The long-awaited bye week for the Baltimore Ravens has come and gone; and what a great bye week it was. The rest of the AFC North was in action and the results of their games were positively ideal for Baltimore. Both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers lost in Week 13, which dropped each team 2 games back of the Ravens. Then, the Steelers kicked off Week 14 with a Thursday night loss to the lowly New England Patriots, dropping Pittsburgh to 7-6.  

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals scored an overtime win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night. Normally, Ravens’ fans would not want to see the division rival Bengals emerge victorious but since the Jaguars were tied with the Ravens in the loss column prior to Monday Night Football, the Bengals win was a boon for the Ravens playoff seeding potential. And despite the Bengals victory, they still trail Baltimore by 3 games for the division lead. Then, by virtue of the Ravens holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, it’s essentially a 4 game lead with just 6 games to play. Also during that game, the Jaguars lost Trevor Lawrence to an ankle sprain.  

As we enter Week 14, the Ravens sit at 9-3, currently holding the number 2 seed in the AFC. Here are some things to think about as Baltimore heads into the stretch run of the 2023 season…. 

1. When the Ravens opted not to have their bye week immediately after the game in London, it was going to be a grind to get to that much needed rest in Week 13. Needless to say, the calculated gamble looks like it will certainly pay off. The Ravens will enter the home stretch of their season the healthiest they’ve been in quite some time; the Mark Andrews injury notwithstanding. Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey has no injury designation and will return in Week 14. Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley is not on the injury report and had additional time to seek treatment and strengthen his previously injured knee.  

2. Aside from the additional time off for players nursing injuries, the late season bye week has provided a much needed rest for some key veteran contributors. In particular, edge rushers Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney, who have both shouldered large workloads, due to injuries to their younger counterparts. Van Noy and Clowney have been pleasant surprises while covering for the likes of David Ojabo, Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh. While Oweh has returned and played quite well, Ojabo is done for the season after surgery to repair a partially torn ACL and Bowser is still MIA with a mysterious off season injury of some kind. Either way, the Ravens will need more their pair of veteran pass rushers as they march towards the post season, which makes the timing of their bye that much more fortuitous.   

3. The Baltimore Ravens have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL with an opponents’ winning percentage of .650 (prior to the Steelers loss on Thursday).  On paper, the Ravens are facing a gauntlet the last 5 weeks of the season but a closer look at those opponents reveals some reasons for optimism. As previously mentioned, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence left Monday night’s game with an ankle injury. Albeit the injury is not as bad as initially speculated, Lawrence has practiced on a limited basis and will see how he warms up prior to Sunday’s game. Speaking of quarterbacks and ankle injuries, the Steelers Kenny Pickett is recovering from surgery after his injury this past weekend. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Pickett’s recovery will be 4 weeks. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say if Pickett will be back into football shape in time for the Week 18 game in Baltimore. As a result of the injury to Pickett, the Steelers have turned to backup quarterback, Mitch Trubisky. If Thursday’s performance is a harbinger of the next few weeks for the Steelers, their playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy. 

 4. In the AFC standings, the Ravens are looking up at only the Miami Dolphins, who also have a 9-3 record. The Dolphins have been quite a dichotomy this year as all nine of their victories have come against teams with a losing record and their three losses have come versus winning teams. Not only have the Dolphins been Jekyll and Hyde as a team, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s performance has mirrored his team. Ravens analyst, Ken McCusick posted some interesting Tua stats on X earlier this week….  

When facing teams with a losing record, Tua has a record of 9-0, with 21 TDs, 8 INTs and 8.7 net YPP. On the flipside, when facing teams with a winning record, Tua’s record is 0-3 and he’s thrown 3 TD, 2 INTs and has 5.7 net YPP.  

Granted, facing the Miami offense will be a tall task for the Mike Macdonald’s defense but there’s certainly something to the Dolphins’ struggles vs winning opponents. 

 5. With 5 games left in the 2023 season, the Ravens do control their own destiny for the #1 seed in the AFC. Baltimore has earned a first round bye in the postseason on 3 occasions in team history; 2006, 2011 and 2019 and they have a 1-2 record after said bye. I’ve seen some mixed sentiment amongst fans regarding the top seed and a bye. Perhaps the sting of the loss in the 2019 Divisional round is still fresh amongst the Ravens faithful but here’s something to consider….. 

Dating back to 1975, 25 of 48 top seeds have gone on to hoist a Lombardi Trophy. Since the NFL expanded the playoff field to 14 teams in 2020 and there’s only 1 bye in each conference, 3 of 6 top seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl and the top seeds are 1-2 in the NFL title game. (Bear in mind, last year, both number 1 seeds advanced to the Super Bowl) Despite the Ravens mixed history with it, the importance of gaining the #1 seed, the first round bye and homefield advantage that comes along with it should not be undersold.  

With a division title and the number 1 seed in the AFC in their sights, the Ravens will meet the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday at M and T Bank Stadium. While the road to their goals will not be easy, there are several things working in the Ravens favor. Perhaps most importantly, Baltimore will have #8 under center in a Week 14 football game for the first time since 2020.  

Jamie Sieck
Jamie Sieck

Jamie has been a Baltimore sports fan since he can remember. He grew up in Gwynn Oak and currently resides in Hampstead with his wife and 2 kids. He graduated from UMBC with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He’s currently employed at Verizon Communications in Hunt Valley.

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