I expect him to play this week. I mean when was the last time you heard of someone missing two weeks because of a bruise? Not to say that it hasn’t happened, but it certainly doesn’t happen often. He brings a Maurice Jones-Drew aspect to this offense. The toughness, ball-catching ability, blocking capability, and has a nose for the first down marker. If he’s back, the Ravens will field a much more dynamic offense.
3. The Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo is battling a back injury and Marion Barber is continuing to have trouble with his toe injury. Although the Cowboys expect Romo to play, Romo has been sacked 15 times in 11 games. Against the Giants he was sacked 4 times. Against Pittsburgh, he was sacked 3 times and threw 3 picks. So for those who are counting, he has been sacked 7 times and thrown 3 interceptions in the last two games. The Steelers, Giants, and Ravens all have similar swarming defenses—except for one important difference. When the Ravens create turnovers, they’re more successful at scoring on defense. The Cowboys also have significant injuries in their secondary. Aside from Roy Williams being listed on IR, Ken Hamlin and Keith Davis are not playing at 100%, and back up safety Tra Battle strained his hamstring last week. Injuries coupled with all of the controversy in the Big D, maybe the Ravens will catch the Cowboys at the right time.
2. The Tie-Breaker Scenarios – The Ravens currently hold tie-breakers over both Miami and New England, who continue to hound Baltimore for that coveted sixth playoff spot. The only way either of these teams could surpass the Ravens is if they wind up 11-5 and the Ravens turn out to be 10-6. I hate to say it, but that scenario is becoming increasingly more viable as the weeks pass and they continue to nip at the heels at the Ravens in the AFC playoff race. The Dolphins worry me the most, who have games in Kansas City and in New York to round out their season. The Chiefs are historically tough at home in December. The Patriots, on the other hand, have to play the AFC West champion Cardinals and then have to travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills where Buffalo will looking to play the spoiler role. Without Tom Brady, I still don’t trust the Pats offense. Out of the four remaining games for these teams, three are on the road and the other is against a playoff team who is fighting for a seed, and more importantly, respect in the NFC.
1. Pride – As is usually the case, the Baltimore defense takes losses personally. Their hubris will keep them in the Dallas game on Saturday night on the NFL Network, and it may come down to a big play—a deep pass to Mason, a pick by Ed Reed, a Terrell Suggs sack, a Ray Lewis strip, or (God forbid) an 80 yard bomb from Romo to Owens. You know what I’d love to see? Mason or Clayton catches a touchdown to put the Ravens up late in the game, and the receiver who catches the ball mocks that stupid T-O celebration that Owens does with his unnaturally long arms. Just as a little pay back for when Owens mocked the Ray Lewis dance back in 2004…
Is anyone else optimistic about the Ravens playoff chances this season?