The Baltimore Ravens come off their bye week licking their collective wounds.
The team is coming off a 43-13 trashing by the Houston Texans in the Ravens’ last game before the bye week. The team is also having to learn to play without defensive studs Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.
The time to feel sorry for themselves is over, as the Ravens must now embark on their second-half schedule.
There are some huge match-ups that highlight the second half of the schedule. Two gigantic games against the Pittsburgh Steelers still remain, as the Ravens now have a slim one-game lead over their archrivals. The Ravens must also travel to Cincinnati in week 17 to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Road games against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, and Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers still loom. The Ravens then host the Manning brothers in consecutive weeks late in the season, as they host the Denver Broncos in week 15, then welcome the defending champion New York Giants in week 16.
However, before all those tough games down the stretch, the reeling Ravens come out of the bye with two favorable games.
In their first game after the bye, the Ravens will travel to their former home, Cleveland. Admittedly, the Browns have been playing better football of late, and the venom towards the Ravens still pulsates through the Browns’ faithful.
Despite those red flags, the Browns still rank 29th in the league in total offense and are not going to scare anyone. The Browns’ defense is also in the bottom quarter of the league, so it may be the perfect tonic to cure the Ravens ailing offense that has really hit the skids in the past three games. Joe Flacco‘s last big game came at the hands of the Browns, as Flacco threw for 356 yards en route to victory.
After the Browns, the Ravens get a favorable home match-up against the mistake-prone Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have only one win on the road this season, and that came last week against the worst team in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders’ offense ranks 22nd in points per game, and Carson Palmer has as many touchdowns as turnovers. The Raiders’ defense is also in the bottom quarter of the league, allowing 26.7 points per game. Throw in the fact that the Raiders will be making the arduous cross-country flight and it makes for a favorable match-up for the Ravens.
Of course it’s never wise to look past any opponent in the NFL, but when breaking down the Ravens’ remaining schedule, these two games coming out of the bye are must-win games. With three insanely important divisional games remaining after the contests against Cleveland and Oakland, the Ravens must right the sinking ship and both build momentum while getting sharp in every aspect for the stretch run.
You never want to call a game a must-win, but if the Ravens are to keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive, they must come out and handle their business against inferior opponents in the Browns and Raiders.