When analyzing the second half of the Ravens' season, there could be hope or more gloom. It's so hard to predict.
Of their eight remaining opponents, only two have a winning record and five of those eight games are at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens were once nearly unbeatable.
But these aren't the old Ravens that played great defense.
There is always hope coming off the bye week because it allows a team time to self scout and for key players to heal. But let's be realistic. Unless the Ravens traded for Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, cloned Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson or signed Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders after he drank from the fountain of youth, will the time off really make a difference?
You feel good about the Ravens (2-6) because one opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, has a similar record and another, the Cleveland Browns (2-7), is worse. The Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season with an injury and the Miami Dolphins (3-5) can't draw flies much less fans at their home in Sun Life Stadium.
Jacksonville is led by quarterback Blake Bortles. Who?
Even more interesting is that the Jaguars and St. Louis Rams haven't had a winning season since near the turn of the century and Cleveland last had one in 2007. The Ravens have already lost to the Oakland Raiders and the Browns. They can't also lose to Jacksonville in the same season.
Right? The stars seem aligned for the Ravens to make a serious run.
Unfortunately, it's hard to tell. The Ravens are 1-2 at home this season and second- and third-tier quarterbacks including Cleveland's Josh McCown and Oakland's Derek Carr have put up big numbers against them. Bortles had 381 passing yards against a tough New York Jets defense Sunday.
The Rams play good defense and so does Seattle. I can't imagine Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman losing too much sleep while thinking about his matchup with wide receiver Kamar Aiken.
This all makes for an interesting second half of the season. By the time the Ravens travel to Cincinnati (8-0) for the final game of the regular season, the Bengals might not even need to win that game. All six of the Ravens' losses have been by eight points or fewer.
If they become more efficient in third-down situations offensively and defensively and force a few turnovers, they could go on a roll.
If not, they will continue to lose. With the Ravens, there is no room for error.
Coaches left off hook
Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer was very professional Sunday in the way he handled the cheap shot by the Rams on his quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.
Instead of creating a scene, he simply brushed off Rams coach Jeff Fisher during their postgame handshake and criticized St. Louis defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in the postgame news conference.
Of course, none of the former NFL coaches who are TV commentators criticized Fisher or Williams, only former players turned commentators like Bart Scott and Rodney Harrison. The former coaches don't like to go after anyone in the fraternity.
Newton for MVP
At this point New England quarterback Tom Brady is the favorite to be the NFL MVP, but I'd vote for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
This guy is the ultimate combination of great football player and athlete who happens to play quarterback. To pass for 1,820 yards through eight games is one thing, but to also rush for 343 yards and five touchdowns on 73 attempts is remarkable. And Newton has done it without a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
Every once in a while he'll still make a bonehead play, but Newton is fun to watch. It's also fun watching the Panthers' two inside linebackers, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. They get after people.
Good coaching in AFC North
While on the subject of postseason awards at the midway point, the Coach of the Year might come out of the AFC North.
It seems Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has finally given his team that dosage of toughness it needed, though we won't find out for sure until the playoffs start.
And for the Pittsburgh Steelers to still be in contention with a lot of injuries, especially to star players such as running back Le'Veon Bell and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, is pretty impressive. Neither the Ravens nor Dallas Cowboys have overcome the large amount of injuries they have suffered.
Pack will be back
Much has been made of the Green Bay Packers losing two games in a row, and several defensive players arguing on the sidelines during Sunday's loss against the Panthers, but the Packers will be back.
After watching Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden slam his helmet and linebacker Ray Lewis stalking the sidelines in frustration for years, you learn to never put too much stock into things that happen on the side during games.
Plus, when you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, it's only a matter of time before the team rebounds, especially when the next team on the schedule is the Detroit Lions.
Broncos must run
The Broncos have a great defense, but for them to win the Super Bowl they have to run the football. Coach Gary Kubiak's West Coast offense is predicated on running the ball, which is why he uses the two tight end set a lot.
Plus, when you have an aging quarterback such as Peyton Manning whose arm has lost a lot of juice, play-action passes can only help him
In the Broncos 27-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, the Broncos rushed 14 times for 35 yards. Manning can't carry an offense like he once did.
- Baltimore Ravens
- Denver Broncos
- Los Angeles Rams
- Carolina Panthers
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Cleveland Browns
- Detroit Lions
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Jeff Fisher
- Gregg Williams
- Blake Bortles
- Peyton Manning
- M&T Bank Stadium
- Dallas Cowboys
- Indianapolis Colts
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Minnesota Vikings
- Oakland Raiders