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Bucking the Odds

By Chris Benassi

Most of the so-called experts in the world of football commentary and analysis will tell you that the Ravens will be competitive in this weekend’s AFC Championship, but will fall short. All year long the analysts and sports the gambling industry had been banking on the idea that the 2008 Baltimore Ravens would be average at best. At first glance, how could you blame them? A rookie coach, rookie quarterback, and new offensive coordinator would spell disaster for most clubs, but then again these Ravens aren’t your ordinary football team.

With a fresh start, John Harbaugh set out to dominate two of the less glamorous statistics this season: time of possession and turnover margin. This was absolutely brilliant because it allowed the defense to control the game. We all remember Trent Dilfer in the 2000 championship run. That season the Ravens ranked first in time of possession (33:22) and third in turnover margin (+13). While the defense will get a lot of the credit, it was Trent Dilfer’s management of the game that equally contributed to the Ravens success. This season’s Ravens ranked second in time of possession (33:19) and first in turnover margin (+23).

This is the recipe for Baltimore success. We don’t need a quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game. We don’t need to score 30 points per game either. With our stellar play on the defensive side of the ball, all we need is to not turn the ball over and control the clock. That is something that Kyle Boller didn’t understand, and that is why he will never start for the purple and black again.

As a society we are enthralled with the idea of scoring. Whether it has to do with a new relationship, sports team, or business success, we are so passionate about scoring. The last time I checked, a touchdown is only good if you stop your opponent and a three percent raise is only good if the cost of living increase is less than three percent. That idea is also why Baltimore has been bucking the odds all year. Winning when no one else thought they could.

Yesterday the Ravens were six point underdogs going into Sunday’s game. I’m sure that Ray Lewis and company don’t care one bit.

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