Sched­ule gives Ravens fight­ing shot

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS -

not be good enough to qual­ity for the play­offs, is more at­tain­able.

The sched­ule is cer­tainly in the Ravens’ fa­vor. Start­ing next Sun­day, when the Ravens travel to Lam­beau Field to get their un­of­fi­cial se­cond half un­der­way against the Green Bay Pack­ers, the team will play only one team, a road game against the AFC North-lead­ing Pitts­burgh Steel­ers (6-2), that takes a win­ning record into Sun­day’s ac­tion.

While other po­ten­tial AFC wild card teams like the Buf­falo Bills (5-3), Mi­ami Dol­phins (4-4) and Oak­land Raiders (4-5) have re­main­ing sched­ules that rank in the top-10 in terms of dif­fi­culty, the com­bined record of the Ravens’ fi­nal seven op­po­nents is 23-34. The Ravens will also play four of their fi­nal seven games, and their last two, at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

“There is a lot of op­por­tu­nity out there. We can’t dwell on the fact that we are 4-5. We can’t go back and change that. It is what it is, and we have to put that out of our mind the best we can,” Ravens quar­ter­back Joe Flacco said. “We have to have a short mem­ory and just go out there and play foot­ball. We can’t look ahead that far ei­ther be­cause when you start do­ing that and you start try­ing to look at the big pic­ture of every­thing ev­ery sin­gle day, that just wears on you men­tally. It is just too much for us to han­dle.

“We have to take it one week at a time. It is cliché as it can be, but we have to do that. We have to look at what is im­por­tant now, and for us, that is get­ting a lit­tle bit of a break here and fo­cus­ing on the Green Bay Pack­ers.”

In the Pack­ers, the Ravens will be fac­ing a RIGHT IN THE MIX team that is 0-3 since star quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers broke his col­lar­bone on Oct. 1. The fol­low­ing week, the Ravens will host “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” and a 3-5 Hous­ton Tex­ans team that has lost quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son and J.J. Watt among oth­ers.

Af­ter a matchup with the Steel­ers at Heinz Field, the Ravens will play their fi­nal road game against the win­less Cleve­land Browns, fol­lowed by home matchups ver­sus the An­drew Luck-less In­di­anapo­lis Colts (3-6) and the Cincin­nati Ben­gals (3-5).

“We can win the di­vi­sion. We just have to get on a roll. You have to win enough games. The Steel­ers are go­ing to be in some tough games, and they still have to play us. This is a tough league,” said Har­baugh, whose team is 2½ games be­hind the Steel­ers af­ter los­ing to them at home on Oct. 1. “At no point in time are we go­ing to say we can’t win the di­vi­sion or make the play­offs, but we have to get on a roll.

“We have to win a game. Then, we have to win an­other game. We have to win two, three, four games in a row. We may have to win them all. If we have to do it, that is what we have to do. That is how we are look­ing at it.”

When the Ravens re­turn to prac­tice, they will likely be as healthy as they’ve been all sea­son. Run­ning back Danny Wood­head, who has played one pos­ses­sion all year be­cause of a ham­string in­jury, could re­turn for the Pack­ers’ game, giv­ing Flacco an­other much-needed tar­get. Run­ning back Ter­rance West (calf), wide re­ceiver/punt re­turner Michael Cam­pa­naro (shoul­der) and tight end Nick Boyle (toe) also could all be back.

The bye week also should help freshen up the myr­iad of Ravens who have been play­ing through in­juries, a list that in­cludes Flacco (back/con­cus­sion), left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley (shoul­der), rush line­backer Ter­rell Suggs (knee) and cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith (Achilles).

But im­proved health isn’t a cure-all for an of­fense that ranks 30th in yards per game (286.6), 31st in pass­ing yards per game (165.7) and 19th in points per game (21.1). It won’t nec­es­sar­ily open up the Ravens’ down­field pass­ing game, erad­i­cate turnovers or get the Ravens to play with more rhythm and pre­ci­sion.

The Ravens spent their two bye week prac­tices fo­cus­ing on cor­rect­ing some of their short­com­ings over the first nine games. The play­ers in­sist that de­spite how the team has played over the past month and a half, they’re not far from putting it all to­gether. They point to the 30-17 road vic­tory over the Raiders on Oct. 8 and the 40-0 blowout of the Dol­phins on Oct. 26 as proof of what it looks like when every­thing clicks.

“This team def­i­nitely has con­fi­dence,” start­ing weak-side line­backer Pa­trick On­wua­sor said. “We have the spark. We just have to make sure it stays on in­stead of go­ing on and off. If we do that, I think every­thing will come to­gether.”


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