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Preston: Ravens will be fine as long as they take apart the woeful teams left on the schedule

The Ravens mantra for the rest of the season should be a simple one: “Let’s beat up on the woeful teams.”

Of the team’s six remaining games, four opponents fit into the “woeful” classification. So do the Green Bay Packers, whom the Ravens shut out, 23-0, before an announced 77,945 at Lambeau Field.

There was nothing historic or iconic about Sunday’s game. The Ravens played great defense and were poor on offense and Green Bay was absolutely woeful in nearly ever aspect. That made for one awful game.

But the Ravens (5-5) aren’t concerned about that. They just need to build consistency and stack some wins. The magic number for wins for a team to get into the playoffs used to be 10, but mediocrity throughout the league has dropped it to nine.

So if the Ravens win four of their next six they are at least in the discussion.

“It’s doesn’t mean [expletive],” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the shutout, ”if we don’t make the playoffs. It’s good but if we don’t get in, y’all aren’t even going to remember them. It’s a good thing to build on but we’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to keep getting these wins.”

The Ravens have a favorable schedule. It’s not as if they are a good team but they still get to play some really bad ones. They get Houston next Monday night and still have Cleveland on the road and Indianapolis and Cincinnati at home.

What do those four teams have in common? They are woefully bad.

The Texans beat Arizona, 31-21, Sunday but Houston’s secondary has gotten lit up for four straight weeks. In addition, the team has been hit hard by injuries and has Tom Savage at quarterback. Combine that with playing on the road in a nationally televised game and that equals three turnovers and a Ravens victory.

Indianapolis and Cleveland have no shot at the playoffs and Cincinnati’s players will have the U-Haul trucks parked outside M&T Bank Stadium ready to go home when they come to Baltimore on New Year’s Eve.

There is no guarantee the Ravens will win those games. They should have beaten Chicago with Mitchell Trubisky as the starting quarterback and Minnesota with Case Keenum earlier in the season, but they lost those games.

But here is the difference now: The Vikings and Bears ran the ball against the Ravens when they were without injured starting nose guard Brandon Williams.

Williams is back, and that means opposing quarterbacks have to throw the ball to beat the Ravens. Here is another difference: Quarterbacks like Savage and Green Bay’s Brett Hundley take incompetence to another low level.

Savage gets some respect. Hundley gets none. He had three interceptions Sunday filling in for Aaron Rodgers and his completions to the Ravens were better than most of Joe Flacco’s.

Green Bay was without its two best offensive linemen and top two running backs. Packers halfback Devante Mays fumbled and lost possession on his first NFL carry in the second quarter and fumbled again on his second.

The Packers were ugly, so much in fact, that the crowd started doing the wave. The Ravens deserve credit because of the turnovers and they sacked Hundley, who needed a GPS to find his way around the field, six times. “After the first two picks he didn’t want to make mistakes again,” Suggs said of Hundley.

Houston’s offense can be just as erratic. Cleveland’s offense is even worse. The Ravens know this which is why they were all giddy after Sunday’s game.

Their defense is good enough to dominate and win against most of the teams left on the schedule with the exception of Pittsburgh and Detroit. The Steelers have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Lions have Matthew Stafford, forcing the Ravens to show more offensive firepower.

But against the other teams left on the schedule they can be more conservative. On defense there were a lot of things to like about the Ravens Sunday. They had a consistent pass rush and some of the young players like linebacker Matthew Judon and defensive linemen Willie Henry and Michael Pierce dominated.

The Ravens got rookie linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser into the rotation, and the former applied pressure several times.

But the Ravens still struggled on offense. They had just 219 total yards and were 3-for-14 on third downs. No one fears their passing game and the Ravens averaged 2.2 yards per carry.

That’s not going to change. That’s been their playing style all season. Combined with a strong defense the Ravens will struggle against good teams but should stay in the playoff hunt until the end.

They just need to beat the woeful teams.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

 

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