By Week Seven last year the Baltimore Ravens were essentially out of the division race, facing a 1-6 record, and being struck by injuries left and right. This year is giving many people that same feeling, but aside from injuries, many things are different about this team.
Baltimore is 3-3, second in the division, and only one game back from the division leading Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-2. Last year the Ravens were fourth in the division and six games back after Week Seven.
There is no division stud in the AFC North this year, so far. Ben Roethlisberger just suffered a torn meniscus, and will miss the next two to six weeks. The Cincinnati Bengals are 2-4, a far cry from starting the season 8-0 last year. The Cleveland Browns are 0-6 with nothing to look forward to except next year’s draft.
Baltimore has made a knack of playing tight games down to the wire, as 20 out of their last 22 games have been decided by one possession. All six games this year have been decided by one possession or less. Just like last year as well, the injury bug has taken a toll on both the offense and defense. The difference between this year and last year, the 2016 Ravens were winning games when they were healthy. They simply need to heal. By the end of Week Six, they were down their No. 1 WR, their top corner, ILB, pass rusher, and three starting offensive linemen.
Injuries happen to every team in the NFL, and no one feels bad for Baltimore. Great teams in the NFL survive stretches like this in a season because of their quality depth. The Ravens are proving they need their starters now to be competitive.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It proves that Baltimore has built a solid foundation of core players who can win games. The only downfall is banking on the team to stay healthy.
Baltimore needs to straighten up sooner rather than later, beginning with Week Seven’s game. The AFC North has been one of the best divisions in the NFL the past few years, but not this year. Now is the time for Baltimore to take hold of a division they haven’t won since 2012.
The Ravens have a very winnable game coming up against a New York Jets squad that is seemingly out of answers. The two weeks after that are the Bye Week and a home game against the Steelers, who may be without Roethlisberger. Come out of these next two games on top, and Baltimore will be leading the division again.
Building momentum at the right time can bring life to a team with low morale. Last year, the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs went on a 10-0 run to finish out the season and make the post-season. In 2012, Baltimore lost four of its last five games, yet heated up in the play offs to finish with a Super Bowl Victory.
Baltimore needs gain momentum now because the second half of their schedule is much tougher than the first. Getting healthy now can help the Ravens gain momentum to carry through the rest of the year.