...our Baltimore Ravens will still be just short of the level of those other "elite" teams. Until we can prove we can win those tough, close, last minute games against the better teams in this league, we will not be thought of in the same arena as the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers. We almost got there last year against Pittsburgh, but didn't . We thought we were there after San Diego, but we weren't. We thought we might do it in New England, but we couldn't. But, but, but....
(Read more about "Until we win these types of games..." after the 'Jump')
We can whine about the refs, the dropped balls, the interceptions, the "what-ifs" all we want, but the common denominator is that we just can't seem to get it done. We thought this year might be different from past years because of the great leaps we've made on the offensive side of the ball. That might still happen, as there is a lot of football to be played in 2009 (and hopefully early 2010). However, until we beat the "elite" teams not only at home, but on the road as well, we just don't belong in that category. Everyone knew the ESPN Power Rankings were worthless and the Ravens proved that correct, as they will free fall down to below the rest of the undefeated teams as well as behind a few of the other 3-1 teams.
Yeah, the offernse has moved the ball like never before, but the defense is also allowing other offenses to move the ball like never before as well. It used to be if we could put 20 points on the board, we would win just about every game. Not this year, as teams have learned not to bother to try to establish the run against us, but to go right to the air early and often. Run when you need to against us and you can move the ball. Attack the linebackers with the tight ends and backs and get the cornerbacks in one-to-one coverage and exploit their size. It has worked for both the Chargers and Patriots and expect the rest of the tough teams, much less everyone, to try the same recipe for success.
Offensively, while this team has proved it can move the ball through the air, it seems to forget that it can still run the ball with great success, monopolize the clock and move the chains while lessening the chances of turning the ball over. Turnovers in critical times still plague this team despite it's recent offensive success. Fumbling on the opening kickoff and throwing a poor interception in the Red Zone will continue to put us in difficult positions to win games that we know we are good enough to do.
Beating the Cincinnati Bengals might put us back alone in first place in the AFC North, but it will still not answer that important question of whether we are among the league's elite teams. Perhaps beating the Vikings in Minnesota a couple of weeks from now will help. However, until we beat the top teams in the AFC (New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh), we are still only pretenders, not contenders. I certainly still believe this is the year that the aforementioned "reputations" will be reversed, but until we do it, the more things change, the more they remain the same.