Ravens musings for Week 14

December 06, 2011 | Luke Jones


Enjoying their second three-game winning streak of the season after a 24-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the Ravens will look to make it four in a row when they welcome the winless Indianapolis Colts to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

As the Ravens return to work at Owings Mills on Wednesday, here are five thoughts to ponder about 9-3 Baltimore …

1. While they enjoy the spotlight of prime-time games, the Ravens would prefer playing their Week 15 game in San Diego in the afternoon rather than Sunday night. The league and NBC have had a difficult time coming to a decision on whether to flex the Patriots-Broncos game to prime-time to capitalize on the Tim Tebow mania and his appealing matchup with Tom Brady. With linebacker Ray Lewis possibly making his return against the struggling Chargers, you know he’d like to show a national audience his toe is just fine, but the Ravens will be just as content playing that afternoon. A Sunday night game on the West Coast would mean a return flight to Baltimore landing on Monday morning for an already-shortened week of preparation for the Cleveland Browns the following Saturday. The NFL violated its policy of providing 12 days notice by delaying the decision to Wednesday morning — making it 11 days prior to Dec. 18 — but the Ravens game moving to the afternoon is just fine with everyone at 1 Winning Drive. And, of course, they owe it all to Tebow.

2. The red zone offense continues to be a major warning sign regarding Baltimore’s postseason prognosis. While the Ravens have the right to feel good about their 9-3 record and positioning in the AFC playoff picture with four games remaining in the regular season, they continue to struggle inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, ranking 22nd in the league in touchdown percentage (46.3 percent). The struggles are well-documented with an inability — and, sometimes, refusal — to play power football inside the 5, a propensity for committing penalties, and the lack of a tall receiver most offenses prefer using inside the red zone. The coaching staff and players alike have spoken about the need for better execution, but the Ravens don’t appear to be getting much better in that area after a 2-for-5 performance inside the red zone against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Perhaps the offensive line’s recent improvement in run blocking bodes well for improvement near the goal line, but the Ravens could use a big target to which to throw when the coverage is compacted near the goal line. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta might be able to fill the role to some degree, but the Ravens may simply lack the personnel to make marked improvement inside the red zone. Hopefully, it won’t cost them in the postseason, but it’s an ominous sign when facing the toughest competition in the conference.

3. The Week 14 playoff scenarios prove how silly it is to obsess over positioning with a quarter of the season remaining. If you need any more proof why it serves little purpose to brood over playoff seeding with a month left in the regular season, this week’s will make you rip your hair out as the Steelers can clinch a playoff spot — in an unlikely scenario — this weekend while the Ravens have no such possibility despite sweeping Pittsburgh in the regular season and owning the tiebreaker over their hated AFC North rival. In fact, Baltimore is the only of four teams with a 9-3 record in the AFC that can’t clinch a postseason spot in Week 14 despite having the shortest road to the No. 1 seed by simply running the table over the final four games. My advice for fans? Ignore the playoff prognosticating for at least one more week and simply root for the Ravens to take care of Indianapolis on Sunday. With four games remaining, the Ravens have never found themselves in such a position to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs without any outside help required. All they have to do is continue to win.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. The "Armchair QB" Says:

    Not buying into the lack of a “tall” receiver as one of the reasons for red zone struggles. Dickson and Pitta are both 6’4″, but be that as it may, Wes Welker finds the end zone with regularity and he’s…..5’9″! The Ravens lined up with three wideouts inside Cleveland’s 5 yard line last week and at the snap, they proceeded to run into each other! Execution problems, perhaps, but it could just as easily be poor route design. The good news is that they do have the talent and these things can be corrected! A “dream season” scenario would have Indianapolis going 0-16, while the Ravens roar into their stadium in February and win the Super Bowl right in their “house”! How sweet would that be……….

    (L.J. – Won’t disagree with you on any front and acknowledged the size of the tight ends, but this team would definitely benefit from a tall receiver. The scenario you present would certainly be very special for this city.)

  2. Matt Says:

    What role should Boldin be playing in the redzone? As a receiver with a reputation for being “tough” and “physical” it seems he would be a go-to option deep in opponent’s territory. Power running is always preferable, but we all know the Ravens (*cough Cam Cameron) strive to be unpredictable; why not attempt firing some quick throws to Boldin on 1st and goal once in a while?

    (L.J. – I would tend to agree with you, but he does garner plenty of attention in that area of the field. Just wonder if he needs a bit more space with which to work given his lack of speed. Of course, I’m not an NFL coordinator, but the production inside the 20 needs to improve.)

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