You know a season isn’t normal when a division has all four teams above .500 through 9 games.  That’s what we’ve got so far in the AFC North and the Ravens are in luck due to scheduling.

They are at 5-4 right now and have some easy games coming up shortly, starting off with Tennessee this Sunday (1pm CBS).  Not only the Titans, but the rest of the AFC South is coming to play soon.  Houston has been up & down this year and the Ravens will play them in the 2nd to last game of the year in Houston.  By that time, I’m sure it will be chilly enough in east Texas that the weather will only affect the Texans, not our Ravens.  Also, we will host the Jaguars the week before that.  Expect to see us roll off some wins.

The only remaining divisional matchup will be on the last game of the year against the Browns.  Those same Browns destroyed the Bengals last night and gave Dalton one of the worst performances by a quarterback ever.

While we’re in 4th place at 5-4, the Titans coming in are in 3rd place in the AFC South at 2-6.  They’ve also switched to their 3rd quarterback of the year, that being rookie Zach Mettenberger who played for LSU.

The Titans were picked by a number of sports analysts as a “dark horse” playoff team.  There should be a running record of the annual dark horse picks and how they’ve fared.  From what I’ve seen ever since I started seeing that buzz word pop up in football media, the designation of a “dark horse” team tends to always eliminate that team’s chances for the playoffs.

When you consider the definition of the term: “a dark horse is a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition of some sort or a contestant that seems unlikely to succeed.”  The very idea of widely publicizing a prediction of a team to do better than expected while using this terminology is, at best, oxymoronic.

A real way to determine a dark horse team would be to see, for example, the 3-5 Bears finish the season 10-6.  They’re currently in 4th place of the (always unexpected) NFC North.  If they win 7 of their last 8 games, then you could say they emerged to prominence while seeming very unlikely that they could succeed.  You can’t call them that now, only when the season is over.

The Ravens have gone through a number of changes directly following the Steeler game last Sunday night.  They’ve cut Chykie Brown & Dominique Franks while adding on Danny Gorrer & Tremain Jacobs.  Also, they’re sticking with DB Will Hill in a starting role.  Sadly, Jimmy Smith is out for the year.

You may remember Danny Gorrer, as he once was a special teams player for Baltimore.  He was just cut from the Lions recently and the Ravens claimed him off waivers.  The Lions have the 5th ranked passing defense, and that’s more impressive when you consider that their passing offense is able to score in bunches.  (Normally, if a team is high scoring, the opponent has to step up their passing game to try to compete.  Plus, the Lions play Aaron Rodgers & Jay Culter twice a year.)  Gorrer played time as nickelback for these Lions and he’ll likely take a bigger role with the Ravens.

Tremain Jacobs is a guy that I was high on in the preseason.  He’s another undrafted rookie free agent that has come to Baltimore to follow in the footsteps of the other undrafted players who have succeeded in the NFL.  He was signed off the practice squad, so there wasn’t too much travel for him to take.  I expect to see him on Sunday and I’m hoping for at least an interception!

I don’t have much on the Titans other than repeating their mundane statistics.  But, let’s look at it this way: they got rid of Chris Johnson, who was living off a huge salary while taking a huge plunge in production.  Despite this being a good move in the long run, as well as the emergence of other running back options, they still haven’t replaced what had been their identity.

There’s been ideas floating around lately that the Ravens should consider bringing back Ed Reed to help the defense, as James Harrison came back midseason to help the Steelers.  Although, you and I know that Ed Reed had his play slipping in his previous two years on the team.  He was good for a game changing interception every now and then.  But he was more of a pitbull angrily barking at pedestrians while tied to a post.  Sure, it may look scary for a QB to throw his way, but you have to account for his immediate range and separate his distance from the ball to get a giant passing gain.  Now that Reed has been gone for the last two years, teams are more comfortable throwing the ball against the Ravens, whether or not they have success.

That is the thing though: Reed was becoming more of an identity, an idea, that teams had to plan for, rather than an actual threat on defense.  Just like Chris Johnson has had no where close to his 2,000 yard season in the seasons after 2009.  He still told everyone that he planned to get 2,000 again every year and became the focus of his opponents week by week.  Of course, through production alone he’s slipped to the 2nd string running back on the New York Jets, rather than living the high life in Tennessee.

So this Sunday, the Ravens are playing a team that is hurting mentally.  Not a knock on concussions of course, but they don’t have the bigger want to win games as elite teams show.  At 2-6, they’re looking towards next season.  The head coach, who is new on the Titans, would rather like to limit any damages to his career instead of trying too hard to win without much talent.  He may look to start more players that weren’t projected starters at the start of the season just to see what they can do.

You should watch this Sunday, as the Ravens will go into their bye week after that game and play in New Orleans on Monday Night Football.  That’s a long time without seeing our guys.  Be sure to catch them take out their frustrations onto the Titans.  Enjoy the weekend as well.

-CW

P.S. The Ravens were 5-4 in their 2000 season before winning the rest of their games, including the Super Bowl.  You may know that, but did you know that they lost to the Steelers both then and now to get that 5-4 record?  Also, did you realize the schedule around that time that their week 8-10 opponents were, in order, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati, and the order is reversed this time?

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