Eisenberg: Can Ravens Go on a Run? Answers Vary Between Glass Half-Empty and Half-Full People


After the Ravens lost Sunday in Tennessee, Head Coach John Harbaugh said the result "doesn't change anything" regarding the team's playoff prospects.

"It just means we've got to win one more game in the second half than we would have had, had we won this game. We've got to get on a roll," he said.

Joe Flacco made a similar statement. "Even though this was a big one, we're really in no different position coming down the stretch," he said.

The comments seemed somewhat curious because every contest is a turning point of sorts in a 16-game season, and this defeat felt weighty.

But in one sense, their statements were uncannily accurate.

Before Sunday, the Ravens were in eighth place in the overall AFC standings, situated two slots behind the team holding the second wild card slot.

After they lost Sunday, they still occupied the No. 8 slot.

Both before and after the game, in other words, it was true they could make the playoffs by leapfrogging just two teams down the stretch – hardly an impossible task.

To be clear, as Harbaugh noted, Sunday's loss did make the task that much harder. Before the game, the Ravens only had one fewer loss than the team in the No. 6 slot. After the game, they were two losses behind the No. 6 team.

Still, no one would suggest the 4-5 Ravens are out of the playoff picture. The Pittsburgh Steelers are lengths ahead in the AFC North, but no one has taken command of the wild-card race.

If any of the wild-card contenders, Ravens included, go on a roll in the final two months, they could easily make the playoffs.

A more relevant question about the Ravens is whether they're capable of such a roll.

They need to win at least five of their last seven games, possibly six, and right now, no doubt, you need to be an optimist to be able to envision that.

The Ravens looked like a playoff team against the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins, but they haven't turned in back-to-back strong performances since the first two weeks of the season. There's been a confounding lack of consistency, especially by the offense.

Sure, if you're one of those people who see a modestly-filled glass as half full, you can point to reasons why the pieces could come together. The Ravens will be much healthier after their bye this week. Running back Danny Woodhead is expected back, giving Flacco a potentially key target. The schedule features opponents with losing records and quarterback issues.

Those circumstances make a winning streak seem entirely plausible … until you start considering *why *the Ravens are in this situation.

There's plenty of depressing evidence to fuel the doubts of those who view a modestly-filled glass as half empty.

Most of that evidence is supplied by the offense, which ranks low in many statistical categories. Coming off their win over Miami, the Ravens hoped for a big performance Sunday in Tennessee, but old issues resurfaced and the offense didn't score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.

"You can't play too much worse than we've been playing," Flacco said.

The key issue is the passing game, which keeps hurting itself with interceptions and drops while continuing to rely on check-downs and crossing routes more than downfield challenges.

After going into detail at his Monday press conference about what needs to be corrected, Harbaugh expressed optimism.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we can be a very successful offense throughout the rest of the season," he said.

But given how the same issues have continually resurfaced, it's fair to wonder whether the disappointing pattern will end.

The offense's ability to make lasting corrections in the passing game will tell the tale, I do believe. The Ravens defense is playing well enough to win. The special teams are solid. The running game is ranked No. 8 in the league. It creates a framework for success, but the offense is always going to struggle without some semblance of an explosive downfield game.

How likely is it that we'll see that down the stretch, giving the Ravens the jolt they need to go on a roll?

Your answer to that question, I'm saying, lies in whether you generally see that modestly-filled glass as half empty or half full.

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