As the Ravens make preparations to travel to play the Cleveland Browns this Sunday, the team will simultaneously be preparing for their toughest stretch of the season.
While the players and coaches focus on the Cleveland Browns in the short term, it’s hard to ignore the difficult tasks that lie ahead for a team plays in a competitive division and that struggles on the road.
A trip to Cleveland starts the first of the Ravens’ remaining four divisional games. After this five-week stretch, the Ravens will have played all but one of their divisional games – a regular season finale in Cincinnati.
John Harbaugh realizes how important this upcoming stretch is, not only for his team, but also for the rest of teams bidding for a playoff opportunity.
“This is a stretch during the year that is pivotal for every team because you’re going into November, and November is really when you’re able to position yourself for that stretch run, which is December and January football,” Harbaugh said.
“It’s a big opportunity for us, and that we want to do starting this week and going forward is going to determine where we stand when the games mean the most.”
The cliché of the “the most important game is the next” will remain true for the Ravens these next five weeks. With three divisional matchups out of their next five games and a trip across the country to San Diego mixed into playing the Steelers twice within 15 days, it’s hard to not prioritize one game over the next.
“There’s a stepping stone effect here during the season. We’re positioned well right now,” said Harbaugh. “We need to continue to improve so we can set ourselves up for when it counts the most.”
As the Ravens skip from stone to stone, chances are they’re bound to slip on at least one of their next five games. Most importantly for the Ravens, they need to make sure it’s not against a divisional opponent.
Before the bye week, the Ravens looked like a team in dire need of a makeover. Now that they’ve had some time off, Sunday’s game will be a good gauge to see if anything changed during the extra planning time.
Given the Ravens’ offensive struggles outside of M&T Bank Stadium and their defensive issues no matter where they play, for the team to have a legitimate shot at traveling to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, the road is going to have to go through Baltimore – which means they have to win divisional games.
Luckily for the Ravens, they have a one game cushion heading into this difficult stretch. However, as they’ve shown in years past – no game should be taken for granted.
Clichés exist for a reason and this is a perfect case in point. While the next five weeks may provide a lot of nervousness for the fan base, everyone should know what type of team the Ravens are and if they have a legitimate shot at a playoff run by the time they travel to Washington to play the Redskins in Week 14.