I wrote a quick State of the Redskins post Tuesday to look at the team during their bye week.
Now I’m thinking this idea could work for every team during their bye. (As long as I’m not too lazy to follow through with the idea.) Next up: The 3-1 Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens are early AFC North Favorites
It’s not just the record. It’s how they’ve won. They took a bite out of Pittsburgh’s pride in the opener and embarrassed the Jets in Week Four. Those were beatdowns against quality teams. Baltimore also blew the doors off the Rams.
The Ravens were humbled against an underrated Titans, but overall Baltimore has looked as good as any AFC team. Meanwhile, their rivals in Pittsburgh simply don’t look like the Steelers we’re used to.
Offensive line solutions
Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode have helped to answer Baltimore’s biggest preseason question. These veterans aren’t going to make the Pro Bowl again, but they have stabilized a trouble area. Marshall Yanda, back at guard, may very well make a Pro Bowl.
The team is back in the top ten in rushing. Ray Rice is fifth in yards from scrimmage. Ricky Williams is averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry. The team is middle of the pack in sacks allowed.
Defense could be special
Rex Ryan gave the Ravens defense the ultimate compliment after they waxed the Jets, saying the group reminded him of Baltimore’s 2000 and 2006 defenses. Haloti Ngata and Terrance Cody form a nasty duo up front. The team is blitzing more and causing turnovers. Ed Reed is fully healthy.
The Ravens rank second in points allowed, third in yards allowed, and first in turnovers forced. A lot of elite teams can score. Not many top teams — or any — can play defense like Baltimore.
Does anyone miss Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Todd Heap? The Ravens may not have a great wideout group, but they still were smart to make big changes. Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Ed Dickson will all get better.
The Ravens still have four games left against the Bengals and Browns. Baltimore will be heavy favorites in matchups against Jacksonville, Indy, Seattle, and Arizona.
We know it’s too early to count out the Steelers, but we’d argue the Ravens are more likely than any AFC team to earn a playoff bye.