They've lost twice in Ohio already this season. Who would've considered that possible?
So what's wrong with the Baltimore Ravens? How is it the most physically-dominant team in the game is 3-3 and, more importantly, just 1-2 against the AFC Central Division?
Let's do a little homework.
The Ravens are still the league's top-ranked defense. That much hasn't changed. They are number one at stopping the run.
However, they've slipped from fifth in rushing at the end of last season to 11th this year, the result of having lost star running back Jamal Lewis for the season back in training camp.
But the most noticeable difference in the Ravens over last year's Super Bowl title team is offered by their passing game. This year, the Ravens are fifth in the league in total-yardage passing, whereas a year ago they were 22nd.
That's good, right? Wrong.
An emphasis on improving their passing attack this season, under the leadership of pricey offseason acquisition Elvis Grbac, has resulted in eight interceptions that have contributed to a minus-seven differential in takeaways/giveaways. Last season, Baltimore led the league with a whopping plus-23, as Trent Dilfer threw only one interception in four postseason games.
Blame for the Ravens' decline falls on the offense's shoulders. It hasn't posed the running game it did a year ago and its passing attack is careless and ill-conceived for a team that should still hang its hat on its powerful defense.
Simply put, the Ravens went the aggressive route on offense, and they've paid the price. Expect that to change. Look for Brian Billick to come to the same realization he did at about the same time of the season last year. Expect Billick to start reeling in his offense and play to the strength of his defense.
Here are "10 things" the Jaguars have to do this Sunday to beat the Ravens.
- Forget about last season--The Jaguars' 386-yard air barrage was a mirage. Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis isn't going to let that happen again.
- Put the onus on the Ravens offense--We all know what the Ravens defense can do. Be patient and careful with the football. Put the pressure on the Ravens offense. Make them turn it over.
- Three steps and throw--The Jaguars offensive line is clearly in a compromised state. Don't invite the Ravens rush. If the Jaguars don't get rid of it quick, they'll be putting Mark Brunell's health at risk.
- Pull your chinstraps tight--Plans and schemes are fine, but you better be ready to hit and be hit when you play the Ravens.
- Slow the rush--Screens and draws are the order of the day against Mike McCrary, Peter Boulware and company.
- Rush the passer--The offensive line is the Ravens' weak link. The Jaguars should be able to apply some pressure.
- Turn the crowd against them--This will be the Ravens' first home game after consecutive road losses. The home folks might begin showing their dissatisfaction, especially if the Ravens stumble offensively.
- Don't anger Ray--He's already angry enough.
- Return something--The Jaguars' longest punt return of the season is 20 yards and their longest kickoff return is 32 yards. That's not good enough.
- Schedule an HBO shoot in the parking lot--There's nothing wrong with a forfeit win.