Power Rankings: Where Do Ravens Sit?
Was it a fluke, or a sign of things to come?
That is the question after one week of play for all NFL teams, including the Super Bowl champs and their blowout defeat.
The Ravens gave up a franchise-high 49 points against the Denver Broncos and the offense struggled to stay on the field in the second half. It was a downright sucky way to start the year.
However, the Ravens were also in an unattractive situation. Instead of defending their title at home, they were in one of the loudest NFL stadiums, across the country, with a brand new defense against one of the all-time greatest quarterbacks in league history and a vengeful team waiting to take out their frustrations for the last eight months.
It seems most pundits are taking the Ravens' unenviable spot into consideration while determining their NFL power rankings, but a few analysts simply aren't convinced they are an upper echelon team.
SportingNews.com, Vinnie Iyer: No. 7 (dropped two spots)
"Joe Flacco and the Super Bowl champs just couldn't keep up with the Broncos' big-play offense in the playoff rematch, but it also was the toughest possible road opener."
Notes: Not only is this one of the highest-ranked spots for the Ravens, but it was one of the shortest falls.
ProFootballTalk.com, Mike Florio: No. 7 (dropped three spots)
"Is it too late to give the 49ers their sixth-round pick back for Anquan Boldin?"
Notes: No. 7 after a giving up 49 points? Not bad at all. The Ravens are the highest-ranked AFC team with an 0-1 record and the second-highest with that mark in the NFL, behind the Packers. The Bengals were the closest-ranked AFC North team at No. 13, the Steelers and Browns could be found way down the list at Nos. 29 and 31.
The Baltimore Sun, Matt Vensel: No. 8 (dropped 8 spots)
"The Ravens allowed 49 points, the most in franchise history, and let Peyton Manning throw for seven touchdowns, which tied an NFL record. Was it just an awful night or a sign of more to come?"
Notes: Vensel was one of the few analysts to give the Super Bowl champs a No. 1 ranking coming into the season, and that's not because he thought they were the best. He gave that ranking out of respect for their title. Thus, their drop is a little misleading with regard to how much one game affected his opinion. Vensel only ranked the top 12, and the only other AFC North team to make the list was the Bengals at No. 10.
Fox Sports, Brian Billick: No. 9 (dropped four spots)
"All in all, this defense is actually more talented than last year's unit, but they still need to gel and find a leader. It was a bad draw to have to play Peyton Manning in Denver to kick off the 2013 season."
Notes: Again, the Ravens are the top-ranked team in the division, with Cincinnati just one spot behind. The Packers and Falcons, also 0-1, are listed higher than Baltimore.
SB Nation, Ryan Van Bibber: No. 10 (dropped two spots)
"We spent a lot of time during the preseason praising Ozzie Newsome for rebuilding his team's defense with a package of shrewd draft picks and free agent moves. There were glimpses of just how good that group can be, especially the defensive front. It still might take another week or two for the whole thing to gel to the point where it's not allowing 49 points and seven touchdown passes. As for the offense, yeah, I just don't know."
Notes: Dropping two spots is an indication that SB Nation believes the season opener may have been a fluke.
ESPN, Panel of six voters: No. 11 (dropped three spots)
"The Ravens allowed 15 passing touchdowns last year and almost half of that in this year's opener. The seventh TD pass Baltimore allowed last year was in Week 10."
Notes: This is one of the few power rankings that have the Bengals ahead of the Ravens, although Hensley, one of the voters, didn't agree. The last time the Ravens ranked this low in an ESPN ranking was as they were entering the postseason last year. "Everyone knows the rest of the story," Hensley wrote.
CBSSports.com, Pete Prisco: No. 13 (dropped five spots)
"The Ravens have to keep telling themselves that debacle was just one game. They had 10 days to regroup for Cleveland."
Notes: While Prisco advises the Ravens to remember just one game, he doesn't take his own advice. This was one of the biggest drops the Ravens saw after the single performance. The Bengals and three other AFC teams are ahead.
NFL.com, Elliot Harrison: No. 13 (dropped eight spots)
"Where to put the Super Bowl champs after one week? Things looked good in the first half against the Denver Broncos on Thursday; then the secondary took a dump in the second -- and the pass rush didn't manage to dump Peyton Manning enough. Let's wait and see with this team. Ravens fans think I hate their club, but this writer is fully aware that Baltimore lost four of five games down the stretch last season before winning it all."
Notes: Ooofff, an eight-spot drop. That's a lot of stock in one game. Three 0-1 teams are ahead: the Falcons (No. 8), Packers (No. 9) and Bengals (No. 10).
MMQB.com, Peter King: No. 14 (N/A)
"Repeat after me, Timonium: It's only one game … It's only one game …"
Notes: This is the worst spot for the Ravens on any of the power rankings.
Flacco's Durability In Perspective
We all know Flacco has been one of the most durable players in the last five years, but how does he compare to other Ravens and NFL quarterbacks?
Thursday night marked his 81st start, surpassing Jarret Johnson (now with the San Diego Chargers) for the longest regular-season streak in franchise history. That number also gives him the third-longest streak among current NFL quarterbacks.
Consecutive Starts (Current Quarterbacks)
1) Eli Manning (Giants): 136
2) Philip Rivers (Chargers): 113
3) Joe Flacco (Ravens): 81
Hensley did a little more digging and found that Flacco is also "making a dent" in the NFL history books.
His 94 straight starts, including the playoffs, are the ninth-longest streak for quarterbacks in NFL history. It would take 14 more regular seasons, however, to catch leader Brett Favre with 321 games. If he remains healthy, Flacco can pass Dan Marino (No. 8) this season with seven more.
In terms of Baltimore history, Flacco surpassed Johnny Unitas (91) for the most consecutive starts by a quarterback.
"The biggest argument with [Flacco] is his lack of consistency. He can look like Joe Montana in the playoffs and then struggle to get a first down in Denver," Hensley wrote. "Still, there is something you can always count on from Flacco -- he's always going to suit up."
Fan Calls Out King For "Last Laugh" Headline
The headline plastered on MMQB.com Monday morning grabbed a lot of attention.
"Anquan Boldin Has The Last Laugh," it read.
But one reader wrote to author King to challenge the assertion.
"Don't you think the title … is extremely premature?" asked reader Ryan.
He continued: "It was you who wrote about the defensive players the Ravens were able to add in the offseason solely because of the money they saved by dealing Boldin. I don't think Ozzie Newsome was sitting at The Castle watching Boldin have a monster game against a very suspect Green Bay defense thinking 'Man, I wish we had him for the final year of his contract and not Elvis Dumervil for the next five years.' Especially considering Terrell Suggs' contract expires soon, and he's the Ravens only other proven pass rusher. Boldin had a great game, and the receivers for Baltimore had the complete opposite, but it was one game. Let's see who benefits most from that transaction in a few years from now, not after one game."
King explained that he doesn't write the headlines for his Monday morning column and clarified that the intent of his article was not to "tweak" the Ravens but to say Boldin was worth the $6 million.
As The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec pointed out, the money saved by trading Boldin was put to very good use. Without it, Dumervil and maybe even Daryl Smith and Chris Canty would not be here. That's not the part that doesn't look good, however, he says.
"But where it looks like they clearly erred was putting so much faith in the organization's younger wide receivers," Zrebiec wrote. "While maintaining that the trade of Boldin for a sixth-round pick was strictly a salary cap move, Ravens' officials made it clear that they liked what they still had in the organization at the position. There was no indication that the Ravens were even in on any free-agent receivers. That’s what doesn’t look good at the moment."
Looking at those young receivers.*David Reed was traded, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams and Tommy Streeter were all let go (Doss was re-signed Monday), and *Deonte Thompson is injured and hasn't been able to prove his worth. On top of all that, you have injured tight end Dennis Pitta, who was a big factor in deciding to trade Boldin but may not play at all in 2013.
Two other younger receivers that have stepped up, but were not part of the equation at the time of the Boldin trade, are rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette.
Mixed Bag For Gradkowski's First Start
Rookie center Gino Gradkowski allowed three quarterback hurries, but no hits or sacks on Flacco in his first NFL start. By comparison, previous starter Matt Birk surrendered fewer than two pressures per game last season, noted The Sun's Matt Vensel.
Then again, Birk never played in a game where Flacco threw 62 passes.
"Gino did a good job," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "The thing about Gino -- and he and I talked about this -- that people are going to question is [that] he's a 300-pound guy, which we all say is pretty darn big, and there are a lot of centers who aren't as big as he is. But, you say, 'Is he going to hold up physically against the bigger defensive linemen?' He's going to have a challenge again this week. He did that really well. Physically, he did a good job."
Will Flacco's Interceptions Increase This Season?
With Flacco throwing two interceptions Thursday night, compared to 10 all of last season, CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown wonders if the sixth-year quarterback will surpass last year’s total.
Flacco has never thrown more than 12 picks in a single season during his career.
"Even if he plays well, expect that interception number to increase this season," Brown wrote. "One issue is the chemistry that Flacco is trying to build with new receivers like Marlon Brown, Brandon Stokley, and Dallas Clark.
"Another issue is the separation, or lack of separation, that Ravens' receivers are getting when running routes. Boldin and Pitta were terrific last season at catching balls in traffic. However, Torrey Smith is receiving more attention from opposing defenses, and neither Clark nor Stokley are speed merchants. Flacco may face more situations where he feels compelled to throw into tighter windows. That could lead to more interceptions, especially when Flacco makes poor decisions or inaccurate throws."
- @jamisonhensley: With 10-0 mark vs. #Browns, Flacco is tied with Elway for most wins by a starting QB against an opponent without a loss since '70 merger. … Elway had a 10-0 record against the Patriots, although I'm sure Browns feel like he had their number as well. [Twitter]
- "When the Ravens have previously lost by 20 or more points in the John Harbaugh era, Baltimore is 4-0 the following week," Hensley wrote. "That's right. The Ravens are perfect a week after looking flawed." [ESPN]
- @jeffzrebiecsun: The #Ravens will unveil permanent Super Bowl XLVII champion banners and have a video tribute before player introductions Sunday vs. Browns [Twitter]
- @mattvensel: Here's a fun factoid heading into Browns week: Elvis Dumervil has nine sacks in four career games against the Browns. #Ravens [Twitter]
- Cut by the Ravens recently … @JackCornell73: Proud to announce I am the newest member of the @RAIDERS can't wait to get right to work and play for #RaiderNation #JustWinBaby [Twitter]
- @RavensInsider: Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss signed a one-year, $555,000 minimum deal. He's due $522,353, minus one game check for Broncos game [Twitter]
- @TorreySmithWR: I take pride in being the same person in real life that I am on twitter...that includes being a smart a-- haha [Twitter]
- @mzenitz: Cary Williams received the highest grade among CBs from Pro Football Focus for Week 1. Had two pass deflections, an INT and a sack [Twitter]
- @RavensInsider: Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley both earned $65,000 roster bonuses by being on the 53-man roster for the first game. … As vested veterans, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley's $940,000 base salaries are guaranteed for the remainder of the season [Twitter]
- Former Ravens safety and current free agent Tom Zbikowski has been suspended four games for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing substances. [ProFootballTalk.com]
- @RavensCommunity: Ravens @jtuck9 on the piano and backup singers @BrandonW_66 @bcopelb entertaining the families at @RMHCBaltimore [Twitter]