“Shotgun snap, four man rush, Brady steps up, throws down the right side for Gronk, who makes the catch! To the 20! Gronk to the 10! Gronk to the record book! Touchdown number 69 for Rob Gronkowski!”
That call by WBZ 98.5’s Bob Socci is perfectly emblematic of what the NFL is this season. It is the New England Patriots world, and we are all just living in it. The Patriots without Tom Brady were a force to be reckoned with. The Pats with Brady? There is no reckoning. There are no challengers.
It’s Belichick trading his supposedly best defensive players for a compensatory third round pick, a move which will surely make perfect sense in three or four weeks. It’s Brady triumphantly steamrolling through the AFC East and essentially the rest of the league, determined to stick it to Roger Goodell and anyone else who might cross him in the second installment of his deflategate revenge tour. Maybe most of all, it’s Gronk rolling through secondaries on the way to his 69th touchdown, and then inevitably dropping an irreverent reference to his record setting score.
It is them against the rest of the league, and they’re likely to win every single time. Why? Because the gap between New England and the rest of the league is more significant than ever this season. The gap between almost every other team? Not so much.
Back in birdland, Baltimore fans are decidedly frustrated after a promising start has been supplanted by a four game losing streak to league average competition. The team hasn’t been healthy, the coaching staff has made some poor decisions, and the play on the field just seems uninspired. So why should Ravens fans hold out any hope that they’re playoff chances are still alive? One word: parity.
The NFL has been described as a league of parity, a billing that has been more true than ever in 2016. Parity is something that can be a positive if it is cause for actual diversity among the top teams in the league each and every year. However, that has been taken to such an extreme that the supposed league of parity has become a... parody of itself.
Every single game the Ravens have played in this season have been decided by one score. Their opponents so far? The Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and the New York Jets. Not many heavy weights in there, huh? And yet the Ravens posted a 3-4 record against them. However, there is reason to believe the Ravens could turn things around in the second half of the season. Samuel Njoku, formerly of CBS, had some things to say on that exact matter recently.
I thought the #Ravens were done. But after watching other teams play this week, I'm singing a different tune. If they get healthy, look out— Samuel Njoku (@SamNjokuSports) October 31, 2016
This is a very well taken point by Sam, and he followed it up with another tweet that supports his belief that Baltimore is still alive.
There's only 1 great team: NE— Samuel Njoku (@SamNjokuSports) October 31, 2016
14 average teams
And the #Browns
The Ravens aren't out of it yet. They just need to get healthy. And fast
In the Ravens first three victories, they were relatively healthy. They have proven that when they are at full strength, they can eke out one-score wins against similar competition. The good news is that despite what anyone thought about the competition in the second half of the season, almost all of the competition is similar. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals, the interchangeable favorites for the AFC North, both have their fair share of flaws.
The Steelers can’t seem to keep their best players on the field, and the Bengals are a different team without their previous receiver depth, as well as offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. The Ravens are dealing with some health issues similar to the Steelers, but with their bye week come and gone, hopefully that is somewhat corrected.
If the Ravens can get healthy, they can probably play with anyone in the National Parity League. Well, except for New England on December 12th. Outside of that game though, it’s reasonable to expect that a healthier, and hopefully more inspired Ravens team can get to nine wins and push for a playoff spot.
That push starts at home against Pittsburgh on November 6th. With or without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers pose an annual challenge for the Ravens. However, even in their darkest moments, it is a challenge that they have proven to be up to in past meetings. If they can earn a win again on Sunday, then they are right back in the AFC playoff race.