The Baltimore Ravens finished the first half of the season with a 4-5 record. Here’s a look at how they have fared and what’s ahead:
First-half rewind: The Ravens looked like one of the top teams in the AFC, jumping out to a 3-1 start. But Baltimore did its usual fade in October, watching each phase suffer a breakdown. Justin Tucker missed his first extra point in a loss to New Orleans. The NFL's top-ranked defense looked vulnerable in a loss at Carolina. Joe Flacco and the offense struggled to get into the end zone in a loss to Pittsburgh. This three-game losing streak has shrunk the Ravens' margin for error in the second half of the season. Grade: Average
What has to happen for the Ravens to make the playoffs? The Ravens need to get healthy (especially along the offensive line), break out of their offensive funk and create more turnovers on defense to end a three-game losing streak at the bye and turn their season AROUND. Baltimore is currently 1.5 games back of the Cincinnati Bengals for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. If the Ravens can reach the postseason, they would end a three-year playoff drought. If they don’t, the 11-year run for coach John Harbaugh and Flacco likely will come to an end. The pressure has never been greater for the best quarterback-coach tandem in franchise history.
MVP: Flacco. The former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player remains the biggest barometer of success for the Ravens. In four wins, Flacco has seven touchdowns and one interception (101.0 rating). In five losses, he has thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions (76.1 rating). It sets up for a strong finish for Flacco. All eight remaining opponents rank in the bottom half of the NFL in pass defense, including five of the bottom six (Cleveland, Kansas City, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati).
Biggest surprise: Running game. The Ravens plummeted from No. 11 last season to No. 27 in the NFL. It’s been a combination of factors, from inconsistent blocking to a lack of burst from the running backs. Alex Collins is averaging less than 4 yards per carry, and Buck Allen is under 3 yards per attempt. Baltimore is the only team without a running back who has recorded a run longer than 20 yards. Without a running attack, the Ravens have had to lean heavily on Flacco.
Hurdle to overcome: Winning on the road. Since winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens are among the NFL’s worst road teams. Baltimore is 16-29 (.356) away from M&T Bank Stadium the past 5.5 seasons. The Ravens are likely going to need to win once or twice in their final three road games. They have to travel to play the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers, all of whom are a combined 10-3 (.769) at home this season. Since 2015, the Ravens have won once on the road in December (at the Browns last season).