While Ravens players went their separate ways after Wednesday's practice, John Harbaugh and his coaching staff worked Thursday at the team facility. They'll return today before taking the weekend off.
The focus of these two days is on self-scouting and starting to game-plan for their next couple of games. Starting with the Nov. 6 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens have three games over a 15-day span, so preparation will have to be condensed. This week gives the Ravens staff a head start.
As for self-scouting, the coaches review what has and hasn't been working and make changes accordingly. They do so throughout the season, but the bye week gives them a little more time to home in on the Ravens' play without having to worry about practices, meetings and game preparation.
Anybody who has watched the Ravens this season knows what has troubled the team during its current four-game losing streak. Quarterback Joe Flacco has not played well, and the running game has been virtually nonexistent. The offensive line has been a consistent problem. The Ravens aren't making enough big plays, and they've given up too many over the past couple of weeks. The pass rush has been spotty. Injuries have thinned the roster, and penalties have hampered the team's ability to win.
All of that will need to be fixed — or, at the very least, improved — if the Ravens are going to make a postseason run over the next nine weeks. That should be obvious, but here are eight smaller moves the Ravens can make to give themselves a better chance to win.
Go back to the fundamentals: From Flacco's footwork to offensive-line penalties to subpar tackling and pursuit angles, the Ravens have experienced consistent and significant breakdowns with their fundamentals. The Ravens work on this stuff all the time, so it's far too simplistic to suggest that they need to make it a focus. But perhaps going back to square one in certain areas would get the message across even clearer.
Help Flacco by any means necessary: Look, Flacco has a lot of say in this offense and what plays the team is and isn't running. Any suggestion otherwise is ludicrous. But absolutely anything and everything should be done to try and help Flacco out of a slump that deepens by the week.
After recent games, he's looked a combination of confused, frustrated and beaten up. For better or worse, Flacco is the franchise quarterback, and his play is going to decide what becomes of the rest of this season. He's taken accountability for his poor play on several occasions, and he deserves the criticism he's getting. He needs to break some of his poor habits.
From this point on, though, the Ravens need to do anything in their power to protect him and make him more comfortable.
Settle on an offensive line: One bit of optimism this week came from the offensive line, whose first-team players practiced together for the first time in weeks. Ronnie Stanley was at left tackle, with Alex Lewis at left guard, Jeremy Zuttah at center, Marshal Yanda at right guard and Rick Wagner at right tackle.
If the coaching staff deems them the team's best offensive linemen, so be it. If the staff feels the Ravens would be better off with John Urschel at center over a struggling Zuttah, or Lewis at right tackle and Urschel at left guard, those changes should be made immediately. The Ravens need stability in front of Flacco.
Get the ball into the hands of Kenneth Dixon: I'm not advocating for Terrance West to lose his starting job. He's played reasonably well, given the circumstances. But Dixon having a bigger role doesn't have to come at West's expense. They can be used as a one-two punch. Dixon can be used out of the backfield as a receiver, and on returns. Dixon, who had a really good preseason before suffering a knee injury, has nine touches in three games.
He hasn't been completely healthy and he's still learning about pass protection. After the bye, he should be healthier and more comfortable in the offense. It's time the Ravens learn what they have in the rookie.
Find red-zone options: If the offense isn't good enough to get into the red zone, which was the case in the loss to the New York Jets, this won't matter. But if the Ravens are going to start finishing drives, they need to find ways to be more explosive and precise deep in opponents' territory.
Teams know that Flacco trusts wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and tight end Dennis Pitta on key plays. But how about getting big and fast tight end Darren Waller, seemingly a walking mismatch, more involved? Maybe Buck Allen, the team's best receiver out of the backfield, would help here as well.
The Ravens aren't big and physical enough to run the ball down teams' throats, and their passing game hasn't been accurate enough to consistently get into the end zone. They need to try different things and different personnel.
Get more speed on the field on defense: Former NFL quarterback and current Bleacher Report analyst Chris Simms wrote on Twitter after Quincy Enunwa's long touchdown catch-and-run against the Ravens on Sunday that the Ravens have the slowest defense in the league, and it's "not even close."
I'm not sure whether that's true, but it's obvious that the defense needs an injection of speed. Maybe that means using more of defensive back Anthony Levine Sr., who has played well in limited snaps, or carving out a bigger role for defensive back Marqueston Huff and rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa. The return of linebacker C.J. Mosley and possibly safety Matt Elam could help, but there's still room for more speed on the field.
Play the young pass rushers more: Terrell Suggs has vowed to return from his torn biceps in time for Week 9, and fellow outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil could be healthy enough to play relatively soon. But that shouldn't mean diminished roles for guys like Matthew Judon, Za'Darius Smith and Correa.
This is about winning, I get that. But the Ravens not only need some more speed and athleticism on the field, as I mentioned above, they also need to see what they have at pass rusher. The young edge rushers need continued opportunities to play.
Make decision on Devin Hester Sr.: The Ravens have given Hester far more chances than other returners with ball-security troubles have gotten under Harbaugh. He's a Hall of Fame player and perhaps the best returner in NFL history, so I understand their approach, but Hester's acknowledged that he's not been healthy, and that appears to be weighing on him.
The Ravens are lucky that he's lost just one of his four fumbles, but a team struggling on offense can't afford special teams turnovers. Maybe the Ravens are waiting one more week on Michael Campanaro's potential return, or they think the bye week will rejuvenate Hester. At some point soon, though, a decision has to be made.