Through the first 10 games of the season, the Baltimore Ravens have been one of the season’s biggest disappointments. After an improbable Super Bowl run, the Ravens said goodbye to a number of legends and key performers in Anquan Boldin, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, gave Joe Flacco a bunch of money, added some pieces and came back ready to resume their contending ways.
With a 4-6 record, a struggling Ray Rice and an inconsistent Flacco, it would seem that the run of unprecedented playoff success in the John Harbaugh/Flacco era would come to an end. However, the struggling AFC has kept the Ravens’ hopes alive.
In fact, no second-place team in the conference outside of the AFC West has has a record above 5-5, meaning the Ravens are just a game out of the sixth and final playoff spot with six games t0 go. Currently in a tie for the second Wild Card spot are the powerhouse duo of the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
Given the turmoil surrounding the Dolphins, it would seem that a collapse is just around the corner, if they aren’t in the midst of one already (they are 2-5 since their 3-0 start). As for the Jets, they are the first team in NFL history to alternate a win and a loss through their first 10 games of the season. Meanwhile, their rookie quarterback just committed four turnovers and endured a fourth-quarter benching in a blowout loss against the Buffalo Bills.
As it would happen, those very same Jets will be making an appearance at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday, giving the Ravens an opportunity to dispose of one of those teams in their way, while the Dolphins will take on the red-hot Carolina Panthers.
If the Ravens can handle the Jets, and the Panthers the Dolphins, the Ravens will stare their old friends the Pittsburgh Steelers straight in the face on Thanksgiving night. If both teams take care of business this week, they will square off in a match that will produce a momentum-building stretch run for one of the proud franchises, and a death sentence for another.
While Rice’s 131-yard game against the Chicago Bears is unlikely against the Jets’ top-ranked rush defense, his resurgence gives the team hope that they can get some production to help Flacco exploit their pass defense, which is in the bottom third of the league.
The Ravens should be able to create some turnovers against Geno Smith, and as long as Flacco doesn’t match him pick for pick, should get a much-needed home win and climb into the thick of the Wild Card race.