The Baltimore Ravens are a disappointing 4-5 coming out of their bye week, but remain a Wild Card threat. Here’s what they need to do to earn a playoff berth.
In the midst of a very mediocre year for the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens are prime candidates to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team — even with just a 4-5 record. That’s the nature of a league in 2017 where parity is king.
They will be favored in most of their remaining seven games, and if they can accomplish these three things, then they could very well find themselves playing meaningful January football.
Of course, it all starts with having the right guys on the field.
3. Staying healthy
The injury excuse has been a valid one for the Ravens in the last few seasons. The team has a chance to regain some of their injured players after the bye week, however. Running back Danny Woodhead is the biggest returning player. He could provide much-needed help to this offense with his consistent chain-moving ability that we saw on full display in his first and only drive as a Raven in Week 1.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin have both seemingly been dealing with shoulder injuries that a week of rest could really help. Another back, Terrance West, will return as well. The Ravens can make a serious playoff push if they can remain relatively healthy for the remainder of the season. Losing Brandon Williams, Maclin and Mike Wallace for a few games really hurt the defense and offense, respectively. With all of these guys healthy now, expect the Ravens to charge head-on into their remaining games.
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2. Getting the passing game going
The Ravens have one of the better rushing attacks in the league, so that’s not the problem for this anemic offense. The biggest weakness of not only the offense, but the entire team is by far the passing game. Joe Flacco is having possibly the worst year of his career. It’s hard to blame him with how the Ravens receivers have performed though. Breshad Perriman has been nonexistent after receiving much media hype during training camp, and Mike Wallace hasn’t come close to matching his production from last year.
Maclin and Benjamin Watson are the most reliable pass catchers for Flacco, and neither of the two has been spectacular. The Ravens must open up their playbook and use their speed at wide receiver by taking more deep shots down the field. They have one of the fastest receiving corps in the NFL, yet you would never believe it by all of the check-down passes called. You will not consistently beat teams without having a successful passing attack.
Wallace and Perriman must step up. Wallace had over 1,000 yards last season, yet looks like he won’t even come close to that this year. Perriman is looking more like a detriment to the offense at this point than the breakout star he was touted to be this offseason. If he can begin to contribute at all then that will be an improvement already.
1. Winning the turnover battles
The Ravens defense leads the league in interceptions with 13, yet that doesn’t matter much when Flacco has thrown almost the same number. Baltimore must start controlling the turnovers on offense. The defense cannot stay on the field for as long as they have in the Ravens’ five losses. The offense must sustain drives and find a way to score points, even if it’s just a field goal. Too many times have we seen the Ravens defense give the offense several chances in a game to win it and the offense simply can’t move or protect the football.
Teams that win the turnover battle usually wins the game. That’s a fact. The Ravens must continue to force turnovers consistently on defense and find a way to cut down on the turnovers by the offense. This starts with Flacco and his decision-making, but ends with the receivers actually catching the ball and not handing it to the defense in a gift basket (Perriman).
So in conclusion, if the Ravens can stay healthy, spark their passing game, and win the turnover battles, then they could find themselves winning several upcoming games and sneaking into the post-season. Once in the playoffs anything can happen. They just have to get there first.