Here's this week's GMC Playbook question from Marshall Faulk:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Spoiler, hunter or contender? My <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GMCPlaybook?src=hash">#GMCPlaybook</a> question for <a href="https://twitter.com/SBNation">@SBNation</a>: what role will your team play? <a href="http://t.co/jBTDuZIm7O">http://t.co/jBTDuZIm7O</a></p>— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) <a href="https://twitter.com/marshallfaulk/status/529760769031012354">November 4, 2014</a></blockquote>
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|AFC North team||Record||Division|
|1. Pittsburgh Steelers||6-3-0||2-2-0|
|2. Cleveland Browns||6-3-0||2-2-0|
|3. Cincinnati Bengals||5-3-1||2-1-0|
|4. Baltimore Ravens||5-4-0||2-3-0|
The Steelers own the tiebreaker over the Browns, though the two teams have the same overall and division record. The Bengals would have the same record as as Pittsburgh and Cleveland if Mike Nugent didn't choke against Carolina. The Ravens are only one game out of first place and have a win over Cleveland and split against Pittsburgh.
The last two weeks have been horrible for the Ravens and losing Jimmy Smith for the season only makes it worse. But given how competitive the AFC North has been this year, the silver lining is that only one division game remains, and that's the season-finale against the Browns. Plenty of winnable games are upcoming — Titans, Jaguars and Texans appear to be the easiest. The Saints are playing better but have plenty of flaws, especially on defense. The Chargers are in the midst of a rough patch, given they were just shut out by Miami.
So to answer Faulk's question, the Ravens are playoff contenders, not spoilers or hunters. How they continue contending is by finding consistency in the back end. Lardarius Webb isn't the same guy he was when he emerged as a top-flight DB in 2011. But the Ravens now need him to be that No. 1 corner again from a leadership standpoint. Danny Gorrer and Tramain Jacobs have to limit the mistakes until Asa Jackson can come back late in the season. Will Hill needs to come into his own as a starting safety. And the front seven needs to get back to where it was early in the year, applying pressure on quarterbacks to alleviate the pressure in the secondary.
For now, the Ravens are very much in the AFC North race. A win this week would go a long way into maintaining their presence as a contender.