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Ravens News 11/1: Delusional at the deadline, Harbaugh’s future is now and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Logic Behind the Biggest Deals at the 2018 NFL Trade Deadline - Albert Breer

Ravens get: RB/WR Ty Montgomery

Packers get: 2020 seventh-round pick

Baltimore logic: Part of why the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson was because the team was planning to build a more of a spread-oriented offense, which highlight what you may call “positionless” players. It’s why it’s easy to integrate Jackson in now, and it’s why Montgomery, who the Ravens love in the pass game, is perfect for that vision going forward.

Green Bay logic: They just weren’t going to go forward with Montgomery after last Sunday’s episode—he blew up on the sideline after being pulled from the game in the fourth quarter. So this is the equivalent of putting your couch out on the sidewalk in hopes someone would take it. One addendum I have to all that, by the way, is that Montgomery actually was following the team’s coaching on the kick return he fumbled. As the Packer coaches teach it, anything in the end zone within two yards of the goal line is a judgment call for the return man.

Ty Montgomery has averaged 8.5 yards per reception over his career compared to Buck Allen’s 6.5 yards per catch. Both backs are impending unrestricted free agents.

Delusional Ravens wasted the perfect opportunity to trade aging veterans and get better - Jason La Canfora

Just a month ago, a giddy-for-good-reason Eric Weddle danced behind the podium after a win at Pittsburgh and declared, for the second-straight week: “These ain’t the same Ravens.”

But at the midpoint of the season, at 4-4 and facing a franchise-defining three-game homestand, I can’t help but think that, actually, this is almost exactly the same middling football team we have seen in Baltimore since their last Super Bowl win in 2012... the Ravens wasted an opportunity to vigorously explore compiling desperately-needed draft picks at Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Don’t you think names like Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, Weddle and Brandon Williams (and maybe Jimmy Smith if you only watched 2017 tape) might have elicited some interest with so many teams desperate for pass rush and offensive line help and help in coverage?

Owner Steve Bisciotti has ruminated about making macro-level changes with his team for years, with the Ravens falling from perennial contenders to securing just one playoff appearance since 2013. In the past the owner has generally defaulted to the least-messy decision: Keep an aging core together, make some restrained free-agent moves and try to fix the roster in the next draft. But with young GM-in-waiting Eric DeCosta set to take the reigns in 2019, and with Joe Flacco playing pedestrian-at-best football again (NFL’s 25th rated passer) and set to count nearly $27M against the 2019 cap -- and with seven of Baltimore’s eight top-salaried players in 2019 aged 31 or older at the start of next season -- punting until 2020 ain’t gonna be feasible this time around I don’t reckon.

There is no shame in winning 8-10 games most years, and there are numerous franchises desperate to taste even those modest heights. But for three straight years Bisciotti has been saying this team has failed to meet its own lofty standards, and a continued lurch toward .500 would surely come with major ramifications.

The cupboard is not totally bare, and things can turn around relatively quickly for Baltimore, but this organization is going to have to embrace the future and accept significant change.

Some in the fanbase were hoping the Ravens would embrace a rebuilding project following their five win 2015 campaign. However, it was highly unlikely the Ravens would become sellers at the trade deadline with a .500 record this season after deciding to remain in ‘win-now’ mode in each of the last few offseasons.

Future is now: John Harbaugh begins his most critical stretch - Jamison Hensley

But as far as his future in Baltimore is concerned, there haven’t been much bigger games than Harbaugh’s next two: home against the Pittsburgh Steelersand the Cincinnati Bengals.

Beating those AFC North teams would end the Ravens’ recent tailspin and make them the favorites to take the division. Losing those games would essentially eliminate Baltimore from the AFC North race and make it an uphill battle to reach the playoffs, which could put Harbaugh’s 11-year run with the Ravens in jeopardy.

This is how important these next two games are for the Ravens: If they beat the Steelers and Bengals, ESPN’s Football Power Index projects the Ravens to make the playoffs 85.6 percent of the time. If they lose both games, Baltimore’s projected chances of reaching the postseason plummet to 10.4 percent.

The AFC playoff picture is beginning to come into focus. The Chiefs, Patriots and Chargers are well positioned with two losses or less and the Texans are leading a weak AFC South. Barring unexpected developments, the AFC North will have an opportunity to put two teams into the postseason.

Mike Tomlin scouts the Baltimore Ravens - Jacob Kilinger

“On the defensive side of the ball the pressure that they put on the quarterback is a signature of their play. I think they have 27 sacks or so. It’s [Terrell] Suggs and company, they do it the way they do it. They get after your quarterback, they are really good blitzers, they beat blocks, they put consistent pressure on your passer.”

“On the offensive side of the ball it’s all about Joe Flacco and the utilization of weapons and how multiple they are in the way that they challenge you from a personnel standpoint.”

“Got a myriad of tight ends. I think they have four on their roster. They have been suiting up all four of them and I am talking about high-pedigree guys. Guys like they have had, [Mark] Andrews and their first-round pick, [Hayden] Hurst who didn’t play against us last time. We have to be ready for the tight end personnel groups, the gapping and things the use of multiple tight ends produces and their flexibility in it.

”The athleticism of those tight ends allow them to not only play traditional multiple-tight end ball, but also spread you out and challenge you in ways that Joe [Flacco] is comfortable doing from a spread standpoint.”

Coordinator Mornhinweg called one of his best and most deceptive games during the Week 4 win against Pittsburgh. Another creative game plan that makes full use of his tight ends would be optimal in Week 9. The Steelers defense has found their footing since they faced the Ravens. They have allowed an average of 279 yards in their last three games after giving up an average 421 yards over the first four weeks of the season.

Week 9 NFL picks, predictions - David Steele

This is an unusually early end to the archrivals’ season series, which in this case is bad for the Ravens, who could find themselves in a deep hole by losing. The Steelers, conversely, can make it essentially a two-team race in the AFC North by earning this split. This predicament looks far too familiar to Baltimore: Going into this game, they’re 44-44 in the 5 1/2 years since winning Super Bowl 47. And yet … the Ravens dominated the Steelers and their explosive offense in Pittsburgh back in Week 4. Prediction: Steelers, 25-23

The Ravens are favored by a field goal at home on Sunday. Pittsburgh is 4-0 as a small road underdog since 2016 while Baltimore is 5-2 as a small home favorite during the same period.