While I'd still rather be 4-0 than 3-1 heading into the showdown at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals, the loss to the New England Patriots may have helped this team as much as it hurt them. The fans are still talking about the dropped balls, the refs and the other mistakes that led to the last second loss, but the players have moved on to the task at hand. The Ravens are an angry bunch, tired of hearing the press and fans moan about the "what-ifs" and are planning to take out their frustrations on a surprising 3-1 Bengals, who sit atop the AFC North standings alongside of the Ravens. Although this game may pit the two teams tied for the division lead, most Baltimore fans do not see this as too close of a game, and neither do the oddsmakers, establishing the Ravens as an 8.5 point favorite Sunday.
(More on "Ravens Loss Might Lead to Better Things" after the 'Jump')
The public is amazed at the good start from Cincinnati and even talk about how the Bengals are only one big, bad play in the opening game against the Denver Broncos from standing at 4-0 going into this game. But then again, what about the other games that last minute or even overtime scores has just barely kept Cincinnati from starting off the 2009 season winless? The 31-24 win over Green Bay had the Pack on the Bengals 10 yard line as time expired. The 23-20 win over Pittsburgh came in the final seconds as did the OT victory at Cleveland by the same score.
So what could have been a 4-0 start could just as easily have been an 0-4 start. Games that close on a consistent basis are either one of two things: a team that plays just good enough to win or a team that is just not as good as its record reflects. Cincy fans will bet on the former while Ravens fans will hope for the latter.
However, after the PAtriots loss, the Ravens want to show that they are for real and their offensive explosion in 2009 should not be combined with a defensive implosion. Giving up big stats to both the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots can be chalked up to playing against two very good passing offenses, both of whom realized that they cannot run against the Ravens defense so they went to the air game early and often, with great success. Not too many teams possess their passing attacks, so the Ravens feel they can match up pretty well with most of their opponents.
The team will be ready for the Bengals and will want to prove to themselves, their fans and the league that we are the best team in the AFC North and ready for a run at the division title and beyond. The progress of the passing attack should continue this weekend and the return to dominance by the defense is fresh on the minds of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and company. If I'm the Cincinnati Bengals, facing an angry Ravens team is not something I would be looking forward to.