Throughout the course of their 44-13 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens had the look of a Super Bowl favorite. From a precision passing night from quarterback Joe Flacco to a light, but highly effective night from running back Ray Rice, the Ravens issued a dominant performance, capitalized by Ed Reed’s 34-yard interception return which sent M&T Bank Stadium into euphoria.
Last year’s Bengals team finished the season with a 10-6 record and made the 2011 postseason, making Baltimore’s 31-point opening night win all the more impressive. After a string of seasons of falling short in their quest for the Super Bowl, are the Ravens ready for a ring? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley answer the question.
Green: In one word: Yes! The time has finally come for Flacco, Rice and company to live up to the promise and fulfill Ravens legends’ Ray Lewis and Ed Reed’s one last retiring wish. This team has developed full circle and we’ve seen that metamorphosis over the years. The defense is still intact, the special teams are solid and the offense has the look of a top-5 unit. Flacco’s performance on Monday night was the finest we’ve seen from him since he entered the league. He completed more than 70 percent of his passes to go along with two touchdown strikes and a quarterback rating of more than 128 percent. The time has come and the opportunity to win a championship is well underway.
Riley: Slow down, Mr. Green. The Baltimore Ravens have been favored nearly every year for the past few seasons to win the Super Bowl and we’ve heard the countless stories about how great Joe Flacco looks, how solid the defense is and blah blah blah. And although Baltimore’s opening act on Monday night was impressive, let’s not forget about the other juggernauts in the AFC like Houston and New England. I’ll take 3-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady over Flacco any day of the week and the Pats defense appears to have finally caught up somewhat with their offense. They’re still not as stout as the Ravens defense but New England’s defense shouldn’t have a problem slowing the opposition this season. And personally, I think when healthy, Houston might be the most complete team in the league. Houston has top flight options on every level on offense and a defense that finished as one of the best last season. Baltimore looks good but let’s not crown them just yet.
Green: As the resident Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the newsroom, Riley, I’ll take your apparent fear of crowning the Ravens as the future AFC champs as a sign of denial. First, let’s start with Houston. When healthy, yes, they’re very talented but when are they ever healthy? Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is regularly on the shelf, joined by his favorite receiver target, Andre Johnson. Houston’s pro bowl running back Arian Foster might be the best running back in the league but last year’s hamstring injury and this summer’s knee issue has pretty much granted him an injury prone label to me. Their defense is solid but you’d be lucky to catch all of their offensive playmakers on the field at the same time. And say what you want but the Ravens have an answer for New England and all of their tricks. This team was a dropped touchdown and a missed field goal away from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl but guess what? Both of those culprits who committed those acts are now off the team. Should the Ravens win home field advantage throughout the playoffs, you can pencil them in for the crown.
Riley: So now not only are you waving off any competition in the AFC but basically the NFC as well. So the defending champion New York Giants don’t stand a chance either? And we can pretty much forget about the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers, too, right?
Green: I’m not disrespecting any of those clubs, I’m just telling you that this is the Ravens’ year and hold your surprises if they ship the Super Bowl trophy back to Baltimore this offseason. It only takes a team to get hot in January to win the Super Bowl. This year, Flacco and his new no-huddle offense will set the league on fire and burn every opponent in its way until they reach the championship stage.
Riley: The Baltimore Ravens have flashed and flopped before in previous years. What I wouldn’t be surprised by is if they fail again. The team is strong overall but Flacco, its lackluster receiving core and a shaky offensive line could prevent it from capturing the crown once again