This feature appears every week on the Baltimore Sports Blitz. It’s just like “What They’re Saying About the Ravens,” but it includes blogger Matt Vensel saying something about what those people are saying. Got it?
--- A.J. Perez of Fox Sports says that the Ravens are weathering the loss of inside linebacker Ray Lewis.
“The Ravens enter next week’s game 2-1 without Lewis. In those wins against Cleveland and Oakland, Baltimore has forced five turnovers,” he wrote after the 55-20 win over the Raiders. “Those takeaways obscure the fact that safety Ed Reed isn’t 100 percent -- made clear by a missed tackle on a 55-yard touchdown by Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey -- and the secondary remains green after cornerback Lardarius Webb was lost for the year. Starting defensive lineman Haloti Ngata dressed, but didn’t play on Sunday.”
Matt’s take: The way that inside linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain have played the past three games, you could probably make an argument that the Ravens are playing better without Lewis (and, to be fair, with Terrell Suggs back on the field). That’s a heated argument for another day. But the defense appears to be stabilizing while beating the hapless Browns and Raiders. We’ll see if that is really the case in the coming weeks.
--- John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com said the Ravens “needed to crush” an opponent like they did in the blowout win over the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium.
“The Ravens talked a lot afterward about how their dismantling of the Raiders won’t matter a week from now against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I beg to differ,” Eisenberg wrote. “This team needed to crush someone. It needed to see that its array of offensive weapons could indeed still be effective together, and that its maligned defense could rise up.”
Matt’s take: Some players downplayed the potential boost from Sunday’s win, but coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he is “a confidence guy,” meaning he likes that his team is going into Pittsburgh with some momentum. I agree with him. It’s not that the players, particularly those on offense, had stopped believing in themselves. But it can’t be a bad thing that they were reminded of what they are fully capable of doing when they execute the plan.
--- Jamison Hensley of ESPN says the Ravens showed -- in a good way -- against the Raiders why they need to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs.
“The only statement made by the Ravens was the importance of this team to get home-field advantage in the playoffs,” wrote Hensley, my former colleague here at The Sun. “The Ravens look like Super Bowl contenders when they play in front of sellout crowds at M&T Bank Stadium. When they go on the road, they look like a team searching for confidence and an identity.”
Matt’s take: I have written the same thing a couple of times now, not that it is an original or an unobvious thought. They have shown the past two years that they are nearly impossible to beat at home. And they have shown that they may not have what it takes to win more than one playoff game on the road. They still have time to figure out their road issues. But just to be safe, they should probably try to secure that first-round playoff bye.
--- Pete Prisco of CBS Sports said that the Ravens running a fake field goal on Sunday was classless.
“The worst thing I saw this weekend was the Ravens faking a field goal up 41-17,” he said. “They scored on a 7-yard run by holder Sam Koch. That's just classless. That's the kind of things that coaches have to realize can't be done in those situations. The Raiders acted like they weren't mad. But I can bet they were. Show some class.”
Matt’s take: I knew before Koch reached the end zone against the Raiders that the fake field goal would be a topic of discussion this week, but I didn’t have an issue with it. What people aren’t talking about is how the Raiders rallied from three scores down in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the previous week and nearly overtook them. The Ravens didn’t want that to happen, so they took the easy touchdown.
--- Peter King of Sports Illustrated says the injury to Ben Roethlisberger puts the Ravens in the driver seat.
“When Roethlisberger hasn't played -- either because of injury or suspension -- the Steelers are 0-4 against Baltimore,” King wrote. “It's clear the Ravens' rush has had much to do with it, as the Steelers completed just 52 percent of their throws in those games. The Steelers are one game back of the Ravens in the AFC North after 10 weeks, but the advantage in the series will clearly shift to Baltimore without Roethlisberger -- and with Terrell Suggs having returned to the Ravens lineup after his offseason Achilles injury threatened to scuttle his season. The Steelers and Ravens meet twice in the next 19 days, including Sunday at Heinz Field.”
Matt’s take: We shall see if Roethlisberger plays Sunday night. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Monday that he is questionable with a shoulder sprain. But there’s no doubt it is advantage Ravens if he does sit out.