OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP)The Baltimore Ravens still look like contenders after four weeks – no small feat considering all of their injuries and the fact that three of their first four games were on the road.
Now the schedule shifts in a pretty dramatic way.
The Ravens won at Denver on Sunday for their third straight victory, and they don’t have another road game until Nov. 11. In between, they’ll play four consecutive games at home, with an open date in the middle of that. It remains to be seen whether Baltimore can take advantage, but at least from a logistical standpoint, this figures to be a pretty comfortable stretch.
Next up for the Ravens is a game against Indianapolis on Monday night.
”Definitely will be good to get back in front of our home crowd and get some of their energy,” receiver Devin Duvernay said Wednesday. ”That’s felt like a while since we’ve been at home, so definitely excited.”
Since the 1970 merger – and not including the strike-shortened 1982 season – the longest a team has gone between road games was 45 days, according to Sportradar. That was in 2016, when Miami played at Cincinnati on Sept. 29, then had four home games and an open date – same as this year’s Ravens – before a road game against San Diego on Nov. 13.
The gap for Baltimore will be 39 days. The home games will be against the Colts, Chargers, Bengals and Vikings. It’s an opportunity for the Ravens to build on their 3-1 start, although coach John Harbaugh doesn’t want to put too much stock in the idea of using this stretch to build momentum.
”Big picture, you might,” he said. ”I would just kind of count on you guys to write about that stuff, really. For us, we just have to go to work on the next day, and our preparation for a very good Colts team. … We have our hands full coming up Monday night, and that’s all we’ll be thinking about.”
Last year, Pittsburgh had a stretch similar to Baltimore’s – four home games with an open date early in the season. The Steelers won all four of those games on their way to an 11-0 start. When Miami had the four home games in 2016, it won three of them and ultimately made the playoffs at 10-6.
At the other end of the spectrum were the 2015 Tennessee Titans. They had four home games and an open date in a five-week stretch, and they went 0-4. They finished 3-13.
So taking advantage of this stretch could be crucial for Baltimore, and Monday’s game will be the third night game for the Ravens already this season. Their first home game – a win over Kansas City in Week 2 – was on a Sunday night. Baltimore is 16-2 in home primetime games under Harbaugh.
”It’s just a stage for you to show what you’ve been working hard for,” rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh said. ”That’s the most fun part of it for me, just letting people know who you are and what you’ve done your whole life. It’s not just training camp, it’s what you’ve been working to your whole life. So that’s just a stage to perform.”
The outlook for the Ravens has changed considerably in the past three weeks. Baltimore has had significant injury problems in the backfield and secondary and on the offensive line, and the Ravens dropped their opening game at Las Vegas. They rebounded with a win over Kansas City, but then they needed a 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker to get past Detroit on the road.
Last weekend’s 23-7 win at Denver was a better all-around performance, and now the Ravens are starting to look a little healthier. Receiver Rashod Bateman, a first-round draft pick this year, could make his debut soon after being out with groin problems.
The Ravens don’t want to be complacent, though, even with all these home games coming up.
”I don’t think anyone’s relaxed,” offensive lineman Patrick Mekari said. ”We’re just locked in on the next win. It’s unfortunate the amount of injuries we had, but we’re fighting for those guys.”
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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