Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pigskin Perambulations

So how many times would the Giants have sacked Donovan McNabb if he were a white quarterback?

I don't know who was calling the Cardinals-Steelers game, but Seinfeld fans everywhere had to cringe a little when the announcer called Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt "the Master of his Domain."

Wow, if Tom Brady and Randy Moss were in elementary school together, all the other kids would complain that they never got the ball until finally the principal would declare a moratorium on all competitive sports at recess.

Anyway, almost a month ago, after the opening weekend, the AFC North was declared a dogfight between the Ravens and the Bengals, with Baltimore getting the nod because they had lost a close game on the road, and, if they could just limit the turnovers, no one in the division could stop them. The Browns were the worst team ever seen in the NFL, Brady Quinn would be starting in a matter of hours, but not before Romeo Crennel was fired. And Pittsburgh? No, that 34-7 win over Cleveland had to be discounted (you know, because the Browns couldn't win on a Friday night in Texas).

So, taking a look at the standings today, we find the Steelers in first with a 3-1 record and the highest rated offense and defense (in terms of scoring) in the division. The Browns are in second at 2-2, courtesy of an easy win at home against Baltimore over the weekend. Cleveland's 2-2 looks a lot better than the Ravens' 2-2, though, as Baltimore's frustrating, endless quest for offensive consistency becomes more urgent with the faltering of the defense for at least one quarter every game. And who is in last? Why, it's the Bengals! Led by Carson, Chad and TJ, the Bengals are just a Lance away from being able to form their own boy band, which is good because if they don't get their act together soon, it will be "Bye Bye Bye."

Last year, somewhere around midseason, I declared that the Ravens would go to the Super Bowl, and probably win it. It was an optimistic, but defensible, prediction, shredded by a superb performance by Peyton Manning and the Colts in the playoffs. You will hear no such predictions from me this year. At the start of the season, you could argue that they might be as good as they were last year: they could withstand the loss of Adalius Thomas, Willis McGahee was an upgrade over Jamal Lewis, Steve McNair would be better in his second year in Brian Billick's system, they always seem to draft players who are ready to make an impact quickly.

Four weeks later, the Ravens have suffered more injuries than Jaime Sommers and can only hope they don't bleed out before they get to their bye week. Jonathan Ogden might as well have retired in the offseason, McNair looks so fragile he has a special bubble-wrap seat on the team plane, and five (five!) of the team's receivers and tight ends showed up as "probable" on the injury report for this weekend's game at San Francisco. On defense, they clearly miss Trevor Pryce (whom I saw at Cheeburger Cheeburger this weekend. He was eating with his family, so we left him alone. Anybody trying to have a meal with three young children really doesn't need any additional distractions. I'm guessing he went for the Famous Pounder). The much-maligned Samari Rolle could be back at corner this weekend, news that falls into the "not good, not bad, just different" category. Still, the memory of a swaggering 2006 defense that seemed as likely to score as many of the offenses it faced is fading faster than Wayne Newton's odds to win "Dancing with the Stars."

Can they win the next three and get to the bye 5-2? Sure! Can they lose them? Absolutely! Can they arrive at December in contention for the playoffs only to be stomped by the Patriots and Colts? Don't see why not!

So do I have a prediction for Ravens' fans? You betcha! In the words of Clubber Lang, "Pain!"