...but certainly not overconfident. While we're playing .500 ball and are firmly in second place in the AFC North, we are still two games behind the Steelers in the race for the division crown. At the beginning of the season, we thought we could compete with the Bengals, but were still believed to be well behind both the Steelers as well as the Browns heading into the regular season. Now, with victories over the Bengals and Browns, as well as the Dolphins, we are getting ready for the Oakland Raiders and their 2-4 record, which includes the recent 16-13 OT victory over the NY Jets.
While I am satisfied with their 3-3 record, I still have a bad taste in my mouth over those first two losses against the Steelers and especially the Titans. I would have been able to stomach splitting those two games, but losing both still frustrates me, as we could have actualy won both and rolled into week eight with a 5-1 record, which would have been sweet. But it time to do the same as the players and coaches and that is move on and focus on the next game this Sunday. Even with a win and a 4-3 recod, the Ravens are still facing an uphill batle if they want to continue improve on their dismal 2007 showing and 5-11 record. The second half of the schedule is a killer compared to the first, with games against the entire NFC East.
After this week at home, we go to Cleveland, where they will most likely be in a foul mood and seeking revenge for their 28-10 loss here in game two. The Browns are currently 2-4 and it doesn't get any easier for them this week, as they go to Jacksonville to play a tough Jaguars team after a disappointing 14-11 loss in Washington this past weekend. If they lose this Sunday, then we will head there to face a 2-5 team on a two game losing streak. However, the Browns play much tougher at home, as evidenced by their 35-14 victory over the previously undefeated Giants on MNF in week 6.
The Cleveland game represents the halfway point in our schedule. If I am so bold to predict and the Ravens follow through on my prediction of a third victory in a row, they will reach the halfway point with a 5-3 record, for which I will be very satisfied on an overall basis. However, beginning with the Cleveland game, we will be facing the next three games on the road, all against opponents with pretty decent offenses. After Cleveland, we head to Houston for the makeup game due to Hurricane Ike. and then to New Jersey to face the defending Super Bowl NY Giants in the Meadowlands. This is all part of a six game stretch that started with Indianapolis, which had us playing five of six on the road, a real tough stretch of games. If we finish it 3-3, it should be considered acceptable. If we can get through it with victories this weekend at home vs. the Raiders and on the road in Cleveland and Houston, followed by a loss to the Giants, we would finish the stretch of six games with a 4-2 record, which would be excellent by anyone's standards. This would put us at 6-4 after ten games and certainly in the playoff mix. Looking at the Steelers schedule during the same span, their next four games include hosting the Giants, Colts and Chargers, while going on the road to the Redskins (although not in that order). Those are all tough games, regardless of the home field advantage they enjoy. If they come out of that in good shape both physically and record-wise, then hats off to them and they deserve to be at the top of the league's power rankings. If not, then perhaps the door opens up for us and who knows whhat can happen? We've seen the Dolphins kick butt against both the Patriots and Chargers and then look putrid against the Ravens. Therefore, we will not concede anything until the season is over, right Ravens fans?
Let me hear you: "Will You Protect This House?"
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still have a game against a tough opponent this Sunday. Oakland will not lay down and believe their young QB JaMarcus Russell is the real deal. Combined with the top RB out of the 2008 draft, Darren McFadden, they have a powerful running game (along w/ Justin Fargas) and a pretty decent defense. However, along with the home field advantage and a renewed sense of confidence over this past weeend's resounding road victory as an underdog, the Ravens are poised to go over .500 and head into the second half of their schedule on another two game winning streak.
"We Will, We Will!"