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Late For Work 9/21: Ravens Crack Top 10 in Power Rankings, But Experts Still Not Sold. Here's Why

Posted Sep 21, 2017

The Ravens still rank at or near the bottom of the remaining 2-0 teams. Are people twisting Mike Wallace’s words? Joe Flacco and Benjamin Watson graded out among the best at their positions.

Ravens Crack Top 10 in Power Rankings, But Experts Still Not Sold. Here’s Why …

The good news (if you care about national power rankings) is that Baltimore continues to climb. It’s hard not to when you’re 2-0. As such, the Ravens cracked the top 10 in three of the seven lists below.

The bad news is the Ravens really couldn’t be ranked much lower given their undefeated record through two weeks.

It’s pretty clear that most experts aren’t completely buying in based on the fact that they’re ranking Baltimore at or near the bottom of the remaining eight 2-0 teams. Shoot, Yahoo Sports has Baltimore at No. 16 despite having one of the NFL’s eight best records.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and Ravens are the remaining 2-0 teams. Other teams also consistently listed ahead of the Ravens are the 1-1 Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and 1-0 Tampa Buccaneers.

Pundits are giving mad respect to the Ravens defense, but they’re not totally sold because of the Ravens’ competition up to this point.

“Some might argue that two wins over the dregs of Ohio are nothing to write home about,” wrote ESPN.

“Nice start for sure, but no more Ohio teams on [the] schedule until Week 15,” added USA Today.

Something tells me that even if the Ravens were to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in London Sunday, there still won’t be much respect given. Pundits are waiting for games against the Steelers (Week 4) and Raiders (Week 5) to determine who these Ravens really are.

Below are the normal power rankings, but I added a second ranking among 2-0 teams:

Bleacher Report: No. 7, No. 6 of the 8 teams starting 2-0 (up two spots from last week)
Chris Simms: “Everyone knows I love the Ravens. The first two weeks have shown why. To me, the Ravens have the best defense in football. How ridiculous is it that Baltimore has only allowed 10 points through two games and has also produced 10 turnovers. That's jaw-dropping. The Ravens offense wasn't anything special against the Browns, especially considering how much help it got from the defense. However, this isn't a unit that is hitting its stride yet because quarterback Joe Flacco was out the entire preseason. Flacco did look better than he did in Week 1.”

Pro Football Focus: No. 10, No. 7 (up two)
“The Ravens have swept through two-thirds of their opponents in the AFC North so far, allowing just 10 points while surrendering a 1/8 TD-INT ratio defensively. These fortunes will likely regress, so it will be on the shoulders of Joe Flacco (the 11th-highest graded quarterback in the league through two weeks) to generate more points offensively. This will be more difficult without the services of All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda (84.4), who was placed on injured reserve this week with an ankle injury.”

ESPN.com: No. 10, No. 5 (up four)
“Some might argue that two wins over the dregs of Ohio are nothing to write home about, but eight interceptions, eight sacks and 10 points allowed certainly are. Only the 2006 Ravens allowed fewer points in the franchise's first two games of the season (six).”

USA Today: No. 11, No. 7 (no movement)
“Nice start for sure, but no more Ohio teams on schedule until Week 15. And loss of G Marshal Yanda is cruelest blow to team beset by injuries.”

NFL.com: No. 11, No. 7 (up six spots)
Elliot Harrison: “The Ravens continue to climb up the charts on the strength of the league's premier defense. Against Cleveland on Sunday, coordinator Dean Pees' unit forced a whopping five turnovers while limiting the Browns' offense to 3-of-14 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts. You could probably count on one hand how many times teams have won turning the ball over five times and being that bad on the important downs. You could also count on no hands the amount of games a team has won with Cleveland backup Kevin Hogan at quarterback, but why ruin a story with facts? As if the offense needed to be bogged down anymore, Marshal Yanda is now gone. He's only the top guard in pro football.”

CBSSports.com: No. 14, No. 8 (up two spots)
Pete Prisco: “The defense is playing great football, and taking it away. They haven't played good offenses yet, and won't this week against Jacksonville.”

Yahoo! Sports: No. 16, No. 8 (no movement)
Frank Schwab: “The London trip will be a little tricky for the Ravens. Jacksonville’s defense is legit, and the Ravens aren’t great on offense. But the Ravens are really good on defense. Baltimore would be happy with a low-scoring, ugly win overseas.”

Are People Twisting Mike Wallace’s Words?

People want players and coaches to be transparent, but I honestly wonder if it’s even worth it sometimes.

Quarterback Joe Flacco admitted it wasn’t “fun” in the second half of the Week 1 Cincinnati Bengals game when he completed zero passes. OF COURSE, he added it didn’t matter as long as the team was winning.

Yesterday, a playful Mike Wallace said he “needs the rock, baby” when reporters predictably approached him in the locker room and asked how he feels about getting just two catches for 15 yards so far this season. OF COURSE, he added that it didn’t matter as long as the team was winning.

What do you want these guys to say? “No, I don’t want the ball.” To me, they’re saying exactly what they should when asked about not producing more. Do you want a player to say he doesn’t want to produce?

When outlets or fans overreact to these statements, it’s just begging for players to give boring, cliché, robotic answers. Here’s a little perspective from reporters who were actually in the locker room with Wallace:

Flacco, Watson Grade Out Among the Best At Their Positions

It’s nice to see what effect a healthy back, a strong run game and dominant defense can have on quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game.

The Ravens signal caller got the third best grade among NFL quarterbacks in Week 2, coming in behind the Patriots’ Tom Brady and the Saints’ Drew Brees. Of course, Flacco wasn’t airing the ball out as the offense continues to take a patient and conservative approach with the defense leading the way, but Flacco was efficient and on target.

“He was extremely accurate, finishing the game with an adjusted completion percentage of 83.9 percent,” wrote the PFF analysis team. “That was largely thanks to 24 of those 31 attempts being less than 10 yards downfield. However, he looked solid when he did have to go deep, completing 4-of-7 for 71 yards and a touchdown on passes more than 10 yards downfield. He did have an interception, but that was more a miscommunication between him and his receiver than it was a bad pass.”

While the Ravens want to get Wallace and Breshad Perriman going, it should be noted that Jeremy Maclin and tight end Benjamin Watson have been productive in the passing game. It hasn’t been non-existent.

In fact, after catching eight passes for 91 yards (largely a byproduct of a strong ground game), Watson was PFF’s highest-graded tight end of the week. The website added that 40 of Watson’s 91 yards came after the catch.

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