Taking a four-game losing streak into their bye week, the Ravens (3-4) are reeling.
After starting the season with three consecutive wins, the Ravens have dropped four straight, including a woeful Week 7 loss to the Jets in which the team blew a 10-0 lead.
The best news for the Ravens is that the AFC North remains a three-team race among the Steelers (4-3), Bengals (3-4), and Ravens.
However, here are five reasons why the Ravens will need more than a bye week to fix what’s wrong:
1. The offense has been inept all season.
In four of their seven games, the Ravens have scored just one touchdown. Firing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman two games ago didn’t fix it. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can tweak the offense during the bye, but he can’t change the players. The offensive issues with this team run far deeper than the coordinator.
“It’s never too late, but we have to put it together and put it together fast,” said tight end Dennis Pitta.
2. Lack of speed in the secondary is leading to big plays.
For two straight weeks, two fleet receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants and Quincy Enunwa of the Jets, have taking a short pass and turned it into a long touchdown. Ravens safety Lardarius Webb was blown by both times, and the hamstring injury suffered by Webb on Sunday could lead to his days as a starter being over. And remember, still have to face two of the NFL’s top receivers twice – Antonio Brown of the Steelers, and A. J. Green of the Bengals.
3. Killer instinct is something the Ravens have lacked.
That admission was made by coach John Harbaugh after Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Jets.
“Killer instinct is executing when you get ahead, putting people away and making plays, taking advantage of the fact that they’re down,” Harbaugh said. “Whatever killer instinct translates to, we certainly don’t have it right now.”
They led 10-0 against the Jets. They led 10-0 against the Giants in Week 6. They led 10-7 at halftime against the Redskins in Week 5, but Baltimore was shutout in the second half. And the Ravens led the Raiders, 27-21, in the fourth quarter in Week 4, only to lose 28-27 after the touchdown catch by Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
Yet the Ravens (3-4) lost all four games. Even when they get leads, they don’t usually play well enough to keep them.
4. The schedule gets tougher.
The Ravens have two games against the arch rival Steelers, who lead the division. They have two games against the Bengals, who had beaten the Ravens five straight times. They have road games against the Patriots (6-1) and Cowboys (5-1). The Ravens also face the surprising Eagles (4-2), which is the Ravens’ final home game in Week 15.
Even if the Ravens play better after the bye, better competition could prevent them from having better results.
The Ravens are 26-29 since winning Super Bowl XLVII.
The Ravens believe in reloading, not rebuilding. But they only have nine games left to avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.
With the roster down to the league-mandated maximum of 15 for the Wizards, the next step by coach Scott Brooks is to pare down his rotation with the regular-season opener Thursday at the Atlanta Hawks.
“I like a nine-guy rotation," Brooks said after the preseason finale.
"Occasionally, 10 guys. The 10th guy doesn’t play as many minutes.”
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According to what Brooks has more or less hinted already, the starting five remains as expected: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. But how he slots the rest of the players, taking into account matchups, health and foul trouble, will vary during an 82-game season.
The most tenuous spot appears to be behind Wall. While Trey Burke received more preseason minutes than Tomas Satoransky, the 6-7 Euro eventually could jump ahead of him if he's not careful. Satoransky's shot needs work but his passing, off-the-ball movement and defense look superior.
Since recovering from a thumb injury, Marcus Thornton registered time behind Beal.
Kelly Oubre battled Porter for the starting job and is the logical backup at small forward. Andrew Nicholson has secured his spot behind Morris, but because of an injury to Ian Mahinmi (knee) he's also spending time behind Gortat. Jason Smith can play power forward and center, too.
That's 11 players, 1-2 more than Brooks would like for his rotation. The educated guess here is it'll be Burke or Satoransky to fall by the wayside with Thornton being that 10th player who gets the spot minutes. There's no rule against playing three forwards, for instance, with a point guard and a center.
When Mahinmi returns to top form, Smith's minutes would seem the logical ones to get cut unless he develops a three-point shot to increase his value as a spread option.
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