After this weekend's much-needed bye, the next month of the season will be critically important for the Ravens.
They have holes in need of repair – notably an inconsistent offense on the road and a defense prone to give up big yardage – and those areas will get tested as the Ravens play three of their next four games away from Baltimore.
"In every season you are going to have a couple of games that are must-wins," outside linebacker Paul Kruger said. "I think we're at that point in the season when we are building our identity, and I think these next couple of weeks are going to be big."
Head Coach John Harbaugh already called the Ravens' Week 9 matchup against the Cleveland Browns a "must-win game."
After the game against the Browns, the Ravens welcome the Oakland Raiders to Baltimore, then travel to San Diego and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks before returning to Baltimore to face the Steelers again.
The fate of their season likely rests on how they perform away from the comforts of M&T Bank Stadium over the next several weeks.
"This bye came at a perfect time," Kruger said. "I feel like we're going to get our bodies back, get our rest, and it will be easier to come back and refocus and get the excitement back and come in strong."
The good news for the Ravens is that none of their next four opponents have winning records.
However, the Browns have consistently played the Ravens tough, including a Week 4 matchup this season where the Ravens escaped a late Browns' rally for a 23-16 victory. Baltimore learned in a 34-14 loss last year how tough it is to go cross-country and beat the Chargers.
And the Steelers are still the Steelers, even if they're getting old and fighting through a handful of injuries.
If the Ravens are going to have success the next few weeks, then the offense will have to perform better on the road, which left tackle Michael Oher said is a point of emphasis during the bye week.
Oher said the next four games are "without a doubt" the most crucial stretch of the season, specifically for the offense to show it can play at a high level on the road.
"You want to win on the road," Oher said. "It's a big deal. We're correcting things so we can play better on the road."