By Samuel Njoku
The Baltimore Ravens (8-2) are two games ahead of the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4). The consensus among the NFL league is that Baltimore should win the division. The Ravens can now focus on playoff seeding as the road to the postseason begins. Baltimore has six games left, including this Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers. The team has had trouble on the road all season, and traveling to the West Coast doesn’t make things any easier, but Harbaugh has a 9-1 record all-time against the AFC West. San Diego will be a challenge, but will certainly be a lighter test than the Steelers were a few days ago.
The question becomes: How will Joe Flacco play on the road? If history is any indication, he won’t play well. The offense has looked sluggish on the road to say the least. But the main issue with the Ravens offense is their inability to convert on third downs. If Baltimore finds a way to extend drives, their unit will succeed.
“By the same token, we’re not the team that we need to be. We need to be better,” John Harbaugh stated earlier this month. “We need be better on third down. We need to run the ball more consistently. We need to protect our quarterback more consistently. We need to throw and catch better. And that’s just on the offensive side.”
Harbaugh is absolutely right. The Ravens must get better on that aspect. But it seems as though this only pertains to the team on the road. The question remains why. And with 5 road games in the books already, it appears as though the coaches haven’t figured it out either. With all this said, the Ravens have as good a chance as anyone to win the AFC. Besides Houston, who clearly staked their claim as top dog with the 44-13 beat down a few weeks back, no one is better than Baltimore.
But things can change in a hurry. With six games left in the season, Baltimore can either grab a first round bye or subside and settle for a wild card berth. The Ravens still have games against San Diego, Pittsburgh, Washington, New York (Giants), and Cincinnati. Five of the six teams left are still considered playoff contenders. The Ravens should be the favorites in every game remaining, but that doesn’t necessarily result in a victory.
Baltimore is in the middle of a rough three game stretch, already having completed one against Pittsburgh. Next up is the San Diego Chargers, who defeated Baltimore rather convincingly last season. If Baltimore can win one or both of their next two games, they’ll be sitting pretty. If they can’t, we’ll be looking at an interesting finish to the regular season.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.