Can Ravens Be Trusted?
The Ravens aren't apologizing for another ugly win against a team with a losing record.
And they shouldn't. As Head Coach John Harbaugh said, there are no "homecoming games" in the NFL.
That said, it's understandable why the Ravens aren't building credit in their "trust" fund with some fans and media, even with a 6-2 record and one-game lead in the AFC North. Especially because the* *arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) turned in a convincing win against the league's best (see below).
"You want to know why few people trust Baltimore at 6-2?" asked Clark Judge. "Look what happened Sunday: It went 30 minutes and seven consecutive series in Cleveland without gaining a first down ... and defense, not offense, is supposed to be the Ravens' problem."
Added SI.com's Don Banks: "I think we've seen enough of the Ravens by now to know that nothing is going to come easily this season in Baltimore. The Ravens are 6-2 at midseason, but I can't really recall a less impressive 6-2 club in recent memory. …
"This was not the kind of performance that erased the worries that surfaced when the Ravens were drubbed in Houston two weeks ago. Not by a long shot."
Of Baltimore's six wins this season, only one team currently has a winning record (New England Patriots, 5-3).
The Ravens have another game against a team with a losing record (Oakland Raiders), and then will take on the Steelers twice and face both Manning brothers. The Broncos are 5-3 and the Giants are 6-3. There's also a cross country trip to San Diego (4-4) and a bus ride down I-95 to Washington (3-6) sandwiched in there.
With the way the Ravens have been playing so far this season, can they be trusted to pull out wins against more powerful foes?
ESPN's Jamison Hensley doesn't see it, saying the offense is too inconsistent, the defense gets pushed around too much and the team commits too many penalties.
"A] performance like Sunday [isn't going to cut it against the likes of Houston (remember the 30-point loss last month?), Denver or even Pittsburgh," he wrote. "Not even the most die-hard Ravens fan could convincingly say that team looked like one that could go far in the playoffs."
He added: "The Ravens know they can't play like they did Sunday and beat teams of that caliber, even if they're not going to publicly admit it."
Bengals Playoff Hopes Nearly Dashed, Steelers Hitting Stride
The divide in the AFC North is widening.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh are the two clear-cut leaders, while Cleveland (2-7) and Cincinnati (3-5) continue to falter.
"The Bengals' playoff hopes are nearly dashed after they lost their fourth straight game," Hensley wrote after they fell three games behind the division-leading Ravens.
But the Steelers are picking up steam and doing it in a convincing manner. Despite so much going wrong in their matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants Sunday, Pittsburgh persevered.
"The Steelers are hitting their stride, winning four of their past five games including three straight," Hensley wrote. "Sunday's victory was a statement game for Pittsburgh.
"The Steelers had pointed to this game … as a measuring stick and showed their mettle by overcoming a change to their travel plans, questionable calls by the officials, the loss of two injured running backs and a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter."
Leach To Remind Harbs He's ECU Alum
When explaining to reporters Sunday that each game in the NFL is a tough fight, Harbaugh* *referenced a quote by former NFL Head Coach Buddy Ryan, who said, “There ain't no East Carolinas in this league.”
Fans asked Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach after the game about Harbaugh's comment, as Leach played for East Carolina.
Leach agreed with his head coach about not having any pushovers in the league, but did say he may have to remind his coach that he's an alum of the school.
"#ECU peeps coach was not lying there are not a lot Of #ECU players in the league," he tweeted. "I will have a talk with him to remind him I went to ECU."
McFadden Suffers High Ankle Sprain, Status vs. Ravens Unknown
Raiders running back Darren McFadden suffered a high ankle sprain on his first carry of Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
McFadden continued to play though the pain before aggravating the injury later in the second quarter, when he left the game never to return. Initial X-rays came back negative and he is scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday.
Schefter said the starting running back's status is week-to-week for now. The Ravens will be sure to follow reports coming out of Oakland this week as his status could have a big impact on the Raiders offense.
"He's the Raiders' best player," Judge wrote of McFadden. "He's also the team's most fragile. He's never played more than 13 games in his career and missed the last nine starts of 2011 with a Lisfranc injury. McFadden was hoping this season would be different, and maybe it will. But after eight starts, he's sidelined again ... and no one's certain when he returns."
Cam Gave Flacco Props For Audibles
Amidst criticism last week about not giving running back Ray Rice enough carries, Joe Flacco was partly blamed for audibling out of rushing play calls.
Following that chatter, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron credited Flacco for making some changes at the line that benefited the running game in Sunday's victory, according to The Sun.
"Joe did a phenomenal job of audibling to some runs and got us a couple of big runs there," Cameron said.
Flacco also called an impressive audible at the line of scrimmage on the Ravens' two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. The call left receiver Anquan Boldin wide open in the back of the end zone for Baltimore to pull ahead by seven.
"That was a great call by Joe," Cameron said. "That was great execution by him and Q."
Yanda's Knee Fine, Reid Sees A Few Snaps
The Ravens didn't report any new injuries after Sunday's win, but Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda did take a brief visit to the locker room to have his knee re-taped, according to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
"Yep, it feels great," Yanda said after the game.
That may explain why Jah Reid, who was expected to get reps at left guard, actually got reps on the right side. Reid also got in the game as an extra tight end in jumbo packages. He only played in nine offensive snaps all game, but it was his first game action this season after dealing with a strained calf.
"It feels good to go out there and help the team any way I can," Reid told Wilson. "I did all right. You improve every week. It was great to be out there. I had some good plays, so it's something to build on."
McKinnie Says Not Getting Traded Was A 'Blessing'
Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie had heard the rumors about the Arizona Cardinals being interested in trading for the 11-year veteran.
He was glad when the trade deadline passed and he* *was able to stay in Baltimore.
"I heard it, too," McKinnie told The Sun. "It's a blessing to be here, I'm blessed for that. I didn't really worry about it. I was hearing everything and I didn't know what to think. If it happened, it happened. I wasn't worried about it."
@pmgleason Ravens PR]: Joe Flacco is 10-0 vs Cle, tying John Elway (10-0 vs NE) [for the most wins w/o a loss by a QB vs 1 team in NFL history (since 1970) [Twitter] * @pmgleason: #Ravens have also won 15-straight games that immediately follow a loss – the NFL's longest such active streak. [Twitter] * @pmgleason: #Ravens have won 11-straight division games – the NFL's 2nd-longest such streak since '02 division realignment (Indy - 12, 2004-06) [Twitter] * @csteele32Ravens PR]: @RayRice27 and Browns RB Trent Richardson [trading jerseys after a hard-fought win... #Ravens #RavensNation [Twitter] * @vleach44: Gonna party tonight for my bday coming up on Tuesday [Twitter] * @gerrysandusky: John Harbaugh's 97 year old grandfather is at today's Ravens-Browns game. Harbaugh had "Papa Joe" address the team last night. Team loved it [Twitter] *