18to88 trades questions with Baltimore Blog Right of Russell
18to88: 1. In the hearts of Ravens fans, what drives this rivalry more right now: Indy's recent dominance of the Ravens or the Colts leaving Baltimore? In other words, is this a big game because the Colts have stood in the Ravens way or because of the history of the cities?
RoR: While it certainly was an extra kick in the pants to lose to the Colts in the divisional play-off game almost three seasons ago in Baltimore, I would argue that there is greater bitterness among former Colt and current Ravens fans because of the Colts leaving Baltimore than there is because of the Colts beating the Ravens over the passed 5-6 years. I also would put out there that Baltimore fans do not hold ill will toward Indy fans, rather there is bitterness towards the Irsay family for the underhanded way in which a storied and popular franchise like the Colts were taken from Baltimore.
I also think there is a lot of angst directed at the NFL for 1) allowing the Colts to leave, 2) letting the Colts keep the Baltimore franchise records after moving to Indianapolis, and 3) taking so long to get a team back in Baltimore, instead choosing to give a team to Jacksonville. It is hard for me, a Baltimore football fan who hardly remembers the Colts being in town, to hear the Indianapolis Colts being given credit for having won 5 NFL Championships after winning in '07. Or to hear Peyton Manning and his records compared to Johnny U and his. Just seems Manning should have to be compared to Indianapolis greats Jeff George, Jim Harbaugh and Jack Trudeau and that the current Colts should have no claim to the former Colts hall of famers and records. It is bad enough that the logo still exists as a constant reminder, but in my opinion the franchises should be separated historically and statistically. Enough of my rant.
18to88: 2. The Ravens' defense has been a disappointment against all teams not wearing Brown jerseys. What has been the chief culprit? F/A and coaching defections, age, injuries, something else?
RoR: Give the Ravens some credit...they dominated the red jersied Chiefs as well, limiting them to 188 total yards. But you are correct that the Ravens have not played the type of defense we have grown accustomed too. The "chief culprit?" It could be a bit of everything you mention. The Ravens have not clicked with new DC Greg Mattison's system as well as they had with Rex Ryan. They have not found a consistent replacement for Bart Scott. Trevor Pryce and Kelly Gregg look a step slower and Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr have not performed up to expectations in the secondary. The main problem is that the pass rush has not been consistent and that has left an unspectacular collection of cornerbacks exposed.
18to88: 3. Last year it appeared that Matt Ryan was ahead of Joe Flacco. This season Flacco is surpassing Ryan in virtually every significant stat. What has been the key to his development?
RoR: I actually thought Flacco, in some ways, was more impressive than Ryan in their rookie seasons. It seems to me that Ryan has been surrounded by better offensive skill players, played a weaker schedule last year, and Flacco led his team to greater post-season success. I think Flacco's improvement can be linked to many things. He has great natural talent, an arm that can make all the throws, a great focus and work ethic, and the perfect demeanor for an NFL QB. Having a full off-season as the Ravens starter has helped and Cam Cameron has opened up a lot of the offense for Flacco and is allowing him to make more plays. I think that may be the biggest reason for Flacco's statistical improvement.
18to88: 4. Describe just how important a game this is to Ravens. What are their playoff chances if they should lose it?
RoR: It is a big game, but I think the Ravens could survive a loss to the Colts. They have 4 winnable games against Chicago and Detroit and @ Green Bay and Oakland. That puts them at 9 wins and if they can win 1 of 2 against the Steelers that could be enough to get them in the play-offs. Saying that, beating the Colts would be huge and give the Ravens some margin for error in trying to make the play-offs. The problem is, I do not much like this match-up. Manning will exploit the Ravens weakness in the secondary and without Terrell Suggs and a fully healthy Ed Reed it is going to be hard for the Ravens to slow down the undefeated Colts.
18to88: 5. What do you see as Baltimore's primary strategic advantage over Indy in this game?
RoR: I am not sure if injuries to the Colts defense count as a strategic advantage, but the Ravens will have to exploit a less than healthy secondary to stay in this game. Flacco will have to find ways to get the ball downfield to his receivers for big plays and Ray Rice will need to have a big game both rushing and receiving. Defensively, if the Ravens can limit Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, I would be willing to roll the dice with making a pair of rookie receivers beat us. Other than that, it is going to take a big time effort from the Ravens and less than stellar performance from the Colts for the Ravens to come out on top.