So, what is the first question asked of Flacco this week: Why did he shave his beard?
“It’s not like we’ve been winning with it,” Flacco said. “So, we’ve all got a little bit of superstition in us, I guess.”
That’s one way to try to end a two-game losing skid heading into Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Under Flacco, Baltimore has had six streaks of three or more losses in 11 seasons. But Flacco hasn’t endured one since October 2016.
The Ravens understand that a win over their rival can turn around their season. A victory would represent the Ravens’ fourth season sweep of Pittsburgh in the franchise’s 22-year history and put them within percentage points of the Steelers for first place in the AFC North.
“If you want to consider yourself a playoff team, you have to beat good teams,” said Flacco, who was held to a season-low 192 yards passing in Sunday’s 36-21 loss in Carolina. “You have to beat teams at the top of their division, top of the conference. It’s an exciting game for us, and I think that’s what drives it — just the excitement level of playing a division opponent at home and how fun it’s going to be.”
A loss to the Steelers would put the Ravens in an unenviable position heading into their bye. Falling to Pittsburgh would drop Baltimore three games back of its rival in the loss column and give the Ravens a 1-3 record in the division.
“I’d be lying to say we don’t know what this game means, it being the Steelers for one thing and also being the fact that we’re 4-4,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “You know you have eight games left and 4-4 is not where you want to be, obviously. It doesn’t mean your season is over. It just means that every game now is so much more critical. You can’t go in slumps. You can’t go on two-game losing skids now, because you don’t want to leave it up to the chances of someone being 9-7.”
This marks the fifth season that the Ravens have had a 4-4 record (2007, 2009, 2016 and 2017). Only once (2009) did Baltimore go on to reach the playoffs.
The Ravens understand that going 6-2 the rest of the way would likely get them in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. If they win five of the next eight games, they’ll finish 9-7 and probably will need tiebreakers to make the postseason.
Smith said nobody wants to feel like they have no room for error in the final two months of the season.
“It’s like going to bat, and there are already two strikes, three balls,” Smith said. “You don’t [want that]. No, you don’t want to go through that. You want to make it easier, but that’s not the road we chose right now, so this is the way we have to roll.”
What makes the second half of the season more difficult for Baltimore is its good run of health has abruptly ended.
Running back Alex Collins (foot) didn’t practice Thursday. Three starters along the offensive line (left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Alex Lewis and right tackle James Hurst) are banged up. Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley has been sidelined this week with a thigh injury.
If the Ravens can overcome these injuries and win …
“We’re right in the thick of it,” safety Eric Weddle said. “The sky is not falling — we’re 4-4 with eight games to go. So, who knows the way this season is going to end up?”