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Eisenberg: Fact and Opinion


Opinion: The Ravens played their most complete game of 2009 in dealing the Broncos a 30-7 defeat last Sunday, but now comes the hard part – trying to put together a run of similar performances. Make no mistake, the hardest thing to do in the NFL is play at a high level consistently.

Fact: The Ravens' offense is ranked seventh in total yardage this week, putting it in the top quarter of the league's 32 offenses. They've finished a season ranked in the top quarter of the league in offense just once in their history, in 1996, when they were third.

Opinion: It's a slam-dunk that Jamal Lewis, who said this week in Cleveland that he likely will retire at the end of the season, deserves a spot in the Ravens' Ring of Honor. His departure from here after the 2006 season wasn't the most graceful, but all should be forgiven – and will be, I predict. The guy had a 2,000-yard season as a Raven, a 295-yard game as a Raven, and is the team's all-time leading rusher by almost 5,700 yards. It's a no-brainer.

Fact: The Ravens averaged 157 yards rushing in their first three wins, and then left tackle Jared Gaither was carted off with a neck injury early in Week 4, forcing a reshuffling of the offensive line. The per-game rushing average fell by some 40 percent in the next three games, all losses that Gaither sat out. When Gaither returned Sunday, the Ravens rushed for 125 yards and won. Coincidence? Not according to Joe Flacco. "I normally don't pay attention to who is out there on a game day, but when you have Jared out there, you know you're going to have a pretty good day," the Ravens' quarterback said.

Opinion: I'm looking forward to seeing "The Blind Side," the new movie about Ravens rookie Michael Oher's amazing early life, but it will have to be really good to out-do the superb, jaw-dropping book by Michael Lewis, also titled "The Blind Side," on which the move in based.

Fact: Ray Rice is now ranked second in the league in combined rushing and receiving yardage, behind Tennessee's Chris Johnson. Rice is averaging 124.9 yards per game while Johnson is averaging 137.3.

Opinion: The stunning firing of first-year Browns GM George Kokinis, a longtime Ravens personnel guy, is a commentary on the team's struggles, not the guy who just got there.

Fact: Several Packer fan Internet sites referred to last Sunday's game in Green Bay as "Favreageddon 2." Not that it was a big deal to them or anything.

Opinion: Who will be the most motivated Raven Sunday in Cincinnati? I'm putting my nickel on Derrick Mason, the wide receiver with more than 800 career receptions, who didn't catch one in the Bengals' surprising Week 5 win in Baltimore. "They did a good job of taking me out of the game last time," Mason said this week with an expression suggesting that, well, he wasn't going to let it happen again.

Fact: Sunday's game will be the Ravens' fifth in a row against teams that are in first place in their divisions as of today. Then, after a respite next week against Cleveland, they'll play two more in a row, against the Colts and Steelers.

Opinion: As much as every game is pivotal, this one is especially so for the Ravens. With a win, they would improve their record to 5-3, and it might as well be 6-3 with Cleveland up next. But with a loss Sunday, they'd have a .500 record halfway through the season, a tough hole to escape. Big difference, huh?

Fact: There's going to a reunion of the 1975 Baltimore Colts this weekend in Indianapolis, put on by the team. The players will attend a Saturday night reception and the Colts' game against the Texans on Sunday, and Colts owner Jim Irsay will give them championship rings for winning the 1975 AFC East title.

Opinion: As much as it might annoy some Baltimore football fans that one of their teams is being honored in another city, Irsay deserves a big thumbs-up for going out of his way to congratulate a team – one of his favorites, apparently -- that has gotten lost in history's mists because of the franchise's move and the fact that the Colts lost in the playoffs that year.

John Eisenberg worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.

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