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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ravens Are A Tougher Opponent

The Baltimore Ravens aren't doing the nutty things that the Eagles are,
but they're a higher quality opponent. If you happen to remember the
last moment of meaningful football played, it happened right before
these guys raised the Lombardi trophy.

John Harbaugh has sustained significant success in Baltimore, of which
the league has rarely seen; it didn't appear they'd take that last step
toward a trophy, but you have to be in it to win it, and Harbaugh has
made it every year he's coached.

Offensively, they remain a fairly traditional Coryell style ballteam,
with bigarmed but inconsistent Joe Flacco behind a big but sometimes
struggling OL and Ray Rice continuing to pound the ball. Massive
investments in both are against what some consider the "Raven way", and
it's hard to say if that helps. Their interior line remains very good,
but Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie have had some struggles and don't
appear to have gotten significantly better. New "running game
coordinator" Juan Castillo should provide dividends longterm.

Dropping Anquan Boldin and then losing Dennis Pitta to injury leaves
the team relying on Torrey Smith, who's been remarkably inconsistent, as
the top target. He and Jacoby Jones can go for the longball, but they
won't be doing the fantastic intermediate routes the way Boldin
would've, and now without Pitta, they don't have anything up the seam.
They're clearly a team you'd spend time with your cover 1/cover 2
packages in an attempt to watch the deep ball and contain Rice in the
short game. The Ravens, lauded for their personnel department, have
spent a lot on receivers over time, and just gave away their one
consistent player in the last decade.

On the upside, it afforded the team the ability to rebuild on defense.
Dropping Ed Reed and Ray Lewis might actually make them better. Adding
Chris Canty at end and Elvis Dumervil at OLB, along with a fresher
Terrell Suggs, should make them more dicey up front. Haloti Ngata
remains a top notch NT as well. New ILB Daryl Smith may play within the
scheme better than Lewis, and won't have the health issues.

It remains the same attacking, smart 3-4 defense it's always been.
This is likely the best defense the team will see until week 10 of the
regular season, v/s San Francisco. A good showing by the offense would
go a long way toward erasing the bad feelings of not doing well against
a bad Eagles' D, but I'm not really expecting that to happen.

Conversely, I believe the defense will show up well against the Ravens'
offense. They know the scheme, and they might even match up fairly
well. A good MLB like Luke Kuechly is an good antidote for having Ray
Rice on the field as well. Carolina's ends match up in their favor
against the OTs, and the DTs should be enough for the Ravens' interior
line.

So, based on that - I see the game being a relative snoozer. It will
be a game of field position, a game where two good defenses (allright,
one great defense and one up and coming one, if you prefer to be
technical) fight two offenses wanting to run the ball. I believe the
Ravens have the better team, and this will be the game where starters
play most of the game; I don't see the team winning the half or winning
the game. I just hope execution legitimately improves.
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