The bye week is over and it is just about time for the 3-4 Baltimore Ravens to get back to work. They will do so with a two and a half game deficit behind the division leading Cincinnati Bengals, but a much easier second half schedule.
Baltimore had a fairly difficult first half of the schedule with their opponents totaling a 25-27, but the types of games were what made them so tough. Those games included the opening night game at Denver, hosting Green Bay and a Houston team that was supposed to be good, while playing two games against the AFC East and AFC North. Their opponents record through the first seven games was made much worse yesterday as four of their first seven opponents took a loss yesterday.
Boil it down this way, as the Ravens played three of their first seven games against playoff teams from a year ago; they have played against two of the best offenses in football and some of the best run defenses in the league as well. Baltimore played four of their first seven games on the road, including already getting through with their annual visit to Pittsburgh.
The second half sets up much better for the Ravens. Baltimore will be playing teams that have a combined record of 37-32 as of this morning. Five of the Ravens final nine games will be at M&T Bank Stadium, including crucial games against the Bengals, Steelers, Jets and Patriots. Hosting these four games is one of the biggest reasons the second half sets up so well for Baltimore, because all but one of their most crucial games remaining this season are at home, where we all know how good the Ravens are.
Despite trailing the Bengals by two and a half games in the AFC North, the Ravens still control their own destiny as they still get to play the Bengals twice over their final nine games, and Cincinnati still has their bye week to come.
Baltimore’s playoff chances do not only hinder on the division title, but the sixth and final playoff spot is still up for grabs. The Ravens have a legitimate shot at securing that second wildcard spot and will essentially control their own destiny there as well. Baltimore has the tie breaker with the Dolphins courtesy of their win over the Phins earlier this season and still get to host the Jets later in the season, another team that could be competing for that final playoff spot.
Obviously the first seven weeks did not go according to plan for the Ravens. The running game has been awful, Joe Flacco is getting hit way more than the team would like, the secondary is struggling at times, and if the season were to end today, the Ravens five consecutive playoff appearances streak would be snapped. Despite all of that, Baltimore is still sitting in pretty good shape, as they control their own destiny, are getting healthy, including the pending return of TE Dennis Pitta, which now appears to be a question of when, not if.
If there is one thing any professional sports team, player, coach, front office staff member would tell you, they would all say that controlling your own destiny is one of the most securing feelings you can have, and the Baltimore Ravens can do just that in the second half.
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