Ravens (3-4) come off their Bye this Sunday as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are somewhat mired themselves at 4-4… but they have Big Ben reportedly ready to come out of sick bay and take over at QB again…
As crappy as the Ravens have looked so far in 2016, they have a mighty shot at taking over 1st place in the AFC North if they beat the Steelers this weekend…
We have seen teams rise from the ashes of a lousy start in recent AFC history—see the Kansas City Chiefs of 2015.
“We’re just trying to find a way to win a game right now,” said HC John Harbaugh yesterday.
The traditionally-strong AFC North has just 10 combined wins so far this season, the fewest in the NFL. The AFC North is 1-6-1 in non-division games. The Cleveland Browns are 0-8… The Bengals (3-4-1) are on a Bye this week.
“Our goal is certainly going to be to win the division,” Harbaugh said. “That’s in front of us. It’s up to us; we’re going to play those teams.”
Several key Ravens players are expected to return to the field against the Steelers.
Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) were practicing before the Bye, meaning the offensive line that began the year may be back together again. The Ravens have given up too much beat-down pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco without them.
The Ravens could also get wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), inside linebackerC.J. Mosley (thigh) and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps) back too. Suggs practiced before the Bye and told reporters there is no way he would miss playing the Steelers.
Harbaugh didn’t have any health updates when speaking to the media Monday, but said the Ravens players have returned excited to get back to work.
“I just want to go out there and play well,” Harbaugh said. “I want to knock some of this disappointment off. This is something you carry around with you, it’s not what you want, it’s not the goal. The goal is to win these games and have the kind of record that reflects how hard you work. So we’re very determined to do that.”
Baltimore badly needs to beat the Steelers to stay in the AFC North hunt, especially because their divisional foes have a more favorable schedule down the stretch (at least on paper right now). After facing the Steelers, the Ravens still have four games against teams currently over .500 this year (Dallas, New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh). Three of those four games will be on the road. The Steelers have one game against a team over .500 (Dallas) at home, and the Bengals have one (Philadelphia) also at home.
Should the Ravens lose to the Steelers this Sunday, I feel you can pretty much write off their season as a learning experience— and if they tank out the rest of the season at say, 6-10, you might be witness to a major overhaul in the Ravens coaching and scouting staffs.
With four of the next five games in Baltimore, the Ravens have a chance to build some momentum before a tough final four-game stretch. “I’m excited about it. I’m excited about playing two games in five days,” Harbaugh said. “We need to win these games, so I don’t really care where they’re being played. We needed to win two on the road the last two weeks and didn’t. We need to win these at home. Really, we just need to win. That’s what it boils down to.”
WNST’s Luke Jones says it won’t be enough getting back some injured veterans to turn the Ravens’ season around after dropping four straight.
“[T]heir returns alone won’t magically transform a bad team — which is what the Ravens were in a winless October — into a great one,” he wrote. “Keep in mind that their potential presence will also be accompanied by a tougher schedule in November and December.”
The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec outlined eight “smaller fixes” that will help give the Ravens a better chance of winning during the second half of the season:
1) Go Back To The Fundamentals
“From Flacco’s footwork to offensive-line penalties to subpar tackling and pursuit angles, the Ravens have experienced consistent and significant breakdowns with their fundamentals.”
2) Help Flacco By Any Means Necessary
“[A]bsolutely anything and everything should be done to try and help Flacco out of a slump that deepens by the week.”
3) Settle On An Offensive Line
“One bit of optimism this week came from the offensive line, whose first-team players practiced together for the first time in weeks. … The Ravens need stability in front of Flacco.”
4) Get The Ball Into The Hands Of Kenneth Dixon
“I’m not advocating for Terrance West to lose his starting job. … But Dixon having a bigger role doesn’t have to come at West’s expense. They can be used as a one-two punch.”
5) Find Red-Zone Options
“The Ravens aren’t big and physical enough to run the ball down teams’ throats, and their passing game hasn’t been accurate enough to consistently get into the end zone. They need to try different things and different personnel.”
6) Get More Speed On The Field On Defense
“[I]t’s obvious that the defense needs an injection of speed.”
7) Play The Young Pass Rushers More
“Terrell Suggs has vowed to return from his torn biceps in time for Week 9 … But that shouldn’t mean diminished roles for guys like Matthew Judon, Za’Darius Smith and [Kamalei] Correa.”
8) Make Decision On Devin Hester Sr.
“The Ravens have given Hester far more chances than other returners with ball-security troubles have gotten under Harbaugh.”