Schedule gives Ravens fighting shot
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.”
DOLPHINS (4-4) AT PANTHERS (6-3)