We like to be cheery here at RSNFL HQ, so over the next few days, we are going to look at how some of the teams that have struggled in the 2015 NFL Season can be optimistic looking ahead towards 2016. To start with: the Baltimore Ravens. So, the season is over for the Baltimore Ravens, with a locker room that looks more like an intensive care ward. So what positives can we take from a season where the best thing was that they still aren’t the Browns? They still hold sway over the AFC North The final games of the season are against the Steelers and the Bengals. Both teams are eyeing each other nervously for the playoffs, and the Ravens could genuinely be the deciding factor in who ends up where in the pecking order for the playoffs. With the Bengals facing off against the Broncos, and the Steelers taking on the Browns, it could go to the wire if the Ravens could beat either team. It’s rare for a team that has fallen out of contention to still be able to influence the playoffs, and the Ravens have that chance this season.
Injuries happen – Players recover
The Ravens are out of the race, and that makes them free. Winning matches won’t make a difference to their chances at a Superbowl run, so they can pull out the flagging veterans, and run out those young rookies for the last few games and postseason. They get to try new forms of offense and defence, try people in alternate roles, and bring guys in from the practice squad. In the meanwhile, the players that are injured have the chance to take the whole offseason to recover, and the coaches get to look at how they picked up those injuries. This is an opportunity to identify weaknesses in their game, and isolate them. This is how you get better at the game. You’re not going to pull a Romo, and drag them back before they’re ready, only to injure them further. The Ravens have a great opportunity to focus on health and recovery this offseason.
Draft early, Draft strong
The Ravens are sitting in the top five for picks in next year’s draft. That puts them in a strong bargaining position. They can pull in new players straight from college to bolster their roster, or they can swap drafts for free agents to pull in complimentary veterans from other teams. If you do it right, you could be setting your franchise for an ascendant few years. Just take a look at Carolina, 4 years and they turned it around, all starting with a 1st pick in the draft that went their way.
They did beat the Steelers
Baltimore have had a really up and down season, with a surprise loss to the browns, and a solid field of games leading to unsurprising losses against teams that are having great season. They did beat the Steelers in week 4, and that was a definite highlight for them. Going into week 16, they might even be confident that they can ruin the Steeler’s hopes of a playoff spot. When you have a bad run, it’s easy to look at your shoes, and curse your luck, but the Steelers have had a pretty good season, and for the Ravens to pull a win against them early in the season was a great show of what they could have achieved this time round.
All Change on Black Monday?
Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and with a poor season comes the inevitable chance of GM, HC, or even whole coaching staff getting the chop. These are always fantastic opportunities for a team to really change direction and re-energise a franchise. Just like getting a new Director on a movie sequel can really boost the hopes of film buffs, getting the right brain under the headset could turn a whole franchise around. With the inevitable free for all following black Monday, then the Ravens could well be looking at new faces in the locker rooms, and new faces behind the wipeboard. That can only ever mean positive outlooks and refreshed attitudes.
They’re still not the Browns
Ever since the original Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, they’ve been glad that they aren’t the Browns. They can carry on with that comforting notion, safe in the knowledge that with the Browns facing the Chiefs and the Steelers, there is very little chance of them posting a worse record than Cleveland will. It’s nice to get an early spot in the draft, but nobody likes being dead last.
NFL Draft Order 2016: Who’s picking where after MNF? NFL Playoff Picture: three more teams clinch playoff spots after Sunday NCAA Bowl Previews 2015: Miami Beach Bowl NFL Week 15: Ten Things You Need To Know BREAKING: Charles Woodson to retire at the end of the 2015 season