Ravens' Draft Outlook Over Final Stretch
If the season ended today, the Ravens would hold the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
However, there are nine teams besides Baltimore that have four wins or less. With plenty of football left to be played, expect the board to shuffle quite a bit over the final four weeks of the season.
"With the Cleveland Browns' struggles, it seems highly unlikely that the Ravens … will fall low enough to contend for the first overall pick," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "However, given the Ravens' injury situation, especially on the offensive side, everything else is in play."
You better believe Head Coach John Harbaugh and his team have not given up on the playoffs (see scenarios below). As he told media Monday, "Miracles do happen in terms of outcomes."
That said, Zrebiec took a look at where the Ravens stand and the outlook of the other teams currently in the mix for a top-10 draft selection:
No. 1 Pick: Browns (2-10)Remaining games: vs. 49ers (4-8), at Seahawks (7-5), at Chiefs (7-5), vs. Steelers (7-5)* *Zrebiec: "They are the clear frontrunner for the first overall pick and might be headed for another coaching change, as well."
No. 2 Pick: Titans (3-9)Remaining games: at Jets (7-5), at Patriots (10-2), vs. Texans (6-6), at Colts (6-6)* *Zrebiec: "[I]t's hard to see them moving too much further back in the first round. Their remaining schedule is tough, and this remains an extremely flawed team with a decision to make at head coach."
No. 3 Pick: Chargers (3-9)Remaining games: at Chiefs (7-5), vs. Dolphins (5-7), at Raiders (5-7), at Broncos (10-2)* *Zrebiec: "They do have some winnable games remaining, and Philip Rivers is one of the game's most competitive players. Mike McCoy also might be coaching for his job, so motivation remains."
No. 4 Pick: Jaguars (4-8)Remaining games: vs. Colts (6-6), vs. Falcons (6-6), at Saints (4-8), at Texans (6-6)* *Zrebiec: "A relatively easy late-season schedule might not be enough to stop them from picking within the top five for a fifth straight year."
No. 5 Pick: Ravens (4-8)Remaining games: vs. Seahawks (7-5), vs. Chiefs (7-5), vs. Steelers (7-5), at Bengals (10-2)* *Zrebiec: "Harbaugh's team is flawed and mistake prone, but the effort by the players is unquestioned. However, with all their injuries, especially on the offensive end, it's hard to foresee them being able to beat a good and motivated team at this point. The three straight home games are nice, but the opposition is formidable the rest of the way."
No. 6 Pick: Saints (4-8)
Remaining games: at Buccaneers (6-6), vs. Lions (4-8), vs. Jaguars (4-8), at Falcons (6-6)
Zrebiec: "Their remaining schedule is soft, so they should have chances for a few more wins. But for that to happen, their defense would have to stop somebody."
No. 7 Pick: Cowboys (4-8)Remaining games: at Packers (8-4), vs. Jets (7-5), at Bills (6-6), vs. Redskins (5-7)* *Zrebiec: "Their remaining schedule is extremely tough and starting quarterback Tony Romo isn't walking back in that huddle anytime soon."
No. 8 Pick: 49ers (4-8)Remaining games: at Browns (2-10), vs. Bengals (10-2), at Lions (6-6), vs. Rams (4-8)* *Zrebiec: "San Francisco is playing well enough that the 49ers might be favorites in a couple of games the rest of the way. They should finish with a top-10 pick, but it's hard to foresee them landing in the top five."
No. 9 Pick: Lions (4-8)Remaining games: at Rams (4-8), at Saints (4-8), vs. 49ers (4-8), at Bears (5-7).
Zrebiec: "Their schedule the rest of the way could hardly be any easier. The bet here is that they play their way out of the top 10, but will it be enough to save coach Jim Caldwell's job?"
No. 10 Pick: Rams (4-8)Remaining games: vs. Lions (6-6), vs. Buccaneers (6-6), at Seahawks (7-5), at 49ers (4-8)* *Zrebiec: "The Rams have lost five straight games and Fisher's status going forward has to be evaluated. They have easily been one of the league's biggest disappointments."
Miracle Playoff Scenarios
Like Harbaugh said, miracles do happen, and there are several different miracle playoff scenarios that could qualify Baltimore for postseason play.
The folks at Baltimore Beatdown tinkered around with ESPN's playoff machine, and the Ravens could advance with either an 8-8 record or 7-9 mark.
I'm not going to get into all of the scenarios because they are complicated and headache-inducing. It suffices to say the Ravens would need help from lot of AFC teams losing a lot of games. Baltimore Beatdown found four scenarios for the Ravens advancing with an 8-8 record and three scenarios for advancing with a 7-8 mark.
You can check them all out here.
"These are just a few scenarios for the Ravens in order to make the playoffs," wrote Wola Odeniran. "It's highly unlikely for any of these scenarios to happen because the Ravens don't control their own path to the playoffs. They need help and they would need all eight teams that are ahead of them to fall flat down the stretch. Regardless, the Ravens are content with going down swinging if that is the case."
Flacco Has Successful Surgery
Quarterback Joe Flacco had successful surgery by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
A source told the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson everything was "all good."
It was previously unclear whether Flacco would have surgery on both his ACL and MCL, as adding the MCL would extend the recovery time, and it appears both were indeed operated on.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora said that Flacco will rehab in Dr. Andrews' facility in Florida for the next week or so to begin the recovery process.
'Depressing' Quarterback Controversy, Appreciation For Flacco
With quarterback Matt Schaub throwing four interceptions in two starts that have led to 31 points for the opponent, some fans are pushing to see what backup Jimmy Clausen can do.
Unless Schaub can't play due to injury, Harbaugh said he will remain the starter.
Either way, WNST's Luke Jones called the situation "depressing."
"I can't bring myself to care about a quarterback controversy for a 4-8 football team," he wrote. "Given the current state of the offensive line and how sore Schaub was after the Miami game, it would not be surprising to see Clausen get a look sooner rather than later."
With two starters on the offensive line missing in left tackle Eugene Monroe and center Jeremy Zuttah, Schaub took a pounding last week, and if Clausen had to play, the Ravens would need even more depth.
Enter former Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett.
"I took the Ravens workout of Ryan Mallett last week as more of a potential move for the more distant future," wrote Zrebiec. "But that might have changed with Matt Schaub getting knocked around so much."
Even if Mallett were brought in this season, there will still be the issue of who will back up Flacco this offseason and next season. None of the three quarterbacks mentioned inspires confidence to Jones.
In fact, watching this quarterback situation play out has made Jones appreciate Flacco even more.
"The Ravens may not have been winning much with Flacco in 2015 — he admittedly wasn't playing his best football — but the last two weeks have offered a reminder to anyone ever trying to undersell just how important the eighth-year quarterback is to Baltimore's success. Regardless of where he ranks among NFL quarterbacks, Flacco has proven that he can win you a championship with a good group of weapons around him.
"… Fortunately, it's only temporary pain for the Ravens, but it's a reminder of where this franchise stood for years when it squandered a number of championship-caliber defenses as the likes of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright tried to play quarterback before Flacco finally came along in 2008."
Can Ravens Avoid Tying Franchise-Worst Record?
The franchise worst record in Baltimore was its inaugural 1996 season when it finished with a 4-12 mark.
Now, as the Ravens celebrate their 20th season, they are in danger of matching that record with four games remaining. The Ravens (4-8) would need to win just one more game to avoid such a fate.
There are four formidable playoff-contending opponents left on the schedule, and ESPN's Football Power Index looked at the Ravens' chances of winning each.
vs. Seattle, 36.9 percent
vs. Kansas City, 38.6 percent
vs. Pittsburgh, 37.3 percent
at Cincinnati, 22.1 percent
"[A]n argument can be made that this is the Ravens' toughest stretch, even more than playing five of the first seven games on the road," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "The challenge of the next four games is the level of competition and not location.
"…What Harbaugh takes great pride in is how the players have refused "to blink" in a difficult season. How the Ravens fare against potential playoff teams in the final four weeks could build momentum heading into 2016."
Orr Earned Opportunity, Making Most Of It
Linebacker Zack Orr continued to impress as he subs in for Daryl Smith in passing situations.
Orr played far fewer snaps this week in Miami (six) than last week against the Browns (28), as the Dolphins stayed committed to the ground game, but he shined in his limited time.
"The Ravens aren't in the business of giving young players a look at this point in the season just for the sake of doing it, and if they were, it would probably be draft picks who got that chance," wrote The Sun's Jon Meoli. "Orr, who was undrafted last year, has earned this opportunity, and is making the most of it."