--- Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com says the first-place Ravens have to start doing better than winning ugly.
“The Ravens aren't apologizing for their effort. It's been good enough to beat the likes of Dallas, Kansas City and Cleveland twice. And it's good enough to give them the second-best record in the AFC (aka, the Average Football Conference),” said Hensley, my former Baltimore Sun colleague. “But 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. The Ravens hold a one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3), but this is a team that has won four of its past five games, including a victory at the defending Super Bowl champion Giants on Sunday.”
Matt’s take: Of course this performance wouldn’t have gotten it done against the likes of Houston, Denver or Pittsburgh, but that doesn’t mean Sunday's 25-15 win should come with an asterisk because it came in Cleveland. And will anyone be complaining if the Ravens somehow win in Pittsburgh and San Diego later this month, but do it ugly? OK, they probably will still complain, but you should settle for a win on the road regardless of aesthetic value.
--- Don Banks of Sports Illustrated doesn’t think the Ravens are as good as their record indicates.
“I think we've seen enough of the Ravens by now to know that nothing is going to come easily this season in Baltimore,” he wrote. “The Ravens are 6-2 at midseason, but I can't really recall a less impressive 6-2 club in recent memory.”
Matt’s take: Who doesn’t enjoy starting their day off with a hot cup of hyperbole? I hate to sound like a broken record, but who cares how impressive the victories have been? Do you think the Dallas Cowboys are pumped about being the most impressive 3-5 team in the league right now? You are what your record is. Also, going off the top of my head, too, I think the 2009 Denver Broncos would have something to say about this one. OK, rant over.
--- Consider Clark Judge of CBS Sports to also be unimpressed with the Ravens.
“You want to know why few people trust Baltimore at 6-2? 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,” Judge wrote.
Matt’s take: Listen, guys, there’s no doubt that their flaws have been exposed the past few games, all but one of which were victories, and coach John Harbaugh once again said Monday that there is a lot of work left to be done for the Ravens to become great. They have a lot to fix if they are to win the Super Bowl, but with eight games left, they are in great shape in the standings with some time left to get their issues ironed out. No, it won't be easy.
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com thinks overanxious Ravens fans need to take a chill pill.
“I’m sure there will be more hand-wringing around town this week after another ugly win,” he wrote. “But I would suggest not wringing those hands so hard that you sprain them. Take a chill pill. Step back and look at things. The Ravens are 6-2 and in first place. They’re three games up on the Bengals, who were expected to challenge them for the division title. They’re ahead of the Steelers. Yes, they have issues … but who doesn’t?”
Matt’s take: Finally, I found someone else who is looking at a cracked glass that is still half full. Oh, and by the way, it is recommended that you don’t take that chill pill on an empty stomach.
--- Peter King of Sports Illustrated points out that Steelers week is just six days away for the reeling Ravens.
“Another unimpressive day -- for 50 minutes -- from quarterback Joe Flacco, who will be needed by Baltimore if it hopes to win big in January,” he wrote. “Now: Raiders next week, then what that football-mad corridor between western Pennsylvania and the eastern shore of Maryland has been waiting for -- two Baltimore-Pittsburgh games in a 15-day span.”
Matt’s take: Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense were totally inconsistent and completely maddening against the Browns, but there were signs of life out of the gate and when it mattered down the stretch. And the defense played a bit better after the bye week, although the pass rush remains a major concern. Trust me, I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist. We are going to find out just how critical the team’s issues are in the next four weeks, with those two games against the Steelers sandwiched around another long trip out to the West Coast to play the San Diego Chargers. This is when the Ravens will show us what they’re truly made of.