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Eisenberg: With Pigs Flying Sunday, It's Not Safe to Put Too Much Stock Into ANY Single Game


Before Sunday's game in London, if a bookmaker had published a betting line with the Ravens getting 36 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars, most if not all of Baltimore would be bankrupt today.

I'm not a gambler, but I mean, who wouldn't have taken a piece of that?

Sure, there was a chance Jacksonville might win. But the game figured to be close. The teams played a two-point game last season and another two-point game the year before. Thirty-six points was more than enough for the Ravens to cover, it seemed.

Well, you saw what happened. Jacksonville built a 44-0 lead and won by 37.

It was a crazy outcome, completely out of left field. "Ravens plus 36" didn't win? That's right up there with "pigs fly."

After rising early to witness that debacle, many Ravens fans, I'm guessing, just shut off their televisions and found something else to do besides watch more football. The Baltimore weather was summer-like. A nice, lazy afternoon lay ahead.

But if you chose to stay in and watch more football, all you saw was more weirdness.

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Chicago with an unbeaten record, lost to the winless Bears and got pushed around while doing it. What?

The winless Cincinnati Bengals went into Green Bay having not scored a touchdown all season, built a big lead over the Packers and had an upset in hand only to give it away late. What?

Almost every game produced a surprise. Fresh from blowing out the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos got blasted by the Bills in Buffalo. Huh? The New York Jets, thought by some to be an 0-16 candidate, blew out the Miami Dolphins. What? The New England Patriots melted down in the fourth quarter for the second time in three games, only to salvage a win. Seriously?

The Washington Redskins pummeled the Oakland Raiders. What? The Minnesota Vikings pummeled the Tampa Bay Bucs. How? The New Orleans Saints pummeled the Carolina Panthers? Huh?

I'm not going to drop even a dollop of sugar coating on the Ravens' nightmarish performance, which raised enough questions to populate a law-school exam.

But as upsetting as it was, it did look different by the end of Sunday's games. At the very least, it had been put in context as just one of the day's many contests that amounted to pigs flying.

"There was no crazier Sunday than this Sunday," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

In the wake of such a nonsensical day, I'm wondering about the value of all preconceived notions regarding the NFL. What you think about a game going in – is it worth anything anymore?

Quite possibly not.

The Broncos followed up a great performance with a terrible one, as did the Steelers, Raiders and many other teams, including the Ravens. The Jets and Saints, meanwhile, followed up terrible performances with great ones.

I'm at a loss to explain it besides pointing out the usual bromides – the league is intensely competitive, no team is dominant, the season is young and its realities remain unsorted.

"Probably more crazy things are going to happen early in a season," Harbaugh said.

Regardless, what's abundantly clear is you'd better not make too much of ANY single performance by ANY team because things are liable to turn out a lot differently the next time the team plays. Whatever you envisioned coming in, well, why bother?

That's good news for the Ravens because they probably can't play any worse than they did Sunday.

"I didn't recognize our team," Harbaugh said. "We didn't have our legs. We just weren't right."

Now a huge game looms, at home against the Steelers, with first place in the AFC North on the line. The Ravens can't erase what happened in London, but the game certainly offers the opportunity for a quick and dramatic reversal.

If the Ravens win, they'd be alone in first place with one of NFL's best records. That's a height hard to fathom after 44-7, but the season isn't a valedictory garden stroll; it's a long, twisting journey, full of turns and surprises, both good and bad. You can try to predict it as you go, but the wisest approach might be just to close your eyes, hold on and hope for the best.

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