Make no mistake, the upcoming AFC North home games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are paramount in the Ravens quest to snap a three season playoff drought. Baltimore currently possesses a 4-4 record including a 1-2 mark within the division. While it is technically possible for Baltimore to earn a postseason berth after losing one of these matchups, their margin for error would become razor thin with daunting road games remaining on the schedule.
The pressure will be on longtime quarterback Joe Flacco to deliver victories against these divisional foes. The first five years of his career produced efficient play and nine postseason victories. A superlative stretch of playoff games from Flacco eventually culminated in a Super Bowl XLVII championship. However, the most recent five and a half seasons have been an embodiment of mediocrity for the quarterback and franchise alike.
Flacco has had many factors working against him. Poor pass protection, nagging injuries, a below average receiving corps in 2017 and the absence of a consistent running game this season have surely made his job more difficult. Regardless, Baltimore needs their highest paid player, the 12th highest paid player in the league, to lead them in the modern pass-centric NFL.
Following his worst statistical game of the season in Carolina last Sunday, when Flacco’s decision making and deep ball inaccuracy resulted in a 56.8 quarterback rating, a matchup with the Steelers could be the perfect elixir. Over the years, Flacco had been at his best when facing the Ravens arch rival. Many of his most memorable comebacks and his most recent playoff victory have come against Pittsburgh. A Week 13 rivalry game was arguably his best performance last season and Flacco shredded the Steelers defense for 363 yards and a 109.5 rating in their first meeting this season.
If Flacco can carry the Ravens to victory in Week 9, he will have the benefit of the bye week to prepare for a Cincinnati defense that has challenged him. In 20 career games against Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, Joe has a negative 21:25 touchdown to interception ratio as well as a losing 9-11 overall record. Flacco tossed a pair of interceptions to Cincinnati in Week 2, the signal caller must be sharper when he squares off against the NFL’s 32nd ranked pass defense in Week 11.
Joe Flacco has authored some of the Ravens finest moments, yet his overall inconsistent play since inking the first lucrative contract extension has left much to be desired. The NFL is in the midst of a passing explosion, but Flacco has not led a game winning drive in his last 37 starts. Never known as a quarterback who produced gaudy stats, Flacco was always regarded as a winner.
That reputation has lost some luster as the Ravens have complied a 44-44 record since Ray Lewis retired. The time has come for Flacco to either prove he can still engineer clutch victories or turn the team over to quarterback-in-waiting Lamar Jackson. Joe’s legacy in Baltimore will largely be defined and remembered by his performances during the next two pivotal contests.