The Baltimore Ravens are coming off another ugly yet gutsy 19-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. People can say what they want, heck former Indianapolis Colts center and current ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday went on ESPN radio's Russilo and Kanell and was asked by Ryan Russilo if the Ravens were "good." Saturday's response, "Of all the undefeated's...they're the least impressive." Yeah, that's true, the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings have looked better than the Ravens. However, 3-0 is 3-0 and the Ravens are not just 3-0 for the first time since 2009, they won tough road games in consecutive weeks for the first time since Weeks 11 and 12 during the Super Bowl year four seasons ago.
Jeff Saturday's co-workers at ESPN gave the Ravens some respect as they moved the team up three spots in their latest Power Rankings. The Ravens were #13 for two straight weeks and were moved up to #10.
ESPN's panel of 80 writers, editors, and TV personalities stated that "The Ravens are unbeaten but those three wins came by a combined 13 points. That's the third-lowest points differential for a team that started a season 3-0 in the past 15 years. The 2-1 Raiders provide a tough test on Sunday." Funny, didn't the Ravens lose 9 games last year by eight points or less? Isn't that a good thing that they have won three straight games by 6 points, 5 points, and 2 points? Hey, that's cool. All of a sudden its a bad thing the Ravens are winning close games. Almost seems like things are, well, back to normal after the abomination that was 2015. In a way, it feels good doesn't it? Plus, winning close games actually builds a teams chemistry and morale as the season moves along. The Ravens know that, maybe better than any team in the NFL.
However, the Oakland Raiders are a huge test. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game today and wide receiver Amari Cooper is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL period. The tandem carved up the Ravens defense a year ago in Oakland. Not to mention the Ravens offensive line will have to find a way to contain Khalil Mack. Especially right tackle Rick Wagner. Mack has struggled so far this season and through three games, he has yet to record a sack. Mack will be hungry for a huge game on Sunday and he gets a chance to feasts on a Ravens offensive line that has not looked great so far this year. The Ravens must find a way to stop Carr, Cooper and a motivated Mack who his primed for a big game.
The Ravens will have to give everything they've got against a very good up-and-coming team like the Raiders if they want to leave M&T Bank Stadium not just 4-0, but remain in sole possession of first place in the AFC North.