Ravens are good and about to get better


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Decisions, decisions. Do you blow your life savings on World Series tickets, or purchase a Super Bowl travel package instead?

How convenient that the Ravens' next game is in San Diego.

Not only will they trash the Chargers, but they also can get accustomed to Qualcomm Stadium, where they'll be returning for the Super Bowl in late January.

The final game at Memorial Stadium is supposed to be Dec. 14, but the old barn could stay open another month as the Ravens march to the AFC title.

You laugh?

The Ravens (3-1!) can move into first place in the AFC Central tonight if Pittsburgh wins at Jacksonville.

The Ravens (3-1!) have the same record as the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.

The Ravens (3-1!) are only going to get better.

"That's the most exciting part about it," linebacker Ray Lewis said after yesterday's 36-10 obliteration of Tennessee.

"This team is still young. When everything starts to click, that's when it will really be time to look out."

An elite team by '98?

Art Modell is ahead on at least one payment plan.

If the Ravens win at San Diego, they'll match their victory total from last season before the end of September.

If the Ravens win at San Diego, they'll be 4-1 entering their Oct. 5 showdown with Pittsburgh at Memorial Stadium.

Can the world's largest outdoor insane asylum make a comeback?

The Ravens sure have.

Heck, they might clinch before the Orioles.

Running back Earnest Byner said they should aim for 10 or 11 wins. Receiver Michael Jackson said he wanted to "flip the script" -- go from 4-12 to 12-4.

"We can be as good as we were bad last year," Jackson said.

Now that would be good.

But first, a word of caution from Vinny Turnover-Free, er, Testaverde.

"I'm excited, but I don't want to get too excited," the Ravens' quarterback said. "Truthfully, we haven't done anything yet.

"It's nice to be 3-1. Everyone is in a good mood, happy, excited about winning. But there was a team last year right down the road from us that went 7-1, and they didn't even go to the playoffs."

That team, of course, was the Raljon Redskins.

Their collapse was so complete, they were out of the playoff picture before they played their final game.

Ah, but this is a new season.

And for our readers who remain stuck in traffic outside Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, here are the updated state standings:

Ravens 3-1.

Redskins 2-1.

The pressure's on, eh, Norv?

Actually, the pressure's on Baltimore. The Redskins had a bye yesterday, but on Sunday they are host to Jacksonville.

To repeat, the Ravens are in the AFC Central, and the Jaguars are in the AFC Central.

Sing along, Baltimore!

Hail to the Redskins. Hail victory. Hail to the Redskins. Fight for Ted and Vinny!

Time to get with the program, folks.

This is serious now.

The Ravens achieved three more firsts yesterday -- first blowout, first back-to-back road triumphs, first three-game winning streak.

"The bus can't stop here," Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. "We've got to take it to the playoffs and Super Bowl."

Say what, Zeus?

"That's what you think," Brown said. "You take it one game at a time. But that's the whole goal."

The man weighs 350 pounds.

Take his word for it.

With this record and this schedule, the playoffs are indeed realistic -- though Kansas City started 4-0 last season and failed to qualify.

Remember last season, when the Ravens couldn't hold a lead in the fourth quarter? This season, they've outscored opponents 56-18 in the second half.

They lost tight end Eric Green yesterday, but still finished with 398 yards of offense. They lost defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, but still held Eddie George to 40 yards rushing.

"Know what this team is doing? It's learning about winning," defensive end Michael McCrary said. "And when you have that confidence going, you can take it to the next level."

The Oilers embarrassed the Ravens twice last season. They had an extra week to prepare. But yesterday, they committed five turnovers, missed a field-goal attempt and followed a curious, pass-oriented game plan.

They had no chance.

Jermaine Lewis was such a weapon in this game, the Ravens scored 16 points in the second half without completing a pass to Green, Jackson or Derrick Alexander.

And don't look now, but here comes Bam Morris.

That's right, the offense is about to get better.

And the defense is improving every week.

"We haven't come close to playing our best ball," defensive end Rob Burnett said. "We can do so much better, it's scary."

But can't they also blow it?

"You can blow it in a heartbeat," Burnett said, "but it could be a lot worse. I could be sitting here 1-3."

He could, but he isn't.

The Ravens (3-1!) are one of the surprise teams in the NFL.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Chargers by 2

Series with Ravens: First meeting

Record: 1-3

Yesterday: Lost to Seattle, 26-22

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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