The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Ups and Downs of Rooks


The Falcons and the Ravens are 6-3 and appear capable of competing for their respective division titles the rest of the way. How is this possible? Simple, their rookie QB's Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are too young to know they're not supposed to succeed like this so soon. They're talented guys who play hard for all 60 minutes, get up off the turf, and don't let interceptions discourage them.

There were virtually no expectations that either team would come close to .500 let alone compete for a playoff spot. It's important to note both teams also have rookie head coaches as well. Mike Smith and John Harbaugh were expected to hit some heavy first year bumps. They came in ready to make their mark and defy low expectations. So far, so good.

These new offensive systems have opponents on their heels. Opposing defenses don't exactly know what to expect from the quarterback or the play calling. Now, once they adjust to the Flacco to Troy Smith trick plays or the Ryan post patterns to Roddy White, that's when we'll have a clearer picture of what we're working with.

Flacco came into a system with a solid running back in Willis McGahee and a proven Ray Lewis-led defense. Ryan came into a system overwhelmed with Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino distractions. They went out and signed Michael Turner, a running back eager to prove he was more than LaDainian Tomlinson's career backup.

So both teams are Super Bowl bound, right?

Hardly. In fact, while one cannot take away the tremendous successes in Atlanta and Baltimore to date, the chances of either winning the championship this season is highly unlikely. The pressure and the stakes are raised to a whole new level come December and January. That's when experience comes into play, when there's little margin of error. That's when rookies show their age or become the next Tom Brady. We shall see. But, can teams win with rookie quarterbacks? Yes, and they are.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  November 11, 2008; 11:35 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: November 4th-11th Winner: VINGOLD | Next: All Quarterbacks Need Help

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