It's time for the Ravens to prove their point

Posted: Friday, September 08, 2000

In Jacksonville's five years in the NFL, the Jaguars have never lost to the team that is now the Baltimore Ravens. They're 8-0 against the Ravens and were 2-0 against the old Browns, who left Cleveland for Baltimore after the 1995 season.

This week, things could finally change.

The Jaguars come into Baltimore the way they went into Cleveland last week to play the new Browns -- banged up on the offensive line and at running back. Jacksonville won 27-7, but the old Browns (the Ravens) are a lot better than the new ones. Baltimore won 19-0 in Pittsburgh last week, and they have a defense right up there with NFL's best.

''They want to be thought of and talked about in the same way that the Tampa Bay defense is talked about, which is obviously with a great deal of respect and reverence,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

In past years, respect and reverence hasn't been enough to stop Jacksonville's balanced offense.

But the Jaguars' balance isn't there right now.

Fred Taylor, one of the league's best running backs, remains out with a knee injury. Stacey Mack, his backup, sprained an ankle last week in Cleveland, meaning Chris Howard might be the only healthy running back this week.

Then there's that offensive line, without Leon Searcy and with Tony Boselli rusty after returning last week from major knee surgery.

That means more pressure on Mark Brunell and more on the Jacksonville defense. Baltimore quarterback Tony Banks, who's won six of eight, is still unproven and was careful in Pittsburgh while the defense did the work.

Whoever does the work, this could be the week for the Ravens.

''We can't,'' Billick says, ''think of ourselves as a truly championship-caliber club until we beat Jacksonville.''

In other games Sunday, Oakland is at Indianapolis; Green Bay at Buffalo; Cleveland at Cincinnati; the New York Giants at Philadelphia; Kansas City at Tennessee; Chicago at Tampa Bay; Miami at Minnesota; Atlanta at Denver; St. Louis at Seattle; Carolina at San Francisco; Washington at Detroit; New Orleans at San Diego and Dallas at Arizona.

New England is at the New York Jets on Monday night. Pittsburgh is off.

Washington (1-0) at Detroit (1-0)

The Redskins, who some people have slotted directly into the Super Bowl, didn't look like a championship team last week, although Bruce Smith, one of its big-name, big-salaried additions, looked like the Bruce Smith of 1990. What's most impressive are the offensive tackles, rookie Chris Samuels and second-year man Jon Jansen.

This would be more interesting if the Lions had Charlie Batch at 100 percent. But if Batch plays, he certainly won't be in top form after missing the entire exhibition season. If he doesn't go, it's Stoney Case, who threw for all of 100 yards in the 14-10 win in New Orleans last week.

New York Giants (1-0) at Philadelphia (1-0)

The winner gets the inside track to the runnerup role behind the Redskins in the NFC East.

One likelihood: Unless there's another lightning delay, the clock should keep running.

The Giants (Tiki Barber 144, Ron Dayne 78) ran for 223 yards against Arizona last week and the Eagles' Duce Staley had 201 all by himself in the Eagles' 41-14 shocker over the Cowboys.

Atlanta (0-1) at Denver (0-1)

This was supposed to be the battle of the rehabbing running backs -- Terrell Davis and his good friend Jamal Anderson.

But Davis sprained his ankle Monday night, backup Olandis Gary is gone for the year with a knee injury and the Denver starter might be another Anderson -- sixth-round draft choice Mike, a former Marine who will turn 27 in 10 days.

New England (0-1) at New York Jets (1-0)

The Monday audience might get more Dennis Miller and less action in this matchup of two new coaches from the Tuna school -- the Jets' Al Groh and New England's Bill Belichick, both of whom owe their coaching prominence to Bill Parcells.

They symbolize the love-hate relationship between these two franchises, which seem to ship coaches and players (Otis Smith, Vincent Brisby, etc.) back and forth with regularity.

Dallas (0-1) at Arizona (0-1)

The Cowboys were overrated entering the season because they're THE COWBOYS. In reality, they're probably no better than the Cardinals, who weren't rated at all.

Jerry Jones decided that Troy Aikman will sit with his ninth concussion, and Randall Cunningham will start. Dallas' best bet is a healthy Emmitt Smith -- the Cardinals allowed the Giants to run for 223 yards last week.

Green Bay (0-1) at Buffalo (1-0)

The Bills, who consistently come up with good young players, could let down after their intense win over Tennessee. They could have a particular problem if Rob Johnson's injured ankle flares up again.

Green Bay, like San Francisco and Dallas, looks like it's fading and depends almost entirely on Brett Favre's aching elbow. Favre might get more punishment this week -- watch out for Pat Williams, who is becoming one of the NFL's premier inside defensive linemen.

Oakland (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0)

This won't be 2-0 at the end of three quarters, as it was last week in the Raiders-Chargers game. But a win by Oakland by any score would be a major step toward getting off the .500 cycle the Raiders have been on for a decade.

Jeff Burris' interception return that broke open Indianapolis' win in Kansas City was just what the Colts need -- a big defensive play to take pressure off Peyton Manning and friends.

Kansas City (0-1) at Tennessee (0-1)

The Titans' ''new'' offense looked a lot like its old offense in Buffalo with one exception -- keeping Steve McNair in the pocket negates the scrambling that was one of the Titans' best weapons en route to the Super Bowl last season.

Tough start for the Chiefs -- playing the AFC's two best teams in consecutive weeks.

Miami (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0)

Daunte Culpepper did a lot last week against a little -- the Chicago defense. This is a far better test against one of the NFL's quickest defenses. ''I don't know how many teams are going to just let me run around like that,'' the 255-pound quarterback said after running for 73 yards against the Bears.

Jay Fiedler isn't Dan Marino, but journeyman Lamar Smith looks better than any running back the Dolphins have had in a while.

Chicago (0-1) at Tampa Bay (1-0)

The ''improved'' Bears are in a tough spot -- a loss here and they're 0-2 in the NFC. That's likely -- Chicago hasn't scored an offensive touchdown against the Bucs in 10 quarters.

Tampa Bay's getting an offense to go with the league's best defense. Keyshawn Johnson has to be accounted for and Shaun King is getting better at quarterback.

St. Louis (1-0) at Seattle (0-1)

The Rams demonstrated Monday night that they're the same team they were last year. In other words, ''speed kills.''

St. Louis didn't show much defense (until it counted) in its opener. The Seahawks showed no offense. Brock Huard replaced Jon Kitna in the third quarter of the shutout in Miami, but Kitna gets another shot this week.

Cleveland (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-0)

The Bengals were off last week and open with the first regular-season game in Paul Brown Stadium. Their hopes rest primarily on the talented but green passing duo of Akili Smith and Peter Warrick.

The Browns may be a throwback -- a truly bad expansion team. They have some nice young players -- Courtney Brown and Tim Couch -- to name two. But unlike Jacksonville and Carolina, their free-agent signings haven't produced much.

Carolina (0-1) at San Francisco (0-1)

Off a loss that could have been a win in Washington last week, the Panthers look like a playoff contender. Off a loss in Atlanta last week, the 49ers look a little improved on offense.

But look for the Carolina receivers, stifled by Champ Bailey, Darrell Green and Deion Sanders, to romp a bit through the inexperienced San Francisco secondary.

New Orleans (0-1) at San Diego (0-1)

The new Saints look a lot like the old. The defense is solid, but Jeff Blake looked a lot like last year's Billy Joes in the loss to Detroit.

It's the same story for the Chargers. Mike Riley will have to show patience with Ryan Leaf.

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us