At this point in the season, it's hard to argue against the New England Patriots as the AFC's best team. Prior to Monday night, you could have made a strong argument for the Ravens as the best team in the conference, but once again, they failed to live up to the expectations and hype surrounding the team.
On Monday night, the Ravens' top rated defensive unit squared off against the NFL's lowest rated offensive team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. You would think that the Ravens could score enough points to win against a team that is averaging just 12 points per game, right? Apparently that's not the case. The Jaguars were able to muster their season average, 12, in their win over the favored Ravens. The Ravens, averaging 25.8 points per game, were saved from laying an egg with just over 2:00 to go in the game win they scored their only touchdown of the game. It's not time to panic in Baltimore, but there's certainly cause for concern.
Elite teams simply don't do this. Sure, there are times that elite teams struggle. The Patriots blew a big lead over Buffalo and gave that game away. The Steelers were completely out-played in every way in week 1 by the Ravens. It's understandable that elite teams will have off-games, but they just don't lose to low quality teams such as the Jaguars.
I'm not trying to take away from the Jaguars' effort on Monday. They played the best defense I've seen any team play all year, but their offense didn't score enough points. I still can't believe the Jaguars didn't allow a third down until about 5:00 to go in the 3rd quarter. Yes, the Jaguars played fast on defense, but that's inexcusable on the Ravens' part. No defense should be able to do that, especially considering the weapons the Ravens have on offense.
The Ravens had earned my respect as a top-tier team going into Monday night. Their opening weekend win over Pittsburgh was one of the most impressive wins by any team all season. Sure, they had that head-scratching loss to the Titans, but that was an early season games, and things like that tend to happen to good teams in the early part of the year. This isn't the early part of the year. This is the middle of the season. A top-tier team would be coming into mid-season form, but as we found out on Monday, the Ravens are not a top-tier team.
Now, the Ravens have more concerns than they care to admit. Terrell Suggs openly questioned offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron's playcalling following their 12-7 defeat in Jacksonville. Their offense, which had looked poor at times, looked like they were a college team playing a top-tier pro defense most of the night, and their defense failed to get any turnovers deep in Jacksonville's territory. Yes, they recovered a fumble on their own goal line, but their offense needed short fields to work with, and that's something their defense was unable to provide most of the night.
The Ravens should still be counted as one of the top teams in the AFC. No one is doubting that. What I am saying, and many others have echoed this sentiment, is the Ravens need to find offensive consistency to make a deep run in the playoffs. The AFC has many very good teams, and the Ravens will have to bring their "A game" every week in January if they want to play in a Super Bowl in the near future. The Patriots and the Steelers have proven year in and year out that they are clutch late in the year. It's time for the Ravens to take their game to the next level and show that same type of fortitude every week.
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