The Ravens were given a Sunday to watch rather than play this week while other teams gave football fans many close and exciting games. Baltimore was given help from the Washington Redskins and New York Jets in the AFC North. Washington tied the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jets defeated the Browns 31-28.
Outside the AFC North the Ravens couldn’t gain any traction in the AFC Conference standings by sitting out. It seems the most likely way to the post-season for Baltimore this year is through the North.
The Bengals took a slight lead over Baltimore with their tie yesterday, and the Browns fell another game lower after dropping eight straight. The Ravens can jump to first place with a win at home this upcoming Sunday.
Here are my thoughts about the Ravens’ Bye Week.
What I Liked
- Having Justin Tucker. After watching other kickers play yesterday, my appreciation for Justin Tucker felt even stronger. Of the five kicks attempted in the Redskins-Bengals matchup, only two were successful and the game ended in a tie. Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, a kicker known for his reliability, converted only 1/3 attempts. The Raiders nearly lost a game in which they gained 626 yards that ran into the final minutes of overtime. Justin Tucker is 18/18 this season, with four attempts coming over 50 yards. Baltimore is happy to have signed this rare talent to an extension this offseason.
- Not Stressing. Depending on the year, the Bye Week can be something to look forward to or be annoyed with. This year, following the four-game losing streak, the Bye was welcomed in Baltimore. The Ravens needed to rest. They were injured, reverting to bad fundamentals, and most importantly, losing games they could be winning. Baltimore needed to get focused, develop a new game plan on offense, and get their starters back from injury. Being able to watch an entire day of football and not worry about the Ravens’ outcome was a nice break from the losing streak.
- The AFC North Division. The reason I like the division is because it is worse than usual, which is good for Baltimore. Cleveland was up early on New York, looking like the better team. That would have been very disappointing for Baltimore had Cleveland gotten its first win against the team that beat them the week before. In Week One, Pittsburgh trounced the same Redskins squad that beat Baltimore. Yesterday, the Redskins tied the Bengals, making the Raven’s loss not sting as much. Last year both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were better teams than Baltimore, especially as the season went on. Even though the Ravens are dealing with injuries again this year, they are better than in 2015 and still in the division race.
What I Didn’t Like
- AFC West Teams Winning. The AFC West, which has become one of the league’s best divisions, had three winners yesterday. All four teams have been competitive this year, and its possible both wild card teams come from this division. Oakland, Denver, and Kansas City all have better records than Baltimore. Whenever these teams win, it makes it harder on the Ravens. This division may keep the Ravens out of a wild card spot entirely. The AFC East is becoming a tough division as well. Luckily for Baltimore, the Patriots still own the division, and they have a win against the 4-4 Buffalo Bills.
- AFC Beating NFC. Whenever an NFC team faces an AFC team, Baltimore benefits from an NFC win. Yesterday the AFC went 2-0-1 against their NFC opponents. Although the Ravens couldn’t have suffered a loss yesterday, a loss from Oakland, Houston, or Cincinnati would’ve been great for Baltimore. The tie in London by the Bengals could ultimately end up helpful in the division race.
- It could’ve been better, but it could’ve been worse. Ultimately, the Ravens got the rest they needed and should be healthier and ready for a dogfight against Pittsburgh. Every fan deals with waiting for their team to play after the Bye Week, and luckily for Baltimore fans the wait is almost over now.
Week Nine Preview
- Both the Ravens and the Steelers are coming off a week of rest heading into one of their two annual battles. Sometimes teams feel at a disadvantage because their opponent is coming off a Bye. Neither team has that problem this week. The status of Ben Roethlisberger is unknown at this point. Baltimore is 6-1 against Pittsburgh without Roethlisberger. Both teams are heading into this matchup with key injuries. The Depth of certain positions will be an important factor for the winner of this game.