Twice already in the 2011 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens have had big wins one week only to fall flat the following week against a lesser opponents. Those two losses should be more than enough to keep the 6-2 Ravens awake and "sleepless" when they heading into what is largely considered the loudest stadium in the NFL, CLink Field, to face the 2-6 Seattle Seahawks.
There is no reason why Baltimore should have beaten both the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, who had each only won one game when they upset the over-confident Ravens. After the Titans loss, the team should have realized what they needed to do. After the Jaguars embarrassment on Monday Night Football, they knew they had screwed up big time and vowed it wouldn't happen again.
However, for the first 30 minutes of their very next game, it seemed to be on the verge of repeating itself for a third time. The Ravens trailed the Arizona Cardinals 24-6 at the end of the first half, leaving the field to a chorus of loud boos from their own frustrated fans. Thankfully, the Ravens came out with a different attitude in the second half and the team came back from the brink of defeat to win on a last second field goal.
That missing "sense of urgency" continued last week as Baltimore went up to Heinz Field and shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers for their second last second victory in a row. Can that renewed angry attitude result in a full sixty minutes of solid play today in Seattle, a game that the team should not only win, but put the game away, scoring early and often?
(Read more on this and come back at 4pm today for a game-time 'Open Thread')
The easy answer is "yes, of course." The tougher thing is to go out and do it, prove you deserve to be the top team, not only in the AFC North, but in the AFC as an entire conference. A win in Seattle along with a Steelers win over the Cincinnati Bengals puts the Ravens in first place in the division as well as the top seed in the AFC when looking ahead to the post season if we dare.
Seattle will be no walk in the park, as the Seahawks defense is much better than their offense, a similar situation that the Ravens found in Jacksonville. The crowd, known as the "12th Man," will be loud, and if the Ravens can get out to a quick lead, they can take the noise out of the equation. The longer the Seahawks stay in the game, the tougher it will be to get Seattle to realize the Ravens are the better team by far.
The Seahawks defense can best be described as "average," ranking 13th against the rush, 18th against the pass, and 16th overall. This should allow the Ravens offense to move the ball on the ground and in the air. Conversely, the Seattle offense has to be considered "poor," which may be a bit too favorable a description, ranking 30th in rushing, 23rd in passing and 29th overall. The size, speed and aggressiveness should be something the Seahawks have not experienced since their 24-0 loss to the Steelers, an outcome that the Ravens should be able to mimic today.
While the prediction of a shutout might be a bit too brash, it is not inconceivable to believe that Baltimore should be able to shut down the Seattle offense for most of the game while moving the ball well on offense. That combination should equal a solid road win for the Ravens, at least temporarily removing the notion that the team cannot win against lesser teams, much less on the road. Two straight road wins would go a long way to restoring their confidence to play well against all types of competition.
Coming out with an impressive victory today would allow the Ravens to head home with a 7-2 record, with two straight tough games awaiting them, but both in Baltimore. They will face their AFC North rivals next week then four days later, host the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh's brother, Jim, for Baltimore's first Thanksgiving Day game in the city's history.