Ray Rice was lucky to see the end zone twice on Sunday...according to Grantland's Barnwell.
Ray Rice was lucky to see the end zone twice on Sunday...according to Grantland's Barnwell.

Before I begin this little tirade, I should start by saying that I am a big fan of the ESPN/Bill Simmons love child that is Grantland.com.  Though its articles are typically 8-10x longer than the work that I pen here at BaltimoreSportsReport.com, I always enjoy the wittiness, humor and Grantland‘s mixture of pop culture with Boston-area sports coverage.  See what I did there?  (To be fair, I appreciate that Simmons acknowledges his love for Boston’s sports teams.  I think more columnists should disclose information like that to be taken seriously.)

In my love-fest for Grantland and all of the hard work that their staff has put in, (have I blown enough smoke yet?) I couldn’t help but notice a bit of criticism on the part of staff writer Bill Barnwell.  I’ve listened to B-squared on the BS Report and read his mega-NFL preview and thought that he was a little tough on the Baltimore Ravens.

Barnwell’s preview, published last week, was four part series broken up into NFL teams that will disappoint, fail to meet expectations, who are on the way up and contenders.  The Ravens fell in the “fail to meet expectations” category with the Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Talk about a hodgepodge group of pro football teams.  “If the defense declines, there’s no guarantee that the offense will be able to pick up the slack. While adding wide receiver Lee Evans and offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to shore up weak spots in the offense during training camp sounds like a great idea, Evans hasn’t produced over the past three seasons in Buffalo, and McKinnie has been out of shape and subpar for two consecutive seasons in Minnesota,” Barnwell wrote in his preview.   I mentioned Barnwell’s thoughts in a short piece I wrote about Mike Tomlin last week, but for the most part I let it slide and opted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt even though he wrote that as a worst case scenario the Ravens could finish in third in the AFC North behind the Browns.  That’s more like an end of the world scenario in my opinion.

My beef with Barnwell’s opinion of the Ravens escalated to whole new level when he referred to the Ravens 35-7 beat down of the Steelers as “fumble luck.”  He points out that history has shown that teams that win with a +7 turnover margin won’t repeat the feat again.  “Let that be a lesson to you: The Ravens aren’t about to become the takeaway mavericks of the NFL, and the Steelers won’t be giving the ball away like they don’t want it for the final 16 weeks of the year,” he wrote.  Thanks.  I don’t think anyone is expecting Baltimore’s defense to cause seven turnovers every game.

Barnwell went on to point out that last season the Ravens beat the Steelers in week 4, but had the tables turned on them in a game they lost against the Steelers in week 13 after they gave Pittsburgh three short fields in another instance of “fumble luck.”  The problem with that comparison is that it doesn’t mention the fact that in week 4 the Ravens beat the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger and barely edged out a victory against third string quarterback Charlie Batch.  Look, you can make numbers and statistics tell you anything and easily draw conclusions on something that isn’t there, but if you’re going to make an argument at least know when the biggest starter among the two teams wasn’t on the field.  “And don’t assume that the Ravens have somehow exorcised the Steelers demon with this stomping at home in Week 1,” Barnwell wrote.

When it comes down to it, I’m a guy that believes good or bad teams in professional sports make their own luck.  Were the Steelers lucky that Troy Polamalu sacked Joe Flacco and forced a fumble deep in the Ravens own territory on week 13 or was it a skilled play made by a guy that would end up changing the momentum of an entire game?  As a Ravens fan, even I will choose the latter.  I would love to blame luck for the Orioles fourteen straight losing seasons, but I don’t think it’s ever that simple.

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Every NFL expert or newspaper columnist made bold predictions at the NFL season’s start.  A lot of them made numerous bold predictions.  Do you know why?  Because at the end of the season one of them is bound to hit and they’ll be the first ones to tell you how they predicted it back in August or September.  The problem is that for every great prediction, there are 1,000 horrible ones and these guys don’t seem to recognize their strikeouts nearly much as their home runs, despite their ratio being worse than Mark Reynolds’.

But I’ll remember that the Cardinals, Panthers, Broncos, Lions, Vikings, 49ers, Rams and Browns were listed as teams on the way up in the preseason “mega-preview.”  So far the Browns got beat at home by a third string quarterback (I’m counting Carson Palmer), the Panthers had over 400 yards passing but lost to the Cards, the Vikings dropped one to the Chargers and the Rams got blown out by the Eagles.  The 49ers did beat the mighty Seahawks though.  My mistake, that ratio could be even worse than Mark Reynolds’.


Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com.  You can follow him on twitter @zamwi or send him an email: zach@baltimoresportsreport.com