Here's The Truth: Rams Can Beat Ravens
Forgive me Coach Harbaugh, I am about to sin…
And, forgive me Ozzie and Steve, and the Rays and Sizzle, Haloti, Joe and Michael…
The Rams can beat us Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. That's the truth. We know it. Reporters know it. Some fans understand this. Those in the odds-making business clearly see it. (Reports in papers I've read say we're about three points better than St. Louis.)
That's what we live with in the NFL: the realization that every team we play has the ability to beat us. There are no Alabama/Troy or Oklahoma/Eastern Illinois matchups. We work in an NFL system that tries to get every team to 8-8. The better you play, the harder your schedule, the lower your draft pick, etc. Those rules work, giving us all compelling entertainment unmatched in the U.S. culture.
The NFL is the "on-any-given-Sunday" league.
I'm saying the Rams can beat us despite the Ravens having the third-most wins in the league over the last three seasons. Baltimore has 37, tied with the Patriots, two behind the leader Pittsburgh (39) and one below the Colts (38). I'm saying the Rams can beat us even though we have the second-most road wins in the league since Harbs became our head coach in 2008.
Should you be worried about the Ravens' winning in St. Louis? The truthful answer is "yes." Should you be worried every week? Definitely. That's reality.
Heck, when I try to make myself less worried about the next game, I go to the person who I believe knows more about football than any other person I know, Ozzie Newsome. He usually tells me: "They have a lot of players we wanted to draft. They're pretty good."
If I go to the locker room and ask players if we'll win, almost all of them will answer "yes." And then add the caveat: "Remember, they get paid too. They're saying the same thing over there."
We're playing a desperate team in the Rams. They're 0-2, having lost at home to the Eagles (31-13) and at the Giants (28-16) Monday night. They've made some big mistakes in their first two games that have cost them victory. But, they have moved the ball and played pretty good defense.Their goal will be to jump on us early and get that dome cranked to the loudest.
We have to stop them. We have to take the crowd out of it. We have to make the plays and the stops. We have to create turnovers and not give the ball away. We have to get their offense off the field on third downs and our offense has to convert our third-down opportunities.
No doubt we can do that. I think we will do that. After 33 years in this business, I know how hard it will be.
Which brings me to what many media and some fans have called our "letdown" against the Titans last Sunday in Nashville. Some have almost mocked Coach Harbaugh and our players for saying prior to the game that "there's no chance we'll have a letdown against Tennessee."
(I had this conversation with someone in the NFL I respect greatly. He gave me a good line regarding some reporters: "They have to have something to write about, and they have to have something to be right about.")
From Harbs, to assistants, to scouts who evaluate our play, to our players who were out there battling the Titans, the message is the same: "We didn't have a letdown. You can study every player on every play of the game. We got after them. The Titans played very well and, at times, we played badly."
Matt Hasselbeck had a terrific game against us. Their coaches had excellent game plans that kept us off balance. We had some players who didn't make plays when they had the opportunity, both on offense and defense. We turned the ball over three times. The Titans deserve credit forbeating us.
The Packers are the measuring stick for all of us right now. They are the defending champions. On their way to their Super Bowl victory over the Steelers in February, they finished 10-6 in the regular season. Green Bay started the year by splitting its first six games, losing to the Bears, who ended up with an 11-5 record, the 6-10 Redskins and the 7-9 Dolphins. That great Packers' offense, which really is fantastic and a marvel to watch, scored only a field goal in a 7-3 loss at Detroit last Dec. 12.
Am I Whining?
I hope not. Writing this is cathartic for me. I'm still suffering from last Sunday's loss in Tennessee. (Fortunately, I'm not coaching or playing for the Ravens. Our team has moved on – it's getting ready to beat the Rams.)
My point is this: It's hard to win in the NFL. And those teams who win consistently are pretty good at what they do. Only one NFL team ever went undefeated for a whole season.
Last season's Super Bowl champ lost six games. The Saints lost three in 2009; the Steelers dropped four in 2008, and the Giants suffered six defeats in 2007. Super Bowl winners lose sometimes. Do I think the Ravens are a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season? You're damn right I do.
But, I also know that every team can beat you. That's why I have bags under my eyes. I know too much about the game. I'm always worried. That said, let's go kick the Rams' butts and feel good about doing it.
Talk with you next week,
P.S. Had a friend say this to me this week: "Let's see, you beat the Steelers, 35-7, and they beat the Seahawks 24-0 last Sunday. That means when you play at Seattle later in the season, you'll win 59-7." My response: "You're an idiot." (He's a close enough friend to whom I could say that.)
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.