Many teams in the NFL go through ups and downs in the regular season. There are high and lows. Good games and bad. But only one team every year goes through what the Ravens are going through. When you are the defending Super Bowl champions, you are under the microscope. There are higher levels of scrutiny. More eyeballs watching. Tougher questions to answer. More decisions to be second-guessed. And when you are John Harbaugh and your team is 3-4, the pressure is on.
The losing record is one thing. But the hard part for the Ravens right now is finding something to hang their hats on. Anything. The run game has been downright awful. Joe Flacco hasn’t set the world on fire. The offensive line has been awful. The pass rush has been solid, but the back end of the secondary has let up too many big plays. For a team that won the Super Bowl less than nine months ago, there is a feeling of just being lost. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Harbaugh. Understatement.
Try and find a silver lining. The record of the teams they have lost to is 15-11. The record of the teams the Ravens have beaten is 8-12. The run defense has been pretty stout. But in three of the last four games – all losses – they’ve given up at least 140 yards on the ground to opponents, including 203 to the Bills. I could go on and on. But the bottom line is this: when you have a bad for every good, you end up mediocre. That’s what the Ravens are right now. Average.
The bye week is here, and as is for most teams, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Can the Ravens get better? Absolutely. It boils down to how they handle it. From the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players, they have come together to fix the problems that have lead to this new place called “mediocrity.” Terrell Suggs expressed his feelings, “I’m very concerned. We have a tremendous amount of work to do. We’re at a state of emergency now.”
John Harbaugh, who is usually pragmatic, even tipped his hand a bit saying, “We’re going to do whatever it takes. We’ll trade guys. We’ll cut guys. We’ll sign guys. We’ll coach guys. We’ll change schemes. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to find a way to get better.” You can sense his urgency to turn things around. And the schedule makers have looked down favorably on the Ravens. Right out of the bye, they play two divisional games that will decide their fate. Baltimore is at Cleveland in Week 9 and home against the Bengals in Week 10. If they win both of those games, they are 5-4 and 3-1 in the division. At that point, they can control their own destiny and that’s all you can ask for in today’s NFL.
The Ravens know better than anyone that you don’t have to play the best football all season to win a Super Bowl. You just have to play well enough to get to the post-season and get hot. The only option left for this team to get to the post-season is to find some elixir during the bye week to cure the ills of this team. Only thing is, one week may not be enough time.
Follow me on twitter @MarkZinno