After the Baltimore Ravens were humiliated at home by the New England Patriots, they no longer control their own destiny in the playoffs. Even if Baltimore beats the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17, it doesn’t assure the Ravens a postseason berth.
Regardless, if the Ravens do make the playoffs, they’ll need some spectacular play from some key players to make any noise in the knockout round of the NFL season. But which players are the most important cogs in the postseason engine?
I’m glad you asked.
Here is a breakdown of the most important players for a potential Ravens playoff run, including appearances from Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs and more.
Let’s start with the obvious one. The Ravens aren’t going anywhere unless Flacco gets hot like he did last season. His rocket arm heated up to historic proportions in 2012, and Flacco carried Baltimore all the way to a Super Bowl victory.
There are plenty of weaknesses on the Ravens roster, but it’s a passing league and Flacco has the ability to cover them all up (for the most part).
As usual, the Delaware product has been inconsistent this year, but he isn’t the one to blame for the Ravens’ offensive struggles. He will, however, have to be the one to lift Baltimore out of its doldrums if there is any hope for a playoff run.
Suggs’ impact may not show up on the stat sheet like some of the offensive players, but make no mistake: Suggs will be a crucial part of any playoff run.
He is the leader of the defense, and he’s the most talented defender on the roster. He’s capable of wrecking opposing game plans and can shut down both the run and the pass.
When he’s locked in as a pass-rusher, he is a devastating force off the edge and either gets to quarterbacks himself or opens things up for his teammates by drawing so much attention.
Likewise, he can shut down half of the field in the running game when he’s focused on setting the edge and blowing up plays in the backfield.
Suggs is Baltimore’s most dominant defender, and he can single-handedly make the Ravens an elite defense when he’s in form.
The problem, however, is that the “Sizzle” has fizzled out in recent weeks. After starting the season in impressive fashion, he’s been less impactful since the bye week, and the grades from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) show as much.
|Weeks||Overall Grade||Pass-Rushing Grade|
Which Suggs will show up if the Ravens make the playoffs? The answer to that question could determine how far Baltimore goes.
Dennis Pitta has been receiving a limited workload as he rounds back into shape. Whether he’ll get extended work in the playoffs remains to be seen, but he could be a dangerous weapon.
Pitta might not put up huge receiving numbers, but he can help out in two areas where the Ravens have struggled mightily this year: the red zone and on third downs.
Baltimore currently ranks 18th in third-down conversion rate and 30th in red-zone touchdown percentage, according to TeamRankings.com.
If Pitta can stay on the field for more than the 30 snaps he’s been limited to, he could have a significant impact on the offense.
It doesn’t look like the offensive line is going to learn how to block any time soon, so that means the offense needs Ray Rice to make some plays all on his own. Rice has battled injuries throughout the season, but he’s looked good in the past two games.
It’s unreasonable to expect Rice to start magically churning out 100-yard games (unless the O-line drastically improves), but he can still be a dangerous playmaker for the offense by breaking the occasional long gain and making defenders miss in the passing game.
Any offensive boost would be extremely helpful right now, and Rice proved in the past that he’s capable of making something out of nothing.
In the playoffs (if the Ravens reach the playoffs), Baltimore needs Ngata to play well. The offense is struggling so much that the defense needs to be elite for the Ravens to stand a chance.
Baltimore’s defense is very good right now, but Suggs and Ngata can make it elite.
This clearly isn’t one player, but the offensive line is the most important requirement for a successful playoff run. There are definitely other problems, but improved O-line play would help many of the issues plaguing the offense.
The running game would be the biggest beneficiary from better blocking, and that in turn would open up the passing game and take some of the pressure off Flacco.
All the aforementioned players are important, but it is the O-line that will determine whether Baltimore can make the playoffs and have any success if it gets there.