Ravens Climbing Power Rankings After First Win
After opening the season with a 13-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens are slowly moving up most national power rankings around the web.
The team's average ranking from the lists below is No. 15, jumping up as many as five spots in one USA Today poll. However, the Ravens did move down in some rankings that weren't as impressed with the win.
As John Eisenberg wrote yesterday, Baltimore is firmly flying under the national radar, which might be a good thing as the team works out some kinks and the offense has time to jell with several key figures missing much of training camp and the preseason.
"The shadows of the NFL are a fine place to work on issues and shake off rust," Eisenberg wrote. "The lack of attention and appreciation can serve as a motivational tool, and if you win enough, the spotlight still finds you in the end, anyway."
As the Ravens try to build momentum heading to Cleveland for a divisional matchup, it will be hard to catch the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers' average ranking is No. 4 and the Bengals' is No. 6.
Take a look …
ESPN: No. 13 (moved up two spots)* *"Joe Flacco returned to action in Week 1 with a 65.3 Total QBR and no interceptions. Flacco threw 12 interceptions in 10 games last season and had only two games with none. One of those games was against his Week 2 opponent, the Browns."
USA TODAY: No. 13 (moved up five spots)
"Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith and Justin Forsett all contributed immediately after ending 2015 on IR. Mike Wallace adds quite a wrinkle."
SB Nation: No. 13 (moved up two spots)* *"There was nothing elite about Baltimore's win over the Bills, but sometimes a win is a win. More importantly, the Ravens started healthy and stayed healthy. That will serve them well this season." -- Ryan Van Bibber
CBS Sports: No. 15 (moved up two spots)
"They had to be thrilled with what they got from Joe Flacco in the opener. The defense also looked improved against the Bills." -- Pete Prisco
NFL.com: No. 16 (moved up four spots)
"Nice to be on the fun side of a one-score win for a change, huh? The Ravens dialed it back 16 years by dominating the Bills defensively on opening Sunday. Buffalo tallied all of seven points. The stuff about former Raven Tyrod Taylor valiantly returning to Baltimore got washed down with crabcakes." -- Elliot Harrison
Yahoo! Sports: No. 16 (moved down one spot)
"It was good to see receiver Breshad Perriman, a 2015 first-round pick who missed all of last season, and tight end Dennis Pitta, who missed all of last year, contribute to a win." -- Frank Schwab
Fox Sports: No. 17 (moved up two spots)* *"The Ravens dominated the Bills in just about every facet but only came away with a 13-7 win. Why? Poor red zone and third-down efficiency. The Ravens still don't have a strong identity, but at least Joe Flacco seems comfortable with his bevy of receivers. Still, they need to stop relying on big plays, which they had plenty of." -- Cameron DaSilva
Bleacher Report: No. 18 (moved down one spot)
"If you're John Harbaugh, you're excited that your team still has a bunch of butt-kickers. That offensive line matched and exceeded Buffalo's physicality. You saw potential at tight end with Dennis Pitta, Mike Wallace 3.0 (I told you so) and a guy in the middle of your defense named Timmy Jernigan. His awesome preseason carried over for sure." -- Chris Simms
Battle Between Justin Forsett And Terrance West 'Officially Begins'
It doesn't look like one of the biggest questions of training camp is going away any time soon.
In fact, ESPN's Jamison Hensley says Week 2 is the perfect opportunity for the battle to take shape between Justin Forsett and Terrance West to become the featured back.
"The answer wasn't coming in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens had decided to go with more three-receiver sets, and they only ran the ball 15 times in the first three quarters.
"The competition between Forsett and West officially begins Sunday at the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens historically run the ball well against the Browns, and there's little to sway Baltimore against doing the same in Week 2."
The Ravens have averaged 143.9 rushing yards per game against the Browns since Head Coach John Harbaugh came to town in 2008, per Hensley. So, it makes sense for the team to continue to try to ride that train, which should give Forsett and West more carries and the chance to stand out.
Harbaugh said after Sunday's win that he wants more than the 3.3 yards per carry the offense notched against the Bills. The longest run of the day didn't even belong to either of the backs. It instead came from Wallace, who broke off an 11-yard rush on an end around.
"Coaches talked all offseason about how they wanted to improve their ground game," wrote Hensley. "Last season, the Ravens ranked No. 26 in the NFL in rushing (92.4 yards) and set a team record for fewest rushing attempts (383). Baltimore knows it has to do much better than the 83 yards rushing produced against Buffalo."
By the way, we can't completely forget about Kenneth Dixon, who reportedly could return as early as Week 3, or Buck Allen, who was inactive Week 1.
"Harbaugh said the decision to [deactivate] running back Buck Allen was a result of the team's gameplan," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "The Ravens knew they were going to be using a lot of three wide receiver and multi tight end sets against the Bills, and they thought it was more important to have a fifth wide receiver in Chris Moore than a third running back. Sounds like that will be a week-to-week decision."
Is Mike Wallace A Legit Fantasy Option?
It was just one game. But, there was a beautiful 66-yard catch and run from Wallace.
Wallace has disappointed fantasy owners the last couple of years, which made them leery as he starts fresh with his third team in three years.
If you ask ESPN's fantasy guru, Mike Sando, Wallace's "surprising" Week 1 performance is worth buying into. He thinks Wallace can still be a legitimate deep threat.
"Wallace's 66-yard scoring reception in his Ravens debut was longer than any reception he made with Minnesota last season," Sando wrote. "Joe Flacco has the arm to make use of Wallace's speed. This can be a productive pairing."
It also doesn't hurt that the Ravens have other receivers on the team that opposing defenses must respect, which could continue to open things up for Wallace.
In terms of Breshad Perriman, it looks like the Ravens will gradually increase his snaps as he continues to return from his second knee injury in two years.
"Perriman's reception against the Bills shows he hasn't lost any of his deep speed," wrote ESPN's John Clayton. "The Ravens are bringing him along slowly, working him as the fourth receiver. That's smart. He has had less than two weeks of practice in two years. He had 21 plays Sunday – only two passes were thrown his way – and the team will slowly increase his activity level as he picks up the offense. The Ravens like what they have seen so far."
Bringing Sanity To Overreaction Monday
That's essentially what Zrebiec told Baltimore Sun readers as they reached out to him on what he dubbed "Overreaction Monday."
Fans wrote with extreme opinions and demands including already giving up on Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, receiver Steve Smith Sr., center Jeremy Zuttah and rookie Kamalei Correa.
Let's bring sanity to some of these ideas.
Zrebiec says you should expect some drop-off in explosiveness after Achilles tears for Suggs and Smith, but they will still flash in the biggest moments of games. Yes, the Ravens have John Urschel, who can play center, but you can't pull the plug on a respected veteran like Zuttah after "one of his worst games as a Raven." Finally, it's not fair to say a second-round draft pick like Correa is a "disappointment" after one week into his rookie season.
As for Trestman's offense putting up just 13 points …
"The Ravens offense was tough to watch at times Sunday," Zrebiec wrote. "It seemed Trestman got away from the run for stretches and the Ravens didn't take many shots down the field. Everything just seemed to lack a flow. However, some of these issues had to be expected.
"The Ravens barely had their starting [offense] on the field this summer. Several key players are coming off significant surgeries and are still getting healthy. That can't be an excuse for too long. I've said all along that this is a huge season for Trestman, and he needs to get this offense playing more consistently. However, with two rookie starting offensive linemen, a quarterback coming off a knee injury and a group of evolving targets, the offense needs time to jell."