Read and react: Tackling five opinions on the Ravens

This feature appears each Tuesday 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?

--- Chris Burke of said that Joe Flacco and the Ravens made a statement on “Monday Night Football.”

“Think you can stop the Ravens’ offense? Good luck. Baltimore barely even needed [Ray] Rice on Monday night -- he scored twice but received just 10 carries, or three less than the rest of the Ravens combined,” he wrote. “Eight different Baltimore players caught passes, paced by [Dennis] Pitta’s five for 73 yards, as he exploited mismatches and open space over the middle all night.  Flacco, for his part, was terrific. On another night, at least one of his misfires would have resulted in an interception, but just about everything else he threw was through a pinhole. He wasn’t just good; he looked ready to jump into that ‘Elite Quarterback’ discussion.”

Matt’s take: Oh yes, the “Elite Quarterback” discussion. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked to weigh in on this debate after the game -- not by Burke, but by another national writer -- and of course Harbaugh said that he thinks his quarterback is elite. What else would he say? Flacco played very well, but he has to do this consistently to be in the same league as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and the Manning brothers.

--- Ashley Fox of ESPN believes the offense will carry the Ravens this season, not the defense, per usual.

“Change isn't easy. It takes time and patience and resilience. In the National Football League, change can take years. Long years. Tough years,” she wrote. “But in Baltimore, change has occurred.  Want to know how you know? Joe Flacco had just lofted a very Tom Brady-like 10-yard pass to Dennis Pitta for a touchdown to give Baltimore a 24-13 lead over a pesky Cincinnati team. Ray Lewis, a Raven since 1996, turned to Ed Reed, a Raven since 2002, on the sideline and said, ‘Our offense is doing what they're supposed to do. It's time for us to do what we're supposed to do.’ Suffice it to say that sideline conversation between Baltimore's defensive leaders had never occurred quite like that. The offense leading the team? The Ravens? You bet. It is happening now.”

Matt’s take: I know the Ravens will be without Terrell Suggs for at least the first half of the season, but I think the demise of the Ravens defense is being greatly exaggerated. Against the Bengals, the Ravens had four sacks, forced two turnovers, allowed 13 points, slowed wideout A.J. Green, and scored on an interception return. Sure, the offense will be better, but let’s not get too carried away this alleged passing of the torch.

--- John Eisenberg of was caught off guard Monday by the Ravens starting Ramon Harewood.

“OK, who had those five offensive linemen starting the season opener? Anyone? I didn't think so. Ramon Harewood at left guard, that came out of nowhere. Harewood was drafted as a tackle in 2010 and had never played in a game, spending his first two years as a pro on injured reserve. He was probably the longest shot on the roster to replace Ben Grubbs,” Eisenberg wrote. “I admit, I didn't see it coming, especially McKinnie's benching. But the Ravens have never been afraid to take gambles, and while this is a big one (we'll see how the young guys fare in the coming weeks), they were unqualified successes in their surprising debuts.”

Matt’s take: This was a stunner. We knew Kelechi Osemele would start at right tackle, but Harewood lining up at left guard instead of Bobbie Williams was surprising. It is also an indictment of Williams, who was signed to a two-year contract worth just under $3 million. Harewood wasn’t a liability, but tougher tests await.

---’s Dan Hanzus thinks the Bengals took umbrage to the Ravens throwing the ball in the fourth quarter.

“This night could create some bad blood,” Hanzus wrote. “Sitting on a 28-point cushion early in the fourth quarter, the Ravens kept throwing in Flacco's final series. Think the Bengals noticed?”

Matt’s take: After the Ravens expanded their lead to 28 points early in the fourth quarter, Flacco attempted one pass and was sacked once before exiting the game. I guess they could have stopped throwing, but I won’t bash them for not taking their foot off the gas pedal with 10 minutes left. Sounds like someone might have started the Bengals defense in fantasy football.

--- Zac Jackson of Fox Sports is already talking about the Ravens repeating as AFC North champions.

“The actual engraving of the trophy is on hold, but the Baltimore Ravens have opened up a lead on the AFC North. And they sent quite a message in doing so,” he wrote, later adding that “There's a long way to go, but the defending division champs and a team that came a dropped pass from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl played like a team that can get back.”

Matt’s take: Impressive win, but let’s take a deep breath. It was just one game with 15 left to play.

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