By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have back-to-back games against teams with a losing record. On Thursday, they get a quick turnaround against the Miami Dolphins. Then the Ravens have a battle against the Chicago Bears, who just dropped their sixth game of the season on Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dolphins and the Bears are opponents they should beat. How you win in the NFL doesn’t technically matter. Against these teams, it almost feels like it does.
Look what the Ravens have done this season. They’ve gone 6-2 with three amazing comebacks, and a 66-yard field goal sustaining that healthy record. If you think that’s not a sustainable way of keeping the train going you’re on a logical path of thinking. It’s really hard to know how good the Ravens are because they haven’t even been consistent within games let alone between games.
Look what the Baltimore Ravens have coming up. After their battle with two lesser opponents, they play the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then the Browns again. Then the Ravens finish the season with bouts with the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams and a finale at home against the Steelers.
The Ravens have back-to-back must-win games on their hand. Not only should the Ravens be expected to beat Miami and Chicago, but they must beat them. The Ravens need the cushioning of an 8-2 record going into their tough stretch to end the season. 8-2 makes the math work. The math works a little less comfortably at 7-3.
Let’s just say that the Ravens split with Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which is always a reasonable prediction. That gets you to 10-4 right there. Let’s say the Ravens even things up against the Bengals that gets Baltimore to 11-4. Then they just have to beat either the Green Bay Packers or Los Angeles Rams to get to 12 wins. That’s the most reasonable path to the best realistic outcome. So 8-2 has to be the record after the next two games.
Confidence is a double-edged sword. You either have too much of it and you lose to the Bengals because you expected to win, or it gives you the resolve to shock the Chiefs with a fourth-quarter comeback. We’ve seen both sides of the coin in Baltimore this season. Confidence can go a long way during a brutal stretch and that’s what the Ravens have in the backend of their schedule,
There may be no such thing as a bad win, but going to overtime against the Dolphins would feel like a disaster. It would be a red flag to need a comeback against a team with two wins. The Ravens seem to have a habit of playing down to their opponent this season, a habit that wasn’t there in their 2019 14-2 season. The Ravens also like to make things harder than they have to be.
A heart-pumping finish in Cleveland is predictable. It’s kind of how it’s supposed to go. A heart-attack-inducing battle in Miami isn’t how you draw it up. The Dolphins have been blown out four times this year. That’s what you expect the Ravens to do. They’re in first place in the AFC North, they have the biggest difference-maker in Lamar Jackson and Super Bowl aspirations. Does it have to be perfect? No. If it isn’t an overall fun night with a compelling victory though, confidence is harder to have.
The Ravens will get a little more leeway with the Bears because Justin Fields is pumping some excitement into that team. The Bears almost beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and without the NFL officiating getting in the way they probably would have. Still, we’re talking about a team that’s having a bad season.
If we leave week 11 of the season with two showings of force from Baltimore it’s a much different feeling than where the Ravens are now, just having scraped by the Vikings. Blowout wins against the Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins, and Bears would be enough to balance out the squeakers the Ravens had had to pull off.
Can the Ravens survive their tough stretch to end the season? That’s something we will have to find out as time goes on. How Baltimore feels going into that stretch will be dependent on how convincing the Ravens are in their next two games against teams they should absolutely beat.