Safety Eric Weddle acknowledged the Baltimore Ravens have “zero” margin for error heading into the Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins and beyond.
The Ravens (3-4) have lost three of their past four matchups and trail Pittsburgh (5-2) by two games in the AFC North. The Steelers have already beaten Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium.
Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens need to finish with 10 wins to avoid missing the postseason for the fourth time in five years. A loss to the Dolphins would mean Baltimore has to go 7-1 over the second half of the season for a shot at the playoffs.
The only teams with losing records over that final stretch are the Browns, Colts and Bengals.
So, in short, Baltimore faces a must-win game against Miami. It’s not exactly the scenario the Ravens envisioned in Week 8.
“I think we are going to win every game, until the season is done and I can’t play anymore games,” Weddle said. “If anyone else says otherwise, they probably shouldn’t be on the team.”
Still, a loss to Miami would derail the season and could prompt some type of shakeup with the players, coaches, scouts or front office. Fans are already clamoring for change on the airwaves and message boards.
However, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told Russell Street’s Tony Lombardi and 105.7 The Fan’s Mike Popovec during the Ravens Rap in Ocean City, MD that he has confidence in the caretakers of the team. Bisciotti said if the Ravens get a few better bounces or some luck, the narrative of this season is completely different.
“If we make the playoffs this year, John Harbaugh will have made the playoffs in seven of 10 years,” Bisciotti said. “When I fired Brian Billick, if John walked up there and said, ‘I will be in the playoffs seven of the next 10 years,’ you would’ve said, ‘Hallelujah, God bless you.’
“But now because they all came at the same time, then you can say he hasn’t been to the playoffs. So if he doesn’t get to the playoffs in four of the last five years, then the immediate reaction is, ‘Off with his head.’ And yet that would still be 60 percent playoff success.”
However, Bisciotti could feasibly change course if Baltimore finishes with a losing record. The team needs playmakers on both sides of the ball and there does not appear to be any quick-fixes for those challenges.
As a result, the Ravens might have to consider a rebuild to get the franchise back on track. The team is saddled with quarterback Joe Flacco’s huge contract for one more year before the salary cap hit softens if they release him.
Flacco, who was the team’s first-round pick in 2008, is reaching the back end of his career. To his credit, Flacco restructured his contract to give Baltimore some salary cap relief.
Still, the Ravens need to consider grooming a younger quarterback in the near-term for future success.
While Flacco has struggled this season, his performance has been hampered by injuries to the offensive line, receivers and tight ends. Flacco, who missed all of training camp with an ailing back, has thrown for 1,189 yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions over seven games this season.
The Ravens are ranked 28th in total offense.
Harbaugh has appreciated Flacco’s toughness with the challenges he has faced throughout this season.
“There’s been a lot of adversity, and for the quarterback to shoulder that … Joe is mature, he’s tough, he’s tough-minded, and he just deals with it,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something that people in Baltimore are proud of. They understand that about Joe, and there are good times ahead. There are going to be a lot of good times ahead for Joe Flacco. Stick with him. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
A loss to the Dolphins will inevitably raise more questions.
The Ravens have to show they at least have some answers.