Everybody's saying basically the same things about tonight's game between the Ravens and Cleveland Browns. The Ravens need to re-establish their identity and play more consistently.
Trouble is, there'll be no way to really know if that happens tonight, because the Browns are such a supposedly unimposing opponent. If the Ravens win, 37-7, which is the score I predicted over the weekend, it will only prove that they are way better than the Browns, and we can only hope that already has been established.
The Ravens will get pressure on Brady Quinn, but that doesn't mean they'll get any on Peyton Manning on Sunday. The Ravens likely will have success moving up and down the field tonight. That doesn't mean they can do that against the Steelers the Sunday after next. So what are we to look for to get any indication if they are ready to turn things around in the second half of the regular season?
Personally, I'll be looking for more variety on the offensive side of the ball. Marvin Lewis exposed how predictable the Ravens can be in the Bengals' victory last week. When Derrick Mason turned right, there was somebody waiting there to shut him off. When the Ravens went underneath on key move-the-chains situations, the Bengals seemed to know what they were going to do. Give the Bengals credit for being very well-prepared, but that can't be a blueprint for the good teams on the way to Baltimore.
Last year, the Ravens slipped in the occasional trick play or used Troy Smith to force opposing defenses to work harder to prepare for them. This year, they've tried to establish a more dominating attack, with mixed results so for. Look for a few new twists from Cam Cameron over the next few games.
On defense, if the secondary can't totally stifle the Browns passing game, I don't want to think about what Peyton Manning might do this weekend or Ben Roeslisberger in two weeks.