November 1, 2007

Brian Billick Is One Smug Son Of A Bitch...

"What will dominate our thoughts is our preparation...Together we all eat."
- Mike Tomlin
Monday night, it's set. Ravens-Steelers, the 3rd bitter division rivalry game for the Steelers in 2007, but certainly not 3rd in importance.

In many ways I think while most Steeler fans hate the Ravens with a passion, they can also respect them on some level. The 2 teams play a similar style of football, and every time they meet, it's a dogfight. As Ravens linebacker Bart Scott puts it:
"You’re going to get your money’s worth, because both teams are going to stand in the middle of the ring and go toe to toe....we’re built the same and we have the same philosophy. We try to impose our physical will on each other. Whoever is left standing at the end, after all the power blows, is usually the team that wins.
In the recent past - 2003, 2004, and 2005 - we have split our 2 annual games with the Ravens, each year 1 win, 1 loss. 2006, however, was an anomaly (as we all probably remember), in which the Ravens OWNED the Steelers, outscoring us 58-7 en route to victories of 27-0 and 31-7...and leaving a bitter taste in all our mouths. Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure they know this year it won't be that easy.

The story of the 2007 Ravens has been kind of muddled. After going 13-3 last season, winning the AFC North by approximately 1,000 games, and having the kind of season to write home about, they promptly shit the bed in the 1st round of the AFC playoffs, lost Adalius Thomas and Jamal Lewis to free agency and started out the 2007 campaign 4-3 - including division losses to Cincy and Cleveland, as well as their most recent conference loss to Buffalo. What's more, their 4 wins came only against NFC teams - the Cardinals (Pittsburgh West), 49ers, Rams, and Jets (yes I know the Jets are AFC, that was a joke...).

The Ravens will come into Pittsburgh on Monday boasting a less than impressive 1-3 record on the road, while the Steelers are 3-0 at Heinz Field. Plus, Baltimore has scored just 124 offensive points thus far this season(26th out of 32 teams), while the Steelers have scored 184 (6th out of 32)...but that we shall leave for tomorrow. For now I will just provide a little perspective as to how the Ravens look on either side of the ball. You know, so we can proverbially size ourselves up...and shit...

Yeah, I don't know what's wrong with me either...let's just get to the breakdown:
OFFENSE
The Ravens passing offense (if you wanna call it that) is ranked 29th in TDs, 31st in Yards Per Passing Attempt, and 7th in Interceptions...which pretty much explains why Ray Lewis would criticize Head Coach and assmaster Brian Billick for not running the ball in a crucial situation against Buffalo...However, Kyle Boller's been filling in at QB for the past couple weeks, as McNair has been hurt. So those offensive stats/rankings...adjust those in your brain to remove the collateral damage of a marginal, underachieving QB. Still, what these numbers hint at is, unlike our most recent division kill Cincy, we've got a whole different animal headed our way Monday...and his name is Willis McGahee.

McGahee is 3rd in the NFL in overall yardage this season, right behind FWP with 639 yards on 146 rushes (For you math majors that's an avg. of 4.4 per carry), and has accounted for 2 of the Ravens 8 total offensive TDs, or 25% of their scoring (if you prefer to think of it this way). Point being - stop Willis McGahee and make them beat you through the air...right? Well maybe not...

Just one problem with that - Steve McNair. The man is what's known as a Steeler killer, and he's hoping to be healthy enough by Monday to continue in that role. He may be getting a little long in the tooth, but McNair has somehow always had the Steelers number. In fact, 5 out of the last 6 games against a Steve McNair team, whether it be the Ravens or the Titans, the Steelers have allowed 27 points or more. So, just because they've been successful principally with the run, don't think we don't have to worry about the Steve McNair special.
DEFENSE
Take a guess at what I'm going to say here...Yep, that's right, the Ravens have a stout Defense that features such familiar names as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAllister, Bart Scott, and Terrell Suggs, among others. These guys, and their compadres, have combined to allow opponents an aggregate 1959 yards so far this season, which is good enough to rank them 2nd in the NFL.

However, the overall story here, just like in Pittsburgh, is the Run D. Allowing just 2 rushing TDs, and giving up an average of just under 3 yards per carry, the Ravens know their shit when it comes to the run. Through 7 games, they've only allowed 503 yards on the ground, or an average of 72 yards per game. Pretty solid numbers I'd say.

So what about the pass defense? Well, they ain't exactly a sieve either. The Ravens have allowed 8 passing TDs thus far, and have picked opposing QBs a total of 10 times in 7 games. Still, we have to keep in mind their opponents. Besides the Bengals and maybe the Cardinals (Pittsburgh West), the Ravens really have yet to see an offense, let alone a passing offense, that was even remotely decent.

Moral of this story - moving the ball on the Ravens, not quite as easy as the Bengals, Browns, Bills, 49ers, or Seahawks. Big Ben, FWP, Tomlin, Arians and friends better be ready with their A-game. Fingers crossed.
SPECIAL TEAMS
Not sure if this warrants it's own discussion here, but there are certainly a couple of aspects of the Ravens Special Teams game that we should discuss. First, since BJ Sams is out of action for the entire 2007 season with a torn ACL, the Ravens have a new return man, Yamon Figurs. Nice name...what is that anyway? French? Anyways, Figurs has a return average of about 30 yards and his long this season was 61 yards. Decent numbers, just a little something to keep in mind.

As for the other aspect of the special teams game -- The fossil Matt Stover, still the only Raven who was at one time a Cleveland Brown, has been characteristically solid, going 18 for 21 this year in field goals. His 3 misses came from the 41-49 yard range, so the key is to keep the Ravens out of the 40 yards and below region. Force those old bones to try an uncomfortably long one if you have to allow 3 points. Better yet, just don't even let them get into our territory. How about that for a strategy? After all, he is still one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history...
There you have it. All you wanted to know about the 2007 Ravens and more. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some sort of "keys to victory" post locked and loaded. So stay at your computer screen and keep hitting refresh till it appears then promptly read and comment. 'Til tomorrow...

Oh yeah, they also have cheerleaders:

Ravens Stats [Pro-Football-Reference]
More Ravens Stats [ESPN]

1 comment:

Tobiathan said...

Newsflash:

Adam Schefter of NFL Network is an official Steeler-hater. He just interviewed somebody(didn't see who) from the Ravens defense and conducted the whole interview with a shitty little smirk and leading questions about how they "owned" the Steelers last season. It might be true but that pipsqueak little turd ain't got no right to take so much pleasure in it. The turd.

He(Schefter) also was the only NFLN broadcaster to pick Denver against us, and did so with some jknowing, sly smirk. Like he had some fore-knowledge of some kind. Did i call him a turd? Yup.

That said, the rest of our season will be tough, especially since we could and should have a nice, long winning streak. The games we're expected to win seem to be the toughest for us.

I think last wek was a good sign. And, with Ray Lewis talking smack on his own coach, there appears to be some dissension in the Baltimore ranks. That should work to our favor.

Here's to Ben playing like the dominant moster he truly is...

Go Stillers!