John Harbaugh insists 2-6 Ravens can make playoff run

By Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange
John Harbaugh insists 2-6 Ravens can make playoff run
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is congratulated after the 29-26 win on a field goal against the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, November 1, 2015. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged his secondary will be challenged this week lining up against Jacksonville's talented receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

Last week against the Jets, Robinson outplayed Darrelle Revis and caught six passes for 121 yards. His counterpart Hurns got the better of Antonio Cromartie and finished with five receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown.


As a result, Baltimore cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb will have to be at their best coming out of the bye week. The Ravens will also likely have to rely on their safeties for added support to contain Robinson and Hurns.

"Both those guys - Robinson and Hurns - are very similar," Harbaugh said. "They're kind of similar-sized guys. Robinson is a little bigger. They're (big) catch-radius guys. They're strong-to-the-ball guys, good body-control guys. They're guys that can make catches against you. We're going to have to be strong in our coverage around those guys. Obviously, Jimmy is a matchup there. 'Webby' is a little bit different."


A victory against Jacksonville is vital for the Ravens (2-6) to get their season back on track. Baltimore's six losses have been by a total of 30 points. Compounding the problem is that the team has battled injuries as seven starters have missed a combined 20 games this season.

Nonetheless, Harbaugh and the players are confident they can make an unprecedented run to the playoffs. That journey starts Sunday against Jacksonville.

"All of our guys understand that this is the game that matters," Harbaugh said. "We need to be 1-0 this week, and we have a lot of 1-0's in front of us that we have to take care of before that stuff can be reality. Really, it's conversation for a later date. We have to earn our way to have that conversation, for sure."

Despite the slow start. Baltimore has a favorable schedule the rest of the way. The game against the Jaguars begins a stretch of five of seven games in Baltimore.

Traditionally, the Ravens have been one the league's best teams at home. Baltimore is 46-13 at M&T Bank Stadium since Harbaugh took over in 2008 -- the third best mark in the NFL over that stretch. Since 2003, the Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game (16) at home.


This has the players believing they can be the first team to start 1-6 and still make the postseason.

"It's definitely not impossible, not for a Ravens football team," Smith said. "We're a cold-weather team, and the weather's getting cold. We're at home for a big portion of this stretch, so it's something that can happen."

Harbaugh was not thinking that far ahead. His focus is winning Sunday and getting back to the organization's winning tradition under his tenure.

"The standard here has been high," Harbaugh said. "We've set a high bar here for a long time, and we're proud of that. We have high expectations, so we're not going to let those expectations go. We're not pleased with where we are - just like the fans aren't pleased, coaches aren't pleased, players aren't pleased. Nobody in the organization is pleased with where we're at, and we're very determined to turn it around."

SERIES HISTORY: 19th regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead the series 10-8. These former AFC Central rivals have played some epic games. Jacksonville won the first eight matchups in the series from Nov. 10, 1996 to Nov. 28, 1999. Baltimore then responded with six straight victories. The Ravens won the most previous matchup 20-12 on Dec. 14, 2014, in Baltimore.


GAME PLAN: The key for the Ravens against Jacksonville will be to keep the Jaguars offense off the field. That means Baltimore will need to be successful with running the football, and it could be a challenge because Jacksonville has been stout against the run, ranking seventh in the NFL by allowing just 94.3 points per game. The onus will be on offensive coordinator Marc Trestman to get the running game going because of the lack of playmakers at wide receiver. Baltimore can open the passing game if starter Justin Forsett can break a few runs to loosen up the Jaguars.

The Ravens' defense has not forced a turnover in their past five games and that has played a big role in the team's struggles. That will have to change this week. Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles likes to throw the ball and has two prime targets with wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Bortles ranks ninth in the league with 2,193 yards and 17 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Bortles has also made some critical mistakes this season, and the Ravens could get him rattled with an effective pass rush.



-- Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs Jaguars WR Allen Robinson.

Smith is the Ravens' best cornerback, but he has struggled over parts of the season. He will face another challenge against Robinson, who is ranked eighth in the NFL with 707 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Last week against the Jets, Robinson got the best of cornerback Darrelle Revis with 121 yards on six receptions. Smith might need some support from his safeties to win this matchup.

-- Ravens RB Justin Forsett vs. Jaguars DT Sen'Derrick Marks.

Marks leads the Jaguars' solid run defense. Last week against the Jets, he fought off a right knee injury to keep Jets running back Chris Ivory (26 yards on 23 carries) in check. Forsett, who has battled through an ankle injury before the bye, is 10th in the league with 562 yards on 133 carries with a pair of touchdowns. He will need to get back on track to give the Ravens an opportunity to control the clock.

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