I know I am crazy. How can a team as inconsistent as the Ravens make it to the playoffs? I questioned my sanity before writing this and I still feel the same way. The Baltimore Ravens will make the playoffs. Just stick around and hear me out. Maybe I can convince you by the end.
What You Need to Know
Right now there are four teams the Ravens need to beat out in order to obtain the final wildcard spot in the AFC. The Miami Dolphins (4-4) who are currently on a two game skid and are being led by the up and down play of quarterback Jay Cutler, the Buffalo Bills (5-4) who just got manhandled by the New Orleans Saints 47-10 yesterday, the Oakland Raiders (4-5) who the Ravens already hold the tiebreaker against, and the New York Jets (4-6) who may be the biggest dark horse to make the playoffs considering their expectations that were spread around the league.
Reasons to Believe
The Ravens have beaten two of the teams listed above in the Dolphins and Raiders so they hold the tie breaker against both. That will come into play if any of the three teams are tied for that final spot come week seventeen. Another reason this team can make a run is their health. The Ravens are going to be as healthy as they possibly can be after their bye week. Danny Woodhead is expected to return after missing the last eight games, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin should both be fully recovered from their respective injuries, if it was not already proven the hit Flacco took against Miami had little, to no effect on Joe and he has had another week to fully regain his health, Jimmy Smith’s Achilles had an extra week of rest as he should be almost one-hundred percent healthy, and the whole team had the free week to regenerate their mental mindset as they prepare to make their playoff push.
A third reason this team can reach the playoffs is their defense. Yes, I know the defense has not lived up to their high set expectations so far, but they have been more dominant than people realize. Baltimore has the seventh best defense in the NFL, including the third ranked passing defense. Now the run defense is suspect, but a big reason for that is the absence of tackle Brandon Williams, as he missed four games with a foot injury. The yards per game against the Ravens was inflated because of that. Evidence that the running defense is improving is the fact that the Ravens have surrendered only 116 yards the last two weeks against running backs such as Jay Ajayi, Demarco Murray, and Derrick Henry. As the Ravens continue to halt the opponents run game they will force them to test the Ravens secondary, which has not worked well for most of the season.
Go take a look at the Ravens’ schedule. That should provide more than enough reason to put your belief in this team to make a second half run. The Ravens are favored in five of their final seven games and have a fifty-fifty chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN’s Power Football Index. The reason? Baltimore plays two back up quarterbacks in their next two games. The Green bay Packers are expected to start UCLA product Brett Hundley Sunday and the Houston Texans will have fourth year man, Tom Savage at the helm Monday night here in Baltimore. After that the Ravens play host to the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium, travel to Pittsburgh for their toughest remaining matchup against the Steelers, than take the short trip form Pittsburgh to Cleveland and face the winless Browns, and finally close out the season with their final two games at home against the Indianapolis Colts led by second year quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and the Andy Dalton led Cincinnati Bengals. If you ask me, that schedule favors the Ravens heavily, which gives me another glimmer of hope for the playoffs.
The Unknown Factor
The Ravens offense is dismal. I can not deny that. But Joe Flacco had this to say before the bye week, “We need to go after it. We can’t lose football games. We’ve got to attack. We’re a 4-5 football team. You always look at teams in this position and say, ‘Man they’ve got nothing to lose.’ Man we should feel that way. We’ve got to go out there and leave it all out there.” (via Ravens.com). It seems like Joe is tired of the four to five yard check downs. He wants to sling the rock down the field and open some things up on this offense. He needs offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to allow him to do that. With the ninth best run offense led by diamond in the rough running back, Alex Collins, a deep passing attack will turn this offense around and allow the defense to play more freely because they know the offense will have the ability to move the ball.
It is going to be tough there is no doubt about that, but I still have hope that this team can turn it around and become what we all thought they could be before the season started. Super Bowl contenders.
I hope everyone else has gained that hope too.