Taking stock of Ravens season at the bye

While some of the fan base is still grumbling about the team's secondary and the offensive play-calling, the Ravens are enjoying the bye week with a sense of accomplishment.

They've survived a brutal road stretch (four of the first six games were on the road), two overtime games against teams coming off their bye and injuries to four key players (safety Ed Reed, offensive tackle Jared Gaither, wide receiver Donte' Stallworth and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo).

Sitting at 5-2, the Ravens are off to their best start in coach John Harbaugh's three seasons and have the fourth-best record in the NFL.

"We would love to be 6-1 or 7-0, but right now we're 5-2. We're right in the thick of things," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "We're right at the top, so we're still in a position to achieve all the goals that we set out at the beginning of the season."

Projecting the Ravens' playoff picture is an easier task than beating the winless Buffalo Bills last Sunday.

If the Ravens win their remaining five home games, they're virtually guaranteed to make the postseason for a team-record third straight season. Over the past five seasons, only three of the 53 teams who have won 10 games have failed to qualify for the playoffs (that's 5 percent).

If the Ravens throw in a couple of road wins — they play at the Carolina Panthers (1-5) and Cleveland Browns (2-5) — they're nearly a lock for a top-two seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. Since 2007, all 12 teams with at least 12 wins have earned either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

"I'm content with the way our guys have approached the season," Harbaugh said. "I like the work ethic; I like the attention to detail; I like the way they compete. We'd rather be 7-0 than 5-2, but we're not. And what we need to do is focus on being 6-2, and I think part of that is going to be our guys getting a little rest this week, and part of that is going to be us doing everything we can to — when they come back — be able to present them with some things that are going to help them be a better football team."

The atmosphere heading into this year's bye is much different than a year ago. The Ravens reached their break in 2009 on a three-game losing streak. They had an entire week to reflect on Steve Hauschka's missed 44-yard field goal that ended a 33-31 loss at Minnesota.

But this year's Ravens have received its share of criticism, too.

The Ravens' offense, which is ranked 15th, has taken some heat for being too conservative. Still, quarterback Joe Flacco has led two fourth-quarter comebacks (Cleveland and Pittsburgh) and the Ravens have averaged 25.8 points the past five games.

The Ravens' defense, which is ranked No. 8, has faltered against the run (173 yards against the Browns) and the pass (374 yards against the Bills). But linebacker Ray Lewis delivered pivotal late-game turnovers (Pittsburgh and Buffalo) and the Ravens didn't give up a touchdown until the 10th quarter of the season.

"If you go through all seven games that we've played, it's always been one side that had to either bring another one up or have another one's back," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "That's the mold of a true team – of a team that's building towards something. And that's kind of what I'm more excited about – getting away from it and then coming back – and we all work together again."