While the sting of three straight narrowdefeats might have diminished for the Ravensduring the bye, the lasting effect is asmall margin of error for the final twomonths of the regular season.
Recent NFL history says the Ravens needto reach 10 victories to lock up a playoffberth for a second straight season. Thattranslates to winning seven of their last10 games, a homestretchthat includessome of the bestquarterbacks andstingiest defenses inthe NFL.
At 3-3, the Ravenssay they aren't makingany playoff calculations.
"That's taboo,"coach John Harbaughsaid.
But the Ravensknow what liesahead: the undefeated
Denver Broncos,another showdownwith PeytonManning, twogrudge matches against their fiercest AFCNorth rival and a December date at LambeauField.
A tougher road than last season to theplayoffs? Outside linebacker Jarret Johnsonsimply shrugs his shoulders.
"We definitely have a tough road ahead ofus," Johnson said. "But this is the NFL. Youdon't have any William and Marys on theschedule."
In fact, the Ravens have seven gamesagainst teams with winning records, butthat only touches on the challenges thatawait them.
Astruggling Ravens secondary has sevenmeetings against quarterbacks ranked inthe top half of the NFL in average passingyards per game (Manning, Ben Roethlisbergertwice, Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Orton, Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer).A resurgent Ravens offense has sevengames against defenses ranked in the tophalf of the NFL in fewest points allowed(Denver, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Pittsburghtwice, Cincinnati and Chicago).
If the Ravens make the postseason, theywould certainly have earned it.
"Even though we're 3-3, this team believesin itself and each other," center MattBirk said.
"I'm not happy about being 3-3 but we stillfeel good about what we're doing and howwe're doing it."
This season has been an emotional ride.For the first time in team history, the Ravensscored more than 30 points in each oftheir first three games, running out to a 3-0start. Then came three straight losses by acombined 11 points.
The Ravens can't afford many more missteps.During the past five seasons, teamsthat have won 10 or more games have madethe playoffs 94 percent of the time (48 of51 teams). But teams that won nine gamesadvanced to the postseason just 40 percent(eight of 20) of the time.
Harbaugh said he wouldn't be breakingout the calculator during the bye.
"You know how you make the playoffs?You win games," Harbaugh said. "Andthat's what we need to do."
The Ravens, who are one game behindthe Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in theAFC North, are looking to make the playoffsin back-to-back seasons for the firsttime since 2000-2001.
"Right now is not the time to make projections,"tight end Todd Heap said. "Rightnow is the time to focus on our next game."We can't really look forward. We've gotto make sure we live for right now. We don'thave a lot of room for error right now."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun