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Bob Haynie: It’s Now Or Never For The Ravens

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(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

On Sunday afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens will begin a three-game home stand that will go a long way in determining whether or not they will be a playoff team in 2013. With their record standing at 4-6, there is little room for error for the defending Super Bowl champions. That’s why defending their home turf at M & T Bank Stadium is paramount.

The Ravens are only 5-10 in their last 15 regular season games. They are an abysmal 1-7 on the road during that time. Since they can’t win away from M & T, obviously, they need be victorious there.

The upcoming Baltimore opponents are not exactly world-beaters. The Jets are up first on Sunday and at 5-5 they have been better than most people expected. However, New York was blown out at Buffalo last weekend as rookie QB Geno Smith was benched because of turnovers. The Jets do feature the NFL’s top-ranked run defense and will be bringing former Ravens’ All-Pro safety Ed Reed with them.

After the Jets, the Steelers come to town on Thanksgiving night. Pittsburgh has won back-to-back games to get themselves to 4-6 and they already own a victory over the Ravens. This is a rivalry game and it’s importance can not be understated.

Following the Steelers and, a nice break, Baltimore will host the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have stunk this season and have yet to win a game on the road. They appear to be the weakest team left on the Baltimore schedule. As we know, in the NFL, appearances can be deceiving.

They are eight teams in the mix for the sixth playoff spot in the AFC. Yes, the Ravens are one of those teams.

If they can sweep the three games at home, the Ravens will put themselves in a very good spot in the conference chase. Even if they go 2-1, they should still be in the mix.

But, if they finish with a sub-.500 record during the home stand, they will be in big trouble. Maybe even finished.

The Ravens know that it is imperative the win these games. They understand what lies ahead of them and what it will take to return to the postseason.

Are they up to the challenge?

We will find out Sunday.

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