If the Ravens are going to make a serious push for a playoff spot, they'll need improved play from what they've delivered through seven games.

Like, way more improved.


Sure, the Ravens began the season 3-0 and have been within one score in every game, but that was against some of the lightest competition they'll face all year.

Heading into Sunday's game, the record of the seven teams the Ravens have played subtracting the results of those very games — was 17-25 (.405). The Oakland Raiders were the only opponent who would make the playoffs if the season ended before Sunday.

Looking ahead, five of the Ravens' last nine regular-season are against playoff teams, and three others are against teams still in the hunt. The combined record of the remaining opponents heading into Sunday was 32-29 (.525).

Here's the rest of the Ravens' schedule, with a quick recap of how each opponent had fared heading into Week 8...

Nov. 6 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3): As much as it seems the Ravens' season is a lost cause, this game, remarkably, could be for first place in the division. The storyline of the week will be the health of Ben Roethlisberger, who had surgery Oct. 17 to repair a torn meniscus and is flirting with a return against the Ravens. Landry Jones went 29-for-47 for 281 yards filling in for Roethlisberger in a home loss against the New England Patriots. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Steelers have two of the most dangerous weapons in the league, in running back Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Even in a down year, the Ravens won both meetings last season, and have taken four of the past five.

Nov. 10 vs. Cleveland Browns (0-7): Sometimes it seems these Thursday night games are battles of attrition. The human body isn't built to play football on three days of rest. Being home for consecutive weeks has to help the Ravens in that regard. The Browns, since the Ravens beat them in Week 2, have cycled through a handful of quarterbacks, and they're back with their starter from that previous meeting, Josh McCown. Who knows which quarterback will start for the Browns two games from now? While the Browns are on the fast track to the No. 1 overall pick this spring, they weren't a complete walkover when the Ravens beat them 25-20 on Sept. 18.

Nov. 20 at Dallas Cowboys (5-1): The Cowboys have provided one of the best storylines of the season, as rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is putting up rare numbers, and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has directed five straight wins. Oh, and there's the whole plot of Tony Romo, injured in the preseason, just about ready to return to a team that doesn't look like it needs him anymore. Owner Jerry Jones has remained loyal to Romo, saying it's his team when he's healthy, but logic says there's no way Prescott loses his starting job if the Cowboys keep winning. Dallas still has to play the Philadelphia Eagles, Browns and Steelers before it hosts the Ravens, so a lot could change in that time.

Nov. 27 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4): The Bengals have reached the playoffs in five straight years (and lost in the wild-card round each time), so their slow start has been a bit disappointing. But the four teams they've lost to — the Steelers, Denver Broncos, Cowboys and New England Patriots — are all potential Super Bowl contenders. Their offense underwent big changes, mainly losing coordinator Hue Jackson to the Browns, and has not been as potent as last year. Still, A.J. Green (775 yards so far) is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in football, and he has excelled against the Ravens in past games. The Bengals have won the past five meetings.

Dec. 4 vs. Miami Dolphins (3-4): Through five weeks, the Dolphins looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL. Then second-year running back Jay Ajayi announced himself to the world. Heading into Week 6, Ajayi had with 304 career rushing yards. Then he ran for 418 combined yards in consecutive wins, becoming the fourth player in NFL history to go for 200 yards back-to-back. Important to Ajayi's and the Dolphins' recent success is the renewed health of their offensive line. With winnable games the next few weeks, the Dolphins could still be fighting for a wild-card spot by the time they play the Ravens.

Dec. 12 at Patriots (6-1): The Ravens have been poison ivy to the mighty Patriots — irritable but not all that harmful. Last time they met was in the playoffs following the 2014 season. The Patriots won and continued being the Patriots; the Ravens lost and haven't been the same since. New England will be heavy favorites at home for this Monday Night Football game. Tom Brady hasn't missed a step after his suspension, and the Patriots have looked like the most complete team in the league. The only other Monday meeting between the franchises was in 2007, when the undefeated Patriots barely slipped past a bad Ravens team.

Dec. 18 vs. Eagles (4-2): Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has made headlines for his steady play in the Eagles' rise from expected loser to surprise contender. The No. 2 pick has outperformed expectations and validated the franchise's decision to trade up for him. But the Eagles' real driving force is their defense, which has allowed just 14.7 points per game and forced 12 turnovers. While Philadelphia is a tough opponent, it has not been a great road team this year.

Dec. 25 at Steelers (4-3): Roethlisberger will certainly be back for this one, unless he re-injures himself. The Ravens have won their last two games in Pittsburgh, and are almost always competitive there.

Jan 1 at Bengals (3-4): If the division or a wild-card spot comes down to this game, Ravens have to view that as a positive. That doesn't mean they'll necessarily be confident. Five of the past six regular seasons have ended with these teams playing each other, and the Bengals have won the past three of those meetings.



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