For the Ravens to make a run in the playoffs, Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to one specific stat that will be critical: turnovers.
Turnovers – both forcing them on defense and avoiding them on offense – will go a long way in determining the success the Ravens have in the post season.
"We need to create more turnovers," Harbaugh said. "That's a huge part of it. That will be a big difference in the playoffs."
The Ravens offense excelled at protecting the football during the regular season and turned the ball over just 16 times, the lowest mark in franchise history. The 16 turnovers (11 interceptions and five fumbles) were the second-lowest in the NFL.
Defensively, the Ravens were in the middle of the pack at creating turnovers, as they came up with 13 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. Those 25 takeaways are tied for 14th in the league.
Overall, the Ravens are tied for the eighth-best turnover margin with a 9 differential.
But recently, the takeaways have been hard to come by, and the Ravens have lost four of their last five games heading into the postseason. In those four losses the Ravens forced just four turnovers, while giving the ball up seven times.
"We need to create those," Harbaugh said. "We need to get pressure, knock the ball loose. We've had a couple of not-so-good breaks, as far as some review calls and things like that."
In losses to the Broncos, Steelers, Redskins and Bengals, turnovers proved to be critical turning points in the games.
Quarterback Joe Flacco was strip/sacked against the Steelers and Redskins, which led to points on both occasions. In the lopsided loss to the Broncos, Flacco fumbled in the first half and then threw a pick six on the goal line as the Ravens were driving just before halftime. And against the Bengals, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor had an interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the loss.
In Sunday's wild-card matchup with the Colts, the Ravens are taking on a team with a propensity to give up the football. The Colts have turned the ball over 27 times this year, 10th most in the NFL, and have a -12 turnover differential.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is a leading candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year, but he has thrown 18 interceptions and a veteran Ravens defense will look to capitalize on any mistakes he makes.