Allow me to take you on a round-about journey to this coming Sunday's ball game. I promise we'll get to the football stuff; bear with me.
As most of our readers are aware, I live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. I've resided in PG County since my family left Oklahoma City when I was six months old, save for a couple stints as a young adult inside the DC border. The big city dynamic here is interesting, to say the least. Baltimore is the large city in Maryland, but no one from this part of Maryland (pronounced Mur-i-lin) claims Baltimore over DC. It's a 30 minute drive; which is an eternity as a youth.
See, despite it's national reputation as being a transient town, DC is one of the most unique cities in America. It has it's own rhythm, it's own vibe... hell, we actually have our own music (note: see how the cars in the linked video all have Maryland license plates?). Save for the disgusting, putrid, repulsive football franchise that represents here, I love everything about my town.
Growing up, when things like this mattered, there was a thick line between how Baltimore and how DC functioned socially. Everything about Baltimore just screamed "don't like me", so I didn't. I absolutely hated everything there is about the City of Baltimore.
Wait, I love "The Wire"; that's the best TV show ever created and a little piece of me dies every time someone "catches on" to it after I was invested from the airing of Episode One. But that's the only positive thing I could muster about Baltimore.
Of course, as you grow older and get a taste for life outside your home city, you realize how silly some of the preconceptions you hold are. Baltimore is a hard-working town; it's filled with decent people. It's still hard on the eyes (and the lungs) in some spots, but the things that caused me to look down on it as a youngster don't matter as much.
Being in the AFC, we barely play the Ravens; only three times as a matter of fact. Things don't go well when we play them. The first time, 2000-01, was a 27-0 beatdown at the hands of Trent Dilfer, Shannon Sharpe and Qadry Ismail. The Ravens would go on to win the Lombardi that year.
2004 featured a 30-10 shellacking at the hands of the forgettable Kyle Boller while the Dallas ship was captained by Vinny Testerverde. The most recent meeting was 2008, the final game at Texas Stadium. We all remember the two backbreaking fourth-quarter runs that cemented a 33-24 Ravens win that was sealed with Baltimore players cackling over closing down our historic shrine in embarassing fashion.
Including playoff games, the Ravens are one of only six franchises that Dallas isn't at least even with if not boasting a winning record. So on top of my personal disdain for the city they represent, their team has bragging rights on my team as well.
So here we are in 2012. Neither team is playing as well as they could be, but the good guys sit at 2-2 while the bad guys are a healthy 4-1. To make matters worse, Dallas hasn't performed well in recent years coming off of an early bye and we're a team that hasn't looked sharp since Week One. Can Dallas turn it around in short order? Sure. Will they? Not so sure, but extremely hopeful.
I decided to reach out to the Managing Editor of the Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, for his take on things. Many thanks to Bruce Raffel for his participation. Here's what he had to say about the game.
BTB: Before we get into the specifics on the teams as they stand currently; can you give us the Baltimore view on Jason Garrett and Dez Bryant? Garrett interviewed for the job back in '08 and Dallas leapfrogged B'More for Dez back in 2010 when they reportedly had him as their target. That's how Cowboys fans see things, does that ring true and if so, how do Ravens' fans see things since?
BB: There hasn't been a murmur about either "miss" from this issue. The Ravens and their fans are thrilled with head coach John Harbaugh, as four playoff appearances in his first four years and on our way to a fifth will do that. As far as Bryant, rumor was that Baltimore was prepared to take him if he was available, but he wasn't, they traded back in the draft and the following year they drafted local product Torrey Smith, who has exceeded expectations and is one of the rising stars in the league at WR.
BTB: Talk to me about life following a team led by Joe Flacco. Is the fan base seeing the progress they hoped to see?
BB: This year, Flacco appears to have made a huge leap in performance. The Ravens are throwing much more than before and perhaps it is the reins beng taken off of him. However, in order to earn the respect he so wants, he will have to do more, beat good teams on the road consistently and take that next step, which is to get to the Super Bowl.
BTB: Where is Ray Lewis at with his game right now? He is still in Top 10 in tackles, but is he still able to disengage from blocks as he has in the past?
BB: Ray is still among the best in the game, regardless of his advanced NFL age (37). No one studies tape like he does and that's why he knows where to play, which compensates for his slowing down over the years. He is becoming a liability in pass coverage, but he will not come off the field and if he continues to hit as hard as he does, he may play forever. Most likely, a Super Bowl win would signal the end of his career.
BTB: It seems that the Ravens are suffering from penalties and O-Line problems.. yet they sit at a pretty 4-1. Give the Dallas fans an overview of what the season has been like for Ravens fans.
BB: The Ravens are arguably one point away from being undefeated, as their 24-23 loss to the Eagles still stings with the thought of "what if?" The offensive line has basically two rookies and Michael Oher is much better at right tackle than he is at left. Mat Birk is still in there at center and ges over-matched at times. Fans have been spoiled over the Harbaugh-Flacco-Ray Rice era, with post season berths every year. We expect to make the playoffs, go deep into them and now around town it's Super Bowl or bust.
BTB: How much does your defense miss the pass rush of Terrell Suggs? Is there still a strong amount of pressure? How is it effecting the secondary?
BB: Head coach John Harbaugh tried to convince everyone that someone would step up and compensate for the loss of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That obviously has not happened and remains the team's most glaring weakness. Hopefully, Suggs will return for the stretch run and cure what ails them. In the meantime, the others are trying to pressure the QB and the defensive secondary has a bend-but-don't-break attitude and also has some guy named Ed Reed back there patrolling center field.
BTB: What about a final score prediction to close things up?
BB: Ravens 27-17