The Ravens are (3-4) and two games out in the loss column behind the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s too early to label anything a must win at this point in the season, particularly in a rather pedestrian AFC where there really isn’t a dominant team. No the Broncos and Chiefs don’t count!
The Ravens business trip to Cleveland needs to be successful if John Harbaugh troops are going to take advantage of what could be a very promising balance to their schedule.
Next Sunday the team will take on a Browns team that Joe Flacco has yet to lose to in 11 tries. During his 5 trips to Cleveland the Flacco-led Ravens have won by an average of 12 points and this time they will attempt to make it six in a row with Jason Campbell under center for Cleveland.
The Ravens will return home to face the AFC North leading Bengals where they’ve taken 4 of the last 5 homecomings from former Defensive Coordinator Marvin Lewis – the last time by the score of 44-13.
Should the coaching staff trust in their team a bit more and let them do what they do best, the Ravens could get off to a fast start on the tails of Flacco’s sugar huddle and then just maybe, they can force the Bengals into being one-dimensional which would help to unleash Sizzle-ville (Suggs & Dumervil).
That Bengals game also kicks off a string of 5 games during which the Ravens play the role of hosts in the friendly confines of M&T during 4 of those contests, including 3 straight against the Jets, Steelers and Vikings.
The Steelers game is on Thanksgiving and forces Pittsburgh on the road during a short week after being on the road in Cleveland the Sunday before.
It’s quite possible that the Ravens could be sitting at 8-5 when they head to Detroit to try and tame the Lions and Megatron. If they are at 8-5 and can take 2 of their final 3 (which also includes games at Cincinnati and at home v. the Patriots), 10-6 is very likely to earn a Wild Card nod and quite possibly the division.
But it all starts next Sunday in Cleveland.
The Ravens have had to sit in the stench of another loss for a week now with one more week to go. They’ll need to come out firing from the opening gun, pedal to the metal followed by a foot to the collective throat of the Browns.
If they do, it could be a sign of good things to come for the Ravens after their break.
If they don’t, it could signal the beginning of the end of the 2013 season.