Posted in Hot Take of the Week

NFL Overtime debate: Bills deserve loss, but we deserve a new format

By Chris Schisler 

NFL Overtime doesn’t need a change but it should change anyway

The Buffalo Bills lost a heartbreaking playoff game to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The game went into overtime. Patrick Mahomes got the ball first and took his team the distance. There was no opportunity for a Bills counterstrike, Josh Allen didn’t get the ball. Of course, this game was played by the rules, yet we can forgive the Bills Mafia if they believe the rules should be tinkered with.

It’s not necessarily unfair. Overtime technically works as it is. If you play defense and get a stop you’re actually at an advantage. After the stop you’ll get better field position and then you just need a field goal. The problem is when you get to a situation like the NFL had at the end of the divisional round, it doesn’t feel fair. Everyone watching knew the team that won the coin toss was winning the game. The coin flipped the Chiefs way and made Josh Allen’s and Gabriel Davis’s masterful performances a moot point.

College football overtime is a fun alternative. In this scenario, each team gets a possession at the 25-yard line, right outside of the red zone. Whoever is ahead at the end of the untimed period wins. If the teams match scores, we go into double overtime and so on and so on. This is an entirely different experience and nobody is leaving without touching the ball in overtime. It takes away the who question of “But what if the other team won the coin toss?”

Change already happened, now go all the way there: 

The league already changed the sudden death rules once, so it’s not like we have to abide by the rules that won the Baltimore Colts a championship when Alan Ameche scored the first sudden-death touchdown. Once they took a field goals power away on the first overtime possession, by not allowing it to decide the game, the NFL acknowledged an overtime dilemma. They chose a half measure.

Changing the rules to give both teams a guaranteed possession would have given us what we wanted, more of that incredible game. If the Bills had a chance to respond to the Chiefs touchdown, we wouldn’t be debating the all-mighty power of a coin flip. No football fan would have anything to bicker about, they’d get a satisfying process, even if it wasn’t the outcome they were pulling for.

The Bills tempted fate. They asked for this. Buffalo saw fire, touched fire, and learned it hurt. They asked for this when they gave up two Chiefs scores in less time than it takes to read this blog post. They had a lead with 13 seconds. Buffalo had a lead with 13 seconds and they lost. You can argue they lost fair and square. Letting the game get tied at all with 13 seconds is unforgivable.

The fact that this game shouldn’t have gone into overtime in the first place doesn’t mean it didn’t point out a problem. The team that wins the toss usually wins. If the idea is starting a brand new football game, why should either team get a huge advantage? The NFL official basically said that they were starting a new game. Getting the ball at the beginning of the game or after halftime is monumentally different than getting the ball to start overtime. 

The Bottom Line on NFL Overtime: 

Seeing what is essentially a shootout between Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes would have been the most compelling television in human history. You were already at the edge of your seat. The game was an instant classic, imagine what using the college overtime rules would have added to the enjoyment of the game. It would have been the most interesting moment in the history of the NFL playoffs. 

NEXT POST: Don Martindale out as Ravens defensive coordinator: Breaking it down

The NFL added a Monday night wild card game for entertainment purposes, not a football purpose. They already like this line of thinking. Overtime doesn’t need a change, however changing it could make it a better version of free football. In my personal opinion, there’s nothing more entertaining in sports than College Football overtime. The NFL should do this. They won’t, but they should.  




Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Ravens Flock: Can we just give John Harbaugh a break?

By Chris Schisler

The Ravens Flock needs to appreciate what John Harbaugh has accomplished this season. There’s no coach in the NFL that would have the Baltimore Ravens in contention of the AFC North crown with what he’s had to deal with. Bill Belichick may not even be able to make this work.

Don’t get me wrong, Harbaugh drives me crazy. I wasn’t in love with either two-point conversion attempt. He makes decisions that get me throwing my Ravens hat on Sundays. It’s the amount of vitriol that Harbaugh gets from pockets of this fanbase that I don’t get. I’m not talking about irrational anger at the moment – every Ravens fan felt that when a two-point try was unsuccessful against the Packers. Some fans just don’t appreciate what we have and social media can become ugly.

Think about what went wrong this season. All of it. Ronnie Stanley missed all but one game after coming back too quickly from his injury last season. Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and L.J. Fort didn’t get to play a regular-season snap before they went down to injury. During the season, the Ravens have had to shuffle their offensive line due to injuries and it’s never been a strength. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marlon Humphrey suffered a torn pectoral muscle. The Ravens lost Deshon Elliott about halfway through the season. Nick Boyle has missed most of the season, and now Pat Ricard is missing time hurt. Forgive the long paragraph but you can’t fit every bit of adversity the Ravens have faced in a normal chunk of words, not even this one.

The Big Picture vs. the Ravens three-game losing streak:

The fact that the Ravens have had 21 players on injured reserve is astounding. The fact that this isn’t a miserable and hopeless repeat of the 2015 season (The only season with comparable injuries) is astonishing. This should have been a losing season from the jump. We just watched Browns fans complain about being shorthanded against the Raiders – when it pales in comparison to the pressure that bad fortune has inflicted on the Ravens.

John Harbaugh went for two against the Packers. Don’t let the outcome sully the actual story here. The fact that the Ravens were in a position to either tie or take the lead at the end of this game is incredible. Against Aaron Rodgers, who arguably is the best quarterback in football, the Ravens were as strapped for corners as they’ve ever been. The 2014 secondary that gave up two 14 point leads to the New England Patriots, almost felt sorry for this unit.

Every pundit under the sun predicted a Ravens loss. Almost every pundit under the sun thought it would be a blowout or at least a 10 point win for the Ravens. A significant Covid reserve list + an extensive amount of injuries created an insurmountable mountain for Baltimore… Harbaugh had his team scale the dang mountain. The Ravens were right there. I didn’t love going for two there. I admit it. That being said, Harbaugh was one play away from the greatest regular season upset in Ravens history.

2021 Ravens: Making the best out of the worst

When you consider the fact that almost every game has been decided by a razor-thin margin, you have to be impressed with the grit of this team. In the Ravens’ three-game losing streak, the Ravens haven’t lost by more than two points. The Ravens have only been blown out of the water once. The Cincinnati Bengals dominated the Ravens. That’s it. End of list. Every other game has been a brutal fight worthy of at least a little admiration. Harbaugh has his team bought in.

The 2021 season feels like the best possible worst-case scenario. Harbaugh has built-in excuses. His energy level hasn’t dipped. His effort on a weekly basis hasn’t dipped. In fact, it looks like he’s getting more involved with his coordinators -eschewing one of his biggest faults, his unwavering trust in the play-caller. If Harbaugh’s biggest crime is letting two games come down to one final play – and both times it didn’t work out – fine. He’s earned a little latitude.

I remind you that this isn’t a moratorium of the 2021 season. John Harbaugh has a lot of work to do. The goal is to get his franchise quarterback back up and running for the all-important game against the Cincinnati Bengals. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, this season is back on track. If Lamar Jackson can return to the MVP style of play from the first half of the season, the Ravens can become dangerous once again.

The Bottom Line:

The AFC North doesn’t know a team with more adversity faced than this version of the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns are a distant second in the bad luck department. Still, the Ravens are right in the thick of things. Give this pile of adversity to Mike Tomlin, Zac Taylor, or Kevin Stefanski and their teams would have worked themselves out of the mix.

I’ve heard so many times this season that the Ravens are lucky. They won their eight games in unbelievable fashion. Five comebacks in the fourth quarter were tallied. Justin Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal. There was a bit of magic earlier this season, but calling this team lucky would be like calling a giant a dwarf. The Ravens have created their own luck by fighting through a frustrating pile-up of injuries.

If you are able to see the problems the Baltimore Ravens have had as inevitable… dominoes falling, a chain reaction that you can’t quite control, a video game set on extreme difficulty… whatever your metaphor of choice is, you can’t see Harbaugh as part of the problem. Harbaugh came into the season with a powerful sportscar right off the lot. He’s ended up with a nearly totaled ride that he’s had to completely rework.

NEXT POST: Ravens 30 Packers 31: The Good, bad and the ugly

Harbaugh would probably say “It isn’t pretty, but it’s us.” It’s odd that I feel a surge of pride in this team after a painful three-game losing streak, but I’d say this is a season that reaffirms what “Play like a Raven” means.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens 2021 1st round is looking like a smash hit right now

By Chris Schisler

Can we stop for a second and just gush over the Baltimore Ravens’ first-round selections of the 2021 NFL Draft? Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh both look the part of a first-round pick.

Baltimore Ravens loving what Rashod Bateman brings:

Rashod Bateman was the 27th overall pick. Ravens fans had to wait for Bateman to make his mark as a groin injury prevented him from suiting up until the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie from Minnesota has had at least three catches each week. He has 25 receptions for 301 yards and averages 12 yards per catch.

Bateman has been a consistent first-down provider for the offense. While he’s still waiting for his first touchdown, he’s shown off. Unfortunately, Bateman has had his biggest statistical production in bad games for Baltimore. In the loss to the Cinncinatti Bengals Bateman reached 80 yards on just three catches. Bateman got to the 80-yard mark against the Dolphins on six receptions.

Bateman has shown off great hands. Other than a pass being intercepted off his hands in the game against the Chargers, there’s been nothing to complain about with his catching ability. He’s been staging the football out of the air like his life depends on it. Bateman has shown impressive speed and his quickness coming out of breaks has surprised more than one of the opposing cornerbacks tasked with staying on top of him.

The Baltimore Ravens have just six games remaining. If Bateman appears in each game he’ll have a 12 game rookie season. If Bateman simply doubles his production from his first six games he’ll have 50 receptions for 602 yards. That would put him just over the marks set by Marquise Brown in his rookie campaign. In 2019 Brown had 46 grabs for 584 yards, though he did score seven touchdowns.

When you think of it with that perspective, you have to be pleased with Bateman. You couldn’t have realistically asked for much more of an impact out of a rookie receiver who missed the first five games of the season.

Odafe Oweh is putting on a show:

Odafe Oweh has played well this season. He’s getting off the edge quickly and is strong in run defense. Oweh has played a lot of snaps as a rookie edge rusher. Five sacks and three forced fumbles is a nice start. He’s literally responsible for the two takeaways that allowed the Ravens to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the second week of the season.

When the Ravens spent the 31st overall pick on Oweh there was a lot of skepticism about the move. Picking him in the first round essentially meant that the Ravens needed him to be a starter at outside linebacker. They needed this pick to work out for their defensive offseason plan to really come into fruition. It worked.

When you consider that Oweh has been the difference between a win and a loss already, and he’s a consistent key figure of the defense, you have to be impressed. What Eric DeCosta pulled off here was finding a difference-maker near the end of the first round. Oweh probably won’t win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (His Penn State teammate Micah Parsons, is probably the front runner). Still, Oweh is easily the steal of the NFL Draft, at least when it comes to the defensive players.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

When you consider what the Ravens did in the 2021 NFL Draft, Eric DeCosta has to come out favorably. His grade for this draft class needs to be near an A at the minimum. When you add in the fact that third-round pick, Brandon Stephens is having an impact in the secondary, it has to help the grade of this draft class.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top concerns against Pittsburgh Steelers


Posted in Hot Take of the Week

How did the Baltimore Ravens become the comeback masters?

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens spent the 2020 season hearing that they couldn’t mount a comeback. Then they overcame a 10 point deficit against the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, showing that Lamar Jackson and company were capable of the feat. The offseason leading to the 2021 season was filled with questions. Could the Ravens be a more resilient team? Could they get the passing game going when they needed to? The question was simply can the Ravens beat you in multiple ways?

The 2021 Ravens have become the masters of the NFL comeback victory. They were down 35-24 against the Kansas City Chiefs and won 36-35. They trailed the Indianapolis Colts 25-9 and won 31-25 in overtime. This past Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens did it again. They came back from a 24-10 deficit to the Minnesota Vikings and won 34-31 in overtime. How did this happen?

Lamar Jackson is the start of every Baltimore Ravens comeback:

The Baltimore Ravens were forced to adapt this year. Losing their star running backs before the season even kicked off forced the Ravens to get more out of the passing game. Lamar Jackson already has 2,209 yards passing this season. In the entire 2020 season, Jackson had just 2,757 yards. He’s on pace to blow past his 2020 season, and even his MVP campaign in 2019.

Jackson has been the key to the comebacks. Against the Colts he had to light up the box score. He turned on the jets and threw for more passing yards in one game than any Ravens quarterback ever had. We’re talking 442 passing yards and 62 rushing yards. Jackson put the team on his back and put up over 500 yards of offense. How is that even possible?

Against the Chiefs, Jackson had 239 yards passing and 107 yards on the ground. Against the Vikings, Jackson had 266 yards passing and 120 on the ground. Jackson doesn’t panic, instead something kicks into his system and he turns things around. He does what ever it takes, he finds a new focus, he uses his legs to make things happen and he takes shots with his arm. This year when Jackson’s back is up against the wall he finds a higher level of play.

The entire team is sparked by Jackson. The reason Jackson should win the NFL MVP is because the Ravens have a chance to win every game and without him that wouldn’t be the case. The offense finds big plays the second Jackson wakes up and starts the comeback with a huge throw or an attack mode quarterback keeper. The defense finds it’s backbone and comes up with big stops when Jackson’s actions legitimize the Baltimore comeback attempt. You can feel it. When Jackson flips the switch, it’s a brand new team.

The emergence of a number one receiver:

One of the reasons the Baltimore passing game struggled in the past in these types of games is that there was a lack of reliability at the pass catching positions. Drops were a huge issue, espesically in the 2020 season. Outside of the one game (Vs. the Detroit Lions) the Baltimore receivers have been incredibly sure handed. Crazy touchdown grabs like Devin Duvernay‘s against the Vikings weren’t in the cards before.

Marquise Brown has become a number one receiver. It’s not an opinion, it’s a verifiable fact at this point. Brown already has 46 receptions for 682 yards. Should the Oklahoma product stay healthy, a 1,000 yard season is on the way.

Brown has had at least three receptions in every game and in the comeback missions he’s been unstoppable. Against the Chiefs he had six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Indianapolis got rocked by his nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings let up another nine receptions for 116 yards. This is a Tyreek Hill or Devante Adams level of performance. Baltimore has a homegrown playmaker who has come into his own.

Sure hands and a newly potent passing game:

Mark Andrews has been just as big a part of it all. This is by far the best Andrews has played (and he was already a top-tier tight end. Andrews had 11 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. Andrews and Brown give the Ravens two big play threats at all times. Rashod Bateman has been back for three games and it’s clear that he has the big play potential as well.

When you add the sure hands of James Proche and Devin Duvernay, everything becomes possible when Lamar Jackson catches fire. You have a lot of secure places to go with the football, a lot of players for the defense to worry about, while they have to stop the best dual-threat at quarterback we may have ever seen in number eight.

It’s almost like it’s been the past few years with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, you don’t want the Ravens to have to be in attack mode. That’s where all that talent can turn things into overdrive. John Harbaugh isn’t shy about going for it on fourth down, and his aggressiveness can pay off when the Ravens are in these tough spots.

Turning on the lightswitch, flipping the script on defense:

The Ravens are very much a hit or miss team. They’re either hot or they’re cold and that applies on both sides of the football. The magic for the Ravens is that they seem to know how to flip the switch. Would it be nice for the Baltimore Ravens to be consistent? Yes. Would it be nice if they didn’t need a wake up call from time to time? Of course. That being said, the fact that they can be so resilient and can change the momentum of the game is encouraging.

Defense is a big part of achieving a come-from-behind victory. If you can’t get stops, you can’t catchup to the other team. Don Martindale has been at his best when he’s had to figure out how to clamp down on the opponent in the fourth quarter and at key spots. Against the Chiefs he found the wrinkle that forced Patrick Mahomes into turnovers. The defense tightened up against the Colts. Without a stop on a sudden change of possesion, the Baltimore defense would have been responsible for an overtime loss against the Vikings.

Calling the Ravens a good defense seems fairly irresponsible. The Ravens give up a ton of big plays. The one thing the Ravens defense has been is opportunistic. In the big moments they’ve either found a turnover or a stop they’ve needed. The loss to the Bengals was the excpetion to the rule, every other time the Ravens have been pushed this season, they’ve found a way to make things interesting.

The Bottom Line for the Baltimore Ravens:

The Baltimore Ravens are the best comeback team in the NFL this season. They’ve made it more difficult than it has to be. The thrilling victories are incredible. While the Ravens have to work on a more sustainable route to wins, they must be credited for being the cardiac birds. They can do in pressure moments. They’re never out of a game. This isn’t the same old Ravens’ team. They can find a way to win no almost no matter what.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens wise not to force it at trade deadline

The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. If they take care of buisness in the games they should win, Baltimore should be in the playoffs. That’s an exciting prospect for a team you can’t count out with a quarterback who has been remarkable when the odds are against him.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens get dominated by Bengals: Nothing nice to say

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens got absolutely worked by the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. In every way imaginable the Ravens came up short on Sunday. Their offense made things harder than they needed to be. Their defense had one of the worst showings in franchise history. The Cincinnati Bengals put up 520 yards of offense and 41 points. There’s nothing nice to say on this deflated Monday.

The Ravens had full control of the AFC North. They had the top spot in the entire conference. The Ravens had their five-game winning streak snapped and invited every doubt that anybody ever had about this year’s installment of the team. Let’s take a look at everything that went wrong. Let’s start with the coaching.

John Harbaugh mismanaged the game:

John Harbaugh went out of his way not to make sense in this game. The experienced coach, who has won a Super Bowl and was the 2019 NFL Coach of the Year, looked unprepared and made some tough to defend decisions. It’s time to talk about these errors:

  • The challenge on the Ja’Marr Chase fumble was a bad decision. If the play bounced differently, it could have stopped the bleeding and halted the Bengals momentum. You didn’t need 100 replays to understand it wasn’t going to work out that way.
  • After the Ravens intercepted Joe Burrow in the end zone they were trailing the Bengals by 10 points in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh decided to take two big risks on fourth down inside the Ravens’ own territory. Harbaugh basically pinned the game on that drive. It was an all-or-nothing decision that wasn’t motivated by analytics, there aren’t a lot of 4th & 7 plays that are high percentage conversions.
  • Harbaugh didn’t take points when he had the chance in the first half. In Justin Tucker’s field goal range he chose to keep the offense on the field. After a timeout, he called on the punt unit. This was a weak call that was inconsistent with his reckless decision-making later.

Call out the coordinators too:

The team looked unprepared. It wasn’t until the third quarter that it was truly fair to question effort, yet once the team gave in, it was obvious. This game wasn’t all on the coach though. There isn’t a player or coach that can write home about this one with pride. It was a bad performance. While we’re on coaching let’s talk about the mistakes the coordinators made in this contest.

  • Greg Roman chose the hard way in this contest. The Ravens couldn’t pass protect and Lamar Jackson was struggling to get rid of the ball in a timely manner. What does Roman call? Big shots down the field were called which forced Jackson to hold onto the ball for the routes to develop downfield. This was lighter fluid to the fire, especially after Pat Mekari left the game due to injury.
  • Don Martindale went away from pressuring Joe Burrow. In the first quarter pressure wasn’t the problem. The defense went soft not just in play but in the plan of attack. The result was easy routes torching the Ravens bit by bit.

The list of players on the Baltimore Ravens with blame is long:

Now it’s time to get the players some constructive criticism. We’ll start with the leader of the team, Lamar Jackson. Jackson looked much like he did against the Los Angeles Chargers in his first playoff game as a rookie. He held onto the ball too long. He took sacks that he should not have taken. Jackson missed throws he’s made all year long and his footwork and fundamentals all went away. He was overthrowing passes down the field and failed to find a rhythm. Long story short, he was awful.

Jackson’s offensive line didn’t help him. When Pat Mekari got injured it forced Tyre Phillips back at right tackle. That went about as poorly as it did last season. The offensive line wasn’t much better than that. Does Jackson have some culpability in the five sacks the offensive line allowed? Sure. Let’s not act as if the offensive line did much in this game though, it was rough to watch.

If you take out Jackson’s rushing yards the Ravens only had 27 rushing yards. The running backs were a non-factor. Their lack of explosiveness combined with an offensive line that provided no daylight made the offense one-dimensional. It was a bad day for Jackson to be so off. Everyone on the offense not named Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and Rashod Bateman had a rough day where nothing could go right other than a play here or there.

That Baltimore Ravens defensive “effort” was horrible:

Defense isn’t something I would say the Ravens actually participated in this game. Not in the first half. The Ravens made it a 17-13 game after the halftime intermission. The Bengals scored with very little resistance and the momentum never swung back in Baltimore’s favor. The Bengals scored 28 points and put up the bulk of their yards in the second half.

Anthony Averett fought hard in this game. He was tested an unfair amount considering Burrow could basically go any direction and complete passes at will. There just wasn’t one defensive back who won the fight from beginning to finish.

The traits of the Cincinnati receivers, the size, quickness, and toughness when fighting for the football won the day. Cincinnati’s receivers played great. Ja’Marr Chase looked like a younger version of Randy Moss and lived up to his early draft position. Tee Higgins had seven catches, almost all of which were made with a cornerback in position to make a play. The Bengals receivers were tougher. They wanted the ball more. It was as obvious as the night being dark.

Horrible is almost being too nice:

Marlon Humphrey had the worst game he’s ever had as a Ravens player, maybe in his entire lifetime playing football. It was a bad showing for somebody who is known as an All-Pro level player. The secondary in general was horrible. C.J. Uzomah scored two touchdowns. The second touchdown was on one of the most embarrassing blown coverages ever.

Three Ravens guarded the flats and the tight end ran right down the field for an easy catch and score. It was not only a miscommunication it was a lack of awareness. It was symbolic of the entire game. The Ravens were seemingly asleep at the wheel.

This was the sorriest excuse of tackling I have ever seen from the Baltimore Ravens. It’s absolutely befuddling how bad the Ravens are at open-field tackles. Part of this was clearly an effort problem. The Ravens knew that up multiple scores in the final quarter the Bengals were going to run the ball.

Still, Cincinnati moved defenders out of the play. Still, the Bengals were able to run the ball for chunks of yards. Part of it was taking horrible angles to the football. This team needs to do some pursuit drills more than any team I’ve ever seen. The coaching staff may not think they have time for teaching the fundamentals of football in practice, however, the fundamentals are what this team is lacking an understanding of. It’s enough to numb the brain. It makes no sense.

The Bottom Line:

It was very clear that the Ravens could lose to the Bengals. The final outcome isn’t shocking considering how well the Bengals have played this season. Losing and becoming 5-2 didn’t have to be the doom and gloom situation we’re looking at right now. The way the Ravens lost, however, is an unacceptable path to the outcome.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 outside linebackers in franchise history

It’s not very often that you can look at a loss and say that a team should be ashamed of their performance. Nobody is perfect, bad days happen and you can’t win them all. Still, the Ravens put forth an unorganized, mismanaged mess of a game, where effort became a valid complaint. As a team, they failed to “Play like a Raven” and they lost a game in which their opponent’s will to win outshined theirs. There is not a single nice thing to say.




Posted in Hot Take of the Week

The Baltimore Ravens and the year of incredible resilience

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens will be without Ronnie Stanley for the rest of the season. It has been reported that Stanley has had season-ending surgery. Let’s talk about this first, then let’s talk about why it just adds to the year of incredible resilience this team is having. First things first: Where does this leave the Baltimore Ravens on the offensive line?

First of all, this is heartbreaking news. Stanley is one of the leaders of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s one of the best left tackles in football and seeing him sidelined for an entire season is rough. As disappointing as this is for Stanley and the Ravens, this is Baltimore’s year of resilience. The show must go on.

The Status Quo stays intact

The bright side here is that the Ravens don’t have to change the status quo of the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva can stay at left tackle where he is most comfortable. Pat Mekari can stay at right tackle. Would the Ravens be better with Ronnie Stanley at left tackle? Sure, his value can’t be truly replaced. The thing is that Villanueva would have a bit of a drop-off on the right side.

If Stanley was going to return the Ravens would have a tough decision to make. It would almost be more appealing to leave Mekari at the right tackle position and to have Villanueva be the swing tackle. We saw how much Villanueva struggled in the season opener, playing on the right side of the offensive line. While he hasn’t played at a Pro Bowl level at either position, at the left tackle spot Villanueva has been a stable presence.

The Ravens have gotten Tyre Phillips back from injured reserve. Phillips looks to be more of a guard than a tackle. According to reports the Ravens have signed James Carpenter, a 32-year-old guard with plenty of experience, to the practice squad. The Ravens also signed an offensive tackle off waivers, Brandon Knight. Knight was with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent from 2019 until he got released this season.

It is likely a wise move to take shots on extra reinforcement for the offensive line. Baltimore spent most of the season waiting for their Pro Bowl left tackle to return. Now that he’s not returning, every bit of help the offensive line can get could be helpful.

Unbelievable injury misfortune:

The list of players currently on injured reserve is almost shocking. The Ravens have the following notable players on the list:

  • Ronnie Stanley
  • Nick Boyle
  • Ben Cleveland
  • Derek Wolfe
  • Daelin Hayes
  • Marcus Peters
  • Gus Edwards
  • J.K. Dobbins
  • Justice Hill
  • L.J. Fort
  • Chris Westry

When you look at this list it’s almost easy to forget that the Ravens are currently the top team in the AFC Standings. The purple and black are 5-1. If you have the Ravens back just a healthy Ronnie Stanley, J.K. Dobbins, and Marcus Peters this achievement would have been massively easier. The Ravens may have had an undefeated 6-0 start to the year.

Lamar Jackson is currently an MVP candidate. He’s led two comebacks in the fourth quarter. He’s been on fire all season long. The Ravens just crushed the daylights out of the number two team in the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers. While plenty of players have stepped up, life shouldn’t be this good. On paper, the Baltimore Ravens adversity should have had more of an impact on their record.

The Ravens aren’t just beating up on bad teams. Sure, they got wins against the winless Detroit Lions and the now slumping Denver Broncos; yet they also beat the reigning AFC Champions the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Chargers. Since falling in the season opener, every time it looked like a loss was coming, the Baltimore Ravens found a way to win the game.

Ravens are putting on a master class in leadership:

The Baltimore Ravens are a well-coached team. Without an experienced coach like John Harbaugh, several of these losses to injuries could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Harbaugh has gotten the Ravens ready for each test. The Ravens had the training camp from hell, with bad news piled up high before the opening kick-off. Pundits were saying that the Ravens were limping into the season and many fans had bad memories of 2015.

The Ravens are getting used to doing things that have never been done before. A lot of that has to do with Lamar Jackson being a special quarterback. This kind of a season couldn’t have been expected though, John Harbaugh has to be working towards his second AP NFL Coach of the Year Award. No coach has dealt with more this season and Harbaugh hasn’t allowed excuses any step of the way.

Speaking of Lamar Jackson, he’s an incredible leader. More than any other quarterback, Jackson carries it all on his shoulders. He knows that he has to not only be the best player on the field but the reason the Ravens win games. He’s a leader by example. When something goes bad he blames himself and puts the burden of overcoming those mistakes on himself. After the Colts game, he stated that he felt he owed it to the team. That’s the mindset we’re talking about here.

The team loves Jackson and Jackson gives nothing but positivity. He never points fingers and he never gets in anyone’s face. Jackson has a relationship with this team that makes the team better. There’s not one player who wouldn’t run through a wall for him, because they know Jackson would do anything for the team. Jackson is playing at an MVP level but he’s showing leadership and stewardship of this team. He’s the emotional battery charger of this team and the hardest worker.

The Ravens are leading the pack and getting better:

It’s important to remember that the leadership of this team extends past the head coach and the quarterback. Calais Campbell, Marlon Humphrey, and Chuck Clark are excellent leaders on the defense. Don Martindale fits in with the Ravens as the defensive coordinator perfectly, and he has a lot of influence on the players.

When you look at what the Ravens just did to the Los Angeles Chargers you have to be amazed. The Ravens who lost to the Raiders in the first week of the season couldn’t have done that. The Ravens are starting to figure everything out. They’ve gone through the wringer and they’ve done it while they’ve won all but six games. The Ravens are hot and they may not have even peaked yet.

It all started against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens got past some mental kryptonite when they won that game. They got a comeback win. They put up 36 on the Chiefs, staying true to themselves and never panicking. It was on that night that the year of resilience was born. That goes beyond the x’s and o’s of it all. That goes to the core of the team’s identity. They made a choice that they would be a good team this year no matter what.

NEXT POST: 7 Baltimore Ravens lessons from huge win over the Chargers

The Baltimore Ravens are the top team in the AFC. Somehow, someway, the Ravens have gotten there. Betting against the Ravens is starting to look like a foolish practice. The odds haven’t seemed to matter much to the Baltimore Ravens, the most resilient team in football.


Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens tied the record, Denver Broncos need to get over it

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens have tied the record for the most consecutive games with 100 yards rushing. They equaled the tally put up by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the ’70s. The way they tied the record has people talking.

The controversy (as I’m sure you’re painfully aware of) stems from John Harbaugh running one final play to get the record instead of taking the customary knee. Vic Fangio, the head coach of the Denver Broncos said some very frank things about Harbaugh and the Ravens.

The point of this writing isn’t to report this story. You guys have been in it. You’ve heard the quotes. Likely as a Ravens fan, you laughed at Fangio’s comments and Harbaugh’s response for opposite reasons. There’s no point rehashing what’s been said since we can’t seem to move on three days later, it would just be white noise.

One of my pet peeves with the media as a whole is that fans don’t get treated as fans. You’re into this stuff, you know what’s going on. Let’s have a real conversation. Let’s put it to bed and move on to football, move on to the Colts game on Monday night.

The issue at hand is about the perceived lack of sportsmanship. The Ravens obviously upset the Broncos, well at least their coach. My question is what did the Ravens do wrong?

There’s no rule stating the Ravens had to take the knee there. Secondly, if the Ravens weren’t allowed to pad their stats – if that choice wasn’t given to them, it would be unfair. The Ravens may not have done this because the Broncos dragged their loss out as long as possible, calling timeouts and racing for a garbage-time touchdown; but the way the Broncos handled things probably didn’t give John Harbaugh a second of pause. If the Broncos have a right to meaningless stats, the Ravens have a right to a few meaningful yards. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest. 

From a Baltimore perspective, I’m naturally biased towards agreeing with what the Ravens did. It’s fun. It’s like a season finale of a TV show that doesn’t leave you on a cliff-hanger of suspense but rather warm and fuzzy anticipation for the next season. What does it hurt?

Did we really need to even go here? 

When you boil it down to that question, this gets very laughable. Lamar Jackson mildly rolled out and strategically went down with the tying of the record. The Broncos weren’t ready for it and their insistence on being disrespected is more to do with losing the game in convincing fashion. Jackson wasn’t going to get hit and that disorganized sequence was safer than running a two-minute drill with a zero percent chance of winning. Calling this a player safety issue is facetious. The Broncos’ only legitimate argument is the unsportsmanlike angle. To that, I utter a tired “Oh come on!” 

The Broncos made this about themselves. This makes it worse for them, doesn’t it? The record has nothing to do with them. Sure the Ravens tied the record, but next week they can actually break it against the Indianapolis Colts. Should Harbaugh have phoned Frank Reich to see if tying the record in the last second was cool with Indianapolis? Get over it. Just stop. 

I may be the last person to say this, as pushing my buttons is easier than changing the channel with your TV remote or setting the microwave to reheat pizza. I get feeling slighted stinks, but this is a mountain out of a molehill epitomized.

Broncos frustration becomes the story: 

If Vic Fangio said nothing and moved on, people wouldn’t be making memes about him three days later, reporters would settle down and the Broncos game could be a file we mentally close outside of a little film study and football analysis. Fangio’s anger is making this exactly what he’s acting like he didn’t want. If he wanted the attention, if he wanted to roast the Ravens, he’s being more distasteful than that last play was. 

Truthfully, if the record was held by a past iteration of a New York Giants team, I wouldn’t even kind of care. When the Ravens have a chance to take a record away from the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’ll take it. This is a rivalry where a certain amount of pettiness is acceptable.

If the Broncos had to deal with that, I’m okay with it. Thanks to the Broncos’ response, nobody will ever forget the team the Ravens tied the record against. Fans will probably remember the Broncos more for the record than the Colts if the Ravens break the record in week 5. Good job, Vic. 

Tying the record feels right: 

Getting the record would be cool. The Ravens have been the best rushing team in this generation. When it comes to the Ravens, the Lamar Jackson/Greg Roman Ravens have a case as the best ground game in NFL history. The Ravens achieving this mark seems right.

It’s just one more example of how the Ravens are doing things a little differently. Jackson being the quarterback opened the door up for some of the most memorable football in Ravens history. 

If you want to put an asterisk on the tied record for sportsmanship, your issues have to run deeper than being mad about the Ravens’ lack of sportsmanship.

I often refer to the first five years of the Flacco/Harbaugh era as the golden years in Ravens history because of five straight playoff years and a Super Bowl win. This feels like another golden era and a Super Bowl is quite possible for the Ravens. The one constant has been the Ravens run game and the impact that Jackson’s dual-threat ability has on the run game. Make history men, why not? 

NEXT POST: 6 Baltimore Ravens lessons from the win over the Broncos

So there it is. I’ve put my foot down on a foggy Wednesday morning. This is me putting the matter to rest. Here is a 1,000-word essay on the silliest grievance the NFL has seen in a long time. From this point, our only focus is on actual football. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos as they stirred up the pot. Their next game is another chance on Monday Night Football against the Indianapolis Colts. For Baltimore and Maryland, the Ravens can make history on Monday.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The psychology of the game

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens can beat the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s possible. The Chiefs aren’t infallible and the Ravens might be 0-1 but they’re not the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s somewhere in the range of possibilities even if you shouldn’t bet money on it. You 100 percent should not put money on it. 

Things seem to stack against the Baltimore Ravens here. They just had a rotten opener with problems in the secondary and the offensive line being the top culprits. The Ravens are banged up early in the season and won’t be at full strength probably until the first quarter of the season is in the books. Please keep in mind that full strength isn’t what full strength was supposed to be anymore. On top of that, the Chiefs are the Chiefs and they have the Ravens’ number.

The big key here is the Ravens putting their best foot forward. There are no moral victories, however, if they do indeed lose, the way it happens matters. If John Harbaugh is going to start out 0-2 it better come with some progress.

The Ravens need to go into this game trying to win. They have to play a completely different brand of football than they showed their first national audience on Monday. This game offers the Ravens a test of character and heart. Do they curl up and give in, or do they fight back and desperately try to kick themselves out of a corner. The psychology of the game puts every single ounce of pressure on the Baltimore Ravens.

In addition to testing the resolve of the purple and black, this is a great game to catch the top team in the AFC by surprise. Before all the injuries the Ravens were considered viable Super Bowl contenders. The circumstances of this game could be building a false David vs Goliath dichotomy. It’s a night game, fans are back, and the Ravens have a ton of talent that didn’t go away.

A slow start for the Ravens could be a death sentence to their chances. The Ravens have developed a pattern of falling apart against the Chiefs. Panic mode is good for mistakes and compounding problems that get the game out of hand. The Ravens need to start strong. The more rounds they can go toe to toe with the Chiefs, the more confidence is they’ll have. The Ravens have to make themselves believers during the course of this game. If it’s close, if there’s a chance of seeing a victory, it could really propel the crowd and the team.

The Baltimore Ravens have issues on top of issues

Lamar Jackson has to recover from his two fumble ending to the Raiders game. He has to keep himself grounded because his emotions and his want to do it all could bite him in this game. With the injuries to the Ravens, Jackson really has to do an unfair amount of the heavy lifting. Jackson has no choice but to try to have another MVP season. 

The offensive line needs to just find a way to make this work. They have problems you don’t solve in a week. Mentally they have to be prepared to overcome it all. Now it has been reported by Jason La Canfora that the Ravens will be without Ronnie Stanley against the Chiefs. A struggling offensive line is now without their top player. It doesn’t have to be pretty- there’s almost no way it can be. The Ravens just have to scrape together enough blocking to make this offense functional. 

Get ready for Alejandro Villanueva on the left side and Patrick Mekari at right tackle. Get ready to be at least a medium level of frustrated by this while you watch the game. 

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has reported that Chris Westry is out with a torn meniscus. Don Martindale and the defense need to find answers and clarity heading into this battle. Jimmy Smith needs to get healthy and ready quickly. Tavon Young has to see if he can stay healthy, and he needs to knock off some rust from missing so much football.

Martindale has to have a clear plan. One thing is for sure he can’t depend on his cornerbacks to play lockdown coverage across the board, he has to adjust and call a masterful game just to keep Baltimore in it. 

There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of it is just having the team be mentally prepared and composed for week 2. Bad luck has come and it hasn’t let up since they lost J.K. Dobbins. With today’s reported injuries added to the list, it takes a lot of deep breaths to realize the season isn’t over/ If you feel like it is though, as a Ravens fan I’m not judging you. This is tough and it’s a difficult road to start on this early. 

The Ravens Flock won’t need much to get rocking. When you consider the passion of the fanbase and the fact that there were no crowds last season, people will be eager to get back to the stadium. Still, things could go sour quickly. The fans are eager to go back to games yet this shouldn’t be mistaken for patience. The Ravens need to try to give the fans a night they’ll never forget. They need to attempt making this bigger than a game, they need to make this a moment.

With an 0-1 record and the entire football world practically locked in on the Chiefs, a win would be the regular season equivalent of the Mile High Miracle. It’s a big game in a tough spot against a juggernaut of a team. If the Ravens win this game it would go down in Ravens’ lure along with games like the 2003 comeback against the Seattle Seahawks and the 47-42 win over the Browns last year.

The Bottom Line: 

This wouldn’t be just any other win for the Ravens. As big as the moment is it’s important not to get too high or too low. A win would only reach this momentous meaning because of how hard it would be for this injury-plagued Ravens team. That win is possible, a loss seems more likely. Far more likely. Injuries have taken so much from this team. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Keeping perspective after rough loss to Raiders

Baltimore must leave Sunday with at least a silver lining of hope. What they can’t do is panic, crumble and let the train fall off the tracks after two games. It’s an emotionally burdensome place for fans to be. The coaches have the unenviable task of finding answers in a hurry. Emotions and psychology play a bigger role in the game than usual. How gritty can this team be? They have to dig deeper than ever before just to get by. When this game is over, we’ll know what kind of heart this team has. 

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have won 19 preseason games in a row. The streak dates back to 2015, The question is does winning meaningless games matter? From a player-personnel perspective, I’d say this is a mark of an outstanding front office.

The preseason doesn’t show the merit of your starters. The Ravens have played this preseason even more conservatively with some of their key starters than they usually do. We still haven’t seen the 2021 edition of Lamar Jackson football. The preseason measures the quality of your overall roster during training camp.

The idea that the games are meaningless is fair. The Baltimore Ravens get no advantage from winning these games, they don’t even get a cookie. Do they like winning them? Sure. Is winning preseason games why they operate the way they do? Absolutely not.

What have the Ravens always been known for other than dominant defense, The Ray Lewis Squirell Dance, and running the football? The answer is finding gems late in the draft process including during undrafted free agents. It’s no surprise that the Ravens had a streak of undrafted free agents making the week one roster that went on throughout this preseason winning streak.

A Baltimore Ravens tradition

Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta are great team-building general managers. People severely underestimated how helpful it was to have the two of them acting as a pair of decision-makers near the end of Newsome’s tenure. Newsome always cared about depth.

He was great at finding underappreciated players. Adalius Thomas was a sixth-round pick. Players like Jameel McClain and Gus Edwards were undrafted free agents. This thing has been going on for quite some time.

DeCosta seems obsessive about stacking the roster. This doesn’t just mean finding depth, this means finding the players of the future early. This means the secondary doesn’t just have backups they have the next in line helping now. Brandon Stephens is a perfect example of that.

The Ravens have more defensive back talent than any team ever does. DeCosta built that. The only high draft pick he used was on Marlon Humphrey. Heck, he got Marcus Peters with a fifth-round pick and then signed him to a team-friendly extension.

The winning streak in the preseason coincides with the time the Ravens got back to drafting well. Take out the 2015 and the 2017 NFL Draft (other than their first pick- Marlon Humphrey) and the Ravens have been knocking it out of the park. 2018 may have been the Ravens’ best draft since the 1996 masterpiece that gave them Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis.

The stars of this preseason have come through some of that great drafting. Jaylon Ferguson is starting to look the part, Stephens and Shaun Wade are impressive rookies and all the competition on the offensive line comes from drafted players. Ty’Son Williams and Nate McCrary have been impressive running backs as undrafted free agents. Speaking of undrafted players, Ar’Darius Washington has made a name for himself in camp.

The bottom line:

Another example is the Ravens pro-personnel department. It’s not all about plucking guys out of college. Chris Westry is an example of a player who is making his second career NFL stop that has performed well in preseason play. The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to make Westry their undrafted free agent success story, now he has a real chance to stick around with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs in 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The streak started in a 2015 season that was dreadful because of injuries more than anything else. Even in 2016 and 2017, the Ravens were in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Ravens’ principles of team building have been consistent and the back end of their depth chart is better than most organizations can compete with.

When you have a head coach who thinks of winning like a good habit and has a Harbaugh family enthusiasm most can’t reach in exhibition games, it’s also going to chip into winning in the preseason. The Ravens have tied Vince Lombardi’s record.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ty’Son Williams deserves a roster spot

On Saturday against the Washington Football Team, the Baltimore Ravens have a chance to break that record. Lombardi was the coach to come up with the idea that winning is a habit. It seems fitting that the Ravens, an organization that obviously agrees with that idea can break the record.



Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Logistically, Lamar Jackson needs to get Covid-19 vaccine

By Chris Schisler

Lamar Jackson tested positive for Covid-19. This is his second positive test, he missed a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers the first time. This is a frustrating problem to deal with for the Baltimore Ravens, a team who also has running back Gus Edwards on a 10-day quarantine for his positive test.

From a football perspective, this is a perfect chance for Tyler Huntley to win the understudy role in Ravens training camp. It does however halt the progress of an offense that is supposed to undergo some changes this year. Then you have the other issue. Vaccination talk and vitriol coming from both sides.

Vaccination is a choice, but the NFL has made stiff consequences for taking your chances. The Covid vaccine doesn’t mean that there can’t be positive tests in the future. This is a valid point, though it’d be foolish for that to be a reason Jackson decides not to get the shot.

The vaccine minimizes the risk of catching the virus. It’s not just about positive and negative tests though. The vaccine is your best chance of avoiding hospitalization. Jackson has caught the virus twice or at least had two tests that have gotten him away from his team.

Like everything goes right now, two sides have formed. There are the people who are angry or frustrated with Jackson for not being vaccinated. Then there are the people who don’t think he should be forced to take the vaccine and that it’s a matter of personal choice.

What Lamar Jackson needs to do when he can:

Jackson is an amazing quarterback and an awesome person. Whatever side of the vaccine debate you are on, changing your opinion about Jackson is unfair. Jackson gives a lot back to the community, and he’s lifted the team and the fanbase with his passion and his energy. One way or the other, Jackson is a person who deserves your respect.

Logistically, Jackson needs to be vaccinated. He’s the quarterback, the leader, and the most valuable player of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s the player the Ravens have built the team around. Every week of the season that Jackson isn’t vaccinated is a week that can get blown up by that liability.

Related Post: The NFL Covid-19 vaccine policy is a fair rule that makes sense

The start of training camp is the best time for this to happen if this is the last time that it does occur. He’s still missing practice reps. He’s losing his initial chance to build chemistry with Rashod Bateman and get going with a new look passing attack. This isn’t good, there are clear consequences, and yet it’s the best time this can happen in the whole season.

If there is an outbreak due to unvaccinated players during the season the Ravens will forfeit their game. If Jackson tests positive and the game can go on, the Ravens have to play without their MVP quarterback for at least one week. Jackson is the most important player on the entire team and he’s been absent twice for positive Covid tests.

Jackson is the leader of the team a point I’m happy to continually reinforce to make my argument. He’s not just the leader because he’s the quarterback. Jackson is a leader because he’s selfless and the team would run through a wall for him. He is perhaps the most team-oriented quarterback in the NFL and he repeatedly gives everything he has for the Ravens.

Lamar Jackson, here is the bottom line:

Jackson getting vaccinated would be in line with those truisms about him as a person and a player. According to reports, 90 percent of the team is vaccinated. The leader of the team choosing to get vaccinated would make a strong case for that number to get real close to 100 percent.

While it’s important not to force vaccination and personal choice should be respected, it’s also important to live in the reality of the situation. The situation is that the most important player of the franchise can’t justify getting vaccinated, especially because he interacts with so much of the team every practice.

Jackson is the centerpiece of the offense. Jackson getting a positive test at any point is the most consequential a positive test can be for the Ravens.

With all due respect to personal choice, Jackson must get vaccinated. He’s the leader of the team and the action of getting vaccinated would be very meaningful to Baltimore Ravens football. Jackson is the most entertaining and enjoyable player on the Ravens, maybe even in the NFL.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 3 most important facets of training camp

It’s from a good and respectful place that I say that Lamar Jackson should get take care of himself, be a leader and minimize risk in one decision. He needs to get the vaccination.