LFW 11/15: Time to Wonder: Ravens Who We Thought They Were?

Plus pondering the Ravens MVP, single covering Mason, and Suggs learning from losses.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 9:00 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Time to Wonder: Ravens Who We Thought They Were?

I loved NFL.com’s Steve Wyche’s column on teams who may not be who we thought they were. Understandably, Wyche targeted our beloved Ravens:

“The Ravens (4-3) might be one of the tougher reads of any team in the NFL,” Wyche said. “But they also could emerge as a force if they build on Sunday’s pounding of previously unbeaten Denver. Baltimore won its first three over Kansas City, San Diego and Cleveland then lost three straight close games to New England, Cincinnati and Minnesota.

“They’ve been dominant offensively at times, but lackluster on defense and vice versa. That, in itself, is a change from a team that has routinely been reliant on its defense. Should they fuse both sides of the equation, Baltimore might be a team, if not the team, opponents want nothing to do with in December.”

I, for one, would never have predicted that going into Week 9 the Ravens offense would be ranked No. 7 while the defense was ranked No. 13. I wish I could say I know the Ravens will take care of business in Cincinnati this weekend, but I can’t. I don’t know which Ravens unit is going to show up.  I’m hopeful we see the characteristically nasty brand of defense we’re used to.

Baltimore has a chance to silence all doubters, starting with a victory in their rematch against the Bengals, followed by Cleveland, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. If the Ravens fall to their AFC North rivals, the Bengals and Steelers, they will have no other choice but to win just about every one of their final five games.

Team MVP after seven games?

Who is the Ravens MVP after seven games? Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Cowherd’s vote goes to Joe Flacco.

“Sure, Ray Rice is having a tremendous year,” he said. “And Ray Lewis is still Ray Lewis – a step slower, maybe, but still the great intimidator in the middle of the football field, still the heart and soul of the defense. And Mason is still the one wide receiver who’s absolutely indispensable to this team. If they ever carry him off the field on a stretcher, say goodbye to the passing game. But Flacco has played better than all of them.”

Who do you think is the team’s MVP: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Ray Lewis or Derrick Mason?

Dare you to single cover Mason.

Last Sunday the Denver Broncos covered Derrick Mason with one man. The result? A beautiful 20-yard touchdown, plus four catches for 40.

“You can’t cover me single coverage,” Mason said. “You can’t. It hasn’t been done in 13 years, and it won’t be done. But it is what it is. You try to take advantage of coverages and how they play you.”

However, Cincinnati chose to put a spotlight on Mason in their first matchup, and for just the second time in his five-year tenure with the Ravens, he did not record a single catch.

“Cincinnati did a good job, a very good job, the first game at totally taking me out of the game. In the back of my mind, I just need to go into this game, work a little bit harder, find a way to, if they choose to do that again, find a way to get open.”

Pat Fitzmaurice of ProFootballWeekly says the blanking of Mason was especially confounding when you consider how sketchy the Bengals’ pass defense has been. Cincy ranks 30th against the pass, yielding 253.3 passing yards per game.

Suggs is learning from losses.

Terrell Suggs said the 17-14 loss to the Bengals on Oct. 11 may have actually helped the Ravens.

“I think they probably did us a favor,” he said. “They humbled us a little bit. We came off a disappointing loss [against the New England Patriots], and we thought we were going to bounce right back, and I think we kind of took the game for granted. But no, we don’t feel like we owe them. We just know that this is a division game, this is a very important game for all parties involved. We better play some good football or else [Cincinnati quarterback] Carson [Palmer] is going to have one of those types of days.”

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