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Eisenberg: Ravens Flying Under National Radar, And That's A Good Thing


Let's start with a list of things the Ravens did NOT do in Week 1 of the 2016 season.

They did NOT win on the road with a backup quarterback replacing a future Hall of Famer who is suspended for his role in an alleged conspiracy to deflate footballs that became a legal case that almost reached the Supreme Court but mercifully didn't. (Got all that?) That's what the New England Patriots did in Arizona Sunday night.

They did NOT complete a 14-point road comeback with the boldest of gambles, going for two in the final minute instead of settling for an extra point that would have forced overtime. That's what the Oakland Raiders did in New Orleans Sunday, with Head Coach Jack Del Rio rolling the dice.

They did NOT watch a prized rookie quarterback start and win his first NFL game against an opponent that could have drafted him but instead traded the pick. That's what the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz did to the Cleveland Browns.

What the Ravens DID do in Week 1 was win a defensive-oriented affair against a 2015 non-playoff team before an energetic home crowd – a big event locally, huge for a franchise coming off a losing season, but not the kind of narrative that generates buzz among fans anywhere else.

The Ravens' low-scoring win over Buffalo was bound to fly under the radar, and it's doing just that, serving as a footnote and filler in most roundups and highlights packages I've seen.

In other news, Baltimore …

Frankly, that's where you're going to find the Ravens for a few weeks here, even if they get off to the winning start that Sunday's result sets up as possible.

They're going to be flying so far under the radar, so low, that one of their wingtips might take a divot out of that new grass field at M&T Bank Stadium.

Yes, they did produce one buzzworthy moment Sunday, a 66-yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco to Mike Wallace. Breshad Perriman's acrobatic first career catch was pretty good, too.

But let's face it, a 13-7 win over Buffalo was bound NOT to set social media aflame or get national talking heads clattering and chattering.

That's a sore subject around here, of course: Some Baltimore fans have long griped about what they perceive as disinterest in (or disrespect for) their team among the rest of the football nation. I'm not sure such bias exists on any scale, but regardless, the cold shoulder was inevitable this year.

The Ravens are coming off a 5-11 season. For now, they're deemed a longshot for a playoff run. And they don't line up against a team that won a 2015 playoff contest until Nov. 6 against Pittsburgh.

That's not to demean some of their upcoming opponents and games. The Jacksonville Jaguars are young, hungry and nearly upset Green Bay Sunday; that's a tough road game on Sept. 25. The Raiders, in Baltimore on Oct. 2, obviously are explosive and beat the Ravens in 2015. The state title game against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 9 should be fun.

Regardless, nationally it's going to be "in other news, Baltimore …"

Afterthought-land is unfamiliar terrain for a franchise accustomed to playoff runs and big-stage games, but if I'm the Ravens, I'm actually OK with living in the shadows right now.

Although their win over Buffalo was encouraging in many ways, they obviously still have a lot to work on. Offensively, the pass protection needs to tighten up and the ground game needs more punch. Defensively, the pass rush was only decent against an injury-depleted offensive line, and though the unit was dominant overall, it didn't force any turnovers after emphasizing that throughout the offseason. On both sides of the ball, some veterans coming back from injuries need more time on the field to hone their games. Flying under the radar gives the Ravens a chance to work on all this and possibly build a winning record and some confidence before the bright lights find them in bigger games later. The shadows of the NFL are a fine place to work on issues and shake off rust. The lack of attention and appreciation can serve as a motivational tool, and if you win enough, the spotlight still finds you in the end, anyway. The Ravens, ahem, do know all about that.

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