The undefeated Tennessee Titans roll into town believing (as they should) that they are a Super Bowl contender. Sure, the Ravens are 2-1 and are one play, one red flag, one fumble, one whistle away from being 3-0.
But today the Ravens will have the chance to show us whether they’ll be a very good team this year, or simply one of the many who will be playing “win one, lose one” style in the NFL.
They’ll either sport a pedestrian 2-2 by the end of the day or they’ll be 3-1 at the quarter pole. And either one of them is perfectly acceptable to me.
A month ago many us of believed they’d stink. A win today here against the Titans would make them 3-1 and they would be getting the kind of attention playoff teams will get from the national media.
But let’s be honest: beating the Clevelands and Cincinnatis at home doesn’t earn you honors in the AFC in 2008. We’re pretty sure they both stink.
But beat a 4-0 team and you’ve showed the entire NFL something.
Concerns for the Ravens today:
How will the offensive line and a max protect serve quarterback Joe Flacco against a defense as tenacious and talented as Jim Schwartz’s bunch in blue?
Where’s Willis McGahee? We all like Le’Ron McClain but I’m not sure the Ravens can win if he’s the feature back for the entire season. Unless the offensive line becomes more seasoned and dominant at the point of attack more consistently.
Will Todd Heap become more involved in the offense? Most of us thought Cam Cameron’s offense would use Heap in the same role as Antonio Gates in the San Diego scheme. That hasn’t happened yet.
When the Titans have the ball it will be interesting to see if the Ravens’ defense can goad Kerry Collins into some of the problems he had back on Jan. 28, 2001 when he was leading the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Collins is now playing the “Trent Dilfer role” for the Titans. He protects the ball. He manages the game. And he’s been undefeated doing it for a team that wants to smack you in the mouth and get turnovers on defense.
Theoretically, this is a good match up for the Ravens because the Titans don’t have the long-ball arsenal and quick attack style that teams like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati like to employ. This is one day when you’d think the gambling style Rex Ryan’s defense likes to utilize won’t be as susceptible to big plays or big breakdowns, especially in the secondary.
But the Ravens are going to have to keep Flacco and the offense on the field and they’ll need to run more effectively than they have so far this season. (Or at least in the way that they controlled the ball in the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati and Cleveland wins.)
Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vandenbosch, Keith Bullock and company are stingy. They stuff the run. They sack the quarterback. They ball hawk. And they take the ball away.
The Titans have manhandled all four of their opponents. Pound for pound, they have been the best team in the NFL so far this season.
Today’s task is a tall one for the men in purple.
But it’s a day to figure out whether that 2-0 start was an aberration or whether the Ravens have arrived in 2008 as a legitimate playoff contender. Today is a reality check for the whole city.
Win today and we can start discussing the possibility of the “p” word and being a legitimate contender.
A loss today and staring the down the barrel of a trip to visit Peyton Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis next week, and all of a sudden the Ravens’ prospects aren’t looking so rosy.
Get’s your “Let’s Go Flacco!” signs and enjoy the game!