Despite the collective “sky is falling” feeling from fans just a week ago, the Ravens are back in prime position to take the 6th Wild Card seed with just Tennessee and Pittsburgh ahead of John Harbaugh’s crew right now. A victory against the Steelers could take Pittsburgh out of the race—for now—and secure the Ravens’ place as the AFC North’s dark horse.
Let’s take a look “Behind Enemy Lines” for the late stretch of the season.
A Loss in the Near Future: A Ravens win and Steelers and Bengals losses would be a perfect scenario for purple and black faithful. This week, that dream might just become reality for everyone in Baltimore.
The Bengals play the Chargers in San Diego this week, a team that nobody seems to match up well against. Philip Rivers can be tough, and is certainly better than Andy Dalton! There’s a chance that San Diego beats the Bengals—a result that would put the Bal/Pit winner just one game behind the leaders.
San Diego just beat the Chiefs. Can they keep up their winning ways in a game that the North will be watching?
Dalton Costly: This team has a lot of problems, and it all starts with Andy Dalton. This guy is costly and his struggles might be detrimental to the team.
He has thrown nine interceptions in his last four games, and two of those games have been 3-INT games. He hasn’t had a QBR (ESPN stat) of over 17.4 in the last three weeks, and his play has been some of the worst in the NFL.
Will it end up being their third-year quarterback that ultimately knocks the Bengals out of the AFC North race?
Weeden Time: Another week has passed and inevitably, another quarterback should be starting for the Browns. This time, Brandon Weeden should take the snaps against the Jaguars, subbing for Jason Campbell ,who was leveled in the game against the Steelers—giving him a concussion and possibly sending him to the bench.
Weeden isn’t the long-term answer. Right now, Coach “Chud” has to be looking just to get through the season with his dignity after the devastating loss to Pittsburgh.
Quarterbacks will be a hot commodity in May and Cleveland might be takers in the first round.
Players Frustrated: The Cleveland locker room is anything but certain right now, and it starts with T.J Ward, who made his frustrations clear for all to hear. Here’s a quote from Cleveland.com:
Asked what it is about the Browns that allows a game like Sunday to get away from them so quickly, the safety showed no hesitation.
“It does go quick,” Ward said following a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. “Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. That’s it.”
Defensive End Desmond Bryant echoed Ward, making clear to the media that the turnovers on offense didn’t help. It’s hard to put all of the blame on this offense, but the running game has been non-existent all year.
The frustration in the locker-room is real, and justified! This team is struggling and something has to be done.
Cold-Weather Brawl: Just when everyone thought Pittsburgh was down and out, they are in prime position not only ruin the Ravens’ chances, but sit in the 6th seed and actually control their own destiny!
The weather in Baltimore should be below 30 degrees and surprisingly, both quarterbacks have excelled tremendously under brutal conditions. According to Yahoo! Sports, Ben Roethlisberger has about a 93.0 quarterback rating in games under 40-degrees, and Joe Flacco has an 18-7 TD-INT ratio.
The only way the weather affects this game is if the Steeler wide-outs play similar to Tandon Doss—and in the cold weather, a bad case of the drops could be upcoming.
Off-Day on a Short Week: The Ravens had a walk-through on Monday, but it appears that the Steelers are taking advantage of their rest.
While they are out on the field today, Pittsburgh didn’t have a practice yesterday, leaving seemingly just one day to do the heavy work before traveling to Baltimore. There was no “real” injury report, but the team estimated who would have practice, and who wouldn’t have.