Ravens Have Questions, But History Shows There's Cause for Optimism
It was noted in yesterday’s Late for Work that the past two times the Ravens started 5-1, they went on to win the Super Bowl.
With the team not clicking on all cylinders and four of their five wins coming against teams with a combined record of 4-18-2, the inevitable "but" followed.
"But no one will be talking about title aspirations after a win in Philadelphia," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote after Baltimore escaped with a sloppy 30-28 win over an injury-depleted Eagles squad.
However, there is another "but" that is applicable, as in "but no one was talking about title aspirations at various points in the 2000 and 2012 season either."
In 2000, the Ravens' 5-1 record came with major concerns about the offense, which failed to score a touchdown in back-to-back wins that got them to 5-1. The Ravens' touchdown drought continued over the next three games — all losses.
At 5-4 and with an offense that went an entire month without finding the end zone, the Ravens didn't look like a playoff team much less a team that would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. But they went on to win their final seven games, and while the historically good defense was the catalyst, the offense scored nearly 28 points per game during that stretch.
In 2012, the Ravens' 5-1 record was boosted by three consecutive close wins over non-winning teams. The following week, they were routed by the Houston Texans, 43-13. Then they lost three games in a row in December, including a deflating 17-point loss at home to the Denver Broncos, to fall to 9-5. They fired the offensive coordinator after the second of those three straight losses.
No one gave the Ravens a chance against the top-seeded Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs, but then the "Mile High Miracle" happened, and a few weeks later, the Ravens were Super Bowl champions again.
Does all of that mean the Ravens are a lock to win the Super Bowl this season? Of course, not. But it also shows that whatever concerns there may be about the team, it would be foolish to dismiss them from the Super Bowl conversation in October.
The Ravens are 19-3 in their past 22 regular-season games and 25-4 in their past 29. That's a pretty large sample size, so there's plenty of reason to believe they will get better.
"We've been down this road before with the Ravens. In 2000 and 2012 the Ravens started off with (5-1) records — records that looked much better than the team," Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi wrote. "Those teams went on to win the Super Bowl. We'll see what the Ravens do moving forward. History tells us that it's best to view the team's glass as half full."
Is Ravens Offense Being Held to Unfair Standard?
The biggest concern about the Ravens after six games is that the offense isn't rolling like it was last season when Lamar Jackson set a single-season rushing record for a quarterback, the team set a single-season rushing record and led the league in scoring.
Then again, as ESPN’s Hensley wrote, "perhaps that's an unfair barometer because the league might never see an offense quite like that one."
While the offense hasn't reached its full potential yet, it's not like the Ravens aren't putting up solid numbers.
"The Baltimore Ravens reached their bye week on scoring streaks that draw comparisons to the likes of the Rams' 'Greatest Show on Turf,'" Hensley wrote. "This year's offense has been productive, even at a historic rate. The Ravens have scored in each of their first 24 quarters this season, which ties the 2000 Rams for the longest streak to start an NFL season, according to Elias Sports Bureau data. Baltimore also had scored the most points in the league (179)."
Moreover, Baltimore is within one game of tying the Broncos (2012-14) for the NFL record of most consecutive games of scoring at least 20 points (the mark is 30 straight).
Yesterday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said comparisons to last season's offense are to be expected.
"I think it's natural. I think it's understandable," Harbaugh said. "We use the same standard. It's where we want to be and we want to improve on where we've been in the past. Sure, we're not where we want to be. But I don't think we were necessarily where we wanted to be last year at this time either. We know we have a lot of work to do."
Hensley said the biggest difference between last season's offense and this season's unit is efficiency.
"In 2019, it seemed effortless with how frequently Baltimore moved the ball up and down the field. Through six games in 2020, Baltimore can be off the field with a three-and-out in a blink of an eye," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens rank No. 26 in total yards (342.2), No. 16 in third-down conversion (42.1%) and No. 18 in red zone efficiency (63.2%)."
To Harbaugh's point, the offense wasn't fully clicking at this point last season either. Jackson believes the Ravens aren't that far from getting where they want to be.
"It's really small things that slows our offense down," Jackson said. "We just have to clean up little things and we'll be there. We'll be all right."
Chris Simms: Calais Campbell Is a First-Ballot Hall of Famer
Calais Campbell has played at a consistently high level throughout his 13-year career, but he sometimes gets overlooked because he's not flashy.
In NBC Sports’ Chris Simms’ opinion, the defensive end will be wearing a flashy gold jacket and delivering a speech in Canton, Ohio after his playing career is over.
"First-ballot Hall of Famer," Simms said on his podcast. "He's a stud."
Campbell, who was acquired by Baltimore this offseason, had his best game as a Raven on Sunday, recording three sacks and four quarterback hits against the Eagles.
"It was cartoon stuff the way he was running over people and running over Carson Wentz," Simms said.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec also had high praise for Campbell's performance.
"You can't say enough about Campbell's effort," Zrebiec wrote. "On a day when the Ravens really needed him with starters Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe both out, Campbell was a force with three sacks. He's been impactful throughout the first six games, but Sunday was the first time we've seen him take over a game from a pass-rush perspective."