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Ravens News 11/9: Postseason path, first half realities and more

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens’ remaining schedule: How a potential path to the postseason shapes up - Aaron Kasinitz

Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

Any team playing against the Falcons has to find a way to make sure Ryan and Jones don’t run rampant. But it’s unlikely Baltimore completely shuts down Atlanta’s high-flying offense, so Flacco will need to make a dent against the NFL’s 28th-ranked defense.

Week 14: at Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)

Baltimore’s top-ranked defense will face its stiffest test at Arrowhead Stadium. The Patriots were the only team to beat the Chiefs this year, and they needed two takeaways and 43 points to eke out a narrow win.

Week 16: at Los Angeles Chargers (6-2)

The Chargers’ offense has turned the ball over six times all season, the second fewest in the NFL. But four of those giveaways came in their only two losses of the season. The Ravens need to shake their takeaway struggles in time to swipe the ball from Los Angeles’ offense.

The Ravens must improve their 23.7 average points scored per game in order to defeat some of these teams with explosive offenses. The Chargers and Falcons are scoring 27.5 and 28.5 average points respectively, while the Chiefs lead the league with 36.3 points per game.

Ravens Defense Looks To Create More Turnovers After Bye Week - Bo Smolka

“We have to get our hands on the ball more, create some plays ourselves,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said last week, “and then some tips and overthrows, hopefully. ... It’s good to be lucky as well.”

“The opportunities are there,” Weddle said last week. “We dropped a couple picks early on this season. ... They’re going to start coming, and when they do, it’s going to make our defense even stronger and our team better.”

Secondary coach Chris Hewitt speculated that an increase in man coverage this season could factor in the decreased number of takeaways.

”When you’re playing as much man coverage as we are, you have your back to the quarterback,” Hewitt said. “You can’t see the quarterback throwing the ball out of his hands and then be able to get a break on the ball. Now, when we do play zone coverages, and we get an opportunity to catch the ball, we have to catch the ball.”

Coordinator Martindale is expected to revise his defensive scheme during the bye week. Taking away easy throws in the middle of the field would surely boost the pass rush, which should in turn lead to more takeaways.

What’s real and what’s not from the NFL’s first half, and why it matters - Bill Barnwell

The Ravens are on the precipice and might need their offense to save their season.

Baltimore is 4-5 with the point differential of a 6-3 team.

Even with much of the same personnel, this team has played differently than the one we saw last season. The 2017 Ravens ranked first in special teams DVOA and third in defensive DVOA, but with dismal wideout play and an offensive line ruined by injuries, Baltimore ranked 21st in offensive DVOA. This season, the Ravens are 13th in offensive and special teams DVOA and only 10th in the league on defense.

After recovering 12 of the 22 fumbles it forced on defense last year, Baltimore has picked up only two of nine so far this season. It would be unfair to expect the Ravens to force 11 takeaways over their next three games, as the 2017 team did after its own Week 10 bye, but this unit is too talented to come up with fewer than one turnover per game.

If the Ravens go on a run over the next few weeks, Harbaugh might look like a genius without getting materially better play out of his passer. Through nine games, the Ravens have played the 12th-hardest slate of opposing defenses in the NFL by DVOA.

The biggest problem for Flacco has been making plays downfield. When his passes have traveled 16 or more yards in the air this season, the Ravens’ starter has posted a Total QBR of just 50.9, which ranks 29th among 32 qualifying passers. Lack of receivers might have been an excuse in years past, but the presence of John Brown should give Flacco a viable deep threat.

After many years of excellent special teams play, the Ravens regression to the middle of the pack in that phase is perhaps the most surprising development of their first nine games.