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Time for the Ravens to move forward after tough loss

Alright, so the Ravens lost against the Colts in a sloppy game. So what does that mean for the season going forward? In order to look forward, we have to look behind us.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

All right, so the Ravens lost against the Colts in a sloppy game. So what does that mean for the season going forward? In order to look forward, we have to look behind us.

The Ravens, like most NFL teams, lose some games every year that they probably shouldn't. Looking at the 2012 season that culminated in the Ravens holding the Lombardi Trophy, the Ravens went 10-6 during the regular season. With losses to the Eagles, Texans, Steelers, Redskins, Broncos and Bengals. The Ravens lost those games by a combined 60 points with two of those games (against the Broncos and Texans) accounting for 47 of those points. The Eagles were a 4-12 team that year while the Broncos eventually were beat by the Ravens in the playoffs.

What that really means is that every week is different. A team can win or lose to any team any week. Against a team like the Colts, with their great offense and tough defense, it's no surprise to lose and to have it look sloppy. That also doesn't mean that it is the end of the season or that the Ravens will even lose to the Colts if they happen to run into each other again in the playoffs.

What it does do is potentially alter the playoff landscape a little bit?

The Ravens are now at 3-2, sitting in a tie for second in the AFC North with the Bengals in first at 3-1 due to having a bye week already. For the sake of our analysis, we will just assume that the Bengals stay in first so we can look at wildcard implications. Obviously if the Ravens can get control of first in the AFC North, all the rest of this becomes moot as the Ravens get a guaranteed stamp to the postseason.

The Colts are in a tie against the Houston Texans for control of first in the AFC South. If the Colts can stay in first and hold off the Texans, this game ultimately doesn't mean very much. However, if the Texans can somehow edge the Colts out, this game could very well be a tiebreaker if the Colts and Ravens are fighting for a wildcard seed.

It is way too early in the season to really predict what teams will be players at the end, but the Ravens are currently sitting at the same record (3-2) or worse as eight other teams. Taking out Cincy and Pittsburgh makes it six other teams. If the standings stay exactly as they are right now, the Ravens will have to compete with the Patriots, Steelers, and Texans for the final wildcard slot with the Broncos taking the first one with a slightly better record (3-1 again due to having a bye week already). The Ravens can kick the Steelers out of it by beating them again in week 9 and they can put themselves over any Texans tiebreakers by beating them in week 16. The path right now is clear... win and beat the Texans and the Steelers to control your future.

What does it mean for the Ravens schemes going forward?

Well, the Ravens have to concentrate on a few things. Namely, playing good, clean football for 60 minutes. Reducing the penalties experienced in the Colts game will go a long way to helping the Ravens continue drives and keeping opponents on their heals.

Offensively, the Ravens need to get healthy everywhere again. Hurst proved that he can be solid and might even be a future starter on this line, but he needs help in order to keep Flacco standing upright. That means keeping a tight end in to assist him or keeping a running back in to chip rushers coming from that side. Both of those options ultimately mean that the Ravens are playing one man down from the start. That means that Monroe is needed back more than ever. The Ravens also have to get over the case of the drops they are having. Steve Smith put the ball on the ground, Jacoby Jones apparently dipped his hands in oil to start the season and Torrey Smith is doing his best impression as Wonder Woman's invisible jet. The offense as a whole can't completely revolve around getting the ball to Steve Smith or being able to run for 150 yards a game to be competent. Guys like Marlon Brown and Torrey Smith need to make themselves felt on the field for more than a play or two a game, which means getting separation and catching the ball. Doing that will really keep this offense dangerous and unpredictable.

Defensively, the Ravens need Lardarius Webb back at full strength. The secondary has been a mess all season long with Jimmy Smith locking down one side of the field, but leaving the other side in complete shambles with a combination of Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson trying to cover elite receivers. Add in the sloppy work of the safeties and you have a unit that is surrendering the 26th most yards through the air per game. With quarterbacks getting faster at getting the ball out, it is leaving the pass rush looking like fools with only 5 sacks through 5 games. With a secondary that can give the pass rush a little time to get home, we'll see the sack total go up and the frustration level of opposing quarterbacks go through the roof, leading to more errors like interceptions or three-and-outs.

Like most teams, the difference between the Ravens at their best and their worst is a mixture of health and concentration. Guys getting their heads in the game and having the starters on the field more often will pay dividends for the Ravens in the future and should help them secure the wins necessary to grab the AFC North crown and a playoff spot.