Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two overrated units

It goes without saying that you're never as good as you look when you're thrashing an overmatched opponent, and never as bad as you look when the Steelers D is shutting you down. This early in the season, two teams have units that have shot toward the top of the league rankings, on the basis of games against inferior competition.

One of them is obvious; every commentator has mentioned that these guys are likely for a fall. That of course is the
defense of the Denver Broncos. They've given up only 16 points in 3 games, a 2000-Ravens-esque number, and parlayed that into a 3-0 record. The Broncos have given up half as many points as the #2 D, the Jets. Is this for real?

No. The Broncos last 2 opponents have been the Browns and Raiders, who could not score in a walkthru on an empty field. Their first win was against the Bengals, which may turn out to be a quality win, esp given the big number they hung on the Packers in week 2. But I think we can still consider the Bengals suspect.

Reality is coming at Denver in a hurry. They are 3-0 on their way to 4-7 or worse. They're about to start a 5-game losing streak (Dallas, Patriots, @Chargers, @ Ravens, Steelers), and while the game #9 matchup with the Redskins looks very winnable after this weekend, that game is in DC (actually Landover MD). Travelling West-to-East is tough, and the Skins can probably win some home games. Then Denver has the Chargers again and the Giants, to complete the reality-adjustment part of their schedule. If they don't beat the Redskins, Denver could need to win a road game in Kansas City to break an 8-game losing streak. Two of their last 4 games are @Indy and @Philly.

I think it's safe to say that the Broncos won't be the #1-rated D in 3 weeks.

The other overrated unit should be obvious, but every commentator has been eager to pile onto this bandwagon. Sadly, it's the Ravens offense. Baltimore is #2 in the league with 34.3 pts per game and 430 yards per game. These are excellent numbers: but the Ravens have piled them up against the defenseless Browns and Chiefs. Even the game against the one good opponent the Ravens have faced is a little tainted: San Diego lost their starting Pro Bowl NT and another D-lineman just before the game.

Baltimore's pace just can't be maintained.

The nice thing for the Ravens is that their performance indicates substantial improvement on offense. Time was they couldn't roll up 22 first downs in a scrimmage; now they're doing it against the Chargers in San Diego. Maybe they're not really a top 3 offense: but the fact that they can blow out some teams indicates they could "really" be a top 10 offense. That's plenty good enough: it's a drastic change from what Ravens fans are used to.
Baltimore's reality checks are going to come spread out this season, not concentrated into one stretch. They have one this weekend in Foxboro; then in 2 weeks in Minnesota. Their toughest stretch of the season might be the one starting Nov 8: two road games in the division, then Indy, Steelers, @ Green Bay.

What are we likely to see from the Ravens offense? Probably what we have seen so far: they'll blow out weak teams, and put forth a credible (but not dominating) performance against good teams. Depending on how good the defense is, that might be good enough to get the Ravens back to the conference title game.


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