It would be oh-so wrong to say the wheels have come off the Ravens' wagon. It's no secret that they aren't playing great, but they're 3-4 mostly because they lost three recent, winnable games by a combined eight points.
In other words, despite all their issues, they actually aren't that far from having a totally different outlook as they enter their bye-week break.
But coming close doesn't matter, of course. They did lose those games. And because a narrow defeat counts the same as a loss-by-blowout, the Ravens find themselves in a pretty serious hole. They're two games behind the 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North, and behind the 6-1 Denver Broncos and 4-3 San Diego Chargers in the wild card race.
True, with nine games to go – more than half of their season – the Ravens still control their destiny. There's plenty of time for them to make up the ground they've lost. Their window of opportunity remains wide open.
But on the other hand, those close losses have skinned away a lot of their margin of error. That's the byproduct of losing close games instead of winning them. Their margin of error is starting to look like a car antenna.
When you sit down and calculate what it's going to take for them to come back and win the division or grab one of the AFC's wild card berths, the math is pretty sobering.
A 9-7 record could do the trick, only if a lot of other breaks go their way. Actually, the odds aren't that great that 9-7 will get them in. And they have to go 6-3 the rest of the way just to get to that point.
It's more likely they'll need to go at least 10-6 to make the playoffs for the sixth straight year. That means they have to go 7-2 after the bye. It won't be easy. Six of the nine games are against teams that currently have winning records. And four of the nine are on the road, where the Ravens are 1-5 in the regular season going back to last December.
Whatever the Ravens do, they'll likely need to sweep both games with the Bengals and also win their rematches with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. That would give them a shot at the division.
Any way you measure it, they have to stop sputtering and start finding ways to win. They've left themselves no choice but to go on a run. Nine games is a lot, but they can't afford to lose many.
Long before the Ravens traded offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins Monday, it was evident he wasn't part of the solution in 2013. He was slow afoot, vulnerable to speed rushers. He couldn't open holes with his run blocking. The Ravens were so desperate to replace him that they engineered their first-ever in-season trade, giving up several of their beloved draft picks to get Eugene Monroe.
I don't need to take a poll to know most fans are happy to see McKinnie go. The deal generated mostly humorous responses on social media, not all of which are re-printable.
But as McKinnie departs, please remember that he WAS part of the solution as the Ravens went on their Super Bowl run last season.
If you recall, he barely played during the regular season because he was injured at one point and then not practicing well. The Ravens used Michael Oher at left tackle. When the coaches inserted McKinnie in the lineup as the playoffs began, switched Oher to right tackle, and moved Kelechi Osemele from right tackle to left guard, it almost seemed like a desperate move. Who makes such sweeping changes so late in the game?
But things clicked … magically. Oher and Osemele prospered in their new spots. McKinnie, looking fresh, sealed off Joe Flacco's blind side. The Ravens' offense started humming and didn't stop until confetti was falling in the Superdome.
McKinnie was a crucial component of their success. I'm not sure it happens without him on Flacco's blind side.
The Ravens re-signed him during the offseason, hoping for a reprise. The move didn't work out. But all the social-media jokesters should know this: in the long run, McKinnie's role in the Super Bowl run will be his legacy here, not what he failed to do in 2013.