Eisenberg: Ravens' Season Is Bat-Bleep Insane So Far


I'm trying to think of the right adjective to describe the first three games of the Ravens' 2021 season.


That's certainly accurate, but I don't think it fully captures the lunacy.

Wild? Tense?

Again, all true, but doesn't go nearly far enough.

OK, how about … bat-bleep insane?

Sorry for the language, but now we're getting somewhere. Because it surely takes some excessiveness to accurately depict three games marked by dramatic highs and lows, unpredictable momentum swings and stand-and-shout finishes ranging from somewhat surprising to utterly miraculous.

When the season began, oddsmakers figured the Ravens would beat the Raiders in Week 1, lose to the Chiefs in Week 2 and beat the Lions in Week 3. They would have succeeded in doing the exact opposite if not for the historic field goal by Justin Tucker that beat the Lions Sunday.

Now they're heading to Denver to face the undefeated Broncos Sunday, which is kind of funny, because the Ravens could easily be undefeated as well heading into the game. Yet they also could easily be winless. So good luck figuring out what's going to happen.

As for whether the Ravens deserve to be 3-0 or 0-3, I'm not sure I have the analytical bandwidth to break that down. Each game contained a one-in-a-million reversal.

Against the Raiders, it was a goal-line overtime interception that caromed off a helmet and seemingly saved the Ravens, until it didn't. Against the Chiefs, it was a fumble recovery just when high hopes in Baltimore were about to be bitterly dashed. Sunday, it was an answered prayer on fourth-and-19 followed by the longest field goal in NFL history as time expired.

I don't have a favorite joke about civic heart palpitations and cardiologists making out, but one would be appropriate here.

All that really matters is the Ravens won two of the three games, which, honestly, feels like something to be relieved about.

With 15 players, many prominent, on injured reserve, and four defensive stalwarts hitting the Reserve/COVID-19 list shortly before kickoff Sunday?

With the defense ranked No. 30 against the pass and considerably higher in missed tackles?

With only five teams ranked beneath the Ravens in turnover ratio?

Yup, no question, 2-1 is something to be relieved about.

It means the Ravens mostly found ways to win, which is an indefinite quality, not really teachable, but reflective of general playmaking potential and certainly preferable to the alternative. Having Tucker and Lamar Jackson gives the Ravens a better shot at producing the right kinds of plays when needed.

But just being honest, the Ravens pretty much found a way to lose Sunday before Jackson and Tucker helped them win.

All of which begs the question: Will the 2021 Ravens eventually play games that are less bat-bleep insane?

I think it largely depends on whether the defense can get back to being a semblance of its normal, suffocating self, which it simply isn't right now, largely due to a run of personnel subtractions that shows little sign of abating.

The Ravens were digging into their deep depth by late Sunday, relying on rookies and practice-squad callups to somehow hold up. It's a precarious condition.

Rolling out a stronger defense would almost surely mean fewer lead changes and less craziness, but getting to that point depends on multiple guys getting healthy and back on the field.

D-linemen Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike and linebacker Justin Houston seemingly are good bets to return Sunday. The prospects for D-lineman Derek Wolfe and safety DeShon Elliott are less certain.

If it results in more of the wild ride, well, the Ravens aren't alone. As you may have noticed, the entire AFC has a case of the upside-downs.

The Raiders and Broncos, who didn't make the playoffs in 2020, have the best records. The Chiefs, a consensus pick to win the conference, are in last place in the AFC West. The lowly Bengals are tied with the Ravens and Browns for first place in the AFC North.

With their 2-1 record and share of first, the Ravens are survivors, not victims, of their wild start.

But can we all agree that it's not an easy way to live?

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