Panic Button Pressed: Baltimore Ravens Still Alive in AFC
At 4-6, the Baltimore Ravens are on track to have their worst record since the Brian Billick era ended in Baltimore in 2007.
That being said, the Ravens find themselves in an interesting spot as they are one of eight teams at 4-6 or 5-5 in the AFC – nine teams are in the race if you want to include the 4-7 Buffalo Bills – that are fighting for the second Wild Card spot.
It’s safe to say that the panic button has been pushed … no, pressed down for the Ravens at this point as they already have as many losses as they did all of last season during their illustrious Super Bowl XLVII run. Obviously this team is different, but so is their current situation and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Losing four of the six contests by three points or less says two things about this team. One, they aren’t that far off from being good. Two, they aren’t all that good because good teams find a way to win close games and avoid beating themselves more often than not.
It may seem like those two previous statements don’t gel together, but luckily for the Ravens, not a lot has made sense this season across the AFC and Baltimore has a nice stretch coming up.
Three straight home games versus the 5-5 New York Jets, 4-6 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2-8 Minnesota Vikings are on the slate for the Ravens, all of which are winnable. Yes, the Jets have a good defense, the Steelers are a better team than they were when they defeated Baltimore Oct. 20 19-16 and the Vikings have Adrian Peterson, but none of these teams are that much better or more talented than the Ravens and everyone knows that Baltimore plays better at home — Baltimore is 3-1 at M&T Bank Stadium this season.
The positives to take away from the last game against the Chicago Bears and what this team can build on going forward?
Ray Rice was Ray Rice of old. 148 total yards on 28 touches (25 carries, 131 yards, three catches, 17 yards) and one rushing touchdown has to be a confidence booster for the six-year NFL veteran. Many, including myself, have looked at the 26-year-old running back as possibly being done with as the tread on his tires may have absorbed too much punishment during his days at college and in the pros. Sunday could prove to be the bounce back game Rice needed in order to finish the 2013 season strong.
The offensive line played one of its best games of the season. Allowing three sacks to a Bears defense that ranked 30th in total sacks — Chicago entered the game with 14 sacks as a team for the season — isn’t something to be too happy about and left tackle Eugene Monroe had probably his worst game since joining the Ravens. That being said, even though the Bears are horrible against the run — 31st in the league giving up 133.9 yards-per-game on the ground — this was the first game holes existed for running backs on the Ravens and Baltimore was able to tally their highest output on the ground this season with 174 total yards rushing on 41 carries. They finally took advantage of a deficiency an opponent possessed and were able to dictate the pace on the ground.
While these two positives were nice, the Ravens did two things that were unacceptable. How can a team play in a game like this where conditions were less than desirable for both teams and fail to force a single turnover? Also, the Ravens needed five yards in three plays to win the game at the end of regulation and they couldn’t do it when it counted … again.
It is mind-boggling how the two previous points didn’t happen for the Ravens once again, but that’s why they are 4-6 and with doubt heading into a must-win game versus the Jets. At this stage of the season, corrections can be made, wounds can’t be licked and the bleeding can only be temporarily stopped, but the collective holes will remain on this team … especially, when the bright lights are on and the big stage is lit up.