After their 35-7 stomping of Pittsburgh on opening day, the Ravens, for whatever reason – I myself like to blame the Sports Illustrated Cover jinx – suffered a huge letdown in Nashville against the Titans, losing 26-13. While it remains to be seen how legitimate of a team Tennessee really is – they didn’t show many positives in losing 38-7 in Pittsburgh two weeks ago – the way the Ravens got beat on both sides of the ball from the opening whistle qualifies that showing as an unmitigated letdown.
Losing to teams with sub-.500 records just isn’t something the Ravens do under John Harbaugh. Since Harbs took the reigns, the Ravens are 19-2 against teams that enter the game with a losing record, and both of those losses were to teams that were 0-1 at the time (Cincinnati last year and Tennessee this year – h/t to WNST’s Luke Jones for the reasearch). The combined record of their next two opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals, is a dismal 1-9. With the Pittsburgh Steelers refusing to accept their “old and washed up” status laying down, and the upstart Bengals surprising everyone at 4-2, the Ravens need to continue their recent history of beating the teams they are “supposed” to beat to keep their hold on the AFC North lead before heading into Heinz Field on November 6.
Fortunately, both the Jaguars and Cardinals look like they really are just “bad,” as opposed to being decent teams who have caught some bad breaks. Jacksonville’s -60 point differential trails only St. Louis and Kansas City for worst in the NFL, and they’ve managed to score just 72 points in six games (12.0 per game, better than only St. Louis). Facing the Ravens, who are holding teams to just 14.2 points per contest – more than two full points better than the next team – is the definition of a mismatch.
As for Arizona, since barely holding on to beat Cam Newton in his first ever NFL start in Week 1, they’ve lost to the likes of the Redskins, Seahawks, Giants, and Vikings, teams with a combined mark of 10-12.
Two teams that are quarterbacked by rookie Blaine Gabbert and overhyped trade bait Kevin Kolb should be just what the doctor ordered to get the Ravens to 6-1 before their next key divisional clash with the Steelers.
That is, of course, as long as they can avoid another proverbial letdown, not play down to the level of their opponents, and do What’s Important Now – beat a couple of bad football teams.