On paper, the Baltimore Ravens offense looks like a collection of players who can score at will. With the talent at each "skill" position, Baltimore's record and position atop the AFC North should be no surprise.
However, a closer look shows a team that has dramatically underperformed, benefiting from some good breaks and bounces. Shaky wins over lesser opponents have hardly instilled confidence in the Raven faithful.
The Ravens defense has given up a ton of yardage, statistically subpar by the Baltimore standard. Yet at 9-3, the Ravens sit in the driver's seat for a division crown and a potential first-round playoff bye.
Controlling their own destiny hasn't been something the Ravens have capitalized on, though. With a chance to plunge a dagger into their most hated rival last week, Baltimore let a wounded Pittsburgh Steelers team steal a win in Baltimore.
One of the most puzzling things about Baltimore's struggles lately has been the offensive game planning, specifically the use of Ray Rice. Arguably the most dangerous and talented weapon in the Raven arsenal, Rice had only 12 carries last week against Pittsburgh.
Though he rushed for 78 yards (6.5 yards per carry average), the Baltimore game planners seemed to forget about him after the third quarter. After he broke a 13-13 tie with a fantastic 34-yard touchdown run, Rice would have one more carry in the game. A 10-yard run with 1:52 remaining in the third would end the Baltimore rushing attack and Ray Rice's day, ultimately sealing the Ravens' fate.
If Baltimore has any plans beyond the first round of the playoffs, Rice will have to be the key. The inconsistent play of quarterback Joe Flacco leaves a major question mark for the Baltimore aerial attack. Cam Cameron's game plan will need to center on the shifty tailback.
Based on the reluctance to use Rice appropriately, here are five suggestions for how Baltimore could and should use their All-Pro running back.