The Baltimore Ravens had a rough first week to kickoff the 2015 NFL season. The defense held Peyton Manning to one of the worst performances of his career and still lost. They lost Terrell Suggs to a season-ending Achilles injury. The offense did next to nothing against the Denver Broncos. It was one of the more difficult starts to a season for any team this week.
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Suggs said it himself that the Ravens “have been here before.” It wasn’t that long ago the Ravens lost the former Defensive Player of the Year to another torn Achilles’ tendon. The last time the Ravens lost Suggs for the season is the last time they failed the make the playoffs also. Baltimore also has one of the toughest schedules this season. It has all the makings to be a down year for the Ravens.
Fact is, it was only one game and the season is not lost, with or without Suggs. A trip to Oakland to take on the Raiders might be the perfect recipe to get this team back in order.
There is no doubt that losing Suggs is a significant blow to Baltimore’s defense. He was the heart and soul of the unit and much of the scheme was based around his versatility. Now Dean Pees will have to slightly alter his defense without their leader.
Fortunately for Baltimore, Oakland could be without their starting quarterback, Derek Carr, due to a bruised hand. If Carr is unable to go, the Raiders would call on backup Matt McGloin to lead the offense against one of the better defensive units in the NFL. If Manning struggled to move the ball against the Ravens D, just imagine the struggles either Carr or McGloin will encounter.
The Raiders should no longer be a laughingstock with Jack Del Rio at the helm as they have improved their roster greatly over the past few seasons. Carr has shown flashes of greatness. Amari Cooper is a terrific prospect at wide receiver. The defense had a rough showing in Week One, but are much better than that.
While the game isn’t played on paper, this is a game the Ravens should win. The defense will struggle to replace Suggs, but Ozzie Newsome has built a front seven that has depth as well. Over their past five regular season games, the Ravens defense has allowed just 257.6 yards per game, which is the second-fewest only to the Seattle Seahawks.
Where the Ravens really need to improve is on offense. They managed to put up just 173 yards on 57 plays. The numbers that really stick out is that they were 2-of-13 on third down plays. The inability to sustain drives led to one possession inside the red zone, which was the team’s final drive of the game. What’s more concerning is that this is the second consecutive game that Joe Flacco has ended on a terribly thrown ball into the end zone.
The Cincinnati Bengals were the only team in the AFC North to get a win to open the regular season and have an early advantage on the division. Baltimore will be the only team to play a team without a win in the first week and arguably the most favorable matchup of the four divisional foes.
It is only the second week of the season, but this is a game the Ravens must have. John Harbaugh doesn’t want to go into the first divisional matchup against the Bengals the following week already in an 0-2 hole. The Bengals have had the Ravens number in recent years, winning four of the last five games. A 0-3 start would put a serious damper on any championship run this season.
That’s why the Ravens need to rebound strong. Harbaugh will enter the game against the Raiders knowing that his defense is capable of earning a win, but unsure if Flacco and the offense be able to put up points. The ground game looked nothing like the powerhouse it was last season. Other than Steve Smith, the receiving corps is not that deep without Breshad Perriman.
Those within the Ravens organization won’t say it, but the matchup against the Raiders is a must win. Harbaugh and his squad still have the same goal as last week. They have Super Bowl aspirations and losing Suggs doesn’t change that. It all starts by getting that first win this week.
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