I don’t care what the schedule says. The Ravens have one game left in their season. They face the Bengals next week at home. If they lose that game, their season is done. The defense of their Super Bowl title will be over and their streak of five consecutive trips to the post-season will be snapped. They won’t recover from another loss. They aren’t built to recover. Not this season.
For the third straight week the Ravens lost a game that they could have and should have won. They lost a game that was a one score game where their defense couldn’t get off the field and give the offense a chance to win the game. After their Week 1 blowout loss to Denver, Baltimore’s next four losses have been by a combined 14 points. They aren’t winning close games. Last year, the Ravens won six games decided by one score or less – and two more in the post-season, including Super Bowl XLVII.
The AFC North divisional standings look upside down with the Ravens and Steelers at the bottom, while the Bengals and Browns are at the top. At 3-5, the Ravens would need to go 6-2 down the stretch to even sniff a shot at the post-season. “The math says it’s going to be a challenge,” said John Harbaugh after the 24-18 loss to the Browns. The math, John? Forget the math. Watch this team play. Even if I couldn’t add two and two together, I can see that this is a team that is in rebuilding mode more than championship mode. They can’t run the ball. They can’t pass protect. They struggle to stop the run at times. They give up the big play too often. There are just too many problems and not enough solutions.
Point the blame wherever you like. Whether you think it’s the offensive line, the head coach or the secondary, it doesn’t really matter, because while they are trying to fix these problems, other teams are beating them and winning close games. The Ravens are not.
John Harbaugh is doing his best to remain optimistic. He keeps saying they can get better; that he likes the guys he has on the roster and they are capable of turning things around. There are trends that back his optimism. Since 2000, 32 teams have reached halfway point of their season with a .500 or below win percentage and still made playoffs. Furthermore, since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format began, nine teams have been 3-5 through eight games and made the post-season, including the Bengals and Redskins last season, and the Tim Tebow-led Broncos in 2011.
The Ravens’ opponents for their remaining eight games have a .544 winning percentage. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but the Ravens haven’t exactly beat anyone of worth so far. If the Ravens have any shot at adding their names to the two lists above, they need to be in playoff mode right now. There is no room for error. They have lost control of their own destiny. And if the Ravens lose one more game, they will be watching football in January, instead of playing in it.
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