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Eisenberg: Tour Of Turmoil Nearing An End


The Ravens are nearing the end of the Tour of Turmoil. That's a pretty accurate description of their 2015 schedule, at least the recent part.

The difficulty of their early-season schedule, with five road games in seven weeks, was a big talking point in September and October, but more recently, like a politician in a helicopter after a flood, they've been touring disaster sites.

They're just back from Cleveland, where the Browns once again have the NFL's worst record and (rinse and repeat) are contemplating whether to blow things up and start over. Now, the Ravens are heading to Miami to play the Dolphins, who have fired their head coach, defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator this season, all at different times. Oh, and they haven't won a playoff game since 2000.

Before playing those teams, Baltimore took on the St. Louis Rams, who are on their way to a 12th straight non-winning season, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have won 13 of their last 59 games.

That's not a Murderer's Row; that's a murdered row.

Earlier, the Ravens traveled to San Francisco, where the 49ers are losing after unwisely failing to make peace with Jim Harbaugh; and they've also played all three teams considering relocating to Los Angeles – the Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, who, not surprisingly, are a combined nine games under .500 amid the controversy of their ownership deciding where to set up shop.

You would think the Ravens would have a better record, but of course, they've experienced major problems of their own, leaving them in the running for a high draft pick rather than a playoff spot. They also have faced playoff-caliber teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, all current division leaders.

Strangely, the caliber of the opposition hasn't seemed to matter, for no matter who the Ravens play, the game comes down to the final seconds and turns on some extreme football weirdness.

In any event, the Tour of Turmoil concludes Sunday. After playing Miami, the Ravens will finish the season with four straight games against teams that currently sport winning records and have their eyes set on the postseason. The going won't be easy.

Until this year, the Ravens were one of those upper-crust teams, hopefully gathering steam in December. With six playoff appearances since 2008, they could look down their noses at the Tour of Turmoil, where teams always struggle and live with instability.

This year, however, the 4-7 Ravens reside in the same neighborhood as the downtrodden. With their highly respected front office, stable approach and Super Bowl-winning coach and quarterback, they don't really fit in. But their disappointing record doesn't lie. They have a lot of work to do to become contenders again.

As soon as this season ends, the organization will enter a period of introspection and self-analysis, seeking answers for what went wrong in 2015. It's going to be a crucial time, for as I have written, you can chalk up one losing season to the fates, but if the losing lasts much longer, you're looking at something darker.

The goal is to continue to be a drop-in visitor on the Tour or Turmoil, not one of the stops.

A victory over the Dolphins would give the Ravens three wins in a row and four in their last five games. Actually five in their last five except one was taken away by an officiating gaffe. Sorry to bring it up.

Regardless, Las Vegas isn't buying the idea of a Baltimore turnaround. The Dolphins, losers of four of their last five, are favored by four points Sunday.

It figures to be a grinding game. Miami's interim head coach, a hulking former tight ends coach named Dan Campbell, fired his offensive coordinator this week because he likes physical football and the Dolphins barely ran the ball at all last Sunday while getting blown out by the New York Jets.

This week's storyline in Miami is the Dolphins are going to try to get back to basics with their running game and also give somewhat-under-siege quarterback Ryan Tannehill more time.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins' run defense is the worst in the NFL, so the Ravens will surely also play some ground-and-pound with Buck Allen and Terrance West.

Considering that the Ravens' run defense is ranked No. 8 in the league, I like their chances against an opponent determined to run the ball.

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