Ravens quietly propel themselves to AFC contender

Before we get to the Baltimore Ravens defense and the overall state of the team, let’s get something out of the way: Joe Flacco is a better quarterback than Matt Ryan. Let all your friends know. Is it really that close at this point? Ok, let’s move on, just had to get that out of the way.

It was just a few weeks ago that Ravens fans cringed every time a quarterback dropped back to pass. The secondary was vulnerable, getting picked deep and across the middle, and the pass rush was almost nonexistent. But after last weeks obliteration of Tampa Bay and Sunday’s dominate performance over the Atlanta Falcons (their best performance of the season), the Ravens defense has quietly become one of the best – if not the best – in the NFL.

While it appears that the Falcons are nothing to write home about in 2014, it was still an impressive win over a team with big-name players. The Ravens absolutely shut down Atlanta’s high-powered offense. The Falcons’ offensive line is a mess, but still, the Ravens were all over Matt Ryan the entire game, especially Elvis Dumervil, Pernell McPhee and Terrell Suggs. The defense kept Julio Jones in check, and Roddy White did most of his damage on Dominique Franks, who struggles in coverage. I will give Franks credit though, he made a few nice plays throughout the game. OK, that’s enough of the Dominique Franks love. That felt weird.

The Ravens are now the best statistical defense in the NFL. They are giving up just 14.9 points per game and have yet to give up more than 23 points in any of their seven games this season. One of my good friends (here’s your shoutout, Dan) pointed out to me that the Ravens have the best point differential in the league at +89. That’s a testament to both the efficiency of the new Ravens offense and the stingy nature of the defense. Everyone thank Dan for that stat. Thanks, Dan!

Before the season, I thought of the Ravens as a Super Bowl contender. I thought bringing in Steve Smith and Gary Kubiak took the offense to a new level. I thought that the young pieces on defense would take a step forward with a year under their belt. The product on the field didn’t necessarily reveal their Super Bowl potential through the first few weeks. But the Ravens team, and the defense in particular, seems to be coming together and getting better as the season progress. They will still have their games that make you scratch your head, but the signs are encouraging nonetheless.

That’s all you really ask for. The Ravens will always be competitive in every game (for the most part) and have quietly moved into first place in the AFC North, and quietly revealed themselves as a contender to come out of the AFC.

The 5-2 Ravens  match up with the 3-2-1 Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday in an AFC North rematch from Week 1. The Bengals won that game 23-16 after a late fourth quarter tip-drill touchdown to A.J. Green.

Get better soon, Morgan Cox!

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