By Daniel Benjamin

The Baltimore Ravens will get back to work on Monday after concluding their bye week with good old-fashioned rest and relaxation. The Ravens entered the break pretty banged up, but they are hoping most of their injured players will be ready to go this week.

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The Ravens probably couldn’t have imagined how the first half of the season has played out. They started the season out strong with solid performances from their defense and special teams. Since beginning the season 3-0, the Ravens have struggled on offense, and given up several big plays on defense as they have dropped four straight.

Still, the Ravens (3-4) remain in contention for a playoff spot and the AFC North crown. The Ravens are currently situated in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff race, one-and-a-half games out of the final wild card spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers currently lead the AFC North with a 4-3 record.

The next few weeks are crucial for the Ravens in terms of the success of their season. Three of the team’s next four contests are against divisional foes, starting with Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium. If the Ravens are going to turn things around they will need to get elite performances from their star players.

Rising: Justin Tucker, K. Tucker has perhaps been the team’s MVP. The fifth-year kicker is a perfect 18-for-18 in field goal attempts and 4-for-4 on kicks 50 yards or more, which includes a 53-yard game-winner against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Tucker is also 9-for-9 in PAT’s and 20 of his 33 kickoffs have been touchbacks. Opponents are averaging a paltry 19.8 yards per return.

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Rising: Mike Wallace, WR. Wallace has seen an extreme volume increase in targets recently, and has rewarded the Ravens quite nicely. The 30-year-old had a season-high 10 receptions, on 13 targets, for 120 yards versus the Jets. He has 21 catches over last three game, and is second on the team overall with 35. More importantly, Wallace has given the Ravens a deep threat as he has reeled in three passes of 40 or more yards and leads the team with a 14.0 yard per catch average while also topping the team with three touchdowns.

Falling: Joe Flacco, QB. Flacco hasn’t played well. The Ravens are averaging only 19 points game, which ranks 25th in the league, and the offense has reached the end zone just 10 times — the second fewest in the league. The thing that has to be the most concerning is Flacco’s inaccuracy as his throws have been off target too many times. The 10-year veteran leads the league in passing attempts and completions, though he ranks 21st in completion percentage and No. 29 in passer rating. He has completed less than 57 percent of his passes in three games, including his past two contests. Flacco’s two interceptions against the Jets led to 10 points for New York.

Falling: Kamar Aiken. Aiken led the Ravens with 75 receptions last year, but has been mainly regulated to special teams duty this year. He does have seven catches in the last two games with Steve Smith nursing an ankle injury. There also have been rumors that the 27-year-old could be traded before the trade deadline.

RB Terrence West, CB Jimmy Smith, LB Zach Orr, S Eric Weddle, and rookie CB Tavon Young also have had a nice first half of the season.


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Post Author: Daniel Benjamin.