The most reported element of the Ravens in recent weeks has been on their secondary. After allowing the Bengals to escape on a late drive, a shellacking at Pittsburgh, and a season-ending injury to Jimmy Smith, the defense was very much the story as defensive backs were cycled in and out to find something, anything, that worked.
In the meantime, the offense has been getting off easy. They played abysmally against Cincinnati and their 32nd ranked run defense for three quarters and worse against Pittsburgh's 26th ranked defense, committing turnovers and otherwise playing uninspired football. The Titans game started little better, not earning a first down until the second quarter or converting a third down until much later. Not until the second half did the offense produce some consistent offense and touchdown drives to take a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
The truth is, against a better team, Baltimore might have been down big again as it was in previous losses. They aren't going to face a rookie starting his second game on the road every week. 21 points isn't going to cut it especially when the defense was handing the ball back after three-and-outs drive after drive. The week prior they scored just 16 offensively and 24 before that.
Through 10 weeks, the median points per game in the NFL is 22.85 meaning that the top 16 teams in the league by points are all averaging essentially 23 points or better. Baltimore is still dominant in point differential and DVOA, a very positive sign of a strong team, and at least statistically, has basically played like a seven-win team. They are at plus-80 which is easily the best in the division. We know they can do better than what they showed Sunday.
No one likes to hear someone complain about their team after they win but let's be honest: we all heard the booing in the first half. They weren't good for a while on Sunday. Moreover, Baltimore is in real trouble for conference tiebreakers. Even if we give them the wins against the lesser opponents (which I won't), they at least need to beat San Diego or Miami and ideally both. They can't afford to be 9-7 or 10-6 with a poor conference record by virtue of losing to several more AFC teams. A road loss to New Orleans would be far less damaging for that reason.
None of this is to suggest the Ravens can't win the division because they absolutely can. Cleveland might have the lead now but they played the league's easiest schedule by a wide margin and are not loved by the advanced statistics (not a coincidence). I would be shocked if they stayed in first place for long. Andy Dalton just put on one of the worst quarterback performances in the history of the game with a 2.0 passer rating on 33 pass attempts. No joke, it was the fifth worst performance by passer rating since 1960 for quarterbacks with 30 pass attempts or more in the game. Pittsburgh meanwhile is a very hot and cold team. They beat the hell out of us last week but their flaws were on display this week, too, after losing to the Jets. Baltimore is behind the eight ball by the divisional and conference record but has enough going for it to realistically vault itself back into division contention. After all, we may be "dead last" at 6-4 but "dead first" is 6-3. So yeah, I'm not too worried about tossing around pointless labels in Week 11 about who is in first place or last place. There is a lot to suggest Baltimore is (or perhaps was) the best team in the division. Smith's loss greatly complicates that but it would not be impossible either to pull out the North.
However, while the attention is on the carousel of defensive backs in the wake of Jimmy Smith's and Asa Jackson's continued absence, I am worried about the offense. It is not one single thing either. The offensive line can't allow an ancient James Harrison to look like he's in 2008 form, Flacco can't miss wide open throws, and the receivers can't continue to play uninspired ball. Right now, the only offensive player consisently elevating his game is Justin Forsett who would probably be our team MVP so far if not for C.J. Mosley's outstanding play. The offense must elevate its play if the Ravens hope to reach that 11-win mark that they probably need to take the division or at least a Wild Card without tiebreaking worries.
No disrespect to Tennessee, against whom we long enjoyed a great rivalry with in the early 2000s, but they just aren't a good team in any appreciable way. 21 points at home to such a team is not going to cut it if we hope to be a meaningful playoff contender. While we continue to wonder whether Anthony Levine can do what Chykie Brown couldn't, we should also be wondering whether our actual starters on offense are going to rise to the occasion, too.