Before I even begin discussing the Ravens match-up this week, I think something needs to be said about how the NFL schedule was put together this year. Granted, they were gearing up for the lockout scheduling later bye weeks and no divisional games early, but here’s a list of some of the games we’ve seen, or we’ll be seeing on Monday Night Football:
Patriots-Dolphins, Giants-Rams, Bucs-Colts, Jets-Dolphins, Ravens-Jags, Chiefs-Patriots, Chargers-Jags, Rams-Seahawks…
Eight out of the 17 games showed on MNF this season are borderline unwatchable! Who puts the Jaguars on national TV twice when they can’t get enough interest from their regional audience?! And the pièce de résistance at the end of the list: the Rams and Seahawks facing off might garner less interest than the GOP debates. Someone dropped the ball hoping to ruin ESPN’s ratings on Monday night, and we’re paying for it.
But I digress…
The 4-1 Ravens are cruising, having won three straight games in fairly impressive fashion. The 1-5 Jaguars are coming off a 17-13 loss at Pittsburgh; a game they feel they should’ve won, but didn’t:
“What’s it horseshoes and hand grenades? Being close is OK in those, but not in football,” said Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars Head Coach who is certainly coaching his last year in Jacksonville.
The Jags are starting rookie Blaine Gabbert at QB after cutting incumbent starter David Garrard before the season and trying and failing with journeyman Luke McCown. Their defense was supposed to be much improved with the signings of Paul Posluszny and Dawan Landry, still they’ve been an average group ranking a surprizing 8th against the pass and 19th against the run.
For the Jags it’s their 32nd ranked passing offense that’s been the problem. Gabbert isn’t ready and throwing him into the fire has returned poor results. They still believe in him for the future but right now his play is holding them back. RB Maurice Jones-Drew is the lone good player on the team, he’s third in the league in rushing with 572 yards, but only two touchdowns relating to the Jags offensive struggles in the red zone.
The Ravens are flying pretty high right now. Ray Rice is running and receiving very well out of the backfield and the offensive line is starting meld; the group is not there yet however. At 4-1 they’re atop the AFC North, followed closely by the surprising Cincinnatti Bengals at 4-2, and the always lurking Steelers sitting at 4-2 as well.
These are the games championship teams finish before halftime. If the Ravens want to send a statement to the league that they are indeed for real, why not do it on Monday night? For all of their success the Ravens still have work to do. Namely, converting 3rd downs more regularly and scoring TD’s in the redzone (they ranked 28th at 36.8%).
As the team continues to improve and get to know one another those stats should improve. The Ravens truly are a mystery. They have the talent to win the AFC. Can they get better? Or will this team full of veterans and has-beens fizzle out?
Prediction: Ravens 31-Jags 10
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.