Maybe they just have sympathy on me because their team kicked the Patriots' tails in a humiliating playoff game this past January, but the bloggers covering the Baltimore Ravens are really nice guys. Sometimes finding bloggers to do Q&A sessions is a lot like pulling teeth, however this week we really hit the jackpot with three blogs being willing to help out. Baltimore Beatdown and B-More Birds Nest gave their opinions on the game earlier in the week, and now Ravens24x7.com is up to bat, sharing their thoughts. Their responses to our questions are below and will be followed up with a link to their site where they're running a set of questions that I answered about the Patriots. Definitely head over there and check it out. It's a pretty impressive site with lots of articles, photos, and a forum. Very impressive!
1. What were the main things (positive/negative) you took out of Baltimore's 31-17 win over the Denver Broncos last week?
The win was a relatively easy one and the outcome was hardly in doubt from the very start. The plusses were multiple headlined by a dominant performance by the offensive line and the inside the tackles running of Ray Rice. The Ravens corners also played very well.
On the downside the Ravens safeties failed to sufficiently defend the deep ball against Kyle Orton who burned them twice on long tosses to Brandon Lloyd. Also Joe Flacco continues to struggle to get to his second read particularly if his checkdown receiver (usually Rice) is covered.
2. How do you think the secondary has played without Ed Reed for the first five games of the season?
The Ravens are ranked second in pass defense and their defensive line has failed to muster much pressure. Put that together and it suggests that the Reed-less secondary has covered well.
3.Before the Week 2 loss to the Bengals, I heard Bob Holtzman say that Joe Flacco told him that there is not one go-to receiver in this offense? Do you think that has a negative impact on this pasing attack or is it something Flacco can develop over the course of the season?
Bob Holtzman is wrong. Anquan Boldin is the go-to-guy and as the season progresses teams will roll coverage towards him and it will open things up for Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Housh’s game winning TD catch in man coverage is a perfect example of how the attention given Boldin opens things for the other pass catchers.
4. What do you make of Joe Flacco's progression over his 3 year career? Do you think he can become an elite QB within the next five years?
I think Joe can be an elite QB within the next 2 years once he gets used to connecting on his second and third reads. There are few better at delivering the ball when that first read is open. When it isn’t, that’s where Flacco struggles. If he improves in that area, he’ll be mentioned in that second tier of signal callers but I doubt that he’ll approach the status of a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
5.As of right now, is this the best team in the AFC? Are they the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year?
Like every NFL team the Ravens are not without flaws. If they don’t improve at getting to the quarterback and if Flacco reverts to turning the ball over the way he did earlier in the season, the Ravens will not go deep into the post season. It isn’t often that a team is minus 6 in turnovers and is 4-1. If they correct that and pressure the passer slightly better, they could be alive in February. That said to label anyone the best now is about as useful as the many power ranking that aren’t worth the server space they occupy on websites throughout the world.
6. What is your prediction for the Patriots the rest of the season? What are your thoughts on the Randy Moss trade to Minnesota?
I think the Patriots are a year away from making a deep push into the post season. They’ll get there and the experience will bode well for their youthful roster going forward but right now I think there are too many holes in that defense.
As for the Moss trade, I think one could argue that the move suggests that Bill Belichick might agree with my outlook for his team. You can’t say they are better without Moss. Deion Branch is a decent receiver but he’s not Randy Moss. He did the Ravens and all AFC title contenders a favor by trading him away – at least for this season.
7. How much do you think revenge plays a factor in this game after Baltimore's 33-14 win at Gillete Stadium last year in the Wild Card playoffs?
Revenge is overrated and sometimes a smart team can use those emotions against an opponent to get them to bite and move them out of their assignments and off landing marks. I have to question a team’s will if they need revenge to play better.
8. Who wins this game on Sunday and Why?
Oftentimes matchups dictate the outcome. While lesser teams beat up on the Cincinnati Bengals the Ravens struggle against them. For me it’s about winning and losing matchups – individual battles. I think the Patriots are a good matchup for the Ravens. Even when the Ravens have lost in recent years to the Patriots with seemingly far less talent, they’ve been in the mix and a play away from winning. This game will be no different. It will be entertaining but in the end I see the Ravens winning a close game, snapping another streak (as they did in last year’s divisional playoff game) for Belichick and Brady with home regular season wins and wins after a bye.
Ravens 24, Patriots 23