Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For the Baltimore Ravens a Healthy Team Doesn't Add up to Healthy Offense

So the Ravens hit their bye week at 4-3. Things haven’t exactly gone as planned and I don’t know too many Ravens fans who are smiling right now.

Since late Sunday, I have been hearing people beat to death that the injuries are the cause for the Ravens not meeting expectations. People are saying, things will get better after the bye week when everyone comes back, especially on offense. I am going to disagree.

I don’t think the injuries are the sole reason for this team’s ineptness on offense. There is something deeper and more organizational that is the cause. What exactly that is, might still be open to debate.

First off, the Ravens injuries have been several, but not impossible to overcome. The St. Louis Rams have missed running back Steven Jackson since week 3. They lost quarterback Marc Bulger for the passed two weeks. The Dolphins lost quarterback Trent Green and running back Ronnie Brown for the season and oh by the way, they traded Chris Chambers. Those are teams with injuries.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost offensive tackle Luke Pettitgout and running back Cadillac Williams for the season and running back Michael Pittman for eight weeks and somehow they are 4-3. The Ravens have missed certain, albeit key, players for two/three week stretches. Last time I looked, I saw Jonathan Ogden playing in Sunday’s game. So I really don’t see the Ravens “loaded” with injuries as many claim.

Getting a healthy Steve McNair, J.O., Mark Clayton, Todd Heap doesn’t add up to an offense that will compete with Cleveland Browns (who average just under 29 points a game) let alone the Colts or the Patriots! This offense has problems that are much harder to fix that just health. Let’s clarify … unless you are bringing a bonafide passing quarterback like Drew Brees or Marc Bulger (you can forget Brady, Manning and Palmer) into this offense, I don’t see a QB that makes a difference. The Ravens have never had a quarterback worth shaking a stick at, so McNair or Boller … there’s no difference.

The play-calling is suspect at best. Brian Billick has out-thought himself on way too many occasions and almost actually admitted to it this week in his press conference. The execution is nothing to get excited about either. My math may be off, but bad play-call plus poor execution should equal three and out … or if you are in the red zone, Matt Stover field goal, maybe.

This offense needs an overhaul – Period! The system is flawed and does not scheme to the talents of the players in it. Just ask Rex Ryan how his defense is number two in the league without Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas. It’s called adjustments, things Brian Billick doesn’t do well … see playoff loss to Colts for further evidence.

It will be great to see the Ravens healthy, but it would be even better to see a new offensive system.

Unfortunately, the latter won’t happen anytime this season.

Mark Zinno, ESPN 1300

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Things That are Certain: Death, Taxes & The Ravens go to 5-2

Is there any fear about the Ravens losing the game this Sunday in Buffalo??? There shouldn’t be. I know all the circumstances. Back-up quarterback, young offensive line, inconsistent game-plan and enough injuries that the Ravens training room looks more like a scene out of MASH. I know all that … but let’s just look at things objectively. Numbers don’t lie. And in this case, the numbers ALL favor the Ravens.

Buffalo’s defense ranks last overall in the NFL giving up over 420 yards per game. They rank second to last in the league in passing yards per game. What about rushing yards??? 25th in the NFL at over 133 yards per game. Those sound like numbers that even an anemic Ravens offense could put up points against. Or at a minimum control the clock for over 34 minutes a game, their average through six games so far this season.

The Ravens defense has been top notch over the last two games. They are giving up just a microscopic 66 yards per game, second best in the NFL. Is it possible that the Bills, who don’t even rush for 100 yards a game on the ground would be able to establish anything offensively? Trent Edwards will be under center for Buffalo on Sunday. If that doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of Ravens fans, I don’t know what will?? The Bills are second to last in the NFL in yards passing per game.

The numbers don’t lie. What’s that? Numbers don’t mean anything? They play the games on the field … got it. The “X” factor in this game. Yeah, it’s Willis McGahee. Numbers don’t matter to him. Rushing yards don’t matter to him. Not in this game. He has a chip on his shoulder and he is primed for his return to the city that just didn’t love him the way he wanted them to. Number 23 will be primed for his biggest break-out game as a Raven. Don’t be surprised when he gets booed out of Buffalo for a second time. Only he will walk out above all those boos and have his team at 5-2 headed into the bye week.

Prediction: Ravens 29, Buffalo 10
Mark Zinno, ESPN 1300

Thursday, October 11, 2007

AIRHEADS: Is All Ok With the Ravens or do They Need a Balancing Act?

Now and Zin, by Mark Zinno, ESPN1300

I have listened all this week about the Ravens offense. They can’t score in the red zone. Field goals aren’t enough. Steve McNair is hurt. We should start Kyle Boller. (Which I’d never thought I’d hear in this city!) And maybe some of this is true … heck, I can’t really make many arguments against it, but the question that remains to me is, why are people shocked???? This is a Ravens team that hasn’t averaged more than 24 points a game in any of the last seven years since they won it all. That 24 points per game came in 2003, when they won the AFC North crown. Last year when they won the division again, they scored 22 per game. All the previous years were less than 20 per game.

Does that mean that over 20 points a game equals a division title? Maybe. But what it doesn’t mean is that this team needs an offense to win. They need a defense to win … and they have that! A pretty good one that only gives up 66 yards per game on the ground. The Ravens don’t need to light up the scoreboard to win and be successful. They have to use their most reliable weapon, Matt Stover, to give them leads and let their defense win the ball game. I don’t know any Ravens fan who would choose the offense to go down the field to score a touchdown in the waning minutes of a game, rather than place the defense on the field to defend the end zone against another team. I would certainly choose the latter. History has told me that formula is a winner, not the other way around.

Look at the big picture. The Ravens have two very winnable games in the next two weeks. They have a chance to hit the bye 5-2 and a maximum only two games behind the AFC’s best team. None of that is bad! It’s time to focus on Ravens football and just winning games with defense. The offense will do what they need to do to help out along the way, but Ravens football has always been marked by defense. Is there a reason to change now?

You've Heard the Here's the Conn, by Jeremy Conn, ESPN 1300

After watching these past two weeks, the offense has worried me. I am not a Boller fan, but I have said if McNair is not healthy Boller should be playing. In my last blog I talked about how important it is to win early in the season, because the games in the second half get much more difficult. If the Ravens are going to the playoffs or to the Super Bowl, it will be McNair leading them.

Sure the defense was spectacular last week, and they will only get better with Trevor Pryce coming back. But you can’t always rely on the defense. You need a well oiled machine on both sides of the ball. The Ravens utterly dominated the 49ers, but still they were a Joe Nedney missed field goal away from losing.

Trent Dilfer had 8 yards passing in the first half.....8 FREAKING YARDS!!!!!! Somehow you still manage to win by only 2 points against the worst ranked offense in the league. I’ve said anyway you can get a win on the road in the NFL, I’ll take it. But I am worried about this offense. You only have to look back to last year when the defense held the vaunted Colts offense to five field goals to go with along with 3 fumbles by the Ravens that were lost. When you start playing top level competition, you will need defense AND offense to go hand and hand, to pull out victories.

So in my opinion, let McNair rest and put "JESUS IN CLEATS" in the ball game. Could a QB controversy start?....SURE... But if you watched this team last year, you would know if you are going to win it all, Steve McNair will be your starting QB. I think the Ravens will destroy the Rams this week. Lots of McGahee and a solid defense will lead them to a runaway win.

Maybe that will give them some confidence on the offensive side. Ravens 33-10.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

THE AIRHEADS: Time for Ravens to panic or not?

Now & Zin, by Mark Zinno

So the Ravens 27-13 loss this past Sunday was nothing to be excited about. In fact, most people are frightened by it. And after dissecting the numbers through four weeks, well, there could be reason for alarm. I mean, look at things … one sack for the defensive linemen … five touchdowns in 14 red zone trips … a minus-three turnover ratio. These seem more like the marks of the team that just beat them, the Cleveland Browns, not the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens were supposed to be winners of the AFC North once again, not tied with the Cleveland Browns after four weeks. Well, Ravens fans, have no fear. It isn’t time to push that red detonation button on the season just yet. Good teams over come bad starts … and professional organizations like the Ravens, NEVER panic. There’s no reason to!

Look at things in a big picture kind of way which to me means the playoffs. The Ravens and five other teams are 2-2. Two other teams are 2-1. Do you mean to tell me that you have so little faith in the Ravens organization and players that you feel they won’t be there come December? Isn’t this the team that won 13 games last year? My, we fans are fickle.

Let’s forget about statistics and numbers. Forget about the schedule. Forget about the quarterback play. Leave all of that up to the week ahead, not the week behind. Stats and numbers can improve, but the only one that really matters is wins and losses.

The schedule is the same as it was going into this season, when everyone thought the Ravens were a lock for postseason play. There is no need to assume that everything will hold true to form between weeks six and 14 and the Ravens will get beat by the Colts because they are undefeated right now. As we’ve seen, things change in the NFL

And lastly, no one ever complains about Ozzie and Company on draft day, but we have no problem complaining about players on Mondays?? This team is made up of savvy veterans who know how to win. Trust in their abilities and their judgment.

Can you really give an honest answer as to when they let you down last?

I realize that with just 16 games, everything is magnified in the NFL. Every game counts and every week is important. With one-quarter of the season gone, things haven’t gone exactly as planned, but then again, not many thought the Ravens would have been 4-0 last year given their road woes and the opponents they faced, and look how the season finished out.

Don’t hit the panic button just yet.

There is more football left and plenty of dog in the Ravens fight.

You’ve read the Pro, now here’s The Conn, by Jeremy Conn

Normally I would say it’s early in the season and that it isn't time to panic. But in the case of the Ravens, I think it is.

The way the team has played against inferior opponents makes me wonder how good this team is? Do they miss A.D.? Does Trevor Pryce being out really affect this defense that much? Why aren't they blitzing as much as they did last year?

A lot of fans complained about Samari Rolle getting burned, but they clearly miss him in pass coverage. For the Ravens this early portion of the season should have been a cake walk. Six turnovers against the Bengals and still they had a chance to win; a collapse in the fourth quarter against the Jets and then against the cardinals but still they eek out victories.

It’s funny to me when fans say, “We won the game what more do you want?”

And then there’s the debacle in Cleveland. I talked about this all last week. The Ravens have not played well in Cleveland in 4 years. Giving up big plays on defense, special teams woes, and the offense sputtering against a sub par defense. Now the Ravens have to go to San Francisco, the second of back to back road games which takes them all the way to the left coast. Don’t look now but it’s another bad spot for the Ravens.

After this game they do get St Louis at home, then Buffalo on the road. After that it’s the bye week. Then the tough games come rolling in.

The second half of the season consists of 4 divisional games, including 2 with the Steelers. On the heels of those divisional games is the trilogy that some have called murders row: the Colts, Pats, and Chargers in consecutive weeks. After that the Ravens are looking at back to back road games again including another left coast trip to Seattle.

The schedule gets very difficult. You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself by thinking about it, but I think most sports are all about splitting the games with the good teams and beating the bad teams you face.

So let’s hope the Ravens right this ship quickly. I don't know if anyone noticed but there are two juggernauts in the AFC, and they have been winning in dominating fashion.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

AIRHEADS: Billick Diverts Attention From Real Problems

By Mark Zinno

So Brian Billick made a point to call out the Jets defense as “cheating” in his weekly press conference. All this in the wake of Bill Belichick and the Patriots cheating scandal.

Billick’s claim was that the Jets defenders were barking out snap counts and calls drawing the Ravens offside on several occasions. Now, while I don’t disagree that it is illegal and pretty much bush league, once again, I feel that Billick is very astutely trying to draw attention away from the issue. Never mind the fact that his play calling was suspect once again. Never mind the fact that the defense almost blew the game with a 4th quarter collapse. And never mind the fact that Billick, like many Ravens lovers in this town are waking to the realization that after seeing these first two games this team isn’t as good as we thought it would be.

Again, I know it’s early and things could change … I hope they do. But seriously, are we supposed to believe that the Jets defenders drawing the Ravens inexperienced o-line offside was the cause for this game being closer than it ever should have? Would Jonathan Ogden in his prime ever complained about this? No, I think he would have just smacked the defensive lineman who made the call straight in the mouth!

Brian Billick needs to just shut up and win! His head is still on the chopping block… remember, he wanted this responsibility. Next time the Ravens are on the road, will Billick complain that the fans were too loud while his offense was throwing the ball when it should have been running it anyway?

I still like Billick and I think he is a great players’ coach. Guys love to play for him, but I seriously question whether he can get this team back to where it is built to go, and that is the Super Bowl.

By Jeremy Conn

I personally don't have a problem With Brian Billick bringing up the Jets and the penalties that were not called. Some people will tell you "If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying." I’m all for trying to gain an advantage on the playing field, but after hearing what the Patriots did in the first game of the season, steroids in baseball, and gambling referees, I just think its ridiculous that defenders would try to throw off the snap count.

I watched two college football games, where the penalty was actually called. I do believe Billick is using this as a distraction for the real problems on the offensive end, which has been the play calling. That being said as a coach you need to bring forth all of the problems on the field so this doesn’t happen again.

After watching these first 2 games the play calling has been horrendous. For all the things I feel Brian Billick does right, there are still a lot of things that go wrong. Good luck getting him to admit it. But I don’t feel like the Ravens will have many problems this weekend.

I also believe Billick was right in calling out the refs, maybe a few calls will go the Ravens’ way this weekend.

The Airheads can be heard regularly on The Anita Marks Show on ESPN 1300 and on 105.7 HFS