The Baltimore Ravens have frequently been one of the hottest teams in the NFL during the regular season. That has mattered less and less as the season moves on, however. Over the past three years, they hold an overall losing record in post-October play, going 6-5 in November, 7-6 in December, and 1-4 in January.
On top of that, they are 1-5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in late-season play during that time, the only win coming in December last year in the game in which Ravens ILB Roquan Smith knocked QB Kenny Pickett out of the game in the first quarter, backup Mitch Trubisky subsequently throwing three interceptions.
While much of this struggle can be tied directly to late-season injuries suffered by former MVP QB Lamar Jackson, the fact remains that Baltimore has been unable to cross the finish line with anything more than a limp lately. Adam Rank predicts another season of the same for the NFL Network on Total Access. Including a week-18 loss to Pittsburgh.
“Look at the way that this season ends”, he said in his admittedly limited one-minute analysis, highlighting the final string of three games against the San Francisco 49er, Miami Dolphins, and Steelers. “A team that always has trouble closing. It always feels that at the end of the year, the Ravens always start off as a house on fire, putting together a ton of wins, then the wheels just kind of fall off”.
“I look at the back end of that schedule”, he adds, “I think the same thing is gonna happen this season”. Overall, he predicts the Ravens to finish 9-8, with a 1-6 record over the final eight weeks (including a bye week, the only win over the Los Angeles Rams coupled with additional losses to the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
While the overall analysis of ‘they tend to suck at the end’ is limited, looking at the schedule, you can see the challenges that the last couple months of the season present. These opponents if at their best would all be capable of defeating the Ravens, with teams like the Bengals, Chargers, Jaguars, and Dolphins certainly able to outgun Baltimore’s passing game.
Of course, an 8-2 start to the season, as Rank predicts, would soften the blow, and the final record may even be enough to get them into the postseason. A tough AFC North in 2023 would make that very difficult, however. Both Baltimore and Cincinnati advanced last season with Pittsburgh sitting home at 9-8. Could that but the Ravens this time?
It’s quite worth noting that Rank in no way alluded to any potential durability issues with Jackson specifically as the reason he predicts the late-season slide, though at the same time the fact of their recent slides being largely tied to Jackson’s health can’t be ignored, either.
Still, this is a tougher back half than usual, which should pose problems for them. A 1-6 finish? Perhaps not. But would I be shocked to see them finish somewhere not far above .500? Absolutely not.