We all know the situation.
To guarantee themselves an AFC North title, a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game, the Ravens have to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati this Sunday.
There’s only one problem. I said the game was in Cincinnati.
Yeah, about that ...
While the Ravens went 8-0 at home this season for the first time in franchise history, they are just 3-4 away from M&T Bank Stadium. And even though John Harbaugh might not necessarily agree with the notion that all four of the road losses were to “inferior” opponents, the bottom line is this: only one of the four teams to defeat the Ravens this year even have a shot at a postseason berth entering the season’s final week.
Now the Ravens have to go play a Bengals team that can lock up a wild card spot with a win. And they have to do it at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Ravens have lost five of their last six games.
Smells like trouble to me.
If you look at the numbers, it’s not hard to understand why the Ravens have had their issues on the road this season.
In the four games they’ve dropped (again, all of which were away from Baltimore), the Ravens turned the ball over 10 times, or an average of 2.5 times per game. In their 11 wins, they’ve had almost exactly half that number of giveaways - just 1.27 per game.
Think that discrepancy is telling? Check this out: in the Ravens’ four losses, they’ve averaged just 13.7 rushing attempts per game. In their 11 wins, they run the ball an average of 33.8 times per contest.
Take care of the ball and stay dedicated to the run, and you’ll be just fine. Turn the ball over, fall behind and lean heavily on the pass, and you’ll have a tougher go of it. I guess it’s not too complicated.
The Ravens are aware of all these numbers. They know that they need to win the turnover battle (something which they haven’t been doing as much lately) and get the ground game going to have success anywhere, but especially on the road.
That’s why John Harbaugh says the coaches won’t do anything different this week as they prepare to head out to Cincinnati.
“I think we’ve got a good routine. It’s proven,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to try to play better than we have in the games we didn’t win on the road. That’s the main thing. Obviously, turnovers were a big factor in some of those games; like any game in the National Football League. So, those are the things that will be our focus.”
I’m about to head out to take part in jury selection downtown, which should be thrilling. If I’m not stuck down there too long, I’ll be back later today with notes about more issues within the Ravens’ special teams units.