An Early Appearance From 'January Joe' Would Help Rev up Offense
It was abundantly clear the Ravens were happy with their playoff-impacting win over the Houston Texans, but it was equally clear that quarterback Joe Flacco was not satisfied with the production of the offense.
There was this:
And there was also this:
"I've been in this league long enough to know, if you don't win the Super Bowl, it doesn't mean anything," Flacco said. "If we believe we can win the Super Bowl with how we're playing right now, I'm all for it. I really am. We can all take a look at that and say it's probably not super realistic. We need to go out there, and we need to go get it, and we need to be better on our side of the ball."
Life is not a pie chart. Both sentiments can be felt at the same time.
Fans echoed Flacco's thoughts after the game. They weren't satisfied with the offensive performance either. WBAL's Gerry Sandusky reached out to the Ravens Flock on Twitter and asked them to give their top three reasons for dissatisfaction.
Looking at the nearly 200 comments, a vast majority expressed displeasure with the Ravens' 31st-ranked offense. The unit ranks near the bottom of the league in several categories, including passing yards per game (32nd) and third-down conversion percentage (31st).
The last NFL team to make the playoffs while finishing last in the league in passing yards was the 2003 Ravens, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That team was bounced from the postseason in the wild-card round.
That stat speaks to Flacco's point that the offense needs to do more, and it's likely why Head Coach John Harbaugh agrees with his quarterback.
The question is: How much can the Ravens tinker with the formula that has put them in playoff position thus far?
Obviously, the team has mostly relied on a turnover-creating defense that hasn't allowed many points, and a stellar special-teams unit that's led by kicker Justin Tucker scoring points and punter Sam Koch pinning opponents deep.
But there's another key ingredient to the formula.
"The biggest contribution from the Baltimore offense: no turnovers," wrote ESPN. "When quarterback Joe Flacco is on the field, it's all about not losing the game."
So, as the Ravens continue to try to get their offense going, the key is not to make mistakes that could derail the formula that's gotten them to this point. One thing that would help is an early appearance from an old friend.
"You can't and shouldn't blame quarterback Joe Flacco for all of the offensive struggles, but now would be the time for something more closely resembling 'January Joe' to start getting revved up with December rapidly approaching. Even with the many variables working against him, Flacco must be better," writes WNST's Luke Jones.
"Whether they have the pieces to make that happen is a different question and they'll likely continue leaning on the other units until there's a more definitive answer," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Josh Alper.
Like Flacco said, it's not easy to just flip a switch and become a high-powered quarterback and offense overnight. It will take some time to build up to that. After all, he is on pace for 2,727 passing yards, which would be lowest of his career. It's even lower than when he tore his ACL and missed the final six games in 2015 to finish with 2,791 yards.
A realistic goal was outlined by ESPN, and it could be enough for a playoff push, plus some damage beyond the first round.
"The Ravens defense isn't asking the offense to be like Tom Brady or Carson Wentz," the website wrote. "The way this Baltimore defense is keeping teams out of the end zone, it's only seeking a capable offense.
"The Ravens really only need more than 20 points from Flacco and the offense, which is more than reasonable. Baltimore is 4-1 this season when eclipsing that mark and 2-4 when held to 20 points or fewer."
Ronnie Stanley 'Heard Something Pop' In Knee, Still Finished Game
The Ravens may have avoided catastrophe Sunday.
Things initially looked grim when franchise left tackle Ronnie Stanley was on the ground clutching his knee during the first quarter of Monday's game. He told The Baltimore Sun's Edward Lee that he thought he tore his ACL.
"At the time, I thought I was pretty much done," Stanley said. "That's exactly what it felt like. My knee has never been twisted like that before. I heard something pop, and I thought it was really bad. I was thinking the worst."
Center Ryan Jensen said he was the one who fell on Stanley's knee. Jensen, along with other teammates, fans, and coaches, was relieved to see Stanley back on the field on the next offensive series.
"There was a part of me thinking, 'What if this is something serious and you make it worse?'" Stanley said. "But at the same time, I'm going to go out there and play until something in my body says you can't do anything anymore. That's what pretty much made the decision for me, to just keep going."
Matthew Stafford's Ankle Is 'Feeling Better'
By the time this season ends, the Ravens will have faced seven backup quarterbacks (or QBs who weren't the starter in Week 1).
When Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford injured his right ankle last Thursday when a Minnesota Vikings defender rolled onto his leg during a 43-yard touchdown pass, some thought that number might grow to eight.
That doesn't look to be the case, however. He's had an extra three days to recover and isn't expected to miss Sunday's game against the Ravens, according to the Detroit Free Press.
"I'm feeling better," Stafford said during his weekly appearance on The Mitch Albom Show on WJR-AM. "Obviously stuck around in town this weekend, got a bunch of treatment on it. We'll see. Coach [Jim Caldwell] will put out that report on Wednesday or whatever it is for practice and all that kind of stuff, but it's getting better and hopefully it'll continue to get better."
Stafford could be limited in practice this week, but that doesn't mean he'll miss the game. He finished the matchup against the Vikings, and 10 days of rest should do a lot of good.
"Stafford was clearly limping, and clearly not himself after [the injury]," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt. "He stayed in the game, but was 3-of-6 for 7 yards with an interception in the two series after, clearly bothered by the pain. … Stafford's known as one of the most durable quarterbacks (he hasn't missed a game since 2010, when he needed shoulder surgery), and if he's able to practice this week, it shouldn't be a surprise to see him play Sunday against the Ravens."
Ravens-Texans Draw Worst Monday Night Football Ratings of the Season, Although Baltimore Held Its Own
The Ravens-Texans matchup didn't draw the crowd the NFL was hoping for. It received the lowest ratings for a Monday Night Football game this season, according to Neilson.
"The game's ratings were down 33 percent from this time last year, when the Green Bay Packers-Philadelphia Eagles Monday Night Football broadcast earned an 8.9 rating, and down 17 percent from last Monday's Atlanta Falcons-Seattle Seahawks game," wrote The Sun's Jonas Shaffer.
"Baltimore held its own, though. According to the Houston Chronicle's David Barron, the broadcast earned a 25.4 rating in the city, significantly better than Houston's 18.4."
The low numbers won't hurt the Ravens' next primetime game …
Ravens-Steelers Won't Be Flexed Out of Primetime
We're headed toward another massively important AFC North battle between the Ravens and Steelers that will surely have playoff implications.
That's probably why the NFL decided to keep it in primetime and highlight it for a national audience.
"Despite speculation that the Ravens-Steelers game could be 'flexed' to the afternoon in favor of the matchup between the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams, the NFL announced Tuesday that there would be no change," wrote The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"The decision isn't all that surprising given the Steelers (9-2) and Ravens (6-5) are both currently in playoff position, and they still have one of the NFL's top rivalries."
Per Zrebiec, the Sunday night football game will mark the 11th consecutive season where the division rivals will play at least once in primetime. The 4:30 p.m. game on Christmas day last year was also considered primetime.