According to the standings, Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are in uncharted waters heading into their bye.
They’ve never been below .500 seven weeks into the season during Harbaugh’s tenure, starting in 2008. The Ravens have lost two straight and three of the last four.
That has led to a lot of doubters outside the Ravens’ facility in Owings Mills, Md. However, Harbaugh is confident the team’s true fans trust Baltimore can rebound.
“The people that want to see us do well – they’ll stay in our corner,” Harbaugh said Wednesday before players broke for the bye. “And those are our fans. We love our fans.”
Until the Ravens win some more games there will be skeptics. But there are always skeptics.
“There are a lot of people out there that are never going to believe in anything. It doesn’t really matter,” Harbaugh said.
The Ravens’ history tells a different story. It’s certainly not their first time dealing with challenges or losing skids.
Last year, the Ravens lost four of their five final regular-season games. Fans, and the entire NFL, know what happened next. Baltimore heated up, particularly on offense, and went on a four-game run to win the Super Bowl.
Baltimore also went into last year’s bye week fresh off a 43-13 demolishing loss in Houston, which left them in a similar position of having a sour taste lingering in their mouths. They responded by winning in Cleveland coming out of the bye. The Ravens will also travel to face the Browns after this year’s bye.
In 2011, the Ravens had three losses to struggling teams at the time – Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle – to hear about.
In 2010, the Ravens suffered a tough-to-swallow loss in overtime in New England, then were taken again to overtime the next week by Buffalo before heading into the bye.
So far, this season may most closely resemble 2009, which was an up-and-down battle throughout. That year, the Ravens started with three straight wins, then lost three consecutive games heading into their bye.
Baltimore responded by winning six of its next 10 games and reached the playoffs in the final week in Oakland. Cincinnati, who currently has a two-game lead in the division, won the AFC North.
In 2008, the Ravens were 2-3 after the first five games. They won nine of their next 11 regular-season games and reached the AFC championship game.
“You hit tough stretches every single year in football,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no guarantee this year. But, we have done pretty well over the last five years any time we’ve hit a tough stretch, going back to work, dealing with the things we need to correct, overcoming adversity.”
Of course, rebounds in previous seasons don’t necessarily mean it will happen again, as Harbaugh said. But the Ravens are well within striking distance of the playoffs and still aren’t halfway through their season.
“We’re right in the middle of the pack right now,” Harbaugh said. “So, we can either go down, stay the same, or get better. We intend to get better.
“What we need to do is go win the next game, and then the game after that, and then the game after that, and then the game after that, and do our best and see how the chips fall when it’s all said and done.”
Instead of taking their bye week entirely off, the Ravens decided to work. They practiced the maximum amount they could under the Collective Bargaining Agreement before players skipped town.
Harbaugh and players said the Ravens had two good days of practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and that the team’s spirits were “very good.”
“What makes me optimistic is I’m always optimistic because I know how hard we work, I know what good people we have – coaches and players – and I really believe in where we’re going schematically,” Harbaugh said. “I think we understand how to solve problems. And that’s what football is – it’s a problem-solving business.”