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Eisenberg: Plenty Of Seats On Ravens' Empty Bandwagon

Posted Nov 10, 2012

The bandwagon will fill up again if Baltimore can shine in the upcoming tough stretch.


If you're looking for a good seat on the Ravens' bandwagon, the time to buy is now. The wagon is practically empty. You can pretty much sit where you want.

Sure, some fans are still on there, perched in their usual spots, expecting the team to make a deep playoff run in January. But beyond the friendly confines of Ravenstown, well, let's just say skepticism abounds.

It's weird in a way because the Ravens have a 6-2 record and lead the AFC North by a game over the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the playoffs began today, they would own the No. 2 seed in the AFC field, giving them a first-round bye and a second-round home game. That's good stuff.

But the problem is they haven't impressed while winning, struggling to capture three games against the lowly Cleveland Browns (2-7) and Kansas City Chiefs (1-7) and barely surviving at home against the Dallas Cowboys (3-5). Their defense is ranked No. 26 in the league and their offense has disappeared for long stretches. In their one road game against a winning opponent, they were humbled in Houston.

None of this is a secret. While the team is excelling in the red zone on both sides of the ball and winning the turnover battle, Head Coach John Harbaugh conceded earlier this week that "we have to play better."

But their lack of style points seemingly has cost them respect points. Bovada, an online sports book, has dropped the odds of the Ravens winning the Super Bowl to 20-1. They were as low as 12-1 earlier this year.

According to Bovada, nine teams, including Pittsburgh, are a better shot to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy – a depressing figure when you consider only 13 teams in the NFL have winning records.

Among those winning teams, only the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts have poorer Super Bowl odds than the Ravens.

Numbers on a sports book line are valuable only as conversation-starters, of course. They don't block or tackle, and can change as quickly as the stock market.

But they do reflect the public's general attitude. And many national observers of the NFL feel the same way about the Ravens, it seems.

While channel-surfing the other night, I happened onto an ESPN blabfest with Trent Dilfer and others assessing who might win the AFC. They talked about the Patriots. They talked about the Steelers. They talked about Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They never mentioned the Ravens, not once.

The absence of the word "Baltimore" from the national conversation isn't limited to that program either. Sport's Illustrated's Peter King and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio have dropped the Ravens to No. 10 in their power rankings. So has Brian Billick, the Ravens' former head coach who is now a Fox broadcaster.

Other analysts have the Ravens as high as No. 6, but in general, they're landing quite a bit lower than they did when the season kicked off.

Skepticism is inevitable when a team doesn't play as the public expects, and make no mistake, doubt also persists within the friendly confines of Ravenstown. The comments of fans posting on this website have been brutal at times. One fan I know who is knowledgeable, faithful and almost always optimistic recently confessed to me that he feared the Ravens just weren't good enough to go all the way this year.

But of course, the season is just half over. The Ravens have the entire second half of the season to fix their issues and prove that doubting fan wrong.

History says it could happen. "We have gotten better every single year in the second half of the season since we've been here," Harbaugh said recently. "That's been something that has been a strength for the Ravens. I expect it to be a strength for us going forward."

The schedule is about to get tougher after Sunday's home game against the 3-5 Oakland Raiders. There are two games with Pittsburgh, a trip to San Diego, and back-to-back Manning visits to Baltimore.

If the Ravens rise to some of those occasions, their bandwagon will begin to fill up again.

But right now, as the old saying goes, there are plenty of good seats available.

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