The thinking around town is the Ravens are utterly fucked, and this is not completely wrong. Once Super Bowl favorites according to Sports Illustrated, they limped into their bye week with a 2-6 record after squeaking out a last-minute win against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 1.
Yes, fans can take some peace of mind knowing that the largest margin of defeat in those six losses is a mere eight points, but anyone who's watched most or all of the games knows the team has been really, really bad.
Football stat guru Bill Barnwell broke it all down a few weeks back over at Grantland (R.I.P.). In short, the loss of pass rusher Terrell Suggs meant the team had to use the blitz more, and while they still were able to pressure the opponent's quarterback, the secondary couldn't prevent giving up big plays. Sure enough, week after week, different passers torch the Ravens.
But let's consider for a second that the Ravens are not totally screwed. No, really. Following Week 9, the Ravens are less than three games behind the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, who currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC.
Sure, it's not as easy to move up in the standings in football as it is, say, in baseball and basketball, but the Steelers are only a game over .500 and the Ravens schedule for the final eight weeks of the season is actually not that hard. Let's break it down.
The Ravens' next six games are against teams that are .500 or worse. Then they've got the Steelers at home, whom they've already beaten in Pittsburgh, and the currently undefeated Bengals on the road. Remember: They only lost to Cincy by four at M&T Bank Stadium.
Maybe I'm chugging some purple Kool-Aid, but is it really inconceivable the Ravens could go 7-1 or 6-2 the rest of the way? Of all the teams below the division leaders in the AFC, there are only two, the Steelers and Jets, with winning records.
Okay, I know—this team has managed to fuck up in so many ways. But they've been in every damn game! Sure, Steve Smith Sr. is out for the rest of the season, and yes, the secondary isn't going to magically get better. Even so, the Ravens have enough talent to right the ship and go on a hot streak.
If you're not biting and want to write the 2015 Ravens off, there's no need to sulk until Orioles Opening Day. I'm here to remind you the Baltimore Blast—the local professional squad with the most championship banners—began its season last Saturday with a 7-4 win at home against the Chicago Mustangs.
As I've said before, arena soccer is, no bullshit, incredibly exciting, and I am renewing my call for the rest of the city to get on board. Just look at that score! 7-4? It would probably take three traditional soccer games to rack up that many goals.
After losing the Major Arena Soccer League championship last season, the Blast clearly showed they were coming out for the 2015-2016 season with an eye toward redemption. The team brought an aggressive attacking defense on the home carpet, creating turnovers which led to more shots on goal.
With goalie William Vanzela (2015's Best Blast), defender Pat Healey, forward Vini Dantas, forward Lucas Roque, and forward Tony Donatelli, among others, back from last year's team, the Blast are poised to once again make a championship run.
A Blast fan friend and I took two buddies of ours to the season opener, and I think we've got two more converts—only partially because the game is really exciting to watch, but also because there's something more. The MASL is a professional league, and yet it feels so much more—down home.
For example, the chorus singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" was, by chance, representing the elementary school from which I graduated.
What was even more surreal, though, and something everyone can enjoy, is the advertised post-game party, when some players and coaches head to the nearby Pratt Street Ale House for pints of beer. I went with my friends, and my buddy called over recent free agent signing Andrew Hoxie, and he talked to him about coming to Baltimore and Hoxie was incredibly gracious. But it's not like we were starstruck or something, ya know? He's not a multi-millionaire demigod.
People talk about how, back in the day, the Orioles and Colts players were more a part of the fabric of the community, they were "lunch pail guys." As the stories go, they worked regular jobs to make ends meet in the offseason and drank at the same corner bars you did.
Maybe that's a homespun crock of shit from Baby Boomers, but I can say the Blast indeed embody this ideal, in 2015. They play their asses off—for little money, I'd bet—and manage to keep their heads screwed on straight. And they win all the damn time!
Let's hope the Ravens get their shit together, because stranger things have happened in the NFL—plenty of teams with a lesser pedigree than the 2015 Ravens have slipped into the playoffs and made deep runs. If that doesn't happen, start making plans to go to Royal Farms Arena.