Eisenberg: Have Ravens Been More Lucky or Unlucky This Season?


Have the Ravens been more lucky or unlucky this season?

It's a worthwhile question to ponder as they emerge from their bye because the answer, which shifts, says a lot about where they've been and where they hope to go.

At one point, early on, there was no doubt about the answer. The Ravens were exceedingly unlucky.

Their quarterback missed all of training camp and the preseason with a back injury. They lost three of the five offensive linemen they'd projected as starters, two because of injuries, one to a surprising retirement.

Their run of injuries grew so widespread, with 17 players on injured reserve heading into Week 4, that ESPN labeled the situation "astonishing."

No doubt, myriad factors other than bad luck contributed as much to a slump that produced five losses in a seven-game span before the Ravens' bye last week. Their quarterback tossed interceptions at a rate of more than one per game. Their downfield passing game had little impact. Their rushing defense experienced several very bad days at the office.

But injuries, a factor they can't really control, certainly figured prominently in the calculus of their 4-5 record. That's pretty much the definition of bad luck.

But nothing is ever thus. The season is a long, twisting path, full of curves for all. Stuff continues to happen, both to your team and others. Things can evolve, begin to look different.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh never complains about the injuries because there's no point in it – asterisks don't get placed beside defeats – but even if he were so inclined, he wouldn't dare bring up the subject with the Green Bay Packers' coach, Mike McCarthy, before their teams play Sunday.

McCarthy has a nastier tale of woe.

His team hasn't experienced as many injuries, but it suffered THE injury when their magnificent quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, went out with a fractured collarbone in October.

The Ravens hit the practice field after a few extra days off for the bye, and they had nearly everybody back on the field ahead of Sunday's game in Green Bay.

When you're forced to go forth without perhaps the league's best player, the guy you can't live without, you're armed with the winner in any "top this woe" conversation.

It doesn't mean the Ravens are guaranteed a win Sunday, as the Packers seem to be adjusting to their new normal. They're dealing with several more key injuries, but they won last Sunday.

Nonetheless, Rodgers' absence gives the Ravens a better chance, and as something they can't control, that's pretty much the definition of good luck. (Stated with the caveat that there's never anything "good" about any injury.)

And this isn't the only down-the-stretch game in which the Ravens will take on a quarterback other than the one they figured to face. The Houston Texans' emerging star, Deshaun Watson, is out for the year with an injury, as is the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck.

Add those games to Sunday's and one against the winless Cleveland Browns, always seemingly unsettled under center, and more than half of the Ravens' remaining matchups become more favorable because of events on the opposing side.

Does that mean the Ravens' luck has turned? You could make the case.

Not only are they facing backup quarterbacks, they're starting to get their players BACK from injured reserve instead of adding more to the list. Maurice Canady returned before the bye, bolstering the secondary. Danny Woodhead is due back soon, possibly Sunday, with the anticipation that he'll become a difference-maker for an offense that needs a jolt.

Meanwhile, they haven't seen a player leave the field with a season-ending injury since late September. Sad to say, that's a victory.

So, getting back to the original question, have the Ravens been more lucky or unlucky? Obviously, there's no quantifiable measure. Things definitely weren't going their way before, but their franchise quarterback is still on the field, so their prospects remain intact, unlike those of some teams they'll play. They're also still prominent in the playoff picture despite their losing record, a fortunate situation for sure.

I'd sum it up this way: the Ravens have experienced ample amounts of both kinds of luck, bad and good, with a tad more of the good given their possibilities going forward in spite of their issues to date. Now comes the hard part, taking advantage of that.

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