The Ravens will have to get back on track this week versus the Dolphins and still stand a good chance at returning to the playoffs this year.

Sadly, due to the Thanksgiving weekend of traveling and seeing family, I was not able to watch all of the Ravens-Chargers game.  Then again, maybe I’d feel more heartbreak if I watched the final drives.  The Ravens have definitely been able to get their offense up to par the past couple of games, but only to keep up with two of the best quarterbacks in the league.  Our defense needs to regroup.

Against the entire NFC South, the lowest point total the Ravens produced was 29 points, in their 29-7 victory over the Falcons.  We certainly have benefited playing the NFC South this year, as the Ravens have looked mundane against the AFC.  To see the Ravens score 33 points against an AFC opponent, who also happens to be in contention for one of the two wild card spots, is a good sign to me.

This week, the Ravens get to play another 1:00pm game (CBS) so they will have exactly a week’s time in between games, as opposed to the 6 day difference + traveling back home that happened before the Charger game.  Although, this will be an away game, so the time advantage won’t be much.

The Ravens will be playing their next three games with warm city opponents.  For the rest of the season, the coldest games will be the two here in Baltimore, where the Ravens still have a great history of home field advantage.

It remains to be seen in what order the AFC playoff schedule will look like.  We’d have to hope that the Ravens win their final four games and the rest of the AFC North have under 11 wins in order to win the division.  Other than that, realistically, I can see the Ravens qualifying for the last wild card spot and playing the Colts in the first postseason round.  The dome stadium would once again shield the Ravens from the more harsh cold elements of the football season.

Instead of getting ahead of ourselves, lets see the Ravens take care of the Dolphins first.

The Fins are another team that looks imbalanced on defense that fluffs up their overall ranking.  Their pass defense is ranked 2nd, but they’ve had a terrible run defense this year and let the 2-10 New York Jets run for 277 yards on them.  Looking closer at their game results, the Dolphins were lucky with opposing quarterbacks as well:

They faced Tom Brady in the first game of the year, when his offensive line was still adjusting and he was going through an early season funk with bad passing stats.  They faced Philip Rivers in November when the Chargers went through an odd losing streak after starting 5-1.  The only quality quarterbacks they played who were on their game were Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers, who all won their respective games.  Now they’ll face Flacco who’s been viewed as hit or miss, but has been surprisingly consistent.

Flacco this year may topple 4,000 yards passing if he’s able to take advantage of his last four opponents.  All he’ll have to do is average a little more than 250 yards per game to do so.  Plus, he’s already thrown 20 touchdowns to 8 interceptions, and last year his stat line was that abysmal 19 TD – 22 INT.  The most TDs he’s ever thrown in a season was 25 in 2010, and I can see him breaking that against the likes of Jacksonville & Houston on tap.  It should be said that through the last 4 games, he’s thrown only 1 interception while attempting 127 passes.

According to ESPN’s QBR statistic for measuring each quarterback’s ratings combined, Flacco is ranked 8th out of 33 quarterbacks.  Plus much of his QBR improvement has occurred after losing his security blanket, Dennis Pitta, for the season.  He’s taken the necessary step to rely on his receivers more than his tight ends & running backs, which is what elite quarterbacks all do.  Throwing short to running backs when rolling out or throwing to towering tight ends for 3rd down conversions is an easy way to pad stats.  Recognizing intrinsic patterns, coverages, and estimations of skills between receivers & defenders is what elite quarterbacks do on a game by game basis.  We all know he’s more than capable, but its good to see him do these things before the playoffs as well.

It is a good thing that Flacco has stepped up the offense as the defense has faltered in the last couple of weeks.

We could be getting a big boost to the secondary this week as Asa Jackson could be eligible to return to the starting lineup.  I’ve really admired how he has played in the preseason the last two years and I expect more of the same.  With Jimmy Smith out, we have needed that 2nd starting cornerback to fix our pass defense that has been shredded.

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Mosley may have to intercept some of those short passes

Thankfully Ryan Tannehil hasn’t been taking too many deep shots when passing.  He has been relying on the sort of short passing game that awards him with a high completion percentage.  He ranks near the bottom of the league in pass attempts of 20+ yards (he’s just about the opposite of Flacco, and they have both thrown 20 touchdowns with Tannehil having thrown one additional interception).

Yet, from what you would read from game previews as well as having ex-Steeler receiver Mike Wallace on the team, you’d think the Dolphins would want to take advantage of the Ravens’ wounded secondary.  If I were the Ravens, especially Asa Jackson, I’d try to make this a statement game.  If they manage 2+ interceptions off of deep passes in this game, they can finally go back to scaring teams into avoiding the long ball.

The only other thing to take note is that Haloti Ngata is out for the rest of the regular season due to being suspended.  That takes away our Pro Bowl lineman, but the Ravens have been swapping players out of the DL & outside linebacker positions throughout every game.  Rookie Timmy Jernigan will start in place of Ngata, and he has already shown great promise in limited roles.  We should see more of the same.

If you can make it out to the Ravens game (that is, travel to Miami), make sure to show your purple pride and cheer our boys on as they march towards a postseason berth.  Go Ravens!

-CW

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